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Glimpses of an Unfamiliar Japan by Lafcadio Hearn

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In the Japanese tongue, Ho-ke-kyo; in Sanscrit, Saddharma Pundarika: 'The
Sutra of the Lotus of the Good Law,' the divine book of the Nichiren
sect. Very brief, indeed, is my little feathered Buddhist's confession
of faith--only the sacred name reiterated over and over again like a
litany, with liquid bursts of twittering between.


Only this one phrase, but how deliciously he utters it! With what slow
amorous ecstasy he dwells upon its golden syllables! It hath been
written: 'He who shall keep, read, teach, or write this Sutra shall
obtain eight hundred good qualities of the Eye. He shall see the whole
Triple Universe down to the great hell Aviki, and up to the extremity of
existence. He shall obtain twelve hundred good qualities of the Ear. He
shall hear all sounds in the Triple Universe,--sounds of gods, goblins,
demons, and beings not human.'


A single word only. But it is also written: 'He who shall joyfully
accept but a single word from this Sutra, incalculably greater shall be
his merit than the merit of one who should supply all beings in the four
hundred thousand Asankhyeyas of worlds with all the necessaries for


Always he makes a reverent little pause after uttering it and before
shrilling out his ecstatic warble--his bird-hymn of praise. First the
warble; then a pause of about five seconds; then a slow, sweet, solemn
utterance of the holy name in a tone as of meditative wonder; then
another pause; then another wild, rich, passionate warble. Could you see
him, you would marvel how so powerful and penetrating a soprano could
ripple from so minute a throat; for he is one of the very tiniest of all
feathered singers, yet his chant can be heard far across the broad
river, and children going to school pause daily on the bridge, a whole
cho away, to listen to his song. And uncomely withal: a neutral-tinted
mite, almost lost in his immense box-cage of hinoki wood, darkened with
paper screens over its little wire-grated windows, for he loves the

Delicate he is and exacting even to tyranny. All his diet must be
laboriously triturated and weighed in scales, and measured out to him at
precisely the same hour each day. It demands all possible care and
attention merely to keep him alive. He is precious, nevertheless. 'Far
and from the uttermost coasts is the price of him,' so rare he is.
Indeed, I could not have afforded to buy him. He was sent to me by one
of the sweetest ladies in Japan, daughter of the governor of Izumo,
who, thinking the foreign teacher might feel lonesome during a brief
illness, made him the exquisite gift of this dainty creature.


The clapping of hands has ceased; the toil of the day begins;
continually louder and louder the pattering of geta over the bridge. It
is a sound never to be forgotten, this pattering of geta over the Ohashi
-rapid, merry, musical, like the sound of an enormous dance; and a
dance it veritably is. The whole population is moving on tiptoe, and the
multitudinous twinkling of feet over the verge of the sunlit roadway is
an astonishment. All those feet are small, symmetrical--light as the
feet of figures painted on Greek vases--and the step is always taken
toes first; indeed, with geta it could be taken no other way, for the
heel touches neither the geta nor the ground, and the foot is tilted
forward by the wedge-shaped wooden sole. Merely to stand upon a pair of
geta is difficult for one unaccustomed to their use, yet you see
Japanese children running at full speed in geta with soles at least
three inches high, held to the foot only by a forestrap fastened between
the great toe and the other toes, and they never trip and the geta never
falls off. Still more curious is the spectacle of men walking in bokkuri
or takageta, a wooden sole with wooden supports at least five inches
high fitted underneath it so as to make the whole structure seem the
lacquered model of a wooden bench. But the wearers stride as freely as
if they had nothing upon their feet.

Now children begin to appear, hurrying to school. The undulation of the
wide sleeves of their pretty speckled robes, as they run, looks
precisely like a fluttering of extraordinary butterflies. The junks
spread their great white or yellow wings, and the funnels of the little
steamers which have been slumbering all night by the wharves begin to

One of the tiny lake steamers lying at the opposite wharf has just
opened its steam-throat to utter the most unimaginable, piercing,
desperate, furious howl. When that cry is heard everybody laughs. The
other little steamboats utter only plaintive mooings, but unto this
particular vessel--newly built and launched by a rival company--there
has been given a voice expressive to the most amazing degree of reckless
hostility and savage defiance. The good people of Matsue, upon hearing
its voice for the first time, gave it forthwith a new and just name--
Okami-Maru. 'Maru' signifies a steamship. 'Okami' signifies a wolf.


A very curious little object now comes slowly floating down the river,
and I do not think that you could possibly guess what it is.

The Hotoke, or Buddhas, and the beneficent Kami are not the only
divinities worshipped by the Japanese of the poorer classes. The deities
of evil, or at least some of them, are duly propitiated upon certain
occasions, and requited by offerings whenever they graciously vouchsafe
to inflict a temporary ill instead of an irremediable misfortune. [4]
(After all, this is no more irrational than the thanksgiving prayer at
the close of the hurricane season in the West Indies, after the
destruction by storm of twenty-two thousand lives.) So men sometimes
pray to Ekibiogami, the God of Pestilence, and to Kaze-no-Kami, the God
of Wind and of Bad Colds, and to Hoso-no-Kami, the God of Smallpox, and
to divers evil genii.

Now when a person is certainly going to get well of smallpox a feast is
given to the Hoso-no-Kami, much as a feast is given to the Fox-God when
a possessing fox has promised to allow himself to be cast out. Upon a
sando-wara, or small straw mat, such as is used to close the end of a
rice-bale, one or more kawarake, or small earthenware vessels, are
placed. These are filled with a preparation of rice and red beans,
called adzukimeshi, whereof both Inari-Sama and Hoso-no-Kami are
supposed to be very fond. Little bamboo wands with gohei (paper
cuttings) fastened to them are then planted either in the mat or in the
adzukimeshi, and the colour of these gohei must be red. (Be it observed
that the gohei of other Kami are always white.) This offering is then
either suspended to a tree, or set afloat in some running stream at a
considerable distance from the home of the convalescent. This is called
'seeing the God off.'


The long white bridge with its pillars of iron is recognisably modern.
It was, in fact, opened to the public only last spring with great
ceremony. According to some most ancient custom, when a new bridge has
been built the first persons to pass over it must be the happiest of the
community. So the authorities of Matsue sought for the happiest folk,
and selected two aged men who had both been married for more than half a
century, and who had had not less than twelve children, and had never
lost any of them. These good patriarchs first crossed the bridge,
accompanied by their venerable wives, and followed by their grown-up
children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, amidst a great clamour
of rejoicing, the showering of fireworks, and the firing of cannon.

But the ancient bridge so recently replaced by this structure was much
more picturesque, curving across the flood and supported upon
multitudinous feet, like a long-legged centipede of the innocuous kind.
For three hundred years it had stood over the stream firmly and well,
and it had its particular tradition.

When Horio Yoshiharu, the great general who became daimyo of Izumo in
the Keicho era, first undertook to put a bridge over the mouth of this
river, the builders laboured in vain; for there appeared to be no solid
bottom for the pillars of the bridge to rest upon. Millions of great
stones were cast into the river to no purpose, for the work constructed
by day was swept away or swallowed up by night. Nevertheless, at last
the bridge was built, but the pillars began to sink soon after it was
finished; then a flood carried half of it away and as often as it was
repaired so often it was wrecked. Then a human sacrifice was made to
appease the vexed spirits of the flood. A man was buried alive in the
river-bed below the place of the middle pillar, where the current is
most treacherous, and thereafter the bridge remained immovable for three
hundred years.

This victim was one Gensuke, who had lived in the street Saikamachi; for
it had been determined that the first man who should cross the bridge
wearing hakama without a machi [5] should be put under the bridge; and
Gensuke sought to pass over not having a machi in his hakama, so they
sacrificed him Wherefore the midmost pillar of the bridge was for three
hundred years called by his name--Gensuke-bashira. It is averred that
upon moonless nights a ghostly fire flitted about that pillar--always
in the dead watch hour between two and three; and the colour of the
light was red, though I am assured that in Japan, as in other lands, the
fires of the dead are most often blue.


Now some say that Gensuke was not the name of a man, but the name of an
era, corrupted by local dialect into the semblance of a personal
appellation. Yet so profoundly is the legend believed, that when the new
bridge was being built thousands of country folk were afraid to come to
town; for a rumour arose that a new victim was needed, who was to be
chosen from among them, and that it had been determined to make the
choice from those who still wore their hair in queues after the ancient
manner. Wherefore hundreds of aged men cut off their queues. Then
another rumour was circulated to the effect that the police had been
secretly instructed to seize the one-thousandth person of those who
crossed the new bridge the first day, and to treat him after the manner
of Gensuke. And at the time of the great festival of the Rice-God, when
the city is usually thronged by farmers coming to worship at the many
shrines of Inari this year there came but few; and the loss to local
commerce was estimated at several thousand yen.

The vapours have vanished, sharply revealing a beautiful little islet in
the lake, lying scarcely half a mile away--a low, narrow strip of land
with a Shinto shrine upon it, shadowed by giant pines; not pines like
ours, but huge, gnarled, shaggy, tortuous shapes, vast-reaching like
ancient oaks. Through a glass one can easily discern a torii, and before
it two symbolic lions of stone (Kara-shishi), one with its head broken
off, doubtless by its having been overturned and dashed about by heavy
waves during some great storm. This islet is sacred to Benten, the
Goddess of Eloquence and Beauty, wherefore it is called Benten-no-shima.
But it is more commonly called Yomega-shima, or 'The Island of the Young
Wife,' by reason of a legend. It is said that it arose in one night,
noiselessly as a dream, bearing up from the depths of the lake the body
of a drowned woman who had been very lovely, very pious, and very
unhappy. The people, deeming this a sign from heaven, consecrated the
islet to Benten, and thereon built a shrine unto her, planted trees
about it, set a torii before it, and made a rampart about it with great
curiously-shaped stones; and there they buried the drowned woman.

Now the sky is blue down to the horizon, the air is a caress of spring.
I go forth to wander through the queer old city.


I perceive that upon the sliding doors, or immediately above the
principal entrance of nearly every house, are pasted oblong white papers
bearing ideographic inscriptions; and overhanging every threshold I see
the sacred emblem of Shinto, the little rice-straw rope with its long
fringe of pendent stalks. The white papers at once interest me; for they
are ofuda, or holy texts and charms, of which I am a devout collector.
Nearly all are from temples in Matsue or its vicinity; and the Buddhist
ones indicate by the sacred words upon them to what particular shu or
sect, the family belong--for nearly every soul in this community
professes some form of Buddhism as well as the all-dominant and more
ancient faith of Shinto. And even one quite ignorant of Japanese
ideographs can nearly always distinguish at a glance the formula of the
great Nichiren sect from the peculiar appearance of the column of
characters composing it, all bristling with long sharp points and
banneret zigzags, like an army; the famous text Namu-myo-ho-ren-gekyo
inscribed of old upon the flag of the great captain Kato Kiyomasa, the
extirpator of Spanish Christianity, the glorious vir ter execrandus of
the Jesuits. Any pilgrim belonging to this sect has the right to call at
whatever door bears the above formula and ask for alms or food.

But by far the greater number of the ofuda are Shinto Upon almost every
door there is one ofuda especially likely to attract the attention of a
stranger, because at the foot of the column of ideographs composing its
text there are two small figures of foxes, a black and a white fox,
facing each other in a sitting posture, each with a little bunch of
rice-straw in its mouth, instead of the more usual emblematic key. These
ofuda are from the great Inari temple of Oshiroyama, [6] within the
castle grounds, and are charms against fire. They represent, indeed, the
only form of assurance against fire yet known in Matsue, so far, at
least, as wooden dwellings are concerned. And although a single spark
and a high wind are sufficient in combination to obliterate a larger
city in one day, great fires are unknown in Matsue, and small ones are
of rare occurrence.

The charm is peculiar to the city; and of the Inari in question this
tradition exists:

When Naomasu, the grandson of Iyeyasu, first came to Matsue to rule the
province, there entered into his presence a beautiful boy, who said: 'I
came hither from the home of your august father in Echizen, to protect
you from all harm. But I have no dwelling-place, and am staying
therefore at the Buddhist temple of Fu-mon-in. Now if you will make for
me a dwelling within the castle grounds, I will protect from fire the
buildings there and the houses of the city, and your other residence
likewise which is in the capital. For I am Inari Shinyemon.' With these
words he vanished from sight. Therefore Naomasu dedicated to him the
great temple which still stands in the castle grounds, surrounded by one
thousand foxes of stone.


I now turn into a narrow little street, which, although so ancient that
its dwarfed two-story houses have the look of things grown up from the
ground, is called the Street of the New Timber. New the timber may have
been one hundred and fifty years ago; but the tints of the structures
would ravish an artist--the sombre ashen tones of the woodwork, the
furry browns of old thatch, ribbed and patched and edged with the warm
soft green of those velvety herbs and mosses which flourish upon
Japanesese roofs.

However, the perspective of the street frames in a vision more
surprising than any details of its mouldering homes. Between very lofty
bamboo poles, higher than any of the dwellings, and planted on both
sides of the street in lines, extraordinary black nets are stretched,
like prodigious cobwebs against the sky, evoking sudden memories of
those monster spiders which figure in Japanese mythology and in the
picture-books of the old artists. But these are only fishing-nets of
silken thread; and this is the street of the fishermen. I take my way to
the great bridge.


A stupendous ghost!

Looking eastward from the great bridge over those sharply beautiful
mountains, green and blue, which tooth the horizon, I see a glorious
spectre towering to the sky. Its base is effaced by far mists: out of
the air the thing would seem to have shaped itself--a phantom cone,
diaphanously grey below, vaporously white above, with a dream of
perpetual snow--the mighty mountain of Daisen.

At the first approach of winter it will in one night become all blanched
from foot to crest; and then its snowy pyramid so much resembles that
Sacred Mountain, often compared by poets to a white inverted fan, half
opened, hanging in the sky, that it is called Izumo-Fuji, 'the Fuji of
Izumo.' But it is really in Hoki, not in Izumo, though it cannot be seen
from any part of Hoki to such advantage as from here. It is the one
sublime spectacle of this charming land; but it is visible only when the
air is very pure. Many are the marvellous legends related concerning it,
and somewhere upon its mysterious summit the Tengu are believed to


At the farther end of the bridge, close to the wharf where the little
steamboats are, is a very small Jizo temple (Jizo-do). Here are kept
many bronze drags; and whenever anyone has been drowned and the body not
recovered, these are borrowed from the little temple and the river is
dragged. If the body be thus found, a new drag must be presented to the

From here, half a mile southward to the great Shinto temple of Tenjin,
deity of scholarship and calligraphy, broadly stretches Tenjinmachi, the
Street of the Rich Merchants, all draped on either side with dark blue
hangings, over which undulate with every windy palpitation from the lake
white wondrous ideographs, which are names and signs, while down the
wide way, in white perspective, diminishes a long line of telegraph

Beyond the temple of Tenjin the city is again divided by a river, the
Shindotegawa, over which arches the bridge Tenjin-bashi. Again beyond
this other large quarters extend to the hills and curve along the lake
shore. But in the space between the two rivers is the richest and
busiest life of the city, and also the vast and curious quarter of the
temples. In this islanded district are likewise the theatres, and the
place where wrestling-matches are held, and most of the resorts of

Parallel with Tenjinmachi runs the great street of the Buddhist temples,
or Teramachi, of which the eastern side is one unbroken succession of
temples--a solid front of court walls tile-capped, with imposing
gateways at regular intervals. Above this long stretch of tile-capped
wall rise the beautiful tilted massive lines of grey-blue temple roofs
against the sky. Here all the sects dwell side by side in harmony--
Nichirenshu, Shingon-shu, Zen-shu, Tendai-shu, even that Shin-shu,
unpopular in Izumo because those who follow its teaching strictly must
not worship the Kami. Behind each temple court there is a cemetery, or
hakaba; and eastward beyond these are other temples, and beyond them yet
others--masses of Buddhist architecture mixed with shreds of gardens
and miniature homesteads, a huge labyrinth of mouldering courts and
fragments of streets.

To-day, as usual, I find I can pass a few hours very profitably in
visiting the temples; in looking at the ancient images seated within the
cups of golden lotus-flowers under their aureoles of gold; in buying
curious mamori; in examining the sculptures of the cemeteries, where I
can nearly always find some dreaming Kwannon or smiling Jizo well worth
the visit.

The great courts of Buddhist temples are places of rare interest for one
who loves to watch the life of the people; for these have been for
unremembered centuries the playing-places of the children. Generations
of happy infants have been amused in them. All the nurses, and little
girls who carry tiny brothers or sisters upon their backs, go thither
every morning that the sun shines; hundreds of children join them; and
they play at strange, funny games--'Onigokko,' or the game of Devil,
'Kage-Oni,' which signifies the Shadow and the Demon, and
'Mekusangokko,' which is a sort of 'blindman's buff.'

Also, during the long summer evenings, these temples are wrestling-
grounds, free to all who love wrestling; and in many of them there is a
dohyo-ba, or wrestling-ring. Robust young labourers and sinewy artisans
come to these courts to test their strength after the day's tasks are
done, and here the fame of more than one now noted wrestler was first
made. When a youth has shown himself able to overmatch at wrestling all
others in his own district, he is challenged by champions of other
districts; and if he can overcome these also, he may hope eventually to
become a skilled and popular professional wrestler.

It is also in the temple courts that the sacred dances are performed and
that public speeches are made. It is in the temple courts, too, that the
most curious toys are sold, on the occasion of the great holidays--toys
most of which have a religious signification. There are grand old trees,
and ponds full of tame fish, which put up their heads to beg for food
when your shadow falls upon the water. The holy lotus is cultivated

'Though growing in the foulest slime, the flower remains pure and

'And the soul of him who remains ever pure in the midst of temptation is
likened unto the lotus.

'Therefore is the lotus carven or painted upon the furniture of temples;
therefore also does it appear in allthe representations of our Lord

'In Paradise the blessed shall sit at ease enthroned upon the cups of
golden lotus-flowers.' [7]

A bugle-call rings through the quaint street; and round the corner of
the last temple come marching a troop of handsome young riflemen,
uniformed somewhat like French light infantry, marching by fours so
perfectly that all the gaitered legs move as if belonging to a single
body, and every sword-bayonet catches the sun at exactly the same angle,
as the column wheels into view. These are the students of the Shihan-
Gakko, the College of Teachers, performing their daily military
exercises. Their professors give them lectures upon the microscopic
study of cellular tissues, upon the segregation of developing nerve
structure, upon spectrum analysis, upon the evolution of the colour
sense, and upon the cultivation of bacteria in glycerine infusions. And
they are none the less modest and knightly in manner for all their
modern knowledge, nor the less reverentially devoted to their dear old
fathers and mothers whose ideas were shaped in the era of feudalism.


Here come a band of pilgrims, with yellow straw overcoats, 'rain-coats'
(mino), and enormous yellow straw hats, mushroom-shaped, of which the
down-curving rim partly hides the face. All carry staffs, and wear their
robes well girded up so as to leave free the lower limbs, which are
inclosed in white cotton leggings of a peculiar and indescribable kind.
Precisely the same sort of costume was worn by the same class of
travellers many centuries ago; and just as you now see them trooping by
-whole families wandering together, the pilgrim child clinging to the
father's hands--so may you see them pass in quaint procession across
the faded pages of Japanese picture-books a hundred years old.

At intervals they halt before some shop-front to look at the many
curious things which they greatly enjoy seeing, but which they have no
money to buy.

I myself have become so accustomed to surprises, to interesting or
extraordinary sights, that when a day happens to pass during which
nothing remarkable has been heard or seen I feel vaguely discontented.
But such blank days are rare: they occur in my own case only when the
weather is too detestable to permit of going out-of-doors. For with ever
so little money one can always obtain the pleasure of looking at curious
things. And this has been one of the chief pleasures of the people in
Japan for centuries and centuries, for the nation has passed its
generations of lives in making or seeking such things. To divert one's
self seems, indeed, the main purpose of Japanese existence, beginning
with the opening of the baby's wondering eyes. The faces of the people
have an indescribable look of patient expectancy--the air of waiting
for something interesting to make its appearance. If it fail to appear,
they will travel to find it: they are astonishing pedestrians and
tireless pilgrims, and I think they make pilgrimages not more for the
sake of pleasing the gods than of pleasing themselves by the sight of
rare and pretty things. For every temple is a museum, and every hill and
valley throughout the land has its temple and its wonders.

Even the poorest farmer, one so poor that he cannot afford to eat a
grain of his own rice, can afford to make a pilgrimage of a month's
duration; and during that season when the growing rice needs least
attention hundreds of thousands of the poorest go on pilgrimages. This
is possible, because from ancient times it has been the custom for
everybody to help pilgrims a little; and they can always find rest and
shelter at particular inns (kichinyado) which receive pilgrims only, and
where they are charged merely the cost of the wood used to cook their

But multitudes of the poor undertake pilgrimages requiring much more
than a month to perform, such as the pilgrimage to the thirty-three
great temples of Kwannon, or that to the eighty-eight temples of
Kobodaishi; and these, though years be needed to accomplish them, are as
nothing compared to the enormous Sengaji, the pilgrimage to the thousand
temples of the Nichiren sect. The time of a generation may pass ere this
can be made. One may begin it in early youth, and complete it only when
youth is long past. Yet there are several in Matsue, men and women, who
have made this tremendous pilgrimage, seeing all Japan, and supporting
themselves not merely by begging, but by some kinds of itinerant

The pilgrim who desires to perform this pilgrimage carries on his
shoulders a small box, shaped like a Buddhist shrine, in which he keeps
his spare clothes and food. He also carries a little brazen gong, which
he constantly sounds while passing through a city or village, at the
same time chanting the Namu-myo-ho-ren-ge-kyo; and he always bears with
him a little blank book, in which the priest of every temple visited
stamps the temple seal in red ink. The pilgrimage over, this book with
its one thousand seal impressions becomes an heirloom in the family of
the pilgrim.


I too must make divers pilgrimages, for all about the city, beyond the
waters or beyond the hills, lie holy places immemorially old.

Kitzuki, founded by the ancient gods, who 'made stout the pillars upon
the nethermost rock bottom, and made high the cross-beams to the Plain
of High Heaven'--Kitzuki, the Holy of Holies, whose high-priest claims
descent from the Goddess of the Sun; and Ichibata, famed shrine of
Yakushi-Nyorai, who giveth sight to the blind--Ichibata-no-Yakushi,
whose lofty temple is approached by six hundred and forty steps of
stone; and Kiomidzu, shrine of Kwannon of the Eleven Faces, before whose
altar the sacred fire has burned without ceasing for a thousand years;
and Sada, where the Sacred Snake lies coiled for ever on the sambo of
the gods; and Oba, with its temples of Izanami and Izanagi, parents of
gods and men, the makers of the world; and Yaegaki, whither lovers go to
pray for unions with the beloved; and Kaka, Kaka-ura, Kaka-noKukedo San
-all these I hope to see.

But of all places, Kaka-ura! Assuredly I must go to Kaka. Few pilgrims
go thither by sea, and boatmen are forbidden to go there if there be
even wind enough 'to move three hairs.' So that whosoever wishes to
visit Kaka must either wait for a period of dead calm--very rare upon
the coast of the Japanese Sea--or journey thereunto by land; and by
land the way is difficult and wearisome. But I must see Kaka. For at
Kaka, in a great cavern by the sea, there is a famous Jizo of stone; and
each night, it is said, the ghosts of little children climb to the high
cavern and pile up before the statue small heaps of pebbles; and every
morning, in the soft sand, there may be seen the fresh prints of tiny
naked feet, the feet of the infant ghosts. It is also said that in the
cavern there is a rock out of which comes a stream of milk, as from a
woman's breast; and the white stream flows for ever, and the phantom
children drink of it. Pilgrims bring with them gifts of small straw
sandals--the zori that children wear--and leave them before the
cavern, that the feet of the little ghosts may not be wounded by the
sharp rocks. And the pilgrim treads with caution, lest he should
overturn any of the many heaps of stones; for if this be done the
children cry.


The city proper is as level as a table, but is bounded on two sides by
low demilunes of charming hills shadowed with evergreen foliage and
crowned with temples or shrines. There are thirty-five thousand souls
dwelling in ten thousand houses forming thirty-three principal and many
smaller streets; and from each end of almost every street, beyond the
hills, the lake, or the eastern rice-fields, a mountain summit is always
visible--green, blue, or grey according to distance. One may ride,
walk, or go by boat to any quarter of the town; for it is not only
divided by two rivers, but is also intersected by numbers of canals
crossed by queer little bridges curved like a well-bent bow.
Architecturally (despite such constructions in European style as the
College of Teachers, the great public school, the Kencho, the new post-
office), it is much like other quaint Japanese towns; the structure of
its temples, taverns, shops, and private dwellings is the same as in
other cities of the western coast. But doubtless owing to the fact that
Matsue remained a feudal stronghold until a time within the memory of
thousands still living, those feudal distinctions of caste so sharply
drawn in ancient times are yet indicated with singular exactness by the
varying architecture of different districts. The city can be definitely
divided into three architectural quarters: the district of the merchants
and shop-keepers, forming the heart of the settlement, where all the
houses are two stories high; the district of the temples, including
nearly the whole south-eastern part of the town; and the district or
districts of the shizoku (formerly called samurai), comprising a vast
number of large, roomy, garden-girt, one-story dwellings. From these
elegant homes, in feudal days, could be summoned at a moment's notice
five thousand 'two-sworded men' with their armed retainers, making a
fighting total for the city alone of probably not less than thirteen
thousand warriors. More than one-third of all the city buildings were
then samurai homes; for Matsue was the military centre of the most
ancient province of Japan. At both ends of the town, which curves in a
crescent along the lake shore, were the two main settlements of samurai;
but just as some of the most important temples are situated outside of
the temple district, so were many of the finest homesteads of this
knightly caste situated in other quarters. They mustered most thickly,
however, about the castle, which stands to-day on the summit of its
citadel hill--the Oshiroyama--solid as when first built long centuries
ago, a vast and sinister shape, all iron-grey, rising against the sky
from a cyclopean foundation of stone. Fantastically grim the thing is,
and grotesquely complex in detail; looking somewhat like a huge pagoda,
of which the second, third, and fourth stories have been squeezed down
and telescoped into one another by their own weight. Crested at its
summit, like a feudal helmet, with two colossal fishes of bronze lifting
their curved bodies skyward from either angle of the roof, and bristling
with horned gables and gargoyled eaves and tilted puzzles of tiled
roofing at every story, the creation is a veritable architectural
dragon, made up of magnificent monstrosities--a dragon, moreover, full
of eyes set at all conceivable angles, above below, and on every side.
From under the black scowl of the loftiest eaves, looking east and
south, the whole city can be seen at a single glance, as in the vision
of a soaring hawk; and from the northern angle the view plunges down
three hundred feet to the castle road, where walking figures of men
appear no larger than flies.


The grim castle has its legend.

It is related that, in accordance with some primitive and barbarous
custom, precisely like that of which so terrible a souvenir has been
preserved for us in the most pathetic of Servian ballads, 'The
Foundation of Skadra,' a maiden of Matsue was interred alive under the
walls of the castle at the time of its erection, as a sacrifice to some
forgotten gods. Her name has never been recorded; nothing concerning her
is remembered except that she was beautiful and very fond of dancing.

Now after the castle had been built, it is said that a law had to be
passed forbidding that any girl should dance in the streets of Matsue.
For whenever any maiden danced the hill Oshiroyama would shudder, and
the great castle quiver from basement to summit.


One may still sometimes hear in the streets a very humorous song, which
every one in town formerly knew by heart, celebrating the Seven Wonders
of Matsue. For Matsue was formerly divided into seven quarters, in each
of which some extraordinary object or person was to be seen. It is now
divided into five religious districts, each containing a temple of the
State religion. People living within those districts are called ujiko,
and the temple the ujigami, or dwelling-place of the tutelary god. The
ujiko must support the ujigami. (Every village and town has at least one

There is probably not one of the multitudinous temples of Matsue which
has not some marvellous tradition attached to it; each of the districts
has many legends; and I think that each of the thirty-three streets has
its own special ghost story. Of these ghost stories I cite two
specimens: they are quite representative of one variety of Japanese

Near to the Fu-mon-in temple, which is in the north-eastern quarter,
there is a bridge called Adzuki-togi-bashi, or The Bridge of the Washing
of Peas. For it was said in other years that nightly a phantom woman sat
beneath that bridge washing phantom peas. There is an exquisite Japanese
iris-flower, of rainbow-violet colour, which flower is named kaki-
tsubata; and there is a song about that flower called kaki-tsubata-no-
uta. Now this song must never be sung near the Adzuki-togi-bashi,
because, for some strange reason which seems to have been forgotten, the
ghosts haunting that place become so angry upon hearing it that to sing
it there is to expose one's self to the most frightful calamities. There
was once a samurai who feared nothing, who one night went to that bridge
and loudly sang the song. No ghost appearing, he laughed and went home.
At the gate of his house he met a beautiful tall woman whom he had never
seen before, and who, bowing, presented him with a lacquered box-fumi-
bako--such as women keep their letters in. He bowed to her in his
knightly way; but she said, 'I am only the servant--this is my
mistress's gift,' and vanished out of his sight. Opening the box, he saw
the bleeding head of a young child. Entering his house, he found upon
the floor of the guest-room the dead body of his own infant son with the
head torn off.

Of the cemetery Dai-Oji, which is in the street called Nakabaramachi,
this story is told-

In Nakabaramachi there is an ameya, or little shop in which midzu-ame is
sold--the amber-tinted syrup, made of malt, which is given to children
when milk cannot be obtained for them. Every night at a late hour there
came to that shop a very pale woman, all in white, to buy one rin [8]
worth of midzu-ame. The ame-seller wondered that she was so thin and
pale, and often questioned her kindly; but she answered nothing. At last
one night he followed her, out of curiosity. She went to the cemetery;
and he became afraid and returned.

The next night the woman came again, but bought no midzu-ame, and only
beckoned to the man to go with her. He followed her, with friends, into
the cemetery. She walked to a certain tomb, and there disappeared; and
they heard, under the ground, the crying of a child. Opening the tomb,
they saw within it the corpse of the woman who nightly visited the
ameya, with a living infant, laughing to see the lantern light, and
beside the infant a little cup of midzu-ame. For the mother had been
prematurely buried; the child was born in the tomb, and the ghost of the
mother had thus provided for it--love being stronger than death.


Over the Tenjin-bashi, or Bridge of Tenjin, and through small streets
and narrow of densely populated districts, and past many a tenantless
and mouldering feudal homestead, I make my way to the extreme south-
western end of the city, to watch the sunset from a little sobaya [9]
facing the lake. For to see the sun sink from this sobaya is one of the
delights of Matsue.

There are no such sunsets in Japan as in the tropics: the light is
gentle as a light of dreams; there are no furies of colour; there are no
chromatic violences in nature in this Orient. All in sea or sky is tint
rather than colour, and tint vapour-toned. I think that the exquisite
taste of the race in the matter of colours and of tints, as exemplified
in the dyes of their wonderful textures, is largely attributable to the
sober and delicate beauty of nature's tones in this all-temperate world
where nothing is garish.

Before me the fair vast lake sleeps, softly luminous, far-ringed with
chains of blue volcanic hills shaped like a sierra. On my right, at its
eastern end, the most ancient quarter of the city spreads its roofs of
blue-grey tile; the houses crowd thickly down to the shore, to dip their
wooden feet into the flood. With a glass I can see my own windows and
the far-spreading of the roofs beyond, and above all else the green
citadel with its grim castle, grotesquely peaked. The sun begins to set,
and exquisite astonishments of tinting appear in water and sky.

Dead rich purples cloud broadly behind and above the indigo blackness of
the serrated hills--mist purples, fading upward smokily into faint
vermilions and dim gold, which again melt up through ghostliest greens
into the blue. The deeper waters of the lake, far away, take a tender
violet indescribable, and the silhouette of the pine-shadowed island
seems to float in that sea of soft sweet colour. But the shallower and
nearer is cut from the deeper water by the current as sharply as by a
line drawn, and all the surface on this side of that line is a
shimmering bronze--old rich ruddy gold-bronze.

All the fainter colours change every five minutes,--wondrously change
and shift like tones and shades of fine shot-silks.


Often in the streets at night, especially on the nights of sacred
festivals (matsuri), one's attention will be attracted to some small
booth by the spectacle of an admiring and perfectly silent crowd
pressing before it. As soon as one can get a chance to look one finds
there is nothing to look at but a few vases containing sprays of
flowers, or perhaps some light gracious branches freshly cut from a
blossoming tree. It is simply a little flower-show, or, more correctly,
a free exhibition of master skill in the arrangement of flowers. For the
Japanese do not brutally chop off flower-heads to work them up into
meaningless masses of colour, as we barbarians do: they love nature too
well for that; they know how much the natural charm of the flower
depends upon its setting and mounting, its relation to leaf and stem,
and they select a single graceful branch or spray just as nature made
it. At first you will not, as a Western stranger, comprehend such an
exhibition at all: you are yet a savage in such matters compared with
the commonest coolies about you. But even while you are still wondering
at popular interest in this simple little show, the charm of it will
begin to grow upon you, will become a revelation to you; and, despite
your Occidental idea of self-superiority, you will feel humbled by the
discovery that all flower displays you have ever seen abroad were only
monstrosities in comparison with the natural beauty of those few simple
sprays. You will also observe how much the white or pale blue screen
behind the flowers enhances the effect by lamp or lantern light. For the
screen has been arranged with the special purpose of showing the
exquisiteness of plant shadows; and the sharp silhouettes of sprays and
blossoms cast thereon are beautiful beyond the imagining of any Western
decorative artist.


It is still the season of mists in this land whose most ancient name
signifies the Place of the Issuing of Clouds. With the passing of
twilight a faint ghostly brume rises over lake and landscape, spectrally
veiling surfaces, slowly obliterating distances. As I lean over the
parapet of the Tenjin-bashi, on my homeward way, to take one last look
eastward, I find that the mountains have already been effaced. Before me
there is only a shadowy flood far vanishing into vagueness without a
horizon--the phantom of a sea. And I become suddenly aware that little
white things are fluttering slowly down into it from the fingers of a
woman standing upon the bridge beside me, and murmuring something in a
low sweet voice. She is praying for her dead child. Each of those little
papers she is dropping into the current bears a tiny picture of Jizo and
perhaps a little inscription. For when a child dies the mother buys a
small woodcut (hanko) of Jizo, and with it prints the image of the
divinity upon one hundred little papers. And she sometimes also writes
upon the papers words signifying 'For the sake of . .'--inscribing
never the living, but the kaimyo or soul-name only, which the Buddhist
priest has given to the dead, and which is written also upon the little
commemorative tablet kept within the Buddhist household shrine, or
butsuma. Then, upon a fixed day (most commonly the forty-ninth day after
the burial), she goes to some place of running water and drops the
little papers therein one by one; repeating, as each slips through her
fingers, the holy invocation, 'Namu Jizo, Dai Bosatsu!'

Doubtless this pious little woman, praying beside me in the dusk, is
very poor. Were she not, she would hire a boat and scatter her tiny
papers far away upon the bosom of the lake. (It is now only after dark
that this may be done; for the police-I know not why--have been
instructed to prevent the pretty rite, just as in the open ports they
have been instructed to prohibit the launching of the little straw boats
of the dead, the shoryobune.)

But why should the papers be cast into running water? A good old Tendai
priest tells me that originally the rite was only for the souls of the
drowned. But now these gentle hearts believe that all waters flow
downward to the Shadow-world and through the Sai-no-Kawara, where Jizo


At home again, I slide open once more my little paper window, and look
out upon the night. I see the paper lanterns flitting over the bridge,
like a long shimmering of fireflies. I see the spectres of a hundred
lights trembling upon the black flood. I see the broad shoji of
dwellings beyond the river suffused with the soft yellow radiance of
invisible lamps; and upon those lighted spaces I can discern slender
moving shadows, silhouettes of graceful women. Devoutly do I pray that
glass may never become universally adopted in Japan--there would be no
more delicious shadows.

I listen to the voices of the city awhile. I hear the great bell of
Tokoji rolling its soft Buddhist thunder across the dark, and the songs
of the night-walkers whose hearts have been made merry with wine, and
the long sonorous chanting of the night-peddlers.

'U-mu-don-yai-soba-yai!' It is the seller of hot soba, Japanese
buckwheat, making his last round.

'Umai handan, machibito endan, usemono ninso kaso kichikyo no urainai!'
The cry of the itinerant fortune-teller.

'Ame-yu!' The musical cry of the seller of midzu-ame, the sweet amber
syrup which children love.

'Amail' The shrilling call of the seller of amazake, sweet rice wine.

'Kawachi-no-kuni-hiotan-yama-koi-no-tsuji-ura!' The peddler of love-
papers, of divining-papers, pretty tinted things with little shadowy
pictures upon them. When held near a fire or a lamp, words written upon
them with invisible ink begin to appear. These are always about
sweethearts, and sometimes tell one what he does not wish to know. The
fortunate ones who read them believe themselves still more fortunate;
the unlucky abandon all hope; the jealous become even more jealous than
they were before.

From all over the city there rises into the night a sound like the
bubbling and booming of great frogs in a march--the echoing of the tiny
drums of the dancing-girls, of the charming geisha. Like the rolling of
a waterfall continually reverberates the multitudinous pattering of geta
upon the bridge. A new light rises in the east; the moon is wheeling up
from behind the peaks, very large and weird and wan through the white
vapours. Again I hear the sounds of the clapping of many hands. For the
wayfarers are paying obeisance to O-Tsuki-San: from the long bridge they
are saluting the coming of the White Moon-Lady.[10]

I sleep, to dream of little children, in some mouldering mossy temple
court, playing at the game of Shadows and of Demons.

Chapter Eight Kitzuki: The Most Ancient Shrine of Japan

SHINKOKU is the sacred name of Japan--Shinkoku, 'The Country of the
Gods'; and of all Shinkoku the most holy ground is the land of Izumo.
Hither from the blue Plain of High Heaven first came to dwell awhile the
Earth-makers, Izanagi and Izanami, the parents of gods and of men;
somewhere upon the border of this land was Izanami buried; and out of
this land into the black realm of the dead did Izanagi follow after her,
and seek in vain to bring her back again. And the tale of his descent
into that strange nether world, and of what there befell him, is it not
written in the Kojiki? [1] And of all legends primeval concerning the
Underworld this story is one of the weirdest--more weird than even the
Assyrian legend of the Descent of Ishtar.

Even as Izumo is especially the province of the gods, and the place of
the childhood of the race by whom Izanagi and Izanami are yet worshiped,
so is Kitzuki of Izumo especially the city of the gods, and its
immemorial temple the earliest home of the ancient faith, the great
religion of Shinto.

Now to visit Kitzuki has been my most earnest ambition since I learned
the legends of the Kojiki concerning it; and this ambition has been
stimulated by the discovery that very few Europeans have visited
Kitzuki, and that none have been admitted into the great temple itself.
Some, indeed, were not allowed even to approach the temple court. But I
trust that I shall be somewhat more fortunate; for I have a letter of
introduction from my dear friend Nishida Sentaro, who is also a personal
friend of the high pontiff of Kitzuki. I am thus assured that even
should I not be permitted to enter the temple--a privilege accorded to
but few among the Japanese themselves--I shall at least have the honour
of an interview with the Guji, or Spiritual Governor of Kitzuki, Senke
Takanori, whose princely family trace back their descent to the Goddess
of the Sun. [2]


I leave Matsue for Kitzuki early in the afternoon of a beautiful
September day; taking passage upon a tiny steamer in which everything,
from engines to awnings, is Lilliputian. In the cabin one must kneel.
Under the awnings one cannot possibly stand upright. But the miniature
craft is neat and pretty as a toy model, and moves with surprising
swiftness and steadiness. A handsome naked boy is busy serving the
passengers with cups of tea and with cakes, and setting little charcoal
furnaces before those who desire to smoke: for all of which a payment of
about three-quarters of a cent is expected.

I escape from the awnings to climb upon the cabin roof for a view; and
the view is indescribably lovely. Over the lucent level of the lake we
are steaming toward a far-away heaping of beautiful shapes, coloured
with that strangely delicate blue which tints all distances in the
Japanese atmosphere--shapes of peaks and headlands looming up from the
lake verge against a porcelain-white horizon. They show no details,
whatever. Silhouettes only they are--masses of absolutely pure colour.
To left and right, framing in the Shinjiko, are superb green surgings of
wooded hills. Great Yakuno-San is the loftiest mountain before us,
north-west. South-east, behind us, the city has vanished; but proudly
towering beyond looms Daisen--enormous, ghostly blue and ghostly white,
lifting the cusps of its dead crater into the region of eternal snow.
Over all arches a sky of colour faint as a dream.

There seems to be a sense of divine magic in the very atmosphere,
through all the luminous day, brooding over the vapoury land, over the
ghostly blue of the flood--a sense of Shinto. With my fancy full of the
legends of the Kojiki, the rhythmic chant of the engines comes to my
ears as the rhythm of a Shinto ritual mingled with the names of gods:

Koto-shiro-nushi-no-Kami, Oho-kuni-nushi-no-Kami.


The great range on the right grows loftier as we steam on; and its
hills, always slowly advancing toward us, begin to reveal all the rich
details of their foliage. And lo! on the tip of one grand wood-clad peak
is visible against the pure sky the many-angled roof of a great Buddhist
temple. That is the temple of Ichibata, upon the mountain Ichibata-yama,
the temple of Yakushi-Nyorai, the Physician of Souls. But at Ichibata he
reveals himself more specially as the healer of bodies, the Buddha who
giveth sight unto the blind. It is believed that whosoever has an
affection of the eyes will be made well by praying earnestly at that
great shrine; and thither from many distant provinces do afflicted
thousands make pilgrimage, ascending the long weary mountain path and
the six hundred and forty steps of stone leading to the windy temple
court upon the summit, whence may be seen one of the loveliest
landscapes in Japan. There the pilgrims wash their eyes with the water
of the sacred spring, and kneel before the shrine and murmur the holy
formula of Ichibata: 'On-koro-koro-sendai-matoki-sowaka'--words of
which the meaning has long been forgotten, like that of many a Buddhist
invocation; Sanscrit words transliterated into Chinese, and thence into
Japanese, which are understood by learned priests alone, yet are known
by heart throughout the land, and uttered with the utmost fervour of

I descend from the cabin roof, and squat upon the deck, under the
awnings, to have a smoke with Akira. And I ask:

'How many Buddhas are there, O Akira? Is the number of the Enlightened

'Countless the Buddhas are,' makes answer Akira; 'yet there is truly but
one Buddha; the many are forms only. Each of us contains a future
Buddha. Alike we all are except in that we are more or less unconscious
of the truth. But the vulgar may not understand these things, and so
seek refuge in symbols and in forms.'

'And the Kami,--the deities of Shinto?'

'Of Shinto I know little. But there are eight hundred myriads of Kami in
the Plain of High Heaven--so says the Ancient Book. Of these, three
thousand one hundred and thirty and two dwell in the various provinces
of the land; being enshrined in two thousand eight hundred and sixty-one
temples. And the tenth month of our year is called the "No-God-month,"
because in that month all the deities leave their temples to assemble in
the province of Izumo, at the great temple of Kitzuki; and for the same
reason that month is called in Izumo, and only in Izumo, the "God-is-
month." But educated persons sometimes call it the "God-present-
festival," using Chinese words. Then it is believed the serpents come
from the sea to the land, and coil upon the sambo, which is the table of
the gods, for the serpents announce the coming; and the Dragon-King
sends messengers to the temples of Izanagi and Izanami, the parents of
gods and men.'

'O Akira, many millions of Kami there must be of whom I shall always
remain ignorant, for there is a limit to the power of memory; but tell
me something of the gods whose names are most seldom uttered, the
deities of strange places and of strange things, the most extraordinary

'You cannot learn much about them from me,' replies Akira. 'You will
have to ask others more learned than I. But there are gods with whom it
is not desirable to become acquainted. Such are the God of Poverty, and
the God of Hunger, and the God of Penuriousness, and the God of
Hindrances and Obstacles. These are of dark colour, like the clouds of
gloomy days, and their faces are like the faces of gaki.' [3]

'With the God of Hindrances and Obstacles, O Akira I have had more than
a passing acquaintance. Tell me of the others.'

'I know little about any of them,' answers Akira, 'excepting Bimbogami.
It is said there are two gods who always go together,--Fuku-no-Kami,
who is the God of Luck, and Bimbogami, who is the God of Poverty. The
first is white, and the second is black.'

'Because the last,' I venture to interrupt, 'is only the shadow of the
first. Fuku-no-Kami is the Shadow-caster, and Bimbogami the Shadow; and
I have observed, in wandering about this world, that wherever the one
goeth, eternally followeth after him the other.'

Akira refuses his assent to this interpretation, and resumes:

'When Bimbogami once begins to follow anyone it is extremely difficult
to be free from him again. In the village of Umitsu, which is in the
province of Omi, and not far from Kyoto, there once lived a Buddhist
priest who during many years was grievously tormented by Bimbogami. He
tried oftentimes without avail to drive him away; then he strove to
deceive him by proclaiming aloud to all the people that he was going to
Kyoto. But instead of going to Kyoto he went to Tsuruga, in the province
of Echizen; and when he reached the inn at Tsuruga there came forth to
meet him a boy lean and wan like a gaki. The boy said to him, "I have
been waiting for you"--and the boy was Bimbogami.

'There was another priest who for sixty years had tried in vain to get
rid of Bimbogami, and who resolved at last to go to a distant province.
On the night after he had formed this resolve he had a strange dream, in
which he saw a very much emaciated boy, naked and dirty, weaving sandals
of straw (waraji), such as pilgrims and runners wear; and he made so
many that the priest wondered, and asked him, "For what purpose are you
making so many sandals?" And the boy answered, "I am going to travel
with you. I am Bimbogami."'

'Then is there no way, Akira, by which Bimbogami may be driven away?'

'It is written,' replies Akira, 'in the book called Jizo-Kyo-Kosui that
the aged Enjobo, a priest dwelling in the province of Owari, was able to
get rid of Bimbogami by means of a charm. On the last day of the last
month of the year he and his disciples and other priests of the Shingon
sect took branches of peach-trees and recited a formula, and then, with
the branches, imitated the action of driving a person out of the temple,
after which they shut all the gates and recited other formulas. The same
night Enjobo dreamed of a skeleton priest in a broken temple weeping
alone, and the skeleton priest said to him, "After I had been with you
for so many years, how could you drive me away?" But always thereafter
until the day of his death, Enjobo lived in prosperity.'


For an hour and a half the ranges to left and right alternately recede
and approach. Beautiful blue shapes glide toward us, change to green,
and then, slowly drifting behind us, are all blue again. But the far
mountains immediately before us--immovable, unchanging--always remain
ghosts. Suddenly the little steamer turns straight into the land--a
land so low that it came into sight quite unexpectedly--and we puff up
a narrow stream between rice-fields to a queer, quaint, pretty village
on the canal bank--Shobara. Here I must hire jinricksha to take us to

There is not time to see much of Shobara if I hope to reach Kitzuki
before bedtime, and I have only a flying vision of one long wide street
(so picturesque that I wish I could pass a day in it), as our kuruma
rush through the little town into the open country, into a vast plain
covered with rice-fields. The road itself is only a broad dike, barely
wide enough for two jinricksha to pass each other upon it. On each side
the superb plain is bounded by a mountain range shutting off the white
horizon. There is a vast silence, an immense sense of dreamy peace, and
a glorious soft vapoury light over everything, as we roll into the
country of Hyasugi to Kaminawoe. The jagged range on the left is Shusai-
yama, all sharply green, with the giant Daikoku-yama overtopping all;
and its peaks bear the names of gods. Much more remote, upon our right,
enormous, pansy-purple, tower the shapes of the Kita-yama, or northern
range; filing away in tremendous procession toward the sunset, fading
more and more as they stretch west, to vanish suddenly at last, after
the ghostliest conceivable manner, into the uttermost day.

All this is beautiful; yet there is no change while hours pass. Always
the way winds on through miles of rice-fields, white-speckled with
paper-winged shafts which are arrows of prayer. Always the voice of
frogs--a sound as of infinite bubbling. Always the green range on the
left, the purple on the right, fading westward into a tall file of
tinted spectres which always melt into nothing at last, as if they were
made of air. The monotony of the scene is broken only by our occasional
passing through some pretty Japanese village, or by the appearance of a
curious statue or monument at an angle of the path, a roadside Jizo, or
the grave of a wrestler, such as may be seen on the bank of the Hiagawa,
a huge slab of granite sculptured with the words, 'Ikumo Matsu

But after reaching Kandogori, and passing over a broad but shallow
river, a fresh detail appears in the landscape. Above the mountain chain
on our left looms a colossal blue silhouette, almost saddle-shaped,
recognisable by its outline as a once mighty volcano. It is now known by
various names, but it was called in ancient times Sa-hime-yama; and it
has its Shinto legend.

It is said that in the beginning the God of Izumo, gazing over the land,
said, 'This new land of Izumo is a land of but small extent, so I will
make it a larger land by adding unto it.' Having so said, he looked
about him over to Korea, and there he saw land which was good for the
purpose. With a great rope he dragged therefrom four islands, and added
the land of them to Izumo. The first island was called Ya-o-yo-ne, and
it formed the land where Kitzuki now is. The second island was called
Sada-no-kuni, and is at this day the site of the holy temple where all
the gods do yearly hold their second assembly, after having first
gathered together at Kitzuki. The third island was called in its new
place Kurami-no-kuni, which now forms Shimane-gori. The fourth island
became that place where stands the temple of the great god at whose
shrine are delivered unto the faithful the charms which protect the
rice-fields. [4]

Now in drawing these islands across the sea into their several places
the god looped his rope over the mighty mountain of Daisen and over the
mountain Sa-hime-yama; and they both bear the marks of that wondrous
rope even unto this day. As for the rope itself, part of it was changed
into the long island of ancient times [5] called Yomi-ga-hama, and a
part into the Long Beach of Sono.

After we pass the Hori-kawa the road narrows and becomes rougher and
rougher, but always draws nearer to the Kitayama range. Toward sundown
we have come close enough to the great hills to discern the details of
their foliage. The path begins to rise; we ascend slowly through the
gathering dusk. At last there appears before us a great multitude of
twinkling lights. We have reached Kitzuki, the holy city.


Over a long bridge and under a tall torii we roll into upward-sloping
streets. Like Enoshima, Kitzuki has a torii for its city gate; but the
torii is not of bronze. Then a flying vision of open lamp-lighted shop-
fronts, and lines of luminous shoji under high-tilted eaves, and
Buddhist gateways guarded by lions of stone, and long, low, tile-coped
walls of temple courts overtopped by garden shrubbery, and Shinto
shrines prefaced by other tall torii; but no sign of the great temple
itself. It lies toward the rear of the city proper, at the foot of the
wooded mountains; and we are too tired and hungry to visit it now. So we
halt before a spacious and comfortable-seeming inn,--the best, indeed,
in Kitzuki--and rest ourselves and eat, and drink sake out of exquisite
little porcelain cups, the gift of some pretty singing-girl to the
hotel. Thereafter, as it has become much too late to visit the Guji, I
send to his residence by a messenger my letter of introduction, with an
humble request in Akira's handwriting, that I may be allowed to present
myself at the house before noon the next day.

Then the landlord of the hotel, who seems to be a very kindly person,
comes to us with lighted paper lanterns, and invites us to accompany him
to the Oho-yashiro.

Most of the houses have already closed their wooden sliding doors for
the night, so that the streets are dark, and the lanterns of our
landlord indispensable; for there is no moon, and the night is starless.
We walk along the main street for a distance of about six squares, and
then, making a tum, find ourselves before a superb bronze torii, the
gateway to the great temple avenue.


Effacing colours and obliterating distances, night always magnifies by
suggestion the aspect of large spaces and the effect of large objects.
Viewed by the vague light of paper lanterns, the approach to the great
shrine is an imposing surprise--such a surprise that I feel regret at
the mere thought of having to see it to-morrow by disenchanting day: a
superb avenue lined with colossal trees, and ranging away out of sight
under a succession of giant torii, from which are suspended enormous
shimenawa, well worthy the grasp of that Heavenly-Hand-Strength Deity
whose symbols they are. But, more than by the torii and their festooned
symbols, the dim majesty of the huge avenue is enhanced by the
prodigious trees--many perhaps thousands of years old--gnarled pines
whose shaggy summits are lost in darkness. Some of the mighty trunks are
surrounded with a rope of straw: these trees are sacred. The vast roots,
far-reaching in every direction, look in the lantern-light like a
writhing and crawling of dragons.

The avenue is certainly not less than a quarter of a mile in length; it
crosses two bridges and passes between two sacred groves. All the broad
lands on either side of it belong to the temple. Formerly no foreigner
was permitted to pass beyond the middle torii The avenue terminates at a
lofty wall pierced by a gateway resembling the gateways of Buddhist
temple courts, but very massive. This is the entrance to the outer
court; the ponderous doors are still open, and many shadowy figures are
passing in or out.

Within the court all is darkness, against which pale yellow lights are
gliding to and fro like a multitude of enormous fireflies--the lanterns
of pilgrims. I can distinguish only the looming of immense buildings to
left and right, constructed with colossal timbers. Our guide traverses a
very large court, passes into a second, and halts before an imposing
structure whose doors are still open. Above them, by the lantern glow, I
can see a marvellous frieze of dragons and water, carved in some rich
wood by the hand of a master. Within I can see the symbols of Shinto, in
a side shrine on the left; and directly before us the lanterns reveal a
surface of matted floor vaster than anything I had expected to find.
Therefrom I can divine the scale of the edifice which I suppose to be
the temple. But the landlord tells us this is not the temple, but only
the Haiden or Hall of Prayer, before which the people make their
orisons, By day, through the open doors, the temple can be seen But we
cannot see it to-night, and but few visitors are permitted to go in.
'The people do not enter even the court of the great shrine, for the
most part,' interprets Akira; 'they pray before it at a distance.

All about me in the shadow I hear a sound like the plashing and dashing
of water--the clapping of many hands in Shinto prayer.

'But this is nothing,' says the landlord; 'there are but few here now.
Wait until to-morrow, which is a festival day.'

As we wend our way back along the great avenue, under the torii and the
giant trees, Akira interprets for me what our landlord tells him about
the sacred serpent.

'The little serpent,' he says, 'is called by the people the august
Dragon-Serpent; for it is sent by the Dragon-King to announce the coming
of the gods. The sea darkens and rises and roars before the coming of
Ryu-ja-Sama. Ryu-ja. Sama we call it because it is the messenger of
Ryugu-jo, the palace of the dragons; but it is also called Hakuja, or
the 'White Serpent.' [6]

'Does the little serpent come to the temple of its own accord?'

'Oh, no. It is caught by the fishermen. And only one can be caught in a
year, because only one is sent; and whoever catches it and brings it
either to the Kitzuki-no-oho-yashiro, or to the temple Sadajinja, where
the gods hold their second assembly during the Kami-ari-zuki, receives
one hyo [7] of rice in recompense. It costs much labour and time to
catch a serpent; but whoever captures one is sure to become rich in
after time.' [8]

'There are many deities enshrined at Kitzuki, are there not?' I ask.

'Yes; but the great deity of Kitzuki is Oho-kuni-nushi-no-Kami, [9]
whom the people more commonly call Daikoku. Here also is worshipped his
son, whom many call Ebisu. These deities are usually pictured together:
Daikoku seated upon bales of rice, holding the Red Sun against his
breast with one hand, and in the other grasping the magical mallet of
which a single stroke gives wealth; and Ebisu bearing a fishing-rod, and
holding under his arm a great tai-fish. These gods are always
represented with smiling faces; and both have great ears, which are the
sign of wealth and fortune.'


A little wearied by the day's journeying, I get to bed early, and sleep
as dreamlessly as a plant until I am awakened about daylight by a heavy,
regular, bumping sound, shaking the wooden pillow on which my ear rests
-the sound of the katsu of the kometsuki beginning his eternal labour
of rice-cleaning. Then the pretty musume of the inn opens the chamber to
the fresh mountain air and the early sun, rolls back all the wooden
shutters into their casings behind the gallery, takes down the brown
mosquito net, brings a hibachi with freshly kindled charcoal for my
morning smoke, and trips away to get our breakfast.

Early as it is when she returns, she brings word that a messenger has
already arrived from the Guji, Senke Takanori, high descendant of the
Goddess of the Sun. The messenger is a dignified young Shinto priest,
clad in the ordinary Japanese full costume, but wearing also a superb
pair of blue silken hakama, or Japanese ceremonial trousers, widening
picturesquely towards the feet. He accepts my invitation to a cup of
tea, and informs me that his august master is waiting for us at the

This is delightful news, but we cannot go at once. Akira's attire is
pronounced by the messenger to be defective. Akira must don fresh white
tabi and put on hakama before going into the august presence: no one may
enter thereinto without hakama. Happily Akira is able to borrow a pair
of hakama from the landlord; and, after having arranged ourselves as
neatly as we can, we take our way to the temple, guided by the


I am agreeably surprised to find, as we pass again under a magnificent
bronze torii which I admired the night before, that the approaches to
the temple lose very little of their imposing character when seen for
the first time by sunlight. The majesty of the trees remains
astonishing; the vista of the avenue is grand; and the vast spaces of
groves and grounds to right and left are even more impressive than I had
imagined. Multitudes of pilgrims are going and coming; but the whole
population of a province might move along such an avenue without
jostling. Before the gate of the first court a Shinto priest in full
sacerdotal costume waits to receive us: an elderly man, with a pleasant
kindly face. The messenger commits us to his charge, and vanishes
through the gateway, while the elderly priest, whose name is Sasa, leads
the way.

Already I can hear a heavy sound, as of surf, within the temple court;
and as we advance the sound becomes sharper and recognisable--a
volleying of handclaps. And passing the great gate, I see thousands of
pilgrims before the Haiden, the same huge structure which I visited last
night. None enter there: all stand before the dragon-swarming doorway,
and cast their offerings into the money-chest placed before the
threshold; many making contribution of small coin, the very poorest
throwing only a handful of rice into the box. [10] Then they clap their
hands and bow their heads before the threshold, and reverently gaze
through the Hall of Prayer at the loftier edifice, the Holy of Holies,
beyond it. Each pilgrim remains but a little while, and claps his hands
but four times; yet so many are coming and going that the sound of the
clapping is like the sound of a cataract.

Passing by the multitude of worshippers to the other side of the Haiden,
we find ourselves at the foot of a broad flight of iron-bound steps
leading to the great sanctuary--steps which I am told no European
before me was ever permitted to approach. On the lower steps the priests
of the temple, in full ceremonial costume, are waiting to receive us.
Tall men they are, robed in violet and purple silks shot through with
dragon-patterns in gold. Their lofty fantastic head-dresses, their
voluminous and beautiful costume, and the solemn immobility of their
hierophantic attitudes make them at first sight seem marvellous statues
only. Somehow or other there comes suddenly back to me the memory of a
strange French print I used to wonder at when a child, representing a
group of Assyrian astrologers. Only their eyes move as we approach. But
as I reach the steps all simultaneously salute me with a most gracious
bow, for I am the first foreign pilgrim to be honoured by the privilege
of an interview in the holy shrine itself with the princely hierophant,
their master, descendant of the Goddess of the Sun--he who is still
called by myriads of humble worshippers in the remoter districts of this
ancient province Ikigami, 'the living deity.' Then all become absolutely
statuesque again.

I remove my shoes, and am about to ascend the steps, when the tall
priest who first received us before the outer gate indicates, by a
single significant gesture, that religion and ancient custom require me,
before ascending to the shrine of the god, to perform the ceremonial
ablution. I hold out my hands; the priest pours the pure water over them
thrice from a ladle-shaped vessel of bamboo with a long handle, and then
gives me a little blue towel to wipe them upon, a Votive towel with
mysterious white characters upon it. Then we all ascend; I feeling very
much like a clumsy barbarian in my ungraceful foreign garb.

Pausing at the head of the steps, the priest inquires my rank in
society. For at Kitzuki hierarchy and hierarchical forms are maintained
with a rigidity as precise as in the period of the gods; and there are
special forms and regulations for the reception of visitors of every
social grade. I do not know what flattering statements Akira may have
made about me to the good priest; but the result is that I can rank only
as a common person--which veracious fact doubtless saves me from some
formalities which would have proved embarrassing, all ignorant as I
still am of that finer and more complex etiquette in which the Japanese
are the world's masters.


The priest leads the way into a vast and lofty apartment opening for its
entire length upon the broad gallery to which the stairway ascends. I
have barely time to notice, while following him, that the chamber
contains three immense shrines, forming alcoves on two sides of it. Of
these, two are veiled by white curtains reaching from ceiling to matting
-curtains decorated with perpendicular rows of black disks about four
inches in diameter, each disk having in its centre a golden blossom. But
from before the third shrine, in the farther angle of the chamber, the
curtains have been withdrawn; and these are of gold brocade, and the
shrine before which they hang is the chief shrine, that of Oho-kuni-
nushi-no-Kami. Within are visible only some of the ordinary emblems of
Shinto, and the exterior of that Holy of Holies into which none may
look. Before it a long low bench, covered with strange objects, has been
placed, with one end toward the gallery and one toward the alcove. At
the end of this bench, near the gallery, I see a majestic bearded
figure, strangely coifed and robed all in white, seated upon the matted
floor in hierophantic attitude. Our priestly guide motions us to take
our places in front of him and to bow down before him. For this is Senke
Takanori, the Guji of Kitzuki, to whom even in his own dwelling none may
speak save on bended knee, descendant of the Goddess of the Sun, and
still by multitudes revered in thought as a being superhuman.
Prostrating myself before him, according to the customary code of
Japanese politeness, I am saluted in return with that exquisite courtesy
which puts a stranger immediately at ease. The priest who acted as our
guide now sits down on the floor at the Guji's left hand; while the
other priests, who followed us to the entrance of the sanctuary only,
take their places upon the gallery without.


Senke Takanori is a youthful and powerful man. As he sits there before
me in his immobile hieratic pose, with his strange lofty head-dress, his
heavy curling beard, and his ample snowy sacerdotal robe broadly
spreading about him in statuesque undulations, he realises for me all
that I had imagined, from the suggestion of old Japanese pictures, about
the personal majesty of the ancient princes and heroes. The dignity
alone of the man would irresistibly compel respect; but with that
feeling of respect there also flashes through me at once the thought of
the profound reverence paid him by the population of the most ancient
province of Japan, the idea of the immense spiritual power in his hands,
the tradition of his divine descent, the sense of the immemorial
nobility of his race--and my respect deepens into a feeling closely
akin to awe. So motionless he is that he seems a sacred statue only--
the temple image of one of his own deified ancestors. But the solemnity
of the first few moments is agreeably broken by his first words, uttered
in a low rich basso, while his dark, kindly eyes remain motionlessly
fixed upon my face. Then my interpreter translates his greeting--large
fine phrases of courtesy--to which I reply as I best know how,
expressing my gratitude for the exceptional favour accorded me.

'You are, indeed,' he responds through Akira, 'the first European ever
permitted to enter into the Oho-yashiro. Other Europeans have visited
Kitzuki and a few have been allowed to enter the temple court; but you
only have been admitted into the dwelling of the god. In past years,
some strangers who desired to visit the temple out of common curiosity
only were not allowed to approach even the court; but the letter of Mr.
Nishida, explaining the object of your visit, has made it a pleasure for
us to receive you thus.'

Again I express my thanks; and after a second exchange of courtesies the
conversation continues through the medium of Akira.

'Is not this great temple of Kitzuki,' I inquire, 'older than the
temples of Ise?'

'Older by far,' replies the Guji; 'so old, indeed, that we do not well
know the age of it. For it was first built by order of the Goddess of
the Sun, in the time when deities alone existed. Then it was exceedingly
magnificent; it was three hundred and twenty feet high. The beams and
the pillars were larger than any existing timber could furnish; and the
framework was bound together firmly with a rope made of taku [11] fibre,
one thousand fathoms long.

'It was first rebuilt in the time of the Emperor Sui-nin. [12] The
temple so rebuilt by order of the Emperor Sui-nin was called the
Structure of the Iron Rings, because the pieces of the pillars, which
were composed of the wood of many great trees, had been bound fast
together with huge rings of iron. This temple was also splendid, but far
less splendid than the first, which had been built by the gods, for its
height was only one hundred and sixty feet.

'A third time the temple was rebuilt, in the reign of the Empress Sai-
mei; but this third edifice was only eighty feet high. Since then the
structure of the temple has never varied; and the plan then followed has
been strictly preserved to the least detail in the construction of the
present temple.

'The Oho-yashiro has been rebuilt twenty-eight times; and it has been
the custom to rebuild it every sixty-one years. But in the long period
of civil war it was not even repaired for more than a hundred years. In
the fourth year of Tai-ei, one Amako Tsune Hisa, becoming Lord of Izumo,
committed the great temple to the charge of a Buddhist priest, and even
built pagodas about it, to the outrage of the holy traditions. But when
the Amako family were succeeded by Moro Mototsugo, this latter purified
the temple, and restored the ancient festivals and ceremonies which
before had been neglected.'

'In the period when the temple was built upon a larger scale,' I ask,
'were the timbers for its construction obtained from the forests of

The priest Sasa, who guided us into the shrine, makes answer: 'It is
recorded that on the fourth day of the seventh month of the third year
of Ten-in one hundred large trees came floating to the sea coast of
Kitzuki, and were stranded there by the tide. With these timbers the
temple was rebuilt in the third year of Ei-kyu; and that structure was
called the Building-of-the-Trees-which-came-floating. Also in the same
third year of Ten-in, a great tree-trunk, one hundred and fifty feet
long, was stranded on the seashore near a shrine called Ube-no-yashiro,
at Miyanoshita-mura, which is in Inaba. Some people wanted to cut the
tree; but they found a great serpent coiled around it, which looked so
terrible that they became frightened, and prayed to the deity of Ube-
noyashiro to protect them; and the deity revealed himself, and said:
"Whensoever the great temple in Izumo is to be rebuilt, one of the gods
of each province sends timber for the building of it, and this time it
is my turn. Build quickly, therefore, with that great tree which is
mine." And therewith the god disappeared. From these and from other
records we learn that the deities have always superintended or aided the
building of the great temple of Kitzuki.'

'In what part of the Oho-yashiro,' I ask, 'do the august deities
assemble during the Kami-ari-zuki?'

'On the east and west sides of the inner court,' replies the priest
Sasa, 'there are two long buildings called the Jiu-kusha. These contain
nineteen shrines, no one of which is dedicated to any particular god;
and we believe it is in the Jiu-ku-sha that the gods assemble.'

'And how many pilgrims from other provinces visit the great shrine
yearly?' I inquire.

'About two hundred and fifty thousand,' the Guji answers. 'But the
number increases or diminishes according to the condition of the
agricultural classes; the more prosperous the season, the larger the
number of pilgrims. It rarely falls below two hundred thousand.'


Many other curious things the Guji and his chief priest then related to
me; telling me the sacred name of each of the courts, and of the fences
and holy groves and the multitudinous shrines and their divinities; even
the names of the great pillars of the temple, which are nine in number,
the central pillar being called the august Heart-Pillar of the Middle.
All things within the temple grounds have sacred names, even the torii
and the bridges.

The priest Sasa called my attention to the fact that the great shrine of
Oho-kuni-nushi-no-Kami faces west, though the great temple faces east,
like all Shinto temples. In the other two shrines of the same apartment,
both facing east, are the first divine Kokuzo of Izumo, his seventeenth
descendant, and the father of Nominosukune, wise prince and famous
wrestler. For in the reign of the Emperor Sui-nin one Kehaya of Taima
had boasted that no man alive was equal to himself in strength.
Nominosukune, by the emperor's command, wrestled with Kehaya, and threw
him down so mightily that Kehaya's ghost departed from him. This was the
beginning of wrestling in Japan; and wrestlers still pray unto
Nominosukune for power and skill.

There are so many other shrines that I could not enumerate the names of
all their deities without wearying those readers unfamiliar with the
traditions and legends of Shinto. But nearly all those divinities who
appear in the legend of the Master of the Great Land are still believed
to dwell here with him, and here their shrines are: the beautiful one,
magically born from the jewel worn in the tresses of the Goddess of the
Sun, and called by men the Torrent-Mist Princess--and the daughter of
the Lord of the World of Shadows, she who loved the Master of the Great
Land, and followed him out of the place of ghosts to become his wife--
and the deity called 'Wondrous-Eight-Spirits,' grandson of the 'Deity of
Water-Gates,' who first made a fire-drill and platters of red clay for
the august banquet of the god at Kitzuki--and many of the heavenly
kindred of these.


The priest Sasa also tells me this:

When Naomasu, grandson of the great Iyeyasu, and first daimyo of that
mighty Matsudaira family who ruled Izumo for two hundred and fifty
years, came to this province, he paid a visit to the Temple of Kitzuki,
and demanded that the miya of the shrine within the shrine should be
opened that he might look upon the sacred objects--upon the shintai or
body of the deity. And this being an impious desire, both of the Kokuzo
[13] unitedly protested against it. But despite their remonstrances and
their pleadings, he persisted angrily in his demand, so that the priests
found themselves compelled to open the shrine. And the miya being
opened, Naomasu saw within it a great awabi [14] of nine holes--so
large that it concealed everything behind it. And when he drew still
nearer to look, suddenly the awabi changed itself into a huge serpent
more than fifty feet in length; [15]--and it massed its black coils
before the opening of the shrine, and hissed like the sound of raging
fire, and looked so terrible, that Naomasu and those with him fled away
-having been able to see naught else. And ever thereafter Naomasu
feared and reverenced the god.


The Guji then calls my attention to the quaint relics lying upon the
long low bench between us, which is covered with white silk: a metal
mirror, found in preparing the foundation of the temple when rebuilt
many hundred years ago; magatama jewels of onyx and jasper; a Chinese
flute made of jade; a few superb swords, the gifts of shoguns and
emperors; helmets of splendid antique workmanship; and a bundle of
enormous arrows with double-pointed heads of brass, fork-shaped and
keenly edged.

After I have looked at these relics and learned something of their
history, the Guji rises and says to me, 'Now we will show you the
ancient fire-drill of Kitzuki, with which the sacred fire is kindled.'

Descending the steps, we pass again before the Haiden, and enter a
spacious edifice on one side of the court, of nearly equal size with the
Hall of Prayer. Here I am agreeably surprised to find a long handsome
mahogany table at one end of the main apartment into which we are
ushered, and mahogany chairs placed all about it for the reception of
guests. I am motioned to one chair, my interpreter to another; and the
Guji and his priests take their seats also at the table. Then an
attendant sets before me a handsome bronze stand about three feet long,
on which rests an oblong something carefully wrapped in snow-white
cloths. The Guji removes the wrappings; and I behold the most primitive
form of fire-drill known to exist in the Orient. [16] It is simply a
very thick piece of solid white plank, about two and a half feet long,
with a line of holes drilled along its upper edge, so that the upper
part of each hole breaks through the sides of the plank. The sticks
which produce the fire, when fixed in the holes and rapidly rubbed
between the palms of the hands, are made of a lighter kind of white
wood; they are about two feet long, and as thick as a common lead

While I am yet examining this curious simple utensil, the invention of
which tradition ascribes to the gods, and modern science to the earliest
childhood of the human race, a priest places upon the table a light,
large wooden box, about three feet long, eighteen inches wide, and four
inches high at the sides, but higher in the middle, as the top is arched
like the shell of a tortoise. This object is made of the same hinoki
wood as the drill; and two long slender sticks are laid beside it. I at
first suppose it to be another fire-drill. But no human being could
guess what it really is. It is called the koto-ita, and is one of the
most primitive of musical instruments; the little sticks are used to
strike it. At a sign from the Guji two priests place the box upon the
floor, seat themselves on either side of it, and taking up the little
sticks begin to strike the lid with them, alternately and slowly, at the
same time uttering a most singular and monotonous chant. One intones
only the sounds, 'Ang! ang!' and the other responds, 'Ong! ong!' The
koto-ita gives out a sharp, dead, hollow sound as the sticks fall upon
it in time to each utterance of 'Ang! ang!' 'Ong! ong!' [17]


These things I learn:

Each year the temple receives a new fire-drill; but the fire-drill is
never made in Kitzuki, but in Kumano, where the traditional regulations
as to the manner of making it have been preserved from the time of the
gods. For the first Kokuzo of Izumo, on becoming pontiff, received the
fire-drill for the great temple from the hands of the deity who was the
younger brother of the Sun-Goddess, and is now enshrined at Kumano. And
from his time the fire-drills for the Oho-yashiro of Kitzuki have been
made only at Kumano.

Until very recent times the ceremony of delivering the new fire-drill to
the Guji of Kitzuki always took place at the great temple of Oba, on the
occasion of the festival called Unohimatauri. This ancient festival,
which used to be held in the eleventh month, became obsolete after the
Revolution everywhere except at Oba in Izumo, where Izanami-no-Kami, the
mother of gods and men, is enshrined.

Once a year, on this festival, the Kokuzo always went to Oba, taking
with him a gift of double rice-cakes. At Oba he was met by a personage
called the Kame-da-yu, who brought the fire-drill from Kumano and
delivered it to the priests at Oba. According to tradition, the Kame-da-
yu had to act a somewhat ludicrous role so that no Shinto priest ever
cared to perform the part, and a man was hired for it. The duty of the
Kame-da-yu was to find fault with the gift presented to the temple by
the Kokuzo; and in this district of Japan there is still a proverbial
saying about one who is prone to find fault without reason, 'He is like
the Kame-da-yu.'

The Kame-da-yu would inspect the rice-cakes and begin to criticise them.
'They are much smaller this year,' he would observe, 'than they were
last year.' The priests would reply: 'Oh, you are honourably mistaken;
they are in truth very much larger.' 'The colour is not so white this
year as it was last year; and the rice-flour is not finely ground.' For
all these imaginary faults of the mochi the priests would offer
elaborate explanations or apologies.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, the sakaki branches used in it were
eagerly bid for, and sold at high prices, being believed to possess
talismanic virtues.


It nearly always happened that there was a great storm either on the day
the Kokuzo went to Oba, or upon the day he returned therefrom. The
journey had to be made during what is in Izumo the most stormy season
(December by the new calendar). But in popular belief these storms were
in some tremendous way connected with the divine personality of the
Kokuzo whose attributes would thus appear to present some curious
analogy with those of the Dragon-God. Be that as it may, the great
periodical storms of the season are still in this province called
Kokuzo-are [18]; it is still the custom in Izumo to say merrily to the
guest who arrives or departs in a time of tempest, 'Why, you are like
the Kokuzo!'


The Guji waves his hand, and from the farther end of the huge apartment
there comes a sudden burst of strange music--a sound of drums and
bamboo flutes; and turning to look, I see the musicians, three men,
seated upon the matting, and a young girl with them. At another sign
from the Guji the girl rises. She is barefooted and robed in snowy
white, a virgin priestess. But below the hem of the white robe I see the
gleam of hakama of crimson silk. She advances to a little table in the
middle of the apartment, upon which a queer instrument is lying, shaped
somewhat like a branch with twigs bent downward, from each of which
hangs a little bell. Taking this curious object in both hands, she
begins a sacred dance, unlike anything I ever saw before. Her every
movement is a poem, because she is very graceful; and yet her
performance could scarcely be called a dance, as we understand the word;
it is rather a light swift walk within a circle, during which she shakes
the instrument at regular intervals, making all the little bells ring.
Her face remains impassive as a beautiful mask, placid and sweet as the
face of a dreaming Kwannon; and her white feet are pure of line as the
feet of a marble nymph. Altogether, with her snowy raiment and white
flesh and passionless face, she seems rather a beautiful living statue
than a Japanese maiden. And all the while the weird flutes sob and
shrill, and the muttering of the drums is like an incantation.

What I have seen is called the Dance of the Miko, the Divineress.


Then we visit the other edifices belonging to the temple: the
storehouse; the library; the hall of assembly, a massive structure two
stories high, where may be seen the portraits of the Thirty-Six Great
Poets, painted by Tosano Mitsu Oki more than a thousand years ago, and
still in an excellent state of preservation. Here we are also shown a
curious magazine, published monthly by the temple--a record of Shinto
news, and a medium for the discussion of questions relating to the
archaic texts.

After we have seen all the curiosities of the temple, the Guji invites
us to his private residence near the temple to show us other treasures--
letters of Yoritomo, of Hideyoshi, of Iyeyasu; documents in the
handwriting of the ancient emperors and the great shoguns, hundreds of
which precious manuscripts he keeps in a cedar chest. In case of fire
the immediate removal of this chest to a place of safety would be the
first duty of the servants of the household.

Within his own house the Guji, attired in ordinary Japanese full dress
only, appears no less dignified as a private gentleman than he first
seemed as pontiff in his voluminous snowy robe. But no host could be
more kindly or more courteous or more generous. I am also much impressed
by the fine appearance of his suite of young priests, now dressed, like
himself, in the national costume; by the handsome, aquiline,
aristocratic faces, totally different from those of ordinary Japanese-
faces suggesting the soldier rather than the priest. One young man has a
superb pair of thick black moustaches, which is something rarely to be
seen in Japan.

At parting our kind host presents me with the ofuda, or sacred charms
given to pilgrimsh--two pretty images of the chief deities of Kitzuki--
and a number of documents relating to the history of the temple and of
its treasures.


Having taken our leave of the kind Guji and his suite, we are guided to
Inasa-no-hama, a little sea-bay at the rear of the town, by the priest
Sasa, and another kannushi. This priest Sasa is a skilled poet and a man
of deep learning in Shinto history and the archaic texts of the sacred
books. He relates to us many curious legends as we stroll along the

This shore, now a popular bathing resort--bordered with airy little
inns and pretty tea-houses--is called Inasa because of a Shinto
tradition that here the god Oho-kuni-nushi-noKami, the Master-of-the-
Great-Land, was first asked to resign his dominion over the land of
Izumo in favour of Masa-ka-a-katsu-kachi-hayabi-ame-no-oshi-ho-mimi-no-
mikoto; the word Inasa signifying 'Will you consent or not?' [19] In
the thirty-second section of the first volume of the Kojiki the legend
is written: I cite a part thereof:

'The two deities (Tori-bune-no-Kami and Take-mika-dzuchi-no-wo-no-Kami),
descending to the little shore of Inasa in the land of Izumo, drew their
swords ten handbreadths long, and stuck them upside down on the crest of
a wave, and seated themselves cross-legged upon the points of the
swords, and asked the Deity Master-of-the-Great-Land, saying: "The
Heaven-Shining-Great-August-Deity and the High-Integrating-Deity have
charged us and sent us to ask, saying: 'We have deigned to charge our
august child with thy dominion, as the land which he should govern. So
how is thy heart?'" He replied, saying: "I am unable to say. My son Ya-
he-koto-shiro-nushi-no-Kami will be the one to tell you." . . . So they
asked the Deity again, saying: "Thy son Koto-shiro-nushi-no-Kami has now
spoken thus. Hast thou other sons who should speak?" He spoke again,
saying: "There is my other son, Take-mi-na-gata-no-Kami." . . . While he
was thus speaking the Deity Take-mi-na-gata-no-Kami came up [from the
sea], bearing on the tips of his fingers a rock which it would take a
thousand men to lift, and said, "I should like to have a trial of

Here, close to the beach, stands a little miya called Inasa-no-kami-no-
yashiro, or, the Temple of the God of Inasa; and therein Take-mika-dzu-
chi-no-Kami, who conquered in the trial of strength, is enshrined. And
near the shore the great rock which Take-mi-na-gata-no-Kami lifted upon
the tips of his fingers, may be seen rising from the water. And it is
called Chihiki-noiha.

We invite the priests to dine with us at one of the little inns facing
the breezy sea; and there we talk about many things, but particularly
about Kitzuki and the Kokuzo.


Only a generation ago the religious power of the Kokuzo extended over
the whole of the province of the gods; he was in fact as well as in name
the Spiritual Governor of Izumo. His jurisdiction does not now extend
beyond the limits of Kitzuki, and his correct title is no longer Kokuzo,
but Guji. [20] Yet to the simple-hearted people of remoter districts he
is still a divine or semi-divine being, and is mentioned by his ancient
title, the inheritance of his race from the epoch of the gods. How
profound a reverence was paid to him in former ages can scarcely be
imagined by any who have not long lived among the country folk of Izumo.
Outside of Japan perhaps no human being, except the Dalai Lama of
Thibet, was so humbly venerated and so religiously beloved. Within Japan
itself only the Son of Heaven, the 'Tenshi-Sama,' standing as mediator
'between his people and the Sun,' received like homage; but the
worshipful reverence paid to the Mikado was paid to a dream rather than
to a person, to a name rather than to a reality, for the Tenshi-Sama was
ever invisible as a deity 'divinely retired,' and in popular belief no
man could look upon his face and live. [21] Invisibility and mystery
vastly enhanced the divine legend of the Mikado. But the Kokuzo, within
his own province, though visible to the multitude and often journeying
among the people, received almost equal devotion; so that his material
power, though rarely, if ever, exercised, was scarcely less than that of
the Daimyo of Izumo himself. It was indeed large enough to render him a
person with whom the shogunate would have deemed it wise policy to
remain upon good terms. An ancestor of the present Guji even defied the
great Taiko Hideyoshi, refusing to obey his command to furnish troops
with the haughty answer that he would receive no order from a man of
common birth. [22] This defiance cost the family the loss of a large
part of its estates by confiscation, but the real power of the Kokuzo
remained unchanged until the period of the new civilisation.

Out of many hundreds of stories of a similar nature, two little
traditions may be cited as illustrations of the reverence in which the
Kokuzo was formerly held.

It is related that there was a man who, believing himself to have become
rich by favour of the Daikoku of Kitzuki, desired to express his
gratitude by a gift of robes to the Kokuzo.

The Kokuzo courteously declined the proffer; but the pious worshipper
persisted in his purpose, and ordered a tailor to make the robes. The
tailor, having made them, demanded a price that almost took his patron's
breath away. Being asked to give his reason for demanding such a price,
he made answer: Having made robes for the Kokuzo, I cannot hereafter
make garments for any other person. Therefore I must have money enough
to support me for the rest of my life.'

The second story dates back to about one hundred and seventy years ago.

Among the samurai of the Matsue clan in the time of Nobukori, fifth
daimyo of the Matsudaira family, there was one Sugihara Kitoji, who was
stationed in some military capacity at Kitzuki. He was a great favourite
with the Kokuzo, and used often to play at chess with him. During a
game, one evening, this officer suddenly became as one paralysed, unable
to move or speak. For a moment all was anxiety and confusion; but the
Kokuzo said: 'I know the cause. My friend was smoking, and although
smoking disagrees with me, I did not wish to spoil his pleasure by
telling him so. But the Kami, seeing that I felt ill, became angry with
him. Now I shall make him well.' Whereupon the Kokuzo uttered some
magical word, and the officer was immediately as well as before.


Once more we are journeying through the silence of this holy land of
mists and of legends; wending our way between green leagues of ripening
rice white-sprinkled with arrows of prayer between the far processions
of blue and verdant peaks whose names are the names of gods. We have
left Kitzuki far behind. But as in a dream I still see the mighty
avenue, the long succession of torii with their colossal shimenawa, the
majestic face of the Guji, the kindly smile of the priest Sasa, and the
girl priestess in her snowy robes dancing her beautiful ghostly dance.
It seems to me that I can still hear the sound of the clapping of hands,
like the crashing of a torrent. I cannot suppress some slight exultation
at the thought that I have been allowed to see what no other foreigner
has been privileged to see--the interior of Japan's most ancient
shrine, and those sacred utensils and quaint rites of primitive worship
so well worthy the study of the anthropologist and the evolutionist.

But to have seen Kitzuki as I saw it is also to have seen something much
more than a single wonderful temple. To see Kitzuki is to see the living
centre of Shinto, and to feel the life-pulse of the ancient faith,
throbbing as mightily in this nineteenth century as ever in that unknown
past whereof the Kojiki itself, though written in a tongue no longer
spoken, is but a modern record. [23] Buddhism, changing form or slowly
decaying through the centuries, might seem doomed to pass away at last
from this Japan to which it came only as an alien faith; but Shinto,
unchanging and vitally unchanged, still remains all dominant in the land
of its birth, and only seems to gain in power and dignity with time.[24]
Buddhism has a voluminous theology, a profound philosophy, a literature
vast as the sea. Shinto has no philosophy, no code of ethics, no
metaphysics; and yet, by its very immateriality, it can resist the
invasion of Occidental religious thought as no other Orient faith can.
Shinto extends a welcome to Western science, but remains the
irresistible opponent of Western religion; and the foreign zealots who
would strive against it are astounded to find the power that foils their
uttermost efforts indefinable as magnetism and invulnerable as air.
Indeed the best of our scholars have never been able to tell us what
Shinto is. To some it appears to be merely ancestor-worship, to others
ancestor-worship combined with nature-worship; to others, again, it
seems to be no religion at all; to the missionary of the more ignorant
class it is the worst form of heathenism. Doubtless the difficulty of
explaining Shinto has been due simply to the fact that the sinologists
have sought for the source of it in books: in the Kojiki and the
Nihongi, which are its histories; in the Norito, which are its prayers;
in the commentaries of Motowori and Hirata, who were its greatest
scholars. But the reality of Shinto lives not in books, nor in rites,
nor in commandments, but in the national heart, of which it is the
highest emotional religious expression, immortal and ever young. Far
underlying all the surface crop of quaint superstitions and artless
myths and fantastic magic there thrills a mighty spiritual force, the
whole soul of a race with all its impulses and powers and intuitions. He
who would know what Shinto is must learn to know that mysterious soul in
which the sense of beauty and the power of art and the fire of heroism
and magnetism of loyalty and the emotion of faith have become inherent,
immanent, unconscious, instinctive.

Trusting to know something of that Oriental soul in whose joyous love of
nature and of life even the unlearned may discern a strange likeness to
the soul of the old Greek race, I trust also that I may presume some day
to speak of the great living power of that faith now called Shinto, but
more anciently Kami-no-michi, or 'The Way of the Gods.'

Chapter Nine
In the Cave of the Children's Ghosts


IT is forbidden to go to Kaka if there be wind enough 'to move three

Now an absolutely windless day is rare on this wild western coast. Over
the Japanese Sea, from Korea, or China, or boreal Siberia, some west or
north-west breeze is nearly always blowing. So that I have had to wait
many long months for a good chance to visit Kaka.

Taking the shortest route, one goes first to Mitsu-ura from Matsue,
either by kuruma or on foot. By kuruma this little journey occupies
nearly two hours and a half, though the distance is scarcely seven
miles, the road being one of the worst in all Izumo. You leave Matsue to
enter at once into a broad plain, level as a lake, all occupied by rice-
fields and walled in by wooded hills. The path, barely wide enough for a
single vehicle, traverses this green desolation, climbs the heights
beyond it, and descends again into another and a larger level of rice-
fields, surrounded also by hills. The path over the second line of hills
is much steeper; then a third rice-plain must be crossed and a third
chain of green altitudes, lofty enough to merit the name of mountains.
Of course one must make the ascent on foot: it is no small labour for a
kurumaya to pull even an empty kuruma up to the top; and how he manages
to do so without breaking the little vehicle is a mystery, for the path
is stony and rough as the bed of a torrent. A tiresome climb I find it;
but the landscape view from the summit is more than compensation.

Then descending, there remains a fourth and last wide level of rice-
fields to traverse. The absolute flatness of the great plains between
the ranges, and the singular way in which these latter 'fence off' the
country into sections, are matters for surprise even in a land of
surprises like Japan. Beyond the fourth rice-valley there is a fourth
hill-chain, lower and richly wooded, on reaching the base of which the
traveller must finally abandon his kuruma, and proceed over the hills on
foot. Behind them lies the sea. But the very worst bit of the journey
now begins. The path makes an easy winding ascent between bamboo growths
and young pine and other vegetation for a shaded quarter of a mile,
passing before various little shrines and pretty homesteads surrounded
by high-hedged gardens. Then it suddenly breaks into steps, or rather
ruins of steps--partly hewn in the rock, partly built, everywhere
breached and worn which descend, all edgeless, in a manner amazingly
precipitous, to the village of Mitsu-ura. With straw sandals, which
never slip, the country folk can nimbly hurry up or down such a path;
but with foreign footgear one slips at nearly every step; and when you
reach the bottom at last, the wonder of how you managed to get there,
even with the assistance of your faithful kurumaya, keeps you for a
moment quite unconscious of the fact that you are already in Mitsu-ura.


Mitsu-ura stands with its back to the mountains, at the end of a small
deep bay hemmed in by very high cliffs. There is only one narrow strip
of beach at the foot of the heights; and the village owes its existence
to that fact, for beaches are rare on this part of the coast. Crowded
between the cliffs and the sea, the houses have a painfully compressed
aspect; and somehow the greater number give one the impression of things
created out of wrecks of junks. The little streets, or rather alleys,
are full of boats and skeletons of boats and boat timbers; and
everywhere, suspended from bamboo poles much taller than the houses,
immense bright brown fishing-nets are drying in the sun. The whole curve
of the beach is also lined with boats, lying side by side so that I
wonder how it will be possible to get to the water's edge without
climbing over them. There is no hotel; but I find hospitality in a
fisherman's dwelling, while my kurumaya goes somewhere to hire a boat
for Kaka-ura.

In less than ten minutes there is a crowd of several hundred people
about the house, half-clad adults and perfectly naked boys. They
blockade the building; they obscure the light by filling up the doorways
and climbing into the windows to look at the foreigner. The aged
proprietor of the cottage protests in vain, says harsh things; the crowd
only thickens. Then all the sliding screens are closed. But in the paper
panes there are holes; and at all the lower holes the curious take
regular turns at peeping. At a higher hole I do some peeping myself. The
crowd is not prepossessing: it is squalid, dull-featured, remarkably
ugly. But it is gentle and silent; and there are one or two pretty faces
in it which seem extraordinary by reason of the general homeliness of
the rest.

At last my kurumaya has succeeded in making arrangements for a boat; and
I effect a sortie to the beach, followed by the kurumaya and by all my
besiegers. Boats have been moved to make a passage for us, and we embark
without trouble of any sort. Our crew consists of two scullers--an old
man at the stem, wearing only a rokushaku about his loins, and an old
woman at the bow, fully robed and wearing an immense straw hat shaped
like a mushroom. Both of course stand to their work and it would be hard
to say which is the stronger or more skilful sculler. We passengers
squat Oriental fashion upon a mat in the centre of the boat, where a
hibachi, well stocked with glowing charcoal, invites us to smoke.


The day is clear blue to the end of the world, with a faint wind from
the east, barely enough to wrinkle the sea, certainly more than enough
to 'move three hairs.' Nevertheless the boatwoman and the boatman do not
seem anxious; and I begin to wonder whether the famous prohibition is
not a myth. So delightful the transparent water looks, that before we
have left the bay I have to yield to its temptation by plunging in and
swimming after the boat. When I climb back on board we are rounding the
promontory on the right; and the little vessel begins to rock. Even
under this thin wind the sea is moving in long swells. And as we pass
into the open, following the westward trend of the land, we find
ourselves gliding over an ink-black depth, in front of one of the very
grimmest coasts I ever saw.

A tremendous line of dark iron-coloured cliffs, towering sheer from the
sea without a beach, and with never a speck of green below their
summits; and here and there along this terrible front, monstrous
beetlings, breaches, fissures, earthquake rendings, and topplings-down.
Enormous fractures show lines of strata pitched up skyward, or plunging
down into the ocean with the long fall of cubic miles of cliff. Before
fantastic gaps, prodigious masses of rock, of all nightmarish shapes,
rise from profundities unfathomed. And though the wind to-day seems
trying to hold its breath, white breakers are reaching far up the
cliffs, and dashing their foam into the faces of the splintered crags.
We are too far to hear the thunder of them; but their ominous sheet-
lightning fully explains to me the story of the three hairs. Along this
goblin coast on a wild day there would be no possible chance for the
strongest swimmer, or the stoutest boat; there is no place for the foot,
no hold for the hand, nothing but the sea raving against a precipice of
iron. Even to-day, under the feeblest breath imaginable, great swells
deluge us with spray as they splash past. And for two long hours this
jagged frowning coast towers by; and, as we toil on, rocks rise around
us like black teeth; and always, far away, the foam-bursts gleam at the
feet of the implacable cliffs. But there are no sounds save the lapping
and plashing of passing swells, and the monotonous creaking of the
sculls upon their pegs of wood.

At last, at last, a bay--a beautiful large bay, with a demilune of soft
green hills about it, overtopped by far blue mountains--and in the very
farthest point of the bay a miniature village, in front of which many
junks are riding at anchor: Kaka-ura.

But we do not go to Kaka-ura yet; the Kukedo are not there. We cross the
broad opening of the bay, journey along another half-mile of ghastly
sea-precipice, and finally make for a lofty promontory of naked Plutonic
rock. We pass by its menacing foot, slip along its side, and lo! at an
angle opens the arched mouth of a wonderful cavern, broad, lofty, and
full of light, with no floor but the sea. Beneath us, as we slip into
it, I can see rocks fully twenty feet down. The water is clear as air.
This is the Shin-Kukedo, called the New Cavern, though assuredly older
than human record by a hundred thousand years.


A more beautiful sea-cave could scarcely be imagined. The sea,
tunnelling the tall promontory through and through, has also, like a
great architect, ribbed and groined and polished its mighty work. The
arch of the entrance is certainly twenty feet above the deep water, and
fifteen wide; and trillions of wave tongues have licked the vault and
walls into wondrous smoothness. As we proceed, the rock-roof steadily
heightens and the way widens. Then we unexpectedly glide under a heavy
shower of fresh water, dripping from overhead. This spring is called the
o-chozubachi or mitarashi [1] of Shin-Kukedo-San.. From the high vault
at this point it is believed that a great stone will detach itself and
fall upon any evil-hearted person who should attempt to enter the cave.
I safely pass through the ordeal!

Suddenly as we advance the boatwoman takes a stone from the bottom of
the boat, and with it begins to rap heavily on the bow; and the hollow
echoing is reiterated with thundering repercussions through all the
cave. And in another instant we pass into a great burst of light, coming
from the mouth of a magnificent and lofty archway on the left, opening
into the cavern at right angles. This explains the singular illumination
of the long vault, which at first seemed to come from beneath; for while
the opening was still invisible all the water appeared to be suffused
with light. Through this grand arch, between outlying rocks, a strip of
beautiful green undulating coast appears, over miles of azure water. We
glide on toward the third entrance to the Kukedo, opposite to that by
which we came in; and enter the dwelling-place of the Kami and the
Hotoke, for this grotto is sacred both to Shinto and to Buddhist faith.

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