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Title: Samurai Trails - A Chronicle of Wanderings on the Japanese High Road
Author: Kirtland, Lucian Swift
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Transcriber’s Notes:

Text enclosed by underscores is in italics (_italics_).

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Additional Transcriber’s Notes are at the end.

       *       *       *       *       *

SAMURAI TRAILS

       *       *       *       *       *

[Illustration: FOREIGNERS]



SAMURAI TRAILS

  _A Chronicle of Wanderings on the Japanese High Road_

  BY LUCIAN SWIFT KIRTLAND

  ILLUSTRATED

  [Illustration]

  NEW YORK
  GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY

       *       *       *       *       *

COPYRIGHT, 1918, BY GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY

COPYRIGHT, 1918, BY HARPER & BROTHER

PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

       *       *       *       *       *

TO H. W. J.



FOREWORD FROM THE ALHAMBRA TO KYOTO


It was spring and it was Spain. Sunset brought the white-haired
custodian of the Court of the Lions to the balcony overhanging my
fountain. His blue coat bespoke officialdom but his Andalusian lisp
veiled this suggestion of compulsion. His wishes for my evening’s
happiness, nevertheless, were to be interpreted as a request for my
going. The Alhambra had to be locked up for the night.

I was lying outstretched on the stones of Lindaroxa’s Court with my
head against a pillar. The last light of the April sun had scaled the
walls and was losing itself among the top-most bobbing oranges of
Lindaroxa’s tree. To dream there must be to have one’s dreams come
true, some inheritance from Moorish alchemy.

Despite the setting, I was dreaming nothing of the Alhambra, not even
of Lindaroxa. I was thinking of a friend of irresponsible imagination
but of otherwise responsibility. I was wondering where he could be. On
the previous summer we had walked the highroads of England and I had
found him a most satisfying disputatious companion of enquiring mind.
We had talked somewhat of a similar wandering in Japan, a vagabondage
free from cicerones and away from the show places, but although we had
treated this variety of imagining with due respect, we had never an
idea of transmuting it into action.

The Alhambra had to be locked up for the night. The custodian bowed
low, and I bowed low, in unhurried obligation to dignity, and I walked
away to my inn. There I found a cablegram from America. It read:

“Can meet you Kyoto June two months’ walking.”

It was signed by the other dreamer of the Two-Sworded Trails.

I cabled back, “yes.” The message gone, I awoke to the reality of time
and space. All Europe, Siberia, Manchuria, and Korea spread out their
distances on the map and were lying between me and the keeping of my
promise.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was in the darkness of midnight and it was raining when I stepped
off the express to the Kyoto platform. For a month the world had been
revolving giddily under railway carriage succeeding railway carriage
until it seemed that the changing peoples outside the car windows could
be taking on their ceaseless variety only through some illusion within
my own eyes.

I stood for a while in the shelter of the overhanging, dripping roof
of the Kyoto station awaiting some providential development, but
probably the local god of wayfarers did not judge my plight worry of
special interposition. Finally I found a drenched youth in a stupor of
sleep between the shafts of his ’ricksha. His dreams were evidently
depressing, for he awoke with appreciation for the escape. We bent
over his paper lantern and at last coaxed a spurt of flame from a box
of unspeakable matches. (The government decrees that matches must be
given away and not sold by the tobacconists. Japan’s spirit of the art
of giving should not be judged by this item. The generosity is in the
acceptance of the matches.) I climbed into the ’ricksha and stowed
myself away under the hood, naming the inn which had been appointed
by cablegram for the meeting place. The boy pattered along in his
straw sandals at full speed through the mist, shouting hoarsely at the
corners. At last he dug his heels into the pebbles and stopped, and
pounded at the inn door until someone came and slid back the bolts.

Yes, the clerk answered my question, a guest with the name of Owre had
arrived that day at noon and had sat up for me until midnight. He had
left word that I should be taken to his room. Thus I was led through
dark halls until we came to the door. We pushed it open and called into
the darkness. Back came a welcome--somewhat sleepy. The clerk struck a
match and I discovered my vagabond companion crawling out from under
the mosquito netting of his four-poster. Between us we had covered
twenty thousand miles for that handshake.

“It’s the moment to be highly dramatic,” he said with an eloquent
flourish of his pajam’d arm, and he sent the clerk for a bottle of
native beer. It came, warm and of infinite foam, but we managed to find
a few drops of liquid at the bottom with which to drink a toast. The
toast was to “The Road.”



CONTENTS


  CHAPTER                                       PAGE

     I. The Quest for O-Hori-San                  19

    II. The Ancient Tokaido                       26

   III. “I Have Eaten of the Furnace of Hades”    56

    IV. The Miles of the Rice Plains              72

     V. The Ancient Nakescendo                   104

    VI. The Adventure of the Bottle Inn          127

   VII. The Ideals of a Samurai                  157

  VIII. Many Queries                             173

    XI. The Inn at Kama-Suwa                     188

     X. The Guest of the Other Tower Room        200

    XI. Antiques, Temples, and Teaching Charm    212

   XII. Tsuro-Matsu and Hisu-Matsu               223

  XIII. A Log of Incidents                       243

   XIV. Concerning Inn Maids and Also the Elixir
          of Life                                263

    XV. The End of the Trail                     271

   XVI. Beach Combers                            287



ILLUSTRATIONS


  “Foreigners”                         _Frontispiece_

                                                 PAGE

  Kyoto Back Streets                               28

  The First Rest Spot of the Second Day            48

  The Kori (Ice) Flag of the “Adventure”           84

  We Came Upon a Wistful Eyed, Timid Fairy of
     the Mountains                                128

  “In the Fourteenth Year of My Youth I Took
     the Vow that My Life Should Be Lived in
     Honouring the Holy Images of Buddha”         142

  We Decided to Take the Most Attractive Turn,
     Right or Wrong                               168

  Is it Idolatrous to Worship Fuji?               184

  The Boys Must Be Taught Loyalty; the Daughters
     of the Empire Must Be Taught Grace           226

  We Bought Paper Umbrellas                       248

  O-Shio-San in the Bosen-ka Inn Garden           278

  Slowly the Harbour of Yokohama Was Curtained
     and Disappeared Behind a Brightly Glistening
     Mist                                         290

       *       *       *       *       *

SAMURAI TRAILS

       *       *       *       *       *

SAMURAI TRAILS



I THE QUEST FOR O-HORI-SAN


After our melodramatic toast of the night before it would have
been only orthodox to have said good-bye to our Occidental inn at
sunrise and to have sought the road. But we had a call to make. The
fulfilling of the obligation proved to be momentous. There is one
never-to-be-broken rule for the foreigner in the Orient: He must
consider himself always to be of extreme magnitude in the perspective,
and that any action which concerns himself is momentous. If Asia had
possessed this supreme self-concern, she might to-day be playing
political chess with colonies in Europe. The details of our call are
thus set down in faithful sequence.

“If ever you come to Japan, be sure to look me up.” This had been the
farewell of Kenjiro Hori when he said good-bye to his university days
in America. Hori’s affection for America had had the vigour which
marks the vitality of Japanese loyalty. He had always singled out our
better qualities with gratifying disregard for opposites.

We were, however, without an address except that we thought he might
be in Kobe; but it seemed unreasonable that after travelling all the
way to the Antipodes we should then be baulked by a mere detail. In the
faith of this logic we took an early train to Kobe, and the first sign
that we saw read: “Information Bureau for Foreigners.”

The man in uniform peering out of the box window was so smiling and
so evidently desirous of being helpful that whether we had needed
information or not, it would have been exceedingly discourteous not
to have asked some question. We inquired the address of Dr. Kenjiro
Hori. The information dispenser thumbed all his heap of directories.
He appeared to be unravelling his thread by a most intricate system of
cross reference. Then he looked at us with another smile.

“Did you find it?” we asked.

“I find no address,” said he, “but I tell ’ricksha boys take you. Ah,
so!”

Such a challenge was impossible to refuse. We got into the ’rickshas
and the men bent their necks and jerked the wheels into motion with
strange disregard for any bee-line direction to any particular place.
It appeared to be a most casual choice whether we took one corner or
another. This rambling went on for some time. Suddenly they held back
on the shafts and said: “Here!” We were at the door of a wholesale
importing house. No one within had ever heard of O-Hori-san. When we
came back to the street with this information the coolies seemed not at
all surprised. They shrugged their shoulders at our mild expostulation
as if implying, “Of course, if he isn’t here he must be some other
place.”

After another panting dash they stopped and said: “Here!” It was
obvious without inquiring that Hori could not be in that shallow,
open-fronted shop. “Very well,” the shoulders answered us and on we
went. We stopped for another time with the now familiar “Here!” We had
traversed half Kobe. Our futile questions seemed to have nothing to do
with any next step. Strangely, instead of having lost our faith it had
been growing that by some system the coolies were following the quest.
At this stop, when we looked inside the entrance, there was the name
of Dr. Kenjiro Hori on a brass plate. We walked up the stairs and rang
a bell and inquired for Dr. Hori of the boy who came.

We asked him to tell O-Hori-san that O-Owre-san and O-Kirt-land-san
would like to see him. Of all arrangements of consonants (w’s, r’s,
k’s, and l’s) to harass the Japanese tongue, our two names stand in
the first group of the first list of impossibles. We could overhear
the distressed boy’s struggle with “O-Owre-san.” I was impressed that
from that instant Alfred Owre became “O-Owre-san.” It was a secular
confirmation too positive to be gainsaid.

Small wonder then that Hori had not the slightest idea who was waiting
at the door; but his surprise, when he appeared, was so smoothed out
and repressed in his formal _samurai_ welcome that we were tempted into
moody thinking that through some psychosis the frightful slaughter of
our names had destroyed his remembrance of our rightful personalities.

Friends appeared and were introduced with ceremonial formalism. We sat
in a circle and sipped iced mineral water. Hori inquired politely of
our plans and then sat back in silence behind his thick spectacles. The
icy temperature of the mineral water was the temperature of the verve
of the conversation. The day itself was rather hot; a damp, depressing
heat. I tried to fan off the flies which stuck tenaciously with sharp,
sudden buzzings.

Of all varieties of uncreative activity, the analyzing of moods brings
the least compensation--but that does not mean avoidance. During that
hour a disturbing remoteness to everyday reality rasped as if something
untoward had been conjured up. O-Owre-san and I talked, trying to
explain our plans. We repeated that we hadn’t any desire to visit the
great places, but our saying so sounded childish and impertinent,--very
tiresome. A dignified ancient kept forcing us into a position of
defence. To put us out of ease was his most remote wish, of course,
but he did insist with patriotic eloquence (suggesting a Californian
defending his climate) that the show places deserved to be paid
respect. We insisted that our tourist consciences had been appeased
long before, and that we now intended to run away from foreign hotels,
from the Honourable Society of Guides, from the Imperial Welcome
Society, from all cicerones, and from all centres where the customs and
conveniences of our Western variety of civilization are so cherishingly
catered to.

“But,” interrupted Hori, “you do not understand. You will find no one
prepared for foreigners. You will find not one word of English. You
must not do such a thing.” With Japan so earnestly providing the proper
accommodations at the proper places, it was not playing the game, so to
speak, to refuse.

When an argument of policy is between an amateur and an expert
(particularly so when between a foreigner and a native) the tyro can
afford to compromise on not one atom of his ignorance. If he concedes
at all he will be overwhelmed completely. We refused Hori’s warnings,
remaining impervious to any advice which did not further our plan of
action exactly as outlined.

“Very well, then,” said Hori, “I shall have to go with you.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Under the excitement of talking plans Hori slipped out of his
formalism, and became exactly his old-time self. Until the following
week, however, he would not be able to turn his solicitude into action.
He did not lose his cataclysm of positive doubt over entrusting the
Empire in our hands, but as there was no escape from leaving us to our
own devices for those days (and we made known a certain vanity in our
own resources) he at length agreed to meet us in Nagoya, and we planned
a route which would bring us there with our rendezvous at the European
hotel.



II THE ANCIENT TOKAIDO


It was the morning of our last sleep in _seiyo-jin_ beds. I dreamed
that I was still dreaming in Lindaroxa’s Court. O-Owre-san shook my
four-poster and begged me to consider the matter-of-factness of rolling
out from my mosquito netting and taking a bite of cold breakfast.
The sensuous breeze of the East, which comes for a brief hour with
the first light of the sun, was blowing the curtains back from the
window. I was willing to consider the getting up and the eating of the
breakfast and I was willing to call both endeavours matter-of-fact,
but the imagination that it was to be the first day on the highroad
belonged to no such mere negativity of living.

I began packing and was inspired to improvise a wonderful ballad. It
was concerned with the beginning of trails. O-Owre-san was busy and
was uninterested in my stanzas. He might very well have served genius
by taking them down. The all-inclusiveness embraced, I remember, a
master picture of cold dawn in the Rockies, with pack ponies snorting,
biting, and bucking; and I sang blithely of every other sort of first
morning start, embroidering the memories of their roaring language and
their unpackable dunnage. But in Japan one does not roar--or one roars
alone--and I had known just what was going into my rucksack for weeks.

Our route was to be the famed Tokaido, that ancient road running
between the great capitals of the West and the East, from Kyoto to
Tokyo. We were to find its first stretch at the turn to the left
when we should cross the bridge over the Kamo-Gawa. This river cuts
Kyoto between two long rows of houses built on piles and overhanging
its waters. In summer the stream is most domesticated and gives,
charitably, a large area of its dry bed as a pleasure ground for
_fêtes_, but when the snows are melting back in the hills in the days
of spring and blossoms, it becomes temperamental and the peasants say
that it has drunk unwisely of _saké_. It is then that the water winks
rakishly and splashes the tips of its waves at pretty _geishas_, who
come to scatter cherry petals on the current. But we saw only the
summer domesticity on our June morning. A school of children were
wading in the shallow current, fishing with nets. Their _kimonos_ were
tied high above their sturdy fat legs. We leaned over the rail and
they squinted back into the sun at us and called out good-morning. Then
we stepped off the bridge and our boots were on the long road that
leads to Tokyo.

[Illustration: KYOTO BACK STREETS]

Hokusai has pictured the Tokaido in his prints--the villages and the
mountains, the plains and the sea, the peasants and the pilgrims,
the _ronins_ and the priests. He did add his immortal overlay to the
tradition of the highway’s immortality, but even the great Hokusai
could only be an incident in the spread of its renown. The Tokaido’s
personality was no less haughty and arrogant long centuries before the
artist. It was built by the gods, as everyone knows, and not by man.
This may be the reason why it has fallen upon hard days in these modern
times, now that the race of man has assumed the task of relieving
the weary gods of so many of their duties. Axes have cut down the
cryptomerias for miles because the trees interfered with telegraph
wires; and furthermore, a new highway has now been built between the
capitals, a road of steel. For most of the way this new road follows
alongside the old, although sometimes departing in a straighter line.
The vaulting arrogance of all was when man took the name “The Tokaido”
for a railway. The trains pass by the ancient shrines of the wayside
with no tarrying for moments of contemplation. To-day a _samurai_, with
a newspaper under one arm and a lunch box under the other--his two
swords have been thus displaced--goes from Kyoto to Tokyo in as few
hours as were the days of his father’s journeying.

When the feudal emperors made this pilgrimage they were carried in
silk-hung, lacquered palanquins, and fierce-eyed, two-sworded retainers
cleared the streets and sealed the houses so that no prying eyes might
violate sancrosanctity. As for our pilgrimage we appreciated that
we were not sacred emperors and that we were coming along without
announcement. The inhabitants kept the sides of their houses open and
stared out upon us. We felt free, discreetly, to return their glances
from under the brims of our pith helmets, but occasionally this freedom
felt a panicky restraint within itself to keep eyes on the road.

In the legend of her famous ride, Lady Godiva, I believe, had the
houses sealed before her approach as did those deified Nipponese
emperors. We doubted, that early morning, whether the dwellers along
the Tokaido, if they had been told Lady Godiva’s tale, would have had
appreciation for her chastely wishing not to be seen, except as a
mystifying and whimsical eccentricity. To preserve a deity from mortal
eyes--yes, that might have been conceded as a conventional necessity;
but our surety grew after a short advance that if the fulfilling of
a similar vow by a Nipponese Lady Godiva should have its penance
depending merely upon the absence of attire, she could ride her palfrey
in the environs of Kyoto inconspicuously and without exciting comment.
At least such costuming would be in local fashion the first one or two
hours after sunrise.

A mile is a mile the first day, and we had had three or four miles in
the silence which comes from the feeling that one is really off.

“It’s a good morning for boiling out,” remarked O-Owre-san, by way of
breaking the spell.

We were in a narrow valley walking head on into the sun. It was an
excellent morning for boiling out.

I suggested that it was a good time to take the first rest. We found a
spot in a temple garden up a flight of exceedingly steep stone steps.
Usually to throw off one’s pack is to achieve the supreme emotional
satisfaction of laziness, but on this first essay we failed to relax.
It was perhaps partly that we had not yet boiled out our Western
restlessness among other poisons, but also there was to be counted in
as opposed to the quietude of the garden a most unrestful suggestion
contributed by a conspicuous sign written in English and nailed to a
post. It read:

“Foreigners Visiting Must Dismount Horses and Not Ride Into Temple.”

There are visitors in the East whose idea of sightseeing the heathen
gods might not preclude their riding their horses up onto the lap of
the bronze Buddha of Kamakura; but how the priest imagined that horses
were to be urged up those stone steps was a mystery veiled from our
understanding. It even created a pride in our alien blood that we were
a race thought to be capable of such magic.

The Tokaido winds through the city of Otsu. It enters proudly as the
chief street but escapes between rows of mean houses, becoming as
nearly a characterless lane as the Tokaido can anywhere be. The town is
the chief port of Lake Biwa of the famed eight views, and it is just
beyond this town that the upstart railway takes itself off, together
with its cindery smoke, on a straighter line than the Tokaido. The
highway bends to the south in a swinging circle and wanders along
for many a quiet mile before the two meet again. At the angle of the
parting of the old and the new we stopped at a rest house for a bottle
of _ramune_. This beverage is a carbonated, chemically compounded
lemonade. Its wide distribution does possess one merit. The bottles
may often be used as a sort of guide book. Almost every little shop
along the road has a few bottles cooling in a wooden bucket of water.
Thus, if a stranger is walking from one town to another and if, as is
inevitable, he has been unable to learn anything about distances along
the way, he may at least judge that he is approximately half through
his journey when the labels on the bottles change the address of their
origin to that of the town which he is seeking.

The _ramune_ which we had at Otsu was warm and the shop was stifling
and the flies were sticky. My clinging flannel shirt was unbuttoned, my
sleeves were rolled up, and I had tied a handkerchief about my head. We
carried our bottles out to a low bench to escape the baked odours of
the shop, and while we were sitting and sipping two Japanese gentlemen
came down the road, looking very cool under their sun umbrellas and
in their immaculate _kimonos_. Orthodox ambition in the temperate
zone aims for respectability, power, and property, but in the tropics
any temporary struggle, whether in war or trade, has as its lure the
reward of a long, aristocratic, cooling calm. Our Japanese gentlemen,
superiorly aloof to the perspiring world, appeared to be amusedly
observing the habits and customs of the foreigner as exhibited by
us. Their staring rankled. Until then I had been happy in the exact
condition of my perspiration. Their observance now chilled the beads
on my back. Any number of coolies could have come and stared, and
called us brother--for all of that--but we were being made to realize
suddenly that in the Orient the lower the blood temperature the higher
the caste mark. The parent germ of all convention in the world is “not
to lose face.” It has been most highly developed by the Chinese and the
Anglo-Saxon. For the Chinese it is personal, but it makes the renegade
Anglo-Saxon, despite himself, keep on trying to hold up his chin in a
blind call of blood loyalty to his own mob when facing the Asiatic.

We picked up our packs and started off. It was either to retire or
nihilistically to hurl the packs at their immaculateness. Just as we
began to move one of them said: “Do you speak English?”

The truth must be told that we recanted much of our wrath after the
friendliness of a half-hour’s roadside palaver. The meeting, however,
had a uniqueness of experience far beyond anything merely casual. It
allowed us the extraordinary record that we once did acquire local
information from a Japanese whose conception of daily time and highroad
space had some coincidence with our Western science of absolute fact.
Mr. Yoshida, he who had called after us, knew that corner of Japan and
he told us about it.

O-Owre-san says: “Certain Japanese inexplicabilities are extremely
ubiquitous.” He thus confines himself to six words. I cannot. I
require a paragraph. Despite the ubiquitous mystery, there is always
one certainty: Whatever may be the thought processes of the Japanese
concerning hours, distances, and direction, the inquirer may be sure of
this: the answer will not be concerned with answering the question. The
courteous answerer earnestly uses his judgment to determine what reply
is likely to be most pleasing. If you appear weary, or in a hurry, then
the distance to go is never very long. If you appear to be enjoying
your walk, then the distance is a long way. The village which has been
declared just around the bend of the road may be two _ri_ off. This is
the desire to please, inculcated by the _Bushido_ creed of honourable
conduct. It may be thought that such paradoxical solicitude becomes
extremely irritating, but rarely does it. The wish to help is real,
at least, and is not merely the carelessness of superficiality. The
peasant may tell you that you have but a step to go, but if you are
lost he will turn aside from his own path and show you the way, though
it be for miles.

We noted down Mr. Yoshida’s details concerning the inns and villages
which we should find along the way to distant Nagoya. Experience soon
told us to hold fast to his information, no matter the contradictions
that were agreeably offered in its stead.

We shouldered our packs and again were off. After a time O-Owre-san
said: “I met Mr. Yoshida once at a dinner in America.”

“Why didn’t you tell him so?” I gasped.

O-Owre-san seemed surprised at my amazement. As nearly as I could
determine he must have completely disassociated the metabolic Owre
sitting on the bench in front of the rest house, drinking warm
_ramune_, and the Owre of practical America. Perhaps the Japanese
believe in the “unfathomable mystery of the American mind.”

We had six hours through the hills ahead of us if we were to keep on
that night to Minakuchi. Our mentor had told us that one of the most
luxurious of all the country inns in Japan was sequestered there. To
hurry to any particular place was against our code, but this time it
seemed reasonable to make an honourable exception.

The sun went down behind the paddy fields. The muddy waters of the
terraces caught the gleaming yellows and reds, but our backs were
against this suffusion of colour. Into the darkness ahead the narrow
road led on and on. Says the essayist: “The artist should know hunger
and want.” But surely not the art patron. He cannot perform his
function of appreciation unless comfortably removed from immediate
pangs. If I were to be an enthusiast over that wonderful sunset--as
O-Owre-san persisted in suggesting--I needed food. It had been fifteen
hours since our cold breakfast and I thought of the inn with an ardency
of vision.

When we did see the town it sprang up abruptly out of the fields. All
along the streets the lights were shining through the paper walls.
We made inquiry for the _yado-ya_ and in a moment were surrounded by
volunteer guides. They are always diverting, the Japanese children,
running along on their wooden clogs and looking up into your face.

Maids without number came running to the entrance of that aristocratic
inn, and dropped to their knees. They bowed until their glossy black
hair touched the ground. The auguries all appeared auspicious. Then
came the mistress. There were many polite words, but no one took our
rucksacks and no one invited us in. Every second’s waiting for the bath
and dinner was very, very long.

My Japanese of twelve years before had been but a few words. Days on
the Trans-Siberian of grammar and dictionary study had not even brought
back that little, but now suddenly I began to understand what the
mistress of that inn was saying. I had no vanity in my understanding.
The understanding was that we were not wanted. I had been tired
and I had been hungry when we reached the door, but now I knew the
unutterable weariness of smelling a dinner which may not be eaten.

The crowd was amused, but it showed its amusement considerately and
with restraint. Nevertheless two _seiyo-jins_ had lost face. Apparently
the mistress did not wish such suspicious-looking foreigners, grimy,
dustless, and coatless, to remain even in the same town. She called two
’rickshas. She named the next village. She had this much magnanimity
that she purposed giving us the chance of orderly retreat.

I tried to continue smiling with dignity and affability. It is somewhat
of a strain on diplomatic smiles when the subject of discussion is
vitally concerned with one’s own starvation. Nevertheless I did smile.
I explained that whatever we did we were not going on to the next town.
I knew the word for “another,” and the word for “inn,” and how to
say, “Is it?” And thus I asked: “Another inn here, is it?” There was
little incitement to believe that she understood except that her mouth
pouted ever so slightly as if in surprise that I should imply that the
mistress of such a superior inn could have any knowledge concerning
mere bourgeois caravansaries.

O-Owre-san, during this parleying, had put on his coat and in other
subtle ways had transformed himself into a conventional foreigner.
After that he had settled into repose and silence. I looked at him.
I searched for a flaw. I declared by the great Tokaido itself that
with such a fright-producing handicap as his ultra-Occidental beard we
should never find resting spots outside the local jails.

“Humph!” said he. “Stop talking for a minute and put on your coat.”

I succumbed. “All right, then,” I said. “Here’s for the magic of that
vestment of respectability.”

I sat down on the ground and untied the bag. The prophecy of magic was
too feeble by far for the prestidigitation which followed. I shook out
the folds of the garment which is called a coat, a mere two sleeves, a
back and a front and a few buttons. The circle came closer. But it was
not the coat after all which caused our audience so graciously to begin
giving back our lost faces to us--it was the supermagic of one leg of a
pair of silk pajamas. A black-eyed jackdaw, a trifle more daring in her
curiosity than the others, discovered the hem of that garment tipping
out from a corner of my pack. She gave it a jerk, and then another.
Next she looked up with coaxing persuasion, suggesting encouragement to
tug again.

O-Owre-san had insisted that I have those pajamas made in Kyoto. He has
theories about the necessity of silk pajamas. I never, even remotely,
followed the dialectics of his reasons, but I must add to the credit
side of such theorizings that pajamas are a most intriguing garment to
pass around for the benefit of an inn courtyard crowd. The maid gave
the next tug and out they came. Everybody reached forward a finger and
a thumb to feel.

Between the time of the discovery of the silk pajamas and their
repacking--I cold-heartedly refused to exhibit a putting of them
on--we rose from nobodies to persons of importance in Minakuchi.
Even the mistress hinted that she had mentally recounted her space
for guests and had thought of a luxurious corner of amply sufficient
dimensions to spread two beds. There was, of course, no sane reason why
we should not, then and there, have taken advantage of this altered
atmosphere, but for me the inn had lost its savour. Anyone who has
ever had some similar twist of psychology will appreciate the inside
of my irrationalism. Others will not or cannot. I moved over to the
’rickshas. O-Owre-san remained lingering. He, too, had noted the change
in the mistress’s attitude.

“How about making one more overture?” he suggested.

“Perhaps so,” I answered, “but don’t you feel that any experience
which this inn might now hold for us would be an anti-climax after our
present dramatic triumph?”

O-Owre-san regretfully sniffed the fragrant steam drifting from the
kitchen braziers.

“No, I decidedly don’t feel so,” said he, “but of course, if I have to
save your dilettante soul from anti-climaxes, I suppose I can sleep in
a rice field--but whatever you do, do it!”

I threw our bags into the ’rickshas and we climbed in after them, and
were off to the other inn.

We made our impact against this objective much more catapultic. There
was nothing tentative in our kicking off our shoes and getting well
under the lintel before any mistress of authority could appear. Our
onslaught paralysed the advance line of receiving maidens, and we
settled down on the interior mats and assumed a contemplative calm.
We continued to sit thus oblivious to the excitement heaped upon
excitement. We were islands of fact in the midst of an ocean of
conversation. After the ocean had dried up because none had words left,
we were still obviously remaining, and there was nothing left to do but
to make the best of us. A maid picked up our bags and bowed very low.
She retreated toward the inner darkness and we followed, first along a
corridor and then up a flight of railless stairs to a room open on two
sides against a courtyard garden.

To have been in harmony at all with the ancient traditions of the
Tokaido, coolies should have been carrying our luggage in huge red
and gold lacquered chests. The room to which we were taken would have
been a room of dignity even for a _daimyo_. The maid placed our two
dusty Occidental rucksacks on the shelf under the _kakemona_. Their
very presence piped a chanty that our possessing that room was ironic
comedy. We began to laugh. A _ne-san_ is as ever ready to laugh as
water is to flow, and with no other grand cause than just the doing.
Our maid began laughing with us, and up the stairs came all the other
maids in curiosity. Ensconced, their interest seemed permanent. Our
vocabulary was very far from being sufficient to protect our Western
prudery. As a last resort we took them by their shoulders and turned
them around and urged them in this unsubtle manner from the door.

I began undressing at one end of the room, leaving my garments in my
wake as I rolled over the soft matting. When I reached the _kakemona_
shelf, I slipped into my silk pajamas. When we went below to find the
honourable bath we at least left the room looking not so bare as our
meagre luggage had predicted.

We returned from the bath and banked our cushions on the narrow balcony
overhanging the garden. A slight breeze stirred the branches of the
trees and started swinging the paper lanterns which hung over a stone
fountain. Other guests of the inn had finished their dinners and it was
their toothbrush hour. Dressed in their cotton _kimonos_ they stood
bending over shining brass basins filled from the well fountain. It
would probably be useless to ask any Occidental to imagine that the
function of teeth cleansing with long, flexible handled brushes may
be a social and picturesque addendum to garden life; we have too long
looked upon ablutions as being merely necessitous.

Dinner came. Whether strict philosophical truth lies in the belief
that every sensation is unique, or whether in the contrary that no
experience can be other than a repetition of some situation which has
been staged over and over again in the turning of the cosmic wheel, I
shall continue to maintain that a wanderer who has gone from half after
four in the morning, fortified only by a mouthful of cold breakfast,
until nine at night, and has walked something more than twenty-five
miles under a hot sun, and has had one dinner snatched away from him,
and then finds himself risen from a bath and sitting in the slow, warm,
evening air in a room of simple harmony, and then a small lacquer
table is placed before him with the alluring odours of five steaming
dishes ascending to his nose--yes, I shall continue to maintain that
such a wanderer has a human right to protest that such a situation is
an event.

They replenished the tables with second supplies of the first dishes
and with first and second dishes of new courses. We had two kinds of
soup and three varieties of fish; we had chicken and we had vegetables
and boiled seaweed; and we finished with innumerable bowls of rice. At
the end they brought iced water and tea and renewed the charcoal in the
braziers for our smoking. The tobacco clouds drifted from our lips.
Only one possible thought was worth putting into words and that was the
request to have the beds laid. However, the evening was destined not
for such sensuous oblivion.

Breaking in upon this godly languor came a visitation by the entire
family of the inn. The family particularly embraced in its intimacy
also the maid-servants and the men-servants. Even the baby had been
wakened to come. In the beginning O-Owre-san offered cigarettes in
lieu of conversation and I thumbed the dictionary for compliments for
the baby. The blue-bound book of phrases proved to be rich in fitting
adjectives, and my efforts were rewarded with sufficient approval to
encourage us to go on with a search for compliments for mother and
father and all the others. The baby crawled forward inch by inch until
one of the strange foreign giants courageously picked it up. Our guests
had first sat in a very formal half-circle, but under the expansiveness
of growing goodwill the line was breaking.

It was a night, however, of many visitations. Hardly had we, as hosts,
with the aid of the baby, carried the attack with some success against
rigid self-consciousness when there came the sound of a step on the
stair. Immediately the mood of laughter changed to one of marked
quietness and expectancy. The circle readjusted itself. The mother
snatched back the baby and by some technic ended its expressions of
curiosity and reduced it, as only a Japanese baby can be reduced, to a
pair of staring eyes. We sat waiting the coming of the intruder. The
_ne-sans_ bowed their heads to the floor.

The awaited one was a tall young man, with round, pinkish, glistening
limbs, and a round face. He dropped heavily to his knees and bent over
until his forehead touched the mat, continuing this salutation for some
time. Then he sat up smiling and satisfied. He had brought with him
three or four foreign books and he was, without need of introduction,
the village scholar, Minakuchi’s representative of modernity, a
precious and honoured cabinet of wisdom newly come home from the
University. After his smiling expansion he next composed his features
to solemnity. He adjusted his _kimono_ taut over his knees. Then he
waited until the last quiver in his audience succumbed into the extreme
quietude of painful tension. Even the breeze lulled. He spoke:

“I--am--in--this--room!”

The heads of the circle nodded and renodded to each other. What had the
foreigners to answer to that?

We tried to express a proper appreciation.

“It--is--cold--to-day--but--it--was--raining--yesterday.”

An opinion about temperature is more or less a personal judgment, but
the falling of raindrops is a material fact. On the yesterday it had
not rained.

This time the circle could not restrain itself but sighed with positive
and audible contentment. Minakuchi had been vindicated. If the audience
showed content with its spokesman, it was as nothing compared to his
own contentment. The artist in tongues now opened his books with a
business-like air and put on his spectacles. His visit was not, then,
purely social. The sentences which followed were, as nearly as we could
determine, questions to us. They came, a word at a time, out of his
dictionary. The conventions of speech which the Japanese employ in
polite inquiry have been moulded by symbolism, mysticism, and analogy
into phrases most remote from the original rudiment. A word by word
translation into English carries no meaning whatsoever. We answered by:
“Oh, yes, yes,--of course.”

The baby was growing restless. The scholar took in this sign from the
corner of his eye. His dramatic sense was keen. He had no intention
that his audience should become bored and he snapped shut the books
with the pronounced meaning that everything had been settled as far
as he was concerned. Then he clapped his hands loudly. Instantly from
below came more footsteps and a clank-clanking of metal on wood, and
in a moment into the room walked an officer of the police. His heavy
dress uniform was white, with gold braid twisting round and about the
sleeves and shoulders. His sword, the secret of the rhythmic clanking,
was almost as tall as himself. He faced us rigidly and without a smile,
then slowly sank to his knees and dropped his head to the mat. I have
faith that that man, without an extra heart-beat, would have joined a
sure death charge across a battlefield, but his present duty brought
the red blush of painful embarrassment to his olive skin from the edge
of his tight collar to the fringe of his black hair. He was silently
and perspiringly suffering in the cause of duty--but what was his duty?

I do not know just how we gained the idea, if it were not through
telepathy, but we decided that he was discounting the abilities of
the interpreter down to an extreme minimum, although he listened
attentively enough to some long statement. After the explanation, which
seemingly concerned us, the youth arose and with much dignity withdrew
from the room followed by many expressions of appreciation from the
inn family. Every one of us who had been left behind, except the baby
who had gone to sleep, now waited for some continuance of the drama,
but nothing proceeded to materialize. I grew so sleepy that if the
policeman had suddenly said that we were to be executed at sunrise the
most interesting part of the information would have been the finding
out whether we could sleep until that hour. As I did not know how
polite it might be to say that _we_ were tired, I found a phrase,
“_You_ must be very tired,” to which I linked, “therefore _we_ shall go
to bed.”

This veiled ultimatum was as graciously accepted as if they had been
waiting those exact words to free them to go their way. The _ne-sans_
ran for mattresses and prepared the beds. Then they hung the great
mosquito netting. After that we all said our good-nights, all except
the police official who, image like, remained sitting against the wall.

By earnest beseeching we had persuaded the maids not to close the
wooden _shogi_ around the balcony. Thus, when we turned out the lamp
and stretched out on our beds, the starlight came in. It shone on the
white uniform. I had never happened to have the experience of going to
sleep under the eye of a policeman but realism proved that practice was
unnecessary. Sinking to oblivion was as positive as a plunge. The vast
embracing fluid of rest closed in over my head.

I was dreamless until I awoke under a sudden, crushing nightmare. I
thought that an army of white and gold uniforms had mobilized and
was tramping over my chest, taking care that every heel should fall
pitilessly. The one policeman who existed in reality had been trying
to wake me up and he had evidently had a task, but as soon as he
was sure that my eyes were open to stay he forwent further assault.
He had lighted the lamp and I could see back of him a naked coolie,
convulsively gasping for breath. The man was carrying an envelope.
The officer took the envelope and then sent him off. He reeled to the
stairs holding his panting sides. The officer then took out a sheet of
paper and handed it to me. The page was written in modified English but
was quite intelligible. While the sentences were nothing more than a
series of questions, at the same time they gave a clue to the mystery
of the evening.

Our inn-keeper had had the inspiration to call upon the
scholar-interpreter to ask us the questions which all travellers
must answer for the police record in every town where a stop is made
for the night. We had been correct about there being one doubter in
Minakuchi of the ability of the interpreter. In a plot for his own
amusement the police officer had sent a runner to a neighbouring town
to have the conventional list of questions translated into English,
and thus to compare our written answers with the answers given him
by the youth. There they were, the questions: who were we--how
old--profession--antecedents whence and whither. If one is tempted into
wayward rebellion against such minuteness of interrogation, it is wise
to remember that the claim of a sense of humour may be considered very
poor testimony in a Japanese court perchance misunderstandings at any
time arise and the answers in the police records have to be looked up.

I wrote out the answers. With no one in the room as a witness except
ourselves, the officer allowed a twinkle to come into his eye. He even
winked and pointed to where the youth had sat. Then he shut up the
paper in his register and blew out the light and clanked off down the
stairs. Again we slept.

The etiquette of an inn is that all crude appearance of hurry should
be avoided by waiting in one’s room in the morning for one’s bill. The
Japanese do not travel hurriedly; if they wish an early start they get
up proportionately in time. We had asked for an early breakfast and
it had been served at the hour which we had named. We had happened to
have good intentions about not rushing. Nevertheless, of course, we
fell into an inevitable hurry. After breakfast I had been so interested
in sitting on our balcony watching the waking up of the day that I
forgot to pack my rucksack. O-Owre-san said that he would pay the bill
downstairs and wait at the door.

When I arrived under the lintel where we had left our shoes I felt as
if I were intruding. The bearded foreigner was surrounded by the inn
family and each member was handing him a present. There were blue and
white Japanese towels folded into decorated envelopes, and there were
fans and postcards. The cost of the gift fans may have been little but
the maker had taken his designs from models of the best tradition, and
the fans to be found for sale are not comparable.

The daughters of the house walked with us until we came to the Tokaido
and then they pointed out our direction and stood waving farewells
until we could see them no longer. I waited until then before making
inquiry about the amount of the bill. This detail was a matter of
distinct importance. When we met in Kyoto we pooled our purses and
the common fund was entrusted to O-Owre-san’s care. Neither of us had
made much effort to acquire theoretical information about what daily
expenses might be. We had just so much paint with which to cover the
surface of the definite number of days before our steamer would carry
us away, and this meant that we would have to mix thick or thin
accordingly. Experience only could teach us what items we could afford
and what bargains we should have to make. I thus awaited the answer
about the bill with flattering attention.

“The bill, including extras for iced water and cigarettes and getting
our special dinner after every one else had finished,” said the
treasurer with appropriate solemnity, “was three _yen_.” (A _yen_ is
about fifty cents.) “And,” he concluded, “I gave a full _yen_ for the
tea-money tip.”

We waited until we sat down for the first rest before we attempted a
practical financial forecast. We divided the number of remaining days
into the sum of the paper notes carried in a linen envelope. The answer
quieted our fears and exceeded our hopes. Putting aside a reserve for
extra occasions, beyond our inn bills we would be able to afford the
luxury of spending along the road twenty-five cents a day for tea,
tobacco, and chemical lemonade.

[Illustration: THE FIRST REST SPOT OF THE SECOND DAY]

There is something unnatural in such simplicity of finance, as anyone
must agree who believes at all in the jealousy of the gods. I should
have been forewarned by an old Chinese tale that I had been told only
a fortnight before. It was while sitting in a Peking restaurant. The
teller was a most revolutionary son of a most conservative mandarin.
A peasant once entertained a god unawares. In the morning the god told
the peasant that any wish which he might name would be granted, be it
for riches, or power, or even the most beautiful maid in all the dragon
kingdom to be his wife. But the peasant asked that he might only be
assured that until the end of his days he need never doubt when hungry
that he would have food, and at the fall of night that he would find a
pillow on which to lay his head. The god looked at him sorrowfully and
said: “Alas! You have asked the impossible. Such favours are reserved
for the gods alone.”

We got up from our figuring blithely, indulging ourselves in the idea
that we could achieve such evenness of expenditure. Think what an
upsetting of ponderous economics and competitive jungle law there would
be if the world could and should abruptly take any such consideration
of its wealth!

The payer of the bill had also added that he had given a full _yen_ for
the tea-money tip. In those large areas of Japan where the barbarous
foreigner has not yet intruded with his indiscriminate giving, there is
to be found the ancient system of tea-money. The tea-money custom is
founded on the belief that the wayfarer is the personal guest of the
host. When the guest departs he is not paying a bill, he is making a
present, and to this sum he adds from a quarter to a third part extra.
This extra payment is the tea-money and is to be divided by the host
among the servants. The departing guest is then given a present. All in
all, leave taking is a function.

A guest does not ask nor demand. He offers a request and thereby
confers a supreme favour upon any servant fortunate enough to be
designated. All this pleasant service has not the embarrassment that
one must confine a request to any particular maid so as to escape
the necessity of widespread tipping at departure. It is all in the
tea-money.



III “I HAVE EATEN OF THE FURNACE OF HADES”

  Vol. I, Sect. IX. The “Ko-Ji-Ki”


A very famous book in Japan is named the “Ko-Ji-Ki,” and the word
means “A Record of Ancient Matters.” We thought on our second morning
as we walked through the hills that if there should happen to be a
modern chronologist recording a present-time Ko-Ji-Ki those hours of
the sun’s approaching meridian would be entered without dispute as
The-Forever-Famous-Never-To-Be-Equalled-Day-Of-Fire. In the valleys
there was no breeze; on the summits there was no shade; and everywhere
it seemed probable that on the next instant the road would blister into
molten heat bubbles under our feet. However--to anticipate--if such
a postulated chronicler had so styled that second day of our walking
as one without chance of peer among historical days of heat, on the
very next following day he would have had to turn back to cross out
his lines. In the burning glare of the rice fields, anything that had
gone before was so easily surpassed that we forever lost belief in
maximums, unless indeed kinetic energy might continue on such a wild
rampage of vibration that it would shake itself completely out of
existence.

Our first rest of the second day, as I said, was devoted to the
arithmetic of finance. At that early hour the dew was not yet off the
grass, but when we began planning for another rest the world had grown
parched. Looking about for some possible spot we saw through the trees
the roof of a small temple. We halted at the entrance and tried to push
open the gate. It would not move. It was nailed to the ribs of the
fence, but the gate was low enough to be vaulted. Our feet fell on the
ghost of a path that had once led to the shrine. Harsh brambles and
weeds had fought for the possession of the path until they had almost
conquered the flaggings. If we thought at all we thought that that
particular walk must have been abandoned for some other entrance and as
the scratches were not very serious we pushed our way through until at
last we stepped forth into the temple yard. Not a sign of caretaking
devotion was anywhere in evidence nor was there a nodding priest
sitting in the temple door.

Sometimes the Chinese desert their temples but, when incense is no
longer burned before an altar, celestial practical sense leaves little
that is movable behind. We slowly walked up the steps to the door,
expecting to find the temple rifled. The door was sealed by spiders’
webs. We then walked around the balcony and peered through the wide
cracks in the _shogi_. No fingers of man had rummaged there since the
priests had said the last mass, but the fingers of decay had been
busily working. The rotted fabrics hung down from the altars of the
shrines and the ashes of the incense in the bronze bowls was hidden
by the blacker dust which the wind had carried through the shutters.
Surely we were the first intruders to step upon the balcony since the
gate had been swung to and nailed.

We walked around the corners until we had seen everything that there
was to see and then we jumped down to a grassy slope on the shady side
of the temple and stretched ourselves out in relaxation. It was very
quiet. As I knew O-Owre-san could sleep for ten minutes and then wake
up to the instant, I closed one eye and then the other. They both came
open together. I had felt a soft dragging across my ankles and I raised
my head to see a very thin, long, green and grey snake raising its
head up between my feet to stare into my face. After a beady inspection
it wriggled away with slow undulations into the grass. And then, from
the spot where that snake had taken passage over my ankles, came the
head of another. I jerked my feet up under me.

The instant before there had been an oppressive quietness. The silence
had been so supreme that we ourselves had scarcely spoken. Now there
was a vast hurrying of little noises. Lizards ran along the rafters
under the roof and dropped down the wall, as lizards do, to flatten
themselves away into corners. Huge buzzing flies rose from the surface
of the pond and bumped against us aimlessly. Mosquitoes came from the
shadows. I had thrown my helmet on the grass. I picked it up to find
it beset with ants. I tried to beat them out of the lining by pounding
the hat against the side of the temple. The effort broke loose a roach
infested board.

We grinned at each other a little shamefacedly when we were safely out
into the sunshine of the highroad. We had not stayed to argue in the
temple yard. As we stood thus vanquished and ejected, two peasants came
passing by. They looked at us, then glanced hurriedly at the temple
roof above the low trees, and then eyed us again. They mumbled a word
or two. Perhaps they were trying to tell us that an accursed goblin
had stolen over their shrine to be the abode of insects and crawling
things. I was not so sure that I had not seen the glowing eyes of a
goblin staring malevolently at us from the cracks of the _shogi_ when I
turned to look back over my shoulder as we fled.

For a long way my blood welcomed the sun. The road led down into a
broad valley to become later little more than an interminable bridge
across the terraced paddy fields. The rice had sprouted but had not
grown rank enough to block the mirror surface of the water from
throwing back the heat rays. Ahead were low-lying hills with higher
slopes beyond and from the map we thought that over that barrier would
be the broad plain across which we would find the road leading straight
to Nagoya.

There was one ambition to luxury which we always possessed--when
we chose a rest spot we wished one of comfort and, if it could be
included, also that it should have a view. Curiously, owners of land
do not seem to endeavour to provide such rest places for sensitive
travellers, at least to be obtrusive at any exact second when desired.
We had taken seven or eight miles across the valley at an unusually
accelerated pace since our last attempt at a rest. Messages from the
cords of our legs were telling us to concede some compromise to our
particularity. However, we continued walking and searching without
paying attention to the messages. The grass patches always disclosed
little ant hills upon close inspection and the occasional heaps of
stones to be found were never under the shade. That obstinacy of ours
was of the stuff ambition should be, and finally its persistency met
due reward. We found a wide, shady platform built against a long
building, half house, half granary. The building flanked the road at
a bend and as we made the turn we could see the family of the house
lying on the floor. An old man was telling an elaborate story and his
listeners were so intent upon the tale that none of them happened to
look up to see us. The platform was out of their vision and we thought
that we might rest there with the comfortable feeling that trespassing
does not exist unless discovered.

The tale that was being told was undoubtedly humorous. The daughters
of the family were hard struggling with laughter. The men were
emphasizing their approval by pounding on the rim of the charcoal
brazier with their iron pipes. All were repeating a continuous _hei_,
_hei_. But there was a baby, and the baby was not so much interested
in the story as he was in a butterfly. He suddenly betook himself to
his dimpled legs and circled into the road in pursuit. The whims of the
gyrations of the mighty hunter carried him to a spot where the next
turn left him facing two foreigners on the platform. He stood with
feet apart and carefully lifted the corner of his diminutive shirt to
his mouth for more careful cogitation, as any Japanese child should
and does do when confronted by a kink in the well-ordered running of
affairs.

The mother called out an admonition but there was no response from the
_akambo_. She left the story to find out what might be the enchantment.
She, too, began staring without responding to admonitions. Another
head bobbed around the corner post and then another and another until
finally the teller of the tale himself forsook the realm of fancy
for fact and followed after his audience. We said “_O-hayo!_”--which
is good-morning--and they said “_O-hayo!_” After that their rigid
attention included everything from our hats to our boots. Then in a
body they walked back into the house and were quiet except for the
most hushed of whispers.

“Two trespassing strangers are about to receive some mark of respect,”
said O-Owre-san.

“Respect of being told to move on, most likely,” was my more worldly
judgment.

“How about betting a foreign dinner to be paid in Yokohama before the
boat sails?” asked O-Owre-san.

I took the wager, and lost.

The old man who had been the teller of the story now reappeared. He
was somewhat embarrassed but at each step of his approach he had a
still broader smile. He was short and he was thin, with lean, knotted
muscles. His limbs had grown clumsy from heavy toil. His face was squat
as if in his malleable infancy some evil hand had pressed his forehead
down against his chin. One piece of cloth saved him from nudity. He
was a coolie of generations of coolies, but despite his embarrassment
and despite his clumsy limbs, the very spirit of graciousness created
a certain grace as he placed a tray before us. He backed away with low
bow succeeding low bow. The tray held a pot of tea and two cups and
some thin rice cakes.

Good man, he fortunately never knew what an argument his gift
precipitated! My opponent began it all by suggesting that we leave a
twenty _sen_ silver piece on the tray. I disputed.

“A cup of tea is of such slight cost to the giver,” was my eloquent and
disputatious argument, “that by being of no price it becomes priceless
and thus is a perfect symbol of a complete gift in an imperfect world.
Japan has this tradition which we have lost in our own civilization.
This simplicity allows the poorest and humblest to give a gift to the
richest and mightiest in the purity of hospitality. If we leave money
on the tray we are robbing the peasant of his privilege.”

O-Owre-san would have none of my transcendentalism. “By leaving money,”
said he, “a sum which means no more to us than does the cup of tea to
the peasant, we are making an exchange of gifts. We know that he is
very poor. Twenty _sen_ is probably more than the return for two days
of his labour. It will buy him a pair of wooden _geta_ or a new pipe,
or a bamboo umbrella for his wife, or such a toy for the baby as it has
never dreamed of. After giving our gift we shall disappear down the
road, leaving the memory of two ugly but generous foreign devils.”

There was no dispute between us about wishing to leave some gift.
The final compromise was somewhat on my side as we gave a package of
chocolate to the child. We carried the chocolate for emergency’s sake
and it had cost several times twenty _sen_. I do not believe that
Japanese children like chocolate and there was more than a possibility
that this highly condensed brand would make the baby ill. Surely the
deposed gods of the ancient Tokaido must have made merry if the news of
our analytics was carried to their Valhalla. Nevertheless our present,
wrapped in a square of white paper according to the etiquette of gifts,
was received by the family with as many protestations of appreciation
as if we had handed them a deed to perpetual prosperity.

The rays of the forenoon’s sun when we were crossing the valley of the
rice fields had sent up heat waves from the dust of the road until
the road itself seemed to me to have a quaking pitch and roll. We
were now in the full glory of the noontide. I was becoming somewhat
disturbed over certain phenomena. Trees and rocks and houses fell into
the dance of the heat waves with an undignified stagger. Sometimes the
bushy trees reeled away in twos and threes where but a moment before
I had seen but one. The most disconcerting part of the development
was my peculiar impersonal interest and study of my own distress. I
knew that my eyes were aching and I knew that the trees were really
standing still. I had the perfect duality of being fascinated by the
day and thus not wishing to be any place else in the world and yet, as
I said, of being extremely disturbed by the preliminary overtures of
a sunstroke. We had had about two hours of climbing since we left the
house of the rice farmer and we were on the summit of the last high
hills. Immediately ahead the rocky path dropped sharply down into the
plain. A rest-house marked the point where the climbing changed to the
descent. I suggested a halt.

The rest-house was more than a peasant’s hut. It was easy to believe
that in more aristocratic days it had been an inn of some pretension.
Now it was a spot for weary coolies to throw down their heavy packs for
a few minutes’ rest in its shade by day or by night to curl up on the
worn mats. We walked into the deepest recess of the entrance before we
sat down. I could look beyond a half-folded screen into the kitchen.
The polished copper pots and the iron and bronze bowls were not of this
generation; probably to-morrow’s will find them on a museum shelf or
cherished in some antique shop. However, I had no desire to discover
curios nor did I have any preference whether the inn was old or new,
nor whether it had been its fortune to entertain _daimyos_ or pariahs.
We first asked for something to drink. The hostess dragged up a bucket
from the well and brought us bottles of _ramune_ which had been cooling
in the depths. I drank the carbonated stuff and then pushed my rucksack
back along the mat for a pillow and closed my eyes for a half-hour’s
blissful forgetfulness. When I awoke the throbbing under my eyelids had
passed away and for the first time I really looked at our hostess. She
was kneeling beside us and was slowly fanning our faces.

Her teeth were painted black, as was once the fashion for married
women. She had known both toil and poverty, but it was not a peasant’s
face into which I looked. Her thin fingers and wasted forearms found
repose in the lines which the ancient artists were wont to copy from
the grace of Old Japan. Her calm face was beautiful.

It was time that we should make our way down the rocky path. She
brought us tea before we went. The bill for everything, as I remember,
was about seven cents. We left a silver coin beside the teapot. She
began to tell us that we had made a mistake. We told her no. Shielded
by an unworldly, intangible delicacy, I doubt whether any rudeness
of her guests ever became sufficiently real to her to disturb her
passivity or her emotions, but such a guardianship presents a thin
callous against sympathy. As we said good-bye a sudden sense of human
mutuality smote the three of us, an experience of sheer bridging-over
intuition which sometimes comes for a second.

The absolute relaxation had so marvellously driven out the devils from
my eyes that I did not even tell O-Owre-san of my hallucinations. To
make up for our lingering we pushed on through the villages without
stopping to wander into temple grounds or to explore by-ways. Between
a misreckoning of miles on our part and some misinformation which I
gathered from a peasant, we reached the rather large town of Siki
an hour earlier than we had hoped. As we strolled through the main
street, we saw several inns which might well have given us comfortable
shelter, but I sensed that the traveller at my side was waiting for
some bubbling of inspiration. I kept silent, an expiation for having
carried a disproportionate number of points that day. We continued
walking. I could see the fringe of the first rice field ahead. My faith
was beginning to waver but before I erred by showing it O-Owre-san
stopped abruptly and inquired the Japanese word for inn. He then asked
for one or two other words and adjectives. Thus armed he stepped into
a shop, the appearance of which had perhaps been the stimulus to his
inspiration.

The shop had glass windows and a glass door. It was the most
metropolitan example of commercial progressiveness which we had seen
since we left Kyoto. In fact, compared to the other shops of Siki it
had as haughty an exclusiveness as any portal along New Bond Street
seeks to maintain over possible rivals. Looking through the glass of
the door we discovered that the floor was not covered with matting.
Such a last touch of foreignism meant that one could walk in without
taking off one’s dusty boots. I do not remember that we ever again
found this detail of Western culture outside the port cities. In the
heart of the most isolated mountain range the most lonesome charcoal
burner knows three things about the foreigner: that he is hairy like
the red fox; that he has a curious and barbarous custom known as
kissing; that his boots are part of his feet.

Into this shop, then, O-Owre-san walked without having to undo his
bootlaces. There was also an aristocratic glass counter and under the
glass, in show trays, were gold watches. Behind this counter sat a
young man in a _kimono_ of black silk. His face was pale, ascetic, and
contemplative. He smiled and bowed in formal hospitality. The grace
of such a bow comes from centuries of saying _yes_ instead of _no_.
A cultured Japanese, almost any Japanese, never flatly contradicts
unless to deny another’s self-derogatory statement. The _iiye_ (used
as “no”) is rarely heard and the carrying over of the omnibus _hei_,
_hei_, or the more polite _sayo_, into the English _yes_ often brings
consternation to the Westerner seeking accurate information.

O-Owre-san said, “Please, good inn” (directly translated). As if the
pale and ascetic seller of gold watches was accustomed daily to having
perspiring foreigners with packs on their backs inquire for this
information, he bowed again and smiled and said, “_Hei_, _hei!_” This
time the _hei_, _hei_ did mean yes. He drew his _kimono_ tighter about
his hips and adjusted his silken _obi_, and walked out of the shop
with us. Apologizing for the necessity of going before, he piloted us
through turns of the street to the gateway of an inn. Calling for the
mistress he made a dignified oration of introduction, and backed away
from our sight with innumerable appreciations for the honour of being
asked to be of service.



IV THE MILES OF THE RICE PLAINS


The experiences of the second of our Japanese Nights’ Entertainments
were as impersonal, as far as the inn’s paying special attention to
us was concerned, as the first evening’s had not been. The police
record was brought to us with an English translation of the questions
and we wrote the answers without complication. The incidents which
may develop in one inn quite naturally have a wide variation from the
happenings which may arise in another, but the general machinery of
hospitality differs but little. There is, in fact, far less contrast in
the essentials of comfort between the ordinary provincial inn and the
native hotels of the first order in Tokyo or Kyoto than there is to be
found in a like comparison of hotels in our civilization; even it might
be said that the simple and fundamental artistry of the shelter which
houses the peasant in Japan has in its possession the root forms of the
taste which charms in the homes of the cultured.

Immediately after we had applied ourselves to the police record and
had had our steaming hot bath, a _ne-san_ brought the small dinner
tables. If ever this particular maid had enjoyed the frivolity of
laughter for laughter’s sake, she had long since banished any such
promotion of irresponsible dimples from the corners of her mouth,
although it should be stated that she was far from having arrived
at an age to provoke a solemn and serious outlook upon life. Her
eyes wandered up to the ceiling and around the edges. She was bored.
Furthermore she appeared distressed at having to witness the table
errors of ignorant foreigners. We insulted the honourable rice by
heaping sugar upon it and we drank cold water when we should have
sipped tea. We asked for a few extras to the menu. She repeated over
our words, caught in amazement that we could change the barking
sounds through which we found communication with each other into the
music of _Nihon_ speech. We asked if she were not afraid of barbarous
foreigners, but she rather contemptuously rejoined that she could
see no reason for being afraid in the shelter of her own inn. I then
concocted from the dictionary an elaborate sentence which asked whether
her expectation of how fearsome a foreigner might be was excelled
by the examples in flesh and blood before her. The truth of her
obvious conviction and the sense of required politeness of hospitality
struggled each for utterance with such disconcerting effect that she
used her turned-in toes to patter away down the flight of stairs and we
saw our disapprover not again until she came to spread the beds.

We had planned to explore the shops of Siki by lantern light after
dinner but the two beds so aggressively allured us that we never
stepped over them. The coverings were the usual heavy quilts buttoned
into sheets. Such a combination coverlet is generally long enough
for the foreign sleeper as the Japanese habit on cold nights is to
disappear completely under the layer, but at the inn in Siki for some
reason the length was decidedly curtailed and the mattresses were
correspondingly short. However, at the end of such a day of fire as we
had had I was contemptuous of such limitations. I expected to sleep on
the quilt and not under it.

For an hour, covered only by my cotton _kimono_, I knew the comfort
of airy rest. Then I awoke to a sensation I had almost forgotten. I
was chilled through. I entered upon a campaign of trying to get back
to sleep by wrapping the abbreviated quilt about my shoulders. The
far from satisfactory result was that my legs were left dangling in
the chill drafts while the protected upper surfaces melted. Next I
essayed a system of sliding the quilt up and down, executing retreats
from too copious perspiration. This procedure met with some success
but the required watchfulness was hardly a soporific. I called myself
a tenderfoot. Some slight appreciation of how ridiculous it all was
destroyed any high tragedy of self-sympathy but it could not keep me
from loathing O-Owre-san for breathing so tranquilly. Finally I got
up, determined to force my ingenuity to find some balance between such
excesses. Then I saw that O-Owre-san’s eyes were wide open.

I know not what the temperature of that room was in actual Fahrenheit
degrees, but too many truth-tellers have secretly confided to me
that they have found just such uncanny nights in Japan to disbelieve
that the midnight “Hour of the Rat” has not at times a malignancy
independent of mere thermometer readings. That night was neither cold
nor hot; it was both and it was both at the same instant. My skin had
been flushed to a mild fever from its long bath in the sun’s rays, but
the flesh beneath now grew iced when not swaddled beneath the furnace
of the quilt. My inspiration, after sitting for a time and studying
all the possible materials in the room, was to build a tent. I was so
successful that I hurled a defiance at the “Hour of the Rat,” and for
another half-hour--perhaps it was--I again knew the positiveness of
sleep.

The Japanese believe that they are a silent people. That faith is one
of the supreme misbeliefs of the world. Before dinner, when we were
sitting on our narrow balcony, we had said good-evening to a circle
of young men who were lounging on cushions in the large room next to
ours. Later they dressed and went out and we forgot them. I awoke to
hear through the thin wall that they had returned. They were holding
a Japanese conversation. Such a conversation can only be described
by telling what it is not. In rhythm it is neither the cæsura of
the French peasant woman retailing gossip, nor is it the eluding
tempo-harmonic tune of the Red Indian drum beat; it is not the Chinese
intoning nor is it a staccato. At first the foreign ear does not
distinguish the beat of the cadences but once captured the appreciation
of the subtle metrical wave is never again lost. We had the opportunity
of full orientation that night. The paper wall was but a second tympan
to our ears.

Their conversation as an entity was a musical composition effected
without counterpoint and played by the instruments in succession.
First there was a swing of phrases from one speaker, and then after a
decorous and proper dramatic pause there was an answering swing from
another. No speaker was interrupted. The right of reply was passed
about as if it were as physically tangible as a loving cup.

There was one distinct suggestion from the monotony of it all above
every other impression, a something absolutely alien to any Occidental
conversation. While they talked and drank tea and drank tea and talked,
I twisted about under my tent puzzled to solve what that impression
was. Suddenly I found words to express to myself the sought-for
revelation. The effect of a long Japanese conversation is that of
_voiceful contemplation_. Separated from them physically only by a
paper wall, we belonged to another world, a world which has ordered
its existence without finding contemplation and its manifestations a
necessary adjunct.

The mosquitoes, which all night had kept up a noisy circling over our
net, flew off at daybreak. Some speaker spoke the concluding word in
the next room and for a few minutes the universe was quiet. Then came
the high shrieking of the ungreased axles of coolie carts being dragged
to the rice fields. I took my quilt and cushions out onto the balcony.
The inn began waking up. Down in the garden two kitchen maids appeared.
They were arousing their energy by dipping their faces into brass
basins of cold well water. I left my balcony and wandered below to find
a basin for myself.

The inn had filled during the night with guests of all descriptions
and ranks. They were coming forth from under their quilts. A _ne-san_
stepped to the wellside and filled a basin for me and then ran off to
find a gift toothbrush. Another maid, lazily binding on her _obi_,
stayed her dressing for a moment to pour cool water from a wooden
dipper over my head and neck. Getting up o’ the morning is a social
cooperation in a Japanese inn.

Breakfast came. After breakfast I sat down on the balcony cushions to
smoke and to breathe the delicious morning air and I promptly went
to sleep. I wished to go on sleeping forever and to let the world
work, or walk, or talk, or do anything it might choose to do, but
O-Owre-san appeared, saying that he had paid the bill. He had stuffed
our presents into his rucksacks and had had the dramatic farewells to
himself. After one has accepted a going-away present, one goes. Tense
good-byes do not brook recapture. The super-wanderer is thus forbidden
ever to retrace his steps. For him alone, his life being always the
anticipation of the next note of the magic flute, does the present
become real by eternally existing as a becoming. He will not pay the
price for contentment, which is to re-live and rethink the past.

When we at length reached Nagoya, where the government bureau records
temperatures scientifically, we learned that the week had been really
one of extraordinary heat. Among other symptoms of the week, deranged
livers and prickly irritation had inspired angry letters in the
readers’ columns of the foreign newspapers, belabouring everything
native, particularly the casual discarding of clothing. A newspaper
editor told us that such attacks of hyper-sensitiveness over nudity
come not to foreigners newly arrived nor to those residents who sanely
take long vacations back to their homelands (where they may have
the rejuvenation of themselves being homogeneous with the masses),
but to the conscientious unfortunates who remain too long at their
posts. Round and about them for the twenty-four hours of the day
and the seven days of the week surges the sea of native life. The
feeling of lonesome strangeness, which can never be entirely lost by
the foreigner, feeds on its own black moods and this poisonous diet
suddenly nourishes a dull hatred. Then come the bitter letters to
the press demanding that the Japanese reform themselves into Utopian
perfection and threatening that unless they so do the foreign guests of
the empire will assemble in convention and design an all-enveloping bag
(with a drawing string to be pulled tight about the neck of the wearer)
as a national costume for their hosts for evermore.

If hot days in the port cities, where there is some mild regulation of
costume, can bring such disturbances of mind to anxiously missioning
folk, we thought that it was as well that they were not walking with
us that day through the villages of the broad plain which slopes from
Mount Keisoku to Ise Bay. It was before we were out of the hills that
our road carried us through a grove. A stone-flagged walk led into
the shadows of the trees and we could see at its end the beginning of
a long flight of stone steps which bespoke some hidden and ancient
shrine beyond. A small stream flowed alongside the path and cut our
road under an arched stone bridge. We heard shouts of laughter from the
pines and the next moment an avalanche of children came tumbling along
as fast as their legs could take them. Some were cupids with bright
coloured _kimonos_ streaming from their shoulders; some did not have
even that restraint. A tall, slender maiden was in pursuit, and the
pursuit was part of some game. They dashed by us through the light and
shadow and were lost again in the pines.

It was the reincarnation of a Greek relief. In that flash of the
moment in which we saw them, the glistening nude body of the pursuing
girl running through the green and brown and grey of the grove was
passionately and superbly the plea of nature against man’s crucifying
purity upon the cross of sophistication.

I regretted to O-Owre-san the having within me so much of that very
sophistication that I had begun immediately to moralize upon such a
sheerly beautiful vision. He, who had been saying nothing, replied
with an end-all to the subject. “Your mild regret,” said he, “that
dispassionate analysis has displaced passionate creativeness is the
penalty you pay for the pleasure of studying your own sadness.”

The Greeks, I believe, had for one of their two axioms by which they
covered the conduct of wise living, “No excess in anything.” I had very
fearlessly compared the young girl to a Greek relief, but when we were
out of the hills and were in the meaner villages of the plains I began
to feel the truth of that Greek dictum that people can mix too much
practice into a theory, especially when it comes to an overwhelming
surrender to naturalness. I lost my enthusiasm for my so shortly before
uttered panegyric of a world naturally and unconsciously nude. I began
to understand a new meaning in the artist’s cry of “Give me Naples and
her rags!” Especially the rags! Upon some occasions art and sensibility
need the rags far more than does morality.

All this argument was with myself as O-Owre-san’s dismissal of my
tentative first offering on the subject had not been encouraging
to further communication. I then proceeded to a further step in my
private debate and queried whether in the selection of clothes, to be
truly practical, man would not be served better by trusting to comfort
rather than to either art or morality; and then I came upon the thought
that comfort has no strength to resist convention when they collide,
and as convention, with the guile of the serpent, always makes much
pretension of riding in the same omnibus with virtue, perhaps after all
the true wisdom of life is to stay close to convention and thus one
will be pretty sure to reach Journey’s End in good shape. I mentioned
my change of heart to O-Owre-san as we were sitting down in the shade
of a _ramune_ shop, where unabashed nudity had gathered in a circle
to regard the foreigners. He did not seem to be moved to interest by
my reformation. I heaped a malediction on his head. Surely if I were
willing to rearrange my opinions seven times daily at some one stage he
might agree.

It was during this rest that I came upon the happiest adventure that
the mouth of man may hope to experience in this imperfect world. I
had been thirsty from that first day in the East when I had begun
breathing in Manchurian dust. In Peking I had tried to cool my throat
by every variety of drink offered through the mingling of Occidental
and Oriental civilizations. In Korea, a certain twenty-four hours
of wandering alone and lost among the baked and arid mountains had
further augmented the parching of my tongue--an increasement which I
had believed to be impossible. Along the Tokaido we were free to drink
as much chemical lemonade as our purse could buy and, despite the
warnings of all red-bound guide books, we drank the water. But never,
since the beginning of my thirst, had I found a liquid worth one word’s
praise as a quencher, neither water nor wine, neither _ramune_ nor tea.
I have irreverently forgotten the name of the village of the discovery.

As we sat resting in the _ramune_ shop I looked about and saw some
champagne cider bottles of unusually large size. The quantity rather
than the flavour of that particular chemical combination was the
appeal. I asked for two of the bottles, making the request to a maid
who was hoisting a flag over the door. The flag had a single Chinese
character printed on it. It was a sign which I later learned to
distinguish from incredible distances. After flinging out the flag, she
took down two bottles from the shelf but instead of opening them she
smiled with a beaming which came from the secure faith that she was
bearing good news.

“_Kori wa ikago desu?_” she asked.

The concluding three words are among the first to be learned from the
phrase book and mean “Do you wish?” The word _kori_ I remembered from
its having been one of the extras of our first night. It means “ice.”
We said yes, that we would like ice, but in our ignorance we spoke
with no marked ebulliency. She smiled again and sat down, folding her
arms in her _kimono_ sleeves, an equivalent of that expression of
contented virtue shown when our own housewives peacefully wrap their
hands in their aprons.

[Illustration: THE KORI (ICE) FLAG OF THE “ADVENTURER”]

That the flag above the door had some definite meaning for the
villagers began to be most evident. The shop was filling. Mob
expectancy is contagious and we found ourselves waiting tensely with no
clear idea what we were waiting for. The shop was now quite full and
all eyes were turned to the street. We heard shouts from the outside
that were almost _banzais_, and a coolie came running in. His face
was aflame from the happy look of completed service. He was carrying
a dripping block of ice in many wrappings of brown hemp cloth. I do
not know how far he had come with the ice. Perhaps he had been to some
station of the distant railroad. The maid took her hands from her
_kimono_ sleeves and seized the ice. She pulled off the wrappings.
Next she took a saw and cut off an end from the cake. Another maid
re-wrapped the precious remainder in the hemp cloth and buried it in a
pit dug in the floor. A third maid had been standing by with a board
which had a sharp knife edge set into it. The first maid scraped the
end of the ice cake over this inverted plane and shavings of sparkling
snow fell into her hand. She packed this whiteness into two large,
flat, glass dishes. She poured into the snow the effervescing champagne
cider and brought us the “adventure.”

An adventure is an adventure in proportion to the emotion aroused.
For days without end thirst had been sitting astride my tongue. Just
as the Old Man of the Sea fastened his thighs around Sindbad’s neck
and then kicked the poor man’s ribs mercilessly with his heels, so
had my parasite tickled my throat with his toes. To have unthroned
my tormentor at the beginning of his companionship would have been
a sensuous satisfaction. To do so after having known the abysses of
abject slavery was an ecstasy exceeding the dreams of lovers.

I flushed the ice particles around in my mouth until my eyes rolled in
my head. O-Owre-san was alarmed into protests. I had no time to listen.
I ordered another bowl of snow and another bottle. It was costing _sen_
after _sen_ but I knew in my soul that if I had to beg my rice to get
to Yokohama and had to sleep under temple steps, even if the price
for the snow thus beggared me, the uttermost payment could be in no
proportion to the value.

The fertile plain through which the Tokaido now wound was crowded with
the sight of man. A few houses always clustered wherever a rise in the
ground could lift them above the water of the rice fields. The paddy
toilers, digging with their hands around the rice roots, worked in long
lines, men and women, with their bodies bent flat down from their hips
against their legs. If they noticed our passing and looked up, we would
say, “It is hot!” and they would say, “It is hot!” Finally an avenue
of scrub pines brought shade and I declared for a siesta. Our first
attempt gave way before a horde of ants. We tried relaying the top
stones of a heap of boulders and then climbed up on that edifice, going
to sleep quite contentedly. When I yawned into wakefulness I looked
lazily around the landscape wondering where I was. I felt queerly and
strangely alone. It was not that the sound of breathing from under
O-Owre-san’s helmet had ceased. He had not become a deserter, but while
we were sleeping every peasant in the fields had disappeared. There can
be, then, a degree of heat under which a coolie will not labour, and we
had found the day of that heat.

In the next village we discovered our labourers again. They were lying
on the floors of their open-sided houses, the elders motionless except
for the deep rising and falling of their breasts and an arm lifted now
and then in desultory fanning. The children, however, were restless
enough to be startled into gazing at the two strangers who were walking
the gauntlet of the narrow street.

We had seen an ice flag over a shop at the very entrance to the town
but O-Owre-san suggested that there would surely be another shop
farther along. I accepted his reasoning but there was not another
_kori_ flag to be found anywhere. We had reached the last house. The
sign over the shop we had passed was at least a mile back along that
burning white cañon. O-Owre-san stopped in at the last house to beg
some well water. I looked at the water and thought of the ice.

“If there ever was any ice back there,” said he, “it’s melted by this
time.”

I was venomous. I left my luggage and started back.

The children, maybe, had been telling their parents of the sight that
they had missed, a sight which might never come again. The grinding of
my heels this time brought a somewhat larger audience to their elbows.
They appeared appreciative of my second appearance. I staggered on and
on, mopping my head with a blue and white gift towel. I felt in my
limbs the exact strength that would carry me to that _kori_ shop, but
to have had to go a foot beyond might well have meant an experience in
hallucinations which I had no wish to know.

An old man, who grinned toothlessly, dug down into a sawdust pit and
exhumed a fair-sized cake of ice. He moved about his work grotesquely
as if he were an animated conceit of carved ivory quickened into life
for a moment by the hyper-heat. He at last gave me a bowl of snow
with sprinkled sugared water over it. I munched the ice for a full
half-hour. As I slowly grew cooler the crowd about me slowly grew
larger. They stood silently staring, always staring.

The change for the silver piece which I put down was a heap of coppers.
It must have weighed half a pound or more. I might not have been so
generous if the wealth had been more portable. As it was, I invited
in two or three boys from the circle of the crowd. A carpenter’s
apprentice had been sitting on the bench beside me. He had paid for
one bowl of snow which he had held close to his lips, tossing the sugar
powdered ambrosia into his mouth with dexterous flips of a tiny tin
spoon. He looked at the ice supply about to disappear into the pit and
I invited him to a further participation. He glanced at me intensely
for a second as if he wished to solve by that one glance every reason
for my existence. Then he turned his attention to his second bowl,
which I paid for. His hair was clipped close to his skull. The fresh,
youthfully transparent skin of his face was stretched like a sheet of
rubber, the tension holding down his nose and allowing his eyes to
stare with an openness impossible to optics otherwise socketed.

Just how the round, cannonball head of the Japanese boy evolutes into
the featured physiognomy of the Japanese man is puzzling. It must be
a sort of bursting. The schoolboy’s eyes betray the passing moods of
his emotions, but there is always something beyond the mood of the
moment in his gazing, an intangible yearning for infinity. It must at
times be terrifying for an Anglo-Saxon teacher or missionary to face
those eyes. Such a victim may find respite by swearing in the court of
all that is practical and material that the mere physical strangeness
of the deep staring has bewitched him. He is wise if, by clinging to
analysis of the objective world, he can restrain all passion to disturb
such mysteries--otherwise he may be led into a voyage such as that of
Urashima to the enchanted island. And then, if ever he seeks to return
to his Western identity, he may find that the world which he once knew
has died and that he stands neither wedded to the daughter of the
Dragon King nor possessing the substance of his former self.

I was thus dreamily communing, studying the face of the carpenter’s
apprentice. It was he who recalled me from such heat born, mental
wanderings by finishing his ice, picking up his _kimono_ and throwing
it over his shoulder, and walking off with the air of, “Well, you ice
dreamer, I have been with you for a moment, but now I have work to do
in the world.” I followed after him and walked out again into the fiery
street.

I can swear that the ice had cooled me back to the normal. I felt
myself a part of the obvious world. I had banished the disease known as
the imagination. I was doing the most practical thing for the moment,
going back to my rucksack. But I can also swear that the real world was
most unfairly unreal. Great-grandfathers and great-great-grandmothers,
who had passed so far along on their journey through life that probably
they had given up hope of ever again seeing anything new and worldly
strange to interest them, had been carried to the fronts of the houses
to behold the outlander. It was as if I had not come to see Japan
but Japan had been waiting long and patiently to see me, a parading
manikin in a linen suit and yellow boots and a pith helmet. The naked,
old, old women, their ribs slowly moving under their dried skin as if
breathing and staring were their last hold upon the temporal world,
knelt, supported by their children, on the mats. Walking slowly by I
felt that I was the sacrificial pageant of the ceremony for their final
surrender. There was not a sound from their lips. I began to have a
sense of remarkable completeness, that I was a single figure with no
possible replica. It was not until I saw O-Owre-san’s blue shirt that
I was able to snap the thread which was leading me not out of but into
the tortuous labyrinth of such speculative folly.

“I was just going back to look for you,” said he, “I thought you must
have had a sunstroke.”

It seemed just then an unnecessary and a too complicated endeavour to
explain the minute difference between standing with one’s toes on the
edge of the calamity which he had feared for me and the actuality of
toppling over the precipice. Thus I merely replied that I was feeling
all right.

Some tribes of men have in their dogma that the beard must never be
trimmed. I am able to imagine that O-Owre-san would carry a sympathetic
understanding always with him, no matter among what races he might
go adventuring, except into the society of the disbelievers in beard
trimming. He demands an extreme exactitude in the trimming of his
own beard which proclaims the existence of a certain precise flair
of idealism. This flair may be seen manifested in him also in such
croppings out as his appreciation for flawless cloisonné. The fact
that he had discovered a barber shop and had not made immediate use
of his find was overwhelming proof that he had been really solicitous
about me. Now that I had returned he made no further delay but sat down
in the chair. I stretched out on the matting to wait. The barber’s
daughter brought cushions and placed them under my head and then knelt
at my shoulder to send scurrying breaths of cool air from her fan
across my face.

When I awoke O-Owre-san was paying the barber’s charge. It amounted,
if I remember, to three _sen_, or perhaps three and one-half _sen_.
Whatever it was the now properly trimmed _kebukei_ foreigner left four
_sen_ and one-half from his honourable purse, and there was another
copper or two as thanks to O-Momo-san for the gentle medicine of her
fan.

The barber’s clippers, which he had used with such art, had perhaps
cost four _yen_. If so, they would--as may be determined by simple
division--require at least one hundred similar payments before the
return to the barber of their initial cost; and there were the razors,
and the chair, and the shining cups and bottles, all representing
capital outlay; and there must have been rent to pay. There are three
demi-gods of the East and only under their reign lies the answer. Great
is rice, that it satisfies the hunger. Great is cotton, that it clothes
the limbs. Great is art, that it can build the home from the simple
bamboo. The barber jingled the four _sen_ and a half between his palms,
and the jingle was the music that sings of the buying of the rice, the
cotton, and the bamboo. There is mystery and magic in economics; and
there is, in the submission of man to recognize money as a medium of
exchange and in his cooperating to maintain that recognition by law
and force, the greatest story in the world.

The barber ceased jingling the coins and dropped them into a drawer.
His daughter remained kneeling, her wistful, gentle head bowed low in
good-byes. She had been silent but I imagined that I knew two of her
thoughts--no, I should say, two of her moods. One was quite obvious.
She had been amused (it was an adventure in its way) to fan to sleep a
foreign guest. But the other mood, born of dreaming, was asking where
the road led, which those strange visitors were striking out upon,
stretching away into the distance as does the march into the beyond of
life.

We were talking idly one day with a maid in a certain inn. Her name was
O-Kimi-san, and she was pretty in the flush of youth, and “very pretty
anyhow,” as O-Owre-san critically observed. Her feet were quick as
sunshine when she ran for our dinner trays, or to bring tea instantly
to our room upon our coming in from the street, or to fetch glowing
charcoal to our elbow if we should wish to smoke, and her fingers were
cunning in all the other little luxuries of service. She was saving
money, she said, for the wedding which might be, but as she had
neither father nor mother to arrange a marriage she added quite simply
that she was only hoping to be married. She desired to wed a merchant,
with a shop of his own, having a little room upstairs over the bazaar
so that the good wife might be able to run down and attend to customers
between domestic duties. She declared an antique shop would be the
best, for one can buy nowadays from the wholesalers such wonderful,
not-to-be-detected imitations. But her eyes grew sad. It was not within
reason to hope that a merchant with such a shop would ever love a
dowerless girl, and it was taking so long to save the capital herself.
Why, one of the maids of the inn had been there sixteen years! If she
had only three hundred _yen_ the heaven upon earth might be hers.

I know that O-Momo-san, the daughter of the barber, when she sat
wondering what lay beyond the farthest distance she could see along the
road, was not imagining a little shop, where between domestic cares she
could take time to wait upon customers.

It is for the imagination of dreaming O-Momo-san that the priests
light the incense at the sacred altar; it is for practical O-Kimi-san
that they read the traditional advice from the theology of moral
maxims. The Marys and the Marthas! The cherry blossoms are a bloom of
mysterious beauty for the daughter of the barber; they are a symbol of
gay festival time for the practical maid of the inn. Will it be the
end for the daughter of the barber of Kasada to marry her father’s
apprentice and to live on in the little shop, dreaming until dreams
slumber and are forgotten, knowing only this of the old Tokaido that it
leads away in a straight line until it is lost in the brilliant blur of
the sun on the waters of the rice fields? Or will her imagining heart
know adventure in the world beyond the vision of her doorstep? Perhaps
the _sen_ will come so slowly to the barber’s drawer that the wistful
daughter will be sold to a _geisha_ master, and in filial piety,
fulfilling the contract, she may go even to Tokyo where she will be
taught to sing and to dance and to laugh gaily. She may find that life
is kind. Again, she may be sold to another life--under the juggernaut
of poverty--and in the Nightless City knowledge will come to dwell in
the empty place where wistfulness was.

We walked away from Kasada along the unchanging road; one blade of
rice was like another, one step was like another, finally one thought
became like another. Nagoya was many miles ahead. O-Owre-san, the
tramper, is of the faith which holds that to give in to a stretch
of road just because it is dull is to surrender for no reason at
all. That is good doctrine. I have something of it, but my hold upon
the faith is admixed with a Catholicism which does not preclude the
restful and inward harmony of maintaining speaking acquaintance with
several conflicting beliefs. On the other hand O-Owre-san will, simply
and unostentatiously, subordinate his preferences, but the surrender
is so generous that that virtue is usually a protection in itself
against applied selfishness. To escape any disagreeable feeling of
shame I thought it might be that O-Owre-san could be induced to
make the suggestion himself that we take some more rapid means of
transportation. We were in the land of _jiu-jitsu_. The fundamental
idea of this system is that you politely assist your opponent to throw
himself. I began by alluding to the thrills and possibilities of the
antique shops of Nagoya. If we should continue walking we could not
reach there until late at night, and if we should find Kenjiro Hori
waiting for us and prepared to be off early the next morning, when
would there be time for exploring? I then ventured casually that the
railroad would take us to Nagoya in a couple of hours. Imagination
began to work as my ally. O-Owre-san at last queried directly whether
I would be willing to give up walking in the country for exploration
in the city. I yielded. Thus, when the arrogant Tokaido of steel
crossed our road, as the map had told me it soon would, two foreigners
with rucksacks found places amid teapots and babies, bundles and ever
fanning elders, and soon they saw the tall smokestacks of modern Nagoya.

Our kit of clean linen and clean suits had been forwarded from Kyoto in
care of the foreign hotel. Perhaps we each had had the idea when the
bag was packed that we would be exceedingly content to catch up with it
again, not alone for the contents but in anticipation that the finding
would mean that we would be again surrounded by the comfort of Western
standards exotically flourishing. Alas for the stability of our tenet!
We were aware that our capitulation to the simplicity of the native
inns sprang partly from the glamour of the new, but the conquest had
come from realization and not mere anticipation. Dilettantes we were,
truly, and as such we acknowledged ourselves, but we should be credited
that we escaped the eczema of reformers. We had no obsession to
hasten back to our own land to argue the multitudes out of the custom
of wearing shoes in the house or sitting on chairs instead of floors.
Nevertheless when we walked into the door of the hotel and up the
stairs every tread of our heavy, dusty boots struck at our sensibility
of a better fitness and order.

We walked along the upstairs hall and passed a room with wide open
double doors. There was Kenjiro Hori waiting for us; that is, a
semblance of O-Hori-san was there, his material body. When a Japanese
sleeps his absorption by his dream hours is so complete that one is
tempted to believe that his so-called waking hours (no matter how
manifested in energy) may be only a hazy interim between periods of
a much more important psychic existence. We walked into the room and
sat down and talked things over and waited for the opening of Hori’s
eyelids, but they moved not. O-Owre-san at last departed to seek
treasure trove in the antique shops and I decided for the laziness of a
bath.

I asked for a hot bath. The bath boy’s uniform was starched and new,
and he was starched and new in his position as drawer of water. He
was very proud of such responsibility and was very earnest and very
smiling. In some other occupation he had picked up a little English.
He promised to hurry. Minutes went by. Above the sound of the running
of the water I could hear a mysterious pounding and scraping. This
combination of noises continued with no regard for passing time. Now
and again I pounded on the door in Occidental impatience. “Very quick!
Very quick!” would come his answer. When the bolt did snap back I could
see from his perspiring face that he must have been hurrying after
some fashion of his own. He bowed and pointed to the tub. I put in one
foot--and out it came. The water might have come from a glacier.

“I asked for a hot bath--_o yu, furo_,” I shouted.

There was no retreat of the smiles. They even grew.

“Japanese man, he take hot bath. Foreign man, he take cold bath.”

I now understood the scraping and pounding. The hot days had attacked
the water tanks of the hotel until the faucets marked “Cold” were
running warm. The bath boy had been laboriously stirring around a cake
of ice in the tub. Blandly came the repetition, “Foreign man, he take
cold bath.”

For the sake of sweet courtesy and kindly appreciation I should have
sat down in that water, but I did not. I pulled out the stopper and
drew a hot tub. When the boy realized this sacrilege against the custom
of the foreign man, he veritably trembled from the violence of the
restraint which he had to put upon himself, but his idea of courtesy
was so far superior to mine that he retreated. I bolted the door
against him.

O-Owre-san returned from his field with enraptured accounts. There
is some sort of affinity between him and a bit of treasure. He is
the hazel wand and the antique is the hidden water, but as a human
divining rod he does not merely bend to magnetism, he leaps. My first
initiation to that knowledge had been so sufficiently striking that no
new evidences ever surprised me. That initiation had come when we were
riding one Sunday morning on the top of a tram in the cathedral city of
Bath. We were in the midst of a discussion. Half way through a sentence
he suddenly lifted himself over the rail and disappeared down the side
of the car. When I could finally alight more conventionally I ran back
to find him with his nose against a dull and uninviting window. From
the top of the tram he had seen within the shadows a chair. There was
no arousing the antique shop on Sunday and thus he left a note of
inquiry under the door and eventually that particular treasure, wrapped
in burlap, made its long journey to America.

He began discussing the treasures of Nagoya when in walked Hori.

“I don’t see how you got by my door,” said he.

“Weren’t you asleep?” I asked.

“Oh, just dozing,” he explained.



V THE ANCIENT NAKESCENDO


We had an hour to kill before dinner and we were irritably moody
against the foreign windows which gave us no breeze. “It’s housely
hot,” said O-Owre-san, and he sighed pathetically for the cool mats
of an inn floor where there would be a pot of freshly brewed tea at
his elbow and a green garden to look out upon. I was studying a map of
Japan, tracing out its rivers and mountains.

I have an inordinate passion for maps. Surely Stevenson had some such
passion. I venture that he first thought of the pirate’s chart of
“Treasure Island” and after that first imagination the story simply
wrote itself. Particularly does passion find satisfaction in one of
the old Elizabethan maps, printed in full, rich colours, the margins
portraying the waves of the sea with dolphins diving, and with barques
straining under bellied sails. Some are headed for the Spanish Main,
and others are striking out for the regions marked “Unknown.” Those old
Elizabethan maps could have been drawn only in the days of hurly-burly
England when the deep-chested seamen under Raleigh and Drake sang
savage sea songs in the taverns and the tingling life in a man’s veins
was worth its weight in adventure. No wonder that to-day, with our
pale, lithographed maps telling us the exact number of nautical miles
to the farthest coral island we have become analytic and scientific.
As Okakura said, “We are modern, which means that we are old.”
Nevertheless, a pale, errorless, unemotional map is better than no map
at all.

The particular map of Japan which I was studying had had a few
mysteries added in the printing which were not to be blamed upon the
geographer. The different colours had been laid on by the printer with
marked independence of registration. It was difficult to trace even
the old Tokaido, but imagination from practical experience told me
that when it followed the coast it led through miles and miles of rice
fields. Farther up on the map, in the mountain ranges above Nagoya, I
saw a blurred word and turning the sheet on end I read “Nakescendo.”

The word brought a remembrance. I began trying to piece together what
that memory was. At last I assembled a forgotten picture of a Japanese
whom I had once met on a train. In the beginning I had thought him
a modern of the moderns until he told me of his sacred pilgrimages.
It was my surprise, I suppose, in his tale of his tramping, staff in
hand, with the peasants that had made me so distinctly remember his
earnestness as he mouthed the full word “Nakescendo.” I rolled over on
the bed with my finger on the map and asked Hori if he had ever heard
of the Nakescendo.

Hori looked up in surprise as if I had rudely mentioned some holy name.
“All day,” said he, “I have been thinking of the Nakescendo.” Then he
told us how the Nakescendo road enters the mountains through the valley
of the beautiful Kiso river and, following the ranges first to the
north and then to the east, takes its way to Tokyo. In the era before
railroads it was a great arterial thoroughfare and in those feudal days
the _daimyos_ of the north and their retainers journeyed the Nakescendo
route with as much pomp as did their southern rivals along the Tokaido.
Nevertheless the Nakescendo now exists in history as the less famous
thoroughfare of the two. Hori suggested that the dimming of its fame
may have come because its ancient followers had cherished its beauty
with such intensity that they did not allow their artists to paint it
nor their poets to sing of it to the world, in the belief, perhaps,
that all objective praise could be but supererogation.

I had most of this imagining from Hori’s understatements rather than
from anything definite that he said. He is of the _samurai_ and his
ancestors learned the art of conversation in a court circle devoted to
the graces. The incompleted phrase of the East so subtly makes one an
accessory in the creation of the idea involved that we, of the West,
who live in a world of overstatement, find ourselves disarmed to deny.
One cannot discount words that have never been uttered.

I added to Hori’s words some definite phrases from my own imagination.
These were to influence O-Owre-san if possible. I knew that it had been
his long held dream to walk the Tokaido from end to end, but I had not
realized until I saw his dismay at my suggestion of a change how ardent
his dream had been. I had recklessly prophesied the mountains of the
Nakescendo to be the abode of spring among other praises. It could not
be denied that whatever the Tokaido was or was not, the rice fields
that had to be crossed would not be springlike.

We slept over such argument as we had had. The next day burst in the
glory of a burning sun, which was rather an argument on the side of
the mountain faction. The breakfast butter melted before our eyes.
O-Owre-san finished his marmalade and pushed back his chair, and
then casually capitulated. “Well,” he said, “if we are going to the
mountains, what are we waiting for?” What indeed? I ran upstairs to our
room and pulled off my hotel-civilization clothes and stuffed them into
the bag and labelled it for Yokohama. There was to be no more formal
emerging into the _seiyo-jin’s_ world for us until we should reach that
port of compulsion. O-Owre-san was less exuberant in his packing but he
cheerfully whistled some air--which was indeed forgiving--and as usual
was ready before I was.

Hori’s travelling kit had evidently bothered him not at all. A
half-dozen collars, two or three books, one or two supplementary
garments, and a straw hat were tied up in a blue and orange
handkerchief and this _furoshiki_ was tied to the handlebars of a
bicycle. Until we met the bicycle we had talked of the problems and
plans of the three of us, but from the instant of production there
was no gainsaying that there were four of us. Further, the really
colourful and unique personality among the four partners of the
vagabondage was that diabolical, mechanical contraption.

In making that machine, the manufacturer, without possibility
of dispute, had achieved the supremacy of turning out the most
consistently jerry-built affair since the beginning of time. He
merits first immortality both in any memorialization by the shades of
jerry-builders who have gone before and in the future from the tribe
as it expands and multiplies upon the earth. The loose, and often
parting, chain hung from sprocket wheels that marvellously revolved at
nearly right angles to each other. When Hori mounted into the saddle
the wheels fearsomely bent under his weight until their circumferences
advanced along the road in ellipses strange and unknown to the plotting
of calculus. The rims scraped the mudguards in continuous rattle as
if there were not enough other grinding sounds of despair coming
from every gear and bearing. In some way those abnormalities worked
together, acting in compensation. Any one of the single errors without
such correspondingly outrageous offset would have been prohibitive to
locomotion.

The indomitable spirit of the machine to keep going should perhaps be
praised, but its general character was steeped in malevolency against
all human kind. It hated Hori no less violently than it did us or
strangers. It hated and was hated and continued to leave a trail of
hatred in its path until a certain memorable day when we came to a
mountain climb. While we were discussing what best could be done for
its transport the proud spirit overheard that it would have to submit
to being tied upon a coolie’s back. It rebelled into heroic suicide at
that prospect. It committed _hara-kiri_. The entire mechanism collapsed
suddenly into an almost unrecognizable wreck.

“When the flower fades,” says Okakura Kakuzo, “the master tenderly
consigns it to the river or carefully buries it in the ground.
Monuments are even sometimes erected to their memory.” Hori gave a
piece of money to the coolie for a reverent burial of the demon wheel.

Our breakfast had really been luncheon and after our energy of
packing and getting started we so indulged our time in the shops on
the way out of the city that we finally decided that if we were to
get into the mountains before night we should have to take the train
over the paddy fields. The bicycle, the rucksacks, and the blue and
orange handkerchief, together with the owners, were crowded into an
accommodation train. The small engine puffed with the temperament of
a nervous pomeranian, throwing a volcanic spume into the air which
condensed into a fine diamond ash to come back to earth and to stream
into the windows and then to drift, eddy, and scurry about the seats
and floor.

An accommodation train has the verve of life which the conventions of a
through express stifle; but whether it be a New England local with bird
cages, or the Italian _misti_ with priests and snuff boxes, nursing
madonnas, garlic sandwiches, and chianti bottles, or the stifling
wooden boxes of Northern India crowded with Afridi and Babus, no train
in all the world is as domestic as the Japanese _kisha_. Friends and
the friends of friends come to rejoice in the dramatic formalities of
farewell. If perchance any individual on the platform is neither the
friend nor the friend of a friend of some departing one he takes an
altruistic pleasure in smiling upon the opportunities of others.

We bought our pots of tea with tiny earthenware cups attached and put
them on the floor as did everyone else; and we also bought our _bento_
boxes, of rice, raw fish, pickles, seaweed, and bamboo shoots, from
the criers of “_Bento! Bento!! Bento!!!_” The train started. No one was
bored; the children were not restless; and we of our carriage stayed
awake or went to sleep in every posture possible to the flexibility of
human limbs matched against the rigidity of wooden seats. The babies
came along and became acquainted and we sent them back to their parents
carrying gifts of cigarettes.

Curled up on the seat across from ours, with her head resting on her
luggage, was a girl about twenty years of age. She was a Eurasian and
was beautiful rather than pretty. Now and again her graceful arm raised
her fan but otherwise she did not move. Her dark eyes returned no
curious glances. Her mood of mind and soul seemed as frozen and hard
as the blue ice of a mountain glacier. It was a passionate negativity,
her defence against the instinct of society, which eternally wages war
upon the hybrid. It is instinctive, this struggle of the race mass
mind against the disintegration of its integrity. She had learned the
meaning of glances. The Eurasian must expiate a guiltless guilt. She
did not ask for quarter in the battle; far back of that cold, defensive
gaze was the strength of two proud races. Character makes fate, said
the Greeks. Inevitability may make tragedy. We were to pick up the
threads of old tales of love and tragedy along the valley of the Kiso,
but in the life of that strange, fearless, beautiful Eurasian girl was
the web and woof of a yet uncompleted story. When we at last passed our
bundles out of the window at Agematsu she had not stirred.

We had been carried out of the plains and night was coming down. Hori
voiced an inquiry about our landing spot. It was indeed high time to
be located some place for dinner and the night. Our indifference to
particularization about our landing had begun to harass him. In Kobe
and Nagoya when our surpassing indefiniteness had come out he had
nodded and said, “yes,” evidently putting his faith in the belief that
there would surely be an eventual limit to such casualness. I was slow
to realize his worry but when I did some primitive idea of justice told
me that his breaking into the inefficiency of our methods ought to be
more gentle and gradual. I whispered this intuition to O-Owre-san and
thus, when the train halted at the next platform, out went our luggage
and we were left standing to watch the fiery cloud of cinders disappear
into the blue-grey mist.

It had grown cold. The rain was curiously like snow, drifting through
the air, seemingly without weight. There was the beginning of a path
up a slippery clay hill, the upper reaches of which were lost in fog
and darkness. Even the short distances of vision, which until then
had endured, succumbed before we had scrambled up the hill. We made a
careful reconnaissance with hands and feet and found that the mountain
path at the top branched in several directions. The town might lie in
any direction. For more meditative cogitation Hori carefully lowered
the bicycle to its side but unfortunately there was no ground beneath
and off it slid. We heard it painfully scraping down the rocks. In
Alpine fashion we had to go after it. We crawled back again to stand in
a circle on the road, drenched and mud covered.

Dinner, bed, and bath might be within a hundred yards but to take the
wrong path might mean to wander until sunrise. At least so we thought.
Such a variety of adventure is much more interesting in retrospect
than prospect. However, it was worse to stand still. We started on an
exploration, craftily putting the bicycle next to the precipice. On
peaceful days the gears often meshed in moderate quietness but at any
time when its companions failed in omnipotent judgment they would
grind out a wailing reiteration of: “I told you so. I told you so.” We
were shuffling along to the measure of that lamentation when suddenly
there was a sparkle of light ahead. It was from a lantern. The bearer
was a peasant bundled up in a rush grass cape. He lifted the light into
our faces and then gave a single sharp cry of fear. Next he shut his
eyes tightly and was speechless.

A well-balanced consideration for the rights of one’s brothers is
intended for normal times. Now that a guide had offered himself to
us out of the darkness we purposed to keep him, although for a few
minutes he seemed a rather useless discovery. Hori managed at length
to pry the man’s eyes open with wet fingers and, then with fair words
sought to persuade him that if we were not ghosts we obviously needed
his help, but that if we were, then any sense left in him should tell
him that it would be far better to listen to our request to guide us
to an inn and to leave us there than to risk our trailing him to his
own home. He grasped Hori’s point. We followed after our guide and, as
we had suspected, the distance to the village was only a few steps. At
the threshold of the inn our guide bolted. If he had been cherishing a
grudge he should have waited to see our reception. It was not pleasing
to us.

Hori advanced into the courtyard to engage in Homeric debate. The fog
sweeping in struggled with the lights of the lanterns and candles. The
picture was a theatrical composition. There were the three rain-soaked,
laden intruders facing the maid-servants. The maids’ _kimono_ sleeves
were pinned back to their shoulders and their skirts were gathered up
through their girdles. Their faces and limbs gleamed in the coppery
light. The door to the steaming kitchen opened on to the courtyard and
within its shadows the pots and kettles hanging on the walls caught the
glowing flame of the charcoal. I suppose there was not a more honest
inn in all the land but the wild, picaresque picture suggested an
imagining by Don Quixote painted by Rembrandt or Hogarth or Goya. It
was a point of immediate reality, however, which concerned us, and that
point was that we were so far in the inn but no farther, and no farther
did we get.

They gave a reason. They said that the inn was full. It seemed so
ridiculous to have had such trouble in finding an inn and then to lose
it that O-Owre-san and I began laughing. We laughed inordinately, but
our barbarous merriment brought our listeners no nearer to changing
their conviction that the inn was full. There was another inn farther
down the street, they said, and we borrowed a lantern and a coolie
from them and started. The coolie ran ahead and when we arrived at the
second inn the mistress and all her maid-servants were at the door.
From the length of Hori’s argument I became suspicious that we again
were not considered desirable, but after a time he turned and said:
“It’s all right.”

As soon as we were in our room, hurriedly getting ready for the bath, I
tried to find out from Hori what the long debate was about, but English
is evidently much more laconic than Japanese. He summed it all up by
saying that they feared the inn was unworthy of foreigners. Admirable
_bushido_! What inn in the wide world could have been worthy of such
bedraggled wanderers? However, once we were allowed within the walls
and recognized as guests the spirit of hospitality welled solicitously.

Listen, O dogmatists! The joy of the finding is not always less than
the joy of the pursuit. If there are doubters let them seek the
Nakescendo trail and find the second inn of Agematsu, there to learn
that no dinner that they have ever imagined can equal the realization
they will discover inside the lacquer bowls and porcelain dishes which
will be brought to them.

The maid who had been assigned to administer to our comfort accepted
her duty as a trust. She was unbelievably short, but was very sturdy.
Her broad face and the strength of her round, unshaped limbs proclaimed
the hardy bloom of the peasantry. The physical, mental, and emotional
unity which comes as the heritage of such unmixed rustic blood is in
itself a prepossessing charm. Our daughter of Mother Earth was as
maternal as she was diminutive. She might think of a thousand services,
her bare feet might start of an instant across the mats to respond to
any requests, but never did she surrender one iota of her instinctive
belief that we, merely being men, were only luxurious accessories
for the world to possess. She was so primordially feminine that she
inspired a terrifying thought of the possibility of society being
sometime modelled after the queendom of the bees.

She had never seen a foreigner but she had heard much gossip of
our strange customs. Her inquiring mind was intent upon verifying
this gossip as far as possible. She was also very curious about our
possessions. She taught us how to hold our chopsticks and how to drink
our soup. She told us that we drank too silently. A little more noise
from our lips, she said, would show that we were appreciating the
flavour. She did acknowledge in us some aptitude to learn, implying
that if a more advanced state of culture had existed in the feminine
family group of our homes over the seas we might have been mothered
into some respectability. So saying, she arose sturdily to her full
height and bore away the dinner tables. Then she returned to make the
beds, struggling with the mattresses as might an ant dragging oak
leaves.

When the beds were finally laid she brought a fresh brewing of tea and
replenished the charcoal in the _hibachi_. She lighted our after dinner
cigarettes for us by pressing them against the embers. She sat waiting
until we had dropped the last stub into the ashes. Then guardian midget
rolled back the quilts, ordered us to bed, tucked us in carefully,
giving to each impartially a good-night pat. Her day’s work finished,
assuredly her efforts entitled her to a quiet enjoyment of one of the
cigarettes! She sat down on the foot of my bed and deeply drawing in
the smoke, blew it into the air with a sigh of contentment.

“I have been told,” she said, “that foreigners marry for love. Can that
be true?”

We assured her that that custom existed.

“Um-m-m,” she pondered. Our examination was evidently of import. She
took another step in questioning.

“But if you married for love how can you be happy to travel so far away
from your wives?”

She gasped at our claim of non-possession.

We made a second insistence regarding our unsocial state. She did
not put aside her good nature but she berated us roundly for our
unkindness, our lack of taste, in thinking that we could joke in such a
way just because she was a peasant girl in a country inn, but when we
further insisted upon repeating our tale she was really hurt. There is
a time, she said, for joking to come to an end. If it were always thus
our custom to insist upon a joke long after it had been laughed at and
appreciated, then she did not believe that she had excessive pity for
our wives and children in their being left behind while we wandered.

She then dismissed us from her questioning and appealed exclusively
to Hori. She could understand that if we had been forced to marry by
parental social regulation and had been united to wives whom we did
not and could not love, perhaps it would be quite within reason that
we should wish to have vacations in singleness, but to have had the
privilege of marrying for love and then to be wandering alone--oh, it
was un-understandable.

“Well,” said Hori mysteriously, “I think that what they have said is
the truth but it may not be all the truth. In their country certain
desperately wicked criminals are not allowed the privilege of marrying.”

There is a glamour which hangs over the notoriously wicked. The maid’s
glances were now modified by appropriate awe into distinct respect. She
got up, and endeavouring for dignity built a tower out of the scattered
cushions. She climbed upon this shaky height and turned out the light.
Then she hurried away to the backstairs regions with her tale.

In the morning it was raining. When we got up we could hear no sounds
below and when we went to the bath there were no maids to fill the
brass basins. Hori wandered off to the kitchen to find hot water and
we did not see him again until after our maid, very heavy-eyed, had
brought the breakfast tables to our room. He came as the bearer of
two items of information which he had gleaned from the mistress. The
first was that there had been a council sitting on our morals, presided
over by our maid, which had lasted through the hours of the night. The
second item was the truthful reason why we had been turned away from
the first inn and the confirmation of our suspicions that we had gained
admittance where we were only by an extremely narrow margin.

Once upon a time two foreigners had passed through Agematsu and had
been received as guests in one of the inns. That advent had been so
many years before that a new generation of mistresses and maids had
succeeded the victims of the marvellous invasion, but the legend of
that night of terror had been handed down undimmed. “And what do you
think was their unspeakable atrocity?” Hori asked dramatically. “_They
made snowballs from the rice of the rice box at dinner and threw them
at each other and at the maids!_”

From time to time, through the mountains, we heard again the legend
of those two remarkable _seiyo-jins_. We grew to have an admiration
for knaves so lusty in their revels that they could leave behind such
a never fading flower of memory. They must have gone forth to their
travels minutely familiar with the code of Japanese etiquette, so
thoroughly were they skilled in fracturing it. A riot might have been
forgiven, and forgotten, but not the throwing of rice on the floor.
The one constant forbidding under which a child is brought up finally
leaves no process of thought in the brain that anyone could ever
intentionally offend against the cleanness of the matting. It is less a
_gaucherie_ to set fire to a friend’s house and burn it to the ground
than to spill a bowl of soup.

We waited for the rain to clear away, but as it did not we borrowed
huge paper umbrellas and wandered off down the valley. We were in the
midst of a silk spinning district and in almost every doorway sat some
woman of the household busily capturing the silken threads from the
cocoons. We asked permission to rest in the door of a carpenter’s shop
which overhung the rocky Kiso and was shaded by the tops of great pines
which grew from the sides of the valley bed. The carpenter brought us
tea and stopped for a moment to point the view through the trees which
had been the companion of his life.

Sometimes poverty seems to be an absolute and unarguable condition;
at other times one’s ideas as to the what and when of poverty are so
shifting as merely to be interrogations. There was the poverty in that
valley of the struggle for some slight margin above dire want; the silk
workers were speeding their machines for their pittance; the carpenter
was busy through every hour of daylight. Economics and efficiency are
everyday words but what is their ultimate meaning not in dollars but in
life? What are the real wishes of the leaders in Tokyo, the statesmen
who are planning policies and at the same time must strive to please
the great banking houses of the world?--do they look forward to the
time when factories will fill the land and the spinners will not be
sitting in their own doorways but the children of to-day’s workers will
be standing in long rows before machines? “We are taught,” explained
a Japanese, “to pay our heavy taxes cheerfully so that the empire may
expand and develop. Wealth will be thus created and then taxes can be
reduced.”

Hori had remembrance of a traveller’s tale which he had heard long
before of an ancient tea-house along the Kiso famous both for its
noodle soup and its view of the spot locally believed to have been
the awakening place of Urashima when he returned from the Island of
the Dragon King. Considering that the story explicitly states that
Urashima awoke on the seashore, the faith of the inland believers
is really more marvellously imaginative than the story itself. The
trudging coolies whom we stopped had never heard of the tea-house.
Therefore we knocked at the first gate we came to in the bamboo wall
along the road to find that our footsteps had magically led us to the
famed spot itself. We left our muddy boots at the door and a maid
showed us the way to the balcony of the room of honour from which we
could see the tumbling river. The view is called “The Awakening.” An
islet emerges from the foam of the waters and its rocks have been made
to serve as a miniature temple garden. There is another view farther
down the bank, from which the dwarfed pines and stone lanterns of the
island may be seen to better advantage. Cicerones lie in wait there
for the sightseer. In delightful contrast to the urgings generally
experienced from the tribe, these guides were quite shy in the presence
of foreigners.

The daughter of the house, in a _kimono_ of silk and brocade, herself
brought the tray of tea and _sake_ and a pyramid dish of noodles.
The porcelain was old and of tempting beauty. The tea was fragrant.
Hori insisted that we should extemporize poetry to express our
appreciation of the beauty of the Kiso, but O-Owre-san and I were
rather self-conscious in our rhymes. We had been nurtured in a land of
specialization where poetry is entrusted to professionals. The sun came
out. We paid our reckoning, folded up our paper umbrellas, and walked
back to our inn for a long night’s sleep.



VI THE ADVENTURE OF THE BOTTLE INN


In the morning Hori discovered that his military survey map somehow
had been mistaken for a sheet of wrapping paper the day before. The
torn-off section had served to carry rice cakes in my pocket. The
tearing had strangely traversed mountains, valleys, and rivers along
almost the line we purposed following. As Hori was still unemancipated
from the idea that not to know where one is is to be lost, he was
rather in a maze for the next few days, as we continually wandered off
the edge of the map into unknown regions. He must have marvelled at
times over the kindness of the Providence which had guided our steps
from Kyoto to Nagoya.

The valley of the Kiso earnestly seeks to attest the theory that the
inhabitants of localities with a similar climate and topography tend
to have similar ideas, especially in working out ways of doing the
same thing. The wide sweeping view with the snow-topped mountains on
the horizon might have been Switzerland, and for a more decisive
deceiving of the eye into thinking so the cottages of the peasants had
the overhanging roof of the Swiss chalet with the same pitch and the
same arrangement of rows of boulders on them. It is a province, also,
of trousered women.

We came upon a wistful-eyed, pink-cheeked, timid fairy of the
mountains. She was carrying on her back a huge, barrel-shaped basket
and she bent forward as she slowly walked along, her eyes fixed on a
handful of wild flowers in her fingers. Even our modest knowledge of
the folklore of the land told us that she must be a princess who had
been captured by ugly trolls. They had set her to impossible labour
as their revenge against her beauty. A young man whose niche in the
world was beyond our determining--although we thought he might be a
student on a vacation walking trip--had caught up with us a half-hour
before and had been measuring his step with ours. When he discovered
that I wished to take a picture of the princess he assisted with such
effective blandishment of speech that she halted for an instant. When I
asked that I might also photograph him, he laughed and vaulted up among
the rocks and disappeared.

[Illustration: WE CAME UPON A WISTFUL-EYED, TIMID FAIRY OF THE
MOUNTAINS]

A little farther along we met the six sisters of the princess. They
were carrying burdens equally as large and heavy as had she, but
they were not so pretty nor so wistful, albeit they were just as timid.
We never could find any key to the mystery why our appearance along
the highway would sometimes be as startling as if we were ghostly
apparitions, and at other times it would merely bring about a casual
interest and staring, if it brought any interest at all. Upon this
occasion it was a panic. The six maidens beheld us, they shrieked in
unison, and they jumped from the road, trying to hide behind rocks and
trees. Their lithe limbs might have carried them like fawns, if their
shoulders had been freed from the huge baskets, but, as it was, their
flight was more like that of some new and enormous variety of the
beetle tribe, evoluted so far as to wear cotton clothes and to have
pretty human heads turbaned under blue and white handkerchiefs. As a
son of Daguerre, I should have tarried for an instant to photograph
their amazing struggle, but an upsetting obsession of chivalry hurried
us on. By the time we turned to look back they had scrambled to the
road, all six princesses accounted for. They, too, turned to look at
us and from the safety of distance began to laugh. The comedy might
thus have ended if it had not been that at that instant Hori rounded
the bend of the road with his thumb pressed vigorously against the
strident bicycle bell. The beetles (or, better to say, the wingless
butterflies) again took flight. We awaited their second reappearance.
This time they did not venture laughter until they reached the curve
and made sure of no further dismay.

Hori dismounted and pushed the bicycle along and we entered into
one of our unending discussions. A subject sometimes in debate
was O-Owre-san’s and my intense interest--our curiosity--in the
conversations that Hori had with passersby along the road or in the
shops. Sometimes, when we had made some simple inquiry in a shop, Hori
would ask a long question; the shopkeeper would answer; Hori would
enter a counter dissertation; the shopkeeper would make his reply to
that; Hori would reply; the shopkeeper would reply; Hori would reply;
and then it might be that the shopkeeper would have the conclusion.
Hori might then turn to us with: “He says ‘no.’”

In the port city shops where English is spoken, if there is but one
clerk he will answer your questions immediately. If there are two,
every question is thoroughly discussed in Japanese before answering,
and if there be three, four, or five clerks, the debate goes on to
extraordinary length. Again and again we asked Hori for a complete
translation but it must have been that he believed within himself that
he had asked the question in the simplest terms, for we seldom got a
verbatim translation.

We were in the midst of some such discussion when we looked up to see
an old man standing before us, leaning on a long staff. His white beard
fell benignly and his steady eyes carried a message of goodwill. He
returned our greetings by a dignified inclination of his head. We were
at the peak of the road and, as often may be found at such points,
there was a small rest tea-house for travellers. We asked the old man
if he would sit down with us and share a pot of tea.

The iron pot, filled with mountain spring water, steamed hospitably on
the _hibachi_ and the fragrance of the tea was a friendly invitation
to relax. Our guest stood his long staff in the corner, sat down on
a cushion, and drew his feet from his dusty sandals. After the true
manner of happily met travellers he was easily persuaded to tell us the
tale of his wanderings. The translation is somewhat rhetorical but, as
Hori explained, the tale was told in the language of etiquette.

“I was born,” said he, “in the forty-first year of the rule of the
Shogun Ienari. I was young and am now old. My eighty and seven summers
have seen the downfall of the once mighty before the rising to full
glory of the Meiji, and now, from the Palace of Yedo, shine upon us the
divine rays of the Way of Heaven. Great is the Mercy of Enlightenment.
The Eternal Glory is the Way.

“As a child I knew these mountains which you see. The provinces of our
land were then fortified by many castles and these roads were traversed
by armed men. The castles have been razed to the ground but the temples
of the gods still stand. The two-sworded warriors have gone but I, a
humble pilgrim, walk the roads they once knew. The white clouds rest in
the blue sky above Fuji-san as when I looked upon them as a child. The
clouds will rest above Fuji when these eyes shall see them not.

“In the fourteenth year of my youth I took the vow that my life should
be lived in honouring the holy images of Buddha, each and all as my
steps might find them, from the shrines erected by the peasants to the
bronze statues of the great temples. I took the very staff which you
see and the clothes that were upon my back and bade my family good-bye.
Through the kindness in the hearts of men, the lowly and the mighty,
the gods have provided me with food and rest. I have travelled without
illness and my spirit has known the joy of the Way.”

[Illustration: “IN THE FOURTEENTH YEAR OF MY YOUTH I TOOK THE VOW THAT
MY LIFE SHOULD BE LIVED IN HONORING THE HOLY IMAGES OF BUDDHA”]

In those years that his bowl had not gone empty of rice, never, it may
be believed, did anyone give to him as a beggar asking. Japan is of the
East, possessing the intuition that the spiritual is a mystic interflow.

His eyes were young; they were not clouded in contemplation of the
abstract. They sparkled from a delight in life. It had not been
demanded of him that his vicarious pilgrimage should be one of tragic
sacrifice. He had given and he had received. While his theoretical
faith might be that life is an illusion and only the Way is eternal,
nevertheless he was born to love his fellowmen and he could not escape
from the practical faith that was in him that this temporal life must
be of some use and of some meaning. I remembered in strange comparison
a sturdy British unemployed whom I had once come upon. He was lying
under a hedge in Monmouthshire. He borrowed a pipeful of tobacco and
then turned over onto his back to gaze into the blue sky. After a time
he said: “Activity is a fever. Therefore it is a disease. Laziness is
a promise. Rest and forgetfulness are divine.” He did not make the
effort to add a good-bye when I left him.

A path of our pilgrim led over the road which we had just travelled. We
parted, bowing many times. Hori unfolded his ravaged map and found a
village named Narii a few miles farther along. The railroad down in the
valley according to the map went somewhere near Narii. Hori’s nerves
had been rasped by the temperamental vagaries of the bicycle on the
steep slopes and he decided to await a train, promising to meet us.

After a time our path dropped down to the bed of the river. Across a
bridge the road forked, one branch continuing along the valley and the
other winding off into the hills. The hill trail, particularly as it
led into the unknown regions off Hori’s map, tempted, and we shouted
down an inquiry to some children playing in the water. They were
successfully attempting to get as wet as possible while remaining as
dirty as possible. There is a mystery which overhangs grimy Japanese
children. When the little noses present a constant temptation to the
_seiyo-jin_ handkerchief that in itself is a caste sign that you
will find the faces of their fathers and mothers unhappy, dull, and
lustreless. When the children are brightly scoured and polished there
is a general appearance of happiness and contentment in the community.
It is not the simple equation that poverty equals dirt; one village is
scrubbed and the next one is not--otherwise neither seems richer nor
poorer except in happy looks.

When we called to the children in the Kiso they splashed out of the
water like wild animals and scattered in all directions, but as two
naked infants too small to run had been left on the shore, first the
girls and then the boys began to edge back. They remained to stare.
We pointed up the mountain path and asked if it led to Narii. Their
gestures evinced a fierce encouragement to essay the ridges as if they
had the contempt of the untamed for anything as conventional as a broad
valley road. As a matter of fact they were undoubtedly saying that the
valley road did not lead to Narii. We discovered this later when we
could look down from the heights. Hori’s railroad tunnelled the hills.

According to local belief our path carried us over the “backbone”
of the empire, and this crossing spot is considered sacred ground.
Accordingly we should have paid special homage to the local deity
whose shrine we passed, but as we were foreigners and in ignorance,
the god perhaps forgave us. Furthermore, we unknowingly passed a
particularly renowned view of very holy Mount Ontake. We probably did
see the mountain, but being uninformed, as I said, of this special
view, we did not hold ourselves in proper restraint until reaching the
exact spot for appreciation. Instead we luxuriously and squanderously
revelled in all four directions of the compass. It is always thus
with the ignorant. Their indiscriminate enthusiasm is more irritating
to the intellectuals than no appreciation at all. I was later most
depressingly snubbed for having missed the sacred view by a scholar
of things Japanese. He knew it from prints and sacred writings. He
said that he himself would have journeyed to see the reality if it had
not been for the probable annoyance of having to come in contact with
so many natives on the journey. He appeared to be impatient that the
British Museum does not commandeer all views, temples, and abiding
places of art around the world and establish turnstiles which will keep
the natives out and let the scholars in. When he actually grasped that
our only reason for having arrived at that particular spot at all was
that we had taken a turning to the right instead of to the left, he
declared that our ideas of travelling evidence the same intelligence
as might the tripping of tumbling beans and that our very presence at
sacred places was a sacrilege.

We turned a corner that hung sharply over the precipice. Around the
bend the shelf spread out into a miniature meadow. A peasant was lying
on the grass and his straw-bonneted ox was leisurely nibbling. We sat
down beside him and O-Owre-san began searching in his rucksack for a
remaining cake of chocolate. During this hunt the peasant kept his eyes
carefully and earnestly averted. I made the remark to him that the view
was _kirei_ and he replied by a nervous _hei_. O-Owre-san found the
chocolate and broke it into three parts. He handed one of the squares
to the peasant. The fingers that reached out for it were trembling.

The man had imaginative eyes. It was plain to see that he was suffering
from some lively remembrance of a mountain folklore demon story. He
knew that we were foxes or badgers who had assumed human form, and
that we had come to him with no good intentions. He suspected a subtle
poison. But he had courage from one thought. It is the common knowledge
of the countryside that while the demands of demon badgers may not
be directly refused, their evil intent may often be thwarted by the
crafty intelligence of man. The immediate problem was how to avoid the
appearance of refusing to eat the mysterious cake which was now getting
soft and moist in his hand. Suddenly he popped the chocolate into his
mouth, tin foil and all. Then he pushed back the square into his hand
almost in the same movement. I pretended not to be watching. He dropped
his hand with elaborate carelessness into the thickness of the grass. I
felt a sense of dramatic relievement myself.

During those minutes the ox had been no such respecter of enchantment
as had his master. Instead, he had stood sniffing at our boots and
pulling up bits of grass round and about our ankles, all the time
rolling a pair of red, angry eyes. Asiatic beasts of burden find
something antagonistic to their complaisance in the odour of the
Caucasian and this individual ox was progressing toward a positive
bovine dissatisfaction. Furthermore, we were sitting on the sweetest
and most tender tufts of grass remaining. We courteously dismissed the
peasant to go his way. His marked alacrity was quite welcome.

We lingered on the grass for a little while and I told O-Owre-san my
guesses. I elaborated them into the hazard that the poor man--he had
not once turned to look back over his shoulder--might even then be
fearing that the slight taste from the chocolate would turn him into
a frog and his ox into a stork to eat him up; or perhaps he might be
in distress that he and his beast might grow smaller and smaller until
they would disappear into thin air.

O-Owre-san had been examining the faintness of the path. “I hope none
of these things happen until the man gets over the hills to Narii. The
hoof prints make an excellent trail,” he said.

It was time to sling on our packs and follow. When we reached the next
turn we could see the peasant’s straw hat and the ox’s straw bonnet
bobbing along just over the bush tops. We maintained this distance
without closing the gap. As O-Owre-san had predicted, the hoof marks
were useful. The path often grew so faint that it had no other resolute
indication. We had been sure, without thought of other possibility,
that the crest of the hill we were climbing would be the summit of the
range. When we reached the crest we stood looking up at another peak
rising from a shallow valley at our feet.

“Which way does the ox say to go?” I asked.

The hoof marks were there in the soft earth, but where our feet had
stopped there they had stopped. They stopped as absolutely as if the
peasant and his ox had been whisked away in a chariot to the sunset
sky. The bushes were too low for concealment. There was no cave, nor
hole in the earth.

If there be no such thing as magic, in the Japanese mountains at least,
where did that man and his beast go? The disappearance was as complete
as the most exacting enchanter could have desired. We found no answer
to the riddle and the sun was sinking, adding the next question of how
we were going to get out of the hills in the night time if we delayed
for scientific investigation. We succumbed to expediency and took a
five-mile-an-hour pace over such trail as we had left, guessing at the
turns. When we finally reached the next crest, deep in the valley we
could see Narii. Before descending the steep, dropping path, we sat
down near a spring where the birds had come to drink. They were singing
evening songs mightily. Bright wild flowers were scattered in the open
spaces between the intense green of the fern patches. The world was
lustily at peace.

When we did start we swung down the long hill almost at a run and in a
half-hour reached the edge of the village to find Hori sitting under
a stone lantern in the temple yard. The evening peace had made us
positive that this is the best of all possible worlds, but Hori was
entertaining a different idea. He looked exceedingly gloomy. We were
impatient of any discontent. If he had said that men were starving for
rice in the village beyond, the fitting answer would have seemed to us
the historic words of the good queen: “Give them cake.” Undoubtedly
when the message about the starving peasants was brought to that Lady
of France she was sitting under the shrubbery at Versailles, and the
birds were singing, and it was springtime, and perhaps the fountains
were playing. Impellingly she realized with an insight deeper than any
historian has ever appreciated that upon such a glorious day, if there
is any such thing as right or justice at all in this world, a certain
amount of cake should be everybody’s inalienable possession.

As it happened, Hori’s worry had nothing to do with altruistic sorrow
for starving villagers, but existed from a lively interest in our own
affairs. The town was very poor, he explained, a town come down in the
world from ancient prosperity. Its neck was hung with the millstone
of decayed graces and thinned blood. The inn was so old that it was
senile. Hori had established some excuse before entering the door for
inspection which later allowed his rejection of the inn’s hospitality,
but it would never do for us in turn to venture in for a glance around.
That would be needlessly raising the expectation of the ancient host.
We would find, he suggested, that it would be only five or six or seven
miles to the next village. As we had had twenty-five or more miles
behind us and most of those had been along mountain paths, we were
not so inevitably tempted at that hour of night to be particular in a
choice of roofs as Hori, who had come by train, was imagining.

The inn, in truth, was very old. By any law of survival chances the
wandering wings should have burned to earth long ago. To greet us
there were no smiling and chattering maids gathered behind a mistress;
instead, an old man and a very small girl, his granddaughter or more
likely his great-granddaughter, met us in the dark entrance with
protests that the house was unworthy of our presence. We hastily denied
them their words. Hori could employ the polite phrases of Japan. We
impulsively, directly, and bluntly told them “no.” It was not alone the
pathos of the two figures which appealed. It was somewhat that their
dignity had not surrendered to ruin, and it was somewhat a something
else, indescribable, in the atmosphere that charmed.

We followed the master along a labyrinthine corridor. The soft wood
planks of the floor had been polished to a deep reddish gleam under the
bare feet of generations of hurrying _ne-sans_. He led us past inner
courtyards to the farthest wing. Our room hung over the river at an
elbow of the stream. Even with the _shogi_ pushed wide open we were
hidden completely from the eyes of the town by heavily leafed trees.

The mats on the floor had turned a dingy, mottled brown and black
from their once light golden yellow, but they were clean. The sacred
_takemona_ corner still compelled its importance. It had been built in
an age when the demand for its existence was the ardent faith of the
builders rather than an architectural tradition. The room was about
thirty-five feet long and fifteen feet deep, perhaps a little larger.
The ceiling was proportionately high.

Hori was still doubtful, not gloomily so, but from the knowledge that
an inn is proved by its service. The host was kneeling, as immobile
as a temple image, awaiting our orders. His skin was as bloodless as
the vellum of the painting which hung behind him. His watchful eyes,
however, were intensely bright in their deep sockets. Hori began
inquiries about dinner. The ancient bowed his head to the floor,
drawing in his breath sharply against his teeth. Dinner was now being
prepared for his family, he said, but it would be unworthy of his
guests. The formal phrase of polite deprecation carried this truth, as
Hori discovered by further questioning; it was not that the dinner was
or was not worthy--it was the failure of _quantity_. We should not have
long to wait, said our host, but food would have to be sent for.

As we sat in a circle planning what we should have, the old man smiled
and pointed to a patched square in the matting. Underneath the square,
he said, was a depression for holding bronze braziers. When the
nobility, in the old feudal times, had travelled the Nakescendo trail,
this was the room of honour that had been given to the _daimyos_. It
had been often the custom for the retainers of a _daimyo_ themselves
to prepare his dinner over the braziers. Our sitting there, planning
what we should have, had reminded him of the dead past. His words came
slowly as if between each word of recollection his spirit journeyed
back into the very maw of oblivion and then had to return again to the
world.

“Are the braziers still hidden there?” Hori interrupted.

Yes, the braziers were under the floor or somewhere to be found.

Hori turned to us and put us through a questioning until he
rediscovered the word “picnic” for his vocabulary. “That’s what we will
have, a picnic, right here,” he declared, and he turned back to the
host to explain. The old man almost gasped, at least approaching as
near to such escape of emotion as he probably ever had at the request
of a guest.

“But you will then have to have a special waitress,” he said. “My
granddaughter is indeed too young for that privilege.” Always when he
used depreciatory adjectives about the child’s unworthiness he failed
lamentably to harden his caressing tone. She was, however, as he had
said, little older than a baby. The services of a maid we should have
to pay for, but, under the spell of the conjuring up of the memories of
those bygone revels in our room, what cared we for saving our precious
_yen_? We had become reincarnations of the two-sworded swaggerers. We
waved our arms grandiloquently.

“Tell him to send for fowls for the pot,” we oratorically assailed
Hori. “Let us mix rich sauces and warm the _sake_. And tell him to
remember that for us there can be but one choice--the maid to serve our
dinner must be the prettiest maid in all Narii.”

I had not the slightest idea that Hori would translate our exact words,
but I found later that such was his act.

Thus the mountain village of Narii faced a problem. Two foreigners, and
a Japanese almost as alien as a foreigner, had appeared from nobody
knew where, not preceded, ’twas true, by retainers as had been the
travellers of old, but nevertheless demanded the old-time service with
as much gusto as if they were accustomed to having what they wished.
They had asked that the prettiest maid in all Narii be called to the
inn to exercise the privilege of guarding the steaming rice box. It was
obvious that there could be only one prettiest maid, and all Narii knew
with one mind that the prettiest maid was the daughter of the Shinto
priest. However, the daughter of a priest is not a likely candidate for
service in an inn, even if the master has ever been a faithful devotee
of the temple. Nevertheless there was the honour of the hospitality of
Narii at stake. Messengers (or even appropriately, it might be said,
heralds) were sent to explain the problem to the maid and her father,
and to use, if necessary, the pressure of “the state demands.”

Thus came O-Hanna-san to the inn. (In all Japan there cannot be
a prettier, a more bashful, or a more modest maiden.) Her eyes
were downcast behind long black lashes. Her soft cheek flushed and
paled--perhaps somewhat from the excitement of the adventure. Neither
she nor her friends had ever seen one of that strange race, the
foreigner. And, indeed, even a priest’s daughter may think that to be
chosen as the prettiest maid----!! Ah, her courage failed her to glance
up and words would not come to her lips to answer their questions, but
they did not seem to be so very predatory nor so very fearsome--and
they were very hungry.

Two great bronze braziers had been filled with glowing charcoal. The
foreigners and the outer-world Japanese who could speak their strange
words were busily cooking the fowls, chopped into dice, and they were
arguing about their respective talents and abilities, as do all amateur
cooks. Perhaps she could now look up for an instant unobserved. No, a
glance met her eyes and she felt hot blushes grow again on her cheek.

While they feasted and laughed she had to run many times to the kitchen
for forgotten dishes. When she passed along the hall by the entrance
to the street she was each time stopped and besieged by the questions
of the gathered mob. (Some of those inquiring investigators had also
gathered outside the wall of my bath an hour before. I had been
suddenly aware of an eye at every crack and crevice of the boards as
I was cautiously stepping into the superheated tub. There was not a
sound, merely the glitter of their star-scattered eyes.)

The foreigners put sugar on their rice and one of them even put sugar
in his tea. They handled their chopsticks so awkwardly that it was
marvellous that they did not spill the rice grains on the matting. She
thought of the twenty rules in etiquette for the proper and graceful
use of chopsticks and she imagined that if there had been a ten score
of rules they might have all been broken. At last the three feasters
finished their mighty meal and stretched out on the cushions to smoke
in deep contentment. She doubted whether they had even noticed that her
superior _kimono_ was not such as a maid of an inn would possess. After
the feast her quick feet, in spotless white _tabi_, carried away the
bowls and little tables. Then she sat down by the door to await any
further clapping of hands.

The host came in, moving silently across the matting. He kneeled and
bent his forehead to the floor. Before the meal he had himself arranged
the flowers, in an old iron vase, to stand in the _takemona_ corner. We
tried to express our appreciation for the flowers and our admiration of
the vase.

We asked him how old the inn was. It had been his father’s before
him, and his grandfather’s before his father. Yes, in those days the
Nakescendo had rivalled the Tokaido, and yearly, on the hastening to
Yedo to give obeisance to the Shogun, the great nobles of the northwest
provinces with their armed retainers had had to pass through Narii.
In the pride of their gifts to the Shogun, in their numbers, in their
courage, they had never yielded place to the envoys from the great
families of the South. This now forgotten inn had then been famous.
Our room, overhanging the river, he repeated, had been only given to
the _daimyos_. The _samurai_ had crowded the other rooms. The inn
had boasted a score, two score, of trained and pretty _ne-sans_ to
wait upon those fiery warriors. (The modern _geisha_, in many of her
accomplishments, is daughter to the inn maidens of the feudal days
who sang and danced and played musical instruments in addition to the
graces of more domestic duties.) The inn had then rung with shouting
and laughter, and sometimes the dawn of the morning start of the
cavalcade found the retainers still sitting around the feast.

On the road to Yedo their purses had hung full, but the great city
always plunged both its hands into those purses filled from the rice
taxes, and it was often quite another story--the return journey back
to the provincial castles. No rare occurrence was it indeed, for some
haughty _samurai_ to declare in the morning that he could not pay his
inn bill, however modest it might be. Upon one occasion a certain
warrior had been forced to leave in pledge the first mistress of his
heart--his sword. A _daimyo_, overlord of a province, could, of course,
never be in debt to an innkeeper, although he might leave a _gift_ for
his host instead of money. When such eventuality as that arose the
host would declare (wisely) that his hospitality had been unworthy
of any remuneration and that he was a thousand times repaid by the
magnificence of the gift.

Yes, went on the old man, once a noble upon leaving the door had caused
a vase to be unwrapped from its encasements of one silken bag after
another and had given it to the inn. The donor had written a poem of
dedication with his own hand. The vase was shaped like a bottle and
the inn had been called “The Bottle Inn” from that day, seventy years
in the past. Our host, a youth on that day, had thought that the inn
would ever be rich and renowned. He sighed. The tradition of its renown
had faded and been forgotten in this age of railways. No longer did
turbulent guests demand that the bottle be brought out and shown.

If his dramatic genius had been subtly leading us toward turbulence, we
obeyed the pulling of the strings. We demanded to know whether the vase
was still under his roof. Our host smiled. The sacred vase was hidden
safely. Would we like to see it?

He returned, carrying an old wooden box. The great-granddaughter
dragged the unredeemed sword after her. The well-worn scabbard of the
sword was of mediocre, conventional design, but the blade had been
forged by one of the famous sword makers. Hori read the sword’s origin
from the characters carved in the steel. The old man slowly slipped
the sword back into the scabbard, leaving us to ponder what might have
been the tragic fate of the _ronin_ that he had never returned for his
pledge.

No casket of precious metal can be so alluringly suggestive of trove
as the simple, unpainted, pine boxes into which the Japanese put their
treasures. A woven cord clasped down the lid of the box. The untying of
it began the breathless ceremony. When the lid was lifted we saw the
first silken wrapping, then came another, and another, and another.
Some were of brocade, some were of faded plain colour,--red, blue, or
rose. Finally the drawing string of the last bag was pulled open and
the old man lifted the bottle. It was of yellow pottery with a thick
brown glaze overrunning the sides. The mouth of the vase was capped by
a bronze and silver band carved with an irregular motif.

The trustee of the possession allowed us to pass it from hand to hand.

What was one of our reasons for being in Narii at that very moment? It
was that our eyes were prying for those rarer treasures in Japan which
may be sometimes gleaned “away from the beaten path.” Unaccountable
chance had led us to the inn. The old man was hopelessly beaten in
his contest with poverty. I knew that he did not wish to sell, but
if there should be the jingling of a few _yen_--was it likely that
he could refuse? Our eyes were gleaming with desire. Surely, even if
it were a venal sin to take away the bottle from The Bottle Inn the
very greatness of the temptation would have brought its own special
forgiveness. But because temptation and conscience can generally be
argued around to our satisfaction, the gods have ironically added
impulse as the third part of us. It must have been some such impulse
which was the irrational lever which moved us to action. We soared
to the heights. It was a superior endurance to any flight that it is
likely either of us will ever attempt again. Truly such virtue is more
regretted than gloried in. We did not take the bottle with us. It still
functions in its environment, in harmony with its tradition. Taken away
it could be only a superior vase with a history, an object of art. In
that old inn it is a living part, an inspiration. In the forgotten
village of Narii no numbered museum tag hangs around its neck.

The bottle dropped back into the brocade bag lined with faded crimson
silk. Then the other wrappings, one by one, muffled it. It went into
the box, the lid was fitted into place, and the cord was tied. Do we
gain strength from resisting such temptation? The writers of the Holy
Church of the Middle Ages said so. By refusing that bottle I merely
gained exhaustion. This moment I am stifled by the dust of the ashes
of that murdered passion. My conscience replies with no response. It
has lost the vitality of recoil, and thus, if ever such time may come,
I may yet glory in a greater vandalism, some supreme Hunnish act, and
there will be no rasping regret.

The breezes up among the snows of the mountains came down into the
valley for the night. Wherever they were going they seemed to be quite
undetermined as to their path. They blow from every side and into every
corner of the room by turn. Little by little, to escape the draughts,
we had kept pushing along the wooden shutters until we were at length
completely walled in. It was not possible to imagine that a few miles
away, down on the rice plains, the millions were nudely stifling while
we were going to bed to get warm. The daughter of the priest had
been dragging layers of bedding to the door and, when we clapped our
hands, she had innumerable mattresses for each of us. For once it was
unnecessary to stretch the mosquito netting. There seemed to be nothing
left but to blow out the lights and cry: “_O yasumi nasai!_” to the
retreating patter of her footsteps.

“What’s the midget granddaughter waiting for?” I asked Hori.

“She wants you to go to bed,” said he from under his quilt.

I jumped into the soft centre of my mattresses as requested. Then the
butterfly dropped on her knees and crept backward around our beds.
Out of a box she was pouring a train of powder until she had us each
enclosed in a magic circle.

“Why?” I demanded.

Kenjiro laughed at me.

“It’s _nomi-yoke_,” he said. “Insect powder--what do you say in
America? Bug medicine?”

I insisted that I had not seen the sign of a bug or an insect or a flea
or anything looking like a marauder.

“Of course not,” Hori stopped me as if I should have known better.
“It’s just courtesy to honoured guests, to show you that they would
wish to protect you if there were any. If there were crawlers,” he
concluded with some scorn, “do you suppose they’d make such an effort
to call attention to the fact?”

That _bushido_ explanation satisfied Hori but I was doubtful. For the
sake of verification I carefully destroyed the integrity of the rampart
around my bed by opening up passages through the powder. I was willing
to display a few bites in the morning to prove the truth. I went to
sleep dreaming about two-sworded _samurai_ who looked like pinch bugs,
and they were swaggering around a wall of insect powder. However, the
morning proved that Hori was quite correct. The delicate attention had
been born of pure courtesy.



VII THE IDEALS OF A SAMURAI


In the morning we found great brass basins of water waiting for us in
the sunny iris garden. One of the super-errors that a foreigner can
make in a native inn is to ask to have the basins brought to his room.
Such a request can be understood only as a perversion, or a barbarity.
One reason why the houses and inns seem so clean is that they eliminate
so many of the chances for their being otherwise; and this defence
might be added into the weighing when criticizing Japanese nudity at
ablutions.

Breakfast was brought to us steaming under the lacquer covers of the
bowls, but the priest’s daughter was not holding the wooden ladle
for the rice. It was a rather late hour when she had returned to her
father’s house, but the mothers and daughters of a Japanese home are
accustomed to having their working hours overlap into the night. In
subtlety we brazenly accused each other of having frightened the gentle
_ne-san_ into not returning. The truth was--as it afterwards came
out--that we had each found opportunity to hint to the host’s ear the
night before that the maid’s slumber by no means should be disturbed
for our morning’s start. Thus we each privately thought we knew the
secret of her non-appearance, but just as we were tying on our shoes
at the door a breathless message was brought by her small brother. She
had overslept. It had not been our late hour which was responsible. The
family of the Shinto priest had sat up almost until the first light in
the East to listen to the wonder tale of their daughter who had endured
such a singular and daring adventure.

The ancient host gave us presents and we gave him presents. We said our
farewells at the door and then, after that, he and his granddaughter
walked along with us half through the village. Finally we bowed our
formal seven bows of farewell. When we reached the end of the street we
turned and saw them still standing where we had left them.

The road led across a wide, flat valley. That morning there was a
truly extraordinary phenomenon. The claret red of the sun flamed and
danced against the snows of the mountain wall at our left. Finally
our road broke up into a delta of small paths. The soft earth had
been so cut into ruts by heavy carts that Hori was forced to accede
to the demands of the bicycle that it should be assisted and not
ridden, but he did not surrender until the wheel had demonstrated its
malevolence by pitching him a half-dozen times off the saddle. Thus
we all walked along together. The villages were rather mean, with the
air of having come down in the world. Some of the towns, in the days
before machinery, had had special fame in the various handicrafts; one
had been known for its hand-made wooden combs. Evidently there remain
some conservatives who have not yet countenanced modern vulcanite
innovations, as wooden combs were still being made for sale. Entire
families, from grandparents to children, were the manufacturers, the
factories their own homes. We bought a boxful for a few _sen_. In
arriving at a selling price they must have valued their time in the
manufacturing as a gratuitous contribution to the arts.

Every once in a while O-Owre-san and I had had our pleasure in drawing
the long bow of our imagination concerning the architectural reason for
a certain peculiar type of house. A recurring example is to be found
in nearly every village. These buildings are unusually substantial
and the windows are always heavily barred and shuttered. They give a
suggestion of descent from the castles of feudal days. As I said, we
had employed our elaborate imagining over the mysterious buildings,
but our guesses had never brought us anywhere near to the truth. Hori
explained that they are the houses of the pawnbrokers. Hori is the
son of a _samurai_. (He has the right to wear, if he wishes, the full
number of crests on his formal _kimono_.) The artists who made the old
colour prints used to give to the eyes of the two-sworded _samurai_
an expression of warlike ferocity. When Hori spoke of the pawnbrokers
his eyes glared, and I was sure that I detected his hand starting to
reach for the sword that has now gone from his girdle. However, the
ubiquitous bicycle just then swung around and entangled him, as a
reminder, probably, that this is a new age, a mechanical and not a
feudal one, and that a _samurai_ no longer has the general and hearty
acquiescence of law and society to proceed to direct action against
the loathed money lender. The law of the land says to-day that the
pawnbroker must be considered as a free and equal citizen, enjoying
full rights under the mercy of the Mikado; albeit (as the bars and
shutters of his windows show), the money lender still wisely believes
in keeping his powder dry even in an age of enlightenment.

When we had extricated Hori from the bicycle and we had all got going
again, he explained why the pawnbroker is the most hated member of
Nipponese society. Here are some of the other remarks that Hori made
about pawnbrokers:

They are always rich. (He meant the Asiatic wealth,--hoards of gold,
not a checking account at a bank.)

They are uncanny.

They lead isolated, unhappy lives.

They always have a beautiful daughter (one only) to fall heir to the
riches.

This daughter dreams of noble lovers, but no Japanese, whatever his
rank, be it noble, humble, or decayed (or, for that matter, no matter
how much in debt he may be to her father), would ever throw away his
pride to wed a pawnbroker’s daughter. Thus she is left to grieve out
her heart in the midst of her father’s luxury.

A Japanese believes certain things patriotically. I know that Hori
does not believe these same things intellectually, for I was once rude
enough to continue an argument until he capitulated intellectually--but
for the love of country and the required loyalty to what should be, he
also keeps to the beliefs which he should have as a Japanese. After
all, juxtapositioned to such faith, mere intellectual judgment does
seem lacking in vital fluid.

The hiatus in Hori’s Japanese life--the foreign period and
influence--began when he was of the high school age and went to
America. Thus, at the time when the mind is supposed to be most
receptive, he was separated from the traditions and ethical customs
of his homeland, and he made no return home until he had left his
American university. A peculiar duality may come from such a training.
It would be impossible otherwise, for instance, that one individual
should really appreciate both a symphony orchestra and a _samisen_,
not so much from the angle of technical divergence in the use of
notes, tones, and scales as in aesthetic comparison. To any human
being with emotional sensitiveness and response, not possessing a dual
personality, acknowledgment of the rights of the symphony would seem to
preclude those of the _samisen_.

I had lost my Japanese pipe. Those little iron bowls continue to be a
most admirable luxury through all of the days that one is in the land
of their invention. When the traveller leaves the shores of Japan he
takes away with him packages of silken tobacco and his pipe, only to
find that he never lights it again. The charm is broken when the circle
is broken, and the circle, I suppose, is a unity when one is lying on
the cushions of a balcony overlooking a garden, and a maid brings the
charcoal _hibachi_ and a pot of tea. You touch the bowl of the pipe
to the fire and then--three puffs and a half. You knock the ash into
a bamboo cup. Perhaps the maid refills the pipe, touches it to the
charcoal, and hands it to you again.

Ordinarily these pipes are sold everywhere, but at Narii we could not
find them. When we were walking into Shiogiri I asked Hori to help me
keep an eye on the shops as we passed. After a time he said: “Here we
are. Here’s a one-price store.”

We had not come upon just such a shop before. While the stock and
the arrangement was purely native, the atmosphere of the place was
distinctly un-Japanese. A little of everything was for sale, but
instead of the selling being a social ceremony, the shopkeeper and his
wife and his sons and his daughters were expeditious clerks and not
hosts. The entering customer asked for what he wished to see, and a
price tag told him the cost. That was the beginning and the end of any
bargaining.

In the conventional shop the buyer sits down leisurely, after removing
his _geta_, and perhaps has a cup of tea. If an ordinary utility is
wished, the negotiating is necessarily devoid of much opportunity for
extended approach, consideration, and conclusion, but it is always
to be remembered that our idea of what is a waste of time may be the
Japanese idea of a valuably used moment. The little shops have no
opening and closing hours. Literally, there is all the time there is.
The clerk does not sell eight, nine, or ten hours of his day to his
employer. He sells all of it. As it is impossible to keep at high
pressure for maybe twenty hours of the twenty-four (and twenty hours
is not an exaggeration in some instances) nature’s insistence for rest
has to come out of the working day. The fact that the workers are not
awaiting the striking of a clock for their liberty, but are more or
less taking it as it comes, accounts for what is often a mystery to
travellers, the easy gaiety of a busy Japanese street. Workmen put down
their tools and stop for a visit; the shopkeeper chats indefinitely
with a customer; the maids at the inns have plenty of time to light
pipes for the guests and pour tea. Our idea is that the individual’s
liberty begins at the sharp demarcation of the hour which ceases to
belong to the employer. After the wanderer has lived for a time in
the midst of the Oriental system, the impression comes that time is a
continuous flow and that it is not a succession of intervals as it is
with us. The people of the East have even found a counteracting thrust
to oppose the tyranny of the railroad schedule. By arriving at the
station indefinitely early they can show their contempt for definite
departures.

While we were buying my new twelve-_sen_ pipe in the Shiogiri one-price
store, Hori commented with obvious emphasis several times that he
was pleased that the prices were so carefully marked on the tags. As
smoking may at any time become a ceremony, I spent many minutes in my
selection, and through these minutes Hori kept dropping his pointed
comments, but I stored away the impression of his satisfaction over the
price tags to be asked about later. An appropriate time did not come
for several days. An hour came when we were lounging on an inn balcony
in the soft night air.

It seemed that our method of shopping was the disturbing pressure
against Hori’s peace of mind. We two foreigners undoubtedly had many
flaws which came to light under the wear of intimate association,
but it was this one which at last drove Hori to the verge where he
had to unburden his feelings. In the curio shops, or wherever we were
making purchases, when we came upon something that interested us, we
immediately asked: “How much?” It had been natural, when Hori was
with us, to rely upon him to interpret rather than to employ our own
cumbrous methods of transmitting ideas. As soon as we received an
intimation of the bargain price we proceeded to the bargaining and
continued until we arrived at what was presumably the lowest compromise
of the shopkeeper. Hori had also noticed that we sometimes put off
deciding whether we really wished to purchase until we discovered
the eventual price. We quite reversed the ceremonial purchase making
enacted by a Japanese gentleman. As Hori witnessed it, the difference
was meaningful. The Japanese collector looks first of all at an object
to see whether it merits his attention. If it does, there follows an
extended conversation about its intrinsic excellence. Every question as
to artistic value, authenticity, age, workmanship, uniqueness--these
are all settled before a word about the price arises. If the object
does not equal his demands of it, the collector departs without inquiry
about the money value--for why should he be interested in the cost of
an article if not in the article itself?

Hori shook his head sadly. “You always ask right away: ‘How much?’” he
said. “That sounds very mercenary to us. It looks as if you were more
interested in cheapness than quality.”

We had not suspected that Hori was writhing when, under the pressure
of our Occidental impetus, he had been asking for us the questions of
price. As a matter of fact, be it to his credit and our discredit,
despite the simplification of his quick interpreting against our
imperfect use of the few words that we did know, when it came to the
detail of price our efforts often seemed to be able to effect a more
extraordinary drop from the original quotation than when such arguing
was put off until all other details were settled. It is true that the
merchants who have really fine things will not show nor sell their
best to customers whose appreciation they doubt, but it may also be
true that as far as we did have appreciation, we made up our minds
more quickly than does the Japanese collector, and thus the stages of
consideration which Hori missed were not so much lacking as they were
abbreviated.

The standards of the _samurai_ when he goes forth to make purchases
should not be confused as being an index to the methods of modern
Japan in attacking the world’s markets. In such trading there is
no nation which is more intent upon giving the customer what the
customer thinks he wants, and price and profit are sufficiently an
affair of cold business to be safely refrigerated against any germs of
sentimentalism. Hori was speaking as the son of the civilization which
flowered in the feudal days. Whatever that civilization was, it was not
commercial. In that old régime the shopkeeper was only a shopkeeper,
and a discussion of ethics in trade occupied little space in the code
of honour of the nation. When Hori’s fathers stopped to buy a fan or a
bronze or a roll of brocade or sandals for their feet, or whatever it
might be that they wished, bargaining stopped as soon as they reached
the end of their patience--and they were most impatient warriors. They
might arrogantly pay what was asked, or, if their patience was too far
gone, they might lop off the head of the obdurate merchant. The last
probability had a tendency to keep prices fairly near to an equitable
level when the two-sworded men were purchasers.

It is not an appreciated trait in the modern world to have contempt
for money. Japan’s nobility, when the _Shogun_ ruled, had sincere
contempt for money. There is something dramatic, even noble, in
having such a contempt, but it must be said that it is a much
easier possession to maintain if back of it the possessors have the
inalienable ownership of their landed estates. The descendants of the
ancient orders in Japan do not own the land to-day and, examining
their position in the cold light of fact, their contempt for any
consideration of things commercial is the sign-board finger pointing
to their eventual elimination. It was the miracle of all time when
those noble families responded to the necessity of the new order,
forced upon Japan by the outside world, and gave up their feudal
right to the land to the Emperor for a more democratic distribution.
They not only surrendered their land in response to the Emperor’s
edict, but they metamorphosed their sons into statesmen to help carry
through the ideal. Their children went to foreign lands and laboured
at menial tasks to learn the ways of the _seiyo-jin_. Returning home
they recognized that the standards both of commerce and ordinary trade
had to be raised. Their encouragement to their country to proceed along
new lines was practical and effective; nevertheless few were the sons
of the nobility who themselves entered the world of commerce. Rather
was it that they encouraged a middle class to rise. Even with no longer
a perpetuation of power through landed estates, the old aristocracy
has so far continued to exert the preponderating influence in national
leadership. Can they continue to cherish a contempt of money and at
the same time withstand the power of the new commercial class which is
becoming richer every year while they are becoming poorer? Can they
prove that, even in this age, honour and loyalty need not have to go
hand in hand with money, and that poverty, second only to death, is not
the great leveller?

Curiously, indeed, the abandon which comes from contempt for wealth by
this class in Japan has had a bullish effect in one small department
of world trade. Westerners first thought of Japan as a nation so given
over to aestheticism that it used its hours in creating beautiful works
of art and then admiring them. In those early days examples of their
highest achievement in art were to be found at incredibly low prices.
For a decade or two after its ports were forced open by the foreigner,
the country was absorbed in adjusting itself to meet conditions unique
to its traditions. It was a revolution which had to endure the strain
of the uncompromising lavishness of war without the excitement of war.
In such a period “priceless” art objects had their price. Those objects
of art had been so intimately associated with the calm of the old order
in its social and religious system that when that order gave ground the
Japanese disregarded such possessions. It was then that gold lacquer
boxes were either sold for a sum equal to the mere salvage of the gold
or else melted in the furnace.

Those first years of readjustment presented the glorious days for
the foreign collector. Then came reaction. To their own bewilderment
the Japanese awoke to find that their love for the beautiful had not
been merely an appendage of the feudal system. They began to compete
for their own treasures. Prices began to advance to the mystification
of the foreign buyers. The Japanese aristocrats were entering into
collecting with that abandon which can exist only through sincere
contempt for money. Thus it is that very few fine things now come out
of Japan. Japan is poor, desperately poor, and it would seem that our
millionaires should easily outbid them, but to a mind commercially
trained, eventually there enters a consideration of price. To the son
of the old Japanese nobility there is no such consideration except the
limit of his purse. I heard the story of a young nobleman who desired
a certain Korean antique. His wealth was about six hundred thousand
_yen_. Like the Roman youth who shook dice, hazarding himself to become
the slave of his opponent should he lose, this young Japanese entered
the bidding until it was his last _yen_ which bought the antiquity. The
dilettante does not bid successfully against that spirit.



VIII MANY QUERIES


In abrupt change as we neared Shiogiri the people grew more prosperous
and more smiling. One housewife along the way was busy with a gigantic
baking in the sun. I have forgotten just what she said the small cakes
were which she was patting out so expeditiously by the hundred. Her
hands coquettishly fell into error in her routine when we wished her
good-day. She had an adventurous spirit behind the work-a-day masque of
her face. Inordinate questioners as we could generally prove ourselves,
it was she who took and kept the lead in every kind of interrogation.
She wanted to know all about the great world over the ridge of
mountains which stopped her sight. She followed this questioning with
an exposition of facts which she already knew about foreigners. She
could be quite sure, she said, that the information which she had
previously collected through gossip had in no way been adulterated
by exaggeration. The proof was that we looked exactly as she had
hitherto imagined foreigners. This comment was more interesting than
flattering. Her anecdotes about foreigners were fluently parallel to
the tales about pagans which I used to hear as a child from the cook
when she returned from her missionary circle.

I asked our hostess if she would let me take her picture. My hesitation
in asking was an unnecessary contribution to the proceedings. She was
much pleased. She patted down her hair, rubbed her cheeks with a pale
blue towel until they were rosy red, and then dusted her hands and arms
with rice powder. After that she ran into the house to reappear without
her trousers. Hori told her quickly that foreigners are greatly shocked
to see women in skirts. We appropriately pretended to be unseeing long
enough for the hasty redonning of the discarded trousers and then the
camera clicked.

Foreigners, particularly missionaries, are by no means unknown in the
quarter of Shiogiri built around the railway station. The town is a
rather important junction. At the new inn the servants who met us at
the door told us that they knew just what the foreigner likes. We in
our obstinacy refused to like what the foreigners who had come before
us had said that they liked. It was one of the least happy of all our
rests.

The service in the shiny new inn had lost the spontaneity, the
not-to-be-imitated bloom of the _yado-ya_ which makes each guest
believe that he is the most honoured. It had resolved into the
inevitable mortification which comes from trying to please two masters.
When they asked whether we wished native dishes or foreign dishes for
dinner, we kept insisting that we wished Japanese fare, but the inn
could not shake itself free from compromises and we had a native dinner
cooked after some imagined foreign style; just as we would have had
a semblance of a foreign dinner cooked in the native pots if we had
consented to act our proper parts as _seiyo-jins_. The trouble with
such in-between places is not so much that they are jerry-built or that
the ignorance of _why_ is naturally followed by an ignorance of _how_,
but that something essentially vital has been abstracted; the fire has
gone, and the result is a listless lassitude.

Across the street was the entrance to another inn, with an electric
sign at the gate and with two rows of paper lanterns hanging over the
path. While we were taking a walk and looking in at the shops Hori
picked up the information from someone that the rival establishment
to ours was half inn, half _geisha_ house, that the maids, in fact,
were country _geishas_. Every _geisha_ must have a _geisha’s_ ticket
from the government to follow her vocation of innocent amusing. All
_geishas_ are not innocent, but says the government, if they are not
they must possess another license. Through its varieties and grade of
licenses the government relies largely upon maintaining order; thus,
much of the work of the police is devoted to social regulation to
prevent disorder rather than to the otherwise necessity of curbing it
after it breaks forth. In any social system, whether the general scheme
reaches out for the ideal or not, if the cogs fit in smoothly enough to
work at all, the logical conclusion reads that the better the machine
runs the more nearly have the everyday, actual wishes of the people
been satisfied. In Japan the social regulations and the demands of the
popular moral standard appear to mesh without much friction. This does
not mean that the social problem has been solved, but it does mean that
the compromise has measurably been made with eyes open and thus some
evils have been successfully eliminated.

The _geisha_ tea-houses have their special licenses, and inns have
special licenses. While many combinations of licenses are possible, it
is contrary to custom to issue a permit to a _geisha_ house to have
all the privileges of an inn. Hori thought that there might be licenses
of that sort issued in the smaller provincial towns such as Shiogiri.
Whatever the facts were, such a combination license would seem to
be contrary to the usual intent of the regulations. The government
proceeds about its business of regulation without much sentiment, but
it does seek by its very system of labelling to secure to the innocent
the assurance of travelling through the kingdom without unwittingly
having to come into contact with vice. The traveller is supposed to be
able to go to an inn without having to inquire whether it is also a
questionable tea-house.

It might seem that the easiest way to have found out what was the
exact status of the inn across the street would have been to have
walked there and asked. Hori, however, was lukewarm for any such
investigation. I discovered in this mood of Hori’s cosmos a trait more
interesting than the entire subject of licenses. The intuition came
suddenly in a wholeness. This trait might have been called patriotic,
a patriotism so very broad that in the first inkling it seemed narrow.
He had a deep desire that we should understand Japanese ideals, and his
process of thought was that while he believed that to understand Japan
we must see everything, nevertheless at all times there should be a
certain normality in the seeing. As he explained, many Japanese customs
and modes of thought, puzzling at first, are quite comprehensible when
the entire fabric is examined. He did not wish to have certain squares
of the embroidery held up to be criticized without the offset of
properly contrasting squares. Naturally his own impetus often carried
him a little beyond that normal into looking for the bright and golden
patches and ignoring the dull ones. I think he was theoretically right,
but most of us have a childish overconfidence in our maturity and we
do not wish to have it doubted that we are capable observers even of
the abnormal. Experience has not trained us to follow, even if we
wished, an idealized instruction. Thus I am afraid that O-Owre-san and
I remained recalcitrant observers most of the time and in our own way
used our philosophical microscopes in grandiose attempt to disintegrate
the atom and conclude the infinite.

It is true that the most balanced mind can be poisoned by an
impression. We are sensitized to light and shade. The traveller who
goes to one of the great capitals of the world and endures as his first
impression a visit to the dregs of the underworld forever finds the
darkness of that shadow over his concept of aught else. This comparison
is indeed putting a superlative exaggeration upon Hori’s not wishing
to go to the inn-tea-house across the street. Just because I happened
to glean something of his attitude about our excursion as a whole from
that particular incident did not mean that he was attaching particular
importance to it. The subject was dropped and as we were all tired, we
went to bed, and allowed the double row of paper lanterns to swing on
in the breeze without our three figures casting shadows on the path
beneath, and the question that interested me about what sort of a
license had been issued there was never settled.

The next morning O-Owre-san and I were off at an early hour, leaving
Hori to follow on the bicycle. The heavy dew had clotted the dust
and the cobwebs were glistening. It was so cold that we fell into
our fastest gait, but perversely the town kept creating some new and
picturesque allurement to slow our stride at almost every pace. Many
of the most important houses had the dignity of villas. I suppose the
owners of those houses look upon the town’s activity as a railway
junction not as a crowning glory but as a deplorable disturbance.
Before the railroad was dreamed of, Japan’s aristocracy had cherished
that particular hillside overlooking the view of the valley with the
snow ridges beyond. The prosperous shopkeeping streets were busy even
at our early hour; boys and girls were flushing the pavements, fanning
out the water from wooden dippers; the fathers were taking down the
shutters; and the mothers were giving indiscriminate directions while
they rubbed their eyes and pulled their _kimonos_ straight. Many
greeted us with a cheery “_O-hayo_.”

At the edge of the town a temple gate stood invitingly open and we
entered the garden and crossed a diminutive bridge to an island. We
sat down to listen to the birds, admire the butterflies, and watch the
gold and silver fish bob out of the water. The silent temple, hidden
in the shadows of the trees, was built after the noble lines of the
Kyoto tradition and may have been contemporary with that era. We were
waiting for Hori. We knew that we had several intricate turnings before
we should come to our mountain road to Kama-Suwa, and we were indulging
ourselves that morning in unwonted conservatism over the possibility
of a mistake. We sat for some time waiting to hear the jangling of the
bicycle bell, but as no such sound came from the distance and as the
sun had not warmed the air, we decided to take the most attractive
turns that came, right or wrong. The street that intrigued our fancy
wound delightfully between large country houses. While there was
nothing except the trees and a certain pervading atmosphere to suggest
the English country, nevertheless there was the instinctive feeling
that within those screened, luxurious houses the sleeping families were
quality folk, a class never forgetting that their position carries
responsibilities, duties, and privileges. To meet a panting coolie
dragging a ’ricksha along an English lane would strike one not only
as strange but ridiculous. To have seen a gate open that morning in
the outskirts of Shiogiri and to have had a shining British dogcart
swing out into the road atop the heels of a cob would have seemed
neither incongruous nor absurd. That’s the reward the English achieve
from their devout worship of the correct. In any corner of the globe
when the beholder finds people getting serious about form, his mind
immediately institutes a comparison with the British standard.

[Illustration: WE DECIDED TO TAKE THE MOST ATTRACTIVE TURN, RIGHT OR
WRONG]

We walked on into a maze of hills. In the age of chaos the mountain
range had tried to turn to the south but, meeting some powerful
opposition, had been rolled back over on itself. When we came to the
meeting of a half-dozen crooked paths there was no possible guess for
our direction. We sat down in the sun for a few minutes, allowing that
much time to good fortune to send us help, if the god of luck should so
wish to aid, before attempting anything on our own initiative. We were
sent two farmers whom we almost lost through their sudden surprise upon
seeing us spring up out of the bowels of the earth. However, they had
only been startled, and they did not think we were transformed demons.
They entered into an energetic discussion of our route, insisting that
we take the trail which was the faintest of all and which seemingly
wandered off in the most irresponsible way. It first crossed a
footbridge over the stream. One of the men dug a map in the dust with
his toe. We finally parted with bows and protestations of gratitude and
they stood in the valley and directed us on our climb as long as we
could see them. Then they waved a final adieu and started on their own
path.

It was decidedly a short cut they had disclosed. When we were on a
summit we discovered Hori far below wheeling over the long valley road
and undoubtedly wondering why he did not overtake us. Probably a
’ricksha could get through those hills by keeping to the lower paths,
but neither our generation nor that of our children’s children will
find those narrow trails made over into motor highways. For generations
the tramper will have his “unspoiled” Japan. It is true that east to
west the mountains have been pierced by two lines of railway and the
foot trails sometimes cross the steel, but now that the railroads have
been built the trains running through the valleys and plunging into the
tunnels seem to be as alien to, as outside the lives of the mountain
folk, and as little considered in their existence as the invisible
messages hastening along the telegraph wires. Japan has been opened
to the world and science has brought an infinite change to the Japan
that we think of, but over those mountain paths long lines of coolies
stagger with their loads of merchandise as did they in the days before
wheels were invented. Many of the coolies are women and girls. Over the
steep miles the backs of the little girls are bent under chests which,
thrown to the ground, would be large enough for playhouses. I know
nowhere else in the world where faces do not grow stolid and stupid
under such strain, but these women and little girls often turn upon
you faces not only pretty but even strangely beautiful as they raise
their heads for a quick glance. Their wistful eyes ask unanswerable
questions. You feel as if they were eternally pondering the _why_.

I do not mean that such glimpses can bring more than a merest intuition
of a people’s attitude toward life. Such a gossamer web of intuition
is a personal speculation, but it may be not too presumptuous
for foreign eyes to make a diagnostic examination of physical
characteristics and to believe that some truth may be reached from
accumulated observations. While the Japanese nation is old in history
and civilization, and while time’s hammer has made the people as
nearly homogeneous as is synthetically possible, nevertheless their
predominant physical characteristic is that as a race they are youthful
in vitality. The coolie bends his shoulders to as heavy a load as
he can carry, but also does the coolie of Southern India. Existence
seems to offer not much more in prizes to one than the other beyond
the promise of the opportunity to labour day after day until death,
but in the Indian’s face one reads that the draught of unquestioning
acceptance of fate was drunk by his fathers ages ago. That strong arch
of the Japanese jaw means _future_. The struggle among nations for
dictatorship may end in competition’s giving the award to the people
having the best teeth.

We passed two or three lonely, terraced farms where the earth was being
coaxed and coddled not to run away, but through most of the hours of
the climb the mountain sides were a forest reservation serving as a
reservoir to save the water of the streams for the lower valleys. When
we came to a spring gushing from the hill we drank, an action which
is sternly warned against, and probably with absolute justification.
However, with a four-mile-an-hour pace under the July sun thirst
becomes positive. We mixed into the clear water, against any lurking
germs, the antidote of deciding to consider ourselves immune. After a
time our trail brought us down again into the valley, and it was not
until then that Hori caught up with us although he had been circling
around the base of the hills at full speed. He found us locked in a
bargaining struggle with a gooseberry peddler. The man was carrying his
produce in a bucket swung at one end of a yoke across his shoulders,
and his pensive little daughter was balancing the load by sitting in
the other bucket. Our first advances had unutterably confused his wits,
beginning with the logical wonderment why two pedestrians miles from
any town should wish to buy green gooseberries. As the bargaining
continued his puzzlement was relieved by a sudden lightning suspicion.
We were not buying gooseberries, we were trying to buy his daughter!
It seemed so discourteous to rob him of his hard thought out solution
that I urged O-Owre-san strongly to adopt the child and carry her off
in his rucksack. It was just then that Hori arrived. He jerked the
demon bicycle to a stop and vaulted to the ground. At first he was as
uncomprehending of why we wished to load up with green gooseberries as
had been the peddler, but that night he fully acknowledged the value of
our whim when the berries, stewed in sugar, stood before him.

I had taken the camera out of my pack but the man was most suspicious
of it. We compromised that I should stand up and show just what taking
a picture was. As soon as I made the demonstration his quick refusal
against such devil’s work followed. Quite by chance the camera had
clicked during the demonstration.

April-like showers had been tumbling upon us now and again without
disturbing the sunshine. We had one more long climb and then found
ourselves with Lake Suwa far below. The town of Kama-suwa rested on
the farther shore of the lake in a narrow line of houses. Despite
the rain flurries the day seemed very clear, but we did not have the
famous first view of O-Fuji-san which sometimes gloriously greets the
traveller when he stands, as did we, suddenly on the heights above the
lake. On those rare days the mountain rises against the blue sky, the
vista coming through a sharp gap in the granite hills, and casts its
image on the grey-blue waters. This is the view from the north. The
conventional view is from the south, but the sacred mountain lessens
never in beauty as the worshipper circles the paths about its base,
north, south, east, or west. Like a glorious and beautiful soul, its
moods change while it changes not.

Is it idolatrous to worship Fuji? Is it pagan to love its beauty, to
feel one’s spirit freed for a brief moment, forgetful of experience
tugging at one’s elbow, of caution, of fear, of expediency, of pride?

[Illustration: IS IT IDOLATROUS TO WORSHIP FUJI?]



IX THE INN AT KAMA-SUWA


The railway train with its sly befuddling through the luxury of speed
has picked the traveller’s wallet. Cooped behind a smudged window, how
can he sense the personality of the town he enters? One should stand in
isolation on the heights above a city, and then follow down some path
until within the streets one is absorbed by the throbbing life. (Hobo
Jack, _ipse dixit_. And is this not true?)

To appreciate Kama-Suwa’s surcharge of culture, prosperity, and
importance, the reader should think of a small city in Kansas (one of
those temperate, prosperous, ideal cities of which one has a vividly
exact idea without the proof or disproof from having visited it). I say
this, knowing only the standardized impression of those ideal cities,
but often a common, standardized impression may be more expeditious,
not to say more valuable, or even more truthful, to communicate a
comparison than the truth itself. Thus, by such a comparison let
Kama-Suwa be known.

The Kama-Suwa streets are filled with good citizens; the shops are
superior, the town has “as fine a school system as you could find
anywhere”; the temple is “well supported”; and there are not any very
poor people. Also the town has famous hot springs and famous views. In
the age when Nature was distributing her gifts she favoured Suwa with
excessive partiality, in anticipation, perhaps, of the future births of
to-day’s appreciative, virtuous, honest, and industrious Kama-Suwans.

We had had a good report of a certain inn in the town and, after we
reached the path around the shore, Hori went ahead on the bicycle
to prepare the way. The machine’s parts were working together with
remarkable smoothness that day, perhaps because its superfluous temper
had been cooled down through its having been left out in a short, hard
beating rain while we were taking refuge under a tree. We promised
Hori to hurry, but we did not. The mountains overhanging the lake
were responsible in the beginning for our forgetting our word, but we
augmented that beginning by finding some cause for a violent argument,
one of those tempestuous discussions which gain their heat from the
insidious conceding of small points. An obstinate, unyielding opponent
who stays put is a far more satisfactory antagonist. We were well into
the town before we discovered that we were hemmed in by houses. The
interruption which opened our eyes was a polite pulling at our sleeves.
One waylayer, out of the many who had surrounded us, had cast away in
despair the usual Japanese respect for not touching the person.

Why our entry had created such excess of excitement we could not
imagine. We had grown _blasé_ in our role of being interesting
exhibits. One may even grow so accustomed to having an interest taken
in every detail that a lack of acknowledgment of curiosity seems the
abnormal. This time mere curiosity did not appear to be the factor.
Each waylayer was trying to speak. In the confusion I could not catch
one familiar word. I knew most of the names that are sometimes cried
at foreigners in the port cities, but there was nothing hostile in the
present attack. As a sedative I tried to ask the way to the inn but my
simple question increased the babel. We had no answer that we could
understand. We had been smiling and bearing the mystery, and there was
no choice but to continue so doing. Every shopkeeper in the street was
apparently out now, helping to gesticulate if not to add words. We had
continued walking and we came to an open space. All the brown hands
simultaneously pointed in a dramatic sweep across a swampy field. On
the roof of a large, new building stood Kenjiro Hori. He had changed
into a _kimono_ which he was modestly trying to hold around him in the
freshening breeze and at the same time to wave a huge white sheet with
all the energy of his other wiry arm.

When we reached the door Hori had come down from the roof. He was very
expeditious in his instructions to the servants and our shoes were off
and we were in our room before we had a chance to ask a question.

“Now that we’re _settled_----” Hori began with a slight accent on the
“settled.” He then hesitated.

“Yes?” we inquired.

“Oh, I was just going to ask whether you wouldn’t rather dry your
clothes and take a bath before we go exploring around the town.”

As O-Owre-san had been answering that question by hanging up his wet
clothes and getting into a cotton _kimono_, it did not seem to require
argument.

“Is the bath ready?” he asked.

“It’s always ready--natural hot springs,” Hori answered.

I stacked up some cushions and stretched out in comfort along the
balcony. I sipped tea and smoked until I was sure O-Owre-san would not
be returning for something forgotten. I had been suspecting that Hori’s
nonchalance had clay feet.

“O-Hori-san,” I asked, “what did you say was the name of this inn?”

O-Owre-san was always off to the bath as soon as his feet were inside
an inn. This time I had marvelled that the habit was so strong that
he could put off attempting to solve the mystery of our reception,
especially as Hori’s naïve casualness suggested that he knew the kernel
of the mystery.

“It’s a new inn. Very good, don’t you think?” Hori answered my question.

“What is the secret?” I demanded. It was evidently very dark and if the
facts had to be modified in the telling, I thought that perhaps they
might come forth less modified for me than for O-Owre-san. The other
inn had been one of our few planned quests. “Why didn’t we go to the
other inn?”

It may have been most unfair to use such a direct method of
questioning, especially the distressing, bee-line “hurry-up.” I was
trading upon my being a foreigner from a land without the tradition of
the proper ceremony of questions.

Yes, Hori had visited the inn of which we had had the superior report.
It was a most superior place. He paused. Then he vouchsafed the
information that it was expensive. That was indeed a serious objection.
He thought that the bill there might have come to three, four, or even
five _yen_ a day. That explanation should have been final enough for
me. It was, in fact. I would have accepted it. I merely happened to ask
whether he had looked at the rooms.

“Yes,” said he, and then he suddenly threw discretion away. “And what
do you think? _They had rocking-chairs and American bureaus in the
rooms._”

Poor Hori! He had been having to listen to us inveigh in American
exaggeration against the infamous inroads of modernity. I cannot
imagine that he took our chants of hatred against innovations actually
at their word value, but he had had much reason to become weary and
bored from their repetition. He implied that his reason for leaving the
other inn was for our aesthetic protection, but be it said he was wise
in his own protection. There is not much doubt that if we had reached
the presence of those rooms there would have been another merry-to-do
of wild epithets against machine-made American export furniture
bespoiling native simplicity for him to listen to. The tourist animal
is truly a snobbish beast, and natives should occasionally be given
dispensations for outright murder.

Once I was chatting over tall iced lemon squashes with a Japanese
physician. In a surge of confidence, and also in burning curiosity, he
told me about his trip to America. He had learned his English in Japan.
While visiting a family whom he had known in his homeland, he met one
of America’s daughters who asked him to call. He was somewhat startled
by the invitation but he remembered that he was not in the Orient. He
described the conversation to me in awed phrases.

“She had a box of chocolates. ‘Do you know,’ she said, ‘I am mad about
chocolates, simply crazy.’

“I thought,” he explained, “that she was confessing to a craving
appetite and wished my assistance and advice. I imagined, then, that
I knew the reason of my invitation. I was a physician from a foreign
land and, as I must soon return to my own country, her secret with
me would be as good as buried. I explained that I could do nothing
for her without the full confidence of her father and mother. She
took this natural suggestion as if it were meant to be humorous. When
she had stopped laughing she told me that the Japanese are perfect
dears and horribly cute. Then she asked me if I didn’t love--what was
it she asked me that I loved? I forget. You see we Japanese have few
words to express the affections and use those sparingly. And now,” he
leaned eagerly forward, “I want to ask you whether that young lady was
charming?”

I tried to evade by asking him what was his idea of charming.

“That’s just what I don’t know. I was told that she was beautiful and
charming. I could see that she was beautiful. Then I asked people what
charming meant. They all told me something different.”

“You can’t define charming,” I hazarded. “It’s something different
from a mere attribute. Foreigners always say that Japanese women are
charming.”

“Then she wasn’t charming,” he decided judicially.

Several times I have been so rash as to try to explain to men of
other nations how much an ordinary American conversation should be
discounted. I fear that they did not accept my formula but held to the
extremes, either continuing to take us literally or not believing us at
all.

After Hori had discovered the untoward action of the first inn in
adding rocking-chairs and bureaus to its equipment, he hurried down the
street and warned the shopkeepers whom he could find to stop any two
wandering _seiyo-jins_ and direct their attention to the new inn. They
must have been impressed that the affair was one of moment.

We heard O-Owre-san, the feared critic of varnished, golden-oak-pine
bureaus, coming up the stairs. A striped, blue _kimono_ made in
Japanese standard length somehow does not suggest dignity when worn by
a more than six-foot foreigner with a beard, but O-Owre-san came so
solemnly across the mats in his bare feet that his ominous repression
created its own aura of dignity. Something had happened, but he was not
inviting questions.

Hori started in turn for his bath. I remained on my cushions. I sat
and sipped my tea. O-Owre-san sat and sipped his tea. Hori with his
secret of the rocking-chair inn had not been impregnable to questions.
O-Owre-san was too dangerously calm. I waited.

He began by alluding to the excellence of the rooms we had. They were
excellent, the best in the inn, being a part of an extra cupola story
and giving a splendid view across the lake. Then he restated the known
fact that the baths were served by natural hot springs. “The water
comes pouring in through bamboo pipes,” he said.

“Well,” I spoke for the first time, “and then what happened?”

The honourable _seiyo-jin_ drank another cup of tea.

“I got into the wrong bath,” he said.

It was news that there could be any such thing as a wrong bath in a
Japanese inn.

“You see,” he continued, “the baths for the guests of the inn are
just under us, but I didn’t notice them when I walked by. When I got
to the other end of the hall I found a large bath room. Those are
the public baths, but I didn’t know that then. There were several
big tubs with the water tumbling in all the time from the pipes.
There was nobody else there nor a sign of anybody. I made myself at
home and was floating in one of the tubs when suddenly I heard a
monstrous chattering out in the hall and then right into the room
walked twenty girls. Maybe there were twice that many. I don’t know.
Well, I’ve called upon my practical philosophy to recognize the
extenuating virtues of--ah--the natural simplicity of the traditional
exposure of the Japanese bath--so to speak--its insecurity--as it
were--but--but--h’m--yes--but this was too much.”

I shouted.

He glared.

“I was just thinking----” I tried to say.

“I can see you are just thinking,” he interrupted, “and I know what you
are thinking. You are thinking what a great story this will be to tell
when we get home. Believe me, if you ever do----”

“How could you ever imagine such treachery?” I wedged in.

“Well, and then what was I to do?” he demanded. “I couldn’t jump out
and run and I couldn’t stay in that boiling water until I was cooked.
I relied upon some instinct of feminine chivalry to give me a chance,
but----”

I tried to be sympathetically consoling. “A very, very trying
situation.”

“Huh! They were all stepping in and they just naturally crowded me out.
Of course they paid absolutely no attention----”

Hori’s step was on the stair. He came in and sat down and poured a cup
of tea. Then he stretched out on his back and gazed innocently at the
ceiling. “O-Doctor-san,” he said, “you’ve settled a disputed point in
Kama-Suwa and everybody’s much obliged.”

“What’s that?”

“Well, there’s been an argument for a long time whether _seiyo-jins_
are white all over----”



X THE GUEST OF THE OTHER TOWER ROOM


Our tower wing of the inn at Kama-Suwa had required no architectural
ingenuity in its design, but I do not remember ever having seen a
Japanese building planned in the same way. The walls were open on the
four sides and there was no _takemono_ corner. The only approach was
by a flight of stairs which belonged to it exclusively. We thus had an
isolation most unusual. It mattered not the length and breadth of the
space given us, our few possessions were always scattered over all the
space available.

We heard steps on the stair and our hostess and a maid came up to us
and bowed many times and brought many apologies. Half our space was to
be taken away. This was only following the very equitable custom that
a guest may have all of the extension of his floor until some other
traveller must be accommodated, and then, presto! there are two rooms
where one was before.

In a few minutes a double row of screens had been pushed along the
grooved slides in the floor from the head of the stairs, creating two
complete rooms with a hallway between. The new guest, a woman, stood
waiting to take possession. From the quality of her _kimono_, the
refinement of her face, and the arrangement of her hair, we could judge
that she was of superior rank. We questioned with some wonder why she
was alone, but as it was extremely unlikely that that question or any
other about her would be answered, the passing query was dismissed.
However, it came about that we were to know one poignant chapter in
that woman’s life.

We went exploring to find the kitchen, there to deliver our
gooseberries and our recipe. The maids and cooks stood and listened.
We proceeded with our explanation until we reached the point where
one more suppressed giggle on the part of the _ne-sans_ might
have burst forth into full hysterics. We released them in time by
laughing ourselves and then left them to recover as best they could
and to experiment with the stewing. Their irresponsible laughing
for laughter’s sake had infected us with the mood. We went filing
back to our room. The guest of the second tower room was standing
on the balcony at the head of the stairs. She had changed from her
street _kimono_. Her eyes were shaded by her hand and she was looking
searchingly down the road. As we walked by she stepped a little farther
out on the narrow balcony but did not take her eyes from her quest.

The maid brought our dinner. It had been fourteen hours since breakfast
and we had been tramping mountain paths, but without the sauce of
appetite that dinner could have justified its existence. There were
fish fresh from the mountain waters of the lake, and there were grilled
eels, and there were strange vegetables with strange sauces. When the
rice came we poured our stewed gooseberry juice over the bowl. The
maid had left the screen pushed back when she carried off the tables
downstairs. At that moment of our contentment I looked up to see the
lonely watcher step back from the balcony. Her expression had changed
to joyful expectancy and radiant relief and trust. She went to her
room, then returned to the balcony, then ran again to her room. In
a moment or two the round, sleepy maid stumbled up the stairs and
whispered a message. The message again brought the woman to the head of
the stairs and in a moment we could hear a man’s step coming.

The greeting of affection in Japan is not a meeting of the lips.
Whatever the proper cherishing expression may be, it cannot be such a
casual acknowledgment as was that man’s indifferent greeting in the inn
at Kama-Suwa. A glance showed that he belonged to that new type which
modern Japan has produced, the mobile, keen, aggressive, calculating,
successful man of business and affairs. He was about thirty-five. Men
of this new stamp are seldom met with in the provinces where the old
order has changed so little but in Tokyo and the port cities their
ideas are the predominant influence. Their aggression and ability have
taken over the business and industries which the foreigner established.
When one thinks of Old Japan one can believe that the thought action of
this type of man by the very virtue of his being understood by us is
enigma to those who still seek their inspiration in the ideals of the
order that was.

“Well, I am here,” he said. “You sent for me and I came.”

The woman stood, making no answer.

“What’s it all about?” he went on. “Your message was very mysterious.
It cannot be that you have been so foolish--so unthinking--as
absolutely to make a break with your husband?”

“You are tired from your trip,” she said. “Come! Sit down! Your dinner
is waiting to be brought.”

He sat down and the woman clapped her hands for the maid. When the
stumbling, awkward girl came the man changed the order and told the
_ne-san_ to bring _sake_ first of all. He sat in silence until the
hot rice wine came. He drank several of the small cups. Then the maid
brought the lacquer tables with the dinner dishes. The man lifted up
one or two covers and then suddenly jumped to his feet and declared
that he was going to take a bath.

The maid led the way to the large room for baths which was just under
our rooms. The woman sat before her untasted dinner. Soon there was a
sound of laughing and chattering from below. There was the man’s voice
and the maid’s laugh. Finally the woman arose, walked out into the
hall, tentatively put a foot on the stair, then slowly walked down. She
waited outside the sliding paper door. The maid had committed no breach
against custom in lingering idly after carrying in towels and brushes.
It was for no personal bitterness against the stupid maid that tears
had gathered in the woman’s eyes. There was nothing vulgar in the words
of the bantering chatter she heard. It was the fact that the man was
accepting the moment so carelessly, so unfeelingly for her anguish,
knowing as he must unquestionably that every word of his indifferent
greeting to her had carried a torturing thrust of pain.

The dinner was brought up again, warmed over. We heard the order for
another bottle of _sake_. We could not escape hearing through the
paper wall. We had intended taking a walk but a misty rain had come
down. The mosquitoes arose from the beaches of the lake. We sent for
the maid and asked for the beds and mosquito netting. In the meantime
Hori and I were tempted into taking another luxurious sinking into the
hot baths. O-Owre-san had turned out the light before we came back.
In the darkness we crawled carefully under the omnibus netting and I
went to sleep immediately. I awoke in about an hour. The misty rain had
been blown away and the moon was shining so clearly that when I turned
over I could see that Hori’s eyes were wide open. I heard the maid,
stumbling as always, come up the stairs with another bottle of _sake_.
I asked Hori whether he had been asleep. He said that he had not, that
after the woman had begun talking she had not stopped. I could hear her
low, ceaseless tones. The man was smoking one pipe after another. He
would knock out the ash against the brazier--four staccato raps--then
there would be a pause for the three or four puffs from the refilled
pipe, and then the staccato raps again.

“If we are ever going to get to sleep,” said Hori, “we’ll have to
complain to the mistress. Guests haven’t any right to keep other guests
awake.”

“Why wouldn’t it be better to make some such suggestion to them without
calling in the mistress?” I asked.

Hori shook his head. That was not the way. However, we delayed sending
for the inn mistress. Hori translated some of the conversation that he
had heard before I woke up. The woman had that morning left her home
and her husband. She had sent a message to the man now in the room with
her, but her news had evidently been one of his least desired wishes.
Before he sank into the silence of tobacco and _sake_ he had said his
disapproval.

“I thought you had more sense than to do anything so absurd, so almost
final. Don’t you see that it will be almost impossible for you to go
back now? How will you make any explanation that he can accept?”

“But,” she interrupted, “I came to you as you have so often said that
you wished I could. That was the only way I could be even a little bit
fair to him--to leave his house.”

“Everything was all right as it was.”

“No! No! I could not live that way.”

“I can’t see why. I don’t see it. Now you’ve pretty nearly ruined both
of us. However, we’ve got to think of some way for you to go back.”

“But I can’t. I’ve lost the possibility of that. If I had not thought
you wished me, I might not have come to you, but I could not stay
there.”

“That’s foolishness. Anyhow, you can go to your own family, and when he
finds that is where you are, he’ll want you to come back.”

Her mind was dully grasping that here, with this man, she had no
refuge, but her heart would not believe.

“I wished to make it complete,” she repeated. “I wanted to give up
everything for you.”

What folly, what sheer childish folly, he told her, that she had
listened seriously to his idle, passing phrases. Why, always, she must
have known that he was merely answering her vanity. Any woman should
have known and accepted that.

The ceaseless words and the staccato rapping of the pipe continued. We
dismissed from our minds any intention of sending for the mistress,
but not from prying curiosity. Our sleeping, or our not sleeping,
was not of importance. In merciful pity (at least as we thought) for
the woman, we knew that that contest must be settled as it was being
settled. “But,” Hori whispered, “it would be a mighty big satisfaction
to mix in a little physical argument.”

“No one at this inn knows who I am,” the man continued. “No one has any
idea that you have more than the slightest acquaintanceship with me. No
one would ever be convinced that you ran away to meet me.”

She ceased the argument that she had come to him in willing sacrifice
of all else--the supreme gift of her love for him. She began to plead.
He did not answer. His pipe struck against the brazier and now and
again the maid brought _sake_. Once she began to weep hysterically but
this surrender to her agony was only for a short moment.

It was now almost morning. The rapping of the pipe stopped. The man got
to his feet somewhat noisily. Passionately and despairingly the woman
begged him not to leave her. Then as suddenly she ceased all words
and said nothing as he made his preparations for going, nor did she
call after him when he left her. Her unbeating breast imprisoned her
breath through one last moment of hope. The spark of faith died but the
torture of life remained, and her breath was released in a long, low
moan. Until morning broke she sobbed, lying there on the floor.

She had not pushed back the wall panel which the man had left open.
When we went below to our baths she drew in her outstretched arm which
still reached gropingly into the narrow passageway. She dressed before
we returned. We met her on the stairs. She started to cover her face
with her _kimono_ sleeve, and then, listlessly, dropped her arm.

“Where will she go?” I asked Hori.

Hori did not know. In the old régime, he explained, when a woman of
the aristocracy left her husband she went to her family, but it had
been only under extreme duress that a woman would leave her husband.
There is much talk to-day in Japan that the social institutions are
crumbling. One is told that the “new woman” movement is a result of the
crumbling of the old order; and again one is told that the crumbling
has come from the new woman movement. These latter critics say that so
many women are leaving their homes that if any proper discipline is to
be retained and maintained, the tradition that a woman’s own family may
receive her into their house must be uncompromisingly discouraged as a
declaration of warning to others.

Hori, himself, now that the tragedy had ceased to be so present, was
somewhat inclined to look upon the history of the night in its relation
to collective society rather than as the drama of two individuals.
A Japanese instinctively regards a family as a family, and not as a
collection of units. Loyalty is the basic idea of that philosophy and
not the importance of the individual soul.

“There is one thing quite sure,” he added, “she was obviously from
a sheltered home and Japanese ladies know precious little about the
realities of the outside world. I don’t believe you could understand.
Why, they don’t even go shopping like American women. The shopkeepers
bring everything to them. If she hasn’t some place to go--well, you can
guess what will happen to her. She could never earn her own living any
more than a baby.”

“It may end with suicide,” I suggested.

Hori doubted that. Suicide is an escape often appealed to in Japan, but
he thought that if her temperament had been impulsively capable of
seeking such release, she would have made the attempt immediately.

“But,” I objected, “isn’t your other alternative impossible? Isn’t
there a rigid law that no woman of the _samurai_ class can enter the
_yoshiwara_?”

“Oh, yes,” said he, “but an agent can easily arrange to have her
adopted into some family of a lower order and then she loses her rank
and its protection.”

O-Owre-san came up from his bath and asked us what we were talking
about. He had slept through the night.



XI ANTIQUES, TEMPLES, AND TEACHING CHARM


For many days we had been passing through villages which yielded
no good hunting among the antique and second-hand shops. It should
be known that the lure of the curio carries poison. Two friends
who have lived blithely in affection, confident that no brutal nor
subtle assault could ever avail against the harmony of their intimate
understanding, perchance step through the doorway of a shop. Presto! A
candlestick, a vase, a box, a tumbledown chair, whatever it may be--the
desire for the thing magically energizes perception. We suddenly and
clearly perceive that the one-time friend at our side is hung with
many false tinkling cymbals. We never break the rules of the game; it
is the friend who always errs. Thus I was always learning O-Owre-san’s
abysmal depths, while he was encountering my superlative virtues of
unselfishness. However, as his chief fiendishness was for cloisonné and
my interest was in carved iron and bronzes and old Kyoto ware, we were
spared from too many overdoses of poison.

The little shops of Kama-Suwa really had curios. There were strange,
imaginative odds and ends which had been made to please the whims
of the eccentrics of a vanished and now almost un-understandable
age. Of such whimsicality were the costumes and the heap of personal
adornments which we discovered that had once been fashioned for a
famous wrestler of Kama-Suwa. Even his sandals were there. He must
have been a giant, truly, if his feet filled those _geta_. Everything
for the hero had been made in faithful exaggeration to many times the
size of the conventional. His leather tobacco pouch was as big as our
rucksacks. Every detail of the decorations of the pouch, such as the
_netsuke_, was increased to correct proportion. In the stockings for
his feet the threads were as thick as whipcord. The grain of the shark
skin binding the handle of his sword had come from some fish of the
Brobdingnag world. When fully equipped, that famous man--they spoke of
him reverently--must have given the effect that he had been blown into
expansion by some marvellous pump.

After we had shaken a dozen or so curio shops through our sieve we
wandered off into the rain seeking the village temple in the hills. By
festivals and gorgeous pageants the people around the shore of Suwa
still celebrate their faith and belief that its towns were built by the
gods in the beginning of time. The upkeep of the temples, I suppose,
must now come from the worshippers or the state as there are no longer
lavish feudal patrons with immense incomes of rice. Nevertheless these
temples do not seem to suffer poverty.

We easily found the path. A spring bursts from the rock of the
precipitous hill back of the temple garden and its waters keep green
the shrubs and grasses and the bamboo, and cherish the flowers. Perhaps
the garden has achieved its perfection by minute alterations through
hundreds of years, but its appeal bespeaks the original conception of
its first master artist, who, by creating a subtle absence of formal
arrangement, offered the supreme compliment to the beholder to carry
on through his own creative imagination that approach to the ideal
perfection which can never be reached.

After a time the rain, which had begun falling in torrents, drove us
back from the dream garden to the shelter of the overhanging temple
roof. A sliding door opened behind us and we turned around to see
an old woman kneeling on the matting. She bowed low and then arose
to disappear and to return again with tea and rice cakes and fruit.
She placed the dishes on a low, black lacquer table. We untied our
muddy shoes and moved in onto the mats. The rain fell in dull, droning
monotony on the tiles of the roof far above our heads; back in the deep
shadows our eyes could see the gleaming of the reddish gold edges of
the lacquered idols. Every suggestion was hypnotic of sleep and I had
been awake almost all the night before. I grew so sleepy that even the
touch of the cup in my hand had the feeling of unreal reality. Between
the raising of the cup to my lips and the putting of it down I actually
plunged for an instant into sleep, then came to consciousness with a
start. I looked at Hori. His eyes were blinking waveringly and with
much uncertainty. Were there ever such guests of a temple? I vaguely
remember that our hostess put a cushion under my head, and then came a
rhythmic coolness from her fan over my face. I would have slept on the
rack.

We slept until we awoke to find the sun shining. Our hostess, with
immobile, gentle face, was still fanning us. We were abjectly,
guiltily remorseful. We sat up and she brought fresh tea. We appealed
in a roundabout way for forgiveness by praising the teacups and the
teapot. They were very fine. She explained that they had been the gift
of some _daimyo_, she thought. Whoever he was, he had made many rich
gifts to the temple. She pushed back panels and brought out bowls and
vases, and told us romantic legends. The legends were colourful rather
than of plot. I knew then that I could never remember more than their
impression. The old woman’s own personality had drifted into limbo and
she had absorbed in its place a reflection of those dark, mysterious
temple rooms. She held out robes and porcelains before us and then
carried them away quickly. She led us through the shadows, stopping to
light incense at the feet of the Buddhas with the reverence that such
acts were her life and not her task.

We said good-bye and walked away, following along the crest of the
hill. The temple roof disappeared behind the treetops and we were
again in the modern world, for at that instant across the valley we
saw a huge, nondescript, barracks-like building. It had been erected
in the worship of efficiency, and was more completely mere walls of
windows with a roof above than even an American factory. As we stood
watching, a man paced out of the gate and behind him stepped a girl,
and then another girl, and another, until it was a long procession. The
line pursued a twisting way, sometimes in measured steps, sometimes in
undulating running. At last the line formed a serpentine coil in an
open space.

The building was the high school for girls and the man leading the
line was the physical instructor. The pupils wore the distinguishing
universal reddish-purple skirt of the high schools which are bound
over the _kimonos_. These skirts look heavy and uncomfortable. They
must have been designed by some minister of education in those days of
translation when the demand for modern ideas included always that they
must be served raw. It was believed with loyalty and devotion that the
principle at the base of the secret of foreign success was the axiom
that nothing useful can be ornamental.

The physical instructor was inhumanly military and dignified--and so
overwhelmingly efficient in his instruction that it was annoying to
see such perfection. Secretly perhaps, but always, the male animal
instinctively protests and resists that women should unite into
solidarity to do things. To his roots he begs that if they do so do,
they shall not achieve success in the essay. Man has always run in
packs, but woman has been the eternal individual. Our wrath was against
the traitor in sleeveless gymnasium shirt and tight foreign trousers
who was teaching so systematically and effectively to that line of
girls the secret of team work. By the sorrow of his eyes it could be
seen he acknowledged to himself his infamy to his sex, but his loyalty
to his Emperor was that he must conduct that exercise drill and conduct
it professionally.

Hori suggested that we visit the school, insisting that such a visit
would be considered a great compliment. It seemed to us more like an
impertinence of vagrants, but Hori continued firm that it was our duty
as itinerant foreigners to interrupt the machinery. He took a couple of
our visiting cards, mere innocent slips of pasteboard, and proceeded
with his fountain pen to make them pretentiously formidable. He raked
up all the detritus of our past lives. We did have sufficiency of
conventional shame to cough apologetically when Hori read aloud the
outrageous qualifications of our scholarship and degrees which he had
added after our names. We learned that it is a mistake to believe that
there can be no utilitarian value in a college degree: letters after
one’s name are seeds ready to burst into useful bloom under an exotic
sun, and the flowering may be a pass into a provincial high school for
Japanese maidens.

A servant took those remarkable cards from Hori’s hand and walked off
down the long corridor. The result was that a smiling diplomat came to
us empowered to minister to our entertainment and instruction. We were
honoured as the first courtesy by _not_ being allowed to remove our
heavy walking shoes. Every step that I took on those shining, spotless
floors made me feel as if I were perpetrating a clownish indecency. The
remorse that follows one’s own wilfulness can never be so keen as the
agony when sheer fate ordains unavoidable vulgarity. Still, in leaving
heel marks in the polished wood, there was the saving humour of the
idea that our hosts thought they were honouring us by encouraging our
foreign barbarity.

There were unending rooms of maids in purple skirts. They were studying
every sort of subject from the abstract to the practical, and from
the aesthetic to the ethical. There were girls with the refinement
of profile which one seeks and finds in the ideal drawings by the
great Japanese artists; and there were those other faces, the round,
good-natured O-Martha-sans. We looked over their shoulders at their
paintings of flowers, at their embroidery, at their arithmetic sums,
their maps, and their English composition. The Japanese say, “Perhaps
rich nations can afford to economize in education and to exploit
ignorance, but we, being very poor, must be practical. We cannot take
such risk of ignorance.”

A modicum of truth lies in the statement that the Japanese have taken
up education as a new religion. (And some of the bumptious youthful
devotees in Tokyo impress one that it was a mistaken bargain to have
allowed them to exchange pocket shrines for text-books.) Theories of
education have many splits everywhere in the world and the Japanese
fervour has not escaped having to face the necessity of certain
decisions. One difference of opinion, which might almost be called
theological, rests in the question whether the youth should be educated
to think according to conviction or to think according to conformity;
to think or to be taught what to think. A Japanese told us that the
government must risk its last penny to-day to guarantee the future,
that the people are being educated to understand national policies in
the faith that understanding will breed willing cooperation and willing
self-sacrifice. When I asked him which he meant, whether students
were being taught to understand the policies of the state or whether
they were being taught to believe in them, I rather thought that he
considered my question argumentative and perhaps unfriendly. However,
without his having answered the question, it is obvious that Japan is
trusting its fate to the system of educating toward solidarity, the
impulse to think alike.

After our noisy boots had been in and out of many rooms we were taken
to meet the head of the school. He was not in his administration
room, but he entered in a few minutes. After the formal introduction
he clapped his hands for tea. His appearance and his dignity were of
ancient Japan. His thin divided moustache fell in long pencil-like
strands from the corners of his lip, as do those of the sages in the
ancient Chinese paintings. His _kimono_ was silk. We smoked and drank
tea and talked abstractedly about education. It was a girls’ school but
he talked of boys. We strayed from Montessori methods to industrial
training. After he had used some such phrases as “a sound education,”
O-Owre-san asked how many years of a boy’s life he considered should be
given over to his schooling. His eyes had been of passive light. They
now gleamed like those of a warrior.

“Until he has been taught loyalty to his Emperor!”

It perhaps may be a debatable question for the other nations of the
world, that question of Socrates whether virtue can be taught, but the
headmaster of the high school in Kama-Suwa declared that in Japan a
teacher is not a teacher unless he can teach loyalty. The boys must
be taught loyalty; the daughters of the Empire must be taught grace.
(And by grace I think he meant also charm.) To exemplify, we were led
to the “flower-arranging room.” The Japanese arranging of flowers is
a ceremony and there is commingled in it both the suggestion of the
actual in life and the ideal of the perfect. The room which we were
shown was an attempt to achieve the supreme inheritance of Japanese
art in architecture and decoration--rhythm, harmony, and simplicity.
Something of the spirit of didacticism must ever hang over a room
so built but, in the room that we were shown, charm and beauty had
surprisingly survived the inevitable refrigeration of being labelled
“classic.”

[Illustration: THE BOYS MUST BE TAUGHT LOYALTY; THE DAUGHTERS OF THE
EMPIRE MUST BE TAUGHT GRACE.]



XII TSURO-MATSU AND HISU-MATSU


In the same town of Kama-Suwa where the barracks-like high school
for girls spreads its wings there also rises the tiled roof of a
_geisha_ house. Under its protection other daughters of the Empire
are also being rigorously trained to duties--the life of amusing and
entertaining. The position of the _geisha_ cannot be illuminated by
comparisons. There are the “sing-song girls” of Peking and the nautch
dancers of India, and there were in the days of the fruition of Greek
civilization the sisters of Aspasia; the life of the _geisha_ might
be considered to be somewhat parallel to their lives in so far as it
is a response to the demand of highly civilized man for the romance
of idealized anarchy; the inhibitions of custom, or dogma, having
precluded the expression of inborn romantic desire in his conventional
life. Men whose minds have realized some measure of freedom through
imagination and culture instinctively seek idealistic companionship
with women. When realization is compressed by such custom as marriage
by family arrangement this desire finds expression in some direction
where there is at least the illusion of freedom. Human nature is like
the human body, if pressure is applied in one spot, unless there is
some equitable, compensating bulge elsewhere, the compression is
likely to be vitally destructive. If the highest ideality has as its
cornerstone responsibility, then when marriage is an institution by
arrangement and the sense of responsibility is not created through the
freedom of choice, feminine companionship and charm will inevitably
be sought in the romance of some more voluntary arrangement. Who will
absolutely deny that when the endeavour to save poetical yearning
from defeat is such companionship as the almost classical ceremony
of watching the white fingers of a _geisha_ pour tea into a shell
of porcelain, a sort of mutual sense of responsibility to save the
fineness of life may enter into the relationship as a redeeming grace
against the professionalism of the _geisha’s_ life?

We turned from the street into the gate of the principal tea-house.
There was a clapping of hands by the first servant who heard our
steps on the gravel path and in a moment the mistress and all the
men-servants and maid-servants were at the door to greet us. It was
at an hour in the afternoon when the tea-house did not expect guests.
We took off our shoes and were led to the floor above. There were
four or five rooms but they soon became one, the maids removing the
sliding screen panels, and we were given the luxury of unpartitioned
possession. One side, entirely without wall, overhung the garden.

The maids brought cold water and tea and sherbets and iced beer and
fruits and cakes, and there were dishes on the table of which we did
not even lift the covers. Then they knelt and awaited our orders
whether they should send for _geishas_. They explained that at that
hour there might be the rude annoyance to our honourable patience of
having to endure an unavoidable delay. It would not be likely that the
_geishas_ could come immediately. We told them that our honourable
patience would suffer the delay.

When the French builders and decorators tried to attain the ultimate
for the housing of royalty in the age of the Grand Monarch, their
success approached close to the realization of what the imagination
of the period asked. Versailles was built with the idea of reaching
theoretical perfection through the completion of detail. The
imagination of the beholder was supposed to find complete satisfaction
in what he saw and not to feel the urge of the possibility of still
higher flights. If the beholder was not content with this “perfection,”
he was indeed in a plight, for there was no next step except to begin
all over again. The rhythm of the art of the Japanese tea-house is not
dependent upon regularity nor balance. Its perfection can never be
completed. The last word cannot be spoken. It is like life.

We walked over the soft mats examining the work of the craftsman
builder who had made his material yield its beauty through the grain
and line of each plank, board, beam, pillar, and panel. I moved a
cushion to the balcony and sat down to study the room in deeper
perspective. I never followed out this sedate contemplation, for
instead I happened to look over the balcony. Across the court of the
garden I saw into an open room of a wing. Three little girls, from
about five to seven years of age, were being trained in the arts of the
_geisha_. At that moment their instruction was in the dance.

The work was being gone through seriously but the teachers were
sympathetic and encouraging. A dancing master assumed the general
superintendence: several older girls, full-fledged _geishas_, sat
offering suggestions from their experience. They were in simple,
everyday dress and not in _geisha_ costume. The novitiates sometimes
begin their training even younger than five years. Quite often such
children are orphans who come into the profession by legal adoption;
others are the children of parents who have apprenticed their daughters
under an arrangement which virtually amounts to a sale. Naturally the
_geisha_ master does not select children who do not possess the promise
of grace, beauty, and charm. The long training is expensive and it is
intended that there shall be a return on the investment. The little
girls, whom we could see, were practising over and over again the
steps of some classical dance to the music of a _samisen_. From the
expression of their faces to the position of their fingers in carrying
their fans, every possibility of technic which should enter into the
dance was receiving the minutest attention.

For many years, Hori whispered, the training of those little girls
must go on to one end--to interest, to entertain, and to amuse men.
They will be taught to wear the gorgeous silks and embroideries of the
_geisha_; they will be taught that every movement of the hand and arm
in pouring tea or passing the cup should be an art; they will be taught
when they should smile, when they should laugh, and when they should
sympathize; they will be taught how to converse, how to repeat the
classical tales and the tales of folklore and how deftly to introduce
merry stories of the day. After all this training the graduation comes
when they enter actively into the life of the _geisha_. In this budding
a girl may amuse partly by the mere gossamer fragility of her youth,
but later maturity brings the capital of acquired experience, not only
in the art of entertaining but through having learned that the charm
of woman is largely the solace that she can bring through sympathy and
understanding.

What is the end? It may be better or worse, tragic or domestic,
marriage, shame, servitude, modest anonymity, or the retirement to the
teaching of her art to another generation. Her life is one obviously
wherein the path has many by-ways to temptation. There is much that
must be insincere and tinsel. If many a little heart, sweet, modest,
and unhardened, is crushed, nevertheless if there be forgiving gods
among those to whom she prays, surely those gods must know that these
Mary Magdalenes are (so a poet of the _yoshiwara_ wrote) in the greater
truth as the flowers of the lotus. Though their feet have touched the
black mud of the stagnant pond, “the heart of the _geisha_ is the
flower of the lotus.”

We heard a footstep at the door and turned to see a _geisha_ standing
there. She was tall and slender. The delicate paleness of her face
was even whiter through fear. She saw us, barbarians, sitting in the
refinement of the tea-house room. The carmine spots on her lips shone
brightly, giving to her expression the unreality of the frightened
look a doll might have if suddenly brought to life. She was carrying a
_samisen_. Her fingers tightly clutched the wrappings. She came across
the room toward us and as her knees bent against the skirt of her
_kimono_ I could see that they were trembling. She sat down and tried
to smile. The duty of a _geisha_ is to smile. She smiled with the same
last effort of loyalty which carries the soldier into a hopeless charge.

I felt an abysmal brute to be there. Absurd perhaps, but it was as
if the command of some strange, scornful, hitherto unheeded, almost
unknown spirit of justice was calling me to name some defence why man
in his arrogance has assumed the right to pluck the beauty of the
flowers and has assumed the justification that the reason for the
perfume and the beauty is that they were created for him. It was a
strange beginning for the gaiety of a _geisha_ luncheon.

Tsuro-matsu drew back the fold of her sleeve to her elbow and raised
the teapot. The spout trembled against the rim of the cup which she
was filling. She handed the cup to Hori and until that moment I do not
believe that she had noticed that he was a Japanese.

“The child is frightened to death,” said O-Owre-san. “Say something,
Hori, quick! If she wants to go home----”

Tsuro-matsu had read the meaning of the words from their tone before
Hori tried to translate. She smiled and this time her lips parted from
her pretty teeth spontaneously. Then she said that Hisu-matsu, a second
_geisha_, would soon come. When the messenger had arrived for them they
had first to send for their hair dresser. The messenger had told them
that the guests at the tea-house were foreigners. Thus her frightened
anticipation had had its beginning before she had entered the room. We
asked what had been her fears.

Tsuro-matsu did not wish to say. She had once before seen foreigners
but only from her balcony. We still persisted in our question. When she
realized that the truth would please us more than compliments, even
if the telling somewhat offended against the etiquette of hospitality,
she ventured slowly to repeat some of the tales which had been passed
along by imaginative tongues until they had eventually reached the
_geisha_ house of Kama-Suwa. We sat waiting to hear some legend truly
scandalous, but there was nothing of such atrocity. She had not
heard of Buddhist children being stolen for sacrifice on Christian
altars. Our barbarities of the Western world that worried the _geisha_
sensibility were departures not from mercy but from manners. We were
wild and rough and of much noise, always in a hurry, and knowing
nothing of the refinements, such as tea drinking, and we were always to
be discovered dropping rice grains from our chopsticks onto the floor.
And, as a conclusion, the foreigner, such was her information, had no
appreciation for gentle conversation, nor for any of the arts of social
intercourse of which the _geisha_, in her vocation, is the guardian
priestess.

Of all the intricacies of thought in modern Japan, the most interesting
is the side-by-side existence (without its possession seemingly
arousing any astonishment in the mind of the possessors) of two
completely different conceptions of the foreigner. A Japanese
may sometimes sincerely render honour to a foreigner for superior
attainments and yet sustain the old feudal idea that the foreigner
must be a barbarian even in those very attainments. It is quite
possible when the frightened Tsuro-matsu left the _geisha_ house in her
’ricksha that she not only felt that she was going to an ordeal where
she would suffer from the crudities of the _inferior_ foreigner, but
that she was being singled out for the distinct honour of entertaining
the _superior_ foreigner. In one way, for the common people, this
paradox may be partially explained by the fact that their leaders
order them to honour the foreigner for his practical achievements, and
in their unhesitating loyalty they do as they are told. It is much
easier to accept such authority than to puzzle out how the knowledge
and experience of their worshipped ancestors could have been of such
superior brand and yet been of such ignorance.

Tsuro-matsu was telling us something of her fears when Hisu-matsu
entered. Upon what scene she had expected to come, I have no imagining,
but her surprise at the state of intimate peace which did reign proved
that she had been thinking of a different probability. Her surprise
dissipated her timidity, and she began to laugh at Tsuro-matsu’s
earnestness. Hisu-matsu was somewhat older. Her _geisha_ dress was
perhaps richer; quite likely her skill in conversation and in playing
the _samisen_ was superior--but she was not so exquisitely fragile in
her beauty.

Japan is the court of Haroun al-Raschid in the love of hearing stories.
Always we were being asked for stories, stories of romance, love, and
adventure, “such as you tell at home when sitting on the mats drinking
tea.” Perhaps the elevation to chairs has subtly sapped away from us
the art of tale spinning beyond the briefest of anecdotes and jokes.
There was no more of a response in us when Tsuro-matsu asked us to
tell a story than there had been when Hori had asked us to extemporize
poetry in the valley of the Kiso. We scored a failure as always but a
moment later chance gave us a second opportunity for the vindication of
Occidental accomplishments.

O-Owre-san had picked up a _samisen_ and was searching for some
harmonies in the long strings. In the mystery of the night, coming out
of the darkness, the music of Japan has a certain functioning charm
harmonizing with the rhythm of the wings of insects beating their way
through the shadows; but to hear the love song of a strident cicada
coming from the white throat and red lips of a _geisha_--at least that
is not our melody of passion. It was Hisu-matsu this time who made
the request. She asked O-Owre-san to sing a song, “as you sing songs
in America.” This was the chance to redeem our failure. The hills of
Norway gave O-Owre-san a birth-gift of melody. His whistling is like a
bird call, clear and true. Hori and I insisted that he must whistle. It
was the air of a folksong that he remembered. It had the Viking cry of
the Norse wind and the lust of storm and battle. The two girls tried to
listen.

“Change to Pagliacci,” I whispered. The music of the North had failed.
I was in duress to save our faces.

Again they tried to listen. Then they looked at each other in
astonishment and in each pair of eyes there was annoyance. They began
talking to each other in disregard of Pagliacci and everything Italian.
It was an obvious disregard. At first they had thought that he might
be practising, but when he continued the distressing sounds, then they
were sure that we were making fun of their request. They were trying
to save their own faces. They had begun talking to prove that they
could not so easily be taken in. Hori had the brilliancy to retreat.
He hastened to ask them to sing and play again. By sitting raptly
while the strings of the _samisen_ were rasped by the sharp ivory pick
and their voices followed in accompaniment, we were able in a measure
to atone for the barbarity of our own music by showing that we could
listen appreciatively to good music when opportunity granted.

The hour came to pay our reckoning and to depart. We said good-bye
over the teacups, but when we were sitting at the door putting on
our shoes we heard the sound of the _geishas’_ white _tabi_ on the
stairs. Their two ’rickshas wheeled up to the entrance for them, but
they hesitated. They stood whispering to each other for a moment and
then turned to us and suggested that they would walk as far as our
inn gate with us if we wished. O-Owre-san and I were nonplussed. Hori
hurriedly told us that their suggestion was a marked compliment, that
we should accept it with thanks, and that he would explain later.
Sometimes--and the occasions are supposed to be so sufficiently rare
as to be of complimentary value--a popular _geisha_ will drag the
hem of her embroidered _kimono_ along the street in this custom of
courtesy by which she shows her appreciation for her entertainment.
It should be remembered that a _geisha_ is traditionally a guest. In
Tokyo, said Hori, a young blood who has spent his last spendthrift
_sen_ on a gorgeous dinner will await such approval as the hallmark
upon his artistry as host. If it is denied he reads in the answer not
a mere feminine caprice but an impartial, critical disapproval. He
seeks for the reason by trying to remember any errors in his own hostly
proficiency. It is to be imagined, however, that while the bestowal of
this approval may theoretically only be employed for the maintenance
of the rigid standard of etiquette and artistry, in practice it is not
always confined to such rarefied judgment.

The five of us started on the long walk to the inn gate. I am afraid
that the gentle _geishas_ had not given thought to the composition of
the picture. Tsuro-matsu was rather tall for a Japanese, but Hisu-matsu
was not, and the _seiyo-jins_ were somewhat over six feet each. In the
daylight, also, the _geisha_ costume noticeably brightens a street.
Walking abreast we made a cordon stretching across the road to the
utter bewilderment of Kama-Suwa.

We had found before this that the crowds which gather in provincial
towns are seldom intentionally annoying, although sometimes they do
jam around a shop door, shutting off the light and air. The steadfast
staring may be unpleasant, but the foreigner soon learns to think
little about naïve curiosity. Our march through Kama-Suwa certainly
did attract attention, but the crowds separated and allowed us to pass
without following at our heels, and I believed Hori when he said that
this heroic restraint of curiosity arose from their innate feeling
that its manifestation would be discourteous and inhospitable. This
sense of consideration was not a sufficiently quick reaction, however,
to prevent inordinate amazement when anyone met us suddenly. A boy on
a bicycle, coming round a corner, forgot his own personal existence
entirely and his unguided wheel carried him directly into a shop door,
somewhat to the disturbance of the ménage and himself. Our progress
continued slowly as the toed-in sandals under the long _kimono_ skirts
of the _geishas_ did not take steps measuring with our usual stride. We
found that dictionary conversation could not be pursued expeditiously
in the street, and after a few attempts to make known words do the work
of unknown with discouraging results, the advance proceeded silently
and rather solemnly, although I received flashes from those two demure
maids that they had a sense of humour. The corners of their mouths did
twitch in mischievous enjoyment of the situation.

When we reached the shores of the lake we sat down on the rocks and
watched the boats. The rising breeze roughened the surface into a long
path of flame against the red sun. Hisu-matsu had been dissatisfied all
afternoon with the hurried effort of her hairdresser. She drew out the
large combs and the heavy strands of hair fell over her shoulders. She
told us a queer, whimsical story about the birds that were flying over
the reeds. They said good-bye to us and walked away and we turned in at
our inn lane.

Our dinner was very late. Finally the stumbling maid came, rubbing her
eyes and yawning. She was, as always we had seen her, on the immediate
point of going to sleep. She had been carrying _sake_, all the night
before, but she had been almost as sleepy on the previous day. Now, in
serving dinner, she went definitely to sleep every time there was a
lull in her duties. She had one hiatus of lukewarm wakefulness in which
she mumbled some appeal to Hori, but he declared to us that the words
had no sense. We began fearing for the few faculties she appeared to
have.

Hori listened more carefully. “I believe she is saying something,” he
decided.

Little by little we learned that she had a favour to ask the foreign
doctor. Just how she had discovered that O-Owre-san had medical wisdom
was a mystery. She said that all Japan knows that foreign doctors can
do anything. She begged for a drug to keep her awake, something that
she could swallow so that she would never feel sleepy again, or better
than that, some drug so potent, if there were any such, that she would
never even have to sleep again.

“H’m,” said the foreign doctor. “Tell her there isn’t any such drug.
Tell her to get a good night’s sleep. She will feel better about it in
the morning.”

Her disappointment was pitiful.

“But I shall never have a night’s sleep,” she said. “If I ask for time
to sleep I shall be told that there are many maids who will be glad to
take my place.” She knew, she went on, that she was very stupid, but
she maintained that she was not so stupid when she was not so sleepy.

It is outside our comprehension and experience how the Chinese and
Japanese can labour on and on, more nearly attaining a wakeful
condition for the full round of the day than the individuals of
other races would consent to endure even if they could continue life
under the strain. In all inns the maids work long hours, nor do the
mistresses spare themselves. The mistress of the inn at Kama-Suwa
seemingly lacked the usual kindly sympathy for her maids and was
unusually demanding. O-Hanna-san (the irony of calling her a _flower_!)
could not dare the risk of attempting to escape from her slavery.
It was for the sake of her fatherless child that she dared not, she
told us. She, the clumsy, stumbling, stupid, sleepy maid, had had her
tragedy as had had the pale, forsaken daughter of the nobility whom she
had waited upon the night before.

After her disappointment that she could obtain from us no
sleep-dispelling drug she toppled again into unconsciousness. We could
at least give her temporary help. We sent for the mistress and asked
her for a full night’s sleep for the girl. For the maid’s sake it was
necessary to put our demand on the ground that we must have better
service in the morning. This saved the face of the mistress. After the
mistress had consented and had gone, poor O-Hanna-san’s affectionate
thanks were embarrassing.

On a point reaching into the lake and under our balcony stood a small,
one-storied shrine. It was sheltered by a tiled roof pitched on four
columns. We saw from our room two figures in white walking along
the shore. They stopped at the shrine and knelt for some time. When
they arose the bright moon suddenly revealed that the two figures
were Tsuro-matsu and Hisu-matsu. Hori went down to speak to them and
in a moment their three heads appeared up the stairs. The _geishas_
had changed the silks and brocades of their costume for simple white
_kimonos_ and their hair was not now arranged after the elaborate style
of the professional hairdresser. Instead of this simplicity detracting
it quite startlingly bespoke the charm of their delicate beauty.

They were embarrassed and they were blushing. It was one thing to
have it their duty to be whirled in ’rickshas to a tea-house to meet
strange patrons, but to pay an informal visit at our rooms, especially
at that hour, was quite another affair, and most unconventional. They
were shocked at their own impulsiveness in having run up the stairs
and they were very much afraid that someone in the inn would discover
their presence. The little shrine, it appeared, was in especial favour
with the members of the _geisha_ house where they lived, and they often
came, particularly if the moon were shining in the early evening, to
worship before their duties called. We opened our rucksacks and found
some odds and ends which we made do for presents. They chatted for a
moment and then ran off into the night.

Later Hori told me that as they were going they had asked us to be
their guests at the theatre--there was a performance of one of the
classic dramas by a travelling troupe from Tokyo--and afterwards to
have supper at the tea-house.

Hori’s explanation of his refusal was rather intricate and elaborate,
but stripped of _bushido_ I think the inner simplicity was that he had
suffered enough for one day from the conspicuous exhibition of our long
legs and he had no desire for being responsible for taking them into a
crowded Japanese theatre.



XIII A LOG OF INCIDENTS


It was dark and threatening the next morning but we decided to be on
our way. We bought a couple of paper umbrellas. We soon found that
when we needed them at all that day we needed a roof much more. Hori
was off on his bicycle and we arranged to overtake him at the village
of Fujimi. We were hardly out of Kama-Suwa before we had to make
our first dash for shelter to escape drowning in the open road. The
thatched house which we besieged for shelter would probably have been
most picturesque on a sunny day but it was exceedingly primitive for
a storm. Our hostess was a very old woman, diminutive and smiling.
The rain pounded against her hut and discovered every possible chance
to force its way in. She tried to start a fire from damp sticks and
charcoal and succeeded after a long effort. The fire was to heat the
water for our tea. It was useless to protest. No guests might leave her
house unhonoured by a cup of tea.

[Illustration: WE BOUGHT PAPER UMBRELLAS]

Japan never seems so remote from the West as when seen through the
rain. Fishermen, in straw raincoats, were wading in the creeks with
hand nets. The children in the villages were wading in the gutters.

The towns seemed self-sufficient and prosperous. They had captured the
mountain streams and had led them away from their channels to run in
deep, wide canals through the streets. Innumerable waterwheels drew
upon this energy for the miniature factories. We were walking through
one of these towns--the sun was shining brightly at the moment--when
there was a sprinkling of giant drops. We knew that that meant another
cloudburst and we turned in at the first door. It was a barber’s shop.
We asked permission for standing room, but the men who had been sitting
around a large brazier lifted it away and insisted upon giving us their
places on the matting.

The chairs, the mirrors, the shampoo bowls, the razors, and all the
rest of the elaborate paraphernalia looked so immaculate and usable
that I expected O-Owre-san to decide that it would be discourteous
for him to waste such an opportunity of having his beard trimmed. He
surprised me by suggesting that we toss up to see which one should
make the experiment of the complete surrender to all the inventions.
Perhaps he was tactfully suggesting that my unkemptness showed the
greater necessity, but the turn of the coin made him the adventurer.

The rain was now falling so that it swept the streets in a flood. The
thunder was shaking the hills. A thunderstorm, for me, is the most
soporific inducer in the world and my eyes began to waver and soon
I was many times asleep. When I awoke, under O-Owre-san’s urge, the
sun was out again. My joints were stiff, I was sleepy, and I was old,
but the world seemed very new after its scrubbing, and nothing less
than jauntiness could express the state of transformation, brought
about by clippers, shears, hot towels, and everything that went with
the treatment, in the appearance of my companion. The barber and his
two assistants, with their huge palm fans, were bowing and smiling
with an air of complete satisfaction. I was out of sympathy both with
refurnished nature and the revamped man. I remarked irritably that his
pursuit of beauty would be the ruination of our joint purse.

“Yes,” he said, “and the fees equalled the bill. I had to pay some rent
for your taking up the entire floor for your siesta.”

The bill had been five _sen_ and the fees had been five _sen_, so that
altogether we had squandered five cents of our money.

Fujimi is little more than a hamlet. It is tucked away in a fold of the
hills off the main paths of the trail. Its days are probably as ancient
as the worship of Fuji. The view of the sacred mountain from Fujimi is
a paradox of the beautiful. The sudden sight of the blue outline of
the mountain against the sky comes crushingly into one’s consciousness
as an extraordinary awakening and quickening, and yet the emotion is
deep, reverent, and silent. Maybe it was our undue imagination but the
peasants of the valley seemed marked by quietude. While Fuji-yama was
cloud hidden that first day, on the long walk of the next we found the
lonely labourers of the isolated farm terraces often staying their work
for a moment, their consciousness lost in passionate gaze toward the
sacred slope.

It was only by much questioning of the peasants whom we met on the
road that we were able to find the hamlet. Once when we were unable
to understand the answer, with a quick smile to disarm our protests,
the questioned one turned back his steps until he could point out the
path. We had been swinging along at our best pace in the hours between
torrents and it was not long after mid-day when we found Hori’s bicycle
outside an inn. O-Owre-san declared that our sixteen or so miles had
not aroused him from the sluggishness brought on by a full day’s rest
at Kama-Suwa and he was for going on, but as the rain was now falling
again, this time in a settled drizzle, he had to be a martyr to
enduring a roof over his head or else to seek his own drenching.

The inn was the most meagre in ordinary equipment of any that we
had found. It was not much more than a rest-house, although it had
evidently at one time been of more pretence. The fear expressed by our
host that his house was unworthy had the ardour of conviction. In order
to know better what to borrow from his neighbours for the entertainment
of the _seiyo-jins_ he suggested a scale of three prices. We chose the
middle quotation of one _yen_, twenty _sen_ (sixty cents). The fire was
then started in the kitchen.

Japanese architecture is said to be in direct line of descent from the
nomadic tent of Central Asia. Just as the roof and the four corner
posts are the essentials of the tent, in the building of a Japanese
house, the corner posts are first set up and the roof is built next.
Our inn might have served this theory of descent as an admirable
example. The roof was the chief reason for its existence. There were
no wings. The stairway was on the outside, coming up through the
balconies which ran completely around the two upper floors. In winter
days when wooden shutters enclose and darken the rooms the bare
simplicity may grow dreary. The wind is then the father of shivering
draughts which creep over the floor, but for the days of summer, when
the green valley of Fujimi lies in the shelter of the great granite
ranges, the memory of the stifling cave-like rooms of our Western
architecture seemed barbarous and of dull imagination in comparison.
The philosophy of Japan’s housebuilding appears to be that it is better
fully to live with nature in nature’s season of wakefulness than to
invent a compromise shelter equally reserved against nature through the
revolution of the year.

O-Owre-san had gone exploring to find the bath. A few minutes later our
host excitedly came up the stairs to warn us that the bearded foreigner
was tempting destruction. Rumour that foreigners have experimented with
cold baths and have discovered reactions within themselves to endure
such rigour had not reached Fujimi. When the impatient foreigner had
learned that the hot bath was not ready, he filled the tub with
the icy water that came spouting through a bamboo pipe. In the midst
of our efforts to calm our host, O-Owre-san, himself, appeared, red
and beaming. Nevertheless, neither his rosiness nor his exhilaration
could allure Hori and me into following his recommendation to go and
do likewise. We decided, instead, to take the host’s advice. He sent
us to the public baths. Armed with towels, and in borrowed _kimonos_
and borrowed wooden _geta_, we set forth. My _kimono_ came to my knees,
no lower, and it was restricted in other dimensions. For the women and
children sitting in the doorways our progress through the street may
have brought some interest into a rainy and perhaps otherwise dull
afternoon.

The baths, housed in a low, small, ramshackle building, were famous
for leagues about. The keeper of the baths was a “herbist.” He went
out into the mountains--on stealthy and secret excursions which the
cleverest tracker had never followed--and brought back sweet-scented
hay which his wife sewed into bags and threw into the hot water.
Everything about the discovery, she said, was their own secret.
Whatever was the secret of the herbs, the natural, delicate perfume was
pleasing. The two tubs for the men were fairly large tanks. They had
been freshly filled with heated spring water just before we entered.
It was not yet the men’s hour, but a half-dozen women were in their
half of the building, either busily pouring water over themselves on
the scrubbing platform or sitting placidly up to their chins in the
hot water. The mistress was most energetic. She had a pair of large
scrubbing brushes which she was applying to their backs. Back scrubbing
in Japan is an ancient institution and the practice may have some real
physiological merit. At least the vigorous scrubbing up and down the
vertebrae produces a soothing and restful reaction.

A phrase that I had come across in my dictionary had stuck in my
memory. Translated, it was: “Will you kindly honour me by scrubbing my
back?” I asked Hori whether my remembrance and pronunciation of the
Japanese words were correct.

“Pretty good,” said he, and then I saw a slumbering twinkle in his
black eyes. “But why do you practise on me? Why don’t you say it to the
mistress to see whether she will understand?”

“Stop!” I spluttered. But it was too late. He had called out to the
busy mistress to ask the foreigner to ask to have his back scrubbed.
Until that moment we had been inconspicuous in our dark end of the
room, but now everybody looked up and edged along for the entertainment
of hearing a foreigner speak Japanese. I was responding, but my phrases
were directed at Hori and had nothing to do with back scrubbing.

There are exigencies of fate which come down upon one like an
avalanche. The revenue to the busy mistress from the use of her
scrubbing brush was three _sen_ from each person, which was a full
_sen_ more than for the bath itself, and thus business was business and
a serious matter with her. She descended upon me with her three-legged
stool and scrubbing brushes and proceeded to earn the extra _sen_. I
was completely cowed by her determination.

We sat parboiling ourselves in the tub for some time. All the customers
had now either been scrubbed or had not asked to be scrubbed, and the
mistress could sit down for a moment to rest and to talk. Particularly
did she talk. She talked on and on, exploiting the merits of the local
advantages of Fujimi. Ah, where could one go to find Fujimi’s equal?
Such views! And we must promise to visit the tea-house. It was unfair
to refuse that to Fujimi. The maids, it was true, were not _geishas_,
but they were every whit as talented as any _geisha_ of Tokyo, and
sang and played and danced far better than provincial _geishas_.

Back in our inn the extra twenty _sen_ apiece above the minimum rate
had wrought marvels in the kitchen. We were hungry. We were always
hungry. And we had learned always to expect the inn dinners to satisfy
our demands. That night we truly had marvellous dishes. The bamboo
shoots were as tender as bamboo shoots can be. Whether supreme genius
or chance was responsible for the sauce for the chicken, the result
was perfection. Dinner was very early. After the meal I found a
longer _kimono_ and, as the rain had stopped for an interval, Hori
and I walked to a hill to see the sunset. On our way back we passed
the tea-house which had been so enthusiastically recommended by the
mistress of the baths. We went in. Green peaches were brought to us to
nibble at, and tea and warm beer to sip.

The house was indeed gorgeous with its gold screens and polished wood.
The decorations almost kept within traditional taste, and simplicity
had not been too grievously erred against; but the atmosphere of
proportion and rhythm had been missed by that narrow margin which
perversely is more irritating inversely to the width of the escape. We
may possibly have had the added impulse to this critical judgment by
the insidious predilection of the mosquitoes for us rather than for the
two maids who were paring the peaches. One of them explained that the
mosquitoes of Fujimi are famous for preferring outsiders.

Two of the rooms were crowded with supper parties, of wine, women, and
song, but compared to the revelries of bucolic bloods in other lands,
something might be said in praise of such restraint as prevailed in the
Fujimi tea-house. It may be no honour nor compliment to the spirit of
refinement to wish vice as well as virtue clothed in some modicum of
grace and retirement, but it does make the world easier to live in.

The soft rain stopped dripping from the eaves some time in the night
and the sky was clear when the sun leaped above the mountain ridge, as
if impatient to find the radiance of the glorious, virginal day. The
green of the valley was a glowing emerald and the mountains were sharp
and grey with no shielding haze.

Our host sent his daughter to lead us through a short cut in the hills
to the main road. Hori, with his bicycle, had to take the conventional
path. The little _musume_ trotted along at our side with a full sense
of responsibility, her feet twinkling down the rocky pitches, her
_kimono_ sleeves fluttering out like wings. Suddenly she pointed the
way and then, before we could thank her, ran back. Skipping and dancing
she ran, reaching out her hands to the leaves on the bushes or waving
them to the flying insects.

The rain clouds had hidden Fuji-san the day before. On this morning as
we came through the sharp cut in the rocks which led to the main road,
outlined against the sky we saw the long purple slope. We climbed to a
terrace on the side of a granite block and sat with our feet dangling
and our chins in our hands. There was one white cloud, no bigger than
a man’s hand. It floated slowly toward the crater and then hesitated
above the snow ribs on the sides. Then came another cloud across the
sky, then another and another, until the summit was hidden by the
glowing veils. We slid down from our rock and walked on toward the
mountain.

From the day that we left the plains and turned into the hills our
tramping had been long climbs but now the road again dropped away
toward the lowlands. We had easily forgotten the hours of dancing heat
waves, but, with a start, I began to remember Nagoya, of the rice
plains, of those stifling nights and brazen days. The memory had also
grown dim of my once rhapsodical joy in finding shaved ice to slake
my dusty thirst. If I had never known anything but the quiet, velvet
smoothness of water from wells and springs and the knowledge of the
grind of ice particles against my tongue had been denied me, then I
might well have mistaken affection for passion. There was no spring nor
stream to be found. The lower path of the widening valley was growing
into a road but we were following a trail higher up on the ridge. Down
under the leaves of the trees we thought we saw a thatched roof. If
there was a house there, there would be water. We found a path downward
by making it, and we were rewarded by seeing a house under the trees.

An old woman was reeling silk from the cocoons which she had floating
in a bowl of hot water. She glanced up casually when she heard our
step, but when she saw what she saw her mouth and eyes opened and
the cocoons dropped from her fingers. It was the purity of absolute
surprise without admixed fear or any other diluting emotion. I began
to doubt that she would ever have another emotion but at last the need
for breath racked her, and the resulting gasp freed her from the spell
of silence which, indeed, was a most unusual state. She assailed us
with a deluge of questions. With every possible variation of the query
she demanded to know if we were really foreigners. I was repeating,
“_Hei, hei, seiyo-jin_” as best I could when I heard coming through the
valley the welcome rattle of the demon bicycle.

I turned over my task to Hori and he took up the assurance to the
old woman that she was actually in the presence of flesh and blood
foreigners. With his every reiteration the wider became the smile of
her satisfaction. She stood on one foot and then the other and clapped
her hands and finally ran across the road to another house. She called
into the door and a young woman came out. The girl was the wife of her
grandson and the explanations had to be made over again for her. Then
we sat down on the floor and she brought tea and cold water and red
peaches. The questions still came. Our wrinkled hostess was a delighted
child. She stared at one of us and then turned to stare at the other.
At last she settled a continuing gaze upon me. She was enduring some
restraint but it could be humanly endured no longer. She walked over to
me and naïvely unbuttoned the top buttons of my flannel shirt.

“It is so,” she said to her granddaughter-in-law, “they are white all
over.”

When we got up to go I asked permission to take her picture. We all
stepped into the road together. When the camera clicked and was again
in my rucksack, she dramatically raised her eyes to the mountain tops
and gave us her _vale_.

“I am eighty years old. I have never seen a foreigner. I have wanted
all my life to see a foreigner. Now that I have seen foreigners I can
die happy.”

We gave her one of our paper umbrellas as a remembrance so that if she
should wake up the next morning with a doubt that it had all really
happened there would be that visible evidence standing in the corner.
The testimony of our visitation in the shape of a fifteen-cent umbrella
was evidently appreciated. She took it cherishingly in her arms as if
it were newborn and of flickering life.

It is fourteen miles by railroad from Fujimi to Hinoharu. The railroad
would be the shortest distance for a crow, but even that bird might
find himself the blacker if he should essay the long, sooted tunnels.
We found many extra miles by exploring the up-and-down paths for the
changing views of Fuji, but nevertheless it was early in the afternoon
when we reached Hinoharu. I then discovered two shaved ice shops,
one after the other, and the intoxication pitched my mood to full
ebulliency. For one day O-Owre-san could have as much walking as he
could digest as far as I was concerned. We shouldered our rucksacks and
Hori coasted off down the hill with the promise of a welcome of shaved
ice and a hot bath at the best inn in Nirasaki.

Some distance out of Hinoharu and well into the country we discovered
two brothers of the road. They were trying to manufacture a cup out of
a piece of bamboo to reach into the recesses of the rocks to get at the
water of a trickling spring. We offered them the aid of our aluminum
cup. Japan may affirm, as she does, the non-existence of any variety of
native hobo, but I am sure that either of our new friends would have
answered to the call of “Hello, Jack!” After salutations and thanks
were passed, O-Owre-san and I climbed up the bank to the plot of grass
in front of a wayside temple and sat down for a contemplative rest in
the shade. We always tempted calamity, it seemed, when we tried to
rest under the shadow of a temple. The two Jacks came tumbling after
and shared our cigarettes with Oriental appreciation. They were rather
picturesque individuals. Their cotton clothes were not only in tatters
but were imaginatively patched. In a land where there is nudity and not
nakedness patches do seem an affectation of the imagination.

I was sleepy from the sun and I dropped back in a natural couch between
the roots of a tree and pulled my cork helmet down over my face to
keep off the flies, leaving to O-Owre-san the study of the habits and
customs of the Nipponese tramp. As I lay there in drowsy half-sleep one
of those companions, so I judged from the sounds which crept under my
hat into my ears, was suffering from a mood of restlessness. Also he
was afflicted with a strange, gasping wheeze. I had just reached the
point of being interested enough to look out from under my hat when
a panting breath was expulsed over my neck, and my hat arose from no
effort of mine. I was left lying between the roots to look into a pair
of pitiless, yellow eyes.

It took me a frigid moment to discover that my vis-à-vis was a horse.
The animal stood over me, holding my hat in his teeth just beyond any
sudden swing of my hand. After he had had sufficiency of staring he
tossed his head, still holding fast to the hat, and ambled off towards
the road. I jumped to my feet and followed. As soon as the bony,
ill-kempt creature stepped out of the temple grounds his malevolence
vanished. He dropped the hat into the gutter and jogged away to find
a more conventional pasture. We could now add animals to the list of
uncanny powers that from time to time had driven us from resting in
temple grounds. I had no temper left for facing the laughter of the two
Japanese tramps. I called back to O-Owre-san that I was on my way and
he kindly brought my rucksack.

Instead of the usual sharp differentiation between city and country,
Nirasaki has an indefinite beginning of straggling houses. The town
lies along the shore of the Kamanashigawa river, which has cut its
way through the granite rocks of the valley, a strong current flowing
a thick, whitish grey colour. As we were entering the outskirts we
heard the shrill whistle of the reed pipe of a pedlar and a moment
later we saw him coming out of a gate carrying his swinging boxes of
trays hung from a yoke across his shoulders. He was so abnormally tall
for a Japanese that we quickened our step to have a look at him. He
dropped the reed from his lips to sing-song his wares--odds and ends
of shining trumpery. The words were Japanese but the intoning called
us back to China, and when we saw his face we were sure that he was
a Manchu. He knew the last ingratiating artifice that has ever been
accredited either to pedlar or Celestial. We delayed to appreciate his
technic, to see him approach the women of the open-sided houses, and to
fascinate them by the intensity of his will to please, and also by his
ingratiating gallantry.

“Take care!” we felt like saying oracularly to all Japan. “Take care
that you never attempt the conquest of China. China may be conquered
but never the Chinese. They will rise up and slay you not by arms but
by serving you better than you can serve yourselves.”

We found Hori resting in an ice shop. He had judged truly that the
easiest way to find us was to let us find him, trusting that as long
as I had a _sen_ I would never pass a _kori_ flag. The very pretty
maid had her _kimono_ sleeves tied back from her graceful arms. I do
not know what story Kenjiro Hori had concocted to tell her but after
she had handed me my cupful of snow she watched me steadily with the
air that she expected black magic at any moment. I caught a glimpse of
Hori’s twinkle. I was filled with suspicion. Finally the maid turned
upon Hori in exasperation and said many things. Some strange tale told
about foreigners must have been one of Hori’s best creations, but in
some way we had failed to live up to our heralding. She was exceedingly
pretty and a pretty girl in a pretty tempest is just as interesting and
bewitching in Nirasaki as in any other spot in the world. However, any
translation of his tale to her Hori refused absolutely.



XIV CONCERNING INN MAIDS AND ALSO THE ELIXIR OF LIFE


The native inn is such an interweaving of privacy with no privacy
at all that if the traveller has a sympathetic liking for the
hospitality it should be put down to his temperament rather than
to his reasonableness or unreasonableness. Calling upon all his
reasonableness, the foreigner may still be miserable amid Japanese
customs if he were born to a different crystallization. Hori considered
the inn at Nirasaki to be rather superior to the average, meaning, I
judged, not the luxury of the furnishings so much as the excellence of
the service. The house was crowded. At most of the country inns which
we had so far found we were the only guests, and the entire family of
the host had usually requisitioned itself into service. Willingness and
interest had made up for the few lacks but this home-made machinery
might well have broken down if there had been a sudden descent of
other guests. At Nirasaki, despite the crowding, we had not to wait
an instant for the carrying out of any request. At all times two
maids were listening for our handclapping and, for some of the time,
three. They added to the customary willingness the knowing how of
training. They were, in fact, trained inn _ne-sans_, a class whose
manners and morals have been commented upon with some frequency by
casual travellers, and it is possible that the outside world’s popular
judgment of Japanese women has sprung largely from such observations.

In any argument about Japanese morals the likelihood is that the
simplest discussion will soon march headlong into a controversy.
There arises in a critical comparison of their standards with ours
the temptation to assume as a basis our ideal standard against their
everyday practice.

The Japanese maid, the daughter of the common people, has been again
and again condemned for the easy lightness of her regard for her
virtue. I have not found that foreigners who have lived in Japan and
who have known the people intimately join their assent to this sweeping
judgment. This charge has grown out of a confusion of possibility with
fact. Although we consider that our Western individualism allows far
more freedom of choice than does the Eastern family social regulation,
particularly in the rigid customs and traditions for women,
nevertheless in the morality of sex the guardianship of her chastity by
an unmarried Japanese woman of the lower classes is a matter much more
of her private concern and nobody else’s business than social opinion
deems an advisable licence with us. But because the Japanese woman has
this freedom it is as absurd to conclude that she makes but one choice
as it would be to believe that all order in our society is maintained
solely through the police and iron-clad restrictions. When conduct
shall be entirely determined by rules, then it will be time to relegate
character to the museum.

The duties of the maids of an inn have never included that she must
be self-effaced and a silent machine. In the historic friendly
relationship between maids and guests there exists a certain standard
of manners and good taste, a subtle necessity to the continuance of
such existence. One cannot compare the customs of a Japanese inn
with the traditions existing in an Occidental hotel. The _ne-san_ is
unique. When simplicity and naïve amusement are spontaneously natural,
vulgarity is starved.

After dinner the three maids brought a fresh brewing of tea and
teapots filled with iced water. They also brought the message that
a travelling theatrical troupe from Tokyo was giving both new and
classical plays at the Nirasaki theatre. The actors and actresses were
guests under our roof and the mistress of the inn sent the suggestion
that the strollers would probably be pleased to entertain us in our
room with an act from one of their plays and with dancing and music
when they returned at midnight. After our thirty miles in the hot sun
the hour of midnight sounded grotesquely post-futuristic. However,
it might well have been possible, fortified by tea, iced water, and
tobacco, to have awaited the hour if it had not been for another limit
to our independence. Temperamentally we might take little heed of the
morrow but we had also New England consciences about paying our bills.
We could not invite the players to our room without inviting them to a
midnight supper, and we knew that the joint treasury could not pay for
such a supper.

Thus we made the excuse to the _ne-sans_ that their laughter was more
pleasing to us than the sound of the _samisen_. (This statement was
not without truth in itself.) The responsibility of amusing us did not
seem to weigh heavily upon them; in fact it was we who appeared to be
amusing to them. Stupid creatures, we, who could not even play the
game of “Stone, Scissors, and Paper!” Our Occidental wits were always
a fraction of a second behind. Hori laughed at the bearded O-Owre-san
until the toxic of the paroxysm made him delirious. At last we
acknowledged the sheerness of our defeats at every venture by sending
the victors for ice cream and cakes, and the evening ended with the
solemn ceremonial of trying to move the small tin spoons back and forth
between plate and lips quickly enough to make a transfer of the frozen
mounds before the heat of the tropical night levelled them into liquid.

To escape the mid-day sun in the short walk to Kofu, we were off a
little after sunrise. Kofu is more than two thousand feet lower than
Fujimi and lies in the heart of a flat valley. It is an ancient city
and has not lost its ancient pride, being the wealthy capital of
the Kai province. We had so much time for the walk that we delayed
continually, bargaining in little second-hand shops where the entire
stock could hardly have been worth more than a _yen_, and stopping
at the coolie tea places where labourers rested to smoke and to mop
their faces with pale blue towels. When we were entering Kofu we were
again tempted to halt upon seeing a _kori_ flag floating in the air,
proclaiming that an ice supply had arrived. We had not expected to see
Hori before we should meet at the inn, but by chance he came wheeling
along our street. We called out and he came into our shade. Listeners
gathered around our bench, apparently not so much interested in seeing
foreigners as in hearing a Japanese speak English.

In the crowd was a very old man, so old that his age seemed
pathological rather than human. He made progress by a slow pushing of
his feet through the dust. His red-rimmed, staring eyes leered into
ours as if we exerted a direct line of magnetism. If we shifted our
gaze he immediately shifted around until he again came into vision.
Under his arm he carried a long glass bottle, stoppered with a
cloth-wound plug. He held up the bottle before us. It was filled with
a dirty, pale yellow liquid. Pushed into the bottle was a twisted root
holding in the tangle of fibres two or three stones furred with slime.
The stones looked somewhat like asbestos.

“What do you think it is?” he asked mysteriously.

We said that we had no idea.

“I wouldn’t dare tell you the secret,” he went on, “as the bottle is
worth five hundred thousand _yen_. If you should pay me a hundred
_yen_ I would not allow you one taste.”

We expressed our happiness that he should have such a fortune. Then he
asked if we were Americans and, upon hearing that we were, he formally
inquired for an answer as to whether the American nation would buy the
bottle. “I can tell you this much,” he concluded, “it contains the
elixir of eternal life.”

The ancient seemed to be such proof in himself that he had lived
forever that there was no arguing about eternity with him. For the
sake of saying something Hori made the casual guess, “Is it radium?”
He was startled into palsy. The crowd stared. Evidently they had
heard of radium and it meant magic. Alas! We had gouged out the
secret. “Ah-h-h!” said he, “since you know so much, how can you resist
the opportunity of living forever?” We explained that under the
circumstances of our poverty it looked as if we should have to die
along with the rest of the world.

“I have been but testing your faith and knowledge,” he said. “The
radium of the rocks is permanent. Listen! The bottle may be filled
again and again without losing its strength. For only thirty _yen_ you
may drink.”

Forthwith he uncorked the bottle and there escaped an odour so vile
that if he had said the tube was the sarcophagus of the lost egg of
the great auk we should have believed without dispute. He poured a few
drops into a glass and said: “Drink, and you will live forever!”

It is not alone honour that may make one choose death.

The crowd, however, sought eagerly for eternity. They passed the glass
around and touched their tongues to the liquid. If any out of the
number of that circle escaped typhoid that fact alone ought to convince
them of their strength to continue a long way on the road to eternity.



XV THE END OF THE TRAIL


Whether or no the Bosen-ka inn of Kofu does possess a wide reputation
for comfort, it should deservedly have it. O-Shio-san was the name of
the maid. This means O-Salt-san, but we renamed her “O-Sato-san,” which
means Miss Sugar. She said that she had been at the inn for fifteen
years, but until the day before there had never come a foreigner, and
now there were two besides ourselves. I do not understand how such
immunity could have been possible in a city the size of Kofu. However,
the fact that there were Occidentals under the roof of the hostelry
at that moment was proved by sight and sound. After the many days of
hearing only the Japanese cadence, the sound of Western tongues was
almost startling. The large room, which became ours, was in the main
building and faced the garden. We could look across to the wing where
the two foreigners were sitting on their balcony. They were eating
tiffin and talking vigorously. One was a short, black-haired, merry
Frenchman, the other a tall, blond, closely-cropped German. They
spoke either language as the words came. Quite likely they had been in
the same university in some European city, and their travelling was a
leisurely grand tour. They could not have been hurried or they would
not have taken time to search out Kofu. Their gay spirit was charming.
They looked into the eyes of the world with a friendly gaze and the
world smiled back at them. Within the month, France and Germany were to
declare the implacable war.

High-pitched footbridges linked together the miniature islands of the
garden and carried a labyrinthine path over the lotus-covered pond.
Lying on the cool, clean mats of our room, sheltered from the sun, the
thought of antique shops lured me not. I declared for contemplation,
but Hori and O-Owre-san wandered forth. O-Shio-san brought fresh tea
and a brazier of glowing charcoal for my pipe. My contemplation began
and ended with a luxurious enjoyment of the view of the garden. Through
the quiet air came the slow, deep tones of temple gongs. It was a day
of special masses. My thoughts found rest in sensuous nothingness and I
drifted tranquilly in a glory of inaction. Another day of such devotion
to passivity might have started the unfolding within me of the leaves
of appreciation for the philosophy of Nirvana, but in the morning some
illogical shame for such laziness urged me into joining the pilgrimage
of Hori and O-Owre-san to the Sen-sho cañon.

[Illustration: O-SHIO-SAN IN THE BOSEN-KA INN GARDEN.]

The deep, sharp cleft in the granite through which that mountain stream
pitches has a rugged beauty. Most perversely, if we had discovered
the grandeur for ourselves and had not been over-persuaded by the
innkeeper to take the long walk, we would undoubtedly have been more
enthusiastic, but as it was we decided that we would rather have spent
the day wandering about in Kofu. Even the unscalable cliffs took on
sophistication from the well-worn path below, which proclaimed that
the view had been the conventional thing for centuries. Despite all
the instruction which the innkeeper had given us about distances and
direction, he had escaped correctness in every detail. As often, there
was no information obtainable from the heavily-laden coolies tramping
along the way. If there is really any mystery which separates East and
West it is the East’s oblivious indifference to time and space and
our complete inability to understand the working of a mind which has
over and over again been on a journey and yet has never considered it
sufficiently worth while to take cognizance either of the distance or
the hours.

As we were walking over the flat plain to the beginning of the valley,
we stopped for a few minutes to watch a field drill of the conscript
army. It was a very hot day, but the uniforms seemed designed for a
Manchurian winter. A few of the men had fallen out of the ranks from
exhaustion. We heard later that during that hot week in one of the
provinces some officer with a new theory had issued an order against
the drinking of water during drill, and that the lives of a number
of soldiers had been sacrificed to sunstroke. It stirred up an angry
scandal. My knowledge of positive thirst would have made me a hanging
judge if I had sat on the inquiring court-martial.

We walked on and had forgotten the drill when four or five men and a
panting officer overtook us. They entered into a sharp debate with
Hori. Finally they dropped behind but followed us until we were a mile
away. They had suspected that we were Russian spies.

We lingered in Kofu for several days but at last again took the old
road which runs through the long valleys to Tokyo. This trail from Kofu
on is rather closely followed by the railway just as is the Tokaido
in the South. I do not know whether it was in honour of (or in disgust
at) all such modernities that feudal Yedo changed its name to Tokyo.
The capital was our destination and we had intended keeping along the
direct road but upon a whim (and a look at the map) we suddenly decided
to climb the ridge between us and Fuji-san, and then to encircle the
base of the sacred mountain until we should find again the Tokaido
which we had forsaken at Nagoya.

It was at the moment of this decision that the demon bicycle collapsed
utterly. If it had acquiesced to the change of route it would have had
to submit to being carried on the back of a coolie. I have not dared to
record all the subtle ingenuities of that mechanical contrivance which
it had concocted from time to time to achieve its ends. Its soul had
been factoried under a star hostile to human dignity. It could bring
about a loss of face to the most innocent who crossed its path. It had
the pride of never having been successfully outwitted, and its soul was
as proud as the soul of Lucifer. It had no intention of submitting to
the indignity of being packed on a coolie nor to have the world see it
with its wheels wobbling idly in the air. In desperate determination
it committed _hara-kiri_. Its suicide was heroically completed. As
I recorded in the chapter when the bicycle was introduced, Hori gave
a shining piece of silver to the coolie to see that the remains had
suitable interment. Peace be to those twisted spokes and to that
jerry-contraptioned frame!

About noon we found a man with a horse. The man hired himself out to
run along behind and Hori mounted the animal. The summit between us
and Fuji was only about three thousand feet above our heads but as
we continually had to go down into deep valleys and come up again
our gross climbing took many steps. The thatched villages were very
primitive, and the people were very nude. The homes which clung
desperately to the edges of the cliffs must have had to breed a special
race of children to survive tumbles, just as in the villages underneath
on the shores of the small lakes, they must have had to breed an
instinctive knowledge of floating. The houses of those peasants were
as much a part of nature as are birds’ nests, and they so welded
themselves into the unity of the view from the ridges that we did not
even think to call them picturesque.

Poor Hori had not a moment when he could sit perpendicularly on his
steed. The road was either a scramble or a slide. Finally he dismissed
the coolies and the horse. We were at the beginning of a path which was
built in sharp zigzags up the side of the mountain. A half-dozen coolie
girls with huge chests strapped on their shoulders stopped at a spring
and sat down for a moment to fan their flushed, pretty faces. They told
us that this was the last climb but they were indefinite about the
remaining distance or the time that it would take. It had been our plan
to get to the top in time for the sunset view of Fuji and the lakes.
Perhaps the demon bicycle had been granted one last diabolical wish. We
were within a few feet of the summit, the air was seemingly clear, when
down came a thick, wet cloud from nowhere at all, and our expectation
for the crowning glory of the day vanished.

All the way down the other side of the mountain the fog hung over
us but it lifted when we reached the shore of Lake Shoji. A village
straggled along the water edge. We knew that across the lake was a
foreign hotel, but if we had not known it we should nevertheless have
had some such suspicion. From the attitude of the villagers it was
evident that we had traversed again into tourist territory. The mild,
jocular incivility of the natives of any tourist resort any place in
the world, except when there is some restraint under the immediacy
of employment, is innate and needs no aggravation for its flowering.
We were tourists, therefore we must be imbecilic. Derisive hooting
followed our ears when we started walking around the lake instead of
conventionally taking a boat. Between the fog on the mountain top and
our reception in the village we were somewhat out of sympathy with
the last hour of the day, and we were even less happy when we reached
the hotel, and it was brought to our attention that we had failed to
remember that foreign prices prevail at foreign hotels. True, there
were excellent reasons why the charges should be higher than at the
native inns. The foreign supplies had to be brought long distances
on coolie back. This knowledge, however, did not increase the number
of _yen_ in our pockets. We were in a fitting mood for turning away
and pushing on to some isolated village. Such a mood can drive a good
bargain and the end was that we were given a room with three iron
cots at a minimum charge. I must pay this tribute to that iron cot:
I relaxed on its springs in an abandonment to sleep which I shall
never forget. But there were other things foreign which were not
so pleasant. To have to wait until eight o’clock for a formal dinner
when we were accustomed to having meals served at the clapping of our
hands, and to have to thump over rough board floors after we had known
the refinement of soft matting, and to have to endure all the other
half-achieved attempts at foreign service--well, “going native,” as the
Britishers say in final judgment, “had been the ruining of us.”

Waiting until the late foreign breakfast hour in the morning almost
numbed the cheerfulness that had risen in me from the exhilarating
sleep on the luxurious bed of springs, but the day was shining in such
perfection when we found an unfrequented trail north of the chain of
lakes, and Fuji-san was resting so clearly in the crystal air across
the pine tree plain, that we quickly dumped into a maw of forgetfulness
any remembrance of such mundane annoyances as foreign hotels. It may
have been that volcanic gases were breaking through the clefts in the
rocks and that the fumes inspired us with a Delphic madness; our mood
became ecstatic. We unburdened ourselves of wild and soaring theories
of art and religion, of love and life--and there were theories that
came forth which we had never dreamed existed in cosmos. We scattered
these inspired words in wanton waste as if we were on a journey to some
world where such wealth would be dross.

The town which we found for the night was on what is called “the Shoji
route around Fuji.” We avoided the semi-foreign hotel but that did
not save us from being tourists. The native inn had ready for us in
the morning a bill almost twice as large as it should have been. In
consequence we added no “tea-money.” If we had, we should have gone
from the village penniless. In all our wandering this was the first
deliberate overcharge, and in one way it may have been justified in the
opinion of the mistress. She had probably learned from the semi-foreign
hotel across the street that foreigners know not the custom of
tea-money and ignorantly pay only the bill that is presented without
adding a suitable and proportionate present.

Truly we were now in the domain not only of the foreign tourist but of
the native pilgrim as well. All day we walked through the towns which
serve as starting points for the different routes of ascent for Fuji.
It was the height of the season for the sacred climb and the towns,
purveying every imaginable necessity and souvenir, had mushroomed
into crowded camps. We were unworthy guests. As far as our purchasing
ability was concerned, a postcard was an outside luxury. When we
reached Gotemba we sat down for a conference, following the rule of
“when in doubt drink a pot of tea.”

By rail to Yokohama was fifty-one miles. We had leisurely covered about
twenty-five miles that day. Even if we should make ten or fifteen miles
more before night, there would be a sufficiently long, scorching,
penniless day to come. The country was not new to us as we had both
tramped through the exploited Miyanoshita and Kamakura districts.
“Since these things are so,” I made argument, “let’s use our remaining
coppers to buy tickets on the express to Yokohama.” As no one’s pride
sufficiently demanded that we had to take the fifty-one miles on foot,
this plan was our final agreement.

Our linen suits were perhaps not as freshly laundered as those of
the other haughty _seiyo-jins_ who were riding on the first and
second-class cars of the train, but otherwise our poverty did not
particularly proclaim itself. We walked to our hotel in Yokohama and
took rooms, relying that future funds would come out of the letter
which was supposedly waiting at the bank for me. In the meantime in the
bag which had been forwarded from Nagoya I found a two-dollar American
bill. This gift we cashed into _yen_ and sat through the evening on a
terrace over the bund along the water front, sipping forgotten coffee
and ordering long, iced, fresh lemon drinks. A steamer had landed that
day and at the next table to ours was a charming group of American
girls. They were filled with enthusiasm for the exotic. The soft,
evening air, the passing life along the street, and the gay tables
carried me back to my own first night in Japan, which had been spent
eleven years before on that very terrace.

The hoped-for letter was waiting for me at the bank. The amount above
the exact sum necessary for my steamship ticket had been intended for
insurance against extras. It was now necessary for mere existence. We
entered into an infinite calculation of finance down to the ultimate
_sen_. Yokohama was no place for economy and we shook off its dust
for that of Tokyo and were happy again in a native inn. With our
linen suits laundered, we called on old friends and shopped betimes
on credit. It was a rather queer sensation to be bargaining for
luxuries when a mere _bona fide_ payment of a ’ricksha charge meant a
most delicate readjustment of our entire capital. Dealers were quite
willing to forward boxes to America with hardly more guarantee than
our promise to pay sometime. I felt that if we were to ask them
suddenly for ten _yen_ in cash our credit would have crashed to earth.
Nevertheless we were confident of our dole outlasting our needs. We
lived our moments gaily. We saved _yen_ to pay the inn bill, and our
boat was scheduled to sail on a certain day.

Hori was determined that our last day should be worthy and memorable.
Through friends he arranged that we should meet Count Okuma, the
Premier of the Empire. We had made most of our visits about the city on
foot, and on one of the hottest days we had walked the round trip of a
dozen miles to have afternoon tea with a former Japanese diplomat to
America and his family, trusting that his sense of humour would forgive
our perspiration, but one does not arrive thus at a palace door. Great
was the excitement at the inn when ’ricksha men were called and our
destination was given out. We dashed away and careened around the
corners at tremendous speed. It was at least the second hottest day of
the year, but the coolies realized that they were part of a ceremony
and that their duty was to arrive streaming, panting, and exhausted.

Count Okuma, on his son’s arm, entered the small reception room into
which we were shown. (The bullet of a fanatic shattered the bone
of his leg when he was a young man.) Count Okuma is almost the last
survivor of that group who directed the miracle of transforming the
Japan of feudalism into the modern nation.

We drank tea and asked formal questions. Following some turn of the
conversation--Count Okuma was speaking of loyalty--we inquired, as we
had of the ancient schoolmaster of Kama-Suwa: “Can virtue be taught?”

The expression in the eyes of the Premier’s great, handsome head had
been passive as he had acquiesced in what had been said up to that
time. Now his expression became positive. He spoke slowly as if he were
summing up the belief and experience of a lifetime.

“When Japan, after her centuries of hermitage, had suddenly either to
face the West and to compete successfully with you, or to sink into
being a tributary and exploited people, our greatest necessity in
patriotism was to recognize instantly that in the physical and material
world we had to learn everything from you. Our social, commercial, and
governmental methods were suited only to the organization of society
which we then had. We discovered that your world is a world of commerce
and competition; that the achieving of wealth from the profits of
trade demands training, efficiency, ingenuity, and initiative. Our
civilization had not developed these qualities in us. We could only
hope that we had latent ability. Furthermore, observation of you taught
us to realize the value of physical power. We saw that mere superior
cleverness and ability in the competition to live is not sufficient
until backed by a preparedness of force. America was our great teacher
and we shall never cease to be grateful. In the physical world we had
everything to learn from you, and to-day we must constantly remember
that we have only begun to learn.

“It was our overwhelming task to begin at the beginning, and we should
have had no success if it had not been for the moral qualities of the
Japanese people. These virtues cannot be taught--merely as they are
required. They are the spiritual and moral inheritage from the past.
In the avalanche of Western ideas which came upon us, it was our great
work to pick, to choose, and to adapt. These ideas were the ideas of
the commercial world. There are those who say that Japan in taking over
these standards of materialism relinquished the priceless inheritance
of its own spiritual life. No! We have had _everything_ to learn from
you in methods, but that should not be confused with spiritual values.
I do not mean mere creeds and dogma, but to the essence, the great
fundamentals of all true religion.

“It is possible that sometime in the future the outside world may
discover that it will have need to come to us for the values that are
ours through our great moral inheritance of loyalty. In a material way
we can never pay back to you our obligation for having been taught your
material lessons. But it may be that Western nations have put too great
faith in materialism and that they will arrive at the bitter knowledge
that the fruit of life is death unless the faith of men reaches out
for something beyond the material. Then, if we of Japan have humbly
guarded our spiritual wealth, the world may come to ask the secret of
our spiritual values as we went to you to ask the inner secret of your
material values.”



XVI BEACH COMBERS


On the morning that the boat was to sail from Yokohama we were up as
soon as the sun first came through the bamboo shades. We exchanged
presents with everyone in the inn and then walked away to the station,
and everyone from the aristocratic mistress to the messenger boy stood
waving to us as long as we could turn back to see them. Our packages
and presents half filled the car. Hori had had a telegram to hurry
home. The train was a through express to Kyoto and we said “_sayonara_”
to him from the Yokohama platform.

We went to the bank and I exchanged my receipt for the envelope which
held the money for my steamer ticket. In our treasury was left one last
Japanese note which we had been saving as a margin. We now thought
it was safely ours to spend as we might choose. We went to find some
very particular incense and some very particular tea which a Japanese
acquaintance had discovered and had given us the address of. We
plunged almost to the limit of the note.

“Haven’t you heard that your boat has been held up forty-eight hours in
Kobe?” asked the steamship agent.

We had heard no such news, but we were interested. To be able to have,
when one might wish to make the choice, the gift of forty-eight hours
in Japan would be one sort of a blessing. At that particular moment the
prospect had complications. Until that instant our system of finance
had been the pride of our hearts. We had calculated so admirably that
we had retained just one _yen_ for porters’ fees at the dock.

O-Owre-san had his return ticket. “Can’t I pay for my ticket in part by
cheque?” I asked.

After consultation in the inner office the agent returned and
announced, “No, that isn’t done.”

The agent and his advisers thought that if I should happen to fall
overboard there might be a legal complication with my estate--if I
happened to have an estate.

“Your records show,” I argued, “that my friend has crossed on your line
three times. Discounting any other substantiality, at least that proves
that one of us has had practice in not tumbling overside.”

Evidently my logic was at fault. From the dubious looks that came
across the desk I judged that the agent was thinking that such fly-like
pertinacity of sticking aboard a vessel was suspicious and unnatural in
a passenger.

“Well,” said O-Owre-san as we walked away, “you’ve wondered what it
would be like to be an amateur beach comber. Now is your admirable
chance.”

O-Owre-san seemed to forget that he was in no better position than was
I in regard to funds.

The day before we had had tea with the Premier of Japan. Now we faced
forty-eight hours of starvation. Our horoscopes evidently had been
cast that we were to be beach combers, the admirable chance of which
O-Owre-san had suggested.

We did not deceive ourselves that our few hours of homelessness made
us professionals, nevertheless we were given a picture impression of
Yokohama that could only have been bought by hunger and sleeplessness.
We saw the going to bed of the city, and we saw its getting up. We saw
Theatre Street gay with lanterns and filled with merrymakers. Hours
later we saw the lanterns go out and the waiters and waitresses come
forth to crowd into the public baths. We walked through the glitter
of the street which winds between the houses of the wall-imprisoned
_Yoshiwara_ district. There is but one entrance to this district--a
long stone bridge. We saw that bridge again, at the hour of sunrise.
It was then crowded with beggars and loathsome hangers-on, waiting to
importune the exodus. Vice by grey daylight is horrible, and those
brilliant palaces of the night before bulked in a row of dull and
sinister ugliness in the half daylight. Back and forth we explored
the streets of the city. We passed a foreign sailors’ low dive, and a
toothless old woman and a leering youth grabbed at our arms and invited
us in. They spoke phrases of English. There was wild laughter and music
on the upper floor.

Sometimes the hours went quickly, sometimes they lingered interminably
with no seeming relation between their speeding and the interest of the
moment. Sometimes we were hungry and sometimes we forgot our hunger. We
found a small park near the foreign settlement with benches admirable
for sleeping if it had not been for the diligence of the sand fleas
and the gnats. From the park we walked down along the bund and on the
promenade facing the harbour we found two seats. A Japanese sailor
was sitting on one.

We wished him good-evening and shared with him our cigarettes. After a
time we wandered away to walk again through the streets of the bright
lanterns. We had been refusing ’ricksha men for so many hours that the
guild at last seemed to remember us as non-possibilities, that is,
all except one man who persisted in turning up at every corner. He
spoke some English and had a new suggestion for his every proposal.
If ever a coolie looked theatrically villainous, it was that coolie;
and furthermore, he was half-drunk from cheap _sake_. Eventually he
discovered a companion and the two of them settled down at our heels.
Whenever we hesitated they threw their ’ricksha shafts across our
path. They thought that we were officers from some ship and they were
counting upon our having to return before the four-o’clock watch. I do
not know that officers ever do have to return at that hour, but the
coolies were sure that we had such necessity. When four o’clock came
they were mystified and angry. Until then they had rather amused us.
We now told them to be off and we walked away into the quiet streets.
They still persisted in their following. We tried indifference and
we tried invective. I could see that the police at the corners were
watching the procession. We might have appealed to them, but one seldom
appeals to the police in a foreign land, especially in Japan, if there
is any question of time to be considered. We had to take the boat the
next morning. We had no desire to be ordered to report the next day at
a police station; and for the matter of that, I should hardly have felt
like criticizing any officer for deciding to lock us all up together.
The coolies might have appealed that we had hired them and had not
paid them. Anyhow, why should two foreigners be wandering around in
questionable districts at such an hour of the night? If there had to be
a settlement with our pair of villains, it was just as well to have it
beyond the eye of the law.

Our next move was melodramatic. We drew a line across the road and
when our parasites caught up we told them that they crossed that line
at their peril. Just what we should have done if they had crossed the
line I have no idea. We walked along pleased with the result of our
ultimatum until, ten or fifteen minutes later, I happened to turn
around and again saw the two men, this time without their ’rickshas.

We were now headed toward the sea front by way of the foreign
sections. The buildings were absolutely dark but there was an
occasional street light. If there were any watchmen they were within
the walls. We had walked through the narrow streets of that district
so often that we remembered the turns. We felt sure that the men could
not catch up with us except from behind. We were well out on the bund
before they came out of the alley that we had left. They were both
carrying sticks, which looked like ’ricksha shafts, and the second man
had a knife.

We walked along toward the benches where we had been sitting earlier in
the night. Steamer lights were twinkling on the harbour and O-Owre-san
pointed out our ship waiting to dock at sunrise. Years before I had
been attacked in the streets of San Francisco, but that assault had
been so sudden that there was no anticipatory excitement. Our Yokohama
anticipatory reflection was the amusing idea that if the knaves should
attain the triumph of searching our pockets they would have a most
disheartening anti-climax after all their evening’s trouble.

Just as we reached the benches they came for us. We stepped around the
first bench to break the charge. Outstretched on the bench was our
Japanese sailor whom we had helped out with cigarettes. He may have
been asleep, but when he jumped to his feet he was very wide awake.
Without waiting for particulars he whipped out a clasp knife. We had
been friends and this was a chance to even up his obligation to us.
The two coolies stopped as if they had run against an invisible wire.
We stood facing each other, and then, as stealthily as a great cat,
the sailor began moving forward. He walked very slowly but he seemed
to thirst to use his knife. Even with three to two, I felt that the
coolies, half-drunken, would have tried to hold their ground if it had
not been for the sailor’s uncanny deliberation. They waited for him to
come no nearer. They fled. We could hear them running long after the
darkness closed them in.

We tried to express our appreciation to the sailor for his interest. He
made some answer which sounded as if he were bored.

One place and another we had found a little sleep in the two days but
the thought of a soft, clean steamer bunk began to form itself in my
brain and the first sign of the sun was truly welcome. We turned back
to the city for one last long walk over the heights. The town was
sleepily waking up. The streets that had been the darkest in the night
were now the busiest. Our walk ended at the parcel room of the railway
station where we had left our rucksacks. The boy who was sweeping out
the station restaurant allowed us to shave and scrub behind a screen
and make ourselves somewhat presentable for the boat.

Our luggage, which had been in storage, was on the dock waiting for
us. O-Owre-san thoroughly shook the linen envelope which had so long
been our treasury but the yield refused to increase beyond three silver
ten-_sen_ pieces. I once saw an Italian in Venice fee an entire hotel
line with a few coppers. He accomplished the act with such graceful
courtesy that seemingly the servitors were appreciative of the spirit
of the giving rather than the value of the coins. I tried to distribute
our pieces of silver to the porters on the dock with an air copied
from my remembrance of the Italian, and the Nipponese recipients
entered into the drama with sufficient make-belief to have saved our
faces if it had not been for the chill in the critical eyes of two
English sailors standing at the gangplank. The implication of their
Anglo-Saxon hauteur was that it might be satisfying to the heathen in
their darkness to weigh in with the heft of compensation such useless
freight as palaver and smiles, but as for them, they belonged to a
civilization preferring less manners and more substance.

As the boat swung from the pier and open water began to show, a man
came running down the dock waving the copy of a cablegram. “Germany has
invaded France and England may declare war,” he shouted. Yes, decidedly
our days of turning back the clock were over. We were no longer
_ronins_ wandering in feudal Japan. We had left the Two-Sworded Trails
and were back in the civilization of the two English sailors.

Slowly the harbour of Yokohama was curtained and disappeared behind a
brightly glistening mist. I stood against the rail trying to think of
America and Europe. My mind had that illusory, abnormal clearness which
sometimes follows days without sleep. I stood, thinking, thinking, the
first beginning of that agony of trying to add a cubit to our vision by
thought.

[Illustration: SLOWLY THE HARBOR OF YOKOHAMA WAS CURTAINED AND
DISAPPEARED BEHIND A BRIGHTLY GLISTENING MIST]

       *       *       *       *       *

GLOSSARY OF JAPANESE WORDS



GLOSSARY OF JAPANESE WORDS


  AKAMBO         Infant

  BENTO          Luncheon Box Sold at Railway Stations

  BUSHIDO        Code of Honourable Conduct

  DAIMYO         A Noble of Old Japan

  FUROSHIKI      Large Handkerchief Used for Carrying Various
                   Objects and Packages

  GEISHA         Trained Entertainers, Singing and Dancing Girls

  GETA           Clogs

  HEI             Expression of Affirmation

  HIBACHI         Brazier for Holding Charcoal

  IIYE            No

  KEBUKAI         Hairy

  KIREI           Beautiful

  KISHA           Local Train

  NE-SAN          Literally “Elder Sister,” Maid

  OBI             Girdle for Kimono

  O-HAYO          Good-morning

  RAMUNE          Carbonated, Bottled Lemonade

  RONIN           Unattached, Wandering _Samurai_

  SAKÉ            Rice Wine

  SAMURAI         Military Class; Retainers of Daimyo (Feudal)

  SAYO            Formal “Yes”

  SEIYO-JIN       Foreigner

  SEN             Standard Small Coin Equalling One-half Cent

  SHOGI           Sliding Screen

  TABI            A Cloth Compromise Between Shoes and Stockings

  YADO-YA         Native Inn

  YEN             Currency Standard, Equalling Fifty Cents

  O-YASUMI-NASAI  Good-night

       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber’s Notes:

Illustrations have been moved to paragraph breaks near where they are
mentioned.

Punctuation has been made consistent.

Variations in spelling and hyphenation were retained as they appear in
the original publication, except that obvious typographical errors have
been corrected.





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