Annie Barrows Shepley Omori to Jane Addams, August 1923

↑Yu Rin En
House of Friendly Neighbors

Tel. Yotsuya 37.

Dear Miss [Addams],

We are glad from our hearts that you are here but anxious about you in our damp climate.

Perhaps it may amuse you to hear something about our settlement. There are many being started now in Tokyo, but the difficulty of finding good workers is nearly as great as when we began 15 years ago.

Japan is so very different [page 2] from our country in tradition and education, & the enthusiasm for humanity which is created in a Christian country is rarely found here. This is not saying that great thoughts & hearts are not found here -- they are -- but their feeling is only very slightly translated into social service. I have plunged at once into our initial difficulty -- workers who can understand our aims. [page 3] The second is the burden of most settlements, lack of a proper support.

Fifteen years ago my husband helped me to start a little place near where we were living. The floor space was probably no longer than that of the room you are in. We built the tiniest of playgrounds and waited for something to happen. My belief was firm that such work must grow out of the needs of the neighborhood and we did not yet know when our neighborhood.

Begun in that way, there was no special thought [page 4] of sudden & enormous growth -- and no thought at all of financial support. We thought that without money much could be done. But in five years much had happened. My husband died in a year after the Yu Rin En was begun -- in America and I had come back here to do alone, as far as I could, some of the things he wanted done. At the end of [page 5] five years, we were so impossibly crowded that we had to enlarge ourselves or die. Even then it seemed to be too valuable a work to lose. So with no money & few friends (for social work was not at all known or approved of) we began to build.

It is too long to write but if you wish to know about us read "Twenty Years of Hull House." Those struggles are so like our [page 6] own!

Last year we had a political struggle and put down some plans for a Geisha-machi our bad politicians were determined to have. This year we our energies are all turned towards beginning a fund -- we have two -- even three buildings -- we have 30,000 readers yearly in our little library and we [page 7] all work every minute & seem to get very little done!

Merely to see you, who were the pioneer at home, as I have been here, will be a great pleasure, and I earnestly hope that before long you can get into a comfortable car & come and see us.

There will be very [page 8] little to see, compared with almost any settlement at home, but conditions are different here and we stand to change the outlook of many.

Our lesson we have learned that [has] been taught us by the pressing upon us of great masses of people -- we must work towards community service. But that is [page 9] as yet far off, while [our] debts are ever-present!

They have just brought me this paper -- but I have come to the end of your time and patience, I think.

Our wonderful head worker, Mr. Matsuda, a man with vision, went to America about four years ago and spent a year in settlements beginning with Hull House. He wants to see you too. With apologies for great length and little matter

I am Yours sincerely

Annie Shepley Omori