Yoko Matsuoka McClain

Yoko was the invaluable Associate Producer of Unearthing Ogawa.

When Steve Meixell contacted her unexpectedly about the project, Yoko listened to the details, then responded firmly, “You’re obviously promoting peace and international goodwill here. So count me in.”

Those positive words were emblematic of her life’s work, and she lived them daily throughout the planning and filming in Tokyo, Kakegawa, Hiroshima, and across Japan.

Born in Tokyo on January 1, 1924, Yoko was the granddaughter of famed Japanese novelist Natsume Soseki. She survived the bombing of Tokyo and graduated from Tsuda College in 1945, then received a scholarship (in what became the Fulbright Program) to the University of Oregon, where she received a degree in French and a Master’s Degree in comparative literature. From 1964 until 1994, she taught Japanese literature at the University of Oregon, where she also met and married her husband Robert, and raised her son Ken.

Yoko authored many books and scholarly articles including “Japan and America: One Woman’s View,” “Families: Japan and America,” and the internationally-acclaimed “Handbook of Modern Japanese Grammar” which is still in use today.

Yoko and Robert eventually donated their large collection of Japanese prints and artwork to the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art in Eugene, Oregon.

In 2003, the Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs honored Yoko for her work in promoting Japanese-US cultural relations. As a Professor Emeritus, the University of Oregon College of Arts and Sciences awarded her the Alumni Fellows Award in 2003. In August 2011, she received the Gertrude Bass Award.

Yoko Matsuoka McClain was a friend with tremendous intellect, focused discipline, and great humor. We miss her daily and will love her forever.