|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 |
HOW THEY WENT TO THE TEMPLE
 THE Twins were just stepping into their clogs when the front
gate opened, and what do you think they saw! In came trotting
three brown men, each one pulling a little carriage behind him!
They came right up to the porch. Take was just standing on one
foot, ready to slip her other one into the strap of her clog,
when they came in. She was so surprised she fell right over
backward! She picked herself up again quickly, and hopped along,
with one shoe on and one shoe off:
"Are we going to ride?" she gasped.
Her Father laughed. "Yes, little pop-eyes," he said; "we are
going to ride to the Temple, and you and Taro shall ride in one
rickshaw all by yourselves."
 The name of these little carriages drawn by men instead of
horses is "jinrickshas," but he called them "rickshaws" for
The Twins were so happy they could hardly keep still. They
looked at all three rickshaws and all three men, and then they
said to their Father:
"May we ride in this one?"
It had red wheels.
"Yes, you may ride in that one," he said.
Then he got into the one with green wheels, and rode away.
Mother and Grannie and the Baby got into the next one, and their
rickshaw man trotted away after Father.
"Keep close behind us," the Mother called back to the Twins.
They got into the rickshaw with the red wheels, and away they
The Twins had never been in a rickshaw alone before in all their
lives. They sat up very straight, and held on tight because it
bounced a good deal, and the rickshaw man could run very fast.
 "I feel as grand as a princess," Take whispered to Taro. "How do
"I feel like a son of the Samurai," Taro whispered back. That
was the proudest feeling he could think of.
There were so very many interesting things to see that the Twins
didn't talk much for a while. You see, it's hard work to use
your mouth and your eyes and your ears all at once. So the Twins
just used their eyes.
It was still quite early in the
morn-  ing when they reached the
city streets. Here they saw men with baskets hung from poles
going from house to house. Some were selling vegetables, some
had fish, and others were selling flowers, or brooms.
They saw little girls with baby brothers on their backs,
skipping rope or bouncing balls. The baby's head wobbled
 when his little sister skipped, but he didn't cry
about it. He just let it wobble!
The Twins rode by fruit-shops, and clothing-shops with gay
kimonos flapping in the breeze; by little shops where people
were making paper lanterns, by tea-shops and silk-shops, by
houses and gardens in strange places they had never seen before.
 They saw an old priest going from door to door, holding out his
bowl for money.
In one street carpenters were putting up a new house, and once
they caught a glimpse of the very bridge that leads to the
By and by they reached the gate of the
 Temple grounds. All the
rickshaws stopped here, and everybody got out.
The Mother put Bot'Chan on her back, and they all started in a
procession for the Temple. First walked the Father, looking very
proud. Then came the Twins, looking quite proud, too. Then came
Mother and Grannie and Bot'Chan and they looked proudest of all!
When they got inside the gate, the Twins thought they were in
fairyland. You would have thought so, too, if you could have
been there with them.
They saw so many wonderful things that day that if I were to
tell you about every one of them it would fill up this whole
First of all, they came into a broad roadway with beautiful
great cedar trees on each side. Under these trees were little
booths. Great paper lanterns and banners of all colors hung in
front of the booths; and when they waved gayly in the wind, the
place looked like a giant flower-garden in full bloom.
 Near the Temple entrance was a great stone trough full of clear
water. There was a long-handled wooden dipper floating on it.
"Come here," said the Father.
The Twins, Grandmother, and Mother, with Baby on her back, all
came at once and stood in a row beside the trough. They put out
their hands. The Father took the dipper and poured water on
 When their hands were quite clean, they rinsed their mouths,
too. Then they entered the Temple vestibule.
There were more little booths in the Temple vestibule, and there
were so many people, big and little, crowding about that the
Father took the Twins' hands so they wouldn't get lost.
First he led them to a place where they bought some cooked peas
on a little plate, and some rice. He gave the peas to Taro and
some of the rice to Take.
The Twins wondered what in the world their Father wanted with
peas and rice. They soon found out. In the very next place was a
little stall, and in the little stall was a tiny, tiny white
horse—no bigger than a big dog! Even its eyes were white.
"Oh, Father," the Twins said, both together, "whose little horse
"It's Kwannon's little horse," the Father said. "Taro, you may
give him the peas."
Taro held out the plate. The little white pony put his nose in
the plate and ate them
 all up! He sniffed up Taro's sleeve as if
he wanted more.
Take patted his back. "Who is Kwannon?" she asked.
"Kwannon is a beautiful goddess who loves little children," said
"Does she live here?" asked Taro.
"This is her Temple, where people come to worship," the Father
answered. "We are going to pray to her to-day to take good care
of Bot'Chan always."
"Did you ask her to take care of us, too?" asked Take.
"Yes; we brought you both here when you were a month old, just
as we are bringing Bot'Chan now," the Father replied.
"Does she take care of all little children?" Take said.
"She loves them all, and takes care of all who ask for her
"My!" said Take. "She must have her hands full with such a large
Her Father laughed, "But, you see, she
 has a great many hands,"
he said. "If she had only two, like us, it would be hard for her
to take care of so many."
"I never saw her take care of me," said Taro.
"We do not see the gods," their Father answered. "But we must
worship and obey them just the same."
"I think Kwannon must love little children," said Take, "because
she wants them to have such good times in her Temple."
They said good-bye to the little horse, and walked through an
opening into a courtyard beyond. The moment they stepped into
the courtyard a flock of white pigeons flew down and settled all
"Take may feed the pigeons," the Father said. "They are
Take threw her rice on the ground. The pigeons picked it all up.
So many people fed them that they were almost too fat to fly!
At another booth their Father bought
 some little rings of
perfumed incense. He put them in his sleeve. His sleeves could
hold more things than all a boy's pockets put together!
When they reached the great door of the Temple itself, the
Father said: "Now, we must take off our shoes." So they all
slipped their toes out of their clogs, and went into the Temple
just as the bell in the courtyard rang out with a great—boom—
BOOM—BOOM! that made the air shiver and shake all about them.
 The Temple was one big, shadowy room, with tall red columns all
"It's just like a great forest full of trees, isn't it?" Taro
whispered to Take, as they went in.
"It almost scares me," Take whispered back; "it's so big."
Directly in front of the entrance there was another bell. A long
red streamer hung from its clapper, and under it was a great box
with bars over the top. On the box there perched a great white
The Father pulled the red streamer and rang the bell. Then he
threw a piece of money into the box. It fell with a great noise.
"Cock-a-doodle-doo," crowed the rooster! He seemed very much
pleased about the money, though it was meant for the priests and
not for him. "The rooster is saying thank you," cried Take.
"Hush," said her Mother.
Then the Father drew from his sleeve a little rosary of beads.
He placed it over his hands, and bowed his head in prayer
Grannie and Mother and Baby and the Twins stood near him and
kept very still. When he had finished, a priest came up.
The Father bowed to the priest. "Will you show us the way to the
shrine of Kwannon?" he asked.
Away off at the farther end of the Temple, the Twins could see a
great altar. Banners and lanterns hung about it, and people were
kneeling on the floor before it,
pray-  ing . Before the altar was
an open brazier with incense burning in it.
"Come this way," said the priest. He led them to the altar.
The Father took Bot'Chan from his Mother, and held him in his
arms. The priest said a prayer to Kwannon, and blessed the Baby.
Then the Father threw incense rings on the little fire that
burned in the brazier before the altar. Wreaths of smoke began
to curl about their heads. The air was filled with the sweet
odor of it. Some of it went up Bot'Chan's nose. It smarted.
Bot'Chan didn't like it. He had behaved beautifully up to that
time, and I am sure if the incense hadn't gone up his nose he
would have kept on behaving beautifully. But it did, and
Bot'Chan sneezed just as the priest finished the prayer.
Then he gave a great scream. Then anther, and another. Three of
The priest smiled. But the Father didn't smile. He gave Bot'Chan
back to his mother just as quickly as he could.
 He said, "The honorable worshippers will be disturbed. We must
go out at once."
They hurried back to the entrance and found their clogs, and the
moment they were outdoors again, in the sweet, fresh air,
Bot'Chan cuddled down on his Mother's back and went to sleep
without another sound.
Near the Temple they found an orchard of cherry trees in full
bloom. People were sitting under the cherry trees, looking at
the blossoms. Some of them were writing little verses, which
they hung on the branches of the trees. They did this because
they loved the blossoms so much. Children were playing all
about. Near by was a pretty little tea-house.
Grannie saw it first. "I am thirsty," she said.
"So am I," said Take.
"So am I," said Taro.
"We're all thirsty," the Father said.
Outside the tea-house, under the trees there were wooden
benches. They sat down on these, and soon little maids from the
 tea-house brought them trays with tea and sweet rice-cakes.
They sat on the benches and sipped their tea, and watched the
people moving about, and looked up at the cherry blossoms
against the blue sky, and were very happy, indeed.
The Mother had carried Bot'Chan all the way on her back, so
maybe she was
 a little tired. Anyway, she said to the Father:—
"If you and the Twins want to go farther, let Grannie and me
stay here and rest. You can come back for us."
"Would you like to see the animals?" the Father asked the Twins.
Taro and Take jumped right up, and took their Father's hands,
one on each side, and then they all walked away together under
the blossoming trees to another part of the park.
In this part of the park there were cages, and in the cages were
lions, and tigers, and monkeys, and zebras, and elephants, and
all kinds of animals! There were birds, too, with red and blue
plumage and beautiful golden tails. There were parrots and
cockatoos and pheasants. Wild ducks were swimming in the ponds;
and two swans sailed, like lovely white ships, to the place
where the Twins stood, and opened their bills to be fed.
In the Father's sleeve was something for each one. Taro and Take
took turns. Take fed the swans, and Taro fed the great
 fish that
swam up beside them and looked at them with round eyes. When
they saw the food the fish leaped in the water and fought each
other to get it, and when they ate it they made curious noises
"I don't think they have very good manners," said Take.
By and by they came to a queer little
 street. This little street
must have been made on purpose for little boys and girls to have
fun in, for there were all sorts of astonishing things there.
There were jugglers doing strange tricks with tops and swords.
There were acrobats, and candy-sellers and toy-sellers going
about with baskets hung from long poles over their shoulders. It
was almost like a circus.
The street was full of people, and every one was gay. The Twins
and their Father had gone only a little way up the street when
an old woman met them. She had a pole on her shoulder, and from
it swung a little fire of coals in a brazier. She had a little
pot of batter and a little jar of sweet sauce, a ladle, a
griddle, and a cake-turner!
"Would you like to make some cakes?" she said to Take.
Take clasped her hands. "Oh, Father, may I?" she said.
The Father gave the old woman some money out of his sleeve. She
set the brazier on the ground.
 Then Tale tucked her sleeves back, put the griddle on the coals,
poured out some batter, and cooked a little cake on one side
until it was brown. Then she turned it over with the cake-
turner, and browned it on the other side. Then she put it on a
plate and put the sauce on it.
My, my! but it was fun!
The first cake she made she gave to her Father.
He ate it all up. Then he said,
"Honor-  able daughter, the cake is
the very best I ever had of the kind. I am sure your honorable
brother would like one too."
The Japanese are so very polite that they often call each other
"honorable" in that way. They even call things that they use
So Take said very politely, "Honorable Brother, would you like
one of my poor cakes?"
It would be impolite in Japan to call anything good that you had
made yourself. It would seem like praising your own work. That
was why Take called them "my poor cakes."
"I should like a cake very much," Taro said.
Take poured out the batter. She watched it carefully, to be sure
it did not burn. When it was just brown enough she gave it to
Taro ate it all up. Then he said to Take, "Honorable Sister, I
should like to eat six."
The Father laughed. "If you stay here
 to eat six cakes, we shall
not see the dolls' garden," he said. "Take must have one cake
for herself, and then we will go on."
Take baked a cake for herself and ate it She called it a "poor"
cake aloud, but inside she thought it was the very best cake
that any one ever made!
When she had finished, she and Taro and the Father bowed
politely to the old woman.
"Sayonara," they said. That means "good-bye."
 The old woman bowed. "Sayonara," she called to them.
The Twins and their Father walked on. They soon found the dolls'
garden. In it were many tiny pine trees like theirs at home.
There were little plum trees, and bamboos, and a tiny tea-house
in it. There was a pond with a little bridge, too.
"Oh!" cried Take, "if it only had little bells on the plum
trees, this would be the
 very garden I sang about to Bot'Chan; wouldn't it?"
She stooped down and peeped under the little trees.
Let's play we are giants!" she said to Taro.
"Giants roar," said Taro.
"You roar," said Take. "It wouldn't be polite for a lady giant
"Giants are different. They don't have to be polite," Taro
"Well, you can roar," said Take, "but I shall play I'm a polite
lady giant taking a walk in my garden! My head is in the clouds,
and every step I take is a mile long!"
She picked up her kimono. She turned her little nose up to the
sky, and took a very long step.
Taro came roaring after her.
But just that minute Take's clog turned on her foot, and the
first thing she knew she was flat on her stomach on the bridge!
She forgot that lady giants didn't roar.
 Taro was roaring already.
Their Father was ahead of them. He jumped right up in the air
when he heard the noise. He wasn't used to such sounds from the
Twins. He turned back.
"What is the matter?" he said.
He picked Take up and set her on her feet.
"We're giants," sobbed Take.
"Her head was in the clouds," said Taro.
"It is well even for giants to keep an eye on the earth when
they are out walking," the Father said. "Are you hurt?"
"Yes, I'm hurt," Take said; "but I don't think I'm broken
"Giants don't break easily at all," her Father answered. "I
think you'll be all right if we go to your castle!"
"My castle!" cried Take. "Where is it?"
"Right over there through the trees." He pointed to it.
The Twins looked. They saw a high tower.
 "Would you like to climb to the top with me?" their Father said.
"Oh, yes," Taro cried. "We aren't tired."
"Or broken," Take added.
So they went into the tower and climbed, and climbed, and
climbed. It seemed as if the dark stairs would never end.
 "I believe the tower reaches clear to the sky!" said Take.
"I don't believe it has any top at all!" said Taro.
But just that minute they came out on an open platform, and what
a sight they saw! The whole city was spread out before them.
They could see gray roofs, and green trees, and roadways with
people on them. The people looked about as big as ants crawling
along. They could see rivers, and blue ponds, and canals. It
seemed to the Twins that they could see the whole world.
In a minute the Father said, "Look! Look over there against the
The Twins looked. Far away they saw a great lonely mountain-
peak. It was very high, and very pale against the pale blue sky.
The top of it was rosy, as if the sun shone on it. The shadows
were blue. Below the top there were clouds and mists. The
mountain seemed to rise out of them and float in the air.
 The Twins clasped their hands.
"It is Fuji!" they cried, both together.
"Yes," said the Father. "It is Fuji, the most beautiful mountain
in the world."
By and by Take said, "I don't feel a bit like a giant any more."
And Taro said, "Neither do I."
For a long time they stood looking at it. Then they turned and
crept quietly down the dark stairs, holding tight to their
They went back to Mother and Grandmother and Bot'Chan under the
"We must take the Baby home," said the Mother as soon as she saw
them. "It's growing late."
 "Oh, mayn't we stay just a little longer?" Take begged.
"Please," said Taro.
"If we go now, we can go home by boat," said the Father.
"I didn't believe a single other nice thing could happen this
day," sighed Take. "But going home by boat will be nicer than
staying. Won't it, Taro?"
But Taro was already on his way to the landing.
There was a pleasure-boat tied to the wharf. The whole family
got on board; the boatman pushed off and away they went over the
blue waters and into the
 river, and down the river a long way,
through the city and beyond. They passed rice-fields, where men
and women in great round hats worked away, standing ankle deep
in water. There were fields where tea-plants were growing. There
were little brown thatched roofs peeping out from under green
trees. There were glimpses of little streets in tiny villages,
and of people riding in a queer sort of basket hung from a pole
and carried on the shoulders of two men.
At last they came to a landing-pace
 near their home. They were
glad to see the familiar roofs again.
Taro and Take raced ahead of the others to their own little
house in the garden.
At the door they found ever so many clogs. There were sounds of
talking inside the house.
"What do you suppose is going to happen now?" Take asked Taro.
 "I don't know—but something nice," Taro answered, as he slipped
tiff his clogs and sprang up on the porch.
They slid open the door.
"Ohayo!" came a chorus of voices.
The room was full of their aunts and cousins!
Taro and Take were very much surprised, but they remembered
their manners. They dropped on their knees and bowed their heads
to the floor.
"Where are your Father and Mother, and Grannie and Bot'Chan?"
said all the aunts and cousins. "They are late."
"We came back by the boat, and it
 stopped at ever so many
places," said Taro. "That's why we are late."
Soon their Father and Mother and Grandmother came in. Then there
was great laughing and talking, and many polite bows.
Bot'Chan was passed from one to another. Everybody said he was
the finest baby ever seen, and that he looked like his Father!
And his Mother! And his Grandmother! Some even said he looked
like the Twins!
Everybody brought presents to the baby. There were toys, and
rice, and candied peas and beans, and little cakes, and silk for
dresses for him, and more silk for more dresses, and best of all
a beautiful puppy cat. Here is his picture! The Twins thought
 Bot'Chan could never
use all the things that were given him but they thought they
could help eat up the candied things.
Bot'Chan seemed to like his party. He sucked his thumb and
looked solemnly at the aunts and cousins. He even tried to put
the puppy cat in his mouth. Natsu took him away at last and put
him to bed. Then everybody had tea and good things to eat until
it was time to go home.
It took the Twins a long time to get to sleep that night.
Just as she was cuddling down under her warm, soft mats, Take
popped her head out once more and looked across the room to
"Taro!" she whispered.
Taro stuck his head out, too. She could see him by the soft
light of the candle in the tall paper lamp beside his bed.
"Don't you think it's about a week since morning?" she said. "So
many nice things have happened to-day!"
 "There never could be a nicer day than this," said Taro.
"What was the nicest of all?" Take asked. "I'll tell you what I
liked the best if you'll tell me."
Then Taro told which part of the day he liked the best, and Take
told which she liked the best. But I'm not going to tell whether
they said the little horse, or the tiny garden, or the cherry
trees, or the animals, or the boat-ride—or the party. You can
just guess for yourself!
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