The Mainichi Newspaper has published the column "Onna no Kimochi" (literally translated as Women's Feelings) for over half a century. This column is unique because it's not written by professional writers but by ordinary women.
Each day, we receive over 10 letters via mail, fax, and e-mail; out of these, we select and print one in each day's newspaper.
The column is small, only about 600 Japanese characters, but it is one of the most popular columns in the paper; many readers say that "Onna no Kimochi" is the very first thing they read in the paper each morning. We've also heard that mothers and their daughters both read the column.
The topics in the column can be anything. Most of them are heart-felt letters about daily lives from a particular perspective such as raising children, the hardship and joy of taking care of the elderly, various issues between couples and in-laws, and the hopes and the problems of old age. The themes are often universal but you get to see, through the column, how people's lives are affected by social and economic changes, such as recession, company restructuring, pension and medical issues, and natural disasters.
One of the most recent letters printed in the column that has received a lot of attention from our readers was "Ano Natsu (That Summer)", written by a 91-year-old retired doctor. In the summer of 1942, she received the ashes of her husband, killed in battle, and decided to become a medical doctor to support herself and her young children. After 64 years of experiences, she wrote about these unforgettable moments. Even after sixty some years, women still have their own memories of the war carved deeply in their memory and want to share their message. There are also people who want to hear the message from different generations. It seems that those messages are communicated through the column.
"Onna no Kimochi" began in 1954. Nearly 10 years after the war ended, the new constitution provided gender equality. However, women rarely wrote back then, and it wasn't easy for women to write for a public audience. A year and a half after the column started, at a gathering of people who had sent in letters, a woman said that her husband even talked about divorce after her story appeared in the paper. The reason he gave her was she was "being insolent" for writing complaints about her husband. After the column had become "a window into society" for women who were locked in the kitchen, women's self discovery and personal expression continued to build "Onna no Kimochi." We take pride in the fact that this column has become a living part of postwar history.
In the Kansai area (Osaka, Kobe, Nara, Kyoto, Shiga, etc.,), people have organized support groups called "Onna no Kimochi Pen Groups." After sending letters to the newspaper, women found that they wanted further interaction, and the readers voluntarily organized groups in 1956, two years after the column started. The 300 plus members not only send letters to the paper but also have meetings and collect writings that are gathered and published several times a year.
In recent years, "Onna no Kimochi" has opened its door to men, and their letters are printed under the heading "Otoko (Men) no Kimochi" in the same column. Looking at both the number and the quality of writing, women are
well ahead of the men; by far, women still play the leading role in the column. Personal computers and the Internet have made it easy for individuals to freely express themselves in public. However, this has not changed the significance and the role of "Onna no Kimochi." We believe that the column provides an invaluable sense of security for women in that they can read the thoughts and feelings of other women expressed in short letters anytime they open the newspaper.
(Mainichi Newspaper reporter)