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Glimpses of an Unfamiliar Japan by Lafcadio Hearn

Part 4 out of 6

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all of us became afraid, because she did not move like a real ship. The
sea was terrible, and we were lurching and plunging; but that great junk
never rolled. Just at the same moment that we began to feel afraid she
vanished so quickly that we could scarcely believe we had really seen
her at all.

'That was the first time. But four years ago I saw something still more
strange. We were bound for Oki, in a junk, and the wind again delayed
us, so that we were at sea on the sixteenth day. It was in the morning,
a little before midday; the sky was dark and the sea very ugly. All at
once we saw a steamer running in our track, very quickly. She got so
close to us that we could hear her engines--katakata katakata!--but we
saw nobody on deck. Then she began to follow us, keeping exactly at the
same distance, and whenever we tried to get out of her way she would
turn after us and keep exactly in our wake. And then we suspected what
she was. But we were not sure until she vanished. She vanished like a
bubble, without making the least sound. None of us could say exactly
when she disappeared. None of us saw her vanish. The strangest thing was
that after she was gone we could still hear her engines working behind
us--katakata, katakata, katakata!

'That is all I saw. But I know others, sailors like myself, who have
seen more. Sometimes many ships will follow you--though never at the
same time. One will come close and vanish, then another, and then
another. As long as they come behind you, you need never be afraid. But
if you see a ship of that sort running before you, against the wind,
that is very bad! It means that all on board will be drowned.'


The luminous blankness circling us continued to remain unflecked for
less than an hour. Then out of the horizon toward which we steamed, a
small grey vagueness began to grow. It lengthened fast, and seemed a
cloud. And a cloud it proved; but slowly, beneath it, blue filmy shapes
began to define against the whiteness, and sharpened into a chain of
mountains. They grew taller and bluer--a little sierra, with one paler
shape towering in the middle to thrice the height of the rest, and
filleted with cloud--Takuhizan, the sacred mountain of Oki, in the
island Nishinoshima.

Takuhizan has legends, which I learned from my friend. Upon its summit
stands an ancient shrine of the deity Gongen-Sama. And it is said that
upon the thirty-first night of the twelfth month three ghostly fires
arise from the sea and ascend to the place of the shrine, and enter the
stone lanterns which stand before it, and there remain, burning like
lamps. These lights do not arise at once, but separately, from the sea,
and rise to the top of the peak one by one. The people go out in boats
to see the lights mount from the water. But only those whose hearts are
pure can see them; those who have evil thoughts or desires look for the
holy fires in vain.

Before us, as we steamed on, the sea-surface appeared to become suddenly
speckled with queer craft previously invisible--light, long fishing-
boats, with immense square sails of a beautiful yellow colour. I could
not help remarking to my comrade how pretty those sails were; he
laughed, and told me they were made of old tatami. [5] I examined them
through a telescope, and found that they were exactly what he had said--
woven straw coverings of old floor-mats. Nevertheless, that first tender
yellow sprinkling of old sails over the soft blue water was a charming

They fleeted by, like a passing of yellow butterflies, and the sea was
void again. Gradually, a little to port, a point in the approaching line
of blue cliffs shaped itself and changed colour--dull green above,
reddish grey below; it defined into a huge rock, with a dark patch on
its face, but the rest of the land remained blue. The dark patch
blackened as we came nearer--a great gap full of shadow. Then the blue
cliffs beyond also turned green, and their bases reddish grey. We passed
to the right of the huge rock, which proved to be a detached and
uninhabited islet, Hakashima; and in another moment we were steaming
into the archipelago of Oki, between the lofty islands Chiburishima and


The first impression was almost uncanny. Rising sheer from the flood on
either hand, the tall green silent hills stretched away before us,
changing tint through the summer vapour, to form a fantastic vista of
blue cliffs and peaks and promontories. There was not one sign of human
life. Above their pale bases of naked rock the mountains sloped up
beneath a sombre wildness of dwarf vegetation. There was absolutely no
sound, except the sound of the steamer's tiny engine--poum-poum, poum!
poum-poum, poum! like the faint tapping of a geisha's drum. And this
savage silence continued for miles: only the absence of lofty timber
gave evidence that those peaked hills had ever been trodden by human
foot. But all at once, to the left, in a mountain wrinkle, a little grey
hamlet appeared; and the steamer screamed and stopped, while the hills
repeated the scream seven times.

This settlement was Chiburimura, of Chiburishima (Nakashima being the
island to starboard)--evidently nothing more than a fishing station.
First a wharf of uncemented stone rising from the cove like a wall; then
great trees through which one caught sight of a torii before some Shinto
shrine, and of a dozen houses climbing the hollow hill one behind
another, roof beyond roof; and above these some terraced patches of
tilled ground in the midst of desolation: that was all. The packet
halted to deliver mail, and passed on.

But then, contrary to expectation, the scenery became more beautiful.
The shores on either side at once receded and heightened: we were
traversing an inland sea bounded by three lofty islands. At first the
way before us had seemed barred by vapoury hills; but as these, drawing
nearer, turned green, there suddenly opened magnificent chasms between
them on both sides--mountain-gates revealing league-long wondrous vistas
of peaks and cliffs and capes of a hundred blues, ranging away from
velvety indigo into far tones of exquisite and spectral delicacy. A
tinted haze made dreamy all remotenesses, an veiled with illusions of
colour the rugged nudities of rock.

The beauty of the scenery of Western and Central Japan is not as the
beauty of scenery in other lands; it has a peculiar character of its
own. Occasionally the foreigner may find memories of former travel
suddenly stirred to life by some view on a mountain road, or some
stretch of beetling coast seen through a fog of spray. But this illusion
of resemblance vanishes as swiftly as it comes; details immediately
define into strangeness, and you become aware that the remembrance was
evoked by form only, never by colour. Colours indeed there are which
delight the eye, but not colours of mountain verdure, not colours of the
land. Cultivated plains, expanses of growing rice, may offer some
approach to warmth of green; but the whole general tone of this nature
is dusky; the vast forests are sombre; the tints of grasses are harsh or
dull. Fiery greens, such as burn in tropical scenery, do not exist; and
blossom-bursts take a more exquisite radiance by contrast with the heavy
tones of the vegetation out of which they flame. Outside of parks and
gardens and cultivated fields, there is a singular absence of warmth and
tenderness in the tints of verdure; and nowhere need you hope to find
any such richness of green as that which makes the loveliness of an
English lawn.

Yet these Oriental landscapes possess charms of colour extraordinary,
phantom-colour delicate, elfish, indescribable--created by the wonderful
atmosphere. Vapours enchant the distances, bathing peaks in bewitchments
of blue and grey of a hundred tones, transforming naked cliffs to
amethyst, stretching spectral gauzes across the topazine morning,
magnifying the splendour of noon by effacing the horizon, filling the
evening with smoke of gold, bronzing the waters, banding the sundown
with ghostly purple and green of nacre. Now, the Old Japanese artists
who made those marvellous ehon--those picture-books which have now
become so rare--tried to fix the sensation of these enchantments in
colour, and they were successful in their backgrounds to a degree almost
miraculous. For which very reason some of their foregrounds have been a
puzzle to foreigners unacquainted with certain features of Japanese
agriculture. You will see blazing saffron-yellow fields, faint purple
plains, crimson and snow-white trees, in those old picture-books; and
perhaps you will exclaim: 'How absurd!' But if you knew Japan you would
cry out: 'How deliciously real!' For you would know those fields of
burning yellow are fields of flowering rape, and the purple expanses are
fields of blossoming miyako, and the snow-white or crimson trees are not
fanciful, but represent faithfully certain phenomena of efflorescence
peculiar to the plum-trees and the cherry-trees of the country. But
these chromatic extravaganzas can be witnessed only during very brief
periods of particular seasons: throughout the greater part of the year
the foreground of an inland landscape is apt to be dull enough in the
matter of colour.

It is the mists that make the magic of the backgrounds; yet even without
them there is a strange, wild, dark beauty in Japanese landscapes, a
beauty not easily defined in words. The secret of it must be sought in
the extraordinary lines of the mountains, in the strangely abrupt
crumpling and jagging of the ranges; no two masses closely resembling
each other, every one having a fantasticality of its own. Where the
chains reach to any considerable height, softly swelling lines are rare:
the general characteristic is abruptness, and the charm is the charm of

Doubtless this weird Nature first inspired the Japanese with their
unique sense of the value of irregularity in decoration--taught them
that single secret of composition which distinguishes their art from all
other art, and which Professor Chamberlain has said it is their special
mission to teach to the Occident. [6] Certainly, whoever has once
learned to feel the beauty and significance of the Old Japanese
decorative art can find thereafter little pleasure in the corresponding
art of the West. What he has really learned is that Nature's greatest
charm is irregularity. And perhaps something of no small value might be
written upon the question whether the highest charm of human life and
work is not also irregularity.


From Chiburimura we made steam west for the port of Urago, which is in
the island of Nishinoshima. As we approached it Takuhizan came into
imposing view. Far away it had seemed a soft and beautiful shape; but as
its blue tones evaporated its aspect became rough and even grim: an
enormous jagged bulk all robed in sombre verdure, through which, as
through tatters, there protruded here and there naked rock of the
wildest shapes. One fragment, I remember, as it caught the slanting sun
upon the irregularities of its summit, seemed an immense grey skull. At
the base of this mountain, and facing the shore of Nakashima, rises a
pyramidal mass of rock, covered with scraggy undergrowth, and several
hundred feet in height--Mongakuzan. On its desolate summit stands a
little shrine.

'Takuhizan' signifies The Fire-burning Mountain--a name due perhaps
either to the legend of its ghostly fires, or to some ancient memory of
its volcanic period. 'Mongakuzan' means The Mountain of Mongaku--Mongaku
Shonin, the great monk. It is said that Mongaku Shonin fled to Oki, and
that he dwelt alone upon the top of that mountain many years, doing
penance for his deadly sin. Whether he really ever visited Oki, I am not
able to say; there are traditions which declare the contrary. But the
peaklet has borne his name for hundreds of years.

Now this is the story of Mongaku Shonin:

Many centuries ago, in the city of Kyoto, there was a captain of the
garrison whose name was Endo Morito. He saw and loved the wife of a
noble samurai; and when she refused to listen to his desires, he vowed
that he would destroy her family unless she consented to the plan which
he submitted to her. The plan was that upon a certain night she should
suffer him to enter her house and to kill her husband; after which she
was to become his wife.

But she, pretending to consent, devised a noble stratagem to save her
honour. For, after having persuaded her husband to absent himself from
the city, she wrote to Endo a letter, bidding him come upon a certain
night to the house. And on that night she clad herself in her husband's
robes, and made her hair like the hair of a man, and laid herself down
in her husband's place, and pretended to sleep.

And Endo came in the dead of the night with his sword drawn, and smote
off the head of the sleeper at a blow, and seized it by the hair and
lifted it up and saw it was the head of the woman he had loved and

Then a great remorse came upon him, and hastening to a neighbouring
temple, he confessed his sin, and did penance and cut off his hair, and
became a monk, taking the name of Mongaku. And in after years he
attained to great holiness, so that folk still pray to him, and his
memory is venerated throughout the land.

Now at Asakusa in Tokyo, in one of the curious little streets which lead
to the great temple of Kwannon the Merciful, there are always wonderful
images to be seen--figures that seem alive, though made of wood only--
figures illustrating the ancient legends of Japan. And there you may see
Endo standing: in his right hand the reeking sword; in his left the head
of a beautiful woman. The face of the woman you may forget soon, because
it is only beautiful. But the face of Endo you will not forget, because
it is naked hell.


Urago is a queer little town, perhaps quite as large as Mionoseki, and
built, like Mionoseki, on a narrow ledge at the base of a steep
semicircle of hills. But it is much more primitive and colourless than
Mionoseki; and its houses are still more closely cramped between cliffs
and water, so that its streets, or rather alleys, are no wider than
gangways. As we cast anchor, my attention was suddenly riveted by a
strange spectacle--a white wilderness of long fluttering vague shapes,
in a cemetery on the steep hillside, rising by terraces high above the
roofs of the town. The cemetery was full of grey haka and images of
divinities; and over every haka there was a curious white paper banner
fastened to a thin bamboo pole. Through a glass one could see that these
banners were inscribed with Buddhist texts--'Namur-myo-ho-renge-kyo';
'Namu Amida Butsu'; 'Namu Daiji Dai-hi Kwan-ze-on Bosats,'--and other
holy words. Upon inquiry I learned that it was an Urago custom to place
these banners every year above the graves during one whole month
preceding the Festival of the Dead, together with various other
ornamental or symbolic things.

The water was full of naked swimmers, who shouted laughing welcomes; and
a host of light, swift boats, sculled by naked fishermen, darted out to
look for passengers and freight. It was my first chance to observe the
physique of Oki islanders; and I was much impressed by the vigorous
appearance of both men and boys. The adults seemed to me of a taller and
more powerful type than the men of the Izumo coast; and not a few of
those brown backs and shoulders displayed, in the motion of sculling
what is comparatively rare in Japan, even among men picked for heavy
labour--a magnificent development of muscles.

As the steamer stopped an hour at Urago, we had time to dine ashore in
the chief hotel. It was a very clean and pretty hotel, and the fare
infinitely superior to that of the hotel at Sakai. Yet the price charged
was only seven sen; and the old landlord refused to accept the whole of
the chadai-gift offered him, retaining less than half, and putting back
the rest, with gentle force, into the sleeve of my yukata.


From Urago we proceeded to Hishi-ura, which is in Nakanoshima, and the
scenery grew always more wonderful as we steamed between the islands.
The channel was just wide enough to create the illusion of a grand river
flowing with the stillness of vast depth between mountains of a hundred
forms. The long lovely vision was everywhere walled in by peaks, bluing
through sea-haze, and on either hand the ruddy grey cliffs, sheering up
from profundity, sharply mirrored their least asperities in the flood
with never a distortion, as in a sheet of steel. Not until we reached
Hishi-ura did the horizon reappear; and even then it was visible only
between two lofty headlands, as if seen through a river's mouth.

Hishi-ura is far prettier than Urago, but it is much less populous, and
has the aspect of a prosperous agricultural town, rather than of a
fishing station. It bends round a bay formed by low hills which slope
back gradually toward the mountainous interior, and which display a
considerable extent of cultivated surface. The buildings are somewhat
scattered and in many cases isolated by gardens; and those facing the
water are quite handsome modern constructions. Urago boasts the best
hotel in all Oki; and it has two new temples--one a Buddhist temple of
the Zen sect, one a Shinto temple of the Izumo Taisha faith, each the
gift of a single person. A rich widow, the owner of the hotel, built the
Buddhist temple; and the wealthiest of the merchants contributed the
other--one of the handsomest miya for its size that I ever saw.


Dogo, the main island of the Oki archipelago, sometimes itself called
'Oki,' lies at a distance of eight miles, north-east of the Dozen group,
beyond a stretch of very dangerous sea. We made for it immediately after
leaving Urago; passing to the open through a narrow and fantastic strait
between Nakanoshima and Nishinoshima, where the cliffs take the form of
enormous fortifications--bastions and ramparts, rising by tiers. Three
colossal rocks, anciently forming but a single mass, which would seem to
have been divided by some tremendous shock, rise from deep water near
the mouth of the channel, like shattered towers. And the last promontory
of Nishinoshima, which we pass to port, a huge red naked rock, turns to
the horizon a point so strangely shaped that it has been called by a
name signifying 'The Hat of the Shinto Priest.'

As we glide out into the swell of the sea other extraordinary shapes
appear, rising from great depths. Komori, 'The Bat,' a ragged silhouette
against the horizon, has a great hole worn through it, which glares like
an eye. Farther out two bulks, curved and pointed, and almost joined at
the top, bear a grotesque resemblance to the uplifted pincers of a crab;
and there is also visible a small dark mass which, until closely
approached, seems the figure of a man sculling a boat. Beyond these are
two islands: Matsushima, uninhabited and inaccessible, where there is
always a swell to beware of; Omorishima, even loftier, which rises from
the ocean in enormous ruddy precipices. There seemed to be some grim
force in those sinister bulks; some occult power which made our steamer
reel and shiver as she passed them. But I saw a marvellous effect of
colour under those formidable cliffs of Omorishima. They were lighted by
a slanting sun; and where the glow of the bright rock fell upon the
water, each black-blue ripple flashed bronze: I thought of a sea of
metallic violet ink.

From Dozen the cliffs of Dogo can be clearly seen when the weather is
not foul: they are streaked here and there with chalky white, which
breaks through their blue, even in time of haze. Above them a vast bulk
is visible--a point-de-repre for the mariners of Hoki--the mountain of
Daimanji. Dogo, indeed, is one great cluster of mountains.

Its cliffs rapidly turned green for us, and we followed them eastwardly
for perhaps half an hour. Then they opened unexpectedly and widely,
revealing a superb bay, widening far into the land, surrounded by hills,
and full of shipping. Beyond a confusion of masts there crept into view
a long grey line of house-fronts at the base of a crescent of cliffs--
the city of Saigo; and in a little while we touched a wharf of stone.
There I bade farewell for a month to the Oki-Saigo.


Saigo was a great surprise. Instead of the big fishing village I had
expected to see, I found a city much larger and handsomer and in all
respects more modernised than Sakai; a city of long streets full of good
shops; a city with excellent public buildings; a city of which the whole
appearance indicated commercial prosperity. Most of the edifices were
roomy two story dwellings of merchants, and everything had a bright, new
look. The unpainted woodwork of the houses had not yet darkened into
grey; the blue tints of the tiling were still fresh. I learned that this
was because the town had been recently rebuilt, after a conflagration,
and rebuilt upon a larger and handsomer plan.

Saigo seems still larger than it really is. There are about one thousand
houses, which number in any part of Western Japan means a population of
at least five thousand, but must mean considerably more in Saigo. These
form three long streets--Nishimachi, Nakamachi, and Higashimachi (names
respectively signifying the Western, Middle, and Eastern Streets),
bisected by numerous cross-streets and alleys. What makes the place seem
disproportionately large is the queer way the streets twist about,
following the irregularities of the shore, and even doubling upon
themselves, so as to create from certain points of view an impression of
depth which has no existence. For Saigo is peculiarly, although
admirably situated. It fringes both banks of a river, the Yabigawa, near
its mouth, and likewise extends round a large point within the splendid
bay, besides stretching itself out upon various tongues of land. But
though smaller than it looks, to walk through all its serpentine streets
is a good afternoon's work.

Besides being divided by the Yabigawa, the town is intersected by
various water-ways, crossed by a number of bridges. On the hills behind
it stand several large buildings, including a public school, with
accommodation for three hundred students; a pretty Buddhist temple
(quite new), the gift of a rich citizen; a prison; and a hospital, which
deserves its reputation of being for its size the handsomest Japanese
edifice not only in Oki, but in all Shimane-Ken; and there are several
small but very pretty gardens.

As for the harbour, you can count more than three hundred ships riding
there of a summer's day. Grumblers, especially of the kind who still use
wooden anchors, complain of the depth; but the men-of-war do not.


Never, in any part of Western Japan, have I been made more comfortable
than at Saigo. My friend and myself were the only guests at the hotel to
which we had been recommended. The broad and lofty rooms of the upper
floor which we occupied overlooked the main street on one side, and on
the other commanded a beautiful mountain landscape beyond the mouth of
the Yabigawa, which flowed by our garden. The sea breeze never failed by
day or by night, and rendered needless those pretty fans which it is the
Japanese custom to present to guests during the hot season. The fare was
astonishingly good and curiously varied; and I was told that I might
order Seyoryori (Occidental cooking) if I wished--beefsteak with fried
potatoes, roast chicken, and so forth. I did not avail myself of the
offer, as I make it a rule while travelling to escape trouble by keeping
to a purely Japanese diet; but it was no small surprise to be offered in
Saigo what is almost impossible to obtain in any other Japanese town of
five thousand inhabitants. From a romantic point of view, however, this
discovery was a disappointment. Having made my way into the most
primitive region of all Japan, I had imagined myself far beyond the
range of all modernising influences; and the suggestion of beefsteak
with fried potatoes was a disillusion. Nor was I entirely consoled by
the subsequent discovery that there were no newspapers or telegraphs.

But there was one serious hindrance to the enjoyment of these comforts:
an omnipresent, frightful, heavy, all-penetrating smell, the smell of
decomposing fish, used as a fertiliser. Tons and tons of cuttlefish
entrails are used upon the fields beyond the Yabigawa, and the never-
sleeping sea wind blows the stench into every dwelling. Vainly do they
keep incense burning in most of the houses during the heated term. After
having remained three or four days constantly in the city you become
better able to endure this odour; but if you should leave town even for
a few hours only, you will be astonished on returning to discover how
much your nose had been numbed by habit and refreshed by absence.


On the morning of the day after my arrival at Saigo, a young physician
called to see me, and requested me to dine with him at his house. He
explained very frankly that as I was the first foreigner who had ever
stopped in Saigo, it would afford much pleasure both to his family and
to himself to have a good chance to see me; but the natural courtesy of
the man overcame any scruple I might have felt to gratify the curiosity
of strangers. I was not only treated charmingly at his beautiful home,
but actually sent away loaded with presents, most of which I attempted
to decline in vain. In one matter, however, I remained obstinate, even
at the risk of offending--the gift of a wonderful specimen of bateiseki
(a substance which I shall speak of hereafter). This I persisted in
refusing to take, knowing it to be not only very costly, but very rare.
My host at last yielded, but afterwards secretly sent to the hotel two
smaller specimens, which Japanese etiquette rendered it impossible to
return. Before leaving Saigo, I experienced many other unexpected
kindnesses from the same gentleman.

Not long after, one of the teachers of the Saigo public school paid me a
visit. He had heard of my interest in Oki, and brought with him two fine
maps of the islands made by himself, a little book about Saigo, and, as
a gift, a collection of Oki butterflies and insects which he had made.
It is only in Japan that one is likely to meet with these wonderful
exhibitions of pure goodness on the part of perfect strangers.

A third visitor, who had called to see my friend, performed an action
equally characteristic, but which caused me not a little pain. We
squatted down to smoke together. He drew from his girdle a remarkably
beautiful tobacco-pouch and pipe-case, containing a little silver pipe,
which he began to smoke. The pipe-case was made of a sort of black
coral, curiously carved, and attached to the tabako-ire, or pouch, by a
heavy cord of plaited silk of three colours, passed through a ball of
transparent agate. Seeing me admire it, he suddenly drew a knife from
his sleeve, and before I could prevent him, severed the pipe-case from
the pouch, and presented it to me. I felt almost as if he had cut one of
his own nerves asunder when he cut that wonderful cord; and,
nevertheless, once this had been done, to refuse the gift would have
been rude in the extreme. I made him accept a present in return; but
after that experience I was careful never again while in Oki to admire
anything in the presence of its owner.


Every province of Japan has its own peculiar dialect; and that of Oki,
as might be expected in a country so isolated, is particularly distinct.
In Saigo, however, the Izumo dialect is largely used. The townsfolk in
their manners and customs much resemble Izumo country-folk; indeed,
there are many Izumo people among them, most of the large businesses
being in the hands of strangers. The women did not impress me as being
so attractive as those of Izumo: I saw several very pretty girls, but
these proved to be strangers.

However, it is only in the country that one can properly study the
physical characteristics of a population. Those of the Oki islanders may
best be noted at the fishing villages many of which I visited.
Everywhere I saw fine strong men and vigorous women; and it struck me
that the extraordinary plenty and cheapness of nutritive food had quite
as much to do with this robustness as climate and constant exercise. So
easy, indeed, is it to live in Oki, that men of other coasts, who find
existence difficult, emigrate to Oki if they can get a chance to work
there, even at less remuneration. An interesting spectacle to me were
the vast processions of fishing-vessels which always, weather
permitting, began to shoot out to sea a couple of hours before sundown.
The surprising swiftness with which those light craft were impelled by
their sinewy scullers--many of whom were women--told of a skill acquired
only through the patient experience of generations. Another matter that
amazed me was the number of boats. One night in the offing I was able to
count three hundred and five torch-fires in sight, each one signifying a
crew; and I knew that from almost any of the forty-five coast villages I
might see the same spectacle at the same time. The main part of the
population, in fact, spends its summer nights at sea. It is also a
revelation to travel from Izumo to Hamada by night upon a swift steamer
during the fishing season. The horizon for a hundred miles is alight
with torch-fires; the toil of a whole coast is revealed in that vast

Although the human population appears to have gained rather than lost
vigour upon this barren soil, the horses and cattle of the country seem
to have degenerated. They are remarkably diminutive. I saw cows not much
bigger than Izumo calves, with calves about the size of goats. The
horses, or rather ponies, belong to a special breed of which Oki is
rather proud--very small, but hardy. I was told that there were larger
horses, but I saw none, and could not learn whether they were imported.
It seemed to me a curious thing, when I saw Oki ponies for the first
time, that Sasaki Takatsuna's battle-steed--not less famous in Japanese
story than the horse Kyrat in the ballads of Kurroglou--is declared by
the islanders to have been a native of Oki. And they have a tradition
that it once swam from Oki to Mionoseki.


Almost every district and town in Japan has its meibutsu or its
kembutsu. The meibutsu of any place are its special productions, whether
natural or artificial. The kembutsu of a town or district are its
sights--its places worth visiting for any reason--religious,
traditional, historical, or pleasurable. Temples and gardens, remarkable
trees and curious rocks, are kembutsu. So, likewise, are any situations
from which beautiful scenery may be looked at, or any localities where
one can enjoy such charming spectacles as the blossoming of cherry-trees
in spring, the flickering of fireflies in summer nights, the flushing of
maple-leaves in autumn, or even that long snaky motion of moonlight upon
water to which Chinese poets have given the delightful name of Kinryo,
'the Golden Dragon.'

The great meibutsu of Oki is the same as that of Hinomisaki--dried
cuttlefish; an article of food much in demand both in China and Japan.
The cuttlefish of Oki and Hinomisaki and Mionoseki are all termed ika (a
kind of sepia); but those caught at Mionoseki are white and average
fifteen inches in length, while those of Oki and Hinomisaki rarely
exceed twelve inches and have a reddish tinge. The fisheries of
Mionoseki and Hinomisaki are scarcely known; but the fisheries of Oki
are famed not only throughout Japan, but also in Korea and China. It is
only through the tilling of the sea that the islands have become
prosperous and capable of supporting thirty thousand souls upon a coast
of which but a very small portion can be cultivated at all. Enormous
quantities of cuttlefish are shipped to the mainland; but I have been
told that the Chinese are the best customers of Oki for this product.
Should the supply ever fail, the result would be disastrous beyond
conception; but at present it seems inexhaustible, though the fishing
has been going on for thousands of years. Hundreds of tons of cuttlefish
are caught, cured, and prepared for exportation month after month; and
many hundreds of acres are fertilised with the entrails and other
refuse. An officer of police told me several strange facts about this
fishery. On the north-eastern coast of Saigo it is no uncommon thing for
one fisherman to capture upwards of two thousand cuttlefish in a single
night. Boats have been burst asunder by the weight of a few hauls, and
caution has to be observed in loading. Besides the sepia, however, this
coast swarms with another variety of cuttlefish which also furnishes a
food-staple--the formidable tako, or true octopus. Tako weighing fifteen
kwan each, or nearly one hundred and twenty-five pounds, are sometimes
caught near the fishing settlement of Nakamura. I was surprised to learn
that there was no record of any person having been injured by these
monstrous creatures.

Another meibutsu of Oki is much less known than it deserves to be--the
beautiful jet-black stone called bateiseki, or 'horsehoof stone.' [7]
It is found only in Dogo, and never in large masses. It is about as
heavy as flint, and chips like flint; but the polish which it takes is
like that of agate. There are no veins or specks in it; the intense
black colour never varies. Artistic objects are made of bateiseki: ink-
stones, wine-cups, little boxes, small dai, or stands for vases or
statuettes; even jewellery, the material being worked in the same manner
as the beautiful agates of Yumachi in Izumo. These articles are
comparatively costly, even in the place of their manufacture. There is
an odd legend about the origin of the bateiseki. It owes its name to
some fancied resemblance to a horse's hoof, either in colour, or in the
semicircular marks often seen upon the stone in its natural state, and
caused by its tendency to split in curved lines. But the story goes that
the bateiseki was formed by the touch of the hoofs of a sacred steed,
the wonderful mare of the great Minamoto warrior, Sasaki Takatsuna. She
had a foal, which fell into a deep lake in Dogo, and was drowned. She
plunged into the lake herself, but could not find her foal, being
deceived by the reflection of her own head in the water. For a long time
she sought and mourned in vain; but even the hard rocks felt for her,
and where her hoofs touched them beneath the water they became changed
into bateiseki. [8]

Scarcely less beautiful than bateiseki, and equally black, is another
Oki meibutsu, a sort of coralline marine product called umi-matsu, or
'sea-pine.' Pipe-cases, brush-stands, and other small articles are
manufactured from it; and these when polished seem to be covered with
black lacquer. Objects of umimatsu are rare and dear.

Nacre wares, however, are very cheap in Oki; and these form another
variety of meibutsu. The shells of the awabi, or 'sea-ear,' which
reaches a surprising size in these western waters, are converted by
skilful polishing and cutting into wonderful dishes, bowls, cups, and
other articles, over whose surfaces the play of iridescence is like a
flickering of fire of a hundred colours.


According to a little book published at Matsue, the kembutsu of Oki-no-
Kuni are divided among three of the four principal islands; Chiburishima
only possessing nothing of special interest. For many generations the
attractions of Dogo have been the shrine of Agonashi Jizo, at
Tsubamezato; the waterfall (Dangyo-taki) at Yuenimura; the mighty cedar-
tree (sugi) before the shrine of Tama-Wakusa-jinja at Shimomura, and the
lakelet called Sai-no-ike where the bateiseki is said to be found.
Nakanoshima possesses the tomb of the exiled Emperor Go-Toba, at
Amamura, and the residence of the ancient Choja, Shikekuro, where he
dwelt betimes, and where relics of him are kept even to this day.
Nishinoshima possesses at Beppu a shrine in memory of the exiled Emperor
Go-Daigo, and on the summit of Takuhizan that shrine of Gongen-Sama,
from the place of which a wonderful view of the whole archipelago is
said to be obtainable on cloudless days.

Though Chiburishima has no kembutsu, her poor little village of Chiburi
--the same Chiburimura at which the Oki steamer always touches on her way
to Saigo--is the scene of perhaps the most interesting of all the
traditions of the archipelago.

Five hundred and sixty years ago, the exiled Emperor Go-Daigo managed to
escape from the observation of his guards, and to flee from Nishinoshima
to Chiburi. And the brown sailors of that little hamlet offered to serve
him, even with their lives if need be. They were loading their boats
with 'dried fish,' doubtless the same dried cuttlefish which their
descendants still carry to Izumo and to Hoki. The emperor promised to
remember them, should they succeed in landing him either in Hoki or in
Izumo; and they put him in a boat.

But when they had sailed only a little way they saw the pursuing
vessels. Then they told the emperor to lie down, and they piled the
dried fish high above him. The pursuers came on board and searched the
boat, but they did not even think of touching the strong-smelling
cuttlefish. And when the men of Chiburi were questioned they invented a
story, and gave to the enemies of the emperor a false clue to follow.

And so, by means of the cuttlefish, the good emperor was enabled to
escape from banishment.


I found there were various difficulties in the way of becoming
acquainted with some of the kembutsu. There are no roads, properly
speaking, in all Oki, only mountain paths; and consequently there are no
jinricksha, with the exception of one especially imported by the leading
physician of Saigo, and available for use only in the streets. There are
not even any kago, or palanquins, except one for the use of the same
physician. The paths are terribly rough, according to the testimony of
the strong peasants themselves; and the distances, particularly in the
hottest period of the year, are disheartening. Ponies can be hired; but
my experiences of a similar wild country in western Izumo persuaded me
that neither pleasure nor profit was to be gained by a long and painful
ride over pine-covered hills, through slippery gullies and along
torrent-beds, merely to look at a waterfall. I abandoned the idea of
visiting Dangyotaki, but resolved, if possible, to see Agonashi-Jizo.

I had first heard in Matsue of Agonashi-Jizo, while suffering from one
of those toothaches in which the pain appears to be several hundred
miles in depth--one of those toothaches which disturb your ideas of
space and time. And a friend who sympathised said:

'People who have toothache pray to Agonashi-Jizo. Agonashi-Jizo is in
Oki, but Izumo people pray to him. When cured they go to Lake Shinji, to
the river, to the sea, or to any running stream, and drop into the water
twelve pears (nashi), one for each of the twelve months. And they
believe the currents will carry all these to Oki across the sea.

'Now, Agonashi-Jizo means 'Jizo-who-has-no-jaw.' For it is said that in
one of his former lives Jizo had such a toothache in his lower jaw that
he tore off his jaw, and threw it away, and died. And he became a
Bosatsu. And the people of Oki made a statue of him without a jaw; and
all who suffer toothache pray to that Jizo of Oki.'

This story interested me for more than once I had felt a strong desire
to do like Agonashi-Jizo, though lacking the necessary courage and
indifference to earthly consequences. Moreover, the tradition suggested
so humane and profound a comprehension of toothache, and so large a
sympathy with its victims, that I felt myself somewhat consoled.

Nevertheless, I did not go to see Agonashi-Jizo, because I found out
there was no longer any Agonashi-Jizo to see. The news was brought one
evening by some friends, shizoku of Matsue, who had settled in Oki, a
young police officer and his wife. They had walked right across the
island to see us, starting before daylight, and crossing no less than
thirty-two torrents on their way. The wife, only nineteen, was quite
slender and pretty, and did not appear tired by that long rough journey.

What we learned about the famous Jizo was this: The name Agonashi-Jizo
was only a popular corruption of the true name, Agonaoshi-Jizo, or
'Jizo-the-Healer-of-jaws.' The little temple in which the statue stood
had been burned, and the statue along with it, except a fragment of the
lower part of the figure, now piously preserved by some old peasant
woman. It was impossible to rebuild the temple, as the disestablishment
of Buddhism had entirely destroyed the resources of that faith in Oki.
But the peasantry of Tsubamezato had built a little Shinto miya on the
sight of the temple, with a torii before it, and people still prayed
there to Agonaoshi-Jizo.

This last curious fact reminded me of the little torii I had seen
erected before the images of Jizo in the Cave of the Children's Ghosts.
Shinto, in these remote districts of the west, now appropriates the
popular divinities of Buddhism, just as of old Buddhism used to absorb
the divinities of Shinto in other parts of Japan.


I went to the Sai-no-ike, and to Tama-Wakasu-jinja, as these two
kembutsu can be reached by boat. The Sai-no-ike, however, much
disappointed me. It can only be visited in very calm weather, as the way
to it lies along a frightfully dangerous coast, nearly all sheer
precipice. But the sea is beautifully clear and the eye can distinguish
forms at an immense depth below the surface. After following the cliffs
for about an hour, the boat reaches a sort of cove, where the beach is
entirely corn posed of small round boulders. They form a long ridge, the
outer verge of which is always in motion, rolling to and fro with a
crash like a volley of musketry at the rush and ebb of every wave. To
climb over this ridge of moving stone balls is quite disagreeable; but
after that one has only about twenty yards to walk, and the Sai-no-ike
appears, surrounded on sides by wooded hills. It is little more than a
large freshwater pool, perhaps fifty yards wide, not in any way
wonderful You can see no rocks under the surface--only mud and pebbles
That any part of it was ever deep enough to drown a foal is hard to
believe. I wanted to swim across to the farther side to try the depth,
but the mere proposal scandalised the boat men. The pool was sacred to
the gods, and was guarded by invisible monsters; to enter it was impious
and dangerous I felt obliged to respect the local ideas on the subject,
and contented myself with inquiring where the bateiseki was found. They
pointed to the hill on the western side of the water. This indication
did not tally with the legend. I could discover no trace of any human
labour on that savage hillside; there was certainly no habitation within
miles of the place; it was the very abomination of desolation. [9]

It is never wise for the traveller in Japan to expect much on the
strength of the reputation of kembutsu. The interest attaching to the
vast majority of kembutsu depends altogether upon the exercise of
imagination; and the ability to exercise such imagination again depends
upon one's acquaintance with the history and mythology of the country.
Knolls, rocks, stumps of trees, have been for hundreds of years objects
of reverence for the peasantry, solely because of local traditions
relating to them. Broken iron kettles, bronze mirrors covered with
verdigris, rusty pieces of sword blades, fragments of red earthenware,
have drawn generations of pilgrims to the shrines in which they are
preserved. At various small temples which I visited, the temple
treasures consisted of trays full of small stones. The first time I saw
those little stones I thought that the priests had been studying geology
or mineralogy, each stone being labelled in Japanese characters. On
examination, the stones proved to be absolutely worthless in themselves,
even as specimens of neighbouring rocks. But the stories which the
priests or acolytes could tell about each and every stone were more than
interesting. The stones served as rude beads, in fact, for the recital
of a litany of Buddhist legends.

After the experience of the Sai-no-ike, I had little reason to expect to
see anything extraordinary at Shimonishimura. But this time I was
agreeably mistaken. Shimonishimura is a pretty fishing village within an
hour's row from Saigo. The boat follows a wild but beautiful coast,
passing one singular truncated hill, Oshiroyama, upon which a strong
castle stood in ancient times. There is now only a small Shinto shrine
there, surrounded by pines. From the hamlet of Shimonishimura to the
Temple of Tama-Wakasu-jinja is a walk of twenty minutes, over very rough
paths between rice-fields and vegetable gardens. But the situation of
the temple, surrounded by its sacred grove, in the heart of a landscape
framed in by mountain ranges of many colours, is charmingly impressive.
The edifice seems to have once been a Buddhist temple; it is now the
largest Shinto structure in Oki. Before its gate stands the famous
cedar, not remarkable for height, but wonderful for girth. Two yards
above the soil its circumference is forty-five feet. It has given its
name to the holy place; the Oki peasantry scarcely ever speak of Tama-
Wakasu-jinja, but only of 'O-Sugi,' the Great Cedar.

Tradition avers that this tree was planted by a Buddhist nun more than
eight hundred years ago. And it is alleged that whoever eats with
chopsticks made from the wood of that tree will never have the
toothache, and will live to become exceedingly old.[10]


The shrine dedicated to the spirit of the Emperor Go-Daigo is in
Nishinoshima, at Beppu, a picturesque fishing village composed of one
long street of thatched cottages fringing a bay at the foot of a
demilune of hills. The simplicity of manners and the honest healthy
poverty of the place are quite wonderful even for Oki. There is a kind
of inn for strangers at which hot water is served instead of tea, and
dried beans instead of kwashi, and millet instead of rice. The absence
of tea, however, is much more significant than that of rice. But the
people of Beppu do not suffer for lack of proper nourishment, as their
robust appearance bears witness: there are plenty of vegetables, all
raised in tiny gardens which the women and children till during the
absence of the boats; and there is abundance of fish. There is no
Buddhist temple, but there is an ujigami.

The shrine of the emperor is at the top of a hill called Kurokizan, at
one end of the bay. The hill is covered with tall pines, and the path is
very steep, so that I thought it prudent to put on straw sandals, in
which one never slips. I found the shrine to be a small wooden miya,
scarcely three feet high, and black with age. There were remains of
other miya, much older, lying in some bushes near by. Two large stones,
unhewn and without inscriptions of any sort, have been placed before the
shrine. I looked into it, and saw a crumbling metal-mirror, dingy paper
gohei attached to splints of bamboo, two little o-mikidokkuri, or Shinto
sake-vessels of red earthenware, and one rin. There was nothing else to
see, except, indeed, certain delightful glimpses of coast and peak,
visible in the bursts of warm blue light which penetrated the
consecrated shadow, between the trunks of the great pines.

Only this humble shrine commemorates the good emperor's sojourn among
the peasantry of Oki. But there is now being erected by voluntary
subscription, at the little village of Gosen-goku-mura, near Yonago in
Tottori, quite a handsome monument of stone to the memory of his
daughter, the princess Hinako-Nai-Shinno who died there while attempting
to follow her august parent into exile. Near the place of her rest
stands a famous chestnut-tree, of which this story is told:

While the emperor's daughter was ill, she asked for chestnuts; and some
were given to her. But she took only one, and bit it a little, and threw
it away. It found root and became a grand tree. But all the chestnuts of
that tree bear marks like the marks of little teeth; for in Japanese
legend even the trees are loyal, and strive to show their loyalty in all
sorts of tender dumb ways. And that tree is called Hagata-guri-no-ki,
which signifies: 'The Tree-of-the-Tooth-marked-Chestnuts.'


Long before visiting Oki I had heard that such a crime as theft was
unknown in the little archipelago; that it had never been found
necessary there to lock things up; and that, whenever weather permitted,
the people slept with their houses all open to the four winds of heaven.

And after careful investigation, I found these surprising statements
were, to a great extent, true. In the Dozen group, at least, there are
no thieves, and practically no crime. Ten policemen are sufficient to
control the whole of both Dozen and Dogo, with their population of
thirty thousand one hundred and ninety-six souls. Each policeman has
under his inspection a number of villages, which he visits on regular
days; and his absence for any length of time from one of these seems
never to be taken advantage of. His work is mostly confined to the
enforcement of hygienic regulations, and to the writing of reports. It
is very seldom that he finds it necessary to make an arrest, for the
people scarcely ever quarrel.

In the island of Dogo alone are there ever any petty thefts, and only in
that part of Oki do the people take any precautions against thieves.
Formerly there was no prison, and thefts were never heard of; and the
people of Dogo still claim that the few persons arrested in their island
for such offences are not natives of Oki, but strangers from the
mainland. What appears to be quite true is that theft was unknown in Oki
before the port of Saigo obtained its present importance. The whole
trade of Western Japan has been increased by the rapid growth of steam
communications with other parts of the empire; and the port of Saigo
appears to have gained commercially, but to have lost morally, by the
new conditions.

Yet offences against the law are still surprisingly few, even in Saigo.
Saigo has a prison; and there were people in it during my stay in the
city; but the inmates had been convicted only of such misdemeanours as
gambling (which is strictly prohibited in every form by Japanese law),
or the violation of lesser ordinances. When a serious offence is
committed, the offender is not punished in Oki, but is sent to the great
prison at Matsue, in Izumo.

The Dozen islands, however, perfectly maintain their ancient reputation
for irreproachable honesty. There have been no thieves in those three
islands within the memory of man; and there are no serious quarrels, no
fighting, nothing to make life miserable for anybody. Wild and bleak as
the land is, all can manage to live comfortably enough; food is cheap
and plenty, and manners and customs have retained their primitive


To foreign eyes the defences of even an Izumo dwelling against thieves
seem ludicrous. Chevaux-de-frise of bamboo stakes are used extensively
in eastern cities of the empire, but in Izumo these are not often to be
seen, and do not protect the really weak points of the buildings upon
which they are placed. As for outside walls and fences, they serve only
for screens, or for ornamental boundaries; anyone can climb over them.
Anyone can also cut his way into an ordinary Japanese house with a
pocket-knife. The amado are thin sliding screens of soft wood, easy to
break with a single blow; and in most Izumo homes there is not a lock
which could resist one vigorous pull. Indeed, the Japanese themselves
are so far aware of the futility of their wooden panels against burglars
that all who can afford it build kura--small heavy fire-proof and (for
Japan) almost burglar-proof structures, with very thick earthen walls, a
narrow ponderous door fastened with a gigantic padlock, and one very
small iron-barred window, high up, near the roof. The kura are
whitewashed, and look very neat. They cannot be used for dwellings,
however, as they are mouldy and dark; and they serve only as storehouses
for valuables. It is not easy to rob a kura.

But there is no trouble in 'burglariously' entering an Izumo dwelling
unless there happen to be good watchdogs on the premises. The robber
knows the only difficulties in the way of his enterprise are such as he
is likely to encounter after having effected an entrance. In view of
these difficulties, he usually carries a sword.

Nevertheless, he does not wish to find himself in any predicament
requiring the use of a sword; and to avoid such an unpleasant
possibility he has recourse to magic.

He looks about the premises for a tarai--a kind of tub. If he finds one,
he performs a nameless operation in a certain part of the yard, and
covers the spot with the tub, turned upside down. He believes if he can
do this that a magical sleep will fall upon all the inmates of the
house, and that he will thus be able to carry away whatever he pleases,
without being heard or seen.

But every Izumo household knows the counter-charm. Each evening, before
retiring, the careful wife sees that a hocho, or kitchen knife, is laid
upon the kitchen floor, and covered with a kanadarai, or brazen wash-
basin, on the upturned bottom of which is placed a single straw sandal,
of the noiseless sort called zori, also turned upside down. She believes
this little bit of witchcraft will not only nullify the robber's spell,
but also render it impossible for him--even should he succeed in
entering the house without being seen or heard--to carry anything
whatever away. But, unless very tired indeed, she will also see that the
tarai is brought into the house before the amado are closed for the

If through omission of these precautions (as the good wife might aver),
or in despite of them, the dwelling be robbed while the family are
asleep, search is made early in the morning for the footprints of the
burglar; and a moxa [11] is set burning upon each footprint. By this
operation it is hoped or believed that the burglar's feet will be made
so sore that he cannot run far, and that the police may easily overtake


It was in Oki that I first heard of an extraordinary superstition about
the cause of okori (ague, or intermittent fever), mild forms of which
prevail in certain districts at certain seasons; but I have since
learned that this quaint belief is an old one in Izumo and in many parts
of the San-indo. It is a curious example of the manner in which Buddhism
has been used to explain all mysteries.

Okori is said to be caused by the Gaki-botoke, or hungry ghosts.
Strictly speaking, the Gaki-botoke are the Pretas of Indian Buddhism,
spirits condemned to sojourn in the Gakido, the sphere of the penance of
perpetual hunger and thirst. But in Japanese Buddhism, the name Gaki is
given also to those souls who have none among the living to remember
them, and to prepare for them the customary offerings of food and tea.

These suffer, and seek to obtain warmth and nutriment by entering into
the bodies of the living. The person into whom a gaki enters at first
feels intensely cold and shivers, because the gaki is cold. But the
chill is followed by a feeling of intense heat, as the gaki becomes
warm. Having warmed itself and absorbed some nourishment at the expense
of its unwilling host, the gaki goes away, and the fever ceases for a
time. But at exactly the same hour upon another day the gaki will
return, and the victim must shiver and burn until the haunter has become
warm and has satisfied its hunger. Some gaki visit their patients every
day; others every alternate day, or even less often. In brief: the
paroxysms of any form of intermittent fever are explained by the
presence of the gaki, and the intervals between the paroxysms by its


Of the word hotoke (which becomes botoke in such com-pounds as nure-
botoke, [12] gaki-botoke) there is something curious to say.

Hotoke signifies a Buddha.

Hotoke signifies also the Souls of the Dead--since faith holds that
these, after worthy life, either enter upon the way to Buddhahood, or
become Buddhas.

Hotoke, by euphemism, has likewise come to mean a corpse: hence the verb
hotoke-zukuri, 'to look ghastly,' to have the semblance of one long

And Hotoke-San is the name of the Image of a Face seen in the pupil of
the eye--Hotoke-San, 'the Lord Buddha.' Not the Supreme of the Hokkekyo,
but that lesser Buddha who dwelleth in each one of us,--the Spirit. [13]

Sang Rossetti: 'I looked and saw your heart in the shadow of your eyes.'
Exactly converse is the Oriental thought. A Japanese lover would have
said: 'I looked and saw my own Buddha in the shadow of your eyes.

What is the psychical theory connected with so singular a belief? [14] I
think it might be this: The Soul, within its own body, always remains
viewless, yet may reflect itself in the eyes of another, as in the
mirror of a necromancer. Vainly you gaze into the eyes of the beloved to
discern her soul: you see there only your own soul's shadow, diaphanous;
and beyond is mystery alone--reaching to the Infinite.

But is not this true? The Ego, as Schopenhauer wonderfully said, is the
dark spot in consciousness, even as the point whereat the nerve of sight
enters the eye is blind. We see ourselves in others only; only through
others do we dimly guess that which we are. And in the deepest love of
another being do we not indeed love ourselves? What are the
personalities, the individualities of us but countless vibrations in
the Universal Being? Are we not all One in the unknowable Ultimate? One
with the inconceivable past? One with the everlasting future?


In Oki, as in Izumo, the public school is slowly but surely destroying
many of the old superstitions. Even the fishermen of the new generation
laugh at things in which their fathers believed. I was rather surprised
to receive from an intelligent young sailor, whom I had questioned
through an interpreter about the ghostly fire of Takuhizan, this
scornful answer: 'Oh, we used to believe those things when we were
savages; but we are civilised now!'

Nevertheless, he was somewhat in advance of his time. In the village to
which he belonged I discovered that the Fox-.superstition prevails to a
degree scarcely paralleled in any part of Izumo. The history of the
village was quite curious. From time immemorial it had been reputed a
settlement of Kitsune-mochi: in other words, all its inhabitants were
commonly believed, and perhaps believed themselves, to be the owners of
goblin-foxes. And being all alike kitsune-mochi, they could eat and
drink together, and marry and give in marriage among themselves without
affliction. They were feared with a ghostly fear by the neighbouring
peasantry, who obeyed their demands both in matters reasonable and
unreasonable. They prospered exceedingly. But some twenty years ago an
Izumo stranger settled among them. He was energetic, intelligent, and
possessed of some capital. He bought land, made various shrewd
investments, and in a surprisingly short time became the wealthiest
citizen in the place. He built a very pretty Shinto temple and presented
it to the community. There was only one obstacle in the way of his
becoming a really popular person: he was not a kitsune-mochi, and he had
even said that he hated foxes. This singularity threatened to beget
discords in the mura, especially as he married his children to
strangers, and thus began in the midst of the kitsune-mochi to establish
a sort of anti-Fox-holding colony.

Wherefore, for a long time past, the Fox-holders have been trying to
force their superfluous goblins upon him. Shadows glide about the gate
of his dwelling on moonless nights, muttering: 'Kaere! kyo kara kokoye:
kuruda!' [Be off now! from now hereafter it is here that ye must dwell:
go!] Then are the upper shoji violently pushed apart; and the voice of
the enraged house owner is heard: 'Koko Wa kiraida! modori!' [Detestable
is that which ye do! get ye gone!] And the Shadows flee away.[15]


Because there were no cuttlefish at Hishi-ura, and no horrid smells, I
enjoyed myself there more than I did anywhere else in Oki. But, in any
event, Hishi-ura would have interested me more than Saigo. The life of
the pretty little town is peculiarly old-fashioned; and the ancient
domestic industries, which the introduction of machinery has almost
destroyed in Izumo and elsewhere, still exist in Hishi-ura. It was
pleasant to watch the rosy girls weaving robes of cotton and robes of
silk, relieving each other whenever the work became fatiguing. All this
quaint gentle life is open to inspection, and I loved to watch it. I had
other pleasures also: the bay is a delightful place for swimming, and
there were always boats ready to take me to any place of interest along
the coast. At night the sea breeze made the rooms which I occupied
deliciously cool; and from the balcony I could watch the bay-swell
breaking in slow, cold fire on the steps of the wharves--a beautiful
phosphorescence; and I could hear Oki mothers singing their babes to
sleep with one of the oldest lullabys in the world:

O-yama no
Usagi. no ko,
Naze mata
O-mimi ga
Nagai e yara?
Okkasan no
O-nak ni
Oru toku ni,
BiWa no ha,
Sasa no ha,
Tabeta sona;
Sore de
O-mimi ga
Nagai e sona. [16]

The air was singularly sweet and plaintive, quite different from that to
which the same words are sung in Izumo, and in other parts of Japan.

One morning I had hired a boat to take me to Beppu, and was on the point
of leaving the hotel for the day, when the old landlady, touching my
arm, exclaimed: 'Wait a little while; it is not good to cross a
funeral.' I looked round the corner, and saw the procession coming along
the shore. It was a Shinto funeral--a child's funeral. Young lads came
first, carrying Shinto emblems--little white flags, and branches of the
sacred sakaki; and after the coffin the mother walked, a young peasant,
crying very loud, and wiping her eyes with the long sleeves of her
coarse blue dress. Then the old woman at my side murmured: 'She sorrows;
but she is very young: perhaps It will come back to her.' For she was a
pious Buddhist, my good old landlady, and doubtless supposed the
mother's belief like her own, although the funeral was conducted
according to the Shinto rite.


There are in Buddhism certain weirdly beautiful consolations unknown to
Western faith.

The young mother who loses her first child may at least pray that it
will come back to her out of the night of death--not in dreams only, but
through reincarnation. And so praying, she writes within the hand of the
little corpse the first ideograph of her lost darling's name.

Months pass; she again becomes a mother. Eagerly she examines the
flower-soft hand of the infant. And lo! the self-same ideograph is
there--a rosy birth-mark on the tender palm; and the Soul returned looks
out upon her through the eyes of the newly-born with the gaze of other


While on the subject of death I may speak of a primitive but touching
custom which exists both in Oki and Izumo--that of calling the name of
the dead immediately after death. For it is thought that the call may be
heard by the fleeting soul, which might sometimes be thus induced to
return. Therefore, when a mother dies, the children should first call
her, and of all the children first the youngest (for she loved that one
most); and then the husband and all those who loved the dead cry to her
in turn.

And it is also the custom to call loudly the name of one who faints, or
becomes insensible from any cause; and there are curious beliefs
underlying this custom.

It is said that of those who swoon from pain or grief especially, many
approach very nearly to death, and these always have the same
experience. 'You feel,' said one to me in answer to my question about
the belief, 'as if you were suddenly somewhere else, and quite happy--
only tired. And you know that you want to go to a Buddhist temple which
is quite far away. At last you reach the gate of the temple court, and
you see the temple inside, and it is wonderfully large and beautiful.
And you pass the gate and enter the court to go to the temple. But
suddenly you hear voices of friends far behind you calling your name--
very, very earnestly. So you turn back, and all at once you come to
yourself again. At least it is so if your heart cares to live. But one
who is really tired of living will not listen to the voices, and walks
on to the temple. And what there happens no man knows, for they who
enter that temple never return to their friends.

'That is why people call loudly into the ear of one who swoons.

'Now, it is said that all who die, before going to the Meido, make one
pilgrimage to the great temple of Zenkoji, which is in the country of
Shinano, in Nagano-Ken. And they say that whenever the priest of that
temple preaches, he sees the Souls gather there in the hondo to hear
him, all with white wrappings about their heads. So Zenkoji might be the
temple which is seen by those who swoon. But I do not know.'


I went by boat from Hishi-ura to Amamura, in Nakanoshima, to visit the
tomb of the exiled Emperor Go-Toba. The scenery along the way was
beautiful, and of softer outline than I had seen on my first passage
through the archipelago. Small rocks rising from the water were covered
with sea-gulls and cormorants, which scarcely took any notice of the
boat, even when we came almost within an oar's length. This fearlessness
of wild creatures is one of the most charming impressions of travel in
these remoter parts of Japan, yet unvisited by tourists with shotguns.
The early European and American hunters in Japan seem to have found no
difficulty and felt no compunction in exterminating what they considered
'game' over whole districts, destroying life merely for the wanton
pleasure of destruction. Their example is being imitated now by 'Young
Japan,' and the destruction of bird life is only imperfectly checked by
game laws. Happily, the Government does interfere sometimes to check
particular forms of the hunting vice. Some brutes who had observed the
habits of swallows to make their nests in Japanese houses, last year
offered to purchase some thousands of swallow-skins at a tempting price.
The effect of the advertisement was cruel enough; but the police were
promptly notified to stop the murdering, which they did. About the same
time, in one of the Yokohama papers, there appeared a letter from some
holy person announcing, as a triumph of Christian sentiment, that a
'converted' fisherman had been persuaded by foreign proselytisers to
kill a turtle, which his Buddhist comrades had vainly begged him to

Amarnura, a very small village, lies in a narrow plain of rice-fields
extending from the sea to a range of low hills. From the landing-place
to the village is about a quarter of a mile. The narrow path leading to
it passes round the base of a small hill, covered with pines, on the
outskirts of the village. There is quite a handsome Shinto temple on the
hill, small, but admirably constructed, approached by stone steps and a
paved walk.

There are the usual lions and lamps of stone, and the ordinary simple
offerings of paper and women's hair before the shrine. But I saw among
the ex-voto a number of curious things which I had never seen in Izumo--
tiny miniature buckets, well-buckets, with rope and pole complete,
neatly fashioned out of bamboo. The boatman said that farmers bring
these to the shrine when praying for rain. The deity was called Suwa-

It was at the neighbouring village, of which Suwa-Dai-Myojin seems to be
the ujigami, that the Emperor Go-Toba is said to have dwelt, in the
house of the Choja Shikekuro. The Shikekuro homestead remains, and still
belongs to the Choja'sa descendants, but they have become very poor. I
asked permission to see the cups from which the exiled emperor drank,
and other relics of his stay said to be preserved by the family; but in
consequence of illness in the house I could not be received. So I had
only a glimpse of the garden, where there is a celebrated pond--a

The pond is called Shikekuro's Pond,--Shikekuro-no-ike. And for seven
hundred years, 'tis said, the frogs of that pond have never been heard
to croak.

For the Emperor Go-Toba, having one night been kept awake by the
croaking of the frogs in that pond, arose and went out and commanded
them, saying: 'Be silent!' Wherefore they have remained silent through
all the centuries even unto this day.

Near the pond there was in that time a great pine-tree, of which the
rustling upon windy nights disturbed the emperor's rest. And he spoke to
the pine-tree, and said to it: 'Be still!' And never thereafter was that
tree heard to rustle, even in time of storms.

But that tree has ceased to be. Nothing remains of it but a few
fragments of its wood and hark, which are carefully preserved as relics
by the ancients of Oki. Such a fragment was shown to me in the toko of
the guest chamber of the dwelling of a physician of Saigo--the same
gentleman whose kindness I have related elsewhere.

The tomb of the emperor lies on the slope of a low hill, at a distance
of about ten minutes' walk from the village. It is far less imposing
than the least of the tombs of the Matsudaira at Matsue, in the grand
old courts of Gesshoji; but it was perhaps the best which the poor
little country of Oki could furnish. This is not, however, the original
place of the tomb, which was moved by imperial order in the sixth year
of Meiji to its present site. A lofty fence, or rather stockade of heavy
wooden posts, painted black, incloses a piece of ground perhaps one
hundred and fifty feet long, by about fifty broad, and graded into three
levels, or low terraces. All the space within is shaded by pines. In the
centre of the last and highest of the little terraces the tomb is
placed: a single large slab of grey rock laid horizontally. A narrow
paved walk leads from the gate to the tomb; ascending each terrace by
three or four stone steps. A little within this gateway, which is opened
to visitors only once a year, there is a torii facing the sepulchre; and
before the highest terrace there are a pair of stone lamps. All this is
severely simple, but effective in a certain touching way. The country
stillness is broken only by the shrilling of the semi and the
tintinnabulation of that strange little insect, the suzumushi, whose
calling sounds just like the tinkling of the tiny bells which are shaken
by the miko in her sacred dance.


I remained nearly eight days at Hishi-ura on the occasion of my second
visit there, but only three at Urago. Urago proved a less pleasant place
to stay in--not because its smells were any stronger than those of
Saigo, but for other reasons which shall presently appear.

More than one foreign man-of-war has touched at Saigo, and English and
Russian officers of the navy have been seen in the streets. They were
tall, fair-haired, stalwart men; and the people of Oki still imagine
that all foreigners from the West have the same stature and complexion.
I was the first foreigner who ever remained even a night in the town,
and I stayed there two weeks; but being small and dark, and dressed like
a Japanese, I excited little attention among the common people: it
seemed to them that I was only a curious-looking Japanese from some
remote part of the empire. At Hishi-ura the same impression prevailed
for a time; and even after the fact of my being a foreigner had become
generally known, the population caused me no annoyance whatever: they
had already become accustomed to see me walking about the streets or
swimming across the bay. But it was quite otherwise at Urago. The first
time I landed there I had managed to escape notice, being in Japanese
costume, and wearing a very large Izumo hat, which partly concealed my
face. After I left for Saigo, the people must have found out that a
foreigner--the very first ever seen in Dozen--had actually been in Urago
without their knowledge; for my second visit made a sensation such as I
had never been the cause of anywhere else, except at Kaka-ura.

I had barely time to enter the hotel, before the street became entirely
blockaded by an amazing crowd desirous to see. The hotel was
unfortunately situated on a corner, so that it was soon besieged on two
sides. I was shown to a large back room on the second floor; and I had
no sooner squatted down on my mat, than the people began to come
upstairs quite noiselessly, all leaving their sandals at the foot of the
steps. They were too polite to enter the room; but four or five would
put their heads through the doorway at once, and bow, and smile, and
look, and retire to make way for those who filled the stairway behind
them. It was no easy matter for the servant to bring me my dinner.
Meanwhile, not only had the upper rooms of the houses across the way
become packed with gazers, but all the roofs--north, east, and south--
which commanded a view of my apartment had been occupied by men and boys
in multitude. Numbers of lads had also climbed (I never could imagine
how) upon the narrow eaves over the galleries below my windows; and all
the openings of my room, on three sides, were full of faces. Then tiles
gave way, and boys fell, but nobody appeared to be hurt. And the
queerest fact was that during the performance of these extraordinary
gymnastics there was a silence of death: had I not seen the throng, I
might have supposed there was not a soul in the street.

The landlord began to scold; but, finding scolding of no avail, he
summoned a policeman. The policeman begged me to excuse the people, who
had never seen a foreigner before; and asked me if I wished him to clear
the street. He could have done that by merely lifting his little finger;
but as the scene amused me, I begged him not to order the people away,
but only to tell the boys not to climb upon the awnings, some of which
they had already damaged. He told them most effectually, speaking in a
very low voice. During all the rest of the time I was in Urago, no one
dared to go near the awnings. A Japanese policeman never speaks more
than once about anything new, and always speaks to the purpose.

The public curiosity, however, lasted without abate for three days, and
would have lasted longer if I had not fled from Urago. Whenever I went
out I drew the population after me with a pattering of geta like the
sound of surf moving shingle. Yet, except for that particular sound,
there was silence. No word was spoken. Whether this was because the
whole mental faculty was so strained by the intensity of the desire to
see that speech became impossible, I am not able to decide. But there
was no roughness in all that curiosity; there was never anything
approaching rudeness, except in the matter of ascending to my room
without leave; and that was done so gently that I could not wish the
intruders rebuked. Nevertheless, three days of such experience proved
trying. Despite the heat, I had to close the doors and windows at night
to prevent myself being watched while asleep. About my effects I had no
anxiety at all: thefts are never committed in the island. But that
perpetual silent crowding about me became at last more than
embarrassing. It was innocent, but it was weird. It made me feel like a
ghost--a new arrival in the Meido, surrounded by shapes without voice.


There is very little privacy of any sort in Japanese life. Among the
people, indeed, what we term privacy in the Occident does not exist.
There are only walls of paper dividing the lives of men; there are only
sliding screens instead of doors; there are neither locks nor bolts to
be used by day; and whenever weather permits, the fronts, and perhaps
even the sides of the house are literally removed, and its interior
widely opened to the air, the light, and the public gaze. Not even the
rich man closes his front gate by day. Within a hotel or even a common
dwelling-house, nobody knocks before entering your room: there is
nothing to knock at except a shoji or fusuma, which cannot be knocked
upon without being broken. And in this world of paper walls and
sunshine, nobody is afraid or ashamed of fellow-men or fellow-women.
Whatever is done, is done, after a fashion, in public. Your personal
habits, your idiosyncrasies (if you have any), your foibles, your likes
and dislikes, your loves or your hates, must be known to everybody.
Neither vices nor virtues can be hidden: there is absolutely nowhere to
hide them. And this condition has lasted from the most ancient time.
There has never been, for the common millions at least, even the idea of
living unobserved. Life can be comfortably and happily lived in Japan
only upon the condition that all matters relating to it are open to the
inspection of the community. Which implies exceptional moral conditions,
such as have no being in the West. It is perfectly comprehensible only
to those who know by experience the extraordinary charm of Japanese
character, the infinite goodness of the common people, their instinctive
politeness, and the absence among them of any tendencies to indulge in
criticism, ridicule, irony, or sarcasm. No one endeavours to expand his
own individuality by belittling his fellow; no one tries to make himself
appear a superior being: any such attempt would be vain in a community
where the weaknesses of each are known to all, where nothing can be
concealed or disguised, and where affectation could only be regarded as
a mild form of insanity.


Some of the old samurai of Matsue are living in the Oki Islands. When
the great military caste was disestablished, a few shrewd men decided to
try their fortunes in the little archipelago, where customs remained
old-fashioned and lands were cheap. Several succeeded--probably because
of the whole-souled honesty and simplicity of manners in the islands;
for samurai have seldom elsewhere been able to succeed in business of
any sort when obliged to compete with experienced traders, Others
failed, but were able to adopt various humble occupations which gave
them the means to live.

Besides these aged survivors of the feudal period, I learned there were
in Oki several children of once noble families--youths and maidens of
illustrious extraction--bravely facing the new conditions of life in
this remotest and poorest region of the empire. Daughters of men to whom
the population of a town once bowed down were learning the bitter toil
of the rice-fields. Youths, who might in another era have aspired to
offices of State, had become the trusted servants of Oki heimin. Others,
again, had entered the police, [17] and rightly deemed themselves

No doubt that change of civilisation forced upon Japan by Christian
bayonets, for the holy motive of gain, may yet save the empire from
perils greater than those of the late social disintegration; but it was
cruelly sudden. To imagine the consequence of depriving the English
landed gentry of their revenues would not enable one to realise exactly
what a similar privation signified to the Japanese samurai. For the old
warrior caste knew only the arts of courtesy and the arts of war.

And hearing of these things, I could not help thinking about a strange
pageant at the last great Izumo festival of Rakuzan-jinja.


The hamlet of Rakuzan, known only for its bright yellow pottery and its
little Shinto temple, drowses at the foot of a wooded hill about one ri
from Matsue, beyond a wilderness of rice-fields. And the deity of
Rakuzan-jinja is Naomasa, grandson of Iyeyasu, and father of the Daimyo
of Matsue.

Some of the Matsudaira slumber in Buddhist ground, guarded by tortoises
and lions of stone, in the marvellous old courts of Gesshoji. But
Naomasa, the founder of their long line, is enshrined at Rakuzan; and
the Izumo peasants still clap their hands in prayer before his miya, and
implore his love and protection.

Now formerly upon each annual matsuri, or festival, of Rakuzan-jinja, it
was customary to carry the miya of Naomasa-San from the village temple
to the castle of Matsue. In solemn procession it was borne to .those
strange old family temples in the heart of the fortress-grounds--Go-jo-
naiInari-Daimyojin, and Kusunoki-Matauhira-Inari-Daimyojin--whose
mouldering courts, peopled with lions and foxes of stone, are shadowed
by enormous trees. After certain Shinto rites had been performed at both
temples, the miya was carried back in procession to Rakuzan. And this
annual ceremony was called the miyuki or togyo--'the August Going,' or
Visit, of the ancestor to the ancestral home.

But the revolution changed all things. The daimyo passed away; the
castles fell to ruin; the samurai caste was abolished and dispossessed.
And the miya of Lord Naomasa made no August Visit to the home of the
Mataudaira for more than thirty years.

But it came to pass a little time ago, that certain old men of Matsue
bethought them to revive once more the ancient customs of the Rakuzan
matauri. And there was a miyuki.

The miya of Lord Naomasa was placed within a barge, draped and
decorated, and so conveyed by river and canal to the eastern end of the
old Mataubara road, along whose pine-shaded way the daimyo formerly
departed to Yedo on their annual visit, or returned therefrom. All those
who rowed the barge were aged samurai who had been wont in their youth
to row the barge of Matsudaira-Dewa-no-Kami, the last Lord of Izumo.
They wore their ancient feudal costume; and they tried to sing their
ancient boat-song--o-funa-uta. But more than a generation had passed
since the last time they had sung it; and some of them had lost their
teeth, so that they could not pronounce the words well; and all, being
aged, lost breath easily in the exertion of wielding the oars.
Nevertheless they rowed the barge to the place appointed.

Thence the shrine was borne to a spot by the side of the Mataubara road,
where anciently stood an August Tea-House, O-Chaya, at which the daimyo,
returning from the Shogun's capital, were accustomed to rest and to
receive their faithful retainers, who always came in procession to meet
them. No tea-house stands there now; but, in accord with old custom, the
shrine and its escort waited at the place among the wild flowers and the
pines. And then was seen a strange sight.

For there came to meet the ghost of the great lord a long procession of
shapes that seemed ghosts also--shapes risen out of the dust of
cemeteries: warriors in created helmets and masks of iron and
breastplates of steel, girded with two swords; and spearmen wearing
queues; and retainers in kamishimo; and bearers of hasami-bako. Yet
ghosts these were not, but aged samurai of Matsue, who had borne arms in
the service of the last of the daimyo. And among them appeared his
surviving ministers, the venerable karo; and these, as the procession
turned city-ward, took their old places of honour, and marched before
the shrine valiantly, though bent with years.

How that pageant might have impressed other strangers I do not know. For
me, knowing something of the history of each of those aged men, the
scene had a significance apart from its story of forgotten customs,
apart from its interest as a feudal procession. To-day each and all of
those old samurai are unspeakably poor. Their beautiful homes vanished
long ago; their gardens have been turned into rice-fields; their
household treasures were cruelly bargained for, and bought for almost
nothing by curio-dealers to be resold at high prices to foreigners at
the open ports. And yet what they could have obtained considerable
money for, and what had ceased to be of any service to them, they clung
to fondly through all their poverty and humiliation. Never could they be
induced to part with their armour and their swords, even when pressed by
direst want, under the new and harder conditions of existence.

The river banks, the streets, the balconies, and blue-tiled roofs were
thronged. There was a great quiet as the procession passed. Young people
gazed in hushed wonder, feeling the rare worth of that chance to look
upon what will belong in the future to picture-books only and to the
quaint Japanese stage. And old men wept silently, remembering their

Well spake the ancient thinker: 'Everything is only for a day, both that
which remembers, and that which is remembered.'


Once more, homeward bound, I sat upon the cabin-roof of the Oki-Saigo--
this time happily unencumbered by watermelons--and tried to explain to
myself the feeling of melancholy with which I watched those wild island-
coasts vanishing over the pale sea into the white horizon. No doubt it
was inspired partly by the recollection of kindnesses received from many
whom I shall never meet again; partly, also, by my familiarity with the
ancient soil itself, and remembrance of shapes and places: the long blue
visions down channels between islands--the faint grey fishing hamlets
hiding in stony bays--the elfish oddity of narrow streets in little
primitive towns--the forms and tints of peak and vale made lovable by
daily intimacy--the crooked broken paths to shadowed shrines of gods
with long mysterious names--the butterfly-drifting of yellow sails out
of the glow of an unknown horizon. Yet I think it was due much more to a
particular sensation in which every memory was steeped and toned, as a
landscape is steeped in the light and toned in the colours of the
morning: the sensation of conditions closer to Nature's heart, and
farther from the monstrous machine-world of Western life than any into
which I had ever entered north of the torrid zone. And then it seemed to
me that I loved Oki--in spite of the cuttlefish--chiefly because of
having felt there, as nowhere else in Japan, the full joy of escape from
the far-reaching influences of high-pressure civilisation--the delight
of knowing one's self, in Dozen at least, well beyond the range of
everything artificial in human existence.

Chapter Nine Of Souls

Kinjuro, the ancient gardener, whose head shines like an ivory ball, sat
him down a moment on the edge of the ita-no-ma outside my study to smoke
his pipe at the hibachi always left there for him. And as he smoked he
found occasion to reprove the boy who assists him. What the boy had been
doing I did not exactly know; but I heard Kinjuro bid him try to comport
himself like a creature having more than one Soul. And because those
words interested me I went out and sat down by Kinjuro.

'O Kinjuro,' I said, 'whether I myself have one or more Souls I am not
sure. But it would much please me to learn how many Souls have you.'

'I-the-Selfish-One have only four Souls,' made answer Kinjuro, with
conviction imperturbable.

'Four? re-echoed I, feeling doubtful of having understood 'Four,' he
repeated. 'But that boy I think can have only one Soul, so much is he
wanting in patience.'

'And in what manner,' I asked, 'came you to learn that you have four

'There are wise men,' made he answer, while knocking the ashes out of
his little silver pipe, 'there are wise men who know these things. And
there is an ancient book which discourses of them. According to the age
of a man, and the time of his birth, and the stars of heaven, may the
number of his Souls be divined. But this is the knowledge of old men:
the young folk of these times who learn the things of the West do not

'And tell me, O Kinjuro, do there now exist people having more Souls
than you?'

'Assuredly. Some have five, some six, some seven, some eight Souls. But
no one is by the gods permitted to have more Souls than nine.'

[Now this, as a universal statement, I could not believe, remembering a
woman upon the other side of the world who possessed many generations of
Souls, and knew how to use them all. She wore her Souls just as other
women wear their dresses, and changed them several times a day; and the
multitude of dresses in the wardrobe of Queen Elizabeth was as nothing
to the multitude of this wonderful person's Souls. For which reason she
never appeared the same upon two different occasions; and she changed
her thought and her voice with her Souls. Sometimes she was of the
South, and her eyes were brown; and again she was of the North, and her
eyes were grey. Sometimes she was of the thirteenth, and sometimes of
the eighteenth century; and people doubted their own senses when they
saw these things; and they tried to find out the truth by begging
photographs of her, and then comparing them. Now the photographers
rejoiced to photograph her because she was more than fair; but presently
they also were confounded by the discovery that she was never the same
subject twice. So the men who most admired her could not presume to fall
in love with her because that would have been absurd. She had altogether
too many Souls. And some of you who read this I have written will bear
witness to the verity thereof.]

'Concerning this Country of the Gods, O Kinjuro, that which you say may
be true. But there are other countries having only gods made of gold;
and in those countries matters are not so well arranged; and the
inhabitants thereof are plagued with a plague of Souls. For while some
have but half a Soul, or no Soul at all, others have Souls in multitude
thrust upon them, for which neither nutriment nor employ can be found.
And Souls thus situated torment exceedingly their owners. . . . .That is
to say, Western Souls. . . . But tell me, I pray you, what is the use of
having more than one or two Souls?'

'Master, if all had the same number and quality of Souls, all would
surely be of one mind. But that people are different from each other is
apparent; and the differences among them are because of the differences
in the quality and the number of their Souls.'

'And it is better to have many Souls than a few?' 'It is better.'

'And the man having but one Soul is a being imperfect?'

'Very imperfect.'

'Yet a man very imperfect might have had an ancestor perfect?'

'That is true.'

'So that a man of to-day possessing but one Soul may have had an
ancestor with nine Souls?'


'Then what has become of those other eight Souls which the ancestor
possessed, but which the descendant is without?'

'Ah! that is the work of the gods. The gods alone fix the number of
Souls for each of us. To the worthy are many given; to the unworthy

'Not from the parents, then, do the Souls descend?'

'Nay! Most ancient the Souls are: innumerable, the years of them.'

'And this I desire to know: Can a man separate his Souls? Can he, for
instance, have one Soul in Kyoto and one in Tokyo and one in Matsue, all
at the same time?'

'He cannot; they remain always together.'

'How? One within the other--like the little lacquered boxes of an inro?'

'Nay: that none but the gods know.'

'And the Souls are never separated?'

'Sometimes they may be separated. But if the Souls of a man be
separated, that man becomes mad. Mad people are those who have lost one
of their Souls.'

'But after death what becomes of the Souls?'

'They remain still together. . . . When a man dies his Souls ascend to
the roof of the house. And they stay upon the roof for the space of nine
and forty days.'

'On what part of the roof?'

'On the yane-no-mune--upon the Ridge of the Roof they stay.'

'Can they be seen?'

'Nay: they are like the air is. To and fro upon the Ridge of the Roof
they move, like a little wind.'

'Why do they not stay upon the roof for fifty days instead of forty-

'Seven weeks is the time allotted them before they must depart: seven
weeks make the measure of forty-nine days. But why this should be, I
cannot tell.'

I was not unaware of the ancient belief that the spirit of a dead man
haunts for a time the roof of his dwelling, because it is referred to
quite impressively in many Japanese dramas, among others in the play
called Kagami-yama, which makes the people weep. But I had not before
heard of triplex and quadruplex and other yet more highly complex Souls;
and I questioned Kinjuro vainly in the hope of learning the authority
for his beliefs. They were the beliefs of his fathers: that was all he
knew. [1]

Like most Izumo folk, Kinjuro was a Buddhist as well as a Shintoist. As
the former he belonged to the Zen-shu, as the latter to the Izumo-
Taisha. Yet his ontology seemed to me not of either. Buddhism does not
teach the doctrine of compound-multiple Souls. There are old Shinto
books inaccessible to the multitude which speak of a doctrine very
remotely akin to Kinjuro's; but Kinjuro had never seen them. Those books
say that each of us has two souls--the Ara-tama or Rough Soul, which is
vindictive; and the Nigi-tama, or Gentle Soul, which is all-forgiving.
Furthermore, we are all possessed by the spirit of Oho-maga-tsu-hi-no-
Kami, the 'Wondrous Deity of Exceeding Great Evils'; also by the spirit
of Oho-naho-bi-no-Kami, the 'Wondrous Great Rectifying Deity,' a
counteracting influence. These were not exactly the ideas of Kinjuro.
But I remembered something Hirata wrote which reminded me of Kinjuro's
words about a possible separation of souls. Hirata's teaching was that
the ara-tama of a man may leave his body, assume his shape, and without
his knowledge destroy a hated enemy. So I asked Kinjuro about it. He
said he had never heard of a nigi-tama or an ara-tama; but he told me

'Master, when a man has been discovered by his wife to be secretly
enamoured of another, it sometimes happens that the guilty woman is
seized with a sickness that no physician can cure. For one of the Souls
of the wife, moved exceedingly by anger, passes into the body of that
woman to destroy her. But the wife also sickens, or loses her mind
awhile, because of the absence of her Soul.

'And there is another and more wonderful thing known to us of Nippon,
which you, being of the West, may never have heard. By the power of the
gods, for a righteous purpose, sometimes a Soul may be withdrawn a
little while from its body, and be made to utter its most secret
thought. But no suffering to the body is then caused. And the wonder is
wrought in this wise:

'A man loves a beautiful girl whom he is at liberty to marry; but he
doubts whether he can hope to make her love him in return. He seeks the
kannushi of a certain Shinto temple, [2] and tells of his doubt, and
asks the aid of the gods to solve it. Then the priests demand, not his
name, but his age and the year and day and hour of his birth, which they
write down for the gods to know; and they bid the man return to the
temple after the space of seven days.

'And during those seven days the priests offer prayer to the gods that
the doubt may be solved; and one of them each morning bathes all his
body in cold, pure water, and at each repast eats only food prepared
with holy fire. And on the eighth day the man returns to the temple, and
enters an inner chamber where the priests receive him.

'A ceremony is performed, and certain prayers are said, after which all
wait in silence. And then, the priest who has performed the rites of
purification suddenly begins to tremble violently in all his body, like
one trembling with a great fever. And this is because, by the power of
the gods, the Soul of the girl whose love is doubted has entered, all
fearfully, into the body of that priest. She does not know; for at that
time, wherever she may be, she is in a deep sleep from which nothing can
arouse her. But her Soul, having been summoned into the body of the
priest, can speak nothing save the truth; and It is made to tell all
Its thought. And the priest speaks not with his own voice, but with the
voice of the Soul; and he speaks in the person of the Soul, saying: "I
love," or "I hate," according as the truth may be, and in the language
of women. If there be hate, then the reason of the hate is spoken; but
if the answer be of love, there is little to say. And then the trembling
of the priest stops, for the Soul passes from him; and he falls forward
upon his face like one dead, and long so--remains.

'Tell me, Kinjuro,' I asked, after all these queer things had been
related to me, 'have you yourself ever known of a Soul being removed by
the power of the gods, and placed in the heart of a priest?'

'Yes: I myself have known it.'

I remained silent and waited. The old man emptied his little pipe, threw
it down beside the hibachi, folded his hands, and looked at the lotus-
flowers for some time before he spoke again. Then he smiled and said:

'Master, I married when I was very young. For many years we had no
children: then my wife at last gave me a son, and became a Buddha. But
my son lived and grew up handsome and strong; and when the Revolution
came, he joined the armies of the Son of Heaven; and he died the death
of a man in the great war of the South, in Kyushu. I loved him; and I
wept with joy when I heard that he had been able to die for our Sacred
Emperor: since there is no more noble death for the son of a samurai. So
they buried my boy far away from me in Kyushu, upon a hill near
Kumamoto, which is a famous city with a strong garrison; and I went
there to make his tomb beautiful. But his name is here also, in
Ninomaru, graven on the monument to the men of Izumo who fell in the
good fight for loyalty and honour in our emperor's holy cause; and when
I see his name there, my heart laughs, and I speak to him, and then it
seems as if he were walking beside me again, under the great pines. . .
But all that is another matter.

'I sorrowed for my wife. All the years we had dwelt together no unkind
word had ever been uttered between us. And when she died, I thought
never to marry again. But after two more years had passed, my father and
mother desired a daughter in the house, and they told me of their wish,
and of a girl who was beautiful and of good family, though poor. The
family were of our kindred, and the girl was their only support: she
wove garments of silk and garments of cotton, and for this she received
but little money. And because she was filial and comely, and our kindred
not fortunate, my parents desired that I should marry her and help her
people; for in those days we had a small income of rice. Then, being
accustomed to obey my parents, I suffered them to do what they thought
best. So the nakodo was summoned, and the arrangements for the wedding

'Twice I was able to see the girl in the house of her parents. And I
thought myself fortunate the first time I looked upon her; for she was
very comely and young. But the second time, I perceived she had been
weeping, and that her eyes avoided mine. Then my heart sank; for I
thought: She dislikes me; and they are forcing her to this thing. Then I
resolved to question the gods; and I caused the marriage to be delayed;
and I went to the temple of Yanagi-no-Inari-Sama, which is in the Street

'And when the trembling came upon him, the priest, speaking with the
Soul of that maid, declared to me: "My heart hates you, and the sight of
your face gives me sickness, because I love another, and because this
marriage is forced upon me. Yet though my heart hates you, I must marry
you because my parents are poor and old, and I alone cannot long
continue to support them, for my work is killing me. But though I may
strive to be a dutiful wife, there never will be gladness in your house
because of me; for my heart hates you with a great and lasting hate; and
the sound of your voice makes a sickness in my breast (koe kiite mo mune
ga waruku naru); and only to see your face makes me wish that I were
dead (kao miru to shinitaku naru)."

'Thus knowing the truth, I told it to my parents; and I wrote a letter
of kind words to the maid, praying pardon for the pain I had unknowingly
caused her; and I feigned long illness, that the marriage might be
broken off without gossip; and we made a gift to that family; and the
maid was glad. For she was enabled at a later time to marry the young
man she loved. My parents never pressed me again to take a wife; and
since their death I have lived alone. . . . O Master, look upon the
extreme wickedness of that boy!'

Taking advantage of our conversation, Kinjuro's young assistant had
improvised a rod and line with a bamboo stick and a bit of string; and
had fastened to the end of the string a pellet of tobacco stolen from
the old man's pouch. With this bait he had been fishing in the lotus
pond; and a frog had swallowed it, and was now suspended high above the
pebbles, sprawling in rotary motion, kicking in frantic spasms of
disgust and despair. 'Kaji!' shouted the gardener.

The boy dropped his rod with a laugh, and ran to us unabashed; while the
frog, having disgorged the tobacco, plopped back into the lotus pond.
Evidently Kaji was not afraid of scoldings.

'Gosho ga waruil' declared the old man, shaking his ivory head. 'O Kaji,
much I fear that your next birth will be bad! Do I buy tobacco for
frogs? Master, said I not rightly this boy has but one Soul?'

CHAPTER TEN Of Ghosts and Goblins


THERE was a Buddha, according to the Hokkekyo who 'even assumed the
shape of a goblin to preach to such as were to be converted by a
goblin.' And in the same Sutra may be found this promise of the Teacher:
'While he is dwelling lonely in the wilderness, I will send thither
goblins in great number to keep him company.' The appalling character
of this promise is indeed somewhat modified by the assurance that gods
also are to be sent. But if ever I become a holy man, I shall take heed
not to dwell in the wilderness, because I have seen Japanese goblins,
and I do not like them.

Kinjuro showed them to me last night. They had come to town for the
matsuri of our own ujigami, or parish-temple; and, as there were many
curious things to be seen at the night festival, we started for the
temple after dark, Kinjuro carrying a paper lantern painted with my

It had snowed heavily in the morning; but now the sky and the sharp
still air were clear as diamond; and the crisp snow made a pleasant
crunching sound under our feet as we walked; and it occurred to me to
say: 'O Kinjuro, is there a God of Snow?'

'I cannot tell,' replied Kinjuro. 'There be many gods I do not know; and
there is not any man who knows the names of all the gods. But there is
the Yuki-Onna, the Woman of the Snow.'

'And what is the Yuki-Onna?'

'She is the White One that makes the Faces in the snow. She does not any
harm, only makes afraid. By day she lifts only her head, and frightens
those who journey alone. But at night she rises up sometimes, taller
than the trees, and looks about a little while, and then falls back in a
shower of snow.' [1]

'What is her face like?'

'It is all white, white. It is an enormous face. And it is a lonesome

[The word Kinjuro used was samushii. Its common meaning is 'lonesome';
but he used it, I think, in the sense of 'weird.']

'Did you ever see her, Kinjuro?'

'Master, I never saw her. But my father told me that once when he was a
child, he wanted to go to a neighbour's house through the snow to play
with another little boy; and that on the way he saw a great white Face
rise up from the snow and look lonesomely about, so that he cried for
fear and ran back. Then his people all went out and looked; but there
was only snow; and then they knew that he had seen the Yuki-Onna.'

'And in these days, Kinjuro, do people ever see her?'

'Yes. Those who make the pilgrimage to Yabumura, in the period called
Dai-Kan, which is the Time of the Greatest Cold, [2] they sometimes see

'What is there at Yabumura, Kinjuro?'

'There is the Yabu-jinja, which is an ancient and famous temple of Yabu-
no-Tenno-San--the God of Colds, Kaze-no-Kami. It is high upon a hill,
nearly nine ri from Matsue. And the great matsuri of that temple is held
upon the tenth and eleventh days of the Second Month. And on those days
strange things may be seen. For one who gets a very bad cold prays to
the deity of Yabu-jinja to cure it, and takes a vow to make a pilgrimage
naked to the temple at the time of the matsuri.'


'Yes: the pilgrims wear only waraji, and a little cloth round their
loins. And a great many men and women go naked through the snow to the
temple, though the snow is deep at that time. And each man carries a
bunch of gohei and a naked sword as gifts to the temple; and each woman
carries a metal mirror. And at the temple, the priests receive them,
performing curious rites. For the priests then, according to ancient
custom, attire themselves like sick men, and lie down and groan, and
drink, potions made of herbs, prepared after the Chinese manner.'

'But do not some of the pilgrims die of cold, Kinjuro?'

'No: our Izumo peasants are hardy. Besides, they run swiftly, so that
they reach the temple all warm. And before returning they put on thick
warm robes. But sometimes, upon the way, they see the Yuki-Onna.'


Each side of the street leading to the miya was illuminated with a line
of paper lanterns bearing holy symbols; and the immense court of the
temple had been transformed into a town of booths, and shops, and
temporary theatres. In spite of the cold, the crowd was prodigious.
There seemed to be all the usual attractions of a matsuri, and a number
of unusual ones. Among the familiar lures, I missed at this festival
only the maiden wearing an obi of living snakes; probably it had become
too cold for the snakes. There were several fortune-tellers and
jugglers; there were acrobats and dancers; there was a man making
pictures out of sand; and there was a menagerie containing an emu from
Australia, and a couple of enormous bats from the Loo Choo Islands--bats
trained to do several things. I did reverence to the gods, and bought
some extraordinary toys; and then we went to look for the goblins. They
were domiciled in a large permanent structure, rented to showmen on
special occasions.

Gigantic characters signifying 'IKI-NINGYO,' painted upon the signboard
at the entrance, partly hinted the nature of the exhibition. Iki-ningyo
('living images') somewhat correspond to our Occidental 'wax figures';
but the equally realistic Japanese creations are made of much cheaper
material. Having bought two wooden tickets for one sen each, we entered,
and passed behind a curtain to find ourselves in a long corridor lined
with booths, or rather matted compartments, about the size of small
rooms. Each space, decorated with scenery appropriate to the subject,
was occupied by a group of life-size figures. The group nearest the
entrance, representing two men playing samisen and two geisha dancing,
seemed to me without excuse for being, until Kinjuro had translated a
little placard before it, announcing that one of the figures was a
living person. We watched in vain for a wink or palpitation. Suddenly
one of the musicians laughed aloud, shook his head, and began to play
and sing. The deception was perfect.

The remaining groups, twenty-four in number, were powerfully impressive
in their peculiar way, representing mostly famous popular traditions or
sacred myths. Feudal heroisms, the memory of which stirs every Japanese
heart; legends of filial piety; Buddhist miracles, and stories of
emperors were among the subjects. Sometimes, however, the realism was
brutal, as in one scene representing the body of a woman lying in a pool
of blood, with brains scattered by a sword stroke. Nor was this
unpleasantness altogether atoned for by her miraculous resuscitation in
the adjoining compartment, where she reappeared returning thanks in a
Nichiren temple, and converting her slaughterer, who happened, by some
extraordinary accident, to go there at the same time.

At the termination of the corridor there hung a black curtain behind
which screams could be heard. And above the black curtain was a placard
inscribed with the promise of a gift to anybody able to traverse the
mysteries beyond without being frightened.

'Master,' said Kinjuro, 'the goblins are inside.'

We lifted the veil, and found ourselves in a sort of lane between
hedges, and behind the hedges we saw tombs; we were in a graveyard.
There were real weeds and trees, and sotoba and haka, and the effect was
quite natural. Moreover, as the roof was very lofty, and kept invisible
by a clever arrangement of lights, all seemed darkness only; and this
gave one a sense of being out under the night, a feeling accentuated by
the chill of the air. And here and there we could discern sinister
shapes, mostly of superhuman stature, some seeming to wait in dim
places, others floating above the graves. Quite near us, towering above
the hedge on our right, was a Buddhist priest, with his back turned to

'A yamabushi, an exorciser?' I queried of Kinjuro.

'No,' said Kinjuro; 'see how tall he is. I think that must be a Tanuki-

The Tanuki-Bozu is the priestly form assumed by the goblin-badger
(tanuki) for the purpose of decoying belated travellers to destruction.
We went on, and looked up into his face. It was a nightmare--his face.

'In truth a Tanuki-Bozu,' said Kinjuro. 'What does the Master honourably
think concerning it?'

Instead of replying, I jumped back; for the monstrous thing had suddenly
reached over the hedge and clutched at me, with a moan. Then it fell
back, swaying and creaking. It was moved by invisible strings.

'I think, Kinjuro, that it is a nasty, horrid thing. . . . But I shall
not claim the present.'

We laughed, and proceeded to consider a Three-Eyed Friar (Mitsu-me-
Nyudo). The Three-Eyed Friar also watches for the unwary at night. His
face is soft and smiling as the face of a Buddha, but he has a hideous
eye in the summit of his shaven pate, which can only be seen when seeing
it does no good. The Mitsu-me-Nyudo made a grab at Kinjuro, and startled
him almost as much as the Tanuki-Bozu had startled me.

Then we looked at the Yama-Uba--the 'Mountain Nurse.' She catches little
children and nurses them for a while, and then devours them. In her face
she has no mouth; but she has a mouth in the top of her head, under her
hair. The YamaUba did not clutch at us, because her hands were occupied
with a nice little boy, whom she was just going to eat. The child had
been made wonderfully pretty to heighten the effect.

Then I saw the spectre of a woman hovering in the air above a tomb at
some distance, so that I felt safer in observing it. It had no eyes; its
long hair hung loose; its white robe floated light as smoke. I thought
of a statement in a composition by one of my pupils about ghosts: 'Their
greatest Peculiarity is that They have no feet.' Then I jumped again,
for the thing, quite soundlessly but very swiftly, made through the air
at me.

And the rest of our journey among the graves was little more than a
succession of like experiences; but it was made amusing by the screams
of women, and bursts of laughter from people who lingered only to watch
the effect upon others of what had scared themselves.


Forsaking the goblins, we visited a little open-air theatre to see two
girls dance. After they had danced awhile, one girl produced a sword and
cut off the other girl's head, and put it upon a table, where it opened
its mouth and began to sing. All this was very prettily done; but my
mind was still haunted by the goblins. So I questioned Kinjuro:

'Kinjuro, those goblins of which we the ningyo have seen--do folk
believe in the reality, thereof?'

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