Original Thoughts


Last night I was telling students the story of two women claiming the same baby. Frustrated by a lack of evidence the judge tells the two women he will cut the baby in two so they can each have half. One woman says, “Fine!” The other woman says, “No, please don’t kill the baby. Give it to her and let it live.” The wise judge decides that the true mother is the one who would protect the child’s life above all else.

Immediately, one student told me, “Oh, I know this story. It’s about a Japanese man named Oooka Echizen.” The funny thing is I always thought it was a story about the wisdom of Solomon. I don’t have time to research more about the history of this story in Japan and how it came here, but it does post date the arrival of European missionaries; so, my main assumption is that the story did not originate separately.

Oooka Echizen no Kami (大岡越前守), aka, Oooka Tadasuke (大岡忠相), lived from 1677-1751 and was from the Ise (伊勢) area near here. If any readers want to research this before next week, please let me know.


3 Responses to “Original Thoughts”

  1. fightingwindmills Says:

    The concept of “wa” in resolving disputes would predate any arrival of missionaries. I don’t know how to help you research it, besides using google (stay-at-home mom, here). But, in this case the mediator would resolve the dispute in a way that makes neither mother happy. Neither mother “wins” in a western sense of the word when the child gets cut in half.

    This way of dispute resolution caused me so much grief in Japan. I was trying to “win” by having my school acknowledge my contract and let me drive a car and park the car in the school parking lot. They were so worried about “wa” they refused to honor our contract and were apparently not ashamed of it. I was so confused, how could they not honor our contract that said I could drive? Preserving “wa” was more important to them.

    I hope that helps a little. 🙂

  2. びっくり Says:

    Ah, the driving battles. I heard that JETs held a kind of strike about 7 years ago in order to gain driving privileges. My non-JET contract was a little hard to understand in English and Japanese. Everyone tried to tell me I couldn’t drive, but after a few read-throughs and a lot of negotiating, I brought everyone to my way of thinking. The rules (simplified) were:

    1. OK to drive when there is no connection to work.
    2. OK to drive myself to work.
    3. Not OK to drive for other work-related purposes.

    Even though we agreed that the complicated terms could be simplified to this level, nobody could imagine what number 3 entailed. Perhaps driving a school bus or something.

    Definitely there is still a lot of pressure to keep the foreigners off the road, but after my six month long series of trials in getting a license, they will never stop me. Bwa ha ha.

  3. fightingwindmills Says:

    My JET-based contract said those three things, however my school and the city school board didn’t agree with how to deal with my request to drive. They had a lot of other foreigners who were not allowed to drive because their official employer was the school board, so driving to the individual schools would have fallen under #3 in your list. But I was only assigned to one school and my contract was a little different in that I answered to that school’s principal/schedule. So me driving to school set me apart from the other JET ALTs in my city and disturbed the “wa”. It pitted my principal against the school board. For other ALTs “work” was defined as the school board home office but for me “work” was defined as the actual school where I taught. It was all very convoluted.

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