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About My Mother's Diary from Her Younger Days
By Takashi Nakano

I am her second son and was born in 1920, ten years after my mother kept the daily record that later was translated into English and published as Makiko's Diary. So I am in my eighties in this new millennium, an emeritus professor of sociology from Chiba and Chuukyoo Universities.

It was in 1943 while I was an undergraduate sociology major in Tokyo University that I happened upon my mother's old diary, read it for the first time, and realized what an interesting document it is and how useful it can be for those who study the social history and social anthropology of Japan.

The war interrupted my research on merchant households but I was fortunate, I returned home from overseas alive and well. I resumed my investigation in October of 1946, this time as a graduate student; and I began field studies in Kyoto. The challenge I set for myself was to document and analyze the doozoku system found among merchants in the pharmaceutical trades. A doozoku is an extended-household unit consisting of a main house and its branch houses, some of them populated by relatives of the main house, others by non-kin who are business associates. My focus was on the social organization of the pharmaceutical business and the families involved in it over the decades from late Tokugawa times (1603-1868) through the Meiji era (1868-1912), Taisho era (1912-1925) and into the early part of the Showa period (1925-1986).

The doctoral dissertation that I submitted in 1962 was published by Miraisha two years later under the title A Study of Merchant Doozoku: Field Research in a Pharmaceutical Community. For primary source materials I relied heavily on my grandfather's diary, which covers the period of the Meiji Restoration (1860s and l870s), and on my mother's diary for the year 1910.

My mother's diary is an especially valuable 'personal document' because it provides such a vivid account of the life-routines of a young wife in a Kyoto merchant household early in the 20th century. So using her diary in my dissertation---as a way to put depth into the portrait of merchant household culture---wasn't enough, I felt: I wanted the diary to be published as a book. Mother gave her permission but frankly I am not convinced that she believed me when I told her what a rich source it is, what a treasure it offer to scholars in sociology, social history, and social anthropology.

Because she had joined the Nakano household only a short while earlier, mother is able in 1910 to record its daily activities, and her own experiences, with fresh eyes and ears. As she does so she also provides a running account of monthly events (for example, on the first day of every month a representative from each branch house, whether kin-branch or business-branch, came to pay a courtesy call on the head of the main house) as well as annual events (such as those carried on during New Year's or the equinoxes or on the last day of December).

Preparing the book for publication took up far more of my time than I had anticipated. Where it seemed necessary I inserted notes into her text, and I included a certain amount of sociological analysis in my Foreword and Afterword. Finally in 1981 the Shin'yoosha Company of Tokyo published the volume with the title Kyoto in Meiji 43: Diary of a Young Wife in a Merchant Household. Mother had been filled with pleasurable anticipation as she waited to see the diary in print, but sad to say she never saw the finished product, having died in 1978 at the age of 88.

When my old friend the Cornell University anthropologist Robert J. Smith and his wife Kazuko read the Japanese version, and especially when Kazuko asked if she might translate it into English, I certainly was pleased and just as certainly caught off guard. As she worked on the translation Kazuko wrote me asking all sorts of questions. She is fully qualified as a translator: Japan-born but a U.S. resident ever since she was married. Not only has she mastered American speech patterns, for many years she taught Japanese-language courses in Cornell University. Even so, she had to ask fairly often about the meaning of some of the peculiar words in the text, words whose local or period meanings aren't evident even to those who are fluent and in good general command of the Japanese language. I also sent her more information about points on which my notes to the Japanese edition were insufficient for a foreign reader; and she conveys that material deftly in her translation.

Her English version of the text is masterful. And her Introduction and Epilogue are right on target, crafted by someone who knows exactly what needs to be explained for an English reader. (They are completely different from the Foreward and Afterword in my Japanese edition). Without her Introduction an English reader would not, I think, grasp adequately what the diary is about.

The idea never even would have occurred to me that a diary kept by my mother when she was young might some day be translated into English and published by the famous Stanford University Press. You can imagine how astonished, overjoyed, Mother would be if she knew. She did not seem to understand when I talked to her about how diaries and other 'personal documents' can be such powerful ways to evoke the tang and breath of a different culture---the constant challenge to any practicioner of sociology, social anthropology or social history. "How could a diary written by anybody like me when young be of possible use to scholars?" If only there were a way to send a message to her, to let her know about the effort that was put into the translation, and about the widespread praise for the English edition---how that would please her---and me.

Mother continued her daily record into 1911 until about the middle of May. If we examine the whole text, across its span of seventeen months, what are the main topics that this shufu ("chief woman" in a household) writes about?

The role of shufu in a merchant house involves far more than just coordinating the activities of twenty or more people---family members, live-in employees (clerks, maids, apprentices)---though that in itself is complicated. She is responsible for food, of course: planning the meals, supervising the maids as they prepare dishes, taking special care about cuisine for guests. Makiko's house is host to an exceptionally broad array of visitors, and they are there just at dinnertime much more often than one might expect. Overnight guests, too, are anything but rare, and arrangements need to be made so they can eat breakfast with the family.

When there are guests it is the shufu's responsibility to play hostess. Another of her duties is to conduct social calls, as prescribed by etiquette, to the houses of relatives. And she is responsible for recording and remembering which gift was received from whom on all of these occasions, and for choosing the form and value of gifts that must be given in return.

Makiko often comments in her diary that there were so many guests on hand that she "couldn't get the work done". The work she usually has in mind is "the sewing"---the maids and the women of the house had to cut and assemble Japanese-style clothing, including cotton-padded garments for the winter months. They had to do this not only for members of the family, they also had to make work-clothes for the clerks and apprentices. Similarly they made and repaired tabi, split-toed cloth footwear.

Store managers also could request some kinds of help from the household. Envelopes had to be cut and pasted for holding the medicinal powders made and sold by the Nakano Company, and small cloths bags had to be cut and sewn for inserting medicinal herbs. Here again the shufu was responsible for production, supervising the maids.

At the time of the diary Makiko had not yet given birth so she records nothing about the responsibilities of child-rearing. Her duties, though, included attending to the needs of her husband's younger brothers and sisters. A shufu also must shoulder the burden of looking after the general comfort of family members and live-in employees. Makiko enrols in a Western cooking class in 1910 so she will be able to offer a more diverse variety of dishes to her household and its guests.

As a treat for guests, particularly ones who had not been expected, the Nakano house often prepared a sukiyaki meal with beef or chicken. And the third Sunday of each month was Beef Day, with a beef sukiyaki dinner for everyone, including the managers (who lived elsewhere) as well as the live-in employees. Makiko's husband Chuuhachi had initiated the event. Ordinarily, managers ate only breakfast at home; they were given lunch and dinner at work, and did not return home until late evening. On sekki days, at the end of the month when account books had to be balanced, shop duties extended into the deep night. When the work was almost done, bowls of noodles were ordered from a noodle shop nearby, and the whole household sat down to a light meal. Here too it was the shufu's job to ask everybody what they wanted, and then place the order.

And there's more. Once a year the shufu was in charge of buying a large supply of daikon, adding the right amounts of salt and rice-bran powder, and making pickles. And when the season was about to turn, or an annual event was about to occur, it was up to the shufu to take down the scroll hanging in the parlor alcove (tokonoma) and replace it with a painting or a piece of calligraphy appropriate to the oncoming occasion.

Not least, her job description includes performing the ancestral rites, placing fresh offerings on the household altar every day and polishing its Buddhist utensils before any major ritual was to be celebrated. On Buddhist holy days we watch a twenty-year-old Makiko conducting official visits to the family graves in the cemetary of Higashi Ootani Temple, substituting for her very busy husband.

These are the major duties that Makiko in her diary records having carried out as shufu during the year 1910.

Makiko's Diary: A Merchant Wife in 1910 Kyoto certainly is a fine example of the art of translation but it is not completely free from errors. There are a few points that somehow I missed while vetting the text in draft. On page 64, for example, Yakusookai is rendered as "The Association for Herbal Medicine" when it should be 'The Alumni Association of the School of Pharmacy' because the term is an abbreviation for Yakugakkoo no doosookai.

I was not able to examine the videotape of Makiko's New World before it was released, so it contains quite a few mistakes. One example is the scene where senior manager Moriguchi misunderstands Makiko's intentions and refuses the plate of Western food she offers him at dinnertime. (She had prepared the food during her cooking class and had brought it home to serve to younger brother Hidesaburoo but he did not return home for dinner.) The video re-enactment shows Moriguchi being treated like a high-status guest, dining alone at a table in a separate room with Makiko kneeling to serve him.

That's seriously incorrect. To be sure it was normal for managers, clerks and apprentices to go from the shop into the living quarters for their meals. But managers lined up along one side of a long, narrow table in the kitchen area. Opposite them was a huge tub of steamed rice, and one or two junior employees were on each side of it ready to serve their supervisors. Senior manager Moriguchi would have sat in the number one seat on the extreme right, and Makiko would have served the plate of Western food from the right side. The head of the house, family members, and guests took meals in the small, interior rooms, but managers and employees never did.

Another error that Japanese viewers will catch immediately and find disturbing is a scene where the wrong kind of photo has been inserted. It is the scene where Makiko is sitting alone on a cold November day waiting for Mine-san to return. Suddenly we are shown an old photo of three women slouching around a charcoal brazier. You can tell at a glance from the way they sit, kimono in disarray, that they are geisha---or loose women of some kind. Women of good family never would comport themselves in such a slovenly manner. I wish that that picture could be eliminated from the program.

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