Part 4 out of 5
Here the Kukedo reaches its greatest altitude and breadth. Its vault is
fully forty feet above the water, and its walls thirty feet apart. Far
up on the right, near the roof, is a projecting white rock, and above
the rock an orifice wherefrom a slow stream drips, seeming white as the
This is the legendary Fountain of Jizo, the fountain of milk at which
the souls of dead children drink. Sometimes it flows more swiftly,
sometimes more slowly; but it never ceases by night or day. And mothers
suffering from want of milk come hither to pray that milk may be given
unto them; and their prayer is heard. And mothers having more milk than
their infants need come hither also, and pray to Jizo that so much as
they can give may be taken for the dead children; and their prayer is
heard, and their milk diminishes.
At least thus the peasants of Izumo say.
And the echoing of the swells leaping against the rocks without, the
rushing and rippling of the tide against the walls, the heavy rain of
percolating water, sounds of lapping and gurgling and plashing, and
sounds of mysterious origin coming from no visible where, make it
difficult for us to hear each other speak. The cavern seems full of
voices, as if a host of invisible beings were holding tumultuous
Below us all the deeply lying rocks are naked to view as if seen through
glass. It seems to me that nothing could be more delightful than to swim
through this cave and let one's self drift with the sea-currents through
all its cool shadows. But as I am on the point of jumping in, all the
other occupants of the boat utter wild cries of protest. It is certain
death! men who jumped in here only six months ago were never heard of
again! this is sacred water, Kami-no-umi! And as if to conjure away my
temptation, the boatwoman again seizes her little stone and raps
fearfully upon the bow. On finding, however, that I am not sufficiently
deterred by these stories of sudden death and disappearance, she
suddenly screams into my ear the magical word,
Sharks! I have no longer any desire whatever to swim through the many-
sounding halls of Shin-Kukedo-San. I have lived in the tropics!
And we start forthwith for Kyu-Kukedo-San, the Ancient Cavern.
For the ghastly fancies about the Kami-no-umi, the word 'same' afforded
a satisfactory explanation. But why that long, loud, weird rapping on
the bow with a stone evidently kept on board for no other purpose? There
was an exaggerated earnestness about the action which gave me an uncanny
sensation--something like that which moves a man while walking at night
upon a lonesome road, full of queer shadows, to sing at the top of his
voice. The boatwoman at first declares that the rapping was made only
for the sake of the singular echo. But after some cautious further
questioning, I discover a much more sinister reason for the performance.
Moreover, I learn that all the seamen and seawomen of this coast do the
same thing when passing through perilous places, or places believed to
be haunted by the Ma. What are the Ma?
From the caves of the Kami we retrace our course for about a quarter of
a mile; then make directly for an immense perpendicular wrinkle in the
long line of black cliffs. Immediately before it a huge dark rock towers
from the sea, whipped by the foam of breaking swells. Rounding it, we
glide behind it into still water and shadow, the shadow of a monstrous
cleft in the precipice of the coast. And suddenly, at an unsuspected
angle, the mouth of another cavern yawns before us; and in another
moment our boat touches its threshold of stone with a little shock that
sends a long sonorous echo, like the sound of a temple drum, booming
through all the abysmal place. A single glance tells me whither we have
come. Far within the dusk I see the face of a Jizo, smiling in pale
stone, and before him, and all about him, a weird congregation of grey
shapes without shape--a host of fantasticalities that strangely suggest
the wreck of a cemetery. From the sea the ribbed floor of the cavern
slopes high through deepening shadows hack to the black mouth of a
farther grotto; and all that slope is covered with hundreds and
thousands of forms like shattered haka. But as the eyes grow accustomed
to the gloaming it becomes manifest that these were never haka; they are
only little towers of stone and pebbles deftly piled up by long and
'Shinda kodomo no shigoto,' my kurumaya murmurs with a compassionate
smile; 'all this is the work of the dead children.'
And we disembark. By counsel, I take off my shoes and put on a pair of
zori, or straw sandals provided for me, as the rock is extremely
slippery. The others land barefoot. But how to proceed soon becomes a
puzzle: the countless stone-piles stand so close together that no space
for the foot seems to be left between them.
'Mada michiga arimasu!' the boatwoman announces, leading the way. There
is a path.
Following after her, we squeeze ourselves between the wall of the cavern
on the right and some large rocks, and discover a very, very narrow
passage left open between the stone-towers. But we are warned to be
careful for the sake of the little ghosts: if any of their work be
overturned, they will cry. So we move very cautiously and slowly across
the cave to a space bare of stone-heaps, where the rocky floor is
covered with a thin layer of sand, detritus of a crumbling ledge above
it. And in that sand I see light prints of little feet, children's feet,
tiny naked feet, only three or four inches long--the footprints of the
Had we come earlier, the boatwoman says, we should have seen many more.
For 'tis at night, when the soil of the cavern is moist with dews and
drippings from the roof, that They leave Their footprints upon it; but
when the heat of the day comes, and the sand and the rocks dry up, the
prints of the little feet vanish away.
There are only three footprints visible, but these are singularly
distinct. One points toward the wall of the cavern; the others toward
the sea. Here and there, upon ledges or projections of the rock, all
about the cavern, tiny straw sandals--children's zori--are lying:
offerings of pilgrims to the little ones, that their feet may not be
wounded by the stones. But all the ghostly footprints are prints of
Then we advance, picking our way very, very carefully between the stone-
towers, toward the mouth of the inner grotto, and reach the statue of
Jizo before it. A seated Jizo carven in granite, holding in one hand the
mystic jewel by virtue of which all wishes may be fulfilled; in the
other his shakujo, or pilgrim's staff. Before him (strange condescension
of Shinto faith!) a little torii has been erected, and a pair of gohei!
Evidently this gentle divinity has no enemies; at the feet of the lover
of children's ghosts, both creeds unite in tender homage.
I said feet. But this subterranean Jizo has only one foot. The carven
lotus on which he reposes has been fractured and broken: two great
petals are missing; and the right foot, which must have rested upon one
of them, has been knocked off at the ankle. This, I learn upon inquiry,
has been done by the waves. In times of great storm the billows rush
into the cavern like raging Oni, and sweep all the little stone towers
into shingle as they come, and dash the statues against the rocks. But
always during the first still night after the tempest the work is
reconstructed as before!
Hotoke ga shimpai shite: naki-naki tsumi naoshi-masu.' They make
mourning, the hotoke; weeping, they pile up the stones again, they
rebuild their towers of prayer.
All about the black mouth of the inner grotto the bone-coloured rock
bears some resemblance to a vast pair of yawning jaws. Downward from
this sinister portal the cavern-floor slopes into a deeper and darker
aperture. And within it, as one's eyes become accustomed to the gloom, a
still larger vision of stone towers is disclosed; and beyond them, in a
nook of the grotto, three other statues of Jizo smile, each one with a
torii before it. Here I have the misfortune to upset first one stone-
pile and then another, while trying to proceed. My kurumaya, almost
simultaneously, ruins a third. To atone therefore, we must build six new
towers, or double the number of those which we have cast down. And while
we are thus busied, the boatwoman tells of two fishermen who remained in
the cavern through all one night, and heard the humming of the viewless
gathering, and sounds of speech, like the speech of children murmuring
Only at night do the shadowy children come to build their little stone-
heaps at the feet of Jizo; and it is said that every night the stones
are changed. When I ask why they do not work by day, when there is none
to see them, I am answered: 'O-Hi-San  might see them; the dead
exceedingly fear the Lady-Sun.'
To the question, 'Why do they come from the sea?' I can get no
satisfactory answer. But doubtless in the quaint imagination of this
people, as also in that of many another, there lingers still the
primitive idea of some communication, mysterious and awful, between the
world of waters and the world of the dead. It is always over the sea,
after the Feast of Souls, that the spirits pass murmuring back to their
dim realm, in those elfish little ships of straw which are launched for
them upon the sixteenth day of the seventh moon. Even when these are
launched upon rivers, or when floating lanterns are set adrift upon
lakes or canals to light the ghosts upon their way, or when a mother
bereaved drops into some running stream one hundred little prints of
Jizo for the sake of her lost darling, the vague idea behind the pious
act is that all waters flow to the sea and the sea itself unto the
Some time, somewhere, this day will come back to me at night, with its
visions and sounds: the dusky cavern, and its grey hosts of stone
climbing back into darkness, and the faint prints of little naked feet,
and the weirdly smiling images, and the broken syllables of the waters
inward-borne, multiplied by husky echoings, blending into one vast
ghostly whispering, like the humming of the Sai-no-Kawara.
And over the black-blue bay we glide to the rocky beach of Kaka-ura.
As at Mitsu-ura, the water's edge is occupied by a serried line of
fishing-boats, each with its nose to the sea; and behind these are ranks
of others; and it is only just barely possible to squeeze one's way
between them over the beach to the drowsy, pretty, quaint little streets
behind them. Everybody seems to be asleep when we first land: the only
living creature visible is a cat, sitting on the stern of a boat; and
even that cat, according to Japanese beliefs, might not be a real cat,
but an o-bake or a nekomata--in short, a goblin-cat, for it has a long
tail. It is hard work to discover the solitary hotel: there are no
signs; and every house seems a private house, either a fisherman's or a
farmer's. But the little place is worth wandering about in. A kind of
yellow stucco is here employed to cover the exterior of walls; and this
light warm tint under the bright blue day gives to the miniature streets
a more than cheerful aspect.
When we do finally discover the hotel, we have to wait quite a good
while before going in; for nothing is ready; everybody is asleep or
away, though all the screens and sliding-doors are open. Evidently there
are no thieves in Kaka-ura. The hotel is on a little hillock, and is
approached from the main street (the rest are only miniature alleys) by
two little flights of stone steps. Immediately across the way I see a
Zen temple and a Shinto temple, almost side by side.
At last a pretty young woman, naked to the waist, with a bosom like a
Naiad, comes running down the street to the hotel at a surprising speed,
bowing low with a smile as she hurries by us into the house. This little
person is the waiting-maid of the inn, O-Kayo-San--name signifying
'Years of Bliss.' Presently she reappears at the threshold, fully robed
in a nice kimono, and gracefully invites us to enter, which we are only
too glad to do. The room is neat and spacious; Shinto kakemono from
Kitzuki are suspended in the toko and upon the walls; and in one corner
I see a very handsome Zen-but-sudan, or household shrine. (The form of
the shrine, as well as the objects of worship therein, vary according to
the sect of the worshippers.) Suddenly I become aware that it is growing
strangely dark; and looking about me, perceive that all the doors and
windows and other apertures of the inn are densely blocked up by a
silent, smiling crowd which has gathered to look at me. I could not have
believed there were so many people in Kaka-ura.
In a Japanese house, during the hot season, everything is thrown open to
the breeze. All the shoji or sliding paper-screens, which serve for
windows; and all the opaque paper-screens (fusuma) used in other seasons
to separate apartments, are removed. There is nothing left between floor
and roof save the frame or skeleton of the building; the dwelling is
literally unwalled, and may be seen through in any direction. The
landlord, finding the crowd embarrassing, closes up the building in
front. The silent, smiling crowd goes to the rear. The rear is also
closed. Then the crowd masses to right and left of the house; and both
sides have to be closed, which makes it insufferably hot. And the crowd
make gentle protest.
Wherefore our host, being displeased, rebukes the multitude with
argument and reason, yet without lifting his voice. (Never do these
people lift up their voices in anger.) And what he says I strive to
translate, with emphasis, as follows:
'You-as-for! outrageousness doing--what marvellous is?
'Theatre is not!
'Juggler is not!
'Wrestler is not!
'What amusing is?
'Honourable-Guest this is!
'Now august-to-eat-time-is; to-look-at evil matter is.
But outside, soft laughing voices continue to plead; pleading,
shrewdly enough, only with the feminine portion of the family:
the landlord's heart is less easily touched. And these, too,
have their arguments:
'Shoji-to-open-condescend!--want to see! 'Though-we-look-at,
'So that not-to-hinder looking-at is good.
'Hasten therefore to open!'
As for myself, I would gladly protest against this sealing-up, for there
is nothing offensive nor even embarrassing in the gaze of these
innocent, gentle people; but as the landlord seems to be personally
annoyed, I do not like to interfere. The crowd, however, does not go
away: it continues to increase, waiting for my exit. And there is one
high window in the rear, of which the paper-panes contain some holes;
and I see shadows of little people climbing up to get to the holes.
Presently there is an eye at every hole.
When I approach the window, the peepers drop noiselessly to the ground,
with little timid bursts of laughter, and run away. But they soon come
back again. A more charming crowd could hardly be imagined: nearly all
boys and girls, half-naked because of the heat, but fresh and clean as
flower-buds. Many of the faces are surprisingly pretty; there are but
very few which are not extremely pleasing. But where are the men, and
the old women? Truly, this population seems not of Kaka-ura, but rather
of the Sai-no-Kawara. The boys look like little Jizo.
During dinner, I amuse myself by poking pears and little pieces of
radish through the holes in the shoji. At first there is much hesitation
and silvery laughter; but in a little while the silhouette of a tiny
hand reaches up cautiously, and a pear vanishes away. Then a second pear
is taken, without snatching, as softly as if a ghost had appropriated
it. Thereafter hesitation ceases, despite the effort of one elderly
woman to create a panic by crying out the word Mahotsukai, 'wizard.' By
the time the dinner is over and the shoji removed, we have all become
good friends. Then the crowd resumes its silent observation from the
four cardinal points.
I never saw a more striking difference in the appearance of two village
populations than that between the youth of Mitsu-ura and of Kaka. Yet
the villages are but two hours' sailing distance apart. In remoter
Japan, as in certain islands of the West Indies, particular physical
types are developed apparently among communities but slightly isolated;
on one side of a mountain a population may be remarkably attractive,
while upon the other you may find a hamlet whose inhabitants are
decidedly unprepossessing. But nowhere in this country have I seen a
prettier jeunesse than that of Kaka-ura.
'Returning-time-in-to-look-at-as-for-is-good.' As we descend to the bay,
the whole of Kaka-ura, including even the long-invisible ancients of the
village, accompanies us; making no sound except the pattering of geta.
Thus we are escorted to our boat. Into all the other craft drawn up on
the beach the younger folk clamber lightly, and seat themselves on the
prows and the gunwales to gaze at the marvellous Thing-that-by-looking-
at-worn-out-is-not. And all smile, but say nothing, even to each other:
somehow the experience gives me the sensation of being asleep; it is so
soft, so gentle, and so queer withal, just like things seen in dreams.
And as we glide away over the blue lucent water I look back to see the
people all waiting and gazing still from the great semicircle of boats;
all the slender brown child-limbs dangling from the prows; all the
velvety-black heads motionless in the sun; all the boy-faces smiling
Jizo-smiles; all the black soft eyes still watching, tirelessly
watching, the Thing-that-by-looking-at-worn-out-is-not. And as the
scene, too swiftly receding, diminishes to the width of a kakemono, I
vainly wish that I could buy this last vision of it, to place it in my
toko, and delight my soul betimes with gazing thereon. Yet another
moment, and we round a rocky point; and Kaka-ura vanishes from my sight
for ever. So all things pass away.
Assuredly those impressions which longest haunt recollection are the
most transitory: we remember many more instants than minutes, more
minutes than hours; and who remembers an entire day? The sum of the
remembered happiness of a lifetime is the creation of seconds. 'What is
more fugitive than a smile? yet when does the memory of a vanished smile
expire? or the soft regret which that memory may evoke?
Regret for a single individual smile is something common to normal human
nature; but regret for the smile of a population, for a smile considered
as an abstract quality, is certainly a rare sensation, and one to be
obtained, I fancy, only in this Orient land whose people smile for ever
like their own gods of stone. And this precious experience is already
mine; I am regretting the smile of Kaka.
Simultaneously there comes the recollection of a strangely grim Buddhist
legend. Once the Buddha smiled; and by the wondrous radiance of that
smile were countless worlds illuminated. But there came a Voice, saying:
'It is not real! It cannot last!' And the light passed.
Seki wa yoi toko,
Asahi wo ukete;
(SONG OF MIONOSEKI.)
[Seki is a goodly place, facing the morning sun. There, from the holy
mountains, the winds blow softly, softly--soyosoyoto.]
THE God of Mionoseki hates eggs, hen's eggs. Likewise he hates hens and
chickens, and abhors the Cock above all living creatures. And in
Mionoseki there are no cocks or hens or chickens or eggs. You could not
buy a hen's egg in that place even for twenty times its weight in gold.
And no boat or junk or steamer could be hired to convey to Mionoseki so
much as the feather of a chicken, much less an egg. Indeed, it is even
held that if you have eaten eggs in the morning you must not dare to
visit Mionoseki until the following day. For the great deity of
Mionoseki is the patron of mariners and the ruler of storms; and woe
unto the vessel which bears unto his shrine even the odour of an egg.
Once the tiny steamer which runs daily from Matsue to Mionoseki
encountered some unexpectedly terrible weather on her outward journey,
just after reaching the open sea. The crew insisted that something
displeasing to Koto-shiro-nushi-no-Kami must have been surreptitiously
brought on board. All the passengers were questioned in vain. Suddenly
the captain discerned upon the stem of a little brass pipe which one of
the men was smoking, smoking in the face of death, like a true Japanese,
the figure of a crowing cock! Needless to say, that pipe was thrown
overboard. Then the angry sea began to grow calm; and the little vessel
safely steamed into the holy port, and cast anchor before the great
torii of the shrine of the god!
Concerning the reason why the Cock is thus detested by the Great Deity
of Mionoseki, and banished from his domain, divers legends are told; but
the substance of all of them is about as follows: As we read in the
Kojiki, Koto-shiro-nushi-no-Kami, Son of the Great Deity of Kitsuki, was
wont to go to Cape Miho,  'to pursue birds and catch fish.' And for
other reasons also he used to absent himself from home at night, but had
always to return before dawn. Now, in those days the Cock was his
trusted servant, charged with the duty of crowing lustily when it was
time for the god to return. But one morning the bird failed in its duty;
and the god, hurrying back in his boat, lost his oars, and had to paddle
with his hands; and his hands were bitten by the wicked fishes.
Now the people of Yasugi, a pretty little town on the lagoon of Naka-
umi, through which we pass upon our way to Mionoseki, most devoutly
worship the same Koto-shiro-nushi-no-Kami; and nevertheless in Yasugi
there are multitudes of cocks and hens and chickens; and the eggs of
Yasugi cannot be excelled for size and quality. And the people of Yasugi
aver that one may better serve the deity by eating eggs than by doing as
the people of Mionoseki do; for whenever one eats a chicken or devours
an egg, one destroys an enemy of Koto-shiro-nushi-no-Kami.
From Matsue to Mionoseki by steamer is a charming journey in fair
weather. After emerging from the beautiful lagoon of Naka-umi into the
open sea, the little packet follows the long coast of Izumo to the left.
Very lofty this coast is, all cliffs and hills rising from the sea,
mostly green to their summits, and many cultivated in terraces, so as to
look like green pyramids of steps. The bases of the cliffs are very
rocky; and the curious wrinklings and corrugations of the coast suggest
the work of ancient volcanic forces. Far away to the right, over blue
still leagues of sea, appears the long low shore of Hoki, faint as a
mirage, with its far beach like an endless white streak edging the blue
level, and beyond it vapoury lines of woods and cloudy hills, and over
everything, looming into the high sky, the magnificent ghostly shape of
Daisen, snow-streaked at its summit.
So for perhaps an hour we steam on, between Hoki and Izumo; the rugged
and broken green coast on our left occasionally revealing some miniature
hamlet sheltered in a wrinkle between two hills; the phantom coast on
the right always unchanged. Then suddenly the little packet whistles,
heads for a grim promontory to port, glides by its rocky foot, and
enters one of the prettiest little bays imaginable, previously concealed
from view. A shell-shaped gap in the coast--a semicircular basin of
clear deep water, framed in by high corrugated green hills, all wood-
clad. Around the edge of the bay the quaintest of little Japanese
There is no beach, only a semicircle of stone wharves, and above these
the houses, and above these the beautiful green of the sacred hills,
with a temple roof or two showing an angle through the foliage. From the
rear of each house steps descend to deep water; and boats are moored at
all the back-doors. We moor in front of the great temple, the Miojinja.
Its great paved avenue slopes to the water's edge, where boats are also
moored at steps of stone; and looking up the broad approach, one sees a
grand stone torii, and colossal stone lanterns, and two magnificent
sculptured lions, karashishi, seated upon lofty pedestals, and looking
down upon the people from a height of fifteen feet or more. Beyond all
this the walls and gate of the outer temple court appear, and beyond
them, the roofs of the great haiden, and the pierced projecting cross-
beams of the loftier Go-Miojin, the holy shrine itself, relieved against
the green of the wooded hills. Picturesque junks are lying in ranks at
anchor; there are two deep-sea vessels likewise, of modern build, ships
from Osaka. And there is a most romantic little breakwater built of hewn
stone, with a stone lantern perched at the end of it; and there is a
pretty humped bridge connecting it with a tiny island on which I see a
shrine of Benten, the Goddess of Waters.
I wonder if I shall be able to get any eggs!
Unto the pretty waiting maiden of the inn Shimaya I put this scandalous
question, with an innocent face but a remorseful heart:
'Ano ne! tamago wa arimasenka?'
With the smile of a Kwannon she makes reply:-'He! Ahiru-no tamago-ga
There augustly exist eggs--of ducks!
But there exist no ducks. For ducks could not find life worth living in
a city where there is only deep-sea water. And all the ducks' eggs come
This pretty little hotel, whose upper chambers overlook the water, is
situated at one end, or nearly at one end, of the crescent of Mionoseki,
and the Miojinja almost at the other, so that one must walk through the
whole town to visit the temple, or else cross the harbour by boat. But
the whole town is well worth seeing. It is so tightly pressed between
the sea and the bases of the hills that there is only room for one real
street; and this is so narrow that a man could anywhere jump from the
second story of a house upon the water-side into the second story of the
opposite house upon the land-side. And it is as picturesque as it is
narrow, with its awnings and polished balconies and fluttering figured
draperies. From this main street several little ruelles slope to the
water's edge, where they terminate in steps; and in all these miniature
alleys long boats are lying, with their prows projecting over the edge
of the wharves, as if eager to plunge in. The temptation to take to the
water I find to be irresistible: before visiting the Miojinja I jump
from the rear of our hotel into twelve feet of limpid sea, and cool
myself by a swim across the harbour.
On the way to Miojinja, I notice, in multitudes of little shops,
fascinating displays of baskets and utensils made of woven bamboo. Fine
bamboo-ware is indeed the meibutsu, the special product of Mionoseki;
and almost every visitor buys some nice little specimen to carry home
The Miojinja is not in its architecture more remarkable than ordinary
Shinto temples in Izumo; nor are its interior decorations worth
describing in detail. Only the approach to it over the broad sloping
space of level pavement, under the granite torii, and between the great
lions and lamps of stone, is noble. Within the courts proper there is
not much to be seen except a magnificent tank of solid bronze, weighing
tons, which must have cost many thousands of yen. It is a votive
offering. Of more humble ex-votos, there is a queer collection in the
shamusho or business building on the right of the haiden: a series of
quaintly designed and quaintly coloured pictures, representing ships in
great storms, being guided or aided to port by the power of Koto-shiro-
nushi-no-Kami. These are gifts from ships.
The ofuda are not so curious as those of other famous Izumo temples; but
they are most eagerly sought for. Those strips of white paper, bearing
the deity's name, and a few words of promise, which are sold for a few
rin, are tied to rods of bamboo, and planted in all the fields of the
country roundabout. The most curious things sold are tiny packages of
rice-seeds. It is alleged that whatever you desire will grow from these
rice-seeds, if you plant them uttering a prayer. If you desire bamboos,
cotton-plants, peas, lotus-plants, or watermelons, it matters not; only
plant the seed and believe, and the desired crop will arise.
Much more interesting to me than the ofuda of the Miojinja are the
yoraku, the pendent ex-votos in the Hojinji, a temple of the Zen sect
which stands on the summit of the beautiful hill above the great Shinto
shrine. Before an altar on which are ranged the images of the Thirty-
three Kwannons, the thirty-three forms of that Goddess of Mercy who
represents the ideal of all that is sweet and pure in the Japanese
maiden, a strange, brightly coloured mass of curious things may be seen,
suspended from the carven ceiling. There are hundreds of balls of
worsted and balls of cotton thread of all colours; there are skeins of
silk and patterns of silk weaving and of cotton weaving; there are
broidered purses in the shape of sparrows and other living creatures;
there are samples of bamboo plaiting and countless specimens of
needlework. All these are the votive offerings of school children,
little girls only, to the Maid-mother of all grace and sweetness and
pity. So soon as a baby girl learns something in the way of woman 's
work--sewing, or weaving, or knitting, or broidering, she brings her
first successful effort to the temple as an offering to the gentle
divinity, 'whose eyes are beautiful,' she 'who looketh down above the
sound of prayer.' Even the infants of the Japanese kindergarten bring
their first work here--pretty paper-cuttings, scissored out and plaited
into divers patterns by their own tiny flower-soft hands.
Very sleepy and quiet by day is Mionoseki: only at long intervals one
hears laughter of children, or the chant of oarsmen rowing the most
extraordinary boats I ever saw outside of the tropics; boats heavy as
barges, which require ten men to move them. These stand naked to the
work, wielding oars with cross-handles (imagine a letter T with the
lower end lengthened out into an oar-blade). And at every pull they push
their feet against the gunwales to give more force to the stroke;
intoning in every pause a strange refrain of which the soft melancholy
calls back to me certain old Spanish Creole melodies heard in West
The chant begins with a long high note, and descends by fractional tones
with almost every syllable, and faints away a last into an almost
indistinguishable hum. Then comes the stroke, 'Ghi!--ghi!'
But at night Mionoseki is one of the noisiest and merriest little havens
of Western Japan. From one horn of its crescent to the other the fires
of the shokudai, which are the tall light of banquets, mirror themselves
in the water; and the whole air palpitates with sounds of revelry.
Everywhere one hears the booming of the tsudzumi, the little hand-drums
of the geisha, and sweet plaintive chants of girls, and tinkling of
samisen, and the measured clapping of hands in the dance, and the wild
cries and laughter of the players at ken. And all these are but echoes
of the diversions of sailors. Verily, the nature of sailors differs but
little the world over. Every good ship which visits Mionoseki leaves
there, so I am assured, from three hundred to five hundred yen for sake
and for dancing-girls. Much do these mariners pray the Great Deity who
hates eggs to make calm the waters and favourable the winds, so that
Mionoseki may be reached in good time without harm. But having come
hither over an unruffled sea with fair soft breezes all the way, small
indeed is the gift which they give to the temple of the god, and
marvellously large the sums which they pay unto geisha and keepers of
taverns. But the god is patient and longsuffering--except in the matter
However, these Japanese seamen are very gentle compared with our own
Jack Tars, and not without a certain refinement and politeness of their
own. I see them sitting naked to the waist at their banquets; for it is
very hot, but they use their chopsticks as daintily and pledge each
other in sake almost as graciously as men of a better class. Likewise
they seem to treat their girls very kindly. It is quite pleasant to
watch them feasting across the street. Perhaps their laughter is
somewhat more boisterous and their gesticulation a little more vehement
than those of the common citizens; but there is nothing resembling real
roughness--much less rudeness. All become motionless and silent as
statues--fifteen fine bronzes ranged along the wall of the zashiki, 
-when some pretty geisha begins one of those histrionic dances which,
to the Western stranger, seem at first mysterious as a performance of
witchcraft--but which really are charming translations of legend and
story into the language of living grace and the poetry of woman's smile.
And as the wine flows, the more urbane becomes the merriment--until
there falls upon all that pleasant sleepiness which sake brings, and the
guests, one by one, smilingly depart. Nothing could be happier or
gentler than their evening's joviality--yet sailors are considered in
Japan an especially rough class. What would be thought of our own roughs
in such a country?
Well, I have been fourteen months in Izumo; and I have not yet heard
voices raised in anger, or witnessed a quarrel: never have I seen one
man strike another, or a woman bullied, or a child slapped. Indeed I
have never seen any real roughness anywhere that I have been in Japan,
except at the open ports, where the poorer classes seem, through contact
with Europeans, to lose their natural politeness, their native morals--
even their capacity for simple happiness.
Last night I saw the seamen of Old Japan: to-day I shall see those of
New Japan. An apparition in the offing has filled all this little port
with excitement--an Imperial man-of-war. Everybody is going out to look
at her; and all the long boats that were lying in the alleys are already
hastening, full of curious folk, to the steel colossus. A cruiser of the
first class, with a crew of five hundred.
I take passage in one of those astounding craft I mentioned before--a
sort of barge propelled by ten exceedingly strong naked men, wielding
enormous oars--or rather, sweeps--with cross-handles. But I do not go
alone: indeed I can scarcely find room to stand, so crowded the boat is
with passengers of all ages, especially women who are nervous about
going to sea in an ordinary sampan. And a dancing-girl jumps into the
crowd at the risk of her life, just as we push off--and burns her arm
against my cigar in the jump. I am very sorry for her; but she laughs
merrily at my solicitude. And the rowers begin their melancholy
It is a long pull to reach her--the beautiful monster, towering
motionless there in the summer sea, with scarce a curling of thin smoke
from the mighty lungs of her slumbering engines; and that somnolent song
of our boatmen must surely have some ancient magic in it; for by the
time we glide alongside I feel as if I were looking at a dream. Strange
as a vision of sleep, indeed, this spectacle: the host of quaint craft
hovering and trembling around that tremendous bulk; and all the long-
robed, wide-sleeved multitude of the antique port--men, women, children
-the grey and the young together--crawling up those mighty flanks in
one ceaseless stream, like a swarming of ants. And all this with a great
humming like the humming of a hive,--a sound made up of low laughter,
and chattering in undertones, and subdued murmurs of amazement. For the
colossus overawes them--this ship of the Tenshi-Sama, the Son of
Heaven; and they wonder like babies at the walls and the turrets of
steel, and the giant guns and the mighty chains, and the stern bearing
of the white-uniformed hundreds looking down upon the scene without a
smile, over the iron bulwarks. Japanese those also--yet changed by some
mysterious process into the semblance of strangers. Only the experienced
eye could readily decide the nationality of those stalwart marines: but
for the sight of the Imperial arms in gold, and the glimmering
ideographs upon the stern, one might well suppose one's self gazing at
some Spanish or Italian ship-of-war manned by brown Latin men.
I cannot possibly get on board. The iron steps are occupied by an
endless chain of clinging bodies--blue-robed boys from school, and old
men with grey queues, and fearless young mothers holding fast to the
ropes with over-confident babies strapped to their backs, and peasants,
and fishers, and dancing-girls. They are now simply sticking there like
flies: somebody-has told them they must wait fifteen minutes. So they
wait with smiling patience, and behind them in the fleet of high-prowed
boats hundreds more wait and wonder. But they do not wait for fifteen
minutes! All hopes are suddenly shattered by a stentorian announcement
from the deck: 'Mo jikan ga naikara, miseru koto dekimasen!' The
monster is getting up steam--going away: nobody else will be allowed to
come on board. And from the patient swarm of clingers to the hand-ropes,
and the patient waiters in the fleet of boats, there goes up one
exceedingly plaintive and prolonged 'Aa!' of disappointment, followed by
artless reproaches in Izumo dialect: 'Gun-jin wa uso iwanuka to omoya!-
uso-tsuki dana!--aa! so dana!' ('War-people-as-for-lies-never-say-that-
we-thought!--Aa-aa-aa!') Apparently the gunjin are accustomed to such
scenes; for they do not even smile.
But we linger near the cruiser to watch the hurried descent of the
sightseers into their boats, and the slow ponderous motion of the chain-
cables ascending, and the swarming of sailors down over the bows to
fasten and unfasten mysterious things. One, bending head-downwards,
drops his white cap; and there is a race of boats for the honour of
picking it up. A marine leaning over the bulwarks audibly observes to a
comrade: 'Aa! gwaikojn dana!--nani ski ni kite iru daro?'--The other
vainly suggests: 'Yasu-no-senkyoshi daro.' My Japanese costume does not
disguise the fact that I am an alien; but it saves me from the
imputation of being a missionary. I remain an enigma. Then there are
loud cries of 'Abunail'--if the cruiser were to move now there would be
swamping and crushing and drowning unspeakable. All the little boats
scatter and flee away.
Our ten naked oarsmen once more bend to their cross-handled oars, and
recommence their ancient melancholy song. And as we glide back, there
comes to me the idea of the prodigious cost of that which we went forth
to see, the magnificent horror of steel and steam and all the multiple
enginery of death--paid for by those humble millions who toil for ever
knee-deep in the slime of rice-fields, yet can never afford to eat their
own rice! Far cheaper must be the food they live upon; and nevertheless,
merely to protect the little that they own, such nightmares must be
called into existence--monstrous creations of science mathematically
applied to the ends of destruction.
How delightful Mionoseki now seems, drowsing far off there under its
blue tiles at the feet of the holy hills!--immemorial Mionoseki, with
its lamps and lions of stone, and its god who hates eggs!--pretty
fantastic Mionoseki, where all things, save the schools, are medieval
still: the high-pooped junks, and the long-nosed boats, and the
plaintive chants of oarsmen!
And we touch the mossed and ancient wharves of stone again: over one
mile of lucent sea we have floated back a thousand years! I turn to look
at the place of that sinister vision--and lo!--there is nothing there!
Only the level blue of the flood under the hollow blue of the sky--and,
just beyond the promontory, one far, small white speck: the sail of a
junk. The horizon is naked. Gone!--but how soundlessly, how swiftly!
She makes nineteen knots. And, oh! Koto-shiro-nushi-no-Kami, there
probably existed eggs on board!
Notes on Kitzuki
KITZUKI, July 20, 1891.
AKIRA is no longer with me. He has gone to Kyoto, the holy Buddhist
city, to edit a Buddhist magazine; and I already feel without him like
one who has lost his way--despite his reiterated assurances that he
could never be of much service to me in Izumo, as he knew nothing about
But for the time being I am to have plenty of company at Kitzuki, where
I am spending the first part of the summer holidays; for the little city
is full of students and teachers who know me. Kitzuki is not only the
holiest place in the San-indo; it is also the most fashionable bathing
resort. The beach at Inasa bay is one of the best in all Japan; the
beach hotels are spacious, airy, and comfortable; and the bathing
houses, with hot and cold freshwater baths in which to wash off the
brine after a swim, are simply faultless. And in fair weather, the
scenery is delightful, as you look out over the summer space of sea.
Closing the bay on the right, there reaches out from the hills
overshadowing the town a mighty, rugged, pine-clad spur--the Kitzuki
promontory. On the left a low long range of mountains serrate the
horizon beyond the shore-sweep, with one huge vapoury shape towering
blue into the blue sky behind them--the truncated silhouette of
Sanbeyama. Before you the Japanese Sea touches the sky. And there, upon
still clear nights, there appears a horizon of fire--the torches of
hosts of fishing-boats riding at anchor three and four miles away--so
numerous that their lights seem to the naked eye a band of unbroken
The Guji has invited me and one of my friends to see a great harvest
dance at his residence on the evening of the festival of Tenjin. This
dance--Honen-odori--is peculiar to Izumo; and the opportunity to
witness it in this city is a rare one, as it is going to be performed
only by order of the Guji.
The robust pontiff himself loves the sea quite as much as anyone in
Kitzuki; yet he never enters a beach hotel, much less a public bathing
house. For his use alone a special bathing house has been built upon a
ledge of the cliff overhanging the little settlement of Inasa: it is
approached by a narrow pathway shadowed by pine-trees; and there is a
torii before it, and shimenawa. To this little house the Guji ascends
daily during the bathing season, accompanied by a single attendant, who
prepares his bathing dresses, and spreads the clean mats upon which he
rests after returning from the sea. The Guji always bathes robed. No one
but himself and his servant ever approaches the little house, which
commands a charming view of the bay: public reverence for the pontiff's
person has made even his resting-place holy ground. As for the country-
folk, they still worship him with hearts and bodies. They have ceased to
believe as they did in former times, that anyone upon whom the Kokuzo
fixes his eye at once becomes unable to speak or move; but when he
passes among them through the temple court they still prostrate
themselves along his way, as before the Ikigami.
KITZUKI, July 23rd
Always, through the memory of my first day at Kitzuki, there will pass
the beautiful white apparition of the Miko, with her perfect passionless
face, and strange, gracious, soundless tread, as of a ghost.
Her name signifies 'the Pet,' or 'The Darling of the Gods,'-Mi-ko.
The kind Guji, at my earnest request, procured me--or rather, had taken
for me--a photograph of the Miko, in the attitude of her dance,
upholding the mystic suzu, and wearing, over her crimson hakama, the
snowy priestess-robe descending to her feet.
And the learned priest Sasa told me these things concerning the Pet of
the Gods, and the Miko-kagura--which is the name of her sacred dance.
Contrary to the custom at the other great Shinto temples of Japan, such
as Ise, the office of miko at Kitzuki has always been hereditary.
Formerly there were in Kitzuki more than thirty families whose daughters
served the Oho-yashiro as miko: to-day there are but two, and the number
of virgin priestesses does not exceed six--the one whose portrait I
obtained being the chief. At Ise and elsewhere the daughter of any
Shinto priest may become a miko; but she cannot serve in that capacity
after becoming nubile; so that, except in Kitzuki, the miko of all the
greater temples are children from ten to twelve years of age. But at the
Kitzuki Oho-yashiro the maiden-priestesses are beautiful girls of
between sixteen and nineteen years of age; and sometimes a favourite
miko is allowed to continue to serve the gods even after having been
married. The sacred dance is not difficult to learn: the mother or
sister teaches it to the child destined to serve in the temple. The miko
lives at home, and visits the temple only upon festival days to perform
her duties. She is not placed under any severe discipline or
restrictions; she takes no special vows; she risks no dreadful penalties
for ceasing to remain a virgin. But her position being one of high
honour, and a source of revenue to her family, the ties which bind her
to duty are scarcely less cogent than those vows taken by the
priestesses of the antique Occident.
Like the priestesses of Delphi, the miko was in ancient times also a
divineress--a living oracle, uttering the secrets of the future when
possessed by the god whom she served. At no temple does the miko now act
as sibyl, oracular priestess, or divineress. But there still exists a
class of divining-women, who claim to hold communication with the dead,
and to foretell the future, and who call themselves miko--practising
their profession secretly; for it has been prohibited by law.
In the various great Shinto shrines of the Empire the Mikokagura is
differently danced. In Kitzuki, most ancient of all, the dance is the
most simple and the most primitive. Its purpose being to give pleasure
to the gods, religious conservatism has preserved its traditions and
steps unchanged since the period of the beginning of the faith. The
origin of this dance is to be found in the Kojiki legend of the dance of
Ame-nouzume-no-mikoto--she by whose mirth and song the Sun-goddess was
lured from the cavern into which she had retired, and brought back to
illuminate the world. And the suzu--the strange bronze instrument with
its cluster of bells which the miko uses in her dance--still preserves
the form of that bamboo-spray to which Ame-no-uzume-no-mikoto fastened
small bells with grass, ere beginning her mirthful song.
Behind the library in the rear of the great shrine, there stands a more
ancient structure which is still called the Miko-yashiki, or dwelling-
place of the miko. Here in former times all the maiden-priestesses were
obliged to live, under a somewhat stricter discipline than now. By day
they could go out where they pleased; but they were under obligation to
return at night to the yashiki before the gates of the court were
closed. For it was feared that the Pets of the Gods might so far forget
themselves as to condescend to become the darlings of adventurous
mortals. Nor was the fear at all unreasonable; for it was the duty of a
miko to be singularly innocent as well as beautiful. And one of the most
beautiful miko who belonged to the service of the Oho-yashiro did
actually so fall from grace--giving to the Japanese world a romance
which you can buy in cheap printed form at any large bookstore in Japan.
Her name was O-Kuni, and she was the daughter of one Nakamura Mongoro of
Kitzuki, where her descendants still live at the present day. While
serving as dancer in the great temple she fell in love with a ronin
named Nagoya Sanza--a desperate, handsome vagabond, with no fortune in
the world but his sword. And she left the temple secretly, and fled away
with her lover toward Kyoto. All this must have happened not less than
three hundred years ago.
On their way to Kyoto they met another ronin, whose real name I have not
been able to learn. For a moment only this 'wave-man' figures in the
story, and immediately vanishes into the eternal Night of death and all
forgotten things. It is simply recorded that he desired permission to
travel with them, that he became enamoured of the beautiful miko, and
excited the jealousy of her lover to such an extent that a desperate
duel was the result, in which Sanza slew his rival.
Thereafter the fugitives pursued their way to Kyoto without other
interruption. Whether the fair O-Kuni had by this time found ample
reason to regret the step she had taken, we cannot know. But from the
story of her after-life it would seem that the face of the handsome
ronin who had perished through his passion for her became a haunting
We next hear of her in a strange role at Kyoto. Her lover appears to
have been utterly destitute; for, in order to support him, we find her
giving exhibitions of the Miko-kagura in the Shijo-Kawara--which is the
name given to a portion of the dry bed of the river Kamagawa--doubtless
the same place in which the terrible executions by torture took place.
She must have been looked upon by the public of that day as an outcast.
But her extraordinary beauty seems to have attracted many spectators,
and to have proved more than successful as an exhibition. Sanza's purse
became well filled. Yet the dance of O-Kuni in the Shijo-Kawara was
nothing more than the same dance which the miko of Kitzuki dance to-day,
in their crimson hakama and snowy robes--a graceful gliding walk.
The pair next appear in Tokyo--or, as it was then called, Yedo--as
actors. O-Kuni, indeed, is universally credited by tradition, with
having established the modern Japanese stage--the first profane drama.
Before her time only religious plays, of Buddhist authorship, seem to
have been known. Sanza himself became a popular and successful actor,
under his sweetheart's tuition. He had many famous pupils, among them
the great Saruwaka, who subsequently founded a theatre in Yedo; and the
theatre called after him Saruwakaza, in the street Saruwakacho, remains
even unto this day. But since the time of O-Kuni, women have been--at
least until very recently-excluded from the Japanese stage; their
parts, as among the old Greeks, being taken by men or boys so effeminate
in appearance and so skilful in acting that the keenest observer could
never detect their sex.
Nagoya Sanza died many years before his companion. O-Kuni then returned
to her native place, to ancient Kitzuki, where she cut off her beautiful
hair, and became a Buddhist nun. She was learned for her century, and
especially skilful in that art of poetry called Renga; and this art she
continued to teach until her death. With the small fortune she had
earned as an actress she built in Kitzuki the little Buddhist temple
called Rengaji, in the very heart of the quaint town--so called because
there she taught the art of Renga. Now the reason she built the temple
was that she might therein always pray for the soul of the man whom the
sight of her beauty had ruined, and whose smile, perhaps, had stirred
something within her heart whereof Sanza never knew. Her family enjoyed
certain privileges for several centuries because she had founded the
whole art of the Japanese stage; and until so recently as the
Restoration the chief of the descendants of Nakamura Mongoro was always
entitled to a share in the profits of the Kitzuki theatre, and enjoyed
the title of Zamoto. The family is now, however, very poor.
I went to see the little temple of Rengaji, and found that it had
disappeared. Until within a few years it used to stand at the foot of
the great flight of stone steps leading to the second Kwannondera, the
most imposing temple of Kwannon in Kitzuki. Nothing now remains of the
Rengaji but a broken statue of Jizo, before which the people still pray.
The former court of the little temple has been turned into a vegetable
garden, and the material of the ancient building utilised, irreverently
enough, for the construction of some petty cottages now occupying its
site. A peasant told me that the kakemono and other sacred objects had
been given to the neighbouring temple, where they might be seen.
Not far from the site of the Rengaji, in the grounds of the great hakaba
of the Kwannondera, there stands a most curious pine. The trunk of the
tree is supported, not on the ground, but upon four colossal roots which
lift it up at such an angle that it looks like a thing walking upon four
legs. Trees of singular shape are often considered to be the dwelling-
places of Kami; and the pine in question affords an example of this
belief. A fence has been built around it, and a small shrine placed
before it, prefaced by several small torii; and many poor people may be
seen, at almost any hour of the day, praying to the Kami of the place.
Before the little shrine I notice, besides the usual Kitzuki ex-voto of
seaweed, several little effigies of horses made of straw. Why these
offerings of horses of straw? It appears that the shrine is dedicated to
Koshin, the Lord of Roads; and those who are anxious about the health of
their horses pray to the Road-God to preserve their animals from
sickness and death, at the same time bringing these straw effigies in
token of their desire. But this role of veterinarian is not commonly
attributed to Koshin;--and it appears that something in the fantastic
form of the tree suggested the idea.
6 KITZUKI, July 24th
Within the first court of the Oho-yashiro, and to the left of the chief
gate, stands a small timber structure, ashen-coloured with age, shaped
like a common miya or shrine. To the wooden gratings of its closed doors
are knotted many of those white papers upon which are usually written
vows or prayers to the gods. But on peering through the grating one sees
no Shinto symbols in the dimness within. It is a stable! And there, in
the central stall, is a superb horse--looking at you. Japanese
horseshoes of straw are suspended to the wall behind him. He does not
move. He is made of bronze!
Upon inquiring of the learned priest Sasa the story of this horse, I was
told the following curious things:
On the eleventh day of the seventh month, by the ancient calendar,
falls the strange festival called Minige,or 'The Body escaping.' Upon
that day, 'tis said that the Great Deity of Kitzuki leaves his shrine to
pass through all the streets of the city, and along the seashore, after
which he enters into the house of the Kokuzo. Wherefore upon that day
the Kokuzo was always wont to leave his house; and at the present time,
though he does not actually abandon his home, he and his family retire
into certain apartments, so as to leave the larger part of the dwelling
free for the use of the god. This retreat of the Kokuzo is still called
Now while the great Deity Oho-kuni-nushi-no-Kami is passing through the
streets, he is followed by the highest Shinto priest of the shrine--
this kannushi having been formerly called Bekkwa. The word 'Bekkwa'
means 'special' or 'sacred fire'; and the chief kannushi was so called
because for a week before the festival he had been nourished only with
special food cooked with the sacred fire, so that he might be pure in
the presence of the God. And the office of Bekkwa was hereditary; and
the appellation at last became a family name. But he who performs the
rite to-day is no longer called Bekkwa.
Now while performing his function, if the Bekkwa met anyone upon the
street, he ordered him to stand aside with the words: 'Dog, give way!'
And the common people believed, and still believe, that anybody thus
spoken to by the officiating kannushi would be changed into a dog. So on
that day of the Minige nobody used to go out into the streets after a
certain hour, and even now very few of the people of the little city
leave their homes during the festival.
After having followed the deity through all the city, the Bekkwa used to
perform, between two and three o'clock in the darkness of the morning,
some secret rite by the seaside. (I am told this rite is still annually
performed at the same hour.) But, except the Bekkwa himself, no man
might be present; and it was believed, and is still believed by the
common people, that were any man, by mischance, to see the rite he would
instantly fall dead, or become transformed into an animal.
So sacred was the secret of that rite, that the Bekkwa could not even
utter it until after he was dead, to his successor in office.
Therefore, when he died, the body was laid upon the matting of a certain
inner chamber of the temple, and the son was left alone with the corpse,
after all the doors had been carefully closed. Then, at a certain hour
of the night, the soul returned into the body of the dead priest, and he
lifted himself up, and whispered the awful secret into the ear of his
son--and fell back dead again.
But what, you may ask, has all this to do with the Horse of Bronze?
Upon the festival of the Minige, the Great Deity of Kitzuki rides
through the streets of his city upon the Horse of Bronze.
The Horse of Bronze, however, is far from being the only statue in Izumo
which is believed to run about occasionally at night: at least a score
of other artistic things are, or have been, credited with similar
ghastly inclinations. The great carven dragon which writhes above the
entrance of the Kitzuki haiden used, I am told, to crawl about the roofs
at night--until a carpenter was summoned to cut its wooden throat with
a chisel, after which it ceased its perambulations. You can see for
yourself the mark of the chisel on its throat! At the splendid Shinto
temple of Kasuga, in Matsue, there are two pretty life-size bronze deer,
-stag and doe--the heads of which seemed to me to have been separately
cast, and subsequently riveted very deftly to the bodies. Nevertheless I
have been assured by some good country-folk that each figure was
originally a single casting, but that it was afterwards found necessary
to cut off the heads of the deer to make them keep quiet at night. But
the most unpleasant customer of all this uncanny fraternity to have
encountered after dark was certainly the monster tortoise of Gesshoji
temple in Matsue, where the tombs of the Matsudairas are. This stone
colossus is almost seventeen feet in length and lifts its head six feet
from the ground. On its now broken back stands a prodigious cubic
monolith about nine feet high, bearing a half-obliterated inscription.
Fancy--as Izumo folks did--this mortuary incubus staggering abroad at
midnight, and its hideous attempts to swim in the neighbouring lotus-
pond! Well, the legend runs that its neck had to be broken in
consequence of this awful misbehaviour. But really the thing looks as if
it could only have been broken by an earthquake.
8 KITZUKI, July 25th. At the Oho-yashiro it is the annual festival of
the God of Scholarship, the God of Calligraphy--Tenjin. Here in
Kitzuki, the festival of the Divine Scribe, the Tenjin-Matsuri, is still
observed according to the beautiful old custom which is being forgotten
elsewhere. Long ranges of temporary booths have been erected within the
outer court of the temple; and in these are suspended hundreds of long
white tablets, bearing specimens of calligraphy. Every schoolboy in
Kitzuki has a sample of his best writing on exhibition. The texts are
written only in Chinese characters--not in hirakana or katakana-and
are mostly drawn from the works of Confucius or Mencius.
To me this display of ideographs seems a marvellous thing of beauty--
almost a miracle, indeed, since it is all the work of very, very young
boys. Rightly enough, the word 'to write' (kaku) in Japanese signifies
also to 'paint' in the best artistic sense. I once had an opportunity of
studying the result of an attempt to teach English children the art of
writing Japanese. These children were instructed by a Japanese writing-
master; they sat upon the same bench with Japanese pupils of their own
age, beginners likewise. But they could never learn like the Japanese
children. The ancestral tendencies within them rendered vain the efforts
of the instructor to teach them the secret of a shapely stroke with the
brush. It is not the Japanese boy alone who writes; the fingers of the
dead move his brush, guide his strokes.
Beautiful, however, as this writing seems to me, it is far from winning
the commendation of my Japanese companion, himself a much experienced
teacher. 'The greater part of this work,' he declares, 'is very bad.'
While I am still bewildered by this sweeping criticism, he points out to
me one tablet inscribed with rather small characters, adding: 'Only that
is tolerably good.'
'Why,' I venture to observe, 'that one would seem to have cost much less
trouble; the characters are so small.'
'Oh, the size of the characters has nothing to do with the matter,'
interrupts the master, 'it is a question of form.'
'Then I cannot understand. What you call very bad seems to me
'Of course you cannot understand,' the critic replies; 'it would take
you many years of study to understand. And even then-,
'And even then?'
'Well, even then you could only partly understand.'
Thereafter I hold my peace on the topic of calligraphy.
Vast as the courts of the Oho-yashiro are, the crowd within them is now
so dense that one must move very slowly, for the whole population of
Kitzuki and its environs has been attracted here by the matsuri. All are
making their way very gently toward a little shrine built upon an island
in the middle of an artificial lake and approached by a narrow causeway.
This little shrine, which I see now for the first time (Kitzuki temple
being far too large a place to be all seen and known in a single visit),
is the Shrine of Tenjin. As the sound of a waterfall is the sound of the
clapping of hands before it, and myriads of nin, and bushels of handfuls
of rice, are being dropped into the enormous wooden chest there placed
to receive the offerings. Fortunately this crowd, like all Japanese
crowds, is so sympathetically yielding that it is possible to traverse
it slowly in any direction, and thus to see all there is to be seen.
After contributing my mite to the coffer of Tenjin, I devote my
attention to the wonderful display of toys in the outer counts.
At almost every temple festival in Japan there is a great sale of toys,
usually within the count itself--a miniature street of small booths
being temporarily erected for this charming commence. Every matsuri is a
children's holiday. No mother would think of attending a temple-festival
without buying her child a toy: even the poorest mother can afford it;
for the price of the toys sold in a temple court varies from one-fifth
of one sen  or Japanese cent, to three or four sen; toys worth so
much as five sen being rarely displayed at these little shops. But cheap
as they are, these frail playthings are full of beauty and
suggestiveness, and, to one who knows and loves Japan, infinitely more
interesting than the costliest inventions of a Parisian toy-
manufacturer. Many of them, however, would be utterly incomprehensible
to an English child. Suppose we peep at a few of them.
Here is a little wooden mallet, with a loose tiny ball fitted into a
socket at the end of the handle. This is for the baby to suck. On either
end of the head of the mallet is painted the mystic tomoye--that
Chinese symbol, resembling two huge commas so united as to make a
perfect circle, which you may have seen on the title-page of Mr.
Lowell's beautiful Soul of the Far East. To you, however, this little
wooden mallet would seem in all probability just a little wooden mallet
and nothing more. But to the Japanese child it is full of suggestions.
It is the mallet of the Great Deity of Kitzuki, Ohokuni-nushi-no-Kami--
vulgarly called Daikoku--the God of Wealth, who, by one stroke of his
hammer, gives fortune to his worshippers.
Perhaps this tiny drum, of a form never seen in the Occident (tsudzumi),
or this larger drum with a mitsudomoye, or triple-comma symbol, painted
on each end, might seem to you without religious signification; but both
are models of drums used in the Shinto and the Buddhist temples. This
queer tiny table is a miniature sambo: it is upon such a table that
offerings are presented to the gods. This curious cap is a model of the
cap of a Shinto priest. Here is a toy miya, or Shinto shrine, four
inches high. This bunch of tiny tin bells attached to a wooden handle
might seem to you something corresponding to our Occidental tin rattles;
but it is a model of the sacred suzu used by the virgin priestess in her
dance before the gods. This face of a smiling chubby girl, with two
spots upon her forehead-a mask of baked clay--is the traditional image
of Ame-no-uzume-no-mikoto, commonly called Otafuku, whose merry
laughter lured the Goddess of the Sun out of the cavern of darkness. And
here is a little Shinto priest in full hieratic garb: when this little
string between his feet is pulled, he claps his hands as if in prayer.
Hosts of other toys are here--mysterious to the uninitiated European,
but to the Japanese child full of delightful religious meaning. In these
faiths of the Far East there is little of sternness or grimness--the
Kami are but the spirits of the fathers of the people; the Buddhas and
the Bosatsu were men. Happily the missionaries have not succeeded as yet
in teaching the Japanese to make religion a dismal thing. These gods
smile for ever: if you find one who frowns, like Fudo, the frown seems
but half in earnest; it is only Emma, the Lord of Death, who somewhat
appals. Why religion should be considered too awful a subject for
children to amuse themselves decently with never occurs to the common
Japanese mind. So here we have images of the gods and saints for toys--
Tenjin, the Deity of Beautiful Writing--and Uzume, the laughter-loving
-and Fukusuke, like a happy schoolboy--and the Seven Divinities of
Good Luck, in a group--and Fukurojin, the God of Longevity, with head
so elongated that only by the aid of a ladder can his barber shave the
top of it--and Hotei, with a belly round and huge as a balloon--and
Ebisu, the Deity of Markets and of fishermen, with a tai-fish under his
arm--and Daruma, ancient disciple of Buddha, whose legs were worn off
by uninterrupted meditation.
Here likewise are many toys which a foreigner could scarcely guess the
meaning of, although they have no religious signification. Such is this
little badger, represented as drumming upon its own belly with both
forepaws. The badger is believed to be able to use its belly like a
drum, and is credited by popular superstition with various supernatural
powers. This toy illustrates a pretty fairy-tale about some hunter who
spared a badger's life and was rewarded by the creature with a wonderful
dinner and a musical performance. Here is a hare sitting on the end of
the handle of a wooden pestle which is set horizontally upon a pivot. By
pulling a little string, the pestle is made to rise and fall as if moved
by the hare. If you have been even a week in Japan you will recognise
the pestle as the pestle of a kometsuki, or rice-cleaner, who works it
by treading on the handle. But what is the hare? This hare is the Hare-
in-the-Moon, called Usagi-no-kometsuki: if you look up at the moon on a
clear night you can see him cleaning his rice.
Now let us see what we can discover in the way of cheap ingenuities.
Tombo, 'the Dragon-Fly.' Merely two bits of wood joined together in the
form of a T. The lower part is a little round stick, about as thick as a
match, but twice as long; the upper piece is flat, and streaked with
paint. Unless you are accustomed to look for secrets, you would scarcely
be able to notice that the flat piece is trimmed along two edges at a
particular angle. Twirl the lower piece rapidly between the palms of
both hands, and suddenly let it go. At once the strange toy rises
revolving in the air, and then sails away slowly to quite a distance,
performing extraordinary gyrations, and imitating exactly--to the eye
at least--the hovering motion of a dragon-fly. Those little streaks of
paint you noticed upon the top-piece now reveal their purpose; as the
tombo darts hither and thither, even the tints appear to be those of a
real dragon-fly; and even the sound of the flitting toy imitates the
dragon-fly's hum. The principle of this pretty invention is much like
that of the boomerang; and an expert can make his tombo, after flying
across a large room, return into his hand. All the tombo sold, however,
are not as good as this one; we have been lucky. Price, one-tenth of one
Here is a toy which looks like a bow of bamboo strung with wire. The
wire, however, is twisted into a corkscrew spiral. On this spiral a pair
of tiny birds are suspended by a metal loop. When the bow is held
perpendicularly with the birds at the upper end of the string, they
descend whirling by their own weight, as if circling round one another;
and the twittering of two birds is imitated by the sharp grating of the
metal loop upon the spiral wire. One bird flies head upward, and the
other tail upward. As soon as they have reached the bottom, reverse the
bow, and they will recommence their wheeling flight. Price, two cents--
because the wire is dear.
O-Saru, the 'Honourable Monkey.'  A little cotton monkey, with a blue
head and scarlet body, hugging a bamboo rod. Under him is a bamboo
spring; and when you press it, he runs up to the top of the rod. Price,
one-eighth of one cent.
O-Saru. Another Honourable Monkey. This one is somewhat more complex in
his movements, and costs a cent. He runs up a string, hand over hand,
when you pull his tail.
Tori-Kago. A tiny gilded cage, with a bird in it, and plum flowers.
Press the edges of the bottom of the cage, and a minuscule wind-
instrument imitates the chirping of the bird. Price, one cent.
Karuwazashi, the Acrobat. A very loose-jointed wooden boy clinging with
both hands to a string stretched between two bamboo sticks, which are
curiously rigged together in the shape of an open pair of scissors.
Press the ends of the sticks at the bottom; and the acrobat tosses his
legs over the string, seats himself upon it, and finally turns a
somersault. Price, one-sixth of one cent.
Kobiki, the Sawyer. A figure of a Japanese workman, wearing only a
fundoshi about his loins, and standing on a plank, with a long saw in
his hands. If you pull a string below his feet, he will go to work in
good earnest, sawing the plank. Notice that he pulls the saw towards
him, like a true Japanese, instead of pushing it from him, as our own
carpenters do. Price, one-tenth of one cent.
Chie-no-ita, the 'Intelligent Boards,' or better, perhaps, 'The Planks
of Intelligence.' A sort of chain composed of about a dozen flat square
pieces of white wood, linked together by ribbons. Hold the thing
perpendicularly by one end-piece; then turn the piece at right angles to
the chain; and immediately all the other pieces tumble over each other
in the most marvellous way without unlinking. Even an adult can amuse
himself for half an hour with this: it is a perfect trompe-l'oeil in
mechanical adjustment. Price, one cent.
Kitsune-Tanuki. A funny flat paper mask with closed eyes. If you pull a
pasteboard slip behind it, it will open its eyes and put out a tongue of
surprising length. Price, one-sixth of one cent.
Chin. A little white dog, with a collar round its neck. It is in the
attitude of barking. From a Buddhist point of view, I should think this
toy somewhat immoral. For when you slap the dog's head, it utters a
sharp yelp, as of pain. Price, one sen and five rin. Rather dear.
Fuki-agari-koboshi, the Wrestler Invincible. This is still dearer; for
it is made of porcelain, and very nicely coloured The wrestler squats
upon his hams. Push him down in any direction, he always returns of his
own accord to an erect position. Price, two sen.
Oroga-Heika-Kodomo, the Child Reverencing His Majesty the Emperor. A
Japanese schoolboy with an accordion in his hands, singing and playing
the national anthem, or Kimiga. There is a little wind-bellows at the
bottom of the toy; and when you operate it, the boy's arms move as if
playing the instrument, and a shrill small voice is heard. Price, one
cent and a half.
Jishaku. This, like the preceding, is quite a modern toy. A small wooden
box containing a magnet and a tiny top made of a red wooden button with
a steel nail driven through it. Set the top spinning with a twirl of the
fingers; then hold the magnet over the nail, and the top will leap up to
the magnet and there continue to spin, suspended in air. Price, one
It would require at least a week to examine them all. Here is a model
spinning-wheel, absolutely perfect, for one-fifth of one cent. Here are
little clay tortoises which swim about when you put them into water--
one rin for two. Here is a box of toy-soldiers--samurai in full armour
--nine rin only. Here is a Kaze-Kuruma, or wind-wheel--a wooden whistle
with a paper wheel mounted before the orifice by which the breath is
expelled, so that the wheel turns furiously when the whistle is blown--
three rin. Here is an Ogi, a sort of tiny quadruple fan sliding in a
sheath. When expanded it takes the shape of a beautiful flower--one
The most charming of all these things to me, however, is a tiny doll--
O-Hina-San (Honourable Miss Hina)--or beppin ('beautiful woman'). The
body is a phantom, only--a flat stick covered with a paper kimono--but
the head is really a work of art. A pretty oval face with softly
shadowed oblique eyes--looking shyly downward--and a wonderful maiden
coiffure, in which the hair is arranged in bands and volutes and
ellipses and convolutions and foliole curlings most beautiful and
extraordinary. In some respects this toy is a costume model, for it
imitates exactly the real coiffure of Japanese maidens and brides. But
the expression of the face of the beppin is, I think, the great
attraction of the toy; there is a shy, plaintive sweetness about it
impossible to describe, but deliciously suggestive of a real Japanese
type of girl-beauty. Yet the whole thing is made out of a little
crumpled paper, coloured with a few dashes of the brush by an expert
hand. There are no two O-Hina-San exactly alike out of millions; and
when you have become familiar by long residence with Japanese types, any
such doll will recall to you some pretty face that you have seen. These
are for little girls. Price, five rin.
Here let me tell you something you certainly never heard of before in
relation to Japanese dolls--not the tiny O-Hina-San I was just speaking
about, but the beautiful life-sized dolls representing children of two
or three years old; real toy-babes which, although far more cheaply and
simply constructed than our finer kinds of Western dolls, become, under
the handling of a Japanese girl, infinitely more interesting. Such dolls
are well dressed, and look so life-like--little slanting eyes, shaven
pates, smiles, and all!--that as seen from a short distance the best
eyes might be deceived by them. Therefore in those stock photographs of
Japanese life, of which so many thousands are sold in the open ports,
the conventional baby on the mother's back is most successfully
represented by a doll. Even the camera does not betray the substitution.
And if you see such a doll, though held quite close to you, being made
by a Japanese mother to reach out his hands, to move its little bare
feet, and to turn its head, you would be almost afraid to venture a
heavy wager that it was only a doll. Even after having closely examined
the thing, you would still, I fancy, feel a little nervous at being left
alone with it, so perfect the delusion of that expert handling.
Now there is a belief that some dolls do actually become alive.
Formerly the belief was less rare than it is now. Certain dolls were
spoken of with a reverence worthy of the Kami, and their owners were
envied folk. Such a doll was treated like a real son or daughter: it was
regularly served with food; it had a bed, and plenty of nice clothes,
and a name. If in the semblance of a girl, it was O-Toku-San; if in that
of a boy, Tokutaro-San. It was thought that the doll would become angry
and cry if neglected, and that any ill-treatment of it would bring ill-
fortune to the house. And, moreover, it was believed to possess
supernatural powers of a very high order.
In the family of one Sengoku, a samurai of Matsue, there was a Tokutaro-
San which had a local reputation scarcely inferior to that of Kishibojin
--she to whom Japanese wives pray for offspring. And childless couples
used to borrow that doll, and keep it for a time--ministering unto it--
and furnish it with new clothes before gratefully returning it to its
owners. And all who did so, I am assured, became parents, according to
their heart's desire. 'Sengoku's doll had a soul.' There is even a
legend that once, when the house caught fire, the TokutarO-San ran out
safely into the garden of its own accord!
The idea about such a doll seems to be this: The new doll is only a
doll. But a doll which is preserved for a great many years in one
family,  and is loved and played with by generations of children,
gradually acquires a soul. I asked a charming Japanese girl: 'How can a
'Why,' she answered, 'if you love it enough, it will live!'
What is this but Renan's thought of a deity in process of evolution,
uttered by the heart of a child?
But even the most beloved dolls are worn out at last, or get broken in
the course of centuries. And when a doll must be considered quite dead,
its remains are still entitled to respect. Never is the corpse of a doll
irreverently thrown away. Neither is it burned or cast into pure running
water, as all sacred objects of the miya must be when they have ceased
to be serviceable. And it is not buried. You could not possibly imagine
what is done with it.
It is dedicated to the God Kojin, --a somewhat mysterious divinity,
half-Buddhist, half-Shinto. The ancient Buddhist images of Kojin
represented a deity with many arms;--the Shinto Kojin of Izumo has, I
believe, no artistic representation whatever. But in almost every
Shinto, and also in many Buddhist, temple grounds, is planted the tree
called enoki  which is sacred to him, and in which he is supposed by
the peasantry to dwell; for they pray before the enoki always to Kojin.
And there is usually a small shrine placed before the tree, and a little
torii also. Now you may often see laid upon such a shrine of Kojin, or
at the foot of his sacred tree, or in a hollow thereof--if there be any
hollow--pathetic remains of dolls. But a doll is seldom given to Kojin
during the lifetime of its possessor. When you see one thus exposed, you
may be almost certain that it was found among the effects of some poor
dead woman--the innocent memento of her girlhood, perhaps even also of
the girlhood of her mother and of her mother's mother.
And now we are to see the Honen-odori--which begins at eight o'clock.
There is no moon; and the night is pitch-black overhead: but there is
plenty of light in the broad court of the Guji's residence, for a
hundred lanterns have been kindled and hung out. I and my friend have
been provided with comfortable places in the great pavilion which opens
upon the court, and the pontiff has had prepared for us a delicious
Already thousands have assembled before the pavilion--young men of
Kitzuki and young peasants from the environs, and women and children in
multitude, and hundreds of young girls. The court is so thronged that it
is difficult to assume the possibility of any dance. Illuminated by the
lantern-light, the scene is more than picturesque: it is a carnivalesque
display of gala-costume. Of course the peasants come in their ancient
attire: some in rain-coats (mino), or overcoats of yellow straw; others
with blue towels tied round their heads; many with enormous mushroom
hats--all with their blue robes well tucked up. But the young townsmen
come in all guises and disguises. Many have dressed themselves in female
attire; some are all in white duck, like police; some have mantles on;
others wear shawls exactly as a Mexican wears his zarape; numbers of
young artisans appear almost as lightly clad as in working-hours,
barelegged to the hips, and barearmed to the shoulders. Among the girls
some wonderful dressing is to be seen--ruby-coloured robes, and rich
greys and browns and purples, confined with exquisite obi, or girdles of
figured satin; but the best taste is shown in the simple and very
graceful black and white costumes worn by some maidens of the better
classes--dresses especially made for dancing, and not to be worn at any
other time. A few shy damsels have completely masked themselves by tying
down over their cheeks the flexible brims of very broad straw hats. I
cannot attempt to talk about the delicious costumes of the children: as
well try to describe without paint the variegated loveliness of moths
In the centre of this multitude I see a huge rice-mortar turned upside
down; and presently a sandalled peasant leaps upon it lightly, and
stands there--with an open paper umbrella above his head. Nevertheless
it is not raining. That is the Ondo-tori, the leader of the dance, who
is celebrated through all Izumo as a singer. According to ancient
custom, the leader of the Honen-odori  always holds an open umbrella
above his head while he sings.
Suddenly, at a signal from the Guji, who has just taken his place in the
pavilion, the voice of the Ondo-tori, intoning the song of thanksgiving,
rings out over all the murmuring of the multitude like a silver cornet.
A wondrous voice, and a wondrous song, full of trills and quaverings
indescribable, but full also of sweetness and true musical swing. And as
he sings, he turns slowly round upon his high pedestal, with the
umbrella always above his head; never halting in his rotation from right
to left, but pausing for a regular interval in his singing, at the close
of each two verses, when the people respond with a joyous outcry: 'Ya-
ha-to-nai!-ya-ha-to-nai!' Simultaneously, an astonishingly rapid
movement of segregation takes place in the crowd; two enormous rings of
dancers form, one within the other, the rest of the people pressing back
to make room for the odori. And then this great double-round, formed by
fully five hundred dancers, begins also to revolve from right to left--
lightly, fantastically--all the tossing of arms and white twinkling of
feet keeping faultless time to the measured syllabification of the
chant. An immense wheel the dance is, with the Ondo-tori for its axis--
always turning slowly upon his rice-mortar, under his open umbrella, as
he sings the song of harvest thanksgiving:
And the voices of all the dancers in unison roll out the chorus:
Utterly different this whirling joyous Honen-odori from the Bon-odori
which I witnessed last year at Shimo-Ichi, and which seemed to me a very
dance of ghosts. But it is also much more difficult to describe. Each
dancer makes a half-wheel alternately to left and right, with a peculiar
bending of the knees and tossing up of the hands at the same time--as
in the act of lifting a weight above the head; but there are other
curious movements-jerky with the men, undulatory with the women--as
impossible to describe as water in motion. These are decidedly complex,
yet so regular that five hundred pairs of feet and hands mark the
measure of the song as truly as if they were under the control of a
single nervous system.
It is strangely difficult to memorise the melody of a Japanese popular
song, or the movements of a Japanese dance; for the song and the dance
have been evolved through an aesthetic sense of rhythm in sound and in
motion as different from the corresponding Occidental sense as English
is different from Chinese. We have no ancestral sympathies with these
exotic rhythms, no inherited aptitudes for their instant comprehension,
no racial impulses whatever in harmony with them. But when they have
become familiar through study, after a long residence in the Orient, how
nervously fascinant the oscillation of the dance, and the singular swing
of the song!
This dance, I know, began at eight o'clock; and the Ondo-tori, after
having sung without a falter in his voice for an extraordinary time, has
been relieved by a second. But the great round never breaks, never
slackens its whirl; it only enlarges as the night wears on. And the
second Ondo-tori is relieved by a third; yet I would like to watch that
dance for ever.
'What time do you think it is?' my friend asks, looking at his watch.
'Nearly eleven o'clock,' I make answer.
'Eleven o'clock! It is exactly eight minutes to three o'clock. And our
host will have little time for sleep before the rising of the sun.'
Chapter Twelve At Hinomisaki
KITZUKI, August 10, 1891.
MY Japanese friends urge me to visit Hinomisaki, where no European has
ever been, and where there is a far-famed double temple dedicated to
Amaterasu-oho-mi-Kami, the Lady of Light, and to her divine brother
Take-haya-susa-no-wo-no-mikoto. Hinomisaki is a little village on the
Izumo coast about five miles from Kitzuki. It maybe reached by a
mountain path, but the way is extremely steep, rough, and fatiguing. By
boat, when the weather is fair, the trip is very agreeable. So, with a
friend, I start for Hinomisaki in a very cozy ryosen, skilfully sculled
by two young fishermen.
Leaving the pretty bay of Inasa, we follow the coast to the right--a
very lofty and grim coast without a beach. Below us the clear water
gradually darkens to inky blackness, as the depth increases; but at
intervals pale jagged rocks rise up from this nether darkness to catch
the light fifty feet under the surface. We keep tolerably close to the
cliffs, which vary in height from three hundred to six hundred feet--
their bases rising from the water all dull iron-grey, their sides and
summits green with young pines and dark grasses that toughen in sea-
wind. All the coast is abrupt, ravined, irregular--curiously breached
and fissured. Vast masses of it have toppled into the sea; and the black
ruins project from the deep in a hundred shapes of menace. Sometimes our
boat glides between a double line of these; or takes a zigzag course
through labyrinths of reef-channels. So swiftly and deftly is the little
craft impelled to right and left, that one could almost believe it sees
its own way and moves by its own intelligence. And again we pass by
extraordinary islets of prismatic rock whose sides, just below the
water-line, are heavily mossed with seaweed. The polygonal masses
composing these shapes are called by the fishermen 'tortoise-shell
stones.' There is a legend that once Oho-kuni-nushi-no-Kami, to try his
strength, came here, and, lifting up one of these masses of basalt,
flung it across the sea to the mountain of Sanbeyama. At the foot of
Sanbe the mighty rock thus thrown by the Great Deity of Kitzuki may
still be seen, it is alleged, even unto this day.
More and more bare and rugged and ghastly the coast becomes as we
journey on, and the sunken ledges more numerous, and the protruding
rocks more dangerous, splinters of strata piercing the sea-surface from
a depth of thirty fathoms. Then suddenly our boat makes a dash for the
black cliff, and shoots into a tremendous cleft of it--an earthquake
fissure with sides lofty and perpendicular as the walls of a canon-and
lo! there is daylight ahead. This is a miniature strait, a short cut to
the bay. We glide through it in ten minutes, reach open water again, and
Hinomisaki is before us-a semicircle of houses clustering about a bay
curve, with an opening in their centre, prefaced by a torii.
Of all bays I have ever seen, this is the most extraordinary. Imagine an
enormous sea-cliff torn out and broken down level with the sea, so as to
leave a great scoop-shaped hollow in the land, with one original
fragment of the ancient cliff still standing in the middle of the gap--
a monstrous square tower of rock, bearing trees upon its summit. And a
thousand yards out from the shore rises another colossal rock, fully one
hundred feet high. This is known by the name of Fumishima or
Okyogashima; and the temple of the Sun-goddess, which we are now about
to see, formerly stood upon that islet. The same appalling forces which
formed the bay of Hinomisaki doubtless also detached the gigantic mass
of Fumishima from this iron coast.
We land at the right end of the bay. Here also there is no beach; the
water is black-deep close to the shore, which slopes up rapidly. As we
mount the slope, an extraordinary spectacle is before us. Upon thousands
and thousands of bamboo frames--shaped somewhat like our clothes-horses
-are dangling countless pale yellowish things, the nature of which I
cannot discern at first glance. But a closer inspection reveals the
mystery. Millions of cuttlefish drying in the sun! I could never have
believed that so many cuttlefish existed in these waters. And there is
scarcely any variation in the dimensions of them: out of ten thousand
there is not the difference of half an inch in length.
The great torii which forms the sea-gate of Hinomisaki is of white
granite, and severely beautiful. Through it we pass up the main street
of the village--surprisingly wide for about a thousand yards, after
which it narrows into a common highway which slopes up a wooded hill and
disappears under the shadow of trees. On the right, as you enter the
street, is a long vision of grey wooden houses with awnings and
balconies--little shops, little two-story dwellings of fishermen--and
ranging away in front of these other hosts of bamboo frames from which
other millions of freshly caught cuttlefish are hanging. On the other
side of the street rises a cyclopean retaining wall, massive as the wall
of a daimyo's castle, and topped by a lofty wooden parapet pierced with
gates; and above it tower the roofs of majestic buildings, whose
architecture strongly resembles that of the structures of Kitzuki; and
behind all appears a beautiful green background of hills. This is the
Hinomisaki-jinja. But one must walk some considerable distance up the
road to reach the main entrance of the court, which is at the farther
end of the inclosure, and is approached by an imposing broad flight of
The great court is a surprise. It is almost as deep as the outer court
of the Kitzuki-no-oho-yashiro, though not nearly so wide; and a paved
cloister forms two sides of it. From the court gate a broad paved walk
leads to the haiden and shamusho at the opposite end of the court--
spacious and dignified structures above whose roofs appears the quaint
and massive gable of the main temple, with its fantastic cross-beams.
This temple, standing with its back to the sea, is the shrine of the
Goddess of the Sun. On the right side of the main court, as you enter,
another broad flight of steps leads up to a loftier court, where another
fine group of Shinto buildings stands--a haiden and a miya; but these
are much smaller, like miniatures of those below. Their woodwork also
appears to be quite new. The upper miya is the shrine of the god Susano-
o, --brother of Amaterasu-oho-mi-Kami.
To me the great marvel of the Hinomisaki-jinja is that structures so
vast, and so costly to maintain, can exist in a mere fishing hamlet, in
an obscure nook of the most desolate coast of Japan. Assuredly the
contributions of peasant pilgrims alone could not suffice to pay the
salary of a single kannushi; for Hinomisaki, unlike Kitzuki, is not a
place possible to visit in all weathers. My friend confirms me in this
opinion; but I learn from him that the temples have three large sources
of revenue. They are partly supported by the Government; they receive
yearly large gifts of money from pious merchants; and the revenues from
lands attached to them also represent a considerable sum. Certainly a
great amount of money must have been very recently expended here; for
the smaller of the two miya seems to have just been wholly rebuilt; the
beautiful joinery is all white with freshness, and even the carpenters'
odorous chips have not yet been all removed.
At the shamusho we make the acquaintance of the Guji of Hinomisaki, a
noble-looking man in the prime of life, with one of those fine aquiline
faces rarely to be met with except among the high aristocracy of Japan.
He wears a heavy black moustache, which gives him, in spite of his
priestly robes, the look of a retired army officer. We are kindly
permitted by him to visit the sacred shrines; and a kannushi is detailed
to conduct us through the buildings.
Something resembling the severe simplicity of the Kitzuki-no-oho-yashiro
was what I expected to see. But this shrine of the Goddess of the Sun is
a spectacle of such splendour that for the first moment I almost doubt
whether I am really in a Shinto temple. In very truth there is nothing
of pure Shinto here. These shrines belong to the famous period of Ryobu-
Shinto, when the ancient faith, interpenetrated and allied with
Buddhism, adopted the ceremonial magnificence and the marvellous
decorative art of the alien creed. Since visiting the great Buddhist
shrines of the capital, I have seen no temple interior to be compared
with this. Daintily beautiful as a casket is the chamber of the shrine.
All its elaborated woodwork is lacquered in scarlet and gold; the altar-
piece is a delight of carving and colour; the ceiling swarms with dreams
of clouds and dragons. And yet the exquisite taste of the decorators--
buried, doubtless, five hundred years ago--has so justly proportioned
the decoration to the needs of surface, so admirably blended the
colours, that there is no gaudiness, no glare, only an opulent repose.
This shrine is surrounded by a light outer gallery which is not visible
from the lower court; and from this gallery one can study some
remarkable friezes occupying the spaces above the doorways and below the
eaves--friezes surrounding the walls of the miya. These, although
exposed for many centuries to the terrific weather of the western coast,
still remain masterpieces of quaint carving. There are apes and hares
peeping through wonderfully chiselled leaves, and doves and demons, and
dragons writhing in storms. And while looking up at these, my eye is
attracted by a peculiar velvety appearance of the woodwork forming the
immense projecting eaves of the roof. Under the tiling it is more than a
foot thick. By standing on tiptoe I can touch it; and I discover that it
is even more velvety to the touch than to the sight. Further examination
reveals the fact that this colossal roofing is not solid timber, only
the beams are solid. The enormous pieces they support are formed of
countless broad slices thin as the thinnest shingles, superimposed and
cemented together into one solid-seeming mass. I am told that this
composite woodwork is more enduring than any hewn timber could be. The
edges, where exposed to wind and sun, feel to the touch just like the
edges of the leaves of some huge thumb-worn volume; and their stained
velvety yellowish aspect so perfectly mocks the appearance of a book,
that while trying to separate them a little with my fingers, I find
myself involuntarily peering for a running-title and the number of a
We then visit the smaller temple. The interior of the sacred chamber is
equally rich in lacquered decoration and gilding; and below the miya
itself there are strange paintings of weird foxes--foxes wandering in
the foreground of a mountain landscape. But here the colours have been
damaged somewhat by time; the paintings have a faded look. Without the
shrine are other wonderful carvings, doubtless executed by the same
chisel which created the friezes of the larger temple.
I learn that only the shrine-chambers of both temples are very old; all
the rest has been more than once rebuilt. The entire structure of the
smaller temple and its haiden, with the exception of the shrine-room,
has just been rebuilt--in fact, the work is not yet quite done--so
that the emblem of the deity is not at present in the sanctuary. The
shrines proper are never repaired, but simply reinclosed in the new
buildings when reconstruction becomes a necessity. To repair them or
restore them to-day would be impossible: the art that created them is
dead. But so excellent their material and its lacquer envelope that they
have suffered little in the lapse of many centuries from the attacks of
One more surprise awaits me--the homestead of the high pontiff, who
most kindly invites us to dine with him; which hospitality is all the
more acceptable from the fact that there is no hotel in Hinomisaki, but
only a kichinyado  for pilgrims. The ancestral residence of the high
pontiffs of Hinomisaki occupies, with the beautiful gardens about it, a
space fully equal to that of the great temple courts themselves. Like
most of the old-fashioned homes of the nobility and of the samurai, it
is but one story high--an immense elevated cottage, one might call it.
But the apartments are lofty, spacious, and very handsome--and there is
a room of one hundred mats.  A very nice little repast, with
abundance of good wine, is served up to us-and I shall always remember
one curious dish, which I at first mistake for spinach. It is seaweed,
deliciously prepared--not the common edible seaweed, but a rare sort,
fine like moss.
After bidding farewell to our generous host, we take an uphill stroll to
the farther end of the village. We leave the cuttlefish behind; but
before us the greater part of the road is covered with matting, upon
which indigo is drying in the sun. The village terminates abruptly at
the top of the hill, where there is another grand granite torii--a
structure so ponderous that it is almost as difficult to imagine how it
was ever brought up the hill as to understand the methods of the
builders of Stonehenge. From this torii the road descends to the pretty
little seaport of U-Ryo, on the other side of the cape; for Hinomisaki
is situated on one side of a great promontory, as its name implies--a
mountain-range projecting into the Japanese Sea.
The family of the Guji of Hinomisaki is one of the oldest of the Kwazoku
or noble families of Izumo; and the daughters are still addressed by the
antique title of Princess--O-Hime-San. The ancient official designation
of the pontiff himself was Kengyo, as that of the Kitzuki pontiff was
Kokuzo; and the families of the Hinomisaki and of the Kitzuki Guji are
There is one touching and terrible tradition in the long history of the
Kengyos of Hinomisaki, which throws a strange light upon the social
condition of this province in feudal days.
Seven generations ago, a Matsudaira, Daimyo of Izumo, made with great
pomp his first official visit to the temples of Hinomisaki, and was
nobly entertained by the Kengyo--doubtless in the same chamber of a
hundred mats which we to-day were privileged to see. According to
custom, the young wife of the host waited upon the regal visitor, and
served him with dainties and with wine. She was singularly beautiful;
and her beauty, unfortunately, bewitched the Daimyo. With kingly
insolence he demanded that she should leave her husband and become his
concubine. Although astounded and terrified, she answered bravely, like
the true daughter of a samurai, that she was a loving wife and mother,
and that, sooner than desert her husband and her child, she would put an
end to her life with her own hand. The great Lord of Izumo sullenly
departed without further speech, leaving the little household plunged in
uttermost grief and anxiety; for it was too well known that the prince
would suffer no obstacle to remain in the way of his lust or his hate.
The anxiety, indeed, proved to be well founded. Scarcely had the Daimyo
returned to his domains when he began to devise means for the ruin of
the Kengyo. Soon afterward, the latter was suddenly and forcibly
separated from his family, hastily tried for some imaginary offence, and
banished to the islands of Oki. Some say the ship on which he sailed
went down at sea with all on board. Others say that he was conveyed to
Oki, but only to die there of misery and cold. At all events, the old
Izumo records state that, in the year corresponding to A.D. 1661 'the
Kengyo Takatoshi died in the land of Oki.'
On receiving news of the Kengyo's death, Matsudaira scarcely concealed
his exultation. The object of his passion was the daughter of his own
Karo, or minister, one of the noblest samurai of Matsue, by name Kamiya.
Kamiya was at once summoned before the Daimyo, who said to him: 'Thy
daughter's husband being dead, there exists no longer any reason that
she should not enter into my household. Do thou bring her hither.' The
Karo touched the floor with his forehead, and departed on his errand.
Upon the following day he re-entered the prince's apartment, and,
performing the customary prostration, announced that his lord's commands
had been obeyed-that the victim had arrived.
Smiling for pleasure, the Matsudaira ordered that she should be brought
at once into his presence. The Karo prostrated himself, retired and
presently returning, placed before his master a kubi-oke  upon which
lay the freshly-severed head of a beautiful woman--the head of the
young wife of the dead Kengyo--with the simple utterance:
'This is my daughter.'
Dead by her own brave will--but never dishonoured.
Seven generations have been buried since the Matsudaira strove to
appease his remorse by the building of temples and the erection of
monuments to the memory of his victim. His own race died with him: those
who now bear the illustrious name of that long line of daimyos are not
of the same blood; and the grim ruin of his castle, devoured by
vegetation, is tenanted only by lizards and bats. But the Kamiya family
endures; no longer wealthy, as in feudal times, but still highly
honoured in their native city. And each high pontiff of Hinomisakei
chooses always his bride from among the daughters of that valiant race.
NOTE.--The Kengyo of the above tradition was enshrined by Matsudaira in
the temple of Shiyekei-jinja, at Oyama, near Matsue. This miya was built
for an atonement; and the people still pray to the spirit of the Kengyo.
Near this temple formerly stood a very popular theatre, also erected by
the Daimyo in his earnest desire to appease the soul of his victim; for
he had heard that the Kengyo was very fond of theatrical performances.
The temple is still in excellent preservation; but the theatre has long
since disappeared; and its site is occupied by a farmer's vegetable
Chapter Thirteen Shinju
SOMETIMES they simply put their arms round each other, and lie down
together on the iron rails, just in front of an express train. (They
cannot do it in Izumo, however, because there are no railroads there
yet.) Sometimes they make a little banquet for themselves, write very
strange letters to parents and friends, mix something bitter with their
rice-wine, and go to sleep for ever. Sometimes they select a more
ancient and more honoured method: the lover first slays his beloved with
a single sword stroke, and then pierces his own throat. Sometimes with
the girl's long crape-silk under-girdle (koshi-obi) they bind themselves
fast together, face to face, and so embracing leap into some deep lake
or stream. Many are the modes by which they make their way to the Meido,
when tortured by that world-old sorrow about which Schopenhauer wrote so
marvellous a theory.
Their own theory is much simpler.
None love life more than the Japanese; none fear death less. Of a future
world they have no dread; they regret to leave this one only because it
seems to them a world of beauty and of happiness; but the mystery of the
future, so long oppressive to Western minds, causes them little concern.
As for the young lovers of whom I speak, they have a strange faith which
effaces mysteries for them. They turn to the darkness with infinite
trust. If they are too unhappy to endure existence, the fault is not
another's, nor yet the world's; it is their own; it is innen, the result
of errors in a previous life. If they can never hope to be united in
this world, it is only because in some former birth they broke their
promise to wed, or were otherwise cruel to each other. All this is not
heterodox. But they believe likewise that by dying together they will
find themselves at once united in another world, though Buddhism
proclaims that self-destruction is a deadly sin. Now this idea of
winning union through death is incalculably older than the faith of
Shaka; but it has somehow borrowed in modern time from Buddhism a
particular ecstatic colouring, a mystical glow. Hasu no hana no ue ni
oite matan. On the lotus-blossoms of paradise they shall rest together.
Buddhism teaches of transmigrations countless, prolonged through
millions of millions of years, before the soul can acquire the Infinite
Vision, the Infinite Memory, and melt into the bliss of Nehan, as a
white cloud melts into the summer 's blue. But these suffering ones
think never of Nehan; love's union, their supremest wish, may be
reached, they fancy, through the pang of a single death. The fancies of
all, indeed--as their poor letters show--are not the same. Some think
themselves about to enter Amida's paradise of light; some see in their
visional hope the saki-no-yo only, the future rebirth, when beloved
shall meet beloved again, in the all-joyous freshness of another youth;
while the idea of many, indeed of the majority, is vaguer far--only a
shadowy drifting together through vapoury silences, as in the faint
bliss of dreams.
They always pray to be buried together. Often this prayer is refused by
the parents or the guardians, and the people deem this refusal a cruel
thing, for 'tis believed that those who die for love of each other will
find no rest, if denied the same tomb. But when the prayer is granted
the ceremony of burial is beautiful and touching. From the two homes the
two funeral processions issue to meet in the temple court, by light of
lanterns. There, after the recitation of the kyo and the accustomed
impressive ceremonies, the chief priest utters an address to the souls
of the dead. Compassionately he speaks of the error and the sin; of the
youth of the victims, brief and comely as the flowers that blossom and
fall in the first burst of spring. He speaks of the Illusion--Mayoi--
which so wrought upon them; he recites the warning of the Teacher.. But
sometimes he will even predict the future reunion of the lovers in some
happier and higher life, re-echoing the popular heart-thought with a
simple eloquence that makes his hearers weep. Then the two processions
form into one, which takes its way to the cemetery where the grave has
already been prepared. The two coffins are lowered together, so that
their sides touch as they rest at the bottom of the excavation. Then the
yama-no-mono  folk remove the planks which separate the pair--making
the two coffins into one; above the reunited dead the earth is heaped;
and a haka, bearing in chiselled letters the story of their fate, and
perhaps a little poem, is placed above the mingling of their dust.
These suicides of lovers are termed 'joshi' or 'shinju'--(both words
being written with the same Chinese characters)-signifying 'heart-
death,' 'passion-death,' or 'love-death.' They most commonly occur, in
the case of women, among the joro  class; but occasionally also among
young girls of a more respectable class. There is a fatalistic belief
that if one shinju occurs among the inmates of a joroya, two more are
sure to follow. Doubtless the belief itself is the cause that cases of
shinju do commonly occur in series of three.
The poor girls who voluntarily sell themselves to a life of shame for
the sake of their families in time of uttermost distress do not, in
Japan (except, perhaps, in those open ports where European vice and
brutality have become demoralising influences), ever reach that depth of
degradation to which their Western sisters descend. Many indeed retain,
through all the period of their terrible servitude, a refinement of
manner, a delicacy of sentiment, and a natural modesty that seem, under
such conditions, as extraordinary as they are touching.
Only yesterday a case of shinju startled this quiet city. The servant of
a physician in the street called Nadamachi, entering the chamber of his
master's son a little after sunrise, found the young man lying dead with
a dead girl in his arms. The son had been disinherited. The girl was a
joro. Last night they were buried, but not together; for the father was
not less angered than grieved that such a thing should have been.
Her name was Kane. She was remarkably pretty and very gentle; and from
all accounts it would seem that her master had treated her with a
kindness unusual in men of his infamous class. She had sold herself for
the sake of her mother and a child-sister. The father was dead, and they
had lost everything. She was then seventeen. She had been in the house
scarcely a year when she met the youth. They fell seriously in love with
each other at once. Nothing more terrible could have befallen them; for
they could never hope to become man and wife. The young man, though
still allowed the privileges of a son, had been disinherited in favour
of an adopted brother of steadier habits. The unhappy pair spent all
they had for the privilege of seeing each other: she sold even her
dresses to pay for it. Then for the last time they met by stealth, late
at night, in the physician's house, drank death, and laid down to sleep
I saw the funeral procession of the girl winding its way by the light of
paper lanterns--the wan dead glow that is like a shimmer of
phosphorescence--to the Street of the Temples, followed by a long train
of women, white-hooded, white-robed, white-girdled, passing all
soundlessly--a troop of ghosts.
So through blackness to the Meido the white Shapes flit-the eternal
procession of Souls--in painted Buddhist dreams of the Underworld.
My friend who writes for the San-in Shimbun, which to-morrow will print
the whole sad story, tells me that compassionate folk have already
decked the new-made graves with flowers and with sprays of shikimi. 
Then drawing from a long native envelope a long, light, thin roll of
paper covered with beautiful Japanese writing, and unfolding it before
me, he adds:--'She left this letter to the keeper of the house in which
she lived: it has been given to us for publication. It is very prettily
written. But I cannot translate it well; for it is written in woman's
language. The language of letters written by women is not the same as
that of letters written by men. Women use particular words and
expressions. For instance, in men's language "I" is watakushi, or ware,
or yo, or boku, according to rank or circumstance, but in the language
of woman, it is warawa. And women's language is very soft and gentle;
and I do not think it is possible to translate such softness and
amiability of words into any other language. So I can only give you an
imperfect idea of the letter.'
And he interprets, slowly, thus:
'I leave this letter:
'As you know, from last spring I began to love Tashiro-San; and he also
fell in love with me. And now, alas!--the influence of our relation in
some previous birth having come upon us-and the promise we made each
other in that former life to become wife and husband having been broken
-even to-day I must travel to the Meido.