AUGUST 25, 1955
TOKYO, Japan—The other day we visited a shrine not far from the hotel before leaving Kyoto and then took a beautiful drive through the countryside. On the way we passed tea plantations for the first time and in spite of the drought which everyone is complaining about, predictions are that there will be a bumper crop of rice and I am told that the farmers are unusually well off this year. To western eyes the standard of living is quite poor as is evidenced by crowded living quarters, and by the wooden shoes whose clop you continually hear in the streets. But the people look happier to me than they did in 1953, however, and I think that is because economic conditions are improving.
The salaries which I wrote about the other day which seemed to me very low were explained to me in part by a gentleman who has his business here. He tells me that all Japanese firms have a custom of giving a bonus both at Christmas and in July of at least one month's salary, and in some cases it may amount to more. He said, in addition to his salary a worker would often also be given his commutation costs to cover transportation to and from work. And he might also receive some other benefits. For instance, an executive might have complete use of a company car and he might also if he was an executive, have a considerable entertainment allowance.
There has been a strike here because a British company did not wish to pay the semi-annual bonus. To westerners it would undoubtedly seem simpler to pay a more adequate wage all year round and not to rely on the two bonuses, but people get accustomed to certain things and it is a hard pattern to change.
But it seems to me that an entertainment allowance does not really make up for an adequate salary. A man may give a pleasant party and enjoy it, but that does not help his wife to stretch the family budget. My preference, therefore, is for a better wage which you can count on for the whole family with fewer of these indirect benefits. It may well be that due to the traditional position of women these indirect benefits seemed satisfactory in the past. But now the position of women is changing and I think as in western countries the family as a whole rather than primarily the man is beginning to be considered.
Children appear to be very much loved and cared for here. Sometimes I see quite a big child being carried on his mother's back and that seems rather an excessive burden, but I suppose a psychologist would say it gives a feeling of extra security to the child. You also see men riding their bicycles often with one or two children on in front and rear. This would seem to show that there is a real family feeling and strong sense of responsibility for the child.