The documentary starts with Beate Sirota Gordon’s visit to the Kodo=Araebisu Nomura Museum ( http://kodo-araebisu.jp, Iwate Prefecture ). The Museum houses an important collection of records of Beate’s father and famous pianist, Leo Sirota.
It was Beate, who conceived Article 24 of the Constitution, which for the first time in Japanese history, establishes equality between men and women.
When Beate was five years old, the family went to Japan in 1929, where she lived for approximately ten years. It was during those years, prior to WWII that she witnessed how socially suppressed the status of Japanese women was; they basically had very limited human rights.
In 1939 Beate went to the US to study, leaving her parents behind in Japan.
When the war between the US and Japan broke out she was at Milles College in California where, having lost her parents’ financial support, Beate had to start earning a living on her own. Then, after graduating from college, she began her career in New York as a researcher for the International Department of Time magazine.
As soon as WWII ended in August 1945, Beate started looking for a way to return to Japan. She wanted to know if her parents were still alive; parents with whom, of course, she hadn’t had any contact during the war.
She managed to get a job as an interpreter at General Head Quarters ( GHQ, the organisation set up by the Allies to govern Japan right after WWII ended. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supreme_Commander_for_the_Allied_Powers ).
For Beate, as a civilian, it was the only way to travel to Japan in those days.
Finally, after years of no communication at all with her parents, the day came that she left for Japan. She was able to locate her parents and happily the family was reunited at last!
In 1946, Beate was nominated to a committee at GHQ. This committee was tasked with drafting a new democratic constitution. Imagine what an extraordinary opportunity for a twenty-two-year old girl to be asked to draft articles of such historical importance!
The second half of the film shows how some Japanese women, empowered by their newly found constitutional rights or “The Gift from Beate”, embarked on a number of ground-breaking projects.
The activities initiated by those pioneer women have steadily led to changes in Japanese society which until then had been ruled by men for centuries.
Although the actions in and of themselves might not be extravagant, they were very substantial and made steady progress. They added up to become key axes around which fundamental changes in Japanese society have been articulated.
In the second half of the film, when confronted with historical documents and interviews on actions taken by those early pioneers, we are struck by these women’s non-compromising courage in post-war Japan. The documentary aptly serves to remind us of where we came from, where we are now and where we should be heading. We owe it to these women to remember their stories for generations to come.