chapter  2
30 Pages


BIRTH To reach manhood in this feudal Japan, one had first of all to survive, for the law of natural selection dealt very harshly with the newly born. The severity of the climate and a complete lack of hygiene were responsible for an incalculable number of deaths. Births took place in private, as they still do today in the more remote provinces of Japan. No one appeared to know that a child was being born in the next house for women never cried out with the pains of childbirth,1 perhaps for fear of losing face or of afterwards being considered immodest. Yet a birth was very much an everyday occurrence, married women finding themselves pregnant practically every year; but it was not seemly to let the family or villagers know about it in case the child did not survive the ordeal of childbirth and this was most probably the reason for keeping any imminent births a secret.