The power of culture

1. Introduction

We are having a record heat wave here in Tokyo. Supposed to be the hottest August ever!
“Slow down, you’re going to fast……”

This week’s story is linked to the story in my last newsletter.

In community,

2. The power of culture

I ran some errands after my meeting with my two lady friends, and by the time I got home Okada-san had already left a phone message. She said Shimoda-san was feeling unsettled and wanted to further explain some of what she had said. It was suggested it could be a good idea to meet for dinner tomorrow evening, so the three of us could talk at length.

When I arrived at Okada-san’s house, she greeted me with a look that made me feel like a door to door salesman. Her face held little sign of her feelings, and the usual twinkle was gone from her eyes. I stepped in and saw Shimoda-san sitting in seiza by the low dining room table. She bowed deeply several times while expressing her thanks for my finding the time to come. She had a mask of worry and sorrow on her face, and I felt sad to see her looking so dark.

As I sat down at the table I playfully said, “I’m guessing our conversation will take more than one cup of tea to complete. What’s on the menu?”

Thankfully, Okada-san took my lead and replied, “Well being that it’s evening and so hot outside, wouldn’t we do better with a small glass of chilled sake?”

It wasn’t the alcohol I was after. Rather, I wanted to change the atmosphere some, so we could begin our conversation from a more cheerful place.

The sake was served, and after we lifted our glasses and said “Campai!” Shimoda-san began to share what was on her mind.

“I started feeling a lot of shame and guilt after our conversation.” she said.
“At first I thought it was because I’d spoken unkind words about the people I lived and worked with for so many years. In this regard I felt like a traitor. Like I had literally exposed their dirty laundry in public.”

“But soon,” she said, “I began to realize I was mostly upset because of what I had taught my children.”
“You see, just like my mother, and my husband’s mother, I taught my children that the role of women was to serve men.”
“I didn’t want to be teaching them this, and I wasn’t even aware until yesterday that I had been teaching them this. But after reflecting on our conversation I realized I had taught my children the very principles I was claiming to be so strongly against.”

“I had two boys and two girls, and I clearly taught my daughters to serve their brothers and bring them tea and snacks when they asked. But I never taught the boys to do anything at all for their sisters. Except perhaps, my sometimes telling them to not be so harsh when their sisters were slow to serve them!”

“Today I purposefully went over to the house of one of my daughters. While I was there I got my grandson to serve his younger sister and myself some snacks. I could see my daughter in the next room, and she looked somewhat surprised.”

“When the children went out to play I called my daughter near and we had a wonderful heartfelt conversation. I apologized for not always being the best teacher, the best mother, and we had a bit of a cry and a good laugh as well.”

“Even now, I’m sitting here wondering how in the world I taught my children something I don’t believe in. It’s all quite mysterious how I as a woman, taught my children that women should subjugate their lives to men. I never before realized what a strong hold my culture has on my very soul.”

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