Japanese Women Train their Babes from Infancy

Japanese Women Train their Babes from Infancy

Japanese Women Train Their Babies From Infancy to Give Up Their Lives For Mikado

Onoto Watanna, the famous Japanese Authoress, tells of the part the women of Dai Nippon play in the war. (Copyright, 1904, by the Newspaper Enterprise Association.)
“No race can rise higher than its mothers.” Admiration is expressed for the achievements of the men of Japan. The mistake should not be made of thinking that the women of Japan are nonentities, slaves of their husbands, upper servants of their household, dolls, playthings, as I have heard them many times described. The Japanese women have not had the same educational advantages as the men and consequently really have never had a true opportunity to develop their higher faculties. Nevertheless, such opportunities as they have had they have made the most of, and despite their often even illiterate condition, they have cultivated unconsciously in themselves a personal standard that is shown in their teaching of their children.
The husband takes no part in the early training of his children. He leaves them, unquestioningly, to his wife, assured that she will instill in them only what is good and right.
Patriotism in a Japanese woman is like a religion. It is inbred in her, inherited from countless ancestors, whose loyalty to Tenshi-sama, the emperor, was as natural as living itself. Yet patriotism with the Japanese is not felt chiefly for country and fellow-countrymen, but for the emperor. He comes first of all.
When a boy is a wee little chap of 8 years old his mother begins to teach him the first principles of patriotism and loyalty to the emperor. She will put some object into his hand an apple or orange, say, and she will ask:
“What will you do with this orange?”
The child is taught to answer:
“I will give it Tenshi-Sama”
He is taught that everything in Japan belongs, by divine right, to the emperor, and that all that he has is given him by the emperor. Only a few years ago the children were taught that they owed their very existence to the emperor; that he was the child of heaven, a descendant of the gods whom they could not see, for if they did, they would become blind at once.
“Where do you get your food?” would ask the mother.
“From Tenshi-sama,” would answer the child.
“Where does this ground come from?”
“From Tenshi-sama.”
“To whom do we owe everything that is good in life?”
And at last:
“If Tenshi-sama needs you what will you do for him?”
“I will die for Tenshi-sama,” answers the future soldier of Japan.
Was ever a nation so instructed in slavish adoration for the ruler, and is it any wonder that the child, taught from his babyhood to reverence the emperor, should, when put to the test, be willing, as he said as a child, to die for Tenshi-sama?
It is well that the guardians of the emperors have been wise men. who cultivating this love in the emperor’s subjects, so ordered the personal lives of the rulers that these subjects were not aware that often their faith and love were misplaced. Today Mutsuhito, who they know now is not a spiritual being, but an actual living man, is held in even a more affectionate esteem because he is good and kind and returns the love of his subjects. The Japanese women of today do not change their little code of patriotic teaching of their children. Still do they teach that “Tenshi-sama is the owner and giver of all the good in Japan.”
When the son of a Samurai reached the manly age of 5 years the mother would put into his hands the two swords of his father; they were seldom too heavy for the young warrior to hold. She would tell her son that his father was a warrior, as had been his grandfather before him, and that with one of these swords he had gloriously defended the honor of the emperor, and with the other his own personal honor.
She would tell this 5-year-old boy that no longer was he a baby. He must put away all of his toys, and henceforward devote his mind to more serious things, as would become the son of a Samurai. Thus from his fifth birthday until he attained to manhood the son of a warrior was taught each day patriotism and loyalty.
“You must die in the presence of the Daimio,” would instruct the mother, for the Daimio was the chosen vassal of the emperor.
Revenge is said to be the strongest emotion in a Japanese woman. There is a saying in Japan: “A man’s vengeance is eightfold, a woman’s a thousandfold.” The emotion is not observed in petty matters, and I believe is as marked a characteristic of the men as the women. For deep injury or wrong done to them the Japanese never rest till they have consummated what they term “honest and honorable vengeance.”
So in time of war this feeling is intense, and the Japanese women repeat to their children over and over: “It is for vengeance we fight—-to avenge Tenshi-sama!” They esteem the emotion of vengeance. When a baby hurts his little head against some wall a Japanese woman will beat the wall and say: “There, I have avenged you!”
In every Japanese school there is a “sacred store room.” It does not contain a shrine of some deity, but a picture of the emperor. On celebration days, such as the mikado’s birthday, the picture is hung in a public hall or recitation room. Before the children start for the school house they are thoroughly rehearsed and drilled by their mothers in the conduct they are to observe before this picture. The teacher has taught them how they must bow reverently before the picture, but the mother teaches them what they must think and how they should feel as they come before the likeness of the man who owns them. No child is too small to do homage to the emperor, and it is quite an inspiring sight to see the tiny students solemnly bowing their mites of bodies before the picture of the emperor.
The Christians in Japan have often declared that this bowing ceremony before the mikado’s picture was a form of idolatry. The Japanese deny this, earnestly declaring that it is merely a mark of the deepest respect and love. Once there was a serious disturbance in one of the schools. Christian native children were said to have been set upon and badly beaten by their schoolmates “because they refused worship the emperor.” The Japanese teacher admitted that when the Christians marched by the emperor’s picture with high-held heads, the students fairly fell upon them, and not only compelled them to bow, but bumped their heads unmercifully upon the floor. I was told of this incident by a young student who was in the midst of the fracas. He said to me with tears in his eyes:
“I could not have looked in my mother’s face again if I had not helped to punish at least one of the emperor’s insulters.”
“Did your mother cry?” I asked.
He was astonished and disgusted with me.
“Cry! Why should she cry? She was delighted and so proud of me that she let me wear my father’s sword all the rest of the day. She put me right by the tokonona as if I were an ornament. and there I stayed for very long.”
“So that after all it was a kind of infliction?”
He looked at me in surprise.
“You are only a woman,” he said, almost pityingly. “Surely you have never been a boy of 10 and worn a heavy sword at your side, which had killed a hundred men, perhaps. Infliction! It was supreme joy, I assure you.”


If you'd like to write a headnote for this text (that would be peer-reviewed before publication), please contact the Project Director Mary Chapman to discuss.

Technical Feedback

If you have noticed a bug, typo, or errors on the site or if you have any other feedback, please contact us.

People Mentioned

Ken Ip

Ken Ip is a graduate of the M.A. program in English at the University of British Columbia and was a research assistant for The Winnifred Eaton Archive. During this time, his research interests were focused towards digital humanities and Indigenous literatures. During his time with the project, he contributed mainly as a transcriber and encoder for several of Eaton’s works. He is currently working with the International Society of Cell and Gene Therapy as Coordinator, Training and Education.

Mary Chapman

Mary Chapman is the Director of The Winnifred Eaton Archive, a Professor of English, and Academic Director of the Public Humanities Hub at University of British Columbia. She is the author of the award-winning monograph Making Noise, Making News: Suffrage Print Culture and US Modernism (Oxford UP) and of numerous articles about American literature and women writers. She has also edited Becoming Sui Sin Far: Early Fiction, Journalism and Travel Writing by Edith Maude Eaton (McGill-Queen’s UP) and published essays on the Eaton sisters in American Quarterly, MELUS, Legacy, Canadian Literature, and American Periodicals. Her current research project is a microhistory of the Eaton family. For more information, see http://faculty.arts.ubc.ca/mchapman/.

Joey Takeda

Joey Takeda is the Technical Director of The Winnifred Eaton Archive and a Developer at Simon Fraser University’s Digital Humanities Innovation Lab (DHIL). He is a graduate of the M.A. program in English at the University of British Columbia where he specialized in Indigenous and diasporic literature, science and technology studies, and the digital humanities.

Winnifred Eaton

  • Born: August 21, 1875
  • Died: April 08, 1954
See the Biographical Timeline for biographical information on Winnifred Eaton.

Pseudonym used in this text

Organizations Mentioned

Spokane Press

Daily newspaper (Sundays excepted) published in Spokane, Washington from 1902-1939.
Written by Samantha Bowen