Laura Ingalls Wilder's Message to Japanese Children

Laura Ingalls Wilder's Message to Japanese Children

July 8, 1948

Dear Japanese Children, 

Though you are far away and speak a different language, still the things worth while in life are the same for us all and the same as when I was a child so long ago.  

Things of real value do not change with the passing of years nor in going from one country to another.  These I am sure you have.  It is always best to be honest and truthful, to make the most of what we have, to be happy with simple pleasures, to be cheerful in adversity and have courage in danger.  With love to you all and best wishes for your happiness. I am sincerely your friend.  

  Laura Ingalls Wilder


                                                                                          (From the copy of the original handwritten message sent to Mrs. Aya Ishida)

The Long Winter was the first Little House book translated into Japanese.  It was published  by Cosmopolitan Publishing in February 1949.  
As soon as Cosmopolitan had a contract for the publication in June 1948, Mrs. Aya Ishida, a translator of The Long Winter, requested  Mrs. Wilder directly to send a message for Japanese children.   Mrs. Wilder wrote her back immediately and sent the message written above.  This message was translated into Japanese and appeared on the first page of The Long Winter (See below).  

I met Mrs. Ishida several times in 1979 -1980. She was a principal of the private school in downtown Tokyo at that time.   When I interviewed her, she gave me the copy of Mrs. Wilder's handwritten message.  I couldn't believe my eyes and stared at the copy for a long time.  Then Mrs. Ishida gently said, "This is old lady's handwriting.  It shows that she practiced penmanship over and over again".  It was the first Mrs. Wilder's  handwriting I ever saw.   

When I asked her why The Long Winter, the sixth volume, was published first, she replied that it wan't her decision. It was decided by SCAP(The Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers).   Japan was under the occupation of SCAP after WWII    

Unfortunately The Long Winter  became out of print in a few years and her message to children was gone for years. After I got the copy from Mrs. Ishida,  I wrote the article in 1986.  After that it has been widely used forLittle House  publications & events and has been well known among Japanese readers.   

Mrs. Ishida was born  and grew up in a wealthy family.   Her father was a famous liberalist and she was surrounded by well known writers and poets including Pearl Buck and Yasunari Kawabata, a Nobel Prize winner.  She liked writing and published "Pinocchio" at age 12 with her own illustrations.   She studied at private school in downtown Tokyo which her father founded for her.  After she graduated the school, she enrolled in a high school in Michigan in 1928.  Then she moved to Massachusetts to study at Mount Holyoke Collage.  It was unusual that Japanese woman studied overseas in those days.  She stayed in the U.S. for three and half years and came back to Japan after visiting Paris.   She taught at her father's school for years and became a principal.    

During WWII, English was banned and it wasn't allowed to read books written in English.  As soon as the war was over, Mrs. Ishida pulled out her books from an attic and started reading them for her own children.  She read Little House books, too.  She was a big fan of Little House books and wanted to translate them.   She wrote Mrs. Wilder directly and Mrs. Wilder contacted Harper.   It wasn't known how she got Mrs. Wilder's address.  According to Mrs. Tachibana, Mrs. Ishida's oldest daughter, it seemed that her mother had American friends in SCAP which was in charge of all the publications.   Mrs. Ishida might have got the address through her friends.  

Mrs. Tachibana vividly remembered when her mother translated The Long Winter.  After the war, Mrs. Ishida worked hard to re-establish her father's school which had been closed during a war.  She was extremely busy to look after her four children so she let Mrs. Tachibana, an oldest daughter,  help her.   She was in grade 5 or 6.   Her mother translated The Long Winter verbally while she was doing a housework and Mrs. Tachibana wrote them down.  Later she helped her mother to make fair copies of draft and to make holes with an ice pick for binding.  

The Long Winter was published in 1949.  It was two volumes.  Mrs. Tachibana also remembered to send those copies to The United States.   During the occupation years, it wasn't easy to send packages to overseas.  She and her mother went to a main post office in downtown Tokyo and had to go through a complicated  procedure. Both Laura Ingalls Wilder Home & Museum and Laura Ingalls Wilder library in Mansfield had  a set of The Long Winter.   Those books could have been sent by them.  

Mrs. Ishida's father was a famous liberal thinker and  sticked to his own belief during a war.  Freedom of speech was restricted, however, he expressed his own opinion and had to spent six month behind bars for lese majeste.  The school he founded for his children was forced to close in 1943 by Japanese military government due to its liberal education.  Mrs. Ishida grew up in this background so  it wasn't surprising that she could relate to freedom and independent of Little House books.   

In 1970s, Laura Ingalls Wilder Home & Museum sold black and white photographs of  real Ingalls family and of others.  I made my own Little House album using them and showed it to Mrs. Ishida.   She had never seen the photographs of real Ingalls and Wilders so she was extremely excited.  
She spent a long time to see those photos, raising her voice with joy.  Then she finally said, "Can I keep this album for a few weeks?  I want to show it others".  
I was impressed by her affection to Little House books.   It was fortunate that the first Little House book was translated by her who deeply loved the books.  

This is the Japanese translation of Mrs. Wilder's  message appeared on the first page of The Long Winter.  The address of Rocky Ridge farm was indicated and Mrs. Wilder got letters directly from Japanese readers.   It is known that four Japanese readers got letters from Mrs. Wilder.   They were Mrs. Ishida, a collage student,  and two teenagers in middle schools.  It is interesting that three of them were Christians.   Japan is a country of Buddhism and Shintoism, and Christianity isn't common.  


*Interviews with Aya Ishida by Nami Hattori, summer 1979 and  February 19, 1980
*Copies of a handwritten letter to Aya Ishida from Laura Ingalls Wilder dated July 8, 1948 
*Lecture on Aya Ishida and Little House books by Tone Tachibana, November 23, 2000
*Interview with Tone Tachibana by Nami Hattori,  November 23, 2000
*Email to Nami Hattori from Tone Tachibana dated April 13, 2013
*Letter to Nami Hattori from Tone Tachibana dated December 1, 2015
*Nishimura Isaku Museum website (the house Aya Ishida and her family lived became a museum.  It was designed by her father)
*Bunka Gakuin School website (school which Mrs. Ishida's father founded for his children.  Mrs. Ishida taught at this school).  

©Nami Hattori All Rights Reserved.