Part 5 out of 6
'Not any more,' answered Kinjuro--'not at least among the people of the
city. Perhaps in the country it may not be so. We believe in the Lord
Buddha; we believe in the ancient gods; and there be many who believe
the dead sometimes return to avenge a cruelty or to compel an act of
justice. But we do not now believe all that was believed in ancient
time. . . .Master,' he added, as we reached another queer exhibition,
'it is only one sen to go to hell, if the Master would like to go--'Very
good, Kinjuro,' I made reply. 'Pay two sen that we may both go to hell.'
And we passed behind a curtain into a big room full of curious clicking
and squeaking noises. These noises were made by unseen wheels and
pulleys moving a multitude of ningyo upon a broad shelf about breast-
high, which surrounded the apartment upon three sides. These ningyo were
not ikiningyo, but very small images--puppets. They represented all
things in the Under-World.
The first I saw was Sozu-Baba, the Old Woman of the River of Ghosts, who
takes away the garments of Souls. The garments were hanging upon a tree
behind her. She was tall; she rolled her green eyes and gnashed her long
teeth, while the shivering of the little white souls before her was as a
trembling of butterflies. Farther on appeared Emma Dai-O, great King of
Hell, nodding grimly. At his right hand, upon their tripod, the heads of
Kaguhana and Mirume, the Witnesses, whirled as upon a wheel. At his
left, a devil was busy sawing a Soul in two; and I noticed that he used
his saw like a Japanese carpenter--pulling it towards him instead of
pushing it. And then various exhibitions of the tortures of the damned.
A liar bound to a post was having his tongue pulled out by a devil--
slowly, with artistic jerks; it was already longer than the owner's
body. Another devil was pounding another Soul in a mortar so vigorously
that the sound of the braying could be heard above all the din of the
machinery. A little farther on was a man being eaten alive by two
serpents having women's faces; one serpent was white, the other blue.
The white had been his wife, the blue his concubine. All the tortures
known to medieval Japan were being elsewhere deftly practised by swarms
of devils. After reviewing them, we visited the Sai-no-Kawara, and saw
Jizo with a child in his arms, and a circle of other children running
swiftly around him, to escape from demons who brandished their clubs and
ground their teeth.
Hell proved, however, to be extremely cold; and while meditating on the
partial inappropriateness of the atmosphere, it occurred to me that in
the common Buddhist picture-books of the Jigoku I had never noticed any
illustrations of torment by cold. Indian Buddhism, indeed, teaches the
existence of cold hells. There is one, for instance, where people's lips
are frozen so that they can say only 'Ah-ta-ta!'--wherefore that hell is
called Atata. And there is the hell where tongues are frozen, and where
people say only 'Ah-baba!' for which reason it is called Ababa. And
there is the Pundarika, or Great White-Lotus hell, where the spectacle
of the bones laid bare by the cold is 'like a blossoming of white lotus-
flowers.' Kinjuro thinks there are cold hells according to Japanese
Buddhism; but he is not sure. And I am not sure that the idea of cold
could be made very terrible to the Japanese. They confess a general
liking for cold, and compose Chinese poems about the loveliness of ice
Out of hell, we found our way to a magic-lantern show being given in a
larger and even much colder structure. A Japanese magic-lantern show is
nearly always interesting in more particulars than one, but perhaps
especially as evidencing the native genius for adapting Western
inventions to Eastern tastes. A Japanese magic-lantern show is
essentially dramatic. It is a play of which the dialogue is uttered by
invisible personages, the actors and the scenery being only luminous
shadows. 'Wherefore it is peculiarly well suited to goblinries and
weirdnesses of all kinds; and plays in which ghosts figure are the
favourite subjects. As the hall was bitterly cold, I waited only long
enough to see one performance--of which the following is an epitome:
SCENE 1.--A beautiful peasant girl and her aged mother, squatting
together at home. Mother weeps violently, gesticulates agonisingly. From
her frantic speech, broken by wild sobs, we learn that the girl must be
sent as a victim to the Kami-Sama of some lonesome temple in the
mountains. That god is a bad god. Once a year he shoots an arrow into
the thatch of some farmer's house as a sign that he wants a girl--to
eat! Unless the girl be sent to him at once, he destroys the crops and
the cows. Exit mother, weeping and shrieking, and pulling out her grey
hair. Exit girl, with downcast head, and air of sweet resignation.
SCENE II.--Before a wayside inn; cherry-trees in blossom. Enter coolies
carrying, like a palanquin, a large box, in which the girl is supposed
to be. Deposit box; enter to eat; tell story to loquacious landlord.
Enter noble samurai, with two swords. Asks about box. Hears the story of
the coolies repeated by loquacious landlord. Exhibits fierce
indignation; vows that the Kami-Sama are good--do not eat girls.
Declares that so-called Kami-Sama to be a devil. Observes that devils
must be killed. Orders box opened. Sends girl home. Gets into box
himself, and commands coolies under pain of death to bear him right
quickly to that temple.
SCENE III.--Enter coolies, approaching temple through forest at night.
Coolies afraid. Drop box and run. Exeunt coolies. Box alone in the dark.
Enter veiled figure, all white. Figure moans unpleasantly; utters horrid
cries. Box remains impassive. Figure removes veil, showing Its face--a
skull with phosphoric eyes. [Audience unanimously utter the sound
'Aaaaaa!'] Figure displays Its hands--monstrous and apish, with claws.
[Audience utter a second 'Aaaaaa!'] Figure approaches the box, touches
the box, opens the box! Up leaps noble samurai. A wrestle; drums sound
the roll of battle. Noble samurai practises successfully noble art of
ju-jutsu. Casts demon down, tramples upon him triumphantly, cuts off his
head. Head suddenly enlarges, grows to the size of a house, tries to
bite off head of samurai. Samurai slashes it with his sword. Head rolls
backward, spitting fire, and vanishes. Finis. Exeunt omnes.
The vision of the samurai and the goblin reminded Kinjuro of a queer
tale, which he began to tell me as soon as the shadow-play was over.
Ghastly stories are apt to fall flat after such an exhibition; but
Kinjuro's stories are always peculiar enough to justify the telling
under almost any circumstances. Wherefore I listened eagerly, in spite
of the cold:
'A long time ago, in the days when Fox-women and goblins haunted this
land, there came to the capital with her parents a samurai girl, so
beautiful that all men who saw her fell enamoured of her. And hundreds
of young samurai desired and hoped to marry her, and made their desire
known to her parents. For it has ever been the custom in Japan that
marriages should be arranged by parents. But there are exceptions to all
customs, and the case of this maiden was such an exception. Her parents
declared that they intended to allow their daughter to choose her own
husband, and that all who wished to win her would be free to woo her.
'Many men of high rank and of great wealth were admitted to the house as
suitors; and each one courted her as he best knew how--with gifts, and
with fair words, and with poems written in her honour, and with promises
of eternal love. And to each one she spoke sweetly and hopefully; but
she made strange conditions. For every suitor she obliged to bind
himself by his word of honour as a samurai to submit to a test of his
love for her, and never to divulge to living person what that test might
be. And to this all agreed.
'But even the most confident suitors suddenly ceased their importunities
after having been put to the test; and all of them appeared to have been
greatly terrified by something. Indeed, not a few even fled away from
the city, and could not be persuaded by their friends to return. But no
one ever so much as hinted why. Therefore it was whispered by those who
knew nothing of the mystery, that the beautiful girl must be either a
Fox-woman or a goblin.
'Now, when all the wooers of high rank had abandoned their suit, there
came a samurai who had no wealth but his sword. He was a good man and
true, and of pleasing presence; and the girl seemed to like him. But she
made him take the same pledge which the others had taken; and after he
had taken it, she told him to return upon a certain evening.
'When that evening came, he was received at the house by none but the
girl herself. With her own hands she set before him the repast of
hospitality, and waited upon him, after which she told him that she
wished him to go out with her at a late hour. To this he consented
gladly, and inquired to what place she desired to go. But she replied
nothing to his question, and all at once became very silent, and strange
in her manner. And after a while she retired from the apartment, leaving
'Only long after midnight she returned, robed all in white--like a Soul
--and, without uttering a word, signed to him to follow her. Out of the
house they hastened while all the city slept. It was what is called an
oborozuki-yo--'moon-clouded night.' Always upon such a night, 'tis said,
do ghosts wander. She swiftly led the way; and the dogs howled as she
flitted by; and she passed beyond the confines of the city to a place of
knolls shadowed by enormous trees, where an ancient cemetery was. Into
it she glided--a white shadow into blackness. He followed, wondering,
his hand upon his sword. Then his eyes became accustomed to the gloom;
and he saw.
'By a new-made grave she paused and signed to him to wait. The tools of
the grave-maker were still lying there. Seizing one, she began to dig
furiously, with strange haste and strength. At last her spade smote a
coffin-lid and made it boom: another moment and the fresh white wood of
the kwan was bare. She tore off the lid, revealing a corpse within--the
corpse of a child. With goblin gestures she wrung an arm from the body,
wrenched it in twain, and, squatting down, began to devour the upper
half. Then, flinging to her lover the other half, she cried to him,
"Eat, if thou lovest mel this is what I eat!" 'Not even for a single
instant did he hesitate. He squatted down upon the other side of the
grave, and ate the half of the arm, and said, "Kekko degozarimasu! mo
sukoshi chodai."  For that arm was made of the best kwashi  that
Saikyo could produce.
'Then the girl sprang to her feet with a burst of laughter, and cried:
"You only, of all my brave suitors, did not run away! And I wanted a
husband: who could not fear. I will marry you; I can love you: you are a
'O Kinjuro,' I said, as we took our way home, 'I have heard and I have
read many Japanese stories of the returning of the dead. Likewise you
yourself have told me it is still believed the dead return, and why. But
according both to that which I have read and that which you have told
me, the coming back of the dead is never a thing to be desired. They
return because of hate, or because of envy, or because they cannot rest
for sorrow. But of any who return for that which is not evil--where is
it written? Surely the common history of them is like that which we have
this night seen: much that is horrible and much that is wicked and
nothing of that which is beautiful or true.'
Now this I said that I might tempt him. And he made even the answer I
desired, by uttering the story which is hereafter set down:
'Long ago, in the days of a daimyo whose name has been forgotten, there
lived in this old city a young man and a maid who loved each other very
much. Their names are not remembered, but their story remains. From
infancy they had been betrothed; and as children they played together,
for their parents were neighbours. And as they grew up, they became
always fonder of each other.
'Before the youth had become a man, his parents died. But he was able to
enter the service of a rich samurai, an officer of high rank, who had
been a friend of his people. And his protector soon took him into great
favour, seeing him to be courteous, intelligent, and apt at arms. So the
young man hoped to find himself shortly in a position that would make it
possible for him to marry his betrothed. But war broke out in the north
and east; and he was summoned suddenly to follow his master to the
field. Before departing, however, he was able to see the girl; and they
exchanged pledges in the presence of her parents; and he promised,
should he remain alive, to return within a year from that day to marry
'After his going much time passed without news of him, for there was no
post in that time as now; and the girl grieved so much for thinking of
the chances of war that she became all white and thin and weak. Then at
last she heard of him through a messenger sent from the army to bear
news to the daimyo and once again a letter was brought to her by another
messenger. And thereafter there came no word. Long is a year to one who
waits. And the year passed, and he did not return.
'Other seasons passed, and still he did not come; and she thought him
dead; and she sickened and lay down, and died, and was buried. Then her
old parents, who had no other child, grieved unspeakably, and came to
hate their home for the lonesomeness of it. After a time they resolved
to sell all they had, and to set out upon a sengaji--the great
pilgrimage to the Thousand Temples of the Nichiren-Shu, which requires
many years to perform. So they sold their small house with all that it
contained, excepting the ancestral tablets, and the holy things which
must never be sold, and the ihai of their buried daughter, which were
placed, according to the custom of those about to leave their native
place, in the family temple. Now the family was of the Nichiren-Shu; and
their temple was Myokoji.
'They had been gone only four days when the young man who had been
betrothed to their daughter returned to the city. He had attempted, with
the permission of his master, to fulfil his promise. But the provinces
upon his way were full of war, and the roads and passes were guarded by
troops, and he had been long delayed by many difficulties. And when he
heard of his misfortune he sickened for grief, and many days remained
without knowledge of anything, like one about to die.
'But when he began to recover his strength, all the pain of memory came
back again; and he regretted that he had not died. Then he resolved to
kill himself upon the grave of his betrothed; and, as soon as he was
able to go out unobserved, he took his sword and went to the cemetery
where the girl was buried: it is a lonesome place--the cemetery of
Myokoji. There he found her tomb, and knelt before it, and prayed and
wept, and whispered to her that which he was about to do. And suddenly
he heard her voice cry to him: "Anata!" and felt her hand upon his hand;
and he turned, and saw her kneeling beside him, smiling, and beautiful
as he remembered her, only a little pale. Then his heart leaped so that
he could not speak for the wonder and the doubt and the joy of that
moment. But she said: "Do not doubt: it is really I. I am not dead. It
was all a mistake. I was buried, because my people thought me dead--
buried too soon. And my own parents thought me dead, and went upon a
pilgrimage. Yet you see, I am not dead--not a ghost. It is I: do not
doubt it! And I have seen your heart, and that was worth all the
waiting, and the pain.. . But now let us go away at once to another
city, so that people may not know this thing and trouble us; for all
still believe me dead."
'And they went away, no one observing them. And they went even to the
village of Minobu, which is in the province of Kai. For there is a
famous temple of the Nichiren-Shu in that place; and the girl had said:
"I know that in the course of their pilgrimage my parents will surely
visit Minobu: so that if we dwell there, they will find us, and we shall
be all again together." And when they came to Minobu, she said: "Let us
open a little shop." And they opened a little food-shop, on the wide way
leading to the holy place; and there they sold cakes for children, and
toys, and food for pilgrims. For two years they so lived and prospered;
and there was a son born to them.
'Now when the child was a year and two months old, the parents of the
wife came in the course of their pilgrimage to Minobu; and they stopped
at the little shop to buy food. And seeing their daughter's betrothed,
they cried out and wept and asked questions. Then he made them enter,
and bowed down before them, and astonished them, saying: "Truly as I
speak it, your daughter is not dead; and she is my wife; and we have a
son. And she is even now within the farther room, lying down with the
child. I pray you go in at once and gladden her, for her heart longs for
the moment of seeing you again."
'So while he busied himself in making all things ready for their
comfort, they entered the inner, room very softly--the mother first.
'They found the child asleep; but the mother they did not find. She
seemed to have gone out for a little while only: her pillow was still
warm. They waited long for her: then they began to seek her. But never
was she seen again.
'And they understood only when they found beneath the coverings which
had covered the mother and child, something which they remembered having
left years before in the temple of Myokoji--a little mortuary tablet,
the ihai of their buried daughter.'
I suppose I must have looked thoughtful after this tale; for the old man
'Perhaps the Master honourably thinks concerning the story that it is
'Nay, Kinjuro, the story is in my heart.'
CHAPTER ELEVEN The Japanese Smile
THOSE whose ideas of the world and its wonders have been formed chiefly
by novels and romance still indulge a vague belief that the East is more
serious than the West. Those who judge things from a higher standpoint
argue, on the contrary, that, under present conditions, the West must be
more serious than the East; and also that gravity, or even something
resembling its converse, may exist only as a fashion. But the fact is
that in this, as in all other questions, no rule susceptible of
application to either half of humanity can be accurately framed.
Scientifically, we can do no more just now than study certain contrasts
in a general way, without hoping to explain satisfactorily the highly
complex causes which produced them. One such contrast, of particular
interest, is that afforded by the English and the Japanese.
It is a commonplace to say that the English are a serious people--not
superficially serious, but serious all the way down to the bed-rock of
the race character. It is almost equally safe to say that the Japanese
are not very serious, either above or below the surface, even as
compared with races much less serious than our own. And in the same
proportion, at least, that they are less serious, they are more happy:
they still, perhaps, remain the happiest people in the civilised world.
We serious folk of the West cannot call ourselves very happy. Indeed, we
do not yet fully know how serious we are; and it would probably frighten
us to learn how much more serious we are likely to become under the
ever-swelling pressure of industrial life. It is, possibly, by long
sojourn among a people less gravely disposed that we can best learn our
own temperament. This conviction came to me very strongly when, after
having lived for nearly three years in the interior of Japan, I returned
to English life for a few days at the open port of Kobe. To hear English
once more spoken by Englishmen touched me more than I could have
believed possible; but this feeling lasted only for a moment. My object
was to make some necessary purchases. Accompanying me was a Japanese
friend, to whom all that foreign life was utterly new and wonderful, and
who asked me this curious question: 'Why is it that the foreigners never
smile? You smile and bow when you speak to them; but they never smile.
The fact was, I had fallen altogether into Japanese habits and ways, and
had got out of touch with Western life; and my companion's question
first made me aware that I had been acting somewhat curiously. It also
seemed to me a fair illustration of the difficulty of mutual
comprehension between the two races--each quite naturally, though quite
erroneously, estimating the manners and motives of the other by its own.
If the Japanese are puzzled by English gravity, the English are, to say
the least, equally puzzled by Japanese levity. The Japanese speak of the
'angry faces' of the foreigners. The foreigners speak with strong
contempt of the Japanese smile: they suspect it to signify insincerity;
indeed, some declare it cannot possibly signify anything else. Only a
few of the more observant have recognised it as an enigma worth
studying. One of my Yokohama friends--a thoroughly lovable man, who had
passed more than half his life in the open ports of the East--said to
me, just before my departure for the interior: 'Since you are going to
study Japanese life, perhaps you will be able to find out something for
me. I can't understand the Japanese smile. Let me tell you one
experience out of many. One day, as I was driving down from the Bluff, I
saw an empty kuruma coming up on the wrong side of the curve. I could
not have pulled up in time if I had tried; but I didn't try, because I
didn't think there was any particular danger. I only yelled to the man
in Japanese to get to the other side of the road; instead of which he
simply backed his kuruma against a wall on the lower side of the curve,
with the shafts outwards. At the rate I was going, there wasn't room
even to swerve; and the next minute one of the shafts of that kuruma was
in my horse's shoulder. The man wasn't hurt at all. When I saw the way
my horse was bleeding, I quite lost my temper, and struck the man over
the head with the butt of my whip. He looked right into my face and
smiled, and then bowed. I can see that smile now. I felt as if I had
been knocked down. The smile utterly nonplussed me--killed all my anger
instantly. Mind you, it was a polite smile. But what did it mean? Why
the devil did the man smile? I can't understand it.'
Neither, at that time, could I; but the meaning of much more mysterious
smiles has since been revealed to me. A Japanese can smile in the teeth
of death, and usually does. But he then smiles for the same reason that
he smiles at other times. There is neither defiance nor hypocrisy in the
smile; nor is it to be confounded with that smile of sickly resignation
which we are apt to associate with weakness of character. It is an
elaborate and long-cultivated etiquette. It is also a silent language.
But any effort to interpret it according to Western notions of
physiognomical expression would be just about as successful as an
attempt to interpret Chinese ideographs by their real or fancied
resemblance to shapes of familiar things.
First impressions, being largely instinctive, are scientifically
recognised as partly trustworthy; and the very first impression produced
by the Japanese smile is not far from the truth The stranger cannot fail
to notice the generally happy and smiling character of the native faces;
and this first impression is, in most cases, wonderfully pleasant. The
Japanese smile at first charms. It is only at a later day, when one has
observed the same smile under extraordinary circumstances--in moments of
pain, shame, disappointment--that one becomes suspicious of it. Its
apparent inopportuneness may even, on certain occasions, cause violent
anger. Indeed, many of the difficulties between foreign residents and
their native servants have been due to the smile. Any man who believes
in the British tradition that a good servant must be solemn is not
likely to endure with patience the smile of his 'boy.' At present,
however, this particular phase of Western eccentricity is becoming more
fully recognised by the Japanese; they are beginning to learn that the
average English-speaking foreigner hates smiling, and is apt to consider
it insulting; wherefore Japanese employees at the open ports have
generally ceased to smile, and have assumed an air of sullenness.
At this moment there comes to me the recollection of a queer story told
by a lady of Yokohama about one of her Japanese servants. 'My Japanese
nurse came to me the other day, smiling as if something very pleasant
had happened, and said that her husband was dead, and that she wanted
permission to attend his funeral. I told her she could go. It seems they
burned the man's body. Well, in the evening she returned, and showed me
a vase containing some ashes of bones (I saw a tooth among them); and
she said: "That is my husband." And she actually laughed as she said it!
Did you ever hear of such disgusting creatures?'
It would have been quite impossible to convince the narrator of this
incident that the demeanour of her servant, instead of being heartless,
might have been heroic, and capable of a very touching interpretation.
Even one not a Philistine might be deceived in such a case by
appearances. But quite a number of the foreign residents of the open
ports are pure Philistines, and never try to look below the surface of
the life around them, except as hostile critics. My Yokohama friend who
told me the story about the kurumaya was quite differently disposed: he
recognised the error of judging by appearances.
Miscomprehension of the Japanese smile has more than once led to
extremely unpleasant results, as happened in the case of T--a Yokohama
merchant of former days. T--had employed in some capacity (I think
partly as a teacher of Japanese) a nice old samurai, who wore, according
to the fashion of the era, a queue and two swords. The English and the
Japanese do not understand each other very well now; but at the period
in question they understood each other much less. The Japanese servants
at first acted in foreign employ precisely as they would have acted in
the service of distinguished Japanese;  and this innocent mistake
provoked a good deal of abuse and cruelty. Finally the discovery was
made that to treat Japanese like West Indian negroes might be very
A certain number of foreigners were killed, with good moral
But I am digressing. T--was rather pleased with his old samurai, though
quite unable to understand his Oriental politeness, his prostrations or
the meaning of the small gifts which he presented occasionally, with an
exquisite courtesy entirely wasted upon T--. One day he came to ask a
favour. (I think it was the eve of the Japanese New Year, when everybody
needs money, for reasons not here to be dwelt upon.) The favour was that
T--would lend him a little money upon one of his swords, the long one.
It was a very beautiful weapon, and the merchant saw that it was also
very valuable, and lent the money without hesitation. Some weeks later
the old man was able to redeem his sword.
What caused the beginning of the subsequent unpleasantness nobody now
remembers Perhaps T--'s nerves got out of order. At all events, one day
he became very angry with the old man, who submitted to the expression
of his wrath with bows and smiles. This made him still more angry, and
he used some extremely bad language; but the old man still bowed and
smiled; wherefore he was ordered to leave the house. But the old man
continued to smile, at which T--losing all self-control struck him. And
then T--suddenly became afraid, for the long sword instantly leaped from
its sheath, and swirled above him; and the old man ceased to seem old.
Now, in the grasp of anyone who knows how to use it, the razor-edged
blade of a Japanese sword wielded with both hands can take a head off
with extreme facility. But, to T--'s astonishment, the old samurai,
almost in the same moment, returned the blade to its sheath with the
skill of a practised swordsman, turned upon his heel, and withdrew.
Then T--wondered and sat down to think. He began to remember some nice
things about the old man--the many kindnesses unasked and unpaid, the
curious little gifts, the impeccable honesty. T-- began to feel ashamed.
He tried to console himself with the thought: 'Well, it was his own
fault; he had no right to laugh at me when he knew I was angry.' Indeed,
T-- even resolved to make amends when an opportunity should offer.
But no opportunity ever came, because on the same evening the old man
performed hara-kiri, after the manner of a samurai. He left a very
beautifully written letter explaining his reasons. For a samurai to
receive an unjust blow without avenging it was a shame not to be borne,
He had received such a blow. Under any other circumstances he might have
avenged it. But the circumstances were, in this instance, of a very
peculiar kind, His code of honour forbade him to use his sword upon the
man to whom he had pledged it once for money, in an hour of need. And
being thus unable to use his sword, there remained for him only the
alternative of an honourable suicide.
In order to render this story less disagreeable, the reader may suppose
that T--was really very sorry, and behaved generously to the family of
the old man. What he must not suppose is that T--was ever able to
imagine why the old man had smiled the smile which led to the outrage
and the tragedy.
To comprehend the Japanese smile, one must be able to enter a little
into the ancient, natural, and popular life of Japan. From the
modernised upper classes nothing is to be learned. The deeper
signification of race differences is being daily more and more
illustrated in the effects of the higher education. Instead of creating
any community of feeling, it appears only to widen the distance between
the Occidental and the Oriental. Some foreign observers have declared
that it does this by enormously developing certain latent peculiarities
--among others an inherent materialism little perceptible among fife
common people. This explanation is one I cannot quite agree with; but it
is at least undeniable that, the more highly he is cultivated, according
to Western methods, the farther is the Japanese psychologically removed
from us. Under the new education, his character seems to crystallise
into something of singular hardness, and to Western observation, at
least, of singular opacity. Emotionally, the Japanese child appears
incomparably closer to us than the Japanese mathematician, the peasant
than the statesman. Between the most elevated class of thoroughly
modernised Japanese and the Western thinker anything akin to
intellectual sympathy is non-existent: it is replaced on the native side
by a cold and faultless politeness. Those influences which in other
lands appear most potent to develop the higher emotions seem here to
have the extraordinary effect of suppressing them. We are accustomed
abroad to associate emotional sensibility with intellectual expansion:
it would be a grievous error to apply this rule in Japan. Even the
foreign teacher in an ordinary school can feel, year by year, his pupils
drifting farther away from him, as they pass from class to class; in
various higher educational institutions, the separation widens yet more
rapidly, so that, prior to graduation, students may become to their
professor little more than casual acquaintances. The enigma is perhaps,
to some extent, a physiological one, requiring scientific explanation;
but its solution must first be sought in ancestral habits of life and of
imagination. It can be fully discussed only when its natural causes are
understood; and these, we may be sure, are not simple. By some observers
it is asserted that because the higher education in Japan has not yet
had the effect of stimulating the higher emotions to the Occidental
pitch, its developing power cannot have been exerted uniformly and
wisely, but in special directions only, at the cost of character. Yet
this theory involves the unwarrantable assumption that character can be
created by education; and it ignores the fact that the best results are
obtained by affording opportunity for the exercise of pre-existing
inclination rather than by any system of teaching.
The causes of the phenomenon must be looked for in the race character;
and whatever the higher education may accomplish in the remote future,
it can scarcely be expected to transform nature. But does it at present
atrophy certain finer tendencies? I think that it unavoidably does, for
the simple reason that, under existing conditions, the moral and mental
powers are overtasked by its requirements. All that wonderful national
spirit of duty, of patience, of self-sacrifice, anciently directed to
social, moral, or religious idealism, must, under the discipline of the
higher training, be concentrated upon an end which not only demands, but
exhausts its fullest exercise. For that end, to be accomplished at all,
must be accomplished in the face of difficulties that the Western
student rarely encounters, and could scarcely be made even to
understand. All those moral qualities which made the old Japanese
character admirable are certainly the same which make the modern
Japanese student the most indefatigable, the most docile, the most
ambitious in the world. But they are also qualities which urge him to
efforts in excess of his natural powers, with the frequent result of
mental and moral enervation. The nation has entered upon a period of
intellectual overstrain. Consciously or unconsciously, in obedience to
sudden necessity, Japan has undertaken nothing less than the tremendous
task of forcing mental expansion up to the highest existing standard;
and this means forcing the development of the nervous system. For the
desired intellectual change, to be accomplished within a few
generations, must involve a physiological change never to be effected
without terrible cost. In other words, Japan has attempted too much; yet
under the circumstances she could not have attempted less. Happily, even
among the poorest of her poor the educational policy of the Government
is seconded with an astonishing zeal; the entire nation has plunged into
study with a fervour of which it is utterly impossible to convey any
adequate conception in this little essay. Yet I may cite a touching
example. Immediately after the frightful earthquake of 1891, the
children of the ruined cities of Gifu and Aichi, crouching among the
ashes of their homes, cold and hungry and shelterless, surrounded by
horror and misery unspeakable, still continued their small studies,
using tiles of their own burnt dwellings in lieu of slates, and bits of
lime for chalk, even while the earth still trembled beneath them. 
What future miracles may justly be expected from the amazing power of
purpose such a fact reveals!
But it is true that as yet the results of the higher training have not
been altogether happy. Among the Japanese of the old regime one
encounters a courtesy, an unselfishness, a grace of pure goodness,
impossible to overpraise. Among the modernised of the new generation
these have almost disappeared. One meets a class of young men who
ridicule the old times and the old ways without having been able to
elevate themselves above the vulgarism of imitation and the commonplaces
of shallow scepticism. What has become of the noble and charming
qualities they must have inherited from their fathers? Is it not
possible that the best of those qualities have been transmuted into mere
effort,--an effort so excessive as to have exhausted character, leaving
it without weight or balance?
It is to the still fluid, mobile, natural existence of the common people
that one must look for the meaning of some apparent differences in the
race feeling and emotional expression of the West and the Far East. With
those gentle, kindly, sweet-hearted folk, who smile at life, love, and
death alike, it is possible to enjoy community of feeling in simple,
natural things; and by familiarity and sympathy we can learn why they
The Japanese child is born with this happy tendency, which is fostered
through all the period of home education. But it is cultivated with the
same exquisiteness that is shown in the cultivation of the natural
tendencies of a garden plant. The smile is taught like the bow; like the
prostration; like that little sibilant sucking-in of the breath which
follows, as a token of pleasure, the salutation to a superior; like all
the elaborate and beautiful etiquette of the old courtesy. Laughter is
not encouraged, for obvious reasons. But the smile is to be used upon
all pleasant occasions, when speaking to a superior or to an equal, and
even upon occasions which are not pleasant; it is a part of deportment.
The most agreeable face is the smiling face; and to present always the
most agreeable face possible to parents, relatives, teachers, friends,
well-wishers, is a rule of life. And furthermore, it is a rule of life
to turn constantly to the outer world a mien of happiness, to convey to
others as far as possible a pleasant impression. Even though the heart
is breaking, it is a social duty to smile bravely. On the other hand, to
look serious or unhappy is rude, because this may cause anxiety or pain
to those who love us; it is likewise foolish, since it may excite
unkindly curiosity on the part of those who love us not. Cultivated from
childhood as a duty, the smile soon becomes instinctive. In the mind of
the poorest peasant lives the conviction that to exhibit the expression
of one's personal sorrow or pain or anger is rarely useful, and always
unkind. Hence, although natural grief must have, in Japan as elsewhere,
its natural issue, an uncontrollable burst of tears in the presence of
superiors or guests is an impoliteness; and the first words of even the
most unlettered countrywoman, after the nerves give way in such a
circumstance, are invariably: 'Pardon my selfishness in that I have been
so rude!' The reasons for the smile, be it also observed, are not only
moral; they are to some extent aesthetic they partly represent the same
idea which regulated the expression of suffering in Greek art. But they
are much more moral than aesthetic, as we shall presently observe.
From this primary etiquette of the smile there has been developed a
secondary etiquette, the observance of which has frequently impelled
foreigners to form the most cruel misjudgements as to Japanese
sensibility. It is the native custom that whenever a painful or shocking
fact must be told, the announcement should be made, by the sufferer,
with a smile.  The graver the subject, the more accentuated the
smile; and when the matter is very unpleasant to the person speaking of
it, the smile often changes to a low, soft laugh. However bitterly the
mother who has lost her first-born may have wept at the funeral, it is
probable that, if in your service, she will tell of her bereavement with
a smile: like the Preacher, she holds that there is a time to weep and a
time to laugh. It was long before I myself could understand how it was
possible for those whom I believed to have loved a person recently dead
to announce to me that death with a laugh. Yet the laugh was politeness
carried to the utmost point of self-abnegation. It signified: 'This you
might honourably think to be an unhappy event; pray do not suffer Your
Superiority to feel concern about so inferior a matter, and pardon the
necessity which causes us to outrage politeness by speaking about such
an affair at all.'. The key to the mystery of the most unaccountable
smiles is Japanese politeness. The servant sentenced to dismissal for a
fault prostrates himself, and asks for pardon with a smile. That smile
indicates the very reverse of callousness or insolence: 'Be assured that
I am satisfied with the great justice of your honourable sentence, and
that I am now aware of the gravity of my fault. Yet my sorrow and my
necessity have caused me to indulge the unreasonable hope that I may be
forgiven for my great rudeness in asking pardon.' The youth or girl
beyond the age of childish tears, when punished for some error, receives
the punishment with a smile which means: 'No evil feeling arises in my
heart; much worse than this my fault has deserved.' And the kurumaya cut
by the whip of my Yokohama friend smiled for a similar reason, as my
friend must have intuitively felt, since the smile at once disarmed him:
'I was very wrong, and you are right to be angry: I deserve to be
struck, and therefore feel no resentment.'
But it should be understood that the poorest and humblest Japanese is
rarely submissive under injustice. His apparent docility is due chiefly
to his moral sense. The foreigner who strikes a native for sport may
have reason to find that he has made a serious mistake. The Japanese are
not to be trifled with; and brutal attempts to trifle with them have
cost several worthless lives.
Even after the foregoing explanations, the incident of the Japanese
nurse may still seem incomprehensible; but this, I feel quite sure, is
because the narrator either suppressed or overlooked certain facts in
the case. In the first half of the story, all is perfectly clear. When
announcing her husband's death, the young servant smiled, in accordance
with the native formality already referred to. What is quite incredible
is that, of her own accord, she should have invited the attention of her
mistress to the contents of the vase, or funeral urn. If she knew enough
of Japanese politeness to smile in announcing her husband's death, she
must certainly have known enough to prevent her from perpetrating such
an error. She could have shown the vase and its contents only in
obedience to some real or fancied command; and when so doing, it is more
than possible she may have uttered the low, soft laugh which accompanies
either the unavoidable performance of a painful duty, or the enforced
utterance of a painful statement. My own opinion is that she was obliged
to gratify a wanton curiosity. Her smile or laugh would then have
signified: 'Do not suffer your honourable feelings to be shocked upon my
unworthy account; it is indeed very rude of me, even at your honourable
request, to mention so contemptible a thing as my sorrow.'
But the Japanese smile must not be imagined as a kind of sourire figU,
worn perpetually as a soul-mask. Like other matters of deportment, it is
regulated by an etiquette which varies in different classes of society.
As a rule, the old samurai were not given to smiling upon all occasions;
they reserved their amiability for superiors and intimates, and would
seem to have maintained toward inferiors an austere reserve. The dignity
of the Shinto priesthood has become proverbial; and for centuries the
gravity of the Confucian code was mirrored in the decorum of magistrates
and officials. From ancient times the nobility affected a still loftier
reserve; and the solemnity of rank deepened through all the hierarchies
up to that awful state surrounding the Tenshi-Sama, upon whose face no
living man might look. But in private life the demeanour of the highest
had its amiable relaxation; and even to-day, with some hopelessly
modernised exceptions, the noble, the judge, the high priest, the august
minister, the military officer, will resume at home, in the intervals of
duty, the charming habits of the antique courtesy.
The smile which illuminates conversation is in itself but a small detail
of that courtesy; but the sentiment which it symbolises certainly
comprises the larger part. If you happen to have a cultivated Japanese
friend who has remained in all things truly Japanese, whose character
has remained untouched by the new egotism and by foreign influences, you
will probably be able to study in him the particular social traits of
the whole people--traits in his case exquisitely accentuated and
polished. You will observe that, as a rule, he never speaks of himself,
and that, in reply to searching personal questions, he will answer as
vaguely and briefly as possible, with a polite bow of thanks. But, on
the other hand, he will ask many questions about yourself: your
opinions, your ideas, even trifling details of your daily life, appear
to have deep interest for him; and you will probably have occasion to
note that he never forgets anything which he has learned concerning you.
Yet there are certain rigid limits to his kindly curiosity, and perhaps
even to his observation: he will never refer to any disagreeable or
painful matter, and he will seem to remain blind to eccentricities or
small weaknesses, if you have any. To your face he will never praise
you; but he will never laugh at you nor criticise you. Indeed, you will
find that he never criticises persons, but only actions in their
results. As a private adviser, he will not even directly criticise a
plan of which he disapproves, but is apt to suggest a new one in some
such guarded language as: 'Perhaps it might be more to your immediate
interest to do thus and so.' When obliged to speak of others, he will
refer to them in a curious indirect fashion, by citing and combining a
number of incidents sufficiently characteristic to form a picture. But
in that event the incidents narrated will almost certainly be of a
nature to awaken interest, and to create a favourable impression. This
indirect way of conveying information is essentially Confucian. 'Even
when you have no doubts,' says the Li-Ki, 'do not let what you say
appear as your own view.' And it is quite probable that you will notice
many other traits in your friend requiring some knowledge of the Chinese
classics to understand. But no such knowledge necessary to convince you
of his exquisite consideration for others, and his studied suppression
of self. Among no other civilised people is the secret of happy living
so thoroughly comprehended as among the Japanese; by no other race is
the truth so widely understood that our pleasure in life must depend
upon the happiness of those about us, and consequently upon the
cultivation in ourselves of unselfishness and of patience. For which
reason, in Japanese society, sarcasm irony, cruel wit, are not indulged.
I might almost say that they have no existence in refined life. A
personal failing is not made the subject of ridicule or reproach; an
eccentricity is not commented upon; an involuntary mistake excites no
Stiffened somewhat by the Chinese conservatism of the old conditions, it
is true that this ethical system was maintained the extreme of giving
fixity to ideas, and at the cost of individuality. And yet, if regulated
by a broader comprehension social requirements, if expanded by
scientific understanding of the freedom essential to intellectual
evolution, the very same moral policy is that through which the highest
and happiest results may be obtained. But as actually practised it was
not favourable to originality; it rather tended to enforce the amiable
mediocrity of opinion and imagination which still prevails. Wherefore a
foreign dweller in the interior cannot but long sometimes for the sharp,
erratic inequalities Western life, with its larger joys and pains and
its more comprehensive sympathies. But sometimes only, for the
intellectual loss is really more than compensated by the social charm;
and there can remain no doubt in the mind of one who even partly
understands the Japanese, that they are still the best people in the
world to live among.
As I pen these lines, there returns to me the vision of a Kyoto night.
While passing through some wonderfully thronged and illuminated street,
of which I cannot remember the name, I had turned aside to look at a
statue of Jizo, before the entrance of a very small temple. The figure
was that of a kozo, an acolyte--a beautiful boy; and its smile was a bit
of divine realism. As I stood gazing, a young lad, perhaps ten years
old, ran up beside me, joined his little hands before the image, bowed
his head and prayed for a moment in silence. He had but just left some
comrades, and the joy and glow of play were still upon his face; and his
unconscious smile was so strangely like the smile of the child of stone
that the boy seemed the twin brother of the god. And then I thought:
'The smile of bronze or stone is not a copy only; but that which the
Buddhist sculptor symbolises thereby must be the explanation of the
smile of the race.'
That was long ago; but the idea which then suggested itself still seems
to me true. However foreign to Japanese soil the origin of Buddhist art,
yet the smile of the people signifies the same conception as the smile
of the Bosatsu--the happiness that is born of self-control and self-
suppression. 'If a man conquer in battle a thousand times a thousand and
another conquer himself, he who conquers himself is the greatest of
conquerors.' 'Not even a god can change into defeat the victory of the
man who has vanquished himself.'  Such Buddhist texts as these--and
they are many--assuredly express, though they cannot be assumed to have
created, those moral tendencies which form the highest charm of the
Japanese character. And the whole moral idealism of the race seems to me
to have been imaged in that marvellous Buddha of Kamakura, whose
countenance, 'calm like a deep, still water'  expresses, as perhaps
no other work of human hands can have expressed, the eternal truth:
'There is no higher happiness than rest.'  It is toward that
infinite calm that the aspirations of the Orient have been turned; and
the ideal of the Supreme Self-Conquest it has made its own. Even now,
though agitated at its surface by those new influences which must sooner
or later move it even to its uttermost depths, the Japanese mind
retains, as compared with the thought of the West, a wonderful
placidity. It dwells but little, if at all, upon those ultimate abstract
questions about which we most concern ourselves. Neither does it
comprehend our interest in them as we desire to be comprehended. 'That
you should not be indifferent to religious speculations,' a Japanese
scholar once observed to me, 'is quite natural; but it is equally
natural that we should never trouble ourselves about them. The
philosophy of Buddhism has a profundity far exceeding that of your
Western theology, and we have studied it. We have sounded the depths of
speculation only to fluid that there are depths unfathomable below those
depths; we have voyaged to the farthest limit that thought may sail,
only to find that the horizon for ever recedes. And you, you have
remained for many thousand years as children playing in a stream but
ignorant of the sea. Only now you have reached its shore by another path
than ours, and the vastness is for you a new wonder; and you would sail
to Nowhere because you have seen the infinite over the sands of life.'
Will Japan be able to assimilate Western civilisation, as she did
Chinese more than ten centuries ago, and nevertheless preserve her own
peculiar modes of thought and feeling? One striking fact is hopeful:
that the Japanese admiration for Western material superiority is by no
means extended to Western morals. Oriental thinkers do not commit the
serious blunder of confounding mechanical with ethical progress, nor
have any failed to perceive the moral weaknesses of our boasted
civilisation. One Japanese writer has expressed his judgment of things
Occidental after a fashion that deserves to be noticed by a larger
circle of readers than that for which it was originally written:
'Order or disorder in a nation does not depend upon some-thing that
falls from the sky or rises from the earth. It is determined by the
disposition of the people. The pivot on which the public disposition
turns towards order or disorder is the point where public and private
motives separate. If the people be influenced chiefly by public
considerations, order is assured; if by private, disorder is inevitable.
Public considerations are those that prompt the proper observance of
duties; their prevalence signifies peace and prosperity in the case
alike of families, communities, and nations. Private considerations are
those suggested by selfish motives: when they prevail, disturbance and
disorder are unavoidable. As members of a family, our duty is to look
after the welfare of that family; as units of a nation, our duty is to
work for the good of the nation. To regard our family affairs with all
the interest due to our family and our national affairs with all the
interest due to our nation--this is to fitly discharge our duty, and to
be guided by public considerations. On the other hand, to regard the
affairs of the nation as if they were our own family affairs--this is to
be influenced by private motives and to stray from the path of duty. ...
'Selfishness is born in every man; to indulge it freely is to become a
beast. Therefore it is that sages preach the principles of duty and
propriety, justice and morality, providing restraints for private aims
and encouragements for public spirit.. . . . What we know of Western
civilisation is that it struggled on through long centuries in a
confused condition and finally attained a state of some order; but that
even this order, not being based upon such principles as those of the
natural and immutable distinctions between sovereign and subject, parent
and child, with all their corresponding rights and duties, is liable to
constant change according to the growth of human ambitions and human
aims. Admirably suited to persons whose actions are controlled by
selfish ambition, the adoption of this system in Japan is naturally
sought by a certain class of politicians. From a superficial point of
view, the Occidental form of society is very attractive, inasmuch as,
being the outcome of a free development of human desires from ancient
times, it represents the very extreme of luxury and extravagance.
Briefly speaking, the state of things obtaining in the West is based
upon the free play of human selfishness, and can only be reached by
giving full sway to that quality. Social disturbances are little heeded
in the Occident; yet they are at once the evidences and the factors of
the present evil state of affairs. . . . Do Japanese enamoured of
Western ways propose to have their nation's history written in similar
terms? Do they seriously contemplate turning their country into a new
field for experiments in Western civilisation? . . .
'In the Orient, from ancient times, national government has been based
on benevolence, and directed to securing the welfare and happiness of
the people. No political creed has ever held that intellectual strength
should be cultivated for the purpose of exploiting inferiority and
ignorance. . . . The inhabitants of this empire live, for the most part,
by manual labour. Let them be never so industrious, they hardly earn
enough to supply their daily wants. They earn on the average about
twenty sen daily. There is no question with them of aspiring to wear
fine clothes or to inhabit handsome houses. Neither can they hope to
reach positions of fame and honour. What offence have these poor people
committed that they, too, should not share the benefits of Western
civilisation? . . . By some, indeed, their condition is explained on the
hypothesis that their desires do not prompt them to better themselves.
There is no truth in such a supposition. They have desires, but nature
has limited their capacity to satisfy them; their duty as men limits it,
and the amount of labour physically possible to a human being limits it.
They achieve as much as their opportunities permit. The best and finest
products of their labour they reserve for the wealthy; the worst and
roughest they keep for their own use. Yet there is nothing in human
society that does not owe its existence to labour. Now, to satisfy the
desires of one luxurious man, the toil of a thousand is needed. Surely
it is monstrous that those who owe to labour the pleasures suggested by
their civilisation should forget what they owe to the labourer, and
treat him as if he were not a fellow-being. But civilisation, according
to the interpretation of the Occident, serves only to satisfy men of
large desires. It is of no benefit to the masses, but is simply a system
under which ambitions compete to accomplish their aims. . . . That the
Occidental system is gravely disturbing to. the order and peace of a
country is seen by men who have eyes, and heard by men who have ears.
The future of Japan under such a system fills us with anxiety. A system
based on the principle that ethics and religion are made to serve human
ambition naturally accords with the wishes of selfish individuals; and
such theories as those embodied in the modem formula of liberty and
equality annihilate the established relations of society, and outrage
decorum and propriety. . . .
Absolute equality and absolute liberty being unattainable, the limits
prescribed by right and duty are supposed to be set. But as each person
seeks to have as much right and to be burdened with as little duty as
possible, the results are endless disputes and legal contentions. The
principles of liberty and equality may succeed in changing the
organisation of nations, in overthrowing the lawful distinctions of
social rank, in reducing all men to one nominal level; but they can
never accomplish the equal distribution of wealth and property. Consider
America. . . . It is plain that if the mutual rights of men and their
status are made to depend on degrees of wealth, the majority of the
people, being without wealth, must fail to establish their rights;
whereas the minority who are wealthy will assert their rights, and,
under society's sanction, will exact oppressive duties from the poor,
neglecting the dictates of humanity and benevolence. The adoption of
these principles of liberty and equality in Japan would vitiate the good
and peaceful customs of our country, render the general disposition of
the people harsh and unfeeling, and prove finally a source of calamity
to the masses. . .
'Though at first sight Occidental civilisation presents an attractive
appearance, adapted as it is to the gratification of selfish desires,
yet, since its basis is the hypothesis that men' 's wishes constitute
natural laws, it must ultimately end in disappointment and
demoralisation. . . . Occidental nations have become what they are after
passing through conflicts and vicissitudes of the most serious kind; and
it is their fate to continue the struggle. Just now their motive
elements are in partial equilibrium, and their social condition' is more
or less ordered. But if this slight equilibrium happens to be disturbed,
they will be thrown once more into confusion and change, until, after a
period of renewed struggle and suffering, temporary stability is once
more attained. The poor and powerless of the present may become the
wealthy and strong of the future, and vice versa. Perpetual disturbance
is their doom. Peaceful equality can never be attained until built up
among the ruins of annihilated Western' states and the ashes of extinct
Surely, with perceptions like these, Japan may hope to avert some of the
social perils which menace her. Yet it appears inevitable that her
approaching transformation must be coincident with a moral decline.
Forced into the vast industrial competition of nation's whose
civilisations were never based on altruism, she must eventually develop
those qualities of which the comparative absence made all the wonderful
charm of her life. The national character must continue to harden, as it
has begun to harden already. But it should never be forgotten that Old
Japan was quite as much in advance of the nineteenth century morally as
she was behind it materially. She had made morality instinctive, after
having made it rational. She had realised, though within restricted
limits, several among those social conditions which our ablest thinkers
regard as the happiest and the highest. Throughout all the grades of her
complex society she had cultivated both the comprehension and the
practice of public and private duties after a manner for which it were
vain to seek any Western parallel. Even her moral weakness was the
result of an excess of that which all civilised religions have united in
proclaiming virtue--the self-sacrifice of the individual for the sake of
the family, of the community, and of the nation. It was the weakness
indicated by Percival Lowell in his Soul of the Far East, a book of
which the consummate genius cannot be justly estimated without some
personal knowledge of the Far East. 
The progress made by Japan in social morality, although greater than our
own, was chiefly in the direction of mutual dependence. And it will be
her coming duty to keep in view the teaching of that mighty thinker
whose philosophy she has wisely accepted --the teaching that 'the
highest individuation must be joined with the greatest mutual
dependence,' and that, however seemingly paradoxical the statement, 'the
law of progress is at once toward complete separateness and complete
Yet to that past which her younger generation now affect to despise
Japan will certainly one day look back, even as we ourselves look back
to the old Greek civilisation. She will learn to regret the forgotten
capacity for simple pleasures, the lost sense of the pure joy of life,
the old loving divine intimacy with nature, the marvellous dead art
which reflected it. She will remember how much more luminous and
beautiful the world then seemed. She will mourn for many things--the
old-fashioned patience and self-sacrifice, the ancient courtesy, the
deep human poetry of the ancient faith. She will wonder at many things;
but she will regret. Perhaps she will wonder most of all at the faces of
the ancient gods, because their smile was once the likeness of her own.
I am going away--very far away. I have already resigned my post as
teacher, and am waiting only for my passport.
So many familiar faces have vanished that I feel now less regret at
leaving than I should have felt six months ago. And nevertheless, the
quaint old city has become so endeared to me by habit and association
that the thought of never seeing it again is one I do not venture to
dwell upon. I have been trying to persuade myself that some day I may
return to this charming old house, in shadowy Kitaborimachi, though all
the while painfully aware that in past experience such imaginations
invariably preceded perpetual separation.
The facts are that all things are impermanent in the Province of the
Gods; that the winters are very severe; and that I have received a call
from the great Government college in Kyushu far south, where snow rarely
falls. Also I have been very sick; and the prospect of a milder climate
had much influence in shaping my decision.
But these few days of farewells have been full of charming surprises. To
have the revelation of gratitude where you had no right to expect more
than plain satisfaction with your performance of duty; to find affection
where you supposed only good-will to exist: these are assuredly
delicious experiences. The teachers of both schools have sent me a
farewell gift--a superb pair of vases nearly three feet high, covered
with designs representing birds, and flowering-trees overhanging a slope
of beach where funny pink crabs are running about--vases made in the old
feudal days at Rakuzan--rare souvenirs of Izumo. With the wonderful
vases came a scroll bearing in Chinese text the names of the thirty-two
donors; and three of these are names of ladies--the three lady-teachers
of the Normal School.
The students of the Jinjo-Chugakko have also sent me a present--the last
contribution of two hundred and fifty-one pupils to my happiest memories
of Matsue: a Japanese sword of the time of the daimyo. Silver karashishi
with eyes of gold--in Izumo, the Lions of Shinto--swarm over the crimson
lacquer of the sheath, and sprawl about the exquisite hilt. And the
committee who brought the beautiful thing to my house requested me to
accompany them forthwith to the college assembly-room, where the
students were all waiting to bid me good-bye, after the old-time custom.
So I went there. And the things which we said to each other are
hereafter set down.
DEAR TEACHER:--You have been one of the best and most benevolent
teachers we ever had. We thank you with all our heart for the knowledge
we obtained through your kindest instruction. Every student in our
school hoped you would stay with us at least three years. When we
learned you had resolved to go to Kyushu, we all felt our hearts sink
with sorrow. We entreated our Director to find some way to keep you, but
we discovered that could not be done. We have no words to express our
feeling at this moment of farewell. We sent you a Japanese sword as a
memory of us. It was only a poor ugly thing; we merely thought you would
care for it as a mark of our gratitude. We will never forget your
kindest instruction; and we all wish that you may ever be healthy and
MASANABU OTANI, Representing all the Students of the Middle School of
MY DEAR BOYS:--I cannot tell you with what feelings I received your
present; that beautiful sword with the silver karashishi ramping upon
its sheath, or crawling through the silken cording of its wonderful
hilt. At least I cannot tell you all. But there flashed to me, as I
looked at your gift, the remembrance of your ancient proverb: 'The Sword
is the Soul of the Samurai.' And then it seemed to me that in the very
choice of that exquisite souvenir you had symbolised something of your
own souls. For we English also have some famous sayings and proverbs
about swords. Our poets call a good blade 'trusty' and 'true'; and of
our best friend we say, 'He is true as steel'--signifying in the ancient
sense the steel of a perfect sword--the steel to whose temper a warrior
could trust his honour and his life. And so in your rare gift, which I
shall keep and prize while I live, I find an emblem of your true-
heartedness and affection. May you always keep fresh within your hearts
those impulses of generosity and kindliness and loyalty which I have
learned to know so well, and of which your gift will ever remain for me
the graceful symbol!
And a symbol not only of your affection and loyalty as students to
teachers, but of that other beautiful sense of duty you expressed, when
so many of you wrote down for me, as your dearest wish, the desire to
die for His Imperial Majesty, your Emperor. That wish is holy: it means
perhaps even more than you know, or can know, until you shall have
become much older and wiser. This is an era of great and rapid change;
and it is probable that many of you, as you grow up, will not be able to
believe everything that your fathers believed before you--though I
sincerely trust you will at least continue always to respect the faith,
even as you still respect the memory, of your ancestors. But however
much the life of New Japan may change about you, however much your own
thoughts may change with the times, never suffer that noble wish you
expressed to me to pass away from your souls. Keep it burning there,
clear and pure as the flame of the little lamp that glows before your
Perhaps some of you may have that wish. Many of you must become
soldiers. Some will become officers. Some will enter the Naval Academy
to prepare for the grand service of protecting the empire by sea; and
your Emperor and your country may even require your blood. But the
greater number among you are destined to other careers, and may have no
such chances of bodily self-sacrifice--except perhaps in the our of some
great national danger, which I trust Japan will never know. And there is
another desire, not less noble, which may be your compass in civil life:
to live for your country though you cannot die for it. Like the kindest
and wisest of fathers, your Government has provided for you these
splendid schools, with all opportunities for the best instruction this
scientific century can give, at a far less cost than any other civilised
country can offer the same advantages. And all this in order that each
of you may help to make your country wiser and richer and stronger than
it has ever been in the past. And whoever does his best, in any calling
or profession, to ennoble and develop that calling or profession, gives
his life to his emperor and to his country no less truly than the
soldier or he seaman who dies for duty.
I am not less sorry to leave you, I think, than you are to see me go.
The more I have learned to know the hearts of Japanese students, the
more I have learned to love their country. I think, however, that I
shall see many of you again, though I never return to Matsue: some I am
almost sure I shall meet elsewhere in future summers; some I may even
hope to teach once more, in the Government college to which I am going.
But whether we meet again or not, be sure that my life has been made
happier by knowing you, and that I shall always love you. And, now, with
renewed thanks for your beautiful gift, good-bye!
The students of the Normal School gave me a farewell banquet in their
hall. I had been with them so little during the year--less even than the
stipulated six hours a week--that I could not have supposed they would
feel much attachment for their foreign teacher. But I have still much to
learn about my Japanese students. The banquet was delightful. The
captain of each class in turn read in English a brief farewell address
which he had prepared; and more than one of those charming compositions,
made beautiful with similes and sentiments drawn from the old Chinese
and Japanese poets, will always remain in my memory. Then the students
sang their college songs for me, and chanted the Japanese version of
'Auld Lang Syne' at the close of the banquet. And then all, in military
procession, escorted me home, and cheered me farewell at my gate, with
shouts of 'Manzai!' 'Good-bye!' 'We will march with you to the steamer
when you go.'
But I shall not have the pleasure of seeing them again. They are all
gone far away--some to another world. Yet it is only four days since I
attended that farewell banquet at the Normal School! A cruel visitation
has closed its gates and scattered its students through the province.
Two nights ago, the Asiatic cholera, supposed to have been brought to
Japan by Chinese vessels, broke out in different parts of the city, and,
among other places, in the Normal School. Several students and teachers
expired within a short while after having been attacked; others are even
now lingering between life and death. The rest marched to the little
healthy village of Tamatsukuri, famed for its hot springs. But there the
cholera again broke out among them, and it was decided to dismiss the
survivors at once to their several homes. There was no panic. The
military discipline remained unbroken. Students and teachers fell at
their posts. The great college building was taken charge of by the
medical authorities, and the work of disinfection and sanitation is
still going on. Only the convalescents and the fearless samurai
president, Saito Kumataro, remain in it. Like the captain who scorns to
leave his sinking ship till all souls are safe, the president stays in
the centre of danger, nursing the sick boys, overlooking the work of
sanitation, transacting all the business usually intrusted to several
subordinates, whom he promptly sent away in the first hour of peril. He
has had the joy of seeing two of his boys saved.
Of another, who was buried last night, I hear this: Only a little while
before his death, and in spite of kindliest protest, he found strength,
on seeing his president approaching his bedside, to rise on his elbow
and give the military salute. And with that brave greeting to a brave
man, he passed into the Great Silence.
At last my passport has come. I must go.
The Middle School and the adjacent elementary schools have been closed
on account of the appearance of cholera, and I protested against any
gathering of the pupils to bid me good-bye, fearing for them the risk of
exposure to the chilly morning air by the shore of the infected river.
But my protest was received only with a merry laugh. Last night the
Director sent word to all the captains of classes. Wherefore, an hour
after sunrise, some two hundred students, with their teachers, assemble
before my gate to escort me to the wharf, near the long white bridge,
where the little steamer is waiting. And we go.
Other students are already assembled at the wharf. And with them wait a
multitude of people known to me: friends or friendly acquaintances,
parents and relatives of students, every one to whom I can remember
having ever done the slightest favour, and many more from whom I have
received favours which I never had the chance to return--persons who
worked for me, merchants from whom I purchased little things, a host of
kind faces, smiling salutation. The Governor sends his secretary with a
courteous message; the President of the Normal School hurries down for a
moment to shake hands. The Normal students have been sent to their
homes, but not a few of their teachers are present. I most miss friend
Nishida. He has been very sick for two long months, bleeding at the
lungs but his father brings me the gentlest of farewell letters from
him, penned in bed, and some pretty souvenirs.
And now, as I look at all these pleasant faces about me, I cannot but
ask myself the question: 'Could I have lived in the exercise of the same
profession for the same length of time in any other country, and have
enjoyed a similar unbroken experience of human goodness?' From each and
all of these I have received only kindness and courtesy. Not one has
ever, even through inadvertence, addressed to me a single ungenerous
word. As a teacher of more than five hundred boys and men, I have never
even had my patience tried. I wonder if such an experience is possible
only in Japan.
But the little steamer shrieks for her passengers. I shake many hands--
most heartily, perhaps, that of the brave, kind President of the Normal
School--and climb on board. The Director of the Jinjo-Chugakko a few
teachers of both schools, and one of my favourite pupils, follow; they
are going to accompany me as far as the next port, whence my way will be
over the mountains to Hiroshima.
It is a lovely vapoury morning, sharp with the first chill of winter.
From the tiny deck I take my last look at the quaint vista of the
Ohashigawa, with its long white bridge--at the peaked host of queer dear
old houses, crowding close to dip their feet in its glassy flood--at the
sails of the junks, gold-coloured by the early sun--at the beautiful
fantastic shapes of the ancient hills.
Magical indeed the charm of this land, as of a land veritably haunted by
gods: so lovely the spectral delicacy of its colours--so lovely the
forms of its hills blending with the forms of its clouds--so lovely,
above all, those long trailings and bandings of mists which make its
altitudes appear to hang in air. A land where sky and earth so strangely
intermingle that what is reality may not be distinguished from what is
illusion--that all seems a mirage, about to vanish. For me, alas! it is
about to vanish for ever.
The little steamer shrieks again, puffs, backs into midstream, turns
from the long white bridge. And as the grey wharves recede, a long
Aaaaaaaaaa rises from the uniformed ranks, and all the caps wave,
flashing their Chinese ideographs of brass. I clamber to the roof of the
tiny deck cabin, wave my hat, and shout in English: 'Good-bye, good-
bye!' And there floats back to me the cry: 'Manzai, manzai!' [Ten
thousand years to you! ten thousand years!] But already it comes faintly
from far away. The packet glides out of the river-mouth, shoots into the
blue lake, turns a pine-shadowed point, and the faces, and the voices,
and the wharves, and the long white bridge have become memories.
Still for a little while looking back, as we pass into the silence of
the great water, I can see, receding on the left, the crest of the
ancient castle, over grand shaggy altitudes of pine--and the place of my
home, with its delicious garden--and the long blue roofs of the schools.
These, too, swiftly pass out of vision. Then only faint blue water,
faint blue mists, faint blues and greens and greys of peaks looming
through varying distance, and beyond all, towering ghost-white into the
east, the glorious spectre of Daisen.
And my heart sinks a moment under the rush of those vivid memories which
always crowd upon one the instant after parting--memories of all that
make attachment to places and to things. Remembered smiles; the morning
gathering at the threshold of the old yashiki to wish the departing
teacher a happy day; the evening gathering to welcome his return; the
dog waiting by the gate at the accustomed hour; the garden with its
lotus-flowers and its cooing of doves; the musical boom of the temple
bell from the cedar groves; songs of children at play; afternoon shadows
upon many-tinted streets; the long lines of lantern-fires upon festal
nights; the dancing of the moon upon the lake; the clapping of hands by
the river shore in salutation to the Izumo sun; the endless merry
pattering of geta over the windy bridge: all these and a hundred other
happy memories revive for me with almost painful vividness--while the
far peaks, whose names are holy, slowly turn away their blue shoulders,
and the little steamer bears me, more and more swiftly, ever farther and
farther from the Province of the Gods.
NOTES for Chapter One
1 Such as the garden attached to the abbots palace at Tokuwamonji,
cited by Mr. Conder, which was made to commemorate the legend of stones
which bowed themselves in assent to the doctrine of Buddha. At Togo-ike,
in Tottori-ken, I saw a very large garden consisting almost entirely of
stones and sand. The impression which the designer had intended to
convey was that of approaching the sea over a verge of dunes, and the
illusion was beautiful.
2 The Kojiki, translated by Professor B. H. Chamberlain, p. 254.
3 Since this paper was written, Mr. Conder has published a beautiful
illustrated volume,-Landscape Gardening in Japan. By Josiah Conder,
F.R.I.B.A. Tokyo 1893. A photographic supplement to the work gives views
of the most famous gardens in the capital and elsewhere.
4 The observations of Dr. Rein on Japanese gardens are not to be
recommended, in respect either to accuracy or to comprehension of the
subject. Rein spent only two years in Japan, the larger part of which
time he devoted to the study of the lacquer industry, the manufacture
of silk and paper and other practical matters. On these subjects his
work is justly valued. But his chapters on Japanese manners and
customs, art, religion, and literature show extremely little
acquaintance with those topics.
5 This attitude of the shachihoko is somewhat de rigueur, whence the
common expression shachihoko dai, signifying to stand on ones head.
6 The magnificent perch called tai (Serranus marginalis), which is very
common along the Izumo coast, is not only justly prized as the most
delicate of Japanese fish, but is also held to be an emblem of good
fortune. It is a ceremonial gift at weddings and on congratu-latory
occasions. The Japanese call it also the king of fishes.
7 Nandina domestica.
8 The most lucky of all dreams, they say in Izumo, is a dream of Fuji,
the Sacred Mountain. Next in order of good omen is dreaming of a falcon
(taka). The third best subject for a dream is the eggplant (nasubi). To
dream of the sun or of the moon is very lucky; but it is still more so
to dream of stars. For a young wife it is most for tunate to dream of
swallowing a star: this signifies that she will become the mother of a
beautiful child. To dream of a cow is a good omen; to dream of a horse
is lucky, but it signifies travelling. To dream of rain or fire is good.
Some dreams are held in Japan, as in the West, to go by contraries.
Therefore to dream of having ones house burned up, or of funerals, or
of being dead, or of talking to the ghost of a dead person, is good.
Some dreams which are good for women mean the reverse when dreamed by
men; for example, it is good for a woman to dream that her nose bleeds,
but for a man this is very bad. To dream of much money is a sign of loss
to come. To dream of the koi, or of any freshwater fish, is the most
unlucky of all. This is curious, for in other parts of Japan the koi is
a symbol of good fortune.
9 Tebushukan: Citrus sarkodactilis.
10 Yuzuru signifies to resign in favour of another; ha signifies a leaf.
The botanical name, as given in Hepburns dictionary, is Daphniphillum
11 Cerasus pseudo-cerasus (Lindley).
12 About this mountain cherry there is a humorous saying which
illustrates the Japanese love of puns. In order fully to appreciate it,
the reader should know that Japanese nouns have no distinction of
singular and plural. The word ha, as pronounced, may signify either
leaves or teeth; and the word hana, either flowers or nose. The
yamazakura puts forth its ha (leaves) before his hana (flowers).
Wherefore a man whose ha (teeth) project in advance of his hana (nose)
is called a yamazakura. Prognathism is not uncommon in Japan,
especially among the lower classes.
13 If one should ask you concerning the heart of a true Japanese, point
to the wild cherry flower glowing in the sun.
14 There are three noteworthy varieties: one bearing red, one pink and
white, and one pure white flowers.
15 The expression yanagi-goshi, a willow-waist, is one of several in
common use comparing slender beauty to the willow-tree.
16 Peonia albiflora, The name signifies the delicacy of beauty. The
simile of the botan (the tree peony) can be fully appreciated only by
one who is acquainted with the Japanese flower.
17 Some say kesbiyuri (poppy) instead of himeyuri. The latter is a
graceful species of lily, Lilium callosum.
18 Standing, she is a shakuyaku; seated, she is a botan; and the charm
of her figure in walking is the charm of a himeyuri.
19 In the higher classes of Japanese society to-day, the honorific O is
not, as a rule, used before the names of girls, and showy appellations
are not given to daughters. Even among the poor respectable classes,
names resembling those of geisha, etc., are in disfavour. But those
above cited are good, honest, everyday names.
20 Mr. Satow has found in Hirata a belief to which this seems to some
extent akin--the curious Shinto doctrine according to which a divine
being throws off portions of itself by a process of fissure, thus
producing what are called waki-mi-tama--parted spirits, with separate
functions. The great god of Izumo, Oho-kuni-nushi-no-Kami, is said by
Hirata to have three such parted spirits: his rough spirit (ara-mi-
tama) that punishes, his gentle spirit (nigi-mi-tama) that pardons, and
his benedictory or beneficent spirit (saki-mi-tama) that blesses, There
is a Shinto story that the rough spirit of this god once met the gentle
spirit without recognising it,
21 Perhaps the most impressive of all the Buddhist temples in Kyoto. It
is dedicated to Kwannon of the Thousand Hands, and is said to contain
33,333 of her images.
22 Daidaimushi in Izunio. The dictionary word is dedemushi. The snail is
supposed to be very fond of wet weather; and one who goes out much in
the rain is compared to a snail,--dedemushi no yona.
23 Snail, snail, put out your horns a little it rains and the wind is
blowing, so put out your horns, just for a little while.
24 A Buddhist divinity, but within recent times identified by Shinto
with the god Kotohira.
25 See Professor Chamberlains version of it in The Japanese Fairy Tale
Series, with charming illustrations by a native artist.
26 Butterfly, little butterfly, light upon the na leaf. But if thou
dost not like the na leaf, light, I pray thee, upon my hand.
27 Boshi means a hat; tsukeru, to put on. But this etymology is more
28 Some say Chokko-chokko-uisu. Uisu would be pronounced in English
very much like weece, the final u being silent. Uiosu would be
something like ' we-oce.
29 Pronounced almost as geece.
30 Contraction of kore noru.
31 A kindred legend attaches to the shiwan, a little yellow insect which
preys upon cucumbers. The shiwan is said to have been once a physician,
who, being detected in an amorous intrigue, had to fly for his life; but
as he went his foot caught in a cucumber vine, so that he fell and was
overtaken and killed, and his ghost became an insect, the destroyer of
cucumber vines. In the zoological mythology and plant mythology of Japan
there exist many legends offering a curious resemblance to the old Greek
tales of metamorphoses. Some of the most remarkable bits of such folk-
lore have originated, however, in comparatively modern time. The legend
of the crab called heikegani, found at Nagato, is an example. The souls
of the Taira warriors who perished in the great naval battle of Dan-no-
ura (now Seto-Nakai), 1185, are supposed to have been transformed into
heikegani. The shell of the heikegani is certainly surprising. It is
wrinkled into the likeness of a grim face, or rather into exact
semblance of one of those black iron visors, or masks, which feudal
warriors wore in battle, and which were shaped like frowning visages.
32 Come, firefly, I will give you water to drink. The water of that.
place is bitter; the water here is sweet.
33 By honzon is here meant the sacred kakemono, or picture, exposed to
public view in the temples only upon the birthday of the Buddha, which
is the eighth day of the old fourth month. Honzon also signifies the
principal image in a Buddhist temple.
34 A solitary voice! Did the Moon cry? Twas but the hototogisu.
35 When I gaze towards the place where I heard the hototogisu cry, lol
there is naught save the wan morning moon.
36 Save only the morning moon, none heard the hearts-blood cry of the
37 A sort of doughnut made of bean flour, or tofu.
38 Kite, kite, let me see you dance, and to-morrow evening, when the
crows do not know, I will give you a rat.
39 O tardy crow, hasten forward! Your house is all on fire. Hurry to
throw Water upon it. If there be no water, I will give you. If you have
too much, give it to your child. If you have no child, then give it back
40 The words papa and mamma exist in Japanese baby language, but their
meaning is not at all what might be supposed. Mamma, or, with the usual
honorific, O-mamma, means boiled rice. Papa means tobacco.
Notes for Chapter Two
1 This was written early in 1892
2 Quoted from Mr. Satow's masterly essay, 'The Revival of Pure Shinto,'
published in the Transactions of the Asiatic Society of Japan. By 'gods'
are not necessarily meant beneficent Kami. Shinto has no devils; but it
has its 'bad gods' as well as good deities.
3 Satow, 'The Revival of Pure Shinto.'
5 In the sense of Moral Path,--i.e. an ethical system.
6 Satow, 'The Revival of Pure Shinto.' The whole force of Motowori's
words will not be fully understood unless the reader knows that the
term 'Shinto' is of comparatively modern origin in Japan,--having been
borrowed from the Chinese to distinguish the ancient faith from
Buddhism; and that the old name for the primitive religion is Kami-no-
michi, 'the Way of the Gods.'
7 Satow, 'The Revival of Pure Shinto.'
8 From Kami, 'the [Powers] Above,' or the Gods, and tana, 'a shelf.'
The initial 't' of the latter word changes into 'd' in the compound,--
just as that of tokkuri, 'a jar' or 'bottle,' becomes dokkuri in the
cornpound o-mi kidokkuri.
9 The mirror, as an emblem of female divinities, is kept in the secret
innermost shrine of various Shinto temples. But the mirror of metal
commonly placed before the public gaze in a Shinto shrine is not really
of Shinto origin, but was introduced into Japan as a Buddhist symbol of
the Shingon sect. As the mirror is the symbol in Shinto of female
divinities, the sword is the emblem of male deities. The real symbols of
the god or goddess are not, however, exposed to human gaze under any
10 Anciently the two great Shinto festivals on which the miya were thus
carried in procession were the Yoshigami-no-matsuri, or festival of the
God of the New Year, and the anniversary of Jimmu Tenno to the throne.
The second of these is still observed. The celebration of the Emperor's
birthday is the only other occasion when the miya are paraded. On both
days the streets are beautifully decorated with lanterns and shimenawa,
the fringed ropes of rice straw which are the emblems of Shinto. Nobody
now knows exactly what the words chanted on these days (chosaya!
chosaya!) mean. One theory is that they are a corruption of Sagicho, the
name of a great samurai military festival, which was celebrated nearly
at the same time as the Yashigami-no-matsuri,--both holidays now being
11 Thuya obtusa.
12 Such at least is the mourning period under such circumstances in
certain samurai families. Others say twenty days is sufficient. The
Buddhist code of mourning is extremely varied and complicated, and would
require much space to dilate upon.
13 In spite of the supposed rigidity of the Nichiren sect in such
matters, most followers of its doctrine in Izumo are equally fervent
Shintoists. I have not been able to observe whether the same is true of
Izumo Shin-shu families as a rule; but I know that some Shin-shu
believers in Matsue worship at Shinto shrines. Adoring only that form of
Buddha called Amida, the Shin sect might be termed a Buddhist
'Unitarianism.' It seems never to have been able to secure a strong
footing in Izumo on account of its doctrinal hostility to Shinto.
Elsewhere throughout Japan it is the most vigorous and prosperous of all
14 Mr. Morse, in his Japanese Homes, published on hearsay a very
strange error when he stated: 'The Buddhist household shrines rest on
the floor--at least so I was informed.' They never rest on the floor
under any circumstances. In the better class of houses special
architectural arrangements are made for the butsudan; an alcove, recess,
or other contrivance, often so arranged as to be concealed from view by
a sliding panel or a little door In smaller dwellings it may be put on a
shelf, for want of a better place, and in the homes of the poor, on the
top of the tansu, or clothes-chest. It is never placed so high as the
kamidana, but seldom at a less height than three feet above the floor.
In Mr. Morse's own illustration of a Buddhist household shrine (p. 226)
it does not rest on the floor at all, but on the upper shelf of a
cupboard, which must not be confounded with the butsudan--a very small
one. The sketch in question seems to have been made during the Festival
of the Dead, for the offerings in the picture are those of the
Bommatauri. At that time the household butsudan is always exposed to
view, and often moved from its usual place in order to obtain room for
the offerings to be set before it. To place any holy object on the floor
is considered by the Japanese very disrespectful. As for Shinto objects,
to place even a mamori on the floor is deemed a sin.
15 Two ihai are always made for each Buddhist dead. One usually larger
than that placed in the family shrine, is kept in the temple of which
the deceased was a parishioner, together with a cup in which tea or
water is daily poured out as an offering. In almost any large temple,
thousands of such ihai may be seen, arranged in rows, tier above tier--
each with its cup before it--for even the souls of the dead are supposed
to drink tea. Sometimes, I fear, the offering is forgotten, for I have
seen rows of cups containing only dust, the fault, perhaps, of some lazy
16 This is a fine example of a samurai kaimyo The kaimyo of kwazoku or
samurai are different from those of humbler dead; and a Japanese, by a
single glance at an ihai, can tell at once to what class of society the
deceased belonged, by the Buddhist words used.
17 'Presenting the honourable tea to the august Buddhas'--for by
Buddhist faith it is hoped, if not believed, that the dead become
Buddhas and escape the sorrows of further transmigration. Thus the
expression 'is dead' is often rendered in Japanese by the phrase 'is
become a Buddha.'
18 The idea underlying this offering of food and drink to the dead or
to the gods, is not so irrational as unthinking Critics have declared it
to be. The dead are not supposed to consume any of the visible substance
of the food set before them, for they are thought to be in an ethereal
state requiring only the most vapoury kind of nutrition. The idea is
that they absorb only the invisible essence of the food. And as fruits
and other such offerings lose something of their flavour after having
been exposed to the air for several hours, this slight change would have
been taken in other days as evidence that the spirits had feasted upon
them. Scientific education necessarily dissipates these consoling
illusions, and with them a host of tender and beautiful fancies as to
the relation between the living and the dead.
19 I find that the number of clappings differs in different provinces
somewhat. In Kyushu the clapping is very long, especially before the
prayer to the Rising Sun.
20 Another name for Kyoto, the Sacred City of Japanese Buddhism.
Notes for Chapter Three
1 Formerly both sexes used the same pillow for the same reason. The long
hair of a samurai youth, tied up in an elaborate knot, required much
time to arrange. Since it has become the almost universal custom to wear
the hair short, the men have adopted a pillow shaped like a small
2 It is an error to suppose that all Japanese have blue-black hair.
There are two distinct racial types. In one the hair is a deep brown
instead of a pure black, and is also softer and finer. Rarely, but very
rarely, one may see a Japanese chevelure having a natural tendency to
ripple. For curious reasons, which cannot be stated here, an Izumo woman
is very much ashamed of having wavy hair--more ashamed than she would be
of a natural deformity.
3 Even in the time of the writing of the Kojiki the art of arranging t
hair must have been somewhat developed. See Professor Chainberlai 's
introduction to translation, p. xxxi.; also vol. i. section ix.; vol.
vii. section xii.; vol. ix. section xviii., et passim.
4 An art expert can decide the age of an unsigned kakemono or other work
of art in which human figures appear, by the style of the coiffure of
the female personages.
5 The principal and indispensable hair-pin (kanzashi), usually about
seven inches long, is split, and its well-tempered double shaft can be
used like a small pair of chopsticks for picking up small things. The
head is terminated by a tiny spoon-shaped projection, which has a
special purpose in the Japanese toilette.
6 The shinjocho is also called Ichogaeshi by old people, although the
original Ichogaeshi was somewhat different. The samurai girls used to
wear their hair in the true Ichogaeshi manner the name is derived from
the icho-tree (Salisburia andiantifolia), whose leaves have a queer
shape, almost like that of a duck's foot. Certain bands of the hair in
this coiffure bore a resemblance in form to icho-leaves.
7 The old Japanese mirrors were made of metal, and were extremely
beautiful. Kagamiga kumoru to tamashii ga kumoru ('When the Mirror is
dim, the Soul is unclean') is another curious proverb relating to
mirrors. Perhaps the most beautiful and touching story of a mirror, in
any language is that called Matsuyama-no-kagami, which has been
translated by Mrs. James.
Notes for Chapter Four
1 There is a legend that the Sun-Goddess invented the first hakama by
tying together the skirts of her robe.
2 'Let us play the game called kango-kango. Plenteously the water of
Jizo-San quickly draw--and pour on the pine-leaves--and turn back
again.' Many of the games of Japanese children, like many of their toys,
have a Buddhist origin, or at least a Buddhist significance.
3 I take the above translation from a Tokyo educational journal,
entitled The Museum. The original document, however, was impressive to a
degree that perhaps no translation could give. The Chinese words by
which the Emperor refers to himself and his will are far more impressive
than our Western 'We' or 'Our;' and the words relating to duties,
virtues, wisdom, and other matters are words that evoke in a Japanese
mind ideas which only those who know Japanese life perfectly can
appreciate, and which, though variant from our own, are neither less
beautiful nor less sacred.
4 Kimi ga yo wa chiyo ni yachiyo ni sazare ishi no iwa o to narite oke
no musu made. Freely translated: 'May Our Gracious Sovereign reign a
thousand years--reign ten thousand thousand years--reign till the little
stone grow into a mighty rock, thick-velveted with ancient moss!'
5 Stoves, however, are being introduced. In the higher Government
schools, and in the Normal Schools, the students who are boarders obtain
a better diet than most poor boys can get at home. Their rooms are also
6 Hachi yuki ya Neko no ashi ato Ume no hana.
7 Ni no ji fumi dasu Bokkuri kana.
8 This little poem signifies that whoever in this world thinks much,
must have care, and that not to think about things is to pass one's life
in untroubled felicity.
9 Having asked in various classes for written answers to the question,
'What is your dearest wish?' I found about twenty per cent, of the
replies expressed, with little variation of words, the simple desire to
die 'for His Sacred Majesty, Our Beloved Emperor.' But a considerable
proportion of the remainder contained the same aspiration less directly
stated in the wish to emulate the glory of Nelson, or to make Japan
first among nations by heroism and sacrifice. While this splendid spirit
lives in the hearts of her youth, Japan should have little to fear for
10 Beautiful generosities of this kind are not uncommon in Japan.
11 The college porter
12 Except in those comparatively rare instances where the family is
exclusively Shinto in its faith, or, although belonging to both faiths,
prefers to bury its dead according to Shinto rites. In Matsue, as a
rule, high officials only have Shinto funeral.
13 Unless the dead be buried according to the Shinto rite. In Matsue
the mourning period is usually fifty days. On the fifty-first day after
the decease, all members of the family go to Enjoji-nada (the lake-shore
at the foot of the hill on which the great temple of Enjoji stands) to
perform the ceremony of purification. At Enjoji-nada, on the beach,
stands a lofty stone statue of Jizo. Before it the mourners pray; then
wash their mouths and hands with the water of the lake. Afterwards they
go to a friend's house for breakfast, the purification being always
performed at daybreak, if possible. During the mourning period, no
member of the family can eat at a friend's house. But if the burial has
been according to the Shinto rite, all these ceremonial observances may
be dispensed with.
14 But at samurai funerals in the olden time the women were robed in
Notes for Chapter Five
1 As it has become, among a certain sect of Western Philistines and
self-constituted art critics, the fashion to sneer at any writer who
becomes enthusiastic about the truth to nature of Japanese art, I may
cite here the words of England's most celebrated living naturalist on
this very subject. Mr. Wallace's authority will scarcely, I presume, be
questioned, even by the Philistines referred to:
'Dr. Mohnike possesses a large collection of coloured sketches of the
plants of Japan made by a Japanese lady, which are the most masterly
things I have ever seen. Every stem, twig, and leaf is produced by
single touches of the brush, the character and perspective of very
complicated plants being admirably given, and the articulations of stem
and leaves shown in a most scientific manner.' (Malay Archipelago, chap.
Now this was written in 1857, before European methods of drawing had
been introduced. The same art of painting leaves, etc., with single
strokes of the brush is still common in Japan--even among the poorest
class of decorators.
2 There is a Buddhist saying about the kadomatsu:
Kadomatsu Meido no tabi no Ichi-ri-zuka.
The meaning is that each kadomatsu is a milestone on the journey to the
Meido; or, in other words, that each New Year's festival signal only
the completion of another stage of the ceaseless journey to death.
3 The difference between the shimenawa and shimekazari is that the
latter is a strictly decorative straw rope, to which many curious
emblems are attached.
4 It belongs to the sargassum family, and is full of air sacs. Various
kinds of edible seaweed form a considerable proportion of Japanese diet.
5 'This is a curiously shaped staff with which the divinity Jizo is
commonly represented. It is still carried by Buddhist mendicants, and
there are several sizes of it. That carried by the Yaku-otoshj is
usually very short. There is a tradition that the shakujo was first
invented as a means of giving warning to insects or other little
creatures in the path of the Buddhist pilgrim, so that they might not be
trodden upon unawares.
6 I may make mention here of another matter, in no way relating to the
There lingers in Izumo a wholesome--and I doubt not formerly a most
valuable--superstition about the sacredness of writing. Paper upon which
anything has been written, or even printed, must not be crumpled up, or
trodden upon, or dirtied, or put to any base use. If it be necessary to
destroy a document, the paper should be burned. I have been gently
reproached in a little hotel at which I stopped for tearing up and
crumpling some paper covered with my own writing.
NOtes for Chapter Six
1 'A bucket honourably condescend [to give].
2 The Kappa is not properly a sea goblin, but a river goblin, and
haunts the sea only in the neighbourhood of river mouths. About a mile
and a half from Matsue, at the little village of Kawachi-mura, on the
river called Kawachi, stands a little temple called Kawako-no-miya, or
the Miya of the Kappa. (In Izumo, among the common people, the word
'Kappa' is not used, but the term Kawako, or 'The Child of the River.')
In this little shrine is preserved a document said to have been signed
by a Kappa. The story goes that in ancient times the Kappa dwelling in
the Kawachi used to seize and destroy many of the inhabitanta of the
village and many domestic animals. One day, however, while trying to
seize a horse that had entered the river to drink, the Kappa got its
head twisted in some way under the belly-band of the horse, and the
terrified animal, rushing out of the water, dragged the Kappa into a
field. There the owner of the horse and a number of peasants seized and
bound the Kappa. All the villagers gathered to see the monster, which
bowed its head to the ground, and audibly begged for mercy. The peasants
desired to kill the goblin at once; but the owner of the horse, who
happened to be the head-man of the mura, said: 'It is better to make it
swear never again to touch any person or animal belonging to Kawachi-
mura. A written form of oath was prepared and read to the Kappa. It said
that It could not write, but that It would sign the paper by dipping Its
hand in ink, and pressing the imprint thereof at the bottom of the
document. This having been agreed to and done, the Kappa was set free.
From that time forward no inhabitant or animal of Kawachi-mura was ever
assaulted by the goblin.
3 The Buddhist symbol. [The small illustration cannot be presented
here. The arms are bent in the opposite direction to the Nazi swastika.
4 'Help! help!'
5 Furuteya, the estab!ishment of a dea!er in second-hand wares--furute.
6 Andon, a paper lantern of peculiar construction, used as a night
light. Some forms of the andon are remarkably beautiful.
7 'Ototsan! washi wo shimai ni shitesashita toki mo, chodo kon ya no
yona tsuki yo data-ne?'--Izumo dialect.
Notes for Chapter Seven
1 The Kyoto word is maiko.
2 Guitars of three strings.
3 It is sometimes customary for guests to exchange cups, after duly
rinsing them. It is always a compliment to ask for your friend's cup.
4 Once more to rest beside her, or keep five thousand koku? What care I
for koku? Let me be with her!'
There lived in ancient times a haramoto called Fuji-eda Geki, a vassal
of the Shogun. He had an income of five thousand koku of rice--a great
income in those days. But he fell in love with an inmate of the
Yoshiwara, named Ayaginu, and wished to marry her. When his master bade
the vassal choose between his fortune and his passion, the lovers fled
secretly to a farmer's house, and there committed suicide together. And
the above song was made about them. It is still sung.
5 'Dear, shouldst thou die, grave shall hold thee never! I thy body's
ashes, mixed with wine, wit! drink.'
7 Buddhist food, containing no animal substance. Some kinds of shojin-
ryori are quite appetising.
8 The terms oshiire and zendana might be partly rendered by 'wardrobe'
and 'cupboard.' The fusuma are sliding screens serving as doors.
9 Tennin, a 'Sky-Maiden,' a Buddhist angel.
10 Her shrine is at Nara--not far from the temple of the giant Buddha.
Notes for Chapter Eight
1 The names Dozen or Tozen, and Dogo or Toga, signify 'the Before-
Islands' and 'the Behind-Islands.'
2 'Dokoe, dokoel' 'This is only a woman's baby' (a very small
package). 'Dokoe, dokoel' 'This is the daddy, this is the daddy' (a big
package). 'Dokoe, dokoel' ''Tis very small, very small!' 'Dokoe, dokoel'
'This is for Matsue, this is for Matsue!' 'Dokoe, dokoel' 'This is for
Koetsumo of Yonago,' etc.
3 These words seem to have no more meaning than our 'yo-heaveho.' Yan-
yui is a cry used by all Izumo and Hoki sailors.
4 This curious meaning is not given in Japanese-English dictionaries,
where the idiom is translated merely by the phrase 'as aforesaid.'
5 The floor of a Japanese dwelling might be compared to an immense but
very shallow wooden tray, divided into compartments corresponding to the
various rooms. These divisions are formed by grooved and polished
woodwork, several inches above the level, and made for the accommodation
of the fusurna, or sliding screens, separating room from room. The
compartments are filled up level with the partitions with tatami, or
mats about the thickness of light mattresses, covered with beautifully
woven rice-straw. The squared edges of the mats fit exactly together,
and as the mats are not made for the house, but the house for the mats,
all tatami are exactly the same size. The fully finished floor of each
roam is thus like a great soft bed. No shoes, of course, can be worn in
a Japanese house. As soon as the mats become in the least soiled they
are replaced by new ones.
6 See article on Art in his Things Japanese.
7 It seems to be a black, obsidian.
8 There are several other versions of this legend. In one, it is the
mare, and not the foal, which was drowned.
9 There are two ponds not far from each other. The one I visited was
called 0-ike, or 'The Male Pond,' and the other, Me-ike, or 'The Female
10 Speaking of the supposed power of certain trees to cure toothache,
I may mention a curious superstition about the yanagi, or willow-tree.
Sufferers from toothache sometimes stick needles into the tree,
believing that the pain caused to the tree-spirit will force it to
exercise its power to cure. I could not, however, find any record of
this practice in Oki.
11 Moxa, a corruption of the native name of the mugwort plant: moe-
kusa, or mogusa, 'the burning weed.' Small cones of its fibre are used
for cauterising, according to the old Chinese system of medicine--the
little cones being placed upon the patient's skin, lighted, and left to
smoulder until wholly consumed. The result is a profound scar. The moxa
is not only used therapeutically, but also as a punishment for very
naughty children. See the interesting note on this subject in Professor
Chamberlain's Things Japanese.
12 Nure botoke, 'a wet god.' This term is applied to the statue of a
deity left exposed to the open air.
13 According to popular legend, in each eye of the child of a god or a
dragon two Buddhas are visible. The statement in some of the Japanese
ballads, that the hero sung of had four Buddhas in his eyes, is
equivalent to the declaration that each of his eyes had a double-pupil.
14 The idea of the Atman will perhaps occur to many readers.
15 In 1892 a Japanese newspaper, published in Tokyo stated upon the
authority of a physician who had visited Shimane, that the people of Oki
believe in ghostly dogs instead of ghostly foxes. This is a mistake
caused by the literal rendering of a term often used in Shi-mane,
especially in Iwami, namely, inu-gami-mochi. It is only a euphemism for
kitsune-mochi; the inu-gami is only the hito-kitsune, which is supposed
to make itself visible in various animal forms.
16 Which words signify something like this:
'Sleep, baby, sleep! Why are the honourable ears of the Child of the
Hare of the honourable mountain so long? 'Tis because when he dwelt
within her honoured womb, his mamma ate the leaves of the loquat, the
leaves of the bamboo-grass, That is why his honourable ears are so
17 The Japanese police are nearly all of the samurai class, now called
shizoku. I think this force may be considered the most perfect police in
the world; but whether it will retain those magnificent qualities which
at present distinguish it, after the lapse of another generation, is
doubtful. It is now the samurai blood that tells.
Notes for Chapter Nine
1 Afterwards I found that the old man had expressed to me only one
popular form of a belief which would require a large book to fully
explain--a belief founded upon Chinese astrology, but possibly modified
by Buddhist and by Shinto ideas. This notion of compound Souls cannot be
explained at all without a prior knowledge of the astrological relation
between the Chinese Zodiacal Signs and the Ten Celestial Stems. Some
understanding of these may be obtained from the curious article 'Time,'
in Professor Chamberlain's admirable little book, Things Japanese. The
relation having been perceived, it is further necessary to know that
under the Chinese astrological system each year is under the influence
of one or other of the 'Five Elements'--Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, Water;
and according to the day and year of one's birth, one's temperament is
celestially decided. A Japanese mnemonic verse tells us the number of
souls or natures corresponding to each of the Five Elemental Influences
--namely, nine souls for Wood, three for Fire, one for Earth, seven for
Metal, five for Water:
Himitsu no yama ni
Nanatsu kane to zo
Go suiryo are.
Multiplied into ten by being each one divided into 'Elder' and
'Younger,' the Five Elements become the Ten Celestial Stems; and their
influences are commingled with those of the Rat, Bull, Tiger, Hare,
Dragon, Serpent, Horse, Goat, Ape, Cock, Dog, and Boar (the twelve
Zodiacal Signs)--all of which have relations to time, place, life, luck,
misfortune, etc. But even these hints give no idea whatever how
enormously complicated the subject really is.
The book the old gardener referred to--once as widely known in Japan as
every fortune-telling book in any European country--was the San-re-so,
copies of which may still be picked up. Contrary to Kinjuro's opinion,
however, it is held, by those learned in such Chinese matters, just as
bad to have too many souls as to have too few. To have nine souls is to
be too 'many-minded'--without fixed purpose; to have only one soul is to
lack quick intelligence. According to the Chinese astrological ideas,
the word 'natures' or 'characters' would perhaps be more accurate than
the word 'souls' in this case. There is a world of curious fancies, born