Form and Content
In her autobiography, Bridge to the Sun, Gwen Terasaki depicts her life as the wife of a Japanese diplomat and Quaker pacifist, Hidenari Terasaki, in China during the early years of their marriage and in Tokyo during World War II. The book starts with the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and moves by flashback to the early years of the Terasakis’ marriage in the 1930’s. The main body of the text concerns the Terasaki family’s years of privation in Japan during the war and Hidenari’s role as adviser to General Douglas MacArthur during the American occupation of Japan; the book closes with the Japanese diplomat’s death in 1949.
While Bridge to the Sun does touch on incidents concerning well-known Japanese and American leaders during the war, it primarily focuses on Gwen Terasaki’s view of events and on the Terasakis’ efforts to keep their family together during cataclysmic international events that were dividing their two countries. Hidenari Terasaki was as surprised by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor as were the citizens of the United States, and he suffered great disfavor in the government of his own country after he, Gwen, and daughter Mako were repatriated to Japan. Many of Gwen’s friends and family thought that she and her daughter should stay in the United States during the war, and they two suffered much scorn as they traveled across the country on their way to Japan. For the most part, Gwen was treated politely in Japan throughout the war. Despite the enmity between the United States and Japan throughout the 1940’s, the Terasakis retained their pacifist convictions and their great affection for both countries.
The many deprivations suffered by the Terasakis and the rest of the Japanese population at the end of the war broke Hidenari’s health. He served as a liaison between the Japanese emperor and MacArthur after the war in an effort to bridge the cultural gap that the Terasakis exemplified in their own family, but his strength continued to deteriorate. Just before her husband’s death, Gwen and Mako moved back to her home in Johnson City, Tennessee, expecting him to follow shortly. His death was a great shock to her. She later wrote Bridge to the Sun in an effort to assuage her grief and as a tribute to her husband and their two countries.