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The Wilbur A. Sawyer Papers

Letter from Wilbur A. Sawyer to Margaret Sawyer pdf (850,318 Bytes) transcript of pdf
Letter from Wilbur A. Sawyer to Margaret Sawyer
Dr. Sawyer went to Japan and China in early 1937 to inspect Rockefeller Foundation projects in those countries. In this letter, he told Mrs. Sawyer about his hectic first week in Japan, with details about various RF projects and the many dinners given in his honor, and finished with an account of the trip through Korea to Manchuria.
Item is handwritten.
Number of Image Pages:
12 (850,318 Bytes)
1937-01-15 (January 15, 1937)
Sawyer, Wilbur A.
Sawyer, Margaret
This item is in the public domain. It may be used without permission.
Medical Subject Headings (MeSH):
Public Health
Exhibit Category:
The Yellow Fever Laboratory: Rockefeller Foundation, 1928-1937
Box Number: 2
Folder Number: 14
Unique Identifier:
Document Type:
Letters (correspondence)
Physical Condition:
Series: Correspondence, 1911-1995
SubSeries: Personal correspondence, 1911-1995
Folder: 1937
January 15, 1937
Dear Margaret,
It is just a week since I landed at Yokohama and was met at the dock by Dr. Grant and Dr Nobechi of the Central Sanitary Bureau. It was a clear wintry morning and Mt. Fuji could be clearly seen in the distance as we entered the harbor. We drove by car to Tokyo and took rooms at the Imperial Hotel. From then until we left Tokyo every moment was occupied by the interesting schedule that had been worked out for me. Dr. Nobechi had reserved a fine double room for "Dr and Mrs Sawyer" which will explain the suspicious announcement in the enclosed clipping. So you see "we" have seen Tokyo!
The first day we visited a rural health district in which the I H D is participating but which has not yet gotten
under way. One of the most interesting institutions in the district was the Mutual Food Distributing plant of the Mutual Food Control Union. It is one of the plants established by the Nutrition Institute in Tokyo under the control of a former Yale student in nutrition, Dr Saiki. The plant cooked rice and soups, etc. and sent a hot balanced ration out to the homes at 23 sen per person per day, i.e. 6 1/2 U.S. cents per day. The degree of polishing of the rice is controlled and the ingredients of the ration are carefully planned to give the needed elements at the lowest cost. Any profits are distributed to the subscribers.
We visited the slaughter house, in front of which was a stone tablet in honor of the slaughtered animals. The Buddhists seem to eat meat here, but they erect memorials to appease the spirits of the sacrificed animals,--even of the distant elephants that furnished ivory.
In the evening Dr. Grant and I visited the Ginza, or main shopping street. Everywhere were neon lights and brightly lighted shops, and in addition one side of the street was lined with temporary stands. The sidewalks were crowded with shoppers. Most of the men and some of the women wear European clothes, but the great majority of women wear kimonos with obis. The women add greatly to the color of the scene.
The next morning we visited the Institute of Public health which is under construction. The R. Foundation is supplying the building, and the steel and cement work is almost completed. It is a huge building which will form a group
with the Government Institute of Infectious Diseases. There will be a garden between. The building will be opened in April, 1938, and in the meanwhile the faculty must be organized. Already there are a number of returned Fellows of the I.H.D. who will be available.
We visited the Government Institute of Infectious Diseases and were shown about by Dr. Miyagawa. I had met him in Singapore in 1923, at the time of the great earthquake in Yokohama and Tokyo. For days the Japanese delegates could learn nothing as to the fate of their families, but they went ahead and invited the Far Eastern Association of Tropical Medicine to hold its next meeting in Tokyo three years later. Dr. M. remembered meeting me!
There is much interesting research going on at the Institute, including several studies of virus diseases.
After the tour of the laboratories we were given a fine luncheon by the staff and were then photographed with the staff on the front steps. The picture came out better than usual, and we all had the contented look that goes with a full stomach.
In the afternoon Dr. Nobechi and Dr. Grant took me to Nikko to spend Sunday. It is one of the best known show-places of Japan. We arrived in the evening at its splendid tourist hotel and watched the skating by lamplight before going to bed. Sunday morning we visited the three groups of shrines. At a Buddhist shrine two dancing girls in red and white robes did a religious sword dance to music of drum and wind instrument. The shrines are located in wooded valleys and
are most interesting and beautiful. They are made of lacquered wood and are full of color and elaborately carved. There are many stone or bronze lanterns erected as presents.
Perhaps the most attractive feature of Nikko is the rows of ancient cryptomeria trees, with bark and foliage somewhat like those of Sequoia gigantea. In the afternoon we visited a high mountain lake and waterfall. We returned to Tokyo in the evening by fast electric train.
We started Monday with a guest at breakfast. It was Dr. Kusama, a Stanford Graduate who attended San Jose High School to learn English. He is now Professor of Preventive Medicine at Keio University in Tokyo.
In the forenoon we visited the Urban Health Unit, which the I H D is assisting, in the Kiobashi Ward in Tokyo. The piles are being driven for the new building, and in the meanwhile the work is being done in some army barracks set up by the U.S. Red Cross after the earthquake. The staff were gathered together, nearly all returned fellows, and they explained the work. Afterwards they took us to a fine restaurant in the top of a tall building and gave us a fine luncheon, including wild duck and various Japanese foods. Three of the returned nursing fellows were among the hosts.
From there we were to go to the Kitasato Institute of Keio University, but we were delayed because traffic was held up for the Emperor's train. No one was allowed to go near the train, which was on the way to one of his summer places on the sea-shore.
At Kitasato Institute we first had tea with
the distinguished senior members of the staff, Dr. Kitashima, the director, Dr. Hata and Dr. Shiga (the famous ones), and Dr. Miyajima. The latter is a charming person who loaded me down with books and publications. We then went through the Institute, which unfortunately has to support itself by selling biologicals and shows signs of poverty. Also its great men are getting old. I was shown charts which showed that rabies has almost disappeared from Japan since annual vaccination of registered dogs became compulsory.
At about six o'clock we were given a dinner in a Japanese restaurant by the Keio University Group. The president of Keio, Dr. Koizumi, who sat on my right, had called on us at the Foundation in New York in September. Dr. Hata could not come because he has to spend
his nights at the seashore on account of asthma, I believe. Dr. Shiga was there, and he drew a sketch of Fuji and a spray of cherry blossoms and inscribed a Japanese poem to the effect that the spirit of Japan is wild cherry blossoms in the morning sunshine. There were twelve of us in all, not counting about six Geisha girls in brilliant costume. They shifted from place to place, pouring saki and being as interesting as possible when opportunity offered. The attached is the card of one of them with her name in Latin script on the back. The menu included all sorts of wonderful things. We sat without shoes on low cushions on the floor and ate with chop-sticks from trays. One of the
courses was crane soup. One of the condiments was described by Prof. Miyajima as the "entrails of the sea cucumber" and it tasted like it. There were also quail's eggs in soup, yellow-fleshed watermelon grown in hot houses, wonderful large strawberries of delicious flavor, etc-etc. etc. The Japanese menu included two kinds of raw fish and a fine large cooked fish. The last-mentioned was prepared by waitresses kneeling on the floor, for there were no tables.
On the next day, Tuesday the twelfth, we visited the Imperial Hygiene Laboratory, a vast rambling group of buildings with icy halls and stuffy laboratories heated with gas or charcoal. We next visited the Nutrition Laboratory of Dr Saiki, which made a better impression.
Just before luncheon we visited the Director of the Central Sanitary Bureau who asked us for some additional fellowships. We then attended the magnificent luncheon of the Home Minister at his Official Residence. The table decorations were characteristically Japanese, i.e. they were landscapes rather than simply flowers. There was a little mill with a water wheel, trees, flowers, and stones. The food was European style. The ice-cream was shaped to represent Mt Fuji. The menu was specially printed with Japanese and U.S. flags and enclosed in hand painted covers, all different. There must have been 30 persons present. On my right sat the president of the Tokyo Imperial University and on my left Dr. Hata. The Minister read a speech, which was translated, and I replied.
In the afternoon we visited the Imperial University and saw the great library which Mr. J.D. Rockefeller, Jr. built after the earthquake and fire. The librarian presented Dr. Grant and me with pottery models of the library in the form of ash trays. They are large and heavy and I may discard mine before I get home. From there Dr. Miyagawa took us to see some of the medical school buildings and then to a faculty tea in our honor at the Mayeda Memorial Hall. We were again photographed on the steps.
In the evening we again took off our shoes and had a Chinese dinner as guests of the Rockefeller Fellows Club. There were 28 of them, including about seven nurses. We ate black eggs, bird's nest soup, shark fins, and many other weird things.
On our last day in Tokyo, Wednesday, Jan. 13, we had a breakfast guest as usual, Dr. Saiki this time. We then went to Keio University and were shown the Department of Preventive Medicine under Dr. Kusama. It had been built with help from the Division of Medical Education of the R.F. The place looked clean and efficient. We then visited the St. Luke's Medical Center, a huge modern hospital and nursing school. The R.F. helped the school. Miss Tennant will be visiting it next month. We were guests at a luncheon of the Advisory Council of the Med. Center. Baron Sakatani, the Chairman, made an address of welcome to me and gave thanks to the R.F. and I had to reply. The American Ambassador, Mr. Grew, my classmate in the class of
1902 at Harvard, also spoke. After the luncheon we were rushed to the station and departed by fast electric train at 3 p.m. We had sent our baggage to the station in the morning.
The train went through hills and across valleys, sometimes skirting the sea-shore. Mt Fuji towered above us and was a wonderful sight with its snowy slopes.
The next morning, Jan 14, we arrived at Shimonoseki and took a boat for Chozen (Korea). It took all the eight hours of the crossing of the Japan sea to write my diary and sort over the mass of printed matter we had collected. Much of the scientific literature had to go overboard after brief reading.
We landed in Fusan [Pusan] in the evening and walked about the town. We saw many hundreds of pheasants in the shops. Some are shipped to England, I am told. There were other shops full of stuffed birds and animals. Many of the people wore fur caps and ear-muffs and the queer Corean [sic] hat. We left on a fine, standard-gauge train well equipped and over-heated. When we woke up we saw snow covered plains and some mountains. The rivers were frozen and we could see men poling loaded sleds along on the ice just as the Chinese pole boats. There were heavy two wheeled carts pulled by horses and oxen harnessed together, usually a horse between the shafts and three other animals pulling in front. Barbed wire entanglements and pill-boxes and soldiers were in evidence along
the railroad to protect against "bandits."
We reached Mukden, a smoky railroad and manufacturing city with 500,000 inhabitants before dark and came to the Yamato Hotel maintained by the South Manchurian Railway. Before dinner Dr. Grant and I walked about the city. The Russian droshkys are numerous but look ancient and dilapidated. There are also many rickshaws. Delicious roasted chestnuts are for sale, and we munched them as we walked. Afterward we returned to the hotel and had a good dinner. The temperature is below freezing, but warm for this region in January. Tomorrow we shall visit the medical School and then continue our journey toward Peiping.
With much love,
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