JAPAN: My Genesis : in the beginning – 1932 to38


The book has been with me so long as I remember – evidently ever since I was born.  The covers are missing, and pages are beginning to flake.  There are graffiti in many pages.  I remember drawing them myself as a child.  It is almost a miracle that I still have this with me after all the moves I have made in my life.   Produced in 1928 by the Osaka Institute of the Research of Children, it is titled A History of Our Child.  It’s a parents’ self-help record of a child from birth to six years of age.  The Preface on page one says that by filling the blanks on every page according to the prescription, parents can contribute materials to fill six years’ worth of blank pages for their child’s autobiography, as few people know and /or remember what happened to them in their earliest years.  You create a story of a child by filling the empty pages.  So, this one is my story  from birth until the day I started school.  Most of the pages were written by my father: I know his hand writing.  Some were written by my mother.  There are a few pages written by my aunts.  I can not tell which aunt, for I have many aunts.  The following is the translation of those pages.  From time to time, I will add my own comments in brackets.

Family Motto:

“Truth from first to last.

Preach your faith not your doubts.

Let your life say more

Than your words.”

By Henry van Dyke

[This page was written in English].


Born at home on February 25,  in the seventh year of the Reign of Emperor Showa 1932 at 2:00 p.m.

Snow was coming down by the tonnes from the morning.  It was the second heavy snow of the year in Numazu.
Father canceled his visit to Dohi – one of his missions.  He ran to the midwife – Mrs. Kohase to report the condition of his wife, because she started a tummy ache in the early morning of the day before.  The midwife predicted that it would probably be late afternoon.  So he sent a cable to Tokyo.
(Obviously there was no telephone in the manse.  In fact, few homes had telephone at that time in Japan.  My mother’s family, hence my father’s adopted family, lived in Tokyo.)

Labor pain started at about 11 a.m in earnest.  Water broke about 2 p.m. and he came soon after.  Grandmother (my mother’s grandmother) was so happy she cried.   He greeted the sun and the world with a gutsy cry.

Father at the time of the child’s birth:

Age: 26
Occupation: Minister of Numazu Methodist Church

This was his first pastorate after his ordination in April, 1931.  His hopes and aspirations for the ministry were huge.  He was extremely busy trying to realize those dreams.  Preaches two different sermons every Sunday, in the morning and in the evening.  Monday: committee meetings for “Kingdom of God Movement”.  Tuesday: Hirai Mission.  Wednesday: Prayer Meeting.  Thursday: Dohi Mission.  Saturday: Kanaoka Mission.

Numazu Church is planning to start a Kindergarten.  Other items on the agenda are: Ebara Memorial Service, Special Event for the Christian Endevours Movement for Ginza Church with Imai and Morinaga, Preaching Missions with Manabe and Yanai, Kingdom of God Movement with Mr. Gakuga, Farmers’ School of Evangelism, Workshop of New Hymns.

A busy man!

[I don’t know what the “Kingdom of God Movement” was.  It sounded like some kind of  Evangelistic organization.  All the names belonged to the Methodist ministers.  I often heard about them when I was a child.]

Mother at the time of the child’s birth:
Age: 25
Occupation: Kindergarten teacher

She was brought up like a princess.  But suddenly she became very keen to learn dressmaking and child care after she found that she was pregnant.   She was determined to bring up the child in the best way she knew.  She had many good ideas partly because she had been working on the plan for the new Kindergarten.  But soon reality set in.  Many good ideas had to be put on hold.  She had good reasons, of course.

She teaches organ,   and is a district leader of the “Association of Friends” and is also Church Organist, on top of being a very busy mother.

During the pregnancy, she took up Art Appreciation, because she believed that it would give the child a head start.  Of course, she played organ more intentionally for the unborn child.  She believed that education began in the womb.

People who were there at the time of birth:

Father of the child: Isamu Mitsui
Mother of the child: Natsuno Mitsui
Grandmother of Natsuno: Toshi Mitsui
Houseboy: Toshiro Shizuka
Midwife: Shiu Kohaze
Assisting the midwife: Maid: Fujino Sano
and Fumie Tokunaga
Mother (of Natsuno): Takeko Takeda
Brother (of Natsuno): Nobuyuki Takeda
The above two came from Tokyo by train.  Birth was predicted to be at about 4 p.m., so they arrived at 4 p.m.  They were late to help the preparation but not late for celebration.  They were a bit disappointed but not too much.

[The things I remember about some of the people mentioned the above:

Toshi Mitsui was the matriarch of the Mitsui clan.  My mother was adopted by her at birth. Because her two boys were killed in the Russo-Japan War at the turn of the Twentieth Century and there was no other boy, she claimed the first born of her married daughter, Takeko Takeda, back to the Mitsui family, who was my mother.  My mother was expected to marry someone who would change his name to “Mitsui” so the family name would continue.  So, the birth of a boy was a special joy to her.  She provided money for a houseboy and a house maid to help my mother who had been brought up like a princess, as my father put it.  Presumably she did not expect that my mother would marry a penniless preacher.

Toshiro Shizuka was a high school boy earning his room and board by helping my mother with heavy housework and in the garden..  I remember him.  He must have played with me a lot.  I remember him wearing his serge navy blue uniform with brass buttons all the time.  Maybe they were his only clothes.

Fujino Sano: I used to have a picture of her holding me in her arms.  She was wearing a Kimono and a white apron in the picture.  But I have no memory of her.

Mrs. Fumie Tokunaga was a dentist’s wife, whose whole family became good friends of the Mitsuis.  I remember her as an elegant lady with elegant kimonos.

Takeko Takeda was my mother’s mother.  By the time her two brothers died in the war, she was already married to Dr. Yukichi Takeda, an army vet.  I remember her delicious food.  I still use some of her recipes when I cook Japanese food.
Nobuyuki Takeda was my mother’s youngest brother.  He was only five, when I was born.  He always treated me like his own brother since neither of us had any male sibling.]


Sister – Taeko born in Numazu in 1933

Sister – Junko born in Yokohama in 1939

Sister – Toshiko born in Yokohama in 1940

[Taeko is a musician and plays and teaches organ.  She was married to a Minister, Rev. Yoshikiyo Ito.

Junko has been educated as a kindergarten teacher in the same training college as the one which trained my mother, Yoyo Eiwa, which was founded by the Women’s Missionary Society of the Methodist Church in Canada.  She is a kindergarten teacher and is married to a journalist,
Minoru Tanihata.

Toshiko is an artist who specializes in designing jewelry, married to Tatsuo Sato, a business man.]

The house where he was born:

The manse of Numazu Methodist Church.

The church building and the manse had a red roof, which was unusual during those days in Japan. Between the church and the manse, there was a big yard, which was made into a beautiful flower garden by Toshichan [the nickname of the house boy – Toshiro Shizuka.]

People who received the announcement:

Yokichi and Takeko Takeda , Shibuya District, Tokyo     [My mother’s parents]
Tamihachi Hiroe, Kutami cho, Kumamoto Prefecture
[My father’s father.  There was no mention of my grandmother. I think her name was Tami.]
Kiyoshi Hiroe, Seoul, Korea.
[ My father’s brother.  He was very close to us and visited us often.
He became a Christian with my father.]

The following printed announcement was sent by post to 150 families.

[It is a pity that Dad did not record the names of the recipients of this announcement:]

“We hope that this finds you well despite the severe winter.  Even though it is the time of national mourning, [I don’t know what the reason for national mourning at this time was.] I wish to make a happy announcement.

On February 25 at 2 p.m. a boy child was given to us.  We name him Tadashi (the Chinese character which means Justice was adopted.)  Both mother and child are doing very well.

Wishing you good health.

February 29, in the seventh year of the Reign of the Emperor Showa 1932)

Isamu Mitsui”

Presents received:

The book, “History of our child” from Kiyoshi Hiroe
Woolen hat and a cape from Katsu Terayama
Box of pastsries from Kazuko Inaba
Crib from the Numazu Church
Many pieces of baby underwear from the women of the parish
Baby outside clothes from Mrs. Yanagihara, Tokunaga, Fujii
And 36 other items that include mainly clothes, cotton, wool, and silk material, eggs in the boxes of dozens, a hampers of fruits, a play pen, a  photo album [Most gifts were from people whose names I don’t recognize.]

46 Telegrams were received:

[Many of these were from family members and relatives.  There was one foreign name –  Rev. Drake-but I don’t know who he was.  Other notables are:
Tomihichi Toda, Reizo Sawada, Kohei Goshi were Dad’s class mates in the seminary.
Antei Hiyane was a Professor of Comparative Religion, who taught me also.]

Naming the child:
On February 27, 1932, we named him “Tadashi” (Justice in Chinese character).  It was my (father) suggestion.

In the Bible Study groups in Numazu and Dohi, we have been studying the Letter of Paul to the Romans.  I was very much attracted by the notion of “Justified by faith.”  I was struggling to understand the meaning of the life justified by faith, and trying to live a justified life.  I hope that our child will grow up to conduct a just life.  I had played with the idea of a name which had a combined meaning of faith and justice, or mere ‘faith’.  But considering the sound of our family name, ‘Mitsui’, I decided that giving him a name with a Chinese character which had the meaning of Justice and pronouncing it in a Japanese way “Tadashi” would be most appropriate.  I pray that he would always by the grace of God be acceptable to Him, and live according to the principles of justice.  We are such imperfect parents.  Our effort to bring him up to be as good as he could be would be a hopeless one.  But by faith, I hope that he would be acceptable for his name’s sake.

May God be generous in his grace upon Tadashi


10 yen       Fee for the midwife
3 yen        For her transportation
2 yen        Fee for her assistant
1.50 yen   The midwife’s expenses
1.70 yen   A basin
0.36 sen   A bucket and a dipper
0.35 sen   Two metal bowls
0.40 sen   Grass mat
1 yen         A hot water bottle, a hot plate

[1 yen during those day was ½ of a US dollar.  My father’s salary then was 40 yen a month.]


At birth:          2700 gram
1 month:        4500 gram
3 months:      4600 gram
4 months:       4800 gram
5 months:       5000 gram
9 months:       5600 gram

Umbilical cord:
It came off on the sixth day.  Bowel movement has been regular.

The first outing: [This was written by mother.]
My Bible Study group meets on Tuesdays at Dr. Tokunaga’s home. (Dentist) I have decided to make this Tadashi’s first outing, because there are other young mothers who come with their babies.  On the day I marked as the day, April 19, wind was strong in the morning.  I almost gave up the idea.  But at noon, it suddenly died down.  So I bunddled him up and put a woollen cap on, and went to the Bible Study.  As soon as we arrived, Grandma Tokunaga took over Tadashi.  He slept through the meeting in her arms.  Everybody wanted to carry him, as we were going home.  So I never had a chance until we came back to the manse.  As soon as we came home, he woke up and started to cry.  He must like the Bible study.

First clothes:[ (Also mother’s writing]
Before the birth, my mother sent to me three of her own hand sewn baby kimono.   Because there were always more girls than boys in my family, mother sewed two girl’s kimono, and one boy’s.  So he wore the one and only boy’s kimono on the first day.  But he wore girl’s clothes more often afterwards.

First Toy: [Aunt’s writing.]
A red celluloid ring with bells attached.  He loved it.  He held it in his hand, shook it ringing the bells, and laughed.

First turn in bed: August 2nd.
First laugh: April 7th
First crawl: October 1st

First word he spoke: [Aunt’s writing]
Some time in December, 10 months after birth, he said, “Ta-chan”.  [Ta-chan is a diminutive form of Tadashi.  I was always called Ta-chan even after I grew up by friends and relations.]   Everybody was surprised that he spoke his first word so early.

First tooth: [Mother]
On September 25th, two lower teeth appeared.  He didn’t have any fever.  But he was in a bad mood for a few days.

First walk:
On February 22nd, 1933, he went to Rev. Hirabayashi’s home with Papa.  Papa had lunch with Rev. Hirabayashi and spent all day at his home discussing business.  Tadashi had no problem playing with other members of the family.  He walked a few steps on his own on that day.

First friend:
Mother had a friend Mrs. Miyajima (nee.Ootomo) who had her first child on the same day as  Tadashi.  The baby’s name was Akio.   Whenever Mrs. Miyajima came for a visit, Akio and Tadashi got along very well.  When they were together, there was no trouble.

Kindergarten: [Aunt’s writing]
Airin(Love thy neighbor) Kindergarten
June 2, 1935
Teachers: Miss Winifred Draper, Miss Hori, Miss Murakami

Airin Kindergarten was attached to Tobe Methodist Church where Isamu was transferred.  As soon as he found the kindergarten which was located a few blocks away from the manse, he started to visit the children who were playing in the play ground of the kindergarten.  He made many friends in that way long before he was officially allowed in.  So his delight was impossible to describe when he finally was officially admitted.  He hardly slept the night before his first day at the kindergarten.  He went out early in his pyjamas in the morning before anyone was awake and created some scenes because nobody could find him in the house.  Mama saw him walking towards the kindergarten, and had to bring him back for change of clothes and breakfast.  He never missed even one day.  One day there was a heavy snow.  Miss Draper closed it for the day, but Tadashi went all by himself.  That day, he had the attention of all teachers.

When he was two: [Writer apparently was a man and signed his name.   But the signature is illegible.  I can not recognize his name.  Judging from what he wrote, he must have been someone who used to hang around the manse in Numazu.)
Ta-bo (This was another diminutive form of my name, which was used by people very close to me, closer than those who called me Ta-chan.] In the third year his life was really stubborn and full of mischief.  He rarely listened to Papa.  But he was always straightforward – he was what you saw.  He was growing like a bean sprout.  I often took him to the Beach of Thousand Pine Trees on my bicycle.  As soon as he saw me, he wanted me to take him to the beach, because he loved to watch peacocks on the Imperial summer resort ground.  (In Numazu, there was a Imperial Summer resort, where the Emperor and his family often took summer vacation.)  He was never cheeky.  And everybody loved him.  He loved to wear serge long pants with suspenders making him look like a miniature labourer.  Looking at Ta-bo who was raised with a minimum of restrictions, free spirited, daring, mischievous, and yet straightforward and fair,  I could see how important it is to raise children in a spiritual atmosphere.  (Signature, July 16, 1934)

[Mother wrote]  He was mischievous and very reckless.  He had no fear.  Already, he broke his arm twice.  Once he jumped from a high fence.  Second time, he was watching someone on the ground from a window.  She said, “Hello,” and asked him if he wanted to come down.  He jumped down from the second floor window into her arms.  She and Ta-bo had to go to the hospital.  Mama’s daily prayer was that Ta-bo would grow up with all parts of his body intact.  In May, he learned to pray.  No matter how sleepy he was, he always wanted someone to say prayers before he fell asleep.  I just hope that he would continue to love prayer all his life.  Now he could pronounce almost all the words.  Once he hears a word, he never forgets it.  Aside from his occasional loose tummy, he is a very healthy boy.

The first song he sang:

“If you close your eyes,
You can hear the bells on the sleigh.
Ding, ding, ding.
It’s the sound coming
All the way from the North country.”
[I have no idea where it comes from.  I could not find this song anywhere.]

When he was three: [Mother wrote]
On April 11, 1935, when Tadashi was in his fourth year of his life, Papa was transferred from Numazu, where Tadashi was born, to Yokohama.  For a little while after the move, he kept on demanding that we go home.  Mama didn’t know what to do until he found the kindergarten.  Because he was missing Numazu so much, mother was worried that Tadashi might take a long time to get used to the kindergarten.  How wrong she was.  It is already June, but Tadashi is loving the kindergarten, which makes Mama so happy.

When he was four: [Aunt wrote.]
Ta-bo became four and his mischief quadrupled.  He loved the kindergarten and learned all the songs and all the games and all the dances.  Often at 6 a.m. he woke up everybody in the house singing songs cheerfully and loudly, demanding that he have breakfast, so he could go to the kindergarten.  Papa worked often until late into the night, so he was Tadashi’s worst victim.  His mischievous deeds were quite phenomenal, which at time even depressed his parents.

One day, when Mama was busy doing laundry, Tadashi and Taeko were very quiet for a long time, which pleased Mama.  But how wrong she was.  When she finished the laundry, she went into the kitchen and found Taeko completely covered in white.  Taeko was giggling and happy enjoying the whole incident.  Tadashi had mixed the whole 10 pounds of sugar with ashes from a hibachi on the floor of the kitchen, and was showering Taeko with the concoction.

On another day, he found a bunch of tickets for an important fund- raising concert in Papa’s desk.  He used all of them to play streetcar.  The tickets were all used up for his playmates to get on the imaginative public transport.  He found an ink bottle and changed the color of Papa’s desk top with his hands and his shirts.

When Mama spent all day re-doing the screen doors with expensive rice paper, Tadashi found that he could make holes very easily when he wet his fingers.   New screen doors had thousands of holes, when parents came home.  Scolding him was an exercise in futility.  We often wondered how and where he got all those ideas from.  Mama and Papa were often in despair.  They didn’t know what to do.  After being scolded severely, for example, he cries a little but recovers quickly and asks for sweets.  Miss Draper said one day, ‘Ta-chan is as bad as an American boy!”

One often wonders how Ta-bo manages to be so bad and so innocent at the same time.

Serious illness:  [(Aunt wrote]
On March 10, 1936, he went into the hospital for diphtheria and stayed there for ten days.  He made everybody very worried.  But he came out unscathed and returned soon to his naughty self.

Elementary School: [My own writing]
Ipponmatsu (One Pine Tree) Elementary School, Yokohama
Teacher: Mr. Nakamura
Entered on April 1, 1937

[The above item is the last entry in “the History of Our Child.”]

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