Japan As They Saw It

Women at work

    You can see women at work on the farms almost as much as men. You will see them in the spring up to their knees in slush, planting out the young shoots of rice. If you hire a horse in the summer to carry your luggage when you are out on a tramp, it is ten to one that the horse comes in charge of a woman. It is difficult to say what field labour there is that the woman does not share with the man. From the time that she has reached her full growth to the time that she is beyond labour, she toils in the fields, especially if she is the wife or daughter of a labourer or small tenant-farmer. In the intervals of labour she will suckle a child; when there is no work for her in the fields she is at her loom, weaving some simple cotton cloth for domestic uses. When she is too old for out-door work she stays at home, does the cooking, cleans the house, mends the clothes, and prepares the water for the evening bath. You never find a Japanese country woman idle, and, in spite of their poverty, the savings banks could tell you a great deal about their thrift. In the larger farmhouses, in some districts, there is also the feeding of the silkworms,—a most engrossing occupation while it lasts,—and happy is the farmer in Shinshu or Joshu who has a houseful of women folk. The greater part of the silkworm-rearing falls on the women, as does the tea-picking in other parts of the country.

Arthur Lloyd, Every-day Japan: Written After Twenty-Five Years’ Residence and Work in the Country, 1909

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