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In Her Own Words: Kimi Yamada, 1907

By: Ardis E. Parshall - January 27, 2009

Kimi Yamada was eleven years old in 1907, and had attended the LDS missionaries’ Sunday School for a year and a half. She was not a member of the Church, and I do not find a record of her ever having been baptized.

The aunt with whom she lived told the missionaries that Kimi knelt in prayer every night and morning, and “is so earnest in her prayers that she will not say good morning or anything else to us before she says her prayers to God.”

Her letter to the Juvenile Instructor was translated by Elder Alma O. Taylor, who explained one part of Kimi’s letter by saying that the little girl had objected to a Methodist teacher’s denial that Joseph Smith had seen God. His diaries — available online at the BYU library — refer to Kimi’s participation in Sunday School, her singing with a small group of girls on special programs, and her glee at a Christmas party given by the elders.

Dear Letter-Box:

I have been going to Sunday School since last year. But I am very sorry that neither my aunt nor mother ever go to Sunday School. Once I started to another church’s Sunday School, but the teacher said that Moses was the only man that had seen God, so I thought they must be wrong, and came back to the Latter-day Saints’ Sunday School.

I hope the Christmas Party this year will be a good one like it was last year, and that we can sing and pray and recite. It makes me happy to think of Christmas.

Your little Japanese friend,

KIMI YAMADA
Tokyo, Japan
Nov. 17, 1907



27 Comments »

  1. Ardis, the scan of the letter is upside-down.

    Comment by Chad Too — January 27, 2009 @ 3:22 pm

  2. Ha! Thanks. I’ll fix that.

    (Much prettier now, right side up.)

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 27, 2009 @ 3:23 pm

  3. No prob, trust me, it happens!

    I don’t know if it will help in your search for her baptismal record or not, but — assuming I’m reading the letter correctly — her full first name is Kimiko. Kimi would be a common diminutive for an 11-year-old girl, though.

    Comment by Chad Too — January 27, 2009 @ 3:31 pm

  4. That’s awesome, Ardis! :)

    Comment by Proud Daughter of Eve — January 27, 2009 @ 4:24 pm

  5. A wonderful little letter. I think Chad Too is right about her name–it certainly ends with “ko”. I trust that Elder Taylor got the rest of the name right, as it appears that “Ki” is a reading for 喜 the first character in her given name.

    Comment by Mark B. — January 27, 2009 @ 4:53 pm

  6. Thanks for this, Ardis.

    The letter remains remarkably readable, even though Japanese has undergone some changes since 1907. I think that the venerable Elder Taylor was adopting what was common practice at the time – to drop the “ko” when anglicizing girls’ names.

    Comment by DCL — January 27, 2009 @ 5:13 pm

  7. This is touching, Ardis. Thanks. It’s amazing what those that age can know – and it’s sad how we tend to forget that and downplay it now.

    I can echo the others about her full name being Kimiko.

    (At least it wasn’t Kaimiko. That would be disturbing.) :)

    Comment by Ray — January 27, 2009 @ 5:23 pm

  8. I’m totally calling him Kaimiko from now on!

    Comment by Tatiana — January 27, 2009 @ 8:25 pm

  9. Ardis, this is a great little letter. Thank you.

    Comment by Maurine — January 27, 2009 @ 8:32 pm

  10. It would be fun to call him Kaimiko, since almost no boys in Japan has a given name ending in “ko”–and poor pity the kid who does end up like that–think “A Boy Named Sue.”

    Nonetheless, we should probably just call him Kaimi-kun and leave it at that.

    Comment by Mark B. — January 28, 2009 @ 7:37 am

  11. So the subject doesn’t agree with the verb! You wanna make something of it?

    Comment by Mark B. — January 28, 2009 @ 7:38 am

  12. “Your little Japanese friend”

    This was very touching. Thanks.

    Comment by Hunter — January 28, 2009 @ 10:19 am

  13. #10 – Mark B. just explained why I said “kaimiko” would be disturbing. Thanks, bro.

    Comment by Ray — January 28, 2009 @ 12:20 pm

  14. Should he be -sensei anyway? Or maybe -dono? ;-)

    Comment by Chad Too — January 28, 2009 @ 12:31 pm

  15. It hit me one beat after I posted the last one: Kaimipono-dono.

    Comment by Chad Too — January 28, 2009 @ 12:32 pm

  16. Good one Chad Too. But I think he’s a -kun.

    Comment by Mark B. — January 28, 2009 @ 5:18 pm

  17. Is one of you going to instruct us non-Japanese-speakers so that we can appreciate the jokes? Please? Or would that spoil it?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 28, 2009 @ 5:21 pm

  18. -ko is feminine when added to names; -kun is masculine. Both denote childhood or familiarity/friendship. You wouldn’t use either for someone of higher social standing.

    Sorry; not very enthralling or complicated.

    Comment by Ray — January 28, 2009 @ 5:55 pm

  19. No, but funny. -sensei I get, but what about -dono?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 28, 2009 @ 6:22 pm

  20. -dono comes from Tono, which generally is translated as “Lord”. It’s not used much in normal conversation, but it still is used in some business correspondences – especially between very powerful people. It is stronger than -san (generic title of respect) and usually slightly weaker than -sama (the honorific used to denote God [Kami-sama] – which, ironically, also is close to Kaimi).

    Hence, Kaimi-sama would be as funny as Kaimiko.

    Comment by Ray — January 28, 2009 @ 8:43 pm

  21. Ha! Are we seeing the birth of a new Bloggernacle legend here?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 28, 2009 @ 9:25 pm

  22. Wouldn’t Kaimi-chan be best of all?

    (Chan is the children’s analog for “-san” which is the general honorific used in most speech. San is generally translated as Mr. or Mrs. or Ms. “Chan” would be used when talking to a little child, so Kaimi-chan would be sort of amusing.)

    I wonder when he’s going to discover this thread.

    Comment by Mark B. — January 28, 2009 @ 9:53 pm

  23. Re: #12.

    Sorry to break it to you, but “Your little Japanese friend” was a complete invention by Brother Taylor. It may well have been an apt description, but Kimiko didn’t write that.

    Comment by Mark B. — January 28, 2009 @ 9:57 pm

  24. Mark’s right. I didn’t look that closely.

    Comment by Ray — January 28, 2009 @ 10:54 pm

  25. Very sweet.

    Comment by The Teacher — January 29, 2009 @ 9:53 am

  26. Forgive us, Ardis. I guess we’re all just goofballs at heart.

    The sense of what to call someone in Japanese honorifics is an art that takes a long time to develop and –for most of us Japanese RMs– a muscle that was once well-toned that we seldom get to exercise anymore.

    …and I still like Kaimipono-dono.

    Comment by Chad Too — January 29, 2009 @ 1:56 pm

  27. You loveable goofballs are welcome to play all you want. I just like sharing the joke.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 29, 2009 @ 2:17 pm

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