I took this photo of Tsunaoka Sadako in the small building where she worked. It was where she wanted to be photographed and it was a day when the workshop was closed. There were a group of people there including her husband and some friends and a student of Becky Jennison’s from Kyoto Seika University, and the friend who was translating. It was a small space and the first time I’d shot with an audience. It felt a little awkward to me initially as the photographer but the support clearly made her more comfortable and I quickly became very comfortable as well.
TSUNAOKA Sadako (written by HWANGBO Kangja)
She was born and raised in Kobe and still lives there. Born in 1947, she has been left behind by Japan’s rapidly growing economy and forced to lead a life of poverty. She left school at the age of 13 in order to work hard to help with her family’s livelihood. She continues to work at her sewing machine, making shoes. She started attending part-time high school and first came in contact with the Buraku Liberation Movement. She looks back on those days: “The time when I was working during the day and going to school at night was the time I enjoyed the most.” She and others talked about their lives in their declarations of being “Burakumin,” “Korean,” or “Chinese.” She was unable to complete her high school education when she got married, but she has continued to be involved in the liberation movement. Saying “I wasn’t in any position to talk about discrimination against women,” she lives by doing to the utmost what she can on her part without hurling her dissatisfactions at others. She states her wishes as: “There are always people in weak positions. I want to always be involved with them.”
translation by Beth Cary