Japan, the adopted land of Lafcadio Hearn, had always stirred my imagination–the land of cherry blossoms, the chrysanthemum, and its people in silk kimonos, living among porcelains and lacquer furnishings. (Chaplin, ACSTW aka “A Comedian Sees The World”)
A crowd of 20,000 greeted Charlie and Syd on the dock at Kobe. Charlie had not seen a crowd of this magnitude since he traveled through Europe the previous year.
|L-R: Kono, CC, actress Shizue Natsukawa, and Sydney, Kobe, May 14, 1932|
The city of Kobe was our landing place. When we arrived there thousands were waiting on the docks to greet us. Airplanes were flying, dropping pamphlets of welcome. (ACSTW)
Before the Terukuni Maru docked, about 200 reporters and photographers went aboard to interview Chaplin who graciously complied. He was asked to comment on the recent Lindbergh baby tragedy but said it was too terrible to talk of.* One thing he told them was that he still cherished his old pair of floppy shoes. “They are like old friends,” he said.
|Kobe, May 14, 1932|
Among the welcoming committee at Kobe was Japanese actress Shizue Natsukawa. Chaplin was also reunited with his his secretary, Toraichi Kono, who had left the Chaplin party in Singapore in March and traveled on to Japan to arrange for Charlie’s visit while the brothers toured Ceylon, Java, and Bali.
From the harbor, Charlie and Syd motored through Kobe, ate at a local restaurant, then boarded a train for Tokyo.
While in Japan, the government graciously made me their guest while traveling by rail. On our way to Tokyo at every stop we were greeting by cheering crowds. Geisha girls were lined up and I was presented with gifts of all kinds. The Japanese are generous and hospitable.
Upon arriving in Tokyo, the throngs were so dense that four hundred policemen were helpless in keeping them from raiding the railroad depot. We eventually got on our way to the hotel….After the usual preliminaries with the press, I went straight to bed, exhausted but happy. (ACSTW)
|The Chaplins, Shizue Natsukawa & Kono at a restaurant in Kobe. One of the highlights of Charlie’s visit
was witnessing a Japanese tea ceremony, which revealed to him “the character
and soul of the nation…Each movement is studied to create tranquility. Not a sound
is made during the preparation. Not a gesture is unnecessary. You watch in silence the beautiful
preparation. In the sanctity of peace you refresh your troubled mind in liquid jade.”
|Charlie with the mayor of Tokyo, May 14, 1932|
|At Tokyo’s Hotel Imperial, which was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.|
Although Charlie & Sydney had always wanted to see Japan, the chief reason for their visit was to secure bookings for City Lights that would bring Charlie a decent profit on the film. At this they failed miserably. The best offer on the film was $50,000 and Chaplin wanted $100,000. City Lights did not premiere in Japan until 1934. Sadly, this would not be the only bad luck to plague Chaplin during his visit to Japan.
Coming up tomorrow: “The May 15th Incident”
Where was Charlie 12 months before?
Basking in the sun at Juan-les-Pins. /2013/05/world-tour-revisited-juan-les-pins.html
* The 20-month old infant, the son of aviator Charles Lindbergh, had been kidnapped in March 1932, his remains were discovered on May 12th.
Chaplin, “A Comedian Sees The World, Part 5,” Woman’s Home Companion, Jan. 1934 Lisa K. Stein, Syd Chaplin, McFarland, 2010 New York Times, May 15, 1932 Robinson, The Private Life of Charlie Chaplin, Liberty, 1933