|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 |
 I wish there was room in this book to tell you about all the good
times that Taro and Take have, but they have so many holidays and
such good times on every one of them that it would take two books
to tell about it all.
They have cherry festivals and wistaria festivals and
chrysanthemum festivals when everybody goes to picnics and spends
the whole day with the flowers.
On the day of the Lotus Festival they go very early in the
morning, before the sun is up, to a pond where the lotus flowers
bloom. They go with their teacher and all the children.
When they get to the pond, the teacher says, "Listen!" Every one
is still as a mouse. Just as the sun comes up, the lotus
open. Pop, pop, pop, they go, like fairy guns! The children love
to hear them pop. "The flowers salute the sun," they say.
One of the best days of all is New Year's Day, when all the boys
and their fathers and grandfathers fly kites. And such wonderful
kites! The air is full of dragons and boxes and all sorts of
queer shapes. Sometimes the dragons have a battle in the air!
But one day I must tell you about, anyway, and that is Taro's
It isn't only Taro's birthday, you know. All the boys celebrate
together. The girls—even if they are your very own twins—don't
have a thing to do with it. And it lasts five days! On the first
morning Taro woke very early. He was just as excited as Take was
on the day of the Festival of Dolls. But Take didn't stay in bed
on Taro's birthday. She flew out early, for she wanted to see all
the fun, even if she wasn't in it.
First she went to the Kura with Taro and their Father to get out
the flags. The boys' birthday is called the Feast of Flags.
 They took Bot'Chan with them to the Kura. Take carried him on her
"It's Bot'Chan's birthday, too," she said, "so he must go."
In the Kura was a long bamboo pole. The Twins' Father took the
pole and set it up in the street before their house. Then he
brought out two great paper fish. They were almost larger than
Taro. They had great round mouths and round eyes. A string was
fastened to their mouths.
"There's one fish for Taro and one for Bot'Chan," said the
Father. "We have two boys in our house."
He tied the fish to the pole. The wind filled the great round
mouths and soon away up in the air the two fish were bobbing and
blowing about just as if they were alive!
There was a bamboo pole with one or two—and sometimes three or
four—fish on it before every house in the street!
"My! how many boys there are in the world!" Take said; "more than
I can count!"
The street was as gay as a great
flower-  garden. There were not
only fish flags; there was the flag of Japan, with a great round
red disk on it. And there was the flag of the navy, which was a
great round red sun like the other, only with red rays around it,
and there were banners of all colors waving in the breeze.
 "Why are the fish flags all made just like the carp in the pond
at the Temple?" asked Take.
"Because the carp is such a plucky fish," the Father answered.
"He isn't a lazy fish that only wants to swim downstream, the
easy way. He swims up the rivers and jumps up the falls. That's
the way we want our Japanese boys to be. Their lives must be
brave and strong, like the carp."
"And clean and bright like the sword, too?" Taro said.
"Yes," said his Father. "I'm glad you remember about the sword."
When the fish flags were bobbing about in the air, the Father and
children went back into the house.
There were the steps in the side of the room again, just where
they were when Take had her birthday. And Taro had his dolls,
too. They were not like Take's. They were soldier dolls, enough
for a whole army. Taro set them up in rows, as if they were
marching! There were General dolls, and
 officers on horseback,
and bands. There were even two nurses, following after the
procession. There were toy guns, and ever and ever so many flags
all in a row.
Taro was so excited he could hardly eat any breakfast! As soon as
he had finished, he sprang up from his cushion. He almost upset
his table, he was in such a hurry. He put on a play uniform like
a soldier. And he had a wooden sword!
"There's going to be a war!" he said to Take.
"Where?" asked Take; "can I see it?"
"It's going to be in the street. I'm the General," said Taro.
"Oh, how I wish I could be a General," cried Take.
But Taro never even heard her. He was already on his way to join
In a few minutes Take heard the "rap- a-tap, tap! rap-a-tap,
tap!" of a drum. "They're coming! They're coming!" she called to
her Mother and Father. The Mother rolled Bot'Chan on to her back.
 Take took her Father's hand. They all ran to the gate to see the
procession. The servants came out, too, and last of all Grannie.
They gave Grannie the best place to see. Soon around the corner
came the procession.
First marched a color-bearer with the big Japanese flag. Then
came Taro. He looked very proud and straight, walking all alone
at the head of the procession. He was the General because he had
 All the boys carried flags. They kept step like little soldiers.
"Oh, doesn't Taro look beautiful?" said Take. She climbed up on
the gate-post. She waved a little flag with all her might, but
Taro never looked round. He just marched straight along.
Just then "rub-a-dub-dub" came the sound of another drum. Around
the next corner came another army of little boys.
They carried flags, too. They marched straight toward Taro's
 "Now the war is coming! Now the war is coming!" shouted Take.
All at once Taro's soldiers began to run. The other soldiers ran,
too. They ran straight toward each other and tried to get each
Take saw Taro wave his sword. "On, soldiers, on!" he shouted.
Then there was a great mix-up of boys and flags. It seemed like a
bundle of waving arms and legs and banners. Every boy was
shouting at the top of his voice.
Take climbed right on top of the gate- post, she was so excited.
She stood up on it and waved her arms!
"Look at that child," cried the Mother. "She'll fall."
Take was dancing for joy.
"There they come! There they come!" she cried.
Her Father reached up and held her still. "Be quiet,
grasshopper," he said.
"But Taro is coming! They beat, they beat!" cried Take.
 Taro and his army were coming up the street on the run. Nearly
every little boy had two flags! The other army was running away
as fast as it could go. They had only two banners left.
"Beat the drum!" shouted Taro. The drummer boy began, "rat-a-tat-
tat," and the whole victorious army marched down the street and
right into Taro's garden!
As he passed his Father and Mother and Grannie and Bot'Chan, Taro
saluted. His Father saluted Taro, and every one of the family—
Grannie and all—cried "Banzai! Banzai!" That means the same as
Then Take tumbled off the gate-post and raced up to the porch
after the soldier. At the porch, the soldiers broke ranks.
The General's Mother ran into the house and brought out sweet
rice-cakes and sugared beans. She fed the entire army. There were
six boys in it.
"Fighting makes a soldier very hungry," Taro said.
Then his Mother went into the house and
 brought out more cakes
and more beans.
The boys ate them all.
The army stayed at Taro's house and played with his soldiers and
drilled on his porch until lunch-time, when they all went to
their own homes.
After luncheon Taro played with his tops. He had two beautiful
ones. One was a singing top.
He was spinning the singing top when all of a sudden there was a
great noise in the street. He ran to see what was the matter.
There, almost right in front of his own house, was a real show!
There was a man and a little boy and a monkey! The monkey had on
a kimono. The monkey and the little boy did tricks together. Then
the man and the boy did tricks. The man balanced a ladder on his
shoulder. The little boy climbed right up the ladder and hung
from the top of it by his toes.
Every boy in the street came running to see them. Take came, too.
The little boy,
 hanging from the top of the ladder, opened a fan
and fanned himself! Then he climbed to his feet again and stood
on one foot on the top of the ladder. Then he made a bow!
Taro and Take almost stopped breathing, they were so afraid the
little boy would fall.
The little boy threw his fan to the monkey. The monkey caught it
and fanned himself, while the little boy came down the ladder to
the ground, all safe and sound.
The Twins' Mother came out, too. She saw the little boy. She felt
sorry for him. She felt sorry for the monkey, too. "Come in and
have some rice-cakes," she said.
The man, the boy, and the monkey all came into the garden of the
little house. All the other children came, too.
The Mother brought out cakes and tea. Everybody had some. The man
and the boy thanked her. They made the monkey thank her, too. He
got down on his knees and bowed clear to the ground.
When they had eaten the cakes and drank the tea, the man and the
"Say-  onara, Sayonara." The monkey jumped on the man's
shoulder, and away they went down the street, with all the boys
Taro and Take did not go with them, because their Mother said,
"It is almost time for supper." They watched the others from
their gate. Then they came back and sat down on the top step of
"I think you've had just as good a time on your birthday as I
had on mine," Take said.
"Better," said Taro.
"Taro, we are getting very old, aren't we?" Take went on.
"Yes," said Taro, "we are six now."
"What are you going to be when you are seven or eight years old
and grown up?" asked Take.
"Well," said Taro, "I'm not sure, but I think I shall be either a
general or a juggler," Taro said. "What are you going to be?"
"There's only one thing I can grow
 to be," said Take. "If I am
very, very good, maybe I'll grow to be a mother-in-law sometime."
Just then they heard their Mother's voice calling them to supper.
It was very late for supper—it was really almost night.
The shadows in the little garden were growing long. The birds
were chirping sleepily to each other in the wistaria vine. The
iris flowers were nodding their purple heads to the little
goldfish in the pond. Everything was quiet and still.
The Twins stopped to look at the little garden before they went
in to their supper.
"Good night, pretty world," they said, and waved their hands.
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