Kumiko is a fictional character first introduced in The Karate Kid Part II. She is portrayed by Tamlyn Tomita, a Japanese American actress who was born in Okinawa in 1966.
Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) and Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) first met Kumiko when they returned to Mr. Miyagi’s hometown of Okinawa. Kumiko is the niece of Yukie, Mr. Miyagi’s childhood girlfriend, and quickly becomes Daniel’s love interest during the film.
While The Karate Kid Part III reveals that Kumiko and Daniel went their separate ways, Cobra Kai season 3 shows Daniel’s return to Okinawa and a reunion between the two. Daniel’s sadness over the loss of Mr. Miyagi and confusion without his teacher to guide him were strong themes so far throughout the entire Cobra Kai series. His return to Okinawa and reunion with Kumiko had a major impact on his character in the show’s third season.
Here’s what you need to know about Kumiko:
1. Tomita Was Very Excited to Rejoin the ‘Karate Kid’ Universe
After The Karate Kid Part II, Tomita went on to have a successful career in TV and film. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, she said that Kumiko is still the role she gets recognized for the most, and she was excited to reprise the character.
“They came back to me [with a script] in the summer, and it was so sweet. I said I would love to be able to participate,” Tomita said. “It was really a joyous sentiment to be thought of for the Cobra Kai series. So yeah, I’m very, very thankful.”
She also said that she was excited to get the opportunity to work with Macchio again.
“It was like slipping on a favorite pair of socks, or a beloved pair of shoes that still fit, that still are comfortable,” Tomita said. “It was so easy, and we were just laughing, like, ‘Was it really 35 years ago? Has it been that long?’ Because it just feels like yesterday.”
2. Kumiko Is an Ex-Girlfriend of Daniel LaRusso
Daniel’s first girlfriend in the movies was Dr. Ali Mill’s Schwarber from The Karate Kid, who is also returned to the franchise for season 3 of Cobra Kai. After Daniel alleges that Ali wrecked his car and dumped him for a football player from UCLA at the beginning of The Karate Kid Part II, Daniel goes to Okinawa with Mr. Miyagi. There, he quickly develops feelings for Kumiko, who had been showing him around the village.
Daniel and Kumiko have chemistry right away, as Kumiko shows Daniel how to perform the O-bon dance, a Japanese way to honor the dead. She reveals to him her dream of becoming a dancer. Eventually, Daniel even asks her to move back to America with him to go to dance school.
Near the end of the film, Daniel and Kumiko perform a traditional tea ceremony, declaring that they love one another and implying that Kumiko has accepted his offer to go back to America with him. At the beginning of The Karate Kid Part III, however, Daniel reveals that she was offered her dream job at a dance company in Tokyo and could not pass up the opportunity.
Even though Daniel is now married, seeing the two former lovers reunite was a fun moment. Kumiko had an important role in Daniel’s character development in season 3, primarily because of her connection to Mr. Miyagi.
3. Kumiko Is the Niece Mr. Miyagi’s Longtime Love
Kumiko is the niece of Mr. Miyagi’s love, Yukie. She had a close relationship with her aunt, and through that developed a relationship with Mr. Miyagi. She is also from Mr. Miyagi’s home and had a deep connection to his life.
One Cobra Kai season 3 clip showed how Kumiko’s connection to Mr. Miyagi allows her to help Daniel in a way almost nobody else could. During Daniel’s meeting with Kumiko, he laments that “[Mr. Miyagi] had it all figured out. I wish I still had him. I wish he could be here to help guide me.” While Daniel expresses his frustration, Kumiko’s face grows into a smile. She says, “I think I can make that happen.”
4. Chozen Nearly Killed Her in The Karate Kid Part II
Cobra Kai season 3 also saw the return of Chozen (Yuji Okumoto), the main antagonist from The Karate Kid Part II. Chozen did not end the film on the best of terms with Kumiko.
Chozen held a knife to Kumiko’s throat and threatened to kill her if Daniel did not fight him to the death at the O-bon festival. After Daniel defeats him, Chozen pretty much disappears.
In the season 3, Chozen and Daniel square off once again in a dojo in Okinawa. This time they are training together and Chozen is teaching Daniel a new technique, rather than fighting to the death.
In another season 3 clip, we see Chozen and Daniel looking at some Miyagi-do artifacts that Chozen was gifted by his uncle. Chozen’s connection to these artifacts and Mr. Miyagi is important to Daniel because he has been so lost without his teacher. He is able to find some new teachings through his time with Chozen, and regain balance in his life.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Yuji Okumoto talked about the character of Chozen and some of the changes he has gone through. “Chozen has gone through a lot of soul searching after losing his fight with Daniel,” Okumoto said. “I think he started to understand what the true meaning of martial arts is, and what the true meaning of honor is.”
Regardless of where the two characters left things after The Karate Kid Part II, the new season of Cobra Kai showed that they have both grown up and moved on, and have a friendly enough relationship.
5. Kumiko Made a Great Impact on Season 3 of Cobra Kai
Kumiko’s role in the franchise, until now, was only as a love interest in The Karate Kid Part II. After she and Daniel split up, she was not seen again. She never returned to the states to meet Kreese or Johnny and doesn’t really know about Daniel’s run-ins with Cobra Kai.
Her appearance in the show, however, had a major influence over Daniel’s relationships with everyone back in the states. She reads him a letter that Mr. Miyagi wrote for Yukie, and Daniel is able to pull a lesson from it.
In addition to sharing the letter with him she plays a big role in saving his car dealership, and reconnecting Daniel with Chozen helped him regain his focus and learn the technique later used against Kreese.
Throughout the show, Daniel and Johnny have never been able to see eye to eye. Kumiko played an important role in fixing their relationship.
“It also propels the story, the LaRusso [and] Johnny Lawrence story,” Macchio said in an interview with Collider. “It’s not just there as a standalone. It’s, how do you deal with a rival and how can you get to the other side?”
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