A Visit With a Japanese Family in 1964 Part 2: The Not-So-Typical Japanese Home

This is part 2 about an article written in “Tokyo Olympics Official Souvenir 1964”, a book designed to make sense of Japan to visiting foreigners during the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. While the article was interesting, the pictures were fascinating.

As stated in part 1, the Olympic Organizers wanted to put foreign visitors at ease, that Japan wasn’t so different. The article shows a picture of the family Kato. Kato is a typical Japanese name, but the house they live in – definitely not typical!

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1 Here we are-this is the Kato   home.   Nice, isn’t it? Kato-san is a company manager and he, with his wife and eldest son’s family live in a nine-room, upper middle class home. The house, constructed recently at a cost of ¥9 million (S25,000), is of hinoki (Japanese cypress), considered the best home building material.

Hmmm, I don’t know about you, but 9 rooms, even for an upper middle-class home seems insanely spacious. And then there is the space around the house itself. If you’ve lived in a typical neighborhood, even in an upper-middle class abode, you rarely see such space around the house. More likely is that you could open your window and practically touch the house next door.

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2 This is the front entrance. As we slip out of our shoes and into house slippers, we meet- Kato-san’s eldest son who is making the opposite change. He’s on his way to the office.

Clearly the eldest son is Westernized. He’s not in kimono – rather, he’s in the modern-day office wear of white shirt, trousers and necktie. And another familiar cultural cue of the 1960s: the wife stays at home to do the housework while the husband is working hard for the family.

3 With her husband off to work, the wife is in the living room, guiding the   vacuum   cleaner   over   the   rug and under the Western-style furniture. You’ll notice the display shelves, a genuine Japanese touch.   Resting   on them are some of the family’s art treasures.

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Not only are the Japanese Westernized, they’re civilized!

8   The clock has ticked by a few hours and Mother is in the garden hanging out the wash. She smiles as she hears her daughter practicing scales upstairs. Musical education at home was a rarity in prewar   Japan, but is extremely popular now, especially for young people. Japan is proud to be the producer of some of the world’s finest pianos.

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9 Kato-san’s three grandchildren are on late summer vacation now, from late July to early September. The oldest girl, home from college, is spending her leisure time playing the piano, while her brother, who is a high school student, and the youngest boy, who is in junior high school, are making plastic models and assembling a radio.

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But not everything is Westernized. The Japanese actually do enjoy their green tea. And thanks to this article, foreigners can avoid the embarrassing faux pas of adding sugar to their green tea.

4 Upstairs, Kato-san is sipping hot green tea (without cream or sugar) which his wife has just brought him. He doesn’t have to go to the office until later. This sunny spot is a typical all-purpose Japanese room-a simple airy living room during the day, a dining area when you bring the low table to the center of the room, and at night, when the bedding is taken from the closets, and placed on the tatami presto, It’s a bedroom!

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