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Tales of Old Japan by Algernon Bertram Freeman-Mitford

Part 7 out of 7

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spread over all, sewed together, one on the top of the other; for if
the white cotton cloth be used alone, the blood will soak through on
to the mats; therefore it is right the rugs should be spread. On the
twenty-third day of the eighth month of the fourth year of the period
Yenkiyo (A.D. 1740), at the _hara-kiri_ of a certain person there were
laid down a white cloth, eight feet square, and on that a quilt of
light green cotton, six feet square, and on that a cloth of white
hemp, six feet square, and on that two rugs. On the third day of the
ninth month of the ninth year of the period Tempo (A.D. 1838), at the
_hara-kiri_ of a certain person it is said that there were spread a
large double cloth of white cotton, and on that two rugs. But, of
these two occasions, the first must be commended for its careful
preparation. If the execution be at night, candlesticks of white wood
should be placed at each of the four corners, lest the seconds be
hindered in their work. In the place where the witnesses are to sit,
ordinary candlesticks should be placed, according to etiquette; but an
excessive illumination is not decorous. Two screens covered with white
paper should be set up, behind the shadow of which are concealed the
dirk upon a tray, a bucket to hold the head after it has been cut off,
an incense-burner, a pail of water, and a basin. The above rules
apply equally to the ceremonies observed when the _hara-kiri_ takes
place in a garden. In the latter case the place is hung round with a
white curtain, which need not be new for the occasion. Two mats, a
white cloth, and a rug are spread. If the execution is at night,
lanterns of white paper are placed on bamboo poles at the four
corners. The sentence having been read inside the house, the persons
engaged in the ceremony proceed to the place of execution; but,
according to circumstances, the sentence may be read at the place
itself. In the case of Asano Takumi no Kami, the sentence was read out
in the house, and he afterwards performed _hara-kiri_ in the garden.
On the third day of the fourth month of the fourth year of the period
Tenmei (A.D. 1784), a Hatamoto named Sano, having received his
sentence in the supreme court-house, disembowelled himself in the
garden in front of the prison. When the ceremony takes place in the
garden, matting must be spread all the way to the place, so that
sandals need not be worn. The reason for this is that some men in that
position suffer from a rush of blood to the head, from nervousness, so
their sandals might slip off their feet without their being aware of
their loss; and as this would have a very bad appearance, it is better
to spread matting. Care must be taken lest, in spreading the matting,
a place be left where two mats join, against which the foot might
trip. The white screens and other things are prepared as has been
directed above. If any curtailment is made, it must be done as well as
circumstances will permit. According to the crime of which a man who
is handed over to any Daimio's charge is guilty, it is known whether
he will have to perform _hara-kiri_; and the preparations should be
made accordingly. Asano Takumi no Kami was taken to the palace of
Tamura Sama at the hour of the monkey (between three and five in the
afternoon), took off his dress of ceremony, partook of a bowl of soup
and five dishes, and drank two cups of warm water, and at the hour of
the cock (between five and seven in the evening) disembowelled
himself. A case of this kind requires much attention; for great care
should be taken that the preparations be carried on without the
knowledge of the principal. If a temporary room has been built
expressly for the occasion, to avoid pollution to the house, it should
be kept a secret. It once happened that a criminal was received in
charge at the palace of a certain nobleman, and when his people were
about to erect a temporary building for the ceremony, they wrote to
consult some of the parties concerned; the letter ran as follows--

"The house in which we live is very small and inconvenient in all
respects. We have ordered the guard to treat our prisoner with all
respect; but our retainers who are placed on guard are much
inconvenienced for want of space; besides, in the event of fire
breaking out or any extraordinary event taking place, the place is so
small that it would be difficult to get out. We are thinking,
therefore, of adding an apartment to the original building, so that
the guard may be able at all times to go in and out freely, and that
if, in case of fire or otherwise, we should have to leave the house,
we may do so easily. We beg to consult you upon this point."

When a Samurai has to perform _hara-kiri_ by the command of his own
feudal lord, the ceremony should take place in one of the lesser
palaces of the clan. Once upon a time, a certain prince of the Inouye
clan, having a just cause of offence against his steward, who was
called Ishikawa Tozayemon, and wishing to punish him, caused him to be
killed in his principal palace at Kandabashi, in Yedo. When this
matter was reported to the Shogun, having been convicted of disrespect
of the privileges of the city, he was ordered to remove to his lesser
palace at Asakusa. Now, although the _hara-kiri_ cannot be called
properly an execution, still, as it only differs from an ordinary
execution in that by it the honour of the Samurai is not affected, it
is only a question of degree; it is a matter of ceremonial. If the
principal palace[107] is a long distance from the Shogun's castle,
then the _hara-kiri_ may take place there; but there can be no
objection whatever to its taking place in a minor palace. Nowadays,
when a man is condemned to _hara-kiri_ by a Daimio, the ceremony
usually takes place in one of the lesser palaces; the place commonly
selected is an open space near the horse-exercising ground, and the
preparations which I have described above are often shortened
according to circumstances.

[Footnote 107: The principal yashikis (palaces) of the nobles are for
the most part immediately round the Shogun's castle, in the enclosure
known as the official quarter. Their proximity to the palace forbids
their being made the scenes of executions.]

When a retainer is suddenly ordered to perform _hara-kiri_ during a
journey, a temple or shrine should be hired for the occasion. On these
hurried occasions, coarse mats, faced with finer matting or common
mats, may be used. If the criminal is of rank to have an
armour-bearer, a carpet of skin should be spread, should one be easily
procurable. The straps of the skin (which are at the head) should,
according to old custom, be to the front, so that the fur may point
backwards. In old days, when the ceremony took place in a garden, a
carpet of skin was spread. To hire a temple for the purpose of causing
a man to perform _hara-kiri_ was of frequent occurrence: it is
doubtful whether it may be done at the present time. This sort of
question should be referred beforehand to some competent person, that
the course to be adopted may be clearly understood.

In the period Kambun (A.D. 1661-1673) a Prince Sakai, travelling
through the Bishiu territory, hired a temple or shrine for one of his
retainers to disembowel himself in; and so the affair was concluded.


When a man has been ordered by the Government to disembowel himself,
the public censors, who have been appointed to act as witnesses, write
to the prince who has the criminal in charge, to inform them that they
will go to his palace on public business. This message is written
directly to the chief, and is sent by an assistant censor; and a
suitable answer is returned to it. Before the ceremony, the witnesses
send an assistant censor to see the place, and look at a plan of the
house, and to take a list of the names of the persons who are to be
present; he also has an interview with the _kaishaku_, or seconds, and
examines them upon the way of performing the ceremonies. When all the
preparations have been made, he goes to fetch the censors; and they
all proceed together to the place of execution, dressed in their
hempen-cloth dress of ceremony. The retainers of the palace are
collected to do obeisance in the entrance-yard; and the lord, to whom
the criminal has been entrusted, goes as far as the front porch to
meet the censors, and conducts them to the front reception-room. The
chief censor then announces to the lord of the palace that he has come
to read out the sentence of such an one who has been condemned to
perform _hara-kiri_, and that the second censor has come to witness
the execution of the sentence. The lord of the palace then inquires
whether he is expected to attend the execution in person, and, if any
of the relations or family of the criminal should beg to receive his
remains, whether their request should be complied with; after this he
announces that he will order everything to be made ready, and leaves
the room. Tea, a fire-box for smoking, and sweetmeats are set before
the censors; but they decline to accept any hospitality until their
business shall have been concluded. The minor officials follow the
same rule. If the censors express a wish to see the place of
execution, the retainers of the palace show the way, and their lord
accompanies them; in this, however, he may be replaced by one of his
_karo_ or councillors. They then return, and take their seats in the
reception-room. After this, when all the preparations have been made,
the master of the house leads the censors to the place where the
sentence is to be read; and it is etiquette that they should wear both
sword and dirk.[108] The lord of the palace takes his place on one
side; the inferior censors sit on either side in a lower place. The
councillors and other officers of the palace also take their places.
One of the councillors present, addressing the censors without moving
from his place, asks whether he shall bring forth the prisoner.

[Footnote 108: A Japanese removes his sword on entering a house,
retaining only his dirk.]

Previously to this, the retainers of the palace, going to the room
where the prisoner is confined, inform him that, as the censors have
arrived, he should change his dress, and the attendants bring out a
change of clothes upon a large tray: it is when he has finished his
toilet that the witnesses go forth and take their places in the
appointed order, and the principal is then introduced. He is preceded
by one man, who should be of the rank of _Mono-gashira_ (retainer of
the fourth rank), who wears a dirk, but no sword. Six men act as
attendants; they should be of the fifth or sixth rank; they walk on
either side of the principal. They are followed by one man who should
be of the rank of _Yonin_ (councillor of the second class). When they
reach the place, the leading man draws on one side and sits down, and
the six attendants sit down on either side of the principal. The
officer who follows him sits down behind him, and the chief censor
reads the sentence.

When the reading of the sentence is finished, the principal leaves the
room and again changes his clothes, and the chief censor immediately
leaves the palace; but the lord of the palace does not conduct him to
the door. The second censor returns to the reception-room until the
principal has changed his clothes. When the principal has taken his
seat at the place of execution, the councillors of the palace announce
to the second censor that all is ready; he then proceeds to the place,
wearing his sword and dirk. The lord of the palace, also wearing his
sword and dirk, takes his seat on one side. The inferior censors and
councillors sit in front of the censor: they wear the dirk only. The
assistant second brings a dirk upon a tray, and, having placed it in
front of the principal, withdraws on one side: when the principal
leans his head forward, his chief second strikes off his head, which
is immediately shown to the censor, who identifies it, and tells the
master of the palace that he is satisfied, and thanks him for all his
trouble. The corpse, as it lies, is hidden by a white screen which is
set up around it, and incense is brought out. The witnesses leave the
place. The lord of the palace accompanies them as far as the porch,
and the retainers prostrate themselves in the yard as before. The
retainers who should be present at the place of execution are one or
two councillors (_Karo_), two or three second councillors (_Yonin_),
two or three _Mono-gashira_, one chief of the palace (_Rusui_), six
attendants, one chief second, two assistant seconds, one man to carry
incense, who need not be a person of rank--any Samurai will do. They
attend to the setting up of the white screen.

The duty of burying the corpse and of setting the place in order again
devolves upon four men; these are selected from Samurai of the middle
or lower class; during the performance of their duties, they hitch up
their trousers and wear neither sword nor dirk. Their names are
previously sent in to the censor, who acts as witness; and to the
junior censors, should they desire it. Before the arrival of the chief
censor, the requisite utensils for extinguishing a fire are prepared,
firemen are engaged,[109] and officers constantly go the rounds to
watch against fire. From the time when the chief censor comes into the
house until he leaves it, no one is allowed to enter the premises. The
servants on guard at the entrance porch should wear their hempen
dresses of ceremony. Everything in the palace should be conducted with
decorum, and the strictest attention paid in all things.

[Footnote 109: In Japan, where fires are of daily occurrence, the
fire-buckets and other utensils form part of the gala dress of the
house of a person of rank.]

When any one is condemned to _hara-kiri_, it would be well that people
should go to the palace of the Prince of Higo, and learn what
transpired at the execution of the Ronins of Asano Takumi no Kami. A
curtain was hung round the garden in front of the reception-room;
three mats were laid down, and upon these was placed a white cloth.
The condemned men were kept in the reception-room, and summoned, one
by one; two men, one on each side, accompanied them; the second,
followed behind; and they proceeded together to the place of
execution. When the execution was concluded in each case, the corpse
was hidden from the sight of the chief witness by a white screen,
folded up in white cloth, placed on a mat, and carried off to the rear
by two foot-soldiers; it was then placed in a coffin. The
blood-stained ground was sprinkled with sand, and swept clean; fresh
mats were laid down, and the place prepared anew; after which the next
man was summoned to come forth.


When a clansman is ordered by his feudal lord to perform _hara-kiri_,
the sentence must be read out by the censor of the clan, who also acts
as witness. He should take his place in front of the criminal, at a
distance of twelve feet; according to some books, the distance should
be eighteen feet, and he should sit obliquely, not facing the
criminal; he should lay his sword down by his side, but, if he
pleases, he may wear it in his girdle; he must read out the sentence
distinctly. If the sentence be a long document, to begin reading in a
very loud voice and afterwards drop into a whisper has an appearance
of faint-heartedness; but to read it throughout in a low voice is
worse still: it should be delivered clearly from beginning to end. It
is the duty of the chief witness to set an example of fortitude to the
other persons who are to take part in the execution. When the second
has finished his work, he carries the head to the chief witness, who,
after inspecting it, must declare that he has identified it; he then
should take his sword, and leave his place. It is sufficient, however,
that the head should be struck off without being carried to the chief
witness; in that case, the second receives his instructions
beforehand. On rising, the chief witness should step out with his left
foot and turn to the left. If the ceremony takes place out of doors,
the chief witness, wearing his sword and dirk, should sit upon a box;
he must wear his hempen dress of ceremony; he may hitch his trousers
up slightly; according to his rank, he may wear his full dress--that
is, wings over his full dress. It is the part of the chief witness to
instruct the seconds and others in the duties which they have to
perform, and also to preconcert measures in the event of any mishap

If whilst the various persons to be engaged in the ceremony are
rubbing up their military lore, and preparing themselves for the
event, any other person should come in, they should immediately turn
the conversation. Persons of the rank of Samurai should be familiar
with all the details of the _hara-kiri_; and to be seen discussing
what should be done in case anything went wrong, and so forth, would
have an appearance of ignorance. If, however, an intimate friend
should go to the place, rather than have any painful concealment, he
may be consulted upon the whole affair.

When the sentence has been read, it is probable that the condemned man
will have some last words to say to the chief witness. It must depend
on the nature of what he has to say whether it will be received or
not. If he speaks in a confused or bewildered manner, no attention is
paid to it: his second should lead him away, of his own accord or at a
sign from the chief witness.

If the condemned man be a person who has been given in charge to a
prince by the Government, the prince after the reading of the sentence
should send his retainers to the prisoner with a message to say that
the decrees of the Government are not to be eluded, but that if he has
any last wishes to express, they are ordered by their lord to receive
them. If the prisoner is a man of high rank, the lord of the palace
should go in person to hear his last wishes.

The condemned man should answer in the following way--

"Sir, I thank you for your careful consideration, but I have nothing
that I wish to say. I am greatly indebted to you for the great
kindness which I have received since I have been under your charge. I
beg you to take my respects to your lord and to the gentlemen of your
clan who have treated me so well." Or he may say, "Sirs, I have
nothing to say; yet, since you are so kind as to think of me, I should
be obliged if you would deliver such and such a message to such an
one." This is the proper and becoming sort of speech for the occasion.
If the prisoner entrusts them with any message, the retainers should
receive it in such a manner as to set his mind at rest. Should he ask
for writing materials in order to write a letter, as this is forbidden
by the law, they should tell him so, and not grant his request. Still
they must feel that it is painful to refuse the request of a dying
man, and must do their best to assist him. They must exhaust every
available kindness and civility, as was done in the period Genroku, in
the case of the Ronins of Asano Takumi no Kami. The Prince of Higo,
after the sentence had been read, caused paper and writing materials
to be taken to their room. If the prisoner is light-headed from
excitement, it is no use furnishing him with writing materials. It
must depend upon circumstances; but when a man has murdered another,
having made up his mind to abide by the consequences, then that man's
execution should be carried through with all honour. When a man kills
another on the spot, in a fit of ungovernable passion, and then is
bewildered and dazed by his own act, the same pains need not be taken
to conduct matters punctiliously. If the prisoner be a careful man, he
will take an early opportunity after he has been given in charge to
express his wishes. To carry kindness so far as to supply writing
materials and the like is not obligatory. If any doubt exists upon the
point, the chief witness may be consulted.

After the Ronins of Asano Takumi no Kami had heard their sentence in
the palace of Matsudaira Oki no Kami, that Daimio in person went and
took leave of them, and calling Oishi Chikara,[110] the son of their
chief, to him, said, "I have heard that your mother is at home in your
own country; how she will grieve when she hears of your death and that
of your father, I can well imagine. If you have any message that you
wish to leave for her, tell me, without standing upon ceremony, and I
will transmit it without delay." For a while Chikara kept his head
bent down towards the ground; at last he drew back a little, and,
lifting his head, said, "I humbly thank your lordship for what you
have been pleased to say. My father warned me from the first that our
crime was so great that, even were we to be pardoned by a gracious
judgment upon one count, I must not forget that there would be a
hundred million counts against us for which we must commit suicide:
and that if I disregarded his words his hatred would pursue me after
death. My father impressed this upon me at the temple called
Sengakuji, and again when I was separated from him to be taken to the
palace of Prince Sengoku. Now my father and myself have been condemned
to perform _hara-kiri_, according to the wish of our hearts. Still I
cannot forget to think of my mother. When we parted at Kiyoto, she
told me that our separation would be for long, and she bade me not to
play the coward when I thought of her. As I took a long leave of her
then, I have no message to send to her now." When he spoke thus, Oki
no Kami and all his retainers, who were drawn up around him, were
moved to tears in admiration of his heroism.

[Footnote 110: Oishi Chikara was separated from his father, who was
one of the seventeen delivered over to the charge of the Prince of

Although it is right that the condemned man should bathe and partake
of wine and food, these details should be curtailed. Even should he
desire these favours, it must depend upon his conduct whether they be
granted or refused. He should be caused to die as quickly as possible.
Should he wish for some water to drink, it should be given to him. If
in his talk he should express himself like a noble Samurai, all pains
should be exhausted in carrying out his execution. Yet however careful
a man he may be, as he nears his death his usual demeanour will
undergo a change. If the execution is delayed, in all probability it
will cause the prisoner's courage to fail him; therefore, as soon as
the sentence shall have been passed, the execution should be brought
to a conclusion. This, again, is a point for the chief witness to


When the condemned man is one who has been given in charge for
execution, six attendants are employed; when the execution is within
the clan, then two or three attendants will suffice; the number,
however, must depend upon the rank of the principal. Men of great
nerve and strength must be selected for the office; they must wear
their hempen dress of ceremony, and tuck up their trousers; they must
on no account wear either sword or dirk, but have a small poniard
hidden in their bosom: these are the officers who attend upon the
condemned man when he changes his dress, and who sit by him on the
right hand and on the left hand to guard him whilst the sentence is
being read. In the event of any mistake occurring (such as the
prisoner attempting to escape), they knock him down; and should he be
unable to stand or to walk, they help to support him. The attendants
accompanying the principal to the place of execution, if they are six
in number, four of them take their seats some way off and mount guard,
while the other two should sit close behind the principal. They must
understand that should there be any mistake they must throw the
condemned man, and, holding him down, cut off his head with their
poniard, or stab him to death. If the second bungles in cutting off
the head and the principal attempts to rise, it is the duty of the
attendants to kill him. They must help him to take off his upper
garments and bare his body. In recent times, however, there have been
cases where the upper garments have not been removed: this depends
upon circumstances. The setting up of the white screen, and the laying
the corpse in the coffin, are duties which, although they may be
performed by other officers, originally devolved upon the six
attendants. When a common man is executed, he is bound with cords, and
so made to take his place; but a Samurai wears his dress of ceremony,
is presented with a dagger, and dies thus. There ought to be no
anxiety lest such a man should attempt to escape; still, as there is
no knowing what these six attendants may be called upon to do, men
should be selected who thoroughly understand their business.

The seconds are three in number--the chief second, the assistant
second, and the inferior second. When the execution is carried out
with proper solemnity, three men are employed; still a second and
assistant second are sufficient. If three men serve as seconds, their
several duties are as follows:--The chief second strikes off the head;
that is his duty: he is the most important officer in the execution by
_hara-kiri._ The assistant second brings forward the tray, on which is
placed the dirk; that is his duty: he must perform his part in such a
manner that the principal second is not hindered in his work. The
assistant second is the officer of second importance in the execution.
The third or inferior second carries the head to the chief witness for
identification; and in the event of something suddenly occurring to
hinder either of the other two seconds, he should bear in mind that he
must be ready to act as his substitute: his is an office of great
importance, and a proper person must be selected to fill it.

Although there can be no such thing as a _kaishaku_ (second) in any
case except in one of _hara-kiri,_ still in old times guardians and
persons who assisted others were also called _kaishaku_: the reason
for this is because the _kaishaku_, or second, comes to the assistance
of the principal. If the principal were to make any mistake at the
fatal moment, it would be a disgrace to his dead body: it is in order
to prevent such mistakes that the _kaishaku,_ or second, is employed.
It is the duty of the _kaishaku_ to consider this as his first duty.

When a man is appointed to act as second to another, what shall be
said of him if he accepts the office with a smiling face? Yet must he
not put on a face of distress. It is as well to attempt to excuse
oneself from performing the duty. There is no heroism in cutting a
man's head off well, and it is a disgrace to do it in a bungling
manner; yet must not a man allege lack of skill as a pretext for
evading the office, for it is an unworthy thing that a Samurai should
want the skill required to behead a man. If there are any that
advocate employing young men as seconds, it should rather be said that
their hands are inexpert. To play the coward and yield up the office
to another man is out of the question. When a man is called upon to
perform the office, he should express his readiness to use his sword
(the dirk may be employed, but the sword is the proper weapon). As
regards the sword, the second should borrow that of the principal: if
there is any objection to this, he should receive a sword from his
lord; he should not use his own sword. When the assistant seconds have
been appointed, the three should take counsel together about the
details of the place of execution, when they have been carefully
instructed by their superiors in all the ceremonies; and having made
careful inquiry, should there be anything wrong, they should appeal to
their superiors for instruction. The seconds wear their dresses of
ceremony when the criminal is a man given in charge by the Government:
when he is one of their own clan, they need only wear the trousers of
the Samurai. In old days it is said that they were dressed in the
same way as the principal; and some authorities assert that at the
_hara-kiri_ of a nobleman of high rank the seconds should wear white
clothes, and that the handle of the sword should be wrapped in white
silk. If the execution takes place in the house, they should partially
tuck up their trousers; if in the garden, they should tuck them up

The seconds should address the principal, and say, "Sir, we have been
appointed to act as your seconds; we pray you to set your mind at
rest," and so forth; but this must depend upon the rank of the
criminal. At this time, too, if the principal has any last wish to
express, the second should receive it, and should treat him with every
consideration in order to relieve his anxiety. If the second has been
selected by the principal on account of old friendship between them,
or if the latter, during the time that he has been in charge, has
begged some special retainer of the palace to act as his second in the
event of his being condemned to death, the person so selected should
thank the principal for choosing so unworthy a person, and promise to
beg his lord to allow him to act as second: so he should answer, and
comfort him, and having reported the matter to his lord, should act as
second. He should take that opportunity to borrow his principal's
sword in some such terms as the following: "As I am to have the honour
of being your second, I would fain borrow your sword for the occasion.
It may be a consolation to you to perish by your own sword, with which
you are familiar." If, however, the principal declines, and prefers to
be executed with the second's sword, his wish must be complied with.
If the second should make an awkward cut with his own sword, it is a
disgrace to him; therefore he should borrow some one else's sword, so
that the blame may rest with the sword, and not with the swordsman.
Although this is the rule, and although every Samurai should wear a
sword fit to cut off a man's head, still if the principal has begged
to be executed with the second's own sword, it must be done as he

It is probable that the condemned man will inquire of his second about
the arrangements which have been made: he must attend therefore to
rendering himself capable of answering all such questions. Once upon a
time, when the condemned man inquired of his second whether his head
would be cut off at the moment when he received the tray with the dirk
upon it, "No," replied the second; "at the moment when you stab
yourself with the dirk your head will be cut off." At the execution of
one Sano, he told his second that, when he had stabbed himself in the
belly, he would utter a cry; and begged him to be cool when he cut off
his head. The second replied that he would do as he wished, but begged
him in the meantime to take the tray with the dirk, according to
proper form. When Sano reached out his hand to take the tray, the
second cut off his head immediately. Now, although this was not
exactly right, still as the second acted so in order to save a Samurai
from the disgrace of performing the _hara-kiri_ improperly (by crying
out), it can never be wrong for a second to act kindly, If the
principal urgently requests to be allowed really to disembowel
himself, his wish may, according to circumstances, be granted; but in
this case care must be taken that no time be lost in striking off the
head. The custom of striking off the head, the prisoner only going
through the semblance of disembowelling himself, dates from the period
Yempo (about 190 years ago).

When the principal has taken his place, the second strips his right
shoulder of the dress of ceremony, which he allows to fall behind his
sleeve, and, drawing his sword, lays down the scabbard, taking care
that his weapon is not seen by the principal; then he takes his place
on the left of the principal and close behind him. The principal
should sit facing the west, and the second facing the north, and in
that position should he strike the blow. When the second perceives the
assistant second bring out the tray on which is laid the dirk, he must
brace up his nerves and settle his heart beneath his navel: when the
tray is laid down, he must put himself in position to strike the blow.
He should step out first with the left foot, and then change so as to
bring his right foot forward: this is the position which he should
assume to strike; he may, however, reverse the position of his feet.
When the principal removes his upper garments, the second must poise
his sword: when the principal reaches out his hand to draw the tray
towards him, as he leans his head forward a little, is the exact
moment for the second to strike. There are all sorts of traditions
about this. Some say that the principal should take the tray and raise
it respectfully to his head, and set it down; and that this is the
moment to strike. There are three rules for the time of cutting off
the head: the first is when the dirk is laid on the tray; the second
is when the principal looks at the left side of his belly before
inserting the dirk; the third is when he inserts the dirk. If these
three moments are allowed to pass, it becomes a difficult matter to
cut off the head: so says tradition. However, four moments for cutting
are also recorded: first, when the assistant second retires after
having laid down the stand on which is the dirk; second, when the
principal draws the stand towards him; third, when he takes the dirk
in his hand; fourth, when he makes the incision into the belly.
Although all four ways are approved, still the first is too soon; the
last three are right and proper. In short, the blow should be struck
without delay. If he has struck off the head at a blow without
failure, the second, taking care not to raise his sword, but holding
it point downwards, should retire backward a little and wipe his
weapon kneeling; he should have plenty of white paper ready in his
girdle or in his bosom to wipe away the blood and rub up his sword;
having replaced his sword in its scabbard, he should readjust his
upper garments and take his seat to the rear. When the head has
fallen, the junior second should enter, and, taking up the head,
present it to the witness for inspection. When he has identified it,
the ceremony is concluded. If there is no assistant or junior second,
the second, as soon as he has cut off the head, carrying his sword
reversed in his left hand, should take the head in his right hand,
holding it by the top-knot of hair, should advance towards the
witness, passing on the right side of the corpse, and show the right
profile of the head to the witness, resting the chin of the head upon
the hilt of his sword, and kneeling on his left knee; then returning
again round by the left of the corpse, kneeling on his left knee, and
carrying the head in his left hand and resting it on the edge of his
sword, he should again show the left profile to the witness. It is
also laid down as another rule, that the second, laying down his
sword, should take out paper from the bosom of his dress, and placing
the head in the palm of his left hand, and taking the top-knot of hair
in his right hand, should lay the head upon the paper, and so submit
it for inspection. Either way may be said to be right.

NOTE.--To lay down thick paper, and place the head on it, shows a
disposition to pay respect to the head; to place it on the edge of the
sword is insulting: the course pursued must depend upon the rank of
the person. If the ceremony is to be curtailed, it may end with the
cutting off of the head: that must be settled beforehand, in
consultation with the witness. In the event of the second making a
false cut, so as not to strike off the head at a blow, the second must
take the head by the top-knot, and, pressing it down, cut it off.
Should he take bad aim and cut the shoulder by mistake, and should the
principal rise and cry out, before he has time to writhe, he should
hold him down and stab him to death, and then cut off his head, or the
assistant seconds, who are sitting behind, should come forward and
hold him down, while the chief second cuts off his head. It may be
necessary for the second, after he has cut off the head, to push down
the body, and then take up the head for inspection. If the body does
not fall at once, which is said to be sometimes the case, the second
should pull the feet to make it fall.

There are some who say that the perfect way for the second to cut off
the head is not to cut right through the neck at a blow, but to leave
a little uncut, and, as the head hangs by the skin, to seize the
top-knot and slice it off, and then submit it for inspection. The
reason of this is, lest, the head being struck off at a blow, the
ceremony should be confounded with an ordinary execution. According to
the old authorities, this is the proper and respectful manner. After
the head is cut off, the eyes are apt to blink, and the mouth to move,
and to bite the pebbles and sand. This being hateful to see, at what
amongst Samurai is so important an occasion, and being a shameful
thing, it is held to be best not to let the head fall, but to hold
back a little in delivering the blow. Perhaps this may be right; yet
it is a very difficult matter to cut so as to leave the head hanging
by a little flesh, and there is the danger of missing the cut; and as
any mistake in the cut is most horrible to see, it is better to strike
a fair blow at once. Others say that, even when the head is struck off
at a blow, the semblance of slicing it off should be gone through
afterwards; yet be it borne in mind that; this is unnecessary.

Three methods of carrying the sword are recognized amongst those
skilled in swordsmanship. If the rank of the principal be high, the
sword is raised aloft; if the principal and second are of equal rank,
the sword is carried at the centre of the body; if the principal be of
inferior rank, the sword is allowed to hang downwards. The proper
position for the second to strike from is kneeling on one knee, but
there is no harm in his standing up: others say that, if the execution
takes place inside the house, the second should kneel; if in the
garden, he should stand. These are not points upon which to insist
obstinately: a man should strike in whatever position is most
convenient to him.

The chief duty for the assistant second to bear in mind is the
bringing in of the tray with the dirk, which should be produced very
quietly when the principal takes his place: it should be placed so
that the condemned man may have to stretch his hand well out in order
to reach it.[111] The assistant second then returns to his own place;
but if the condemned man shows any signs of agitation, the assistant
second must lend his assistance, so that the head may be properly cut
off. It once happened that the condemned man, having received the tray
from the assistant second, held it up for a long time without putting
it down, until those near him had over and over again urged him to set
it down. It also happens that after the tray has been set down, and
the assistant second has retired, the condemned man does not put out
his hand to take it; then must the assistant second press him to take
it. Also the principal may ask that the tray be placed a little nearer
to him, in which case his wish must be granted. The tray may also be
placed in such a way that the assistant second, holding it in his left
hand, may reach the dirk to the condemned man, who leans forward to
take it. Which is the best of all these ways is uncertain. The object
to aim at is, that the condemned man should lean forward to receive
the blow. Whether the assistant second retires, or not, must depend
upon the attitude assumed by the condemned man.

[Footnote 111: It should be placed about three feet away from him.]

If the prisoner be an unruly, violent man, a fan, instead of a dirk,
should be placed upon the tray; and should he object to this, he
should be told, in answer, that the substitution of the fan is an
ancient custom. This may occur sometimes. It is said that once upon a
time, in one of the palaces of the Daimios, a certain brave matron
murdered a man, and having been allowed to die with all the honours of
the _hara-kiri,_ a fan was placed upon the tray, and her head was cut
off. This may be considered right and proper. If the condemned man
appears inclined to be turbulent, the seconds, without showing any
sign of alarm, should hurry to his side, and, urging him to get ready,
quickly cause him to make all his preparations with speed, and to sit
down in his place; the chief second, then drawing his sword, should
get ready to strike, and, ordering him to proceed as fast as possible
with the ceremony of receiving the tray, should perform his duty
without appearing to be afraid.

A certain Prince Kato, having condemned one of his councillors to
death, assisted at the ceremony behind a curtain of slips of bamboo.
The councillor, whose name was Katayama, was bound, and during that
time glared fiercely at the curtain, and showed no signs of fear. The
chief second was a man named Jihei, who had always been used to treat
Katayama with great respect. So Jihei, sword in hand, said to
Katayama, "Sir, your last moment has arrived: be so good as to turn
your cheek so that your head may be straight." When Katayama heard
this, he replied, "Fellow, you are insolent;" and as he was looking
round, Jihei struck the fatal blow. The lord Kato afterwards inquired
of Jihei what was the reason of this; and he replied that, as he saw
that the prisoner was meditating treason, he determined to kill him at
once, and put a stop to this rebellious spirit. This is a pattern for
other seconds to bear in mind.

When the head has been struck off, it becomes the duty of the junior
second to take it up by the top-knot, and, placing it upon some thick
paper laid over the palm of his hand, to carry it for inspection by
the witness. This ceremony has been explained above. If the head be
bald, he should pierce the left ear with the stiletto carried in the
scabbard of his dirk, and so carry it to be identified. He must carry
thick paper in the bosom of his dress. Inside the paper he shall place
a bag with rice bran and ashes, in order that he may carry the head
without being sullied by the blood. When the identification of the
head is concluded, the junior second's duty is to place it in a

If anything should occur to hinder the chief second, the assistant
second must take his place. It happened on one occasion that before
the execution took place the chief second lost his nerve, yet he cut
off the head without any difficulty; but when it came to taking up the
head for inspection, his nervousness so far got the better of him as
to be extremely inconvenient. This is a thing against which persons
acting as seconds have to guard.

* * * * *

As a corollary to the above elaborate statement of the ceremonies
proper to be observed at the _hara-kiri_, I may here describe an
instance of such an execution which I was sent officially to witness.
The condemned man was Taki Zenzaburo, an officer of the Prince of
Bizen, who gave the order to fire upon the foreign settlement at Hiogo
in the month of February 1868,--an attack to which I have alluded in
the preamble to the story of the Eta Maiden and the Hatamoto. Up to
that time no foreigner had witnessed such an execution, which was
rather looked upon as a traveller's fable.

The ceremony, which was ordered by the Mikado himself, took place at
10.30 at night in the temple of Seifukuji, the headquarters of the
Satsuma troops at Hiogo. A witness was sent from each of the foreign
legations. We were seven foreigners in all.

We were conducted to the temple by officers of the Princes of Satsuma
and Choshiu. Although the ceremony was to be conducted in the most
private manner, the casual remarks which we overheard in the streets,
and a crowd lining the principal entrance to the temple, showed that
it was a matter of no little interest to the public. The courtyard of
the temple presented a most picturesque sight; it was crowded with
soldiers standing about in knots round large fires, which threw a dim
flickering light over the heavy eaves and quaint gable-ends of the
sacred buildings. We were shown into an inner room, where we were to
wait until the preparation for the ceremony was completed: in the next
room to us were the high Japanese officers. After a long interval,
which seemed doubly long from the silence which prevailed, Ito
Shunske, the provisional Governor of Hiogo, came and took down our
names, and informed us that seven _kenshi_, sheriffs or witnesses,
would attend on the part of the Japanese. He and another officer
represented the Mikado; two captains of Satsuma's infantry, and two of
Choshiu's, with a representative of the Prince of Bizen, the clan of
the condemned man, completed the number, which was probably arranged
in order to tally with that of the foreigners. Ito Shunske further
inquired whether we wished to put any questions to the prisoner. We
replied in the negative.

A further delay then ensued, after which we were invited to follow the
Japanese witnesses into the _hondo_ or main hall of the temple, where
the ceremony was to be performed. It was an imposing scene. A large
hall with a high roof supported by dark pillars of wood. From the
ceiling hung a profusion of those huge gilt lamps and ornaments
peculiar to Buddhist temples. In front of the high altar, where the
floor, covered with beautiful white mats, is raised some three or four
inches from the ground, was laid a rug of scarlet felt. Tall candles
placed at regular intervals gave out a dim mysterious light, just
sufficient to let all the proceedings be seen. The seven Japanese took
their places on the left of the raised floor, the seven foreigners on
the right. No other person was present.

After an interval of a few minutes of anxious suspense, Taki
Zenzaburo, a stalwart man, thirty-two years of age, with a noble air,
walked into the hall attired in his dress of ceremony, with the
peculiar hempen-cloth wings which are worn on great occasions. He was
accompanied by a _kaishaku_ and three officers, who wore the
_jimbaori_ or war surcoat with gold-tissue facings. The word
_kaishaku_, it should be observed, is one to which our word
_executioner_ is no equivalent term. The office is that of a
gentleman: in many cases it is performed by a kinsman or friend of the
condemned, and the relation between them is rather that of principal
and second than that of victim and executioner. In this instance the
_kaishaku_ was a pupil of Taki Zenzaburo, and was selected by the
friends of the latter from among their own number for his skill in

With the _kaishaku_ on his left hand, Taki Zenzaburo advanced slowly
towards the Japanese witnesses, and the two bowed before them, then
drawing near to the foreigners they saluted us in the same way,
perhaps even with more deference: in each case the salutation was
ceremoniously returned. Slowly, and with great dignity, the condemned
man mounted on to the raised floor, prostrated himself before the high
altar twice, and seated[112] himself on the felt carpet with his back
to the high altar, the _kaishaku_ crouching on his left-hand side. One
of the three attendant officers then came forward, bearing a stand of
the kind used in temples for offerings, on which, wrapped in paper,
lay the _wakizashi_, the short sword or dirk of the Japanese, nine
inches and a half in length, with a point and an edge as sharp as a
razor's. This he handed, prostrating himself, to the condemned man,
who received it reverently, raising it to his head with both hands,
and placed it in front of himself.

[Footnote 112: Seated himself--that is, in the Japanese fashion, his
knees and toes touching the ground, and his body resting on his heels.
In this position, which is one of respect, he remained until his

After another profound obeisance, Taki Zenzaburo, in a voice which
betrayed just so much emotion and hesitation as might be expected from
a man who is making a painful confession, but with no sign of either
in his face or manner, spoke as follows:--

"I, and I alone, unwarrantably gave the order to fire on the
foreigners at Kobe, and again as they tried to escape. For this crime
I disembowel myself, and I beg you who are present to do me the honour
of witnessing the act."

Bowing once more, the speaker allowed his upper garments to slip down
to his girdle, and remained naked to the waist. Carefully, according
to custom, he tucked his sleeves under his knees to prevent himself
from falling backwards; for a noble Japanese gentleman should die
falling forwards. Deliberately, with a steady hand, he took the dirk
that lay before him; he looked at it wistfully, almost affectionately;
for a moment he seemed to collect his thoughts for the last time, and
then stabbing himself deeply below the waist on the left-hand side, he
drew the dirk slowly across to the right side, and, turning it in the
wound, gave a slight cut upwards. During this sickeningly painful
operation he never moved a muscle of his face. When he drew out the
dirk, he leaned forward and stretched out his neck; an expression of
pain for the first time crossed his face, but he uttered no sound. At
that moment the _kaishaku_, who, still crouching by his side, had been
keenly watching his every movement, sprang to his feet, poised his
sword for a second in the air; there was a flash, a heavy, ugly thud,
a crashing fall; with one blow the head had been severed from the

A dead silence followed, broken only by the hideous noise of the blood
throbbing out of the inert heap before us, which but a moment before
had been a brave and chivalrous man. It was horrible.

The _kaishaku_ made a low bow, wiped his sword with a piece of paper
which he had ready for the purpose, and retired from the raised
floor; and the stained dirk was solemnly borne away, a bloody proof of
the execution.

The two representatives of the Mikado then left their places, and,
crossing over to where the foreign witnesses sat, called us to witness
that the sentence of death upon Taki Zenzaburo had been faithfully
carried out. The ceremony being at an end, we left the temple.

The ceremony, to which the place and the hour gave an additional
solemnity, was characterized throughout by that extreme dignity and
punctiliousness which are the distinctive marks of the proceedings of
Japanese gentlemen of rank; and it is important to note this fact,
because it carries with it the conviction that the dead man was indeed
the officer who had committed the crime, and no substitute. While
profoundly impressed by the terrible scene it was impossible at the
same time not to be filled with admiration of the firm and manly
bearing of the sufferer, and of the nerve with which the _kaishaku_
performed his last duty to his master. Nothing could more strongly
show the force of education. The Samurai, or gentleman of the military
class, from his earliest years learns to look upon the _hara-kiri_ as
a ceremony in which some day he may be called upon to play a part as
principal or second. In old-fashioned families, which hold to the
traditions of ancient chivalry, the child is instructed in the rite
and familiarized with the idea as an honourable expiation of crime or
blotting out of disgrace. If the hour comes, he is prepared for it,
and gravely faces an ordeal which early training has robbed of half
its horrors. In what other country in the world does a man learn that
the last tribute of affection which he may have to pay to his best
friend may be to act as his executioner?

Since I wrote the above, we have heard that, before his entry into the
fatal hall, Taki Zenzaburo called round him all those of his own clan
who were present, many of whom had carried out his order to fire, and,
addressing them in a short speech, acknowledged the heinousness of his
crime and the justice of his sentence, and warned them solemnly to
avoid any repetition of attacks upon foreigners. They were also
addressed by the officers of the Mikado, who urged them to bear no
ill-will against us on account of the fate of their fellow-clansman.
They declared that they entertained no such feeling.

The opinion has been expressed that it would have been politic for the
foreign representatives at the last moment to have interceded for the
life of Taki Zenzaburo. The question is believed to have been debated
among the representatives themselves. My own belief is that mercy,
although it might have produced the desired effect among the more
civilized clans, would have been mistaken for weakness and fear by
those wilder people who have not yet a personal knowledge of
foreigners. The offence--an attack upon the flags and subjects of all
the Treaty Powers, which lack of skill, not of will, alone prevented
from ending in a universal massacre--was the gravest that has been
committed upon foreigners since their residence in Japan. Death was
undoubtedly deserved, and the form chosen was in Japanese eyes
merciful and yet judicial. The crime might have involved a war and
cost hundreds of lives; it was wiped out by one death. I believe that,
in the interest of Japan as well as in our own, the course pursued was
wise, and it was very satisfactory to me to find that one of the
ablest Japanese ministers, with whom I had a discussion upon the
subject, was quite of my opinion.

The ceremonies observed at the _hara-kiri_ appear to vary slightly in
detail in different parts of Japan; but the following memorandum upon
the subject of the rite, as it used to be practised at Yedo during the
rule of the Tycoon, clearly establishes its judicial character. I
translated it from a paper drawn up for me by a Japanese who was able
to speak of what he had seen himself. Three different ceremonies are

1st. _Ceremonies observed at the "hara-kiri" of a Hatamoto (petty
noble of the Tycoon's court) in prison._--This is conducted with great
secrecy. Six mats are spread in a large courtyard of the prison; an
_ometsuke_ (officer whose duties appear to consist in the surveillance
of other officers), assisted by two other _ometsukes_ of the second
and third class, acts as _kenshi_ (sheriff or witness), and sits in
front of the mats. The condemned man, attired in his dress of
ceremony, and wearing his wings of hempen cloth, sits in the centre of
the mats. At each of the four corners of the mats sits a prison
official. Two officers of the Governor of the city act as _kaishaku_
(executioners or seconds), and take their place, one on the right hand
and the other on the left hand of the condemned. The _kaishaku_ on the
left side, announcing his name and surname, says, bowing, "I have the
honour to act as _kaishaku_ to you; have you any last wishes to
confide to me?" The condemned man thanks him and accepts the offer or
not, as the case may be. He then bows to the sheriff, and a wooden
dirk nine and a half inches long is placed before him at a distance of
three feet, wrapped in paper, and lying on a stand such as is used for
offerings in temples. As he reaches forward to take the wooden sword,
and stretches out his neck, the _kaifihaku_ on his left-hand side
draws his sword and strikes off his head. The _kaishaku_ on the
right-hand side takes up the head and shows it to the sheriff. The
body is given to the relations of the deceased for burial. His
property is confiscated.

2nd. _The ceremonies observed at the "hara-kiri" of a Daimio's
retainer._--When the retainer of a Daimio is condemned to perform the
_hara-kiri,_ four mats are placed in the yard of the _yashiki_ or
palace. The condemned man, dressed in his robes of ceremony and
wearing his wings of hempen cloth, sits in the centre. An officer acts
as chief witness, with a second witness under him. Two officers, who
act as _kaishaku_, are on the right and left of the condemned man;
four officers are placed at the corners of the mats. The _kaishaku_,
as in the former case, offers to execute the last wishes of the
condemned. A dirk nine and a half inches long is placed before him on
a stand. In this case the dirk is a real dirk, which the man takes and
stabs himself with on the left side, below the navel, drawing it
across to the right side. At this moment, when he leans forward in
pain, the _kaishaku_ on the left-hand side cuts off the head. The
_kaishaku_ on the right-hand side takes up the head, and shows it to
the sheriff. The body is given to the relations for burial. In most
cases the property of the deceased is confiscated.

3rd. _Self-immolation of a Daimio on account of disgrace_.--When a
Daimio had been guilty of treason or offended against the Tycoon,
inasmuch as the family was disgraced, and an apology could neither be
offered nor accepted, the offending Daimio was condemned to
_hara-kiri_. Calling his councillors around him, he confided to them
his last will and testament for transmission to the Tycoon. Then,
clothing himself in his court dress, he disembowelled himself, and cut
his own throat. His councillors then reported the matter to the
Government, and a coroner was sent to investigate it. To him the
retainers handed the last will and testament of their lord, and be
took it to the Gorojiu (first council), who transmitted it to the
Tycoon. If the offence was heinous, such as would involve the ruin of
the whole family, by the clemency of the Tycoon, half the property
might be confiscated, and half returned to the heir; if the offence
was trivial, the property was inherited intact by the heir, and the
family did not suffer.

In all cases where the criminal disembowels himself of his own accord
without condemnation and without investigation, inasmuch as he is no
longer able to defend himself, the offence is considered as
non-proven, and the property is not confiscated. In the year 1869 a
motion was brought forward in the Japanese parliament by one Ono
Seigoro, clerk of the house, advocating the abolition of the practice
of _hara-kiri_. Two hundred members out of a house of 209 voted
against the motion, which was supported by only three speakers, six
members not voting on either side. In this debate the _seppuku, or
hara-kiri_, was called "the very shrine of the Japanese national
spirit, and the embodiment in practice of devotion to principle," "a
great ornament to the empire," "a pillar of the constitution," "a
valuable institution, tending to the honour of the nobles, and based
on a compassionate feeling towards the official caste," "a pillar of
religion and a spur to virtue." The whole debate (which is well worth
reading, and an able translation of which by Mr. Aston has appeared in
a recent Blue Book) shows the affection with which the Japanese cling
to the traditions of a chivalrous past. It is worthy of notice that
the proposer, Ono Seigoro, who on more than one occasion rendered
himself conspicuous by introducing motions based upon an admiration of
our Western civilization, was murdered not long after this debate took

There are many stories on record of extraordinary heroism being
displayed in the _hara-kiri._ The case of a young fellow, only twenty
years old, of the Choshiu clan, which was told me the other day by an
eye-witness, deserves mention as a marvellous instance of
determination. Not content with giving himself the one necessary cut,
he slashed himself thrice horizontally and twice vertically. Then he
stabbed himself in the throat until the dirk protruded on the other
side, with its sharp edge to the front; setting his teeth in one
supreme effort, he drove the knife forward with both hands through his
throat, and fell dead.

One more story and I have done. During the revolution, when the
Tycoon, beaten on every side, fled ignominiously to Yedo, he is said
to have determined to fight no more, but to yield everything. A member
of his second council went to him and said, "Sir, the only way for you
now to retrieve the honour of the family of Tokugawa is to disembowel
yourself; and to prove to you that I am sincere and disinterested in
what I say, I am here ready to disembowel myself with you." The Tycoon
flew into a great rage, saying that he would listen to no such
nonsense, and left the room. His faithful retainer, to prove his
honesty, retired to another part of the castle, and solemnly performed
the _hara-kiri._




The ceremonies observed at marriages are various, and it is not right
for a man, exceeding the bounds of his condition in life, to
transgress against the rules which are laid down. When the middle-man
has arranged the preliminaries of the marriage between the two
parties, he carries the complimentary present, which is made at the
time of betrothal, from the future bridegroom to his destined bride;
and if this present is accepted, the lady's family can no longer
retract their promise. This is the beginning of the contract. The
usual betrothal presents are as follows. Persons of the higher classes
send a robe of white silk; a piece of gold embroidery for a girdle; a
piece of silk stuff; a piece of white silk, with a lozenge pattern,
and other silk stuffs (these are made up into a pile of three layers);
fourteen barrels of wine, and seven sorts of condiments. Persons of
the middle class send a piece of white silk stuff; a piece of gold
embroidery for a girdle; a piece of white silk, with a lozenge
pattern, and other silk stuffs (these are made up into a pile of two
layers); ten barrels of wine, and five sorts of condiments. The lower
classes send a robe of white silk, a robe of coloured silk, in a pile
of one layer, together with six barrels of wine and three sorts of
condiments. To the future father-in-law is sent a sword, with a
scabbard for slinging, such as is worn in war-time, together with a
list of the presents; to the mother-in-law, a silk robe, with wine and
condiments. Although all these presents are right and proper for the
occasion, still they must be regulated according to the means of the
persons concerned. The future father-in-law sends a present of equal
value in return to his son-in-law, but the bride elect sends no return
present to her future husband; the present from the father-in-law must
by no means be omitted, but according to his position, if he be poor,
he need only send wine and condiments.

In sending the presents care must be taken not to fold the silk robe.
The two silk robes that are sent on the marriage night must be placed
with the collars stitched together in a peculiar fashion.

The ceremonies of sending the litter to fetch the bride on the wedding
night are as follows. In families of good position, one of the
principal retainers on either side is deputed to accompany the bride
and to receive her. Matting is spread before the entrance-door, upon
which the bride's litter is placed, while the two principal retainers
congratulate one another, and the officers of the bridegroom receive
the litter. If a bucket containing clams, to make the wedding broth,
has been sent with the bride, it is carried and received by a person
of distinction. Close by the entrance-door a fire is lighted on the
right hand and on the left. These fires are called garden-torches. In
front of the corridor along which the litter passes, on the right hand
and on the left, two men and two women, in pairs, place two mortars,
right and left, in which they pound rice; as the litter passes, the
pounded rice from the left-hand side is moved across to the right, and
the two are mixed together into one. This is called the blending of
the rice-meal.[113] Two candles are lighted, the one on the right hand
and the other on the left of the corridor; and after the litter has
passed, the candle on the left is passed over to the right, and, the
two wicks being brought together, the candles are extinguished. These
last three ceremonies are only performed at the weddings of persons of
high rank; they are not observed at the weddings of ordinary persons.
The bride takes with her to her husband's house, as presents, two
silken robes sewed together in a peculiar manner, a dress of ceremony
with wings of hempen cloth, an upper girdle and an under girdle, a
fan, either five or seven pocket-books, and a sword: these seven
presents are placed on a long tray, and their value must depend upon
the means of the family.

[Footnote 113: Cf. Gibbon on Roman Marriages, _Decline and Fall of the
Roman Empire_, vol. iv. p. 345: "The contracting parties were seated
on the same sheepskin; they tasted a salt cake of _far_, or rice; and
this _confarreation_, which denoted the ancient food of Italy, served
as an emblem of their mystic union of mind and body."]

The dress of the bride is a white silk robe with a lozenge pattern,
over an under-robe, also of white silk. Over her head she wears a veil
of white silk, which, when she sits down, she allows to fall about her
as a mantle.

The bride's furniture and effects are all arranged for her by female
attendants from her own house on a day previous to the wedding; and
the bridegroom's effects are in like manner arranged by the women of
his own house.

When the bride meets her husband in the room where the relations are
assembled, she takes her seat for this once in the place of honour,
her husband sitting in a lower place, not directly opposite to her,
but diagonally, and discreetly avoiding her glance.

On the raised part of the floor are laid out beforehand two trays, the
preparations for a feast, a table on which are two wagtails,[114] a
second table with a representation of Elysium, fowls, fish, two
wine-bottles, three wine-cups, and two sorts of kettles for warming
wine. The ladies go out to meet the bride, and invite her into a
dressing-room, and, when she has smoothed her dress, bring her into
the room, and she and the bridegroom take their seats in the places
appointed for them. The two trays are then brought out, and the
ladies-in-waiting, with complimentary speeches, hand dried fish and
seaweed, such as accompany presents, and dried chestnuts to the
couple. Two married ladies then each take one of the wine-bottles
which have been prepared, and place them in the lower part of the
room. Then two handmaids, who act as wine-pourers, bring the kettles
and place them in the lower part of the room. The two wine-bottles
have respectively a male and female butterfly, made of paper, attached
to them. The female butterfly is laid on its back, and the wine is
poured from the bottle into the kettle. The male butterfly is then
taken and laid on the female butterfly, and the wine from the bottle
is poured into the same kettle, and the whole is transferred with due
ceremony to another kettle of different shape, which the wine-pourers
place in front of themselves. Little low dining-tables are laid, one
for each person, before the bride and bridegroom, and before the
bride's ladies-in-waiting; the woman deputed to pour the wine takes
the three wine-cups and places them one on the top of the other before
the bridegroom, who drinks two cups[115] from the upper cup, and pours
a little wine from the full kettle into the empty kettle. The pouring
together of the wine on the wedding night is symbolical of the union
that is being contracted. The bridegroom next pours out a third cup of
wine and drinks it, and the cup is carried by the ladies to the bride,
who drinks three cups, and pours a little wine from one kettle into
the other, as the bridegroom did. A cup is then set down and put on
the other two, and they are carried back to the raised floor and
arranged as before. After this, condiments are set out on the
right-hand side of a little table, and the wine-pourers place the
three cups before the bride, who drinks three cups from the second
cup, which is passed to the bridegroom; he also drinks three cups as
before, and the cups are piled up and arranged in their original
place, by the wine-pourers. A different sort of condiment is next
served on the left-hand side; and the three cups are again placed
before the bridegroom, who drinks three cups from the third cup, and
the bride does the same. When the cups and tables have been put back
in their places, the bridegroom, rising from his seat, rests himself
for a while. During this time soup of fishes' fins and wine are served
to the bride's ladies-in-waiting and to the serving-women. They are
served with a single wine-cup of earthenware, placed upon a small
square tray, and this again is set upon a long tray, and a wine-kettle
with all sorts of condiments is brought from the kitchen. When this
part of the feast is over, the room is put in order, and the bride and
bridegroom take their seats again. Soups and a preparation of rice are
now served, and two earthenware cups, gilt and silvered, are placed on
a tray, on which there is a representation of the island of
Takasago.[116] This time butterflies of gold and silver paper are
attached to the wine-kettles. The bridegroom drinks a cup or two, and
the ladies-in-waiting offer more condiments to the couple. Rice, with
hot water poured over it, according to custom, and carp soup are
brought in, and, the wine having been heated, cups of lacquer ware are
produced; and it is at this time that the feast commences. (Up to now
the eating and drinking has been merely a form.) Twelve plates of
sweetmeats and tea are served; and the dinner consists of three
courses, one course of seven dishes, one of five dishes, and one of
three dishes, or else two courses of five dishes and one of three
dishes, according to the means of the family. The above ceremonies are
those which are proper only in families of the highest rank, and are
by no means fitting for the lower classes, who must not step out of
the proper bounds of their position.

[Footnote 114: The god who created Japan is called Kunitokodachi no
Mikoto. Seven generations of gods after his time existed Izanagi no
Mikoto and Izanami no Mikoto--the first a god, the second a goddess.
As these two divine beings were standing upon the floating bridge of
heaven, two wagtails came; and the gods, watching the amorous
dalliance of the two birds, invented the art of love. From their union
thus inaugurated sprang the mountains, the rivers, the grass, the
trees, the remainder of the gods, and mankind. Another fable is, that
as the two gods were standing on the floating bridge of heaven,
Izanagi no Mikoto, taking the heavenly jewelled spear, stirred up the
sea, and the drops which fell from the point of it congealed and
became an island, which was called _Onokoro-jima_, on which the two
gods, descending from heaven, took up their abode.]

[Footnote 115: Each cup contains but a sip.]

[Footnote 116: In the island of Takasago, in the province of Harima,
stands a pine-tree, called the "pine of mutual old age." At the root
the tree is single, but towards the centre it springs into two
stems--an old, old pine, models of which are used at weddings as a
symbol that the happy pair shall reach old age together. Its evergreen
leaves are an emblem of the unchanging constancy of the heart. Figures
of an old man and woman under the tree are the spirits of the old

There is a popular tradition that, in the ceremony of drinking wine on
the wedding night, the bride should drink first, and then hand the cup
to the bridegroom; but although there are some authorities upon
ceremonies who are in favour of this course, it is undoubtedly a very
great mistake. In the "Record of Rites," by Confucius, it is written,
"The man stands in importance before the woman: it is the right of the
strong over the weak. Heaven ranks before earth; the prince ranks
before his minister. This law of honour is one." Again, in the "Book
of History," by Confucius, it is written, "The hen that crows in the
morning brings misfortune." In our own literature in the Jusho (Book
of the Gods), "When the goddesses saw the gods for the first time,
they were the first to cry cut, 'Oh! what beautiful males!' But the
gods were greatly displeased, and said, 'We, who are so strong and
powerful, should by rights have been the first to speak; how is it
that, on the contrary, these females speak first? This is indeed
vulgar.'" Again it is written, "When the gods brought forth the
cripple Hiruko, the Lord of Heaven, answering, said that his
misfortune was a punishment upon the goddesses who had presumed to
speak first." The same rule therefore exists in China and in Japan,
and it is held to be unlucky that the wife should take precedence:
with this warning people should be careful how they commit a breach of
etiquette, although it may be sanctioned by the vulgar.

At the wedding of the lower classes, the bride and her ladies and
friends have a feast, but the bridegroom has no feast; and when the
bride's feast is over, the bridegroom is called in and is presented
with the bride's wine-cup; but as the forms observed are very vulgar,
it is not worth while to point out the rules which guide them. As this
night is essentially of importance to the married couple only, there
are some writers on ceremonies who have laid down that no feast need
be prepared for the bride's ladies, and in my opinion they are right:
for the husband and wife at the beginning of their intercourse to be
separated, and for the bride alone to be feasted like an ordinary
guest, appears to be an inauspicious opening. I have thus pointed out
two ill-omened customs which are to be avoided.

The ceremonies observed at the weddings of persons of ordinary rank
are as follows:--The feast which is prepared is in proportion to the
means of the individuals. There must be three wine-cups set out upon a
tray. The ceremony of drinking wine three times is gone through, as
described above, after which the bride changes her dress, and a feast
of three courses is produced--two courses of five dishes and one of
three dishes, or one course of five dishes, one of three, and one of
two, according to the means of the family. A tray, with a
representation of the island of Takasago, is brought out, and the wine
is heated; sweetmeats of five or seven sorts are also served in boxes
or trays; and when the tea comes in, the bridegroom gets up, and goes
to rest himself. If the wine kettles are of tin, they must not be set
out in the room: they must be brought in from the kitchen; and in that
case the paper butterflies are not attached to them.

In old times the bride and bridegroom used to change their dress three
or five times during the ceremony; but at the present time, after the
nine cups of wine have been drunk, in the manner recorded above, the
change of dress takes place once. The bride puts on the silk robe
which she has received from the bridegroom, while he dons the dress of
ceremony which has been brought by the bride.

When these ceremonies have been observed, the bride's ladies conduct
her to the apartments of her parents-in-law. The bride carries with
her silk robes, as presents for her parents and brothers and
sister-in-law. A tray is brought out, with three wine-cups, which are
set before the parents-in-law and the bride. The father-in-law drinks
three cups and hands the cup to the bride, who, after she has drunk
two cups, receives a present from her father-in-law; she then drinks a
third cup, and returns the cup to her father-in-law, who again drinks
three cups. Fish is then brought in, and, in the houses of ordinary
persons, a preparation of rice. Upon this the mother-in-law, taking
the second cup, drinks three cups and passes the cup to the bride, who
drinks two cups and receives a present from her mother-in-law: she
then drinks a third cup and gives back the cup to the mother-in-law,
who drinks three cups again. Condiments are served, and, in ordinary
houses, soup; after which the bride drinks once from the third cup and
hands it to her father-in-law, who drinks thrice from it; the bride
again drinks twice from it, and after her the mother-in-law drinks
thrice. The parents-in-law and the bride thus have drunk in all nine
times. If there are any brothers or sisters-in-law, soup and
condiments are served, and a single porcelain wine-cup is placed
before them on a tray, and they drink at the word of command of the
father-in-law. It is not indispensable that soup should be served upon
this occasion. If the parents of the bridegroom are dead, instead of
the above ceremony, he leads his bride to make her obeisances before
the tablets on which their names are inscribed.

In old days, after the ceremonies recorded above had been gone
through, the bridegroom used to pay a visit of ceremony to the bride's
parents; but at the present time the visit is paid before the wedding,
and although the forms observed on the occasion resemble those of the
ancient times, still they are different, and it would be well that we
should resume the old fashion. The two trays which had been used at
the wedding feast, loaded with fowl and fish and condiments neatly
arranged, used to be put into a long box and sent to the
father-in-law's house. Five hundred and eighty cakes of rice in
lacquer boxes were also sent. The modern practice of sending the rice
cakes in a bucket is quite contrary to etiquette: no matter how many
lacquer boxes may be required for the purpose, they are the proper
utensils for sending the cakes in. Three, five, seven, or ten men's
loads of presents, according to the means of the family, are also
offered. The son-in-law gives a sword and a silk robe to his
father-in-law, and a silk robe to his mother-in-law, and also gives
presents to his brothers and sisters-in-law. (The ceremony of drinking
wine is the same as that which takes place between the bride and her
parents-in-law, with a very slight deviation: the bridegroom receives
no presents from his mother-in-law, and when the third cup is drunk
the son-in-law drinks before the father-in-law). A return visit is
paid by the bride's parents to the bridegroom, at which similar forms
are observed.

At the weddings of the great, the bridal chamber is composed of three
rooms thrown into one,[117] and newly decorated. If there are only two
rooms available, a third room is built for the occasion. The presents,
which have been mentioned above, are set out on two trays. Besides
these, the bridegroom's clothes are hung up upon clothes-racks. The
mattress and bedclothes are placed in a closet. The bride's effects
must all be arranged by the women who are sent on a previous day for
the purpose, or it may be done whilst the bride is changing her
clothes. The shrine for the image of the family god is placed on a
shelf adjoining the sleeping-place. There is a proper place for the
various articles of furniture. The _kaioke_[118] is placed on the
raised floor; but if there be no raised floor, it is placed in a
closet with the door open, so that it may be conspicuously seen. The
books are arranged on a book-shelf or on a cabinet; if there be
neither shelf nor cabinet, they are placed on the raised floor. The
bride's clothes are set out on a clothes-rack; in families of high
rank, seven robes are hung up on the rack; five of these are taken
away and replaced by others, and again three are taken away and
replaced by others; and there are either two or three clothes-racks:
the towel-rack is set up in a place of more honour than the
clothes-racks. If there is no dressing-room, the bride's bedclothes
and dressing furniture are placed in the sleeping-room. No screens are
put up on the bridal night, but a fitting place is chosen for them on
the following day. All these ceremonies must be in proportion to the
means of the family.

[Footnote 117: The partitions of a Japanese suite of apartments being
merely composed of paper sliding-screens, any number of rooms,
according to the size of the house, can be thrown into one at a
moment's notice.]

[Footnote 118: A _kaioke_ is a kind of lacquer basin for washing the
hands and face.]


The author of the "Sho-rei Hikki" makes no allusion to the custom of
shaving the eyebrows and blackening the teeth of married women, in
token of fidelity to their lords. In the upper classes, young ladies
usually blacken their teeth before leaving their father's house to
enter that of their husbands, and complete the ceremony by shaving
their eyebrows immediately after the wedding, or, at any rate, not
later than upon the occasion of their first pregnancy.

The origin of the fashion is lost in antiquity. As a proof that it
existed before the eleventh century, A.D., a curious book called
"Teijo Zakki," or the Miscellaneous Writings of Teijo, cites the diary
of Murasaki Shikibu, the daughter of one Tamesoki, a retainer of the
house of Echizen, a lady of the court and famous poetess, the
authoress of a book called "Genji-mono-gatari," and other works. In
her diary it is written that on the last night of the fifth year of
the period Kanko (A.D. 1008), in order that she might appear to
advantage on New Year's Day, she retired to the privacy of her own
apartment, and repaired the deficiencies of her personal appearance by
re-blackening her teeth, and otherwise adorning herself. Allusion is
also made to the custom in the "Yeiga-mono-gatari," an ancient book by
the same authoress.

The Emperor and nobles of his court are also in the habit of
blackening their teeth; but the custom is gradually dying out in their
case. It is said to have originated with one Hanazono Arishito, who
held the high rank of _Sa-Daijin,_ or "minister of the left," at the
commencement of the twelfth century, in the reign of the Emperor
Toba. Being a, man of refined and sensual tastes, this minister
plucked out his eyebrows, shaved his beard, blackened his teeth,
powdered his face white, and rouged his lips in order to render
himself as like a woman as possible. In the middle of the twelfth
century, the nobles of the court, who went to the wars, all blackened
their teeth; and from this time forth the practice became a fashion of
the court. The followers of the chiefs of the Hojo dynasty also
blackened their teeth, as an emblem of their fidelity; and this was
called the Odawara fashion, after the castle town of the family. Thus
a custom, which had its origin in a love of sensuality and pleasure,
became mistaken for the sign of a good and faithful spirit.

The fashion of blackening the teeth entails no little trouble upon its
followers, for the colour must be renewed every day, or at least every
other day. Strange and repelling as the custom appears at first, the
eye soon learns to look without aversion upon a well-blacked and
polished set of teeth; but when the colour begins to wear away, and
turns to a dullish grey, streaked with black, the mouth certainly
becomes most hideous. Although no one who reads this is likely to put
a recipe for blackening the teeth to a practical test, I append one
furnished to me by a fashionable chemist and druggist in Yedo:--

"Take three pints of water, and, having warmed it, add half a
teacupful of wine. Put into this mixture a quantity of red-hot iron;
allow it to stand for five or six days, when there will be a scum on
the top of the mixture, which should then be poured into a small
teacup and placed near a fire. When it is warm, powdered gallnuts and
iron filings should be added to it, and the whole should be warmed
again. The liquid is then painted on to the teeth by means of a soft
feather brush, with more powdered gallnuts and iron, and, after
several applications, the desired colour will be obtained."

The process is said to be a preservative of the teeth, and I have
known men who were habitual sufferers from toothache to prefer the
martyrdom of ugliness to that of pain, and apply the black colouring
when the paroxysms were severe. One man told me that he experienced
immediate relief by the application, and that so long as he blackened
his teeth he was quite free from pain.



In the fifth month of a woman's pregnancy, a very lucky day is
selected for the ceremony of putting on a girdle, which is of white
and red silk, folded, and eight feet in length. The husband produces
it from the left sleeve of his dress; and the wife receives it in the
right sleeve of her dress, and girds it on for the first time. This
ceremony is only performed once. When the child is born, the white
part of the girdle is dyed sky-blue, with a peculiar mark on it, and
is made into clothes for the child. These, however, are not the first
clothes which it wears. The dyer is presented with wine and condiments
when the girdle is entrusted to him. It is also customary to beg some
matron, who has herself had an easy confinement, for the girdle which
she wore during her pregnancy; and this lady is called the
girdle-mother. The borrowed girdle is tied on with that given by the
husband, and the girdle-mother at this time gives and receives a

The furniture of the lying-in chamber is as follows:--Two tubs for
placing under-petticoats in; two tubs to hold the placenta; a piece of
furniture like an arm-chair, without legs, for the mother to lean
against;[119] a stool, which is used by the lady who embraces the
loins of the woman in labour to support her, and which is afterwards
used by the midwife in washing the child; several pillows of various
sizes, that the woman in child-bed may ease her head at her pleasure;
new buckets, basins, and ladles of various sizes. Twenty-four
baby-robes, twelve of silk and twelve of cotton, must be prepared; the
hems must be dyed saffron-colour. There must be an apron for the
midwife, if the infant is of high rank, in order that, when she washes
it, she may not place it immediately on her own knees: this apron
should be made of a kerchief of cotton. When the child is taken out of
the warm water, its body must be dried with a kerchief of fine cotton,

[Footnote 119: Women in Japan are delivered in a kneeling position,
and after the birth of the child they remain night and day in a
squatting position, leaning back against a support, for twenty-one
days, after which they are allowed to recline. Up to that time the
recumbent position is supposed to produce a dangerous rush of blood to
the head.]

On the seventy-fifth or hundred and twentieth day after its birth, the
baby leaves off its baby-linen; and this day is kept as a holiday.
Although it is the practice generally to dress up children in various
kinds of silk, this is very wrong, as the two principles of life being
thereby injured, the child contracts disease; and on this account the
ancients strictly forbade the practice. In modern times the child is
dressed up in beautiful clothes; but to put a cap on its head,
thinking to make much of it, when, on the contrary, it is hurtful to
the child, should be avoided. It would be an excellent thing if rich
people, out of care for the health of their children, would put a stop
to a practice to which fashion clings.

On the hundred and twentieth day after their birth children, whether
male or female, are weaned.[120] This day is fixed, and there is no
need to choose a lucky day. If the child be a boy, it is fed by a
gentleman of the family; if a girl, by a lady. The ceremony is as
follows:--The child is brought out and given to the weaning father or
sponsor. He takes it on his left knee. A small table is prepared. The
sponsor who is to feed the child, taking some rice which has been
offered to the gods, places it on the corner of the little table which
is by him; He dips his chop-sticks thrice in this rice, and very
quietly places them in the mouth of the child, pretending to give it
some of the juice of the rice. Five cakes of rice meal are also placed
on the left side of the little table, and with these he again pretends
to feed the child three times. When this ceremony is over, the child
is handed back to its guardian, and three wine-cups are produced on a
tray. The sponsor drinks three cups, and presents the cup to the
child. When the child has been made to pretend to drink two cups, it
receives a present from its sponsor, after which the child is supposed
to drink a third time. Dried fish is then brought in, and the baby,
having drunk thrice, passes the cup to its sponsor, who drinks thrice.
More fish of a different kind is brought in. The drinking is repeated,
and the weaning father receives a present from the child. The
guardian, according to rules of propriety, should be near the child. A
feast should be prepared, according to the means of the family. If the
child be a girl, a weaning mother performs this ceremony, and suitable
presents must be offered on either side. The wine-drinking is gone
through as above.

[Footnote 120: This is only a nominal weaning. Japanese children are
not really weaned until far later than is ordinary in Europe; and it
is by no means uncommon to see a mother in the poorer classes suckling
a hulking child of from five to seven years old. One reason given for
this practice is, that by this means the danger of having to provide
for large families is lessened.]

On the fifteenth day of the eleventh month of the child's third year,
be the child boy or girl, its hair is allowed to grow. (Up to this
time the whole head has been shaven: now three patches are allowed to
grow, one on each side and one at the back of the head.) On this
occasion also a sponsor is selected. A large tray, on which are a
comb, scissors, paper string, a piece of string for tying the hair in
a knot, cotton wool, and the bit of dried fish or seaweed which
accompanies presents, one of each, and seven rice straws--these seven
articles must be prepared.[121]

[Footnote 121: For a few days previous to the ceremony the child's
head is not shaved.]

The child is placed facing the point of the compass which is
auspicious for that year, and the sponsor, if the child be a boy,
takes the scissors and gives three snips at the hair on the left
temple, three on the right, and three in the centre. He then takes the
piece of cotton wool and spreads it over the child's head, from the
forehead, so as to make it hang down behind his neck, and he places
the bit of dried fish or seaweed and the seven straws at the bottom of
the piece of cotton wool, attaching them to the wool, and ties them in
two loops, like a man's hair, with a piece of paper string; he then
makes a woman's knot with two pieces of string. The ceremony of
drinking wine is the same as that gone through at the weaning. If the
child is a girl, a lady acts as sponsor; the hair-cutting is begun
from the right temple instead of from the left. There is no difference
in the rest of the ceremony.

On the fifth day of the eleventh month of the child's fourth year he
is invested with the _hakama_, or loose trousers worn by the Samurai.
On this occasion again a sponsor is called in. The child receives from
the sponsor a dress of ceremony, on which are embroidered storks and
tortoises (emblems of longevity--the stork is said to live a thousand
years, the tortoise ten thousand), fir-trees (which, being evergreen,
and not changing their colour, are emblematic of an unchangingly
virtuous heart), and bamboos (emblematic of an upright and straight
mind). The child is placed upright on a chequer-board, facing the
auspicious point of the compass, and invested with the dress of
ceremony. It also receives a sham sword and dirk. The usual ceremony
of drinking wine is observed.

NOTE.--In order to understand the following ceremony, it is necessary
to recollect that the child at three years of age is allowed to grow
its hair in three patches. By degrees the hair is allowed to grow, the
crown alone being shaved, and a forelock left. At ten or eleven years
of age the boy's head is dressed like a man's, with the exception of
this forelock.

The ceremony of cutting off the forelock used in old days to include
the ceremony of putting on the noble's cap; but as this has gone out
of fashion, there is no need to treat of it.

Any time after the youth has reached the age of fifteen, according to
the cleverness and ability which he shows, a lucky day is chosen for
this most important ceremony, after which the boy takes his place
amongst full-grown men. A person of virtuous character is chosen as
sponsor or "cap-father." Although the man's real name (that name which
is only known to his intimate relations and friends, not the one by
which he usually goes in society) is usually determined before this
date, if it be not so, he receives his real name from his sponsor on
this day. In old days there used to be a previous ceremony of cutting
the hair off the forehead in a straight line, so as to make two
angles: up to this time the youth wore long sleeves like a woman, and
from that day he wore short sleeves. This was called the "half
cutting." The poorer classes have a habit of shortening the sleeves
before this period; but that is contrary to all rule, and is an evil

A common tray is produced, on which is placed an earthenware wine-cup.
The sponsor drinks thrice, and hands the cup to the young man, who,
having also drunk thrice, gives back the cup to the sponsor, who again
drinks thrice, and then proceeds to tie up the young man's hair.

There are three ways of tying the hair, and there is also a particular
fashion of letting the forelock grow long; and when this is the case,
the forelock is only clipped. (This is especially the fashion among
the nobles of the Mikado's court.) This applies only to persons who
wear the court cap, and not to gentlemen of lower grade. Still, these
latter persons, if they wish to go through the ceremony in its
entirety, may do so without impropriety. Gentlemen of the Samurai or
military class cut off the whole of the forelock. The sponsor either
ties up the hair of the young man, or else, placing the forelock on a
willow board, cuts it off with a knife, or else, amongst persons of
very high rank, he only pretends to do so, and goes into another room
whilst the real cutting is going on, and then returns to the same
room. The sponsor then, without letting the young man see what he is
doing, places the lock which has been cut into the pocket of his left
sleeve, and, leaving the room, gives it to the young man's guardians,
who wrap it in paper and offer it up at the shrine of the family gods.
But this is wrong. The locks should be well wrapped up in paper and
kept in the house until the man's death, to serve as a reminder of the
favours which a man receives from his father and mother in his
childhood; when he dies, it should be placed in his coffin and buried
with him. The wine-drinking and presents are as before.

* * * * *

In the "Sho-rei Hikki," the book from which the above is translated,
there is no notice of the ceremony of naming the child: the following
is a translation from a Japanese MS.:--

"On the seventh day after its birth, the child receives its name; the
ceremony is called the congratulations of the seventh night. On this
day some one of the relations of the family, who holds an exalted
position, either from his rank or virtues, selects a name for the
child, which name he keeps until the time of the cutting of the
forelock, when he takes the name which he is to bear as a man. This
second name is called _Yeboshina_,[122] the cap-name, which is
compounded of syllables taken from an old name of the family and from
the name of the sponsor. If the sponsor afterwards change his name,
his name-child must also change his name. For instance, Minamoto no
Yoshitsune, the famous warrior, as a child was called Ushiwakamaru;
when he grew up to be a man, he was called Kuro; and his real name was

[Footnote 122: From _Yeboshi_, a court cap, and _Na_, a name.]



On the death of a parent, the mourning clothes worn are made of coarse
hempen cloth, and during the whole period of mourning these must be
worn night and day. As the burial of his parents is the most important
ceremony which a man has to go through during his whole life, when the
occasion comes, in order that there be no confusion, he must employ
some person to teach him the usual and proper rites. Above all things
to be reprehended is the burning of the dead: they should be interred
without burning.[123] The ceremonies to be observed at a funeral
should by rights have been learned before there is occasion to put
them in practice. If a man have no father or mother, he is sure to
have to bury other relations; and so he should not disregard this
study. There are some authorities who select lucky days and hours and
lucky places for burying the dead, but this is wrong; and when they
talk about curses being brought upon posterity by not observing these
auspicious seasons and places, they make a great mistake. It is a
matter of course that an auspicious day must be chosen so far as
avoiding wind and rain is concerned, that men may bury their dead
without their minds being distracted; and it is important to choose a
fitting cemetery, lest in after days the tomb should be damaged by
rain, or by men walking over it, or by the place being turned into a
field, or built upon. When invited to a friend's or neighbour's
funeral, a man should avoid putting on smart clothes and dresses of
ceremony; and when he follows the coffin, he should not speak in a
loud voice to the person next him, for that is very rude; and even
should he have occasion to do so, he should avoid entering wine-shops
or tea-houses on his return from the funeral.

[Footnote 123: On the subject of burning the dead, see a note to the
story of Chobei of Bandzuin.]

The list of persons present at a funeral should be written on slips of
paper, and firmly bound together. It may be written as any other list,
only it must not be written beginning at the right hand, as is usually
the case, but from the left hand (as is the case in European books).

On the day of burial, during the funeral service, incense is burned in
the temple before the tablet on which is inscribed the name under
which the dead person enters salvation.[124] The incense-burners,
having washed their hands, one by one, enter the room where the tablet
is exposed, and advance half-way up to the tablet, facing it;
producing incense wrapped in paper from their bosoms, they hold it in
their left hands, and, taking a pinch with the right hand, they place
the packet in their left sleeve. If the table on which the tablet is
placed be high, the person offering incense half raises himself from
his crouching position; if the table be low, he remains crouching to
burn the incense, after which he takes three steps backwards, with
bows and reverences, and retires six feet, when he again crouches down
to watch the incense-burning, and bows to the priests who are sitting
in a row with their chief at their head, after which he rises and
leaves the room. Up to the time of burning the incense no notice is
taken of the priest. At the ceremony of burning incense before the
grave, the priests are not saluted. The packet of incense is made of
fine paper folded in three, both ways.

[Footnote 124: After death a person receives a new name. For instance,
the famous Prince Tokugawa Iyeyasu entered salvation as Gongen Sama.
This name is called _okurina_, or the accompanying name.]


The reason why the author of the "Sho-rei Hikki" has treated so
briefly of the funeral ceremonies is probably that these rites, being
invariably entrusted to the Buddhist priesthood, vary according to the
sect of the latter; and, as there are no less than fifteen sects of
Buddhism in Japan, it would be a long matter to enter into the
ceremonies practised by each. Should Buddhism be swept out of Japan,
as seems likely to be the case, men will probably return to the old
rites which obtained before its introduction in the sixth century of
our era. What those rites were I have been unable to learn.

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