My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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OSAKA, Japan —At eleven o'clock on June 3rd we reached Doshisha University where I spoke to the students in a packed auditorium. There are 10,000 students in this University and they thought at least 2500 were in the auditorium and it seemed to me there were a good many around outside.

We lunched at the University on delicious sandwiches and wonderful hot tea and after a short discussion with the faculty members I went out to a meeting with a small group of students who have been working under Mr. Cary who has come out here from Amherst.

One of the most interesting things I have seen was the tea ceremony at Urasenke . There are two grand masters of the tea ceremony in Japan and our host is one of these masters. He teaches this ceremony to a certain number of pupils and his eldest son follows in his footsteps. On Wednesday the grand master himself made the tea while his wife and son waited on us. His every movement was a ritual. The tea room was prepared with a special eye to our pleasure. One of the oldest paintings, a family treasure, had been brought out for the occasion and the old gong which was also some 400 years old had been hung up so it could be sounded for us. When you hear the notes of its deep resonance, you know that the master calls you to tea.

After the main ceremony, we went into the garden and met all the pupils and then we came back to see in another room two most beautiful screens which they had brought out to do us honor. Again they brought us food of a different kind and two geisha girls appeared to give us some presents which had been prepared. Finally the time came when we had to leave to do some shopping before starting our drive to Osaka.

I was most grateful for all the trouble the grand master had gone to, but I will not expect Minnewa or Miss Corr to remember the tea ceremony well enough to repeat it when we get home and have a chance to open the box of ceremonial tea given us at the tea factory two days ago!

I keep feeling that everything is done on the surface to give the Westerner a feeling of being at home in Japan. There couldn't, for instance, be a more comfortable hotel than the New Osaka, the one we are in. The service is excellent, the food is Western. In fact every consideration is given to the foreigner. I wonder if it is really good for us and if it would not be better if we were given a chance to learn what makes the Japanese feel at home and what they really like in their daily home life.

One thing we foreigners do have to conform to is the removal of our shoes when entering Japanese houses. I wish I had brought the kind of shoes that slip on and off easily and still have heavy enough soles to walk in the mud. However, I like the Japanese habit of wearing heavy white cotton socks with felt soles in the house and the different kind of sandals they put on for outdoors, which drop off so casually as they come in. It keeps the house clean and they seem to manage the slippers very well on the street. The clogs which are worn for really muddy weather lift one right out from the road and make quite a clatter when there are enough people in the street but, nevertheless, seem practical and the children even manage them very well.

In the silk weaving area where we were on Wednesday the rhythmic beat of the machines could be heard everywhere coming from the houses as we walked through the streets. I thought it was interesting because no one could mistake what area they were in.


Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • Osaka (Japan) [ index ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, June 10, 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.