|The Japanese Twins|
|by Lucy Fitch Perkins|
|Join Taro and Take, 5 year-old Japanese twins, as they greet a new baby brother, play in their garden, and thrill to the sights they see when they ride in rickshaws to the temple to have their new brother blessed. A rainy day finds them painting pictures with colored sands and harnessing beetles with thread, then preparing for their first day of school. The story concludes with the celebration of their birthday-on different days! For Take and all the other girls in Japan celebrate their birthday on one day with a Feast of Dolls, and Taro and all the boys celebrate on another day with a Feast of Flags. Ages 6-8 |
A RAINY DAY
 WHEN the Twins woke up the next morning it was cold, and the rain
was beating on the roof. They couldn't look out of the window to
see it, because there were no glass windows in their house. There
were just the pretty screens covered with white paper.
Taro slid one of the screens back and peeped out into the garden.
"It's all wet," he said to Take. "We can't play outdoors today."
"We'll have a nice time in the house, then," said Take. "I can
think of lots of things to do."
"So can I, if I try," Taro said.
"Let's try, then," Take answered.
They thought all the time they were dressing. They put on three
be-  cause it was cold. It made them look quite fat.
"I've thought of one," Take called just as she was putting on the
"I have, too," Taro said.
"You tell me and I'll tell you," Take begged.
"No, not until after breakfast," Taro answered. "Then first we'll
play one and then the other."
 After breakfast Mother was busy waiting upon Father and getting
him off to his work. Then she had to bathe the Baby. So the twins
went to Grandmother for help.
"O Ba San" (that means "Honorable Grandmother"), Take said to
her, "it is rainy and cold, and Taro and I have thought of nice
games to play in the house. Will you get the colored sands for
"I know what you're going to do!" cried Taro.
Grandmother brought out four boxes. In one box was yellow sand.
In another was black sand. The other two were filled with blue
and red sand. Grandmother brought out some large pieces of paper.
"Thank you, O Ba San," the Twins said.
They spread the paper on the floor. Taro had one piece, and Take
"I'm going to make a picture of a boat on the sea," said Taro.
 He took some of the blue sand in his right hand. He let it run
through his fingers until it made a blue sea clear across the
"And now I'm going to make a yellow sky for a sunset." He let the
yellow sand run through the fingers of his left hand.
"I'll put some red clouds in it," he said. Then he let red sand
run through his fingers.
When that was done he took some black sand. He made a boat.
This was the way his picture looked when it was done, only it was
in colors. The sail of the boat was blue.
"Oh, Taro, how beautiful!" Take said. "Mine won't be half so
nice, I'm sure. I'm going to make—I'm going to make—let's see.
Oh, I know. I'll make the pine tree beside the pond."
She took some blue sand and made the little lake. Then she took
the black sand and made the trunk of the tree and some branches.
 She spilled a little of the black sand. It made black specks.
"Oh, dear!" she cried. "I've spilled."
Taro looked at it. "Put the green leaves over the spilled place," he said.
"It isn't the right place for leaves," Take said.
She took some blue sand in one hand and some yellow in the other.
She let them fall on the paper together. They made the green part
of the tree.
"I know what I'll do about the black that spilled," she said.
"I'll call it a swarm of bees!"
This is Take's picture. You can see the bees!
 "I think your picture is just as good as mine," said Taro.
"Oh, no, Honorable Brother! Yours is much better," Take answered
They showed them to Grannie when they were all finished. Grannie
thought they were beautiful.
"Now, Taro, what's your game?" Take said when the sand was all
"I have to go out into the garden first for mine," Taro said.
"Put on your clogs and take an umbrella, and don't stay but a
minute," Grannie said.
Taro put on his clogs and opened his umbrella, and ran into the
Take couldn't guess what he wanted. She watched him from the door.
Taro ran from one tree or vine to another. He looked along the
stems and under the leaves. He looked on the ground, too. Soon he
jumped at something on the ground, and caught it in his hand.
"I've got one," he called.
 "One what?" Take called back.
"Beetle," Taro said.
Then he found another. He brought them in very carefully, so as
not to hurt them.
In the house he put them into a little cage which he made out of
a pasteboard box. Then he got more paper and a little knife.
"Oh, Taro, what are you going to make?" Take asked.
"If you and grannie will help me, I'll
 make some little wagons
and we'll harness the beetles," Taro said.
"Won't it hurt them?" Take asked.
"Not a bit; we'll be so careful," Taro answered.
So Take ran for thread, and Taro got Grannie to help him. Grannie
would do almost anything in the world for the Twins. And pretty
soon there were two cunning little paper wagons with round paper
Taro tied some thread to the front of each little wagon. Then he
opened the cage to take out the beetles.
One of the beetles didn't wait to be taken out. He flew out
himself. He was big and black, and he flew straight at Take! He
flew into her black hair!
Maybe he just wanted to hide. But he had big black nippers, and
he took hold of Take's little fat neck with them.
Take rolled right over on the floor and screamed. Her Mother
heard the scream. She came running in. The maids came running too
to see what was the matter.
 "Ow! Ow!! Ow!!!" squealed Take. She couldn't say a word. She just
clawed at her neck and screamed.
Everybody tried to find out what was the matter.
"I know—I know!" shouted Taro.
He shook Take's hair. Out flew the beetle!
Taro caught him. "He isn't hurt a bit," he said.
"But I am," wailed Take.
Mother and Grannie bathed Take's neck, and comforted her; and
soon she was
 happy again and ready to go on with the play.
She and Taro harnessed the beetles with threads to the little
wagons. But Take let Taro do the harnessing.
"You can have that one, and I'll have this," Taro said; "and
we'll have a race."
He set the beetles on the floor. They began to crawl along,
pulling the little carriages after them.
Taro's beetle won the race.
They played with the beetles and wagons a long time until Grannie
said, "Let them go now, children. Dinner will soon be ready."
The Twins were hungry. They unharnessed the beetles and carried
them to the porch. They put them on the porch railing.
"Fly away home!" they said. Then they ran to the kitchen to see
what there was for dinner. They sniffed good things cooking.
Take went to the stove and lifted the lid of a great kettle. It
was such a queer stove!
 Here is a picture of Take peeping into the kettle. It shows you
just how queer that stove was.
"It's rice," Take said.
"Of course," said Taro. "We always have rice in that kettle.
What's in this one?"
He peeped into the next kettle. It was steaming hot. The steam
flew out when Taro opened the lid, and almost burned his nose!
That kettle had fish in it. When it was ready, Grannie and Mother
and the Twins had their dinner all together. Bot'Chan was asleep.
After dinner Grannie said, "I'm going for a little nap."
"We shall keep very quiet so as not to disturb you and Bot'Chan,"
When the little tables were taken away, the Mother said, "Come,
my children, let us sit down beside the hibachi and get warm."
The "hibachi" is the only stove, except the cook-stove, that they
have in Japanese houses. It is an open square box, made of
with a charcoal fire burning in it. In very cold weather each
person has one to himself; but this day it was just cold enough
so the Twins loved to cuddle close up to their Mother beside the
The Mother put on a square framework of iron over the fire-box.
Then she brought a comforter—she called it a "futon"—from the
cupboard. She put it over the frame, like a tent. She placed one
 cushion on the floor and on each side of the big cushion
she put a little one.
She sat down on the big cushion. Taro sat on one side and Take
sat on the other, on the little cushions. They drew the comforter
over their laps—and, oh, but they were cozy and warm!
"Tell us a story, honored Mother," begged Taro.
"Yes, please do!" said Take.
"Let me see. What shall I tell you about?" said the Mother. She
put her finger on her brow and pretended to be thinking very
"Tell us about 'The Wonderful Tea-Kettle,'" said Take.
"Tell us about 'The Four and Twenty Paragons,'" said Taro.
"What is a Paragon?" asked Take.
"A Paragon is some one who is very good, indeed,—better than
anybody else," said the Mother.
"Are you a Paragon?" Take asked her Mother.
 "Oh, no," cried the Mother. "I am a most unworthy creature as
compared with a Paragon."
"Then there aren't any such things," said Take, "because nobody
could be better than you!"
The Mother laughed. "Wait until I tell you about the Paragons.
Then you'll see how very, very good they were," she said.
"Once there was a Paragon. He was
 only a little boy, but he was
so good to his parents! Oh, you can't think how good he was! He
was only six years old. He was a beautiful child, with a tender,
fine skin and bright eyes. He lived with his parents in a little
town among the rice-fields. The fields were so wet in the spring
that there were millions and millions of mosquitoes around their
home. Everybody was nearly bitten to death by them. The little
boy saw how miserable and unhappy his parents were from the
mosquito-bites. He could not bear to see his dear parents suffer;
so every night he lay naked on his mat so the mosquitoes would
find his tender skin and bite him first, and spare his father and
"Oh, my!" said Take. "How brave that was! I don't like mosquito-
bites a bit!"
"You don't like beetle-bites any better, do you?" Taro said.
"Well," said Take, "I'd rather the beetle should bite me than
"Well, now, maybe you'll be a Paragon yourself sometime," the
 "There weren't any women paragons, were there? " asked Taro.
"Oh, yes," said the Mother. "Once there was a young girl who
loved her father dearly, and honored him above everything in the
world, as a child should. Once she and her father were in a
jungle, and a tiger attacked them. The young girl threw herself
upon the tiger and clung to his jaws so that her father could
"Did the tiger eat her up?" said Taro.
"I suppose he did," the Mother answered.
"Was it very noble of her to be eaten up so her father could get
away?" Take asked,
"Oh, very noble!" said the Mother.
"Well, then," said Take, "was it very noble of the father to run
away and let her stay and be eaten up?"
"The lives of women are not worth so much as those of men," her
Take bounced on her cushion. "I don't see how she could honor a
man who was so mean," she said.
 Take's mother held up her hands. She was shocked. "Why, Take!"
she said. "The man was her father!"
"Tell us another," said Taro.
"Please, honored Mother, don't tell me about any more Paragons,"
Her Mother was still more shocked.
"Why, little daughter," she said, " don't you want to hear about
the Paragon that lay down on the cold, cold ice to warm a hole in
it with his body so he could catch some fish for his cruel
stepmother to eat?"
"No, if you please, dear Mother," said Take, "because all the
Paragons had such horrid parents."
"My dear little girl," the Mother said, "you must not say such
dreadful things! We must honor and obey our parents, no matter
what kind of persons they are."
"Well," said Take, "we love and honor you and our Father—you
are so good and kind." She put her hands on the matting in front
of her, and bowed to the floor before her Mother.
 Taro saw Take do this, and he wanted to be just as polite as she
was; so he rolled over on his cushion and bowed to the floor,
"Now, tell us about the 'Lucky Tea-Kettle,'" begged Take.
Their Mother began: "Once upon a time—"
But just as she got as far as that they heard a little sound from
Bot'Chan's cushion in the corner, and the covers began to wiggle.
"There's Bot'Chan awake," said the Mother. "I must take care of
him now. The 'Lucky Tea-Kettle' must wait until another time."
And just at that minute bright spots of sunshine appeared on the
paper screen, and the shadows of leaves in pretty patterns
fluttered over it.
"The sun is out! The sun is out!" cried the Twins.
They ran to the door, put on their clogs, and were soon dancing
about in the bright sunshine.
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