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 older 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. She then became a domestic servant on the recommendation of another Yaeyama migrant friend who lived in the neighborhood. She worked at the house of a Taiwan Electric Power Company (Taiwan denryoku) executive and his mistress, who used to be a geisha girl. The house was located in the Taisho District, which was considered the wealthiest suburb of Taipei at that time. There were two domestic servants: Yamane, who as the newcomer was called the lower maid (shimo jochu), and an another maid, who as an established employee was called the upper maid (kami jochu).

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

Yamane: Well, no. I didn't write in my autobiography, but in fact I worked as a 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 being outside in the rain. 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 upper maid said to me, “wipe their shoes with a cloth.”

I felt so insulted. I didn't come to Taiwan to do such humiliating work. I immediately quit and left the house the next day. I did not want to do this work for just a small amount of money. I did not want to work for someone who looked down on me no matter if he was someone in a privileged position. That was all. I never attempted to work as a domestic servant again.

I wonder how I could know as a young girl… I went to the public job security office to find another job. I found the telephone operator's job there. But it was a rather small office. There were only four operators. The telephone operators exchanged various kinds of information there. I heard about a vacancy for a 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 islanders got such work. Maybe in 1944, some of them got a kind of office work relating to the military industry. But during 1940 or 1941, only the islanders who graduated from middle school were able to get white-collar work.

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