Document 26: Excerpt from Margaret Sanger, World Trip Journal, Yokohama, Japan, 25 March 1922, pp. 55-57 (Margaret Sanger Papers, Sophia Smith College, Smith College, The Margaret Sanger Papers Microfilm Edition: Smith College Collections, reel S70, frames 76-78).


   Sanger gave two more talks in Tokyo, to nurses and doctors at the Tokyo Women's Medical School and to a group of businessmen and government officials, before leaving for Nikko on March 21. She returned to Yokohama on March 22, but was confined to her bed by a respiratory illness. She remained in Yokohama until March 28. Sanger continued to be disappointed in her failure to find the "new woman" of Japan she had heard about before her trip. In general, the few women she interacted with who exhibited a streak of independence were Christian converts, a relatively small but influential minority, who also tended to be middle-class, well-educated and accepting of Western ideas. When Sanger got home and began thinking tactically about Japan's birth control movement, she began to doubt whether Japanese women would be able to sustain it.

[p. 55]

Yokohama Grand Hotel

March 25

   Another day in bed. Grant got his camera today & seems happy over it. Baron Ishimoto called & brought both Grant & me bags & purses, beautiful gifts of old Japanese silk also beautifully wrapped in white paper & red & white cords made into special [drawing of a bow] bows. Only a short call. I would not consider him as quick, nor elert as Baroness. She seems to me more intelligent tho' not so experienced. She will come to London to the Conference in July.

   Reading the Japan Year Book 1921-22 very helpful & useful also reading the Gentleman Prisoner translated by Caroline McDonald[A]. Unique & simple but not so "great" as the "foreward" suggests. One realizes in Japan more than in U.S.A. the influence of Christianity. Certainly Mr & Mrs Coleman & other missionaries seem to have made

[p. 56]

a strong impression here & seem to recall ones youth when during the adolescent period one was enthused to "live the life" & exacted the ounce of righteousness from every breathing hour. I was asked by a Japanese at a lecture if I was a Christian. I was surprised & amused at the naive way he said it, as if anyone could say he was really a Christian. I said I was afraid I was not a very good one, but he seemed satisfied.

   Baron & Baroness Ishimoto were also Christian until they visited U.S.A. then they returned to Japan & renounced this faith.

   The women here are too low voiced to ever do anything. They are trying too hard "to be or not to be" proper. One hears much of the "New Woman" but one seldom sees her.

[p. 57]

   It seems only those women who have turned Christian are able to think independently or to do anything with their lives. It also seems that to be a Christian means to be a rebel or a radical of some kind. One tells it with great secret pride.

   Dancing down stairs--jazz--just as wild & crazy & noisy as in any country town in U.S.A.

   This continues until midnight. Its queer the way music that is popular follows one from year to year & from place to place. What was the latest last spring in New York is the latest here in 1922.


A. Margaret Sanger refers to Caroline Macdonald's translation of A Gentleman in Prison: With the Confessions of Tokichi Ishii Written in Tokyo Prison (1922). She received the original manuscript in 1918 from Tokichi Ishii, a career criminal who was on death row for murder in a Tokyo prison. After his execution, he willed to MacDonald, who had brought him comfort and helped him to accept his fate, all his belongings including the manuscript. The Rev. John Kelman, who wrote the Foreword, described the tale told in the book as "one of the world's great stories" (Tokichi Ishii, A Gentleman in Prison: With the Confessions of Tokichi Ishii Written in Tokyo Prison, translated with a preface by Caroline MacDonald and a foreword by John H. Kelman [New York: George H. Doran, 1922], p. viii).
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