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

Glimpses of an Unfamiliar Japan by Lafcadio Hearn

Part 1 out of 6

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

Produced by John Orford

Glimpses of Unfamilar Japan
Second Series
by Lafcadio Hearn














Chapter One
In a Japanese Garden

MY little two-story house by the Ohashigawa, although dainty as a bird-
cage, proved much too small for comfort at the approach of the hot
season--the rooms being scarcely higher than steamship cabins, and so
narrow that an ordinary mosquito-net could not be suspended in them. I
was sorry to lose the beautiful lake view, but I found it necessary to
remove to the northern quarter of the city, into a very quiet Street
behind the mouldering castle. My new home is a katchiu-yashiki, the
ancient residence of some samurai of high rank. It is shut off from the
street, or rather roadway, skirting the castle moat by a long, high wall
coped with tiles. One ascends to the gateway, which is almost as large
as that of a temple court, by a low broad flight of stone steps; and
projecting from the wall, to the right of the gate, is a look-out
window, heavily barred, like a big wooden cage. Thence, in feudal days,
armed retainers kept keen watch on all who passed by--invisible watch,
for the bars are set so closely that a face behind them cannot be seen
from the roadway. Inside the gate the approach to the dwelling is also
walled in on both sides, so that the visitor, unless privileged, could
see before him only the house entrance, always closed with white shoji.
Like all samurai homes, the residence itself is but one story high, but
there are fourteen rooms within, and these are lofty, spacious, and
beautiful. There is, alas, no lake view nor any charming prospect. Part
of the O-Shiroyama, with the castle on its summit, half concealed by a
park of pines, may be seen above the coping of the front wall, but only
a part; and scarcely a hundred yards behind the house rise densely
wooded heights, cutting off not only the horizon, but a large slice of
the sky as well. For this immurement, however, there exists fair
compensation in the shape of a very pretty garden, or rather a series of
garden spaces, which surround the dwelling on three sides. Broad
verandas overlook these, and from a certain veranda angle I can enjoy
the sight of two gardens at once. Screens of bamboos and woven rushes,
with wide gateless openings in their midst, mark the boundaries of the
three divisions of the pleasure-grounds. But these structures are not
intended to serve as true fences; they are ornamental, and only indicate
where one style of landscape gardening ends and another begins.


Now a few words upon Japanese gardens in general.

After having learned--merely by seeing, for the practical knowledge of
the art requires years of study and experience, besides a natural,
instinctive sense of beauty--something about the Japanese manner of
arranging flowers, one can thereafter consider European ideas of floral
decoration only as vulgarities. This observation is not the result of
any hasty enthusiasm, but a conviction settled by long residence in the
interior. I have come to understand the unspeakable loveliness of a
solitary spray of blossoms arranged as only a Japanese expert knows how
to arrange it--not by simply poking the spray into a vase, but by
perhaps one whole hour's labour of trimming and posing and daintiest
manipulation--and therefore I cannot think now of what we Occidentals
call a 'bouquet' as anything but a vulgar murdering of flowers, an
outrage upon the colour-sense, a brutality, an abomination. Somewhat in
the same way, and for similar reasons, after having learned what an old
Japanese garden is, I can remember our costliest gardens at home only as
ignorant displays of what wealth can accomplish in the creation of
incongruities that violate nature.

Now a Japanese garden is not a flower garden; neither is it made for the
purpose of cultivating plants. In nine cases out of ten there is nothing
in it resembling a flower-bed. Some gardens may contain scarcely a sprig
of green; some have nothing green at all, and consist entirely of rocks
and pebbles and sand, although these are exceptional. [1] As a rule, a
Japanese garden is a landscape garden, yet its existence does not depend
upon any fixed allowances of space. It may cover one acre or many acres.
It may also be only ten feet square. It may, in extreme cases, be much
less; for a certain kind of Japanese garden can be contrived small
enough to put in a tokonoma. Such a garden, in a vessel no larger than a
fruit-dish, is called koniwa or toko-niwa, and may occasionally be seen
in the tokonoma of humble little dwellings so closely squeezed between
other structures as to possess no ground in which to cultivate an
outdoor garden. (I say 'an outdoor garden,' because there are indoor
gardens, both upstairs and downstairs, in some large Japanese houses.)
The toko-niwa is usually made in some curious bowl, or shallow carved
box or quaintly shaped vessel impossible to describe by any English
word. Therein are created minuscule hills with minuscule houses upon
them, and microscopic ponds and rivulets spanned by tiny humped bridges;
and queer wee plants do duty for trees, and curiously formed pebbles
stand for rocks, and there are tiny toro perhaps a tiny torii as well--
in short, a charming and living model of a Japanese landscape.

Another fact of prime importance to remember is that, in order to
comprehend the beauty of a Japanese garden, it is necessary to
understand--or at least to learn to understand--the beauty of stones.
Not of stones quarried by the hand of man, but of stones shaped by
nature only. Until you can feel, and keenly feel, that stones have
character, that stones have tones and values, the whole artistic meaning
of a Japanese garden cannot be revealed to you. In the foreigner,
however aesthetic he may be, this feeling needs to be cultivated by
study. It is inborn in the Japanese; the soul of the race comprehends
Nature infinitely better than we do, at least in her visible forms. But
although, being an Occidental, the true sense of the beauty of stones
can be reached by you only through long familiarity with the Japanese
use and choice of them, the characters of the lessons to be acquired
exist everywhere about you, if your life be in the interior. You cannot
walk through a street without observing tasks and problems in the
aesthetics of stones for you to master. At the approaches to temples, by
the side of roads, before holy groves, and in all parks and pleasure-
grounds, as well as in all cemeteries, you will notice large, irregular,
flat slabs of natural rock--mostly from the river-beds and water-worn--
sculptured with ideographs, but unhewn. These have been set up as votive
tablets, as commemorative monuments, as tombstones, and are much more
costly than the ordinary cut-stone columns and haka chiselled with the
figures of divinities in relief. Again, you will see before most of the
shrines, nay, even in the grounds of nearly all large homesteads, great
irregular blocks of granite or other hard rock, worn by the action of
torrents, and converted into water-basins (chodzubachi) by cutting a
circular hollow in the top. Such are but common examples of the
utilisation of stones even in the poorest villages; and if you have any
natural artistic sentiment, you cannot fail to discover, sooner or
later, how much more beautiful are these natural forms than any shapes
from the hand of the stone-cutter. It is probable, too, that you will
become so habituated at last to the sight of inscriptions cut upon rock
surfaces, especially if you travel much through the country, that you
will often find yourself involuntarily looking for texts or other
chisellings where there are none, and could not possibly be, as if
ideographs belonged by natural law to rock formation. And stones will
begin, perhaps, to assume for you a certain individual or physiognomical
aspect--to suggest moods and sensations, as they do to the Japanese.
Indeed, Japan is particularly a land of suggestive shapes in stone, as
high volcanic lands are apt to be; and such shapes doubtless addressed
themselves to the imagination of the race at a time long prior to the
date of that archaic text which tells of demons in Izumo 'who made
rocks, and the roots of trees, and leaves, and the foam of the green
waters to speak.

As might be expected in a country where the suggestiveness of natural
forms is thus recognised, there are in Japan many curious beliefs and
superstitions concerning stones. In almost every province there are
famous stones supposed to be sacred or haunted, or to possess miraculous
powers, such as the Women's Stone at the temple of Hachiman at Kamakura,
and the Sessho-seki, or Death Stone of Nasu, and the Wealth-giving Stone
at Enoshima, to which pilgrims pay reverence. There are even legends of
stones having manifested sensibility, like the tradition of the Nodding
Stones which bowed down before the monk Daita when he preached unto them
the word of Buddha; or the ancient story from the Kojiki, that the
Emperor O-Jin, being augustly intoxicated, 'smote with his august staff
a great stone in the middle of the Ohosaka road, whereupon the stone ran
away!' [2]

Now stones are valued for their beauty; and large stones selected for
their shape may have an aesthetic worth of hundreds of dollars. And
large stones form the skeleton, or framework, in the design of old
Japanese gardens. Not only is every stone chosen with a view to its
particular expressiveness of form, but every stone in the garden or
about the premises has its separate and individual name, indicating its
purpose or its decorative duty. But I can tell you only a little, a very
little, of the folk-lore of a Japanese garden; and if you want to know
more about stones and their names, and about the philosophy of gardens,
read the unique essay of Mr. Conder on the Art of Landscape Gardening in
Japan, [3] and his beautiful book on the Japanese Art of Floral
Decoration; and also the brief but charming chapter on Gardens, in
Morse's Japanese Homes. [4]


No effort to create an impossible or purely ideal landscape is made in
the Japanese garden. Its artistic purpose is to copy faithfully the
attractions of a veritable landscape, and to convey the real impression
that a real landscape communicates. It is therefore at once a picture
and a poem; perhaps even more a poem than a picture. For as nature's
scenery, in its varying aspects, affects us with sensations of joy or of
solemnity, of grimness or of sweetness, of force or of peace, so must
the true reflection of it in the labour of the landscape gardener create
not merely an impression of beauty, but a mood in the soul. The grand
old landscape gardeners, those Buddhist monks who first introduced the
art into Japan, and subsequently developed it into an almost occult
science, carried their theory yet farther than this. They held it
possible to express moral lessons in the design of a garden, and
abstract ideas, such as Chastity, Faith, Piety, Content, Calm, and
Connubial Bliss. Therefore were gardens contrived according to the
character of the owner, whether poet, warrior, philosopher, or priest.
In those ancient gardens (the art, alas, is passing away under the
withering influence of the utterly commonplace Western taste) there were
expressed both a mood of nature and some rare Oriental conception of a
mood of man.

I do not know what human sentiment the principal division of my garden
was intended to reflect; and there is none to tell me. Those by whom it
was made passed away long generations ago, in the eternal transmigration
of souls. But as a poem of nature it requires no interpreter. It
occupies the front portion of the grounds, facing south; and it also
extends west to the verge of the northern division of the garden, from
which it is partly separated by a curious screen-fence structure. There
are large rocks in it, heavily mossed; and divers fantastic basins of
stone for holding water; and stone lamps green with years; and a
shachihoko, such as one sees at the peaked angles of castle roofs--a
great stone fish, an idealised porpoise, with its nose in the ground and
its tail in the air. [5] There are miniature hills, with old trees upon
them; and there are long slopes of green, shadowed by flowering shrubs,
like river banks; and there are green knolls like islets. All these
verdant elevations rise from spaces of pale yellow sand, smooth as a
surface of silk and miming the curves and meanderings of a river course.
These sanded spaces are not to be trodden upon; they are much too
beautiful for that. The least speck of dirt would mar their effect; and
it requires the trained skill of an experienced native gardener--a
delightful old man he is--to keep them in perfect form. But they are
traversed in various directions by lines of flat unhewn rock slabs,
placed at slightly irregular distances from one another, exactly like
stepping-stones across a brook. The whole effect is that of the shores
of a still stream in some lovely, lonesome, drowsy place.

There is nothing to break the illusion, so secluded the garden is. High
walls and fences shut out streets and contiguous things; and the shrubs
and the trees, heightening and thickening toward the boundaries, conceal
from view even the roofs of the neighbouring katchiu-yashiki. Softly
beautiful are the tremulous shadows of leaves on the sunned sand; and
the scent of flowers comes thinly sweet with every waft of tepid air;
and there is a humming of bees.


By Buddhism all existences are divided into Hijo things without desire,
such as stones and trees; and Ujo things having desire, such as men and
animals. This division does not, so far as I know, find expression in
the written philosophy of gardens; but it is a convenient one. The folk-
lore of my little domain relates both to the inanimate and the animate.
In natural order, the Hijo may be considered first, beginning with a
singular shrub near the entrance of the yashiki, and close to the gate
of the first garden.

Within the front gateway of almost every old samurai house, and usually
near the entrance of the dwelling itself, there is to be seen a small
tree with large and peculiar leaves. The name of this tree in Izumo is
tegashiwa, and there is one beside my door. What the scientific name of
it is I do not know; nor am I quite sure of the etymology of the
Japanese name. However, there is a word tegashi, meaning a bond for the
hands; and the shape of the leaves of the tegashiwa somewhat resembles
the shape of a hand.

Now, in old days, when the samurai retainer was obliged to leave his
home in order to accompany his daimyo to Yedo, it was customary, just
before his departure, to set before him a baked tai [6] served up on a
tegashiwa leaf. After this farewell repast the leaf upon which the tai
had been served was hung up above the door as a charm to bring the
departed knight safely back again. This pretty superstition about the
leaves of the tegashiwa had its origin not only in their shape but in
their movement. Stirred by a wind they seemed to beckon--not indeed
after our Occidental manner, but in the way that a Japanese signs to his
friend to come, by gently waving his hand up and down with the palm
towards the ground.

Another shrub to be found in most Japanese gardens is the nanten, [7]
about which a very curious belief exists. If you have an evil dream, a
dream which bodes ill luck, you should whisper it to the nanten early in
the morning, and then it will never come true. [8] There are two
varieties of this graceful plant: one which bears red berries, and one
which bears white. The latter is rare. Both kinds grow in my garden. The
common variety is placed close to the veranda (perhaps for the
convenience of dreamers); the other occupies a little flower-bed in the
middle of the garden, together with a small citron-tree. This most
dainty citron-tree is called 'Buddha's fingers,' [9] because of the
wonderful shape of its fragrant fruits. Near it stands a kind of laurel,
with lanciform leaves glossy as bronze; it is called by the Japanese
yuzuri-ha, [10] and is almost as common in the gardens of old samurai
homes as the tegashiwa itself. It is held to be a tree of good omen,
because no one of its old leaves ever falls off before a new one,
growing behind it, has well developed. For thus the yuzuri-ha symbolises
hope that the father will not pass away before his son has become a
vigorous man, well able to succeed him as the head of the family.
Therefore, on every New Year's Day, the leaves of the yuzuriha, mingled
with fronds of fern, are attached to the shimenawa which is then
suspended before every Izumo home.


The trees, like the shrubs, have their curious poetry and legends. Like
the stones, each tree has its special landscape name according to its
position and purpose in the composition. Just as rocks and stones form
the skeleton of the ground-plan of a garden, so pines form the framework
of its foliage design. They give body to the whole. In this garden there
are five pines,--not pines tormented into fantasticalities, but pines
made wondrously picturesque by long and tireless care and judicious
trimming. The object of the gardener has been to develop to the utmost
possible degree their natural tendency to rugged line and massings of
foliage--that spiny sombre-green foliage which Japanese art is never
weary of imitating in metal inlay or golden lacquer. The pine is a
symbolic tree in this land of symbolism. Ever green, it is at once the
emblem of unflinching purpose and of vigorous old age; and its needle-
shaped leaves are credited with the power of driving demons away.

There are two sakuranoki, [11] Japanese cherry-trees--those trees whose
blossoms, as Professor Chamberlain so justly observes, are 'beyond
comparison more lovely than anything Europe has to show.' Many varieties
are cultivated and loved; those in my garden bear blossoms of the most
ethereal pink, a flushed white. When, in spring, the trees flower, it is
as though fleeciest masses of cloud faintly tinged by sunset had floated
down from the highest sky to fold themselves about the branches. This
comparison is no poetical exaggeration; neither is it original: it is an
ancient Japanese description of the most marvellous floral exhibition
which nature is capable of making. The reader who has never seen a
cherry-tree blossoming in Japan cannot possibly imagine the delight of
the spectacle. There are no green leaves; these come later: there is
only one glorious burst of blossoms, veiling every twig and bough in
their delicate mist; and the soil beneath each tree is covered deep out
of sight by fallen petals as by a drift of pink snow.

But these are cultivated cherry-trees. There are others which put forth
their leaves before their blossoms, such as the yamazakura, or mountain
cherry. [12] This, too, however, has its poetry of beauty and of
symbolism. Sang the great Shinto writer and poet, Motowori:

Shikishima no
Yamato-gokoro wo
Asa-hi ni niou
Yamazakura bana. [13]

Whether cultivated or uncultivated, the Japanese cherry-trees are
emblems. Those planted in old samurai gardens were not cherished for
their loveliness alone. Their spotless blossoms were regarded as
symbolising that delicacy of sentiment and blamelessness of life
belonging to high courtesy and true knightliness. 'As the cherry flower
is first among flowers,' says an old proverb, 'so should the warrior be
first among men'.

Shadowing the western end of this garden, and projecting its smooth dark
limbs above the awning of the veranda, is a superb umenoki, Japanese
plum-tree, very old, and originally planted here, no doubt, as in other
gardens, for the sake of the sight of its blossoming. The flowering of
the umenoki, [14] in the earliest spring, is scarcely less astonishing
than that of the cherry-tree, which does not bloom for a full month
later; and the blossoming of both is celebrated by popular holidays. Nor
are these, although the most famed, the only flowers thus loved. The
wistaria, the convolvulus, the peony, each in its season, form displays
of efflorescence lovely enough to draw whole populations out of the
cities into the country to see them.. In Izumo, the blossoming of the
peony is especially marvellous. The most famous place for this spectacle
is the little island of Daikonshima, in the grand Naka-umi lagoon, about
an hour's sail from Matsue. In May the whole island flames crimson with
peonies; and even the boys and girls of the public schools are given a
holiday, in order that they may enjoy the sight.

Though the plum flower is certainly a rival in beauty of the sakura-no-
hana, the Japanese compare woman's beauty--physical beauty--to the
cherry flower, never to the plum flower. But womanly virtue and
sweetness, on the other hand, are compared to the ume-no-hana, never to
the cherry blossom. It is a great mistake to affirm, as some writers
have done, that the Japanese never think of comparing a woman to trees
and flowers. For grace, a maiden is likened to a slender willow; [15]
for youthful charm, to the cherry-tree in flower; for sweetness of
heart, to the blossoming plum-tree. Nay, the old Japanese poets have
compared woman to all beautiful things. They have even sought similes
from flowers for her various poses, for her movements, as in the verse,

Tateba skakuyaku; [16]
Suwareba botan;
Aruku sugatawa
Himeyuri [17] no hana. [18]

Why, even the names of the humblest country girls are often those of
beautiful trees or flowers prefixed by the honorific O: [19] O-Matsu
(Pine), O-Take (Bamboo), O-Ume (Plum), O-Hana (Blossom), O-ine (Ear-of-
Young-Rice), not to speak of the professional flower-names of dancing-
girls and of joro. It has been argued with considerable force that the
origin of certain tree-names borne by girls must be sought in the folk-
conception of the tree as an emblem of longevity, or happiness, or good
fortune, rather than in any popular idea of the beauty of the tree in
itself. But however this may be, proverb, poem, song, and popular speech
to-day yield ample proof that the Japanese comparisons of women to trees
and flowers are in no-wise inferior to our own in aesthetic sentiment.


That trees, at least Japanese trees, have souls, cannot seem an
unnatural fancy to one who has seen the blossoming of the umenoki and
the sakuranoki. This is a popular belief in Izumo and elsewhere. It is
not in accord with Buddhist philosophy, and yet in a certain sense it
strikes one as being much closer to cosmic truth than the old Western
orthodox notion of trees as 'things created for the use of man.'
Furthermore, there exist several odd superstitions about particular
trees, not unlike certain West Indian beliefs which have had a good
influence in checking the destruction of valuable timber. Japan, like
the tropical world, has its goblin trees. Of these, the enoki (Celtis
Willdenowiana) and the yanagi (drooping willow) are deemed especially
ghostly, and are rarely now to be found in old Japanese gardens. Both
are believed to have the power of haunting. 'Enoki ga bakeru,' the izumo
saying is. You will find in a Japanese dictionary the word 'bakeru'
translated by such terms as 'to be transformed,' 'to be metamorphosed,'
'to be changed,' etc.; but the belief about these trees is very
singular, and cannot be explained by any such rendering of the verb
'bakeru.' The tree itself does not change form or place, but a spectre
called Ki-no o-bake disengages itself from the tree and walks about in
various guises.' [20] Most often the shape assumed by the phantom is
that of a beautiful woman. The tree spectre seldom speaks, and seldom
ventures to go very far away from its tree. If approached, it
immediately shrinks back into the trunk or the foliage. It is said that
if either an old yanagi or a young enoki be cut blood will flow from the
gash. When such trees are very young it is not believed that they have
supernatural habits, but they become more dangerous the older they grow.

There is a rather pretty legend--recalling the old Greek dream of
dryads--about a willow-tree which grew in the garden of a samurai of
Kyoto. Owing to its weird reputation, the tenant of the homestead
desired to cut it down; but another samurai dissuaded him, saying:
'Rather sell it to me, that I may plant it in my garden. That tree has a
soul; it were cruel to destroy its life.' Thus purchased and
transplanted, the yanagi flourished well in its new home, and its
spirit, out of gratitude, took the form of a beautiful woman, and became
the wife of the samurai who had befriended it. A charming boy was the
result of this union. A few years later, the daimyo to whom the ground
belonged gave orders that the tree should be cut down. Then the wife
wept bitterly, and for the first time revealed to her husband the whole
story. 'And now,' she added, 'I know that I must die; but our child will
live, and you will always love him. This thought is my only solace.'
Vainly the astonished and terrified husband sought to retain her.
Bidding him farewell for ever, she vanished into the tree. Needless to
say that the samurai did everything in his power to persuade the daimyo
to forgo his purpose. The prince wanted the tree for the reparation of a
great Buddhist temple, the San-jiu-san-gen-do. [21]' The tree was
felled, but, having fallen, it suddenly became so heavy that three
hundred men could not move it. Then the child, taking a branch in his
little hand, said, 'Come,' and the tree followed him, gliding along the
ground to the court of the temple.

Although said to be a bakemono-ki, the enoki sometimes receives highest
religious honours; for the spirit of the god Kojin, to whom old dolls
are dedicated, is supposed to dwell within certain very ancient enoki
trees, and before these are placed shrines whereat people make prayers.


The second garden, on the north side, is my favourite, It contains no
large growths. It is paved with blue pebbles, and its centre is occupied
by a pondlet--a miniature lake fringed with rare plants, and containing
a tiny island, with tiny mountains and dwarf peach-trees and pines and
azaleas, some of which are perhaps more than a century old, though
scarcely more than a foot high. Nevertheless, this work, seen as it was
intended to be seen, does not appear to the eye in miniature at all.
From a certain angle of the guest-room looking out upon it, the
appearance is that of a real lake shore with a real island beyond it, a
stone's throw away. So cunning the art of the ancient gardener who
contrived all this, and who has been sleeping for a hundred years under
the cedars of Gesshoji, that the illusion can be detected only from the
zashiki by the presence of an ishidoro or stone lamp, upon the island.
The size of the ishidoro betrays the false perspective, and I do not
think it was placed there when the garden was made.

Here and there at the edge of the pond, and almost level with the water,
are placed large flat stones, on which one may either stand or squat, to
watch the lacustrine population or to tend the water-plants. There are
beautiful water-lilies, whose bright green leaf-disks float oilily upon
the surface (Nuphar Japonica), and many lotus plants of two kinds, those
which bear pink and those which bear pure white flowers. There are iris
plants growing along the bank, whose blossoms are prismatic violet, and
there are various ornamental grasses and ferns and mosses. But the pond
is essentially a lotus pond; the lotus plants make its greatest charm.
It is a delight to watch every phase of their marvellous growth, from
the first unrolling of the leaf to the fall of the last flower. On rainy
days, especially, the lotus plants are worth observing. Their great cup-
shaped leaves, swaying high above the pond, catch the rain and hold it a
while; but always after the water in the leaf reaches a certain level
the stem bends, and empties the leaf with a loud plash, and then
straightens again. Rain-water upon a lotus-leaf is a favourite subject
with Japanese metal-workers, and metalwork only can reproduce the
effect, for the motion and colour of water moving upon the green
oleaginous surface are exactly those of quicksilver.


The third garden, which is very large, extends beyond the inclosure
containing the lotus pond to the foot of the wooded hills which form the
northern and north-eastern boundary of this old samurai quarter.
Formerly all this broad level space was occupied by a bamboo grove; but
it is now little more than a waste of grasses and wild flowers. In the
north-east corner there is a magnificent well, from which ice-cold water
is brought into the house through a most ingenious little aqueduct of
bamboo pipes; and in the north-western end, veiled by tall weeds, there
stands a very small stone shrine of Inari with two proportionately small
stone foxes sitting before it. Shrine and images are chipped and broken,
and thickly patched with dark green moss. But on the east side of the
house one little square of soil belonging to this large division of the
garden is still cultivated. It is devoted entirely to chrysanthemum
plants, which are shielded from heavy rain and strong sun by slanting
frames of light wood fashioned, like shoji with panes of white paper,
and supported like awnings upon thin posts of bamboo. I can venture to
add nothing to what has already been written about these marvellous
products of Japanese floriculture considered in themselves; but there is
a little story relating to chrysanthemums which I may presume to tell.

There is one place in Japan where it is thought unlucky to cultivate
chrysanthemums, for reasons which shall presently appear; and that place
is in the pretty little city of Himeji, in the province of Harima.
Himeji contains the ruins of a great castle of thirty turrets; and a
daimyo used to dwell therein whose revenue was one hundred and fifty-six
thousand koku of rice. Now, in the house of one of that daimyo's chief
retainers there was a maid-servant, of good family, whose name was O-
Kiku; and the name 'Kiku' signifies a chrysanthemum flower. Many
precious things were intrusted to her charge, and among others ten
costly dishes of gold. One of these was suddenly missed, and could not
be found; and the girl, being responsible therefor, and knowing not how
otherwise to prove her innocence, drowned herself in a well. But ever
thereafter her ghost, returning nightly, could be heard counting the
dishes slowly, with sobs:

Ichi-mai, Yo-mai, Shichi-mai,
Ni-mai, Go-mai, Hachi-mai,
San-mai, Roku-mai, Ku-mai--

Then would be heard a despairing cry and a loud burst of weeping; and
again the girl's voice counting the dishes plaintively: 'One--two--

Her spirit passed into the body of a strange little insect, whose head
faintly resembles that of a ghost with long dishevelled hair; and it is
called O-Kiku-mushi, or 'the fly of O-Kiku'; and it is found, they say,
nowhere save in Himeji. A famous play was written about O-Kiku, which is
still acted in all the popular theatres, entitled Banshu-O-Kiku-no-Sara-
yashiki; or, The Manor of the Dish of O-Kiku of Banshu.

Some declare that Banshu is only the corruption of the name of an
ancient quarter of Tokyo (Yedo), where the story should have been laid.
But the people of Himeji say that part of their city now called Go-Ken-
Yashiki is identical with the site of the ancient manor. What is
certainly true is that to cultivate chrysanthemum flowers in the part of
Himeji called Go-KenYashiki is deemed unlucky, because the name of O-
Kiku signifies 'Chrysanthemum.' Therefore, nobody, I am told, ever
cultivates chrysanthemums there.


Now of the ujo or things having desire, which inhabit these gardens.

There are four species of frogs: three that dwell in the lotus pond, and
one that lives in the trees. The tree frog is a very pretty little
creature, exquisitely green; it has a shrill cry, almost like the note
of a semi; and it is called amagaeru, or 'the rain frog,' because, like
its kindred in other countries, its croaking is an omen of rain. The
pond frogs are called babagaeru, shinagaeru, and Tono-san-gaeru. Of
these, the first-named variety is the largest and the ugliest: its
colour is very disagreeable, and its full name ('babagaeru' being a
decent abbreviation) is quite as offensive as its hue. The shinagaeru,
or 'striped frog,' is not handsome, except by comparison with the
previously mentioned creature. But the Tono-san-gaeru, so called after a
famed daimyo who left behind him a memory of great splendour is
beautiful: its colour is a fine bronze-red.

Besides these varieties of frogs there lives in the garden a huge
uncouth goggle-eyed thing which, although called here hikigaeru, I take
to be a toad. 'Hikigaeru' is the term ordinarily used for a bullfrog.
This creature enters the house almost daily to be fed, and seems to have
no fear even of strangers. My people consider it a luck-bringing
visitor; and it is credited with the power of drawing all the mosquitoes
out of a room into its mouth by simply sucking its breath in. Much as it
is cherished by gardeners and others, there is a legend about a goblin
toad of old times, which, by thus sucking in its breath, drew into its
mouth, not insects, but men.

The pond is inhabited also by many small fish; imori, or newts, with
bright red bellies; and multitudes of little water-beetles, called
maimaimushi, which pass their whole time in gyrating upon the surface of
the water so rapidly that it is almost impossible to distinguish their
shape clearly. A man who runs about aimlessly to and fro, under the
influence of excitement, is compared to a maimaimushi. And there are
some beautiful snails, with yellow stripes on their shells. Japanese
children have a charm-song which is supposed to have power to make the
snail put out its horns:

Daidaimushi, [22] daidaimushi, tsuno chitto dashare! Ame haze fuku kara
tsuno chitto dashare! [23]

The playground of the children of the better classes has always been the
family garden, as that of the children of the poor is the temple court.
It is in the garden that the little ones first learn something of the
wonderful life of plants and the marvels of the insect world; and there,
also, they are first taught those pretty legends and songs about birds
and flowers which form so charming a part of Japanese folk-lore. As the
home training of the child is left mostly to the mother, lessons of
kindness to animals are early inculcated; and the results are strongly
marked in after life It is true, Japanese children are not entirely free
from that unconscious tendency to cruelty characteristic of children in
all countries, as a survival of primitive instincts. But in this regard
the great moral difference between the sexes is strongly marked from the
earliest years. The tenderness of the woman-soul appears even in the
child. Little Japanese girls who play with insects or small animals
rarely hurt them, and generally set them free after they have afforded a
reasonable amount of amusement. Little boys are not nearly so good, when
out of sight of parents or guardians. But if seen doing anything cruel,
a child is made to feel ashamed of the act, and hears the Buddhist
warning, 'Thy future birth will be unhappy, if thou dost cruel things.'

Somewhere among the rocks in the pond lives a small tortoise--left in
the garden, probably, by the previous tenants of the house. It is very
pretty, but manages to remain invisible for weeks at a time. In popular
mythology, the tortoise is the servant of the divinity Kompira; [24] and
if a pious fisherman finds a tortoise, he writes upon his back
characters signifying 'Servant of the Deity Kompira,' and then gives it
a drink of sake and sets it free. It is supposed to be very fond of

Some say that the land tortoise, or 'stone tortoise,' only, is the
servant of Kompira, and the sea tortoise, or turtle, the servant of the
Dragon Empire beneath the sea. The turtle is said to have the power to
create, with its breath, a cloud, a fog, or a magnificent palace. It
figures in the beautiful old folk-tale of Urashima. [25] All tortoises
are supposed to live for a thousand years, wherefore one of the most
frequent symbols of longevity in Japanese art is a tortoise. But the
tortoise most commonly represented by native painters and metal-workers
has a peculiar tail, or rather a multitude of small tails, extending
behind it like the fringes of a straw rain-coat, mino, whence it is
called minogame Now, some of the tortoises kept in the sacred tanks of
Buddhist temples attain a prodigious age, and certain water--plants
attach themselves to the creatures' shells and stream behind them when
they walk. The myth of the minogame is supposed to have had its origin
in old artistic efforts to represent the appearance of such tortoises
with confervae fastened upon their shells.


Early in summer the frogs are surprisingly numerous, and, after dark,
are noisy beyond description; but week by week their nightly clamour
grows feebler, as their numbers diminish under the attacks of many
enemies. A large family of snakes, some fully three feet long, make
occasional inroads into the colony. The victims often utter piteous
cries, which are promptly responded to, whenever possible, by some
inmate of the house, and many a frog has been saved by my servant-girl,
who, by a gentle tap with a bamboo rod, compels the snake to let its
prey go. These snakes are beautiful swimmers. They make themselves quite
free about the garden; but they come out only on hot days. None of my
people would think of injuring or killing one of them. Indeed, in Izumo
it is said that to kill a snake is unlucky. 'If you kill a snake without
provocation,' a peasant assured me, 'you will afterwards find its head
in the komebitsu [the box in which cooked rice is kept] 'when you take
off the lid.'

But the snakes devour comparatively few frogs. Impudent kites and crows
are their most implacable destroyers; and there is a very pretty weasel
which lives under the kura (godown) and which does not hesitate to take
either fish or frogs out of the pond, even when the lord of the manor is
watching. There is also a cat which poaches in my preserves, a gaunt
outlaw, a master thief, which I have made sundry vain attempts to
reclaim from vagabondage. Partly because of the immorality of this cat,
and partly because it happens to have a long tail, it has the evil
reputation of being a nekomata, or goblin cat.

It is true that in Izumo some kittens are born with long tails; but it
is very seldom that they are suffered to grow up with long tails. For
the natural tendency of cats is to become goblins; and this tendency to
metamorphosis can be checked only by cutting off their tails in
kittenhood. Cats are magicians, tails or no tails, and have the power of
making corpses dance. Cats are ungrateful 'Feed a dog for three days,'
says a Japanese proverb, 'and he will remember your kindness for three
years; feed a cat for three years and she will forget your kindness in
three days.' Cats are mischievous: they tear the mattings, and make
holes in the shoji, and sharpen their claws upon the pillars of
tokonoma. Cats are under a curse: only the cat and the venomous serpent
wept not at the death of Buddha and these shall never enter into the
bliss of the Gokuraku For all these reasons, and others too numerous to
relate, cats are not much loved in Izumo, and are compelled to pass the
greater part of their lives out of doors.


Not less than eleven varieties of butterflies have visited the
neighbourhood of the lotus pond within the past few days. The most
common variety is snowy white. It is supposed to be especially attracted
by the na, or rape-seed plant; and when little girls see it, they sing:

Cho-cho cho-cho, na no ha ni tomare;
Na no ha ga iyenara, te ni tomare. [26]

But the most interesting insects are certainly the semi (cicadae). These
Japanese tree crickets are much more extraordinary singers than even the
wonderful cicadae of the tropics; and they are much less tiresome, for
there is a different species of semi, with a totally different song, for
almost every month during the whole warm season. There are, I believe,
seven kinds; but I have become familiar with only four. The first to be
heard in my trees is the natsuzemi, or summer semi: it makes a sound
like the Japanese monosyllable ji, beginning wheezily, slowly swelling
into a crescendo shrill as the blowing of steam, and dying away in
another wheeze. This j-i-i-iiiiiiiiii is so deafening that when two or
three natsuzemi come close to the window I am obliged to make them go
away. Happily the natsuzemi is soon succeeded by the minminzemi, a much
finer musician, whose name is derived from its wonderful note. It is
said 'to chant like a Buddhist priest reciting the kyo'; and certainly,
upon hearing it the first time, one can scarcely believe that one is
listening to a mere cicada. The minminzemi is followed, early in autumn,
by a beautiful green semi, the higurashi, which makes a singularly clear
sound, like the rapid ringing of a small bell,--kana-kana-kan a-kana-
kana. But the most astonishing visitor of all comes still later, the
tsukiu-tsukiu-boshi. [27] I fancy this creature can have no rival in the
whole world of cicadae its music is exactly like the song of a bird. Its
name, like that of the minminzemi, is onomatopoetic; but in Izumo the
sounds of its chant are given thus:

Tsuku-tsuku uisu , [28]
Tsuku-tsuku uisu,
Tsuku-tsuku uisu;

However, the semi are not the only musicians of the garden. Two
remarkable creatures aid their orchestra. The first is a beautiful
bright green grasshopper, known to the Japanese by the curious name of
hotoke-no-uma, or 'the horse of the dead.' This insect's head really
bears some resemblance in shape to the head of a horse--hence the fancy.
It is a queerly familiar creature, allowing itself to be taken in the
hand without struggling, and generally making itself quite at home in
the house, which it often enters. It makes a very thin sound, which the
Japanese write as a repetition of the syllables jun-ta; and the name
junta is sometimes given to the grasshopper itself. The other insect is
also a green grasshopper, somewhat larger, and much shyer: it is called
gisu, [29] on account of its chant:

Chon, Gisu;
Chon, Gisu;
Chon, Gisu;
Chon . . . (ad libitum).

Several lovely species of dragon-flies (tombo) hover about the pondlet
on hot bright days. One variety--the most beautiful creature of the kind
I ever saw, gleaming with metallic colours indescribable, and spectrally
slender--is called Tenshi-tombo, 'the Emperor's dragon-fly.' There is
another, the largest of Japanese dragon-flies, but somewhat rare, which
is much sought after by children as a plaything. Of this species it is
said that there are many more males than females; and what I can vouch
for as true is that, if you catch a female, the male can be almost
immediately attracted by exposing the captive. Boys, accordingly, try to
secure a female, and when one is captured they tie it with a thread to
some branch, and sing a curious little song, of which these are the
original words:

Konna [30] dansho Korai o
Adzuma no meto ni makete
Nigeru Wa haji dewa naikai?

Which signifies, 'Thou, the male, King of Korea, dost thou not feel
shame to flee away from the Queen of the East?' (This taunt is an
allusion to the story of the conquest of Korea by the Empress Jin-go.)
And the male comes invariably, and is also caught. In Izumo the first
seven words of the original song have been corrupted into 'konna unjo
Korai abura no mito'; and the name of the male dragon-fly, unjo, and
that of the female, mito, are derived from two words of the corrupted


Of warm nights all sorts of unbidden guests invade the house in
multitudes. Two varieties of mosquitoes do their utmost to make life
unpleasant, and these have learned the wisdom of not approaching a lamp
too closely; but hosts of curious and harmless things cannot be
prevented from seeking their death in the flame. The most numerous
victims of all, which come thick as a shower of rain, are called
Sanemori. At least they are so called in Izumo, where they do much
damage to growing rice.

Now the name Sanemori is an illustrious one, that of a famous warrior of
old times belonging to the Genji clan. There is a legend that while he
was fighting with an enemy on horseback his own steed slipped and fell
in a rice-field, and he was consequently overpowered and slain by his
antagonist. He became a rice-devouring insect, which is still
respectfully called, by the peasantry of Izumo, Sanemori-San. They light
fires, on certain summer nights, in the rice-fields, to attract the
insect, and beat gongs and sound bamboo flutes, chanting the while, 'O-
Sanemori, augustly deign to come hither!' A kannushi performs a
religious rite, and a straw figure representing a horse and rider is
then either burned or thrown into a neighbouring river or canal. By this
ceremony it is believed that the fields are cleared of the insect.

This tiny creature is almost exactly the size and colour of a rice-husk.
The legend concerning it may have arisen from the fact that its body,
together with the wings, bears some resemblance to the helmet of a
Japanese warrior. [31]

Next in number among the victims of fire are the moths, some of which
are very strange and beautiful. The most remarkable is an enormous
creature popularly called okorichocho or the 'ague moth,' because there
is a superstitious belief that it brings intermittent fever into any
house it enters. It has a body quite as heavy and almost as powerful as
that of the largest humming-bird, and its struggles, when caught in the
hand, surprise by their force. It makes a very loud whirring sound while
flying. The wings of one which I examined measured, outspread, five
inches from tip to tip, yet seemed small in proportion to the heavy
body. They were richly mottled with dusky browns and silver greys of
various tones.

Many flying night-comers, however, avoid the lamp. Most fantastic of all
visitors is the toro or kamakiri, called in Izumo kamakake, a bright
green praying mantis, extremely feared by children for its capacity to
bite. It is very large. I have seen specimens over six inches long. The
eyes of the kamakake are a brilliant black at night, but by day they
appear grass-coloured, like the rest of the body. The mantis is very
intelligent and surprisingly aggressive. I saw one attacked by a
vigorous frog easily put its enemy to flight. It fell a prey
subsequently to other inhabitants of the pond, but, it required the
combined efforts of several frogs to vanquish the monstrous insect, and
even then the battle was decided only when the kamakake had been dragged
into the water.

Other visitors are beetles of divers colours, and a sort of small roach
called goki-kaburi, signifying 'one whose head is covered with a bowl.'
It is alleged that the goki-kaburi likes to eat human eyes, and is
therefore the abhorred enemy of Ichibata-Sama--Yakushi-Nyorai of
Ichibata,--by whom diseases of the eye are healed. To kill the goki-
kaburi is consequently thought to be a meritorious act in the sight of
this Buddha. Always welcome are the beautiful fireflies (hotaru), which
enter quite noiselessly and at once seek the darkest place in the house,
slow-glimmering, like sparks moved by a gentle wind. They are supposed
to be very fond of water; wherefore children sing to them this little

Hotaru koe midzu nomasho;
Achi no midzu wa nigaizo;
Kochi no midzu wa amaizo. [32]

A pretty grey lizard, quite different from some which usually haunt the
garden, also makes its appearance at night, and pursues its prey along
the ceiling. Sometimes an extraordinarily large centipede attempts the
same thing, but with less success, and has to be seized with a pair of
fire-tongs and thrown into the exterior darkness. Very rarely, an
enormous spider appears. This creature seems inoffensive. If captured,
it will feign death until certain that it is not watched, when it will
run away with surprising swiftness if it gets a chance. It is hairless,
and very different from the tarantula, or fukurogumo. It is called
miyamagumo, or mountain spider. There are four other kinds of spiders
common in this neighbourhood: tenagakumo, or 'long-armed spider;'
hiratakumo, or 'flat spider'; jikumo, or 'earth spider'; and totatekumo,
or 'doorshutting spider.' Most spiders are considered evil beings. A
spider seen anywhere at night, the people say, should be killed; for all
spiders that show themselves after dark are goblins. While people are
awake and watchful, such creatures make themselves small; but when
everybody is fast asleep, then they assume their true goblin shape, and
become monstrous.


The high wood of the hill behind the garden is full of bird life. There
dwell wild uguisu, owls, wild doves, too many crows, and a queer bird
that makes weird noises at night-long deep sounds of hoo, hoo. It is
called awamakidori or the 'millet-sowing bird,' because when the farmers
hear its cry they know that it is time to plant the millet. It is quite
small and brown, extremely shy, and, so far as I can learn, altogether
nocturnal in its habits.

But rarely, very rarely, a far stranger cry is heard in those trees at
night, a voice as of one crying in pain the syllables 'ho-to-to-gi-su.'
The cry and the name of that which utters it are one and the same,

It is a bird of which weird things are told; for they say it is not
really a creature of this living world, but a night wanderer from the
Land of Darkness. In the Meido its dwelling is among those sunless
mountains of Shide over which all souls must pass to reach the place of
judgment. Once in each year it comes; the time of its coming is the end
of the fifth month, by the antique counting of moons; and the peasants,
hearing its voice, say one to the other, 'Now must we sow the rice; for
the Shide-no-taosa is with us.' The word taosa signifies the head man of
a mura, or village, as villages were governed in the old days; but why
the hototogisu is called the taosa of Shide I do not know. Perhaps it is
deemed to be a soul from some shadowy hamlet of the Shide hills, whereat
the ghosts are wont to rest on their weary way to the realm of Emma, the
King of Death.

Its cry has been interpreted in various ways. Some declare that the
hototogisu does not really repeat its own name, but asks, 'Honzon
kaketaka?' (Has the honzon [33] been suspended?) Others, resting their
interpretation upon the wisdom of the Chinese, aver that the bird's
speech signifies, 'Surely it is better to return home.' This, at least
is true: that all who journey far from their native place, and hear the
voice of the hototogisu in other distant provinces, are seized with the
sickness of longing for home.

Only at night, the people say, is its voice heard, and most often upon
the nights of great moons; and it chants while hovering high out of
sight, wherefore a poet has sung of it thus:

Hito koe wa.
Tsuki ga naitaka
Hototogisu! [34]

And another has written:
Nakitsuru kata wo
Tada ariake no
Tsuki zo nokoreru. [35]

The dweller in cities may pass a lifetime without hearing the
hototogisu. Caged, the little creature will remain silent and die. Poets
often wait vainly in the dew, from sunset till dawn, to hear the strange
cry which has inspired so many exquisite verses. But those who have
heard found it so mournful that they have likened it to the cry of one
wounded suddenly to death.

Chi ni naku koe wa
Ariake no
Tsuki yori kokani
Kiku hito mo nashi. [36]

Concerning Izumo owls, I shall content myself with citing a composition
by one of my Japanese students:

'The Owl is a hateful bird that sees in the dark. Little children who
cry are frightened by the threat that the Owl will come to take them
away; for the Owl cries, "Ho! ho! sorotto koka! sorotto koka!" which
means, "Thou! must I enter slowly?" It also cries "Noritsuke hose! ho!
ho!" which means, "Do thou make the starch to use in washing to-morrow"

And when the women hear that cry, they know that to-morrow will be a
fine day. It also cries, "Tototo," "The man dies," and "Kotokokko," "The
boy dies." So people hate it. And crows hate it so much that it is used
to catch crows. The Farmer puts an Owl in the rice-field; and all the
crows come to kill it, and they get caught fast in the snares. This
should teach us not to give way to our dislikes for other people.'

The kites which hover over the city all day do not live in the
neighbourhood. Their nests are far away upon the blue peaks; but they
pass much of their time in catching fish, and in stealing from back-
yards. They pay the wood and the garden swift and sudden piratical
visits; and their sinister cry--pi-yoroyoro, pi-yoroyoro--sounds at
intervals over the town from dawn till sundown. Most insolent of all
feathered creatures they certainly are--more insolent than even their
fellow-robbers, the crows. A kite will drop five miles to filch a tai
out of a fish-seller's bucket, or a fried-cake out of a child's hand,
and shoot back to the clouds before the victim of the theft has time to
stoop for a stone. Hence the saying, 'to look as surprised as if one's
aburage [37] had been snatched from one's hand by a kite.' There is,
moreover, no telling what a kite may think proper to steal. For example,
my neighbour's servant-girl went to the river the other day, wearing in
her hair a string of small scarlet beads made of rice-grains prepared
and dyed in a certain ingenious way. A kite lighted upon her head, and
tore away and swallowed the string of beads. But it is great fun to feed
these birds with dead rats or mice which have been caught in traps
overnight and subsequently drowned. The instant a dead rat is exposed to
view a kite pounces from the sky to bear it away. Sometimes a crow may
get the start of the kite, but the crow must be able to get to the woods
very swiftly indeed in order to keep his prize. The children sing this

Tobi, tobi, maute mise!
Ashita no ha ni
Karasu ni kakushite
Nezumi yaru. [38]

The mention of dancing refers to the beautiful balancing motion of the
kite's wings in flight. By suggestion this motion is poetically compared
to the graceful swaying of a maiko, or dancing-girl, extending her arms
and waving the long wide sleeves of her silken robe.

Although there is a numerous sub-colony of crows in the wood behind my
house, the headquarters of the corvine army are in the pine grove of the
ancient castle grounds, visible from my front rooms. To see the crows
all flying home at the same hour every evening is an interesting
spectacle, and popular imagination has found an amusing comparison for
it in the hurry-skurry of people running to a fire. This explains the
meaning of a song which children sing to the crows returning to their

Ato no karasu saki ine,
Ware ga iye ga yakeru ken,
Hayo inde midzu kake,
Midzu ga nakya yarozo,
Amattara ko ni yare,
Ko ga nakya modose. [39]

Confucianism seems to have discovered virtue in the crow. There is a
Japanese proverb, 'Karasu ni hampo no ko ari,' meaning that the crow
performs the filial duty of hampo, or, more literally, 'the filial duty
of hampo exists in the crow.' 'Hampo' means, literally, 'to return a
feeding.' The young crow is said to requite its parents' care by feeding
them when it becomes strong. Another example of filial piety has been
furnished by the dove. 'Hato ni sanshi no rei ad'--the dove sits three
branches below its parent; or, more literally, 'has the three-branch
etiquette to perform.'

The cry of the wild dove (yamabato), which I hear almost daily from the
wood, is the most sweetly plaintive sound that ever reached my ears. The
Izumo peasantry say that the bird utters these words, which it certainly
seems to do if one listen to it after having learned the alleged

Tete poppo,
Kaka poppo
Tete poppo,
Kaka poppo,
tete. . . (sudden pause).

'Tete' is the baby word for 'father,' and 'kaka' for 'mother'; and
'poppo' signifies, in infantile speech, 'the bosom.' [40]

Wild uguisu also frequently sweeten my summer with their song, and
sometimes come very near the house, being attracted, apparently, by the
chant of my caged pet. The uguisu is very common in this province. It
haunts all the woods and the sacred groves in the neighbourhood of the
city, and I never made a journey in Izumo during the warm season without
hearing its note from some shadowy place. But there are uguisu and
uguisu. There are uguisu to be had for one or two yen, but the finely
trained, cage-bred singer may command not less than a hundred.

It was at a little village temple that I first heard one curious belief
about this delicate creature. In Japan, the coffin in which a corpse is
borne to burial is totally unlike an Occidental coffin. It is a
surprisingly small square box, wherein the dead is placed in a sitting
posture. How any adult corpse can be put into so small a space may well
be an enigma to foreigners. In cases of pronounced rigor mortis the work
of getting the body into the coffin is difficult even for the
professional doshin-bozu. But the devout followers of Nichiren claim
that after death their bodies will remain perfectly flexible; and the
dead body of an uguisu, they affirm, likewise never stiffens, for this
little bird is of their faith, and passes its life in singing praises
unto the Sutra of the Lotus of the Good Law.


I have already become a little too fond of my dwelling-place. Each day,
after returning from my college duties, and exchanging my teacher's
uniform for the infinitely more comfortable Japanese robe, I find more
than compensation for the weariness of five class-hours in the simple
pleasure of squatting on the shaded veranda overlooking the gardens.
Those antique garden walls, high-mossed below their ruined coping of
tiles, seem to shut out even the murmur of the city's life. There are no
sounds but the voices of birds, the shrilling of semi, or, at long, lazy
intervals, the solitary plash of a diving frog. Nay, those walls seclude
me from much more than city streets. Outside them hums the changed Japan
of telegraphs and newspapers and steamships; within dwell the all-
reposing peace of nature and the dreams of the sixteenth century. There
is a charm of quaintness in the very air, a faint sense of something
viewless and sweet all about one; perhaps the gentle haunting of dead
ladies who looked like the ladies of the old picture-books, and who
lived here when all this was new. Even in the summer light--touching the
grey strange shapes of stone, thrilling through the foliage of the long-
loved trees--there is the tenderness of a phantom caress. These are the
gardens of the past. The future will know them only as dreams, creations
of a forgotten art, whose charm no genius may reproduce.

Of the human tenants here no creature seems to be afraid. The little
frogs resting upon the lotus-leaves scarcely shrink from my touch; the
lizards sun themselves within easy reach of my hand; the water-snakes
glide across my shadow without fear; bands of semi establish their
deafening orchestra on a plum branch just above my head, and a praying
mantis insolently poses on my knee. Swallows and sparrows not only build
their nests on my roof, but even enter my rooms without concern--one
swallow has actually built its nest in the ceiling of the bathroom--and
the weasel purloins fish under my very eyes without any scruples of
conscience. A wild uguisu perches on a cedar by the window, and in a
burst of savage sweetness challenges my caged pet to a contest in song;
and always though the golden air, from the green twilight of the
mountain pines, there purls to me the plaintive, caressing, delicious
call of the yamabato:

Tete poppo,
Kaka poppo
Tete poppo,
Kaka poppo,

No European dove has such a cry. He who can hear, for the first time,
the voice of the yamabato without feeling a new sensation at his heart
little deserves to dwell in this happy world.

Yet all this--the old katchiu-yashiki and its gardens--will doubtless
have vanished for ever before many years. Already a multitude of
gardens, more spacious and more beautiful than mine, have been converted
into rice-fields or bamboo groves; and the quaint Izumo city, touched at
last by some long-projected railway line--perhaps even within the
present decade--will swell, and change, and grow commonplace, and demand
these grounds for the building of factories and mills. Not from here
alone, but from all the land the ancient peace and the ancient charm
seem doomed to pass away. For impermanency is the nature of things, more
particularly in Japan; and the changes and the changers shall also be
changed until there is found no place for them--and regret is vanity.
The dead art that made the beauty of this place was the art, also, of
that faith to which belongs the all-consoling text, 'Verily, even plants
and trees, rocks and stones, all shall enter into Nirvana.'

Chapter Two The Household Shrine


IN Japan there are two forms of the Religion of the Dead--that which
belongs to Shinto; and that which belongs to Buddhism. The first is the
primitive cult, commonly called ancestor-worship. But the term ancestor-
worship seems to me much too confined for the religion which pays
reverence not only to those ancient gods believed to be the fathers of
the Japanese race, but likewise to a host of deified sovereigns, heroes,
princes, and illustrious men. Within comparatively recent times, the
great Daimyo of Izumo, for example, were apotheosised; and the peasants
of Shimane still pray before the shrines of the Matsudaira. Moreover
Shinto, like the faiths of Hellas and of Rome, has its deities of the
elements and special deities who preside over all the various affairs of
life. Therefore ancestor-worship, though still a striking feature of
Shinto, does not alone constitute the State Religion: neither does the
term fully describe the Shinto cult of the dead--a cult which in Izumo
retains its primitive character more than in other parts of Japan.

And here I may presume, though no Sinologue, to say something about that
State Religion of Japan--that ancient faith of Izumo--which, although
even more deeply rooted in national life than Buddhism, is far less
known to the Western world. Except in special works by such men of
erudition as Chamberlain and Satow--works with which the Occidental
reader, unless himself a specialist, is not likely to become familiar
outside of Japan--little has been written in English about Shinto which
gives the least idea of what Shinto is. Of its ancient traditions and
rites much of rarest interest may be learned from the works of the
philologists just mentioned; but, as Mr. Satow himself acknowledges, a
definite answer to the question, 'What is the nature of Shinto?' is
still difficult to give. How define the common element in the six kinds
of Shinto which are known to exist, and some of which no foreign scholar
has yet been able to examine for lack of time or of authorities or of
opportunity? Even in its modern external forms, Shinto is sufficiently
complex to task the united powers of the historian, philologist, and
anthropologist, merely to trace out the multitudinous lines of its
evolution, and to determine the sources of its various elements:
primeval polytheisms and fetishisms, traditions of dubious origin,
philosophical concepts from China, Korea, and elsewhere--all mingled
with Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism. The so-called 'Revival of Pure
Shinto'--an effort, aided by Government, to restore the cult to its
archaic simplicity, by divesting it of foreign characteristics, and
especially of every sign or token of Buddhist origin--resulted only, so
far as the avowed purpose was concerned, in the destruction of priceless
art, and in leaving the enigma of origins as complicated as before.
Shinto had been too profoundly modified in the course of fifteen
centuries of change to be thus remodelled by a fiat. For the like reason
scholarly efforts to define its relation to national ethics by mere
historical and philological analysis must fail: as well seek to define
the ultimate secret of Life by the elements of the body which it
animates. Yet when the result of such efforts shall have been closely
combined with a deep knowledge of Japanese thought and feeling--the
thought and sentiment, not of a special class, but of the people at
large--then indeed all that Shinto was and is may be fully comprehended.
And this may be accomplished, I fancy, through the united labour of
European and Japanese scholars.

Yet something of what Shinto signifies--in the simple poetry of its
beliefs--in the home training of the child--in the worship of filial
piety before the tablets of the ancestors--may be learned during a
residence of some years among the people, by one who lives their life
and adopts their manners and customs. With such experience he can at
least claim the right to express his own conception of Shinto.


Those far-seeing rulers of the Meiji era, who disestablished Buddhism to
strengthen Shinto, doubtless knew they were giving new force not only to
a faith in perfect harmony with their own state policy, but likewise to
one possessing in itself a far more profound vitality than the alien
creed, which although omnipotent as an art-influence, had never found
deep root in the intellectual soil of Japan. Buddhism was already in
decrepitude, though transplanted from China scarcely more than thirteen
centuries before; while Shinto, though doubtless older by many a
thousand years, seems rather to have gained than to have lost force
through all the periods of change. Eclectic like the genius of the race,
it had appropriated and assimilated all forms of foreign thought which
could aid its material manifestation or fortify its ethics. Buddhism had
attempted to absorb its gods, even as it had adopted previously the
ancient deities of Brahmanism; but Shinto, while seeming to yield, was
really only borrowing strength from its rival. And this marvellous
vitality of Shinto is due to the fact that in the course of its long
development out of unrecorded beginnings, it became at a very ancient
epoch, and below the surface still remains, a religion of the heart.
Whatever be the origin of its rites and traditions, its ethical spirit
has become identified with all the deepest and best emotions of the
race. Hence, in Izumo especially, the attempt to create a Buddhist
Shintoism resulted only in the formation of a Shinto-Buddhism.

And the secret living force of Shinto to-day--that force which repels
missionary efforts at proselytising--means something much more profound
than tradition or worship or ceremonialism. Shinto may yet, without loss
of real power, survive all these. Certainly the expansion of the popular
mind through education, the influences of modern science, must compel
modification or abandonment of many ancient Shinto conceptions; but the
ethics of Shinto will surely endure. For Shinto signifies character in
the higher sense--courage, courtesy, honour, and above all things,
loyalty. The spirit of Shinto is the spirit of filial piety, the zest of
duty, the readiness to surrender life for a principle without a thought
of wherefore. It is the docility of the child; it is the sweetness of
the Japanese woman. It is conservatism likewise; the wholesome check
upon the national tendency to cast away the worth of the entire past in
rash eagerness to assimilate too much of the foreign present. It is
religion--but religion transformed into hereditary moral impulse--
religion transmuted into ethical instinct. It is the whole emotional
life of the race--the Soul of Japan.

The child is born Shinto. Home teaching and school training only give
expression to what is innate: they do not plant new seed; they do but
quicken the ethical sense transmitted as a trait ancestral. Even as a
Japanese infant inherits such ability to handle a writing-brush as never
can be acquired by Western fingers, so does it inherit ethical
sympathies totally different from our own. Ask a class of Japanese
students--young students of fourteen to sixteen--to tell their dearest
wishes; and if they have confidence in the questioner, perhaps nine out
of ten will answer: 'To die for His Majesty Our Emperor.' And the wish
soars from the heart pure as any wish for martyrdom ever born. How much
this sense of loyalty may or may not have been weakened in such great
centres as Tokyo by the new agnosticism and by the rapid growth of other
nineteenth-century ideas among the student class, I do not know; but in
the country it remains as natural to boyhood as joy. Unreasoning it also
is--unlike those loyal sentiments with us, the results of maturer
knowledge and settled conviction. Never does the Japanese youth ask
himself why; the beauty of self-sacrifice alone is the all-sufficing
motive. Such ecstatic loyalty is a part of the national life; it is in
the blood--inherent as the impulse of the ant to perish for its little
republic--unconscious as the loyalty of bees to their queen. It is

That readiness to sacrifice one's own life for loyalty's sake, for the
sake of a superior, for the sake of honour, which has distinguished the
race in modern times, would seem also to have been a national
characteristic from the earliest period of its independent existence.
Long before the epoch of established feudalism, when honourable suicide
became a matter of rigid etiquette, not for warriors only, but even for
women and little children, the giving one's life for one's prince, even
when the sacrifice could avail nothing, was held a sacred duty. Among
various instances which might be cited from the ancient Kojiki, the
following is not the least impressive:

Prince Mayowa, at the age of only seven years, having killed his
father's slayer, fled into the house of the Grandee (Omi) Tsubura. 'Then
Prince Oho-hatsuse raised an army, and besieged that house. And the
arrows that were shot were for multitude like the ears of the reeds. And
the Grandee Tsubura came forth himself, and having taken off the weapons
with which he was girded, did obeisance eight times, and said: "The
maiden-princess Kara, my daughter whom thou deignedst anon to woo, is at
thy service. Again I will present to thee five granaries. Though a vile
slave of a Grandee exerting his utmost strength in the fight can
scarcely hope to conquer, yet must he die rather than desert a prince
who, trusting in him, has entered into his house." Having thus spoken,
he again took his weapons, and went in once more to fight. Then, their
strength being exhausted, and their arrows finished, he said to the
Prince: "My hands are wounded, and our arrows are finished. We cannot
now fight: what shall be done?" The Prince replied, saying: "There is
nothing more to do. Do thou now slay me." So the Grandee Tsubura thrust
the Prince to death with his sword, and forthwith killed himself by
cutting off his own head.'

Thousands of equally strong examples could easily be quoted from later
Japanese history, including many which occurred even within the memory
of the living. Nor was it for persons alone that to die might become a
sacred duty: in certain contingencies conscience held it scarcely less a
duty to die for a purely personal conviction; and he who held any
opinion which he believed of paramount importance would, when other
means failed, write his views in a letter of farewell, and then take his
own life, in order to call attention to his beliefs and to prove their
sincerity. Such an instance occurred only last year in Tokyo, [1] when
the young lieutenant of militia, Ohara Takeyoshi, killed himself by
harakiri in the cemetery of Saitokuji, leaving a letter stating as the
reason for his act, his hope to force public recognition of the danger
to Japanese independence from the growth of Russian power in the North
Pacific. But a much more touching sacrifice in May of the same year--a
sacrifice conceived in the purest and most innocent spirit of loyalty--
was that of the young girl Yoko Hatakeyama, who, after the attempt to
assassinate the Czarevitch, travelled from Tokyo to Kyoto and there
killed herself before the gate of the Kencho, merely as a vicarious
atonement for the incident which had caused shame to Japan and grief to
the Father of the people--His Sacred Majesty the Emperor.


As to its exterior forms, modern Shinto is indeed difficult to analyse;
but through all the intricate texture of extraneous beliefs so thickly
interwoven about it, indications of its earliest character are still
easily discerned. In certain of its primitive rites, in its archaic
prayers and texts and symbols, in the history of its shrines, and even
in many of the artless ideas of its poorest worshippers, it is plainly
revealed as the most ancient of all forms of worship--that which Herbert
Spencer terms 'the root of all religions'--devotion to the dead. Indeed,
it has been frequently so expounded by its own greatest scholars and
theologians. Its divinities are ghosts; all the dead become deities. In
the Tama-no-mihashira the great commentator Hirata says 'the spirits of
the dead continue to exist in the unseen world which is everywhere about
us, and they all become gods of varying character and degrees of
influence. Some reside in temples built in their honour; others hover
near their tombs; and they continue to render services to their prince,
parents, wife, and children, as when in the body.' And they do more than
this, for they control the lives and the doings of men. 'Every human
action,' says Hirata, 'is the work of a god.' [3] And Motowori, scarcely
less famous an exponent of pure Shinto doctrine, writes: 'All the moral
ideas which a man requires are implanted in his bosom by the gods, and
are of the same nature with those instincts which impel him to eat when
he is hungry or to drink when he is thirsty.' [4] With this doctrine of
Intuition no Decalogue is required, no fixed code of ethics; and the
human conscience is declared to be the only necessary guide. Though
every action be 'the work of a Kami.' yet each man has within him the
power to discern the righteous impulse from the unrighteous, the
influence of the good deity from that of the evil. No moral teacher is
so infallible as one's own heart. 'To have learned that there is no way
(michi),'[5] says Motowori, 'to be learned and practiced, is really to
have learned the Way of the Gods.' [6] And Hirata writes: 'If you desire
to practise true virtue, learn to stand in awe of the Unseen; and that
will prevent you from doing wrong. Make a vow to the Gods who rule over
the Unseen, and cultivate the conscience (ma-gokoro) implanted in you;
and then you will never wander from the way.' How this spiritual self-
culture may best be obtained, the same great expounder has stated with
almost equal brevity: 'Devotion to the memory of ancestors is the
mainspring of all virtues. No one who discharges his duty to them will
ever be disrespectful to the Gods or to his living parents. Such a man
will be faithful to his prince, loyal to his friends, and kind and
gentle with his wife and children.' [7]

How far are these antique beliefs removed from the ideas of the
nineteenth century? Certainly not so far that we can afford to smile at
them. The faith of the primitive man and the knowledge of the most
profound psychologist may meet in strange harmony upon the threshold of
the same ultimate truth, and the thought of a child may repeat the
conclusions of a Spencer or a Schopenhauer. Are not our ancestors in
very truth our Kami? Is not every action indeed the work of the Dead who
dwell within us? Have not our impulses and tendencies, our capacities
and weaknesses, our heroisms and timidities, been created by those
vanished myriads from whom we received the all-mysterious bequest of
Life? Do we still think of that infinitely complex Something which is
each one of us, and which we call EGO, as 'I' or as 'They'? What is our
pride or shame but the pride or shame of the Unseen in that which They
have made?--and what our Conscience but the inherited sum of countless
dead experiences with varying good and evil? Nor can we hastily reject
the Shinto thought that all the dead become gods, while we respect the
convictions of those strong souls of to-day who proclaim the divinity of


Shino ancestor-worship, no doubt, like all ancestor-worship, was
developed out of funeral rites, according to that general law of
religious evolution traced so fully by Herbert Spencer. And there is
reason to believe that the early forms of Shinto public worship may have
been evolved out of a yet older family worship--much after the manner in
which M. Fustel de Coulanges, in his wonderful book, La Cite Antique,
has shown the religious public institutions among the Greeks and Romans
to have been developed from the religion of the hearth. Indeed, the word
ujigami, now used to signify a Shinto parish temple, and also its deity,
means 'family God,' and in its present form is a corruption or
contraction of uchi-no-Kami, meaning the 'god of the interior' or 'the
god of the house.' Shinto expounders have, it is true, attempted to
interpret the term otherwise; and Hirata, as quoted by Mr. Ernest Satow,
declared the name should be applied only to the common ancestor, or
ancestors, or to one so entitled to the gratitude of a community as to
merit equal honours. Such, undoubtedly, was the just use of the term in
his time, and long before it; but the etymology of the word would
certainly seem to indicate its origin in family worship, and to confirm
modern scientific beliefs in regard to the evolution of religious

Now just as among the Greeks and Latins the family cult always continued
to exist through all the development and expansion of the public
religion, so the Shinto family worship has continued concomitantly with
the communal worship at the countless ujigami, with popular worship at
the famed Ohoya-shiro of various provinces or districts, and with
national worship at the great shrines of Ise and Kitzuki. Many objects
connected with the family cult are certainly of alien or modern origin;
but its simple rites and its unconscious poetry retain their archaic
charm. And, to the student of Japanese life, by far the most interesting
aspect of Shinto is offered in this home worship, which, like the home
worship of the antique Occident, exists in a dual form.


In nearly all Izumo dwellings there is a kamidana, [8] or 'Shelf of the
Gods.' On this is usually placed a small Shinto shrine (miya) containing
tablets bearing the names of gods (one at least of which tablets is
furnished by the neighbouring Shinto parish temple), and various ofuda,
holy texts or charms which most often are written promises in the name
of some Kami to protect his worshipper. If there be no miya, the tablets
or ofuda are simply placed upon the shelf in a certain order, the most
sacred having the middle place. Very rarely are images to be seen upon a
kamidana: for primitive Shintoism excluded images rigidly as Jewish or
Mohammedan law; and all Shinto iconography belongs to a comparatively
modern era--especially to the period of Ryobu-Shinto--and must be
considered of Buddhist origin. If there be any images, they will
probably be such as have been made only within recent years at Kitauki:
those small twin figures of Oho-kuni-nushi-no-Kami and of Koto-shiro-
nushi-no-Kami, described in a former paper upon the Kitzuki-no-oho-
yashiro. Shinto kakemono, which are also of latter-day origin,
representing incidents from the Kojiki, are much more common than Shinto
icons: these usually occupy the toko, or alcove, in the same room in
which the kamidana is placed; but they will not be seen in the houses of
the more cultivated classes. Ordinarily there will be found upon the
kamidana nothing but the simple miya containing some ofuda: very, very
seldom will a mirror [9] be seen, or gohei--except the gohei attached to
the small shimenawa either hung just above the kamidana or suspended to
the box-like frame in which the miya sometimes is placed. The shimenawa
and the paper gohei are the true emblems of Shinto: even the ofuda and
the mamori are quite modern. Not only before the household shrine, but
also above the house-door of almost every home in Izumo, the shimenawa
is suspended. It is ordinarily a thin rope of rice straw; but before the
dwellings of high Shinto officials, such as the Taisha-Guji of Kitzuki,
its size and weight are enormous. One of the first curious facts that
the traveller in Izumo cannot fail to be impressed by is the universal
presence of this symbolic rope of straw, which may sometimes even be
seen round a rice-field. But the grand displays of the sacred symbol are
upon the great festivals of the new year, the accession of Jimmu Tenno
to the throne of Japan, and the Emperor's birthday. Then all the miles
of streets are festooned with shimenawa thick as ship-cables.


A particular feature of Matsue are the miya-shops--establishments not,
indeed, peculiar to the old Izumo town, but much more interesting than
those to be found in larger cities of other provinces. There are miya of
a hundred varieties and sizes, from the child's toy miya which sells for
less than one sen, to the large shrine destined for some rich home, and
costing perhaps ten yen or more. Besides these, the household shrines of
Shinto, may occasionally be seen massive shrines of precious wood,
lacquered and gilded, worth from three hundred even to fifteen hundred
yen. These are not household shrines; but festival shrines, and are made
only for rich merchants. They are displayed on Shinto holidays, and
twice a year are borne through the streets in procession, to shouts of
'Chosaya! chosaya!' [10] Each temple parish also possesses a large
portable miya which is paraded on these occasions with much chanting and
beating of drums. The majority of household miya are cheap
constructions. A very fine one can be purchased for about two yen; but
those little shrines one sees in the houses of the common people cost,
as a rule, considerably less than half a yen. And elaborate or costly
household shrines are contrary to the spirit of pure Shinto The true
miya should be made of spotless white hinoki [11] wood, and be put
together without nails. Most of those I have seen in the shops had their
several parts joined only with rice-paste; but the skill of the maker
rendered this sufficient. Pure Shinto requires that a miya should be
without gilding or ornamentation. The beautiful miniature temples in
some rich homes may justly excite admiration by their artistic structure
and decoration; but the ten or thirteen cent miya, in the house of a
labourer or a kurumaya, of plain white wood, truly represents that
spirit of simplicity characterising the primitive religion.


The kamidana or 'God-shelf,' upon which are placed the miya and other
sacred objects of Shinto worship, is usually fastened at a height of
about six or seven feet above the floor. As a rule it should not be
placed higher than the hand can reach with ease; but in houses having
lofty rooms the miya is sometimes put up at such a height that the
sacred offerings cannot be made without the aid of a box or other object
to stand upon. It is not commonly a part of the house structure, but a
plain shelf attached with brackets either to the wall itself, at some
angle of the apartment, or, as is much more usual, to the kamoi, or
horizontal grooved beam, in which the screens of opaque paper (fusuma),
which divide room from room, slide to and fro. Occasionally it is
painted or lacquered. But the ordinary kamidana is of white wood, and is
made larger or smaller in proportion to the size of the miya, or the
number of the ofuda and other sacred objects to be placed upon it. In
some houses, notably those of innkeepers and small merchants, the
kamidana is made long enough to support a number of small shrines
dedicated to different Shinto deities, particularly those believed to
preside over wealth and commercial prosperity. In the houses of the poor
it is nearly always placed in the room facing the street; and Matsue
shopkeepers usually erect it in their shops--so that the passer-by or
the customer can tell at a glance in what deities the occupant puts his
trust. There are many regulations concerning it. It may be placed to
face south or east, but should not face west, and under no possible
circumstances should it be suffered to face north or north-west. One
explanation of this is the influence upon Shinto of Chinese philosophy,
according to which there is some fancied relation between South or East
and the Male Principle, and between West or North and the Female
Principle. But the popular notion on the subject is that because a dead
person is buried with the head turned north, it would be very wrong to
place a miya so as to face north--since everything relating to death is
impure; and the regulation about the west is not strictly observed. Most
kamidana in Izumo, however, face south or east. In the houses of the
poorest--often consisting of but one apartment--there can be little
choice as to rooms; but it is a rule, observed in the dwellings of the
middle classes, that the kamidana must not be placed either in the guest
room (zashiki) nor in the kitchen; and in shizoku houses its place is
usually in one of the smaller family apartments. Respect must be shown
it. One must not sleep, for example, or even lie down to rest, with his
feet turned towards it. One must not pray before it, or even stand
before it, while in a state of religious impurity--such as that entailed
by having touched a corpse, or attended a Buddhist funeral, or even
during the period of mourning for kindred buried according to the
Buddhist rite. Should any member of the family be thus buried, then
during fifty days [12] the kamidana must be entirely screened from view
with pure white paper, and even the Shinto ofuda, or pious invocations
fastened upon the house-door, must have white paper pasted over them.
During the same mourning period the fire in the house is considered
unclean; and at the close of the term all the ashes of the braziers and
of the kitchen must be cast away, and new fire kindled with a flint and
steel. Nor are funerals the only source of legal uncleanliness. Shinto,
as the religion of purity and purification, has a Deuteronomy of quite
an extensive kind. During certain periods women must not even pray
before the miya, much less make offerings or touch the sacred vessels,
or kindle the lights of the Kami.


Before the miya, or whatever holy object of Shinto worship be placed
upon the kamidana, are set two quaintly shaped jars for the offerings of
sake; two small vases, to contain sprays of the sacred plant sakaki, or
offerings of flowers; and a small lamp, shaped like a tiny saucer, where
a wick of rush-pith floats in rape-seed oil. Strictly speaking, all
these utensils, except the flower-vases, should be made of unglazed red
earthenware, such as we find described in the early chapters of the
Kojiki: and still at Shinto festivals in Izumo, when sake is drunk in
honour of the gods, it is drunk out of cups of red baked unglazed clay
shaped like shallow round dishes. But of late years it has become the
fashion to make all the utensils of a fine kamidana of brass or bronze--
even the hanaike, or flower-vases. Among the poor, the most archaic
utensils are still used to a great extent, especially in the remoter
country districts; the lamp being a simple saucer or kawarake of red
clay; and the flower-vases most often bamboo cups, made by simply
cutting a section of bamboo immediately below a joint and about five
inches above it.

The brazen lamp is a much more complicated object than the kawarake,
which costs but one rin. The brass lamp costs about twenty-five sen, at
least. It consists of two parts. The lower part, shaped like a very
shallow, broad wineglass, with a very thick stem, has an interior as
well as an exterior rim; and the bottom of a correspondingly broad and
shallow brass cup, which is the upper part and contains the oil, fits
exactly into this inner rim. This kind of lamp is always furnished with
a small brass object in the shape of a flat ring, with a stem set at
right angles to the surface of the ring. It is used for moving the
floating wick and keeping it at any position required; and the little
perpendicular stem is long enough to prevent the fingers from touching
the oil.

The most curious objects to be seen on any ordinary kamidana are the
stoppers of the sake-vessels or o-mikidokkuri ('honourable sake-jars').
These stoppers--o-mikidokkuri-nokuchisashi--may be made of brass, or of
fine thin slips of wood jointed and bent into the singular form
required. Properly speaking, the thing is not a real stopper, in spite
of its name; its lower part does not fill the mouth of the jar at all:
it simply hangs in the orifice like a leaf put there stem downwards. I
find it difficult to learn its history; but, though there are many
designs of it--the finer ones being of brass--the shape of all seems to
hint at a Buddhist origin. Possibly the shape was borrowed from a
Buddhist symbol--the Hoshi-notama, that mystic gem whose lambent glow
(iconographically suggested as a playing of flame) is the emblem of Pure
Essence; and thus the object would be typical at once of the purity of
the wine-offering and the purity of the heart of the giver.

The little lamp may not be lighted every evening in all homes, since
there are families too poor to afford even this infinitesimal nightly
expenditure of oil. But upon the first, fifteenth, and twenty-eighth of
each month the light is always kindled; for these are Shinto holidays of
obligation, when offerings must be made to the gods, and when all uji-
ko, or parishioners of a Shinto temple, are supposed to visit their
ujigami. In every home on these days sake is poured as an offering into
the o-mikidokkuri, and in the vases of the kamidana are placed sprays of
the holy sakaki, or sprigs of pine, or fresh flowers. On the first day
of the new year the kamidana is always decked with sakaki, moromoki
(ferns), and pine-sprigs, and also with a shimenawa; and large double
rice cakes are placed upon it as offerings to the gods.


But only the ancient gods of Shinto are worshipped before the kamidana.
The family ancestors or family dead are worshipped either in a separate
room (called the mitamaya or 'Spirit Chamber'), or, if worshipped
according to the Buddhist rites, before the butsuma or butsudan.

The Buddhist family worship coexists in the vast majority of Izumo homes
with the Shinto family worship; and whether the dead be honoured in the
mitamaya or before the butsudan altogether depends upon the religious
traditions of the household. Moreover, there are families in Izumo--
particularly in Kitzuki--whose members do not profess Buddhism in any
form, and a very few, belonging to the Shin-shu or Nichirenshu, [13]
whose members do not practise Shinto. But the domestic cult of the dead
is maintained, whether the family be Shinto or Buddhist. The ihai or
tablets of the Buddhist family dead (Hotoke) are never placed in a
special room or shrine, but in the Buddhist household shrine [14] along
with the images or pictures of Buddhist divinities usually there
inclosed--or, at least, this is always the case when the honours paid
them are given according to the Buddhist instead of the Shinto rite. The
form of the butsudan or butsuma, the character of its holy images, its
ofuda, or its pictures, and even the prayers said before it, differ
according to the fifteen different shu, or sects; and a very large
volume would have to be written in order to treat the subject of the
butsuma exhaustively. Therefore I must content myself with stating that
there are Buddhist household shrines of all dimensions, prices, and
degrees of magnificence; and that the butsudan of the Shin-shu, although
to me the least interesting of all, is popularly considered to be the
most beautiful in design and finish. The butsudan of a very poor
household may be worth a few cents, but the rich devotee might purchase
in Kyoto a shrine worth as many thousands of yen as he could pay.

Though the forms of the butsuma and the character of its contents may
greatly vary, the form of the ancestral or mortuary tablet is generally
that represented in Fig. 4 of the illustrations of ihai given in this
book. [15] There are some much more elaborate shapes, costly and rare,
and simpler shapes of the cheapest and plainest descriptions; but the
form thus illustrated is the common one in Izumo and the whole San-indo
country. There are differences, however, of size; and the ihai of a man
is larger than that of a woman, and has a headpiece also, which the
tablet of a female has not; while a child's ihai is always very small.
The average height of the ihai made for a male adult is a little more
than a foot, and its thickness about an inch. It has a top, or
headpiece, surmounted by the symbol I of the Hoshi-no-tama or Mystic
Gem, and ordinarily decorated with a cloud-design of some kind, and the
pedestal is a lotus-flower rising out of clouds. As a general rule all
this is richly lacquered and gilded; the tablet itself being lacquered
in black, and bearing the posthumous name, or kaimyo, in letters of
gold--ken-mu-ji-sho-shin-ji, or other syllables indicating the supposed
virtues of the departed. The poorest people, unable to afford such
handsome tablets, have ihai made of plain wood; and the kaimyo is
sometimes simply written on these in black characters; but more commonly
it is written upon a strip of white paper, which is then pasted upon the
ihai with rice-paste. The living name is perhaps inscribed upon the back
of the tablet. Such tablets accumulate, of course, with the passing of
generations; and in certain homes great numbers are preserved.

A beautiful and touching custom still exists in Izumo, and perhaps
throughout Japan, although much less common than it used to be. So far
as I can learn, however, it was always confined to the cultivated
classes. When a husband dies, two ihai are made, in case the wife
resolves never to marry again. On one of these the kaimyo of the dead
man is painted in characters of gold, and on the other that of the
living widow; but, in the latter case, the first character of the kaimyo
is painted in red, and the other characters in gold. These two tablets
are then placed in the household butsuma. Two larger ones similarly
inscribed, are placed in the parish temple; but no cup is set before
that of the wife. The solitary crimson ideograph signifies a solemn
pledge to remain faithful to the memory of the dead. Furthermore, the
wife loses her living name among all her friends and relatives, and is
thereafter addressed only by a fragment of her kaimyo--as, for example,
'Shin-toku-in-San,' an abbreviation of the much longer and more sonorous
posthumous name, Shin-toku-in-den-joyo-teiso-daishi. [16] Thus to be
called by one's kaimyo is at once an honour to the memory of the husband
and the constancy of the bereaved wife. A precisely similar pledge is
taken by a man after the loss of a wife to whom he was passionately
attached; and one crimson letter upon his ihai registers the vow not
only in the home but also in the place of public worship. But the
widower is never called by his kaimyo, as is the widow.

The first religious duty of the morning in a Buddhist household is to
set before the tablets of the dead a little cup of tea, made with the
first hot water prepared--O-Hotoke-San-nio-cha-to-ageru. [17] Daily
offerings of boiled rice are also made; and fresh flowers are put in the
shrine vases; and incense--although not allowed by Shinto--is burned
before the tablets. At night, and also during the day upon certain
festivals, both candles and a small oil-lamp are lighted in the butsuma
--a lamp somewhat differently shaped from the lamp of the miya and called
rinto On the day of each month corresponding to the date of death a
little repast is served before the tablets, consisting of shojin-ryori
only, the vegetarian food of the. Buddhists. But as Shinto family
worship has its special annual festival, which endures from the first to
the third day of the new year, so Buddhist ancestor-worship has its
yearly Bonku, or Bommatsuri, lasting from the thirteenth to the
sixteenth day of the seventh month. This is the Buddhist Feast of Souls.
Then the butsuma is decorated to the utmost, special offerings of food
and of flowers are made, and all the house is made beautiful to welcome
the coming of the ghostly visitors.

Now Shinto, like Buddhism, has its ihai; but these are of the simplest
possible shape and material--mere slips of plain white wood. The average
height is only about eight inches. These tablets are either placed in a
special miya kept in a different room from that in which the shrine of
the Kami is erected, or else simply arranged on a small shelf called by
the people Mitama-San-no-tana,--'the Shelf of the August Spirits.' The
shelf or the shrine of the ancestors and household dead is placed always
at a considerable height in the mitamaya or soreisha (as the Spirit
Chamber is sometimes called), just as is the miya of the Kami in the
other apartment. Sometimes no tablets are used, the name being simply
painted upon the woodwork of the Spirit Shrine. But Shinto has no
kaimyo: the living name of the dead is written upon the ihai, with the
sole addition of the word 'Mitama' (Spirit). And monthly upon the day
corresponding to the menstrual date of death, offerings of fish, wine,
and other food are made to the spirits, accompanied by special prayer.
[18] The Mitama-San have also their particular lamps and flower-vases,
and, though in lesser degree, are honoured with rites like those of the

The prayers uttered before the ihai of either faith begin with the
respective religious formulas of Shinto or of Buddhism. The Shintoist,
clapping his hands thrice or four times, [19] first utters the
sacramental Harai-tamai. The Buddhist, according to his sect, murmurs
Namu-myo-ho-ren-ge-kyo, or Namu Amida Butsu, or some other holy words of
prayer or of praise to the Buddha, ere commencing his prayer to the
ancestors. The words said to them are seldom spoken aloud, either by
Shintoist or Buddhist: they are either whispered very low under the
breath, or shaped only within the heart.


At nightfall in Izumo homes the lamps of the gods and of the ancestors
are kindled, either by a trusted servant or by some member of the
family. Shinto orthodox regulations require that the lamps should be
filled with pure vegetable oil only--tomoshiabura--and oil of rape-seed
is customarily used. However, there is an evident inclination among the
poorer classes to substitute a microscopic kerosene lamp for the ancient
form of utensil. But by the strictly orthodox this is held to be very
wrong, and even to light the lamps with a match is somewhat heretical.
For it is not supposed that matches are always made with pure
substances, and the lights of the Kami should be kindled only with
purest fire--that holy natural fire which lies hidden within all things.
Therefore in some little closet in the home of any strictly orthodox
Shinto family there is always a small box containing the ancient
instruments used for the lighting of' holy fire. These consist of the
hi-uchi-ishi, or 'fire-strike-stone'; the hi-uchi-gane, or steel; the
hokuchi, or tinder, made of dried moss; and the tsukegi, fine slivers of
resinous pine. A little tinder is laid upon the flint and set
smouldering with a few strokes of the steel, and blown upon until it
flames. A slip of pine is then ignited at this flame, and with it the
lamps of the ancestors and the gods are lighted. If several great
deities are represented in the miya or upon the kamidana by several
ofuda, then a separate lamp is sometimes lighted for each; and if there
be a butsuma in the dwelling, its tapers or lamp are lighted at the same

Although the use of the flint and steel for lighting the lamps of the
gods will probably have become obsolete within another generation, it
still prevails largely in Izumo, especially in the country districts.
Even where the safety-match has entirely supplanted the orthodox
utensils, the orthodox sentiment shows itself in the matter of the
choice of matches to be used. Foreign matches are inadmissible: the
native matchmaker quite successfully represented that foreign matches
contained phosphorus 'made from the bones of dead animals,' and that to
kindle the lights of the Kami with such unholy fire would be sacrilege.
In other parts of Japan the matchmakers stamped upon their boxes the
words: 'Saikyo go honzon yo' (Fit for the use of the August High Temple
of Saikyo). [20] But Shinto sentiment in Izumo was too strong to be
affected much by any such declaration: indeed, the recommendation of the
matches as suitable for use in a Shin-shu temple was of itself
sufficient to prejudice Shintoists against them. Accordingly special
precautions had to be taken before safety-matches could be
satisfactorily introduced into the Province of the Gods. Izumo match-
boxes now bear the inscription: 'Pure, and fit to use for kindling the
lamps of the Kami, or of the Hotoke!'

The inevitable danger to all things in Japan is fire. It is the
traditional rule that when a house takes fire, the first objects to be
saved, if possible, are the household gods and the tablets of the
ancestors. It is even said that if these are saved, most of the family
valuables are certain to be saved, and that if these are lost, all is


The terms soreisha and mitamaya, as used in Izumo, may, I am told,
signify either the small miya in which the Shinto ihai (usually made of
cherry-wood) is kept, or that part of the dwelling in which it is
placed, and where the offerings are made. These, by all who can afford
it, are served upon tables of plain white wood, and of the same high
narrow form as the tables upon which offerings are made in the temples
and at public funeral ceremonies.

The most ordinary form of prayer addressed to the ancient ancestors in
the household cult of Shinto is not uttered aloud. After pronouncing the
initial formula of all popular Shinto prayer, 'Harai-tamai,' etc., the
worshipper says, with his heart only--'Spirits august of our far-off
ancestors, ye forefathers of the generations, and of our families and of
our kindred, unto you, the founders of our homes, we this day utter the
gladness of our thanks.'

In the family cult of the Buddhists a distinction is made between the
household Hotoke--the souls of those long dead--and the souls of those
but recently deceased. These last are called Shin-botoke, 'new Buddhas,'
or more strictly, 'the newly dead.' No direct request for any
supernatural favour is made to a Shin-botoke; for, though respectfully
called Hotoke, the freshly departed soul is not really deemed to have
reached Buddhahood: it is only on the long road thither, and is in need
itself, perhaps, of aid, rather than capable of giving aid. Indeed,
among the deeply pious its condition is a matter of affectionate
concern. And especially is this the case when a little child dies; for
it is thought that the soul of an infant is feeble and exposed to many
dangers. Wherefore a mother, speaking to the departed soul of her child,
will advise it, admonish it, command it tenderly, as if addressing a
living son or daughter. The ordinary words said in Izumo homes to any
Shin-botoke take rather the form of adjuration or counsel than of
prayer, such as these:--

'Jobutsu seyo,' or 'Jobutsu shimasare.' [Do thou become a Buddha.]

'Mayo na yo.' [Go not astray; or, Be never deluded.]

'Miren-wo nokorazu.' [Suffer no regret (for this world) to linger with

These prayers are never uttered aloud. Much more in accordance with the
Occidental idea of prayer is the following, uttered by Shin-shu
believers on behalf of a Shin-botoke:

'O-mukai kudasare Amida-Sama.' [Vouchsafe, O Lord Amida, augustly to
welcome (this soul).]

Needless to say that ancestor-worship, although adopted in China and
Japan into Buddhism, is not of Buddhist origin. Needless also to say
that Buddhism discountenances suicide. Yet in Japan, anxiety about the
condition of the soul of the departed often caused suicide--or at least
justified it on the part of those who, though accepting Buddhist dogma,
might adhere to primitive custom. Retainers killed themselves in the
belief that by dying they might give to the soul of their lord or lady,
counsel, aid, and service. Thus in the novel Hogen-nomono-gatari, a
retainer is made to say after the death of his young master:--'Over the
mountain of Shide, over the ghostly River of Sanzu, who will conduct
him? If he be afraid, will he not call my name, as he was wont to do?
Surely better that, by slaying myself, I go to serve him as of old, than
to linger here, and mourn for him in vain.'

In Buddhist household worship, the prayers addressed to the family
Hotoke proper, the souls of those long dead, are very different from the
addresses made to the Shin-botoke. The following are a few examples:
they are always said under the breath:

'Kanai anzen.' [(Vouchsafe) that our family may be preserved.]

'Enmei sakusai.' [That we may enjoy long life without sorrow.]

'Shobai hanjo.' [That our business may prosper.] [Said only by merchants
and tradesmen.]

'Shison chokin.' [That the perpetuity of our descent may be assured.]

'Onteki taisan.' [That our enemies be scattered.]

'Yakubyo shometsu.' [That pestilence may not come nigh us.]

Some of the above are used also by Shinto worshippers. The old samurai
still repeat the special prayers of their caste:--

'Tenka taihei.' [That long peace may prevail throughout the world.]

'Bu-un chokyu.' [That we may have eternal good-fortune in war.]

'Ka-ei-manzoku.' [That our house (family) may for ever remain

But besides these silent formulae, any prayers prompted by the heart,
whether of supplication or of gratitude, may, of course, be repeated.
Such prayers are said, or rather thought, in the speech of daily life.
The following little prayer uttered by an Izumo mother to the ancestral
spirit, besought on behalf of a sick child, is an example:--

'O-kage ni kodomo no byoki mo zenkwai itashimashite, arigato-
gozarimasu!' [By thine august influence the illness of my child has
passed away;--I thank thee.]

'O-kage ni' literally signifies 'in the august shadow of.' There is a
ghostly beauty in the original phrase that neither a free nor yet a
precise translation can preserve.


Thus, in this home-worship of the Far East, by love the dead are made
divine; and the foreknowledge of this tender apotheosis must temper with
consolation the natural melancholy of age. Never in Japan are the dead
so quickly forgotten as with us: by simple faith they are deemed still
to dwell among their beloved; and their place within the home remains
ever holy. And the aged patriarch about to pass away knows that loving
lips will nightly murmur to the memory of him before the household
shrine; that faithful hearts will beseech him in their pain and bless
him in their joy; that gentle hands will place before his ihai pure
offerings of fruits and flowers, and dainty repasts of the things which
he was wont to like; and will pour out for him, into the little cup of
ghosts and gods, the fragrant tea of guests or the amber rice-wine.
Strange changes are coming upon the land: old customs are vanishing; old
beliefs are weakening; the thoughts of today will not be the thoughts of
another age--but of all this he knows happily nothing in his own quaint,
simple, beautiful Izumo. He dreams that for him, as for his fathers, the
little lamp will burn on through the generations; he sees, in softest
fancy, the yet unborn--the children of his children's children--clapping
their tiny hands in Shinto prayer, and making filial obeisance before
the little dusty tablet that bears his unforgotten name.

Chapter Three Of Women's Hair

1 THE hair of the younger daughter of the family is very long; and it
is a spectacle of no small interest to see it dressed. It is dressed
once in every three days; and the operation, which costs four sen, is
acknowledged to require one hour. As a matter of fact it requires nearly
two. The hairdresser (kamiyui) first sends her maiden apprentice, who
cleans the hair, washes it, perfumes it, and combs it with extraordinary
combs of at least five different kinds. So thoroughly is the hair
cleansed that it remains for three days, or even four, immaculate beyond
our Occidental conception of things. In the morning, during the dusting
time, it is carefully covered with a handkerchief or a little blue
towel; and the curious Japanese wooden pillow, which supports the neck,
not the head, renders it possible to sleep at ease without disarranging
the marvellous structure. [1]

After the apprentice has finished her part of the work, the hairdresser
herself appears, and begins to build the coiffure. For this task she
uses, besides the extraordinary variety of combs, fine loops of gilt
thread or coloured paper twine, dainty bits of deliciously tinted crape-
silk, delicate steel springs, and curious little basket-shaped things
over which the hair is moulded into the required forms before being
fixed in place.

The kamiyui also brings razors with her; for the Japanese girl is
shaved--cheeks, ears, brows, chin, even nose! What is here to shave?
Only that peachy floss which is the velvet of the finest human skin, but
which Japanese taste removes. There is, however, another use for the
razor. All maidens bear the signs of their maidenhood in the form of a
little round spot, about an inch in diameter, shaven clean upon the very
top of the head. This is only partially concealed by a band of hair
brought back from the forehead across it, and fastened to the back hair.
The girl-baby's head is totally shaved. When a few years old the little
creature's hair is allowed to grow except at the top of the head, where
a large tonsure is maintained. But the size of the tonsure diminishes
year by year, until it shrinks after childhood to the small spot above
described; and this, too, vanishes after marriage, when a still more
complicated fashion of wearing the hair is adopted.


Such absolutely straight dark hair as that of most Japanese women might
seem, to Occidental ideas at least, ill-suited to the highest
possibilities of the art of the coiffeuse. [2] But the skill of the
kamiyui has made it tractable to every aesthetic whim. Ringlets, indeed,
are unknown, and curling irons. But what wonderful and beautiful shapes
the hair of the girl is made to assume: volutes, jets, whirls, eddyings,
foliations, each passing into the other blandly as a linking of brush-
strokes in the writing of a Chinese master! Far beyond the skill of the
Parisian coiffeuse is the art of the kamiyui. From the mythical era [3]
of the race, Japanese ingenuity has exhausted itself in the invention
and the improvement of pretty devices for the dressing of woman's hair;
and probably there have never been so many beautiful fashions of wearing
it in any other country as there have been in Japan. These have changed
through the centuries; sometimes becoming wondrously intricate of
design, sometimes exquisitely simple--as in that gracious custom,
recorded for us in so many quaint drawings, of allowing the long black
tresses to flow unconfined below the waist. [4] But every mode of which
we have any pictorial record had its own striking charm. Indian,
Chinese, Malayan, Korean ideas of beauty found their way to the Land of
the Gods, and were appropriated and transfigured by the finer native
conceptions of comeliness. Buddhism, too, which so profoundly influenced
all Japanese art and thought, may possibly have influenced fashions of
wearing the hair; for its female divinities appear with the most
beautiful coiffures. Notice the hair of a Kwannon or a Benten, and the
tresses of the Tennin--those angel-maidens who float in azure upon the
ceilings of the great temples.


The particular attractiveness of the modern styles is the way in which
the hair is made to serve as an elaborate nimbus for the features,
giving delightful relief to whatever of fairness or sweetness the young
face may possess. Then behind this charming black aureole is a riddle of
graceful loopings and weavings whereof neither the beginning nor the
ending can possibly be discerned. Only the kantiyui knows the key to
that riddle. And the whole is held in place with curious ornamental
combs, and shot through with long fine pins of gold, silver, nacre,
transparent tortoise-shell, or lacquered wood, with cunningly carven
heads. [5]


Not less than fourteen different ways of dressing the hair are practised
by the coiffeuses of Izumo; but doubtless in the capital, and in some of
the larger cities of eastern Japan, the art is much more elaborately
developed. The hairdressers (kamiyui) go from house to house to exercise
their calling, visiting their clients upon fixed days at certain regular
hours. The hair of little girls from seven to eight years old is in
Matsue dressed usually after the style called O-tabako-bon, unless it be
simply 'banged.' In the O-tabako-bon ('honourable smoking-box' style)
the hair is cut to the length of about four inches all round except
above the forehead, where it is clipped a little shorter; and on the
summit of the head it is allowed to grow longer and is gathered up into
a peculiarly shaped knot, which justifies the curious name of the
coiffure. As soon as the girl becomes old enough to go to a female
public day-school, her hair is dressed in the pretty, simple style
called katsurashita, or perhaps in the new, ugly, semi-foreign 'bundle-
style' called sokuhatsu, which has become the regulation fashion in
boarding-schools. For the daughters of the poor, and even for most of
those of the middle classes, the public-school period is rather brief;
their studies usually cease a few years before they are marriageable,
and girls marry very early in Japan. The maiden's first elaborate
coiffure is arranged for her when she reaches the age of fourteen or
fifteen, at earliest. From twelve to fourteen her hair is dressed in the
fashion called Omoyedzuki; then the style is changed to the beautiful
coiffure called jorowage. There are various forms of this style, more or

Facebook Google Reddit Twitter Pinterest