My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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TOKYO, Aug. 29—This is my last day in Japan. The time has passed all too quickly, but I have spent a wonderful week renewing memories of my first trip to this country and trying to gain a better understanding of some of the problems confronting this nation and its people. Most observers knew that it was impossible to establish a democracy after the war in a few short years and yet I think that, more and more, some of the important aspects of democracy have come to be understood and accepted by the people of Japan. Now they want to take part and have a say in their government and though, of course, habits and customs which grew up through centuries of feudalism could not be eliminated over night, still I think a great change has come in the thinking of the people.

We left Nikko early this morning and I was interested to study the countryside on the ride down. The problem of arable land is great in this country for it can not grow food enough for its population which is increasing by 1.5 million every year. Therefore one of the first needs is for Japan to stabilize its population. Somehow in this Far East country they need to know about the practice of birth control, for it seems to me that without it they cannot hope to reach an economic balance. A large part of the gain made in agricultural production instead of raising the standard of living, has gone to feed the constantly increasing population. The people work incredibly hard to meet food demands. Small scraps of land are cultivated even in the most mountainous areas. They can have little cattle because there is not enough land to supply fodder. This means that there is a lack in the Japanese diet of dairy products which go to build good bone structure. This lack is seen in many of the Japanese people.

It is no wonder, that some of the Japanese leaders believed that conquest of new areas would give their people places to move to, but the Japanese people are not the adventurous pioneer type as was proved by the lack of immigration to Manchuria. They do not even move about in their own land very much. In the north the island of Hokkaido is not very crowded and yet Japanese from other parts of Japan do not move there. This is similar to what we find with the island of Puerto Rico. This is another crowded island and yet the people stay there. We think in New York City that a great many of them come to settle there, but many of them go back to their land after a short time, and homesickness is very prevalent.

William Faulkner, who has been here lecturing made a remark in his farewell article which I read today. He said that the Japanese people are so gentle and so kind that a stranger only needs three words to live among them. They need words for when they want to eat and drink and a word for goodbye.

Tonight we take a plane for Hong Kong, and now to Japan I would like to say, as Mr. Faulkner said, sayonara.

E.R.
PNews, NSJ, 30 August 1955