Bridge to the Sun Essay - Critical Context

Gwen Terasaki

Critical Context

Bridge to the Sun enjoyed steady success with readers after its publication by the University of North Carolina Press in 1957. The book gained greater prominence in the public eye when it was made into a film in 1961, featuring Carroll Baker and James Shigeta. Both the film and the book became healing instruments to repair the wartime breach between the United States and Japan.

Terasaki’s book was the first in a line of nonfiction accounts of American and British civilians intimately involved with Japan during World War II. Farewell to Manzanar (1974), by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston, depicts the former’s experiences as a teenager in a California internment camp for Japanese Americans, while Empire of the Sun (1984) tells the story of the author J. G. Ballard, who became separated from his parents in Shanghai, China, as a child and spent the war in a Japanese camp for prisoners of war. As time distanced both the United States and Japan from the war, these and other books helped Americans and Japanese Americans come to terms with their own experiences.

During the 1980’s, as more trade and cultural agreements were made between the United States and Japan, Bridge to the Sun was reissued by Wakestone Books in 1986. Gwen Terasaki, who was living in Tennessee, and her daughter Mariko, who was living in Wyoming, were recognized by both governments as important symbols of ties between the United States and Japan. Hidenari and Gwen Terasaki received a number of citations, and her book was promoted as tangible evidence of the roots of goodwill between the two countries. Younger readers on both sides of the Pacific became a new audience for Bridge to the Sun and for the message of peace and cooperation that it conveys through the story of the Terasaki family.