My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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KYOTO, Japan, Aug. 24—Wednesday morning bright and early we started for the plane which took us to the Osaka airport and from there we drove to Kyoto. In this area there has been a long drought and even the irrigated rice fields looked dry in spots. On reaching the Hotel Miyako we started at once on a sightseeing expedition going first to the former imperial palace. Everything here is built of wood and it is remarkable that the buildings do not burn down more often than they do. But we were told that many buildings have been rebuilt every three hundred years or so. As a matter of fact one of the buildings which is a part of the imperial palace burned down only last year. One has to marvel at the outward simplicity of a life that requires so little furniture. But then one must remember that this apparent life of ease and simplicity is really non-existent since every act and even every gesture must be done according to ritual.

We lunched at the hotel and at three we were off again, this time to visit the longest wooden temple in Japan which has a beautiful Buddha and on both sides many carved and gilded figures representing various manifestations of his efforts to help man. We also visited the detached palace used in summer. This is a charming place and a tremendous amount of thought must have been given to the beautiful development of the garden. The water is so low, however, that it is muddy and sluggish, and the lack of rain has destroyed the thick green moss which is one of the real beauties of the garden. We went to one other temple on the way back and were very grateful to the priest who permitted us to go in even though we were late. This particular temple has a small sitting figure of Buddha which I thought particularly graceful and charming.

I was interested to see groups of our soldiers and sailors sightseeing just as we were, and one of the Navy boys told me his ship was in largely to let the men do some sightseeing. I cannot help wondering just how well we prepare our young people in high school in the matter of the study of Far Eastern culture so they can appreciate what they see, if and when the time comes for them to travel in this part of the world. Even on the college level not many boys or girls take courses in Oriental art or religions or history. I am told that Harvard is trying to make the study of Asian countries as natural as study about any other part of the world, but I think this should begin earlier. It also might be well to increase our general knowledge about Africa since many of our young people may find themselves working either in Asia or Africa sometime during their lives.

On this visit I think I am realizing how much the Japanese people have been forced to develop the ability to enjoy the simple things of life. The making of a garden gives them a chance to use an amount of imagination we would never put into such an activity.

E.R.
PNews, NSJ, 25 August 1955