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Umé San in Japan

Umé San in Japan
Title: Umé San in Japan
Release Date: 2018-11-29
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
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LITTLE PEOPLE EVERYWHEREUM SANIN JAPANBY ETTA BLAISDELL McDONALDAND JULIA DALRYMPLEAuthors of "Manuel in Mexico," "Raphael inItaly," "Kathleen in Ireland," etc.[Illustration]IllustratedBOSTONLITTLE, BROWN, AND COMPANY1909

Copyright, 1909,

By Little, Brown, and Company.

All rights reserved.

Published September, 1909.


S. J. Parkhill & Co., Boston, U. S. A.


Japan is a paradise of flowers and of treasure-flowers,as the Japanese mothers call their babies.In no other country in the world do they both formso large a part of the daily life of the people. Fromthe first white plum blossom to the last gorgeouschrysanthemum the path of the days is strewnwith beautiful blossoms; and from the time of theDolls' Festival to the New Year's Celebration thereis a constant round of simple pleasures for the children.

Happy children! who are always laughing andnever crying; who are taught filial respect, reverence,and unquestioning obedience, but are surroundedin their homes with an atmosphere of kindness,cheerfulness and loving care.

It is true that the New Japan is very differentfrom the Old. Railway trains and electric cars aretaking the place of the jinrikisha and kago; modernschool-houses, with desks, chairs, blackboards, andthe latest methods of teaching are fast replacing thetiny school-room with its matted floors and its lessonslearned by rote. But the spirit of the commonpeople is unchanged. The children play thesame games and listen to the same delightful tales;and their fathers and mothers hold to their oldsuperstitions, their ancestor-worship and their loveof nature.

This story is a picture of the simple life of aJapanese family. To follow little Um San throughthe year, to play with her dolls on the days of theDolls' Festival, to go with her to the parks to admirethe cherry blossoms or chrysanthemums andjoin the crowds who are celebrating these joyousseasons, to feed the goldfishes and doves in thetemple gardens, to buy toys and gifts in the streetsof shops, and to welcome the New Year withfestivity and merrymaking, is to catch a glimpseof the rare charm and spirit that pervade life inthis "Land of the Rising Sun."



I. Little Miss Plum Blossom1

II. Um's Birthday9

III. Tei Buys a Doll18

IV. The Dolls' Festival26

V. A Visit to the Temple36

VI. Cherry-Blossom Time42

VII. The Flag Festival51

VIII. The Singing Insects57

IX. A Trip to Kamakura63

X. The Island of Shells74

XI. A Day in School82

XII. Yuki San in the Street of Shops88

XIII. The Emperor's Birthday95

XIV. Daruma Sama104

XV. New Year's Day111


Um San in the Field of IrisFrontispiece

Boys Playing MarblesPage 12

Um Riding in a Jinrikisha37

"The Cherry Trees in Ueno Park are in full Blossom"42

There was a Fish for every Boy52

Fujiyama, the Sacred Mountain69

"Nothing can harm the Great Buddha"73

"Um caught her first Glimpse of the Lovely Green Island"74

The Street of Shops and Asakusa Temple91

[pg 1]




The little plum tree in the garden had blossomedregularly every year for ten years on the twentiethday of the second month. That day was PlumBlossom's birthday.

On the day that she was born the little plumtree had blossomed for the first time. For thatreason she was called Um, which is the Japaneseword for "plum blossom"; and for her sake thetree had opened its first blossoms on that same dayfor the next nine years.

Now, on the day before her eleventh birthday,all the buds were closed hard and fast. Umlooked at them just before going to bed and thereseemed no chance of their opening for severaldays.

"Perhaps the weather will be fine to-morrow,Um-ko," said her mother, as she spread a waddedquilt on the floor for her little daughter's bed."If it is, and the sun shines honorably bright,the buds may open before the hour of sunset."

[pg 2]"I will say a prayer to Benten Sama that it maybe so," answered Um. Benten Sama is the Japanesegoddess of good fortune, to whom the littlegirl prayed very often.

She knelt upon the mat and bent down until herforehead touched the floor, after the Japanese mannerof making an honorable bow. She clapped herhands softly three times, and then rubbed one littlepink palm against the other while she prayed.

"Dear Benten Sama," she said, "grant that justone little spray of the plum blossoms may opento-morrow."

For a moment she was very still, and then sheadded, "If they are open when I first wake in themorning, I will honorably practise on my koto forone whole hour after breakfast."

Then little Um Utsuki slipped into her bed uponthe floor, laid her head on the thin cushion of herwooden pillow, and drew the soft puff under hercunning Japanese chin.

"Good-night, dear Benten Sama," she whisperedsoftly, and fell asleep with the words of an oldJapanese song on her drowsy tongue:--

"Evening burning!
Little burning!
Weather, be fair to-morrow!"

The buds on the plum tree outside were closed[pg 3]hard and fast, and the house walls about Um werealso tightly closed. The bright moon in the heavenscould find no chink through which to send a cheeringray to little Um San.

All through the night the frost sparkled on thebare twigs of the dwarf trees in the garden. Allthrough the night the plum tree stood still andmade no sign that Benten Sama had heard Um'sprayer. When the moonbeams grew pale in themorning light the buds were still tightly closed.

Um stirred in her bed on the floor, crept softlyto the screen in the wall and pushed it open. Shemoved the outer shutter also along its groove andstepped off the veranda without even stopping toput on her white stockings or her little woodenclogs.

Down the garden path to the plum tree she patteredas fast as her bare feet could carry her.

Alas, there was nothing to be seen on her plumtree but brown buds!

She looked up into the gray morning sky andtried to think of something else; but her gay littlekimono covered a heart that was heavy with disappointment.

The tears tried to force their slow way into hereyes, but the little girl blinked them back again.

Um's ten years had been spent in learning thehard lesson of bearing disappointments cheerfully.[pg 4]Now, with the shadow of tears filling her eyes, shetried to bring the shadow of a smile to her tinymouth.

"Benten Sama did not honorably please to openthe buds," she whispered with a sob.

Then, standing on the frosty ground, with herbare toes numb from the cold, Um made a rebelliouslittle resolve deep in her heart where shethought Benten Sama would know nothing about it.

She resolved not to practise on her koto at allafter breakfast.

There were two reasons for making the resolveso secretly. She might wish to pray to BentenSama again some time, although if the goddesswere not going to answer her prayers it did notseem at all likely; and besides, it was being verydisobedient, because it was the rule that she mustpractise one-half hour every morning after breakfast.

Suddenly she realized that her disobedience wouldhurt her mother, who was not at all to blame becausethe plum tree had not blossomed; but justas her resolution began to weaken, her mothercame out upon the veranda and called to her.

"The plum branch which your august fatherbrought home only a week ago is full of blossoms,"she said, as she led the child back into the house.

It was true. In a beautiful vase on the floor of[pg 5]the honorable alcove stood a spray of white plumblossoms. Um's mother pushed the sliding wallsof the room wide open so that the morning sunmight shine full upon the flowers.

The little girl ran across the matted floor andknelt joyously before them. "They are most honorablywelcome!" she cried, and bent her foreheadto the floor in salutation.

She forgot at once her disappointment in thegarden and her resolve not to practise. She touchedthe sweet blossoms with loving fingers and calledher brother to look at the beautiful things.

"Come Tara San! Come and look at the eldestbrother of a hundred flowers!" she called.

Not only Tara, her brother, but Yuki, her babysister, also came to bend over the blossoms in delight.

The spray stood in a brown jar filled with moistearth; here and there the brown color of the jarwas flecked with drifts of white to represent thesnow on bare earth, and the branch looked like atiny tree growing out of the ground.

The plum is the first of all the trees to blossomin Japan, and for that reason it is called "eldestbrother" to the flowers.

While the children touched the blossoms gentlyand chattered their delight, their mother was busy,waking the servants, sliding back all the wooden[pg 6]shutters of the house, folding the bedding and puttingit away in the closets.

Um left her flower-gazing and sprang to her ownpuffs before her mother could touch them. "I willput them away," she said, and folded them carefullyas she had been taught to do. After breakfast theywould have to be taken out and aired; but the roommust first be put in order for the morning meal.

Um's bed was made, as are all Japanese beds,by spreading a quilted puff upon the floor. Withanother puff over her, and a wooden block on whichto rest her head, the little girl slept as comfortablyas most people sleep on mattresses and soft pillows.

Um laughed softly now as she folded the puffsaway in their closet. "There are still many thingsto make my birthday a happy one," she said to herself."There will be a game with Cousin Teiafter breakfast, and perhaps she will give me agift." She said the last words in a whisper, sothat her mother would not hear. No matter howmuch she might long for a gift, it was not becomingin her to speak of it beforehand.

She was sure that there would be gifts fromher father and mother and from the respectedgrandmother. That was to be expected, and hadeven been hinted. The grandmother had mentionedan envelope of paper handkerchiefs the very day[pg 7]before, after Um had made an unusually gracefulbow to her.

In her heart Um wanted most a pair of littleAmerican shoes, but she had never dared to askfor them because her father did not like the dressof the American women. In fact, he often toldUm to observe carefully how much more gracefuland attractive the kimono is than the strange clothingworn by the foreign people.

The little girl sighed as she remembered it. Justthen she heard her father's step in the next roomand turned quickly to bow before him.

The maids had brought several lacquered traysinto the room, one for each member of the family,and had set them near together on the floor. Eachtray had short legs, three or four inches high, andlooked like a toy table. On the tray was placed apair of chopsticks, a dainty china bowl and a tinycup. Now one maid was beginning to fill thebowls with boiled rice and another was pouring teainto the cups.

All three children remained standing until thefather entered the room. Then each one, evenBaby San, bowed before him, kneeling on the floorand touching his forehead to the mat and saying,"Good morning, honorable Father."

To their mother the children bowed in the sameway, and also to their grandmother when she came[pg 8]into the

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