Tetsuko Kuroyanagi

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Tetsuko Kuroyanagi
黒柳 徹子
Tetsuko Kuroyanagi cropped 1 Tetsuko Kuroyanagi 201511.jpg
Kuroyanagi in 2015
Born (1933-08-09) August 9, 1933 (age 89)
Years active1953–present
  • Moritsuna Kuroyanagi (father)
  • Chō Kuroyanagi (mother)
Japanese name
Kanji黒柳 徹子
Hiraganaくろやなぎ てつこ
Katakanaクロヤナギ テツコ

Tetsuko Kuroyanagi (黒柳 徹子, Kuroyanagi Tetsuko, born August 9, 1933) is a Japanese actress, television personalities, World Wide Fund for Nature advisor, and Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF.[1][2] She joined NHK Broadcasting Theatre Company as the first television actress in 1953. In 1954, she made her debut as the lead actress in the radio drama Yambō Nimbō Tombō. In 1976, the TV Asahi's Tetsuko's Room (Tetsuko no Heya)" started airing. This program was recognized by the Guinness World Records in 2011 for having the highest number of broadcasts by the same host. It has been airing on weekdays at noon every week, and as of 2023, it has surpassed 11,000 episodes in its 48th year. Her autobiographical book, Totto-Chan: The Little Girl at the Window, which depicts her childhood, became a post-WW2 bestseller with over 8 million copies sold. It has also been adapted into a television series twice.

She is also known for her charitable works, and is considered one of the first Japanese celebrities to achieve international recognition.[3] 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."[4]

Early life[edit]

Kuroyanagi was born in Tokyo City, Tokyo Prefecture (now Tokyo). Her father was a violinist and a concertmaster.[5] Her nickname as a child was Totto-chan, according to her 1981 Autobiographical memoir.[5]


Kuroyanagi studied at the Tokyo College of Music, majoring in opera, as she intended to become an opera singer.[3] After graduation, however, she was drawn to acting and the television entertainment industry by her joining Tokyo Hoso Gekidan. Subsequently, she became the first Japanese actress who was contracted to Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK).[5][3]


Kuroyanagi in early years

After voicing Lady Penelope in the Thunderbirds TV series,[6] Kuroyanagi first became well known in 1975 when she established her afternoon television program Tetsuko's Room (徹子の部屋, Tetsuko no Heya), which was the first talk show on Japanese television.[5][3][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.[3][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.[10][3] She is also familiar to Japanese audiences with her regular appearance on the television quiz show "World Mysteries".[3][11]

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.[5]

Charitable works[edit]

With Kōichirō Gemba (at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 5 July 2012)

Kuroyanagi is known internationally for her charitable and fund raising works.[3] She founded the Totto Foundation, named for the eponymous and autobiographical protagonist of her book Totto-chan, the Little Girl at the Window.[5][1] 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.[1] 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.[10][5][11] 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.[12] Kuroyanagi has raised more than $20 million for the UNICEF programmes that she has been involved in, through television fund-raising campaigns.[13] She also used the royalties from her bestselling book, Totto-chan, to contribute to UNICEF.[3][13] Kuroyanagi also participated in the international UNICEF ‘Say Yes for Children’ campaign, along with other celebrities.[1]

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.[3][11] 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,[14][15] acting with them in sign language.[2][16]


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.[1]

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.[1] In May 2003, Kuroyanagi received Order of the Sacred Treasure in recognition of her two decades of service for the world’s children.[1][17][18]


This is a partial list of films.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g UNICEF: Goodwill Ambassador Kuroyanagi
  2. ^ a b "Distinctions Blur as Deaf Actors Share a Stage," New York Times. August 29, 1988.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Walker, James BIG IN JAPAN Tetsuko Kuroyanagi Archived 2008-06-12 at the Wayback Machine from Metropolis Magazine
  4. ^ Japanese Portraits: Pictures of Different People Book by Donald Richie. Limited preview at Google Books.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Kuroyanagi Tetsuko profile from kyoto-su.ac.jp.
  6. ^ 黒柳徹子が47年ぶりに『サンダーバード』声優へ「徹子の部屋と違うでしょ」 from mynavi.jp/news
  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. ^ "History of Asahi National Broadcasting Company, Ltd. – FundingUniverse". www.fundinguniverse.com. Retrieved March 21, 2023.
  10. ^ a b Famous People of Japan: Tetsuko KUROYANAGI Teaching materials. Archive by Institute for Japanese Studies, at Ohio State University.
  11. ^ a b c Limp prose from an angel of mercy from The Japan Times Online.
  12. ^ "Japan-Angola Relations". Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. Retrieved March 21, 2023.
  13. ^ a b http://www.unicef.org/ar98/ar98eng3.pdf. Archived 2016-03-03 at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ National Theater of the Deaf (US): NTD moves to ASD in West Hartford, CT (2004);
  15. ^ NTD/ASD press release: NTD moves to ASD campus
  16. ^ Kodansha International: about the author; Archived 2007-10-24 at the Wayback Machine Sanger, David.
  17. ^ L'Harmattan web site (in French), Order with gold rays and cross
  18. ^ UNICEF to give award to actress Kuroyanagi for advocacy work Archived at Findarticles.com
  19. ^ "少年ジャックと魔法使い". www.jmdb.ne.jp. Retrieved March 21, 2023.
  20. ^ "黒柳徹子の出演作品一覧". みんなのシネマレビュー. Retrieved March 21, 2023.
  21. ^ "Tetsuko Kuroyanagi - Trailer - Showtimes - Cast - Movies & TV - NYTimes.com". The New York Times. July 15, 2009. Archived from the original on July 15, 2009. Retrieved March 21, 2023.

External links[edit]