Four Seasons
The Wonderful World of Japanese Writers of English

Basic - Intermediate

Here's an essay, story, and poem written originally in English.

"Double Beds"
by Ono Satoyo

Pre-Reading Exercise

Reading Without A Dictionary:
Vocabulary Build-Up
The underlined words in the following sentences are from the essay "Double Beds."
Try to understand what these words mean without consulting a dictionary.
Click to find out if you are right or wrong.

1. This is a difficult exercise, so please do your best.
Difficult is the same as ...
a. easy
b. not easy
c. different

2. A preoccupation of Indians is philosophy.
Preoccupation means ...
a. to study all day but not at night
b. to think that God is very bad
c. to be very interested in something

3. The plane is expected to arrive late.
Expected, here, means the plane ...
a. will not be in time
b. will come in early
c. will come once only

4. Are you aware that Iraq, after Saudi Arabia, has the most oil in the world?
Aware means you ...
a. want some
b. like oil
c. know about it

5. There's not much rain this year and so the price of rice is unlikely to go down.
Unlikely is the same as ...
a. will not happen
b. might happen
c. will happen 100%

6. My wife and I have an agreement: if we get a divorce she will keep the dog.
Agreement means ...
a. understanding
b. fighting
c. to marry again

7. He has given up drinking altogether.
Altogether means ...
a. 0%
b. 50%
c. 100%

8. The writer says having too much intimacy is not good for a marriage.
Intimacy means ...
a. going to the doctor's
b. having sex
c. meeting on Saturdays

9. Paul and Joan have a good relationship.
Relationship, here, means they ...
a. meet once a month
b. fight often
c. get along

Double Beds
by Ono Satoyo

One of the things in America that I found difficult to understand was their preoccupation with double beds. In the U.S.A. it seems to be expected that a couple will sleep in a double bed. But that must surely make it difficult for either partner to get a good night's sleep. When one person turns in the bed, the other person must be aware of it. Also, if one person has a cold, the other person will probably catch it. And if one partner snores, then the other partner is unlikely to get a good night's sleep.

When a couple is newly married, then I can understand their wanting to sleep in a double bed, but after many years of marriage it is difficult to understand how they would want to be in such close contact all the time.

In the case of our own marriage, my husband and I sleep in separate rooms in our house in Japan. We made this agreement before we got married, some twenty years ago. When I told my friends about this agreement, they said it felt very cold and unfriendly and urged us to give up the idea. When we didn't have any children for three years, my friends thought that this must surely be the reason. They urged us to be more friendly as a couple and to sleep in the same room. When eventually we did have two children, our friends dropped the subject altogether.

Sometimes my friends ask me if I don't get lonely. I don't, but perhaps it is just a matter of habit. I think having too much intimacy is not good for a marriage and that it is necessary to have a private room so that each one can be his or her self. I also think it is important to maintain a certain amount of distance from each other. If there is this distance or privacy, then it is more likely the relationship will remain fresh and meaningful, and the couple will be able to keep their youthful feelings even after living together over a long period.

Some people worry that this might make it easier for a married couple to be unfaithful and more likely to have extra-marital affairs. But I think the danger is far greater if the couple is thrown together too much and feels the need to escape from each other.

There is after all a well-known Japanese proverb that says that too much of anything is a bad thing.



1. The author mentions one preoccupation of Americans. What would you say is a preoccupation of the Japanese?

2. What was the understanding between the author and her husband prior to their marriage?

3.Which do you prefer, beds or futon? Why?

4. What are two disadvantages of sharing a double bed? What are two advantages?

The One-Paragraph Essay 1
Write a one-paragraph essay on any one:

1. Bread or Rice?
2. University and High School Lifestyles

3. Rock or Classical Music?

Model 1

Japanese & American Students

American college or university students study much harder than their Japanese counterparts. In Japan, students study hard to enter a good university. But once they have passed the entrance examination, they do not have to study hard. The reason is that in Japan students are not often failed and seldom have to give up college or university because they cannot keep up with their studies. In comparison, American students can easily enter university, but it is not easy to graduate since students are given regular research and study projects in addition to examinations. So it is not surprising that Japanese students do not work as hard as their American peers.

-Nagakusa Miyuki

The One-Paragraph Essay 2
Write a one-paragraph essay on any one:

1.School uniform

2.Why I like/dislike the zoo

3. Apartheid

Model 2

"Miss Contest"

I am against "Miss Contest". I think that it is wrong to bring lots of young women together and then compare their height, weight, length of legs, skin color, ad nauseum as though they are cows or cars. I can accept the idea of a "Cow Contest" or a "Car Contest". But women are human beings! Every woman, man, and child in the world is unique, and therefore beautiful! I hope people everywhere will realize this, and there will be no "Miss Contest" in future.

- Korenaga Yuko

Ono Satoyo was born in Hyogo prefecture and is a graduate of Kyoto Women's College. For several years she taught English at Kyoto Junior College of Art, before founding the Kampuchea Refugees Relief Program (K.R.R.P.). In 1982, Ono visited the U.S.A. for a year. She wrote several essays about her impression of the American way of life, which were published in local newspapers. A very careful person with regard to her diet, she eats only brown rice and is almost a vegetarian. She is married and has two children.
"Double Beds" by Ono Satoyo is from Four Seasons: An Anthology of Original Writing by Japanese Writers in English edited by John Pereira and the late Prof. Eugene O'Reilly and published in 1984.