Thursday, February 14, 2013

March 20, 1954 The March Letter and Photos: Sumo, Kabuki and Kindergarten

Dear Mother & Daddy,

"B was gone when I wrote you last but we got along very well.  The children missed him but were pretty good.  The little Jelliffe girl cried for her daddy most of the time.  They are the Fulbright family across the rice paddy.  It is an interesting family.  The man is close to 70, the retired head of the English Dept. at Oberlin in Ohio.  The woman is in her 30's, is Phillipino and met him when she went to Oberlin on a Fulbright scholarship.  Their babies are 3 years and 10 months.  They are wonderful people and we enjoy them very much.  She and the 3 year old came and spent one day with us while the men were gone.  We were so glad we didn't go to Attami for it was so cold in the unheated hotel with rain and snow.  We would have had to stay inside the whole time.  The food served was high class Japanese food but fish three times a day--fish soup, raw fish.  B got along very well on the rice that went with it but the children couldn't have.

Bob and Ann each have new kimonos.  I think I told you I was making them with the help of Teruko-san's mother.  She gave up and finished them herself.  They are very pretty and they look real cute.

I had a letter from Roger and one from Bessie.  Roger had been in Korea for a while and was back in Sasebo for repair and maintenance.  Then he was going to a camp which he called "up there".  I can't find out where it is but hope it will be closer than Sasebo.  Roger implied that it was and said he hoped to see us then.  You should write to him, Mother.  He asked about you and said he hadn't heard from you in a long time.

My sewing is progressing slowly.  I finished Ann one dress.  It is a navy sailor dress and looks just like a Japanese school girl.  Now I'm working on a grey jumper with a pink blouse.  Then I have a piece of blue for her a dress.  They are all Ramie--a fabric like linen.  Teruko-san made me a shirt out of a piece of cream silk but I haven't worn it yet.  B is having a suit made for next year and when we went to have it fitted we picked out a piece of topcoat material.  We hope we won't have to buy any clothes next year.

B went to see Sumo wrestling last week--took his lunch and stayed all day.  When the Japanese go for entertainment they make a day of it.  He took his camera and took a lot of pictures.  The wrestlers are big, fat men who wear only a breach cloth and the object is to push one another out of the ring or make one touch the ground.  Each bout lasts only a few minutes.

On Tuesday I took my lunch and went with the Women's Club to see Kabuki--a sort of play which includes singing and dancing.  You probably have read about the troupe that is playing in New York.  It is the first time that the Japanese have tried to display such an art in another country.  Everything about it is symbolic and I enjoyed it very much.  Some of the dancing was wonderful.  All of the parts are taken by men--even the female parts.  That is the only thing I didn't like about it.  There would be a beautiful kimono, beautiful dancing and the face would be so ugly.  I've never seen such an ugly crop of make-believe women.

Image from Japanese Theatre in Highlight, Francis Harr, 1952

B had been having a group of students here at the house to discuss a book they wanted to read in English.  The last day of the discussion they were all invited to a Japanese home for lunch.  The parents have lived in America so they speak English.  The father is now teaching in New York for this year.  After lunch the students thanked B profusely for his help and gave him a beautiful picture album.  It is covered in silk brocade.  The picture album is a special thing to the Japanese.  When you visit a home they always get out the albums to show.  The pictures are always family pictures.  One place where I visited had pictures of their baby having its first bath right after it was born.  Then the album was full of the child's pictures.  This is the "pictures-takingest" place I ever saw.  Everyone has a camera and usually a very good one.

Bob graduated from kindergarten yesterday.  It was a big affair.  The children marched in and took their chairs to music.  Diplomas were handed out.  When each child's name was called they walked to the front, bowed, took the diploma, stepped back and bowed again.

The minister of the Kwansei Gakuin church handed them out and then gave a little speech.  He congratulated them and then told them they were like little seeds and would grow and grow.  He hoped they would grow big, be good students for their next teachers, but never to forget God in their work.  Then there was some singing, and plays, the children were given boxes of cookies and candy, a girl did a fancy Japanese dance and the children sang "Goodbye Teacher".  Bob is like a bird out of a cage today.

From the Spring kinderbook

The graduation song book

Bobby's diploma

My hair had grown so much that I had to have a perm.  I got the best one and was amused to see that it was a Toni.  When I came home my hair looked just like all the Japanese women's and I combed it out and it looks very pretty and I like it very much.  The operator did her work in Denver.

Good Housekeeping,  Feb. 1951

How are you both now?"

  Love to you all,



  1. I display my Japanese diploma next to all my others and beside my medical license in my office. It is always a great conversation starter with Japanese visitors.

  2. The red outfit that the little girl who's preforming is wearing is absolutely beautiful. I would love to one day wear something similar myself, if possible.

    That Toni Perm ad is really charming. I recently found a short series of late 40s photos from Toni ads online, each of featured two real life (ever day) pairs of twins, each of which asked the same questions ("Which girl has the Toni?"). I couldn't tell, but sure loved all of their hairstyles no matter where their perms came from. :)

    Wishing you a joyful Valentine's Day, sweet Ann,

    ♥ Jessica

  3. Hi Jessica! Thank you for your sweet greeting! Isn't that child and her kimono precious? I'm sure that is silk with hand embroidery. I hope you've had a wonderful Valentine's Day! I'm glad to hear from you--absolutely loved the pink hat:-)


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