The Story of Beate Sirota Gordon

In 1941, shortly before Japan declared war on the United States, a set of recordings were made of traditional Japanese music.

Player utilities

This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Only two copies of these recordings existed after World War II of which one set was given to Beate Sirota Gordon for safe keeping.

Gordon was born in Vienna, Austria, to esteemed Russian pianists. Her father was the famous Leo Sirota who moved to Tokyo, Japan where she lived for about ten years before moving to Oakland, California, in 1939 to attend Mills College.

Apart from belonging to a famous family, Beate Sirota Gordon is famous in her own right. She was a member of the team that drafted the Constitution of Japan under Douglas MacArthur. She is considered an American icon among Japanese women for helping secure women's rights and equality by writing portions of articles into the Japanese Constitution.

Excerpts of the portions of 1947 Japanese Constitution that Gordon helped write:

Article 14

All of the people are equal under the law and there shall be no discrimination in political, economic or social relations because of race, creed, sex, social status or family origin.

Article 24

(1)Marriage shall be based only on the mutual consent of both sexes and it shall be maintained through mutual cooperation with the equal rights of husband and wife as a basis.
(2) With regard to choice of spouse, property rights, inheritance, choice of domicile, divorce and other matters pertaining to marriage and the family, laws shall be enacted from the standpoint of individual dignity and the essential equality of the sexes.

Article 26

All people shall have the right to receive an equal education correspondent to their ability, as provided by law.

Article 27

All people shall have the right and the obligation to work.

The recording that were given to Gordon have now been released on CD titled "Japanese Traditional Music: Koto- Shamisen" for the first time.