My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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OSAKA, Japan —When we reached Osaka Wednesday evening I felt exactly as though I were driving into Chicago. So many smoke stacks were pouring smoke all over the City, and I was told that this was the industrial Chicago of Japan.

After a press conference, we went down to the grill for dinner because it was so late and when we came back to our rooms, they brought us the first real mail to come to us from the U.S. , most of it was written on the 27th of May and with no reference to any news received from us except for a post card sent from Wake Island. It looks as though mail took very nearly a week between the U.S. and Japan. It is good to have some news at last, however, because I was beginning to feel very far away.

My last day in Kyoto was a most interesting one. We started off by visiting the most famous handicraft shops, the Kawashima factory where they do Tsuzure embroidery. The most expensive thing about the Japanese women's costume is the obi. An obi often costs far more than a kimono. One very beautiful obi which we watched a man weaving, the head of the factory told me would take a month and a half to finish. He showed us the beautiful pieces of material all made by hand and worth 60 or 70 thousand yen, in fact the simplest and cheapest kind of material in the room was 9000 yen. Afterwards they took us to a small family owned machine factory. They had four looms. The setting up was done by hand but the women or men just watched for broken threads, the machine did all the rest. Lovely material was being made for kimonos.

This factory was clean and neat and though the cooking arrangements for the workers were crowded into the same room as the looms, they looked fairly adequate and there was a feeling of well-being in the house.

The last house we visited was very poor. There were only two looms, not owned by the workers but rented so that their labor paid for the borrowing of the machines and the material which went into their work. This left them very little more than bare subsistence. They had dug pits under the weaving machines because the ceiling was too low to set them up on the floor. The water came from a well in the back of the house, which is used by four families living right around, and three privies were within a stone's throw of the well. They told me, however, that typhoid was not an illness that they really dreaded there. Tuberculosis was the one that took the heaviest toll.

Having to take off your shoes wherever you go keeps these homes cleaner than you would expect but there is no doubt about it that conditions such as I have described are not what you would call good working conditions and wherever they are in the world, we should make an effort to eliminate them.


Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • Osaka (Japan) [ index ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, June 9, 1953

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
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Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University 312 Academic Building 2100 Foxhall Road, NW Washington, DC 20007

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Transcription created from a photocopy of a UFS wire copy of a My Day column instance archived at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.