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Tetsuko Kuroyanagi

Tetsuko Kuroyanagi
Born (1933-08-09) August 9, 1933
Nogisaka, Tokyo
Nationality Japanese
Occupation actress, talk show host, book author, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador

Tetsuko Kuroyanagi (黒柳 徹子 Kuroyanagi Tetsuko) (born August 9, 1933 in Tokyo[1][2]) is an internationally famous Japanese actress, a talk show host, an author of a best-selling children's book, a World Wide Fund for Nature advisor, and a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF.[3][4] She is well known for her charitable works, and is considered as one of the first Japanese celebrities who achieved international recognition.[5] In 2006, Donald Richie referred to Kuroyanagi in his book Japanese Portraits: Pictures of Different People as "the most popular and admired woman in Japan."[6]


  • Early life 1
  • Career 2
  • Charitable works 3
  • Honors 4
  • Partial filmography 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

Early life

Kuroyanagi was born in Nogisaka, Tokyo in 1933. Her father was a violinist and a concertmaster.[2] Her nickname as a child was Totto-chan, according to her 1981 autobiographical memoir.[2] Kuroyanagi went to Tomoe Elementary School (Tomoe Gakuen) when she was young. After that, she studied at the Tokyo College of Music, majoring in opera, as she intended to become an opera singer.[5] After graduation, however, she was drawn to acting and the television entertainment industry by her joining Tokyo Hoso Gekidan and training at the Mary Tarcai Studio in New York. Subsequently, she became the first Japanese actress who was contracted to Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK).[2][5]


After voicing Lady Penelope in the Thunderbirds TV series, Kuroyanagi first became well known in 1975 when she established her afternoon television program "Tetsuko's Room" (Tetsuko no Heya), which was the first talk show on Japanese television.[2][5][7] The show was broadcast by the private television channel Television Asahi, and featured Kuroyanagi's discussions with celebrities from various fields, including television, sport and politics.[5][7] Tetsuko's Room was very successful, and Kuroyanagi started to be referred to as a "phenomenon" in Japan, in contradiction to the image of "servile and "wifely" women on Japanese television".[8] Statistics show that, by the early 1990s, Kuroyanagi had interviewed over two thousand Japanese and foreign guests.[7][9] It is acknowledged that her warmness as an interviewer and skilled art of talking is a factor that made the TV program live long.[1][5] She is also familiar with the Japanese audience with her regular appearance on the television quiz show "World Mysteries".[5][10]

1981 marked a turning point in her career, as Kuroyanagi published her children book Totto-Chan: The Little Girl at the Window, in which Kuroyanagi wrote about the values of the unconventional education that she received at Tomoe Gakuen elementary school during World War II, and her teacher Sosaku Kobayashi. The book is considered her childhood memoir, and upon release, it became the bestselling book in Japanese history.[8] The book was first translated to English in 1984 by Dorothy Britton, and it was published in more than 30 countries.[2]

Charitable works

Kuroyanagi is known internationally for her charitable and fund raising works.[5] She founded the Totto Foundation, named for the eponymous and autobiographical protagonist of her book Totto-chan, the Little Girl at the Window.[2][3] The Foundation professionally trains deaf actors, implementing Kuroyanagi's vision of bringing theater to the deaf.

In 1984, in recognition of her charitable works, Kuroyanagi was appointed to be a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF, being the first person from Asia to hold this position.[3] During the late 1980s and the 1990s, she visited many developing countries in Asia and Africa for charitable works and goodwill missions, helping children who had suffered from disasters and war as well as raising international awareness of the situations of children in poor countries.[1][2][10] Her visit to Angola in 1989 was the first recorded VIP visit from Japan to this country, and marked a milestone for the diplomatic relation between Japan and Angola.[11] Kuroyanagi has raised more than $20 million for the UNICEF programmes that she has been involved in, through television fund-raising campaigns.[12] She also used the royalties from her bestselling book, Totto-chan, to contribute to UNICEF.[5][12] Kuroyanagi also participated in the international UNICEF ‘Say Yes for Children’ campaign, other celebrities.[3]

In 1997, Kuroyanagi published the book "Totto-chan's Children", which was based on her experience working for as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador from 1984 to 1996.[5][10] Kuroyanagi is a director of the Japanese branch of the World Wildlife Fund.

Kuroyanagi has twice brought America's National Theater of the Deaf to Japan,[13][14] acting with them in sign language.[4][15]


For her involvement in media and television entertainment, Kuroyanagi won the Japanese Cultural Broadcasting Award, which is the highest television honour in Japan. Since then, she has been voted 14 times as Japan’s favourite television personality, for the show Tetsuko’s Room.[3]

In 2000, Kuroyanagi became the first recipient of the Global Leadership for Children Award, which was established by UNICEF in the 10th anniversary of the 1990 World Summit for Children.[3] In May 2003, Kuroyanagi received Order of the Sacred Treasure in recognition of her two decades of service for the world’s children.[3][16][17]

Partial filmography


  1. ^ a b c Famous People of Japan: Tetsuko KUROYANAGI Teaching materials. Archive by Institute for Japanese Studies, at Ohio State University.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Kuroyanagi Tetsuko profile from
  3. ^ a b c d e f g UNICEF: Goodwill Ambassador Kuroyanagi
  4. ^ a b "Distinctions Blur as Deaf Actors Share a Stage," New York Times. August 29, 1988.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Walker, James BIG IN JAPAN Tetsuko Kuroyanagi from Metropolis Magazine
  6. ^ Japanese Portraits: Pictures of Different People Book by Donald Richie. Limited preview at Google Books.
  7. ^ a b c Gender, Language and Culture: A Study of Japanese Television Interview Discourse Book by Lidia Tanaka. Limited preview at Google Books.
  8. ^ a b Little Girl at the TV Window from Time magazine
  9. ^ Asahi National Broadcasting Company, Ltd. - Company History
  10. ^ a b c Limp prose from an angel of mercy from The Japan Times Online.
  11. ^ MOFA: Japan-Angola Relations
  12. ^ a b
  13. ^ National Theater of the Deaf (US): NTD moves to ASD in West Hartford, CT (2004);
  14. ^ NTD/ASD press release: NTD moves to ASD campus
  15. ^ Kodansha International: about the author; Sanger, David.
  16. ^ L'Harmattan web site (in French), Order with gold rays and cross
  17. ^ UNICEF to give award to actress Kuroyanagi for advocacy work Archived at
  18. ^
  19. ^ Tetsuko Kuroyanagi - The cinema review of all(Database Only)
  20. ^ Tetsuko Kuroyanagi - Trailer - Showtimes - Cast - Movies - The New York Times
  21. ^

External links

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