Tsunagu/Connect: Origins

Project launch

Tsunagu/Connect was launched at the Museum of London in January 2020. The launch programme included a presentation on the history of the Japanese community in the UK by historian Keiko Itoh, talks by Museum of London staff and an introduction to the project by Artistic Director of New Earth Theatre Kumiko Mendl. Our project manager Kay Stephens held a short workshop to introduce attendees to the concept of oral history and recruit volunteer interviewers.

Keiko Itoh’s talk featured photographs of the early Japanese community in the UK, from the catalogue of the photo exhibition ‘Japanese in Britain 1863-2001’ held by the Japan Association UK, in 2001. Some of these photographs are reproduced below.

Riding in Hyde Park, 1935. The woman on the horse is the grandmother of Keiko Itoh.

The Ladies Group of the Nippon Club welcomes Hitomi Kinue, Japan’s long jump Olympic silver medallist in 1928.

The oral history phase of Tsunagu/Connect took place from April 2020 to March 2021. Following our launch event in January 2020, we recruited and trained up a team of 12 Japanese heritage volunteers to conduct 30 interviews with Japanese women who had settled in the UK since 1945.

In order to recruit participants for interviews, we held a public launch event hosted at the Museum of London and reached out to New Earth Theatre’s existing networks, Japanese community organisations, regional community centres, and Japanese Saturday schools. It was important for us to capture a wide range of experiences in terms of age, location, occupation, date of arrival, and so on, to highlight the diversity of experience amongst Japanese women in the UK.

Many of our volunteers had both English and Japanese language skills, allowing for participants to express themselves as they preferred, whether in English, Japanese or a mix of the two. Having Japanese heritage volunteers also created a sense of familiarity, comfort and connection within the interviews.

This was especially important with the project beginning at the outset of the pandemic — with the interviews being conducted online, we were able to connect people across geographical distances at a time when many of us were socially and physically isolated.

The recorded oral history interviews explore a range of topics from reasons for migration and first impressions of the UK, to the decision to settle here and build a life, from practical issues of finding work and obtaining visas to personal questions about relationships, family, and belonging. They document participants’ changing relationships to both the UK and Japan, touching on deep questions of community, identity and inheritance. On a broader level, the interviews shine a rare light on shifting societal perceptions of Japan over many decades, as well as the varied and changing experience of being a Japanese woman in the UK.

Explore more

Augmented Reality Postcards
Collect a set of 5 Augmented Reality Postcards that will immerse you in the world of our characters.

Listen to our Tsunagu/Connect Podcast available on Spotify, Google, Apple, Anchor and more.

Intergenerational Film
Watch as our young volunteers created their own oral histories with their mothers.

Teachers Resource Pack
Download our free educational pack, suitable for Upper KS2 and KS3 students. Created by Lisa Meech.

Record your story
Regardless of where you are from, share your migration story with us.

Tsunagu/Connect Homepage

New Earth Theatre
The Albany
Douglas Way

+44(0) 20 8694 6631

Join our mailing list

Privacy Policy | Shop | Jobs
New Earth Theatre © 2024
Registered charity No. 1047991
Registered company No. 3045132