Kiku San

Sun Jun 19, 2005  5:58 pm

Here is what I found out about Kelly Sue's adopting a Japanese persona:

Do you find it odd that Kelly Sue adopted a Japanese name (Kiku San) while living in New York?

Understand that at this time there was growing interest in the Orient among certain circles in the western cultural centers.

Inspired by the work of Ezra Pound and WB Yeats in popularizing Far Eastern literature among modernist writers, and before them by the pioneering interests of Ernest Francisco Fenollosa (who changed his name to Tei-Shin after converting to Buddhism in the 1880's), elements of Japanese art and culture were starting to seep into the American consciousness. Witness young Peggy Guggenheim dressed up as a geisha (photograph circa 1908, private collection). While Kelly Sue can't have understood the Japanese way of life in much depth, her hyper-imaginative nature was intrigued by exotic tales from this foreign land.

We can presume that she took the name Kiku San from a story published in Red Book Magazine (June 1910), called "The Marriage of Okiku-San," by Onoto Watanna, illustrated by Taka Spiro. She was inspired by the feisty heroine, who was frustrated by her traditional culture, just as Kelly Sue was frustrated by her own way of life back in Indiana. From the story:

"Miss Kiku Taguchi was not an ordinary young lady. Her father, a pompous, important individual, entertained a distinct contempt for her insignificant sex. His wife was a mere nonentity, a puppet, who vaguely repeated, parrot-like, the paradoxes voiced by her lord. Hence, when this same lord emphatically expressed his opinion concerning the proper education for a female -- this within twelve hours after the birth of Okiku-san, Lady Taguchi assented, and promised things. The result was a girl of naturally independent and original disposition, trammeled by the contracted rules common for women in Japan half a century before.

Kiku knew by heart the great rules laid down by Confucius for her miserable sex. Aimlessly and dully, she would repeat them from day to day, while her vapid-faced mother, herself a product of the new Japan, mechanically kept time on the small box desk by which she was wont to squat."

Another note of interest on this Japanese connection: in an odd link demonstrating how artifice can influence life, the underground gossip about Kiku San was well known by Yoko Ono, growing up in Scarsdale after WWII. Ono was an early member of Fluxus, an association of avant-garde artists that developed in the early 1960s. Perhaps her unique viewpoint was partially inspired by this mid-Western woman who reinvented herself as a Japanese Snow White. Remarkable to observe this incident of cross-fertilization from east to west and back again.