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Excerpts from `Samurai and Silk'

Our upbringing thus made us different from other Japanese in many ways. As a small child I dreaded the daily walks we took around our neighborhood, dressed quite oddly by Japanese standards in sailor suits and high-laced boots and accompanied by a tall, gawky English governess. . . . Japanese children would stare at us, sometimes making derisive comments. Still this did not make us insiders at the American School, where we were of course considered ``Japanese girls'' by the predominantly Occidental student body, and the same was true at Principia. The atmosphere there could not have been more cordial, and many of my college friends are still close to me. But we were outsiders. . . . I had my share of dates and social life, but I remember looking enviously at happy couples among my schoolmates, realizing that their relationships might lead to marriage while I belonged to a different world. At times I felt almost bitter that I had been raised to be so different from other Japanese. Why couldn't I have been brought up the ordinary way, I would think, since being different didn't seem to make me a real American either? . . . The most important side industry was sericulture: mulberry trees can be grown along the borders of fields and on the poor soil of the mountainsides, and mulberry leaves form the main diet of silkworms. The worms were raised on wicker trays placed on shelves in the upper portions of farmhouses. Sericulture was heavy seasonal work, especially for women. The worms had to be fed constantly during the spring and summer months. No one who has heard the sound will ever forget the low, all-night roar created by the munching of thousands of voracious silkworms in a Japanese mountain farmhouse. . . . A cocoon produces from 2,000 to 3,000 feet of filament -- about half a mile -- and four to eighteen of these tiny strands have to be twisted together to make a silk thread strong enough to use. One cocoon thus provides the material for about 200 feet of thread. The period of unwinding the cocoons and reeling the thread was a time of particularly concentrated labor for women. Because of the seasonal nature of the work, a single farm household produced no more than about four pounds of silk thread a year.