Bodies and Structures 2.0: Deep-Mapping Modern East Asian History

Dreaming of the Modern Living in the Colony

Yamane Keiko was attracted by the "civilized life of Taipei" in the stories of her senior friends who had previously worked in Taiwan. Although she was aware that most female Yaeyama migrants became domestic servants, she refused to be average. Hence, her sister, who had been already working as a domestic servant in Taipei, introduced her to another kind of job, which was an assistant worker at a confectionary factory.

She was not satisfied at all with this first job. While she was "running sweet bean jelly (yokan) into moulds and stuffing cakes (manju) with sweet beans," she "cried everyday" and told herself, "I did not come to Taiwan to do this!"

She only worked at the confectionary factory for a couple months, and then became a domestic servant with the recommendation by another Yaeyama migrant friend living in the neighborhood. She worked at the household of an executive of Taiwan Electric Power Company (Taiwan denryoku) and his mistress, who used to be a geisha girl. The house was located in Taisho District, which was considered the wealthiest suburb of Taipei at that time. There were two domestic servants: the new comer was called the second-class (shimo jochu) and the old comer was called the first-class (kami jochu).

The author: You went to Taiwan as the domestic servant?

Yamane: Well, no. I didn't write in my auto-biography, but in fact I worked as the domestic servant for only two months.

There was another domestic servant, who was called "kami jochu."

But one day, it was rainy; the master and his wife came back from outside in shower. When they got back, we went to the entrance hall to welcome them. Then I noticed that they held out their feet towards us. The old-comer servant said to me, "wipe their shoes with a cloth."

I felt so insulted. I didn't come to Taiwan to do such humiliating work. Then, I immediately quit the job and got out from the house next day. I did not want to do for just a small amount of money. I did not want to work for someone who was looking down on me no matter if he were someone in the privileged position. That was all. I never attempted to work as a domestic servant since then.

I wonder how I could know as a young girl… I soon went to the public job security office to find another job then. I found the telephone operator's job there. But it was rather small office. There were only four of the operators. The telephone operators exchanged various kinds of information there. I heard about a vacancy of the telephone operator at Taihoku Imperial University Hospital, and transferred. In the end, I worked there until returning home.

The author: Were you satisfied with the new work?

Yamane: Yes. It was a kind of white-collar work. At that time, few of the islanders got such work. Maybe in 1944, some of them got a kind of office work relating to military industry. But during 1940 or 1941, only the islanders who graduated from middle school were able to get white-collared work.

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