Part 3 out of 7
"Reggie, you were always a devil for arguing!" he said. "At home one
would never talk about things like that."
"There must be a slight difference then between Home and Abroad.
Certain bonds are relaxed. Abroad, one is a sight-seer. One is out to
watch the appearance and habits of the natives in a semi-scientific
mood, just as one looks at animals in the Zoo. Besides, nobody knows
or cares who one is. One has no awkward responsibilities towards one's
neighbours; and there is little or no danger of finding an intimate
acquaintance in an embarrassing position. In London one lives in
constant dread of finding people out."
"But my wife," Geoffrey continued, troubled once more, "I can't
"Mrs. Barrington may be an exception; but take my word for it, every
woman, however good and holy, is intensely interested in the lives
of her fallen sisters. They know less about them than we do. They are
therefore more mysterious and interesting to them. And yet they are
much nearer to them by the whole difference of sex. There is always
a personal query arising, 'I, too, might have chosen that life--what
would it have brought me?' There is a certain compassion, too;
and above all there is the intense interest of rivalry. Who is not
interested in his arch-enemy? and what woman does not want to know by
what unholy magic her unfair competitor holds her power over men?"
The tennis courts were filling with youths released from offices. In
the court facing them, two young fellows had begun a single. One of
them was a Japanese; the other, though his hair and eyes were of the
native breed, was too fair of skin and too tall of stature. He was
a Eurasian. They both played exceedingly well. The rallies were long
sustained, the drives beautifully timed and taken. The few unemployed
about the courts soon made this game the object of their special
"Who are they?" asked Geoffrey, glad to change the conversation.
"That's Aubrey Smith, Yae's brother, one of the best players here,
and Viscount Kamimura, who ought to be quite the best; but he has just
married, and his wife will not let him play often enough."
"Oh," exclaimed Geoffrey, "he was on the ship with us coming out."
He had not recognised the good-looking young Japanese. He had not
expected to meet him somehow in such a European _milieu_. Kamimura had
noticed his fellow-traveller, however; and when the set was over
and the players had changed sides, he came up and greeted him most
"I hear you are already married," said Geoffrey. "Our best
"Thank you," replied Kamimura, blushing. Japanese blush readily in
spite of their complexion.
"We Japanese must not boast about our wives. It is what you call Bad
Form. But I would like her to meet Mrs. Barrington. She speaks English
not so badly."
"Yes," said Geoffrey, "I hope you will come and dine with us one
evening at the Imperial."
"Thank you very much," answered the young Viscount. "How long are you
staying in Japan?"
"Oh, for some months."
"Then we shall meet often, I hope," he said, and returned to his game.
"A very decent fellow; quite human," Reggie commented.
"Yes, isn't he?" said Geoffrey; and then he asked suddenly,--
"Do you think he would take his wife to see the Yoshiwara?"
"Probably not; but then they are Japanese people living in Japan. That
"I don't think so," said Geoffrey; and he was conscious of having
scored off his friend for once.
Miss Yae Smith had arrived on her daily visit to the courts. She was
already surrounded by a little retinue of young men, who, however,
scattered at Reggie's approach.
Miss Yae smiled graciously on the two new-comers and inquired after
"It was so nice to talk with her the other day; it was like being in
Yes, Miss Yae had been in England and in America too. She preferred
those countries very much to Japan. It was so much more amusing. There
was so little to do here. Besides, in Japan it was such a small world;
and everybody was so disagreeable; especially the women, always saying
untrue, unkind things.
She looked so immaterial and sprite-like in her blue kimono, her
strange eyes downcast as her habit was when talking about herself and
her own doings, that Geoffrey could think no evil of her, nor could he
wonder at Reggie's gaze of intense admiration which beat upon her like
sunlight on a picture.
However, Asako must be waiting for him. He took his leave, and
returned to his hotel.
* * * * *
Asako had been entertaining a visitor. She had gone out shopping for
an hour, not altogether pleased to find herself alone. On her return,
a Japanese gentleman in a vivid green suit had risen from a seat in
the lounge of the hotel, and had introduced himself.
"I am Ito, your attorney-of-law."
He was a small, podgy person with a round oily face and heavy voluted
moustaches. The expression of his eyes was hidden behind gold-rimmed
spectacles. It would have been impossible for a European to guess his
age, anything between twenty-five and fifty. His thick, plum-coloured
hair was brushed up on his forehead in a butcher-boy's curl. His teeth
glittered with dentist's gold. He wore a tweed suit of bright
pea-soup colour, a rainbow tie and yellow boots. Over the bulge of an
egg-shaped stomach hung a massive gold watch-chain blossoming into a
semi-heraldic charm, which might be a masonic emblem or a cycling club
badge. His breastpocket appeared to hold a quiverful of fountain-pens.
"How do you do, Mrs. Harrington? I am pleased to meet you."
The voice was high and squeaky, like a boy's voice when it is
breaking. The extended hand was soft and greasy in spite of its
attempt at a firm grip. With elaborate politeness he ushered Mrs.
Harrington into her chair. He took his place close beside her, crossed
his fat legs, and stuck his thumbs into his arm-holes.
"I am your friend Ito," he began, "your father's friend, and I am sure
to be your friend, too."
But for the reference to her father she would have snubbed him. She
decided to give him tea in the lounge, and not to invite him to her
private rooms. A growing distrust of her countrymen, arising largely
from observation of the ways of Tanaka, was making little Asako less
confiding than of yore. She was still ready to be amused by them, but
she was becoming less credulous of the Japanese pose of simplicity
and the conventional smile. However, she was soon melted by Mr. Ito's
kindliness of manner. He patted her hand, and called her "little
"I am your old lawyer," he kept on saying, "your father's friend, and
your best friend too. Anything you want, just ring me and you have it.
There's my number. Don't forget now. Shiba 1326. What do you think
of Japan, now? Beautiful country, I think. And you have not yet seen
Miyanoshita, or Kamakura, or Nikko temples. You have not yet got
automobile, I think. Indeed, I am sorry for you. That is a very wrong
thing! I shall at once order for you a very splendid automobile,
and we must make a grand trip. Every rich and noble person possesses
"Oh, that would be nice!" Asako clapped her hands. "Japan is so
pretty. I do want to see more of it. But I must ask my husband about
buying the motor."
Ito laughed a fat, oily laugh.
"Indeed, that is Japanese style, little girl. Japanese wife say, 'I
ask my husband.' American style wife very different. She say, 'My
husband do this, do that'--like coolie. I have travelled much abroad.
I know American custom very well."
"My husband gives me all I want, and a great deal more," said Asako.
"He is very kind man," grinned the lawyer, "because the money is all
yours--not his at all. Ha, ha!"
Then, seeing that his officiousness was overstepping the mark, he
"I know American ladies very well. They don't give money to their
husbands. They tell their husbands, 'You give money to me.' They just
do everything themselves, writing cheques all the time!"
"Really?" said Asako; "but my husband is the kindest and best man in
"Quite right, quite right. Love your husband like a good little girl.
But don't forget your old lawyer, Ito. I was your father's friend. We
were at school together here in Tokyo."
This interested Asako immensely. She tried to make the lawyer talk
further, but he said that it was a very long story, and he must tell
her some other time. Then she asked him about her cousin, Mr. Fujinami
"He is away from town just now. When he returns, I think he will
invite you to splendid feast."
With that he took his leave.
"What do you think of him?" Asako asked Tanaka, who had been watching
the interview with an attendant chorus of _boy sans_.
"He is _haikara_ gentleman," was the reply.
Now, _haikara_, is a native corruption of the words "high collar," and
denoted at first a variety of Japanese "nut," who aped the European
and the American in his habits, manners and dress--of which pose
the high collar was the most visible symbol. The word was presumably
contemptuous in its origin. It has since, however, changed its
character as so to mean anything smart and fashionable. You can live
in a _haikara_ house, you can read _haikara_ books, you can wear a
_haikara_ hat. It has become indeed practically a Japanese equivalent
for that untranslatable expression "_chic_."
* * * * *
Asako Harrington, like all simple people, had little familiarity save
with the superficial stratum of her intelligence. She lived in the
gladness of her eyes like a happy young animal. Nothing, not even her
marriage, had touched her very profoundly. Even the sudden shock of
de Brie's love-making had not shaken anything deeper than her natural
pride and her ignorance of mankind.
But in this strange, still land, whose expression looks inwards and
whose face is a mask, a change was operating. Ito left her, as he had
intended, with a growing sense of her own importance as distinct from
her husband. "I was your father's friend: we were at school together
here in Tokyo." Why, Geoffrey did not even know her father's name.
Asako did not think as closely as this. She could not. But she must
have looked very thoughtful; for when Geoffrey came in, he saw her
still sitting in the lounge, and exclaimed,--
"Why, my little Yum Yum, how serious we are! We look as if we were at
our own funeral. Couldn't you get the things you wanted?"
"Oh yes," said Asako, trying to brighten up, "and I've had a visitor.
"No and yes. It was Mr. Ito, the lawyer."
"Oh, that little blighter. That reminds me. I must go and see him
to-morrow, and find out what he is doing with our money."
"_My_ money," laughed Asako, "Tanaka never lets me forget that."
"Of course, little one," said Geoffrey, "I'd be in the workhouse if it
wasn't for you."
"Geoffrey darling," said his wife hesitating, "will you give me
"Yes, of course, my sweetheart, what do you want?"
"I want a motor-car, yes please; and I'd like to have a cheque-book of
my own. Sometimes when I am out by myself I would like--"
"Why, of course," said Geoffrey, "you ought to have had one long ago.
But it was your own idea; you didn't want to be bothered with money."
"Oh Geoffrey, you angel, you are so good to me."
She clung to his neck; and he, seeing the hotel deserted and nobody
about, raised her in his arms and carried her bodily upstairs to the
interest and amusement of the chorus of _boy sans_, who had just been
discussing why _danna san_ had left _okusan_ for so many hours that
afternoon, and who and what was the Japanese gentleman who had been
talking to _okusan_ in the hall.
THE YOSHIWARA WOMEN
_Kyushu dai-ichi no ume
Kon-ya kimi ga tame ni hiraku.
Hana no shingi wo shiran
San-ko tsuki wo funde kitare_.
The finest plum-blossom of Kyushu
This night is opening for thee.
If thou wishes to know the true character of this flower,
Come at the third hour singing in the moonlight.
_Yoshiwara Popular Song_.
As the result of an affecting scene with his wife, Geoffrey's
opposition to the Yoshiwara project collapsed. If everybody went to
see the place, then it could not be such very Bad Form to do so.
Asako rang up Reggie; and on the next afternoon the young diplomat
called for the Barringtons in a motor-car, where Miss Yae Smith was
already installed. They drove through Tokyo. It was like crossing
London for the space of distance covered; an immense city--yet is it a
city, or merely a village preposterously overgrown?
There is no dignity in the Japanese capital, nothing secular or
permanent, except that mysterious forest-land in the midst of the
moats and the grey walls, where dwell the Emperor and the Spirit of
the Race. It is a mongrel city, a vast congeries of native wooden
huts, hastily equipped with a few modern conveniences. Drunken poles
stagger down the streets, waving their cobwebs of electric wires.
Rickety trams jolt past, crowded to overflowing, so crowded that
humanity clings to the steps and platforms in clots, like flies
clinging to some sweet surface. Thousands of little shops glitter,
wink or frown at the passer-by. Many of them have western plate-glass
windows and stucco fronts, hiding their savagery, like a native woman
tricked out in ridiculous pomp. Some, still grimly conservative,
receive the customer in their cavernous interior, and cheat his eyes
in their perpetual twilight. Many of these little shops are so small
that their stock-in-trade flows over on to the pavement. The toy
shops, the china shops, the cake shops, the shops for women's ribbons
and hairpins seem to be trying to turn themselves inside out. Others
are so reticent that nothing appears save a stretch of clean straw
mats, where sulky clerks sit smoking round the _hibachi_ (fireboxes).
Then, when the eye gets accustomed to the darkness, one can see behind
them the ranks of the tea-jars of Uji, or layers of dark kimono stuff.
The character of the shops changed as the Barringtons and their party
approached their destination. The native element predominated more and
more. The wares became more and more inexplicable. There were shops
in which gold Buddhas shone and brass lamps for temple use, shops
displaying queer utensils and mysterious little bits of things, whose
secret was hidden in the cabalistic signs of Chinese script. There
were stalls of curios, and second-hand goods spread out on the
pavement, under the custody of wizened, inattentive old men, who
squatted and smoked.
Red-faced maids stared at the foreigners from the balconies of lofty
inns and eating-houses near Uyeno station. Further on, they passed
the silence of old temple walls, the spaciousness of pigeon-haunted
cloisters, and the huge high-pitched roofs of the shrines, with their
twisted horn-like points. Then, down a narrow alley appeared the
garish banners of the Asakusa theatres and cinema palaces. They heard
the yelling of the door-touts, and the bray of discordant music. They
caught a glimpse of hideous placards whose crude illustrations showed
the quality of the performance to be seen within, girls falling from
aeroplanes, demon ghosts with bloody daggers, melodrama unleashed.
Everywhere the same crowds loitered along the pavements. No hustle, no
appearance of business save where a messenger-boy threaded the maze
on a break-neck bicycle, or where a dull-faced coolie pulled at an
overloaded barrow. Grey and brown, the crowd clattered by on their
wooden shoes. Grey and black, passed the _haikara_ young men with
their yellow side-spring shoes. Black and sabre-dragging, the
policeman went to and fro, invisibly moored to his wooden sentry-box.
The only bright notes among all these drab multitudes were the little
girls in their variegated kimonos, who fluttered in and out of the
entrances, and who played unscolded on the footpaths. These too were
the only notes of happiness; for their grown-up relatives, especially
the women, carried an air, if not an actual expression, of animal
melancholy, the melancholy of driven sheep or of cows ruminant.
The crowds were growing denser. Their faces were all set in one
direction. At last the whole roadway was filled with the slow-moving
tide. The Harringtons and their friends had to alight from their car
and continue the rest of the way on foot.
"They are all going to see the show," Reggie explained to his party,
and he pointed to a line of high houses, which stood out above the low
native huts. It was a square block of building some hundreds of yards
long, quite foreign in character, having the appearance of factory
buildings, or of a barracks or workhouse.
"What a dismal-looking place!" said Asako.
"Yes," agreed Reggie, "but at night it is much brighter. It is all lit
up from top to bottom. It is called the Nightless City."
"What bad faces these people have!" said Asako, who was romantically
set on seeing evil everywhere, "Is it quite safe?"
"Oh yes," said their guide, "Japanese crowds are very orderly."
Indeed they suffered no inconvenience from the crowd beyond much
staring, an ordeal which awaits the foreigner in all corners of Tokyo.
They had reached a very narrow street, where raffish beer-shops were
doing a roaring trade. They caught a glimpse of dirty tablecloths and
powdered waitresses wearing skirts, aprons and lumpy shoes--all very
_haikara_. On the right hand they passed a little temple from whose
exiguous courtyard two stone foxes grinned maliciously, the temple of
the god Inari, who brings rich lovers to the girls who pray to him.
They passed through iron gates, like the gates of a park, where two
policemen were posted to regulate the traffic. Beyond was a single
line of cherry-trees in full bloom, a single wave of pinkish spray, a
hanging curtain of vapourous beauty, the subject of a thousand
poems, of a thousand allusions, licentious, delicate and trite,--the
cherry-blossoms of the Yoshiwara.
At a street corner stood a high white building plastered with golden
letters in Japanese and English--"Asahi Beer Hall."
"That is the place," said Yae, "let us get out of this crowd."
They found refuge among more dirty tablecloths, Europeanised
_mousmes_, and gaping guests. When Yae spoke to the girls in Japanese,
there was much bowing and hissing of the breath; and they were invited
upstairs on to the first floor where was another beer-hall, slightly
more exclusive-looking than the downstair Gambrinus. Here a table
and chairs were set for them in the embrasure of a bow-window, which,
protruding over the cross-roads, commanded an admirable view of the
"The procession won't be here for two hours more," said Yae, pouting
"One always has to wait in Japan," said Reggie. "Nobody ever knows
exactly when anything is going to happen; and so the Japanese just
wait and wait. They seem to like it rather. Anyhow they don't get
impatient. Life is so uneventful here that I think they must like
prolonging an incident as much as possible, like sucking a sweet
Meanwhile there was plenty to look at. Asako could not get over her
shock at the sea of wicked faces which surged below.
"What class of people are these?" Geoffrey asked.
"Oh, shop-people, I think, most of them," said Yae, "and people who
work in factories."
"Good class Japanese don't come here, then?" Geoffrey asked again.
"Oh no, only low class people and students. Japanese people say it is
a shameful thing to go to the Yoshiwara. And, if they go, they go very
"Do you know any one who goes?" asked Reggie, with a directness which
shocked his friend's sense of Good Form.
"Oh, my brothers," said Yae, "but they go everywhere; or they say they
* * * * *
It certainly was an ill-favoured crowd. The Japanese are not an ugly
race. The young aristocrat who has grown up with fresh air and healthy
exercise is often good-looking, and sometimes distinguished and
refined. But the lower classes, those who keep company with poverty,
dirt and pawnshops, with the pleasures of the _sake_ barrel and the
Yoshiwara, are the ugliest beings that were ever created in the image
of their misshapen gods. Their small stature and ape-like attitudes,
the colour and discolour of their skin, the flat Mongolian nose, their
gaping mouths and bad teeth, the coarse fibre of their lustreless
black hair, give them an elvish and a goblin look, as though
this country were a nursery for fairy changelings, a land of the
Nibelungen, where bad thoughts have found their incarnation. Yet the
faces have not got that character for good and evil as we find them
among the Aryan peoples, the deep lines and the firm profiles.
"It is the absence of something rather than its presence which appals
and depresses us," Reggie Forsyth observed, "an absence of happiness
perhaps, or of a promise of happiness."
The crowd which filled the four roads with its slow grey tide was
peaceable enough; and it was strangely silent. The drag and clatter
of the clogs made more sound than the human voices. The great majority
were men, though there were women among them, quiet and demure. If
ever a voice was lifted, one could see by the rolling walk and the
fatuous smile that its owner had been drinking. Such a person would
be removed out of sight by his friends. The Japanese generally go
sight-seeing and merry-making in friendships and companies; and the
_Verein_, which in Japan is called the _Kwai_, flourishes here as in
Two coolies started quarreling under the Barringtons' window. They too
had been drinking. They did not hit out at each other like Englishmen,
but started an interchange of abuse in gruff monosyllables and
indistinguishable grunts and snorts.
"_Baka! Chikushome! Kuso_! (Fool! Beast! Dung!)"
These amenities exasperating their ill humour, they began to pull at
each other's coats and to jostle each other like quarrelsome curs.
This was a sign that affairs were growing serious; and the police
intervened. Again each combatant was pushed away by his companions
into opposite byways.
With these exceptions, all tramplings, squeezings, pushings and
pokings were received with conventional grins or apathetic staring.
Yet in the paper next day it was said that so great had been the crowd
that six deaths had occurred, and numerous persons had fainted.
"But where is the Yoshiwara?" Geoffrey asked at last. "Where are these
wretched women kept?"
Reggie waved his hand in the direction of the three roads facing them.
"Inside the iron gates, that is all the Yoshiwara, and those high
houses and the low ones too. That is where the girls are. There are
two or three thousand of them within sight, as it were, from here.
But, of course, the night time is the time to see them."
"I suppose so," said Geoffrey vaguely.
"They sit in shop windows, one might say," Reggie went on, "only with
bars in front like cages in the Zoo. And they wear gorgeous kimonos,
red and gold and blue, and embroidered with flowers and dragons. It
is like nothing I can think of, except aviaries full of wonderful
parrakeets and humming-birds."
"Are they pretty?" Asako asked.
"No, I can't say they are pretty; and they all seem very much alike to
the mere Westerner. I can't imagine any body picking out one of them
and saying, 'I love her'--'she is the loveliest.' There is a fat,
impassive type like Buddha. There is a foxy animated type which
exchanges _badinage_ with the young nuts through the bars of her cage;
and there is a merely ugly lumpy type, a kind of cloddish country-girl
who exists in all countries. But the more exclusive houses don't
display their women. One can only see a row of photographs. No doubt
they are very flattering to their originals."
Asako was staring at the buildings now, at the high square prison
houses, and at the low native roofs. These had each its little
platform, its _monohoshi_, where much white washing was drying in the
At the farther end of one street a large stucco building, with a
Grecian portico, stood athwart the thoroughfare.
"What is that?" said Asako; "it looks like a church."
"That is the hospital," answered Reggie.
"But why is there a hospital here?" she asked again.
Yae Smith smiled ever so little at her new friend's ignorance of the
wages of sin. But nobody answered the question.
* * * * *
There was a movement in the crowd, a pushing back from some unseen
locality, like the jolting of railway trucks. At the same time there
was a craning of necks and a murmur of interest.
In the street opposite, the crowd was opening down the centre. The
police, who had sprung up everywhere like the crop of the dragons'
teeth, were dividing the people. And then, down the path so formed,
came the strangest procession which Geoffrey Barrington had ever seen
on or off the stage.
High above the heads of the crowd appeared what seemed to be a
life-size automaton, a moving waxwork magnificently garbed in white
brocade with red and gold embroidery of phenixes, and a huge red sash
tied in a bow in front. The hem of the skirt, turned up with red and
thickly wadded, revealed a series of these garments fitting beneath
each other, like the leaves of an artichoke. Under a monumental
edifice of hair, bristling like a hedgehog with amber-coloured pins
and with silver spangles and rosettes, a blank, impassive little face
was staring straight in front of it, utterly expressionless, utterly
unnatural, hidden beneath the glaze of enamel--the china face of a
It parted the grey multitude like a pillar of light. It tottered
forward slowly, for it was lifted above the crowd on a pair of
black-lacquered clogs as high as stilts, dangerous and difficult to
manipulate. On each side were two little figures, similarly painted,
similarly bedizened, similarly expressionless, children of nine or
ten years only, the _komuro_, the little waiting-women. They served to
support the reigning beauty and at the same time to display her long
embroidered sleeves, outstretched on either side like wings.
The brilliant figure and her two attendants moved forward under the
shade of a huge ceremonial umbrella of yellow oiled paper, which
looked like a membrane or like old vellum, and upon which were written
in Chinese characters the personal name of the lady chosen for the
honour and the name of the house in which she was an inmate. The
shaft of this umbrella, some eight or nine feet long, was carried by a
sinister being, clothed in the blue livery of the Japanese artisan,
a kind of tabard with close-fitting trousers. He kept twisting the
umbrella-shaft all the time with a gyrating movement to and fro, which
imparted to the disc of the umbrella the hesitation of a wave. He
followed the Queen with a strange slow stride. For long seconds
he would pause with one foot held aloft in the attitude of a
high-stepping horse, which distorted his dwarfish body into a diabolic
convulsion, like Durer's angel of horror. He seemed a familiar spirit,
a mocking devil, the wicked _Spielmann_ of the "Miracle" play, whose
harsh laughter echoes through the empty room when the last cup is
emptied, the last shilling gone, and the dreamer awakes from his
Behind him followed five or six men carrying large oval lanterns,
also inscribed with the name of the house; and after them came a
representative collection of the officials of the proud establishment,
a few foxy old women and a crowd of swaggering men, spotty
and vicious-looking. The _Orian_ (Chief Courtesan) reached the
cross-roads. There, as if moved by machinery or magnetism, she slowly
turned to the left. She made her way towards one of a row of small,
old-fashioned native houses, on the road down which the Barringtons
had come. Here the umbrella was lowered. The beauty bowed her
monumental head to pass under the low doorway, and settled herself on
a pile of cushions prepared to receive her.
Almost at once the popular interest was diverted to the appearance of
another procession, precisely similar, which was debouching from the
opposite road. The new _Orian_ garbed in blue, with a sash of gold and
a design of cherry-blossom, supported by her two little attendants,
wobbled towards another of the little houses. On her disappearing a
third procession came into sight.
"Ah!" sighed Asako, "what lovely kimonos! Where do they get them
"I don't know," said Yae, "some of them are quite old. They come out
fresh year after year for a different girl."
Yae, with her distorted little soul, was thinking that it must be
worth the years of slavery and the humiliation of disease to have that
one day of complete triumph, to be the representative of Beauty upon
earth, to feel the admiration and the desire of that vast concourse of
men rising round one's body like a warm flood.
Geoffrey stared fascinated, wondering to see the fact of prostitution
advertised so unblushingly as a public spectacle, his hatred and
contempt breaking over the heads of the swine-faced men who followed
the harlot, and picked their livelihood out of her shame.
Reggie was wondering what might be the thoughts of those little
creatures muffled in such splendour that their personality, like that
of infant queens, was entirely hidden by the significance of what they
symbolized. Not a smile, not a glance of recognition passed over the
unnatural whiteness of their faces. Yet they could not be, as they
appeared to be, sleep-walkers. Were they proud to wear such finery?
Were they happy to be so acclaimed? Did their heart beat for one man,
or did their vanity drink in the homage of all? Did their mind turn
back to the mortgaged farm and the work in the paddy-fields, to
the thriftless shop and the chatter of the little town, to the
_sake_-sodden father who had sold them in the days of their innocence,
to the first numbing shock of that new life? Perhaps; or perhaps they
were too taken up with maintaining their equilibrium on their high
shoes, or perhaps they thought of nothing at all. Reggie, who had a
poor opinion of the intellectual brightness of uneducated Japanese
women, thought that the last alternative was highly probable.
"I wonder what those little houses are where they pay their visits,"
"Oh, those are the _hikite chaya_" said Yae glibly, "the Yoshiwara
"Do they live there?" asked Asako.
"Oh, no; rich men who come to the Yoshiwara do not go to the big
houses where the _oiran_ live. They go to the tea-houses; and they
order food and _geisha_ to sing, and the _oiran_ to be brought from
the big house. It is more private. So the tea-houses are called
_hikite chaya_, 'tea-houses which lead by the hand.'"
"Yae," said Reggie, "you know a lot about it."
"Yes," said Miss Smith, "my brothers have told me. They tell me lots
After a stay of about half an hour, the _oiran_ left their tea-houses.
The processions reformed; and they slowly tottered back to the places
whence they had come. Across their path the cherry petals were already
falling like snowflakes; for the cherry-blossom is the Japanese symbol
of the impermanence of earthly beauty, and of all sweet things and
"By Jove!" said Geoffrey Harrington to the world in general, "that
was an extraordinary sight. East is East and West is West, eh? I never
felt that so strongly before. How often does this performance take
"This performance," said Reggie, "has taken place for three days every
Spring for the last three hundred years. But it is more than doubtful
whether it will ever happen again. It is called _Oiran Dochu_, the
procession of the courtesans. Geoffrey, what you have seen to-day is
nothing more or less than the Passing of Old Japan!"
"But whom do these women belong to?" asked Geoffrey. "And who is
making money out of all this filth?"
"Various people and companies, I suppose, who own the different
houses," answered Reggie. "A fellow once offered to sell me his whole
establishment, bedding and six girls for L50 down. But he must
have been having a run of bad luck. In most countries it is a
most profitable form of investment. Do you remember 'Mrs. Warren's
Profession'? Thirty-five per cent I think was the exact figure. I
don't suppose Japan is any exception."
"By Jove!" said Geoffrey, "The women, poor wretches, they can't help
themselves; and the men who buy what they sell, one can't blame them
either. But the creatures who make fortunes out of all this beastiness
and cruelty, I say, they ought to be flogged round the place with a
cat-o'-nine-tails till the life is beaten out of them. Let's get away
As they left the beer-house a small round Japanese man bobbed up from
the crowd, raised his hat, bowed and smiled. It was Tanaka. Geoffrey
had left him behind on purpose, that his servants, at least, might not
know where he was going.
"I think--I meet Ladyship here," said the little man, "but for long
time I do not spy her. I am very sorry."
"Is anything wrong? Why did you come?" asked Geoffrey.
"Good _samurai_ never leave Lordship's side. Of course, I come," was
"Well, hurry up and get back," said his master, "or we shall be home
With renewed bowings he disappeared.
Asako was laughing.
"We can never get rid of Tanaka," she said, "can we? He follows us
like a detective."
"Sometimes I think he is deliberately spying on us," said her husband.
"Cheer up," said Reggie, "they all do that."
The party dispersed at the Imperial Hotel. Asako was laughing and
happy. She had enjoyed herself immensely as usual; and her innocence
had realized little or nothing of the grim significance of what she
But Geoffrey was gloomy and distrait. He had taken it much to heart.
That night he had a horrible dream. The procession of the _oiran_ was
passing once more before his eyes; but he could not see the face of
the gorgeous doll whom all these crowds had come out to admire. He
felt strangely apprehensive, however. Then at a corner of the street
the figure turned and faced him. It was Asako, his wife. He struggled
to reach her and save her. But the crowds of Japanese closed in upon
him; he struggled in vain.
A GEISHA DINNER
Waga yodo no
Wakaki no ume wa
Hana saki ni keri_.
The young plum tree
Of my house
Which in bygone years
I dug up by the roots and transplanted
Has at last bloomed with flowers.
Next morning Geoffrey rose earlier than was his wont; and arrayed
in one of his many kimonos, entered his sitting-room. There he found
Tanaka, wrapped in contemplation of a letter. He was scrutinizing it
with an attention which seemed to pierce the envelope.
"Who is it from, Tanaka?" asked Geoffrey; he had become mildly
ironical in his dealings with the inquisitive guide.
"I think perhaps invitation to pleasure party from Ladyship's noble
relatives," Tanaka replied, unabashed.
Geoffrey took the note to his wife, and she read aloud:
"DEAR MR. AND MRS. BARRINGTON--It is now the bright Spring weather. I
hope you to enjoy good health. I have been rude thus to absent myself
during your polite visit. Much pressing business has hampered me,
also stomach trouble, but indeed there is no excuse. Please not to be
angry. This time I hope you to attend a poor feast, Maple Club Hotel,
next Tuesday, six p.m. Hoping to esteemed favor and even friend,
"What exactly does he mean?"
"As Tanaka says, it is an invitation to a pleasure party at the
beginning of next week."
"Answer it, sweetheart," said Geoffrey; "tell them that we are not
angry, and that we shall be delighted to accept."
Tanaka explained that the Maple Club Restaurant or Koyokwan, which
more strictly should be translated Hall of the Red Leaf, is the
largest and most famous of Tokyo "tea-houses"--to use a comprehensive
term which applies equally to a shack by the roadside, and to a dainty
pleasure resort where entertainments run easily into four or five
pounds per head. There are restaurants more secretive and more
_elite_, where the aesthetic _gourmet_ may feel more at ease and where
the bohemian spirit can loose its wit. But for public functions of
all kinds, for anything on a really big scale, the Maple Club stands
alone. It is the "Princes" of Tokyo with a flavour of the Guildhall
steaming richly through its corridors. Here the great municipal
dinners take place, the great political entertainments. Here famous
foreigners are officially introduced to the mysteries of Japanese
_cuisine_ and the charms of Japanese _geisha_. Here hangs a picture of
Lord Kitchener himself, scrambled over by laughing _mousmes_, who
seem to be peeping out of his pockets and buttonholes, a Gulliver in
Both Geoffrey and Asako had treated the invitation as a joke; but at
the last moment, while they were threading the mysterious streets
of the still unfamiliar city, they both confessed to a certain
nervousness. They were on the brink of a plunge into depths unknown.
They knew nothing whatever about the customs, tastes and prejudices of
the people with whom they were to mix--not even their names and their
"Well, we're in for it," said Geoffrey, "we must see it through now."
They drove up a steep gravel drive and stopped before a broad Japanese
entrance, three wide steps like altar stairs leading up to a dark
cavernous hall full of bowing women and men in black clothes, similar,
silent and ghostlike. The first impression was lugubrious, like a
feast of mutes.
Boots off! Geoffrey knew at least this rule number one in Japanese
etiquette. But who were these fluttering women, so attentive in
removing their cloaks and hats? Were they relatives or waitresses?
And the silent groups beyond? Were they Fujinami or waiters? The two
guests had friendly smiles for all; but they gazed helplessly for a
An apparition in evening dress with a long frock coat and a purple tie
emerged from that grim chorus of spectators. It was Ito, the lawyer.
The free and easy American manner was checked by the responsibility
of those flapping coat-tails. He looked and behaved just like a
shop-walker. After a stiff bow and handshake he said:
"Very pleased to see you, Sir, and Mrs. Barrington, also. The Fujinami
family is proud to make your entertainment."
Geoffrey expected further introductions; but the time had not yet
come. With a wave of the arm Mr. Ito added:
"Please step this way, Sir and Lady."
The Barringtons with Ito led the procession; and the mutes closed
in behind them. Down endless polished corridors they passed with
noiseless steps over the spotless boards. The only sound was the
rustling of silk garments. To closed eyes they might have seemed like
the arrival of a company of dowagers. The women, who had at first
received them, were still fluttering around them like humming-birds
escorting a flight of crows. To one of them Geoffrey owed his
preservation. He would have struck his forehead against a low doorway
in the darkness; but she touched the lintel with her finger and then
laid her tiny hand on Barrington's tall shoulder, laughing and saying
in infantile English:
"English _danna san_ very high!"
They came to a sudden opening between paper walls. In a little
room behind a table stood a middle-aged Japanese couple as stiff as
waxworks. For an instant Geoffrey thought they must be the cloakroom
attendants. Then, to his surprise, Ito announced:
"Mr. and Mrs. Fujinami Gentaro, the head of the Fujinami family.
Please walk in and shake hands."
Geoffrey and his wife did as they were directed. Three mutual bowings
took place in absolute silence, followed by a handshake. Then Ito
"Mr. and Mrs. Fujinami Gentaro wish to say they are very pleased you
both come to-night. It is very poor food and very poor feast, they
say. Japanese food is very simple sort of thing. But they ask you
please excuse them, for what they have done they have done from a good
Geoffrey was mumbling incoherently, and wondering whether he was
expected to reply to this oration, when Ito again exclaimed, "Please
step this way."
They passed into a large room like a concert hall with a stage at one
end. There were several men squatting on the floor round _hibachi_
smoking and drinking beer. They looked like black sheep browsing.
These were joined by the mutes who followed the Barringtons. All of
these people were dressed exactly alike. They wore white socks, a dark
kimono almost hidden by the black cloak upon which the family crest--a
wreath of wisteria (_fuji_) foliage--shone like a star on sleeves and
neck, and by the fluted yellowish skirt of heavy rustling silk. This
dress, though gloomy and sacerdotal, was dignified and becoming; but
the similarity was absurd. It looked like a studied effect at a fancy
dress ball. It was particularly exasperating to the guests of honour
who were anxious to distinguish their relatives and to know them
apart; but Ito alone, with his European clothes and his purple tie,
was conspicuous and unmistakable.
"He is like Mrs. Jarley," thought Geoffrey, "he explains the
In the middle of the room was a little group of chairs of the weary
beast of burden type, which are requisitioned for public meetings. Two
of them were dignified by cushions of crimson plush. These were for
Geoffrey and Asako.
Among the black sheep there was no movement beyond the steady staring
of some thirty pairs of eyes. When the Harringtons had been enthroned,
the host and hostess approached them with silent dragging steps and
downcast faces. They might have been the bearers of evil tidings. A
tall girl followed behind her parents.
Mrs. Fujinami Shidzuye and her daughter, Sadako, were the only women
present. This was a compromise, and a consideration for Asako's
feelings. Mr. Ito had proposed that since a lady was the chief guest
of honour, therefore all the Fujinami ladies ought to be invited to
meet her. To Mr. Fujinami's strict conservative mind such an idea
was anathema. What! Wives at a banquet! In a public restaurant! With
_geisha_ present! Absurd--and disgusting! _O tempora! O mores_!
Then, argued the lawyer, Asako must not be invited. But Asako was
the _clou_ of the evening; and besides, an English gentleman would be
insulted if his wife were not invited too. And--as Mr. Ito went on
to urge--any woman, Japanese or foreign, would be ill-at-ease in a
company composed entirely of men. Besides Sadako could speak English
so well; it was so convenient that she should come; and under her
mother's care her morals would not be contaminated by the propinquity
of _geisha_. So Mr. Fujinami gave in so far as concerned his own wife
Shidzuye San, as befitted a matron of sober years, wore a plain black
kimono; but Sadako's dress was of pale mauve color, with a bronze sash
tied in an enormous bow. Her hair was parted on one side and caught
up in a bun behind--the latest _haikara_ fashion and a tribute to the
foreign guests. Hers was a graceful figure; but her expression
was spoiled by the blue-tinted spectacles which completely hid her
"Miss Sadako Fujinami, daughter of Mr. Fujinami Gentaro," said Ito.
"She has been University undergraduate, and she speaks English quite
Miss Sadako bowed three times. Then she said, "How do you do" in a
high unnatural voice.
The room was filling up with the little humming-bird women who had
been present at the entrance. They were handing cigarettes and
tea cups to the guests. They looked bright and pleasant; and they
"Are these ladies relatives of the Fujinami family?" he asked Ito.
"Oh, no, not at all," the lawyer gasped; "you have made great
mistake, Mr. Barrington. Japanese ladies all left at home, never go
to restaurant. These girls are no ladies, they're _geisha_ girls.
_Geisha_ girls very famous to foreign persons."
Geoffrey knew that he had made his first _faux pas_.
"Now," said Mr. Ito, "please step this way; we go upstairs to the
The dining-room seemed larger still than the reception room. Down each
side of it were arranged two rows of red lacquer tables, each about
eighteen inches high and eighteen inches square. Mysterious little
dishes were placed on each side of these tables; the most conspicuous
was a flat reddish fish with a large eye, artistically served in a
rollicking attitude, which in itself was an invitation to eat.
The English guests were escorted to two seats at the extreme end of
the room, where two tables were laid in isolated glory. They were to
sit there like king and queen, with two rows of their subjects in long
aisles to the right and to the left of them.
The seats were cushions merely; but those placed for Geoffrey and
Asako were raised on low hassocks. After them the files of the
Fujinami streamed in and took up their appointed positions along
the sides of the room. They were followed by the _geisha_, each girl
carrying a little white china bottle shaped like a vegetable marrow,
and a tiny cup like the bath which hygienic old maids provide for
their canary birds.
"Japanese _sake_" said Sadako to her cousin, "you do not like?"
"Oh, yes, I do," replied Asako, who was intent on enjoying everything.
But on this occasion she had chosen the wrong answer; for real ladies
in Japan are not supposed to drink the warm rice wine.
The _geisha_ certainly looked most charming as they slowly advanced in
a kind of ritualistic procession. Their feet like little white mice,
the dragging skirts of their spotless kimonos, their exaggerated care
and precision, and their stiff conventional attitudes presented a
picture from a Satsuma vase. Their dresses were of all shades, black,
blue, purple, grey and mauve. The corner of the skirt folded back
above the instep revealed a glimpse of gaudy underwear provoking to
men's eyes, and displayed the intricate stenciled flower patterns,
which in the case of the younger women seemed to be catching hold of
the long sleeves and straying upwards. Little dancing girls,
thirteen and fourteen years old--the so-called _hangyoku_ or half
jewels--accompanied their elder sisters of the profession. They wore
very bright dresses just like the dolls; and their massive _coiffure_
was bedizened with silver spangles and elaborately artificial flowers.
"Oh!" gasped the admiring Asako, "I must get one of those _geisha_
girls to show me how to wear my kimonos properly; they do look smart."
"I do not think," answered Sadako. "These are vulgar women, bad style;
I will teach you the noble way."
But all the _geisha_ had a grave and dignified look, quite different
from the sprightly butterflies of musical comedy from whom Geoffrey
had accepted his knowledge of Japan.
They knelt down before the guests and poured a little of the _sake_
into the shallow saucer held out for their ministrations. Then they
folded their hands in their laps and appeared to slumber.
A sucking sound ran round the room as the first cup was drained. Then
a complete silence fell, broken only by the shuffle of the girls' feet
on the matting as they went to fetch more bottles.
Mr. Fujinami Gentaro spoke to the guests assembled, bidding them
commence their meal, and not to stand upon ceremony.
"It is like the one--two--three--go! at a race," thought Geoffrey.
All the guests were manipulating their chop-sticks. Geoffrey raised
his own pair. The two slender rods of wood were unparted at one end to
show that they had never been used. It was therefore necessary to pull
them in two. As he did so a tiny splinter of wood like a match fell
from between them.
"That is the toothpick," cousin Sadako explained. "We call such
chop-sticks _komochi-hashi_, chopstick with baby, because the
toothpick inside the chopstick like the baby inside the mother. Very
funny, I think."
There were two kinds of soup--excellent; there was cooked fish and
raw fish in red and white slices, chastely served with ice; there were
vegetables known and unknown, such as sweet potatoes, French beans,
lotus stems and bamboo shoots. These had to be eaten with the aid of
the chop-sticks--a difficult task when it came to cutting up the wing
of a chicken or balancing a soft poached egg.
The guests did not eat with gusto. They toyed with the food, sipping
wine all the time, smoking cigarettes and picking their teeth.
Geoffrey, according to his own description, was just getting his eye
in, when Mr. Fujinami Gentaro rose from his humble place at the far
end of the room. In a speech full of poetical quotations, which must
have cost his tame students considerable trouble in the composition,
he welcomed Asako Barrington, who, he said, had been restored to Japan
like a family jewel which has been lost and is found. He compared her
visit to the sudden flowering of an ancient tree. This did not seem
very complimentary; however, it referred not to the lady's age but
to the elder branch of the family which she represented. After many
apologies for the tastelessness of the food and the stupidity of the
entertainment, he proposed the health of Mr. and Mrs. Harrington,
which was drunk by the whole company standing.
Ito produced from his pocket a translation of this oration.
"Now please say a few words in reply," he directed.
Geoffrey, feeling acutely ridiculous, scrambled to his feet and
thanked everybody for giving his wife and himself such a jolly good
time. Ito translated.
"Now please command to drink health of the Fujinami family," said
the lawyer, consulting his _agenda_. So the health of Mr. and Mrs.
Fujinami Gentaro was drunk with relish by everybody, including the
lady and gentleman honoured.
"In this country," thought Geoffrey, "one gets the speechmaking over
before the dinner. Not a bad idea. It saves that nervous feeling which
spoils the appetite."
An old gentleman, with a restless jaw, tottered to his feet and
approached Geoffrey's table. He bowed twice before him, and held out a
"Mr. Fujinami Gennosuke, the father of Mr. Fujinami Gentaro,"
announced Ito. "He has retired from life. He wishes to drink wine with
you. Please wash your cup and give it to him."
There was a kind of finger-bowl standing in front of Geoffrey, which
he had imagined might be a spittoon. He was directed to rinse his
cup in this vessel, and to hand it to the old gentleman. Mr. Fujinami
Gennosuke received it in both hands as if it had been a sacrament. The
attendant _geisha_ poured out a little of the greenish liquid,
which was drunk with much hissing and sucking. Then followed another
obeisance; the cup was returned, and the old gentleman retired.
He was succeeded by Mr. Fujinami Gentaro himself, with whom the same
ceremony of the _sake_ drinking was repeated; and then all the family
passed by, one after another, each taking the cup and drinking. It was
like a visiting figure in the lancers' quadrille.
As each relative bent and bowed, Ito announced his name and quality.
These names seemed all alike, alike as their faces and as their
garments were. Geoffrey could only remember vaguely that he had been
introduced to a Member of Parliament, a gross man with a terrible
wen like an apple under his ear, and to two army officers, tall
clean-looking men, who pleased him more than the others. There were
several Government functionaries; but the majority were business men.
Geoffrey could only distinguish for certain his host and his host's
"They look just like two old vultures," he thought.
Then there was Mr. Fujinami Takeshi, the son of the host and the hope
of the family, a livid youth with a thin moustache and unhealthy marks
on his face like raspberries under the skin.
Still the _geisha_ kept bringing more and more food in a desultory way
quite unlike our system of fixed and regular courses. Still Ito kept
pressing Geoffrey to eat, while at the same time apologizing for the
quality of the food with exasperating repetition. Geoffrey had fallen
into the error of thinking that the fish and its accompanying dishes
which had been laid before him at first comprised the whole of the
repast. He had polished them off with gusto; and had then discovered
to his alarm that they were merely _hors d'oeuvres_. Nor did he
observe until too late how little the other guests were eating. There
was no discourtesy apparently in leaving the whole of a dish untasted,
or in merely picking at it from time to time. Rudeness consisted in
refusing any dish.
Plates of broiled meat and sandwiches arrived, bowls of soup, grilled
eels on skewers--that most famous of Tokyo delicacies; finally, the
inevitable rice with whose adhesive substance the Japanese epicure
fills up the final crannies in his well-lined stomach. It made its
appearance in a round drum-like tub of clean white wood, as big as
a bandbox, and bound round with shining brass. The girls served the
sticky grains into the china rice-bowl with a flat wooden ladle.
"Japanese people always take two bowls of rice at least," observed
Ito. "One bowl very unlucky; at the funeral we only eat one bowl."
This to Geoffrey was the _coup de grace_. He had only managed to stuff
down his bowl through a desperate sense of duty.
"If I do have a second," he gasped, "it will be my own funeral."
But this joke did not run in the well-worn lines of Japanese humour.
Mr. Ito merely thought that the big Englishman, having drunk much
_sake_, was talking nonsense.
All the guests were beginning to circulate now; the quadrille was
becoming more and more elaborate. They were each calling on each
other and taking wine. The talk was becoming more animated. A few bold
spirits began to laugh and joke with the _geisha_. Some had laid aside
their cloaks; and some even had loosened their kimonos at the neck,
displaying hairy chests. The stiff symmetry of the dinner party
was quite broken up. The guests were scattered like rooks, bobbing,
scratching and pecking about on the yellow mats. The bright plumage of
the _geisha_ stood out against their sombre monotony.
Presently the _geisha_ began to dance at the far end of the room. Ten
of the little girls did their steps, a slow dance full of posturing
with coloured handkerchiefs. Three of the elder _geisha_ in plain grey
kimonos squatted behind the dancers, strumming on their _samisens_.
But there was very little music either in the instrument or in the
melody. The sound of the string's twang and the rattle of the bone
plectrum drowned the sweetness of the note. The result was a kind of
dry clatter or cackle which is ingenious, but not pleasing.
Reggie Forsyth used to say that there is no melody in Japanese music;
but that the rhythm is marvelous. It is a kind of elaborate ragtime
without any tune to it.
The guests did not pay any attention to the performance, nor did they
applaud when it was over.
Mr. Ito was consulting his _agenda_ paper and his gold watch.
"You will now drink with these gentlemen," he said. Geoffrey must have
"It is Japanese custom," he continued; "please step this way; I will
Poor Geoffrey! it was his turn now to do the visiting figure, but
his head was buzzing with some thirty cups of _sake_ which he had
swallowed out of politeness, and with the unreality of the whole
"Can't do it," he protested; "drunk too much already."
"In Japan we say, 'When friends meet the _sake_ sellers laugh!'"
quoted the lawyer. "It is Japanese custom to drink together, and to
be happy. To be drunk in good company, it is no shame. Many of these
gentlemen will presently be drunk. But if you do not wish to drink
more, then just pretend to drink. You take the cup, see; you lift it
to your mouth, but you throw away the _sake_ into the basin when you
wash the cup. That is _geisha's_ trick when the boys try to make her
drunk, but she is too wise!"
Armed with this advice Geoffrey started on his round of visits,
first to his host and then to his host's father. The face of old Mr.
Fujinami Gennosuke was as red as beet-root, and his jaw was chewing
more vigorously than ever. Nothing, however, could have been more
perfect than his deportment in exchanging the cup with his guest. But
no sooner had Geoffrey turned away to pay another visit than he became
aware of a slight commotion. He glanced round and saw Mr. Fujinami,
senior, in a state of absolute collapse, being conducted out of the
room by two members of the family and a cluster of _geisha_.
"What has happened?" he asked in some alarm.
"It is nothing," said Ito; "old gentleman tipsy very quick."
Everybody now seemed to be smiling and happy. Geoffrey felt the curse
of his speechlessness. He was brimming over with good humour, and was
most anxious to please. The Japanese no longer appeared so grotesque
as they had on his arrival. He was sure that he would have much in
common with many of these men, who talked so good-naturedly among
themselves, until the chill of his approach fell upon them.
Besides Ito and Sadako Fujinami, the only person present who could
talk English at all fluently was that blotchy-faced individual, Mr.
Fujinami Takeshi. The young man was in a very hilarious state, and
had gathered around him a bevy of _geisha_ with whom he was cracking
jokes. From the nature of his gestures they must have been far from
"Please to sit down, my dear friend," he said to Geoffrey. "Do you
like _geisha_ girl?"
"I don't think they like me," said Geoffrey. "I'm too big."
"Oh, no," said the Japanese; "very big, very good. Japanese man
too small, no good at all. Why do all _geisha_ love _sumotori_
(professional wrestlers)? Because _sumotori_ very big; but this
English gentleman bigger than _sumotori_. So this girl love you, and
this girl, and this girl, and this very pretty girl, I don't know?"
He added a question in Japanese. The _geisha_ giggled, and hid her
face behind her sleeve.
"She say, she wish to try first. To try the cake, you eat some? Is
He repeated his joke in Japanese. The girl wriggled with
embarrassment, and finally scuttled away across the room, while the
All the _geisha_ now hid their faces among much tittering.
Geoffrey was becoming harassed by this _badinage_; but he hated to
appear a prude, and said:
"I have got a wife, you know, Mr. Fujinami; she is keeping an eye on
"No matter, no matter," the young man answered, waving his hand to and
fro; "we all have wife; wife no matter in Japan."
At last Geoffrey got back to his throne at Asako's side. He was
wondering what would be the next move in the game when, to his relief
and surprise, Ito, after a glance at his watch, said suddenly:
"It is now time to go home. Please say good-bye to Mr. and Mrs.
A sudden dismissal, but none the less welcome.
The inner circle of the Fujinami had gathered round. They and the
_geisha_ escorted their guests to the rickshaws and helped them on
with their cloaks and boots. There was no pressing to remain; and as
Geoffrey passed the clock in the entrance hall he noticed that it
was just ten o'clock. Evidently the entertainment was run with strict
adherence to the time-table.
Some of the guests were too deep in _sake_ and flirtation to be
aware of the break-up; and the last vision granted to Geoffrey of the
M.P.--the fat man with the wen--was of a kind of Turkey Trot going
on in a corner of the room, and the thick arms of the legislator
disappearing up the lady's kimono sleeve.
_Iro wa nioedo
Woga yo tore zo
Ui no okuyama
Asaki yume miji
Ei mo sezu._
The colours are bright, but
The petals fall!
In this world of ours who
Shall remain forever?
The high mountains of mutability,
We shall see no fleeting dreams,
Being inebriate no longer.
"_O hay[=o] gazaimas!_" (Respectfully early!)
Twitterings of maid-servants salute the lady of the house with the
conventional morning greeting. Mrs. Fujinami Shidzuye replies in the
high, fluty, unnatural voice which is considered refined in her social
The servants glide into the room which she has just left, moving
noiselessly so as not to wake the master who is still sleeping. They
remove from his side the thick warm mattresses upon which his wife
has been lying, the hard wooden pillow like the block of history,
the white sheets and the heavy padded coverlet with sleeves like an
enormous kimono. They roil up all these _yagu_ (night implements),
fold them and put them away into an unsuspected cupboard in the
architecture of the veranda.
Mr. Fujinami Gentaro still snores.
After a while his wife returns. She is dressed for the morning in a
plain grey silk kimono with a broad olive-green _obi_ (sash). Her
hair is arranged in a formidable helmet-like _coiffure_--all Japanese
matrons with their hair done properly bear a remote resemblance to
Pallas Athene and Britannia. This will need the attention of the
hairdresser so as to wax into obedience a few hairs left wayward by
the night in spite of that severe wooden pillow, whose hard, high
discomfort was invented by female vanity to preserve from disarray
the rigid order of their locks. Her feet are encased in little white
_tabi_ like gloves, for the big toe has a compartment all to itself.
She walks with her toes turned in, and with the heels hardly touching
the ground. This movement produces a bend of the knees and hips so
as to maintain the equilibrium of the body, and a sinuous appearance
which is considered the height of elegance in Japan, so that the grace
of a beautiful woman is likened to "a willow-tree blown by the
wind," and the shuffle of her feet on the floor-matting to the wind's
Mrs. Fujinami carries a red lacquer tray. On the tray is a tiny teapot
and a tiny cup and a tiny dish, in which are three little salted
damsons, with a toothpick fixed in one of them. It is the _petit
dejeuner_ of her lord. She put down the tray beside the head of
the pillow, and makes a low obeisance, touching the floor with her
"_O hay[=o] gazaimas_'!"
Mr. Fujinami stirs, gapes, stretches, yawns, rubs his lean fist in his
hollow eyes, and stares at the rude incursion of daylight. He takes no
notice of his wife's presence. She pours out tea for him with studied
pose of hands and wrists, conventional and graceful. She respectfully
requests him to condescend to partake. Then she makes obeisance again.
Mr. Fujinami yawns once more, after which he condescends. He sucks
down the thin, green tea with a whistling noise. Then he places in his
mouth the damson balanced on the point of the toothpick. He turns it
over and over with his tongue as though he was chewing a cud. Finally
he decides to eat it, and to remove the stone.
Then he rises from his couch. He is a very small wizened man. Dressed
in his night kimono of light blue silk, he passes along the veranda
in the direction of the morning ablutions. Soon the rending sounds of
throat-clearing show that he has begun his wash. Three maids appear
as by magic in the vacated room. The bed is rolled away, the matting
swept, and the master's morning clothes are laid out ready for him on
Mrs. Fujinami assists her husband to dress, holding each garment ready
for him to slip into, like a well-trained valet. Mr. Fujinami does not
speak to her. When his belt has been adjusted, and a watch with a gold
fob thrust into its interstice, he steps down from the veranda, slides
his feet into a pair of _geta_, and strolls out into the garden.
Mr. Fujinami's garden is a famous one. It is a temple garden many
centuries old; and the eyes of the initiated may read in the miniature
landscape, in the grouping of shrubs and rocks, in the sudden
glimpses of water, and in the bare pebbly beaches, a whole system of
philosophic and religious thought worked out by the patient priests of
the Ashikaga period, just as the Gothic masons wrote their version of
the Bible history in the architecture of their cathedrals.
But for the ignorant, including its present master, it was just a
perfect little park, with lawns six feet square and ancient pine
trees, with impenetrable forests which one could clear at a bound,
with gorges, waterfalls, arbours for lilliputian philanderings and
a lake round whose tiny shores were represented the Eight Beautiful
Views of the Lake of Biwa near Kyoto.
The bungalow mansion of the family lies on a knoll overlooking the
lake and the garden valley, a rambling construction of brown wood with
grey scale-like tiles, resembling a domesticated dragon stretching
itself in the sun.
Indeed, it is not one house but many, linked together by a number of
corridors and spare rooms. For Mr. and Mrs. Fujinami live in one wing,
their son and his wife in another, and also Mr. Ito, the lawyer, who
is a distant relative and a partner in the Fujinami business. Then,
on the farther side of the house, near the pebble drive and the great
gate, are the swarming quarters of the servants, the rickshaw men, and
Mr. Fujinami's secretaries. Various poor relations exist unobserved
in unfrequented corners; and there is the following of University
students and professional swashbucklers which every important Japanese
is bound to keep, as an advertisement of his generosity, and to do his
dirty work for him. A Japanese family mansion is very like a hive--of
Nor is this the entire population of the Fujinami _yashiki_. Across
the garden and beyond the bamboo grove is the little house of Mr.
Fujinami's stepbrother and his wife; and in the opposite corner, below
the cherry-orchard, is the _inkyo_, the dower house, where old
Mr. Fujinami Gennosuke, the retired Lord--who is the present Mr.
Fujinami's father by adoption only--watches the progress of the family
fortunes with the vigilance of Charles the Fifth in the cloister of
* * * * *
Mr. Fujinami Gentaro shuffled his way towards a little room like a
kind of summer-house, detached from the main building and overlooking
the lake and garden from the most favourable point of vantage.
This is Mr. Fujinami's study--like all Japanese rooms, a square box
with wooden framework, wooden ceiling, sliding paper _shoji_, pale
golden _tatami_ and double alcove. All Japanese rooms are just the
same, from the Emperor's to the rickshaw-man's; only in the quality
of the wood, in the workmanship of the fittings, in the newness and
freshness of paper and matting, and by the ornaments placed in the
alcove, may the prosperity of the house be known.
In Mr. Fujinami's study, one niche of the alcove was fitted up as a
bookcase; and that bookcase was made of a wonderful honey-coloured
satinwood brought from the hinterland of China. The lock and
the handles were inlaid with dainty designs in gold wrought by a
celebrated Kyoto artist. In the open alcove the hanging scroll of Lao
Tze's paradise had cost many hundreds of pounds, as had also the Sung
dish below it, an intricacy of lotus leaves caved out of a single
On a table in the middle of this chaste apartment lay a pair of
gold-rimmed spectacles and a yellow book. The room was open to the
early morning sunlight; the paper walls were pushed back. Mr. Fujinami
moved a square silk cushion to the edge of the matting near the
outside veranda. There he could rest his back against a post in
the framework of the building--for even Japanese get wearied by the
interminable squatting which life on the floor level entails--and
acquire that condition of bodily repose which is essential for
Mr. Fujinami was in the habit of meditating for one hour every
morning. It was a tradition of his house; his father and his
grandfather had done so before him. The guide of his meditations was
the yellow book, the _Rongo_ (Maxims) of Confucius, that Bible of the
Far East which has moulded oriental morality to the shape of the Three
Obediences, the obedience of the child to his parents, of the wife to
her husband, and of the servant to his lord.
Mr. Fujinami sat on the sill of his study, and meditated. Around him
was the stillness of early morning. From the house could be heard the
swish of the maids' brooms brushing the _tatami_, and the flip-flap
of their paper flickers, like horses' tails, with which they dislodged
the dust from the walls and cornices.
A big black crow had been perched on one of the cherry-trees in the
garden. He rose with a shaking of branches and a flapping of broad
black wings. He crossed the lake, croaking as he flew with a note
more harsh, rasping and cynical than the consequential caw of English
rooks. His was a malevolent presence "from the night's Plutonian
shore," the symbol of something unclean and sinister lurking behind
this dainty beauty and this elaboration of cleanliness.
Mr. Fujinami's meditations were deep and grave. Soon he put down the
book. The spectacles glided along his nose. His chest rose and fell
quickly under the weight of his resting chin. To the ignorant observer
Mr. Fujinami would have appeared to be asleep.
However, when his wife appeared about an hour and a half afterwards,
bringing her lord's breakfast on another red lacquer table she
besought him kindly to condescend to eat, and added that he must
be very tired after so much study. To this Mr. Fujinami replied by
passing his hand over his forehead and saying, "_D[=o]m[=o]! So des' ne!_
(Indeed, it is so!) I have tired myself with toil."
This little farce repeated itself every morning. All the household
knew that the master's hour of meditation was merely an excuse for
an after-sleep. But it was a tradition in the family that the master
should study thus; and Mr. Fujinami's grandfather had been a great
scholar in his generation. To maintain the tradition Mr. Fujinami had
hired a starveling journalist to write a series of random essays of
a sentimental nature, which he had published under his own name, with
the title, _Fallen Cherry-Blossoms_.
Such is the hold of humbug in Japan that nobody in the whole
household, including the students who respected nothing, ever allowed
themselves the relief of smiling at the sacred hour of study, even
when the master's back was turned.
* * * * *
"_O hay[=o] gozaimas_'!"
"For honourable feast of yesterday evening indeed very much obliged!"
The oily forehead of Mr. Ito touched the matting floor with the
exaggerated humility of conventional gratitude. The lawyer wore
a plain kimono of slate-grey silk. His American manners and his
pomposity had both been laid aside with the tweed suit and the
swallow-tail. He was now a plain Japanese business man, servile
and adulatory in his patron's presence. Mr. Fujinami Gentaro bowed
slightly in acknowledgment across the remnants of his meal.
"It is no matter," he said, with a few waves of his fan; "please sit
at your ease."
The two gentlemen arranged themselves squatting cross-legged for the
morning's confidential talk.
"The cherry-flowers," Ito began, with a sweep of the arm towards the
garden grove, "how quickly they fall, alas!"
"Indeed, human life also," agreed Mr. Fujinami. "But the guests of
last evening, what is one to think?"
"_Ma_! In truth, _sensei_ (master or teacher), it would be impossible
not to call that Asa San a beauty."
"Ito Kun," said his relative in a tone of mild censure, "it is foolish
always to think of women's looks. This foreigner, what of him?"
"For a foreigner, that person seems to be honourable and grave,"
answered the retainer, "but one fears that it is a misfortune for the
house of Fujinami."
"To have a son who is no son," said the head of the family, sighing.
"_D[=o]m[=o]!_ It is terrible!" was the reply; "besides, as the _sensei_
so eloquently said last night, there are so few blossoms on the old
The better to aid his thoughts, Mr. Fujinami drew from about his
person a case which contained a thin bamboo pipe, called _kiseru_ in
Japanese, having a metal bowl of the size and shape of the socket of
an acorn. He filled this diminutive bowl with a little wad of tobacco,
which looked like coarse brown hair. He kindled it from the charcoal
ember in the _hibachi_. He took three sucks of smoke, breathing them
slowly out of his mouth again in thick grey whorls. Then with three
hard raps against the wooden edge of the firebox, he knocked out again
the glowing ball of weed. When this ritual was over, he replaced the
pipe in its sheath of old brocade.
The lawyer sucked in his breath, and bowed his head.
"In family matters," he said, "it is rude for an outside person to
advise the master. But last night I saw a dream. I saw the Englishman
had been sent back to England; and that this Asa San with all her
money was again in the Fujinami family. Indeed, a foolish dream, but a
good thing, I think!"
Mr. Fujinami pondered with his face inclined and his eyes shut.
"Ito Kun," he said at last, "you are indeed a great schemer. Every
month you make one hundred schemes. Ninety of them are impracticable,
eight of them are foolish, and two of them are masterpieces!"
"And this one?" asked Ito.
"I think it is impracticable," said his patron, "but it would be worth
while to try. It would without doubt be an advantage to send away
this foreigner. He is a great trouble, and may even become a danger.
Besides, the house of Fujinami has few children. Where there are no
sons even daughters are welcome. If we had this Asa, we could marry
her to some influential person. She is very beautiful, she is rich,
and she speaks foreign languages. There would be no difficulty. Now,
as to the present, how about this Osaka business?"
"I have heard from my friend this morning," answered Ito; "it is good
news. The Governor will sanction the establishment of the new licensed
quarter at Tobita, if the Home Minister approves."
"But that is easy. The Minister has always protected us. Besides, did
I not give fifty thousand _yen_ to the funds of the _Seiyukwai_?"
said Mr. Fujinami, naming the political party then in the majority in
"Yes, but it must be done quickly; for opposition is being organised.
First, there was the Salvation Army and the missionaries. Now, there
are Japanese people, too, people who make a cry and say this licensed
prostitute system is not suitable to a civilised country, and it is a
shame to Japan. Also, there may be a political change very soon, and a
"Then we would have to begin all over again, another fifty thousand
_yen_ to the other side."
"If it is worth it?"
"My father says that Osaka is the gold mine of Japan. It is worth all
that we can pay."
"Yes, but Mr. Fujinami Gennosuke is an old man now, and the times are
The master laughed.
"Times change," he said, "but men and women never change."
"It is true," argued Ito, "that rich and noble persons no longer
frequent the _yukwaku_ (pleasure enclosure). My friend, Suzuki, has
seen the Chief of the Metropolitan Police. He says that he will not
be able to permit _Oiran Dochu_ another year. He says too that it
will soon be forbidden to show the _jor[=o]_ in their windows. It will
be photograph-system for all houses. It is all a sign of the change.
Therefore, the Fujinami ought not to sink any more capital in the
"But men will still be men, they will still need a laundry for their
spirits." Mr. Fujinami used a phrase which in Japan is a common excuse
for those who frequent the _demi-monde_.
"That is true, _sensei_," said the counsellor; "but our Japan must
take on a show of Western civilisation. It is the thing called
progress. It is part of Western civilisation that men will become more
hypocritical. These foreigners say our Yoshiwara is a shame; but, in
their own cities, immoral women walk in the best streets, and offer
themselves to men quite openly. These virtuous foreigners are worse
than we are. I myself have seen. They say, 'We have no Yoshiwara
system, therefore we are good.' They pretend not to see like a
_geisha_ who squints through a fan. We Japanese, we now become more
hypocritical, because this is necessary law of civilisation. The two
swords of the _samurai_ have gone; but honour and hatred and revenge
will never go. The _kanzashi_ (hair ornaments) of the _oiran_ will go
too; but what the _oiran_ lose, the _geisha_ will gain. Therefore, if
I were Fujinami San, I would buy up the _geisha_, and also perhaps the
_inbai_ (unregistered women)."
"But that is a low trade," objected the Yoshiwara magnate.
"It is very secret; your name need never be spoken."
"And it is too scattered, too disorganised, it would be impossible to
"I do not think it would be so difficult. What might be proposed is a
"But even the Fujinami have not got enough money."
"Within one month I guarantee to find the right men, with the money
and the experience and the influence."
"Then the business would no longer be the Fujinami only--"
"It would be as in America, a combine, something on a big scale. In
Japan one is content with such small business. Indeed, we Japanese are
a very small people."
"In America, perhaps, there is more confidence," said the elder man;
"but in Japan we say, 'Beware of friends who are not also relatives,'
There is, as you know, the temple of Inari Daimy[=o]jin in Asakusa. They
say that if a man worships at that temple he becomes the owner of his
friend's wealth. I fear that too many of us Japanese make pilgrimage
to that temple after nightfall."
With those words, Mr. Fujinami picked up a newspaper to indicate
that the audience was terminated; and Mr. Ito, after a series of
* * * * *
As soon as he was out of sight, Mr. Fujinami Gentaro selected from the
pile in front of him a number of letters and newspapers. With these
in his hand, he left the study, and followed a path of broad, flat
stepping-stones across the garden towards the cherry-orchard. Here
the way sloped rapidly downward under a drift of fallen petals. On the
black naked twigs of the cherry-trees one or two sturdy blossoms still
clung pathetically, like weather-beaten butterflies. Beyond a green
shrubbery, on a little knoll, a clean newly-built Japanese house,
like a large rabbit hutch, rested in a patch of sunlight. It was
the _inkyo_, the "shadow dwelling" or dower house. Here dwelt Mr.
Fujinami, senior, and his wife--his fourth matrimonial experiment.
The old gentleman was squatting on the balcony of the front corner
room, the one which commanded the best view of the cherry-grove. He
looked as if he had just been unpacked; for he was surrounded by reams
and reams of paper, some white, and some with Chinese letters scrawled
over them. He was busy writing these letters with a kind of thick
paint-brush; and he was so deep in his task that he appeared not to
notice his son's approach. His restless jaw was still imperturbably
"_O hay[=o] gozaimas_'!"
"_Tar[=o], yo! O hay[=o]_!" cried the old gentleman, calling his son by his
short boy's name, and cutting off all honorifics from his speech.
He always affected surprise at this visit, which had been a daily
occurrence for many years.
"The cherry-flowers are fallen and finished," said the younger man.
"Ah, human life, how short a thing!"
"Yes, one year more I have seen the flowers," said Mr. Fujinami
Gennosuke, nodding his head and taking his son's generalisation as
a personal reference. He had laid his brush aside; and he was really
wondering what would be Gentaro's comment on last night's feast and
its guests of honour.
"Father is practising handwriting again?"
The old man's mania was penmanship, just as his son's was literature.
Among Japanese it is considered the pastime becoming to his age.
"My wrist has become stiff. I cannot write as I used to. It is
always so. Youth has the strength but not the knowledge; age has the
knowledge, but no strength."
As a matter of fact, Mr. Gennosuke was immensely satisfied with his
calligraphy, and was waiting for compliments.
"But this, this is beautifully written. It is worthy of Kobo Daishi!"
said the younger man, naming a famous scholar priest of the Middle
Ages. He was admiring a scroll on which four characters were
written in a perpendicular row. They signified, "From the midst of
tranquillity I survey the world."
"No," said the artist; "you see the _ten_ (point) there is wrong. It
is ill-formed. It should be written thus."
Shaking back his kimono sleeve--he wore a sea-blue cotton kimono, as
befitted his years--and with a little flourish of his wrist, like a
golfer about to make his stroke, he traced off the new version of the
character on the white paper.
Perched on his veranda, with his head on one side he looked very like
the marabout stork, as you may see him at the Zoo, that raffish bird
with the folds in his neck, the stained glaucous complexion, the bald
head and the brown human eye. He had the same look of respectable
rascality. The younger Fujinami showed signs of becoming exactly like
him, although the parentage was by adoption only. He was not yet so
bald. His black hair was patched with grey in a piebald design. The
skin of the throat was at present merely loose, it did not yet hang in
"And this Asa San?" remarked the elder after a pause; "what is to be
thought of her? Last night I became drunk, as my habit is, and I could
not see those people well."
"She is not loud-voiced and bold like foreign women. Indeed, her voice
and her eyes are soft. Her heart is very good, I think. She is timid,
and in everything she puts her husband first. She does not understand
the world at all; and she knows nothing about money. Indeed, she is
like a perfect Japanese wife."
"Hm! A good thing, and the husband?"
"He is a soldier, an honourable man. He seemed foolish, or else he is
very cunning. The English people are like that. They say a thing. Of
course, you think it is a lie. But no, it is the truth; and so they
"_Ma, mendo-kusai_ (indeed, smelly-troublesome!) And why has this
foreigner come to Japan?"
"Ito says he has come to learn about the money. That means, when he
knows he will want more."
"How much do we pay to Asa San?"
"Ten per cent."
"And the profits last year on all our business came to thirty seven
and a half per cent. Ah! A fine gain. We could not borrow from the
banks at ten per cent. They would want at least fifteen, and many
gifts for silence. It is better to fool the husband, and to let them
go back to England. After all, ten per cent is a good rate. And we
want all our money now for the new brothels in Osaka. If we make much
money there, then afterwards we can give them more."
"Ito says that if the Englishman knows that the money is made in
brothels, he will throw it all away and finish. Ito thinks it would be
not impossible to send the Englishman back to England, and to keep Asa
here in Japan."
The old man looked up suddenly, and for once his jaw stopped chewing.
"That would be best of all," he exclaimed. "Then indeed he is
honourable and a great fool. Being an Englishman, it is possible. Let
him go back to England. We will keep Asa. She too is a Fujinami; and,
even though she is a woman, she can be useful to the family. She will
stay with us. She would not like to be poor. She has not borne a baby
to this foreigner, and she is young. I think also our Sada can teach
her many things."
"It is of Sada that I came to speak to father," said Mr. Gentaro. "The
marriage of our Sada is a great question for the Fujinami family. Here
is a letter from Mr. Osumi, a friend of the Governor of Osaka. The
Governor has been of much help to us in getting the concession for
the new brothels. He is a widower with no children. He is a man with a
future. He is protected by the military clan. He is wishful to marry
a woman who can assist his career, and who would be able to take the
place of a Minister's wife. Mr. Osumi, who writes, had heard of the
accomplishments of our Sada. He mentioned her name to the Governor;
and His Excellency was quite willing that Mr. Osumi should write
something in a letter to Ito."
"Hm!" grunted the old gentleman, squinting sidelong at his son; "this
Governor, has he a private fortune?"
"No, he is a self-made man."
"Then it will not be with him, as it was with that Viscount Kamimura.
He will not be too proud to take our money."
The truth of the allusion to Viscount Kamimura was that the name of
Sadako Fujinami had figured on the list of possible brides submitted
to that young aristocrat on his return from England. At first, it
seemed likely that the choice would fall upon her, because of her
undisputed cleverness; and the Fujinami family were radiant at the
prospect of so brilliant a match. For although nothing had been
formally mentioned between the two families, yet Sadako and her mother
had learned from their hairdresser that there was talk of such a
possibility in the servants' quarter of the Kamimura mansion, and
that old Dowager Viscountess Kamimura was undoubtedly making inquiries
which could only point to that one object.
The young Viscount, however, on ascertaining the origin of the family
wealth, eliminated poor Sadako from the competition for his hand.
It was a great disappointment to the Fujinami, and most of all to the
ambitious Sadako. For a moment she had seen opening the doorway into
that marvellous world of high diplomacy, of European capitals, of
diamonds, duchesses and intrigue, of which she had read in foreign
novels, where everybody is rich, brilliant, immoral and distinguished,
and where to women are given the roles to play even more important
than those of the men. This was the only world, she felt, worthy of
her talents; but few, very few, just one in a million Japanese women,
ever gets the remotest chance of entering it. This chance presented
itself to Sadako--but for a moment only. The doorway shut to again;
and Sadako was left feeling more acutely than before the emptiness
of life, and the bitterness of woman's lot in a land where men are
Her cousin, Asako, by the mere luck of having had an eccentric parent
and a European upbringing, possessed all the advantages and all the
experience which the Japanese girl knew only through the glamorous
medium of books. But this Asa San was a fool. Sadako had found that
out at once in the course of a few minutes talk at the Maple Club
dinner. She was sweet, gentle and innocent; far more Japanese, indeed,
than her sophisticated cousin. Her obvious respect and affection for
her big rough husband, her pathetic solicitude for the father whose
face she could hardly remember and for the mother who was nothing but
a name; these traits of character belong to the meek Japanese girl
of _Onna Daigaku_ (Woman's Great Learning), that famous classic
of Japanese girlhood which teaches the submission of women and the
superiority of men. It was a type which was becoming rare in her own
country. Little Asako had nothing in common with the argumentative
heroines of Bernard Shaw or with the desperate viragos of Ibsen, to
whom Sadako felt herself spiritually akin. Asako must be a fool. She
exasperated her Japanese cousin, who at the same time was envious of
her, envious above all of her independent wealth. As she observed to
her own mother, it was most improper that a woman, and a young woman
too, should have so much money of her own. It would be sure to spoil
Meanwhile Asako was a way of access to first-hand knowledge of that
world of European womanhood which so strongly attracted Sadako's
intelligence, that almost incredible world in which men and women were
equal, had equal rights to property, and equal rights to love. Asako
must have seen enough to explain something about it; if only she were
not a fool. But it appeared that she had never heard of Strindberg,
Sudermann, or d'Annunzio; and even Bernard Shaw and Oscar Wilde were
THE FAMILY ALTAR
_Yume no ai wa
Te ni mo fureneba._
(These) meetings in dreams
How sad they are!
When, waking up startled
One gropes about--
And there is no contact to the hand.
Miss Fujinami made up her mind to cultivate Asako's friendship, and to
learn all that she could from her. So she at once invited her cousin
to the mysterious house in Akasaka, and Asako at once accepted.
The doors seemed to fly open at the magic of the wanderer's return.
Behind each partition were family retainers, bowing and smiling.
Three maids assisted her to remove her boots. There was a sense of
expectation and hospitality, which calmed Asako's fluttering shyness.
"Welcome! Welcome!" chanted the chorus of maids, "_O agari
nasaimashi!_ (pray step up into the house!)"
The visitor was shown into a beautiful airy room overlooking the
landscape garden. She could not repress an Ah! of wonder, when first
this fairy pleasance came in sight. It was all so green, so tiny, and
so perfect,--the undulating lawn, the sheet of silver water, the pigmy
forests which clothed its shores, its disappearance round a shoulder
of rock into that hinterland of high trees which closed the vista and
shut out the intrusion of the squalid city.
The Japanese understand better than we do the mesmeric effects
of sights and sounds. It was to give her time to assimilate her
surroundings that Asako was left alone for half an hour or so, while
Sadako and her mother were combing their hair and putting their
kimonos straight. Tea and biscuits were brought for her, but her fancy
was astray in the garden. Already to her imagination a little town
had sprung up along the shingles of the tiny bay which faced her;
the sails of white ships were glimpsing where the sunlight struck the
water; and from round the rock promontory she could catch the shimmer
of the Prince's galleon with its high poop and stern covered with
solid gold. He was on his way to rescue the lady who was immured in
the top of the red pagoda on the opposite hill.
Asako's legs were getting numb. She had been sitting on them
in correct Japanese fashion all this time. She was proud of the
accomplishment, which she considered must be hereditary, but she could
not keep it up for much longer than half an hour. Sadako's mother
"Asa San is welcome."
Much bowing began, in which Asako felt her disadvantage. The long
lines of the kimono, with the big sash tied behind, lend themselves
with peculiar grace to the squatting bow of Japanese intercourse. But
Asako, in the short blue jacket of her tailor-made serge, felt that
her attitude was that of the naughty little boys in English picture
books, bending over for castigation.
Mrs. Fujinami wore a perfectly plain kimono, blackish-brown in colour,
with a plain gold sash. It is considered correct for middle-aged
ladies in Japan to dress with modesty and reserve. She was tall for a
Japanese woman and big-boned, with a long lantern-face, and an almost
Jewish nose. The daughter was of her mother's build. But her face was
a perfect oval, the melon-seed shape which is so highly esteemed in
her country. The severity of her appearance was increased, by her
blue-tinted spectacles; and like so many Japanese women, her teeth
were full of gold stopping. She was resplendent in blue, the blue of
the Mediterranean, with fronds of cherry-blossom and floating pink
petals designed round her skirts and at the bottom of the long
exaggerated sleeves. The sash of broad stiff brocade shone with light
blue and silver in a kind of conventional wave pattern. This was tied
at the back with a huge bow, which seemed perched upon its wearer like
a gigantic butterfly alighting on a cornflower. Her straight black
hair was parted on one side in "foreign" style. But her mother wore
the helmet-like _marumage_, the edifice of conservative taste in
married women, which looks more like a wig than like natural hair.
Rings sparkled on Sadako's fingers, and she wore a diamond ornament
across her sash; but neither their taste nor their quality impressed
her cousin. Her face was of the same ivory tint as Asako's, but it
was hidden under a lavish coating of liquid powder. This hideous
embellishment covers not only the Mongolian yellow, which every
Japanese woman seems anxious to hide, but also the natural and
charming nuances of young skin, under a white monotonous surface
like a mask of clay. Painted roses bloomed on the girl's cheeks. The
eyebrows were artificially darkened as well as the lines round the
eyes. The face and its expression, in fact, were quite obscured by
cosmetics; and Miss Fujinami was wrapped in a cloud of cheap scent
like a servant-girl on her evening out.
She spoke English well. In fact, at school she had achieved a really
brilliant career, and she had even attended a University for a time
with the intention of reading for a degree, an attainment rare among
Japanese girls. But overwork brought on its inevitable result. Books
had to be banished, and glasses interposed to save the tired eyes from
the light. It was a bitter disappointment for Sadako, who was a proud
and ambitious girl, and it had not improved her disposition.
After the first formalities Asako was shown round the house. The
sameness of the rooms surprised her. There was nothing to distinguish
them except the different woods used in their ceilings and walls, a
distinction which betrayed its costliness and its taste only to the
practised eye. Each room was spotless and absolutely bare, with golden
_tatami_, rice-straw mats with edgings of black braid, fixed into the
flooring, by whose number the size of a Japanese room is measured.
Asako admired the pale white _shoji_, the sliding windows of opaque
glowing paper along the side of the room open to the outdoor light,
the _fusuma_ or sliding partitions between room and room, set in the
framework of the house, some of them charmingly painted with sketches
of scenery, flowers, or people, some of them plain cream-coloured
boards flecked with tiny specks of gold.
Nothing broke the sameness of these rooms except the double alcove,
or _tokonoma_ with its inevitable hanging picture, its inevitable
ornament, and its spray of blossom. Between the double niche stood