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Emory Women Writers Resource Project

A Japanese Blossom, an electronic edition

by Onoto Watanna [Watanna, Onoto, 1879-1954]

date: 1906
source publisher: Harper & Brothers
collection: Genre Fiction

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XV

SUMMER, with its flowers, carnivals, moonlight fêtes and banquets, is a season of unalloyed bliss to Japanese children. It seemed as if all nature took a holiday, and bade the children and the grown folks, too, come forth from their houses and rejoice at her beauty and happiness.

Never before had the Japanese held so many celebrations. But this year their festivals were not in honor of the beauty of the flowers or the glory of the moon. They tossed their fans, their parasols, any article, above their heads. They marched | | 140 page image : 140     A JAPANESE BLOSSOM the streets of the towns at night with swinging lanterns and torches in their hands, sometimes singing and always shouting, "Banzai! Banzai!" Impassive faces turned ruddy with excitement and pride. Even delicate-faced ladies leaned from their jinrikishas in the public streets and waved the sun flags in their hands. Never had a flower festival drawn forth such enthusiasm and excitement. On all sides people spoke the word, breathlessly, with smiling lips:

"Victory! Always victory for Dai Nippon."

The Kurukawa family caught the spirit of the country. There was not a member of the little flock that did not feel a personal pride in Japan's achievements. Even Mrs. Kurukawa, after the first shock of the actual sense of loss had passed, refused to be oppressed by her sorrow. | | 141 page image : 141     A JAPANESE BLOSSOM By this time her husband's friends in the town were hers. She became a member of a society which had for its aim the succor of the town's poor families whose wage-earners had been given to the war. No Western women's club or society ever worked harder than did these little Japanese women when they took upon themselves the actual support of the poor of the town. Mrs. Kurukawa found a wonderful comfort in the work. All the little girls assisted. Immediately after the departure of her husband the grandmother had come to her with a suggestion that at first she could not understand.

"Now that the master has gone," had said the old woman, "shall we not dismiss all the servants?"

"But why?" she had inquired, astonished. "We can afford to keep them, can we not?"

| | 142 page image : 142    A JAPANESE BLOSSOM

Madame Sano could not make her reasons understood. For a time she went about the house very gloomy and unhappy, shaking her old head as the servants waited upon their mistress and the children. She herself refused to be waited upon. Her own meals she cooked herself. It was shortly after she had become a member of the Aid Society that Mrs. Kurukawa learned from another member that most of the war families had dismissed their servants, or kept at most but one scullery maid. The little Japanese lady told her at the same time that none of them had bought new clothes since the beginning of the war, and that some of them had refused fire, food, and luxuries. The reason was this. Their husbands, sons, fathers, and brothers were suffering hardship and peril. It would be unseemly for them to live | | 143 page image : 143     A JAPANESE BLOSSOM in luxury. Since they could not share that hardship at the front with their men they would deny themselves at home.

"But what of the servants?" Mrs. Kurukawa had asked. "They would be without employment."

The answer was prompt. "The men-servants belong to the war service. Some of the women receive reduced wages. The money saved is devoted to charity. The servants themselves understand that they, too, must make sacrifices. Some of them are sent by their mistresses to the homes of the poor and the sick, there to work."

When she returned home Mrs. Kurukawa called the family together to tell them of her resolve. They would keep but one maid-servant and Norah, the nurse. The maidservant would do the cooking and | | 144 page image : 144     A JAPANESE BLOSSOM the scullery work. Marion, Plum Blossom, and Iris were to do all the chamber work and keep the second floor clean and sweet. Madame Sano would do the sewing. The boys must take care of the garden and draw the water. Mrs. Kurukawa would see to the rest of the house. As the average Japanese family of similar circumstances kept a great many servants--in fact, any number of "assistants," cook's assistant, scullery assistant, etc.--the Kurukawas had in all fourteen, including the men who worked in the garden and the rice-fields. Of these, one old man's services were retained. The younger men were advised to enlist if they could. If not, they would receive reduced wages and be employed in caring for the poor. So the work previously done by the servants was now done cheerfully and happily | | 145 page image : 145     A JAPANESE BLOSSOM by the members of the Kurukawa family.

No chamber-maid ever cleaned a sleeping-chamber with more pleasure than did the little girls. Their hair wrapped about in white linen, their sleeves rolled up, they made the bamboo brooms fly across the floor.

"If one liddle bit of dust be in corner even," said Plum Blossom, "I shall die of shame."

That was the spirit of all.

They who had never known what it was to wash their own bright faces, now joyfully did all such services for themselves and for one another. They were always so busy that they found no time for sadness. They arose with the sun to busy themselves in the house throughout the mornings. The afternoon was given to more pleasurable work. They would sew and embroider in the garden, or write | | 146 page image : 146     A JAPANESE BLOSSOM letters to their father and Gozo. Often all of them would go on missions of charity to the town. Japan has no actual slums in her smaller towns. Asylums and "Refuges" are scarcely needed. The charity work done is all personal, and perhaps, better.

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