The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers, Digital Edition > My Day
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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NIKKO, Japan—Thursday afternoon I spent two hours with a group of students from various universities answering questions and hearing their points of view.

From six to eight I was on a panel, the second one I have taken part in, at the YWCA. This time they were discussing the feudalistic background of Japan and its effect on the development of women. The YWCA kindly provided us with some tea and sandwiches at eight so we could go directly to the theatre and see the Coronation film of Queen Elizabeth II.

I think this film was both impressive and moving. The Queen has a radiant and gentle personality but there is no lack of strength or determination in this light young figure and in her serious face. She looked weary as she waved to people from the balcony of Buckingham Palace at the end of the day. It must have been a long and emotional experience and for the Queen Mother, too, thinking of her own husband's coronation not so many years ago and all that she has been through since then which must have passed through her mind as she and Princess Margaret, with little Prince Charles between them, watched the coronation ceremony.

Friday morning we started at 8:30 for Nikko. It was a bit gray but we hoped it would clear and for a time it looked as though it really would but it never did.

The people along the way were working in their fields with their big straw hats and capes which they wear for the rain.

Here and there you see a few animals, a slow moving ox or a horse but on the whole your feeling as you look into these fields is that women do most of the work.

As we neared Nikko we began to see the foothills of the mountains, wooded, with here and there a cleared strip but always replanted. This is the area where the first cousin of our Sequoias flourishes. There are no trees here quite as big as our really big ones on the West Coast, but around the shrines we visited there were some that must measure twenty feet around.

It is a constant business renovating these shrines made of wood, beautifully carved and painted with brilliant colors and layers and layers of gold leaf in spots, and, of course, there is lacquer work of the finest kind.

I had been told that these shrines were particularly ornate and I had wondered if I would like them as much as some of the simpler architectural lines, but I found myself very much impressed and really enjoying the carvings and the colors. The Chinese influence is very evident, beginning with the stone work which seemed to me very beautiful and remarkable when you realize how many years ago these walls and steps were built, and through every detail of the shrine and temples I found it beautiful.

Here is where you find, painted on a panel, the three well-known monkeys "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil." Over the entrance to the flight of steps leading up to a tomb of an early shogun is the portrait of the sleeping cat but she has not been touched up of late and is very difficult to find and looks quite small in her little panel over the entrance.

We visited the museum also which I found very interesting and then we drove all the way up the mountain to the lake. The famous waterfall is at the outlet of the lake but unfortunately the water is not high enough now so we could not see it. The rain and fog prevented our seeing the views but we enjoyed the trout in the fish hatchery. We were told the fish were brought from California but they seem to grow to greater size here than in their native habitat, just as they do in New Zealand!

We came down the mountain in the cable car and on my return to the hotel I enjoyed my first Japanese bath.

The Kanaya Hotel is delightful and the food excellent and we really had a restful day and night there which is what the Committee wished to give us.


Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • Nikko (Japan) [ index ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, June 27, 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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MEP edition publlished on June 30, 2008.

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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.