Kokoro - Japanese Inner Life Hints
by Lafcadio Hearn
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THE papers composing this volume treat of the inner rather than of the outer life of Japan,—for which reason they have been grouped under the title Kokoro (heart). Written with the above character, this word signifies also mind, in the emotional sense; spirit; courage; resolve; sentiment; affection; and inner meaning,—just as we say in English, "the heart of things."

KOBE September 15, 1895.






Seventh day of the sixth Month;— twenty-sixth of Meiji.

Yesterday a telegram from Fukuoka announced that a desperate criminal captured there would be brought for trial to Kumamoto to-day, on the train due at noon. A Kumamoto policeman had gone to Fukuoka to take the prisoner in charge.

Four years ago a strong thief entered some house by night in the Street of the Wrestlers, terrified and bound the inmates, and carried away a number of valuable things. Tracked skillfully by the police, he was captured within twenty-four hours,—even before he could dispose of his plunder. But as he was being taken to the police station he burst his bonds, snatched the sword of his captor, killed him, and escaped. Nothing more was heard of him until last week.

Then a Kumamoto detective, happening to visit the Fukuoka prison, saw among the toilers a face that had been four years photographed upon his brain. "Who is that man?" he asked the guard. "A thief," was the reply,—"registered here as Kusabe." The detective walked up to the prisoner and said:—

"Kusabe is not your name. Nomura Teichi, you are needed in Kumamoto for murder." The felon confessed all.

I went with a great throng of people to witness the arrival at the station. I expected to hear and see anger; I even feared possibilities of violence. The murdered officer had been much liked; his relatives would certainly be among the spectators; and a Kumamoto crowd is not very gentle. I also thought to find many police on duty. My anticipations were wrong.

The train halted in the usual scene of hurry and noise,—scurry and clatter of passengers wearing geta,—screaming of boys wanting to sell Japanese newspapers and Kumamoto lemonade. Outside the barrier we waited for nearly five minutes. Then, pushed through the wicket by a police-sergeant, the prisoner appeared,—a large wild-looking man, with head bowed down, and arms fastened behind his back. Prisoner and guard both halted in front of the wicket; and the people pressed forward to see—but in silence. Then the officer called out,—

"Sugihara San! Sugihara O-Kibi! is she present?"

A slight small woman standing near me, with a child on her back, answered, "Hai!" and advanced through the press. This was the widow of the murdered man; the child she carried was his son. At a wave of the officer's hand the crowd fell back, so as to leave a clear space about the prisoner and his escort. In that space the woman with the child stood facing the murderer. The hush was of death.

Not to the woman at all, but to the child only, did the officer then speak. He spoke low, but so clearly that I could catch every syllable:—

"Little one, this is the man who killed your father four years ago. You had not yet been born; you were in your mother's womb. That you have no father to love you now is the doing of this man. Look at him—[here the officer, putting a hand to the prisoner's chin, sternly forced him to lift his eyes]—look well at him, little boy! Do not be afraid. It is painful; but it is your duty. Look at him!"

Over the mother's shoulder the boy gazed with eyes widely open, as in fear; then he began to sob; then tears came; but steadily and obediently he still looked—looked—looked—straight into the cringing face.

The crowd seemed to have stopped breathing.

I saw the prisoner's features distort; I saw him suddenly dash himself down upon his knees despite his fetters, and beat his face into the dust, crying out the while in a passion of hoarse remorse that made one's heart shake:—

"Pardon! pardon! pardon me, little one! That I did—not for hate was it done, but in mad fear only, in my desire to escape. Very, very wicked have I been; great unspeakable wrong have I done you! But now for my sin I go to die. I wish to die; I am glad to die! Therefore, O little one, be pitiful!—forgive me!"

The child still cried silently. The officer raised the shaking criminal; the dumb crowd parted left and right to let them by. Then, quite suddenly, the whole multitude began to sob. And as the bronzed guardian passed, I saw what I had never seen before, —what few men ever see,—what I shall probably never see again, —the tears of a Japanese policeman.

The crowd ebbed, and left me musing on the strange morality of the spectacle. Here was justice unswerving yet compassionate,— forcing knowledge of a crime by the pathetic witness of its simplest result. Here was desperate remorse, praying only for pardon before death. And here was a populace—perhaps the most dangerous in the Empire when angered—comprehending all, touched by all, satisfied with the contrition and the shame, and filled, not with wrath, but only with the great sorrow of the sin,—through simple deep experience of the difficulties of life and the weaknesses of human nature.

But the most significant, because the most Oriental, fact of the episode was that the appeal to remorse had been made through the criminal's sense of fatherhood,—that potential love of children which is so large a part of the soul of every Japanese.

There is a story that the most famous of all Japanese robbers, Ishikawa Goemon, once by night entering a house to kill and steal, was charmed by the smile of a baby which reached out hands to him, and that he remained playing with the little creature until all chance of carrying out his purpose was lost.

It is not hard to believe this story. Every year the police records tell of compassion shown to children by professional criminals. Some months ago a terrible murder case was reported in the local papers,—the slaughter of a household by robbers. Seven persons had been literally hewn to pieces while asleep; but the police discovered a little boy quite unharmed, crying alone in a pool of blood; and they found evidence unmistakable that the men who slew must have taken great care not to hurt the child.




Without losing a single ship or a single battle, Japan has broken down the power of China, made a new Korea, enlarged her own territory, and changed the whole political face of the East. Astonishing as this has seemed politically, it is much more astonishing psychologically; for it represents the result of a vast play of capacities with which the race had never been credited abroad,—capacities of a very high order. The psychologist knows that the so-called "adoption of Western civilization" within a time of thirty years cannot mean the addition to the Japanese brain of any organs or powers previously absent from it. He knows that it cannot mean any sudden change in the mental or moral character of the race. Such changes are not made in a generation. Transmitted civilization works much more slowly, requiring even hundreds of years to produce certain permanent psychological results.

It is in this light that Japan appears the most extraordinary country in the world; and the most wonderful thing in the whole episode of her "Occidentalization" is that the race brain could bear so heavy a shock. Nevertheless, though the fact be unique in human history, what does it really mean? Nothing more than rearrangement of a part of the pre-existing machinery of thought. Even that, for thousands of brave young minds, was death. The adoption of Western civilization was not nearly such an easy matter as un-thinking persons imagined. And it is quite evident that the mental readjustments, effected at a cost which remains to be told, have given good results only along directions in which the race had always shown capacities of special kinds. Thus, the appliances of Western industrial invention have worked admirably in Japanese hands,—have produced excellent results in those crafts at which the nation had been skillful, in other and quainter ways, for ages. There has been no transformation,

—nothing more than the turning of old abilities into new and larger channels. The scientific professions tell the same story. For certain forms of science, such as medicine, surgery (there are no better surgeons in the world than the Japanese), chemistry, microscopy, the Japanese genius is naturally adapted; and in all these it has done work already heard of round the world. In war and statecraft it has shown wonderful power; but throughout their history the Japanese have been characterized by great military and political capacity. Nothing remarkable has been done, however, in directions foreign to the national genius. In the study, for example, of Western music, Western art, Western literature, time would seem to have been simply wasted(1). These things make appeal extraordinary to emotional life with us; they make no such appeal to Japanese emotional life. Every serious thinker knows that emotional transformation of the individual through education is impossible. To imagine that the emotional character of an Oriental race could be transformed in the short space of thirty years, by the contact of Occidental ideas, is absurd. Emotional life, which is older than intellectual life, and deeper, can no more be altered suddenly by a change of milieu than the surface of a mirror can be changed by passing reflections. All that Japan has been able to do so miraculously well has been done without any self-transformation; and those who imagine her emotionally closer to us to-day than she may have been thirty years ago ignore facts of science which admit of no argument.

Sympathy is limited by comprehension. We may sympathize to the same degree that we understand. One may imagine that he sympathizes with a Japanese or a Chinese; but the sympathy can never be real to more than a small extent outside of the simplest phases of common emotional life,—those phases in which child and man are at one. The more complex feelings of the Oriental have been composed by combinations of experiences, ancestral and individual, which have had no really precise correspondence in Western life, and which we can therefore not fully know. For converse reasons, the. Japanese cannot, even though they would, give Europeans their best sympathy.

But while it remains impossible for the man of the West to discern the true color of Japanese life, either intellectual or emotional (since the one is woven into the other), it is equally impossible for him to escape the conviction that, compared with his own, it is very small. It is dainty; it holds delicate potentialities of rarest interest and value; but it is otherwise so small that Western life, by contrast with it, seems almost supernatural. For we must judge visible and measurable manifestations. So judging, what a contrast between the emotional and intellectual worlds of West and East! Far less striking that between the frail wooden streets of the Japanese capital and the tremendous solidity of a thoroughfare in Paris or London. When one compares the utterances which West and East have given to their dreams, their aspirations, their sensations,—a Gothic cathedral with a Shinto temple, an opera by Verdi or a trilogy by Wagner with a performance of geisha, a European epic with a Japanese poem,—how incalculable the difference in emotional volume, in imaginative power, in artistic synthesis! True, our music is an essentially modern art; but in looking back through all our past the difference in creative force is scarcely less marked,—not surely in the period of Roman magnificence, of marble amphitheatres and of aqueducts spanning provinces, nor in the Greek period of the divine in sculpture and of the supreme in literature.

And this leads to the subject of another wonderful fact in the sudden development of Japanese power. Where are the outward material signs of that immense new force she has been showing both in productivity and in war? Nowhere! That which we miss in her emotional and intellectual life is missing also from her industrial and commercial life,—largeness! The land remains what it was before; its face has scarcely been modified by all the changes of Meiji. The miniature railways and telegraph poles, the bridges and tunnels, might almost escape notice in the ancient green of the landscapes. In all the cities, with the exception of the open ports and their little foreign settlements, there exists hardly a street vista suggesting the teaching of Western ideas. You might journey two hundred miles through the interior of the country, looking in vain for large manifestations of the new civilization. In no place do you find commerce exhibiting its ambition in gigantic warehouses, or industry expanding its machinery under acres of roofing. A Japanese city is still, as it was ten centuries ago, little more than a wilderness of wooden sheds,—picturesque, indeed, as paper lanterns are, but scarcely less frail. And there is no great stir and noise anywhere,—no heavy traffic, no booming and rumbling, no furious haste. In Tokyo itself you may enjoy, if you wish, the peace of a country village. This want of visible or audible signs of the new-found force which is now menacing the markets of the West and changing the maps of the far East gives one a queer, I might even say a weird feeling. It is almost the sensation received when, after climbing through miles of silence to reach some Shinto shrine, you find voidness only and solitude,—an elfish, empty little wooden structure, mouldering in shadows a thousand years old. The strength of Japan, like the strength of her ancient faith, needs little material display: both exist where the deepest real power of any great people exists,—in the Race Ghost.

(1) In one limited sense, Western art has influenced Japanese. literature and drama; but the character of the influence proves the racial difference to which I refer. European plays have been reshaped for the Japanese stage, and European novels rewritten for Japanese readers. But a literal version is rarely attempted; for the original incidents, thoughts, and emotions would be unintelligible to the average reader or playgoer. Plots are adopted; sentiments and incidents are totally transformed. "The New Magdalen" becomes a Japanese girl who married an Eta. Victor Hugo's Les Miserables becomes a tale of the Japanese civil war; and Enjolras a Japanese student. There have been a few rare exceptions, including the marked success of a literal translation of the Sorrows of Werther.


As I muse, the remembrance of a great city comes back to me,—a city walled up to the sky and roaring like the sea. The memory of that roar returns first; then the vision defines: a chasm, which is a street, between mountains, which are houses. I am tired, because I have walked many miles between those precipices of masonry, and have trodden no earth,—only slabs of rock,—and have heard nothing but thunder of tumult. Deep below those huge pavements I know there is a cavernous world tremendous: systems underlying systems of ways contrived for water and steam and fire. On either hand tower facades pierced by scores of tiers of windows,—cliffs of architecture shutting out the sun. Above, the pale blue streak of sky is cut by a maze of spidery lines,—an infinite cobweb of electric wires. In that block on the right there dwell nine thousand souls; the tenants of the edifice facing it pay the annual rent of a million dollars. Seven millions scarcely covered the cost of those bulks overshadowing the square beyond,—and there are miles of such. Stairways of steel and cement, of brass and stone, with costliest balustrades, ascend through the decades and double-decades of stories; but no foot treads them. By water-power, by steam, by electricity, men go up and down; the heights are too dizzy, the distances too great, for the use of the limbs. My friend who pays rent of five thousand dollars for his rooms in the fourteenth story of a monstrosity not far off has never trodden his stairway. I am walking for curiosity alone; with a serious purpose I should not walk: the spaces are too broad, the time is too precious, for such slow exertion,—men travel from district to district, from house to office, by steam. Heights are too great for the voice to traverse; orders are given and obeyed by machinery. By electricity far-away doors are opened; with one touch a hundred rooms are lighted or heated.

And all this enormity is hard, grim, dumb; it is the enormity of mathematical power applied to utilitarian ends of solidity and durability. These leagues of palaces, of warehouses, of business structures, of buildings describable and indescribable, are not beautiful, but sinister. One feels depressed by the mere sensation of the enormous life which created them, life without sympathy; of their prodigious manifestation of power, power with-out pity. They are the architectural utterance of the new industrial age. And there is no halt in the thunder of wheels, in the storming of hoofs and of human feet. To ask a question, one must shout into the ear of the questioned; to see, to understand, to move in that high-pressure medium, needs experience. The unaccustomed feels the sensation of being in a panic, in a tempest, in a cyclone. Yet all this is order.

The monster streets leap rivers, span sea-ways, with bridges of stone, bridges of steel. Far as the eye can reach, a bewilderment of masts, a web-work of rigging, conceals the shores, which are cliffs of masonry. Trees in a forest stand less thickly, branches in a forest mingle less closely, than the masts and spars of that immeasurable maze. Yet all is order.


Generally speaking, we construct for endurance, the Japanese for impermanency. Few things for common use are made in Japan with a view to durability. The straw sandals worn out and replaced at each stage of a journey, the robe consisting of a few simple widths loosely stitched together for wearing, and unstitched again for washing, the fresh chopsticks served to each new guest at a hotel, the light shoji frames serving at once for windows and walls, and repapered twice a year; the mattings renewed every autumn,—all these are but random examples of countless small things in daily life that illustrate the national contentment with impermanency.

What is the story of a common Japanese dwelling? Leaving my home in the morning, I observe, as I pass the corner of the next street crossing mine, some men setting up bamboo poles on a vacant lot there. Returning after five hours' absence, I find on the same lot the skeleton of a two-story house. Next forenoon I see that the walls are nearly finished already,—mud and wattles. By sundown the roof has been completely tiled. On the following morning I observe that the mattings have been put down, and the inside plastering has been finished. In five days the house is completed. This, of course, is a cheap building; a fine one would take much longer to put up and finish. But Japanese cities are for the most part composed of such common buildings. They are as cheap as they are simple.

I cannot now remember where I first met with the observation that the curve of the Chinese roof might preserve the memory of the nomad tent. The idea haunted me long after I had ungratefully forgotten the book in which I found it; and when I first saw, in Izumo, the singular structure of the old Shinto temples, with queer cross-projections at their gable-ends and upon their roof-ridges, the suggestion of the forgotten essayist about the possible origin of much less ancient forms returned to me with great force. But there is much in Japan besides primitive architectural traditions to indicate a nomadic ancestry for the race. Always and everywhere there is a total absence of what we would call solidity; and the characteristics of impermanence seem to mark almost everything in the exterior life of the people, except, indeed, the immemorial costume of the peasant and the shape of the implements of his toil. Not to dwell upon the fact that even during the comparatively brief period of her written history Japan has had more than sixty capitals, of which the greater number have completely disappeared, it may be broadly stated that every Japanese city is rebuilt within the time of a generation. Some temples and a few colossal fortresses offer exceptions; but, as a general rule, the Japanese city changes its substance, if not its form, in the lifetime of a man. Fires, earth-quakes, and many other causes partly account for this; the chief reason, however, is that houses are not built to last. The common people have no ancestral homes. The dearest spot to all is, not the place of birth, but the place of burial; and there is little that is permanent save the resting-places of the dead and the sites of the ancient shrines.

The land itself is a land of impermanence. Rivers shift their courses, coasts their outline, plains their level; volcanic peaks heighten or crumble; valleys are blocked by lava-floods or landslides; lakes appear and disappear. Even the matchless shape of Fuji, that snowy miracle which has been the inspiration of artists for centuries, is said to have been slightly changed since my advent to the country; and not a few other mountains have in the same short time taken totally new forms. Only the general lines of the land, the general aspects of its nature, the general character of the seasons, remain fixed. Even the very beauty of the landscapes is largely illusive,—a beauty of shifting colors and moving mists. Only he to whom those landscapes are familiar can know bow their mountain vapors make mockery of real changes which have been, and ghostly predictions of other changes yet to be, in the history of the archipelago.

The gods, indeed, remain,—haunt their homes upon the hills, diffuse a soft religious awe through the twilight of their groves, perhaps because they are without form and substance. Their shrines seldom pass utterly into oblivion, like the dwellings of men. But every Shinto temple is necessarily rebuilt at more or less brief intervals; and the holiest,—the shrine of Ise,—in obedience to immemorial custom, must be demolished every twenty years, and its timbers cut into thousands of tiny charms, which are distributed to pilgrims.

From Aryan India, through China, came Buddhism, with its vast doctrine of impermanency. The builders of the first Buddhist temples in Japan—architects of another race—built well: witness the Chinese structures at Kamakura that have survived so many centuries, while of the great city which once surrounded them not a trace remains. But the psychical influence of Buddhism could in no land impel minds to the love of material stability. The teaching that the universe is an illusion; that life is but one momentary halt upon an infinite journey; that all attachment to persons, to places, or to things must be fraught with sorrow; that only through suppression of every desire—even the desire of Nirvana itself—can humanity reach the eternal peace, certainly harmonized with the older racial feeling. Though the people never much occupied themselves with the profounder philosophy of the foreign faith, its doctrine of impermanency must, in course of time, have profoundly influenced national character. It explained and consoled; it imparted new capacity to bear all things bravely; it strengthened that patience which is a trait of the race. Even in Japanese art—developed, if not actually created, under Buddhist influence—the doctrine of impermanency has left its traces. Buddhism taught that nature was a dream, an illusion, a phantasmagoria; but it also taught men how to seize the fleeting impressions of that dream, and how to interpret them in relation to the highest truth. And they learned well. In the flushed splendor of the blossom-bursts of spring, in the coming and the going of the cicada, in the dying crimson of autumn foliage, in the ghostly beauty of snow, in the delusive motion of wave or cloud, they saw old parables of perpetual meaning. Even their calamities—fire, flood, earthquake, pestilence— interpreted to them unceasingly the doctrine of the eternal Vanishing.

All things which exist in Time must perish. The forests, the mountains,—all things thus exist. In Time are born all things having desire.

The Sun and Moon, Sakra himself with all the multitude of his attendants, will all, without exception, perish; there is not one that will endure.

In the beginning things were fixed; in the end again they separate: different combinations cause other substance; for in nature there is no uniform and constant principle.

All component things must grow old; impermanent are all component things. Even unto a grain of sesamum seed there is no such thing as a compound which is permanent. All are transient; all have the inherent quality of dissolution.

All component things, without exception, are impermanent, unstable, despicable, sure to depart, disintegrating; all are temporary as a mirage, as a phantom, or as foam.... Even as all earthen vessels made by the potter end in being broken, so end the lives of men.

And a belief in matter itself is unmentionable and inexpressible,—it is neither a thing nor no-thing: and this is known even by children and ignorant persons.


Now it is worth while to inquire if there be not some compensatory value attaching to this impermanency and this smallness in the national life.

Nothing is more characteristic of that life than its extreme fluidity. The Japanese population represents a medium whose particles are in perpetual circulation. The motion is in itself peculiar. It is larger and more eccentric than the motion of Occidental populations, though feebler between points. It is also much more natural,—so natural that it could not exist in Western civilization. The relative mobility of a European population and the Japanese population might be expressed by a comparison between certain high velocities of vibration and certain low ones. But the high velocities would represent, in such a comparison, the consequence of artificial force applied; the slower vibrations would not. And this difference of kind would mean more than surface indications could announce. In one sense, Americans may be right in thinking themselves great travelers. In another, they are certainly wrong; the man of the people in America cannot compare, as a traveler, with the man of the people in Japan And of course, in considering relative mobility of populations, one must consider chiefly the great masses, the workers,—not merely the small class of wealth. In their own country, the Japanese are the greatest travelers of any civilized people. They are the greatest travelers because, even in a land composed mainly of mountain chains, they recognize no obstacles to travel. The Japanese who travels most is not the man who needs railways or steamers to carry him.

Now, with us, the common worker is incomparably less free than the common worker in Japan. He is less free because of the more complicated mechanism of Occidental societies, whose forces tend to agglomeration and solid integration. He is less free because the social and industrial machinery on which he must depend reshapes him to its own particular requirements, and always so as to evolve some special and artificial capacity at the cost of other inherent capacity. He is less free because he must live at a standard making it impossible for him to win financial independence by mere thrift. To achieve any such independence, he must possess exceptional character and exceptional faculties greater than those of thousands of exceptional competitors equally eager to escape from the same thralldom. In brief, then, he is less independent because the special character of his civilization numbs his natural power to live without the help of machinery or large capital. To live thus artificially means to lose, sooner or later, the power of independent movement. Before a Western man can move he has many things to consider. Before a Japanese moves he has nothing to consider. He simply leaves the place he dislikes, and goes to the place he wishes, without any trouble. There is nothing to prevent him. Poverty is not an obstacle, but a stimulus. Impedimenta he has none, or only such as he can dispose of in a few minutes. Distances have no significance for him. Nature has given him perfect feet that can spring him over fifty miles a day without pain; a stomach whose chemistry can extract ample nourishment from food on which no European could live; and a constitution that scorns heat, cold, and damp alike, because still unimpaired by unhealthy clothing, by superfluous comforts, by the habit of seeking warmth from grates and stoves, and by the habit of wearing leather shoes.

It seems to me that the character of our footgear signifies more than is commonly supposed. The footgear represents in itself a check upon individual freedom. It signifies this even in costliness; but in form it signifies infinitely more. It has distorted the Western foot out of the original shape, and rendered it incapable of the work for which it was evolved. The physical results are not limited to the foot. Whatever acts as a check, directly or indirectly, upon the organs of locomotion must extend its effects to the whole physical constitution. Does the evil stop even there? Perhaps we submit to conventions the most absurd of any existing in any civilization because we have too long submitted to the tyranny of shoemakers. There may be defects in our politics, in our social ethics, in our religious system, more or less related to the habit of wearing leather shoes. Submission to the cramping of the body must certainly aid in developing submission to the cramping of the mind.

The Japanese man of the people—the skilled laborer able to underbid without effort any Western artisan in the same line of industry—remains happily independent of both shoemakers and tailors. His feet are good to look at, his body is healthy, and his heart is free. If he desire to travel a thousand miles, he can get ready for his journey in five minutes. His whole outfit need not cost seventy-five cents; and all his baggage can be put into a handkerchief. On ten dollars he can travel for a year without work, or he can travel simply on his ability to work, or he can travel as a pilgrim. You may reply that any savage can do the same thing. Yes, but any civilized man cannot; and the Japanese has been a highly civilized man for at least a thousand years. Hence his present capacity to threaten Western manufacturers.

We have been too much accustomed to associate this kind of independent mobility with the life of our own beggars and tramps, to have any just conception of its intrinsic meaning. We have thought of it also in connection with unpleasant things,—uncleanliness and bad smells. But, as Professor Chamberlain has well said, "a Japanese crowd is the sweetest in the world" Your Japanese tramp takes his hot bath daily, if he has a fraction of a cent to pay for it, or his cold bath, if he has not. In his little bundle there are combs, toothpicks, razors, toothbrushes. He never allows himself to become unpleasant Reaching his destination, he can transform himself into a visitor of very nice manners, and faultless though simple attire(1).

Ability to live without furniture, without impedimenta, with the least possible amount of neat clothing, shows more than the advantage held by this Japanese race in the struggle of life; it shows also the real character of some weaknesses in our own civilization. It forces reflection upon the useless multiplicity of our daily wants. We must have meat and bread and butter; glass windows and fire; hats, white shirts, and woolen underwear; boots and shoes; trunks, bags, and boxes; bedsteads, mattresses, sheets, and blankets: all of which a Japanese can do without, and is really better off without. Think for a moment how important an article of Occidental attire is the single costly item of white shirts! Yet even the linen shirt, the so-called "badge of a gentleman," is in itself a useless garment. It gives neither warmth nor comfort. It represents in our fashions the survival of something once a luxurious class distinction, but to-day meaningless and useless as the buttons sewn on the outside of coat-sleeves.

(1) Critics have tried to make fun of Sir Edwin Arnold's remark that a Japanese crowd smells like a geranium-flower. Yet the simile is exact! The perfume called jako, when sparingly used, might easily be taken for the odor of a musk-geranium. In almost any Japanese assembly including women a slight perfume of jako is discernible; for the robes worn have been laid in drawers containing a few grains of jako. Except for this delicate scent, a Japanese crowd is absolutely odorless.


The absence of any huge signs of the really huge things that Japan has done bears witness to the very peculiar way in which her civilization has been working. It cannot forever so work; but it has so worked thus far with amazing success. Japan is producing without capital, in our large sense of the word. She has become industrial without becoming essentially mechanical and artificial The vast rice crop is raised upon millions of tiny, tiny farms; the silk crop, in millions of small poor homes, the tea crop, on countless little patches of soil. If you visit Kyoto to order something from one of the greatest porcelain makers in the world, one whose products are known better in London and in Paris than even in Japan, you will find the factory to be a wooden cottage in which no American farmer would live. The greatest maker of cloisonne vases, who may ask you two hundred dollars for something five inches high, produces his miracles behind a two-story frame dwelling containing perhaps six small rooms. The best girdles of silk made in Japan, and famous throughout the Empire, are woven in a house that cost scarcely five hundred dollars to build. The work is, of course, hand-woven. But the factories weaving by machinery—and weaving so well as to ruin foreign industries of far vaster capacity—are hardly more imposing, with very few exceptions. Long, light, low one-story or two-story sheds they are, about as costly to erect as a row of wooden stables with us. Yet sheds like these turn out silks that sell all round the world. Sometimes only by inquiry, or by the humming of the machinery, can you distinguish a factory from an old yashiki, or an old-fashioned Japanese school building,—unless indeed you can read the Chinese characters over the garden gate. Some big brick factories and breweries exist; but they are very few, and even when close to the foreign settlements they seem incongruities in the landscape.

Our own architectural monstrosities and our Babels of machinery have been brought into existence by vast integrations of industrial capital. But such integrations do not exist in the Far East; indeed, the capital to make them does not exist. And supposing that in the course of a few generations there should form in Japan corresponding combinations of money power, it is not easy to suppose correspondences in architectural construction. Even two-story edifices of brick have given bad results in the leading commercial centre; and earthquakes seem to condemn Japan to perpetual simplicity in building. The very land revolts against the imposition of Western architecture, and occasionally even opposes the new course of traffic by. pushing railroad lines out of level and out of shape.

Not industry alone still remains thus unintegrated; government itself exhibits a like condition. Nothing is fixed except the Throne. Perpetual change is identical with state policy. Ministers, governors, superintendents, inspectors, all high civil and military officials, are shifted at irregular and surprisingly short intervals, and hosts of smaller officials scatter each time with the whirl. The province in which I passed the first twelvemonth of my residence in Japan has had four different governors in five years. During my stay at Kumamoto, and before the war had begun, the military command of that important post was three times changed. The government college had in three years three directors. In educational circles, especially, the rapidity of such changes has been phenomenal There have been five different ministers of education in my own time, and more than five different educational policies The twenty-six thousand public schools are so related in their management to the local assemblies that, even were no other influences at work, constant change would be inevitable because of the changes in the assemblies. Directors and teachers keep circling from post to post; there are men little more than thirty years old who have taught in almost every province of the country. That any educational system could have produced any great results under these conditions seems nothing short of miraculous.

We are accustomed to think that some degree of stability is necessary to all real progress, all great development. But Japan has given proof irrefutable that enormous development is possible without any stability at all. The explanation is in the race character,—a race character in more ways than one the very opposite of our own. Uniformly mobile, and thus uniformly impressionable, the nation has moved unitedly in the direction of great ends, submitting the whole volume of its forty millions to be moulded by the ideas of its rulers, even as sand or as water is shaped by wind. And this submissiveness to reshaping belongs to the old conditions of its soul life,—old conditions of rare unselfishness and perfect faith. The relative absence from the national character of egotistical individualism has been the saving of an empire; has enabled a great people to preserve its independence against prodigious odds. Wherefore Japan may well be grateful to her two great religions, the creators and the preservers of her moral power to Shinto, which taught the individual to think of his Emperor and of his country before thinking either of his own family or of himself; and to Buddhism, which trained him to master regret, to endure pain, and to accept as eternal law the vanishing of things loved and the tyranny of things hated.

To-day there is visible a tendency to hardening,—a danger of changes leading to the integration of just such an officialism as that which has proved the curse and the weakness of China. The moral results of the new education have not been worthy of the material results. The charge of want of "individuality," in the accepted sense of pure selfishness, will scarcely be made against the Japanese of the next century. Even the compositions of students already reflect the new conception of intellectual strength only as a weapon of offense, and the new sentiment of aggressive egotism. "Impermanency," writes one, with a fading memory of Buddhism in his mind, "is the nature of our life. We see often persons who were rich yesterday, and are poor to-day. This is the result of human competition, according to the law of evolution. We are exposed to that competition. We must fight each other, even if we are not inclined to do so. With what sword shall we fight? With the sword of knowledge, forged by education."

Well, there are two forms of the cultivation of Self. One leads to the exceptional development of the qualities which are noble, and the other signifies something about which the less said the better. But it is not the former which the New Japan is now beginning to study. I confess to being one of those who believe that the human heart, even in the history of a race, may be worth infinitely more than the human intellect, and that it will sooner or later prove itself infinitely better able to answer all the cruel enigmas of the Sphinx of Life. I still believe that the old Japanese were nearer to the solution of those enigmas than are we, just because they recognized moral beauty as greater than intellectual beauty. And, by way of conclusion, I may venture to quote from an article on education by Ferdinand Brunetiere:—

"All our educational measures will prove vain, if there be no effort to force into the mind, and to deeply impress upon it, the sense of those fine words of Lamennais: 'Human society is based upon mutual giving, or upon the sacrifice of man for man, or of each man for all other men; and sacrifice is the very essence of all true society.' It is this that we have been unlearning for nearly a century; and if we have to put ourselves to school afresh, it will be in order that we may learn it again. Without such knowledge there can be no society and no education,—not, at least, if the object of education be to form man for society. Individualism is to-day the enemy of education, as it is also the enemy of social order. It has not been so always; but it has so become. It will not be so forever; but it is so now. And without striving to destroy it-which would mean to fall from one extreme into another—we must recognize that, no matter what we wish to do for the family, for society, for education, and for the country, it is against individualism that the work will have to be done."



A woman carrying a samisen, and accompanied by a little boy seven or eight years old, came to my house to sing. She wore the dress of a peasant, and a blue towel tied round her head. She was ugly; and her natural ugliness had been increased by a cruel attack of smallpox. The child carried a bundle of printed ballads.

Neighbors then began to crowd into my front yard,—mostly young mothers and nurse girls with babies on their backs, but old women and men likewise—the inkyo of the vicinity. Also the jinrikisha-men came from their stand at the next street-corner; and presently there was no more room within the gate.

The woman sat down on my doorstep, tuned her samisen, played a bar of accompaniment,—and a spell descended upon the people; and they stared at each other in smiling amazement.

For out of those ugly disfigured lips there gushed and rippled a miracle of a voice—young, deep, unutterably touching in its penetrating sweetness. "Woman or wood-fairy?" queried a bystander. Woman only,—but a very, very great artist. The way she handled her instrument might have astounded the most skillful geisha; but no such voice had ever been heard from any geisha, and no such song. She sang as only a peasant can sing,—with vocal rhythms learned, perhaps, from the cicada and the wild nightingales,—and with fractions and semi-fractions and demi-semi-fractions of tones never written down in the musical language of the West.

And as she sang, those who listened began to weep silently. I did not distinguish the words; but I felt the sorrow and the sweetness and the patience of the life of Japan pass with her voice into my heart,—plaintively seeking for something never there. A tenderness invisible seemed to gather and quiver about us; and sensations of places and of times forgotten came softly back, mingled with feelings ghostlier,—feelings not of any place or time in living memory.

Then I saw that the singer was blind.

When the song was finished, we coaxed the woman into the house, and questioned her. Once she had been fairly well to do, and had learned the samisen when a girl. The little boy was her son. Her husband was paralyzed. Her eyes had been destroyed by smallpox. But she was strong, and able to walk great distances. When the child became tired, she would carry him on her back. She could support the little one, as well as the bed-ridden husband, because whenever she sang the people cried, and gave her coppers and food.... Such was her story. We gave her some money and a meal; and she went away, guided by her boy.

I bought a copy of the ballad, which was about a recent double suicide: "The sorrowful ditty of Tamayone and Takejiro,— composed by Tabenaka Yone of Number Fourteen of the Fourth Ward of Nippon-bashi in the South District of the City of Osaka." It had evidently been printed from a wooden block; and there were two little pictures. One showed a girl and boy sorrowing together. The other—a sort of tail-piece—represented a writing- stand, a dying lamp, an open letter, incense burning in a cup, and a vase containing shikimi,—that sacred plant used in the Buddhist ceremony of making offerings to the dead. The queer cursive text, looking like shorthand written perpendicularly, yielded to translation only lines like these:—

"In the First Ward of Nichi-Hommachi, in far-famed Osaka— O the sorrow of this tale of shinju!

"Tamayone, aged nineteen,—to see her was to love her, for Takejiro, the young workman.

"For the time of two lives they exchange mutual vows— O the sorrow of loving a courtesan!

"On their arms they tattoo a Raindragon, and the character 'Bamboo'—thinking never of the troubles of life....

"But he cannot pay the fifty-five yen for her freedom— O the anguish of Takejiro's heart!

"Both then vow to pass away together, since never in this world can they become husband and wife....

"Trusting to her comrades for incense and for flowers— O the pity of their passing like the dew!

"Tamayone takes the wine-cup filled with water only, in which those about to die pledge each other....

"O the tumult of the lovers' suicide!—O the pity of their lives thrown away!"

In short, there was nothing very unusual in the story, and nothing at all remarkable in the verse. All the wonder of the performance had been in the voice of the woman. But long after the singer had gone that voice seemed still to stay,—making within me a sense of sweetness and of sadness so strange that I could not but try to explain to myself the secret of those magical tones.

And I thought that which is hereafter set down:—

All song, all melody, all music, means only some evolution of the primitive natural utterance of feeling,—of that untaught speech of sorrow, joy, or passion, whose words are tones. Even as other tongues vary, so varies this language of tone combinations. Wherefore melodies which move us deeply have no significance to Japanese ears; and melodies that touch us not at all make powerful appeal to the emotion of a race whose soul-life differs from our own as blue differs from yellow....Still, what is the reason of the deeper feelings evoked in me—an alien—by this Oriental chant that I could never even learn,—by this common song of a blind woman of the people? Surely that in the voice of the singer there were qualities able to make appeal to something larger than the sum of the experience of one race,—to something wide as human life, and ancient as the knowledge of good and evil.

One summer evening, twenty-five years ago, in a London park, I heard a girl say "Good-night" to somebody passing by. Nothing but those two little words,—"Good-night." Who she was I do not know: I never even saw her face; and I never heard that voice again. But still, after the passing of one hundred seasons, the memory of her "Good-night" brings a double thrill incomprehensible of pleasure and pain,—pain and pleasure, doubtless, not of me, not of my own existence, but of pre-existences and dead suns.

For that which makes the charm of a voice thus heard but once cannot be of this life. It is of lives innumerable and forgotten. Certainly there never have been two voices having precisely the same quality. But in the utterance of affection there is a tenderness of timbre common to the myriad million voices of all humanity. Inherited memory makes familiar to even the newly-born the meaning of tins tone of caress. Inherited, no doubt, likewise, our knowledge of the tones of sympathy, of grief, of pity. And so the chant of a blind woman in this city of the Far East may revive in even a Western mind emotion deeper than individual being,—vague dumb pathos of forgotten sorrows,—dim loving impulses of generations unremembered. The dead die never utterly. They sleep in the darkest cells of tired hearts and busy brains,—to be startled at rarest moments only by the echo of some voice that recalls their past.




OSAKA-KYOTO RAILWAY. April 15, 1895.

Feeling drowsy in a public conveyance, and not being able to lie down, a Japanese woman will lift her long sleeve before her face era she begins to nod. In this second-class railway-carriage there are now three women asleep in a row, all with faces screened by the left sleeve, and all swaying together with the rocking of the train, like lotos-flowers in a soft current. (This use of the left sleeve is either fortuitous or instinctive; probably instinctive, as the right hand serves best to cling to strap or seat in case of shock.) The spectacle is at once pretty and funny, but especially pretty, as exemplifying that grace with which a refined Japanese woman does everything,—always in the daintiest and least selfish way possible. It is pathetic, too, for the attitude is also that of sorrow, and sometimes of weary prayer. All because of the trained sense of duty to show only one's happiest face to the world.

Which fact reminds me of an experience.

A male servant long in my house seemed to me the happiest of mortals. He laughed invariably when spoken to, looked always delighted while at work, appeared to know nothing of the small troubles of life. But one day I peeped at him when he thought himself quite alone, and his relaxed face startled me. It was not the face I had known. Hard lines of pain and anger appeared in it, making it seem twenty years older. I coughed gently to announce my presence. At once the face smoothed, softened, lighted up as by a miracle of rejuvenation. Miracle, indeed, of perpetual unselfish self-control.


Kyoto, April 16.

The wooden shutters before my little room in the hotel are pushed away; and the morning sun immediately paints upon my shoji, across squares of gold light, the perfect sharp shadow of a little peach-tree. No mortal artist—not even a Japanese—could surpass that silhouette! Limned in dark blue against the yellow glow, the marvelous image even shows stronger or fainter tones according to the varying distance of the unseen branches outside. it sets me thinking about the possible influence on Japanese art of the use of paper for house-lighting purposes.

By night a Japanese house with only its shoji closed looks like a great paper-sided lantern,—a magic-lantern making moving shadows within, instead of without itself. By day the shadows on the shoji are from outside only; but they may be very wonderful at the first rising of the sun, if his beams are leveled, as in this instance, across a space of quaint garden.

There is certainly nothing absurd in that old Greek story which finds the origin of art in the first untaught attempt to trace upon some wall the outline of a lover's shadow. Very possibly all sense of art, as well as all sense of the supernatural, had its simple beginnings in the study of shadows. But shadows on shoji are so remarkable as to suggest explanation of certain Japanese faculties of drawing by no means primitive, but developed beyond all parallel, and otherwise difficult to account for. Of course, the quality of Japanese paper, which takes shadows better than any frosted glass, must be considered, and also the character of the shadows themselves. Western vegetation, for example, could scarcely furnish silhouettes so gracious as those of Japanese garden-trees, all trained by centuries of caressing care to look as lovely as Nature allows.

I wish the paper of my shoji could have been, like a photographic plate, sensitive to that first delicious impression cast by a level sun. I am already regretting distortions: the beautiful silhouette has begun to lengthen.


Kyoto, April l6.

Of all peculiarly beautiful things in Japan, the most beautiful are the approaches to high places of worship or of rest,—the Ways that go to Nowhere and the Steps that lead to Nothing.

Certainly, their special charm is the charm of the adventitious, —the effect of man's handiwork in union with Nature's finest moods of light and form and color,—a charm which vanishes on rainy days; but it is none the less wonderful because fitful.

Perhaps the ascent begins with a sloping paved avenue, half a mile long, lined with giant trees. Stone monsters guard the way at regular intervals. Then you come to some great flight of steps ascending through green gloom to a terrace umbraged by older and vaster trees; and other steps from thence lead to other terraces, all in shadow. And you climb and climb and climb, till at last, beyond a gray torii, the goal appears: a small, void, colorless wooden shrine,—a Shinto miya. The shock of emptiness thus received, in the high silence and the shadows, after all the sublimity of the long approach, is very ghostliness itself.

Of similar Buddhist experiences whole multitudes wait for those who care to seek them. I might suggest, for example, a visit to the grounds of Higashi Otani, which are in the city of Kyoto. A grand avenue leads to the court of a temple, and from the court a flight of steps fully fifty feet wide—massy, mossed, and magnificently balustraded—leads to a walled terrace. The scene makes one think of the approach to some Italian pleasure-garden of Decameron days. But, reaching the terrace, you find only a gate, opening—into a cemetery! Did the Buddhist landscape-gardener wish to tell us that all pomp and power and beauty lead only to such silence at last?


KYOTO, April 10-20.

I have passed the greater part of three days in the national Exhibition,—time barely sufficient to discern the general character and significance of the display. It is essentially industrial, but nearly all delightful, notwithstanding, because of the wondrous application of art to all varieties of production. Foreign merchants and keener observers than I find in it other and sinister meaning,—the most formidable menace to Occidental trade and industry ever made by the Orient. "Compared with England," wrote a correspondent of the London Times, "it is farthings for pennies throughout.... The story of the Japanese invasion of Lancashire is older than that of the invasion of Korea and China. It has been a conquest of peace,—a painless process of depletion which is virtually achieved.... The Kyoto display is proof of a further immense development of industrial enterprise.... A country where laborers' hire is three shillings a week, with all other domestic charges in proportion, must—other things being equal—kill competitors whose expenses are quadruple the Japanese scale." Certainly the industrial jiujutsu promises unexpected results.

The price of admission to the Exhibition is a significant matter also. Only five sen! Yet even at this figure an immense sum is likely to be realized,—so great is the swarm of visitors. Multitudes of peasants are pouring daily into the city,—pedestrians mostly, just as for a pilgrimage. And a pilgrimage for myriads the journey really is, because of the inauguration festival of the greatest of Shinshu temples.

The art department proper I thought much inferior to that of the Tokyo Exhibition of 1890. Fine things there were, but few. Evidence, perhaps, of the eagerness with which the nation is turning all its energies and talents in directions where money is to be made; for in those larger departments where art is combined with industry,—such as ceramics, enamels, inlaid work, embroideries,—no finer and costlier work could ever have been shown. Indeed, the high value of certain articles on display suggested a reply to a Japanese friend who observed, thoughtfully, "If China adopts Western industrial methods, she will be able to underbid us in all the markets of the world."

"Perhaps in cheap production," I made answer. "But there is no reason why Japan should depend wholly upon cheapness of production. I think she may rely more securely upon her superiority in art and good taste. The art-genius of a people may have a special value against which all competition by cheap labor is vain. Among Western nations, France offers an example. Her wealth is not due to her ability to underbid her neighbors. Her goods are the dearest in the world: she deals in things of luxury and beauty. But they sell in all civilized countries because they are the best of their kind. Why should not Japan become the France of the Further East?"

The weakest part of the art display is that devoted to oil-painting,—oil-painting in the European manner. No reason exists why the Japanese should not be able to paint wonderfully in oil by following their own particular methods of artistic expression. But their attempts to follow Western methods have even risen to mediocrity only in studies requiring very realistic treatment. Ideal work in oil, according to Western canons of art, is still out of their reach. Perhaps they may yet discover for themselves a new gateway to the beautiful, even through oil-painting, by adaptation of the method to the particular needs of the race-genius; but there is yet no sign of such a tendency.

A canvas representing a perfectly naked woman looking at herself in a very large mirror created a disagreeable impression. The Japanese press had been requesting the removal of the piece, and uttering comments not flattering to Western art ideas. Nevertheless the canvas was by a Japanese painter. It was a daub; but it had been boldly priced at three thousand dollars.

I stood near the painting for a while to observe its effect upon the people,—peasants by a huge majority They would stare at it, laugh scornfully, utter some contemptuous phrase, and turn away to examine the kakemono, which were really far more worthy of notice though offered at prices ranging only from ten to fifty yen. The comments were chiefly leveled at "foreign" ideas of good taste (the figure having been painted with a European head). None seemed to consider the thing as a Japanese work. Had it represented a Japanese woman, I doubt whether the crowd would have even tolerated its existence.

Now all this scorn for the picture itself was just. There was nothing ideal in the work. It was simply the representation of a naked woman doing what no woman could like to be seen doing. And a picture of a mere naked woman, however well executed, is never art if art means idealism. The realism of the thing was its offensiveness. Ideal nakedness may be divine,—the most godly of all human dreams of the superhuman. But a naked person is not divine at all. Ideal nudity needs no girdle, because the charm is of lines too beautiful to be veiled or broken. The living real human body has no such divine geometry. Question: Is an artist justified in creating nakedness for its own sake, unless he can divest that nakedness of every trace of the real and personal?

There is a Buddhist text which truly declares that he alone is wise who can see things without their individuality. And it is this Buddhist way of seeing which makes the greatness of the true Japanese art.


These thoughts came:—

That nudity which is divine, which is the abstract of beauty absolute, gives to the beholder a shock of astonishment and delight,—not unmixed with melancholy. Very few works of art give this, because very few approach perfection. But there are marbles and gems which give it, and certain fine studies of them, such as the engravings published by the Society of Dilettanti. The longer one looks, the more the wonder grows, since there appears no line, or part of a line, whose beauty does not surpass all remembrance. So the secret of such art was long thought supernatural; and, in very truth, the sense of beauty it communicates is more than human,—is superhuman, in the meaning of that which is outside of existing life,—is therefore supernatural as any sensation known to man can be.

What is the shock?

It resembles strangely, and is certainly akin to, that psychical shock which comes with the first experience of love. Plato explained the shock of beauty as being the Soul's sudden half-remembrance of the World of Divine Ideas. "They who see here any image or resemblance of the things which are there receive a shock like a thunderbolt, and are, after a manner, taken out of themselves." Schopenhauer explained, the shock of first love as the Willpower of the Soul of the Race. The positive psychology of Spencer declares in our own day that the most powerful of human passions, when it makes its first appearance, is absolutely antecedent to all individual experience. Thus do ancient thought and modern—metaphysics and science—accord in recognizing that the first deep sensation of human beauty known to the individual is not individual at all.

Must not the same truth hold of that shock which supreme art gives? The human ideal expressed in such art appeals surely to the experience of all that Past enshrined in the emotional life of the beholder,—to something inherited from innumerable ancestors.

Innumerable indeed!

Allowing three generations to a century, and presupposing no consanguineous marriages, a French mathematician estimates that each existing individual of his nation would have in his veins the blood of twenty millions of contemporaries of the year 1000. Or calculating from the first year of our own era, the ancestry of a man of to-day would represent a total of eighteen quintillions. Yet what are twenty centuries to the time of the life of man!

Well, the emotion of beauty, like all of our emotions, is certainly the inherited product of unimaginably countless experiences in an immeasurable past. In every aesthetic sensation is the stirring of trillions of trillions of ghostly memories buried in the magical soil of the brain. And each man carries within him an ideal of beauty which is but an infinite composite of dead perceptions of form, color, grace, once dear to look upon. It is dormant, this ideal,—potential in essence,—cannot be evoked at will before the imagination; but it may light up electrically at any perception by the living outer senses of some vague affinity. Then is felt that weird, sad, delicious thrill, which accompanies the sudden backward-flowing of the tides of life and time; then are the sensations of a million years and of myriad generations summed into the emotional feeling of a moment.

Now, the artists of one civilization only—the Greeks—were able to perform the miracle of disengaging the Race-Ideal of beauty from their own souls, and fixing its wavering out-line in jewel and stone. Nudity, they made divine; and they still compel us to feel its divinity almost as they felt it themselves. Perhaps they could do this because, as Emerson suggested, they possessed all-perfect senses. Certainly it was not because they were as beautiful as their own statues. No man and no woman could be that. This only is sure,—that they discerned and clearly fixed their ideal,—composite of countless million remembrances of dead grace in eyes and eyelids, throat and cheek, mouth and chin, body and limbs.

The Greek marble itself gives proof that there is no absolute individuality,—that the mind is as much a composite of souls as the body is of cells.


Kyoto, April 21.

The noblest examples of religious architecture in the whole empire have just been completed; and the great City of Temples is now enriched by two constructions probably never surpassed in all the ten centuries of its existence. One is the gift of the Imperial Government; the other, the gift of the common people.

The government's gift is the Dai-Kioku-Den,—erected to commemorate the great festival of Kwammu Tenno, fifty-first emperor of Japan, and founder of the Sacred City. To the Spirit of this Emperor the Dai-Kioku-Den is dedicated: it is thus a Shinto temple, and the most superb of all Shinto temples. Nevertheless, it is not Shinto architecture, but a facsimile of the original palace of Kwammu Tenno upon the original scale. The effect upon national sentiment of this magnificent deviation from conventional forms, and the profound poetry of the reverential feeling which suggested it, can be fully comprehended only by those who know that Japan is still practically ruled by the dead. Much more than beautiful are the edifices of the Dai-Kioku-Den. Even in this most archaic of Japan cities they startle; they tell to the sky in every tilted line of their horned roofs the tale of another and more fantastic age. The most eccentrically striking parts of the whole are the two-storied and five-towered gates,—veritable Chinese dreams, one would say. In color the construction is not less oddly attractive than in form,—and this especially because of the fine use made of antique green tiles in the polychromatic roofing. Surely the august Spirit of Kwammu Tenno might well rejoice in this charming evocation of the past by architectural necromancy!

But the gift of the people to Kyoto is still grander. It is represented by the glorious Higashi Hongwanji,—or eastern Hongwan temple (Shinshu). Western readers may form some idea of its character from the simple statement that it cost eight millions of dollars and required seventeen years to build. In mere dimension it is largely exceeded by other Japanese buildings of cheaper construction; but anybody familiar with the Buddhist temple architecture of Japan can readily perceive the difficulty of building a temple one hundred and, twenty-seven feet high, one hundred and ninety-two feet deep, and more than two hundred feet long. Because of its peculiar form, and especially because of the vast sweeping lines of its roof, the Hongwanji looks even far larger than it is,—looks mountainous. But in any country it would be deemed a wonderful structure. There are beams forty-two feet long and four feet thick; and there are pillars nine feet in circumference. One may guess the character of the interior decoration from the statement that the mere painting of the lotos-flowers on the screens behind the main altar coat ten thousand dollars. Nearly all this wonderful work was done with the money contributed in coppers by hard-working peasants. And yet there are people who think that Buddhism is dying!

More than one hundred thousand peasants came to see the grand inauguration. They seated themselves by myriads on matting laid down by the acre in the great court. I saw them waiting thus at three in the afternoon. The court was a living sea. Yet all that host was to wait till seven o'clock for the beginning of the ceremony, without refreshment, in the hot sun. I saw at one corner of the court a band of about twenty young girls,—all in white, and wearing peculiar white caps,—and I asked who they were. A bystander replied: "As all these people must wait here many hours, it is to be feared that some may become ill. Therefore professional nurses have been stationed here to take care of any who may be sick. There are likewise stretchers in waiting, and carriers. And there are many physicians."

I admired the patience and the faith. But those peasants might well love the magnificent temple,—their own creation in very truth, both directly and indirectly. For no small part of the actual labor of building was done for love only; and the mighty beams for the roof had been hauled to Kyoto from far-away mountain-slopes, with cables made of the hair of Buddhist wives and daughters. One such cable, preserved in the temple, is more than three hundred and sixty feet long, and nearly three inches in diameter.

To me the lesson of those two magnificent monuments of national religious sentiment suggested the certain future increase in ethical power and value of that sentiment, concomitantly with the increase of national prosperity. Temporary poverty is the real explanation of the apparent temporary decline of Buddhism. But an era of great wealth is beginning. Some outward forms of Buddhism must perish; some superstitions of Shinto must die. The vital truths and recognitions will expand, strengthen, take only deeper root in the heart of the race, and potently prepare it for the trials of that larger and harsher life upon which it has to enter.


Kobe, April 23.

I have been visiting the exhibition of fishes and of fisheries which is at Hyogo, in a garden by the sea. Waraku-en is its name, which signifies, "The Garden of the Pleasure of Peace." It is laid out like a landscape garden of old time, and deserves its name. Over its verge you behold the great bay, and fishermen in boats, and the white far-gliding of sails splendid with light, and beyond all, shutting out the horizon, a lofty beautiful massing of peaks mauve-colored by distance.

I saw ponds of curious shapes, filled with clear sea-water, in which fish of beautiful colors were swimming. I went to the aquarium where stranger kinds of fishes swam behind glass—fishes shaped like toy-kites, and fishes shaped like sword-blades, and fishes that seemed to turn themselves inside out, and funny, pretty fishes of butterfly-colors, that move like dancing-girls, waving sleeve-shaped fins.

I saw models of all manner of boats and nets and hooks and fish-traps and torch-baskets for night-fishing. I saw pictures of every kind of fishing, and both models and pictures of men killing whales. One picture was terrible,—the death agony of a whale caught in a giant net, and the leaping of boats in a turmoil of red foam, and one naked man on the monstrous back—a single figure against the sky—striking with a great steel, and the fountain-gush of blood responding to the stroke.... Beside me I heard a Japanese father and mother explain the picture to their little boy; and the mother said:—

"When the whale is going to die, it speaks; it cries to the Lord Buddha for help,—Namu Amida Butsu!"

I went to another part of the garden where there were tame deer, and a "golden bear" in a cage, and peafowl in an aviary, and an ape. The people fed the deer and the bear with cakes, and tried to coax the peacock to open its tail, and grievously tormented the ape. I sat down to rest on the veranda of a pleasure-house near, the aviary, and the Japanese folk who had been looking at the picture of whale-fishing found their way to the same veranda; and presently I heard the little boy say:—

"Father, there is an old, old fisherman in his boat. Why does he not go to the Palace of the Dragon-King of the Sea, like Urashima?"

The father answered: "Urashima caught a turtle which was not really a turtle, but the Daughter of the Dragon-King. So he, was rewarded for his kindness. But that old fisherman has not caught any turtle, and even if he had caught one, he is much too old to marry. Therefore he will not go to the Palace."

Then the boy looked at the flowers, and the fountains, and the sunned sea with its white sails, and the mauve-colored mountains be-yond all, and exclaimed:—

"Father, do you think there is any place more beautiful than this in the whole world?"

The father smiled deliciously, and seemed about to answer, but before he could speak the child cried out, and leaped, and clapped his little hands for delight, because the peacock had suddenly outspread the splendor of its tail. And all hastened to the aviary. So I never heard the reply to that pretty question.

But afterwards I thought that it might have been answered thus:—

"My boy, very beautiful this is. But the world is full of beauty; and there may be gardens more beautiful than this.

"But the fairest of gardens is not in our world. It is the Garden of Amida, in the Paradise of the West.

"And whosoever does no wrong what time he lives may after death dwell in that Garden.

"There the divine Kujaku, bird of heaven, sings of the Seven Steps and the Five Powers, spreading its tail as a sun.

"There lakes of jewel-water are, and in them lotos-flowers of a loveliness for which there is not any name. And from those flowers proceed continually rays of rainbow-light, and spirits of Buddhas newly-born.

"And the water, murmuring among the lotos-buds, speaks to the souls in them of Infinite Memory and Infinite Vision, and of the Four Infinite Feelings.

"And in that place there is no difference between gods and men, save that under the splendor of Amida even the gods must bend; and all sing the hymn of praise beginning, 'O Thou of Immeasurable Light!'

"But the Voice of the River Celestial chants forever, like the chanting of thousands in unison: 'Even this is not high; there is still a Higher! This is not real; this is not Peace!'"



When O-Toyo's husband—a distant cousin, adopted into her family for love's sake—had been summoned by his lord to the capital, she did not feel anxious about the future. She felt sad only. It was the firs time since their bridal that they had ever been separated. But she had her father and mother to keep her company, and, dearer than either,—though she would never have confessed it even to herself,—her little son. Besides, she always had plenty to do. There were many household duties to perform, and there was much clothing to be woven—both silk and cotton.

Once daily at a fixed hour, she would set for the absent husband, in his favorite room, little repasts faultlessly served on dainty lacquered trays,-miniature meals such as are offered to the ghosts of the ancestors, and to the gods(1). These repasts were served at the east side of the room, and his kneeling-cushion placed before them. The reason they were served at the east side, was because he had gone east. Before removing the food, she always lifted the cover of the little soup-bowl to see if there was vapor upon its lacquered inside surface. For it is said that if there be vapor on the inside of the lid covering food so offered, the absent beloved is well. But if there be none, he is dead,—because that is a sign that his soul has returned by itself to seek nourishment. O-Toyo found the lacquer thickly beaded with vapor day by day.

The child was her constant delight. He was three years old, and fond of asking questions to which none but the gods know the real answers. When he wanted to play, she laid aside her work to play with him. When he wanted to rest, she told him wonderful stories, or gave pretty pious answers to his questions about those things which no man can ever understand. At evening, when the little lamps had been lighted before the holy tablets and the images, she taught his lips to shape the words of filial prayer. When he had been laid to sleep, she brought her work near him, and watched the still sweetness of his face. Sometimes he would smile in his dreams; and she knew that Kwannon the divine was playing shadowy play with him, and she would murmur the Buddhist invocation to that Maid "who looketh forever down above the sound of prayer."

Sometimes, in the season of very clear days, she would climb the mountain of Dakeyama, carrying her little boy on her back. Such a trip delighted him much, not only because of what his mother taught him to see, but also of what she taught him to hear. The sloping way was through groves and woods, and over grassed slopes, and around queer rocks; and there were flowers with stories in their hearts, and trees holding tree-spirits. Pigeons cried korup-korup; and doves sobbed owao, owao and cicada wheezed and fluted and tinkled.

All those who wait for absent dear ones make, if they can, a pilgrimage to the peak called Dakeyama. It is visible from any part of the city; and from its summit several provinces can be seen. At the very top is a stone of almost human height and shape, perpendicularly set up; and little pebbles are heaped before it and upon it. And near by there is a small Shinto shrine erected to the spirit of a princess of other days. For she mourned the absence of one she loved, and used to watch from this mountain for his coming until she pined away and was changed into a stone. The people therefore built the shrine; and lovers of the absent still pray there for the return of those dear to them; and each, after so praying, takes home one of the little pebbles heaped there. And when the beloved one returns, the pebble must be taken back to the pebble-pile upon the mountain-top, and other pebbles with it, for a thank-offering and commemoration.

Always ere O-Toyo and her son could reach their home after such a day, the dusk would fall softly about them; for the way was long, and they had to both go and return by boat through the wilderness of rice-fields round the town,—which is a slow manner of journeying. Sometimes stars and fireflies lighted them; sometimes also the moon,—and O-Toyo would softly sing to her boy the Izumo child-song to the moon:—

Nono-San, Little Lady Moon, How old are you? "Thirteen days,— Thirteen and nine." That is still young, And the reason must be For that bright red obi, So nicely tied(2), And that nice white girdle About your hips. Will you give it to the horse? "Oh, no, no!" Will you give it to the cow? "Oh, no, no!(3)"

And up to the blue night would rise from all those wet leagues of labored field that great soft bubbling chorus which seems the very voice of the soil itself,—the chant of the frogs. And O-Toyo would interpret its syllables to the child: Me kayui! me kayui! "Mine eyes tickle; I want to sleep."

All those were happy hours.

(1) Such a repast, offered to the spirit of the absent one loved, is called a Kage-zen; lit., "Shadow-tray." The word zen is also use to signify the meal served on the lacquered tray,—which has feet, like miniature table. So that time term "Shadow-feast" would be a better translation of Kage-zen.

(2) Because an obi or girdle of very bright color can be worn only by children.

(3) Nono-San, or O-Tsuki-san Ikutsu? "Jiu-san,— Kokonotsu."

Sore wa mada Wakai yo, Wakai ye mo Dori Akai iro no Obi to, Shire iro no Obi to Koshi ni shanto Musun de. Uma ni yaru? "Iyaiya!" Ushi ni yaru? "Iyaiya!"


Then twice, within the time of three days, those masters of life and death whose ways belong to the eternal mysteries struck at her heart. First she was taught that the gentle busband for whom she had so often prayed never could return to her,—having been returned unto that dust out of which all forms are borrowed. And in another little while she knew her boy slept so deep a sleep that the Chinese physician could not waken him. These things she learned only as shapes are learned in lightning flashes. Between and beyond the flashes was that absolute darkness which is the pity of the gods.

It passed; and she rose to meet a foe whose name is Memory. Before all others she could keep her face, as in other days, sweet and smiling. But when alone with this visitant, she found herself less strong. She would arrange little toys and spread out little dresses on the matting, and look at them, and talk to them in whispers, and smile silently. But the smile would ever end in a burst of wild, loud weeping; and she would beat her head upon the floor, and ask foolish questions of the gods.

One day she thought of a weird consolation,—that rite the people name Toritsu-banashi,—the evocation of the dead. Could she not call back her boy for one brief minute only? It would trouble the little soul; but would he not gladly bear a moment's pain for her dear sake? Surely!

[To have the dead called back one must go to some priest— Buddhist or Shinto—who knows the rite of incantation. And the mortuary tablet, or ihai, of the dead must be brought to that priest.

Then ceremonies of purification are performed; candles are lighted and incense is kindled before the ihai; and prayers or parts of sutras are recited; and offerings of flowers and of rice are made. But, in this case, the rice must not be cooked. And when everything has been made ready, the priest, taking in his left hand an instrument shaped like a bow, and striking it rapidly with his right, calls upon the name of the dead, and cries out the words, Kitazo yo! kitazo yo! kitazo yo! meaning, "I have come(1)." And, as he cries, the tone of his voice gradually changes until it becomes the very voice of the dead person,—for the ghost enters into him.

Then the dead will answer questions quickly asked, but will cry continually: "Hasten, hasten! for this my coming back is painful, and I have but a little time to stay!" And having answered, the ghost passes; and the priest falls senseless upon his face.

Now to call back the dead is not good. For by calling them back their condition is made worse. Returning to the underworld, they must take a place lower than that which they held before.

To-day these rites are not allowed by law. They once consoled; but the law is a good law, and just,—since there exist men willing to mock the divine which is in human hearts.]

So it came to pass that O-Toyo found herself one night in a lonely little temple at the verge of the city,—kneeling before the ihai of her boy, and hearing the rite of incantation. And presently, out of the lips of the officiant there came a voice she thought she knew,—a voice loved above all others,—but faint and very thin, like a sobbing of wind.

And the thin voice cried to her:—

"Ask quickly, quickly, mother! Dark is the way and long; and I may not linger."

Then tremblingly she questioned:—

"Why must I sorrow for my child? What is the justice of the gods?"

And there was answer given:—

"O mother, do not mourn me thus! That I died was only that you might not die. For the year was a year of sickness and of sorrow,—and it was given me to know that you were to die; and I obtained by prayer that I should take your place(2).

"O mother, never weep for me! it is not kindness to mourn for the dead. Over the River of Tears(3) their silent road is; and when mothers weep, the flood of that river rises, and the soul cannot pass, but must wander to and fro.

"Therefore, I pray you, do not grieve, O mother mine! Only give me a little water sometimes."

(1) Whence the Izumo saying about one who too often announces his coming: "Thy talk is like the talk of necromancy!"—Toritsubanashi no yona.

(2) Migawari, "substitute," is the religious term.

(3) "Namida-no-Kawa."


From that hour she was not seen to weep. She performed, lightly and silently, as in former days, the gentle duties of a daughter.

Seasons passed; and her father thought to find another husband for her. To the mother, he said:—

"If our daughter again have a son, it will be great joy for her, and for all of us."

But the wiser mother made answer:—

"Unhappy she is not. It is impossible that she marry again. She has become as a little child, knowing nothing of trouble or sin."

It was true that she had ceased to know real pain. She had begun to show a strange fondness for very small things. At first she had found her bed too large—perhaps through the sense of emptiness left by the loss of her child; then, day by day, other things seemed to grow too large,—the dwelling itself, the familiar rooms, the alcove and its great flower-vases,—even the household utensils. She wished to eat her rice with miniature chop-sticks out of a very small bowl such as children use.

In these things she was lovingly humored; and in other matters she was not fantastic. The old people consulted together about her constantly. At last the father said:—

"For our daughter to live with strangers might be painful. But as we are aged, we may soon have to leave her. Perhaps we could provide for her by making her a nun. We might build a little temple for her."

Next day the mother asked O-Toyo:—

"Would you not like to become a holy nun, and to live in a very, very small temple, with a very small altar, and little images of the Buddhas? We should be always near you. If you wish this, we shall get a priest to teach you the sutras."

O-Toyo wished it, and asked that an extremely small nun's dress be got for her. But the mother said:—

"Everything except the dress a good nun may have made small. But she must wear a large dress—that is the law of Buddha."

So she was persuaded to wear the same dress as other nuns.


They built for her a small An-dera, or Nun's-Temple, in an empty court where another and larger temple, called Amida-ji, had once stood. The An-dera was also called Amida-ji, and was dedicated to Amida-Nyorai and to other Buddhas. It was fitted up with a very small altar and with miniature altar furniture. There was a tiny copy of the sutras on a tiny reading-desk, and tiny screens and bells and kakemono. And she dwelt there long after her parents had passed away. People called her the Amida-ji no Bikuni,—which means The Nun of the Temple of Amida.

A little outside the gate there was a statue of Jizo. This Jizo was a special Jizo—the friend of sick children. There were nearly always offerings of small rice-cakes to be seen before him. These signified that some sick child was being prayed for; and the number of the rice-cakes signified the number of the years of the child. Most often there were but two or three cakes; rarely there were seven or ten. The Amida-ji no Bikuni took care of the statue, and supplied it with incense-offerings, and flowers from the temple garden; for there was a small garden behind the An-dera.

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