12: 子どもは学ぶ

The Child Learns



                            The Child Learns

Japanese Babies are not brought up in the fashion that a thoughtful
Westerner might suppose. American parents, training their children for a
life so much less circumspect and stoical than life in Japan,
nevertheless begin immediately to prove to the baby that his own little
wishes are not supreme in this world. We put him immediately on a
feeding schedule and a sleeping schedule, and no matter how he fusses
before bottle time or bed time, he has to wait. A little later his
mother strikes his hand to make him take his finger out of his mouth or
away from other parts of his body. His mother is frequently out of sight
and when she goes out he has to stay behind. He has to be weaned before
he prefers other foods, or if he is bottle fed, he has to give up his
bottle. There are certain foods that are good for him and he must eat
them. He is punished when he does not do what is right. What is more
natural for an American to suppose than that these disciplines are
redoubled for the little Japanese baby who, when he is a finished
product, will have to subordinate his own wishes and be so careful and
punctilious an observer of such a demanding code?

The Japanese, however, do not follow this course. The arc of life in
Japan is plotted in opposite fashion to that in the United States. It is
a great shallow U-curve with maximum freedom and indulgence allowed to
babies and to the old. Restrictions are slowly increased after babyhood
till having one’s own way reaches a low just before and after marriage.
This low line continues many years during the prime of life, but the arc
gradually ascends again until after the age of sixty men and women are
almost as unhampered by shame as little children are. In the United
States we stand this curve upside down. Firm disciplines are directed
toward the infant and these are gradually relaxed as the child grows in
strength until a man runs his own life when he gets a self-supporting
job and when he sets up a household of his own. The prime of life is
with us the high point of freedom and initiative. Restrictions begin to
appear as men lose their grip or their energy or become dependent. It is
difficult for Americans even to fantasy a life arranged according to the
Japanese pattern. It seems to us to fly in the face of reality.

Both the American and the Japanese arrangement of the arc of life,
however, have in point of fact secured in each country the individual’s
energetic participation in his culture during the prime of life. To
secure this end in the United States, we rely on increasing his freedom
of choice during this period. The Japanese rely on maximizing the
restraints upon him. The fact that a man is at this time at the peak of
his physical strength and at the peak of his earning powers does not
make him master of his own life. They have great confidence that
restraint is good mental training (_shuyo_) and produces results not
attained by freedom. But the Japanese increase of restraints upon the
man or woman during their most active producing periods by no means
indicates that these restraints cover the whole of life. Childhood and
old age are ‘free areas.’

A people so truly permissive to their children very likely want babies.
The Japanese do. They want them, first of all, as parents do in the
United States, because it is a pleasure to love a child. But they want
them, too, for reasons which have much less weight in America. Japanese
parents need children, not alone for emotional satisfaction, but because
they have failed in life if they have not carried on the family line.
Every Japanese man must have a son. He needs him to do daily homage to
his memory after his death at the living-room shrine before the
miniature gravestone. He needs him to perpetuate the family line down
the generations and to preserve the family honor and possessions. For
traditional social reasons the father needs his son almost as much as
the young son needs his father. The son will take his father’s place in
the on-going future and this is not felt as supplanting but as insuring
the father. For a few years the father is trustee of the ‘house.’ Later
it will be his son. If the father could not pass trusteeship to his son,
his own rôle would have been played in vain. This deep sense of
continuity prevents the dependency of the fully grown son on his father,
even when it is continued so much longer than it is in the United
States, from having the aura of shame and humiliation which it so
generally has in Western nations.

A woman too wants children not only for her emotional satisfaction in
them but because it is only as a mother that she gains status. A
childless wife has a most insecure position in the family, and even if
she is not discarded she can never look forward to being a mother-in-law
and exercising authority over her son’s marriage and over her son’s
wife. Her husband will adopt a son to carry on his line but according to
Japanese ideas the childless woman is still the loser. Japanese women
are expected to be good childbearers. The average annual birth-rate
during the first half of the nineteen-thirties was 31.7 per 1000 which
is high even when compared to prolific countries of Eastern Europe. In
the United States in 1940 the rate was 17.6 per 1000. Japanese mothers,
too, begin their childbearing early, and girls of nineteen bear more
children than women of any other age.

Childbirth is as private in Japan as sexual intercourse and women may
not cry out in labor because this would publicize it. A little pallet
bed has been prepared for the baby with its own new mattress and
bedcover. It would be a bad omen for the child not to have its own new
bed, even if the family can do no more than have the quilt covers and
the stuffing cleaned and renovated to make them ‘new.’ The little bed
quilt is not as stiff as grown-ups’ covers and it is lighter. The baby
is therefore said to be more comfortable in its own bed, but the deeply
felt reason for its separate bed is still felt to be based on a kind of
sympathetic magic: a new human being must have its own new bed. The
baby’s pallet is drawn up close to the mother’s, but the baby does not
sleep with its mother until it is old enough to show initiative. When it
is perhaps a year old, they say the baby stretches out its arms and
makes its demand known. Then the baby sleeps in its mother’s arms under
her covers.

For three days after its birth the baby is not fed, for the Japanese
wait until the true milk comes. After this the baby may have the breast
at any time either for food or comfort. The mother enjoys nursing too.
The Japanese are convinced that nursing is one of a woman’s greatest
physiological pleasures and the baby easily learns to share her
pleasure. The breast is not only nourishment: it is delight and comfort.
For a month the baby lies on his little bed or is held in his mother’s
arms. It is only after the baby has been taken to the local shrine and
presented there at the age of about thirty days that his life is thought
to be firmly anchored in his body so that it is safe to carry him around
freely in public. After he is a month old, he is carried on his mother’s
back. A double sash holds him under his arms and under his behind and is
passed around the mother’s shoulders and tied in front at the waist. In
cold weather the mother’s padded jacket is worn right over the baby. The
older children of the family, both boys and girls, carry the baby, too,
even at play when they are running for base or playing hopscotch. The
villagers and the poorer families especially depend on child nurses, and
‘living in public, as the Japanese babies do, they soon acquire an
intelligent, interested look, and seem to enjoy the games of the older
children upon whose backs they are carried as much as the players
themselves.’[1] The spread-eagle strapping of the baby on the back in
Japan has much in common with the shawl-carrying common in the Pacific
Islands and elsewhere. It makes for passivity and babies carried in
these ways tend to grow up, as the Japanese do too, with a capacity for
sleeping anywhere, anyhow. But the Japanese strapping does not encourage
as complete passivity as shawl and bag carrying. The baby ‘learns to
cling like a kitten to the back of whoever carries it. . . . The straps
that tie it to the back are sufficient for safety; but the baby . . . is
dependent on its own exertions to secure a comfortable position and it
soon learns to ride its bearer with considerable skill instead of being
merely a bundle tied to the shoulders.’[2]

The mother lays the baby on its bed whenever she is working and carries
it with her wherever she goes on the streets. She talks to it. She hums
to it. She puts it through the etiquette motions. If she returns a
greeting herself, she moves the baby’s head and shoulders forward so
that it too makes salutation. The baby is always counted in. Every
afternoon she takes it with her into the hot bath and plays with it as
she holds it on her knees.

For three or four months the baby wears diapers, very heavy cloth pads
upon which Japanese sometimes blame their bow-leggedness. When the baby
is three or four months old, the mother begins his nursery training. She
anticipates his needs, holding him in her hands outside the door. She
waits for him, usually whistling low and monotonously, and the child
learns to know the purpose of this auditory stimulus. Everyone agrees
that a baby in Japan, as in China too, is trained very early. If there
are slips, some mothers pinch the baby but generally they only change
the tone of their voices and hold the hard-to-train baby outside the
door at more frequent intervals. If there is withholding, the mother
gives the baby an enema or a purge. Mothers say that they are making the
baby more comfortable; when he is trained he will no longer have to wear
the thick uncomfortable diapers. It is true that a Japanese baby must
find diapers unpleasant, not only because they are heavy but because
custom does not decree that they be changed whenever he wets them. The
baby is nevertheless too young to perceive the connection between
nursery training and getting rid of uncomfortable diapers. He
experiences only an inescapable routine implacably insisted upon.
Besides, the mother has to hold the baby away from her body, and her
grip must be firm. What the baby learns from the implacable training
prepares him to accept in adulthood the subtler compulsions of Japanese

The Japanese baby usually talks before it walks. Creeping has always
been discouraged. Traditionally there was a feeling that the baby ought
not to stand or take steps till it was a year old and the mother used to
prevent any such attempts. The government in its cheap, widely
circulated _Mother’s Magazine_ has for a decade or two taught that
walking should be encouraged and this has become much more general.
Mothers loop a sash under the baby’s arms or support it with their
hands. But babies still tend to talk even earlier. When they begin to
use words the stream of baby talk with which adults like to amuse a baby
becomes more purposive. They do not leave the baby’s acquiring of
language to chance imitation; they teach the baby words and grammar and
respect language, and both the baby and the grown-ups enjoy the game.

When children can walk they can do a lot of mischief in a Japanese home.
They can poke their fingers through paper walls, and they can fall into
the open fire pit in the middle of the floor. Not content with this, the
Japanese even exaggerate the dangers of the house. It is ‘dangerous’ and
completely taboo to step on the threshold. The Japanese house has, of
course, no cellar and is raised off the ground on joists. It is
seriously felt that the whole house can be thrown out of shape even by a
child’s step upon the threshold. Not only that, but the child must learn
not to step or to sit where the floor mats join one another. Floor mats
are of standard size and rooms are known as ‘three-mat rooms’ or
‘twelve-mat rooms.’ Where these mats join, children are often told, the
samurai of old times used to thrust their swords up from below the house
and pierce the occupants of the room. Only the thick soft floor mats
provide safety; even the cracks where they meet are dangerous. The
mother puts feelings of this sort into the constant admonitions she uses
to the baby: ‘Dangerous’ and ‘Bad.’ The third usual admonition is
‘Dirty.’ The neatness and cleanness of the Japanese house is proverbial
and the baby is admonished to respect it.

Most Japanese children are not weaned till shortly before a new baby is
born, but the government’s _Mother’s Magazine_ has in late years
approved of weaning the baby at eight months. Middle-class mothers often
do this, but it is far from being the common custom in Japan. True to
the Japanese feeling that nursing is a great pleasure to the mother,
those circles which are gradually adopting the custom regard the shorter
nursing period as a mother’s sacrifice to the welfare of her child. When
they accept the new dictum that ‘the child who nurses long is weak,’
they blame the mother for her self-indulgence if she has not weaned her
baby. ‘She says she can’t wean her baby. It’s only that she hasn’t made
up her own mind. She wants to go on. She is getting the better part.’
With such an attitude, it is quite understandable that eight-month
weaning has not become widespread. There is a practical reason also for
late weaning. The Japanese do not have a tradition of special foods for
a just-weaned baby. If he is weaned young, he is fed the water in which
rice has been boiled, but ordinarily he passes directly from his
mother’s milk to the usual adult fare. Cow’s milk is not included in
Japanese diet and they do not prepare special vegetables for children.
Under the circumstances there is a reasonable doubt whether the
government is correct in teaching that ‘the child who nurses long is

Children are usually weaned after they can understand what is said to
them. They have sat in their mother’s lap at the family table during
meals and been fed bits of the food; now they eat more of it. Some
children are feeding problems at this time, and this is easy to
understand when they are weaned because of the birth of a new baby.
Mothers often offer them sweets to buy them off from begging to nurse.
Sometimes a mother will put pepper on her nipples. But all mothers tease
them by telling them they are proving that they are mere babies if they
want to nurse. ‘Look at your little cousin. He’s a man. He’s little like
you and he doesn’t ask to nurse.’ ‘That little boy is laughing at you
because you’re a boy and you still want to nurse.’ Two-, three-, and
four-year-old children who are still demanding their mother’s breast
will often drop it and feign indifference when an older child is heard

This teasing, this urging a child toward adulthood, is not confined to
weaning. From the time the child can understand what is said to it,
these techniques are common in any situation. A mother will say to her
boy baby when he cries, ‘You’re not a girl,’ or ‘You’re a man.’ Or she
will say, ‘Look at that baby. He doesn’t cry.’ When another baby is
brought to visit, she will fondle the visitor in her own child’s
presence and say, ‘I’m going to adopt this baby. I want such a nice,
good child. You don’t act your age.’ Her own child throws itself upon
her, often pommeling her with its fists, and cries, ‘No, no, we don’t
want any other baby. I’ll do what you say.’ When the child of one or two
has been noisy or has failed to be prompt about something, the mother
will say to a man visitor, ‘Will you take this child away? We don’t want
it.’ The visitor acts out his rôle. He starts to take the child out of
the house. The baby screams and calls upon its mother to rescue it. He
has a full-sized tantrum. When she thinks the teasing has worked, she
relents and takes back the child, exacting its frenzied promise to be
good. The little play is acted out sometimes with children who are as
old as five and six.

Teasing takes another form too. The mother will turn to her husband and
say to the child, ‘I like your father better than you. He is a nice
man.’ The child gives full expression to his jealousy and tries to break
in between his father and mother. His mother says, ‘Your father doesn’t
shout around the house and run around the rooms.’ ‘No, no,’ the child
protests, ‘I won’t either. I am good. _Now_ do you love me?’ When the
play has gone on long enough, the father and mother look at one another
and smile. They may tease a young daughter in this way as well as a
young son.

Such experiences are rich soil for the fear of ridicule and of ostracism
which is so marked in the Japanese grown-up. It is impossible to say how
soon little children understand that they are being made game of by this
teasing, but understand it they do sooner or later, and when they do,
the sense of being laughed at fuses with the panic of the child
threatened with loss of all that is safe and familiar. When he is a
grown man, being laughed at retains this childhood aura.

The panic such teasing occasions in the two- to five-year-old child is
the greater because home is really a haven of safety and indulgence.
Division of labor, both physical and emotional, is so complete between
his father and mother that they are seldom presented to him as
competitors. His mother or his grandmother runs the household and
admonishes the child. They both serve his father on their knees and put
him in the position of honor. The order of precedence in the home
hierarchy is clear-cut. The child has learned the prerogatives of elder
generations, of a male as compared with a female, of elder brother as
compared with younger brother. But at this period of his life a child is
indulged in all these relationships. This is strikingly true if he is a
boy. For both girls and boys alike the mother is the source of constant
and extreme gratifications, but in the case of a three-year-old boy he
can gratify against her even his furious anger. He may never manifest
any aggression toward his father, but all that he felt when he was
teased by his parents and his resentments against being ‘given away’ can
be expressed in tantrums directed against his mother and his
grandmother. Not all little boys, of course, have these tantrums, but in
both villages and upper-class homes they are looked upon as an ordinary
part of child life between three and six. The baby pommels his mother,
screams, and, as his final violence, tears down her precious hair-do.
His mother is a woman and even at three years old he is securely male.
He can gratify even his aggressions.

To his father he may show only respect. His father is the great exemplar
to the child of high hierarchal position, and, in the constantly used
Japanese phrase, the child must learn to express the proper respect to
him ‘for training.’ He is less of a disciplinarian than in almost any
Western nation. Discipline of the children is in the woman’s hands. A
simple silent stare or a short admonition is usually all the indication
of his wishes he gives to his little children, and these are rare enough
to be quickly complied with. He may make toys for his children in his
free hours. He carries them about on occasion long after they can
walk—as the mother does too—and for his children of this age he
casually assumes nursery duties which an American father ordinarily
leaves to his wife.

Children have great freedom with their grandparents, though they are
also objects of respect. Grandparents are not cast in the rôle of
disciplinarians. They may take that rôle when they object to the laxness
of the children’s upbringing, and this is the occasion of a good deal of
friction. The child’s grandmother is usually at hand twenty-four hours
of the day, and the rivalry for the children between father’s mother and
mother is proverbial in Japanese homes. From the child’s point of view
he is courted by both of them. From the grandmother’s point of view, she
often uses him in her domination of her daughter-in-law. The young
mother has no greater obligation in life than satisfying her
mother-in-law and she cannot protest, however much the grandparents may
spoil her children. Grandmother gives them candies after Mother has said
they should not have any more, and says pointedly, ‘_My_ candies aren’t
poison.’ Grandmother in many households can make the children presents
which Mother cannot manage to get them and has more leisure to devote to
the children’s amusements.

The older brothers and sisters are also taught to indulge the younger
children. The Japanese are quite aware of the danger of what we call the
baby’s ‘nose being put out of joint’ when the next baby is born. The
dispossessed child can easily associate with the new baby the fact that
he has had to give up his mother’s breast and his mother’s bed to the
newcomer. Before the new baby is born the mother tells the child that
now he will have a real live doll and not just a ‘pretend’ baby. He is
told that he can sleep now with his father instead of his mother, and
this is pictured as a privilege. The children are drawn into
preparations for the new baby. The children are usually genuinely
excited and pleased by the new baby but lapses occur and are regarded as
thoroughly expectable and not as particularly threatening. The
dispossessed child may pick up the baby and start off with it, saying to
his mother, ‘We’ll give this baby away.’ ‘No,’ she answers, ‘it’s our
baby. See, we’ll be good to it. It likes you. We need you to help with
the baby.’ The little scene sometimes recurs over a considerable time
but mothers seem to worry little about it. One provision for the
situation occurs automatically in large families: the alternate children
are united by closer ties. The oldest child will be favored nurse and
protector of the third child and the second child of the fourth. The
younger children reciprocate. Until children are seven or eight, what
sex the children are generally makes little difference in this

All Japanese children have toys. Fathers and mothers and all the circle
of friends and relatives make or buy dolls and all their appurtenances
for the children, and among poorer people they cost practically nothing.
Little children play housekeeping, weddings, and festivals with them,
after arguing out just what the ‘right’ grown-up procedures are, and
sometimes submitting to mother a disputed point. When there are
quarrels, it is likely that the mother will invoke _noblesse oblige_ and
ask the older child to give in to the younger one. The common phrase is,
‘Why not lose to win?’ She means, and the three-year-old quickly comes
to understand her, that if the older child gives up his toy to the
younger one the baby will soon be satisfied and turn to something else;
then the admonished child will have won his toy back even though he
relinquished it. Or she means that by accepting an unpopular rôle in the
master-servants game the children are proposing, he will nevertheless
‘win’ the fun they can have. ‘To lose to win’ becomes a sequence greatly
respected in Japanese life even when people are grown-up.

Besides the techniques of admonition and teasing, distracting the child
and turning his mind away from its object has an honored place in
child-rearing. Even the constant giving of candies is generally thought
of as part of the technique of distraction. As the child gets nearer to
school age techniques of ‘curing’ are used. If a little boy has tantrums
or is disobedient or noisy his mother may take him to a Shinto or
Buddhist shrine. The mother’s attitude is, ‘_We_ will go to get help.’
It is often quite a jaunt and the curing priest talks seriously with the
boy, asking his day of birth and his troubles. He retires to pray and
comes back to pronounce the cure, sometimes removing the naughtiness in
the form of a worm or an insect. He purifies him and sends him home
freed. ‘It lasts for a while,’ Japanese say. Even the most severe
punishment Japanese children ever get is regarded as ‘medicine.’ This is
the burning of a little cone of powder, the _moxa_, upon the child’s
skin. It leaves a lifelong scar. Cauterization by _moxa_ is an old,
widespread Eastern Asiatic medicine, and it was traditionally used to
cure many aches and pains in Japan too. It can also cure tantrums and
obstinacy. A little boy of six or seven may be ‘cured’ in this way by
his mother or his grandmother. It may even be used twice in a difficult
case but very seldom indeed is a child given the _moxa_ treatment for
naughtiness a third time. It is not a punishment in the sense that ‘I’ll
spank you if you do that’ is a punishment. But it hurts far worse than
spanking, and the child learns that he cannot be naughty with impunity.

Besides these means of dealing with obstreperous children, there are
conventions for teaching necessary physical skills. There is great
emphasis on the instructor’s putting children with his own hands
physically through the motions. The child should be passive. Before the
child is two years old, the father folds its legs for it in the correct
sitting position, legs folded back and instep to the floor. The child
finds it difficult at first not to fall over backward, especially since
an indispensable part of the sitting training is the emphasis on
immobility. He must not fidget or shift position. The way to learn, they
say, is to relax and be passive, and this passivity is underscored by
the father’s placing of his legs. Sitting is not the only physical
position to be learned. There is also sleeping. Modesty in a woman’s
sleeping position is as strong in Japan as modesty about being seen
naked is in the United States. Though the Japanese did not feel shame in
nudity in the bath until the government tried to introduce it during
their campaign to win the approval of foreigners, their feeling about
sleeping positions is very strong. The girl child must learn to sleep
straight with her legs together, though the boy has greater freedom. It
is one of the first rules which separate the training of boys and girls.
Like almost all other requirements in Japan, it is stricter in upper
classes than in lower, and Mrs. Sugimoto says of her own samurai
upbringing: ‘From the time I can remember I was always careful about
lying quiet on my little wooden pillow at night. . . Samurai daughters
were taught never to lose control of mind or body—even in sleep. Boys
might stretch themselves into the character _dai_, carelessly outspread;
but girls must curve into the modest, dignified character _kinoji_,
which means “spirit of control.”’[4] Women have told me how their
mothers or nurses arranged their limbs for them when they put them to
bed at night.

In the traditional teaching of writing, too, the instructor took the
child’s hand and made the ideographs. It was ‘to give him the feel.’ The
child learned to experience the controlled, rhythmic movements before he
could recognize the characters, much less write them. In modern mass
education this method of teaching is less pronounced but it still
occurs. The bow, the handling of chopsticks, shooting an arrow, or tying
a pillow on the back in lieu of a baby may all be taught by moving the
child’s hands and physically placing his body in the correct position.

Except among the upper classes children do not wait to go to school
before they play freely with other children of the neighborhood. In the
villages they form little play gangs before they are three and even in
towns and cities they play with startling freedom in and out of vehicles
in the crowded streets. They are privileged beings. They hang around the
shops listening to grown-ups, or play hopscotch or handball. They gather
for play at the village shrine, safe in the protection of its patron
spirit. Girls and boys play together until they go to school, and for
two or three years after, but closest ties are likely to be between
children of the same sex and especially between children of the same
chronological age. These age-groups (_donen_), especially in the
villages, are lifelong and survive all others. In the village of Suye
Mura, ‘as sexual interests decrease parties of donen are the true
pleasures left in life. Suye (the village) says, “Donen are closer than
a wife.”’[5]

These pre-school children’s gangs are very free with each other. Many of
their games are unabashedly obscene from a Western point of view. The
children know the facts of life both because of the freedom of
grown-ups’ conversation and because of the close quarters in which a
Japanese family lives. Besides, their mothers ordinarily call attention
to their children’s genitals when they play with them and bathe them,
certainly to those of their boy children. The Japanese do not condemn
childish sexuality except when it is indulged in the wrong places and in
wrong company. Masturbation is not regarded as dangerous. The children’s
gangs are also very free in hurling criticisms at each other—criticisms
which in later life would be insults—and in boasting—boasts which
would later be occasions of deep shame. ‘Children,’ the Japanese say,
their eyes smiling benignantly, ‘know no shame (_haji_).’ They add,
‘That is why they are so happy.’ It is the great gulf fixed between the
little child and the adult, for to say of a grown person, ‘He knows no
shame’ is to say that he is lost to decency.

Children of this age criticize each other’s homes and possessions and
they boast especially about their fathers. ‘My father is stronger than
yours,’ ‘My father is smarter than yours’ is common coin. They come to
blows over their respective fathers. This kind of behavior seems to
Americans hardly worth noting, but in Japan it is in great contrast to
the conversation children hear all about them. Every adult’s reference
to his own home is phrased as ‘my wretched house’ and to his neighbor’s
as ‘your august house’; every reference to his family, as ‘my miserable
family,’ and to his neighbor’s as ‘your honorable family.’ Japanese
agree that for many years of childhood—from the time the children’s
play gangs form till the third year of elementary school, when the
children are nine—they occupy themselves constantly with these
individualistic claims. Sometimes it is, ‘I will play overlord and
you’ll be my retainers.’ ‘No, I won’t be a servant. I will be overlord.’
Sometimes it is personal boasts and derogation of the others. ‘They are
free to say whatever they want. As they get older they find that what
they want isn’t allowed, and then they wait till they’re asked and they
don’t boast any more.’

The child learns in the home his attitudes toward the supernatural. The
priest does not ‘teach’ him and generally a child’s experiences with
organized religion are on those occasions when he goes to a popular
festival and, along with all others who attend, is sprinkled by the
priest for purification. Some children are taken to Buddhist services,
but usually this too occurs at festivals. The child’s constant and most
deep-seated experiences with religion are always the family observances
that center around the Buddhist and the Shinto shrines in his own home.
The more conspicuous is the Buddhist shrine with the family grave
tablets before which are offered flowers, branches of a certain tree,
and incense. Food offerings are placed there daily and the elders of the
family announce all family events to the ancestors and bow daily before
the shrine. In the evening little lamps are lighted there. It is quite
common for people to say that they do not like to sleep away from home
because they feel lost without these presences which preside over the
house. The Shinto shrine is usually a simple shelf dominated by a charm
from the temple of Ise. Other sorts of offerings may be presented here.
Then too there is the Kitchen-god covered with soot in the kitchen, and
a host of charms may be fastened on doors and walls. They are all
protections and make home safe. In the villages the village shrine is
similarly a safe place because benevolent gods protect it with their
presence. Mothers like to have their children play there where it is
safe. Nothing in the child’s experience makes him fear the gods or shape
his conduct to satisfy just or censorious gods. They should be
graciously entertained in return for their benefits. They are not

The serious business of fitting a boy into the circumspect patterns of
adult Japanese life does not really begin till after he has been in
school for two or three years. Up to that time he has been taught
physical control, and when he was obstreperous, his naughtiness has been
‘cured’ and his attention distracted. He has been unobtrusively
admonished and he has been teased. But he has been allowed to be
willful, even to the extent of using violence against his mother. His
little ego has been fostered. Not much changes when he first goes to
school. The first three grades are co-educational and the teacher,
whether a man or a woman, pets the children and is one of them. More
emphasis at home and in school, however, is laid on the dangers of
getting into ‘embarrassing’ situations. Children are still too young for
‘shame,’ but they must be taught to avoid being ‘embarrassed.’ The boy
in the story who cried ‘Wolf, wolf’ when there was no wolf, for
instance, ‘fooled people. If you do anything of this kind, people do not
trust you and that is an embarrassing fact.’ Many Japanese say that it
was their schoolmates who laughed at them first when they made
mistakes—not their teachers or their parents. The job of their elders,
indeed, is not, at this point, themselves to use ridicule on the
children, but gradually to integrate the fact of ridicule with the moral
lesson of living up to giri-to-the-world. Obligations which were, when
the children were six, the loving devotion of a faithful dog—the story
of the good dog’s _on_, quoted earlier, is from the six-year-olds’
reader—now gradually become a whole series of restraints. ‘If you do
this, if you do that,’ their elders say, ‘the world will laugh at you.’
The rules are particularistic and situational and a great many of them
concern what we should call etiquette. They require subordinating one’s
own will to the ever-increasing duties to neighbors, to family and to
country. The child must restrain himself, he must recognize his
indebtedness. He passes gradually to the status of a debtor who must
walk circumspectly if he is ever to pay back what he owes.

This change of status is communicated to the growing boy by a new and
serious extension of the pattern of babyhood teasing. By the time he is
eight or nine his family may in sober truth reject him. If his teacher
reports that he has been disobedient or disrespectful and gives him a
black mark in deportment, his family turn against him. If he is
criticized for some mischief by the storekeeper, ‘the family name has
been disgraced.’ His family are a solid phalanx of accusation. Two
Japanese I have known were told by their fathers before they were ten
not to come home again and were too shamed to go to relatives. They had
been punished by their teachers in the schoolroom. In both cases they
lived in outhouses, where their mothers found them and finally arranged
for their return. Boys in later elementary school are sometimes confined
to the house for _kinshin_, ‘repentance,’ and must occupy themselves
with that Japanese obsession, the writing of diaries. In any case the
family shows that now it looks upon the boy as their representative in
the world and they proceed against him because he has incurred
criticism. He has not lived up to his giri-to-the-world. He cannot look
to his family for support. Nor can he look to his age group. His
schoolmates ostracize him for offenses and he has to apologize and make
promises before he is readmitted.

‘It is worth emphasizing,’ as Geoffrey Gorer says, ‘that the degree to
which this is carried is very uncommon sociologically. In most societies
where the extended family or other fractional social group is operative,
the group will usually rally to protect one of its members who is under
criticism or attack from members of other groups. Provided that the
approval of one’s own group is maintained, one can face the rest of the
world with the assurance of full support in case of need or attack. In
Japan however it appears that the reverse is the case; one is only sure
of support from one’s own group as long as approval is given by other
groups; if outsiders disapprove or criticize, one’s own group will turn
against one and act as the punishing agents, until or unless the
individual can force the other group to withdraw its criticism. By this
mechanism the approval of the “outside world” takes on an importance
probably unparalleled in any other society.’[6]

The girl’s training up to this point does not differ in kind from the
boy’s, however different in detail. She is more restrained than her
brother in the home. More duties are put upon her—though the little boy
too may be nursemaid—and she always gets the little end of the horn in
matters of presents and attention. She does not have the characteristic
boys’ tantrums, either. But she has been wonderfully free for an Asiatic
little girl. Dressed in bright reds, she has played in the streets with
the boys, she has fought with them and often held up her own end. She,
too, as a child ‘knew no shame.’ Between six and nine she gradually
learns her responsibilities to ‘the world’ much as her brother does and
by much the same experiences. At nine the school classes are divided
into girls’ and boys’ sections, and boys make a great deal of their new
male solidarity. They exclude girls and object to having people see them
talking to them. Girls, too, are warned by their mothers that such
association is improper. Girls at this age are said to become sullen and
withdrawn and hard to teach. Japanese women have said that it is the end
of ‘childish fun.’ Childhood ends for girls in an exclusion. They have
no path marked out for them now for many, many years but ‘to double
jicho with jicho.’ The lesson will go on and on, both when they are
betrothed and when they are married.

Boys, however, have not yet, when they have learned jicho and
giri-to-the-world, acquired all that is incumbent upon an adult Japanese
male. ‘From the age of ten,’ Japanese say, ‘he learns giri-to-his-name.’
They mean of course that he learns that it is a virtue to resent insult.
He must learn the rules too: when to close with the adversary and when
to take indirect means to clear his honor. I do not think they mean that
the boy has to learn the aggressiveness that the insult behavior
implies; boys who have been allowed in early childhood so much
aggressiveness toward their mothers and who have fought out with their
age-mates so many kinds of slurs and counterclaims, hardly have to learn
to be aggressive when they are ten. But the code of giri-to-one’s-name,
when boys are included under its provisions in their teens, channels
their aggressiveness into accepted forms and provides them with
specified ways of dealing with it. As we have seen, the Japanese often
turn this aggressiveness against themselves instead of using violence
against others. Even school boys are no exception.

For those boys who continue their schooling beyond the six-year
elementary school—some 15 per cent of the population, though the
proportion in the male population is larger—the time when they are
becoming responsible for giri-to-their-name falls when they are suddenly
exposed to the fierce competition of middle school entrance examinations
and the competitive ranking of every student in every subject. There is
no gradual experience which leads up to this, for competition is
minimized almost to the vanishing point in elementary school and at
home. The sudden new experience helps to make rivalry bitter and
preoccupying. Competition for place and suspicion of favoritism are
rife. This competition, however, does not figure so largely in the life
stories as does the middle school convention of older boys tormenting
the lower classmen. The upper classes of middle school order the younger
classes about and put them through various kinds of hazing. They make
them do silly and humiliating stunts. Resentments are extremely common,
for Japanese boys do not take such things in a spirit of fun. A younger
boy who has been made to grovel before an upper-classman and run servile
errands hates his tormentor and plans revenge. The fact that the revenge
has to be postponed makes it all the more absorbing. It is
giri-to-his-name and he regards it as a virtue. Sometimes he is able,
through family pull, to get the tormentor discharged from a job years
later. Sometimes he perfects himself in jujitsu or sword play and
publicly humiliates him on a city street after they have both left
school. But unless he sometime evens the score he has that ‘feeling of
something left undone’ which is the core of the Japanese insult contest.

For those boys who do not go on to middle school, the same kind of
experience may come in their Army training. In peacetime one boy in four
was drafted, and the hazing of first-year recruits by second-year
recruits was even more extreme than in the middle and upper schools. It
had nothing to do with officers in the Army, and only exceptionally even
with non-commissioned officers. The first article of the Japanese code
was that any appeal to officers caused one to lose face. It was fought
out among the recruits. The officers accepted it as a method of
‘hardening’ troops but they were not involved. Second-year men passed on
to the first-years the resentments they had accumulated the year before
and proved their ‘hardness’ by their ingenuity in devising humiliations.
The draftees have often been described as coming out of their Army
training with changed personalities, as ‘true jingo nationalists,’ but
the change is not so much because they are taught any theory of the
totalitarian state and certainly not because of any inculcation of chu
to the Emperor. The experience of being put through humiliating stunts
is much more important. Young men trained in family life in the Japanese
manner and deadly serious about their _amour-propre_ may easily become
brutalized in such a situation. They cannot stand ridicule. What they
interpret as rejection may make them good torturers in their turn.

These modern Japanese situations in middle school and in the Army take
their character, of course, from old Japanese customs about ridicule and
insult. The middle and upper schools and the Army did not create the
Japanese reaction to them. It is easy to see that the traditional code
of giri-to-one’s-name makes hazing practices rankle more bitterly in
Japan than they do in America. It is also consistent with old patterns
that the fact that each hazed group will pass on the punishment in time
to a victim group does not prevent a boy’s preoccupation with settling
scores with his actual tormentor. Scapegoating is not the constantly
recurring folkway in Japan that it is in many Western nations. In
Poland, for instance, where new apprentices and even young harvesters
are severely hazed, resentment is not vented against the hazers, but
upon the next crop of apprentices and harvesters. Japanese boys will
also have this satisfaction, of course, but they are primarily concerned
with the immediate insult contest. The tormented ‘feel good’ when they
are able to settle scores with the tormentors.

In the reconstruction of Japan those leaders who have their country’s
future at heart would do well to pay particular attention to hazing and
the custom of making boys do silly stunts in the post-adolescent schools
and in the Army. They would do well to emphasize school spirit, even the
‘old school tie,’ in order to break down the upper-under classmen
distinctions. In the Army they would do well to forbid hazing. Even
though the second-year recruits should insist on Spartan discipline in
their relations with the first-years, as Japanese officers of all ranks
did, such insistence is no insult in Japan. The hazing behavior is. If
no older boy in school or Army could with impunity make a younger one
wag his tail like a dog or perform like a cicada or stand on his head
while the others ate, it would be a change more effective in the
re-education of Japan than denials of the Emperor’s divinity or
elimination of nationalistic material from textbooks.

Women do not learn the code of giri-to-one’s-name and they do not have
the modern experiences of boys’ middle schools and Army training. Nor do
they go through analogous experiences. Their life cycle is much more
consistent than their brothers’. From their earliest memories they have
been trained to accept the fact that boys get the precedence and the
attention and the presents which are denied to them. The rule of life
which they must honor denies them the privilege of overt self-assertion.
Nevertheless, as babies and as little children, they have shared with
their brothers the privileged life of little children in Japan. They
have been specially dressed in bright reds as little girls, a color they
will give up as adults until they are allowed it again when they reach
their second privileged period at the age of sixty. In the home they may
be courted like their brothers in the contest between mother and
grandmother. Their brothers and sisters, too, demand that a sister, like
any other member of the family, like them ‘best.’ The children ask her
to show her preference by letting them sleep with her, and she can often
distribute her favors from the grandmothers to the two-year-old baby.
Japanese do not like to sleep alone, and a child’s pallet can be laid at
night close up beside that of a chosen elder’s. The proof that ‘you like
me best’ that day is very often that the beds of the two are pulled up
close together. Girls are allowed compensations even at the period when
they are excluded from boys’ play groups at nine or ten. They are
flattered by new kinds of hair-do, and at the age of fourteen to
eighteen their coiffure is the most elaborate in Japan. They reach the
age when they may wear silk instead of cotton and when every effort is
made to provide them with clothes that enhance their charms. In these
ways girls are given certain gratifications.

The responsibility for the restraints that are required of them, too, is
placed squarely upon them, and not vested in an arbitrarily
authoritarian parent. Parents exercise their prerogatives not by
corporal punishments but by their calm, unswerving expectation that the
girl will live up to what is required of her. It is worthwhile quoting
an extreme example of such training because it gives so well the kind of
non-authoritarian pressure which is also characteristic of less strict
and privileged upbringing. From the age of six little Etsu Inagaki was
taught to memorize the Chinese classics by a learned Confucian scholar.

    Throughout my two-hour lesson he never moved the slightest
    fraction of an inch except for his hands and his lips. And I sat
    before him on the matting in an equally correct and unchanging
    position. Once I moved. It was in the midst of a lesson. For
    some reason I was restless and swayed my body slightly, allowing
    my folded knee to slip a trifle from the proper angle. The
    faintest shade of surprise crossed my instructor’s face; then
    very quietly he closed his book, saying gently but with a stern
    air: ‘Little Miss, it is evident that your mental attitude today
    is not suited for study. You should retire to your room and
    meditate.’ My little heart was almost killed with shame. There
    was nothing I could do. I humbly bowed to the picture of
    Confucius and then to my teacher, and, backing respectfully from
    the room, I slowly went to my father to report as I always did,
    at the close of my lesson. Father was surprised, as the time was
    not yet up, and his unconscious remark, ‘How quickly you have
    done your work!’ was like a death knell. The memory of that
    moment hurts like a bruise to this very day.[7]

And Mrs. Sugimoto summarizes one of the most characteristic parental
attitudes in Japan when she describes a grandmother in another context:

    Serenely she expected everyone to do as she approved; there was
    no scolding nor arguing, but her expectation, soft as silk floss
    and quite as strong, held her little family to the paths that
    seemed right to her.

One of the reasons why this ‘expectation, soft as silk floss and quite
as strong,’ can be so effective is that training is so explicit for
every art and skill. It is the _habit_ that is taught, not just the
rules. Whether it is proper use of chopsticks in childhood or proper
ways of entering a room, or is the tea ceremony or massage later in
life, the movements are performed over and over literally under the
hands of grown-ups till they are automatic. Adults do not consider that
children will ‘pick up’ the proper habits when the time to employ them
comes around. Mrs. Sugimoto describes how she set her husband’s table
after she was betrothed at fourteen. She had never seen her future
husband. He was in America and she was in Echigo, but over and over,
under her mother’s and her grandmother’s eyes, ‘I myself cooked the food
which Brother told us Matsuo especially liked. His table was placed next
to mine and I arranged for it to be always served before my own. Thus I
learned to be watchful for the comfort of my prospective husband.
Grandmother and Mother always spoke as if Matsuo were present, and I was
as careful of my dress and conduct as if he had really been in the room.
Thus I grew to respect him and to respect my own position as his

A boy too receives careful habit training by example and imitation,
though it is less intensive than the girl’s. When he has ‘learned,’ no
alibi is accepted. After adolescence, however, he is left, in one
important field of his life, largely to his own initiative. His elders
do not teach him habits of courting. The home is a circle from which all
overt amorous behavior is excluded, and the segregation of unrelated
boys and girls has been extreme since he was nine or ten. The Japanese
ideal is that his parents will arrange a marriage for him before he has
really been interested in sex, and it is therefore desirable that a boy
should be ‘shy’ in his behavior with girls. In the villages there is a
vast amount of teasing on the subject which often does keep boys ‘shy.’
But boys try to learn. In the old days, and even recently in more
isolated villages of Japan, many girls, sometimes the great majority,
were pregnant before marriage. Such pre-marital experience was a ‘free
area’ not involved in the serious business of life. The parents were
expected to arrange the marriages without reference to these affairs.
But nowadays, as a Japanese said to Doctor Embree in Suye Mura, ‘Even a
servant girl has enough education to know that she must keep her
virginity.’ Discipline for those boys who go to middle school, too, is
sternly directed against any kind of association with the opposite sex.
Japanese education and public opinion tries to prevent pre-marital
familiarity between the sexes. In their movies, they reckon as ‘bad’
those young men who show some signs of being at ease with a young woman;
the ‘good’ ones are those who, to American eyes, are brusque and even
uncivil to an attractive girl. Being at ease with a girl means that
these boys have ‘played around,’ or have sought out geishas or
prostitutes or café girls. The geisha house is the ‘best’ way to learn
because ‘she teaches you. A man can relax and just watch.’ He need not
be afraid of exhibiting clumsiness, and sex relations with the geisha
girl are not expected of him. But not many Japanese boys can afford the
geisha house. They can go to cafés and watch how men treat the girls
familiarly, but such observation is not the kind of training they have
learned to expect in other fields. Boys keep their fear of gaucherie for
a long time. Sex is one of the few areas of their lives where they have
to learn some new kind of behavior without the personal tutelage of
accredited elders. Families of standing provide ‘bride books’ and
screens with many detailed pictures for the young couple when they
marry, and, as one Japanese said, ‘You can learn from books, the way you
learn the rules for making a garden. Your father doesn’t teach you how
to make a Japanese garden; it’s a hobby you learn when you’re older.’
The juxtaposition of sex and gardening as two things you learn from
books is interesting, even though most Japanese young men learn sex
behavior in other ways. In any case, they do not learn through
meticulous adult tutelage. This difference in training underscores for
the young man the Japanese tenet that sex is an area removed from that
serious business of life over which his elders preside and in which they
painstakingly train his habits. It is an area of self-gratification
which he masters with much fear of embarrassment. The two areas have
their different rules. After his marriage he may have sexual pleasures
elsewhere without being in the least surreptitious about it, and in so
doing he does not infringe upon his wife’s rights nor threaten the
stability of his marriage.

His wife has not the same privilege. Her duty is faithfulness to her
husband. She would have to be surreptitious. Even when she might be
tempted, comparatively few women in Japan live their lives in sufficient
privacy to carry off a love affair. Women who are regarded as nervous or
unstable are said to have _hysteri_. ‘The most frequent difficulty of
women involves not their social but their sexual lives. Many cases of
insanity and most of _hysteri_ (nervousness, instability) are clearly
due to sexual maladjustments. A girl must take whatever her husband may
give her of sexual satisfaction.’[9] Most women’s diseases, the farmers
say in Suye Mura, ‘begin in the womb’ and then go to the head. When her
husband looks elsewhere, she may have recourse to the accepted Japanese
customs of masturbation, and, from the peasant villages to the homes of
the great, women treasure traditional implements for this purpose. She
is granted in the villages, moreover, certain exuberances in erotic
behavior when she has borne a child. Before she is a mother, she would
not make a sex joke, but afterward, and as she grows older, her
conversation at a mixed party is full of them. She entertains the party,
too, with very free sexual dances, jerking her hips back and forth to
the accompaniment of ribald songs. ‘These performances invariably bring
roars of laughter.’ In Suye Mura, too, when recruits were welcomed back
at the outskirts of the village after their Army training, women dressed
as men and made obscene jokes and pretended to rape young girls.

Japanese women are therefore allowed certain kinds of freedom about
sexual matters, the more, too, the lower-born they are. They must
observe many taboos during most of their lives but there is no taboo
which requires them to deny that they know the facts of life. When it
gratifies the men, they are obscene. Likewise, when it gratifies the
men, they are asexual. When they are of ripe age, they may throw off
taboos, and if they are low-born, be as ribald as any man. The Japanese
aim at proper behavior for various ages and occasions rather than at
consistent characters like the Occidental ‘pure woman’ and the ‘hussy.’

The man also has his exuberances, as well as his areas where great
restraint is required. Drinking in male company, especially with geisha
attendants, is a gratification which he makes the most of. Japanese men
enjoy being tipsy and there is no rule which bids a man carry his liquor
well. They relax their formal postures when they have had a few
thimblefuls of _sake_, and they like to lean against each other and be
very familiar. They are seldom violent or aggressive when they are
drunk, though a few ‘hard-to-get-along-with men’ may get quarrelsome.
Apart from such ‘free areas’ as drinking, men should never be, as they
say, unexpected. To speak of anyone, in the serious conduct of his life,
as unexpected, is the nearest the Japanese come to a curse word except
for the word ‘fool.’

The contradictions which all Westerners have described in Japanese
character are intelligible from their child-rearing. It produces a
duality in their outlook on life, neither side of which can be ignored.
From their experience of privilege and psychological ease in babyhood
they retain through all the disciplines of later life the memory of an
easier life when they ‘did not know shame.’ They do not have to paint a
Heaven in the future; they have it in their past. They rephrase their
childhood in their doctrine of the innate goodness of man, of the
benevolence of their gods, and of the incomparable desirability of being
a Japanese. It makes it easy for them to base their ethics on extreme
interpretations of the ‘Buddha-seed’ in every man and of every man’s
becoming a kami on death. It gives them assertiveness and a certain
self-confidence. It underlies their frequent willingness to tackle any
job, no matter how far above their ability it may seem to be. It
underlies their readiness to pit their judgment even against their own
Government, and to testify to it by suicide. On occasion, it gives them
a capacity for mass megalomania.

Gradually, after they are six or seven, responsibility for
circumspection and ‘knowing shame’ is put upon them and upheld by the
most drastic of sanctions: that their own family will turn against them
if they default. The pressure is not that of a Prussian discipline, but
it is inescapable. In their early privileged period the ground has been
prepared for this development both by the persistent inescapable
training in nursery habits and posture, and by the parents’ teasing
which threatens the child with rejection. These early experiences
prepare the child to accept great restraints upon himself when he is
told that ‘the world’ will laugh at him and reject him. He clamps down
upon the impulses he expressed so freely in earlier life, not because
they are evil but because they are now inappropriate. He is now entering
upon serious life. As he is progressively denied the privileges of
childhood he is granted the gratifications of greater and greater
adulthood, but the experiences of that earlier period never truly fade
out. In his philosophy of life he draws freely upon them. He goes back
to them in his permissiveness about ‘human feelings.’ He re-experiences
them all through his adulthood in his ‘free areas’ of life.

One striking continuity connects the earlier and the later period of the
child’s life: the great importance of being accepted by his fellows.
This, and not an absolute standard of virtue, is what is inculcated in
him. In early childhood, his mother took him into her bed when he was
old enough to ask, he counted the candies he and his brothers and
sisters were given as a sign of how he ranked in his mother’s affection,
he was quick to notice when he was passed over and he asked even his
older sister, ‘Do you love me _best_?’ In the later period he is asked
to forego more and more personal satisfactions, but the promised reward
is that he will be approved and accepted by ‘the world.’ The punishment
is that ‘the world’ will laugh at him. This is of course a sanction
invoked in child training in most cultures, but it is exceptionally
heavy in Japan. Rejection by ‘the world’ has been dramatized for the
child by his parents’ teasing when they threatened to get rid of him.
All his life ostracism is more dreaded than violence. He is allergic to
threats of ridicule and rejection, even when he merely conjures them up
in his own mind. Because there is little privacy in a Japanese
community, too, it is no fantasy that ‘the world’ knows practically
everything he does and can reject him if it disapproves. Even the
construction of the Japanese house—the thin walls that permit the
passage of sounds and which are pushed open during the day—makes
private life extremely public for those who cannot afford a wall and

Certain symbols the Japanese use help to make clear the two sides of
their character which are based on the discontinuity of their child
rearing. That side which is built up in the earliest period is the ‘self
without shame,’ and they test how far they have kept it when they look
at their own faces in the mirror. The mirror, they say, ‘reflects
eternal purity.’ It does not foster vanity nor reflect the ‘interfering
self.’ It reflects the depths of the soul. A person should see there his
’self without shame.’ In the mirror he sees his own eyes as the ‘door’
of his soul, and this helps him to live as a ‘self without shame.’ He
sees there the idealized parental image. There are descriptions of men
who always carry a mirror with them for this purpose, and even of one
who set up a special mirror in his household shrine in which to
contemplate himself and examine his soul; he ‘enshrined himself’; he
‘worshipped himself.’ It was unusual, but it was only a small step to
take, for all household Shinto shrines have mirrors on them as sacred
objects. During the war the Japanese radio carried a special paean of
approval for a classroom of girls who had bought themselves a mirror.
There was no thought of its being a sign of vanity. It was described as
a renewed dedication to calm purposes in the depths of their souls.
Looking into it was an external observance which would testify to the
virtue of their spirit.

Japanese feelings about the mirror are derived from the time before the
‘observing self’ was inculcated in the child. They do not see the
‘observing self’ in the looking glass. There their selves are
spontaneously good as they were in childhood, without the mentor of
‘shame.’ The same symbolism they attribute to the mirror is the basis
too of their ideas of ‘expert’ self-discipline, in which they train
themselves with such persistence to eliminate the ‘observing self’ and
get back the directness of early childhood.

In spite of all the influences their privileged early childhood has upon
the Japanese, the restraints of the succeeding period when shame becomes
the basis of virtue are not felt solely as deprivations. Self-sacrifice,
as we have seen, is one of the Christian concepts they have often
challenged; they repudiate the idea that they are sacrificing
themselves. Even in extreme cases, the Japanese speak, instead, of
‘voluntary’ death in payment of chu or ko or giri, and this does not
seem to them to fall in the category of self-sacrifice. Such a voluntary
death, they say, achieves an object you yourself desire. Otherwise it
would be a ‘dog’s death,’ which means to them a worthless death; it does
not mean, as in English, death in the gutter. Less extreme courses of
conduct, too, which in English are called self-sacrificing, in Japanese
belong rather in the category of self-respect. Self-respect (jicho)
always means restraint, and restraint is valuable just as self-respect
is. Great things can only be achieved through self-restraint, and the
American emphasis on freedom as a prerequisite for achievement has never
seemed to them, with their different experiences, to be adequate. They
accept as a principal tenet in their code the idea that through
self-restraint they make their selves more valuable. How else could they
control their dangerous selves, full of impulses that might break out
and confound a proper life? As one Japanese expresses it:

    The more coats of varnish that are laid on the foundation by
    laborious work throughout the years, the more valuable becomes
    the lacquer work as a finished product. So it is with a people
    . . . It is said of the Russians: ‘Scratch a Russian and you
    find a Tartar.’ One might with equal justice say of the
    Japanese: ‘Scratch a Japanese, scrape off the varnish, and you
    find a pirate.’ Yet it should not be forgotten that in Japan
    varnish is a valuable product and an aid to handicraft. There is
    nothing spurious about it; it is not a daub to cover defects. It
    is at least as valuable as the substance it adorns.[10]

The contradictions in Japanese male behavior which are so conspicuous to
Westerners are made possible by the discontinuity of their upbringing,
which leaves in their consciousness, even after all the ‘lacquering’
they undergo, the deep imprint of a time when they were like little gods
in their little world, when they were free to gratify even their
aggressions, and when all satisfactions seemed possible. Because of this
deeply implanted dualism, they can swing as adults from excesses of
romantic love to utter submission to the family. They can indulge in
pleasure and ease, no matter to what lengths they go in accepting
extreme obligations. Their training in circumspection makes them in
action an often timid people, but they are brave even to foolhardiness.
They can prove themselves remarkably submissive in hierarchal situations
and yet not be easily amenable to control from above. In spite of all
their politeness, they can retain arrogance. They can accept fanatic
discipline in the Army and yet be insubordinate. They can be
passionately conservative and yet be attracted by new ways, as they have
successively demonstrated in their adoption of Chinese customs and of
Western learning.

The dualism in their characters creates tensions to which different
Japanese respond in different ways, though each is making his own
solution of the same essential problem of reconciling the spontaneity
and acceptance he experienced in early childhood with the restraints
which promise security in later life. A good many have difficulty in
resolving this problem. Some stake everything on ruling their lives like
pedants and are deeply fearful of any spontaneous encounter with life.
The fear is the greater because spontaneity is no fantasy but something
they once experienced. They remain aloof, and, by adhering to the rules
they have made their own, feel that they have identified themselves with
all that speaks with authority. Some are more dissociated. They are
afraid of their own aggressiveness which they dam up in their souls and
cover with a bland surface behavior. They often keep their thoughts busy
with trivial minutiae in order to stave off awareness of their real
feelings. They are mechanical in the performance of a disciplined
routine which is fundamentally meaningless to them. Others, who have
been more caught by their early childhood, feel a consuming anxiety in
the face of all that is demanded of them as adults and try to increase
their dependence when it is no longer appropriate. They feel that any
failure is an aggression against authority and any striving therefore
throws them into great agitation. Unforeseen situations which cannot be
handled by rote are frightening to them.[11]

These are characteristic dangers to which the Japanese are exposed when
their anxiety about rejection and censure are too much for them. When
they are not overpressed, they show in their lives both the capacity for
enjoying life and the carefulness not to step on others’ toes which has
been bred into them in their upbringing. It is a very considerable
achievement. Their early childhood has given them assertiveness. It has
not awakened a burdening sense of guilt. The later restraints have been
imposed in the name of solidarity with their fellows, and the
obligations are reciprocal. There are designated ‘free areas’ where
impulse life can still be gratified, no matter how much other people may
interfere with their wishes in certain matters. The Japanese have always
been famous for the pleasure they get from innocent things: viewing the
cherry blossoms, the moon, chrysanthemums, or new fallen snow; keeping
insects caged in the house for their ‘song’; writing little verses;
making gardens; arranging flowers, and drinking ceremonial tea. These
are not activities of a deeply troubled and aggressive people. They do
not take their pleasures sadly either. A Japanese rural community, in
those happier days before Japan embarked on its disastrous Mission,
could be in its leisure time as cheerful and sanguine as any living
people. In its hours of work it could be as diligent.

But the Japanese ask a great deal of themselves. To avoid the great
threats of ostracism and detraction, they must give up personal
gratifications they have learned to savor. They must put these impulses
under lock and key in the important affairs of life. The few who violate
this pattern run the risk of losing even their respect for themselves.
Those who do respect themselves (jicho) chart their course, not between
‘good’ and ‘evil,’ but between ‘expected man’ and ‘unexpected man,’ and
sink their own personal demands in the collective ‘expectation.’ These
are the good men who ‘know shame (haji)’ and are endlessly circumspect.
They are the men who bring honor to their families, their villages, and
their nation. The tensions that are thus generated are enormous, and
they express themselves in a high level of aspiration which has made
Japan a leader in the Orient and a great power in the world. But these
tensions are a heavy strain upon the individual. Men must be watchful
lest they fail, or lest anyone belittle their performances in a course
of action which has cost them so much abnegation. Sometimes people
explode in the most aggressive acts. They are roused to these
aggressions, not when their principles or their freedom is challenged,
as Americans are, but when they detect an insult or a detraction. Then
their dangerous selves erupt, against the detractor if that is possible,
otherwise against themselves.

The Japanese have paid a high price for their way of life. They have
denied themselves simple freedoms which Americans count upon as
unquestioningly as the air they breathe. We must remember, now that the
Japanese are looking to de-mok-ra-sie since their defeat, how
intoxicating it can be to them to act quite simply and innocently as one
pleases. No one has expressed this better than Mrs. Sugimoto in
describing the plant as-you-please garden she was given at the mission
school in Tokyo where she was sent to learn English. The teachers let
each girl have a plot of wild ground and any seeds she asked for.

    This plant-as-you-please garden gave me a wholly new feeling of
    personal right. . . . The very fact that such happiness could
    exist in the human heart was a surprise to me. . . . I, with no
    violation of tradition, no stain on the family name, no shock to
    parent, teacher or townspeople, no harm to anything in the world
    was free to act.[12]

All the other girls planted flowers. She arranged to plant—potatoes.

    No one knows the sense of reckless freedom which this absurd act
    gave me. . . . The spirit of freedom came knocking at my door.

It was a new world.

    At my home there was one part of the garden that was supposed to
    be wild. . . . But someone was always busy trimming the pines or
    cutting the hedge, and every morning Jiya wiped off the stepping
    stones, and, after sweeping beneath the pine trees, carefully
    scattered fresh pine needles gathered from the forest.

This simulated wildness stood to her for the simulated freedom of will
in which she had been trained. And all Japan was full of it. Every great
half-sunken rock in Japanese gardens has been carefully chosen and
transported and laid on a hidden platform of small stones. Its placing
is carefully calculated in relation to the stream, the house, the
shrubs, and the trees. So, too, chrysanthemums are grown in pots and
arranged for the annual flower shows all over Japan with each perfect
petal separately disposed by the grower’s hand and often held in place
by a tiny invisible wire rack inserted in the living flower.

Mrs. Sugimoto’s intoxication when she was offered a chance to put aside
the wire rack was happy and innocent The chrysanthemum which had been
grown in the little pot and which had submitted to the meticulous
disposition of its petals discovered pure joy in being natural. But
today among the Japanese, the freedom to be ‘unexpected,’ to question
the sanctions of haji (shame), can upset the delicate balance of their
way of life. Under a new dispensation they will have to learn new
sanctions. And change is costly. It is not easy to work out new
assumptions and new virtues. The Western world can neither suppose that
the Japanese can take these on sight and make them truly their own, nor
must it imagine that Japan cannot ultimately work out a freer, less
rigorous ethics. The Nisei in the United States have already lost the
knowledge and the practice of the Japanese code, and nothing in their
ancestry holds them rigidly to the conventions of the country from which
their parents came. So too the Japanese in Japan can, in a new era, set
up a way of life which does not demand the old requirements of
individual restraint. Chrysanthemums can be beautiful without wire racks
and such drastic pruning.

In this transition to a greater psychic freedom, the Japanese have
certain old traditional virtues which can help to keep them on an even
keel. One of these is that self-responsibility which they phrase as
their accountability for ‘the rust of my body,’—that figure of speech
which identifies one’s body with a sword. As the wearer of a sword is
responsible for its shining brilliancy, so each man must accept
responsibility for the outcome of his acts. He must acknowledge and
accept all natural consequences of his weakness, his lack of
persistence, his ineffectualness. Self-responsibility is far more
drastically interpreted in Japan than in free America. In this Japanese
sense the sword becomes, not a symbol of aggression, but a simile of
ideal and self-responsible man. No balance wheel can be better than this
virtue in a dispensation which honors individual freedom, and Japanese
child-rearing and philosophy of conduct have inculcated it as a part of
the Japanese Spirit. Today the Japanese have proposed ‘to lay aside the
sword’ in the Western sense. In their Japanese sense, they have an
abiding strength in their concern with keeping an inner sword free from
the rust which always threatens it. In their phraseology of virtue the
sword is a symbol they can keep in a freer and more peaceful world.


[1] Bacon, Alice Mabel, _Japanese Women and Girls_, p. 6.

[2] _Op. cit._, p. 10.

[3] Geoffrey Gorer has also emphasized the rôle of Japanese toilet
training in _Themes in Japanese Culture_, Transactions of the New York
Academy of Science, vol. 5, pp. 106-124, 1943.

[4] Sugimoto, Etsu Inagaki, _A Daughter of the Samurai_. Doubleday Page
and Company, 1926, pp. 15, 24.

[5] Embree, John F., _Suye Mura_, p. 190.

[6] Gorer, Geoffrey, _Japanese Character Structure_, mimeographed, The
Institute for International Studies, 1943, p. 27.

[7] Sugimoto, Etsu Inagaki, _A Daughter of the Samurai_. Doubleday Page
and Company, 1926, p. 20.

[8] _A Daughter of the Samurai_, p. 92.

[9] Embree, J. F., _Suye Mura_, p. 175.

[10] Nohara, Komakichi, _The True Face of Japan_. London, 1936, p. 50.

[11] Cases based on Rorschach tests given to Japanese in War Relocation
Camp by Doctor Dorothea Leighton, and analyzed by Frances Holter.

[12] _A Daughter of the Samurai_, pp. 135-136.

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