By Nicole Ireland
Made in Japan was an unexpectedly heartwarming, inspiring, and incredibly fun film. It follows the story of Tomi Fujiyama —Japan’s first female country music star— who made a name for herself in America. I’m sure I’m not the only one who was more than a little surprised to hear a fantastic country voice come out of someone who was born and raised in Japan, but when Tomi opens her mouth, that’s exactly what we hear.
Aside from her unquestionable talent, Tomi’s big personality was center stage the entire film. She’s unique and quirky but also unbelievably hard working and passionate about her music. The early stages of her career were spent singing at military bases around Japan, just because she was determined to perform wherever she could. Tomi was then flown across the world to Las Vegas where she performed four times a day, seven days a week until she was past the point of exhaustion, but kept going because she had a show to put on. In 1964, she reached the height of her career when she performed at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. It was phenomenal to see what Tomi was able to accomplish even though the odds were stacked against her, and watching her story was so inspiring. She is hands down the definition of girl power!
Made in Japan was filmed in many of the locations where major, career-defining moments for Tomi took place. It was so nice to see Tomi revisit these places 40 years later. We followed her as she walked through her home town and told us how she developed her love for music, all the way to Las Vegas where she had her stint at the Mint hotel, and then to Nashville where her dreams really came true. She had the same excitement when she revisited these places as she had the first time she experienced it all, and it’s very refreshing to see that wonder and excitement doesn’t always need to fade away.
Even if you’re not a country music fan, I still highly recommend Made in Japan. I’m not a country fan myself, but I was so enthralled with this film. The final scene is of Tomi performing the Tennessee Waltz and it almost had me in tears. My reaction would have been shocking to me if it weren’t for the fact that I felt as though I had taken this journey with Tomi. The love she has for country music is so pure and honest, and fans of any genre can relate to that. Watch Made in Japan for Tomi, because she could teach us all a few very valuable lessons.