Toshi Takata, Iovely, diminutive , elderly, sat Japanese fashion on the
tatami , the straw mat floor of the Japanese room. A full length window
behind her framed a freshly showered Japanese garden and a mountain view
of Hakone Park. Her mind was on the places of long ago as she began telling
of her family .
"My father, Josai Takata, was a professional artist and wealthy, and never knew the guiding hand of his father, Shuni Takata. His father, my grandfather, was an important Samurai who taught Chinese history and literature and Japanese history and of course mastered the Chinese characters. My father was only three years old at the time of his fa-
ther ' s death, about 1853, and so was brought up by his mother. He was said to be very spoiled. Fortunately he was born into a rich family and he could do as he wanted.
"His mother was a clever woman and she allowed him to grow up unusually free. He never worked for anybody else. He had time to paint and visit. He often told his friends and his children, 'Don't be
a slave to time. '
"As a young man he ignored Japanese marriage customs when all marriages were arranged by families. He chose his own wife. His home in the village of Mishima, now a city, was located in front of a Shinto shrine and he noticed that a beautiful Japanese young woman came each morning to worship .
She was from the adjacent village , Numazu. When they became acquainted and love grew between them her parents did not favor this union for any reason whatsoever .
"My father was determined that his family would not choose his wife
and he decided to try to persuade her to marry him. He was twelve years
older than the seventeen-year-old girl, He was wealthy .
And he was gifted as an artist. He felt very hurt at her parent ' s refusal and could not see why. When the parents threatened her with disinheritance he cried out, 'Let them! If you choose me I will make
you very happy ! ' Without hesitation she followed him and he did make her very happy even though she was cut off from her family for years. My mother, even as a young girl, had a strong mind."
Miss Takata paused. She was so small, so delicate, it hardly seemed possible that she was the founder of the Takata English Institute of Kawasaki, and now its director. She was a worthy daughter of
such a mother and father; she too,had a strong mind .
She continued her ｭaccount. "In Japan it was unheard of for a husband to be present at the birth of his children but when the time came for his first child to be born he did not care what the doctor said or did to keep him out of the room. He went in saying, 'Why do you refuse me? She is my wife. When she is having a baby and suffering
should a husband stay away from her? This is not only my wife's child; it is my child, too! '
"He helped her bear this experience as he did all the births of his six children. I was the second child. At the birth of the sixth child the midwife did not get there in time and Father delivered
the child himself. He was immensely pleased at do-ing so. "
Toshi then repeated what she had been told as a child about the father ' s early contacts with Christian teaching. "One summer Dr. James H. Ballagh, one of the first Christian missionaries from America, came to vacation in nearby Hakone and happened to come to Mishima riding in a palanquin .
an enclosed coach carried by men. He decided to preach in Mishima though he spoke Japanese poorly.
He kept coming back until many people became Chris-tian believers through his teaching and influence.
My father was among them. Then came a serious problem to solve .
"The Shinto practices and beliefs had long been strong in Mishima and the Shinto leaders challenged the Christian leader to a debate to be held on the Shinto shrine grounds. Alarm spread. The young
men might be aroused and blood shed if such a debate
was carried out . Some of the important people of the town came to ask the help of Father because he was very influential among the young people. He called in some of the leaders from both sides and
persuaded them not to have the debate. This happening is very well known in Mishima history.
"Father accepted Christ as an ideal only; he did not become a Christian immediately. . . . He wanted to have a jolly good time for a while. But gradually he realized that the way he carried on his life
so easily was not good so he came to Edo, the old Tokyo, to study either law or art. He left my mother in care of an old servant.
"I was grown up when my mother shyly told me of the happy days when she received a letter from her husband every day- a surprising , unusual and even embarrassing happening in Japanese families in
those days. Furthermore, when he was home he boldly went out with my mother in public though people might laugh . My mother was deeply embarrassed , for this appearing of husbands and wives together was
not considered proper except at marriages and funerals .
"I was about two years old when our family moved to Yokohama in 1893. There our family had a closer friendship with the Ballagh family and others of the American missionary pioneers. ・They were welcomed in our home. My father enjoyed those foreigners, all of them speaking Japanese."
A book of the times of early missionaries in Japan records that Yokohama had no street cars.
Travel was by jinrikisha, a hooded cart pulled by men- a new invention by James Goble of the foreign group. It also recorded that the Reverend and Mrs . Ballagh had arrived among the first American missionaries to Yokohama in 1859 after a most perilous three months in a sailing ship routed by way of the Cape of Good Hope .
Years later Toshi wrote, "During the years after our stay in Yokohama Father was still very busy in the pleasure life and did not care to bother about money matters. Mother always used to say
that it was so nice to be able to spend money without asking permission from Father. But it was very hard when we were short of money r for she then had to think by herself how to make ends meet. How often we e,nvied children who handled money freely and bought some little candies and little things at the store . Mother often bought us something we liked
to have but we were never allowed to receive money for anything we did, even from relatives. If they gave us money they were scolded by my father."
In Japanese tradition the handling of money was regarded as demeaning by those of the Samurai class. Money spent for the Takata children was never mentioned when they went shopping . They were
allowed to help choose the color and design of cloth for a kimono but never to handle the money to pay for it.
It was naturalr therefore. for the child Toshi to respond as she did to the kindly mill merchant and for him to respond as he did to her family.
She was sent to a mill merchant with a message from her family and the man gave her a small coin as a gift or as a tip. She haughtily told him, "Please give it to your favorite charity," and came home insulted.
The rnill merchant went inunediately to his home,
dressed in his best clothing and came to her house to apologize to her father.
After the vacationing days at Gora this writer went with Miss Takata
to her home in Kawasaki and saw the Kawasaki Chapel and the Takata English
Institute , and then on to join a tour group in order
to see more of Japan . The letter following is included with the hope that the reader might catch a glimpse of her warmth and liveliness from her writing; this is remarkable because she was only partially recovered from very serious illness that same sumrner.
Sundayr Sept. 27, 1970
My very dear Elsie,
What a generous friend you are ! Your long letter from Hongkong, enclosing the precious check came some time ago , and I should have written some time ago to thank you, but my life is one wild rush. However, I wrote many letters in my mind and heart. Thank you, thank you for your dear thought. I shall certainly get a "Diamond
Necklace" with it as you suggested at Gora.
I think you are marvelous to be able to find the time to write such letters of sketches wherever you went. I know how hard it is to find time during one's busy trip. Your beautiful descriptions made me
feel as though I were enjoying the experience with you and share the joy, too.
First I must tell you about my sinus problem. Since I was told by the
doctor to have a slight surgery, I saw some other doctors ・who told me
it was not necessary to have one now. So I keep going to the
doctor twice a week for the treatment may have to carry the twang tone during the cold season. I hope to be able to keep free of the colds this winter. And now I have one happy kind of news .
I can now say that at long last a real good person came in unexpectedly though it was the answer to my prayers.
After having spent all kinds of effort to find a housekeeper, we couldn ' t get one that would suit us. Then a young man who was a former student of mine and one of our church members came to see me and
asked me if there was any vacancy here to teach. (He is a graduate from a very good university and his English is very good.)
He realized that his mission was to become a teacher of Grade School instead of his present fine position with a good company.
So he gave up his job and wished to come here until the new school year in April.
When he came we were looking for a teacher and a housekeeper . So he took both jobs and is doing "Jack of all Trades"
except my washing. He is engaged to a nice girl and they are going to marry in April. After they get married his wife will take the housekeeper's place. He teaches, looks after our accounts and is
doing the janitor's job. He is ever so grateful to be able to find nice rooms and be able to study more English here. I 've known him ever since he was in the Seventh Grade. Through the awful experience with the wicked housekeeper I have learned to be more patient and to wait until the Lord send a right person.
Life is a strange thing and also full of irony. Don't you think so? You started your trip with such a dreadful experience, the theft of American Express checks, airplane tickets, medical records, money,
and your passport in Chicago on your way to Japan but it ended with many unexpected pleasures. If I were in better health I could have done much more to please you. You must come back again . Some day you will, I know. Remernber you have a home in Japan. No comparison with yours, but my gate is always open wide for you and my heart is open . This you know.
We have been having very unusually hot autumn and three weeks of rainy days in September. This is the first sunny day we've had. I 'm beginning to feel better now.
Do write and tell me how you are after you went back. So sorry your Japanese friend in Kyoto was in the hospital and you couldn't see her.
Will you kindly tell Dorothy that our children were very much pleased with the letters from your Sunday School children.
They will write them soon. I was pleased to find familiar faces among the children in the pictures.
Thank you once again, and with my special love ,
II. TOWARD SPIRITUALITY
The letters of 1970 and on until April, 1974, included scattered paragraphs
of Toshi's historyher life story. One of y the first explained something
of the spiritual changes in her father .
"Gradually Father increased in deeper understanding of Christianity and was finally baptized by Dr. Ballagh. Thus we were brought up in a Christian family and we were qulte mystified by some of the beliefs and family ways of Japanese around us who were not Christians. "
Josai Takata became deeply committed to Christian principles; he considered theology very important . When an outstanding cousin, Saneharu Ojima, came as a young man to ask his advice about a lifework, Josai Takata considered carefully before he answered. The cousin was a son of a Shinto priest and was already well educated and recongnized as a poet . He was advised to go to Tokyo to attend a seminary there to study Christian theology taught by a group of missionaries.
This Saneharu Ojima did. As he progressed in his studies he often came to the Takata home to discuss and even argue about certain points, especially about war and Tolstoy's peace positions . Toshi well remembered some of their exchanges which she would quote years later. As time went on the young theology student grew in theological understanding and wrote books to express it to others. He became a prominent Christian minister and was greatly admred
by Josai Takata.
Toshi's father decided to become a professional artist and he felt the need to move his family back to his home village of Mishima where he had been brought up in sight of Mt. Fuji. As Toshi expressed it. "Father had been brought where Mt. Fuji showed her beautiful figure. He enjoyed looking at all the changes of Mt. Fuji hiding herself behind clouds and in a few minutes appearing again in the sun. This love of the sacred mountain was one reason that he became an artist."
In Mishima the family was moved to a fine house and had their own jinrikisha man. The mother became too busy entertaining guests and watching
over maids to care for the children so the father's mother took over the child care. Toshi wrote, "Grandmother took over Mother's responsibilities of looking after the children. She was a very clever woman and taught us our lessons, too , our grade school lessons." Japanese people have high respect for learning and for excellence of all kinds. They are said to be the hardest of workers. Their children learn to read and write the Japanese language in spite of its
extreme difficulty . Some two thousand ideographs must be memorized and must be writte n with a brush and ink. All this requires a tremendous appetite for knowledge and a willingness to be disciplined. It is said that after children achieve all this, anyother undertaking seems easy by comparison. No doubt the Takata children were just such learners.
Toshi's life activities proved her to be in continuous search for new learning experiences.
Both the father and the mother guided them toward experiences of beauty. The father allowed them, both girls and boys, to paint in his studio and gave them encouragement. On moonlight nights the family enjoyed the evening beauty together and each made poems of their own. All the children were taught music by the mother who was talented musically. She played the samisen, a three-stringed instrument that was plucked like a guitar. The father did not like her to play this instrurment for it was played by the geisha girls and was considered low class, used by the unrefined. After the father began learning to play the flute the mother helped him. Toshi began learning to play the koto.
She was sent each morning at 5:30 to a koto(harp) teacher and she kept up lesson at great cost.
She mastered and memorized all the koto music and graduated after learning the 1st, 2nd and 3rd degree and received her diploma. In later years she was sorry that she did not master the piano instead for that would have been so useful in her teaching.
When the father played the flute, the mother the samisen and Toshi the koto, they often played together "in symphony" but after the mother's death Toshi gave up playing the koto. She explained, "I could never bear to play alone without her, remembering the old days."
Long before her mother's death a spiritual harmony came to this family. Again Toshi explained, "After many years we became good friends with Mother's family. Father led them to become Christians.
They came to live in our home and died there. "
As the children grew up both the mother and father planned for their Christian schooling; they went to Sunday School. In a letter written during the December cold and snow of 1972 she explained about her early memories of going and coming.
"I am the second daughter among six children, my elder sister and
three brothers and one young sister. Sixty-five
years ago there were no street cars, except one line . We had to walk two hours to go to Sunday School which began at 2:00P.M. so we couldn't do anything or go anywhere in the morning and play lik ・ the other children. Soon after lunch we had to leave home and after going up and going down two hills we arrived at the church.
"In winter it became almost dark before we arrived home. When it rained and snowed we had such a hard time. In those
days our umbrellas were of paper and sometimes turned inside out. We wore our geta or wooden clogs made very high- like low stilts. The two wooden teeth underneath held us up out of the mud and snow. If it snowed we had to shake the snow from between the teeth every few minutes.
"Since we wore kimonos those days, on rainy days we had to pull up the lower part and in winter time it was very cold.
On the way my brothers and sister began to cry and the two elder sisters had to cheer them up. At times I felt that my father was too severe when he insisted on sending us so far but years later I felt that he had made his children independent and strong. The memory of those Sunday afternoons was a mixture of hardship and happiness .
"I was very happy to dress up in a lovely kimono and enjoyed listening to the Bible stories at Sunday School. And the
Christmas time was one of happy memories.
I was always chosen to recite Bible verses in English when I didn't know one word of English. The congregation couldn't understand what I recited but they thought me a wonderful child and I was very happy and proud .
"Some forty years later I did the same Christmas festival for my young students and small children, doing every thing possible to make it memorable for them in hopes that they might also remernber it when they became older and look back on it as another touch of brightness in their lives . "
Josai Takata's eventual understanding and acceptance of Christian prin
ciples of living was remarkable, unusual both in his time of life in Japan
or in modern times. It must be remernbered that he grew up in a privileged
social group, the son of a Samurai. He was the only heir in a wealthy family.
His father died when the son was three years old and thus he missed the father's guidance. He lived in a Japanese culture which provided Japanese males with established means of self indulgence. He grew to be indifferent to these cultural practices of self-indulgence and developed a spirituality that cast its long shadow on his second daughter. She in turn passed in on to others.