My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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TOKYO, Aug. 22—In some ways on my second visit to Tokyo I am gaining a little more insight into the life of the people than I did before. On Monday afternoon we visited two families. One was of a professional man in the middle income group who earns around 63,000 to 70,000 yen a month. The income tax is about 18 to 20 thousand yen which is, in terms of our currency, about $131 to $135 a month to live on. This was a family of six with four children. Prices here for food are not very much less than at home but a family even in a professional class will eat comparatively simply, with fish and rice and vegetables forming the main diet.

I saw no servants in the house and the mother told us that as it was vacation time each child helped her with some particular task. It was the duty of the youngest child of 13 to prepare the Japanese bath which means filling a large tub with hot water. The main living room was a living room, dining room and kitchen all combined. The sink was small and cooking was done on a two-burner gas stove. I marvel at what can be produced with this very meagre equipment. Like many other houses it was furnished in partly Japanese style and partly in western style. In such crowded conditions it takes great neatness to keep things stored away and keep the house looking neat and tidy. Cupboards around the room hold both winter clothes and the pads that are rolled out on the floor and slept on at night.

Before the war many of these people would have lived lives of ease, but now the tax is heavy, provision must be made for the children's education and for the future, so some saving must be achieved. How it is done on their modest family incomes is a secret I think only the Japanese women can explain.

But consciously or unconsciously, this meagre living seems to dramatize the hardships a country makes after a war in order to find its way back. All over Japan in every group such sacrifices are being made to get the country back on a stable economic basis.

The poorer family we visited was another family of six. The husband was a masseur making about 45,000 to 50,000 yen a month who pays a tax of 8,000 to 10,000 yen. Compared to the house of the professional man this house was smaller, much more crowded and furnished entirely in Japanese style. Upstairs were two rooms which the husband used for his work but which were evidently used as bedrooms at night. Downstairs was a tiny kitchen and a bare living room. The only adornments being two shrines, one family shrine and the Shinto shrine. Under these were the usual drawers and cupboards for holding family belongings. A wooden window seat was the only place to sit, but it is not unusual to sit on the floor in many Japanese homes. The thick matting is soft and pleasant but there was no such luxury in this house downstairs.

Living is not easy for the poorer or middle class families in Japan. The people evidently accept the conditions without complaint and are wonderfully industrious but it is not an easy life.

E.R.
PNews, NSJ, 23 August 1955