Frank thought it was no more than proper that he should devote a letter to Miss Effie. He wanted to make it instructive and interesting, and, at the same time, he thought it should appeal to her personally in some way. He debated the matter in his own mind without coming to a conclusion, and finally determined to submit the question to Doctor Bronson, from whom he hoped to receive a suggestion that would be useful.
Bride and Bridesmaid

The Doctor listened to him, and was not long in arriving at a conclusion.

"You have just written to Mary on the subject of Japanese art," said he, "and she will be pretty certain to show the letter to her intimate friend."

"Nothing more likely," Frank answered.

"In that case," the Doctor continued, "you want to take up a subject that will be interesting to both, and that has not been touched in your letters thus far."

"I suppose so."
Mysteries of the Dressing Room

"Well, then, as they are both women, or girls, as you may choose to call them, why don't you take up the subject of women in Japan? They would naturally be interested in what relates to their own sex, and you can give them much information on that topic." The proposal struck Frank as an excellent one, and he at once set about obtaining the necessary information for the preparation of his letter. He had already seen and heard a great deal concerning the women of Japan, and it was not long before he had all the material he wanted for his purpose. His letter was a long one, and we will make some extracts from it, with the permission of Miss Effie, and also that of Mary, who claimed to have an interest in the missive.

"From what I can learn," Frank wrote, "the women of Japan are better off than those of most other Eastern countries. They are not shut up in harems and never allowed to go about among people, as in Turkey, and they are not compelled to stay indoors and see nobody, as in many other parts of the world. They have their share of the work to do, but they are not compelled to do all of it, while their husbands are idle, as in some parts of Europe, and among the American Indians. The system of harems is not known here, or, at all events, if it is known, it is practiced so little that we never hear anything about it. The Japanese women do not veil their faces, as the women of all Mohammedan countries are compelled to do, and they are free to go about among their friends, just as they would be if they were Americans. They blacken their teeth when they get married, but this custom is fast dying out since the foreigners came here, and probably in twenty years or so we shall not hear much about it. The married women dress their hair differently from the single ones, and when you know the ways of arranging it, you can know at once whether a woman is married or not. I suppose they do this for the same reason that the women of America wear rings on their fingers, and let folks know if they are engaged or married or single. They remind me of what I have read about the Russian women, who wear their hair uncovered until they are married, and then tie it up in a net, or in a handkerchief. It is much better to have a sign of this sort than to have it in a ring, as the hair can be seen without any trouble, while you have to be a little impertinent sometimes to look at a lady's hand, and find out how her rings are.

"In China the women pinch their feet, so that they look like doubled fists, but nothing of the kind is done in Japan. Every woman here has her feet of the natural shape and size, and as to the size, I can say that there are women in Japan that have very pretty feet, as pretty as those of two young ladies I know of in America. They do not have shoes like those you wear, but instead they have sandals for staying in the house, and high clogs for going out of doors. The clogs are funny-looking things, as they are four or five inches high, and make you think of pieces of board with a couple of narrow pieces nailed to the upper edges. They can't walk fast in them, but they can keep their feet out of the mud, unless it is very deep, and in that case they ought not to go out at all. I wish you could see a Japanese woman walking in her clogs. I know you would laugh, at least the first time you saw one, but you would soon get used to it, as it is a very common sight.
Lady in Winter Walking-Dress

"In China and some other countries it is not considered necessary to give the girls any education, but in Japan it is not so. The girls are educated here, though not so much as the boys, and of late years they have established schools where they receive what we call the higher branches of instruction. Every year new schools for girls are opened, and a great many of the Japanese who formerly would not be seen in public with their wives have adopted the Western idea, and bring their wives into society. The marriage laws have been arranged so as to allow the different classes to marry among each other, and the government is doing all it can to improve the condition of the women. They were better off before than the women of any other Eastern country, and if things go on as they are now going, they will be still better in a few years. The world moves.

"A gentleman who has given much attention to this subject says that of the one hundred and twenty rulers of Japan, nine have been women, and that the chief divinity in their mythology is a woman, the goddess Kuanon. A large part of the literature of Japan is devoted to the praise of woman. Her fidelity, love, piety, and devotion form the groundwork of many a romance which has become famous throughout the country, and popular with all classes of readers. The history of Japan abounds in stories of the heroism of women in the various characters of patriot, rebel, and martyr, and I am told that a comparison of the standing of women in all the countries of the East, both in the past and in the present, would unquestionably place Japan at the head.
A Japanese Girl

"I suppose you will want to know something about the way the Japanese women dress. I'll try to tell you, but if I make any mistakes, you must remember that I have not had much practice in describing ladies' apparel.

"They don't wear any crinoline, such as the ladies do in America, and their clothes fit very tight around them when compared to what we see in New York, that is, I mean, they are tight in the skirts, though loose enough above the waist. They fasten them with strings and bands, and without hooks or buttons or pins. You remember the pocket pin-cushion you made for me? of course you do. Well, one day while we were taking tea in a Japanese teahouse, the attendants stood around looking at us, and examining our watch chains and the buttons on our coats. I showed them that pin-cushion, and they passed it from one to the other, and wondered what it was, and so I took out a pin, and showed it was for carrying pins. Evidently, they did not know what a pin was for, as they looked at it very curiously, and then made signs for me to show them its use. I did so by pinning up the wide sleeve of one of the black-eyed girls. She took the pin out a moment after to return it to me, and when I motioned that she might keep it, she smiled and said 'Arinyato,' which means 'Thank you,' as sweetly and earnestly as though I had given her a diamond ring. Then I gave each one of them a pin, and they all thanked me as though they really thought they had received something of value. Just think of it! half a dozen young women, not one of whom had ever seen a common dressing-pin!

"Their dresses are folded around them, and then held in place by an obi, which is nothing more nor less than a wide belt. It is of the most expensive material that the wearer can afford, and sometimes it costs a great deal of money. Generally, it is of silk, and they have it of all colors, and occasionally it is heavily embroidered. It is several yards long, and the work of winding it into place is no small affair. I shall enclose some pictures of Japanese women in this letter, and you can see from them what the dress of the women looks like, and understand much better than you will by what I write. I think the women look very pretty in their dresses, much better, in fact, than when they put on European garments. Their hair is always black, and they dress it with more grease than I wish they would. It fairly makes the hair shine, it is laid on so thick. But they have some very pretty ornaments for their hair, which they stick in with large pins, something like the hair-pins you use at home. I am told that you can distinguish the social position by the number and style of the hair-ornaments worn on a woman's head, but I have not yet learned how to do it. I suppose I shall find out if I stay long enough in Japan.
Ladies' Hair-Dresser

"Of course, you will want to know if the Japanese women are pretty. Now, you mustn't be jealous when I say they are. Fred thinks so too, and you know it won't do for me to have a quarrel with Fred when we are traveling together, and especially when I think he's right. They are all brunettes, and have sharp, bright eyes, full of smiles, and their skins are clear and healthy. They look very pleasant and happy, and they have such sweet, soft voices that nobody could help liking them even if he didn't want to. They have such nice manners, too, that you feel quite at your ease in their company. They may be wishing you ten thousand miles away, and saying to themselves that they hate the sight of a foreigner, but if they do, they manage to conceal their thoughts so completely that you can never know them. You may say this is all deception, and perhaps it is, but it is more agreeable than to have them treat you rudely, and tell you to get out of the way.

"There are women here who are not pretty, just as there are some in America, but when you are among them, it isn't polite to tell them of it. Some of them paint their faces to make them look pretty. I suppose nobody ever does anything of the kind in America or any other country but Japan, and therefore it is very wicked for the Japanese ladies to do so. And when they do paint, they lay it on very thick. Mr. Bronson calls it kalsomining, and Fred says it reminds him of the veneering that is sometimes put on furniture to make pine appear like mahogany, and have an expensive look, when it isn't expensive at all. The 'geishas,' or dancing and singing girls, get themselves up in this way, and when they have their faces properly arranged, they must not laugh, for fear that the effort of smiling would break the coating of paint. And I have heard it said that the covering of paint is so thick that they couldn't smile any more than a mask could, and, in fact, the paint really takes the place of a mask, and makes it impossible to recognize anybody through it.

"It is the rule in Japan for a man to have only one wife at a time, but he does not always stick to it. If he has children, a man is generally contented, but if he has none, he gets another wife, and either divorces the first one or not, as he chooses. Divorce is very easy for a man to obtain, but not so for the woman, and when she is divorced, she has hardly any means of obtaining justice. But, in justice to the Japanese, it should be said that the men do not often abuse their opportunities for divorce, and that the married life of the people is about as good as that of most countries. Among the reasons for divorce, in addition to what I have mentioned, there are the usual ones that prevail in America. Furthermore, divorce is allowed if a wife is disobedient to her husband's parents, and also if she talks too much. The last reason is the one most frequently given, but a woman cannot complain of her husband and become divorced from him for the same cause. I wonder if Japan is the only country in the world where women have ever been accused of talking too much.
Japanese Ladies on a Picnic

"Nearly every amusement that is open to men is also open to women. They can go to the theaters, to picnics, parties, and anything of the sort, as often as they please, which is not the case with women in Muslim countries, and in some others that are not Muslim. They are very fond of boat excursions, and on pleasant days a goodly number of boating parties may be seen on the waters around Tokyo and the other large cities. On the whole, they seem to have a great capacity for enjoyment, and it is pretty certain that they enjoy themselves.

"The houses in Japan are so open that you can see a great deal more of the life of the people than you would be likely to see in other countries. You can see the women playing with the children, and there are lots of the little ones everywhere about. I don't believe there is a country in the world where there is more attention to the wants of the children than in Japan, and I don't believe it is possible for a greater love to exist between parents and children than one finds here. There are so many things done for the amusement of children, and the children seem to enjoy them so much, that it is very pleasing to study the habits of the people in this respect. I have already told you about the amusements at the temple of Asakusa, and the sports and games that they have there for the children. They are not only at that temple, but all over Japan, and the man must be very poor to feel that he cannot afford something to make his children happy. In return, the children are not spoiled, but become very dutiful to their parents, and are ready to undergo any privations and sacrifices for their support and comfort. Respect for parents and devotion to them in every possible way are taught by the religion of the country, and, whatever we may think of the religion of Japan, we cannot fail to admire this feature of the religious creed.
Flying Kites

"It would amuse you if you could see the interest that the Japanese take in flying kites. And the funny part of it is that it is the men who do the most of the kite-flying, while the children look on, which is the exact reverse of what we do in our country. They have the funniest kinds of kites, and show a great deal of ingenuity in getting them up. Everybody has them, and they are so cheap that even the beggars can have kites to fly. They are of all sizes and shapes. You can buy a plain kite a few inches square, or you can get one as large as the side of a house, and covered all over with dragons and other things that sometimes cost a neat little sum for the painting alone. The Japanese understand the trick of flying a kite without a tail, and they do it by the arrangement of the strings, which is quite different from ours. On the other hand, some of their kites will have a whole line of strings hanging down as ornaments, and sometimes it looks as if the kite were anchored by means of these extra cords. They make their kites so large that three or four men are needed to hold some of them, and there is a story that a man who one day tied the cord of a kite to his waist was taken up in the air and never heard of again. And there is another story of a man in the country who had a kite that he harnessed to a plow, and when the wind was good he used to plow his fields by means of it. But the story does not explain how he turned the furrow when he reached the end of the field. Perhaps he had an accommodating wind that shifted at the right time.

"The first kite I saw in the air in Japan was so much like a large bird that I mistook it for one, and the delusion was kept up by a smaller one that seemed to be getting away from the other. The large one imitated the movements of a hawk to perfection, and it was some minutes before I could understand that it was nothing but a combination of sticks and paper and cords, instead of a real live bird. It rose and fell, and every few moments it swept down and seemed to be trying to swallow the little one out of sight. I never should have supposed such an imitation possible, and was thoroughly convinced that the Japanese must be very fond of kite-flying if they give it the study necessary to bring it to such a state of perfection.

"The more I see of the Japanese, the more I like them, and think them a kind-hearted and happy people. And, from all I can see, they deserve to be happy, as they do all they can for the pleasure of each other, or, at any rate, all that anybody ever does."


Study the chapter for one week.

Over the week:

  • Read and/or listen to the chapter.
  • Review the vocabulary terms.
  • Complete the enrichment activities.


Bride: A woman who is going to marry or has just been married.
Bridesmaid: A woman who attends a bride during her wedding ceremony.
Dressing Room: A room used for dressing or changing clothes.
Harem: A group of someone's girlfriends, wives, and/or concubines.
Veil: A covering for a person's face.
Foot Binding (China): The old Chinese custom of binding women's feet with cloth to prevent them from growing with age.
Kite: A lightweight toy carried on the wind and tethered and controlled from the ground by one or more lines.


Activity 1: Narrate the Chapter

  • Narrate the events aloud in your own words.

Activity 2: Study the Chapter Pictures

  • Study the chapter pictures and describe how each relates to the story.

Activity 3: Observe the Modern Equivalent

  • Examine the chapter concept of weddings in modern times: A modern Japanese bride and groom.

Activity 4: Map the Chapter

  • Find the country of Japan on the map of the world.
  • Find the cities of Yokohama, Tokyo, Kobe, and Kyoto on the map of Japan.

Activity 5: Map the Chapter on a Globe

  • Repeat the mapwork from Activity 4 on a three-dimensional globe.