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Tetsuko Kuroyanagi

Goodwill Ambassador

© UNICEF Japan/2009
"If you witness (the problems in the world), your outlook on life will change. You will understand how fortunate and well-off you are, (…). You will understand that you are so safe from the risk of air raids and landmines." - Tetsuko Kuroyanagi

Tetsuko Kuroyanagi is a renowned actress, best-selling author and one of Japan’s most popular television personalities. Ms. Kuroyanagi is the director of the Japanese branch of the World Wildlife Fund and a devoted advocate for people with disabilities. She was appointed UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in February 1984.

On behalf of UNICEF she has visited some of the world’s most volatile countries in Asia and Africa, including Cambodia, Angola, Iraq, Rwanda, Afghanistan and Liberia, where civil wars or natural disasters threaten child development and survival.  Through her daily talk-show and with her high visibility in the Japanese media, the actress has been able to put the spotlight on the conditions faced by the world’s most vulnerable children. Ms. Kuroyanagi is known for filing her own television reports on her UNICEF missions and makes direct fund-raising appeals, raising over US$45 million for UNICEF programmes.

As a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for more than two decades, Ms. Kuroyanagi has inspired millions of her fellow Japanese not only to donate funds but also to contribute in various other ways. She is frequently approached by students who are motivated by her books and her dedication to the world’s children to pursue humanitarian careers.  

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Born in Tokyo, Tetsuko Kuroyanagi is the daughter of a celebrated violinist. She majored in opera at the Tokyo College of Music and then trained in theatre at Tokyo’s Bungakuza Theatre and in New York at the Mary Tarcai Studio.

Ms. Kuroyanagi has won Japan’s highest television honour - the Cultural Broadcasting Award – for her daily TV talk show, Tetsuko’s Room, which she has hosted since 1976.  She has been voted Japan’s favourite television personality 14 times and has received all the major awards in Japan for performing artists.

Her childhood memoir, Totto-chan: The Little Girl at the Window, has sold more than 7 million copies. With royalties from her book sales she established the Totto Foundation to train professional actors with hearing impairments. She is also the author of Totto-chan’s Children: A Goodwill Journey to the Children of the World based on her UNICEF missions.

Ms. Kuroyanagi has received several awards for her humanitarian work. In 1981, the International Year of the Disabled Person, she was honoured by the Prime Minister of Japan with a special award for her work with people with disabilities. She was awarded the first UNICEF Child Survival Award in 1987 for her fundraising and advocacy, and in 1998, the Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi Education Award from Hiroshima for her advocacy efforts on behalf of underprivileged children.

In October 2000, Ms. Kuroyanagi was presented with UNICEF’s first Leadership for Children Award. On 12 May 2003, she was decorated with The Order of the Sacred Treasure, Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon by the Government of Japan in recognition of her two decades of service for the world’s children.  On 20 May 2009, she received a commemorative plaque from UNICEF for her 25 years of dedicated service as a Goodwill Ambassador.

Tetsuko Kuroyanagi lives in Japan.





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