Following the defeat of WWII, while many Japanese racially mixed babies were abondoned by their parents, Miki Sawada dedicated her life to take care of the orphans.
With many American military servicemen residing in Japan to help rebuild the country, unwanted pregnancies between American men and Japanese women were not unusual. However, racially mixed children, particularly of American decent, were viewed as shameful. A culture of shame created an extraordinary influence on Japanese society to marginalize these orphans.
Miki Sawada, having the Japanese Zaibatsu (Big Business Conglomerates) family background (Mitsubishi), used her accumulated resources to provide a safe home for the orphans. She would trade her clothes to obtain food and lost much sleep in order to change countless diapers. Sawada received the Elizabeth Blackwell Award for her outstanding dedication to humanity in 1960.
At age 20, Sawada married a Japanese ambassador and converted to Christianity (her husband was Christian). She traveled to several foreign countries with her husband where she met influential people who would affect her later life. One of them was Josephine Baker, an African American entertainer and political activist, who later adopted a dozen orphans from a mixture of racial backgrounds; Baker later adopted two of Sawada’s children. Sawada also befriended a French painter, Marie Laurencin, and an American Nobel Prize novelist, Pearl Buck, who took care of several orphans.
The war had caused countless families to face death of their love ones, Sawada also had lost one of her youngest sons in the war.
By 1947, her children already being grown adults, her life takes a turn towards a mission she dedicated the rest of her life to. A coincidental incident has changed her life forever – she was accused of abandoning a racially mixed infant on a train; the curly-haired infant was found dead.
Instead of feeling relieved that she was able to prove her innocence, Sawada felt strong mission to save as many innocent lives as she could. Soon after that she convinced herself that it was her mission to raise these children. Many Japanese and Americans viewed her negatively. Some said that it was going to be just a fickle activity by a woman from a wealthy family. However, Sawada kept taking on child after child; she was determined to become a mother to them all. Sawada became a mother for a total of two thousand children
Establishment of Elizabeth Thunders Home:
Since the Japanese government was not supportive of Sawada, she used her own resources and solicited for donations overseas. Due to Zaibatsu kaitai (order to dissolve Zaibatsu under the U.S. command), her father was not able to offer her full support. However, in 1948, she was able to gather enough support to buy back one of the family properties and was able to build a school for the orphans. She named the school, “Elizabeth Thunder’s Home”, which was named after a British woman who was the first significant donor for the school.
Moving to Brazil:
Sawada spent all her time trying to nurture and protect children from the harsh realities of prejudice in society. However, she realized that as her children grew older, that Japanese society would not accept them as member of society when they matured to adults. Moreover, after leaving her home, some of them would get into trouble and Sawada was often asked to pick them up from police custody.
Realizing that the obstacles her children would face seem indefinite in Japan, she decided to purchase land in Brazil and went with her children to establish a farm and independence. While some had rebelled against her and left, others stayed. Without much success, the farm was finally shut down after 16 years.
Sawada’s Death in Spain:
Sawada had always tried to make sure that she remained available to support her children even after they left her home; she kept in contact with as many of them as possible. Although she started out as the mother for the children, she faced many separations as many were adopted out overseas. Sawada often traveled outside Japan to see her children, and dedicated herself to continue her social work for children’s’ welfare.
At age 78, Sawada suffered a heart attack while visiting Spain, and left her legacy behind as a mother of two thousand children.
Look up and Keep Walking:
Sawada had often encouraged her children to “look up and keep walking”. She was not only kind but also strict towards her children because she thought it was important for them to be strong to stand against social prejudice. One of her children who was interviewed after her death commented that he was not angry at his birth parents because after all, it was his responsibility to keep walking on his own, regardless of his birth parents. Not all Sawada’s children led a stereotypical happy life, however, they were blessed enough to have Sawada in their life telling them to be proud and keep walking.
Elizabeth Blackwell Award Records, A Finding Aid, Hobart and William Smith Colleges Archives, Web. 10 Dec. 2009.
Ikeda, Michiko. Jinruiiai ni sasageta shyougai (Stories of Women who Devoted their Life to Humanity), . Tokyo: Kodansha, 1981.
Seiichi,Narita, Miki- Sawada Ao aruiha Aka, Shiro aruiha Kuro (Blue, Red, White or Black), Mitsubishi Jinbutsuden (Mitsubishi biography collection), Mitsubishi Shiryokan (Mitsubishi Museum), Web. 10 Dec. 2009.
Tonneru no Mukou ha Bokura no Rakuen Datta (Our Paradise beyond the Tunnel), A Special 45 year Celebration Program, No. 4. Tokyo. March 11, 2009. TV Tokyo.
Read more at Suite101: Mother of Two Thousand Children: One Japanese Woman’s Struggle to Save War Orphans’ Lives | Suite101.com http://naoko-charity.suite101.com/mother-of-two-thousand-children-a178915#ixzz1aX4G9L3i