Wedding Gifts-A Wife's Duties-Adopted Son-Husbands- Women in Business and Professional Life-Actresses-The "New Woman"-Kissing as a Business Custom-Film Censorship-"Oi, Kora!"-Women of Old Japan-The Change is ComingTHOUGH the Japanese system of arranged matriages is sometimes likened to the French system, the two are quite different. In France the great point is the bride's dowry, but the Japanese bride is not necessarily expected to bring a dowry of money. Her wedding present from her parents consists as a rule of furniture and clothing which they give according to their purse.
The ceremonies connected with a Japanese wedding are extremely interesting, but are too elaborate to be gone into here. There is no wedding trip. The bride moves at once to the home of her husband's parents, unless she has married a younger son sufficiently prosperous and enterprising to sell up a home of his own. The rule is that the eldest son continues to live under the parental roof after his marriage. Along with her name and residence the bride transfers her allegiance absolutely to the husband's family. Particular stress is laid upon her duty to her husband's mother.
This fact is recognized in a textbook issued by the Imperial Department of Education for use in the higher girls' schools, which says:
Absence of harmony is often witnessed between a husband's mother and her daughter-in-law, and this is often traceable to the latter's disobedience and undutifulness. The mother-in-law may be too conservative to get on smoothly with the young daughter-in-law trained in new ideas, but dutifulness, patience, and sincerity on the latter's part will bring on peace and harmony . . . . If, on the contrary, the daughter-in-law, while tolerant of her own weaknesses, is critical toward her husband's mother and complains of her heartlessness, she will only betray her own unworthiness. These points should always be kept in mind by young girls.Young Japanese heiresses are doubly fortunate since their affluence provides, among other comforts, a means of escaping the dreaded mother-in-law. Instead of moving to her husband's home, an heiress will often bring her husband to the shelter of her own paternal roof, where by adoption he becomes a son of her family, taking the family name. One hears that the bed of roses sought by some of these mukoyoshi, or adopted son-husbands, does not prove always to be free from thorns, and there is a Japanese proverb which advises: "If you have left so much as a pound of bad rice, don't become a muko-yoshi." The muko-yoshi is not, however, always married to an heiress. Poor families having daughters, but no sons, will often take in a muko-yoshi to perpetuate the family line under the ancestral roof.
When all is said, there is no question that the condition of Japanese women is slowly improving, although the woman movement there is still in the academic stage. Little by little the example of women in America and England is making itself felt, and the educational opportunities open to women are gradually increasing. The average college for women is not, to be sure, comparable with the ordinary college for men, but there is said to be one university of really high standing which is open to women, and a number of other co-educational institutions are listed as fairly good. Waseda College is now opening its doors for the first time to women as well as men, and though women cannot graduate from Tokyo Imperial University, I am informed that they are permitted to attend lectures there.
Women are going more and more into business and professional life. Great numbers of them are now employed in the government postal and railway offices, in the offices of prefectures and municipalities, and, of course, in the telephone service, as well as by private companies of all kinds. Employers report steady improvement in the standard of intelligence and capability among their woman employees. Women, they say, do their work well and are usually content with small salaries. In seeking positions they generally declare that they wish to occupy themselves profitably between the time of leaving high school and that of marrying.
Eliminating, for the time being, the geisha, who because of her curious occupation will be separately discussed, and who does not in any case fit into a discussion of woman's progress, since she is in some measure a barrier to it, we find that the medical profession is probably the most profitable field for woman workers. There are some seven or eight hundred woman doctors in Japan, of whom almost half are graduates of the Tokyo School for Women, founded by a woman physician, Dr. Y. Yoshioka.
Trained nursing is also a popular occupation, and many girls have lately been leaving office and telephone work to take it up, chiefly for the reason that trained nurses receive from $1 to $1.25 per day, which is considered good pay.
Until ten or a dozen years ago there were no actresses in Japan, female rôles invariably having been played by men, but the octogenarian Baron Shibusawa (lately created Viscount), who has done so much toward liberalizing the thought of Japan in many lines, founded a school for actresses, with the result that there is now a place for them, and that a few have come to be well known, although none is as yet so popular as are the best-known actors. Actors hold in Japan a social position similar to that held by Occidental players a century or more ago. They are distinctly a lower caste, and while they are admired for their art, and are adored by young girls as matinée idols are with us, they are considered as belonging to a social stratum in which geisha and wrestlers figure.
There are now perhaps a dozen or more women working as reporters and special writers on the various Tokyo newspapers. Miss Osawa, who started work on the Jiji Shimpo twenty-one years ago, is, I believe, the dean of Japanese woman journalists.
There are more than twenty well-known monthly magazines for women, many of them edited by women and largely contributed to by woman writers. Authorship is a traditional occupation for women in Japan, women's names being among the greatest in the nation's ancient literature-in which connection it is interesting to note the fact that some of the old-time authoresses were courtesans.
One hears a good deal of talk of the "new woman" in Japan, and perhaps the surest indication that she is coming into being is the fact that supposedly humorous postcards are sold on the Tokyo streets, in which the new woman is shown in various dictatorial attitudes before a cringing husband. Once, at a dinner I attended in Osaka, a woman who runs a business training school for girls, arose and made a short speech. I noticed that while she spoke not a few of the men smiled pityingly. From this item American women old enough to recall the early days of the woman movement in this country will have no difficulty in estimating the distance that the Japanese woman has yet to go.
Japanese ladies who have the time and the inclination for charitable activity accomplish a great deal. The W. C. T. U. is active in Japan, Mrs. Yajima, its president, a lady who, in 1920, at the age of eighty-eight, went to England for the International W. C. T. U. Convention, being perhaps the leader among progressive women of the land. The Red Cross has a large membership, and the Y. W. C. A., like the Y. M. C. A., has a firmly fixed and useful place, carrying on a wide variety of activities. Among these are classes to teach young girls the ways of the business world which is so rapidly opening to them. As an indication of the need for such instruction, a lady who works in the Y. W. C. A. in Tokyo told me of a case in which a Japanese girl who came for instruction reported that she was in the habit of kissing her foreign employer good morning and good night, in the belief-a belief we must suppose to have been inculcated by him-that such was the general business custom.
It is often said that the Japanese never kiss. Bowing is the national form of salutation, though those accustomed to meet foreigners shake hands with them. The fact as to kissing is that one never sees it, even between mother and child, and that this is interpreted as signifying that kissing is unknown. That is not the case. I own an old print by Utamaro which shows a man and a woman kissing with the greatest zeal. The Japanese simply do not kiss indiscriminately or in public places.
The feeling against demonstrations of affection in public is so strong that when American motion pictures were first taken to Japan, audiences would hoot at those tender passages so much enjoyed by some persons in this country. For several years past, however, all such representations have been cut from American films intended for exhibition over there. This work is done by an American who lives in Japan, and who has made up what is probably one of the strangest films in the world by assembling all the cuts into one awful reel of lust and osculation, in which figure most of the widely known American movie stars. This film he sometimes runs off privately for his friends, and it is said to leave those who witness it in a frame of mind to vote kissing a capital offence.
In a rather pitiful list of ten requests made by a Japanese wife to her husband, and exhibited as a poster at the Girls' Industrial School of Tokyo, was the appeal: "Please stop saying 'Oi, kora,' when you call me."
Oi, the expression used by most Japanese husbands when they call their wives, is about equivalent to our "Hallo!" or "Hey!" Sometimes a husband will call his wife by name, but one more often hears "Oi," or "Oi, oi," even among persons of position. Oi is more familiar than rude. A man would say it to his close friend. But a woman would never say it to her husband. Kora is really objectionable, being an exclamation addressed only to inferiors. Naturally, then, wives do not like it, whether they make bold to declare the fact or not. For a wife may not even call her husband by his first name, but must address him as anata, which is a respectful form for "you."
It has been declared that the peasant woman who works beside her husband in the fields or fishing villages, or who helps him push a cart, or navigate a boat on the rivers and canals, is the happiest woman in Japan, being a real companion to him. However, that may be, there is much room for improvement in the attitude of the average middle-class Japanese toward his wife. He gets into automobiles and railroad trains ahead of her and has the air of ignoring her in public.
It should be said, though, that the attitude of such husbands does not necessarily mean that they do not care for their wives. Rather it means that they are old-fashioned-that the ancient notion of woman's position, based on the teachings of Buddhism and Confucianism, has clung to them. But most of all, I think, it reveals their fear of being thought ridiculous. For if a man showed his wife what we should call ordinary civility, the old-school Japanese thought him henpecked.
Strangely enough the position occupied by women in the days of Japan's early antiquity was much higher than it has since become. In olden times women took part in war, had a voice in politics, and in other ways held their own with men. In the eighth century successive Empresses occupied the Imperial throne, and the influence of certain able women was strongly felt at court; two centuries later we find a great era of literary women many of whose names are famous to this day.
But soon after the introduction of Buddhism and Confucianism all this was changed. The Buddhist doctrine called women creatures of sin, treacherous and cruel; and says Confucius: "When a boy is born let him play with jewels; when a girl is born let her play with tiles." So it came about that woman's position declined until it was possible for a famous moralist to write a treatise on the Duty of Woman, containing such maxims as these:
A woman should look upon her husband as if he were Heaven itself, and never weary of thinking how she may yield to him, and thus escape celestial castigation. Let her never dream of jealousy. If her husband be dissolute she must expostulate with him but never either nurse or vent her anger. Should her husband become angry she should obey him with fear and trembling and not set herself up against him in anger and frowardness.An endless quantity of such quotations may be taken from the writings of moral teachers, and in them is indicated the debt of the women of Japan to Chinese doctrines. In view of which it seems strange indeed to visit a Buddhist temple and there be shown coils of thick black rope which was used in the erection of the building, and which was made entirely from the hair of devout women who sacrificed their prized tresses for this purpose, being too poor to give aught else.
Thus, while the Occident was teaching men to be chivalrous toward women, the Orient was teaching women to be, as one might put it, chivalrous toward men. But in both cases the modern tendency is toward change. The growth of woman's economic independence in this country, making her man's competitor, tends to make man less polite in his general casual contacts with her. Having elected to be his equal she must take her chances with him in the subway rush and in the scramble for street-car seats.
Fifty years hence, Japan will perhaps have reached this pass, but the present rudeness of men to women is not that of equals to equals, but of superiors to inferiors; that is the thing that must be changed.
And it will be changed. Slowly, very slowly, the attitude of the Japanese man toward the Japanese woman is improving. I found that evening classes were being held at the Y. W. C. A. in Tokyo for the purpose of teaching young husbands and wives how to enjoy social life together, and there is no doubt that in fashionable society the better type of modern young husband treats his wife with much more consideration and courtesy, and makes much more a companion of her, than was customary or even possible under the old réginte. Twenty-five years ago it was well enough for a man to walk on the street with a geisha, but the man who walked in public with his wife was jeered at, and might even find himself a target for missiles. Though that is no longer the case, the tradition that man should assume a superior air still to some extent survives among the masses, so that for a husband to treat his wife with perfect courtesy before strangers requires, singular though it may seem, real moral courage.