World Tour Revisited: The Chaplin brothers in Japan, May-June 1932

Charlie crammed as much as possible into his three-week stay in Japan. In addition to attending kabuki shows, sumo matches, and tea ceremonies, he played tennis, gorged on tempura (his favorite Japanese meal), and even visited a prison–something he liked to do on his travels.

As much as he enjoyed his visit (he would return in 1936 and 1961) he was disappointed by the westernization of the country:

Should you ask me offhand my opinion of Japan, I should say it is a nation of inconsistancies. A simple illustration is a man attired in a kimono wearing a derby hat, also the adoption of western dress at the cost of their own silk industry. 1

Little is known about what Syd thought of the place. Months later, in a letter to his friend R.J. Minney, he wrote: “I enjoyed the trip immensely. I always wanted to visit the Orient, so I am glad I got it out of my system. Of course, I haven’t seen the half of it, dearie, I shall still look forward to seeing India, the interior of China, Indochina, etc., but the Orient should be taken in small doses and one should hold the nose while taking it.” He claimed, though, that he was glad to get home, having developed gout on the trip from too much rich food. 2

Below are a few photos from the brothers’ visit:

Chaplin visits Prime Minister Makoto Saito at his residence (note the torn couch). Saito was the successor to Tsuyoshi Inukai who was assassinated on Chaplin’s second day in Japan while he was at a sumo match with his son, Ken:

A tea party, possibly at the home of Mrs. Horikoshi which Chaplin describes in “A Comedian Sees The World”: “this charming lady has a school which she supports herself for the daughters of her friends where she teaches the gentle art of the tea ceremony.” Syd is standing at right in the second photo.

Tennis at the Fujiya Hotel in Hakone:

Charlie tries on a Samurai Warrior’s headgear. Syd is on the right.

Chaplin’s autographed sketch of Mt. Fuji, May 29th, 1932:

Lastly, at the Hanacho restaurant. Ken Inukai, son of the assassinated prime minister, is seated between Charlie and Kono in the first photo and is posing between Charlie and Syd in the other photos. The last photo is signed by Sydney.

Coming up on June 2nd: the brothers go their separate ways. Syd returns to Nice and Charlie to Los Angeles.


1Charles Chaplin, “A Comedian Sees The World, Part 5,” Jan. 1934
2Lisa K. Stein, Syd Chaplin: A Biography, McFarland, 2011

1 Comment

  1. Those are really great photos Jess. I have never seen any like this. Syd looks good in his silk tunic. Charlie has so often linked arms with someone and put his chin out and his nose up in the air… if to say."Look at what I'm doing world! Aren't you jealous?"

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