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Title: A Japanese Boy
Author: Shiukichi, Shigemi, 1865-1928
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Japanese Boy" ***









































_Dear Sir:_--My motives in writing this jejune little volume are, as you
are aware, two:

1st. There seems to be no story told in this country of the Japanese
boy's life by a Japanese boy himself. The following rambling sketches
are incoherent and extremely meagre, I own; but you must remember that
they are a boy's talks. Give him encouragement, and he will tell you

2d. The most important of my reasons is my desire to obtain the means to
prosecute the studies I have taken up in America. Circumstances have
obliged me to make my own way in this hard world. If I knew of a better
step I should not have resorted to an indiscreet juvenile publication--a
publication, moreover, of my own idle experiences, and in a language the
alphabet of which I learned but a few years ago.

To you my sincere acknowledgments are due for encouraging me to write
these pages. This kindness is but one of many, of which the public has
no knowledge.

                                        I am, sir,
                                          Yours very truly.
                                            SHIUKICHI SHIGEMI

  NEW HAVEN. CT., September, 1889.



I was born in a small seaport town called Imabari, which is situated on
the western coast of the island of Shikoku, the eastern of the two
islands lying south of Hondo. The Imabari harbor is a miserable ditch;
at low tide the mouth shows its shallow bottom, and one can wade across.
People go there for clam-digging. Two or three little streams empty
their waters into the harbor. A few junks and a number of boats are
always seen standing in this pool of salt-water. In the houses
surrounding it, mostly very old and ramshackle, are sold eatables and
provisions, fishes are bought from the boats, or shelter is given to

When a junk comes in laden with rice, commission merchants get on board
and strike for bargains. The capacity of the vessel is measured by the
amount of rice it can carry. The grain merchant carries about him a
good-sized bamboo a few inches long, one end of which is sharpened and
the other closed, being cut just at a joint. He thrusts the pointed end
into bags of the rice. The bags are rice-straw, knitted together roughly
into the shape of barrels. Having taken out samples in the hollow inside
of the bamboo stick, the merchant first examines critically the physical
qualities of the grains on the palm of his hand, and then proceeds to
chew them in order to see how they taste. Years of practice enable him
to state, after such simple tests, precisely what section of the country
the article in question came from, although the captain of the vessel
may claim to have shipped it from a famous rice-producing province.

About the harbor are coolies waiting for work. They are strong, muscular
men, thinly clad, with easy straw sandals on. Putting a little cushion
on the left shoulder, a coolie rests the rice-bag upon it and walks away
from the ship to a store-house; his left hand passed around the burden
and his right holding a short, stout, beak-like, iron hook fastened in
the bag. In idle moments the coolies get together and indulge in tests
of strength, lifting heavy weights, etc.

At a short distance to the right from the entrance of the harbor is a
sanitarium. It is a huge, artificial cave, built of stone and mortar and
heated by burning wood-fires in the inside. After it is sufficiently
warmed the fire is extinguished, the smoke-escape shut, and the oven is
ready for use. Invalids flock in with wet mats, which they use in
sitting on the scalding rocky floor of the oven. Lifting the mat that
hangs like a curtain at the entrance, they plunge into the suffocating
hot air and remain there some time and emerge again into daylight,
fairly roasted and smothered. Then they speedily make for the sea and
bathe in it. This process of alternate heating and cooling is repeated
several times a day. It is to cook out, as it were, diseases from the
body. For some constitutions the first breath of the oven immediately
after the warming is considered best, for others the mild warmth of
later hours is thought more commendable. I, for myself, who have
accompanied my mother and gone through the torture, do not like either
very much. The health-seekers rent rooms in a few large cottages
standing near by. In fact, they live out of town, free from business and
domestic cares, pass time at games, or saunter and breathe pure air
under pine-trees in the neighborhood. The establishment is opened only
during summer time. A person ought to get well in whiling away in free
air those glorious summer days without the aid of the roasting scheme.

To the left of the harbor along the shore stands the main body of
Imabari. Mt. Myozin heaves in sight long before anything of the town can
be seen. It is not remarkable as a mountain, but being so near my town,
whenever I have espied it on my return I have felt at home. I can
remember its precise outline. As we draw nearer, white-plastered
warehouses, the sea-god's shrine jutting out into the water, and the
castle stone walls come in our view. You observe no church-steeple, that
pointed object so characteristically indicative of a city at a distance
in the Christian community. To be sure, the pagoda towers toward the sky
in the community of Buddhists; but it is more elaborate and costly a
thing than the steeple, and Imabari is too poor to have one.

Facing the town, in the sea, rises a mountainous island; it encloses
with the neighboring islets the Imabari sound. A report goes that on
this island lies a gigantic stone, apparently immovable by human agency,
so situated that a child can rock it with one hand. Also that a monster
of a tortoise, centuries old, floats up occasionally from an
immeasurable abyss near the island to sun itself; and those who had seen
it thought it was an island.

Very picturesque if viewed from the sea but painfully poverty-stricken
to the sight when near, is a quarter closely adjoining Imabari on the
north. It is on the shore and entirely made up of fisher-men's homes.
The picturesque, straw-thatched cottages stand under tall, knotty
pine-trees and send up thin curls of smoke. Their occupants are,
however, untidy, careless, ignorant, dirty; the squalid children let
loose everywhere in ragged dress, bareheaded and barefooted. The men,
naked all summer and copper-colored, go fishing for days at a time in
their boats; the women sell the fishes in the streets of Imabari. A
fisher-woman carries her fishes in a large, shallow, wooden tub that
rests on her head; she also carries on her breast a babe that cannot be
left at home.

Imabari has about a dozen streets. They are narrow, dirty, and have no
sidewalks; man and beast walk the same path. As no carriages and wagons
rush by, it is perfectly safe for one to saunter along the streets half
asleep. The first thing I noticed upon my landing in New York was, that
in America a man had to look out every minute for his personal safety.
From time to time I was collared by the captain who had charge of me
with, "Here, boy!" and I frequently found great truck horses or an
express wagon almost upon me. In crossing the streets, horse-cars
surprised me more than once in a way I did not like, and the thundering
engine on the Manhattan road caused me to crouch involuntarily. Imabari
is quite a different place; all is peace and quiet there. In one section
of the town blacksmiths reside exclusively, making the street black with
coal dust. In another granite workers predominate, rendering the street
white with fine stone chips. On Temple street, you remark temples of
different Buddhist denominations, standing side by side in good
fellowship; and in Fishmongers' alley all the houses have fish-stalls,
and are filled with the odor of fish. The Japanese do not keep house in
one place and store in another; they live in their stores. Neither do we
have that singular system of boarding houses. Our people have homes of
their own, however poor.

My family lived on the main street, which is divided into four
subdivisions or "blocks." The second block is the commercial centre, so
to speak, of the town, and there my father kept a store. My grandfather,
I understood, resided in another street before he moved with his
son-in-law, my father, to the main street. He lived to the great age of
eighty: I shall always remember him with honor and respect. Of my
grandmother I know absolutely nothing, she having passed away before I
was born.

It is customary in Japan that a man too old for business and whose head
is white with the effect of many weary winters, should retire and
hibernate in a quiet chamber, or in a cottage called inkyo (hiding
place), and be waited upon by his eldest son or son-in-law who succeeds
him in business. My good grandfather--his kindly face and pleasant words
come back to me this moment--lived in a nice little house in the rear of
my father's. Although strong in mind he was bent with age and went about
with the help of a bamboo cane. He lived alone, had little to do, but
read a great deal, and thought much, and when tired did some light
manual work. It was a great pleasure for me to visit him often. In cold
winter days he would be found sitting by kotatsu, a native heating
apparatus. It is constructed on the following plan: a hole a foot square
is cut in the centre of the matted floor, wherein a stone vessel is
fitted, and a frame of wood about a foot high laid on it so as to
protect the quilt that is to be spread over it, from burning. The vessel
is filled with ashes, and a charcoal fire is burned in it. I used to
take my position near my grandfather, with my hands and feet beneath the
quilt, and ask him to tell stories. My feet were either bare or in a
pair of socks, for before getting on the floor we leave our shoes in the
yard. Our shoes, by the way, are more like the ancient Jewish sandals
than the modern leather shoes.

In this little house of my grandfather's I erected my own private shrine
of Tenjinsan, the god of penmanship. The Japanese and the Chinese value
highly a skilful hand at writing; a famous scroll-writer gets a large
sum of money with a few strokes of his brush; he is looked up to like a
celebrated painter. We school-boys occasionally proposed penmanship
contests. On the same sheet of paper each of us wrote, one beside
another, his favorite character, or did his best at one character we had
mutually agreed upon, and took it to our teacher to decide upon the
finest hand. The best specimens of a school are sometimes framed and
hung on the walls of a public temple of Tenjin. He is worshiped by all
school-boys, and I also followed the fashion. My image of him was made
of clay; I laid it on a shelf and offered saké (rice-wine) in two tiny
earthen bottles, lighted a little lamp every night and put up prayers in
childish zeal. The family rejoiced at my devotion; they finally bought
me, one holiday, a miniature toy temple. It was painted in gay colors; I
was delighted with it beyond expression, and my devotion increased


The earliest recollection I have of my school life is my entrance with a
number of playmates into a private gentleman's school. At that time the
common school system which now exists in Japan had not been adopted;
some gentlemen of the town kept private schools, in which exercises
consisted mainly of penmanship; for arithmetic we had to go somewhere
else. In Imabari there lived a keen-eyed little man who was wonderfully
quick at figures, and to him we repaired for instruction in mathematics.
We worked, not with slate and pencil, but with a rectangular wooden
frame set with beads, resembling an abacus. It is called soroban; you
find it in every store in Japan. I like it better than slate and pencil,
for the fundamental operations of arithmetic, but cannot use it in
higher mathematics. I remember seeing a young man of my acquaintance
perform algebraic calculations, of which we had some knowledge before
the influx of Western learning, with a number of little black and white
blocks called the "mathematical blocks." A knowledge of penmanship and
arithmetic is all that is required of a man of business, but a learned
man is expected to read Chinese.

My schoolmaster was a kind of priest, not of Buddhism nor of Shintoism,
but one of those who go by the name of Yamabushi; he let his hair grow
instead of shaving it off as the Buddhist priest does, wore high clogs
and the peculiar robe of his religion. He simply followed his father in
the vocation; he was a young man of high promise and manifested more
ardor in letters than at the prayers for the sick or for the prosperity
of the people. His house was on the fourth block of the main street, set
back a little from the street and with an open yard between the tall,
elaborate gate and the mansion. The front of the residence was taken up
by the shrine; the school was kept in the back part of the house. When
we first entered the school we were known as the "newcomers" among the
older boys, and though bullying was not altogether absent, we had no
ordeal to go through as the Freshmen have in American colleges.

The pupil's equipment in one of these old-fashioned schools consisted of
a low table, a cushion to squat upon, and a chest for the following
articles: white paper, copy-books and a small box containing a stone
ink-vessel, a cake of india ink, an earthen water-bottle and brushes. A
little water is poured in the hollow of the stone vessel, the india ink
rubbed on it for a while, and when the water becomes sufficiently black
the brush is dipped in it. Then looking at model characters written down
for us in a separate book by the teacher, we try to trace the same on
our copy-books, paying close attention to every particular. The first
that we must learn is our alphabet of forty-eight letters.

I recall vividly the trials in making the alphabetical figures. I tried
time and again, but to fail; the sorrow gathered thickly in my mind and
soon the grief overpowered all my strenuous efforts not to weep, then
the master would send one of the older boys to help me. He stands behind
me while I sit, grasps my hand which holds the brush, and to my heart's
content traces figures like the master's in perfection.

The copy-book is made of the tenacious soft Japanese paper, many sheets
of which are bound together. Each of the forty-eight characters is
studied separately; it is written large so that the learner may see
where a bold stroke is required and where a mild touch. After the
alphabet we learn to write Chinese characters. The copy-books become
black after a while, being dried and used again; therefore they need not
be perfectly white at first; usually they are made of the sheets of an
old ledger. I used to see on the pages of the copy-books made for me by
my father, old debts and credits, and the names of the parties concerned
in them, dating back to grandfather's time; they disappeared
collectively under my wild dash and sweep of india ink. What an act of
generosity to wipe out the remembrance of former money complications!
After a day's work all the copy-books are literally drenched with the
black fluid; they are moist and heavy. They must be dried. Every patch
of sunshine about the school is improved, every breezy corner turned to
account. At home the kitchen is spread with them at night, so as to have
them dry by the morning. Copy-books that have done long service are
coated with a smooth, shining incrustation of carbon--shining if good
ink has been used, but dull if ink is of cheap quality. The quality of
an india ink cake is not only judged by its lustre, but also by its
hardness and odor; a good one is hard and pleasant and the bad soft and
unpleasant. After we have practised writing the letters for some time,
we finally write them on white papers and present them to our teacher,
who with red ink makes further necessary corrections. If the final copy
is satisfactory, he sets us at work on a next portion.

Every morning, after breakfast, I gathered together dried copy-books and
went after or waited for some boys to come along. We strolled up the
street toward the schoolmaster's, calling on other boys as we went. The
first task in school upon our arrival was to set the tables in order,
get the things out of the chests and go after some water for making the
ink. It was no comfortable occupation, cold winter mornings, to get the
water from the well in the windy, open yard in the rear of the house,
and dip our hand and the drip-bottle together and keep them in it until
all the air escaped by bubbles, and the bottle was full. A bottle though
I called it, the receptacle is a hollow, square china vessel, with two
small holes on the flat surface--one in the centre and the other in one
of the corners.

We sit in a house where there is practically no arrangement for heating
and where we are poorly protected from the gusts from without. The
Japanese house is built opening widely into the external air; it has but
a few segments of external walls around it; therefore one can select no
breezier abode during the warm months, but in the dead of winter--the
mere thought of it makes me shiver. Those immense open spaces could be
closed, to be sure, at night with solid pine-board sliding doors; but in
the daytime the question of light comes in. To meet this difficulty our
ingenious forefathers had contrived a frame-work of wood pasted with
paper. You must know they had no idea of glass. We can scarcely call it
a happy solution of the problem, for the paper is soon punched through
and lets in the biting wind. Too much active ventilation takes place,
whistling through the holes; and then when a storm strikes us, the whole
frail work shakes in the grooves wherein its two ends are fitted, like
the chattering of the teeth. This sliding paper partition is called
shoji, and of late has been somewhat replaced by the more expensive
glass windows. Since the introduction of glass I have seen the shoji
partly covered with it and partly with paper, the Japanese thinking it
very convenient to see through the partition without being at the pains
of pushing it aside or making a hole in the paper. Had paper been
entirely discarded and glass alone been used the Japanese house would be
much brighter and warmer.

Such a building is a poor place to hold a school in, but the boys were
used to it and they behaved so--quarreling, weeping, laughing,
shrieking--that there was little time left for them to feel the cold in
their young warm blood.


When just from school our faces and hands were as black as demons' with
ink. On my reaching home my mother would take care of the copy-books,
and send me straight to the kitchen to wash before I sat down to the
table. The vessel corresponding to the basin is made of brass. We have
not learned to use soap; old folks believe that it would turn our black
hair red like that of the foreigners. There is no convenience of faucet
or pump; each house has its own well in the back yard, even in the
city;--hence no water-works, no gas-works, and no fuss about plumbing;
the housewife must proceed to the well for water, rain or shine, and
struggle back to the kitchen with a pailful of it every time she needs

The kitchen itself is not often floored; the range (of clay and of
different appearance from that, which is used here) and the sink stand
directly on mother earth under a shed-like roof which has been darkened
by smoke. The range has no chimney; not coal but wood is burned in it,
and all the smoke escapes from the front opening or mouth and fills the
entire kitchen, causing the dear black eyes of the amiable housewife to
suffuse with tears.

She has the small Japanese towel wrapped round her head to protect the
elaborate coiffure from the soot of years, that has accumulated
everywhere and falls in gentle flakes, snow-fashion, on things
universally. She works her pair of lungs at the "fire-blowing tube," a
large bamboo two or three feet long, opened at one end for a mouth-piece
and punched at the other for a narrow orifice. The imprisoned volumes of
smoke in the kitchen must crowd out through a square aperture in the
roof; if it be closed on a rainy day, they must escape through windows
or crevices the best they may.

The water when brought in from the well is emptied into a deep heavy
earthen reservoir of reddish hue standing near the sink. With a wooden
ladle I would dip out the water into the brass basin (sheet brass, not
solid), and wash myself without soap in the most rapid manner possible,
yearning eagerly for dinner. The towel is a piece of cotton dyed blue
with designs left undyed or dyed black. I grumbled, I confess, when my
mother sent me back for a more thorough washing; but with the utmost
alacrity I always saluted the very sight of viands.

Oftentimes I was late and was obliged to eat a late dinner alone; but
when all of our family sat down together, enough of life was manifested.
At one end my witty young brother provoked laughter in us with stuff and
nonsense; next him sat my younger sister, quiet and good. I assumed my
position between my sister and my father and mother, who sat together at
the head of the row. I forget to mention that my elder brother, whose
place must be next above me, had been ordered to keep peace in the
region of my merry little brother. My sister-in-law or my elder
brother's wife took her stand opposite us, surrounded by a rice-bucket,
a cast-iron cooking-pot, a teapot, a basket of rice-bowls, saucers, etc.
She it was who had to cook and serve dinner and wash dishes and take
care of her babies. It is this that renders a young married woman's lot
in life very hard in Japan, the principal weight of daily work devolving
upon her. After all this, if parents-in-law are not pleased with her she
is in imminent danger of being turned off like a hired servant, however
affectionate she may be toward her husband; and the husband feels it his
duty to part with her despite his deep attachment; so sacred is regarded
the manifestation of filial piety! Fortunately for my sister-in-law, my
mother, who has four daughters living with their husbands' relatives,
made every household task as light and easy as she could for her and
expressed sympathy when needed, knowing that her own daughters were
laboring in the like circumstances.

We do not eat at one large dining table with chairs round it; we sit on
our heels on the matted floor with a separate small table in front of
each of us. I remember my table was in the form of a box about a foot
square, the lid of which I lifted and laid on the body of the box with
the inner surface up. The inner surface was japanned red, the outer
surface and the sides of the box green. The convenience of this form of
table is, that you can store away your own rice-bowl, vegetable-dish and
chop-stick case in the box. Some tables stand on two flat and broad
legs, others have drawers in their sides. We do not ring the bell in
announcing dinner; in large families they clap two oblong blocks of hard
wood. Grace before meat was a thing unknown to us; my brother, however,
had a queer habit of bowing to his chopsticks at the close of meals. He
did it from simple heart-felt gratitude and not for show. In his
ignorance of Him who provideth our daily bread, he concluded to return
thanks to the tools of immediate usefulness. Chopsticks are of various
materials--bamboo, mahogany, ivory, etc.,--and in different
shapes--round, angular, slender at one end and stout at the other, etc.
In a great public feast where there is no knowing the number present, or
a religious fete where reverential cleanliness is formally insisted
upon, fork-shaped splints of soft wood are distributed among the guests
who rend them asunder into pairs of impromptu chopsticks. On the morning
of New Year's Day tradition requires us to use chopsticks prepared
hastily of mulberry twigs in handling rice-paste cakes called mochi,
which the people cook with various edibles and eat, as a sort of
religious ceremony.

Rice is the staple food. Vegetables and fishes are also consumed, yet no
meat is eaten. Partridge and game, however, were sanctioned from early
times as food or rather as luxuries. To cook rice just right--not too
soft nor too hard--is not an easy matter; it is considered an art every
Japanese maiden of marriageable age must needs acquire. The rice is
first washed in a wooden tub, and then transferred to a deep iron
cooking-pot with some water. The point lies in the question, how much
water is needed? Neither too much nor too little; there is a golden
mean. If the rice be cooked either the very least little bit soft or
hard the young servant-wife, for really that she is, is blamed for it.
The right amount of water is only ascertained by trial. No less puzzling
is the degree of heat to be applied to the pot, and the point at which
to withdraw the fuel and leave the cooking to be completed without any
further application of heat. These things I speak of not merely from
observation but from personal experience. When I was off at a boarding
school, which I may have occasion to speak of, I experimented in
boarding myself for a while; I learned there how to cook as at a young
ladies' seminary, as well as how to write and read.

Hot boiled rice we always have at dinner; at supper and breakfast we
pour boiling tea over cold rice in the bowl and are content. Tea is
boiling in the kitchen from morning till night. It is drunk with no
sugar or milk; indeed, the scrupulous inhabitants of the "land of the
gods" never dreamt of tasting the milk of a brute. If a babe is
nourished with cow's milk, it is believed that the horns will grow on
his forehead. When no palatable dishes are to be had we eat our rice
with pickled plums and preserved radishes, turnips, egg-plants and
cabbage. The preserves are not done up in glass jars; they are kept in a
huge tub of salt and rice-bran. During the summer months when vegetables
are plenty and cheap we buy a great quantity of them from a farmer of
our acquaintance. He brings them on the back of a horse. The poor
animal is usually loaded so heavily that only his head and tail are
visible amidst the mountain of cabbage leaves. Days are spent in washing
and scrubbing the roots and bulbs of the garden, many more in drying
them in the sun. House-tops, weather-beaten walls, fences and all
available windy corners are utilized in hanging up the vegetables. When
partly dried they are packed in salt and rice-bran and subjected to
pressure in bamboo-hooped wooden tubs, commonly by laying old millstones
on them. Being but partially dry, the vegetables deliver the remaining
moisture to the powder in which they are packed, and in course of time
the whole contents become soaked in a yellowish, muddy, pungent liquid.
Kōkŏ, as the vegetables are then called, can be preserved in this way
throughout the whole year. They are taken out from time to time, washed
and sliced and relished with great satisfaction. They are something that
is sure to be obtained in any house at any time; with cold rice and hot
tea they make up our simplest fare.

When I was late from school I made out my dinner with the rice and kōkŏ.
Frequently, however, my provident mother set aside for me something


I believe we had no afternoon session in the old-fashioned school; and
the boys had two or three pet games to play in leisure hours. One of
them was played in this manner: each one is provided with a number of
pointed iron sticks a few inches long. The leader pitches one of his
sticks in soft soil; the second follows suit, aiming to root out his
predecessor's by the force of pitching in his own close to it; then the
third, the fourth, and all around the company. Another of the games was
played with square chips of wood, on which were painted heads of men,
demons and all sorts of fanciful figures. A triangle was drawn on hard
level ground and at a distance from its base a parallel line; from which
line the boys each in turn threw a common lot of the chips, contributed
by all, into the inside of the triangle. It must be done with the same
nicety of aim and attitude as in throwing quoits. A habit established
itself among us of the players coming down to the ground on all fours
immediately after the act of throwing; it was the consequence of bending
too far forward in order to get in all the chips at the peril of
neglecting the centre of gravity. The chips that flew outside of the
triangle were gathered by the next player and those in the inside
allowed to be taken by the player, should he be able to throw a chip
from his hand and lay it on them one by one. If he failed at any moment,
the next player gathered together all the remaining chips and played his
turn. A modification of this game consists in throwing the chips against
a wall, and counting good those only that remain inside a straight line
parallel with the foot of the wall, and turning over to the next player
those on the outside. The game is played by girls as well as by boys,
although they rarely play together.

We also used to play hide-and-seek, blind-man's-bluff and other games
that are familiar in this country.

Later in my school days the government underwent great changes, and it
adopted the common school system of the West. My father was to pay a
school-tax and I to attend a new school, where instruction was not in
penmanship alone but extended over various subjects. Text-books on
arithmetic, Japanese geography and history had been compiled after the
American pattern, but no grammar appeared; the educational department
left the language to be taught by the purely inductive method. The fact
is that the Japanese language has not been systematized; should one
attempt it he would find it a tremendous task.

When I was on the point of leaving for America my brother put into my
hand a Japanese grammar in two thin volumes, written by a literary man
in Tokio, and said that it was being used in schools. I have them still
by me and privately consider the attempt not a very great success. The
gentleman tries to follow the steps of the European grammarian; he
cleverly makes out "noun" and "pronoun," "verb" and "adverb"--even
"article," (which, in good faith, I never in the slightest suspected our
language was guilty of possessing) from the chaos. Upon the whole, the
book has the effect of confusing instead of enlightening me; after my
dabbling in languages, in Japanese I prefer to be taught like a babe.

Japanese dictionaries are for the purpose of hunting up Japanese
meanings of Chinese letters, answering to your Latin and Greek lexicons.
So much of Chinese has been introduced into our language in the course
of centuries, that it is now impossible to read one line in a Japanese
newspaper, for instance, without coming across Chinese characters. In
books for women and children and in popular novels Japanese equivalents
are written beside Chinese words. In getting lessons we made little use
of the dictionaries; once learned by dictation from the teacher we
relied on our memory and that of others; hence frequent review was
needed to retain them. As the new school system took root, the school
books began to have vocabularies and keys; and the Chinese classics
pursued by advanced students their "pony."

Just at present a movement is on foot to simplify our tongue in its
complication with Chinese. People generally suppose the two languages
are alike; many of them have asked me if I could interpret to them what
the down-town "washees" were so merrily babbling about over their
flat-irons. It is a mistake; Japanese and Chinese are totally
different, strange as it may appear. And yet I had to learn my Chinese
in order to read our standard works. If the common people could
understand Chinese as well as the learned persons, I believe we could
get along very well with our language as it is; but they do not. It
would be very inconvenient indeed if, for instance, in this country the
"educated" people should use long words all the while, or employ French
expressions freely in talking and writing. Just such a pedantry exists
in my native country, and truly educated men are crying out for
reformation. There are two parties. One party thinks it can do it by
using unadulterated Japanese, while the other deems nothing short of the
Romanization of the whole fabric--that is, the adoption of the Roman
alphabet in spelling Japanese words--could accomplish the end. Opinion
is equally divided between them; the second party may appear slightly
stronger on account of its members for the greater part being students
of other languages beside their own. Both these parties issue
periodicals to advocate their theories and at the same time to carry
their ideas into practice. These are worthy efforts; as yet they are
experiments. We are told that the growth of a language is a matter of
generations, that language has life like everything else, and that it
must undergo changes despite feeble human efforts.

But to return. Happily our former schoolmaster was hired by the new
organization and still took charge of us. He was a gifted young
gentleman, a writer of lucid sentences and also something of a poet. He
encouraged us greatly in polishing our Japanese-Chinese composition. It
was his custom to select the best composition from the class, on a given
subject, copy it on the blackboard and point out before the class what
elegant epithets could be substituted for vulgar ones. It was a pleasure
with him to do this, whereas in mathematics he did not show much zeal.
Above all, he inherited from his father the art of fine penmanship. His
brother, too, had a well-formed hand quite like our teacher's; evidently
it was a case of hereditary genius.

At times our beloved master voluntarily offered to recite to us records
of famous battles and heroes that adorn the pages of Japanese history.
He did this from the love of telling them; the boys were as fond of
hearing as he was of telling. He had in hand no book to help him; the
gallant exploits of the brave and handsome, the rescuing of the virtuous
fair, the crash, dash and rush of horses, lances and swords he called up
from memory and decked with his teeming imagination. On such an occasion
his language was prolific, his voice modulated according to the shifting
shades of the subject matter; in short, his whole man, heart and soul,
went to the making of the story. His eyes and expression! they often
told half his story. Many a time the bells surprised us at the midst of
his soul-stirring recital, and suddenly called us back to the unromantic
light of modern day and to the homely exercises of school. The stories
were told to us serially, in the hours of intermission and were a sort
of optional course. They were so popular that very few were found
playing about the grounds when the eloquent romancer proceeded in his

Yet he was not a man of weak indulgence toward the boys; his sense of
duty was equally strong. If a youngster was seen undertaking to do
anything naughty he would give him a stern look, his cheeks were
inflated, his eyes showed the white plainly. The whole room was then
silent as a tomb. But if a fun-loving fellow ventured, perhaps, to
thrust out his little tongue roguishly or let out a giggle behind his
hand, then the teacher irresistibly relaxed the corners of his mouth,
and in another moment the hall rang with the hilarious laughter of
reconciliation and good-fellowship.

Later I came under the instruction of different masters, but he it was
who led me in infancy so carefully by the hand, as it were, to the first
step of the ladder of knowledge, and he it will be who shall remain the
longest in my memory.

At school the common mode of punishment was to let the culprit stand
erect a whole hour together, facing his own class or a class in an
adjoining room. Although no dunce-cap was on his head, a roomful of
staring eyes struck a burning shame into his soul. Nevertheless, urchins
there were who considered it a supreme delight to be taken off the
troublesome exercises and carried to the next room on a visit, where
they had made many acquaintances at a previous banishment. Indeed, they
had become so inured to it that they thought nothing of it afterward.

Once the whole school, except a few good children, incurred the
teachers' displeasure. I have forgotten what the offence was; all were
prevented from going home after school and ordered to stand up till
dark, each with a bowl full of water. There they stood like a regiment
of begging saints with the bowls in the outstretched arms, which if they
moved the water ran over the brim, and the delinquents would have been
whipped. At first we thought it capital fun, because so many were in
company to commiserate; we laughed aloud, bobbed and courtesied to the
teachers in mockery; but in time we had to change our minds. The result
of standing still like a statue began to tell upon us; our limbs began
to ache and feel stiff; the jolliest member gave a cowardly sob; and the
patient fellow in the corner, hitherto unnoticed, attracted public
attention by dropping the burden. The china went to pieces. He blubbered
out, as if that was sufficient apology. Through the intercession of some
kindly folk we finally came home to supper and comfort.

We were continually threatened with another method of punishment, though
I doubt if the teachers would have inflicted it on its. It was an
intolerably cruel one: the offender was compelled to stand up with a
lighted bundle of senkoes until it burned down close to his hand. The
senko is a slender incense stick burned before the shrine of Buddha and
of our ancestors, and manufactured by kneading a certain aromatic powder
to a paste and squeezing it out into innumerable very slim, extremely
fragile, brownish rods. When dry, these are gathered into good-sized
bundles and put in the market. A few cents will buy you more senkoes
than you need. As the bundle burns away slowly--slowly to prolong the
agony, the fire encroaches on the skin and the flesh. Unless the
offender surrenders himself to the heartless will of his pedagogue he
must suffer injury from the heat. This punishment was actually in
practice in old days when the tyrannical masters had their way, but went
out of fashion at the dawn of civilization.

Our teachers carried flexible sticks, which they played with while
teaching, or used in pointing at the maps; they never whipped anybody
with them to my knowledge; but in going their rounds among the pupils,
if any were engaged in conversation or in any way inattentive, flogged
the table before them in such a manner as to cause the poor fellows to
jump into the air.


When the close of a day called me home from school, and my father's work
was done, a sense of contentment and repose brooded over our household.
A vigorous scrub at a public bath often gave our tired bodies a renewed
muscular tone. I accompanied my father to this resort; when I was very
young, my mother carried me thither. The bath-house is a private
establishment of its proprietor, and public in the sense that
towns-people betake themselves to it without restraint. The charge is
only a few mills for the adult, half the amount for the child and
nothing for the suckling. If a number of checks (branded, flat pieces of
wood) be purchased at one time, the average charge is still less. In
Imabari there are a dozen or more of these baths; they mostly occupy the
corners of the streets like American drug stores. They are opened from
late in the afternoon till late at night; on holidays accommodation
baths are ready at early daybreak. As soon as a bath is in readiness,
its keeper places a flag at the eaves, in the daytime, and a square,
paper lantern after dusk. At the entrance is a stand, where you deposit
your fare, and exchange a word on the weather with the keeper if you are
neighborly. Advancing a few steps, you leave your clogs on a low
platform, on the sides of which rise tiers of lockers for clothes. You
must bring your own towels; ladies also take with them little cotton
bags of rice-bran. They close the bags tightly with strings, soak them
in hot water and rub their faces and hands with the wet balls. The
process is said to refine the texture of the skin wonderfully.

The bath proper is a great, covered tank, full of hot water, with a
terrace-work of planks sloping down on the four sides, where you sit and
wash. The ceiling is low enough to bump your head unless you are
cautious; it projects forward and stoops to prevent the steam from
escaping unnecessarily; therefore, even when it is lighted within, it is
twilight, owing to the confined vapor. One feels in it as if working in
a mine or tunnel. Older men discuss town topics and business, and young
men hum popular airs as they bathe, and intimate friends press each
other to rub down their backs. The water is kept warm by a huge metallic
heater behind, which is in communication with the tank but covered with
planks so as not to scald the bathers' feet. In case the water proves
too hot, the bathers consult each other's comfort courteously, and one
of them claps his hands. It is answered by a sound at the entrance
stand, and immediately cold water spouts into the tank. Then the men
stir the tank thoroughly on all sides. Being but a child I took great
delight in the excitement. I would creep up to the hole and plug it with
my wet towel, and after a few minutes pull it out abruptly to see the
water spurt forth with redoubled energy. The wall has usually a small
door; pushing it open the fireman peeps in occasionally, when there is
too much noise. The first time I noticed it, I was almost scared out of
my wits; for, happening to look around, I saw on the dim wall a grim
human head staring me in the face.

Between the tank and the floor is a space paved with large, flat,
rectangular stones and cemented with mortar, where the people who think
it too close in the tank can step out and wash, sitting on long, narrow
benches; in some baths this place is overlaid with planks in such a
manner that water can trickle down between them. Here we may use soap,
but not in the tank. Several small wooden tubs are near at hand; with
them we pour the hot water over our body after rubbing, and in them we
give our towels a final clean-water washing when through using them. The
clear, cold water for the latter purpose is constantly bubbling up in a
shallow, well-like enclosure hard by. A couple of dippers float in it,
and the people also drink of the water, if thirsty. In well-regulated
baths, near the cold-water enclosure is a hot water cistern, constantly
fed through a bamboo pipe with boiling water that has not been used.
People of cleanly habits, on emerging from the common tank, dip out this
fresh, warm water and bathe again. Of course, it would be objectionable
to retain the same water in the tank all day and have people bathe in it
over and over; as a matter of fact, a portion of it is drawn off at
intervals and replaced with a fresh supply.

The ladies' side is precisely the same in arrangement as the
gentlemen's; a partition, however, separates them completely.

If you meet a man on the street in Japan with a wet towel hanging on his
shoulder, he is from the public bath. He wears no hat even in sallying
forth into the open air from the confined atmosphere, walks leisurely
along, dragging the high clogs and feeling thoroughly comfortable. In
summer evenings, while maidens, mothers and children are cooling
themselves in the breeze on movable platforms in front of their
residences, young men from the bath come strolling up, inquire politely
after their health and make themselves agreeable. As the after-bath
garment and towel are to be thus exhibited before the eyes of their
admirers new fashions arise every year in regard to them. The fashion
changes not so much in tailoring as in the color and pattern.

We are not without private baths, too. Large aristocratic families are
all provided with them. The bath-house is usually fitted up in a wing at
the back of the building; in it a tub large enough to admit a person in
a squatting position is placed on a caldron. The loose wooden bottom of
the tub is left floating while the water boils, serving as the cover; it
is fastened afterward. The head of the family goes in first; after him,
his wife; then come their children, beginning with the eldest; after
them follow the domestics, ranged according to their relative

Evenings at home were always spent very pleasantly, especially before my
sisters were married and went away. There were four of them, excluding
the eldest who had left us a good while ago, but used to visit us, and
add to our gayety. What did we do to enjoy ourselves? We had music and
dancing very often, singing, of course, parties to which our best
friends came, games of cards, social chat and fireside talk--whatever
goes to make home attractive. Mother took great interest in them
herself; she chaperoned the girls--we had young ladies of the
neighborhood come to us, and our house was looked upon as one of the
social foci of little Imabari. But a reverse in my father's fortune and
frequent change of abode put an end to those happy days of yore.

Japanese dancing, I declare without prejudice, is more elaborate and
graceful than your round and square dances, but may not be as
fascinating; ladies and gentlemen do not dance together. Moreover, our
dancing is not anything that can be picked up at balls and receptions,
nor is it learned by hopping and skipping at the dancing academy. In
fact, it is not the simple keeping time with music, not repetitions of
the same steps over and over again; it is composed of posturing and is
more like acting, though the manœuvres are predetermined, in regular
order, and not left to the dancer's fancy. Here in America dancing is
easily acquired by persons who have an ear for music and grace of
carriage, and after having learned to waltz "elegantly" or "divinely"
they have practically mastered all other figures. In Japan, each figure
is emphatically a new one, and there are many, many figures with
distinct names; one cannot learn them all--each figure requires a
separate effort for its mastery. A dance lasts twenty minutes or more;
scarcely two steps in it seem alike. In learning a Japanese dance one
begins with little tosses of the head, engaging sways of the body and
easy movements of the extremities.

Many young girls of the town practised the primary exercises in our
house; they came to ask assistance of my second sister, who excelled the
rest in dancing. I see her vivacious figure trip up to a beginner, who
struck an awkward attitude, and correct a twist of the neck as the
barber and the photographer fix their customers' heads. She taught my
youngest sister very thoroughly in all the dances she knew, and after
that mother put Mitsu (that is the name of my little sister) under the
special tuition of a lady who had just then arrived from Osaka, a great
centre of enjoyment and politeness. The dancing mistress had a very
pretty adopted daughter who assisted her, and they together aroused
enthusiasm among the people of Imabari in the art of grace. A society
formed itself naturally with the lady as the nucleus, and a scheme was
projected for a public exhibition of dances. The parents of the dancing
children manifested more zeal than the children themselves. As they came
in for it with willing heart and liberal hand, the scheme was pushed
forward with surprising rapidity. A mammoth curtain was made that was to
be hoisted in the theatre where the brilliant events were to take place;
it had painted on it numerous big fans, and on the fans were written
the names of the members. My big brother was busily engaged in painting
scenes and constructing apparatus, my sisters were diligently selecting
stage dresses for Mitsu. And then the young ladies met in our place to
rehearse the dances, songs and instrumental music, that made us still
more agreeably busy. Weeks were spent in preparation; and when it came
off at last, the entertainment was a grand affair continuing for several
days; the town turned out in a body. It was more like successful
theatricals than anything, and was repeated once or twice afterwards,
with the substitution for the former dances of many equally classical

All the dances are accompanied by songs and instruments. The instrument
most commonly used is the samisen; it looks somewhat like a banjo, but
is much larger and has a square body instead of a round one; the
wood-work is of mahogany. In playing it the touching is not done with
the fingers, but with a plectrum of ivory. The samisen is capable of
giving out both the mellow notes of the guitar and the sharp tone-sprays
of the banjo. You hear it played in Japanese homes to the same extent as
the piano is in this country. We had in our family two or three
samisens, and every day my sisters practised on them.

Other instruments of music are the koto, the tsuzumi and the drum. The
koto is a heavy, thirteen-stringed instrument, of which by mere
description I can hardly give an idea. The player sits before it, and
with claws fitted to the fingers of both hands plays at the two ends.
The tsuzumi is an hour-glass-shaped drum which is tapped with the right
hand. Two tsuzumis are frequently played by a single person; a light
tsuzumi is laid on the right shoulder and held by the left hand, and a
heavy tsuzumi is rested on the left knee slightly elevated and pressed
down with the left elbow; the right hand is free to move between the two
tsuzumis which it beats. The light tsuzumi emits a soft tone, the heavy
one a deep sound. The stroke, unless skillfully performed, often
inflicts a violent injury to the fingers. The vellum of the tsuzumi is
of fox skin and yellow in color, that of the samisen is of cat skin and
white as snow. The drum is not the sort drubbed in a military band; it
is smaller and more moderate in its intonation.

These instruments,--the koto, samisen, taiko (drum) and tsuzumi are
frequently played in concert; the samisen players--two of them, at any
rate, to one of the others--sing in high pitch while their supple
fingers twinkle across the chords; the taiko and tsuzumi beaters shriek
now and then as they thrum and whack. Do I like it? Isn't it hideous?
Well, I can't say how it would strike me now; yet I used to think it all
very fine.

There is another stringed instrument, a ridiculously simple one that I
liked best. It is named ichigecckin.[1] A plain board, a few feet in
length, and a few inches in width, with no other ornament than half a
dozen Chinese characters written on it to indicate the various keys:
only a single string along the whole length; a bamboo ring for the
middle finger of the left hand to touch on the keys; and a small flat
piece of horn to pick the string with: these make up an ichigecckin. The
origin of this unpretentious instrument is said to be as follows: a high
court noble of amiable disposition and poetic temperament on his way
southward from the ancient palace in Kioto, years ago, was obliged to
moor near the beautiful shores of Akashi on account of a heavy storm.
The sea tossed about his boat; the sky stretched gray; the thatch
overhead became soaked in the rain; the wind sighed among the pines on
the deserted shore. A sense of loneliness weighed on his gentle nature.
The fading landscape in the dusk, the mournful cry of a sea-gull, the
sight of a boat miles away laboring in the waves, peradventure laden
with lives--all conspired to produce in him a sadness more than human.
In order to beguile his ennui, he constructed himself a rude musical
instrument with a board and string, and poured out the feelings of the
hour in many a celebrated tune. The ichigecckin music is low and simple
and sweet. On rainy nights, when the candle burns dim and all is quiet,
I feel most in the mood to listen.

[1] in today's known spelling: ichigenkin (transcriber)

Japanese music is in a crude state of development; there are no written
notes to go by in playing, nor in singing is there any system like your
"Do, Re, Mi, etc," to depend upon. As yet it is strictly an art and not
a science; one is obliged to get it by observation, imitation and
practice. Music is taught by lady teachers; but a set of blind men, who
perform massage for a livelihood, take scholars, likewise. They have
their heads shaved, walk abroad alone, feeling their way with sticks;
some of them have been to Osaka and Kioto for a musical degree,
conferred on them in certain schools. In Japan music is not divided into
the vocal and the instrumental; the two are always taught together by
the same instructor.

Vocal cultivation is conducted in a singular way. During the winter the
girl in training clothes herself comfortably, takes a samisen and
ascends every cold night the scaffold erected on the roof of the house
for drying purposes. There she sits for hours together amid the howling
blasts, singing defiantly and banging away courageously at the samisen.
Upon her coming down, she is found worse than hoarse; she can hardly
utter a word. The training is observed persistently until her former
voice has entirely left her and gradually a clear new voice, as it were,
breaks out in the harshness. This voice can stand a storm. The
discipline is now over, a little care needs only to be exercised in the
maintenance of the acquired voice. The practice, I am well aware, will
hardly commend itself to the gentlewomen of this republic, who are
wrapped all winter long in furs and seal-skins and would not think for a
moment of leaving the chimney corner. In my fancy I hear them repel it
with their passionate "What an idea!" Therefore, I conclude it prudent
to say nothing in praise of the barbarous measure, and simply state the
plain fact that it has produced many an Apollo in Japan. In the other
seasons of the year, after having screamed out her worthless voice, the
girl takes a dose of pulverized ginger and sugar to tone up the vocal

I digressed from dancing to music; now I wish to return to dancing again
for a few moments. In parlor gatherings and sociables light pieces are
presented; and such small things as fans, towels, masks, umbrellas,
bells, tambourines only are used in dancing. Fans are most commonly
used, many astonishing tricks being played with them. The guests sit in
a body off the arena, where the dancer steps out; the samisen player
tunes the instrument on one side. The preliminary chords ring; then come
the words in song, and in accordance with them the actions of the
dancer. The dances intended for the stage are much more elaborate.
Scenes are to be fitted up; varieties of gew-gaws,--artificial flowers,
falling paper snow, fallen woolly-cotton snow, painted waves, the
outline of a boat, a lantern moon, a gilded paper crown, baskets,
shells, a wooden scythe, a toy tub, high clogs, yards of white silk,
etc., etc.,--are to be procured. These vain, empty articles rise up in
my mind, for I used to see them stowed away in the dusty garret. They
were jostled about by other things, lay in everybody's way, became
mutilated, and fully repaid the glory they had received one night behind
the foot-lights. We have spent time and money in getting them up,
however; certain things we have even sent for to Osaka or Kioto. I
remember seeing my sister practise day after day dancing with the
aforementioned long white silk scarfs. The dance was to represent the
process of bleaching by a famous maiden (named Okané) who dwelt beside
Lake Biwa. Of all sorts of waves and undulations and flutterings she had
to produce with them I recollect one:--it is to shake one scarf right
and left horizontally overhead, and the other up and down longitudinally
in front. Try it with your hands and see, reader: you will find it no
easy task. In the stage dances the dancers must dress true to the
conceptions of the characters they undertake to represent. This
necessitates a large wardrobe, though the gorgeous costumes are
generally made of cheap materials, and the aid of artificial lights is
expected to finish off the effects. The face of the dancer is usually
painted, but not so much so as that of a professional actress. The whole
affair, however, savors strongly of stage-play. Several persons
sometimes dance together, carry on dialogues and, indeed, dance part of
a play or drama.


Our best friends were not limited to ladies, but comprised several
select gentlemen. In Japan we have more social freedom than people are
apt to think. Many of the young gentlemen entertained us well. Some were
beautiful singers, others fine musicians, and still others elegant
dancers. One among them, a person of fine appearance who fell in love
with the dancing teacher's pretty daughter and who afterward married
her, was quite highly accomplished. He possessed artistic tastes,
probably inherited from his father, who was an art connoisseur--art, as
it appeared in china wares, scrolls, kakemonoes (wall hangings), old
bric-à-brac, etc. The young man could sketch, talk brilliantly, render
gentlemen's dances creditably, and was handsome to look at. He used to
pay us respects, for his parents, particularly his cheery bright-eyed
little mother, was a dear friend of ours, and his sisters were great
friends of my sisters. The girls went to sewing school together. You
know, as we do not have the sewing machine and as we are to a certain
extent our own tailors and dressmakers, Japanese girls must take lessons
in sewing, as American young ladies take lessons in painting and on the
piano. They do "crazy" work and fancy work, too, and talk over their
notions extravagantly, rashly confide everything to each other, and
exclaim "lovely!" in Japanese.

This young man felt from his childhood a passion for the stage. As he
grew up his dramatic taste became irresistible; at last, escaping the
vigilance of his family, he ran away to the neighboring province of Tosa
(ours is Iyo), and committed himself to the care of a noted actor named
Hanshirō. The young man told us how he had been launched in tile work;
the actor-apprentice, when admitted to the stage, is obliged to put on
rags and help make up the mob or a gang of thieves. In order to make a
hero's power appear greater by contrast, it is a stage trick in Japan
that the mob, thieves, and characters of that sort should turn
somersaults at the hero's simple lifting of his hand. It is a sight to
be seen when a swarm of them around one brave person turn in the air and
light safely upon their feet; they do it so very deftly that they must
practice a great deal. Our friend first practiced the acrobatic feat on
a thick quilt for fear that he might break his neck. In time, however,
he could do it on the hard wooden stage floor. After filling this
gymnastic rôle for some time, he was promoted by degrees to more
important posts. By reason of his personal attractions he was at his
best as a gallant youth. I have observed many a fair spectator flush
visibly, heave gentle sighs and watch him in absorption while he
delivered a love soliloquy in a clear voice.

He did become an actor in the fullest sense of the term and a creditable
one, too; but having satisfied his long cherished desire for once (a
space of several years), he obeyed the paternal summons and returned
home. He then went into business and fairly settled down to earnest
life. Nevertheless, at times his roving nature got the better of him,
and the young man would be missed from home. Soon the news arrives from
somewhere that he is displaying his dramatic talents with a theatrical
company to the utmost delight of the people, and that the showers of
favors and tokens of their appreciation visit him constantly. But the
manner in which his aged parents take the affair is by itself a bit of
good comedy. They bemoan themselves over their son's unsteady life, and
often in their visit to us seek our condolence. Notwithstanding the
apparent sorrow, whenever their boy has been heard to make a "decided
hit" none are more pleased than they. The old couple, being themselves
fond of gayety, extended a helping, willing hand to the dancing society
wherein their son moved actively. It was, indeed, under the supervision
of the good old gentleman that the huge curtain was completed; I think
he designed and painted it mostly by himself.

Our young friend's presence in town naturally gave rise to a race of
amateur actors. One of them particularly I recall with great interest on
account of his diverse accomplishments; he tried his hand at almost
every trade. I believe certain peculiarities in his childhood induced
his parents to put him in a monastery. He grew up a studious boy, but
indulged not infrequently in pranks. Suddenly in his early manhood it
dawned upon him that he was richly endowed with the stage gift;
accordingly, he left the temple behind, and, after clerking a while in
his brother's store across the street from us, appeared on the stage.
His versatile nature did not keep him long in that vocation; he soon
sobered down to a shoemaker, discovering that the bread earned by the
sweat of the brow was more to his satisfaction. That is, I concluded so
in his case; he may have found, for aught I know, that by acting (such
as his) he could not make a decent living and therefore had better quit
playing. He was not long in making another discovery, and that was that
the drudgery of the shop did not exactly suit his refined tastes. At all
events, he must take a little air sometimes; he would go about the
streets selling greens; yes, that was a splendid plan, combining trade
and exercise. And so he turned a vegetable vender this time, nobody
regarding it a too humble occupation in such a small community as ours.
Later he became an amazaké man. The amazaké (sweet liquor) is prepared
by subjecting soft boiled rice to saccharine fermentation and checking
the process just at the point where the sugar gives up its alcohol.
Hence it is sweet, palatable and very popular with children. We brewed
some at home--the home-brewed. My mother had hard work to satisfy the
large family of thirsty mouths.

Our man of all trades went about asking the public in all the notes of
the gamut, if they would not tickle their palates with his honest "sweet
liquor." To be always on foot as an itinerant tradesman, however, proved
too much for his constitution. I will not take it upon me to enumerate
in what other things he tried his hand; I hasten on to inform my curious
reader that he shaved his head again and joined the priesthood,
perfectly content with his diverse worldly experiences. In spite of his
fickleness he was an honest fellow and passed for a tolerable humorist
among his friends.

There was another of the number, the keeper of the tavern at the foot of
a bridge that spans the little stream running through Imabari town. His
figure was tall, imposing, and his expression disposed one to suspect
him of a malicious, bitter character. Nature is often capricious; she
was certainly capricious in this instance, for into this mould of a man
she had infused a nature the most complacent and the most obliging. His
comrades assigned him the part of a villain or a cruel lord. To the eye
familiar with his every-day life he figured helplessly as a villain with
a good heart, and seemed to spare unnecessary stabs at his victim. Yet
he was scrupulously conscientious in the execution of his rôle; not a
word would he omit in his speech. Once in playing a wicked lord, in
order to assist the memory he copied his entire part on the face of a
flat, oblong piece of wood, which he had all the time to bear erect
before him as an ensign of authority. At first on the stage he was
wonderfully eloquent, not a flaw occurred in his long speech. But
unfortunately in the midst of an invective the sceptre slipped off his
hand. His lordship's confusion was not to be described. He paused as if
to give an effect of indignation, then tried to think of the rest of the
harangue; it did not come. The pause was prolonged to his own
uneasiness as well as to his friends. He now cast about for a decent
means of taking himself off the stage. Finally with a calm, venerable,
haughty air, amid giggles and suppressed laughter, my lord stalked off
behind the scene.

Through these people we became acquainted with several professional
players. Some people in Japan become quite enthusiastic over their
favorite actors and wrestlers; they present them with beautiful posters,
on which are stated their gifts, exaggerated above their actual value.
These posters are pasted on all sides of the theatre or the arena for
display. At the entrance to the house of amusement stands a tower, where
a small drum of very high pitch is struck for some time previous to the
opening of the performance. The admission to the theatre ranges from
five to twenty-five sens (cents). The stage and the inside as a whole
are much larger than any metropolitan or local play-house that I have
seen in America. I admit that most of our theatres are neither carpeted
nor furnished with chairs, nor are they lighted with gas, nor heated.
The parquet is divided into pits by bars, each admitting barely four
persons in a squatting position; the bars can be removed, uniting the
small pits into one large pit of any dimensions, if a party so desire.
There are also what will correspond to the dress circle and the family
circle. They do not protrude over the parquet, but simply line the walls
like balconies. In the parquet the floor is not raised at the end
farther from the stage; therefore, if Japanese ladies were to wear tall
hats it would be the doomsday for gentlemen: but luckily the fair
members of our community take no pride in the towering head ornaments:
really they wear none. I have been speaking as if the parquet were
floored; in fact, you have to sit close to the ground, mats and quilts
of your own providing alone protecting you from the damp earth.

The people bring lunch with them to eat between the acts. I have the
fond remembrance of my family astir over the preparation of the lunch on
the day we go to see a play. We must take things we shall not be ashamed
of spreading before the public; and all the more must we be careful in
selecting our dishes, for not infrequently we beckon to our
acquaintances in the audience to pass away with us the usual long,
wearisome intervals of the Japanese theatre, during which time no music
is played as in the American theatre. Of course, we must take boiled
rice; it is our bread. Nobody thinks of forgetting the bread. It is not,
however, carried in its bare, glutinous form; it is made into
triangular, round or square masses and rolled in burned bean powder. In
the collation at the theatre we dispense with the bowls and chopsticks,
and use fingers in picking up the mouthfuls of rice. Of various other
dishes I give up the cataloguing in despair, for my ingenious
countrywomen regale us with--the Lord knows how many kinds. The
delicacies are packed in several lacquered boxes, and the boxes piled
one over another and wrapped in a broad piece of cloth, whose four
corners are then tied on the top. When the savory burden is being
carried, there usually dangles by it a gourd full of saké. The Japanese
world takes no note of drinking; the saké is, moreover, mild, and,
although sipped on all occasions as freely as tea, is seldom drunk to

Next to the refreshment preparation is the getting ready of the girls.
They spend half their life in dressing. I never was very patient; in
waiting for them I was exasperated. They would lean over against the
glass (or in reality a metallic mirror) in the Yum-Yum fashion for an
interminable period of time, tying the girdles over fifty times before
deciding upon one style, touching and retouching the coiffures, and
practicing the exercise of grace. "Oh, hurry up!" I cry repeatedly in
infinite chagrin, and at last become irritated beyond decency, when my
mother in her persuasive, firm manner desires me to know that there is
time enough. I always acquiesced in mother's decisions, because I did
not like to have her call in the assistance of father. I can tell you
what he would do! He would not say a word; he would curtly command me to
sit beside him in the store, where people could look at me--my tears,
sobs, quivering lips and all the rest of the woe. Out of shame in the
exposure I would gradually compose myself, and not till I had fully
recovered my temper would my father release me. I think he never struck
me or my brother anywhere; the only time I saw him use force was in
holding fast my little brother, who once undertook some brave
proceedings against him.

The theatre usually begins late in the afternoon or early in the
evening, and lasts till past midnight. In front of the stage are two
large basins of vegetable oil with huge bunches of rush-wicks. They are
the main sources of light; the foot-lights are a row of innumerable
wax-candles; and when an actor is on the stage, men in black veils
attend him with lighted candles stuck on a contrivance like a
long-handled contribution box. Wherever he goes, there go with him these
walking candlesticks. When he exerts himself briskly, as in a combat,
with what funny jerks and fanciful motions do these mysterious lights
fly round, often flickering themselves out! In the era of gas and
electric light what a bungling machinery all this is!

The orchestra does not sit at the foot of the stage; it occupies a box
on one side. It consists of the samisen, a big heavy bell, a drum, a
flute, a conch shell and occasional singing. Over the orchestra-box is a
compartment hung with a curtain woven with fine split bamboos, wherein
sit two men--one with a book on a stand, the other with a stout samisen.
The former explains in a harsh-voiced recital the situation of the
affairs now acted before the audience, the latter keeps time with the

The dramas are mostly historical; we have no opera. In Japanese plays
the passion of love takes but a subordinate rank, the paramount
importance being accorded to loyalty, the spirit of retaliation and
devotion to parents. Harakiri, or the cutting open of one's own abdomen
in way of manly death, so time-honored and deeply believed in among the
ancient samurai (soldier) class, is acted in connection with certain
plays. It is an impressive, solemn scene. The valiant unfortunate stabs
himself with a poniard, measuring exactly nine inches and a half,
struggles with agony, shows manifold changes of expression, makes his
will in a faltering voice, and leaves injunctions to the weeping
relatives and faithful servants gathered round him; writhing in
distress, yet undaunted in presence of cool, examining deputies, he ends
his mortal life by the final act of driving the blood-stained iron into
the throat.

One strange fact respecting the theatrical profession in our country is
the anomaly that men act women's parts. We have few or no actresses. The
taste of the people took a curious turn in its development; they
consider those actors perfect who can deceive them most dexterously in
female outfits. Acting has been from ages past regarded as a profession
exclusively for men; their wives travel with them as a sort of slave in
assisting their masters and husbands in painting and dressing behind the
scene. Therefore, once when a company of women went about giving
entertainments there was a considerable stir over the novelty: they soon
became known as the "female theatre." In this party there were few or no
men, the women assuming male characters. These actresses established
fame on their wonderfully natural delineations of masculine traits.

We have known a young actor, whose boyhood was spent in Imabari, make a
mark in representing female characters. He copied the grace and
deportment of the fair sex archly. We took great interest in him, for
he was a good, quiet, sensible fellow, and his parents had formerly
dwelt near and befriended us. But my friends were wont to comment that
his neck was a jot too full for that of a female. He could not help
that; the corpulency of that member was a freak of nature; he was not at
all responsible for it. Discreetly he tried none of your fooleries with
dieting to reduce it; some females, you know, are not very
slender-necked either; he might have taken comfort in that. At any rate,
his manners were thoroughly feminine, and his womanly way of speaking a
woman herself could not imitate. Our friend is now gone to a metropolis,
where he is winning his way into the hearts of the millions. Prosperity
and success to his name!

When the "female theatre" troupe was in Imabari, through somebody's
introduction we got acquainted with certain of their number. We asked
them to call at our house. They did so. We observed no trace of
forwardness in them; instead, they, all of them, seemed quite reticent.
I remember a dear little creature, Kosei (Little Purity) by name, among
them. She was perfectly at ease in playing a rollicking little rogue
before the crowd, but now hung her head timidly and lifted stealthily
her big round eyes to us. She had a sweet, pretty little mouth. Where
can that poor, mischievous, pretty waif be knocking about in the wide
world now-a-days? Perhaps she is grown up and uninteresting, if yet

I can recall even what we gave them that evening with which to refresh
themselves. We ordered the zenzai or its ally, the shiruko, at the
establishment round the corner. The shiruko seems like hot, thick
chocolate, with bits of toast in it. The chocolate part is prepared of
red beans, and the toast is the browned mochi (rice-cake). To provide
for any among them that did not love sweet things we had the soba or the
udon brought to us by their vender. The soba is a sort of vermicelli
made of buckwheat, and the udon a kind of macaroni, solid and not in
tubes. The warm katsuwo sauce is plentifully poured over them, and they
are eaten with chopsticks. The katsuwo sauce is prepared of the
katsuwobushi and the shoyu. The first named article is a hard substance
shaped somewhat like the horn of an ox, and manufactured of the flesh of
certain fish, whose vernacular name is katsuwo. A family cannot get
along without it. In preparing the sauce, the katsuwobushi is simply
chipped and simmered in a mixture of water and the shoyu. The shoyu is a
sauce by itself and brewed of wheat, beans and salt. As its use in
domestic cookery is very wide, the demand for it is correspondingly
great; and the shoyu brewing is as big a business as the saké


Our family cared but little for the wrestling exhibition; some people
have a great liking for it. It takes place on an extensive open lot. In
the middle of the field is raised a large, square mound, from the
corners of which rise four posts decorated with red and white cloths,
looking like a barber's sign. They support an awning. The spectators,
too, are shielded from the sun with cheap mats strapped together. On the
mound is described a circle, within which the matches take place. The
two opposite parties are called East and West respectively. The umpire
in kamishimo (ceremonial garb) calls out a champion from each side by
his professional name so loudly as to be heard all over the place. The
names are derived from the mighty objects in nature, such as mountain,
river, ocean, storm, wind, thunder, lightning, forest, crag, etc. The
two naked, gigantic, muscular fellows slowly ascend the arena, drink a
little water from ladles, take pinches of common salt from small baskets
hanging on two of the posts and, looking up reverently to a paper god
fastened to the awning, throw the salt around. It is an act of
purification, and while doing it each prays secretly for his own
success. Then they stamp heavily on the ground, with their hands on
their bent knees and their hips lowered, in order to get the muscles
ready for action. Now they face each other in a low sitting posture like
that of a frog; at the word of signal from the umpire they instantly
spring up, and each tries to throw the other or push him out of the
circular arena. There are many professional tricks that they deal out in
the struggle for supremacy. As soon as the point is decided the umpire
indicates the victors side with his Chinese fan. Then follows the
demonstration of joy among the patrons of the successful almost as
boisterous and enthusiastic as that of the young American collegians at
their grand athletic contests. The thousands sitting hitherto well
behaved on the matted ground rise up at once and make endless tumult;
cups, bottles, empty lacquered boxes fly into the arena from every
direction. Not infrequently a spirited controversy follows a
questionable decision of the umpire. Between the matches gifts from the
patrons are publicly announced and sometimes displayed.

The people sit on the ground, spread with mats, in the open air, and eat
and drink, while they watch the collision of the two mountains of flesh
and its momentous issue. The exhibition cannot very well take place on
rainy days. At the end of a day's performance, all the wrestlers in
gorgeous aprons march to the arena as the umpire claps two blocks of
hard wood, and go through a simple ceremony of stretching the arms in
various directions formally. I never inquired what it was for, my
childish fancy having been turned toward the aprons, which were
oriental gold embroidery-work in relief on velvet, plush and other kinds
of cloth. On the way home the spectators notice on the fences the
announcement of the matches for the morrow. At the close of a series of
the contests, which continue about three days, the favorite wrestlers go
the round of their patrons in tint silk garments.

We were fond of listening to story-tellers. The entertainment takes
place at night in a public hall. A company of story-tellers travel
together under the name of their leader. In the early part of the
evening the unskillful members come out in turn, and serve to kill time
and practice on the audience. On the platform there is nothing to be
seen but a low table and a candle burning on each side of it. A narrator
appears from behind the curtain on the back of the platform, and sits at
the table on a cushion and makes a profound bow. Then he takes a sip of
tea, stops the samisen playing by banging upon the table with two fans
wrapped in leather; he murmurs a courteous welcome to the audience, bows
repeatedly, and, after snuffing the candles, proceeds with a story. The
stories are chiefly humorous or witty until toward the end of the
evening, when the abler men make their appearance and the tenor of the
narrative insensibly takes on a serious aspect and a tragic interest.
The comic stories invariably terminate with sprightly puns, the tragic
in a spectacular representation of ghosts and spirits. An awful tale of
murder, let us suppose, has been told in an impressive manner; and while
the imaginary murderer and the actual listeners are seeing strange
sights in fancy, the narrator unobserved turns down the lights and
tumbles off the platform. In the following darkness the ghosts stalk in
a ray of pale light; they are the story-tellers themselves in masks, and
they sometimes walk down the aisles to the terror of those that believe
in them. I could not bear the roving apparitions,--I was small
indeed,--and took refuge in the lap of my elder companion, much as
certain birds hide their heads, and think themselves safe. No doubt such
sights as these worked in my infant imagination, and roused in me that
dread of darkness which is so common with the children of Japan.

On fine days in spring our neighborhood went out _en masse_ on excursion
parties. They roamed about the warm green fields at will and gathered in
hand-baskets, half dallying with the sunbeams, various kinds of wild
herbs which are tender and edible, or they feasted in a charming nook
underneath the canopy of cherry blossoms. The pink petals of the full
blown flowers, fanned by a gentle breath of wind, visited the
merry-makers like snow-flakes; a single flake occasionally happening to
fall in the tiny earthen cup of saké, held up by one who stopped and
talked or laughed just as he was putting it to his lips. The party was
wonderfully pleased at that; if they were a poetical club or artistic
coterie such little accidents perhaps elicited short rhythmical
effusions from them, which they would pen on beautiful variegated cards
expressly cut for the purpose. These would be tied to the drooping
branches, that the next party might pause to share in the sentiment of
the present instance. More frequently, however, this is done to leave
some token of the culture and refinement of the clique, or to show off
the individual's finish of hand and elegance of expression. Vanity is at
the bottom of it.

We sat on the scarlet Chinese blanket, spread on the greensward; wine
made every heart buoyant; the happy crew, by and by, sang, played the
samisen and tripped "the light fantastic toe." Indeed, nothing could
call us home, after such enjoyment of a beautiful day, but the reddening
western sky and the falling shades of night.

At Imabari we have an excellent public garden in the ruins of the old
castle. In spring when all the cherry trees bloom in full force, the
scene, surveyed at a distance, looks like the piles of white cloud in
the blue summer sky. You must know the Japanese cultivate the
cherry-tree not for its fruit, but for the beauty of its flowers. If the
tree bears fruit, it is bitter to the taste, worse than your
choke-cherries; nobody stops to pluck it. When past the height of
blooming, the flowers begin to leave the boughs quietly; later they fall
abundantly and quickly, and, alighting on the dirt below, cover it like
a sheet of snow. Trite as this description may appear, it has yet a
charm for me; for the happy time I spent under those blossoms, in that
mellow sun and that soft open air, steals back imperceptibly in my

In the centre of the garden stands a shrine of the Shinto gods. The
entire ground is considerably elevated above the level of the
surrounding regions, and stone walls hem it in. A belt of deep ditches,
which, in the warlike days of old, stemmed the rush of an invading army,
girdles the base of the steep walls. The neglect of years, passed in
peace, has left it in disrepair. To some of the trenches the ebb and
flow of sea-water have still access, and swarms of big fish and little
fish thrive unmolested, for none but the people that pay for the
privilege are permitted to angle in these fish-ponds. There are also
fresh-water moats; the beds of green pond-weeds and duck's meat closely
patch the sluggish, dark-colored waters. Here grows the famous lotus
plant of the East. It shoots up its broad umbrella-like leaves in
summer, and on the stalks here and there among the leaves open the
Buddhist's pure majestic flowers.

Having heard that the buds unlock in an instant at early dawn with the
noise of percussion, we, the curious, formed a little party for the
purpose of investigating the truth of it. We arose a little after
midnight, gathered together the pledged and groped our way in the dark;
we could scarcely discern one another. By the time, however, we arrived
at our destination, it was close upon daybreak; a party at the further
end of the bank showed darkly against the aurora of the eastern sky, for
the country round was open and nothing stood between us and the sea. We
kept vigil intently; for my part I failed to observe any of the buds
open; having watched a great many at the same time I really watched
none. A clever person instructed me that my whole attention should be
paid to a single bud; for which reason I the next time pitched upon one
particular bud. I kept my eye on it all the morning, looking neither to
the right nor to the left. I was once before provoked at a spiral bud of
morning-glory in my garden, because it intentionally unfurled upon me
when I was looking aside. Accordingly, I took especial care against such
failure on my part; but it all proved vain--the lotus bud was too young
to blossom!

The flowers are very large; white is the common color, but then there is
a rare lovely pink shade. The plant bears edible fruit; the root, too,
is counted a delicacy. By reason of the unknown depth of the black mud,
wherein the roots lie hidden, the plucking of them is very difficult;
the men formerly held in contempt under the name of Etta dive in the
mire and search for them. The prized article is seen, immersed in water,
in grocery stores on sale; no feast of any pretension is complete
without it. When sliced crosswise the renkon (lotus root) shows about
half-a-dozen symmetrical holes; the slices are boiled with the katsuwo
and shoyu and are valued highly for toothsomeness.

Some of the wide ditches were filled up from time to time; and in the
places where fishes had frisked about or warriors tried to float a raft,
farmers were now peacefully hoeing potatoes, or pumpkins basked their
heads in the noontide sun. But the castle, being too colossal to be
pulled down at once, remained entire for a long time, after the feudal
system had been abolished and the Lord of Imabari summoned to Yedo.
Unfortunately, however, the extensive underground powder magazine one
morning caught a spark of fire, and all of a sudden the towers and
palaces blew up with a tremendous explosion. At that period the Japanese
apprehended the possible invasion of the "red-haired devils," the
foreigners; for which reason it was not to be wondered at that the
patriotic citizens of Imabari mistook the earth-rending roar and the
heavy ascending columns of smoke in the direction of the old stronghold
for a cannonade of enemies. The panic it produced in town struck terror
into everybody's heart; the weak and nervous fell into fits. A drizzling
rain since the previous eve rendered the streets excessively wet.
Splashing in the mud and puddles, the heroic of the townsmen, with the
loose dangling skirt of the Japanese garment tucked up through the belt
for action, hurried castleward with the utmost speed, with unsheathed
spear and sword in hand, to the great consternation of the astounded
populace. I was scarcely of an age to comprehend the dire calamity, yet
the scene impressed me indelibly. Soon the vision of foreign hairy
invaders vanished; the people saw that it was a sheer accident, fearful
as it was; but in that ancient lax administration behind the screen of
cruel rigidity, the real cause of it has never been thoroughly
investigated. Lives were lost in the disaster, for a multitude of
servants still lived in the castle. Mutilated limbs and bodies were
subsequently picked up in abundance from the surrounding moats; the
features of many were too badly marred for identification; and as to the
severed limbs no one could tell which belonged to which of the
shattered trunks.

The remaining half-burned buildings have since been destroyed piecemeal;
all that now remains of the proud castle is the innermost circle of
masonry, which cannot so easily be leveled to the ground. It is not
provided with a railing, and in looking down the steep one feels his
heart stand still. The vast prospect it commands, extending far beyond
the town limits, is superb. A man taking the path directly below the
wall appears no bigger than a dot.

Since I have begun a long story about this grand ruin, give me leave to
recount a tradition in connection with it. Back in the dark ages the
superstitious belief existed in Japan, that in building a castle, to
secure the firmness of its foundation a human life should be sacrificed.
Usually a person was buried alive beneath one of the walls; some declare
the efficacy nullified unless the victim be taken in unawares. The
chronicle says, that in conformity to the above belief when the Imabari
castle, was being raised a horrible homicide had been committed. At
first the authorities were much at a loss in the choice of a proper
offering. One day a poor, decrepit old woman, either prompted by
curiosity or to beg money of the men, approached the work; little did
she dream her life was in peril; in an instant a sagacious magistrate
solved the problem. The signal nod from him, and the castle-builders
fell upon the crone and, amid her screams, struggles, entreaties, stoned
her to the earth. Henceforward, it is said, in the dead silence of the
castle at night a faint, pitiful cry, now drowned in the soughing storm
outside, now audible in the dreadful pause, echoes from under the
ground. I had the precise spot pointed out to me; it lies in the centre
of all the outlying bulwarks; in passing it I always felt a thrill steal
through me, and turned that corner at a greater angle than I would an
ordinary corner, with the intention of keeping my feet off the buried

In those tyrannical days of feudalism the samurais presumed much upon
the commoners of the town. They not only laid claim wrongly to their
personal property, but also regarded their lives as of no importance.
The samurai always carried two swords by his side, one long and one
short, to arbitrate right and wrong in altercations. Blades tempered by
certain smiths were particularly esteemed; and in order to test the
cutting edge, he would lie in wait nightly at a street corner for a
victim. An innocent passer-by was ferociously attacked and, unless he
could defend himself, was wantonly slain. Such outrages actually
occurred in places; people, forthwith, seldom stirred abroad nights.
Heaven be thanked, those savage times are gone forever; the street-lamps
light every nook and corner, and the police guard the safety of the


My mother is fond of parties and young people and their keen
appreciation of pleasure; my father is of a far different turn of mind;
he has his happiest moments in smoking leisurely, in manipulating the
fishing-rod and line, under the shielding pine-tree, by some quiet
river-bank, or in hunting out edible mushrooms in the mountains. He is a
respectable, practical Izaak Walton; quaint ripples of smile pass across
his face as the nibbling fish gives his line a tantalizing pull; he
helps me bait, he teaches me when and how to make sure of my spoil,--for
many a victim hangs to the hook just long enough to rise out of water,
glitters transiently in the sun and thrills one with joy, and then
decides, undeceived, to reject the dainty morsel: there rises an ever
widening, ever receding circle on the still liquid surface, a golden
flap of the tail, and the fish is invisible, leaving one despondent. I
liked mother's and sisters' company, but also appreciated father's
soothing, restful influence. At the simple repast in the open solitary
scene of the field and stream, after angling all the morning, he said
little; yet the expression of calm enjoyment and honest humor on his
face brightened his companion. Those were delightful times; I have the
scene at this moment before my mental eye:--the broad beach of white
sand surrounding the cove, where the river meets the sea, with a lonely
stork standing on one leg in shallow water; the briny odor from the sea,
and the fresh scent from the meadow; the sighing pines overhead and the
turbulent water at the stone abutments of the bridge; the sunny blue sea
beyond the sand-bar, studded with white sails; a huge cloud of smoke
swaying landward, rising from the distant brick-yard; and in the
grayish-blue background the silhouette of a grove and knoll, whereon a
wayside shrine stands.

"See what you can do about here," says my father, taking in his line, "I
shall follow the river up and find if they bite." He turns his back and
disappears and reappears among the scrub oaks and stunted willows that
fringe the margin. I stay where I am like a good son; but being no more
successful than before, and bored and wishing company, after a
reasonable lapse of time, I find myself going after my father. Upon
finding him quietly seated under some protruding tree, beneath whose
mirrored branches and near whose knotty root the water darkens in a
pool, I inquire into his success. "No, nothing marvelous," he responds
gently, gazing dreamily across the river, yet wary with the fish that
"cometh as a thief in the night." I take the liberty of lifting the lid
of his basket and peep at the contents; a large trout disturbed by the
jar I gave it, snaps violently--I let down the lid instantly at
that--and then it lies exhausted, working its jaw in anguish for water.
"Cast your fly and try your luck," says my excellent father. Of course I
obey him; and although I was not so successful every time as he, yet
could not always help observing privately that the location he had
selected was a good fishing hole.

The river I have in mind has a characteristic oriental appellation given
it--Dragon-fire. It is a small stream at a short distance from the town
of Imabari, having its fountain-heads in the valleys of the mountains
visible from the mouth. There is nothing remarkable about this
water-course, except a popular belief that, on the eve of a festal day
in honor of the temple situated on one of the mountains, a mysterious
fire rises from the enchanting "dragon-palace" in the depths of the
ocean, where a beautiful queen reigns supreme over her charming watery
world with its finny and scaly subjects of various species. The
mysterious light, casting an inverted image on the water, moves steadily
up the river, under the concentrated gaze of thousands who climb the
height partly as devotees but mostly as spectators, until it reaches a
massive stone lantern erected upon the ledge of an immense cliff. There
it vanishes as strangely as it appeared; and instead the lantern,
hitherto dark, lights up suddenly.

I dislike to question the reality of this astonishing phenomenon, or try
to explain it with my superficial knowledge of physics. A very pious,
gracious old lady in our neighborhood had always a ready listener in me
in her superstitious talks concerning the wonders and charitable doings
of the Goddess of Mercy, whom she had imposingly enshrined in her
apartment and adored unceasingly. Perhaps you would wish to know what
the goddess looked like. Well, it was a small bronze statuette in a
gilded miniature temple; she wore a scanty Hindoo costume, a halo around
her head and an expression gentle, sweet, serene, godly.--You have seen
a reproduction of the ideal Italian picture of Christ, with downcast
eyes and a look of meek submission, benign tenderness and forgiveness:
the Goddess of Mercy seemed quite like that but with slightly more
authority. Another conception of the pagan goddess, which I have seen
elsewhere, represents her as possessing countless arms, signifying, I
imagine, the countless deeds of mercy she achieves for mankind.

The good old lady did not feel satisfied with the home worship; she must
play the pilgrim, in spite of years and infirmities, and visit, at
least, the nearest public temples. So she set off with her company, a
circle of aged zealots like herself, on a journey to a sacred edifice
standing somewhere in the mountain which, in fair weather, shows faintly
against the sky west of Imabari, towering far above hills and heights of
nearer distances. The way is long and tedious and lies through rocky
regions. Difficult passes and precipitous declivities were left far
behind by assiduous traveling on foot; but the party lost the way,
wandered into mountain wilds, silent and sublime, far, far from home or
any human habitation; and there was nothing to be heard but the flocks
of rooks cawing inauspiciously among the tree-tops. The day advanced
rapidly; the sun wheeled down without tarrying, and in the trackless
forest the evening gloom gathered early. Mute admiration, commingled
with despair, seized the travelers as they surveyed the forest grandeur
in its twilight robe. The unpruned trees thrust out dry broken arms from
near the roots; the leaves sere and sodden covered the damp, black soil
ankle deep rustling under the tread.

The sunset, how glorious! Our travelers threw down their walking-sticks,
stretched out their tired limbs and, seated on rocks, spell-bound, gave
themselves up to the contemplation of the magnificent fire-painting in
the western firmament. Behold the mountains of living coal, the lakes of
molten gold, the islands of floating amber, all irregularly shaped as by
a wild genius, distributed not as on the earth's surface,--a mountainous
pile superimposed on a lake with a stratum of sapphire between! At
length, the whole melted into one grand universal conflagration; the
undulating tops of the distant mountain-chain appeared boldly against
the horizon; the needles and cones of a pine branch, pendant near by in
the line of vision, depicted themselves sharply on the canvas of crimson

Insensibly to our musing friends, however, the red sinking disc finally
departed by the western portal, the after-glow died away slowly; and
when they awoke from reveries and heaved a sigh, the question of what to
be done came pressing upon them. Now the day being over, there was the
danger of wild animals in the woods. That could be averted by building a
bright fire, but what was to be done for hunger which began to assert
itself strongly? With energy gone and darkness and peril thickening
about them, yet trusting in the Goddess, the lonely pilgrims peered
around for a less exposed spot to nestle in. In this their search,
miraculously they came upon what to them looked like a cottage. It was
one of the hovels hastily put up with twigs and shrubs by hunters, where
they waylay the boar at night and in snow, and where they slice meat,
lie by the fire and smoke, and frequently hold a midnight revel over
their fat game. Our weary, almost famished tourists entered it,
wondering and looking around at each step; they were at once struck with
the snug appearance of the interior. There was a heap of ashes, which
when disturbed disclosed a few glowing embers; and in a corner was piled
on raw hide plenty of excellent venison. The hunters must have left not
long since.

The pious old lady goes on to tell that such a thing as this could not
have been otherwise than by the dispensation of her merciful Goddess,
and that she and her fellow believers fell immediately on their knees to
express their heart-felt gratitude for her munificence and protection.
The fire was rekindled and fed with armfuls of the dried leaves and dead
branches that lay strewn plentifully around; the broad blaze cast an
illusive cheerfulness on objects standing near; each time a stick was
thrown in the cloven tongues of the fire emitted sparks, which died in
their flight among the masses of the overhanging foliage. Taken in
connection with the surrounding scene, there was something
inexpressibly wild and primitive about the open fire. The party appeased
their hunger and waited the return of the proprietors of the rude
cottage. They did not come, though the night advanced far; some of the
pilgrims were extremely fatigued and dropped to sleep in the warmth,
others sat up resolutely, repeating prayers and counting the beads
before a pocket image of the Goddess. The low night wind bore to their
ear, at intervals, the concert of wolves howling in dismal, forlorn
cadence; and they were now and then started by one of these savage
marauders appearing in their sight at a safe distance.

The night was passed in this way, and the dawn came; but how to find the
right path? While they were in despair and supplicating aid from the
Goddess, one of them descried a figure on the brow of an eminence not
far distant. It seemed, on nearer approach, to be a venerable mountain
sire; his long silver-white beard flowed down his breast; a pair of
clear beaming eyes twinkled beneath his great shaggy eyebrows. Being
asked in which point of the compass lay the road to the temple, he
slowly lifted his cane, a knotty stem of a shrub called akaza, and
indicated the west. Apropos of this, the akaza stick is believed to be
carried by an imaginary race of men hidden in China's pathless woods and
mountains, who are without exception very old but never overtaken by
disease or death and live in serene felicity, gathering medicinal herbs,
writing on scrolls and in company with cranes and tortoises. In
kakemonoes (wall hangings) they are sometimes depicted as taking a
literal "flying" visit on craneback, with the inevitable scroll in hand,
to their brother sennin's (sennin is the name this happy race goes by)
grotto in a neighboring hill or dale.

Our party of wanderers thanked the kind but dignified old man on their
hands and knees and raised their heads, when he seemed to dissolve away
from view in a most singular manner. This opportune guide, according to
my garrulous lady, is a messenger sent by her thousand-armed Goddess to
their help; in fine, not a thing occurs but is ordained by Kwannon the
Merciful. The story of the adventure was wound up with the safe arrival
in the Kwannon temple, and fervent piety kindled at the altar.


I am afraid I have told a long prosaic story in the previous chapter,
and betrayed a school-boy-like delight for the bombastic in the
description of the sunset, etc. No one detests more than I anything that
smacks of the young misses' poetry. Come, let us inquire, more relevant
to our purpose, what constituted my childish happiness, sorrow, fear and
other kindred feelings in Japan.

The greatest fear I can yet recall was the ordeal of the yaito. This is
a Japanese domestic art of healing and averting diseases, especially
those of children. The moxa, being made into numerous tiny cones and
placed on certain spots on the back, is lighted with the senko already
described. Imagine how you feel when the flesh is being burnt; I used to
hold out stoutly against the cruel operation--would you not sympathize
with me? If I had any presentiment of it, I would slip away and keep
from home till I became desirous of dinner. No sooner had I crossed the
paternal threshold than I was made a prisoner; and ailment or no
ailment, my severe father and mother insisted upon my having the yaito
once in so often. Great was my demonstration of agony when father held
me still and mother proceeded to burn my bare back a promise of
bonbons, which reconciled me to almost anything ordinarily, did not work
in this one in stance; I cried myself hoarse (keeping it up even while
there was no pain) and kicked frantically.

"The storm is over," mother used to say with considerable relief, when
the trial drew to a close; she hated the torture as much as anybody, but
she had the welfare of her child at heart. Ah, gentle mother, if I had
only understood you then as I do now I should certainly not have snapped
so terribly. I remember, after twenty-four to forty-eight hours the
blisters began to swell and chafed painfully against the clothing, and
had to be punctured to let out the serum. As a matter of fact, the yaito
did cure slight general and local ailments: once I had a blood-shot eye,
and mother sent me to a worthy old woman in town who knew how to cure it
by means of yaito. After much pressing with lingers, she hit at the
vital point in the back and marked it with a generous dip of india ink.
Upon returning home, it was burnt deeply with moxa; and miraculously
enough the eye got well immediately. I am inclined to think the cautery
acts through the nerves. Now for years have I been exempt from the
operation, yet to this day on my back are symmetrically branded the
star-like memorials of my mother's love.

Speaking of the old woman I am reminded of another whom I was in the
habit of looking upon as a sort of witch. Her eye, with the crow's foot
at the outer corner and, I fancied, with the pupil in a longitudinal
slit like that of grimalkin, the creature nearest to witches and
warlocks; her fetich, the image of a human monkey, to whom she was a
sort of vestal virgin; her place of abode remote from town and isolated
from other farm-houses, presenting a queer combination of a rustic home
and a sacred shrine; these made my childish imagination invest her with
an air of mystery. She was wont to come to town in trim, made-over
clothes re-dyed and starched, with the slant overlapping Japanese
collars adjusted nicely; in the setta (slipper-sandals, much liked by
aged people for their ease and safety compared with the high clogs);
with her gray-streaked black hair combed tightly up, glossy with a
superabundance of pomatum and done up in a coiffure bespeaking her age;
walking firmly, with a small portable shrine on her back wrapt in the
furoshiki (wide cloth for carrying things about) and tied around her
shoulders. People sent for her to exorcise their houses, particularly
when there happened to be sick persons in them, consulted her in
selecting the site for a new building and in sinking the well, in order
not to draw upon their heads the vengeance of a displeased spirit. On
some occasions our household required her assistance; I went the long
distance through the open fields to her residence; and when she came she
let down the shrine from her back, placed it against the wall in our
sitting-room and, opening reverentially the hinge-doors, proceeded to
pray. What for, I don't remember, I was too intent upon her manners to
inquire into her purpose.

Of quite another stamp was Aunt Otsuné (so everybody called her),
housekeeper to the prosperous candy dealer just opposite us on Main
street. Ready with tears for any sad news; sympathetic in the extreme;
beaming, radiant, full of happy smiles in beholding her
friends--methinks I see her snatch me from my nurse's arms, fondle me to
her bosom and press her withered cheek against my fat one, uttering some
such very encouraging ejaculation as "My precious dear!" She did not
kiss me, I am very certain, for we don't have kissing. And she must have
many a time dropped her work to admire my holiday garment; I know I
toddled some of my early experimental steps in journeys to Aunty,
trailing behind me the free ends of my sash; and as I became confident
of myself, I became ambitious and dragged my father's or brother's
clogs, a world too big for my feet. O how good Aunty was! She would fill
both my hands with the candies that were being prepared in the back of
the store near the kitchen and bid me run home and show them to mamma.
The best thing she was in the habit of bestowing upon me was--I don't
know what to call it; it was the burnt bottom portion of the rice she
had cooked for all hands of the store in a prodigious vessel, loosened
in broad pieces and folded about the an. The an is (this necessity of
definition upon definition cautions me against touching on many a thing
peculiarly Japanese) the an is a red bean deprived of its skin and
mashed with sugar; it forms the core of various comfits. O how I
relished this Aunty's homely, warm, sweet concoction! It was not
intended for sale, therefore we cared little about its appearance, were
it only good to taste. She made it so large sometimes that I had to hold
it with both my small hands. I munched away at it, whilst she scraped
the great vessel; and it was sometime before each of us could finish our
huge tasks. I well recall the flickering rush-light under which Aunty
worked; the sense of satisfaction I experienced in my agreeable
occupation in my corner; the harsh grating noise of the steel scraper
against the bottom of the iron vessel; the obscurity round about the
sink a short way off; and the invisible rascals of mice holding high
festivity over cast-off viands, chasing each other, biting one another's
tails and screeching at the pain. My family endeavored to keep me at
home, for it certainly is not in good taste to have one's child running
off to a neighbor's kitchen; but Aunty would steal me from mamma, and I,
for my part, did all I could, I warrant, to be stolen!

When we are well-nigh through our business, Aunty, happening to glance
at me to assure herself I am there though silent, breaks into a broad,
good-humored smile at the sight. Here I am with the an smeared about my
mouth, and stretching out my hands equally sticky, in a most comic
despairing attitude. What I implore in mute eloquence is this, that she
would please to take immediate care of my soiled hands and wipe off the
material about my mouth. Aunty stands a minute appreciating the humorous
effect so produced; I look up at her with unsuspecting eyes wide open
and licking my mouth occasionally by way of variation. Soon, however, my
good-hearted Aunty washes me nice and clean and taking me up with her
hands on my sides, throws me on her right shoulder and crosses over to
the opposite side of the street in short quick steps to our house. She
is always a welcome guest there and is at once surrounded by our women,
to whom she imparts her kitchen lore and latest bits of news about men
and things.

She had a little romance in her kitchen, which she helped along and she
took absorbing interest in its development. It was the mutual attachment
of the adopted daughter of the great candy manufacturer and one of his
men. Miss Chrysanthemum, to give a glimpse of her past history, was born
in a humble home and, being a burden to its inmates, was thrust upon Mr.
Gladness the Main street confectioner, who was immensely wealthy, and
invested for pleasure in peacocks, canary birds, white, long-eared,
pink-eyed, lovely, tame rabbits, valuable pot-plants and many other good
things. I received beautiful peacock feathers from him; but my sisters
did not wish them for their bonnets, because Japanese ladies do not wear
bonnets. (But I don't know, of course, as I am a man and a foreigner,
that ladies ever trim their bonnets with the gay peacock feathers.) And
when the peacocks died, Mr. Gladness (his Japanese equivalent means it)
caused them to be stuffed and surprised me and many others one day with
the dead but life-like peacocks in the cage. I went to see Mr. Gladness
often; Mr. Gladness was a very rich, important gentleman; Mr. Gladness
was good enough to me, though older people did not seem to love him as I
did; he let me see the rabbits eat bamboo-leaves. He said I might touch
them if I liked. I was very much afraid at first, but Mr. Gladness
assured me they wouldn't bite--honestly they wouldn't. So I ventured to
put out my hand. They limped away from me though, keeping their noses
going all the time. Don't you know how they twitch their noses? Japanese
rabbits do that too; I thought it was funny! Mr. Gladness had in his
yard a large pond, where he kept a lot of big goldfish; Mr. Gladness had
also in his beautiful yard a little mountain and a little stream with a
little bridge. Mr. Gladness had a great many servants; everybody,
bowing, said "yea, yea" to him, while he stood straight as an arrow.

Miss Chrysanthemum, as I was saying, came, or rather was brought to this
rich merchant's house, he having found her one cold morning at his door,
tucked nicely in a basket, like little Moses. Her poor dear mother, like
his mother, some have said, was watching from a hiding place; the
anxiety of a mother seems the same both in ancient and modern times and
all the world over. Now the rich man had no child, just as in stories;
and when the crying baby stopped and smiled at him through her tears,
his proud old heart felt infinitely tender. He adopted her at that
instant and christened her afterward Chrysanthemum, the flower of that
name being his favorite above all others in his garden.

These particulars I gleaned from the neighbors' social gossip after I
had grown up; Miss Chrysanthemum was already a young lady when I used to
go to Aunt Otsuné in childish adoration. I remember the young lady took
me one winter's evening beside her to the kotatsu, the heating apparatus
I have mentioned in connection with my grandfather's house, and told me
stories. She was reared in luxury, had everything she wanted that could
be gotten with money, and was a great pet of Aunty's, who regarded her
as her own child. It was not surprising, then, that Aunty should note
with deep satisfaction the gentle flutter of Miss Chrysanthemum's maiden
heart at the sight of a young man; indeed, she seemed in the eye of the
world to take more interest than the interested parties themselves. This
kitchen romance was the pervading theme of her conversation; we were in
duty bound to hear just how the matter stood between the two, with her
opinions as to the prospect. The whole town took it up and discussed it
variously; some sage persons shook their heads and intimated that they
knew a certain poor fisher-woman to be Miss Chrysanthemum's real mother,
and that they had all along their own misgivings concerning the young
lady's future. "The blood will tell" was the maxim on which these
sapient observers took their stand, and they talked the young man over
as if he were an arrant fortune hunter, when I fear not one of them
could come up to Mr. Prosperity in assiduity and honest labor. "The
blood will tell," indeed, that a daughter of a friendless, mistaken, but
upright woman should choose for herself a sensible man, one who will
stick to her through thick and thin, as we shall see presently.

As I am not writing a love story. I shall not give the personal
appearances of my fair Chrysanthemum and gentle Prosperity, nor their
sayings and doings. Yet I do see perfectly, even at this distance of
time and place, the picture of young Mr. Prosperity sitting with his
fellow workers at his work, in the workshop on the rear of the store,
under the same roof with the kitchen but with a hall-way between.
Perhaps he is putting a color on the sugared commodities; he does it
with a flat brush, taking up the pieces one by one, then he sends a box
of them to the next man, who goes over the same, staining the uncolored
portion with another tint. He looks up at my approach, smiles a welcome
and resumes the work; the others, being used to my coming, go on with
their job, without even taking as much trouble as the mere act of
raising their heads, saying indifferently "halloo!" to their busy hands.
Mr. Prosperity, I remember, gave me some of the candy he was making when
he found an opportunity, which went farther to form my good opinion of
him than any other act.

Everything went on pleasantly with the young people and Aunty--very
pleasantly, in fact, until the pleasure of the old gentleman came to be
consulted. Then arose an insurmountable difficulty: he would not hear of
the match; he possessed wealth and in consequence proved supercilious.
His wealth, however, was but recently acquired; he himself was once a
common workman in a candy store on the fourth block of the same street.
But he would not have anything said about it; he simply would not brook
the idea of giving his daughter in marriage to his employee; he
foolishly deemed it below his dignity. This was a severe blow to Aunt
Otsuné; she felt her career balked and frustrated; the young couple
began to love each other much more than before, "What would this state
of things result in?" said the gossips of the town. Reconciliation of
the huffy old man, impossible! Separation of the affectionate pair,
quite as hard!

Here Aunt Otsuné called in her inventive powers: she was full of kind
honest invention,--how else could she have carried herself in the battle
of life so far, single handed, and remain a favorite with all the world?
She took Miss Chrysanthemum and Mr. Prosperity under her wing, as it
were, rented a comfortable little house on a by-street and installed
them therein, married. She liked to see them happy together, and have
them take care of her in her old age; she had heretofore been lone and
helpless, despite her cheerful exertions. They opened a small candy
store, falling back upon their knowledge of the trade; soon there came
to them a dear little babe. Aunt Otsuné rejoiced at the little one's
advent; her scheme was now complete. She bore the infant in her arms
softly and went to the door of her former employer. Her diplomacy was to
give the cross old fellow a sight of the lovely grandchild and thereby
work a miracle in his stony heart, surmising at the same time that time
must have done something towards mollifying his obstinacy. This
accomplished, it would be an easy step to persuade him to take them all
back into his favor. Alas, poor faithful soul! it was but a woman's
wisdom: Mr. Gladness was still found inexorable.

On that memorable night slowly she walked into our house with the babe
in her arms, and sat herself down heavily by the dim, papered Japanese
household lamp. For some time she remained silent and glanced around the
room furtively; to her unspeakable satisfaction there was nobody there
beside ourselves. Then the mental tension with which she upheld the
whole weight of misery and woe gave way, and she burst into a flood of
tears. I recollect the unusual solemn hush of the room, the serious
looks of the company and the distracting sobs on the other side of the
lamp; I recollect my becoming unaccountably sad, too, and looking away
at a corner in my effort to refrain from tears; I beheld the paper god
pasted high up on the pillar brown with age and smoke. When Aunty
recovered herself, she managed to inform us how she had been received by
Mr. Gladness and told us she had made up her mind, if the young people
were willing, to move to one of the islands in the Sound where she was
sure of a kindlier reception. So the kind old soul, foiled in the last
of her struggles, left her friends at Imabari for the simple life of the
islanders. At intervals, we had intelligence of her whereabouts, but as
years rolled on news reached us no more.

I have given this account of Aunt Otsuné somewhat at length, because I
felt interested in reviving her half-forgotten memory; and I have
entered upon the history of Miss Chrysanthemum and Mr. Prosperity in
order to show to the people of this country, who are misinformed on the
subject of Japanese marriage and believe that our young people are, in
all cases, matched by their parents and not infrequently to those whom
they do not love,--in order to show, I say, to these misinformed people
by an actual example from my own observation, that such is not the case,
and that our people marry for love of each other, notwithstanding the
artificial manners of our society.


I was generally happy in my childish days in Japan. I cannot put my
finger on any particular thing as my chief happiness, but I think
holidays made me as happy as anything. We have a number of holidays,
among which the first and the greatest is New Year's Day.

The first three days of January! I shall never forget them. But like
most celebrations New Year pleasure must be chiefly felt in a few
preparatory days. In Japan full vigor is preserved among children for
Happy New Year; here in America Merry Christmas, with its Santa Claus
and his stockingful of presents, takes away the zest from children
before New Year comes. The merriment of the season is materially
heightened by the making of the mochi. The mochi, which I have referred
to once before, is a glutinous cake made of rice; it is as peculiarly
indispensable in the New Year feast as is turkey in the New England
Thanksgiving dinner. It is generally no larger than a man's palm,
therefore one family makes a great number of them. Many are stuffed with
the an. The an is not necessarily sweet; some people like it flavored
with salt. A large number of the mochis are not stuffed; they are
suffered to dry and harden, so that they can be stored away for future
enjoyment. At any time during the year you may get them out and steam or
toast them. In our town there are men who make it their business to
visit houses and help them in mochi-making. Just before New Year the
professional mochi-makers work hard day after day. They could not always
come in the daytime and made arrangements to visit us in the early
morning. Then my sisters and I could hardly go to sleep in the great
anticipation of joy. When the morning came, our house was thrown open,
illuminated (for it was yet dark) brightly and cheerfully, and the whole
household were up doing something with willing hand and heart. I cannot
describe how happy I was in this scene. I tried, half in play, to help
them and got in everybody's way. You know the holiday feelings are very
difficult to reproduce with pen and ink.

Along the house on the street the men arranged a row of small earthen
cooking stoves, which they had brought with them, each carrying two. The
mode of carrying in this case, as well as in the transportation of any
heavy load, is to use the shoulder as fulcrum and, laying on it an
elastic wooden pole from whose ends hangs the burden, walk in steady
balance, presenting the appearance of a pair of scales. Over the stoves
were placed vessels of boiling water, over the vessels tubs with holes
in the bottom and straw covers on top, in the vessels were heaps of rice
washed perfectly white. The rice used in mochi-making is different from
ordinary dinner rice; it is more glutinous when cooked and easily made
into paste; it is a distinct variety selected in the beginning for the
express purpose. The stoves are short hollow cylinders, open at the top
and in the front; the top receives the bottom of the vessel, and the
front opening or mouth ejects smoke and allows the feeding of fuel. They
seemed on this occasion to blaze more brightly; we children went out and
watched the dancing flames; they made our faces glow with their

When the rice was steamed long enough, it was transferred and made into
paste in an utensil, like which I have seen nothing in this country. It
is simply a stout trunk of a felled tree a few feet in height with its
upper end scooped out. With it is a cylindrical block with a handle, a
sort of pestle to press and strike upon the steamed rice. There was
something joyous about the dull thumps when heard in the neighborhood,
perhaps not to a foreign ear but to one brought up amongst customs
associated with New Year holidays. And never at other times was our
house so overflowing with hilarity as at this climax of domestic
enjoyment. When the rice lost its granular appearance and became a
uniform sticky mass, then it was placed upon a large board spread with
rice flour. There it lay steaming, milk-white, this luxury of New
Year,--luxurious even to the touch! The entire household flocked around
it and made numerous round cakes. While our hands were busy, we
interchanged many innocent jokes and merry laughs; the old people gave
in to our sway, displaying a quiet humor in their looks.

We set up the New Year tree. It is a drooping willow tree thickly
studded with rice-paste and hung with ornate cotton balls, painted
cards, etc. Throughout the month of January it is to be seen in the
parlor of every house nailed against the wall.

After nightfall on the last day of the old year a curious ceremony is
performed. The worthy head of the family goes the round of his house
with a box of hard burnt beans. Within every chamber he stands upright
and throws a handful of the same, exclaiming at the top of his
voice,--"Welcome Good Luck! Away with the Devil!" Now, the box used
provisionally for a receptacle is a rice measure called măsu, which
sounds like the verb meaning increase; and the beans are mămĕ, which is
the same as the noun meaning health, although written and accented
differently. Putting them together we have a supplication in a play upon
words,--"Increase health," or "May health increase!" Odd and fantastic
as the notion appears, however, it is a hallowed custom and scrupulously
observed. My father formerly performed the ceremony in our house; but
when my eldest brother had grown up, he was assigned to the office,
which he discharged with a comic gravity that I cannot forget.

The Japanese looks upon certain periods--I forget which--of his life as
evil years. To avert hovering ill influences or to "drop" the years as
they put it, the people take of the beans as many as their years, put
them in paper bags together with a few pence and drop them at some
cross-roads, taking care not to be seen. In this manner I have dropped
several of my earlier bad years; I should have been wrecked a long time
since, for life, but for the bags of beans!

In the same evening tradesmen desire to collect old bills and clear up
the accounts of the passing year; and in order to do it they call at the
houses of their debtors, lighting their way with lanterns which bear the
signs of their commercial establishments. So general is this idea, and
so customary has this proceeding become in time, that everybody expects
it as a matter of course at the end of each year; debtors, too, are
easily dunned. A consequence is one of the grandest displays of
lanterns. What a delight it was to me to stand before my house and watch
the countless lights move up and down the street! When I was older I was
appointed lantern-bearer before the collector for my father, who
instructed his man to give me points, incidentally, in business.

The next morning dawns, and the first day of the New Year is with us.
Everybody seems happy, kind-hearted and filled with better feelings.
Shopping housewives, grocers and hucksters of all sorts of holiday
market goods have disappeared from the streets; the change is like that
of Sunday morning from Saturday afternoon in an American city. All the
houses are carefully swept and put in good order, and the people have on
their best apparel. A kind of arch is erected in front of each dwelling.
But it is not round, it is square. Two young pine trees are planted for
the pillars, and cross-pieces of green bamboo are tied to them. On this
frame-work are placed the traditional simple ornaments; straw fringes,
sea-weeds, ferns, a red lobster-shell, a lemon, dried persimmons, dried
sardines and charcoal. These articles stand for many auspicious ideas;
reflect a moment and they will come home clear to your mind. The pines,
bamboos, sea-weeds and ferns are evergreens, fit emblems of constancy;
the straw fringes are for excluding evil agencies--the lamb's blood on
the door; the lobster by its bent form is indicative of old age or long
life; the lemon is dăi-dăi--"generation after generation;" the dried
persimmons are sweets long and well preserved; the sardines from their
always swimming in a swarm denote the wish for a large family; and
lastly, the stick of charcoal is an imperishable substance.

When the morning sun rises gloriously or snow-flakes happen to fall (for
we have snow in Japan), children leap out from under the arches, salute
one another and begin to indulge in outdoor holiday games.

To speak about breakfast may be trespassing upon hospitality, but the
Japanese New Year breakfast is something unique. The mochi makes up the
main part. The unstuffed rice-cakes are cooked with various articles;
potatoes, fish, turnips and everything palatable from land and sea is
found with them. A person of ordinary capacity can scarcely take more
than a few bowlfuls of the dish, but there are people brave enough to
dispatch twenty or thirty at a time! For weeks after whenever idlers of
the town come together there is always a warm discussion concerning
their comparative merits in this respect. I have noticed that the good
people of this republic also look upon Thanksgiving and Christmas as the
days on which to indulge their best appetite; and I have heard persons
telling the wonders of their stomachs and seeking opinions of the wise
men around them, who are likewise dreaming over their pipes again of the
turkeys, chicken-pies and plum-puddings that are gone by.

As the day advances, good towns-people in decorous antique garb appear
in all directions, making New Year calls. Upon meeting their
acquaintances they have not much to say, the chief thing being to keep
the head going up and down with great formality,--a bow it is intended
to be, yet a great deal more than that. It is almost an impossible act
for one not trained so to do, unless he goes at it with the spirit of
martyrdom. Of course, the parlor reception by ladies in white is
something unheard of in the far East. Ladies are to be good and remain
in the back parlor, except when their presence is desired by the
gentlemen who do the honor of receiving; you often detect the bright
eyes directed upon you through crannies.

The dinner is not so splendid an affair as the breakfast, but has many
customary dishes to be served. The fact will strangely strike the
reader, who associates in his mind such a sumptuous board as that of
Christmas with the term dinner. In that figurative sense in which we
frequently use it, it must properly be applied to the breakfast. I must
mention here that in the New Year meals we put aside our crockery ware
and take out from the store-room wooden bowls, japanned red inside and
jet black outside with our family crest in gold. The children's are
rendered more attractive with the pictures of flying cranes on the
covers, and tortoises with wide-fringed tails among the waves on the
exterior of the bowls, all in gold. A casual sight of them at other
times, in my rummaging for things, was sufficient to awake in me a
pleasant train of thoughts relative to the holidays. Oh, and that
tremendous big fish, I must tell you about that!--Every family provides
itself for New Year with a huge buri--Japanese name of course, I am
ignorant of its proper zoological term; I obtained my first idea of the
whale from this monstrous fish. It hangs in the kitchen from one of the
rafters throughout the holidays; the cook cuts meat from it, and the
family feasts upon it until it is reduced to a downright skeleton. My
impression is that the fish is caught in some of the provinces bordering
on the Pacific Ocean (Imabari looks on the inland sea) and sent to our
town: certain it is, the article we procure is always salted. The rush
for the buri in the market before New Year is just like the turkey
bargaining before Thanksgiving in this country; the difference is that
the buri is more expensive, and it is not everybody that can afford to
buy one.

Taking advantage of the last evening's ceremony, in the course of the
day female beggars appear in the mask of the Goddess Good Luck, and sing
and dance for alms. That is tolerable. But a host more of strong male
beggars, personating the devils with rattling bamboo bars and with
hideously painted faces, plant themselves before the houses and demand
in a strident authoritative voice a propitiation with hard coin. Some of
them paint themselves with cheap red paint, representing the "red
devils;" others smear themselves with the still more economical
scrapings from the sides of the chimney, becoming thereby the "black
devils." The idea of the devils of different colors came from the
Buddhist's pictorial representation of Hell, wherein the demons are seen
serving out punishment to the sinners,--throwing them into a sulphurous
flame, a lake of blood, a huge boiling caldron and to dragon-snakes;
giving them a free ride on a chariot of fire; driving them up a mountain
beset with needles; pulling out the tongues of the liars; mashing the
bodies as you do potatoes; and so forth. The pictures, by the bye, with
many others of saints and martyrs, are the same in nature as the
religious paintings of Rome and equally grand and magnificent. The bean
ceremony, to conclude, although it might have banished imaginary devils,
after all, has drawn together the very next morning an army of the
flesh-and-blood devils that want to eat and drink.


Among the recreations most fondly indulged in on the New Year holidays
is kite-flying. This is so well known here that I have often been
overwhelmed with questions regarding it by little Americans. Our kites
are mostly rectangular, with heroes or monsters painted on them in most
glaring colors. A wind instrument looking like a bow is sometimes
fastened to the kite, and when the kite is in the air the wind strikes
the string and makes a humming noise. At a kite fight the combatants
bring their flying kites in juxtaposition and strive to cut the string
by friction. Now and then an unfortunate, hero or monster, is seen
tossed about at the disposal of the wind, finding its fate upon the
water, the tree-tops, or I know not where. At the height of kite-flying
even those with more discretion enter into the full spirit of the young
and build prodigious kites. I have actually seen one so large that, when
flown high up on a fair windy day, the combined efforts of several men
could scarcely hold it. It was a hard-fought tug-of-war; after much ado,
with the aid of wrestlers and athletes, I remember, the monster was at
length secured to the main front oaken pillar of a great building. The
string fastened to such a kite is a strong twine hundreds of yards
long, yet it often gives way. And to fly such a kite on the streets of a
city is next to an impossibility; it will bump hard at houses and rake
down the tiles (our houses are roofed with tiles) over the heads of
passers-by; for which reason, it is always taken out to the open country
and afterwards brought into town when it has gone well up in the air.
What a mass of curious children surge beside the men who hold the kite
by the string as they walk home!

I have sat many an afternoon after school whittling the bamboo frame for
a modest kite. It was my most interesting employment; my father calls me
into another room to run on an errand for him; I hear him plainly, but
pretend otherwise and make him call repeatedly--ungrateful son! Upon
hearing him approach and perceiving longer delay to be impossible, I
break away from the agreeable occupation and emerge as cheerfully as I
can, "Yes, sir, father." He inquires what I was about, reproves me for
not answering him quickly and gives me to know that if I do not heed his
behest he will surely throw my kite into the fire. After such
interruptions, however, the important frame-work is done. Oh, what
satisfaction I feel over it! Then I go to the kitchen and wheedle Osan
into giving me a bit of boiled rice, which I make into paste on a piece
of board with a bamboo spatula. With the paste I put white paper on the
frame and leave it to dry. There are many little technical points in
kite construction, but those I refrain from entering into in detail.
When it is dry, I write on the kite confidentially with my own hand some
appropriate word, say, Zephyr, in lieu of picture. I now tie the string
and try its flight; it dashes at the eaves this way, pitches into the
latticed windows that way, twirls in mid-air like a tumbler-pigeon, and
in general behaves badly. Thereupon I take it down, add weight to the
lighter side, attach a tail and do all to insure balance and
equilibrium, and, then try it again.

Since coming to this country, the request has been put to me more than
once by little friends that I should make them a genuine Japanese kite.
But the want of tenacious paper and bamboo has always prevented me from
complying with their wish.

As I write on, by the association of ideas I call to mind an event which
greatly provoked me. I was fond of poking into and turning over old
things up in the garret, as I hinted before, or I had archæological
taste, to give it a dignified name. One day, much to my surprise, I came
upon an old kite frame perhaps six feet by five, good for further use. I
found it hidden behind a worm-eaten chest of drawers; it was
constructed, I discovered, when my uncle was a boy; everybody in the
house had forgotten all about it. I was instantly possessed with the
desire to boast of a big kite, now that the frame was ready; and as if
to help out my plan, some one recollected that the reel of string that
went with the kite was put away in one of the drawers. This I
immediately sought and found. These relics I guarded with great care
until a visit from my uncle, who resided in the same town, when I
produced them and got him to tell me about his kite. I could not have
done a better thing; his old playthings before him put my uncle in mind
of his boyhood; they created in him the wish to see them restored once
more to their former usefulness; and he promised me he would attend to
them himself.

Attend to them himself he did in a few days, taking as lively an
interest as I did. Having papered the frame, we carried it to a man who
painted show-bills. He painted on it a squatting Daruma in scarlet
canonical robe, holding the high-priest's mace, a staff with a long tuft
of white hair at one end, while the white untouched margin left by this
large figure was stained blue. It was a glorious kite; the picture of
Daruma, who was a great light of Buddhism, the founder of a new sect,
who sat and thought through his whole life, suffering no disturbance
from matters temporal--hence his _papier-mâché_ image on a hemisphere of
lead for the toy "tumbler;" Daruma, I started to say, looked out from
our kite with a pair of immense goggle eyes, shaded by prominent shaggy
eyebrows; a furrow ran down on either cheek from the side of his nose
toward the corners of his mouth; large Hindoostanee ear-rings hung from
the enlarged lobes of his ears; and I may here add that, notwithstanding
his reputed sedentary habits, he is always drawn as a holy man of strong
physical features.

So far, so good. My uncle, as might be anticipated, wanted to see how
our kite would fly. Accordingly, we got a big boy to hold it up for us
against the wind, and my uncle at a distance hold the string ready to
dash at a run. The signal was given, and away my uncle ran, and up rose
the kite. Breathlessly I was watching. But it no sooner rose than it
pitched sidewise and struck on the spikes upon the fences of the Mayor's
house. I lost my heart! I did not cry just yet; the catastrophe was too
big for utterance and too sudden: there was no time to weigh the
calamity. The men pulled at the kite, which, I say, had stuck fast on
the pointed black wooden bars bristling unmannerly in all possible
directions. I bore the spikes an inveterate enmity ever after, till one
day they were every one of them pulled down with the house, at which I
felt extreme satisfaction. The tearing noise of the kite, however, rent
my breast then; and the men, being persuaded at last of the futility of
their proceeding, brought forward a ladder, and my uncle mounted it
deliberately. I could not contain myself any longer; I ran into the
house, threw myself on the floor and wept bitterly. After that I turned
over the whole affair in my mind at leisure, lying on my back, studying
the ceiling and sucking my finger in baby fashion. The phantom of the
broken kite rose before me; I swallowed down my grief with difficulty.
Who brought it about? Nobody else but uncle; yes, if uncle had not
wished to try the kite it would not have happened. I whimpered afresh at
the painful thought; I now reproached my uncle as much as I formerly
thanked him. After a considerable lapse of time my uncle came in,
crestfallen, with the tattered kite. But in dudgeon I would not speak to
him or look at him: he very awkwardly endeavored to console me and with
difficulty coaxed me to accept his atonement in patching the rents. The
moisture of the glue, nevertheless, scattered the original colors and
disfigured the beautiful picture. I forget how I forgave him that.

But to resume the holiday games. Boys play a sort of ball--the "pass and
catch" part--with a good-sized dai-dai (lemon); we call it dai-dai
rolling. We give each other the "grounder" repeatedly, so that even the
hard-rinded Japanese fruit gets ruptured in a little time; then our
business is to beat about for a supply of the new balls, which we
invariably accomplish by knocking down the fruit from the unguarded
arches. The people generally take the prank in good part.

Girls play out-of-doors with battledore and shuttlecock; they also play
with cotton-balls, which they toss with their dainty hands against hard
floors. They keep the ball bounding rhythmically between the palm of
their hand and the floor, and hum songs in time with it.

At home and in the evening we play cards and other games. The favorite
game of cards consists in giving out the first lines of couplets and
endeavoring to pick out from the confusion of cards, in competition with
others of the company, the particular cards on which are written the
following lines; the one with the largest number of cards in the end is
declared the winner. This game has the commendable feature of impressing
on the mind celebrated poems; it is not merely time thrown away.
Japanese poems, I remark in passing, are short and pithy; the classic
"a Hundred Poems from a Hundred Poets" are characteristic and are
consequently printed for the purpose of the game. The selected poems of
the Tō dynasty, which in the annals of Chinese literature correspond to
the English Elizabethan period. I mean in development and not in
chronology, are substituted by scholars for the Japanese poems. We also
play a kind of parchesi and a form of the game of authors, but whist,
poker, casino, euchre, cribbage, etc., we know nothing of. Chess and
checkers the Japanese are expert in, but they are not New Year games.

Fireside conversation, kind words and hearts constitute the quiet
enjoyment and sunshine of the holidays. All things conspire to produce
in us serene and tranquil pleasure, but nothing worth recording occurs
in the remaining days. Some business-like briskness is manifested in the
early hours of the second morning, for tradesmen observe the ancient
custom of inaugurating the commerce of the opening year and give out
presents to their customers.

Later in the spring--I forget the exact date--all the straw ornaments,
withering wreaths and the like used in the decoration are brought
together and burnt up with religious care on a broad sandy river flat
just beyond the town. The day appointed for the rite is another gala-day
of the calendar, at least in Imabari. For some time previous to the
occasion, the straw relics of all the houses of a street are carefully
collected in one spot, and then such as are artists exercise ingenuity
to produce some recognizable shape out of the heap that may catch the
eye of spectators, on its way to the place of combustion. Street vies
with street in originality in fashioning the straw stack and takes care
not to divulge what it is constructing until the day of display, then it
ostentatiously raises the finished work, whatever it may be, on a high
movable platform or pedestal on wheels, which takes its position in the
line of march with those of the other streets. The whole town is curious
to know what is in the parade and rushes out to behold.

I recall only one among many things which my own street produced on such
occasions; it was a military cap and a trumpet joined together.
Innumerable sheets of gilt paper were wasted in giving the monstrous
form of a trumpet the appearance of bright, shining brass; the cap, too,
was wonderfully like the real imported thing. These barbarian outlandish
articles, having been adopted by the Japanese government at the time,
were exciting the attention and comments of the people; hence, the
striking reproduction of them on a greatly magnified scale made
everybody utter a little cry of surprise and admiration. I forget to
which of us the inspiration came.

The pedestal or platform has two large massive iron rings in front, to
which are tied stout ropes: the younger part of the inhabitants of the
street hang together in two rows and haul the decorated burden. Song and
chorus, and the heavy wheels creak onward a short distance, then stop:
song again and chorus; then another pause. Among the crowd we
occasionally meet a man carrying a bamboo stick, one end of which is
split and holds half-a-dozen hardened mochis. He intends to scorch the
cakes in the flames of the relics and, upon returning home, to divide
them among his family and eat them for the miraculous power they are
then believed to possess.

This is, in short, the manner in which we observe and end our great
national holiday of New Year. Of late, it is to be regretted, many of
the old customs are omitted by the people who have got modern notions
into their heads. Innovations of the latter days not very desirable or
in good taste are fast gaining ground. A few years more, and, I fear,
the neglect of time-honored observances will be complete in Japan.


We have a great many other holidays; it is impossible to speak of them
all. Simply to name some, there are God Fox's day on the second of the
second month; the Feast of Dolls, for little girls, on the third of the
third month; the Feast of Flags for little boys on the fifth of the
fifth month; the ablution mass in the sixth month; the Tanabata (eve of
the seventh) on the seventh of the seventh month; the day of
chrysanthemum flowers and the festival of Inoko late in the fall, not to
mention festivals of several local deities. The vital importance of
these holidays to us children centered in the dainties and delicacies
with which our mothers and sisters served us then and not often at
ordinary times. We enjoy boiled red beans and rice on the second of
February; rice-flour cakes wrapped in the leaves of a species of oak
called kashiwa on the fifth of May; rice-flour cakes daubed with the an
on the day of the Buddhistic ceremony of ablution; roast and boiled
chestnuts and rice and chestnuts on the ninth of September; and the saké
on almost all occasions, but with a spray of peach blossom inserted in
the bottle on the third of March, and a bunch of chrysanthemum flowers
on the chrysanthemum day.

In Tanabata and Inoko the boys of the town used to club together on
payment of a small fee, the biggest among them presiding over their
affairs by common consent. Our first work is to canvass such houses in
consecutive order as have large front rooms, soliciting their owners to
loan us the room for a few days for a temporary club-house, free of
charge. And when we are given by a generous man the use of his house,
thither we convey our common property. The property comprises the scroll
gods, a holy mirror, the golden gohĕi (a sacred brass ornament), a pair
of pewter saké bottles, splendid curtains, a large number of the sambo
(offering stand of white wood, sometimes varnished), countless Japanese
lanterns, timber and board ready to be put together for an altar looking
like a staircase, Chinese crimson felt carpets, several drums and
certain kinds of bells. These things have been handed down to us by
successive generations of boys, repaired each year and additions made by
donations or by "chipping in," and all nicely packed in chests, on the
sides and covers of which we read the names of some that have died, and
of others that are yet living though well-nigh to the grave. The boys
take good care of the old heirlooms, that they may transmit them without
injury to their successors. The older boys take the things out and set
up a place of worship; on the days of festivity the members come to the
headquarters with their lunch-boxes well stocked. We assemble not to
worship really, you might as well understand now, but to have a good
time. Fruits and cakes have been taken in by the managers from the
wholesale merchants, and are piled up in pyramids on the samboes upon
the steps of the altar; they are to be divided equally among the
stockholders afterwards. The lanterns are lighted brilliantly at night;
a special lantern is hoisted on a very high pole planted before the
house to signify our quarters.

At Tanabata we march through the streets with green bamboo trees,
rending the air with certain shouts and beating the instruments, and
upon meeting the boys of other streets have a scuffle. The scene is a
confusion of bamboos and bits of rainbow-colored papers which are tied
plentifully to the branches. After a hot contest we come home to the
club, eat a hearty lunch and celebrate the incidents of our victory. The
day after the festival we take our bamboos to the sea and cast them off
to be drifted away by the waves and finally up to the Heavenly Stream or
the Milky Way, where the gods may read our wishes written on the
rainbow-colored papers. On this day everybody goes swimming, because the
sea-monkey is handcuffed that can lengthen one arm enormously at the
expense of the other, and draws in and drowns people, especially boys
who go swimming in opposition to their mothers' remonstrance.

At Inoko we bring forth our gorin. A gorin is a spherical stone, usually
granite, with an iron belt loose in a groove around the great
circumference; the belt has many small rings through it. A club of boys
possesses five to ten gorins of various sizes. To the rings are attached
ropes, and calling at the families to which came male offspring during
the year, the boys utter words of blessing and pound the ground by
pulling up and down the solid stone. After a series of thumps a
depression is left behind. We hold gorin collisions with neighboring
powers. A challenge is sent to other clubs to meet us with their best
gorin on neutral ground at such a time, that we may know which is
stronger. The war gorin is equipped for the contest with a network of
ropes, exposing a portion of the surface that shall deal the blow; the
leading boys guide it in the battle by several strong ropes. Generally
in the collision more noise is heard than the clash; however, not rarely
the contest is kept up until one or the other splits through the core,
and the opposition is so strong as to cause older people to interfere in
the affair, because it infallibly entails unpleasant feeling between the
parties and a scrimmage at all times. I call to mind that our club used
to plume itself upon the strength and durability of its gorins; no, not
one received so much as a crack, albeit many and severe were the tests
to which they had been subjected.

Besides the gorin sports, at Inoko we get up wrestling matches. On the
yard of the club-house we build a circular bank of clay and fill the
inside with sand; in this all the members contend in practice. Small as
I was, I did not like to be thought out of fashion, and to pay for my
uncalled-for prowess suffered from sores and bruises. In a body we visit
the headquarters of the other clubs and negotiate the matches, which
take place immediately on the spot in full view of both parties.

The ceremony of ablution is chiefly observed by Shinto priests. (Shinto
is the native faith, holding up the sun for the center figure of worship
and eight millions of spirits besides.) The way they observe it in my
province consists in setting up in the temple-yard three large hoops of
the sasaki tree (sacred to Shintoism) and inviting the people to pass
through them. The hoops are supposed to take up the people's sins and
transgressions, leaving them clean and fit for the further grace of the
gods. Thus loaded with the earthly corruptions and loathsome pollutions
of man, the round bands of the fresh, green trees, thickly stuck with
zigzag white paper hangings, at the end of the day are taken to running
water and washed thoroughly or more commonly committed to the sea.

At about the same time Buddhist priests hold mass for dead sinners. The
different sects have different notions. My family were formerly
parishioners to a temple of the Hokké sect; therefore. I best remember
the mass as observed by that particular denomination. The church society
and its officers meet in the vestry to take action in the preparation of
floating lanterns. These are hasty, rude contrivances which the active
of the parishioners volunteer in getting up; it does not require much
skill in carpentry to make them, but it takes time to make so many. Look
at one: an odd piece of board for the bottom, two split bamboos bent and
stuck on it like the handle of a basket one across the other, and a hood
of paper glued round the whole; a nail in the center holds a penny
candle. All very inartistic indeed, as befits their use, as we shall see

On the mass day all about the temple are strung up an untold number of
the lanterns. Now, devout old folks and young come in streams all day to
put up prayers for their beloved dead, and those so inclined buy the
lanterns for the purpose of lighting the way for the departed. The goods
when paid for are handed over by the presiding elders, who have charge
of the sale, to the priest and assistant priests; they write sûtra
verses on them and order them to be left before the altar. If business
is good, by the latter part of the evening the entire stock is disposed
of; the till rattles with money, and the priests are in good cheer. Then
follows a great chanting and beating of drums, and after prayers have
been said once for all, the lanterns are put on board several boats and
the drums and cymbals also carried to enliven the next scene; the
priests and committee walk down to the shore slowly. Things being placed
aright, out they pull on the heaving sea--the incoming tide having been
looked to beforehand, so that at high tide the lighted lanterns may be
set afloat and go drifting at their will with the falling flood.

Ah, they are gone, the skiffs! We discern them no more. I want you to
understand that it is a dark night, otherwise my picture isn't so good,
although in point of fact the moon does often chance to look up on the
occasion. And the moonlight on the swelling tide is not very bad, I
acknowledge, yet, you see, I wish to preserve the grand effect of "fire
and darkness." So, pray, gentle reader, indulge my fancy this time; I
won't always ask this. Well, it's a dark night then: as the boats slip
out of our sight we can hear the lapping noise that comes of their
swaying from side to side caused by the queer Japanese mode of sculling.
Ere long we cease to hear it; the vessels are well out in the obscurity.
Do we not see anything of them? Not quite. The lights they convey show
us their whereabouts. We are all this while on shore, mind you. The
onset of water seems to take uncommon delight in driving us up,
chuckling to itself along the beach, until at last we are crowded into a
narrow strip of sand with the rest of the spectators. There! it's up to
the high-water-mark; we won't be annoyed any longer. Let's sit down.

While we watch, ten thousand points of light dot the expanse; no finer
illumination, I for one, ever expect to see on earth; and soon there
blazes out a great ruddy flame from the chief priest's boat amid the
confused echoes of prayers on all the vessels. That is the end of it,
friends; sit still and look on, if you choose,--many indeed do so--and
observe the lights recede and drift away, or die out. Of these some
never return and are believed to have gone where they were bidden,
others and a majority, to be frank with you, are washed ashore next
morning shattered into fragments.


It is wonderful how the memory brings up, as I write, ten thousand
irrelevant trivialities,--delightful to me, nevertheless,--many of which
have no claim to be placed here, except that they are more or less
related to the temple. Verily, the faculty of memory is a godsent gift,
a boon of solitary hours.

Our temple was the nearest to the sea of the row on Temple street, which
I referred to in the earlier portion of this sketch. The head-priest was
an amiable, gentle person, very learned they say, though giving no
indication of being such. He did his duty, to be sure, in sermons, but
never cared much to distinguish himself in eloquence; he would rather
read or entertain visitors in the quiet of his tastefully upholstered
zashiki (guest room), sipping the excellent Uji tea and viewing the
artistic beds of chrysanthemum laid out with great formality. He
cultivated exquisite flowers; the slender stems bent under the large
flaunting heads, and the priest-gardener took pity and provided them
with firm props; he was as attached to them as a father to his children.
If a storm by night passed over them and he discovered them in the
morning sagged, matted, and drenched with rain, his compassion knew no

It must be confessed that at times his fine taste shaded into
squeamishness; he could not help being captious about his servitor's
slipshod management of business, and yet extremely averse was he to
giving his own opinion utterance, always turning aside in silent
disgust. He suffered little children, however, nay, loved them; he took
quite a fancy to me, calling me pet names, gladdening me on my visits
with goodies and a bunch of chrysanthemum flowers from his garden, and
always sending me home safely by a boy-priest. This last, found
vegetating in almost every temple, is a young lad of poor parentage sent
thither to be taken care of out of charity. The specimen I found here
was a poor boy, hence happy; he was sure of dinner now and more full of
fun than well became his cloth.

Once he frightened me half to death. It happened in this way: I
accompanied some one of my relatives to our family burying ground in the
temple yard, on the eve of the annual memorial day for the dead, when
every family sends a delegate to the tombs and invites the spirits home.
The delegate delivers the oral message with profound respect and
formality, bowing low to the ground before the ancestral tombstones as
in an august presence. Then he turns about and asks the invisible to get
on his back, secures him with both hands behind and gravely walks
homeward. At home, in the yard on a bed of sand taken from the sea-shore
a fire is built of flax stems, according to religious custom. This is
called the "reception fire." The spirits are next requested to alight
carefully at the high home altar so as not to bruise their shanks. In
Japan each house has a sacred closet wherein are enshrined images,
ancestral tablets, charms and amulets, where cake and oranges, flowers
and incense are offered, and before which the family commemorate the
days of their ancestors' death. This elevated place is called the
"Buddha's shelf." Let me remark here that the Eastern people are
regardful of their dead; they do not slight them because they are dead.
Revile as you may and wrongly call it "ancestor worship," the spirit
that prompts the act is entirely praiseworthy. Besides the closet, the
tops of cabinet, cupboard and similar pieces of household furniture are
turned into the depositories of Shinto relics and paper gods. These
"gods' shelves" are, too, carefully served with such offerings as salt
fish, saké, and light in the evening.

But I am wandering from the main narrative; my talk too often gallops
into minor tracks unbridled. As I commenced the narration, I was
stooping before the resting places of my grandfather (of whose quiet
departure from our hearth, by the bye, I haven't told you), of my
grandmother and of my sister who passed on before I had ever thought of
appearing. Regarding the last two relatives of mine, having never seen
them in life, I was in the habit of asking a heap of questions in the
tiresome inquisitiveness of children. My mother deigned to tell me,
especially in a reminiscent mood, a great deal concerning them, without
minding my sisters, who took occasion to upbraid me merrily on this, my
singular ignorance, in face of my other positive assertion that I had
witnessed my mother's wedding. Dear mamma's stories, interesting as they
are, touching as they do not a little on the pleasures, fashions and
general social regime of Old Japan, I feel obliged to omit. For the
present, I must go on with my own story.

I was stooping, I say, before the tombs, all about being silent and
gloomy; my young animated imagination dwelling not on my grandfather's
goodness but on old wives' awful tales of graveyards and dark nights,
pale apparitions and grinning skeletons; and my whole being surcharged
with fear, requiring but the shrill wind to make my hair stand on end,
and ready to start at my own shadow, when suddenly there came a moan
from behind the adjoining slabs, and a moment later a ghost shot up with
a wild shriek. I drew back involuntarily and caught my breath, so did my
companion. Then the ghost shook its gaunt sides and burst out laughing
in ghoulish delight. We were taken aback, but soon rallied courage
sufficiently to peer at the merry spook. How provoking! The young priest
stood on one of the tombstones, with the broad sleeve of his monkish
habiliment over his face. He came down to us quickly, wearing a
mischievous smile, passed over the whole thing as a huge jest, putting
in a slight excuse for causing our undue alarm, and politely offered his
service in carrying the flowers and water-pail. His words and manners
smoothed away our ruffled temper and rendered a scolding impossible; a
few more hours made it look too slight to report to the head-priest. In
the main the young priest had the best of us; he earned what he liked
better than a good dinner,--some capital fun.

And in this connection, here comes bounding toward me in my remembrance
our pet dog Gem. I will relate how he came to be so closely associated
in my thought with the grave; it is a sad, good story. My young brother,
who had a boy's fondness for animal pets in an eminent degree, got him
from another boy whose dog had a litter of several puppies. When my
brother brought him home in his arms, Gem was but a mass of tender flesh
covered over with soft down; he had just been weaned; consequently by
night he yelped, and cried piteously for his mother, under the piazza
where my brother shielded him from the paternal eye. My father was not a
great lover of pets: the cat he could not bear for her soft-voiced,
velvet-pawed deceitfulness; the dog for his belligerent, deep-mouthed
barks at strangers and for fear of his becoming mad in summer time; and
the canary bird--poor thing--it was too bad that people should deprive
it of its native freedom.

We had our doubts, therefore, how Gem and papa were to get along.
However, we were not without a ray of hope that in time they would come
to be good friends, for papa had once shown that he did not altogether
lack the love of dumb animals. It was when I began to love the little
white and spotted mice penned in a box with a glass front and a wheel
within. My father suffered them to be kept in the house out of his love
for me; gradually his curiosity was awakened to take a look
occasionally at what his son exhibited such absorbing interest in; next
he became a keen admirer of my little revelers,--their gambols, their
assiduous turning of the wheel, their cunning way of holding rice
grains, and their house-keeping in a wad of cotton in the drawer
beneath, to which they could descend by a hole in the floor of the box.
After a while I grew negligent about them, and then it was my father who
fed them and took care of them.

On the whole, he bade fair to come to a better understanding with our
precious Gem. Nevertheless, Gem--or rather my young brother--had trouble
with him during his canine minority. When the puppy had grown big, true
to our prophecy, my father began to show his just appreciation of him.
Gem would sit beside him on his hind legs at meal times and watch
intently the movements of the chopsticks, with his head inclined on one
side one moment and on the other the next, letting out an occasional
faint guttural cooing by way of imploring a morsel. Should there haply
fall from the table an unexpected gift, say a sardine's head, Gem with
the utmost alacrity would pick it up and occupy himself for a few
minutes, then, licking his chops and wagging his tail, he would turn up
to my father a gaze at once thankful for what was given and hopeful for
more. Little Gem took a fancy to grandpa, and when the children were
away at school, he would pay him a visit and pitpat into his room
unceremoniously, like one of the grandchildren, when the old gentleman
was dozing over the past at the kotatsu (fire-place). This Gem of ours
had an idea that it was rude to surprise one in his meditation, and
thought it proper to stop short a few yards from grandpa and utter one
of his gutturals, as much as to say, "How do you do, grandpa?" Whereat
our good, old grandpa was obliged to break off to receive his fourfooted
visitor cordially.

A time came when grandpa was no more, and a perfect stillness settled on
our home. Dear little Gem could ill comprehend what all the house meant
and went about as happily and innocently as before: he had now his
playmates all day at home. His conduct caused us to think how glad we
should be to know no grief, and to such a place we felt sure must our
grandpa have gone. Early every morning for the first week or two
somebody from the house repaired to the church-yard to see that things
were right and to put up prayers; once or twice Gem was taken along for
company, and since then he counted it his duty to attend us to the
temple. My father and I would get up some morning on this errand, and no
sooner had we appeared at the gate than Gem uncurled from his
comfortable sleeping posture, rose and shook his hair and looked his "I
am ready." He generally paced before us, but frequently tarried behind
to salute his dog-neighbor with a good morning. Sometimes he would
course sportively away from our sight; we whistled loud without any
response; but knowing he could find his way back, we gave up the search
and hastened to the temple. Upon our arrival, before grandpa's stone
sat a little dog looking out on the alert. Gem received us in the
capacity of host and conducted us to the grave, saying as plainly as
ever dog said, "Don't you see? I know the way."

One morning we rose to find our Gem gone. Inquiries revealed him lying
at a short distance from the gate, with his fur dyed in his own
life-blood. He was dead! Whether a prowling, ferocious animal had fallen
on him in the night, or a cruel human brute had inflicted the wounds
without just cause, we could not ascertain. My young brother took Gem's
cruel death to heart; my father, too, felt deeply the sad fate of the
now-to-him priceless pet. And here naturally ends the story of our dog.

In our temple, as well as in those of all other denominations, the
birthday of the great common teacher Shaka (Gautama) is observed. It
falls on the eighth, I think, of April; the observance is simple and
quiet except for the distribution of ubuyu. In the East, when a child is
born the midwife immediately plunges it in a tub of warm water. This
water is called ubuyu or first bath. On the eighth of April, in every
temple a bronze basin is placed before the altar; in the center of the
basin stands a bronze image of the Infant Shaka; his attitude is much
like that of the Boy Christ pictured in the illustrated Bibles and the
Sunday-school cards as teaching a group of the scribes. The myth relates
a marvelous account of his rising upright in the bath-tub and telling
his astonished parents and old midwife whence he came, pointing to
heaven, and what his mission on earth was. His exact words are recorded
in the Buddhist's scriptures.

The bronze vessel is filled with a decoction of a certain dried herb
whose taste resembles liquorice. The drink is popularly known as the
"sweet tea." The worshiper pours the liquid over the idol with a small
dipper and then sips a little of the same, mumbling some devotional

The excitement of the day consists in the children's running to the
temples, during the early part of the morning, with bottles for the
sweet tea or the ubuyu, as it is called in this instance. In the temple
kitchen the cook has boiled gallons and gallons of it, and from the dawn
that functionary is prepared for the hubbub and the hard task of
dispensing it expeditiously to the throng. As the holiday comes in the
same season of the year as Easter, the floral decoration of the temples
are beautiful; the bronze roof above the basin and image is always
artistically covered over with a quantity of a native flower named
gengé, which the botanist may classify under the genus _Trifolium_, if I
may trust my early observation. The flowers literally color the fields
pink in the spring.


In describing a distant view of Imabari I made mention of a sea-god's
shrine jutting out into the sea: the festival of that god as well as of
one situated on the harbor and of another on the bank of a river takes
place in the summer. The people go worshiping in the evening. A myriad
of lights twinkle in the air and are reflected on the water below;
refreshment stands line the approaches to the shrine, and their
vociferous proprietors assert their articles to be the very best; the
crackers go off like pop-corn and scintillating fireworks dart upward
now here, now there and everywhere, ending in resplendent showers of
sparks; drums are beating incessantly; the people jostle each other in
getting on and off the steps of the shrine; along the beach are seated a
multitude cooling in the breeze, the children amusing themselves by
digging pits in the sand and making ducks and drakes upon the water.
These are the salient features of the midsummer nights' festivities. The
last but not the least attraction is the reviving breeze along the
shore; the worshipers generally go through the offering of pennies,
clapping of hands, bowing and murmuring of prescribed, short prayers as
hastily as practicable, that they may have more time on the beach.

On the fifteenth of August a great festival takes place every year in my
native town. It is in honor of a patron deity. Everybody is up with the
dawn, children especially are up ever so early in the morning. Paper
lanterns hoisted high in the air on long bamboo sticks are moving toward
the shrine. It is yet dark, but the people forget sleepiness in the
bracing air of the daybreak and in the expected joy. Every store is
cleared of its merchandise and has a temporary home-shrine erected, the
god being a scroll with the deity's name written on it. Two earthen
bottles of saké are invariably offered.

When the day is fully come, the procession starts from the permanent
abode of the gods. A huge drum comes foremost, then a number of men in
red masks with peaked noses, representing fabulous servants of the gods.
Then come two portable shrines built like a sedan chair, and the rear is
brought up by yagura-daiko. This last is a large frame-work of varnished
wood carried by men. On the top of it a large bass-drum is placed, and
with four boys around it. The boys are dressed in fancy costumes and
beat time for the songs of the men below. The men are all dressed in
white and seem at first to keep the presence of their gods in mind; but
soon they get drunk, being treated with wine in every house, and spatter
their garments with mud.

As the shrines pass, the men get into the houses, seize the earthen
bottles of saké and pour the contents over them. These men also get
tipsy and treat the beautiful shrines rudely, turning them wildly and
throwing them hard on the ground; so that, at the end of the day, there
is nothing left of them but their trunks. This rude usage became an
established custom, and the portable shrines are built very strong.

A few days previous to the festival, boys prepare for it by constructing
jumonji. Two slender elastic timbers are tied together in the form of a
cross; one boy mounts it, and his comrades lift him up by applying their
shoulders to the four ends. They march up and down the streets, singing
festal songs, and challenge boys of other streets to come forth and have
a "rush."

Not far from my native town there stands a high peak called
Stone-hammer. It is customary for older boys to scale the lofty mountain
and pay tribute to the deity on the top of it. They get somebody who has
been there before for their leader. The preparation for the holy
hazardous journey is rigorous. They bathe in cold water for months
previously, live on plain diet, and pass the time in prayers and
penances. Were their hearts and bodies unclean, it is reported that, on
their ascent to the shrine, the gods' messengers--creatures half man,
half eagle--would grasp them by the hair and fly away among the clouds
and often kill them by letting them fall upon the crags and down into
the valleys.

When a set of the hardy youths start out for the venturesome pilgrimage,
they are dressed in white cotton clothes, shod with straw sandals, and
have their long hair thoroughly washed and hanging loose. Each carries a
pole with a tablet nailed on one end, on which is written the name of
the mountain god. They shout a short prayer in unison, blowing a horn at
intervals. My elder brother who went with one of these bands told me
that the journey is very toilsome and dangerous. There are three chains
to help in climbing three perpendicular heights. At times he was above
the clouds, heard the peals of thunder beneath his feet and felt
extremely cold. The leader sometimes holds a wayward youth on the verge
of a precipice by way of discipline and demands whether he will reform
or whether his body shall be cast into the gorge below.

The pilgrims bring home for souvenirs the leaves and branches of sacred
trees and distribute them among their friends and relatives. The friends
and relatives, for their part, wait for them at the outskirts of the
town. At an appointed hour the spreads are awaiting the weary
worshipers. Little brothers and sisters strain their ears to catch the
faintest echoes of the horns and shouts. When the youthful travelers are
back and fully established again in their homes, marvelous are the
stories that they deal out to their friends.

I have been consuming a good deal of time and space in describing
amusements and holidays; it is high time to revert to studies. I had
been going to school all this time. The spirit of rivalry at school was
fostered to such an extent that we felt obliged to go to the teachers in
the evenings for private instruction. The teacher sits with a small, low
table before and an andon beside him. The andon is the native lamp,
cylindrical in shape, perhaps five feet in height and a foot in
diameter; the frame is made of light wood, and rice-paper is pasted
round it. In the inside is suspended a brass saucer, sometimes swinging
from a cross-piece at the top and sometimes resting on a cross-bar in
the middle; the vessel holds the rush-wick and vegetable oil extracted
from the seed of a _Crucifer_. The andon gives but feeble light and is
now entirely displaced by the kerosene lamp. In lighting a lamp, prior
to the importation of matches, we struck sparks with flint and steel on
a material inflammable as gun cotton, called nikusa, and from it secured
light with sulphur-tipped shavings called tsukegi (lighting-chips).

Close to the andon the pupils, one at a time, in the order of their
arrival, bring their books and sit _vis-à-vis_ with the teacher. The
latter first hears the pupil read the last lesson and then, after it has
been thoroughly reviewed, reads for him the next lesson. He does it
looking at the pupil's book from the top; the learner follows him aloud,
pointing out every word he reads with a stick. This is repeated until
the scholar has nearly learned the text. The scholar then returns home
to go over the lesson by himself. In this manner I have torn my Japanese
and Chinese authors, just as an American boy blots his Cæsar and Virgil;
and certain passages come up even now as spontaneously as the
translation of "_Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres_."

In school an examination was held at the end of each month; how hard we
used to work for it! It decided one's standing in class, and all through
the following month he had to remain in a given seat. Everybody wished
to be at the head and that bred strong emulation. The night before the
examination I would study and read aloud all the evening; as it became
late my eyelids tended to droop and my voice to falter; my father would
bid me not to be over-anxious and retire. The next morning he would wake
me early in compliance with my request, and light me a lamp to study by.
It was a bad habit, I grant; but if I work half as conscientiously now
as I did then I shall be the wiser for it.

My class was composed of about six members; we met in each other's
houses outside of school hours to go over our reviews together. One of
the boys was a carpenter's son and possessed with a mechanical craze.
Whenever we gathered in his house he would offer, unsolicited, to
explain and exhibit a gimcrack he had made with his father's tools, and
we did scarcely any studying. Another of our schoolmates was a farmer's
son, a big shame-faced lad sent to our beloved master's to be educated
in the city; he boarded with him. Country-fellow as we called him, he
acquired his preceptor's hand in writing so well that nobody in school
chose to pick a quarrel with him on the question of brush handling. But
no mortal man is without a peccadillo--our boy was always observed to be
moving his jaws and chewing more candies than were good for him. The
third was a staid druggist's son, sedate as his father and as particular
in trifling matters; he was "awfully smart," as the phrase is, in his
studies, having pursued them conscientiously; and besides, he belonged
as a matter of course to the category of "good boys." I used to sleep
with him in his house sometimes and study arithmetic with him.

Here parenthetically I must describe the Japanese bed. It is a very
simple affair: a thick quilt is taken out of a closet and spread
directly on the floor; you lie down on it and pull another quilt over
yourself, and you have the bed. There is no bedstead; therefore, fleas
have a picnic at your expense if the room is not well swept. In the
morning you fold the quilts and put them back in the closet, and space
is given for the day. Our pillow is no comfort to a weary head, it being
simply a hard block of wood; often it is a box with a drawer at the end.
The use of this kind of pillow or support was formerly imperative for
the men and is still to the women for the protection of the head-dress
from ruin and the bedclothes from the bandoline. The sterner sex of our
population now-a-days crop their hair after the fashion of their
European brothers, and have in great part given up the wooden block for
a soft pillow.

My schooling was continued for some time with satisfactory results, and
I advanced grade after grade well-nigh to the end of the common school
instruction, when my father saw fit to remove me and put me in a store
so that I could be a credit to myself as a business-man's son. I was an
apprentice in two trades at different times and yet unsettled in mind
and anxious to go back to school. I might go on telling all about the
period of my apprenticeship, and things I learned and people I observed
during that time: how I finally carried the day and returned to my
studies; how I studied Chinese and how I struck out in English; how I
went to Kioto and struggled through five years' academic training; and
how a few years ago I borrowed money and sailed for America. But that
would be writing a real autobiography, which would be disagreeable to me
as well as distasteful to the reader. In the story told so far I ought
to have, perhaps, prudently suppressed everything personal and brought
forward only those experiences that the generality of Japanese boys are
destined to undergo. Neither have I exhausted by any means the incidents
of my own childhood; at this moment I am conscious of things of more
importance than those set down on the foregoing pages welling up in the
fountain of memory. But I have written enough to try the patience of my
indulgent reader, and I myself have grown weary of my own performance;
it is therefore excusable, I hope, to draw this narrative abruptly to an

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Japanese Boy" ***

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