Imagine you are parent in 1944 Seoul and it is April, the beginning of the new school year. You are about to send your children to their first day of National School, which was equivalent to elementary school. To allay your anxieties, you may have picked up the newspaper and read this article to learn what to expect, and how to prepare your children for school. But this was Imperial Japan, so your children were going to be indoctrinated into State Shintoism. That meant bowing in the direction of the Imperial Palace every morning, praying in a moment of silence at noon for Imperial Japanese soldiers, and praying to the kamidana miniature Shinto shrines that were set up in the classrooms. The morning and noon prayers were mandatory in Korea, but not in mainland Japan. In addition, there were regular field trips to local shrines.
Textbooks and notebooks were provided free of charge. Free school lunch was provided, consisting of one 157-gram piece of bread, roughly equivalent to 1 and a half bagels, but parents were apparently expected to supplement it with food brought from home. Each piece of bread cost 13 sen, or roughly 2 to 3 US Dollars today.
In addition to memorizing their own names and home addresses, the children were also expected to memorize the names of their own Patriotic Groups, which would have been something like ‘the Fourth Patriotic Group of the Fifth Team of Sajik-dong’.
Patriotic Groups (JP: aikoku-han, KR: aeguk-ban, 愛國班) were neighborhood cells which functioned as the local arm of the Korean Federation of National Power (国民総力朝鮮連盟, 국민총력조선연맹), the single ruling party of colonial Korea. Every Korean living in Korea belonged to a Patriotic Group. It typically consisted of a few households, led by a Patriotic Group leader, who normally acted as a mini-tyrant micromanaging the lives of everyone within the Patriotic Group. That included things like rationing food and goods, enforcing mandatory State Shinto prayer times and shrine visits, ‘volunteering’ laborers upon the colonial government’s request, arranging marriages, holding mandatory Japanese language classes, spying on ‘ideological criminals’, etc.
Gyeongseong Ilbo (Keijo Nippo) April 1, 1944
Discipline for school children
Be strong, honest and cheerful!
With the joyous first day of school for the children finally approaching, we asked teacher Ms. Nakajima Ei of Seoul Sakurai National School about how to prepare the children at home.
☆ … Discipline for children starting school
The three desirable qualities in children starting school are (a) a strong body, (b) an honest and cheerful nature, and (c) orderly discipline. However, not all children are educated in a uniformly excellent manner at home, so if your child lacks even one of these three qualities, please take the opportunity to correct his or her shortcomings as soon as possible.
In the area of child discipline, above all, we must instill in our children the education and awareness of being Imperial subjects from the time they are children in order to raise them to become capable citizens who will fight decisive battles. To this end, we should remind them of the dignity of the Imperial family and cultivate a spirit of reverence for the gods and the ancestors, so that they will not neglect daily routine national disciplines such as the Kyūjō Yōhai ritual [7 a.m. bowing several times in the direction of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo while standing], a Moment of Silence at noon [to honor Imperial Japanese soldiers], visiting Shinto shrines, and worshipping at the kamidana (miniature Shinto shrines inside rooms).
Let’s also make it a habit to change the carefree lifestyle of the past and have our children wake up early, go to bed early, and go to and from school properly according to the rules. We must also teach them how to greet people in the morning and evening and how to respond to adults in a courteous manner. In addition, although it may seem trivial, it is important to give your child the confidence to do what he or she can do on his or her own without help from adults, so that he or she can pay for school supplies on his or her own after entering school.
☆ … Preparation at home before school starts
There is no need to teach your child various complicated things, but it is a good idea to have your child practice reading and writing his/her own name, learn the names of his/her parents, their address, and their patriotic group.
☆ … School supplies and other belongings
The school will take care of the necessary school supplies such as textbooks and notebooks, so there is no need to worry. It is advisable to avoid new or extravagant clothing, and to wear only what you have on hand or recycled clothing. It is also a good idea to get into the habit of taking good care of things such as pencils and paper.
☆ … Correcting children’s selfishness, pettiness, bashfulness, nervousness, etc.
There are many causes for these problems, and it is difficult to say exactly what they are, but the National School is a training ground to build a character which is appropriate for Imperial subjects. Of course, selfishness is unacceptable, but petulance, bashfulness, and nervousness will gradually improve as they spend their lives together as a group at school. If parents consult with their children’s teachers and take appropriate measures, then it will be possible to correct their children’s behavior.
To this end, please encourage your children to think of school as an interesting and fun place when you drop them off and pick them up in the morning and evening. When they come home from school, be sure to talk to them about their day at school, even if it is just to review the day’s activities.
In short, the home and school should work together to help children grow up brightly and strongly, and to teach them to have the determination to win the war as little national people of Japan fighting decisive battles.
The new school year will see the start of school lunches for the children of the National Schools. For the time being, each student will be given one loaf of bread of 42 monme (157.5 g) each until the cooking facilities have been set up. This is equivalent to about 7 shaku (70 ml) of brown rice. This is an expression of concern by the parents determined not to let the growing little national people feel hunger. However, there are apparently some families where the adults take advantage of the fact that 13 sen was paid to buy bread for the children, by eating up the rice that they used to provide in their children’s lunch boxes.