Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Glimpses of an Unfamiliar Japan by Lafcadio Hearn

Part 2 out of 6

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.6 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

less complex. A couple of years later, the jorowage yields in the turn
to the shinjocho [6] '('new-butterfly' style), or the shimada, also
called takawage. The shimjocho style is common, is worn by women of
various ages, and is not considered very genteel. The shimada,
exquisitely elaborate, is; but the more respectable the family, the
smaller the form of this coiffure; geisha and joro wear a larger and
loftier variety of it, which properly answers to the name takawage, or
'high coiffure.' Between eighteen and twenty years of age the maiden
again exchanges this style for another termed Tenjin-gaeshi; between
twenty and twenty-four years of age she adopts the fashion called
mitsuwage, or the 'triple coiffure' of three loops; and a somewhat
similar but still more complicated coiffure, called mitsuwakudzushi, is
worn by young women of from twenty-five to twenty-eight. Up to that age
every change in the fashion of wearing the hair has been in the
direction of elaborateness and complexity. But after twenty-eight a
Japanese woman is no longer considered young, and there is only one more
coiffure for her--the mochiriwage or bobai, tine simple and rather ugly
style adopted by old women.

But the girl who marries wears her hair in a fashion quite different
from any of the preceding. The most beautiful, the most elaborate, and
the most costly of all modes is the bride's coiffure, called hanayome; a
word literally signifying 'flower-wife.' The structure is dainty as its
name, and must be seen to be artistically appreciated. Afterwards the
wife wears her hair in the styles called kumesa or maruwage, another
name for which is katsuyama. The kumesa style is not genteel, and is the
coiffure of the poor; the maruwage or katsuyama is refined. In former
times the samurai women wore their hair in two particular styles: the
maiden's coiffure was ichogaeshi, and that of the married folk
katahajishi. It is still possible to see in Matsue a few katahajishi


The family kamiyui, O-Koto-San, the most skilful of her craft in Izumo,
is a little woman of about thirty, still quite attractive. About her
neck there are three soft pretty lines, forming what connoisseurs of
beauty term 'the necklace of Venus.' This is a rare charm; but it once
nearly proved the ruin of Koto. The story is a curious one.

Koto had a rival at the beginning of her professional career--a woman of
considerable skill as a coiffeuse, but of malignant disposition, named
Jin. Jin gradually lost all her respectable custom, and little Koto
became the fashionable hairdresser. But her old rival, filled with
jealous hate, invented a wicked story about Koto, and the story found
root in the rich soil of old Izumo superstition, and grew fantastically.
The idea of it had been suggested to Jin's cunning mind by those three
soft lines about Koto's neck. She declared that Koto had a NUKE-KUBI.

What is a nuke-kubi? 'Kubi' signifies either the neck or head. 'Nukeru'
means to creep, to skulk, to prowl, to slip away stealthily. To have a
nuke-kubi is to have a head that detaches itself from the body, and
prowls about at night--by itself.

Koto has been twice married, and her second match was a happy one. But
her first husband caused her much trouble, and ran away from her at
last, in company with some worthless woman. Nothing was ever heard of
him afterward--so that Jin thought it quite safe to invent a nightmare-
story to account for his disappearance. She said that he abandoned Koto
because, on awaking one night, he saw his young wife's head rise from
the pillow, and her neck lengthen like a great white serpent, while the
rest of her body remained motionless. He saw the head, supported by the
ever-lengthening neck, enter the farther apartment and drink all the oil
in the lamps, and then return to the pillow slowly--the neck
simultaneously contracting. 'Then he rose up and fled away from the
house in great fear,' said Jin.

As one story begets another, all sorts of queer rumours soon began to
circulate about poor Koto. There was a tale that some police-officer,
late at night, saw a woman's head without a body, nibbling fruit from a
tree overhanging some garden-wall; and that, knowing it to be a nuke-
kubi, he struck it with the flat of his sword. It shrank away as swiftly
as a bat flies, but not before he had been able to recognize the face of
the kamiyui. 'Oh! it is quite true!' declared Jin, the morning after the
alleged occurrence; 'and if you don't believe it, send word to Koto that
you want to see her. She can't go out: her face is all swelled up.' Now
the last statement was fact--for Koto had a very severe toothache at
that time--and the fact helped the falsehood. And the story found its
way to the local newspaper, which published it--only as a strange
example of popular credulity; and Jin said, 'Am I a teller of the truth?
See, the paper has printed it!'

Wherefore crowds of curious people gathered before Koto's little house,
and made her life such a burden to her that her husband had to watch her
constantly to keep her from killing herself. Fortunately she had good
friends in the family of the Governor, where she had been employed for
years as coiffeuse; and the Governor, hearing of the wickedness, wrote a
public denunciation of it, and set his name to it, and printed it. Now
the people of Matsue reverenced their old samurai Governor as if he were
a god, and believed his least word; and seeing what he had written, they
became ashamed, and also denounced the lie and the liar; and the little
hairdresser soon became more prosperous than before through popular

Some of the most extraordinary beliefs of old days are kept alive in
Izumo and elsewhere by what are called in America travelling side-
shows'; and the inexperienced foreigner could never imagine the
possibilities of a Japanese side-show. On certain great holidays the
showmen make their appearance, put up their ephemeral theatres of rush-
matting and bamboos in some temple court, surfeit expectation by the
most incredible surprises, and then vanish as suddenly as they came. The
Skeleton of a Devil, the Claws of a Goblin, and 'a Rat as large as a
sheep,' were some of the least extraordinary displays which I saw. The
Goblin's Claws were remarkably fine shark's teeth; the Devil's Skeleton
had belonged to an orang-outang--all except the horns ingeniously
attached to the skull; and the wondrous Rat I discovered to be a tame
kangaroo. What I could not fully understand was the exhibition of a
nuke-kubi, in which a young woman stretched her neck, apparently, to a
length of about two feet, making ghastly faces during the performance.


There are also some strange old superstitions about women's hair.

The myth of Medusa has many a counterpart in Japanese folk-lore: the
subject of such tales being always some wondrously beautiful girl, whose
hair turns to snakes only at night; and who is discovered at last to be
either a dragon or a dragon's daughter. But in ancient times it was
believed that the hair of any young woman might, under certain trying
circumstances, change into serpents. For instance: under the influence
of long-repressed jealousy.

There were many men of wealth who, in the days of Old Japan, kept their
concubines (mekake or aisho) under the same roof with their legitimate
wives (okusama). And it is told that, although the severest patriarchal
discipline might compel the mekake and the okusama to live together in
perfect seeming harmony by day, their secret hate would reveal itself by
night in the transformation of their hair. The long black tresses of
each would uncoil and hiss and strive to devour those of the other--and
even the mirrors of the sleepers would dash themselves together--for,
saith an ancient proverb, kagami onna-no tamashii--'a Mirror is the Soul
of a Woman.' [7] And there is a famous tradition of one Kato Sayemon
Shigenji, who beheld in the night the hair of his wife and the hair of
his concubine, changed into vipers, writhing together and hissing and
biting. Then Kato Sayemon grieved much for that secret bitterness of
hatred which thus existed through his fault; and he shaved his head and
became a priest in the great Buddhist monastery of Koya-San, where he
dwelt until the day of his death under the name of Karukaya.


The hair of dead women is arranged in the manner called tabanegami,
somewhat resembling the shimada extremely simplified, and without
ornaments of any kind. The name tabanegami signifies hair tied into a
bunch, like a sheaf of rice. This style must also be worn by women
during the period of mourning.

Ghosts, nevertheless, are represented with hair loose and long, falling
weirdly over the face. And no doubt because of the melancholy
suggestiveness of its drooping branches, the willow is believed to be
the favourite tree of ghosts. Thereunder, 'tis said, they mourn in the
night, mingling their shadowy hair with the long dishevelled tresses of
the tree.

Tradition says that Okyo Maruyama was the first Japanese artist who drew
a ghost. The Shogun, having invited him to his palace, said: 'Make a
picture of a ghost for me.' Okyo promised to do so; but he was puzzled
how to execute the order satisfactorily. A few days later, hearing that
one of his aunts was very ill, he visited her. She was so emaciated that
she looked like one already long dead. As he watched by her bedside, a
ghastly inspiration came to him: he drew the fleshless face and long
dishevelled hair, and created from that hasty sketch a ghost that
surpassed all the Shogun's expectations. Afterwards Okyo became very
famous as a painter of ghosts.

Japanese ghosts are always represented as diaphanous, and
preternaturally tall--only the upper part of the figure being distinctly
outlined, and the lower part fading utterly away. As the Japanese say,
'a ghost has no feet': its appearance is like an exhalation, which
becomes visible only at a certain distance above the ground; and it
wavers arid lengthens and undulates in the conceptions of artists, like
a vapour moved by wind. Occasionally phantom women figure in picture.-
books in the likeness of living women; but these are riot true ghosts.
They are fox-women or other goblins; and their supernatural character is
suggested by a peculiar expression of the eyes arid a certain impossible
elfish grace.

Little children in Japan, like little children in all countries keenly
enjoy the pleasure of fear; and they have many games in which such
pleasure forms the chief attraction. Among these is 0-bake-goto, or
Ghost-play. Some nurse-girl or elder sister loosens her hair in front,
so as to let it fall over her face, and pursues the little folk with
moans and weird gestures, miming all the attitudes of the ghosts of the


As the hair of the Japanese woman is her richest ornament, it is of all
her possessions that which she would most suffer to lose; and in other
days the man too manly to kill an erring wife deemed it vengeance enough
to turn her away with all her hair shorn off. Only the greatest faith or
the deepest love can prompt a woman to the voluntary sacrifice of her
entire chevelure, though partial sacrifices, offerings of one or two
long thick cuttings, may be seen suspended before many an Izumo shrine.

What faith can do in the way of such sacrifice, he best knows who has
seen the great cables, woven of women's hair, that hang in the vast
Hongwanji temple at Kyoto. And love is stronger than faith, though much
less demonstrative. According to ancient custom a wife bereaved
sacrifices a portion of her hair to be placed in the coffin of her
husband, and buried with him. The quantity is not fixed: in the majority
of cases it is very small, so that the appearance of the coiffure is
thereby nowise affected. But she who resolves to remain for ever loyal
to the memory of the lost yields up all. With her own hand she cuts off
her hair, and lays the whole glossy sacrifice--emblem of her youth and
beauty--upon the knees of the dead.

It is never suffered to grow again.

Chapter Four From the Diary of an English Teacher


MATSUE, September 2, 1890.

I AM under contract to serve as English teacher in the Jinjo Chugakko,
or Ordinary Middle School, and also in the ShihanGakko, or Normal
School, of Matsue, Izumo, for the term of one year.

The Jinjo Chugakko is an immense two-story wooden building in European
style, painted a dark grey-blue. It has accommodations for nearly three
hundred day scholars. It is situated in one corner of a great square of
ground, bounded on two sides by canals, and on the other two by very
quiet streets. This site is very near the ancient castle.

The Normal School is a much larger building occupying the opposite angle
of the square. It is also much handsomer, is painted snowy white, and
has a little cupola upon its summit. There are only about one hundred
and fifty students in the Shihan-Gakko, but they are boarders.

Between these two schools are other educational buildings, which I shall
learn more about later.

It is my first day at the schools. Nishida Sentaro, the Japanese teacher
of English, has taken me through the buildings, introduced me to the
Directors, and to all my future colleagues, given me all necessary
instructions about hours and about textbooks, and furnished my desk with
all things necessary. Before teaching begins, however, I must be
introduced to the Governor of the Province, Koteda Yasusada, with whom
my contract has been made, through the medium of his secretary. So
Nishida leads the way to the Kencho, or Prefectural office, situated in
another foreign-looking edifice across the street.

We enter it, ascend a wide stairway, and enter a spacious .room carpeted
in European fashion--a room with bay windows and cushioned chairs. One
person is seated at a small round table, and about him are standing half
a dozen others: all are in full Japanese costume, ceremonial costume--
splendid silken hakama, or Chinese trousers, silken robes, silken haori
or overdress, marked with their mon or family crests: rich and dignified
attire which makes me ashamed of my commonplace Western garb. These are
officials of the Kencho, and teachers: the person seated is the
Governor. He rises to greet me, gives me the hand-grasp of a giant: and
as I look into his eyes, I feel I shall love that man to the day of my
death. A face fresh and frank as a boy's, expressing much placid force
and large-hearted kindness--all the calm of a Buddha. Beside him, the
other officials look very small: indeed the first impression of him is
that of a man of another race. While I am wondering whether the old
Japanese heroes were cast in a similar mould, he signs to me to take a
seat, and questions my guide in a mellow basso. There is a charm in the
fluent depth of the voice pleasantly confirming the idea suggested by
the face. An attendant brings tea.

'The Governor asks,' interprets Nishida, 'if you know the old history of

I reply that I have read the Kojiki, translated by Professor
Chamberlain, and have therefore some knowledge of the story of Japan's
most ancient province. Some converse in Japanese follows. Nishida tells
the Governor that I came to Japan to study the ancient religion and
customs, and that I am particularly interested in Shinto and the
traditions of Izumo. The Governor suggests that I make visits to the
celebrated shrines of Kitzuki, Yaegaki, and Kumano, and then asks:

'Does he know the tradition of the origin of the clapping of hands
before a Shinto shrine?'

I reply in the negative; and the Governor says the tradition is given in
a commentary upon the Kojiki.

'It is in the thirty-second section of the fourteenth volume, where it
is written that Ya-he-Koto-Shiro-nushi-no-Kami clapped his hands.'

I thank the Governor for his kind suggestions and his citation. After a
brief silence I am graciously dismissed with another genuine hand-grasp;
and we return to the school.


I have been teaching for three hours in the Middle School, and teaching
Japanese boys turns out to be a much more agreeable task than I had
imagined. Each class has been so well prepared for me beforehand by
Nishida that my utter ignorance of Japanese makes no difficulty in
regard to teaching: moreover, although the lads cannot understand my
words always when I speak, they can understand whatever I write upon the
blackboard with chalk. Most of them have already been studying English
from childhood, with Japanese teachers. All are wonderfully docile' and
patient. According to old custom, when the teacher enters, the whole
class rises and bows to him. He returns the bow, and calls the roll.

Nishida is only too kind. He helps me in every way he possibly can, and
is constantly regretting that he cannot help me more. There are, of
course, some difficulties to overcome. For instance, it will take me a
very, very long time to learn the names of the boys--most of which names
I cannot even pronounce, with the class-roll before me. And although the
names of the different classes have been painted upon the doors of their
respective rooms in English letters, for the benefit of the foreign
teacher, it will take me some weeks at least to become quite familiar
with them. For the time being Nishida always guides me to the rooms. He
also shows me the way, through long corridors, to the Normal School, and
introduces me to the teacher Nakayama who is to act there as my guide.

I have been engaged to teach only four times a week at the Normal
School; but I am furnished there also with a handsome desk in the
teachers' apartment, and am made to feel at home almost immediately.
Nakayama shows me everything of interest in the building before
introducing me to my future pupils. The introduction is pleasant and
novel as a school experience. I am conducted along a corridor, and
ushered into a large luminous whitewashed room full of young men in dark
blue military uniform. Each sits at a very small desk, sup-ported by a
single leg, with three feet. At the end of the room is a platform with a
high desk and a chair for the teacher. As I take my place at the desk, a
voice rings out in English: 'Stand up!' And all rise with a springy
movement as if moved by machinery. 'Bow down!' the same voice again
commands--the voice of a young student wearing a captain's stripes upon
his sleeve; and all salute me. I bow in return; we take our seats; and
the lesson begins.

All teachers at the Normal School are saluted in the same military
fashion before each class-hour--only the command is given in Japanese.
For my sake only, it is given in English.


September 22, 1890.

The Normal School is a State institution. Students are admitted upon
examination and production of testimony as to good character; but the
number is, of course, limited. The young men pay no fees, no boarding
money, nothing even for books, college-outfits, or wearing apparel. They
are lodged, clothed, fed, and educated by the State; but they are
required in return, after their graduation, to serve the State as
teachers for the space of five years. Admission, however, by no means
assures graduation. There are three or four examinations each year; and
the students who fail to obtain a certain high average of examination
marks must leave the school, however exemplary their conduct or earnest
their study. No leniency can be shown where the educational needs of the
State are concerned, and these call for natural ability and a high
standard of its proof.

The discipline is military and severe. Indeed, it is so thorough that
the graduate of a Normal School is exempted by military law from more
than a year's service in the army: he leaves college a trained soldier.
Deportment is also a requisite: special marks are given for it; and
however gawky a freshman may prove at the time of his admission, he
cannot remain so. A spirit of manliness is cultivated, which excludes
roughness but develops self-reliance and self-control. The student is
required, when speaking, to look his teacher in the face, and to utter
his words not only distinctly, but sonorously. Demeanour in class is
partly enforced by the class-room fittings themselves. The tiny tables
are too narrow to allow of being used as supports for the elbows; the
seats have no backs against which to lean, and the student must hold
himself rigidly erect as he studies. He must also keep himself
faultlessly neat and clean. Whenever and wherever he encounters one of
his teachers he must halt, bring his feet together, draw himself erect,
and give the military salute. And this is done with a swift grace
difficult to describe.

The demeanour of a class during study hours is if anything too
faultless. Never a whisper is heard; never is a head raised from the
book without permission. But when the teacher addresses a student by
name, the youth rises instantly, and replies in a tone of such vigour as
would seem to unaccustomed ears almost startling by contrast with the
stillness and self-repression of the others.

The female department of the Normal School, where about fifty young
women are being trained as teachers, is a separate two-story quadrangle
of buildings, large, airy, and so situated, together with its gardens,
as to be totally isolated from all other buildings and invisible from
the street. The girls are not only taught European science by the most
advanced methods, but are trained as well in Japanese arts--the arts of
embroidery, of decoration, of painting, and of arranging flowers.
European drawing is also taught, and beautifully taught, not only here,
but in all the schools. It is taught, however, in combination with
Japanese methods; and the results of this blending may certainly be
expected to have some charming influence upon future art-production. The
average capacity of the Japanese student in drawing is, I think, at
least fifty per cent, higher than that of European students. The soul of
the race is essentially artistic; and the extremely difficult art of
learning to write the Chinese characters, in which all are trained from
early childhood, has already disciplined the hand and the eye to a
marvellous degree--a degree undreamed of in the Occident--long before
the drawing-master begins his lessons of perspective.

Attached to the great Normal School, and connected by a corridor with
the Jinjo Chugakko likewise, is a large elementary school for little
boys and girls: its teachers are male and female students of the
graduating classes, who are thus practically trained for their
profession before entering the service of the State. Nothing could be
more interesting as an educational spectacle to any sympathetic
foreigner than some of this elementary teaching. In the first room which
I visit a class of very little girls and boys--some as quaintly pretty
as their own dolls--are bending at their desks over sheets of coal-black
paper which you would think they were trying to make still blacker by
energetic use of writing-brushes and what we call Indian-ink. They are
really learning to write Chinese and Japanese characters, stroke by
stroke. Until one stroke has been well learned, they are not suffered to
attempt another--much less a combination. Long before the first lesson
is thoroughly mastered, the white paper has become all evenly black
under the multitude of tyro brush-strokes. But the same sheet is still
used; for the wet ink makes a yet blacker mark upon the dry, so that it
can easily be seen.

In a room adjoining, I see another child-class learning to use scissors
--Japanese scissors, which, being formed in one piece, shaped something
like the letter U, are much less easy to manage than ours. The little
folk are being taught to cut out patterns, and shapes of special objects
or symbols to be studied. Flower-forms are the most ordinary patterns;
sometimes certain ideographs are given as subjects.

And in another room a third small class is learning to sing; the teacher
writing the music notes (do, re, mi) with chalk upon a blackboard, and
accompanying the song with an accordion. The little ones have learned
the Japanese national anthem (Kimi ga yo wa) and two native songs set to
Scotch airs--one of which calls back to me, even in this remote corner
of the Orient, many a charming memory: Auld Lang Syne.

No uniform is worn in this elementary school: all are in Japanese dress
--the boys in dark blue kimono, the little girls in robes of all tints,
radiant as butterflies. But in addition to their robes, the girls wear
hakama, [1] and these are of a vivid, warm sky-blue.

Between the hours of teaching, ten minutes are allowed for play or
rest. The little boys play at Demon-Shadows or at blind-man's-buff or at
some other funny game: they laugh, leap, shout, race, and wrestle, but,
unlike European children, never quarrel or fight. As for the little
girls, they get by themselves, and either play at hand-ball, or form
into circles to play at some round game, accompanied by song.
Indescribably soft and sweet the chorus of those little voices in the

Kango-kango sho-ya,
Naka yoni sho-ya,
Don-don to kunde
Jizo-San no midzu wo
Matsuba no midzu irete,
Makkuri kadso. [2]

I notice that the young men, as well as the young women, who teach these
little folk, are extremely tender to their charges. A child whose kimono
is out of order, or dirtied by play, is taken aside and brushed and
arranged as carefully as by an elder brother.

Besides being trained for their future profession by teaching the
children of the elementary school, the girl students of the Shihan-Gakko
are also trained to teach in the neighbouring kindergarten. A delightful
kindergarten it is, with big cheerful sunny rooms, where stocks of the
most ingenious educational toys are piled upon shelves for daily use.

Since the above was written I have had two years' experience as a
teacher in various large Japanese schools; and I have never had personal
knowledge of any serious quarrel between students, and have never even
heard of a fight among my pupils. And I have taught some eight hundred
boys and young men.


October 1 1890. Nevertheless I am destined to see little of the Normal
School. Strictly speaking, I do not belong to its staff: my services
being only lent by the Middle School, to which I give most of my time. I
see the Normal School students in their class-rooms only, for they are
not allowed to go out to visit their teachers' homes in the town. So I
can never hope to become as familiar with them as with the students of
the Chugakko, who are beginning to call me 'Teacher' instead of 'Sir,'
and to treat me as a sort of elder brother. (I objected to the word
'master,' for in Japan the teacher has no need of being masterful.) And
I feel less at home in the large, bright, comfortable apartments of the
Normal School teachers than in our dingy, chilly teachers' room at the
Chugakko, where my desk is next to that of Nishida.

On the walls there are maps, crowded with Japanese ideographs; a few
large charts representing zoological facts in the light of evolutional
science; and an immense frame filled with little black lacquered wooden
tablets, so neatly fitted together that the entire surface is uniform as
that of a blackboard. On these are written, or rather painted, in white,
names of teachers, subjects, classes, and order of teaching hours; and
by the ingenious tablet arrangement any change of hours can be
represented by simply changing the places of the tablets. As all this is
written in Chinese and Japanese characters, it remains to me a mystery,
except in so far as the general plan and purpose are concerned. I have
learned only to recognize the letters of my own name, and the simpler
form of numerals.

On every teacher's desk there is a small hibachi of glazed blue-and-
white ware, containing a few lumps of glowing charcoal in a bed of
ashes. During the brief intervals between classes each teacher smokes
his tiny Japanese pipe of brass, iron, or silver. The hibachi and a cup
of hot tea are our consolations for the fatigues of the class-room.

Nishida and one or two other teachers know a good deal of English, and
we chat together sometimes between classes. But more often no one
speaks. All are tired after the teaching hour, and prefer to smoke in
silence. At such times the only sounds within the room are the ticking
of the clock, and the sharp clang of the little pipes being rapped upon
the edges of the hibachi to empty out the ashes.


October 15, 1890. To-day I witnessed the annual athletic contests (undo-
kwai) of all the schools in Shimane Ken. These games were celebrated in
the broad castle grounds of Ninomaru. Yesterday a circular race-track
had been staked off, hurdles erected for leaping, thousands of wooden
seats prepared for invited or privileged spectators, and a grand lodge
built for the Governor, all before sunset. The place looked like a vast
circus, with its tiers of plank seats rising one above the other, and
the Governor's lodge magnificent with wreaths and flags. School children
from all the villages and towns within twenty-five miles had arrived in
surprising multitude. Nearly six thousand boys and girls were entered to
take part in the contests. Their parents and relatives and teachers made
an imposing assembly upon the benches and within the gates. And on the
ramparts overlooking the huge inclosure a much larger crowd had
gathered, representing perhaps one-third of the population of the city.

The signal to begin or to end a contest was a pistol-shot. Four
different kinds of games were performed in different parts of the
grounds at the same time, as there was room enough for an army; and
prizes were awarded to the winners of each contest by the hand of the
Governor himself.

There were races between the best runners in each class of the different
schools; and the best runner of all proved to be Sakane, of our own
fifth class, who came in first by nearly forty yards without seeming
even to make an effort. He is our champion athlete, and as good as he is
strong--so that it made me very happy to see him with his arms full of
prize books. He won also a fencing contest decided by the breaking of a
little earthenware saucer tied to the left arm of each combatant. And he
also won a leaping match between our older boys.

But many hundreds of other winners there were too, and many hundreds of
prizes were given away. There were races in which the runners were tied
together in pairs, the left leg of one to the right leg of the other.
There were equally funny races, the winning of which depended on the
runner's ability not only to run, but to crawl, to climb, to vault, and
to jump alternately. There were races also for the little girls--pretty
as butterflies they seemed in their sky-blue hakama and many coloured
robes--races in which the contestants had each to pick up as they ran
three balls of three different colours out of a number scattered over
the turf. Besides this, the little girls had what is called a flag-race,
and a contest with battledores and shuttlecocks.

Then came the tug-of-war. A magnificent tug-of-war, too--one hundred
students at one end of a rope, and another hundred at the other. But the
most wonderful spectacles of the day were the dumb-bell exercises. Six
thousand boys and girls, massed in ranks about five hundred deep; six
thousand pairs of arms rising and falling exactly together; six thousand
pairs of sandalled feet advancing or retreating together, at the signal
of the masters of gymnastics, directing all from the tops of various
little wooden towers; six thousand voices chanting at once the 'one,
two, three,' of the dumb-bell drill: 'Ichi, ni,--san, shi,--go, roku,--
shichi, hachi.'

Last came the curious game called 'Taking the Castle.' Two models of
Japanese towers, about fifteen feet high, made with paper stretched over
a framework of bamboo, were set up, one at each end of the field. Inside
the castles an inflammable liquid had been placed in open vessels, so
that if the vessels were overturned the whole fabric would take fire.
The boys, divided into two parties, bombarded the castles with wooden
balls, which passed easily through the paper walls; and in a short time
both models were making a glorious blaze. Of course the party whose
castle was the first to blaze lost the game.

The games began at eight o'clock in the morning, and at five in the
evening came to an end. Then at a signal fully ten thousand voices
pealed out the superb national anthem, 'Kimi ga yo, and concluded it
with three cheers for their Imperial Majesties, the Emperor and Empress
of Japan.

The Japanese do not shout or roar as we do when we cheer. They chant.
Each long cry is like the opening tone of an immense musical chorus:


It is no small surprise to observe how botany, geology, and other
sciences are daily taught even in this remotest part of Old Japan. Plant
physiology and the nature of vegetable tissues are studied under
excellent microscopes, and in their relations to chemistry; and at
regular intervals the instructor leads his classes into the country to
illustrate the lessons of the term by examples taken from the flora of
their native place. Agriculture, taught by a graduate of the famous
Agricultural School at Sapporo, is practically illustrated upon farms
purchased and maintained by the schools for purely educational ends.
Each series of lessons in geology is supplemented by visits to the
mountains about the lake, or to the tremendous cliffs of the coast,
where the students are taught to familiarize themselves with forms of
stratification and the visible history of rocks. The basin of the lake,
and the country about Matsue, is physiographically studied, after the
plans of instruction laid down in Huxley's excellent manual. Natural
History, too, is taught according to the latest and best methods, and
with the help of the microscope. The results of such teaching are
sometimes surprising. I know of one student, a lad of only sixteen, who
voluntarily collected and classified more than two hundred varieties of
marine plants for a Tokyo professor. Another, a youth of seventeen,
wrote down for me in my notebook, without a work of reference at hand,
and, as I afterwards discovered, almost without an omission or error, a
scientific list of all the butterflies to be found in the neighbourhood
of the city.


Through the Minister of Public Instruction, His Imperial Majesty has
sent to all the great public schools of the Empire a letter bearing date
of the thirteenth day of the tenth month of the twenty-third year of
Meiji. And the students and teachers of the various schools assemble to
hear the reading of the Imperial Words on Education.

At eight o'clock we of the Middle School are all waiting in our own
assembly hall for the coming of the Governor, who will read the
Emperor's letter in the various schools.

We wait but a little while. Then the Governor comes with all the
officers of the Kencho and the chief men of the city. We rise to salute
him: then the national anthem is sung.

Then the Governor, ascending the platform, produces the Imperial
Missive--a scroll of Chinese manuscript sheathed in silk. He withdraws
it slowly from its woven envelope, lifts it reverentially to his
forehead, unrolls it, lifts it again to his forehead, and after a
moment's dignified pause begins in that clear deep voice of his to read
the melodious syllables after the ancient way, which is like a chant:

'CHO-KU-G U. Chin omommiru ni waga koso koso kuni wo....

'We consider that the Founder of Our Empire and the ancestors of Our
Imperial House placed the foundation of the country on a grand and
permanent basis, and established their authority on the principles of
profound humanity and benevolence.

'That Our subjects have throughout ages deserved well of the State by
their loyalty and piety and by their harmonious co-operation is in
accordance with the essential character of Our nation; and on these very
same principles Our education has been founded.

'You, Our subjects, be therefore filial to your parents; be affectionate
to your brothers; be harmonious as husbands and wives; and be faithful
to your friends; conduct yourselves with propriety and carefulness;
extend generosity and benevolence towards your neighbours; attend to
your studies and follow your pursuits; cultivate your intellects and
elevate your morals; advance public benefits and promote social
interests; be always found in the good observance of the laws and
constitution of the land; display your personal courage and public
spirit for the sake of the country whenever required; and thus support
the Imperial prerogative, which is coexistent with the Heavens and the

'Such conduct on your part will not only strengthen the character of Our
good and loyal subjects, but conduce also to the maintenance of the fame
of your worthy forefathers.

'This is the instruction bequeathed by Our ancestors and to be followed
by Our subjects; for it is the truth which has guided and guides them in
their own affairs and in their dealings towards aliens.

'We hope, therefore, We and Our subjects will regard these sacred
precepts with one and the same heart in order to attain the same ends.'

Then the Governor and the Head-master speak a few words--dwelling upon
the full significance of His Imperial Majesty's august commands, and
exhorting all to remember and to obey them to the uttermost.

After which the students have a holiday, to enable them the better to
recollect what they have heard.


All teaching in the modern Japanese system of education is conducted
with the utmost kindness and gentleness. The teacher is a teacher only:
he is not, in the English sense of mastery, a master. He stands to his
pupils in the relation of an elder brother. He never tries to impose his
will upon them: he never scolds, he seldom criticizes, he scarcely ever
punishes. No Japanese teacher ever strikes a pupil: such an act would
cost him his post at once. He never loses his temper: to do so would
disgrace him in the eyes of his boys and in the judgment of his
colleagues. Practically speaking, there is no punishment in Japanese
schools. Sometimes very mischievous lads are kept in the schoolhouse
during recreation time; yet even this light penalty is not inflicted
directly by the teacher, but by the director of the school on complaint
of the teacher. The purpose in such cases is not to inflict pain by
deprivation of enjoyment, but to give public illustration of a fault;
and in the great majority of instances, consciousness of the fault thus
brought home to a lad before his comrades is quite enough to prevent its
repetition. No such cruel punition as that of forcing a dull pupil to
learn an additional task, or of sentencing him to strain his eyes
copying four or five hundred lines, is ever dreamed of. Nor would such
forms of punishment, in the present state of things, be long tolerated
by the pupils themselves. The general policy of the educational
authorities everywhere throughout the empire is to get rid of students
who cannot be perfectly well managed without punishment; and expulsions,
nevertheless, are rare.

I often see a pretty spectacle on my way home from the school, when I
take the short cut through the castle grounds. A class of about thirty
little boys, in kimono and sandals, bareheaded, being taught to march
and to sing by a handsome young teacher, also in Japanese dress. While
they sing, they are drawn up in line; and keep time with their little
bare feet. The teacher has a pleasant high clear tenor: he stands at one
end of the rank and sings a single line of the song. Then all the
children sing it after him. Then he sings a second line, and they repeat
it. If any mistakes are made, they have to sing the verse again.

It is the Song of Kusunoki Masashige, noblest of Japanese heroes and


I have said that severity on the part of teachers would scarcely be
tolerated by the students themselves--a fact which may sound strange to
English or American ears. Tom Brown's school does not exist in Japan;
the ordinary public school much more resembles the ideal Italian
institution so charmingly painted for us in the Cuore of De Amicis.
Japanese students furthermore claim and enjoy an independence contrary
to all Occidental ideas of disciplinary necessity. In the Occident the
master expels the pupil. In Japan it happens quite as often that the
pupil expels the master. Each public school is an earnest, spirited
little republic, to which director and teachers stand only in the
relation of president and cabinet. They are indeed appointed by the
prefectural government upon recommendation by the Educational Bureau at
the capital; but in actual practice they maintain their positions by
virtue of their capacity and personal character as estimated by their
students, and are likely to be deposed by a revolutionary movement
whenever found wanting. It has been alleged that the students frequently
abuse their power. But this allegation has been made by European
residents, strongly prejudiced in favour of masterful English ways of
discipline. (I recollect that an English Yokohama paper, in this
connection, advocated the introduction of the birch.) My own
observations have convinced me, as larger experience has convinced some
others, that in most instances of pupils rebelling against a teacher,
reason is upon their side. They will rarely insult a teacher whom they
dislike, or cause any disturbance in his class: they will simply refuse
to attend school until he be removed. Personal feeling may often be a
secondary, but it is seldom, so far as I have been able to learn, the
primary cause for such a demand. A teacher whose manners are
unsympathetic, or even positively disagreeable, will be nevertheless
obeyed and revered while his students remain persuaded of his capacity
as a teacher, and his sense of justice; and they are as keen to discern
ability as they are to detect partiality. And, on the other hand, an
amiable disposition alone will never atone with them either for want of
knowledge or for want of skill to impart it. I knew one case, in a
neighbouring public school, of a demand by the students for the removal
of their professor of chemistry. In making their complaint, they frankly
declared: 'We like him. He is kind to all of us; he does the best he
can. But he does not know enough to teach us as we wish to be taught.
lie cannot answer our questions. He cannot explain the experiments which
he shows us. Our former teacher could do all these things. We must have
another teacher.' Investigation proved that the lads were quite right.
The young teacher had graduated at the university; he had come well
recommended: but he had no thorough knowledge of the science which he
undertook to impart, and no experience as a teacher. The instructor's
success in Japan is not guaranteed by a degree, but by his practical
knowledge and his capacity to communicate it simply and thoroughly.


November 3, 1890 To-day is the birthday of His Majesty the Emperor. It
is a public holiday throughout Japan; and there will be no teaching this
morning. But at eight o'clock all the students and instructors enter the
great assembly hall of the Jinjo Chugakko to honour the anniversary of
His Majesty's august birth.

On the platform of the assembly hall a table, covered with dark silk,
has been placed; and upon this table the portraits of Their Imperial
Majesties, the Emperor and the Empress of Japan, stand side by side
upright, framed in gold. The alcove above the platform has been
decorated with flags and wreaths.

Presently the Governor enters, looking like a French general in his
gold-embroidered uniform of office, and followed by the Mayor of the
city, the Chief Military Officer, the Chief of Police, and all the
officials of the provincial government. These take their places in
silence to left and right of the plat form. Then the school organ
suddenly rolls out the slow, solemn, beautiful national anthem; and all
present chant those ancient syllables, made sacred by the reverential
love of a century of generations:

Ki-mi ga-a yo-o wa
Chi-yo ni-i-i ya-chi-yo ni sa-za-red
I-wa o to na-ri-te
Ko-ke no
Mu-u su-u ma-a-a-de [4]

The anthem ceases. The Governor advances with a slow dignified step from
the right side of the apartment to the centre of the open space before
the platform and the portraits of Their Majesties, turns his face to
them, and bows profoundly. Then he takes three steps forward toward the
platform, and halts, and bows again. Then he takes three more steps
forward, and bows still more profoundly. Then he retires, walking
backward six steps, and bows once more. Then he returns to his place.

After this the teachers, by parties of six, perform the same beautiful
ceremony. When all have saluted the portrait of His Imperial Majesty,
the Governor ascends the platform and makes a few eloquent remarks to
the students about their duty to their Emperor, to their country, and to
their teachers. Then the anthem is sung again; and all disperse to amuse
themselves for the rest of the day.


March 1 1891. The majority of the students of the Jinjo Chugakko are
day-scholars only (externes, as we would say in France): they go to
school in the morning, take their noon meal at home, and return at one
o'clock to attend the brief afternoon classes. All the city students
live with their own families; but there are many boys from remote
country districts who have no city relatives, and for such the school
furnishes boarding-houses, where a wholesome moral discipline is
maintained by special masters. They are free, however, if they have
sufficient means, to choose another boarding-house (provided it be a
respectable one), or to find quarters in some good family; but few adopt
either course.

I doubt whether in any other country the cost of education--education of
the most excellent and advanced kind--is so little as in Japan. The
Izumo student is able to live at a figure so far below the Occidental
idea of necessary expenditure that the mere statement of it can scarcely
fail to surprise the reader. A sum equal in American money to about
twenty dollars supplies him with board and lodging for one year. The
whole of his expenses, including school fees, are about seven dollars a
month. For his room and three ample meals a day he pays every four weeks
only one yen eighty-five sen--not much more than a dollar and a half in
American currency. If very, very poor, he will not be obliged to wear a
uniform; but nearly all students of the higher classes do wear uniforms,
as the cost of a complete uniform, including cap and shoes of leather,
is only about three and a half yen for the cheaper quality. Those who do
not wear leather shoes, however, are required, while in the school, to
exchange their noisy wooden geta for zori or light straw sandals.


But the mental education so admirably imparted in an ordinary middle
school is not, after all, so cheaply acquired by the student as might be
imagined from the cost of living and the low rate of school fees. For
Nature exacts a heavier school fee, and rigidly collects her debt--in
human life.

To understand why, one should remember that the modern knowledge which
the modern Izumo student must acquire upon a diet of boiled rice and
bean-curd was discovered, developed, and synthetised by minds
strengthened upon a costly diet of flesh. National underfeeding offers
the most cruel problem which the educators of Japan must solve in order
that she may become fully able to assimilate the civilization we have
thrust upon her. As Herbert Spencer has pointed out, the degree of human
energy, physical or intellectual, must depend upon the nutritiveness of
food; and history shows that the well-fed races have been the energetic
and the dominant. Perhaps mind will rule in the future of nations; but
mind is a mode of force, and must be fed--through the stomach. The
thoughts that have shaken the world were never framed upon bread and
water: they were created by beefsteak and mutton-chops, by ham and eggs,
by pork and puddings, and were stimulated by generous wines, strong
ales, and strong coffee. And science also teaches us that the growing
child or youth requires an even more nutritious diet than the adult; and
that the student especially needs strong nourishment to repair the
physical waste involved by brain-exertion.

And what is the waste entailed upon the Japanese schoolboy's system by
study? It is certainly greater than that which the system of the
European or American student must suffer at the same period of life.
Seven years of study are required to give the Japanese youth merely the
necessary knowledge of his own triple system of ideographs--or, in less
accurate but plainer speech, the enormous alphabet of his native
literature. That literature, also, he must study, and the art of two
forms of his language--the written and the spoken: likewise, of course,
he must learn native history and native morals. Besides these Oriental
studies, his course includes foreign history, geography, arithmetic,
astronomy, physics, geometry, natural history, agriculture, chemistry,
drawing, and mathematics. Worst of all, he must learn English--a
language of which the difficulty to the Japanese cannot be even faintly
imagined by anyone unfamiliar with the construction of the native
tongue--a language so different from his own that the very simplest
Japanese phrase cannot be intelligibly rendered into English by a
literal translation of the words or even the form of the thought. And he
must learn all this upon a diet no English boy could live on; and always
thinly clad in his poor cotton dress without even a fire in his
schoolroom during the terrible winter, only a hibachi containing a few
lumps of glowing charcoal in a bed of ashes. [5] Is it to be wondered at
that even those Japanese students who pass successfully 'through all the
educational courses the Empire can open to them can only in rare
instances show results of their long training as large as those
manifested by students of the West? Better conditions are coming; but at
present, under the new strain, young bodies and young minds too often
give way. And those who break down are not the dullards, but the pride
of schools, the captains of classes.


Yet, so far as the finances of the schools allow, everything possible is
done to make the students both healthy and happy--to furnish them with
ample opportunities both for physical exercise and for mental enjoyment.
Though the course of study is severe, the hours are not long: and one of
the daily five is devoted to military drill--made more interesting to
the lads by the use of real rifles and bayonets, furnished by
Government. There is a fine gymnastic ground near the school, furnished
with trapezes, parallel bars, vaulting horses, etc.; and there are two
masters of gymnastics attached to the Middle School alone. There are
row-boats, in which the boys can take their pleasure on the beautiful
lake whenever the weather permits. There is an excellent fencing-school
conducted by the Governor himself, who, although so heavy a man, is
reckoned one of the best fencers of his own generation. The style taught
is the old one, requiring the use of both hands to wield the sword;
thrusting is little attempted, it is nearly all heavy slashing. The
foils are made of long splinters of bamboo tied together so as to form
something resembling elongated fasces: masks and wadded coats protect
the head and body, for the blows given are heavy. This sort of fencing
requires considerable agility, and gives more active exercise than our
severer Western styles. Yet another form of healthy exercise consists of
long journeys on foot to famous places. Special holidays are allowed for
these. The students march out of town in military order, accompanied by
some of their favourite teachers, and perhaps a servant to cook for
them. Thus they may travel for a hundred, or even a hundred and fifty
miles and back; but if the journey is to be a very long one, only the
strong lads are allowed to go. They walk in waraji, the true straw
sandal, closely tied to the naked foot, which it leaves perfectly supple
and free, without blistering or producing corns. They sleep at night in
Buddhist temples; and their cooking is done in the open fields, like
that of soldiers in camp.

For those little inclined to such sturdy exercise there is a school
library which is growing every year. There is also a monthly school
magazine, edited and published by the boys. And there is a Students'
Society, at whose regular meetings debates are held upon all conceivable
subjects of interest to students.


April 4, 1891. The students of the third, fourth, and fifth year classes
write for me once a week brief English compositions upon easy themes
which I select for them. As a rule the themes are Japanese. Considering
the immense difficulty of the English language to Japanese students, the
ability of some of my boys to express their thoughts in it is
astonishing. Their compositions have also another interest for me as
revelations, not of individual character, but of national sentiment, or
of aggregate sentiment of some sort or other. What seems to me most
surprising in the compositions of the average Japanese student is that
they have no personal cachet at all. Even the handwriting of twenty
English compositions will be found to have a curious family resemblance;
and striking exceptions are too few to affect the rule. Here is one of
the best compositions on my table, by a student at the head of his
class. Only a few idiomatic errors have been corrected:

THE MOON 'The Moon appears melancholy to those who are sad, and joyous
to those who are happy. The Moon makes memories of home come to those
who travel, and creates homesickness. So when the Emperor Godaigo,
having been banished to Oki by the traitor Hojo, beheld the moonlight
upon the seashore, he cried out, "The Moon is heartless!"

'The sight of the Moon makes an immeasurable feeling in our hearts when
we look up at it through the clear air of a beauteous night.

'Our hearts ought to be pure and calm like the light of the Moon.

'Poets often compare the Moon to a Japanese [metal] mirror (kagami); and
indeed its shape is the same when it is full.

'The refined man amuses himself with the Moon. He seeks some house
looking out upon water, to watch the Moon, and to make verses about it.

'The best places from which to see the Moon are Tsukigashi, and the
mountain Obasute.

'The light of the Moon shines alike upon foul and pure, upon high and
low. That beautiful Lamp is neither yours nor mine, but everybody's.

'When we look at the Moon we should remember that its waxing and its
waning are the signs of the truth that the culmination of all things is
likewise the beginning of their decline.'

Any person totally unfamiliar with Japanese educational methods might
presume that the foregoing composition shows some original power of
thought and imagination. But this is not the case. I found the same
thoughts and comparisons in thirty other compositions upon the same
subject. Indeed, the compositions of any number of middle-school
students upon the same subject are certain to be very much alike in idea
and sentiment--though they are none the less charming for that. As a
rule the Japanese student shows little originality in the line of
imagination. His imagination was made for him long centuries ago--partly
in China, partly in his native land. From his childhood he is trained to
see and to feel Nature exactly in the manner of those wondrous artists
who, with a few swift brushstrokes, fling down upon a sheet of paper the
colour-sensation of a chilly dawn, a fervid noon, an autumn evening.
Through all his boyhood he is taught to commit to memory the most
beautiful thoughts and comparisons to be found in his ancient native
literature. Every boy has thus learned that the vision of Fuji against
the blue resembles a white half-opened fan, hanging inverted in the sky.
Every boy knows that cherry-trees in full blossom look as if the most
delicate of flushed summer clouds were caught in their branches. Every
boy knows the comparison between the falling of certain leaves on snow
and the casting down of texts upon a sheet of white paper with a brush.
Every boy and girl knows the verses comparing the print of cat's-feet on
snow to plum-flowers, [6] and that comparing the impression of bokkuri
on snow to the Japanese character for the number 'two.' These were
thoughts of old, old poets; and it would be very hard to invent prettier
ones. Artistic power in composition is chiefly shown by the correct
memorising and clever combination of these old thoughts.

And the students have been equally well trained to discover a moral in
almost everything, animate or inanimate. I have tried them with a
hundred subjects--Japanese subjects--for composition; I have never found
them to fail in discovering a moral when the theme was a native one. If
I suggested 'Fire-flies,' they at once approved the topic, and wrote for
me the story of that Chinese student who, being too poor to pay for a
lamp, imprisoned many fireflies in a paper lantern, and thus was able to
obtain light enough to study after dark, and to become eventually a
great scholar. If I said 'Frogs,' they wrote for me the legend of Ono-
no-Tofu, who was persuaded to become a learned celebrity by witnessing
the tireless perseverance of a frog trying to leap up to a willow-
branch. I subjoin a few specimens of the moral ideas which I thus
evoked. I have corrected some common mistakes in the originals, but have
suffered a few singularities to stand:

THE BOTAN 'The botan [Japanese peony] is large and beautiful to see; but
it has a disagreeable smell. This should make us remember that what is
only outwardly beautiful in human society should not attract us. To be
attracted by beauty only may lead us into fearful and fatal misfortune.
The best place to see the botan is the island of Daikonshima in the lake
Nakaumi. There in the season of its flowering all the island is red with
its blossoms. [7]

THE DRAGON 'When the Dragon tries to ride the clouds and come into
heaven there happens immediately a furious storm. When the Dragon dwells
on the ground it is supposed to take the form of a stone or other
object; but when it wants to rise it calls a cloud. Its body is composed
of parts of many animals. It has the eyes of a tiger and the horns of a
deer and the body of a crocodile and the claws of an eagle and two
trunks like the trunk of an elephant. It has a moral. We should try to
be like the dragon, and find out and adopt all the good qualities of

At the close of this essay on the dragon is a note to the teacher,
saying: 'I believe not there is any Dragon. But there are many stories
and curious pictures about Dragon.'

MOSQUITOES 'On summer nights we hear the sound of faint voices; and
little things come and sting our bodies very violently. We call .them
ka--in English "mosquitoes." I think the sting is useful for us, because
if we begin to sleep, the ka shall come and sting us, uttering a small
voice; then we shall be bringed back to study by the sting.'

The following, by a lad of sixteen, is submitted only as a
characteristic expression of half-formed ideas about a less familiar

EUROPEAN AND JAPANESE CUSTOMS 'Europeans wear very narrow clothes and
they wear shoes always in the house. Japanese wear clothes which are
very lenient and they do not shoe except when they walk out-of-the-door.

'What we think very strange is that in Europe every wife loves her
husband more than her parents. In Nippon there is no wife who more loves
not her parents than her husband.

'And Europeans walk out in the road with their wives, which we utterly
refuse to, except on the festival of Hachiman.

'The Japanese woman is treated by man as a servant, while the European
woman is respected as a master. I think these customs are both bad.

'We think it is very much trouble to treat European ladies; and we do
not know why ladies are so much respected by Europeans.'

Conversation in the class-room about foreign subjects is often equally
amusing and suggestive:

'Teacher, I have been told that if a European and his father and his
wife were all to fall into the sea together, and that he only could
swim, he would try to save his wife first. Would he really?'

'Probably,' I reply.

'But why?'

'One reason is that Europeans consider it a man's duty to help the
weaker first--especially women and children.'

'And does a European love his wife more than his father and mother?'

'Not always--but generally, perhaps, he does.'

'Why, Teacher, according to our ideas that is very immoral.'

'Teacher, how do European women carry their babies?'

'In their arms.'

'Very tiring! And how far can a woman walk carrying a baby in her arms?'

'A strong woman can walk many miles with a child in her arms.'

'But she cannot use her hands while she is carrying a baby that way, can

'Not very well.'

'Then it is a very bad way to carry babies,' etc.


May 1, 1891. My favourite students often visit me of afternoons. They
first send me their cards, to announce their presence. On being told to
come in they leave their footgear on the doorstep, enter my little
study, prostrate themselves; and we all squat down together on the
floor, which is in all Japanese houses like a soft mattress. The servant
brings zabuton or small cushions to kneel upon, and cakes, and tea.

To sit as the Japanese do requires practice; and some Europeans can
never acquire the habit. To acquire it, indeed, one must become
accustomed to wearing Japanese costume. But once the habit of thus
sitting has been formed, one finds it the most natural and easy of
positions, and assumes it by preference for eating, reading, smoking, or
chatting. It is not to be recommended, perhaps, for writing with a
European pen--as the motion in our Occidental style of writing is from
the supported wrist; but it is the best posture for writing with the
Japanese fude, in using which the whole arm is unsupported, and the
motion from the elbow. After having become habituated to Japanese habits
for more than a year, I must confess that I find it now somewhat irksome
to use a chair.

When we have all greeted each other, and taken our places upon the
kneeling cushions, a little polite silence ensues, which I am the first
to break. Some of the lads speak a good deal of English. They understand
me well when I pronounce every word slowly and distinctly--using simple
phrases, and avoiding idioms. When a word with which they are not
familiar must be used, we refer to a good English-Japanese dictionary,
which gives each vernacular meaning both in the kana and in the Chinese

Usually my young visitors stay a long time, and their stay is rarely
tiresome. Their conversation and their thoughts are of the simplest and
frankest. They do not come to learn: they know that to ask their teacher
to teach out of school would be unjust. They speak chiefly of things
which they think have some particular interest for me. Sometimes they
scarcely speak at all, but appear to sink into a sort of happy reverie.
What they come really for is the quiet pleasure of sympathy. Not an
intellectual sympathy, but the sympathy of pure goodwill: the simple
pleasure of being quite comfortable with a friend. They peep at my books
and pictures; and sometimes they bring books and pictures to show me--
delightfully queer things--family heirlooms which I regret much that I
cannot buy. They also like to look at my garden, and enjoy all that is
in it even more than I. Often they bring me gifts of flowers. Never by
any possible chance are they troublesome, impolite, curious, or even
talkative. Courtesy in its utmost possible exquisiteness--an
exquisiteness of which even the French have no conception--seems natural
to the Izumo boy as the colour of his hair or the tint of his skin. Nor
is he less kind than courteous. To contrive pleasurable surprises for me
is one of the particular delights of my boys; and they either bring or
cause to be brought to the house all sorts of strange things.

Of all the strange or beautiful things which I am thus privileged to
examine, none gives me so much pleasure as a certain wonderful kakemono
of Amida Nyorai. It is rather large picture, and has been borrowed from
a priest that I may see it. The Buddha stands in the attitude of
exhortation, with one, hand uplifted. Behind his head a huge moon makes
an aureole and across the face of that moon stream winding lines of
thinnest cloud. Beneath his feet, like a rolling of smoke, curl heavier
and darker clouds. Merely as a work of colour and design, the thing is a
marvel. But the real wonder of it is not in colour or design at all.
Minute examination reveals the astonishing fact that every shadow and
clouding is formed by a fairy text of Chinese characters so minute that
only a keen eye can discern them; and this text is the entire text of
two famed sutras--the Kwammu-ryjo-kyo and the Amida-kyo--'text no larger
than the limbs of fleas.' And all the strong dark lines of the figure,
such as the seams of the Buddha's robe, are formed by the characters of
the holy invocation of the Shin-shu sect, repeated thousands of times:
'Namu Amida Butsu!' Infinite patience, tireless silent labour of loving
faith, in some dim temple, long ago.

Another day one of my boys persuades his father to let him bring to my
house a wonderful statue of Koshi (Confucius), made, I am told, in
China, toward the close of the period of the Ming dynasty. I am also
assured it is the first time the statue has ever been removed from the
family residence to be shown to anyone. Previously, whoever desired to
pay it reverence had to visit the house. It is truly a beautiful bronze.
The figure of a smiling, bearded old man, with fingers uplifted and lips
apart as if discoursing. He wears quaint Chinese shoes, and his flowing
robes are adorned with the figure of the mystic phoenix. The microscopic
finish of detail seems indeed to reveal the wonderful cunning of a
Chinese hand: each tooth, each hair, looks as though it had been made
the subject of a special study.

Another student conducts me to the home of one of his relatives, that I
may see a cat made of wood, said to have been chiselled by the famed
Hidari Jingoro--a cat crouching and watching, and so life-like that real
cats 'have been known to put up their backs and spit at it.'


Nevertheless I have a private conviction that some old artists even now
living in Matsue could make a still more wonderful cat. Among these is
the venerable Arakawa Junosuke, who wrought many rare things for the
Daimyo of Izumo in the Tempo era, and whose acquaintance I have been
enabled to make through my school-friends. One evening he brings to my
house something very odd to show me, concealed in his sleeve. It is a
doll: just a small carven and painted head without a body,--the body
being represented by a tiny robe only, attached to the neck. Yet as
Arakawa Junosuke manipulates it, it seems to become alive. The back of
its head is like the back of a very old man's head; but its face is the
face of an amused child, and there is scarcely any forehead nor any
evidence of a thinking disposition. And whatever way the head is turned,
it looks so funny that one cannot help laughing at it. It represents a
kirakubo--what we might call in English 'a jolly old boy,'--one who is
naturally too hearty and too innocent to feel trouble of any sort. It is
not an original, but a model of a very famous original--whose history is
recorded in a faded scroll which Arakawa takes out of his other sleeve,
and which a friend translates for me. This little history throws a
curious light upon the simple-hearted ways of Japanese life and thought
in other centuries:

'Two hundred and sixty years ago this doll was made by a famous maker of
No-masks in the city of Kyoto, for the Emperor Go-midzu-no-O. The
Emperor used to have it placed beside his pillow each night before he
slept, and was very fond of it. And he composed the following poem
concerning it:

Yo no naka wo
Kiraku ni kurase
Nani goto mo
Omoeba omou
Omowaneba koso. [8]'

'On the death of the Emperor this doll became the property of Prince
Konoye, in whose family it is said to be still preserved.

'About one hundred and seven years ago, the then Ex-Empress, whose
posthumous name is Sei-Kwa-Mon-Yin, borrowed the doll from Prince
Konoye, and ordered a copy of it to be made. This copy she kept always
beside her, and was very fond of it.

'After the death of the good Empress this doll was given to a lady of
the court, whose family name is not recorded. Afterwards this lady, for
reasons which are not known, cut off her hair and became a Buddhist nun
--taking the name of Shingyo-in.

'And one who knew the Nun Shingyo-in--a man whose name was Kondo-ju-
haku-in-Hokyo--had the honour of receiving the doll as a gift.

'Now I, who write this document, at one time fell sick; and my sickness
was caused by despondency. And my friend Kondo-ju-haku-in-Hokyo, coming
to see me, said: "I have in my house something which will make you
well." And he went home and, presently returning, brought to me this
doll, and lent it to me--putting it by my pillow that I might see it and
laugh at it.

'Afterward, I myself, having called upon the Nun Shingyo-in, whom I now
also have the honour to know, wrote down the history of the doll, and
make a poem thereupon.'

(Dated about ninety years ago: no signature.)


June 1, 1891 I find among the students a healthy tone of scepticism in
regard to certain forms of popular belief. Scientific education is
rapidly destroying credulity in old superstitions yet current among the
unlettered, and especially among the peasantry--as, for instance, faith
in mamori and ofuda. The outward forms of Buddhism--its images, its
relics, its commoner practices--affect the average student very little.
He is not, as a foreigner may be, interested in iconography, or
religious folklore, or the comparative study of religions; and in nine
cases out of ten he is rather ashamed of the signs and tokens of popular
faith all around him. But the deeper religious sense, which underlies
all symbolism, remains with him; and the Monistic Idea in Buddhism is
being strengthened and expanded, rather than weakened, by the new
education. What is true of the effect of the public schools upon the
lower Buddhism is equally true of its effect upon the lower Shinto.
Shinto the students all sincerely are, or very nearly all; yet not as
fervent worshippers of certain Kami, but as rigid observers of what the
higher Shinto signifies--loyalty, filial piety, obedience to parents,
teachers, and superiors, and respect to ancestors. For Shinto means more
than faith.

When, for the first time, I stood before the shrine of the Great Deity
of Kitzuki, as the first Occidental to whom that privilege had been
accorded, not without a sense of awe there came to me the 'This is the
Shrine of the Father of a Race; this is the symbolic centre of a
nation's reverence for its past.' And I, too, paid reverence to the
memory of the progenitor of this people.

As I then felt, so feels the intelligent student of the Meiji era whom
education has lifted above the common plane of popular creeds. And
Shinto also means for him--whether he reasons upon the question or not--
all the ethics of the family, and all that spirit of loyalty which has
become so innate that, at the call of duty, life itself ceases to have
value save as an instrument for duty's accomplishment. As yet, this
Orient little needs to reason about the origin of its loftier ethics.
Imagine the musical sense in our own race so developed that a child
could play a complicated instrument so soon as the little fingers gained
sufficient force and flexibility to strike the notes. By some such
comparison only can one obtain a just idea of what inherent religion and
instinctive duty signify in Izumo.

Of the rude and aggressive form of scepticism so common in the Occident,
which is the natural reaction after sudden emancipation from
superstitious belief, I find no trace among my students. But such
sentiment may be found elsewhere--especially in Tokyo--among the
university students, one of whom, upon hearing the tones of a
magnificent temple bell, exclaimed to a friend of mine: 'Is it not a
shame that in this nineteenth century we must still hear such a sound?'

For the benefit of curious travellers, however, I may here take occasion
to observe that to talk Buddhism to Japanese gentlemen of the new school
is in just as bad taste as to talk Christianity at home to men of that
class whom knowledge has placed above creeds and forms. There are, of
course, Japanese scholars willing to aid researches of foreign scholars
in religion or in folk-lore; but these specialists do not undertake to
gratify idle curiosity of the 'globe-trotting' description. I may also
say that the foreigner desirous to learn the religious ideas or
superstitions of the common people must obtain them from the people
themselves--not from the educated classes.


Among all my favourite students--two or three from each class--I cannot
decide whom I like the best. Each has a particular merit of his own. But
I think the names and faces of those of whom I am about to speak will
longest remain vivid in my remembrance--Ishihara, Otani-Masanobu,
Adzukizawa, Yokogi, Shida.

Ishihara is a samurai a very influential lad in his class because of his
uncommon force of character. Compared with others, he has a somewhat
brusque, independent manner, pleasing, however, by its honest manliness.
He says everything he thinks, and precisely in the tone that he thinks
it, even to the degree of being a little embarrassing sometimes. He does
not hesitate, for example, to find fault with a teacher's method of
explanation, and to insist upon a more lucid one. He has criticized me
more than once; but I never found that he was wrong. We like each other
very much. He often brings me flowers.

One day that he had brought two beautiful sprays of plum-blossoms, he
said to me:

'I saw you bow before our Emperor's picture at the ceremony on the
birthday of His Majesty. You are not like a former English teacher we


'He said we were savages.'


'He said there is nothing respectable except God--his God--and that only
vulgar and ignorant people respect anything else.'

'Where did he come from?'

'He was a Christian clergyman, and said he was an English subject.'

'But if he was an English subject, he was bound to respect Her Majesty
the Queen. He could not even enter the office of a British consul
without removing his hat.'

'I don't know what he did in the country he came from. But that was what
he said. Now we think we should love and honour our Emperor. We think it
is a duty. We think it is a joy. We think it is happiness to be able to
give our lives for our Emperor. [9] But he said we were only savages--
ignorant savages. What do you think of that?'

'I think, my dear lad, that he himself was a savage--a vulgar, ignorant,
savage bigot. I think it is your highest social duty to honour your
Emperor, to obey his laws, and to be ready to give your blood whenever
he may require it of you for the sake of Japan. I think it is your duty
to respect the gods of your fathers, the religion of your country--even
if you yourself cannot believe all that others believe. And I think,
also, that it is your duty, for your Emperor's sake and for your
country's sake, to resent any such wicked and vulgar language as that
you have told me of, no matter by whom uttered.'

Masanobu visits me seldom and always comes alone. A slender, handsome
lad, with rather feminine features, reserved and perfectly self-
possessed in manner, refined. He is somewhat serious, does not often
smile; and I never heard him laugh. He has risen to the head of his
class, and appears to remain there without any extraordinary effort.
Much of his leisure time he devotes to botany--collecting and
classifying plants. He is a musician, like all the male members of his
family. He plays a variety of instruments never seen or heard of in the
West, including flutes of marble, flutes of ivory, flutes of bamboo of
wonderful shapes and tones, and that shrill Chinese instrument called
sho--a sort of mouth-organ consisting of seventeen tubes of different
lengths fixed in a silver frame. He first explained to me the uses in
temple music of the taiko and shoko, which are drums; of the flutes
called fei or teki; of the flageolet termed hichiriki; and of the kakko,
which is a little drum shaped like a spool with very narrow waist, On
great Buddhist festivals, Masanobu and his father and his brothers are
the musicians in the temple services, and they play the strange music
called Ojo and Batto--music which at first no Western ear can feel
pleasure in, but which, when often heard, becomes comprehensible, and is
found to possess a weird charm of its own. When Masanobu comes to the
house, it is usually in order to invite me to attend some Buddhist or
Shinto festival (matsuri) which he knows will interest me.

Adzukizawa bears so little resemblance to Masanobu that one might
suppose the two belonged to totally different races. Adzukizawa is
large, raw-boned, heavy-looking, with a face singularly like that of a
North American Indian. His people are not rich; he can afford few
pleasures which cost money, except one--buying books. Even to be able to
do this he works in his leisure hours to earn money. He is a perfect
bookworm, a natural-born researcher, a collector of curious documents, a
haunter of all the queer second-hand stores in Teramachi and other
streets where old manuscripts or prints are on sale as waste paper. He
is an omnivorous reader, and a perpetual borrower of volumes, which he
always returns in perfect condition after having copied what he deemed
of most value to him. But his special delight is philosophy and the
history of philosophers in all countries. He has read various epitomes
of the history of philosophy in the Occident, and everything of modern
philosophy which has been translated into Japanese--including Spencer's
First Principles. I have been able to introduce him to Lewes and John
Fiske--both of which he appreciates,--although the strain of studying
philosophy in English is no small one. Happily he is so strong that no
amount of study is likely to injure his health, and his nerves are tough
as wire. He is quite an ascetic withal. As it is the Japanese custom to
set cakes and tea before visitors, I always have both in readiness, and
an especially fine quality of kwashi, made at Kitzuki, of which the
students are very fond. Adzukizawa alone refuses to taste cakes or
confectionery of any kind, saying: 'As I am the youngest brother, I must
begin to earn my own living soon. I shall have to endure much hardship.
And if I allow myself to like dainties now, I shall only suffer more
later on.' Adzukizawa has seen much of human life and character. He is
naturally observant; and he has managed in some extraordinary way to
learn the history of everybody in Matsue. He has brought me old tattered
prints to prove that the opinions now held by our director are
diametrically opposed to the opinions he advocated fourteen years ago in
a public address. I asked the director about it. He laughed and said,
'Of course that is Adzukizawa! But he is right: I was very young then.'
And I wonder if Adzukizawa was ever young.

Yokogi, Adzukizawa's dearest friend, is a very rare visitor; for he is
always studying at home. He is always first in his class--the third year
class--while Adzukizawa is fourth. Adzukizawa's account of the beginning
of their acquaintance is this: 'I watched him when he came and saw that
he spoke very little, walked very quickly, and looked straight into
everybody's eyes. So I knew he had a particular character. I like to
know people with a particular character.' Adzukizawa was perfectly
right: under a very gentle exterior, Yokogi has an extremely strong
character. He is the son of a carpenter; and his parents could not
afford to send him to the Middle School. But he had shown such
exceptional qualities while in the Elementary School that a wealthy man
became interested in him, and offered to pay for his education. [10] He
is now the pride of the school. He has a remarkably placid face, with
peculiarly long eyes, and a delicious smile. In class he is always
asking intelligent questions--questions so original that I am sometimes
extremely puzzled how to answer them; and he never ceases to ask until
the explanation is quite satisfactory to himself. He never cares about
the opinion of his comrades if he thinks he is right. On one occasion
when the whole class refused to attend the lectures of a new teacher of
physics, Yokogi alone refused to act with them--arguing that although
the teacher was not all that could be desired, there was no immediate
possibility of his removal, and no just reason for making unhappy a man
who, though unskilled, was sincerely doing his best. Adzukizawa finally
stood by him. These two alone attended the lectures until the remainder
of the students, two weeks later, found that Yokogi's views were
rational. On another occasion when some vulgar proselytism was attempted
by a Christian missionary, Yokogi went boldly to the proselytiser's
house, argued with him on the morality of his effort, and reduced him to
silence. Some of his comrades praised his cleverness in the argument. 'I
am not clever,' he made answer: 'it does not require cleverness to argue
against what is morally wrong; it requires only the knowledge that one
is morally right.' At least such is about the translation of what he
said as told me by Adzukizawa.

Shida, another visitor, is a very delicate, sensitive boy, whose soul is
full of art. He is very skilful at drawing and painting; and he has a
wonderful set of picture-books by the Old Japanese masters. The last
time he came he brought some prints to show me--rare ones--fairy maidens
and ghosts. As I looked at his beautiful pale face and weirdly frail
fingers, I could not help fearing for him,--fearing that he might soon
become a little ghost.

I have not seen him now for more than two months. He has been very, very
ill; and his lungs are so weak that the doctor has forbidden him to
converse. But Adzukizawa has been to visit him, and brings me this
translation of a Japanese letter which the sick boy wrote and pasted
upon the wall above his bed:

'Thou, my Lord-Soul, dost govern me. Thou knowest that I cannot now
govern myself. Deign, I pray thee, to let me be cured speedily. Do not
suffer me to speak much. Make me to obey in all things the command of
the physician.

'This ninth day of the eleventh month of the twenty-fourth year of

'From the sick body of Shida to his Soul.'


September 4, 1891. The long summer vacation is over; a new school year
begins. There have been many changes. Some of the boys I taught are
dead. Others have graduated and gone away from Matsue for ever. Some
teachers, too, have left the school, and their places have been filled;
and there is a new Director.

And the dear good Governor has gone--been transferred to cold Niigata in
the north-west. It was a promotion. But he had ruled Izumo for seven
years, and everybody loved him, especially, perhaps, the students, who
looked upon him as a father. All the population of the city crowded to
the river to bid him farewell. The streets through which he passed on
his way to take the steamer, the bridge, the wharves, even the roofs
were thronged with multitudes eager to see his face for the last time.
Thousands were weeping. And as the steamer glided from the wharf such a
cry arose--'A-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a!' It was intended for a cheer, but it
seemed to me the cry of a whole city sorrowing, and so plaintive that I
hope never to hear such a cry again.

The names and faces of the younger classes are all strange to me.
Doubtless this was why the sensation of my first day's teaching in the
school came back to me with extraordinary vividness when I entered the
class-room of First Division A this morning.

Strangely pleasant is the first sensation of a Japanese class, as you
look over the ranges of young faces before you. There is nothing in them
familiar to inexperienced Western eyes; yet there is an indescribable
pleasant something common to all. Those traits have nothing incisive,
nothing forcible: compared with Occidental faces they seem but 'half-
sketched,' so soft their outlines are--indicating neither aggressiveness
nor shyness, neither eccentricity nor sympathy, neither curiosity nor
indifference. Some, although faces of youths well grown, have a childish
freshness and frankness indescribable; some are as uninteresting as
others are attractive; a few are beautifully feminine. But all are
equally characterized by a singular placidity--expressing neither love
nor hate nor anything save perfect repose and gentleness--like the
dreamy placidity of Buddhist images. At a later day you will no longer
recognise this aspect of passionless composure: with growing
acquaintance each face will become more and more individualised for you
by characteristics before imperceptible. But the recollection of that
first impression will remain with you and the time will come when you
will find, by many varied experiences, how strangely it foreshadowed
something in Japanese character to be fully learned only after years of
familiarity. You will recognize in the memory of that first impression
one glimpse of the race-soul, with its impersonal lovableness and its
impersonal weaknesses--one glimpse of the nature of a life in which the
Occidental, dwelling alone, feels a psychic comfort comparable only to
the nervous relief of suddenly emerging from some stifling atmospheric
pressure into thin, clear, free living air.


Was it not the eccentric Fourier who wrote about the horrible faces of
'the civilisUs'? Whoever it was, would have found seeming confirmation
of his physiognomical theory could he have known the effect produced by
the first sight of European faces in the most eastern East. What we are
taught at home to consider handsome, interesting, or characteristic in
physiognomy does not produce the same impression in China or Japan.
Shades of facial expression familiar to us as letters of our own
alphabet are not perceived at all in Western features by these Orientals
at first acquaintance. What they discern at once is the race-
characteristic, not the individuality. The evolutional meaning of the
deep-set Western eye, protruding brow, accipitrine nose, ponderous jaw--
symbols of aggressive force and habit--was revealed to the gentler race
by the same sort of intuition through which a tame animal immediately
comprehends the dangerous nature of the first predatory enemy which it
sees. To Europeans the smooth-featured, slender, low-statured Japanese
seemed like boys; and 'boy' is the term by which the native attendant of
a Yokohama merchant is still called. To Japanese the first red-haired,
rowdy, drunken European sailors seemed fiends, shojo, demons of the sea;
and by the Chinese the Occidentals are still called 'foreign devils.'
The great stature and massive strength and fierce gait of foreigners in
Japan enhanced the strange impression created by their faces. Children
cried for fear on seeing them pass through the streets. And in remoter
districts, Japanese children are still apt to cry at the first sight of
a European or American face.

A lady of Matsue related in my presence this curious souvenir of her
childhood: 'When I was a very little girl,' she said, our daimyo hired a
foreigner to teach the military art. My father and a great many samurai
went to receive the foreigner; and all the people lined the streets to
see--for no foreigner had ever come to Izumo before; and we all went to
look. The foreigner came by ship: there were no steamboats here then. He
was very tall, and walked quickly with long steps; and the children
began to cry at the sight of him, because his face was not like the
faces of the people of Nihon. My little brother cried out loud, and hid
his face in mother's robe; and mother reproved him and said: "This
foreigner is a very good man who has come here to serve our prince; and
it is very disrespectful to cry at seeing him." But he still cried. I
was not afraid; and I looked up at the foreigner's face as he came and
smiled. He had a great beard; and I thought his face was good though it
seemed to me a very strange face and stern. Then he stopped and smiled
too, and put something in my hand, and touched my head and face very
softly with his great fingers, and said something I could not
understand, and went away. After he had gone I looked at what he put
into my hand and found that it was a pretty little glass to look
through. If you put a fly under that glass it looks quite big. At that
time I thought the glass was a very wonderful thing. I have it still.'
She took from a drawer in the room and placed before me a tiny, dainty

The hero of this little incident was a French military officer. His
services were necessarily dispensed with on the abolition of the feudal
system. Memories of him still linger in Matsue; and old people remember
a popular snatch about him--a sort of rapidly-vociferated rigmarole,
supposed to be an imitation of his foreign speech:

Tojin no negoto niwa kinkarakuri medagasho,
Saiboji ga shimpeishite harishite keisan,
Hanryo na Sacr-r-r-r-r-U-na-nom-da-Jiu.


November 2, 1891.
Shida will never come to school again. He sleeps under the shadow of the
cedars, in the old cemetery of Tokoji. Yokogi, at the memorial service,
read a beautiful address (saibun) to the soul of his dead comrade.

But Yokogi himself is down. And I am very much afraid for him. He is
suffering from some affection of the brain, brought on, the doctor says,
by studying a great deal too hard. Even if he gets well, he will always
have to be careful. Some of us hope much; for the boy is vigorously
built and so young. Strong Sakane burst a blood-vessel last month and is
now well. So we trust that Yokogi may rally. Adzukizawa daily brings
news of his friend.

But the rally never comes. Some mysterious spring in the mechanism of
the young life has been broken. The mind lives only in brief intervals
between long hours of unconsciousness. Parents watch, and friends, for
these living moments to whisper caressing things, or to ask: 'Is there
anything thou dost wish?' And one night the answer comes:

'Yes: I want to go to the school; I want to see the school.'

Then they wonder if the fine brain has not wholly given way, while they
make answer:

'It is midnight past, and there is no moon. And the night is cold.'

'No; I can see by the stars--I want to see the school again.'

They make kindliest protests in vain: the dying boy only repeats, with
the plaintive persistence of a last--'I want to see the school again; I
want to see it now.' So there is a murmured consultation in the
neighbouring room; and tansu-drawers are unlocked, warm garments
prepared. Then Fusaichi, the strong servant, enters with lantern
lighted, and cries out in his kind rough voice:

'Master Tomi will go to the school upon my back: 'tis but a little way;
he shall see the school again.

Carefully they wrap up the lad in wadded robes; then he puts his arms
about Fusaichi's shoulders like a child; and the strong servant bears
him lightly through the wintry street; and the father hurries beside
Fusaichi, bearing the lantern. And it is not far to the school, over the
little bridge.

The huge dark grey building looks almost black in the night; but Yokogi
can see. He looks at the windows of his own classroom; at the roofed
side-door where each morning for four happy years he used to exchange
his getas for soundless sandals of straw; at the lodge of the slumbering
Kodzukai; [11] at the silhouette of the bell hanging black in its little
turret against the stars. Then he murmurs:

'I can remember all now. I had forgotten--so sick I was. I remember
everything again: Oh, Fusaichi, you are very good. I am so glad to have
seen the school again.'

And they hasten back through the long void streets.


November 26 1891.

Yokogi will be buried to-morrow evening beside his comrade Shida.

When a poor person is about to die, friends and neighbours come to the
house and do all they can to help the family. Some bear the tidings to
distant relatives; others prepare all necessary things; others, when the
death has been announced, summon the Buddhist priests. [12]

It is said that the priests know always of a parishioner's death at
night, before any messenger is sent to them; for the soul of the dead
knocks heavily, once, upon the door of the family temple. Then the
priests arise and robe themselves, and when the messenger comes make
answer: 'We know: we are ready.'

Meanwhile the body is carried out before the family butsudan, and laid
upon the floor. No pillow is placed under the head. A naked sword is
laid across the limbs to keep evil spirits away. The doors of the
butsudan are opened; and tapers are lighted before the tablets of the
ancestors; and incense is burned. All friends send gifts of incense.
Wherefore a gift of incense, however rare and precious, given upon any
other occasion, is held to be unlucky.

But the Shinto household shrine must be hidden from view with white
paper; and the Shinto ofuda fastened upon the house door must be covered
up during all the period of mourning. [13] And in all that time no
member of the family may approach a Shinto temple, or pray to the Kami,
or even pass beneath a torii.

A screen (biobu) is extended between the body and the principal entrance
of the death chamber; and the kaimyo, inscribed upon a strip of white
paper, is fastened upon the screen. If the dead be young the screen must
be turned upside-down; but this is not done in the case of old people.

Friends pray beside the corpse. There a little box is placed, containing
one thousand peas, to be used for counting during the recital of those
one thousand pious invocations, which, it is believed, will improve the
condition of the soul on its unfamiliar journey.

The priests come and recite the sutras; and then the body is prepared
for burial. It is washed in warm water, and robed all in white. But the
kimono of the dead is lapped over to the left side. Wherefore it is
considered unlucky at any other time to fasten one's kimono thus, even
by accident.

When the body has been put into that strange square coffin which looks
something like a wooden palanquin, each relative puts also into the
coffin some of his or her hair or nail parings, symbolizing their blood.
And six rin are also placed in the coffin, for the six Jizo who stand at
the heads of the ways of the Six Shadowy Worlds.

The funeral procession forms at the family residence. A priest leads it,
ringing a little bell; a boy bears the ihai of the newly dead. The van
of the procession is wholly composed of men--relatives and friends. Some
carry hata, white symbolic bannerets; some bear flowers; all carry paper
lanterns--for in Izumo the adult dead are buried after dark: only
children are buried by day. Next comes the kwan or coffin, borne
palanquin-wise upon the shoulders of men of that pariah caste whose
office it is to dig graves and assist at funerals. Lastly come the women

They are all white-hooded and white-robed from head to feet, like
phantoms. [14] Nothing more ghostly than this sheeted train of an
Izumo funeral procession, illuminated only by the glow of paper
lanterns, can be imagined. It is a weirdness that, once seen, will often
return in dreams.

At the temple the kwan is laid upon the pavement before the entrance;
and another service is performed, with plaintive music and recitation of
sutras. Then the procession forms again, winds once round the temple
court, and takes its way to the cemetery. But the body is not buried
until twenty-four hours later, lest the supposed dead should awake in
the grave.

Corpses are seldom burned in Izumo. In this, as in other matters, the
predominance of Shinto sentiment is manifest.


For the last time I see his face again, as he lies upon his bed of
death--white-robed from neck to feet--white-girdled for his shadowy
journey--but smiling with closed eyes in almost the same queer gentle
way he was wont to smile at class on learning the explanation of some
seeming riddle in our difficult English tongue. Only, methinks, the
smile is sweeter now, as with sudden larger knowledge of more mysterious
things. So smiles, through dusk of incense in the great temple of
Tokoji, the golden face of Buddha.


December 23, 1891. The great bell of Tokoji is booming for the memorial
service--for the tsuito-kwai of Yokogi--slowly and regularly as a
minute-gun. Peal on peal of its rich bronze thunder shakes over the
lake, surges over the roofs of the town, and breaks in deep sobs of
sound against the green circle of the hills.

It is a touching service, this tsuito-kwai, with quaint ceremonies
which, although long since adopted into Japanese Buddhism, are of
Chinese origin and are beautiful. It is also a costly ceremony; and the
parents of Yokogi are very poor. But all the expenses have been paid by
voluntary subscription of students and teachers. Priests from every
great temple of the Zen sect in Izumo have assembled at Tokoji. All the
teachers of the city and all the students have entered the hondo of the
huge temple, and taken their places to the right and to the left of the
high altar--kneeling on the matted floor, and leaving, on the long broad
steps without, a thousand shoes and sandals.

Before the main entrance, and facing the high shrine, a new butsudan has
been placed, within whose open doors the ihai of the dead boy glimmers
in lacquer and gilding. And upon a small stand before the butsudan have
been placed an incense-vessel with bundles of senko-rods and offerings
of fruits, confections, rice, and flowers. Tall and beautiful flower-
vases on each side of the butsudan are filled with blossoming sprays,
exquisitely arranged. Before the honzon tapers burn in massive
candelabra whose stems of polished brass are writhing monsters--the
Dragon Ascending and the Dragon Descending; and incense curls up from
vessels shaped like the sacred deer, like the symbolic tortoise, like
the meditative stork of Buddhist legend. And beyond these, in the
twilight of the vast alcove, the Buddha smiles the smile of Perfect

Between the butsudan and the honzon a little table has been placed; and
on either side of it the priests kneel in ranks, facing each other: rows
of polished heads, and splendours of vermilion silks and vestments gold-

The great bell ceases to peal; the Segaki prayer, which is the prayer
uttered when offerings of food are made to the spirits of the dead, is
recited; and a sudden sonorous measured tapping, accompanied by a
plaintive chant, begins the musical service. The tapping is the tapping
of the mokugyo--a huge wooden fish-head, lacquered and gilded, like the
head of a dolphin grotesquely idealised--marking the time; and the chant
is the chant of the Chapter of Kwannon in the Hokkekyo, with its
magnificent invocation:

'O Thou whose eyes are clear, whose eyes are kind, whose eyes are full
of pity and of sweetness--O Thou Lovely One, with thy beautiful face,
with thy beautiful eye--O Thou Pure One, whose luminosity is without
spot, whose knowledge is without shado--O Thou forever shining like that
Sun whose glory no power may repel--Thou Sun-like in the course of Thy
mercy, pourest Light upon the world!'

And while the voices of the leaders chant clear and high in vibrant
unison, the multitude of the priestly choir recite in profoundest
undertone the mighty verses; and the sound of their recitation is like
the muttering of surf.

The mokugyo ceases its dull echoing, the impressive chant ends, and the
leading officiants, one by one, high priests of famed temples, approach
the ihai. Each bows low, ignites an incense-rod, and sets it upright in
the little vase of bronze. Each at a time recites a holy verse of which
the initial sound is the sound of a letter in the kaimyo of the dead
boy; and these verses, uttered in the order of the characters upon the
ihai, form the sacred Acrostic whose name is The Words of Perfume.

Then the priests retire to their places; and after a little silence
begins the reading of the saibun--the reading of the addresses to the
soul of the dead. The students speak first--one from each class, chosen
by election. The elected rises, approaches the little table before the
high altar, bows to the honzon, draws from his bosom a paper and reads
it in those melodious, chanting, and plaintive tones which belong to the
reading of Chinese texts. So each one tells the affection of the living
to the dead, in words of loving grief and loving hope. And last among
the students a gentle girl rises--a pupil of the Normal School--to speak
in tones soft as a bird's. As each saibun is finished, the reader lays
the written paper upon the table before the honzon, and bows; and

It is now the turn of the teachers; and an old man takes his place at
the little table--old Katayama, the teacher of Chinese, famed as a poet,
adored as an instructor. And because the students all love him as a
father, there is a strange intensity of silence as he begins--

'Here upon the twenty-third day of the twelfth month of the twenty-
fourth year of Meiji, I, Katayama Shokei, teacher of the Jinjo Chugakko
of Shimane Ken, attending in great sorrow the holy service of the dead
[tsui-fuku], do speak unto the soul of Yokogi Tomisaburo, my pupil.

'Having been, as thou knowest, for twice five years, at different
periods, a teacher of the school, I have indeed met with not a few most
excellent students. But very, very rarely in any school may the teacher
find one such as thou--so patient and so earnest, so diligent and so
careful in all things--so distinguished among thy comrades by thy
blameless conduct, observing every precept, never breaking a rule.

'Of old in the land of Kihoku, famed for its horses, whenever a horse of
rarest breed could not be obtained, men were wont to say: "There is no
horse." Still there are many line lads among our students--many ryume,
fine young steeds; but we have lost the best.

'To die at the age of seventeen--the best period of life for study--even
when of the Ten Steps thou hadst already ascended six! Sad is the
thought; but sadder still to know that thy last illness was caused only
by thine own tireless zeal of study. Even yet more sad our conviction
that with those rare gifts, and with that rare character of thine, thou
wouldst surely, in that career to which thou wast destined, have
achieved good and great things, honouring the names of thine ancestors,
couldst thou have lived to manhood.

'I see thee lifting thy hand to ask some question; then bending above
thy little desk to make note of all thy poor old teacher was able to
tell thee. Again I see thee in the ranks--thy rifle upon thy shoulder--
so bravely erect during the military exercises. Even now thy face is
before me, with its smile, as plainly as if thou wert present in the
body--thy voice I think I hear distinctly as though thou hadst but this
instant finished speaking; yet I know that, except in memory, these
never will be seen and heard again. O Heaven, why didst thou take away
that dawning life from the world, and leave such a one as I--old Shokei,
feeble, decrepit, and of no more use?

'To thee my relation was indeed only that of teacher to pupil. Yet what
is my distress! I have a son of twenty-four years; he is now far from
me, in Yokohama. I know he is only a worthless youth; [15] yet never
for so much as the space of one hour does the thought of him leave his
old father's heart. Then how must the father and mother, the brothers
and the sisters of this gentle and gifted youth feel now that he is
gone! Only to think of it forces the tears from my eyes: I cannot speak
--so full my heart is.

'Aa! aa!--thou hast gone from us; thou hast gone from us! Yet though
thou hast died, thy earnestness, thy goodness, will long be honoured and
told of as examples to the students of our school.

'Here, therefore, do we, thy teachers and thy schoolmates, hold this
service in behalf of thy spirit,--with prayer and offerings. Deign thou,
0 gentle Soul, to honour our love by the acceptance of our humble

Then a sound of sobbing is suddenly whelmed by the resonant booming of
the great fish's-head, as the high-pitched voices of the leaders of the
chant begin the grand Nehan-gyo, the Sutra of Nirvana, the song of
passage triumphant over the Sea of Death and Birth; and deep below those
high tones and the hollow echoing of the mokugyo, the surging bass of a
century of voices reciting the sonorous words, sounds like the breaking
of a sea:

'Sho-gyo mu-jo, je-sho meppo.--Transient are all. They, being born, must
die. And being born, are dead. And being dead, are glad to be at rest.'

CHAPTER FIVE Two Strange Festivals

THE outward signs of any Japanese matsuri are the most puzzling of
enigmas to the stranger who sees them for the first time. They are many
and varied; they are quite unlike anything in the way of holiday
decoration ever seen in the Occident; they have each a meaning founded
upon some belief or some tradition--a meaning known to every Japanese
child; but that meaning is utterly impossible for any foreigner to
guess. Yet whoever wishes to know something of Japanese popular life and
feeling must learn the signification of at least the most common among
festival symbols and tokens. Especially is such knowledge necessary to
the student of Japanese art: without it, not only the delicate humour
and charm of countless designs must escape him, but in many instances
the designs themselves must remain incomprehensible to him. For
hundreds of years the emblems of festivity have been utilised by the
Japanese in graceful decorative ways: they figure in metalwork, on
porcelain, on the red or black lacquer of the humblest household
utensils, on little brass pipes, on the clasps of tobacco-pouches. It
may even be said that the majority of common decorative design is
emblematical. The very figures of which the meaning seems most
obvious--those matchless studies [1] of animal or vegetable life with
which the Western curio-buyer is most familiar--have usually some
ethical signification which is not perceived at all. Or take the
commonest design dashed with a brush upon the fusuma of a cheap hotel--a
lobster, sprigs of pine, tortoises waddling in a curl of water, a pair
of storks, a spray of bamboo. It is rarely that a foreign tourist
thinks of asking why such designs are used instead of others, even
when he has seen them repeated, with slight variation, at twenty
different places along his route. They have become conventional simply
because they are emblems of which the sense is known to all Japanese,
however ignorant, but is never even remotely suspected by the stranger.

The subject is one about which a whole encyclopaedia might be written,
but about which I know very little--much too little for a special essay.
But I may venture, by way of illustration, to speak of the curious
objects exhibited during two antique festivals still observed in all
parts of Japan.


The first is the Festival of the New Year, which lasts for three days.
In Matsue its celebration is particularly interesting, as the old city
still preserves many matsuri customs which have either become, or are
rapidly becoming, obsolete elsewhere. The streets are then profusely
decorated, and all shops are closed. Shimenawa or shimekazari--the straw
ropes which have been sacred symbols of Shinto from the mythical age--
are festooned along the faades of the dwellings, and so inter-joined
that you see to right or left what seems but a single mile-long
shimenawa, with its straw pendents and white fluttering paper gohei,
extending along either side of the street as far as the eye can reach.
Japanese flags--bearing on a white ground the great crimson disk which
is the emblem of the Land of the Rising Sun--flutter above the gateways;
and the same national emblem glows upon countless paper lanterns strung
in rows along the eaves or across the streets and temple avenues. And
before every gate or doorway a kadomatsu ('gate pine-tree') has been
erected. So that all the ways are lined with green, and full of bright

The kadomatsu is more than its name implies. It is a young pine, or part
of a pine, conjoined with plum branches and bamboo cuttings. [2] Pine,
plum, and bamboo are growths of emblematic significance. Anciently the
pine alone was used; but from the era of O-ei, the bamboo was added; and
within more recent times the plum-tree.

The pine has many meanings. But the fortunate one most generally
accepted is that of endurance and successful energy in time of
misfortune. As the pine keeps its green leaves when other trees lose
their foliage, so the true man keeps his courage and his strength in
adversity. The pine is also, as I have said elsewhere, a symbol of
vigorous old age.

No European could possibly guess the riddle of the bamboo. It represents
a sort of pun in symbolism. There are two Chinese characters both
pronounced setsu--one signifying the node or joint of the bamboo, and
the other virtue, fidelity, constancy. Therefore is the bamboo used as a
felicitous sign. The name 'Setsu,' be it observed, is often given to
Japanese maidens--just as the names 'Faith,' 'Fidelia,' and 'Constance'
are given to English girls.

The plum-tree--of whose emblematic meaning I said something in a former
paper about Japanese gardens--is not invariably used, however; sometimes
sakaki, the sacred plant of Shinto, is substituted for it; and sometimes
only pine and bamboo form the kadomatsu.

Every decoration used upon the New Year's festival has a meaning of a
curious and unfamiliar kind; and the very cornmonest of all--the straw
rope--possesses the most complicated symbolism. In the first place it is
scarcely necessary to explain that its origin belongs to that most
ancient legend of the Sun-Goddess being tempted to issue from the cavern
into which she had retired, and being prevented from returning thereunto
by a deity who stretched a rope of straw across the entrance--all of

Book of the day: