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.
I. AT A RAILWAY STATION
II. THE GENIUS Of JAPANESE CIVILIZATION
III. A STREET SINGER
IV. FROM A TRAVELING DIARY
V. THE NUN OF THE TEMPLE OF AMIDA
VI. AFTER THE WAR
VIII. A GLIMPSE OF TENDENCIES
IX. BY FORCE OF KARMA
X. A CONSERVATIVE
XI. IN THE TWILIGHT OF THE GODS
XII. THE IDEA OF PRE-EXISTENCE
XIII. IN CHOLERA-TIME
XIV. SOME THOUGHTS ABOUT ANCESTOR-WORSHIP
APPENDIX. THREE POPULAR BALLADS
AT A RAILWAY STATION
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
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
"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
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.
THE GENIUS OF JAPANESE CIVILIZATION
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
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
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 how 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
All things which exist in Time must perish. The forests, the
mountains,—all things thus exist. In Time are born all things
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
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
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
(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
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
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
A STREET SINGER
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
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
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
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.
FROM A TRAVELING DIARY
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 16.
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
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
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
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 cost 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
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
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
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
"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
"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!'"
THE NUN OF THE TEMPLE OF AMIDA
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 first 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
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:—
Little Lady Moon,
How old are you?
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.
Sore wa mada
Wakai ye mo
Akai iro no
Shire iro no
Koshi ni shanto
Uma ni yaru?
Ushi ni yaru?
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 husband 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
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
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.
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.
After making her morning round with her alms-bowl, she would
usually seat herself before a very small loom, to weave cloth
much too narrow for serious use. But her webs were bought always
by certain shopkeepers who knew her story; and they made her
presents of very small cups, tiny flower-vases, and queer
dwarf-trees for her garden.
Her greatest pleasure was the companionship of children; and this
she never lacked. Japanese child-life, is mostly passed in temple
courts; and many happy childhoods were spent in the court of the
Amida-ji. All the mothers in that street liked to have their
little ones play there, but cautioned them never to laugh at the
Bikuni-San. "Sometimes her ways are strange," they would say;
"but that is because she once had a little son, who died, and the
pain became too great for her mother's heart. So you must be very
good and respectful to her."
Good they were, but not quite respectful in the reverential
sense. They knew better than to be that. They called her
"Bikuni-San" always, and saluted her nicely; but otherwise they
treated her like one of themselves. They played games with her;
and she gave them tea in extremely small cups, and made for them
heaps of rice-cakes not much bigger than peas, and wove upon her
loom cloth of cotton and cloth of silk for the robes of their
dolls. So she became to them as a blood-sister.
They played with her daily till they grew too big to play, and
left the court of the temple of Amida to begin the bitter work of
life, and to become the fathers and mothers of children whom they
sent to play in their stead. These learned to love the Bikuni-San
like their parents had done. And the Bikuni-San lived to play
with the children of the children of the children of those who
remembered when her temple was built.
The people took good heed that she should not know want. There
was always given to her more than she needed for herself. So she
was able to be nearly as kind to the children as she wished, and
to feed extravagantly certain small animals. Birds nested in her
temple, and ate from her hand, and learned not to perch upon the
heads of the Buddhas.
Some days after her funeral, a crowd of children visited my
house. A little girl of nine years spoke for them all:—
"Sir, we are asking for the sake of the Bikuni-San who is dead. A
very large haka(1) has been set up for her. It is a nice haka.
But we want to give her also a very, very small haka because in
the time she was with us she often said that she would like a
very little haka. And the stone-cutter has promised to cut it for
us, and to make it very pretty, if we can bring the money.
Therefore perhaps you will honorably give something."
"Assuredly," I said. "But now you will have nowhere to play."
She answered, smiling:—"We shall still play in the court of the
temple of Amida. She is buried there. She will hear our playing,
and be glad."
AFTER THE WAR
Hyogo, May 5, 1895.
Hyogo, this morning, lies bathed in a limpid magnificence of
light indescribable,—spring light, which is vapory, and lends a
sort of apparitional charm to far things seen through it. Forms
remain sharply outlined, but are almost idealized by faint colors
not belonging to them; and the great hills behind the town aspire
into a cloudless splendor of tint that seems the ghost of azure
rather than azure itself.
Over the blue-gray slope of tiled roofs there is a vast quivering
and fluttering of extraordinary shapes,—a spectacle not indeed
new to me, but always delicious. Everywhere are floating—tied to
very tall bamboo poles—immense brightly colored paper fish,
which look and move as if alive. The greater number vary from
five to fifteen feet in length; but here and there I see a baby
scarcely a foot long, hooked to the tail of a larger one. Some
poles have four or five fish attached to them at heights
proportioned to the dimensions of the fish, the largest always at
the top. So cunningly shaped and colored these things are that
the first sight of them is always startling to a stranger. The
lines holding them are fastened within the head; and the wind,
entering the open mouth, not only inflates the body to perfect
form, but keeps it undulating,—rising and descending, turning
and twisting, precisely like a real fish, while the tail plays
and the fins wave irreproachably. In the garden of my next-door
neighbor there are two very fine specimens. One has an orange
belly and a bluish-gray back; the other is all a silvery tint;
and both have big weird eyes. The rustling of their motion as
they swim against the sky is like the sound of wind in a
cane-field. A little farther off I see another very big fish,
with a little red boy clinging to its back. That red boy
represents Kintoki, strongest of all children ever born in Japan,
who, while still a baby, wrestled with bears and set traps for
Everybody knows that these paper carp, or koi, are hoisted only
during the period of the great birth festival of boys, in the
fifth month; that their presence above a house signifies the
birth of a son; and that they symbolize the hope of the parents
that their lad will be able to win his way through the world
against all obstacles,—even as the real koi, the great Japanese
carp, ascends swift rivers against the stream. In many parts of
southern and western Japan you rarely see these koi. You see,
instead, very long narrow flags of cotton cloth, called nobori,
which are fastened perpendicularly, like sails, with little spars
and rings to poles of bamboo, and bear designs in various colors
of the koi in an eddy,—or of Shoki, conqueror of demons,—or of
pines,—or of tortoises,—or other fortunate symbols.
But in this radiant spring of the Japanese year 2555, the koi
might be taken to symbolize something larger than parental hope,
—the great trust of a nation regenerated through war. The
military revival of the Empire—the real birthday of New
Japan—began with the conquest of China. The war is ended; the
future, though clouded, seems big with promise; and, however grim
the obstacles to loftier and more enduring achievements, Japan
has neither fears nor doubts.
Perhaps the future danger is just in this immense self-confidence.
It is not a new feeling created by victory. It is a race feeling,
which repeated triumphs have served only to strengthen. From the
instant of the declaration of war there was never the least doubt of
ultimate victory. There was universal and profound enthusiasm, but
no outward signs of emotional excitement. Men at once set to writing
histories of the triumphs of Japan, and these histories—issued to
subscribers in weekly or monthly parts, and illustrated with
photo-lithographs or drawings on wood—were selling all over the country
long before any foreign observers could have ventured to predict the
final results of the campaign. From first to last the nation felt
sure of its own strength, and of the impotence of China. The
toy-makers put suddenly into the market legions of ingenious mechanisms,
representing Chinese soldiers in flight, or being cut down by
Japanese troopers, or tied together as prisoners by their queues, or
kowtowing for mercy to illustrious generals. The old-fashioned
military playthings, representing samurai in armor, were superseded
by figures—in clay, wood, paper, or silk—of Japanese cavalry,
infantry, and artillery; by models of forts and batteries; and
models of men-of-war. The storming of the defenses of Port Arthur by
the Kumamoto Brigade was the subject of one ingenious mechanical
toy; another, equally clever, repeated the fight of the Matsushima
Kan with the Chinese iron-clads. There were sold likewise myriads of
toy-guns discharging corks by compressed air with a loud pop, and
myriads of toy-swords, and countless tiny bugles, the constant
blowing of which recalled to me the tin-horn tumult of a certain New
Year's Eve in New Orleans. The announcement of each victory resulted
in an enormous manufacture and sale of colored prints, rudely and
cheaply executed, and mostly depicting the fancy of the artist only,
-but well fitted to stimulate the popular love of glory. Wonderful
sets of chessmen also appeared, each piece representing a Chinese or
Japanese officer or soldier.
Meanwhile, the theatres were celebrating the war after a much
more complete fashion. It is no exaggeration to say that almost
every episode of the campaign was repeated upon the stage. Actors
even visited the battlefields to study scenes and backgrounds,
and fit themselves to portray realistically, with the aid of
artificial snowstorms, the hardships of the army in Manchuria.
Every gallant deed was dramatized almost as soon as reported. The
death of the bugler Shirakami Genjiro(1); the triumphant courage
of Harada Jiukichi, who scaled a rampart and opened a fortress
gate to his comrades; the heroism of the fourteen troopers who
held their own against three hundred infantry; the successful
charge of unarmed coolies upon a Chinese battalion,—all these
and many other incidents were reproduced in a thousand theatres.
Immense illuminations of paper lanterns, lettered with phrases of
loyalty or patriotic cheer, celebrated the success of the
imperial arms, or gladdened the eyes of soldiers going by train
to the field. In Kobe,—constantly traversed by troop-trains,—such
illuminations continued night after night for weeks
together; and the residents of each street further subscribed for
flags and triumphal arches.
But the glories of the war were celebrated also in ways more
durable by the various great industries of the country. Victories
and incidents of sacrificial heroism were commemorated in
porcelain, in metal-work, and in costly textures, not less than
in new designs for envelopes and note-paper. They were portrayed
on the silk linings of haori(2), on women's kerchiefs of
chirimen(3), in the embroidery of girdles, in the designs of silk
shirts and of children's holiday robes,—not to speak of cheaper
printed goods, such as calicoes and toweling. They were
represented in lacquer-ware of many kinds, on the sides and
covers of carven boxes, on tobacco-pouches, on sleeve-buttons, in
designs for hairpins, on women's combs, even on chopsticks.
Bundles of toothpicks in tiny cases were offered for sale, each
toothpick having engraved upon it, in microscopic text, a
different poem about the war. And up to the time of peace, or at
least up to the time of the insane attempt by a soshi(4) to kill
the Chinese plenipotentiary during negotiations, all things
happened as the people had wished and expected.
But as soon as the terms of peace had been announced, Russia
interfered, securing the help of France and Germany to bully
Japan. The combination met with no opposition; the government
played jiujutsu, and foiled expectations by unlooked-for
yielding. Japan had long ceased to feel uneasy about her own
military power. Her reserve strength is probably much greater
than has ever been acknowledged, and her educational system, with
its twenty-six thousand schools, is an enormous drilling-machine.
On her own soil she could face any foreign power. Her
navy was her weak point, and of this she was fully aware. It was
a splendid fleet of small, light cruisers, and splendidly
handled. Its admiral, without the loss of a single vessel, had
annihilated the Chinese fleet in two engagements, but it was not
yet sufficiently heavy to face the combined navies of three
European powers; and the flower of the Japanese army was beyond
the sea. The most opportune moment for interference had been
cunningly chosen, and probably more than interference was
intended. The heavy Russian battle-ships were stripped for
fighting; and these alone could possibly have overpowered the
Japanese fleet, though the victory would have been a costly one.
But Russian action was suddenly checked by the sinister
declaration of English sympathy for Japan. Within a few weeks
England could bring into Asiatic waters a fleet capable of
crushing, in one short battle, all the iron-clads assembled by
the combination. And a single shot from a Russian cruiser might
have plunged the whole world into war.
But in the Japanese navy there was a furious desire to battle
with the three hostile powers at once. It would have been a great
fight, for no Japanese commander would have dreamed of yielding,
no Japanese ship would have struck her colors. The army was
equally desirous of war. It needed all the firmness of the
government to hold the nation back. Free speech was gagged; the
press was severely silenced; and by the return to China of the
Liao-Tung peninsula, in exchange for a compensatory increase of
the war indemnity previously exacted, peace was secured. The
government really acted with faultless wisdom. At this period of
Japanese development a costly war with Russia could not fail to
have consequences the most disastrous to industry, commerce, and
finance. But the national pride has been deeply wounded, and the
country can still scarcely forgive its rulers.
(1) At the battle of Song-Hwan, a Japanese bugler named
Shirakami Genjiro was ordered to sound the charge (suzume). He
had sounded it once when a bullet passed through his lungs,
throwing him down.. His comrades tried to take the bugle away,
seeing the wound was fatal. He wrested it from them, lifted it
again to his lips, sounded the charge once more with all his
strength, and fell back dead. I venture to offer this rough
translation of a song now sung about him by every soldier and
schoolboy in Japan:—
(After the Japanese military ballad, Rappa-no-hibiki.)
Easy in other times than this
Were Anjo's stream to cross;
But now, beneath the storm of shot,
Its waters seethe and toss.
In other time to pass that stream
Were sport for boys at play;
But every man through blood must wade
Who fords Anjo to-day.
The bugle sounds;—through flood and flame
Charges the line of steel;—
Above the crash of battle rings
The bugle's stern appeal.
Why has that bugle ceased to call?
Why does it call once more?
Why sounds the stirring signal now
More faintly than before?
What time the bugle ceased to sound,
The breast was smitten through;—
What time the blast rang faintly, blood
Gushed from the lips that blew.
Death-stricken, still the bugler stands!
He leans upon his gun,—
Once more to sound the bugle-call
Before his life be done.
What though the shattered body fall?
The spirit rushes free
Through Heaven and Earth to sound anew
That call to Victory!
Far, far beyond our shore, the spot
Now honored by his fall;—
But forty million brethren
Have heard that bugle-call.
Comrade!—beyond the peaks and seas
Your bugle sounds to-day
In forty million loyal hearts
A thousand miles away!
(2) Haori, a sort of upper dress, worn by men as well as women.
The linings are often of designs beautiful beyond praise.
(3) Chirimen is crape-silk, of which there are many qualities;
some very costly and durable.
(4) Soshi form one of the modern curses of Japan. They are mostly
ex-students who earn a living by hiring themselves out as rowdy
terrorists. Politicians employ them either against the soshi of
opponents, or as bullies in election time. Private persons
sometimes employ them as defenders. They have figured in most of
the election rows which have taken place of late years in Japan,
also in a number of assaults made on distinguished personages.
The causes which produced nihilism in Russia have several points
of resemblance with the causes which developed the modern soshi
class in Japan.
Hyogo, May 15.
The Matsushima Kan, returned from China, is anchored before the
Garden of the Pleasure of Peace. She is not a colossus, though
she has done grand things; but she certainly looks quite
formidable as she lies there in the clear light,—a stone-gray
fortress of steel rising out of the smooth blue. Permission to
visit her has been given to the delighted people, who don their
best for the occasion, as for a temple festival, and I am
suffered to accompany some of them. All the boats in the port
would seem to have been hired for the visitors, so huge is the
shoal hovering about the ironclad as we arrive. It is not
possible for such a number of sightseers to go on board at once,
and we have to wait while hundreds are being alternately admitted
and dismissed. But the waiting in the cool sea air is not
unpleasant; and the spectacle of the popular joy is worth
watching. What eager rushing when the turn comes! what swarming
and squeezing and clinging! Two women fall into the sea, and are
pulled out by blue-jackets, and say they are not sorry to have
fallen in, because they can now boast of owing their lives to the
men of the Matsushima Kan! As a matter of fact, they could not
very well have been drowned; there were legions of common boatmen
to look after them.
But something of larger importance to the nation than the lives
of two young women is really owing to the men of the Matsushima
Kan; and the people are rightly trying to pay them back with
love,—for presents, such as thousands would like to make, are
prohibited by disciplinary rule. Officers and crew must be weary;
but the crowding and the questioning are borne with charming
amiability. Everything is shown and explained in detail:
the huge thirty-centimetre gun, with its loading apparatus and
directing machinery; the quick-firing batteries; the torpedoes,
with their impulse-tubes; the electric lantern, with its
searching mechanism. I myself, though a foreigner, and therefore
requiring a special permit, am guided all about, both below and
above, and am even suffered to take a peep at the portraits of
their Imperial Majesties, in the admiral's cabin; and I am told
the stirring story of the great fight off the Yalu. Meanwhile,
the old bald men and the women and the babies of the port hold
for one golden day command of the Matsushima. Officers, cadets,
blue-jackets, spare no effort to please. Some talk to the
grandfathers; others let the children play with the hilts of
their swords, or teach them how to throw up their little hands
and shout "Teikoku Banzai!" And for tired mothers, matting has
been spread, where they can squat down in the shade between
Those decks, only a few months ago, were covered with the blood
of brave men. Here and there dark stains, which still resist
holy-stoning, are visible; and the people look at them with
tender reverence. The flagship was twice struck by enormous
shells, and her vulnerable parts were pierced by a storm of small
projectiles. She bore the brunt of the engagement, losing nearly
half her crew. Her tonnage is only four thousand two hundred and
eighty; and her immediate antagonists were two Chinese ironclads
of seven thousand four hundred tons each. Outside, her cuirass
shows no deep scars, for the shattered plates have been
replaced;—but my guide points proudly to the numerous patchings
of the decks, the steel masting supporting the fighting-tops, the
smoke-stack,—and to certain terrible dents, with small cracks
radiating from them, in the foot-thick steel of the barbette. He
traces for us, below, the course of the thirty-and-a-half
centimetre shell that pierced the ship. "When it came," he tells
us, "the shock threw men into the air that high" (holding his
hand some two feet above the deck). "At the same moment all
became dark; you could not see your hand. Then we found that one
of the starboard forward guns had been smashed, and the crew all
killed. We had forty men killed instantly, and many more wounded:
no man escaped in that part of the ship. The deck was on fire,
because a lot of ammunition brought up for the guns had exploded;
so we had to fight and to work to put out the fire at the same
time. Even badly wounded men, with the skin blown from their
hands and faces, worked as if they felt no pain; and dying men
helped to pass water. But we silenced the Ting-yuen with one more
shot from our big gun. The Chinese had European gunners helping
them. If we had not had to fight against Western gunners, our
victory would have been too easy."
He gives the true note. Nothing, on this splendid spring day,
could so delight the men of the Matsushima Kan as a command to
clear for action, and attack the great belted Russian cruisers
lying off the coast.
Kobe, June 9.
Last year, while traveling from Shimonoseki to the capital, I saw
many regiments on their way to the seat of war, all uniformed in
white, for the hot season was not yet over. Those soldiers looked
so much like students whom I had taught (thousands, indeed, were
really fresh from school) that I could not help feeling it was
cruel to send such youths to battle. The boyish faces were so
frank, so cheerful, so seemingly innocent of the greater sorrows
of life! "Don't fear for them," said an English fellow-traveler,
a man who had passed his life in camps; "they will give a
splendid account of themselves." "I know it," was my answer; "but
I am thinking of fever and frost and Manchurian winter: these are
more to be feared than Chinese rifles(1)."
The calling of the bugles, gathering the men together after dark,
or signaling the hour of rest, had for years been one of the
pleasures of my summer evenings in a Japanese garrison town. But
during the months of war, those long, plaintive notes of the last
call touched me in another way. I do not know that the melody is
peculiar; but it was sometimes played, I used to think, with
peculiar feeling; and when uttered to the starlight by all the
bugles of a division at once, the multitudinously blending tones
had a melancholy sweetness never to be forgotten. And I would
dream of phantom buglers, summoning the youth and strength of
hosts to the shadowy silence of perpetual rest.
Well, to-day I went to see some of the regiments return. Arches
of greenery had been erected over the street they were to pass
through, leading from Kobe station to Nanko-San,—the great
temple dedicated to the hero spirit of Kusunoki Masashige. The
citizens had subscribed six thousand yen for the honor of serving
the soldiers with the first meal after their return; and many
battalions had already received such kindly welcome. The sheds
under which they ate in the court of the temple had been
decorated with flags and festoons; and there were gifts for all
the troops,—sweetmeats, and packages of cigarettes, and little
towels printed with poems in praise of valor. Before the gate of
the temple a really handsome triumphal arch had been erected,
bearing on each of its facades a phrase of welcome in Chinese
text of gold, and on its summit a terrestrial globe surmounted by
a hawk with outspread pinions(2).
I waited first, with Manyemon, before the station, which is very
near the temple. The train arrived; a military sentry ordered all
spectators to quit the platform, and outside, in the street,
police kept back the crowd, and stopped all traffic. After a few
minutes, the battalions came, marching in regular column through
the brick archway,—headed by a gray officer, who limped slightly
as he walked, smoking a cigarette. The crowd thickened about us,
but there was no cheering, not even speaking,—a hush broken only
by the measured tramp of the passing troops. I could scarcely
believe those were the same men I had seen going to the war; only
the numbers on the shoulder-straps assured me of the fact.
Sunburnt and grim the faces were; many had heavy beards. The dark
blue winter uniforms were frayed and torn, the shoes worn into
shapelessness; but the strong, swinging stride was the stride of
the hardened soldier. Lads no longer these, but toughened men,
able to face any troops in the world; men who had slaughtered and
stormed; men who had also suffered many things which never will
be written. The features showed neither joy nor pride; the
quick-searching eyes hardly glanced at the welcoming flags, the
decorations, the arch with its globe-shadowing hawk of battle,
—perhaps because those eyes had seen too often the things which
make men serious. (Only one man smiled as he passed; and I
thought of a smile seen on the face of a Zouave when I was a boy,
watching the return of a regiment from Africa,—a mocking smile,
that stabbed.) Many of the spectators were visibly affected,
feeling the reason of the change. But, for that, the soldiers
were better soldiers now; and they were going to find welcome,
and comforts, and gifts, and the great warm love of the
people,—and repose thereafter, in their old familiar camps.
I said to Manyemon: "This evening they will be in Osaka and
Nagoya. They will hear the bugles calling; and they will think of
comrades who never can return."
The old man answered, with simple earnestness: "Perhaps by
Western people it is thought that the dead never return. But we
cannot so think. There are no Japanese dead who do not return.
There are none who do not know the way. From China and from
Chosen, and out of the bitter sea, all our dead have come
back,—all! They are with us now. In every dusk they gather to
hear the bugles that called them home. And they will hear them
also in that day when the armies of the Son of Heaven shall be
summoned against Russia."
(1) The total number of Japanese actually killed in battle, from
the fight at A-san to the capture of the Pescadores, was only
739. But the deaths resulting from other causes, up to as late a
date as the 8th of June, during the occupation of Formosa, were
3,148. Of these, 1,602 were due to cholera alone. Such, at least,
were the official figures as published in the Kobe Chronicle.
(2) At the close of the great naval engagement of the 17th of
September, 1894, a hawk alighted on the fighting-mast of the
Japanese cruiser Takachiho, and suffered itself to be taken and
fed. After much petting, this bird of good omen was presented to
the Emperor. Falconry was a great feudal sport in Japan, and
hawks were finely trained. The hawk is now likely to become, more
than ever before in Japan, a symbol of victory.
Haru was brought up, chiefly at home, in that old-fashioned way
which produced one of the sweetest types of woman the world has
ever seen. This domestic education cultivated simplicity of
heart, natural grace of manner, obedience, and love of duty as
they were never cultivated but in Japan. Its moral product was
something too gentle and beautiful for any other than the old
Japanese society: it was not the most judicious preparation for
the much harsher life of the new,—in which it still survives.
The refined girl was trained for the condition of being
theoretically at the mercy of her husband. She was taught never
to show jealousy, or grief, or anger,—even under circumstances
compelling all three; she was expected to conquer the faults of
her lord by pure sweetness. In short, she was required to be
almost superhuman,—to realize, at least in outward seeming, the
ideal of perfect unselfishness. And this she could do with a
husband of her own rank, delicate in discernment,—able to divine
her feelings, and never to wound them.
Haru came of a much better family than her husband; and she was a
little too good for him, because he could not really understand
her. They had been married very young, had been poor at first,
and then had gradually become well-off, because Haru's husband
was a clever man of business. Sometimes she thought he had loved
her most when they were less well off; and a woman is seldom
mistaken about such matters.
She still made all his clothes; and he commended her needle-work.
She waited upon his wants, aided him to dress and undress, made
everything comfortable for him in their pretty home; bade him a
charming farewell as he went to business in the morning, and
welcomed him upon his return; received his friends exquisitely;
managed his household matters with wonderful economy, and seldom
asked any favors that cost money. Indeed she scarcely needed such
favors; for he was never ungenerous, and liked to see her
daintily dressed,—looking like some beautiful silver moth robed
in the folding of its own wings,—and to take her to theatres and
other places of amusement. She accompanied him to
pleasure-resorts famed for the blossoming of cherry-trees in
spring, or the shimmering of fireflies on summer nights, or the
crimsoning of maples in autumn. And sometimes they would pass a
day together at Maiko, by the sea, where the pines seem to sway
like dancing girls; or an afternoon at Kiyomidzu, in the old, old
summer-house, where everything is like a dream of five hundred
years ago,—and where there is a great shadowing of high woods,
and a song of water leaping cold and clear from caverns, and
always the plaint of flutes unseen, blown softly in the antique
way,—a tone-caress of peace and sadness blending, just as the
gold light glooms into blue over a dying sun.
Except for such small pleasures and excursions, Haru went out
seldom. Her only living relatives, and also those of her husband,
were far away in other provinces, and she had few visits to make.
She liked to be at home, arranging flowers for the alcoves or for
the gods, decorating the rooms, and feeding the tame gold-fish of
the garden-pond, which would lift up their heads when they saw
No child had yet brought new joy or sorrow into her life. She
looked, in spite of her wife's coiffure, like a very young girl;
and she was still simple as a child,—notwithstanding that
business capacity in small things which her husband so admired
that he often condescended to ask her counsel in big things.
Perhaps the heart then judged for him better than the pretty
head; but, whether intuitive or not, her advice never proved
wrong. She was happy enough with him for five years,—during
which time he showed himself as considerate as any young Japanese
merchant could well be towards a wife of finer character than his
Then his manner suddenly became cold,—so suddenly that she felt
assured the reason was not that which a childless wife might have
reason to fear. Unable to discover the real cause, she tried to
persuade herself that she had been remiss in her duties; examined
her innocent conscience to no purpose; and tried very, very hard
to please. But he remained unmoved. He spoke no unkind words,—
though she felt behind his silence the repressed tendency to
utter them. A Japanese of the better class is not very apt to be
unkind to his wife in words. It is thought to be vulgar and
brutal. The educated man of normal disposition will even answer a
wife's reproaches with gentle phrases. Common politeness, by the
Japanese code, exacts this attitude from every manly man;
moreover, it is the only safe one. A refined and sensitive woman
will not long submit to coarse treatment; a spirited one may even
kill herself because of something said in a moment of passion,
and such a suicide disgraces the husband for the rest of his
life. But there are slow cruelties worse than words, and safer,—
neglect or indifference, for example, of a sort to arouse
jealousy. A Japanese wife has indeed been trained never to show
jealousy; but the feeling is older than all training,—old as
love, and likely to live as long. Beneath her passionless mask
the Japanese wife feels like her Western sister,—just like that
sister who prays and prays, even while delighting some evening
assembly of beauty and fashion, for the coming of the hour which
will set her free to relieve her pain alone.
Haru had cause for jealousy; but she was too much of a child to
guess the cause at once; and her servants too fond of her to
suggest it. Her husband had been accustomed to pass his evenings
in her company, either at home or elsewhere. But now, evening
after evening, he went out by himself. The first time he had
given her some business pretexts; afterwards he gave none, and
did not even tell her when he expected to return. Latterly, also,
he had been treating her with silent rudeness. He had become
changed,—"as if there was a goblin in his heart,"-the servants
said. As a matter of fact he had been deftly caught in a snare
set for him. One whisper from a geisha had numbed, his will; one
smile blinded his eyes. She was far less pretty than his wife;
but she was very skillful in the craft of spinning webs,—webs of
sensual delusion which entangle weak men; and always tighten more
and more about them until the final hour of mockery and ruin.
Haru did not know. She suspected no wrong till after her
husband's strange conduct had become habitual,—and even then
only because she found that his money was passing into unknown
hands. He had never told her where he passed his evenings. And
she was afraid to ask, lest he should think her jealous. Instead
of exposing her feelings in words, she treated him with such
sweetness that a more intelligent husband would have divined all.
But, except in business, he was dull. He continued to pass his
evenings away; and as his conscience grew feebler, his absences
lengthened. Haru had been taught that a good wife should always
sit up and wait for her lord's return at night; and by so doing
she suffered from nervousness, and from the feverish conditions,
that follow sleeplessness, and from the lonesomeness of her
waiting after the servants, kindly dismissed at the usual hour,
had left her with her thoughts. Once only, returning very late,
her husband said to her: "I am sorry you should have sat up so
late for me; do not wait like that again!" Then, fearing he might
really have been pained on her account, she laughed pleasantly,
and said: "I was not sleepy, and I am not tired; honorably please
not to think about me." So he ceased to think about her,—glad to
take her at her word; and not long after that he stayed away for
one whole night. The next night he did likewise, and a third
night. After that third night's absence he failed even to return
for the morning meal; and Haru knew the time had come when her
duty as a wife obliged her to speak.
She waited through all the morning hours, fearing for him,
fearing for herself also; conscious at last of the wrong by which
a woman's heart can be most deeply wounded. Her faithful servants
had told her something; the rest she could guess. She was very
ill, and did not know it. She knew only that she was angry—
selfishly angry, because of the pain given her, cruel, probing,
sickening pain. Midday came as she sat thinking how she could say
least selfishly what it was now her duty to say,—the first words
of reproach that would ever have passed her lips. Then her heart
leaped with a shock that made everything blur and swim before her
sight in a whirl of dizziness,—because there was a sound of
kuruma-wheels and the voice of a servant calling:
She struggled to the entrance to meet him, all her slender body
a-tremble with fever and pain, and terror of betraying that pain.
And the man was startled, because instead of greeting him with
the accustomed smile, she caught the bosom of his silk robe in
one quivering little hand,—and looked into his face with eyes
that seemed to search for some shred of a soul,—and tried to
speak, but could utter only the single word, "Anata(1)?" Almost
in the same moment her weak grasp loosened, her eyes
closed with a strange smile; and even before he could put out his
arms to support her, she fell. He sought to lift her. But
something in the delicate life had snapped. She was dead.
There were astonishments, of course, and tears, and useless
callings of her name, and much running for doctors. But she lay
white and still and beautiful, all the pain and anger gone out of
her face, and smiling as on her bridal day.
Two physicians came from the public hospital,—Japanese military
surgeons. They asked straight hard questions,—questions that cut
open the self of the man down to the core. Then they told him
truth cold and sharp as edged steel,—and left him with his dead.
The people wondered he did not become a priest,—fair evidence
that his conscience had been awakened. By day he sits among his
bales of Kyoto silks and Osaka figured goods,—earnest and
silent. His clerks think him a good master; he never speaks
harshly. Often he works far into the night; and he has changed
his dwelling-place. There are strangers in the pretty house where
Haru lived; and the owner never visits it. Perhaps because he
might see there one slender shadow, still arranging flowers, or
bending with iris-grace above the goldfish in his pond. But
wherever he rest, sometime in the silent hours he must see the
same soundless presence near his pillow,—sewing, smoothing,
softly seeming to make beautiful the robes he once put on only to
betray. And at other times—in the busiest moments of his busy
life—the clamor of the great shop dies; the ideographs of his
ledger dim and vanish; and a plaintive little voice, which the
gods refuse to silence, utters into the solitude of his heart,
like a question, the single word,—"Anata?"
A GLIMPSE OP TENDENCIES
The foreign concession of an open port offers a striking contrast
to its far-Eastern environment. In the well-ordered ugliness of
its streets one finds suggestions of places not on this side of
the world,—just as though fragments of the Occident had been
magically brought oversea: bits of Liverpool, of Marseilles, of
New York, of New Orleans, and bits also of tropical towns in
colonies twelve or fifteen thousand miles away. The mercantile
buildings—immense by comparison with the low light Japanese
shops—seem to utter the menace of financial power. The
dwellings, of every conceivable design—from that of an Indian
bungalow to that of an English or French country-manor, with
turrets and bow-windows—are surrounded by commonplace gardens of
clipped shrubbery; the white roadways are solid and level as
tables, and bordered with boxed-up trees. Nearly all things
conventional in England or America have been domiciled in these
districts. You see church-steeples and factory-chimneys and
telegraph-poles and street-lamps. You see warehouses of imported
brick with iron shutters, and shop fronts with plate-glass
windows, and sidewalks, and cast-iron railings. There are morning
and evening and weekly newspapers; clubs and reading-rooms and
bowling alleys; billiard halls and barrooms; schools and bethels.
There are electric-light and telephone companies; hospitals,
courts, jails, and a foreign police. There are foreign lawyers,
doctors, and druggists; foreign grocers, confectioners, bakers,
dairymen; foreign dress-makers and tailors; foreign
school-teachers and music-teachers. There is a town-hall, for
municipal business and public meetings of all kinds,—likewise
for amateur theatricals or lectures and concerts; and very rarely
some dramatic company, on a tour of the world, halts there awhile
to make men laugh and women cry like they used to do at home.
There are cricket-grounds, racecourses, public parks,—or, as we
should call them in England, "squares,"—yachting associations,
athletic societies, and swimming baths. Among the familiar noises
are the endless tinkling of piano-practice, the crashing of a
town-band, and an occasional wheezing of accordions: in fact, one
misses only the organ-grinder. The population is English, French,
German, American, Danish, Swedish, Swiss, Russian, with a thin
sprinkling of Italians and Levantines. I had almost forgotten the
Chinese. They are present in multitude, and have a little corner
of the district to themselves. But the dominant element is
English and American, the English being in the majority. All the
faults and some of the finer qualities of the masterful races can
be studied here to better advantage than beyond seas,—because
everybody knows all about everybody else in communities so
small,—mere oases of Occidental life in the vast unknown of the
Far East. Ugly stories may be heard which are not worth writing
about; also stories of nobility and generosity—about good brave
things done by men who pretend to be selfish, and wear
conventional masks to hide what is best in them from public
But the domains of the foreigner do not stretch beyond the
distance of an easy walk, and may shrink back again into nothing
before many years—for reasons I shall presently dwell upon. His
settlements developed precociously,—almost like "mushroom
cities" in the great American West,—and reached the apparent
limit of their development soon after solidifying.
About and beyond the concession, the "native town"—the real
Japanese city—stretches away into regions imperfectly known. To
the average settler this native town remains a world of
mysteries; he may not think it worth his while to enter it for
ten years at a time. It has no interest for him, as he is not a
student of native customs, but simply a man of business; and he
has no time to think how queer it all is. Merely to cross the
concession line is almost the same thing as to cross the Pacific
Ocean,—which is much less wide than the difference between the
races. Enter alone into the interminable narrow maze of Japanese
streets, and the dogs will bark at you, and the children stare at
you as if you were the only foreigner they ever saw. Perhaps they
will even call after you "Ijin," "Tojin," or "Ke-tojin,"—the
last of which signifies "hairy foreigner," and is not intended as
For a long time the merchants of the concessions had their own
way in everything, and forced upon the native firms methods of
business to which no Occidental merchant would think of
submitting,—methods which plainly expressed the foreign
conviction that all Japanese were tricksters. No foreigner would
then purchase anything until it had been long enough in his hands
to be examined and re-examined and "exhaustively" examined,—or
accept any order for imports unless the order were accompanied by
"a substantial payment of bargain money"(1). Japanese buyers and
sellers protested in vain; they found themselves obliged to
submit. But they bided their time,—yielding only with the
determination to conquer. The rapid growth of the foreign town,
and the immense capital successfully invested therein, proved to
them how much they would have to learn before being able to help
themselves. They wondered without admiring, and traded with the
foreigners or worked for them, while secretly detesting them. In
old Japan the merchant ranked below the common peasant; but these
foreign invaders assumed the tone of princes and the insolence of
conquerors. As employers they were usually harsh, and sometimes
brutal. Nevertheless they were wonderfully wise in the matter of
making money; they lived like kings and paid high salaries. It
was desirable that young men should suffer in their service for
the sake of learning things which would have to be learned to
save the country from passing under foreign rule. Some day Japan
would have a mercantile marine of her own, and foreign banking
agencies, and foreign credit, and be well able to rid herself of
these haughty strangers: in the meanwhile they should be endured
So the import and export trade remained entirely in foreign
hands, and it grew from nothing to a value of hundreds of
millions; and Japan was well exploited. But she knew that she was
only paying to learn; and her patience was of that kind which
endures so long as to be mistaken for oblivion of injuries. Her
opportunities came in the natural order of things. The growing
influx of aliens seeking fortune gave her the first advantage.
The intercompetition for Japanese trade broke down old methods;
and new firms being glad to take orders and risks without
"bargain-money," large advance-payments could no longer be
exacted. The relations between foreigners and Japanese
simultaneously improved,—as the latter showed a dangerous
capacity for sudden combination against ill-treatment, could not
be cowed by revolvers, would not suffer abuse of any sort, and
knew how to dispose of the most dangerous rowdy in the space of a
few minutes. Already the rougher Japanese of the ports, the dregs
of the populace, were ready to assume the aggressive on the least
Within two decades from the founding of the settlements, those
foreigners who once imagined it a mere question of time when the
whole country would belong to them, began to understand how
greatly they had underestimated the race. The Japanese had been
learning wonderfully well—"nearly as well as the Chinese." They
were supplanting the small foreign shopkeepers; and various
establishments had been compelled to close because of Japanese
competition. Even for large firms the era of easy fortune-making
was over; the period of hard work was commencing. In early days
all the personal wants of foreigners had necessarily been
supplied by foreigners,—so that a large retail trade had grown
up under the patronage of the wholesale trade. The retail trade
of the settlements was evidently doomed. Some of its branches had
disappeared; the rest were visibly diminishing.
To-day the economic foreign clerk or assistant in a business
house cannot well afford to live at the local hotels. He can hire
a Japanese cook at a very small sum per month, or can have his
meals sent him from a Japanese restaurant at five to seven sen
per plate. He lives in a house constructed in "semi-foreign
style," and owned by a Japanese. The carpets or mattings on his
floor are of Japanese manufacture. His furniture is supplied by a
Japanese cabinet-maker. His suits, shirts, shoes, walking-cane,
umbrella, are "Japanese make": even the soap on his washstand is
stamped with Japanese ideographs. If a smoker, he buys his Manila
cigars from a Japanese tobacconist half a dollar cheaper per box
than any foreign house would charge him for the same quality. If
he wants books he can buy them at much lower prices from a
Japanese than from a foreign book dealer,—and select his
purchases from a much larger and better-selected stock. If he
wants a photograph taken he goes to a Japanese gallery: no
foreign photographer could make a living in Japan. If he wants
curios he visits a Japanese house;—the foreign dealer would
charge him a hundred per cent. dearer.
On the other hand, if he be a man of family, his daily marketing
is supplied by Japanese butchers, fishmongers, dairymen,
fruit-sellers, vegetable dealers. He may continue for a time to
buy English or American hams, bacon, canned goods, etc., from
some foreign provision dealer; but he has discovered that
Japanese stores now offer the same class of goods at lower
prices. If he drinks good beer, it probably comes from a Japanese
brewery; and if he wants a good quality of ordinary wine or
liquor, Japanese storekeepers can supply it at rates below those
of the foreign importer. Indeed, the only things he cannot buy
from the Japanese houses are just those things which he cannot
afford,—high-priced goods such as only rich men are likely to
purchase. And finally, if any of his family become sick, he can
consult a Japanese physician who will charge him a fee perhaps
one tenth less than he would have had to pay a foreign physician
in former times. Foreign doctors now find it very hard to
live,—unless they have something more than their practice to
rely upon. Even when the foreign doctor brings down his fee to a
dollar a visit, the high-class Japanese doctor can charge two,
and still crush competition; for, he furnishes the medicine
himself at prices which would ruin a foreign apothecary. There
are doctors and doctors, of course, as in all countries; but the
German-speaking Japanese physician capable of directing a public
or military hospital is not easily surpassed in his profession;
and the average foreign physician cannot possibly compete with
him. He furnishes no prescriptions to be taken to a drugstore:
his drugstore is either at home or in a room of the hospital he
These facts, taken at random out of a multitude, imply that
foreign shops or as we call them in America, "stores," will soon
cease to be. The existence of some has been prolonged only by
needless and foolish trickery on the part of some petty Japanese
dealers,—attempts to sell abominable decoctions in foreign
bottles under foreign labels, to adulterate imported goods, or to
imitate trade-marks. But the common sense of the Japanese
dealers, as a mass, is strongly opposed to such immorality, and
the evil will soon correct itself. The native storekeepers can
honestly undersell the foreign ones, because able not only to
underlive them, but to make fortunes during the competition.
This has been for some time well recognized in the concessions.
But the delusion prevailed that the great exporting and importing
firms were impregnable; that they could still control the whole
volume of commerce with the West; and that no Japanese companies
could find means to oppose the weight of foreign capital, or to
acquire the business methods according to which it was employed.
Certainly the retail trade would go. But that signified little.
The great firms would remain and multiply, and would increase
(1) See Japan Mail, July 21, 1895.
During all this time of outward changes the real feeling between
the races—the mutual dislike of Oriental and Occidental—had
continued to grow. Of the nine or ten English papers published in
the open ports, the majority expressed, day after day, one side
of this dislike, in the language of ridicule or contempt; and a
powerful native press retorted in kind, with dangerous
effectiveness. If the "anti-Japanese" newspapers did not actually
represent—as I believe they did—an absolute majority in
sentiment, they represented at least the weight of foreign
capital, and the preponderant influences of the settlements. The
English "pro-Japanese" newspapers, though conducted by shrewd
men, and distinguished by journalistic abilities of no common
order, could not appease the powerful resentment provoked by the
language of their contemporaries. The charges of barbarism or
immorality printed in English were promptly answered by the
publication in Japanese dailies of the scandals of the open
ports,—for all the millions of the empire to know. The race
question was carried into Japanese politics by a strong
anti-foreign league; the foreign concessions were openly denounced as
hotbeds of vice; and the national anger became so formidable that
only the most determined action on the part of the government
could have prevented disastrous happenings. Nevertheless oil was
still poured on the smothered fire by foreign editors, who at the
outbreak of the war with China openly took the part of China.
This policy was pursued throughout the campaign. Reports of
imaginary reverses were printed recklessly, undeniable victories
were unjustly belittled, and after the war had been decided, the
cry was raised that the Japanese "had been allowed to become
dangerous" Later on, the interference of Russia was applauded and
the sympathy of England condemned by men of English blood. The
effect of such utterances at such a time was that of insult never
to be forgiven upon a people who never forgive. Utterances of
hate they were, but also utterances of alarm,—alarm excited by
the signing of those new treaties, bringing all aliens under
Japanese jurisdiction,—and fear, not unfounded, of another
anti-foreign agitation with the formidable new sense of national
power behind it. Premonitory symptoms of such agitation were
really apparent in a general tendency to insult or jeer at
foreigners, and in some rare but exemplary acts of violence. The
government again found it necessary to issue proclamations and
warnings against such demonstrations of national anger; and they
ceased almost as quickly as they began. But there is no doubt
that their cessation was due largely to recognition of the
friendly attitude of England as a naval power, and the worth of
her policy to Japan in a moment of danger to the world's peace.
England, too, had first rendered treaty-revision possible,—in
spite of the passionate outcries of her own subjects in the Far
East; and the leaders of the people were grateful. Otherwise the
hatred between settlers and Japanese might have resulted quite as
badly as had been feared.
In the beginning, of course, this mutual antagonism was racial,
and therefore natural; and the irrational violence of prejudice
and malignity developed at a later day was inevitable with the
ever-increasing conflict of interests. No foreigner really
capable of estimating the conditions could have seriously
entertained any hope of a rapprochement. The barriers of racial
feeling, of emotional differentiation, of language, of manners
and beliefs, are likely to remain insurmountable for centuries.
Though instances of warm friendship, due to the mutual attraction
of exceptional natures able to divine each other intuitively,
might be cited, the foreigner, as a general rule, understands the
Japanese quite as little as the Japanese understands him. What is
worse for the alien than miscomprehension is the simple fact that
he is in the position of an invader. Under no ordinary
circumstances need he expect to be treated like a Japanese, and
this not merely because he has more money at his command, but
because of his race. One price for the foreigner, another for the
Japanese, is the common regulation,—except in those Japanese
stores which depend almost exclusively upon foreign trade. If you
wish to enter a Japanese theatre, a figure-show, any place of
amusement, or even an inn, you must pay a virtual tax upon your
nationality. Japanese artisans, laborers, clerks, will not work
for you at Japanese rates—unless they have some other object in
view than wages. Japanese hotel-keepers—except in those hotels
built and furnished especially for European or American
travelers—will not make out your bill at regular prices. Large
hotel-companies have been formed which maintain this rule,—
companies controlling scores of establishments throughout the
country, and able to dictate terms to local storekeepers and to
the smaller hostelries. It has been generously confessed that
foreigners ought to pay higher than Japanese for accommodation,
since they give more trouble; and this is true. But under even
these facts race-feeling is manifest. Those innkeepers who build
for Japanese custom only, in the great centres, care nothing for
foreign custom, and often lose by it,—partly because well-paying
native guests do not like hotels patronized by foreigners, and
partly because the Western guest wants all to himself the room
which can be rented more profitably to a Japanese party of five
or eight. Another fact not generally understood in connection
with this is that in Old Japan the question of recompense for
service was left to honor. The Japanese innkeeper always supplied
(and in the country often still supplies) food at scarcely more
than cost; and his real profit depended upon the conscience of
the customer. Hence the importance of the chadai, or present of
tea-money, to the hotel. From the poor a very small sum, from the
rich a larger sum, was expected,—according to services rendered.
In like manner the hired servant expected to be remunerated
according to his master's ability to pay, even more than
according to the value of the work done; the artist preferred,
when working for a good patron, never to name a price: only the
merchant tried to get the better of his customers by bargaining,
—the immoral privilege of his class. It may be readily imagined
that the habit of trusting to honor for payment produced no good
results in dealing with Occidentals. All matters of buying and
selling we think of as "business"; and business in the West is
not conducted under purely abstract ideas of morality, but at
best under relative and partial ideas of morality. A generous man
extremely dislikes to have the price of an article which he wants
to buy left to his conscience; for, unless he knows exactly the
value of the material and the worth of the labor, he feels
obliged to make such over-payment as will assure him that he has
done more than right; while the selfish man takes advantage of
the situation to give as nearly next to nothing as he can.
Special rates have to be made, therefore, by the Japanese in all
dealings with foreigners. But the dealing itself is made more or
less aggressive, according to circumstance, because of race
antagonism. The foreigner has not only to pay higher rates for
every kind of skilled labor; but must sign costlier leases, and
submit to higher rents. Only the lowest class of Japanese
servants can be hired even at high wages by a foreign household;
and their stay is usually brief, as they dislike the service
required of them. Even the apparent eagerness of educated
Japanese to enter foreign employ is generally misunderstood;
their veritable purpose being simply, in most cases, to fit
themselves for the same sort of work in Japanese business houses,
stores, and hotels. The average Japanese would prefer to work
fifteen hours a day for one of his own countrymen than eight
hours a day for a foreigner paying higher wages. I have seen
graduates of the university working as servants; but they were
working only to learn special things.
Really the dullest foreigner could not have believed that a
people of forty millions, uniting all their energies to achieve
absolute national independence, would remain content to leave the
management of their country's import and export trade to aliens,
—especially in view of the feeling in the open ports. The
existence of foreign settlements in Japan, under consular
jurisdiction, was in itself a constant exasperation to national
pride,—an indication of national weakness. It had so been
proclaimed in print,—in speeches by members of the anti-foreign
league,—in speeches made in parliament. But knowledge of the
national desire to control the whole of Japanese commerce, and
the periodical manifestations of hostility to foreigners as
settlers, excited only temporary uneasiness. It was confidently
asserted that the Japanese could only injure themselves by any
attempt to get rid of foreign negotiators. Though alarmed at the
prospect of being brought under Japanese law, the merchants of
the concessions never imagined a successful attack upon large
interests possible, except by violation of that law itself. It
signified little that the Nippon Yusen Kwaisha had become, during
the war, one of the largest steamship companies in the world;
that Japan was trading directly with India and China; that
Japanese banking agencies were being established in the great
manufacturing centres abroad; that Japanese merchants were
sending their sons to Europe and America for a sound commercial
education. Because Japanese lawyers were gaining a large foreign
clientele; because Japanese shipbuilders, architects, engineers
had replaced foreigners in government service, it did not at all
follow that the foreign agents controlling the import and export
trade with Europe and America could be dispensed with. The
machinery of commerce would be useless in Japanese hands; and
capacity for other professions by no means augured latent
capacity for business. The foreign capital invested in Japan
could not be successfully threatened by any combinations formed
against it. Some Japanese houses might carry on a small import
business, but the export trade required a thorough knowledge of
business conditions on the other side of the world, and such
connections and credits as the Japanese could not obtain.
Nevertheless the self-confidence of the foreign importers, and
exporters was rudely broken in July, 1895, when a British house
having brought suit against a Japanese company in a Japanese
court, for refusal to accept delivery of goods ordered, and
having won a judgment for nearly thirty thousand dollars,
suddenly found itself confronted and menaced by a guild whose
power had never been suspected. The Japanese firm did not appeal
against the decision of the court: it expressed itself ready to
pay the whole sum at once—if required. But the guild to which it
belonged informed the triumphant plaintiffs that a compromise
would be to their advantage. Then the English house discovered
itself threatened with a boycott which could utterly ruin it,—a
boycott operating in all the industrial centres of the Empire.
The compromise was promptly effected at considerable loss to the
foreign firm; and the settlements were dismayed. There was much
denunciation of the immorality of the proceeding(1). But it was a
proceeding against which the law could do nothing; for boycotting
cannot be satisfactorily dealt with under law; and it
afforded proof positive that the Japanese were able to force
foreign firms to submit to their dictation,—by foul means if not
by fair. Enormous guilds had been organized by the great
industries,—combinations whose moves, perfectly regulated by
telegraph, could ruin opposition, and could set at defiance even
the judgment of tribunals. The Japanese had attempted boycotting
in previous years with so little success that they were deemed
incapable of combination. But the new situation showed how well
they had learned through defeat, and that with further
improvement of organization they could reasonably expect to get
the foreign trade under control,—if not into their own hands. It
would be the next great step toward the realization of the
national desire,—Japan only for the Japanese. Even though the
country should be opened to foreign settlement, foreign
investments would always be at the mercy of Japanese
(1) A Kobe merchant of great experience, writing to the Kobe
Chronicle of August 7, 1895, observed:—"I am not attempting to
defend boycotts; but I firmly believe from what has come to my
knowledge that in each and every case there has been provocation
irritating the Japanese, rousing their feelings and their sense
of justice, and driving them to combination as a defense."
The foregoing brief account of existing conditions may suffice to
prove the evolution in Japan of a social phenomenon of great
significance. Of course the prospective opening of the country
under new treaties, the rapid development of its industries, and
the vast annual increase in the volume of trade with America and
Europe, will probably bring about some increase of foreign
settlers; and this temporary result might deceive many as to the
inevitable drift of things. But old merchants of experience even
now declare that the probable further expansion of the ports will
really mean the growth of a native competitive commerce that must
eventually dislodge foreign merchants. The foreign settlements,
as communities, will disappear: there will remain only some few
great agencies, such as exist in all the chief ports of the
civilized world; and the abandoned streets of the concessions,
and the costly foreign houses on the heights, will be peopled and
tenanted by Japanese. Large foreign investments will not be made
in the interior. And even Christian mission-work must be left to
native missionaries; for just as Buddhism never took definite
form in Japan until the teaching of its doctrines was left
entirely to Japanese priests,—so Christianity will never take
any fixed shape till it has been so remodeled as to harmonize
with the emotional and social life of the race. Even thus
remodeled it can scarcely hope to exist except in the form of a
few small sects.
The social phenomenon exhibited can be best explained by a
simile. In many ways a human society may be compared biologically
with an individual organism. Foreign elements introduced forcibly
into the system of either, and impossible to assimilate, set up
irritations and partial disintegration, until eliminated
naturally or removed artificially. Japan is strengthening herself
through elimination of disturbing elements; and this natural
process is symbolized in the resolve to regain possession of all
the concessions, to bring about the abolishment of consular
jurisdiction, to leave nothing under foreign control within the
Empire. It is also manifested in the dismissal of foreign
employes, in the resistance offered by Japanese congregations to
the authority of foreign missionaries, and in the resolute
boycotting of foreign merchants. And behind all this
race-movement there is more than race-feeling: there is also the
definite conviction that foreign help is proof of national
feebleness, and that the Empire remains disgraced before the eyes
of the commercial world, so long as its import and export trade
are managed by aliens. Several large Japanese firms have quite
emancipated themselves from the domination of foreign middlemen;
large trade with India and China is being carried on by Japanese
steamship companies; and communication with the Southern States
of America is soon to be established by the Nippon Yusen Kwaisha,
for the direct importation of cotton. But the foreign settlements
remain constant sources of irritation; and their commercial
conquest by untiring national effort will alone satisfy the
country, and will prove, even better than the war with China,
Japan's real place among nations. That conquest, I think, will
certainly be achieved.
What of the future of Japan? No one can venture any positive
prediction on the assumption that existing tendencies will
continue far into that future. Not to dwell upon the grim
probabilities of war, or the possibility of such internal
disorder as might compel indefinite suspension of the
constitution, and lead to a military dictatorship,—a resurrected
Shogunate in modern uniform,—great changes there will assuredly
be, both for better and for worse. Supposing these changes
normal, however, one may venture some qualified predictions,
based upon the reasonable supposition that the race will
continue, through rapidly alternating periods of action and
reaction, to assimilate its new-found knowledge with the best
Physically, I think, the Japanese will become before the close of
the next century much superior to what they now are. For such
belief there are three good reasons. The first is that the
systematic military and gymnastic training of the able-bodied
youth of the Empire ought in a few generations to produce results
as marked as those of the military system in Germany,—increase
in stature, in average girth of chest, in muscular development
Another reason is that the Japanese of the cities are taking to a
richer diet,—a flesh diet; and that a more nutritive food must
have physiological results favoring growth. Immense numbers of
little restaurants are everywhere springing up, in which "Western
Cooking" is furnished almost as cheaply as Japanese food.
Thirdly, the delay of marriage necessitated by education and by
military service must result in the production of finer and finer
generations of children. As immature marriages become the
exception rather than the rule, children of feeble constitution
will correspondingly diminish in number. At present the
extraordinary differences of stature noticeable in any Japanese
crowd seem to prove that the race is capable of great physical
development under a severer social discipline.
Moral improvement is hardly to be expected—rather the reverse.
The old moral ideals of Japan were at least quite as noble as our
own; and men could really live up to them in the quiet benevolent
times of patriarchal government. Untruthfulness, dishonesty, and
brutal crime were rarer than now, as official statistics show,
the percentage of crime having been for some years steadily on
the increase—which proves of course, among other things, that
the struggle for existence has been intensified. The old standard
of chastity, as represented in public opinion, was that of a less
developed society than our own; yet I do not believe it can be
truthfully asserted that the moral conditions were worse than
with us. In one respect they were certainly better; for the
virtue of Japanese wives was generally in all ages above
suspicion(1). If the morals of men were much more open to
reproach, it is not necessary to cite Lecky for evidence as to
whether a much better state of things prevails in the Occident.
Early marriages were encouraged to guard young men from
temptations to irregular life; and it is only fair to suppose
that in a majority of cases this result was obtained.
Concubinage, the privilege of the rich, had its evil side; but it
had also the effect of relieving the wife from the physical
strain of rearing many children in rapid succession. The social
conditions were so different from those which Western religion
assumes to be the best possible, that an impartial judgment of
them cannot be ecclesiastical. One fact is indisputable,—that
they were unfavorable to professional vice; and in many of the
larger fortified towns,—the seats of princes,—no houses of
prostitution were suffered to exist. When all things are fairly
considered, it will be found that Old Japan might claim, in spite
of her patriarchal system, to have been less open to reproach
even in the matter of sexual morality than many a Western
country. The people were better than their laws asked them to be.
And now that the relations of the sexes are to be regulated by
new codes,—at a time when new codes are really needed, the
changes which it is desirable to bring about cannot result in
immediate good. Sudden reforms are not made by legislation. Laws
cannot directly create sentiment; and real social progress can be
made only through change of ethical feeling developed by long
discipline and training. Meanwhile increasing pressure of
population and increasing competition must tend, while quickening
intelligence, to harden character and develop selfishness.
Intellectually there will doubtless be great progress, but not a
progress so rapid as those who think that Japan has really
transformed herself in thirty years would have us believe.
However widely diffused among the people, scientific education
cannot immediately raise the average of practical intelligence to
the Western level. The common capacity must remain lower for
generations. There will be plenty of remarkable exceptions,
indeed; and a new aristocracy of intellect is coming into
existence. But the real future of the nation depends rather upon
the general capacity of the many than upon the exceptional
capacity of the few. Perhaps it depends especially upon the
development of the mathematical faculty, which is being
everywhere assiduously cultivated. At present this is the weak
point; hosts of students being yearly debarred from the more
important classes of higher study through inability to pass in
mathematics. At the Imperial naval and military colleges,
however, such results have been obtained as suffice to show that
this weakness will eventually be remedied. The most difficult
branches of scientific study, will become less formidable to the
children of those who have been able to distinguish themselves in
In other respects, some temporary retrogression is to be looked
for. Just so certainly as Japan has attempted that which is above
the normal limit of her powers, so certainly must she fall back
to that limit, or, rather, below it. Such retrogression will be
natural as well as necessary: it will mean nothing more than a
recuperative preparation for stronger and loftier efforts. Signs
of it are even now visible in the working of certain
state-departments,—notably in that of education. The idea of
forcing upon Oriental students a course of study above the
average capacity of Western students; the idea of making English
the language, or at least one of the languages of the country;
and the idea of changing ancestral modes of feeling and thinking
for the better by such training, were wild extravagances. Japan
must develop her own soul: she cannot borrow another. A dear
friend whose life has been devoted to philology once said to me
while commenting upon the deterioration of manners among the
students of Japan: "Why, the English language itself has been a
demoralizing influence!" There was much depth in that
observation. Setting the whole Japanese nation to study English
(the language of a people who are being forever preached to about
their "rights," and never about their "duties") was almost an
imprudence. The policy was too wholesale as well as too sudden.
It involved great waste of money and time, and it helped to sap
ethical sentiment. In the future Japan will learn English, just
as England learns German. But if this study has been wasted in
some directions, it has not been wasted in others. The influence
of English has effected modifications in the native tongue,
making it richer, more flexible, and more capable of expressing
the new forms of thought created by the discoveries of modern
science. This influence must long continue. There will be a
considerable absorption of English—perhaps also of French and
German words—into Japanese: indeed this absorption is already
marked in the changing speech of the educated classes, not less
than in the colloquial of the ports which is mixed with curious
modifications of foreign commercial words. Furthermore, the
grammatical structure of Japanese is being influenced; and though
I cannot agree with a clergyman who lately declared that the use
of the passive voice by Tokyo street-urchins announcing the fall
of Port Arthur—("Ryojunko ga senryo sera-reta!") represented
the working of "divine providence," I do think it afforded some
proof that the Japanese language, assimilative like the genius of
the race, is showing capacity to meet all demands made upon it by
the new conditions.
Perhaps Japan will remember her foreign teachers more kindly in
the twentieth century. But she will never feel toward the
Occident, as she felt toward China before the Meiji era, the
reverential respect due by ancient custom to a beloved,
instructor; for the wisdom of China was voluntarily sought, while
that of the West was thrust upon her by violence. She will have
some Christian sects of her own; but she will not remember our
American and English missionaries as she remembers even now those
great Chinese priests who once educated her youth. And she will
not preserve relics of our sojourn, carefully wrapped in septuple
coverings of silk, and packed way in dainty whitewood boxes,
because we had no new lesson of beauty to teach her,—nothing by
which to appeal to her emotions.
(1) The statement has been made that there is no word for
chastity in the Japanese language. This is true in the same sense
only that we might say there is no word for chastity in the
English language,—became such words as honor, virtue, purity,
chastity have been adopted into English from other languages.
Open any good Japanese-English dictionary and you will find many
words for chastity. Just as it would be ridiculous to deny that
the word "chastity" is modern English, because it came to us
through the French from the Latin, so it is ridiculous to deny
that Chinese moral terms, adopted into the Japanese tongue more
than a thousand years ago are Japanese to-day. The statement,
like a majority of missionary statements on these subjects, is
otherwise misleading; for the reader is left to infer the absence
of an adjective as well as a noun,—and the purely Japanese
adjectives signifying chaste are numerous. The word most commonly
used applies to both sexes,—and has the old Japanese sense of
firm, strict, resisting, honorable. The deficiency of abstract
terms in a language by no means implies the deficiency of
concrete moral ideas,—a fact which has been vainly pointed out
to missionaries more than once.
BY FORCE OF KARMA
"The face of the beloved and the face of the risen sun cannot be
looked at."-Japanese Proverb.
Modern science assures us that the passion of first love, so far
as the individual may be concerned, is "absolutely antecedent to
all relative experience whatever(1)." In other words, that which
might well seem to be the most strictly personal of all feelings,
is not an individual matter at all. Philosophy discovered the
same fact long ago, and never theorized more attractively than
when trying to explain the mystery of the passion. Science, so
far, has severely limited itself to a few suggestions on the
subject. This seems a pity, because the metaphysicians could at
no time give properly detailed explanations,—whether teaching
that the first sight of the beloved quickens in the soul of the
lover some dormant prenatal remembrance of divine truth, or that
the illusion is made by spirits unborn seeking incarnation. But
science and philosophy both agree as to one all-important fact,
that the lovers themselves have no choice, that they are merely
the subjects of an influence. Science is even the more positive
on this point: it states quite plainly that the dead, not the
living, are responsible. There would seem to be some sort of
ghostly remembrance in first loves. It is true that science,
unlike Buddhism, does not declare that under particular
conditions we may begin to recollect our former lives. That
psychology which is based upon physiology even denies the
possibility of memory-inheritance in this individual sense. But
it allows that something more powerful, though more indefinite,
is inherited,—the sum of ancestral memories incalculable,—the
sum of countless billions of trillions of experiences. Thus can
it interpret our most enigmatical sensations,—our conflicting
impulses,-our strangest intuitions; all those seemingly
irrational attractions or repulsions,—all those vague sadnesses
or joys, never to be accounted for by individual experience. But
it has not yet found leisure to discourse much to us about first
love,—although first love, in its relation to the world
invisible, is the very weirdest of all human feelings, and the
In our Occident the riddle runs thus. To the growing youth, whose
life is normal and vigorous, there comes a sort of atavistic
period in which he begins to feel for the feebler sex that
primitive contempt created by mere consciousness of physical
superiority. But it is just at the time when the society of girls
has grown least interesting to him that he suddenly becomes
insane. There crosses his life-path a maiden never seen
before,—but little different from other daughters of men,—not
at all wonderful to common vision. At the same instant, with a
single surging shock, the blood rushes to his heart; and all his
senses are bewitched. Thereafter, till the madness ends, his life
belongs wholly to that new-found being, of whom he yet knows
nothing, except that the sun's light seems more beautiful when it
touches her. From that glamour no mortal science can disenthrall
him. But whose the witchcraft? Is it any power in the living
idol? No, psychology tells us that it is the power of the dead
within the idolater. The dead cast the spell. Theirs the shock in
the lover's heart; theirs the electric shiver that tingled
through his veins at the first touch of one girl's hand.
But why they should want her, rather than any other, is the
deeper part of the riddle. The solution offered by the great
German pessimist will not harmonize well with scientific
psychology. The choice of the dead, evolutionally considered,
would be a choice based upon remembrance rather than on
prescience. And the enigma is not cheerful.
There is, indeed, the romantic possibility that they want her
because there survives in her, as in some composite photograph,
the suggestion of each and all who loved them in the past. But
there is the possibility also that they want her because there
reappears in her something of the multitudinous charm of all the
women they loved in vain.
Assuming the more nightmarish theory, we should believe that
passion, though buried again and again, can neither die nor rest.
They who have vainly loved only seem to die; they really live on
in generations of hearts, that their desire may be fulfilled.
They wait, perhaps though centuries, for the reincarnation of
shapes beloved,—forever weaving into the dreams of youth their
vapory composite of memories. Hence the ideals unattainable,—the
haunting of troubled souls by the Woman-never-to-be-known.
In the Far East thoughts are otherwise; and what I am about to
write concerns the interpretation of the Lord Buddha.
(1) Herbert Spencer, Principles of Psychology: "The Feelings."
A priest died recently under very peculiar circumstances. He was
the priest of a temple, belonging to one of the older Buddhist
sects, in a village near Osaka. (You can see that temple from the
Kwan-Setsu Railway, as you go by train to Kyoto.)
He was young, earnest, and extremely handsome—very much too
handsome for a priest, the women said. He looked like one of
those beautiful figures of Amida made by the great Buddhist
statuaries of other days.
The men of his parish thought him a pure and learned priest, in
which they were right. The women did not think about his virtue
or his learning only: he possessed the unfortunate power to
attract them, independently of his own will, as a mere man. He
was admired by them, and even by women of other parishes also, in
ways not holy; and their admiration interfered with his studies
and disturbed his meditations. They found irreproachable pretexts
for visiting the temple at all hours, just to look at him and
talk to him; asking questions which it was his duty to answer,
and making religious offerings which he could not well refuse.
Some would ask questions, not of a religious kind, that caused
him to blush. He was by nature too gentle to protect himself by
severe speech, even when forward girls from the city said things
that country-girls never would have said,—things that made him
tell the speakers to leave his presence. And the more he shrank
from the admiration of the timid, or the adulation of the
unabashed, the more the persecution increased, till it became the
torment of his life(1).
His parents had long been dead; he had no worldly ties: he loved
only his calling, and the studies belonging to it; and he did not
wish to think of foolish and forbidden things. His extraordinary
beauty—the beauty of a living idol—was only a misfortune.
Wealth was offered him under conditions that he could not even
discuss. Girls threw themselves at his feet, and prayed him in
vain to love them. Love-letters were constantly being sent to
him, letters which never brought a reply. Some were written in
that classical enigmatic style which speaks of "the Rock-Pillow
of Meeting," and "waves on the shadow of a face," and "streams
that part to reunite." Others were artless and frankly tender,
full of the pathos of a girl's first confession of love.
For a long time such letters left the young priest as unmoved, to
outward appearance, as any image of that Buddha in whose likeness
he seemed to have been made. But, as a matter of fact, he was not
a Buddha, but only a weak man; and his position was trying.
One evening there came to the temple a little boy who gave him a
letter, whispered the name of the sender, and ran away in the
dark. According to the subsequent testimony of an acolyte, the
priest read the letter, restored it to its envelope, and placed
it on the matting, beside his kneeling cushion. After remaining
motionless for a long time, as if buried in thought, he sought
his writing-box, wrote a letter himself, addressed it to his
spiritual superior, and left it upon the writing-stand. Then he
consulted the clock, and a railway time-table in Japanese. The
hour was early; the night windy and dark. He prostrated himself
for a moment in prayer before the altar; then hurried out into
the blackness, and reached the railway exactly in time to kneel
down in the middle of the track, facing the roar and rush of the
express from Kobe. And, in another moment, those who had
worshiped the strange beauty of the man would have shrieked to
see, even by lantern-light, all that remained of his poor
earthliness, smearing the iron way.
The letter written to his superior was found. It contained a bare
statement to the effect that, feeling his spiritual strength
departing from him, he had resolved to die in order that he might
The other letter was still lying where he had left it on the
floor,—a letter written in that woman-language of which every
syllable is a little caress of humility. Like all such letters
(they are never sent through the post) it contained no date, no
name, no initial, and its envelope bore no address. Into our
incomparably harsher English speech it might be imperfectly
rendered as follows:—
To take such freedom may be to assume overmuch; yet I feel that
I must speak to you, and therefore send this letter. As for my
lowly self, I have to say only that when first seeing you in the
period of the Festival of the Further Shore, I began to think;
and that since then I have not, even for a moment, been able to
forget. More and more each day I sink into that ever-growing
thought of you; and when I sleep I dream; and when, awaking and
seeing you not, I remember there was no truth in my thoughts of
the night, I can do nothing but weep. Forgive me that, having
been born into this world a woman, I should utter my wish for the
exceeding favor of being found not hateful to one so high.
Foolish and without delicacy I may seem in allowing my heart to
be thus tortured by the thought of one so far above me. But only
because knowing that I cannot restrain my heart, out of the depth
of it I have suffered these poor words to come, that I may write
them with my unskillful brush, and send them to you. I pray that
you will deem me worthy of pity; I beseech that you will not send
me cruel words in return. Compassionate me, seeing that this is
but the overflowing of my humble feelings; deign to divine and
justly to judge,—be it only with the least of kindliness,—this
heart that, in its great distress alone, so ventures to address
you. Each moment I shall hope and wait for some gladdening
Concerning all things fortunate, felicitation.
from the honorably-known,
to the longed-for, beloved, august one,
this letter goes.
(1) Actors in Japan often exercise a similar fascination upon
sensitive girls of the lower classes, and often take cruel
advantage of the power so gained. It is very rarely, indeed, that
such fascination can be exerted by a priest.
I called upon a Japanese friend, a Buddhist scholar, to ask some
questions about the religious aspects of the incident. Even as a
confession of human weakness, that suicide appeared to me a
It did not so appear to my friend. He spoke words of rebuke. He
reminded me that one who even suggested suicide as a means of
escape from sin had been pronounced by the Buddha a spiritual
outcast,—unfit to live with holy men. As for the dead priest, he
had been one of those whom the Teacher called fools. Only a fool
could imagine that by destroying his own body he was destroying
also within himself the sources of sin.
"But," I protested, "this man's life was pure…. Suppose he
sought death that he might not, unwittingly, cause others to
My friend smiled ironically. Then he said:—"There was once a
lady of Japan, nobly torn and very beautiful, who wanted to
become a nun. She went to a certain temple, and made her wish
known. But the high-priest said to her, 'You are still very
young. You have lived the life of courts. To the eyes of worldly
men you are beautiful; and, because of your face, temptations to
return to the pleasures of the world will be devised for you.
Also this wish of yours may be due to some momentary sorrow.
Therefore, I cannot now consent to your request.' But she still
pleaded so earnestly, that he deemed it best to leave her
abruptly. There was a large hibachi—a brazier of glowing
charcoal—in the room where she found herself alone. She heated
the iron tongs of the brazier till they were red, and with them
horribly pierced and seamed her face, destroying her beauty
forever. Then the priest, alarmed by the smell of the burning,
returned in haste, and was very much grieved by what he saw. But
she pleaded again, without any trembling in her voice: 'Because I
was beautiful, you refused to take me. Will you take me now?' She
was accepted into the Order, and became a holy nun…. Well,
which was the wiser, that woman, or the priest you wanted to
"But was it the duty of the priest," I asked, "to disfigure his
"Certainly not! Even the woman's action would have been very
unworthy if done only as a protection against temptation.
Self-mutilation of any sort is forbidden by the law of Buddha; and
she transgressed. But, as she burned her face only that she might
be able to enter at once upon the Path, and not because afraid of
being unable by her own will to resist sin, her fault was a minor
fault. On the other hand, the priest who took his own life
committed a very great offense. He should have tried to convert
those who tempted him. This he was too weak to do. If he felt it
impossible to keep from sinning as a priest, then it would have
been better for him to return to the world, and there try to
follow the law for such as do not belong to the Order."
"According to Buddhism, therefore, he has obtained no merit?" I
"It is not easy to imagine that he has. Only by those ignorant of
the Law can his action be commended."
"And by those knowing the Law, what will be thought of the
results, the karma of his act?"
My friend mused a little; then he said, thoughtfully:—"The whole
truth of that suicide we cannot fully know. Perhaps it was not
the first time."
"Do you mean that in some former life also he may have tried to
escape from sin by destroying his own body?"
"Yes. Or in many former lives."
"What of his future lives?"
"Only a Buddha could answer that with certain knowledge."
"But what is the teaching?"
"You forget that it is not possible for us to know what was in
the mind of that man."
"Suppose that he sought death only to escape from sinning?"
"Then he will have to face the like temptation again and again,
and all the sorrow of it, and all the pain, even for a thousand
times a thousand times, until he shall have learned to master
himself. There is no escape through death from the supreme
necessity of self-conquest."
After parting with my friend, his words continued to haunt me;
and they haunt me still. They forced new thoughts about some
theories hazarded in the first part of this paper. I have not yet
been able to assure myself that his weird interpretation of the
amatory mystery is any less worthy of consideration than our
Western interpretations. I have been wondering whether the loves
that lead to death might not mean much more than the ghostly
hunger of buried passions. Might they not signify also the
inevitable penalty of long-forgotten sins?
Hi no iru kuni ni
Kite wa aredo,
Iro wa kawaraji.
He was born in a city of the interior, the seat of a daimyo of
three hundred thousand koku, where no foreigner had ever been.
The yashiki of his father, a samurai of high rank, stood within
the outer fortifications surrounding the prince's castle. It was
a spacious yashiki; and behind it and around it were landscape
gardens, one of which contained a small shrine of the god of
armies. Forty years ago there were many such homes. To artist
eyes the few still remaining seem like fairy palaces, and their
gardens like dreams of the Buddhist paradise.
But sons of samurai were severely disciplined in those days; and
the one of whom I write had little time for dreaming. The period
of caresses was made painfully brief for him. Even before he was
invested with his first hakama, or trousers,—a great ceremony in
that epoch,—he was weaned as far as possible from tender
influence, and taught to check the natural impulses of childish
affection. Little comrades would ask him mockingly, "Do you still
need milk?" if they saw him walking out with his mother, although
he might love her in the house as demonstratively as he pleased,
during the hours he could pass by her side. These were not many.
All inactive pleasures were severely restricted by his
discipline; and even comforts, except during illness, were not
allowed him. Almost from the time he could speak he was enjoined
to consider duty the guiding motive of life, self-control the
first requisite of conduct, pain and death matters of no
consequence in the selfish sense.
There was a grimmer side to this Spartan discipline, designed to
cultivate a cold sternness never to be relaxed during youth,
except in the screened intimacy of the home. The boys were inured
to sights of blood. They were taken to witness executions; they
were expected to display no emotion; and they were obliged, on
their return home, to quell any secret feeling of horror by
eating plentifully of rice tinted blood-color by an admixture of
salted plum juice. Even more difficult things might be demanded
of a very young boy,—to go alone at midnight to the
execution-ground, for example, and bring back a head in proof of
courage. For the fear of the dead was held not less contemptible
in a samurai than the fear of man. The samurai child was pledged
to fear nothing. In all such tests, the demeanor exacted was
perfect impassiveness; any swaggering would have been judged
quite as harshly as any sign of cowardice.
As a boy grew up, he was obliged to find his pleasures chiefly in
those bodily exercises which were the samurai's early and
constant preparations for war,—archery and riding, wrestling and
fencing. Playmates were found for him; but these were older
youths, sons of retainers, chosen for ability to assist him in
the practice of martial exercises. It was their duty also to
teach him how to swim, to handle a boat, to develop his young
muscles. Between such physical training and the study of the
Chinese classics the greater part of each day was divided for
him. His diet, though ample, was never dainty; his clothing,
except in time of great ceremony, was light and coarse; and he
was not allowed the use of fire merely to warm himself. While
studying of winter mornings, if his hands became too cold to use
the writing brush, he would be ordered to plunge them into icy
water to restore the circulation; and if his feet were numbed by
frost, he would be told to run about in the snow to make them
warm. Still more rigid was his training in the special etiquette
of the military class, and he was early made to know that the
little sword in his girdle was neither an ornament nor a
plaything. He was shown how to use it, how to take his own life
at a moment's notice, without shrinking, whenever the code of his
class might so order(1).
Also in the matter of religion, the training of a samurai boy was
peculiar. He was educated to revere the ancient gods and the
spirits of his ancestors; he was well schooled in the Chinese
ethics; and he was taught something of Buddhist philosophy and
faith. But he was likewise taught that hope of heaven and fear of
hell were for the ignorant only; and that the superior man should
be influenced in his conduct by nothing more selfish than the
love of right for its own sake, and the recognition of duty as a
Gradually, as the period of boyhood ripened into youth, his
conduct was less subjected to supervision. He was left more and
more free to act upon his own judgment,—but with full knowledge
that a mistake would not be forgotten; that a serious offense
would never be fully condoned, and that a well-merited reprimand
was more to be dreaded than death. On the other hand, there were
few moral dangers against which to guard him. Professional vice
was then strictly banished from many of the provincial
castle-towns; and even so much of the non-moral side of life as
might have been reflected in popular romance and drama, a young
samurai could know little about. He was taught to despise that
common literature appealing either to the softer emotions or the
passions, as essentially unmanly reading; and the public theatre
was forbidden to his class(2). Thus, in that innocent provincial
life of Old Japan, a young samurai might grow up exceptionally
pure-minded and simple-hearted.
So grew up the young samurai concerning whom these things are
written,—fearless, courteous, self-denying, despising pleasure,
and ready at an instant's notice to give his life for love,
loyalty, or honor. But though already a warrior in frame and
spirit, he was in years scarcely more than a boy when the country
was first startled by the coming of the Black Ships.
The policy of Iyemitsu, forbidding any Japanese to leave the
country under pain of death, had left the nation for two hundred
years ignorant of the outer world. About the colossal forces
gathering beyond seas nothing was known. The long existence of
the Dutch settlement at Nagasaki had in no wise enlightened Japan
as to her true position,—an Oriental feudalism of the sixteenth
century menaced by a Western world three centuries older.
Accounts of the real wonders of that world would have sounded to
Japanese ears like stories invented to please children, or have
been classed with ancient tales of the fabled palaces of Horai.
The advent of the American fleet, "the Black Ships," as they were
then called, first awakened the government to some knowledge of
its own weakness, and of danger from afar.
National excitement at the news of the second coming of the Black
Ships was followed by consternation at the discovery that the
Shogunate confessed its inability to cope with the foreign
powers. This could mean only a peril greater than that of the
Tartar invasion in the days of Hojo Tokimune, when the people had
prayed to the gods for help, and the Emperor himself, at Ise, had
besought the spirits of his fathers. Those prayers had been
answered by sudden darkness, a sea of thunder, and the coming of
that mighty wind still called Kami-kaze,—"the Wind of the Gods,"
by which the fleets of Kublai Khan were given to the abyss. Why
should not prayers now also be made? They were, in countless
homes and at thousands of shrines. But the Superior Ones gave
this time no answer; the Kami-kaze did not come. And the samurai
boy, praying vainly before the little shrine of Hachiman in his
father's garden, wondered if the gods had lost their power, or if
the people of the Black Ships were under the protection of
(1) "Is that really the head of your father?" a prince once asked
of a samurai boy only seven years old. The child at once realized
the situation. The freshly-severed head set before him was not
his father's: the daimyo had been deceived, but further deception
was necessary. So the lad, after having saluted the head with
every sign of reverential grief, suddenly cut out his own bowels.
All the prince's doubts vanished before that bloody proof of
filial piety; the outlawed father was able to make good his
escape, and the memory of the child is still honored in Japanese
drama and poetry.
(2) Samurai women, in some province, at least, could go to the
public theatre. The men could not,—without committing a breach
of good manners. But in samurai homes, or within the grounds of
the yashiki, some private performances of a particular character
were given. Strolling players were the performers. I know several
charming old samurai who have never been to a public theatre in
their lives, and refuse all invitations to witness a performance.
They still obey the rules of their samurai education.
It soon became evident that the foreign "barbarians" were not to
be driven away. Hundreds had come, from the East as well as from
the West; and all possible measures for their protection had been
taken; and they had built queer cities of their own upon Japanese
soil. The government had even commanded that Western knowledge
was to be taught in all schools; that the study of English was to
be made an important branch of public education; and that public
education itself was to be remodeled upon Occidental lines. The
government had also declared that the future of the country would
depend upon the study and mastery of the languages and the
science of the foreigners. During the interval, then, between
such study and its successful results, Japan would practically
remain under alien domination. The fact was not, indeed, publicly
stated in so many words; but the signification of the policy was
unmistakable. After the first violent emotions provoked by
knowledge of the situation,—after the great dismay of the
people, and the suppressed fury of the samurai,—there arose an
intense curiosity regarding the appearance and character of those
insolent strangers who had been able to obtain what they wanted
by mere display of superior force. This general curiosity was
partly satisfied by an immense production and distribution of
cheap colored prints, picturing the manner and customs of the
barbarians, and the extraordinary streets of their settlements.
Caricatures only those flaring wood—prints could have seemed to
foreign eyes. But caricature was not the conscious object of the
artist. He tried to portray foreigners as he really saw them; and
he saw them as green-eyed monsters, with red hair like Shojo(1),
and with noses like Tengu(2), wearing clothes of absurd forms and
colors; and dwelling in structures like storehouses or prisons.
Sold by hundreds of thousands throughout the interior, these
prints must have created many uncanny ideas. Yet as attempts to
depict the unfamiliar they were only innocent. One should be able
to study those old drawings in order to comprehend just how we
appeared to the Japanese of that era; how ugly, how grotesque,
The young samurai of the town soon had the experience of seeing a
real Western foreigner, a teacher hired for them by the prince.
He was an Englishman. He came under the protection of an armed
escort; and orders were given to treat him as a person of
distinction. He did not seem quite so ugly as the foreigners in
the Japanese prints: his hair was red, indeed, and his eyes of a
strange color; but his face was not disagreeable. He at once
became, and long remained, the subject of tireless observation.
How closely his every act was watched could never be guessed by
any one ignorant of the queer superstitions of the pre-Meiji era
concerning ourselves. Although recognized as intelligent and
formidable creatures, Occidentals were not generally regarded as
quite human; they were thought of as more closely allied to
animals than to mankind. They had hairy bodies of queer shape;
their teeth were different from those of men; their internal
organs were also peculiar; and their moral ideas those of
goblins. The timidity which foreigners then inspired, not,
indeed, to the samurai, but to the common people, was not a
physical, but a superstitious fear. Even the Japanese peasant has
never been a coward. But to know his feelings in that time toward
foreigners, one must also know something of the ancient beliefs,
common to both Japan and China, about animals gifted with
supernatural powers, and capable of assuming human form; about
the existence of races half-human and half-superhuman; and about
the mythical beings of the old picture-books,—goblins
long-legged and long-armed and bearded (ashinaga and tenaga),
whether depicted by the illustrators of weird stories or
comically treated by the brush of Hokusai. Really the aspect of
the new strangers seemed to afford confirmation of the fables
related by a certain Chinese Herodotus; and the clothing they
wore might seem to have been devised for the purpose of hiding
what would prove them not human. So the new English teacher,
blissfully ignorant of the fact, was studied surreptitiously,
just as one might study a curious animal! I Nevertheless, from
his students he experienced only courtesy: they treated him by
that Chinese code which ordains that "even the shadow of a
teacher must not be trodden on." In any event it would have
mattered little to samurai students whether their teacher were
perfectly human or not, so long as he could teach. The hero
Yoshitsune had been taught the art of the sword by a Tengu.
Beings not human had proved themselves scholars and poets(3). But
behind the never-lifted mask of delicate courtesy, the stranger's
habits were minutely noted; and the ultimate judgment, based upon
the comparison of such observation, was not altogether
flattering. The teacher himself could never have imagined the
comments made upon him by his two-sworded pupils; nor would it
have increased his peace of mind, while overlooking compositions
in the class-room, to have understood their conversation:—
"See the color of his flesh, how soft it is! To take off his head
with a single blow would be very easy."
Once he was induced to try their mode of wrestling, just for fun,
he supposed. But they really wanted to take his physical measure.
He was not very highly estimated as an athlete.
"Strong arms he certainly has," one said. "But he does not know
how to use his body while using his arms; and his loins are very
weak. To break his back would not be difficult."
"I think," said another, "that it would be easy to fight with
"With swords it would be very easy," responded a third; "but they
are more skilful than we in the use of guns and cannon."
"We can learn all that," said the first speaker. "When we have
learned Western military matters, we need not care for Western
"Foreigners," observed another, "are not hardy like we are. They
soon tire, and they fear cold. All winter our teacher must have a
great fire in his room. To stay there five minutes gives me the
But for all that, the lads were kind to their teacher, and made
him love them.
(1) Apish mythological beings with red hair, delighting in
(2) Mythological beings of several kinds, supposed to live in the
mountains. Some have long noses.
(3) There is a legend that when Toryoko, a great poet, who was
the teacher of Sugiwara-no-Michizane (now deified as Tenjin), was
once passing the Gate called Ra-jo-mon, of the Emperor's palace
at Kyoto, he recited aloud this single verse which he had just
"Clear is the weather and fair;—and the wind waves the hair of
Immediately a deep mocking voice from the gateway continued the
"Melted and vanished the ice; the waves comb the locks of old
Toryoko looked, but there was no one to be seen. Reaching home,
he told his pupil about the matter, and repeated the two
compositions. Sugiwara-no-Michizane praised the second one,
"Truly the words of the first are the words of a poet;
but the words of the second are the words of a Demon!"
Changes came as great earthquakes come, without warning: the
transformation of daimyates into prefectures, the suppression of
the military class, the reconstruction of the whole social
system. These events filled the youth with sadness, although he
felt no difficulty in transferring his allegiance from prince to
emperor, and although the wealth of his family remained
unimpaired by the shock. All this reconstruction told him of the
greatness of the national danger, and announced the certain
disappearance of the old high ideals, and of nearly all things
loved. But he knew regret was vain. By self-transformation alone
could the nation hope to save its independence; and the obvious
duty of the patriot was to recognize necessity, and fitly prepare
himself to play the man in the drama of the future.
In the samurai school he had learned much English, and he knew
himself able to converse with Englishmen. He cut his long hair,
put away his swords, and went to Yokohama that he might continue
his study of the language under more favorable conditions. At
Yokohama everything at first seemed to him both unfamiliar and
repellent. Even the Japanese of the port had been changed by
foreign contact: they were rude and rough; they acted and spoke
as common people would not have dared to do in his native town.
The foreigners themselves impressed him still more disagreeably:
it was the period when new settlers could assume the tone of
conquerors to the conquered, and when the life of the "open
ports" was much less decorous than now. The new buildings of
brick or stuccoed timber revived for him unpleasant memories of
the Japanese colored pictures of foreign manners and customs; and
he could not quickly banish the fancies of his boyhood concerning
Occidentals. Reason, based on larger knowledge and experience,
fully assured him what they really were; but to his emotional
life the intimate sense of their kindred humanity still failed to
come. Race-feeling is older than intellectual development; and
the superstitions attaching to race-feeling are not easy to get
rid of. His soldier-spirit, too, was stirred at times by ugly
things heard or seen,—incidents that filled him with the hot
impulse of his fathers to avenge a cowardice or to redress a
wrong. But he learned to conquer his repulsions as obstacles to
knowledge: it was the patriot's duty to study calmly the nature
of his country's foes. He trained himself at last to observe the
new life about him without prejudice,—its merits not less than
its defects; its strength not less than its weakness. He found
kindness; he found devotion to ideals,—ideals not his own, but
which he knew how to respect because they exacted, like the
religion of his ancestors, abnegation of many things.
Through such appreciation he learned to like and to trust an aged
missionary entirely absorbed in the work of educating and
proselytizing. The old man was especially anxious to convert this
young samurai, in whom aptitudes of no common order were
discernible; and he spared no pains to win the boy's confidence.
He aided him in many ways, taught him something of French and
German, of Greek and Latin, and placed entirely at his disposal a
private library of considerable extent. The use of a foreign
library, including works of history, philosophy, travel, and
fiction, was not a privilege then easy for Japanese students to
obtain. It was gratefully appreciated; and the owner of the
library found no difficulty at a later day in persuading his
favored and favorite pupil to read a part of the New Testament.
The youth expressed surprise at finding among the doctrines of
the "Evil Sect" ethical precepts like those of Confucius. To the
old missionary he said: "This teaching is not new to us; but it
is certainly very good. I shall study the book and think about
The study and the thinking were to lead the young man much
further than he had thought possible. After the recognition of
Christianity as a great religion came recognitions of another
order, and various imaginings about the civilization of the races
professing Christianity. It then seemed to many reflective
Japanese, possibly even to the keen minds directing the national
policy, that Japan was doomed to pass altogether under alien
rule. There was hope, indeed; and while even the ghost of hope
remained, the duty for all was plain. But the power that could be
used against the Empire was irresistible. And studying the
enormity of that power, the young Oriental could not but ask
himself, with a wonder approaching awe, whence and how it had
been gained. Could it, as his aged teacher averred, have some
occult relation to a higher religion? Certainly the ancient
Chinese philosophy, which declared the prosperity of peoples
proportionate to their observance of celestial law and their
obedience to the teaching of sages, countenanced such a theory.
And if the superior force of Western civilization really
indicated the superior character of Western ethics, was it not
the plain duty of every patriot to follow that higher faith, and
to strive for the conversion of the whole nation? A youth of that
era, educated in Chinese wisdom, and necessarily ignorant of the
history of social evolution in the West, could never have
imagined that the very highest forms of material progress were
developed chiefly through a merciless competition out of all
harmony with Christian idealism, and at variance with every great
system of ethics. Even to-day in the West unthinking millions
imagine some divine connection between military power and
Christian belief, and utterances are made in our pulpits implying
divine justification for political robberies, and heavenly
inspiration for the invention of high explosives. There still
survives among us the superstition that races professing
Christianity are divinely destined to rob or exterminate races
holding other beliefs. Some men occasionally express their
conviction that we still worship Thor and Odin,—the only
difference being that Odin has become a mathematician, and that
the Hammer Mjolnir is now worked by steam. But such persons are
declared by the missionaries to be atheists and men of shameless
Be this as it may, a time came when the young samurai resolved to
proclaim himself a Christian, despite the opposition of his
kindred. It was a bold step; but his early training had given him
firmness; and he was not to be moved from his decision even by
the sorrow of his parents. His rejection of the ancestral faith
would signify more than temporary pain for him: it would mean
disinheritance, the contempt of old comrades, loss of rank, and
all the consequences of bitter poverty. But his samurai training
had taught him to despise self. He saw what he believed to be his
duty as a patriot and as a truthseeker, and he followed it
without fear or regret.
Those who hope to substitute their own Western creed in the room
of one which they wreck by the aid of knowledge borrowed from
modern science, do not imagine that the arguments used against
the ancient faith can be used with equal force against the new.
Unable himself to reach the higher levels of modern thought, the
average missionary cannot foresee the result of his small
teaching of science upon an Oriental mind naturally more powerful
than his own. He is therefore astonished and shocked to discover
that the more intelligent his pupil, the briefer the term of that
pupil's Christianity. To destroy personal faith in a fine mind
previously satisfied with Buddhist cosmogony, because innocent of
science, is not extremely difficult. But to substitute, in the
same mind, Western religious emotions for Oriental, Presbyterian
or Baptist dogmatisms for Chinese and Buddhist ethics, is not
possible. The psychological difficulties in the way are never
recognized by our modern evangelists. In former ages, when the
faith of the Jesuits and the friars was not less superstitious
than the faith they strove to supplant, the same deep-lying
obstacles existed; and the Spanish priest, even while
accomplishing marvels by his immense sincerity and fiery zeal,
must have felt that to fully realize his dream he would need the
sword of the Spanish soldier. To-day the conditions are far less
favorable for any work of conversion than they ever were in the
sixteenth century. Education has been secularized and remodeled
upon a scientific basis; our religions are being changed into
mere social recognitions of ethical necessities; the functions of
our clergy are being gradually transformed into those of a moral
police; and the multitude of our church-spires proves no increase
of our faith, but only the larger growth of our respect for
conventions. Never can the conventions of the Occident become
those of the Far East; and never will foreign missionaries be
suffered in Japan to take the role of a police of morals. Already
the most liberal of our churches, those of broadest culture,
begin to recognize the vanity of missions. But it is not
necessary to drop old dogmatisms in order to perceive the truth:
thorough education should be enough to reveal it; and the most
educated of nations, Germany, sends no missionaries to work in
the interior of Japan. A result of missionary efforts, much more
significant than the indispensable yearly report of new
conversions, has been the reorganization of the native religions,
and a recent government mandate insisting upon the higher
education of the native priest-hoods. Indeed, long before this
mandate the wealthier sects had established Buddhist schools on
the Western plan; and the Shinshu could already boast of its
scholars, educated in Paris or at Oxford,—men whose names are
known to Sanscritists the world over. Certainly Japan will need
higher forms of faith than her mediaeval ones; but these must be
themselves evolved from the ancient forms,—from within, never
from without. A Buddhism strongly fortified by Western science
will meet the future needs of the race.
The young convert at Yokohama proved a noteworthy example of
missionary failures. Within a few years after having sacrificed a
fortune in order to become a Christian,—or rather the member of
a foreign religious sect,—he publicly renounced the creed
accepted at such a cost. He had studied and comprehended the
great minds of the age better than his religious teachers, who
could no longer respond to the questions he propounded, except by
the assurance that books of which they had recommended him to
study parts were dangerous to faith as wholes. But as they could
not prove the fallacies alleged to exist in such books, their
warnings availed nothing. He had been converted to dogmatism by
imperfect reasoning; by larger and deeper reasoning he found his
way beyond dogmatism. He passed from the church after an open
declaration that its tenets were not based upon true reason or
fact; and that he felt himself obliged to accept the opinions of
men whom his teachers had called the enemies of Christianity.
There was great scandal at his "relapse."
The real "relapse" was yet far away. Unlike many with a similar
experience, he knew that the religious question had only receded
for him, and that all he had learned was scarcely more than the
alphabet of what remained to learn. He had not lost belief in the
relative value of creeds,—in the worth of religion as a
conserving and restraining force. A distorted perception of one
truth—the truth of a relation subsisting between civilizations
and their religions—had first deluded him into the path that led
to his conversion. Chinese philosophy had taught him that which
modern sociology recognizes in the law that societies without
priesthoods have never developed; and Buddhism had taught him
that even delusions—the parables, forms, and symbols presented
as actualities to humble minds—have their value and their
justification in aiding the development of human goodness. From
such a point of view, Christianity had lost none of its interest
for him; and though doubting what his teacher had told him about
the superior morality of Christian nations, not at all
illustrated in the life of the open ports, he desired to see for
himself the influence of religion upon morals in the Occident; to
visit European countries and to study the causes of their
development and the reason of their power.
This he set out to do sooner than he had purposed. That
intellectual quickening which had made him a doubter in religious
matters had made him also a freethinker in politics. He brought
down upon himself the wrath of the government by public
expressions of opinion antagonistic to the policy of the hour;
and, like others equally imprudent under the stimulus of new
ideas, he was obliged to leave the country. Thus began for him a
series of wanderings destined to carry him round the world. Korea
first afforded him a refuge; then China, where he lived as a
teacher; and at last he found himself on board a steamer bound
for Marseilles. He had little money; but he did not ask himself
how he was going to live in Europe. Young, tall, athletic, frugal
and inured to hardship, he felt sure of himself; and he had
letters to men abroad who could smooth his way.
But long years were to pass before he could see his native land
During those years he saw Western civilization as few Japanese
ever saw it; for he wandered through Europe and America, living
in many cities, and toiling in many capacities,—sometimes with
his brain, oftener with his hands,—and so was able to study the
highest and the lowest, the best and the worst of the life about
him. But he saw with the eyes of the Far East; and the ways of
his judgments were not as our ways. For even as the Occident
regards the Far East, so does the Far East regard the Occident,
—only with this difference: that what each most esteems in
itself is least likely to be esteemed by the other. And both are
partly right and partly wrong; and there never has been, and
never can be, perfect mutual comprehension.
Larger than all anticipation the West appeared to him,—a world
of giants; and that which depresses even the boldest Occidental
who finds himself, without means or friends, alone in a great
city, must often have depressed the Oriental exile: that vague
uneasiness aroused by the sense of being invisible to hurrying
millions; by the ceaseless roar of traffic drowning voices; by
monstrosities of architecture without a soul; by the dynamic
display of wealth forcing mind and hand, as mere cheap machinery,
to the uttermost limits of the possible. Perhaps he saw such
cities as Dore saw London: sullen majesty of arched glooms and
granite deeps opening into granite deeps beyond range of vision,
and mountains of masonry with seas of labor in turmoil at their
base, and monumental spaces displaying the grimness of ordered
power slow-gathering through centuries. Of beauty there was
nothing to make appeal to him between those endless cliffs of
stone which walled out the sunrise and the sunset, the sky and
the wind. All that which draws us to great cities repelled or
oppressed him; even luminous Paris soon filled him with
weariness. It was the first foreign city in which he made a long
sojourn. French art, as reflecting the aesthetic thought of the
most gifted of European races, surprised him much, but charmed
him not at all. What surprised him especially were its studies of
the nude, in which he recognized only an open confession of the
one human weakness which, next to disloyalty or cowardice, his
stoical training had taught him to most despise. Modern French
literature gave him other reasons for astonishment. He could
little comprehend the amazing art of the story-teller; the worth
of the workmanship in itself was not visible to him; and if he
could have been made to understand it as a European understands,
he would have remained none the less convinced that such
application of genius to production signified social depravity.
And gradually, in the luxurious life of the capital itself, he
found proof for the belief suggested to him by the art and the
literature of the period. He visited the pleasure-resorts, the
theatres, the opera; he saw with the eyes of an ascetic and a
soldier, and wondered why the Western conception of the worth of
life differed so little from the Far-Eastern conception of folly
and of effeminacy. He saw fashionable balls, and exposures de
rigueur intolerable to the Far-Eastern sense of modesty,
—artistically calculated to suggest what would cause a Japanese
woman to die of shame; and he wondered at criticisms he had heard
about the natural, modest, healthy half-nudity of Japanese
toiling under a summer sun. He saw cathedrals and churches in
vast number, and near to them the palaces of vice, and
establishments enriched by the stealthy sale of artistic
obscenities. He listened to sermons by great preachers; and he
heard blasphemies against all faith and love by priest—haters.
He saw the circles of wealth, and the circles of poverty, and the
abysses underlying both. The "restraining influence" of religion
he did not see. That world had no faith. It was a world of
mockery and masquerade and pleasure-seeking selfishness, ruled
not by religion, but by police; a world into which it were not
good that a man should be born.
England, more sombre, more imposing, more formidable furnished
him with other problems to consider. He studied her wealth,
forever growing, and the nightmares of squalor forever
multiplying in the shadow of it. He saw the vast ports gorged
with the riches of a hundred lands, mostly plunder; and knew the
English still like their forefathers, a race of prey; and thought
of the fate of her millions if she should find herself for even a
single month unable to compel other races to feed them. He saw
the harlotry and drunkenness that make night hideous in the
world's greatest city; and he marveled at the conventional
hypocrisy that pretends not to see, and at the religion that
utters thanks for existing conditions, and at the ignorance that
sends missionaries where they are not needed, and at the enormous
charities that help disease and vice to propagate their kind. He
saw also the declaration of a great Englishman(1) who had
traveled in many countries that one tenth of the population of
England were professional criminals or paupers. And this in spite
of the myriads of churches, and the incomparable multiplication
of laws! Certainly English civilization showed less than any
other the pretended power of that religion which he had been
taught to believe the inspiration of progress. English streets
told him another story: there were no such sights to be seen in
the streets of Buddhist cities. No: this civilization signified a
perpetual wicked struggle between the simple and the cunning, the
feeble and the strong; force and craft combining to thrust
weakness into a yawning and visible hell. Never in Japan had
there been even the sick dream of such conditions. Yet the merely
material and intellectual results of those conditions he could
not but confess to be astonishing; and though he saw evil beyond
all he could have imagined possible, he also saw much good, among
both poor and rich. The stupendous riddle of it all, the
countless contradictions, were above his powers of
He liked the English people better than the people of other
countries he had visited; and the manners of the English gentry
impressed him as not unlike those of the Japanese samurai. Behind
their formal coldness he could discern immense capacities of
friendship and enduring kindness,—kindness he experienced more
than once; the depth of emotional power rarely wasted; and the
high courage that had won the dominion of half a world. But ere
he left England for America, to study a still vaster field of
human achievement, mere differences of nationality had ceased to
interest him: they were blurred out of visibility in his growing
perception of Occidental civilization as one amazing whole,
everywhere displaying—whether through imperial, monarchical, or
democratic forms—the working of the like merciless necessities
with the like astounding results, and everywhere based on ideas
totally the reverse of Far-Eastern ideas. Such civilization he
could estimate only as one having no single emotion in harmony
with it,—as one finding nothing to love while dwelling in its
midst, and nothing to regret in the hour of leaving it forever.
It was as far away from his soul as the life of another planet
under another sun. But he could understand its cost in terms of
human pain, feel the menace of its weight, and divine the
prodigious range of its intellectual power. And he hated
it,—hated its tremendous and perfectly calculated mechanism;
hated its utilitarian stability; hated its conventions, its
greed, its blind cruelty, its huge hypocrisy, the foulness of its
want and the insolence of its wealth. Morally, it was monstrous;
conventionally, it was brutal. Depths of degradation unfathomable
it had shown him, but no ideals equal to the ideals of his youth.
It was all one great wolfish struggle;—and that so much real
goodness as he had found in it could exist, seemed to him
scarcely less than miraculous. The real sublimities of the
Occident were intellectual only; far steep cold heights of pure
knowledge, below whose perpetual snow-line emotional ideals die.
Surely the old Japanese civilization of benevolence and duty was
incomparably better in its comprehension of happiness, in its
moral ambitions, its larger faith, its joyous courage, its
simplicity and unselfishness, its sobriety and contentment.
Western superiority was not ethical. It lay in forces of
intellect developed through suffering incalculable, and used for
the destruction of the weak by the strong.
And, nevertheless, that Western science whose logic he knew to be
irrefutable assured him of the larger and larger expansion of the
power of that civilization, as of an irresistible, inevitable,
measureless inundation of world-pain. Japan would have to learn
the new forms of action, to master the new forms of thought, or
to perish utterly. There was no other alternative. And then the
doubt of all doubts came to him, the question which all the sages
have had to face: Is the universe moral? To that question
Buddhism had given the deepest answer.
But whether moral or immoral the cosmic process, as measured by
infinitesimal human emotion, one conviction remained with him
that no logic could impair: the certainty that man should pursue
the highest moral ideal with all his power to the unknown end,
even though the suns in their courses should fight against him.
The necessities of Japan would oblige her to master foreign
science, to adopt much from the material civilization of her
enemies; but the same necessities could not compel her to cast
bodily away her ideas of right and wrong, of duty and of honor.
Slowly a purpose shaped itself in his mind,—a purpose which was
to make him in after years a leader and a teacher: to strive with
all his strength for the conservation of all that, was best in
the ancient life, and to fearlessly oppose further introduction
of anything not essential to national self-preservation, or
helpful to national, self-development. Fail he well, might, and
without shame; but he could hope at least to save something of
worth from the drift of wreckage. The wastefulness of Western
life had impressed him more than its greed of pleasure and its
capacity for pain: in the clean poverty of his own land he saw
strength; in her unselfish thrift, the sole chance of competing
with the Occident. Foreign civilization had taught him to
under-stand, as he could never otherwise have understood, the
worth and the beauty of his own; and he longed for the hour of
permission to return to the country of his birth.
(1)"Although we have progressed vastly beyond the savage state in
intellectual achievements, we have not advanced equally in
morals…. It is not too much to say that the mass of our
populations have not at all advanced beyond the savage code of
morals, and have in many cases sunk below it. A deficient
morality is the great blot of modern civilization…. Our whole
social and moral civilization remains in a state of barbarism….
We are the richest country in the world; and yet nearly one
twentieth of our population are parish paupers, and one thirtieth
known criminals. Add to these the criminals who escape detection,
and the poor who live mainly or partly on private charity (which,
according to Dr. Hawkesley, expends seven millions sterling
annually in London alone), and we may be sure that more than ONE
TENTH of our population are actually Paupers and Criminals."
—ALFRED RUSSEL WALLACE
It was through the transparent darkness of a cloudless April
morning, a little before sunrise, that he saw again the mountains
of his native land,—far lofty sharpening sierras, towering
violet-black out of the circle of an inky sea. Behind the steamer
which was bearing him back from exile the horizon was slowly
filling with rosy flame. There were some foreigners already on
deck, eager to obtain the first and fairest view of Fuji from the
Pacific;—for the first sight of Fuji at dawn is not to be
forgotten in this life or the next. They watched the long
procession of the ranges, and looked over the jagged looming into
the deep night, where stars were faintly burning still,—and they
could not see Fuji. "Ah!" laughed an officer they questioned,
"you are looking too low! higher up—much higher!" Then they
looked up, up, up into the heart of the sky, and saw the mighty
summit pinkening like a wondrous phantom lotos-bud in the flush
of the coming day: a spectacle that smote them dumb. Swiftly the
eternal snow yellowed into gold, then whitened as the sun reached
out beams to it over the curve of the world, over the shadowy
ranges, over the very stars, it seemed; for the giant base
remained viewless. And the night fled utterly; and soft blue
light bathed all the hollow heaven; and colors awoke from sleep;
—and before the gazers there opened the luminous bay of
Yokohama, with the sacred peak, its base ever invisible, hanging
above all like a snowy ghost in the arch of the infinite day.
Still in the wanderer's ears the words rang, "Ah! you are
looking too low!—higher up—much higher!"—making vague rhythm
with an immense, irresistible emotion swelling at his heart. Then
everything dimmed: he saw neither Fuji above, nor the nearing
hills below, changing their vapory blue to green, nor the
crowding of the ships in the bay; nor anything of the modern
Japan; he saw the Old. The land-wind, delicately scented with
odors of spring, rushed to him, touched his blood, and startled
from long-closed cells of memory the shades of all that he had
once abandoned and striven to forget. He saw the faces of his
dead: he knew their voices over the graves of the years. Again he
was a very little boy in his father's yashiki, wandering from
luminous room to room, playing in sunned spaces where
leaf-shadows trembled on the matting, or gazing into the soft
green dreamy peace of the landscape garden. Once more he felt the
light touch of his mother's hand guiding his little steps to the
place of morning worship, before the household shrine, before the
tablets of the ancestors; and the lips of the man murmured again,
with sudden new-found meaning, the simple prayer of the child.
IN THE TWILIGHT OF THE GODS
"Do you know anything about josses?"
"Yes; idols, Japanese idols,—josses."
"Something," I answered, "but not very much."
"Well, come, and look at my collection, won't you? I've been
collecting josses for twenty years, and I've got some worth
seeing. They're not for sale, though,—except to the British
I followed the curio dealer through the bric-a-brac of his shop,
and across a paved yard into an unusually large go-down(1). Like
all go-downs it was dark: I could barely discern a stairway
sloping up through gloom. He paused at the foot.
"You'll be able to see better in a moment," he said. "I had this
place built expressly for them; but now it is scarcely big
enough. They're all in the second story. Go right up; only be
careful,—the steps are bad."
I climbed, and reached a sort of gloaming, under a very high
roof, and found myself face to face with the gods.
In the dusk of the great go-down the spectacle was more than
weird: it was apparitional. Arhats and Buddhas and Bodhisattvas,
and the shapes of a mythology older than they, filled all the
shadowy space; not ranked by hierarchies, as in a temple, but
mingled without order, as in a silent panic. Out of the
wilderness of multiple heads and broken aureoles and hands
uplifted in menace or in prayer,—a shimmering confusion of dusty
gold half lighted by cobwebbed air-holes in the heavy walls,—I
could at first discern little; then, as the dimness cleared, I
began to distinguish personalities. I saw Kwannon, of many forms;
Jizo, of many names; Shaka, Yakushi, Amida, the Buddhas and their
disciples. They were very old; and their art was not all of
Japan, nor of any one place or time: there were shapes from
Korea, China, India,—treasures brought over sea in the rich days
of the early Buddhist missions. Some were seated upon
lotos-flowers, the lotos-flowers of the Apparitional Birth. Some
rode leopards, tigers, lions, or monsters mystical,—typifying
lightning, typifying death. One, triple-headed and many-handed,
sinister and splendid, seemed moving through the gloom on a
throne of gold, uplifted by a phalanx of elephants. Fudo I saw,
shrouded and shrined in fire, and Maya-Fujin, riding her
celestial peacock; and strangely mingling with these Buddhist
visions, as in the anachronism of a Limbo, armored effigies of
Daimyo and images of the Chinese sages. There were huge forms of
wrath, grasping thunderbolts, and rising to the roof: the
Deva-kings, like impersonations of hurricane power; the Ni-O,
guardians of long-vanished temple gates. Also there were forms
voluptuously feminine: the light grace of the limbs folded within
their lotos-cups, the suppleness of the fingers numbering the
numbers of the Good Law, were ideals possibly inspired in some
forgotten tune by the charm of an Indian dancing-girl. Shelved
against the naked brickwork above, I could perceive multitudes of
lesser shapes: demon figures with eyes that burned through the
dark like the eyes of a black cat, and figures half man, half
bird, winged and beaked like eagles,—the Tengu of Japanese
"Well?" queried the curio dealer, with a chuckle of satisfaction
at my evident surprise.
"It is a very great collection," I responded.
He clapped his hand on my shoulder, and exclaimed triumphantly in
my ear, "Cost me fifty thousand dollars."
But the images themselves told me how much more was their cost to
forgotten piety, notwithstanding the cheapness of artistic labor
in the East. Also they told me of the dead millions whose pilgrim
feet had worn hollow the steps leading to their shrines, of the
buried mothers who used to suspend little baby-dresses before
their altars, of the generations of children taught to murmur
prayers to them, of the countless sorrows and hopes confided to
them. Ghosts of the worship of centuries had followed them into
exile; a thin, sweet odor of incense haunted the dusty place.
"What would you call that?" asked the voice of the curio dealer.
"I've been told it's the best of the lot."
He pointed to a figure resting upon a triple golden
lotos,—Avalokitesvara: she "who looketh down above the sound of
prayer."… Storms and hate give way to her name. Fire
is quenched by her name. Demons vanish at the sound of her name.
By her name one may stand firm in the sky, like a sun….
The delicacy of the limbs, the tenderness of the smile, were
dreams of the Indian paradise.
"It is a Kwannon," I made reply, "and very beautiful."
"Somebody will have to pay me a very beautiful price for it," he
said, with a shrewd wink. "It cost me enough! As a rule, though,
I get these things pretty cheap. There are few people who care to
buy them, and they have to be sold privately, you know: that
gives me an advantage. See that Jizo in the corner,—the big
black fellow? What is it?"
"Emmei-Jizo," I answered,—"Jizo, the giver of long life. It must
be very old."
"Well," he said, again taking me by the shoulder, "the man from
whom I got that piece was put in prison for selling it to me."
Then he burst into a hearty laugh,—whether at the recollection
of his own cleverness in the transaction, or at the unfortunate
simplicity of the person who had sold the statue contrary to law,
I could not decide.
"Afterwards," he resumed, "they wanted to get it back again, and
offered me more, than I had given for it. But I held on. I don't
know everything about josses, but I do know what they are worth.
There isn't another idol like that in the whole country. The
British Museum will be glad to get it."
"When do you intend to offer the collection to the British
Museum?" I presumed to ask.
"Well, I first want to get up a show," he replied. "There's money
to be made by a show of josses in London. London people never saw
anything like this in their lives. Then the church folks help
that sort of a show, if you manage them properly: it advertises
the missions. 'Heathen idols from Japan!'… How do you like the
I was looking at a small gold-colored image of a naked child,
standing, one tiny hand pointing upward, and the other downward,
—representing the Buddha newly born. Sparkling with light he
came from the womb, as when the Sun first rises in the east….
Upright he took deliberately seven steps; and the prints of his
feet upon the ground remained burning as seven stars. And he
spake with clearest utterance, saying, "This birth is a Buddha
birth. Re-birth is not for me. Only this last time am I born for
the salvation of all on earth and in heaven."
"That is what they call a Tanjo-Shaka," I said. "It looks like
"Bronze it is," he responded, tapping it with his knuckles to
make the metal ring. "The bronze alone is worth more than the
price I paid."
I looked at the four Devas whose heads almost touched the roof,
and thought of the story of their apparition told in the
Mahavagga. On a beautiful night the Four Great Kings entered the
holy grove, filling all the place with light; and having
respectfully saluted the Blessed One, they stood in the four
directions, like four great firebrands.
"How did you ever manage to get those big figures upstairs?" I
"Oh, hauled them up! We've got a hatchway. The real trouble was
getting them here by train. It was the first railroad trip they
ever made…. But look at these here: they will make the
sensation of the show!"
I looked, and saw two small wooden images, about three feet high.
"Why do you think they will make a sensation?" I inquired
"Don't you see what they are? They date from the time of the
persecutions. Japanese devils trampling on the Cross!"
They were small temple guardians only; but their feet rested upon
"Did any person tell you these were devils trampling on the
cross?" I made bold to ask.
"What else are they doing?" he answered evasively. "Look at the
crosses under their feet!"
"But they are not devils," I insisted; "and those cross-pieces
were put under their feet simply to give equilibrium."
He said nothing, but looked disappointed; and I felt a little
sorry for him. Devils trampling on the Cross, as a display line
in some London poster announcing the arrival of "josses from
Japan," might certainly have been relied on to catch the public
"This is more wonderful," I said, pointing to a beautiful group,
—Maya with the infant Buddha issuing from her side, according to
tradition. Painlessly the Bodhisattva was born from her right
side. It was the eighth day of the fourth moon.
"That's bronze, too," he remarked, tapping it. "Bronze josses are
getting rare. We used to buy them up and sell them for old metal.
Wish I'd kept some of them! You ought to have seen the bronzes,
in those days, coming in from the temples,—bells and vases and
josses! That was the time we tried to buy the Daibutsu at
"For old bronze?" I queried.
"Yes. We calculated the weight of the metal, and formed a
syndicate. Our first offer was thirty thousand. We could have
made a big profit, for there's a good deal of gold and silver in
that work. The priests wanted to sell, but the people wouldn't
"It's one of the world's wonders," I said. "Would you really have
broken it up?"
"Certainly. Why not? What else could you do with it?… That one
there looks just like a Virgin Mary, doesn't it?"
He pointed to the gilded image of a female clasping a child to
"Yes," I replied; "but it is Kishibojin, the goddess who loves
"People talk about idolatry," he went on musingly. "I've seen
things like many of these in Roman Catholic chapels. Seems to me
religion is pretty much the same the world over."
"I think you are right," I said.
"Why, the story of Buddha is like the story of Christ, isn't it?"
"To some degree," I assented.
"Only, he wasn't crucified."
I did not answer; thinking of the text, In all the world there
is not one spot even so large as a mustard-seed where he has not
surrendered his body for the sake of creatures. Then it suddenly
seemed to me that this was absolutely true. For the Buddha of the
deeper Buddhism is not Gautama, nor yet any one Tathagata, but
simply the divine in man. Chrysalides of the infinite we all are:
each contains a ghostly Buddha, and the millions are but one. All
humanity is potentially the Buddha-to-come, dreaming through the
ages in Illusion; and the teacher's smile will make beautiful the
world again when selfishness shall die. Every noble sacrifice
brings nearer the hour of his awakening; and who may justly
doubt—remembering the myriads of the centuries of man—that even
now there does not remain one place on earth where life has not
been freely given for love or duty?
I felt the curio dealer's hand on my shoulder again.
"At all events," he cried in a cheery tone, "they'll be
appreciated in the British Museum—eh?"
"I hope so. They ought to be."
Then I fancied them immured somewhere in that vast necropolis of
dead gods, under the gloom of a pea-soup-fog, chambered with
forgotten divinities of Egypt or Babylon, and trembling faintly
at the roar of London,—all to what end? Perhaps to aid another
Alma Tadema to paint the beauty of another vanished civilization;
perhaps to assist the illustration of an English Dictionary of
Buddhism; perhaps to inspire some future laureate with a metaphor
startling as Tennyson's figure of the "oiled and curled Assyrian
bull." Assuredly they would not be preserved in vain. The
thinkers of a less conventional and selfish era would teach new
reverence for them. Each eidolon shaped by human faith remains
the shell of a truth eternally divine, and even the shell itself
may hold a ghostly power. The soft serenity, the passionless
tenderness, of these Buddha faces might yet give peace of soul to
a West weary of creeds transformed into conventions, eager for
the coming of another teacher to proclaim, "I have the same
feeling for the high as for the low, for the moral as for the
immoral, for the depraved as for the virtuous, for those holding
sectarian views and false opinions as for those whose beliefs are
good and true."
(1) A name given to fireproof storehouses in the open ports of
the Far East. The word is derived from the Malay gadong.
THE IDEA OF PRE-EXISTENCE
"If A Bikkhu should desire, O brethren, to call to mind his
various temporary states in days gone by—such as one birth, two
births, three, four, five, ten, twenty, thirty, fifty, one
hundred, or one thousand, or one hundred thousand births,-in all
their modes and all their details, let him be devoted to quietude
of heart,—let him look through things, let him be much alone."
Were I to ask any reflecting Occidental, who had passed some
years in the real living atmosphere of Buddhism, what fundamental
idea especially differentiates Oriental modes of thinking from
our own, I am sure he would answer: "The Idea of Pre-existence."
It is this idea, more than any other, which permeates the whole
mental being of the Far East. It is universal as the wash of air:
it colors every emotion; it influences, directly or indirectly,
almost every act. Its symbols are perpetually visible, even in
details of artistic decoration; and hourly by day or night, some
echoes of its language float uninvited to the ear. The utterances
of the people,—their household sayings, their proverbs, their
pious or profane exclamations, their confessions of sorrow, hope,
joy, or despair,—are all informed with it. It qualifies equally
the expression of hate or the speech of affection; and the term
ingwa, or innen,—meaning karma as inevitable retribution,
—comes naturally to every lip as an interpretation, as a
consolation, or as a reproach. The peasant toiling up some steep
road, and feeling the weight of his handcart straining every
muscle, murmurs patiently: "Since this is ingwa, it must be
suffered." Servants disputing, ask each other, "By reason of what
ingwa must I now dwell with such a one as you?" The incapable or
vicious man is reproached with his ingwa; and the misfortunes of
the wise or the virtuous are explained by the same Buddhist word.
The law-breaker confesses his crime, saying: "That which I did I
knew to be wicked when doing; but my ingwa was stronger than my
heart." Separated lovers seek death under the belief that their
union in this life is banned by the results of their sins in a
former one; and, the victim of an injustice tries to allay his
natural anger by the self-assurance that he is expiating some
forgotten fault which had to, be expiated in the eternal order of
things…. So likewise even the commonest references to a
spiritual future imply the general creed of a spiritual past. The
mother warns her little ones at play about the effect of
wrong-doing upon their future births, as the children of other
parents. The pilgrim or the street-beggar accepts your alms with
the prayer that your next birth may be fortunate. The aged
inkyo, whose sight and hearing begin to fail, talks cheerily of
the impending change that is to provide him with a fresh young
body. And the expressions Yakusoku, signifying the Buddhist
idea of necessity; mae no yo, the last life; akirame,
resignation, recur as frequently in Japanese common parlance as
do the words "right" and "wrong" in English popular speech.
After long dwelling in this psychological medium, you find that
it has penetrated your own thought, and has effected therein
various changes. All concepts of life implied by the idea of
preexistence,—all those beliefs which, however sympathetically
studied, must at first have seemed more than strange to you,—
finally lose that curious or fantastic character with which
novelty once invested them, and present themselves under a
perfectly normal aspect. They explain so many things so well as
even to look rational; and quite rational some assuredly are when
measured by the scientific thought of the nineteenth century. But
to judge them fairly, it is first necessary to sweep the mind
clear of all Western ideas of metempsychosis. For there is no
resemblance between the old Occidental conceptions of soul—the
Pythagorean or the Platonic, for example—and the Buddhist
conception; and it is precisely because of this unlikeness that
the Japanese beliefs prove themselves reasonable. The profound
difference between old-fashioned Western thought and Eastern
thought in this regard is, that for the Buddhist the conventional
soul—the single, tenuous, tremulous, transparent inner man, or
ghost—does not exist. The Oriental Ego is not individual. Nor is
it even a definitely numbered multiple like the Gnostic soul. It
is an aggregate or composite of inconceivable complexity,—the
concentrated sum of the creative thinking of previous lives
beyond all reckoning.
The interpretative power of Buddhism, and the singular accord of
its theories with the facts of modern science, appear especially
in that domain of psychology whereof Herbert Spencer has been the
greatest of all explorers. No small part of our psychological
life is composed of feelings which Western theology never could
explain. Such are those which cause the still speechless infant
to cry at the sight of certain faces, or to smile at the sight of
others. Such are those instantaneous likes or dislikes
experienced on meeting strangers, those repulsions or attractions
called "first impressions," which intelligent children are prone
to announce with alarming frankness, despite all assurance that
"people must not be judged by appearances": a doctrine no child
in his heart believes. To call these feelings instinctive or
intuitive, in the theological meaning of instinct or intuition,
explains nothing at all—merely cuts off inquiry into the mystery
of life, just like the special creation hypothesis. The idea that
a personal impulse or emotion might be more than individual,
except through demoniacal possession, still seems to
old-fashioned orthodoxy a monstrous heresy. Yet it is now certain
that most of our deeper feelings are superindividual,—both those
which we classify as passional, and those which we call sublime.
The individuality of the amatory passion is absolutely denied by
science; and what is true of love at first sight is also true of
hate: both are superindividual. So likewise are those vague
impulses to wander which come and go with spring, and those vague
depressions experienced in autumn,—survivals, perhaps, from an
epoch in which human migration followed the course of the
seasons, or even from an era preceding the apparition of man.
Superindividual also those emotions felt by one who, after having
passed the greater part of a life on plain or prairies, first
looks upon a range of snow-capped peaks; or the sensations of
some dweller in the interior of a continent when he first beholds
the ocean, and hears its eternal thunder. The delight, always
toned with awe, which the sight of a stupendous landscape evokes;
Or that speechless admiration, mingled with melancholy
inexpressible, which the splendor of a tropical sunset
creates,—never can be interpreted by individual experience.
Psychological analysis has indeed shown these emotions to be
prodigiously complex, and interwoven with personal experiences of
many kinds; but in either case the deeper wave of feeling is
never individual: it is a surging up from that ancestral sea of
life out of which we came. To the same psychological category
possibly belongs likewise a peculiar feeling which troubled men's
minds long before the time of Cicero, and troubles them even more
betimes in our own generation,—the feeling of having already
seen a place really visited for the first time. Some strange air
of familiarity about the streets of a foreign town, or the forms
of a foreign landscape, comes to the mind with a sort of soft
weird shock, and leaves one vainly ransacking memory for
interpretations. Occasionally, beyond question, similar
sensations are actually produced by the revival or recombination
of former relations in consciousness; but there would seem to be
many which remain wholly mysterious when we attempt to explain
them by individual experience.
Even in the most common of our sensations there are enigmas never
to be solved by those holding the absurd doctrine that all
feeling and cognition belong to individual experience, and that
the mind of the child newly-born is a tabula rasa. The pleasure
excited by the perfume of a flower, by certain shades of color,
by certain tones of music; the involuntary loathing or fear
aroused by the first sight of dangerous or venomous life; even
the nameless terror of dreams,—are all inexplicable upon the
old-fashioned soul-hypothesis. How deeply-reaching into the life
of the race some of these sensations are, such as the pleasure in
odors and in colors, Grant Allen has most effectively suggested
in his "Physiological Aesthetics," and in his charming treatise
on the Color-Sense. But long before these were written, his
teacher, the greatest of all psychologists, had clearly proven
that the experience-hypothesis was utterly inadequate to account
for many classes of psychological phenomena. "If possible,"
observes Herbert Spencer, "it is even more at fault in respect to
the emotions than to the cognitions. The doctrine that all the
desires, all the sentiments, are generated by the experiences of
the individual, is so glaringly at variance with facts that I
cannot but wonder how any one should ever have ventured to
entertain it." It was Mr. Spencer, also, who showed us that words
like "instinct," "intuition," have no true signification in the
old sense; they must hereafter be used in a very different one.
Instinct, in the language of modern psychology, means "organized
memory," and memory itself is "incipient instinct,"—the sum of
impressions to be inherited by the next succeeding individual in
the chain of life. Thus science recognizes inherited memory: not
in the ghostly signification of a remembering of the details of
former lives, but as a minute addition to psychological life
accompanied by minute changes in the structure of the inherited
nervous system. "The human brain is an organized register of
infinitely numerous experiences received during the evolution of
life, or rather, during the evolution of that series of organisms
through which the human organism has been reached. The effects of
the most uniform and frequent of these experiences have been
successively bequeathed, principal and interest; and have slowly
amounted to that high intelligence which lies latent in the brain
of the infant—which the infant in after-life exercises and
perhaps strengthens or further complicates—and which, with
minute additions, it bequeaths to future generations(1)." Thus we
have solid physiological ground for the idea of pre-existence and
the idea of a multiple Ego. It is incontrovertible that in every
individual brain is looked up the inherited memory of the
absolutely inconceivable multitude of experiences received by all
the brains of which it is the descendant. But this scientific
assurance of self in the past is uttered in no materialistic
sense. Science is the destroyer of materialism: it has proven
matter incomprehensible; and it confesses the mystery of mind
insoluble, even while obliged to postulate an ultimate unit of
sensation. Out of the units of simple sensation, older than we by
millions of years, have undoubtedly been built up all the
emotions and faculties of man. Here Science, in accord with
Buddhism, avows the Ego composite, and, like Buddhism, explains
the psychical riddles of the present by the psychical experiences
of the past.
(1) Principles of Psychology: "The Feelings."
To many persons it must seem that the idea of Soul as an infinite
multiple would render impossible any idea of religion in the
Western sense; and those unable to rid themselves of old
theological conceptions doubtless imagine that even in Buddhist
countries, and despite the evidence of Buddhist texts, the faith
of the common people is really based upon the idea of the soul as
a single entity. But Japan furnishes remarkable proof to the
contrary. The uneducated common people, the poorest country-folk
who have never studied Buddhist metaphysics, believe the self
composite. What is even more remarkable is that in the primitive
faith, Shinto, a kindred doctrine exists; and various forms of
the belief seem to characterize the thought of the Chinese and of
the Koreans. All these peoples of the Far East seem to consider
the soul compound; whether in the Buddhist sense, or in the
primitive sense represented by Shinto (a sort of ghostly
multiplying by fission), or in the fantastic sense elaborated by
Chinese astrology. In Japan I have fully satisfied myself that
the belief is universal. It is not necessary to quote here from
the Buddhist texts, because the common or popular beliefs, and
not the philosophy of a creed, can alone furnish evidence that
religious fervor is compatible and consistent with the notion of
a composite soul. Certainly the Japanese peasant does not think
the psychical Self nearly so complex a thing as Buddhist
philosophy considers it, or as Western science proves it to be.
But he thinks of himself as multiple. The struggle within him
between impulses good and evil he explains as a conflict between
the various ghostly wills that make up his Ego; and his spiritual
hope is to disengage his better self or selves from his worse
selves,—Nirvana, or the supreme bliss, being attainable only
through the survival of the best within him. Thus his religion
appears to be founded upon a natural perception of psychical
evolution not nearly so remote from scientific thought as are
those conventional notions of soul held by our common people at
home. Of course his ideas on these abstract subjects are vague
and unsystematized; but their general character and tendencies
are unmistakable; and there can be no question whatever as to the
earnestness of his faith, or as to the influence of that faith
upon his ethical life.
Wherever belief survives among the educated classes, the same
ideas obtain definition and synthesis. I may cite, in example,
two selections from compositions, written by students aged
respectively twenty-three and twenty-six. I might as easily cite
a score; but the following will sufficiently indicate what I
"Nothing is more foolish than to declare the immortality of the
soul. The soul is a compound; and though its elements be eternal,
we know they can never twice combine in exactly the same way. All
compound things must change their character and their
"Human life is composite. A combination of energies make the
soul. When a man dies his soul may either remain unchanged, or be
changed according to that which it combines with. Some
philosophers say the soul is immortal; some, that it is mortal.
They are both right. The soul is mortal or immortal according to
the change of the combinations composing it. The elementary
energies from which the soul is formed are, indeed, eternal; but
the nature of the soul is determined by the character of the
combinations into which those energies enter."
Now the ideas expressed in these compositions will appear to the
Western reader, at first view, unmistakably atheistic. Yet they
are really compatible with the sincerest and deepest faith. It
is the use of the English word "soul," not understood at all as
we understand it, which creates the false impression. "Soul," in
the sense used by the young writers, means an almost infinite
combination of both good and evil tendencies,—a compound doomed
to disintegration not only by the very fact of its being a
compound, but also by the eternal law of spiritual progress.
That the idea, which has been for thousands of years so vast a
factor in Oriental thought-life, should have failed to develop
itself in the West till within, our own day, is sufficiently
explained by Western theology. Still, it would not be correct to
say that theology succeeded in rendering the notion of
pre-existence absolutely repellent to Occidental minds. Though
Christian doctrine, holding each soul specially created out of
nothing to fit each new body, permitted no avowed beliefs in
pre-existence, popular common-sense recognized a contradiction of
dogma in the phenomena of heredity. In the same way, while
theology decided animals to be mere automata, moved by a sort of
incomprehensible machinery called instinct, the people generally
recognized that animals had reasoning powers. The theories of
instinct and of intuition held even a generation ago seem utterly
barbarous to-day. They were commonly felt to be useless as
interpretations; but as dogmas they served to check speculation
and to prevent heresy. Wordsworth's "Fidelity" and his
marvelously overrated "Intimations of Immortality" bear witness
to the extreme timidity and crudeness of Western notions on these
subjects even at the beginning of the century. The love of the
dog for his master is indeed "great beyond all human estimate,"
but for reasons Wordsworth never dreamed about; and although the
fresh sensations of childhood are certainly intimations of
something much more wonderful than Wordsworth's denominational
idea of immortality, his famous stanza concerning them has been
very justly condemned by Mr. John Morley as nonsense. Before the
decay of theology, no rational ideas of psychological
inheritance, of the true nature of instinct, or of the unity of
life, could possibly have forced their way to general
But with the acceptance of the doctrine of evolution, old forms
of thought crumbled; new ideas everywhere arose to take the place
of worn-out dogmas; and we now have the spectacle of a general
intellectual movement in directions strangely parallel with
Oriental philosophy. The unprecedented rapidity and
multiformity of scientific progress during the last fifty years
could not have failed to provoke an equally unprecedented
intellectual quickening among the non-scientific. That the
highest and most complex organisms have been developed from the
lowest and simplest; that a single physical basis of life is the
substance of the whole living world; that no line of separation
can be drawn between the animal and vegetable; that the
difference between life and non-life is only a difference of
degree, not of kind; that matter is not less incomprehensible
than mind, while both are but varying manifestations of one and
the same unknown reality,—these have already become the
commonplaces of the new philosophy. After the first recognition
even by theology of physical evolution, it was easy to predict
that the recognition of psychical evolution could not be
indefinitely delayed; for the barrier erected by old dogma to
keep men from looking backward had been broken down. And to-day
for the student of scientific psychology the idea of
pre-existence passes out of the realm of theory into the realm of
fact, proving the Buddhist explanation of the universal mystery
quite as plausible as any other. "None but very hasty thinkers,"
wrote the late Professor Huxley, "will reject it on the ground of
inherent absurdity. Like the doc-trine of evolution itself, that
of transmigration has its roots in the world of reality; and it
may claim such support as the great argument from analogy is
capable of supplying(1)."
Now this support, as given by Professor Huxley, is singularly
strong. It offers us no glimpse of a single soul flitting from
darkness to light, from death to rebirth, through myriads of
millions of years; but it leaves the main idea of pre-existence
almost exactly in the form enunciated by the Buddha himself. In
the Oriental doctrine, the psychical personality, like the
individual body, is an aggregate doomed to disintegration By
psychical personality I mean here that which distinguishes mind
from mind,—the "me" from the "you": that which we call self. To
Buddhism this is a temporary composite of illusions. What makes
it is the karma. What reincarnates is the karma,—the sum-total
of the acts and thoughts of countless anterior existences,—each
existences,—each one of which, as an integer in some great
spiritual system of addition and subtraction, may affect all the
rest. Like a magnetism, the karma is transmitted from form to
form, from phenomenon to phenomenon, determining conditions by
combinations. The ultimate mystery of the concentrative and
creative effects of karma the Buddhist acknowledges to be
inscrutable; but the cohesion of effects he declares to be
produced by tanha, the desire of life, corresponding to what
Schopenhauer called the "will" to live. Now we find in Herbert
Spencer's "Biology" a curious parallel for this idea. He explains
the transmission of tendencies, and their variations, by a theory
of polarities,—polarities of the physiological unit between
this theory of polarities and the Buddhist theory of tanha, the
difference is much less striking than the resemblance. Karma or
heredity, tanha or polarity, are inexplicable as to their
ultimate nature: Buddhism and Science are here at one. The fact
worthy of attention is that both recognize the same phenomena
under different names.
(1) Evolution and Ethics, p.61 (ed 1894).
The prodigious complexity of the methods by which Science has
arrived at conclusions so strangely in harmony with the ancient
thought of the East, may suggest the doubt whether those
conclusions could ever be made clearly comprehensible to the mass
of Western minds. Certainly it would seem that just as the real
doctrines of Buddhism can be taught to the majority of believers
through forms only, so the philosophy of science can be
communicated to the masses through suggestion only,—suggestion
of such facts, or arrangements of fact, as must appeal to any
naturally intelligent mind. But the history of scientific
progress assures the efficiency of this method; and there is no
strong reason for the supposition that, because the processes of
the higher science remain above the mental reach of the
unscientific classes, the conclusions of that science will not be
generally accepted. The dimensions and weights of planets; the
distances and the composition of stars; the law of gravitation;
the signification of heat, light, and color; the nature of sound,
and a host of other scientific discoveries, are familiar to
thousands quite ignorant of the details of the methods by which
such knowledge was obtained. Again we have evidence that every
great progressive movement of science during the century has been
followed by considerable modifications of popular beliefs.
Already the churches, though clinging still to the hypothesis of
a specially-created soul, have accepted the main doctrine of
physical evolution; and neither fixity of belief nor intellectual
retrogression can be rationally expected in the immediate future.
Further changes of religious ideas are to be looked for; and it
is even likely that they will be effected rapidly rather than
slowly. Their exact nature, indeed, cannot be predicted; but
existing intellectual tendencies imply that the doctrine of.
psychological evolution must be accepted, though not at once so
as to set any final limit to ontological speculation; and that
the whole conception of the Ego will be eventually transformed
through the consequently developed idea of pre-existence.
More detailed consideration of these probabilities may be
ventured. They will not, perhaps, be acknowledged as
probabilities by persons who regard science as a destroyer rather
than a modifier. But such thinkers forget that religious feeling
is something infinitely more profound than dogma; that it
survives all gods and all forms of creed; and that it only widens
and deepens and gathers power with intellectual expansion. That
as mere doctrine religion will ultimately pass away is a
conclusion to which the study of evolution leads; but that
religion as feeling, or even as faith in the unknown power
shaping equally a brain or a constellation, can ever utterly die,
is not at present conceivable. Science wars only upon erroneous
interpretations of phenomena; it only magnifies the cosmic
mystery, and proves that everything, however minute, is
infinitely wonderful and incomprehensible. And it is this
indubitable tendency of science to broaden beliefs and to magnify
cosmic emotion which justifies the supposition that future
modifications of Western religious ideas will be totally unlike
any modifications effected in the past; that the Occidental
conception of Self will orb into something akin to the Oriental
conception of Self; and that all present petty metaphysical
notions of personality and individuality as realities per se will
be annihilated. Already the growing popular comprehension of the
facts of heredity, as science teaches them, indicates the path by
which some, at least, of these modifications will be reached. In
the coming contest over the great question of psychological
evolution, common intelligence will follow Science along the line
of least resistance; and that line will doubtless be the study of
heredity, since the phenomena to be considered, however in
themselves uninterpretable, are familiar to general experience,
and afford partial answers to countless old enigmas. It is thus
quite possible to imagine a coming form of Western religion
supported by the whole power of synthetic philosophy, differing
from Buddhism mainly in the greater exactness of its conceptions,
holding the soul as a composite, and teaching a new spiritual law
resembling the doctrine of karma.
An objection to this idea will, however, immediately present
itself to many minds. Such a modification of belief, it will be
averred, would signify the sudden conquest and transformation of
feelings by ideas. "The world," says Herbert Spencer, "is not
governed by ideas, but by feelings, to which ideas serve only as
guides." How are the notions of a change, such as that supposed,
to be reconciled with common knowledge of existing religious
sentiment in the West, and the force of religious emotionalism?
Were the ideas of pre-existence and of the soul as multiple
really antagonistic to Western religious sentiment, no
satisfactory answer could be made. But are they so antagonistic?
The idea of pre-existence certainly is not; the Occidental mind
is already prepared for it. It is true that the notion of Self as
a composite, destined to dissolution, may seem little better than
the materialistic idea of annihilation,—at least to those still
unable to divest themselves of the old habits of thought.
Nevertheless, impartial reflection will show that there is no
emotional reason for dreading the disintegration of the Ego.
Actually, though unwittingly, it is for this very disintegration
that Christians and Buddhists alike perpetually pray. Who has not
often wished to rid himself of the worse parts of his nature, of
tendencies to folly or to wrong, of impulses to say or do unkind
things,—of all that lower inheritance which still clings about
the higher man, and weighs down his finest aspirations? Yet that
of which we so earnestly desire the separation, the elimination,
the death, is not less surely a part of psychological
inheritance, of veritable Self, than are those younger and larger
faculties which help to the realization of noble ideals. Rather
than an end to be feared, the dissolution of Self is the one
object of all objects to which our efforts should be turned. What
no new philosophy can forbid us to hope is that the best elements
of Self will thrill on to seek loftier affinities, to enter into
grander and yet grander combinations, till the supreme revelation
comes, and we discern, through infinite vision,—through the
vanishing of all Self,—the Absolute Reality.
For while we know that even the so-called elements themselves are
evolving, we have no proof that anything utterly dies. That we
are is the certainty that, we have been and will be. We have
survived countless evolutions, countless universes. We know that
through the Cosmos all is law. No chance decides what units shall
form the planetary core, or what shall feel the sun; what shall
be locked in granite and basalt, or shall multiply in plant and
in animal. So far as reason can venture to infer from analogy,
the cosmical history of every ultimate unit, psychological or
physical, is determined just as surely and as exactly as in the
Buddhist doctrine of karma.
The influence of Science will not be the only factor in the
modification of Western religious beliefs: Oriental philosophy
will certainly furnish another. Sanscrit, Chinese, and Pali
scholarship, and the tireless labor of philologists in all parts
of the East, are rapidly familiarizing Europe and America with
all the great forms of Oriental thought; Buddhism is being
studied with interest throughout the Occident; and the results of
these studies are yearly showing themselves more and more
definitely in the mental products of the highest culture. The
schools of philosophy are not more visibly affected than the
literature of the period. Proof that a reconsideration of the
problem of the Ego is everywhere forcing itself upon Occidental
minds, may be found not only in the thoughtful prose of the time,
but even in its poetry and its romance. Ideas impossible a
generation ago are changing current thought, destroying old
tastes, and developing higher feelings. Creative art, working
under larger inspiration, is telling what absolutely novel and
exquisite sensations, what hitherto unimaginable pathos, what
marvelous deepening of emotional power, may be gained in
literature with the recognition of the idea of pre-existence.
Even in fiction we learn that we have been living in a hemisphere
only; that we have been thinking but half-thoughts; that we need
a new faith to join past with future over the great parallel of
the present, and so to round out our emotional world into a
perfect sphere. The clear conviction that the self is multiple,
however paradoxical the statement seem, is the absolutely
necessary step to the vaster conviction that the many are One,
that life is unity, that there is no finite, but only infinite.
Until that blind pride which imagines Self unique shall have been
broken down, and the feeling of self and of selfishness shall
have been utterly decomposed, the knowledge of the Ego as
infinite,—as the very Cosmos,—never can be reached.
Doubtless the simple emotional conviction that we have been in
the past will be developed long before the intellectual
conviction that the Ego as one is a fiction of selfishness. But
the composite nature of Self must at last be acknowledged, though
its mystery remain. Science postulates a hypothetical
psychological unit as well as a hypothetical physiological unit;
but either postulated entity defies the uttermost power of
mathematical estimate,—seems to resolve itself into pure
ghostliness. The chemist, for working purposes, must imagine an
ultimate atom; but the fact of which the imagined atom is the
symbol may be a force centre only,—nay, a void, a vortex, an
emptiness, as in Buddhist concept. "Form is emptiness, and
emptiness is form. What is form, that is emptiness; what is
emptiness, that is form. Perception and conception, name and
knowledge,—all these are emptiness." For science and for
Buddhism alike the cosmos resolves itself into a vast
phantasmagoria,—a mere play of unknown and immeasurable forces.
Buddhist faith, however, answers the questions "Whence?" and
"Whither?" in its own fashion, and predicts in every great cycle
of evolution a period of spiritual expansion in which the memory
of former births returns, and all the future simultaneously opens
before the vision unveiled, even to the heaven of heavens.
Science here remains dumb. But her silence is the Silence of the
Gnostics,—Sige, the Daughter of Depth and the Mother of Spirit.
What we may allow ourselves to believe, with the full consent of
Science, is that marvelous revelations await us. Within recent
time new senses and powers have been developed,—the sense of
music, the ever-growing faculties of the mathematician.
Reasonably it may be expected that still higher unimaginable
faculties will be evolved in our descendants. Again it is known
that certain mental capacities, undoubtedly inherited, develop in
old age only; and the average life of the human race is steadily
lengthening. With increased longevity there surely may come into
sudden being, through the unfolding of the larger future brain,
powers not less wonderful than the ability to remember former
births. The dreams of Buddhism can scarcely be surpassed, because
they touch the infinite; but who can presume to say they never
will be realized?
It may be necessary to remind some of those kind enough to read
the foregoing that the words "soul," "self," "ego,"
"transmigration," "heredity," although freely used by me, convey
meanings entirely foreign to Buddhist philosophy, "Soul," in the
English sense of the word, does not exist for the Buddhist.
"Self" is an illusion, or rather a plexus of illusions.
"Transmigration," as the passing of soul from one body to
another, is expressly denied in Buddhist texts of unquestionable
authority. It will therefore be evident that the real analogy
which does exist between the doctrine of karma and the scientific
facts of heredity is far from complete. Karma signifies the
survival, not of the same composite individuality, but of its
tendencies, which recombine to form a new composite
individuality. The new being does not necessarily take even a
human form: the karma does not descend from parent to child; it
is independent of the line of heredity, although physical
conditions of life seem to depend upon karma. The karma-being of
a beggar may have rebirth in the body of a king; that of a king
in the body of a beggar; yet the conditions of either
reincarnation have been predetermined by the influence of karma.
It will be asked, What then is the spiritual element in each
being that continues unchanged,—the spiritual kernel, so to
speak, within the shell of karma,—the power that makes for
righteousness? If soul and body alike are temporary composites,
and the karma (itself temporary) the only source of personality,
what is the worth or meaning of Buddhist doctrine? What is it
that suffers by karma; what is it that lies within the illusion,
—that makes progress,—that attains Nirvana? Is it not a self?
Not in our sense of the word. The reality of what we call self is
denied by Buddhism. That which forms and dissolves the karma;
that which makes for righteousness; that which reaches Nirvana,
is not our Ego in our Western sense of the word. Then what is it?
It is the divine in each being. It is called in Japanese
Muga-no-taiga,—the Great Self-without-selfishness. There Is no
other true self. The self wrapped in illusion is called
Nyorai-zo,—(Tathagata-gharba),—the Buddha yet unborn, as one in
a womb. The Infinite exists potentially in every being. That is
the Reality. The other self is a falsity,—-a lie,—a mirage. The
doctrine of extinction refers only to the extinction of
Illusions; and those sensations and feelings and thoughts, which
belong to this life of the flesh alone, are the illusions which
make the complex illusive self. By the total decomposition of
this false self,—as by a tearing away of veils, the Infinite
Vision comes. There is no "soul": the Infinite All-Soul is the
only eternal principle in any being;—all the rest is dream.
What remains in Nirvana? According to one school of Buddhism
potential identity in the infinite,—so that a Buddha, after
having reached Nirvana, can return to earth. According to
another, identity more than potential, yet not in our sense
"personal." A Japanese friend says:—"I take a piece of gold, and
say it is one. But this means that it produces on my visual
organs a single impression. Really in the multitude of atoms
composing it each atom is nevertheless distinct and separate, and
independent of every other atom. In Buddhahood even so are united
psychical atoms innumerable. They are one as to condition;—yet
each has its own independent existence."
But in Japan the primitive religion has so affected the common
class of Buddhist beliefs that it is not incorrect to speak of
the Japanese "idea of self." It is only necessary that the
popular Shinto idea be simultaneously considered. In Shinto we
have the plainest possible evidence of the conception of soul.
But this soul is a composite,—not a mere "bundle of sensations,
perceptions, and volitions," like the karma-being, but a number
of souls united to form one ghostly personality. A dead man's
ghost may appear as one or as many. It can separate its units,
each of which remains capable of a special independent action.
Such separation, however, appears to be temporary, the various
souls of the composite naturally cohering even after death, and
reuniting after any voluntary separation. The vast mass of the
Japanese people are both Buddhists and Shintoists; but the
primitive beliefs concerning the self are certainly the most
powerful, and in the blending of the two faiths remain distinctly
recognizable. They have probably supplied to common imagination a
natural and easy explanation of the difficulties of the
karma-doctrine, though to what extent I am not prepared to say.
Be it also observed that in the primitive as well as in the
Buddhist form of belief the self is not a principle transmitted
from parent to offspring,—not an inheritance always dependent
upon physiological descent.
These facts will indicate how wide is the difference between
Eastern ideas and our own upon the subject of the preceding
essay. They will also show that any general consideration of the
real analogies existing between this strange combination of
Far-Eastern beliefs and the scientific thought of the nineteenth
century could scarcely be made intelligible by strict
philosophical accuracy in the use of terms relating to the idea
of self. Indeed, there are no European words capable of rendering
the exact meaning of the Buddhist terms belonging to Buddhist
Perhaps it may be regarded as illegitimate to wander from that
position so tersely enunciated by Professor Huxley in his essay
on "Sensation and the Sensiferous Organs:" "In ultimate analysis
it appears that a sensation is the equivalent in terms of
consciousness for a mode of motion of the matter of the
sensorium. But if inquiry is pushed a stage further, and the
question is asked, What, then, do we know about matter and
motion? there is but one reply possible. All we know about motion
is that it is a name for certain changes in the relations of our
visual, tactile, and muscular sensations; and all we know about
matter is that it is the hypothetical substance of physical
phenomena, the assumption of which is as pure a piece of
metaphysical speculation as is that of a substance of mind." But
metaphysical speculation certainly will not cease because of
scientific recognition that ultimate truth is beyond the utmost
possible range of human knowledge. Rather, for that very reason,
it will continue. Perhaps it will never wholly cease. Without it
there can be no further modification of religious beliefs, and
without modifications there can be no religious progress in
harmony with scientific thought. Therefore, metaphysical
speculation seems to me not only justifiable, but necessary.
Whether we accept or deny a substance of mind; whether we
imagine thought produced by the play of some unknown element
through the cells of the brain, as music is made by the play of
wind through the strings of a harp; whether we regard the motion
itself as a special mode of vibration inherent in and peculiar to
the units of the cerebral structure,—still the mystery is
infinite, and still Buddhism remains a noble moral
working-hypothesis, in deep accord with the aspirations of mankind and
with the laws of ethical progression. Whether we believe or
disbelieve in the reality of that which is called the material
universe, still the ethical significance of the inexplicable laws
of heredity—of the transmission of both racial and personal
tendencies in the unspecialized reproductive cell—remains to
justify the doctrine of karma. Whatever be that which makes
consciousness, its relation to all the past and to all the future
is unquestionable. Nor can the doctrine of Nirvana ever cease to
command the profound respect of the impartial thinker. Science
has found evidence that known substance is not less a product of
evolution than mind,—that all our so-called "elements" have been
evolved out of "one primary undifferentiated form of matter." And
this evidence is startlingly suggestive of some underlying truth
in the Buddhist doctrine of emanation and illusion,—the
evolution of all forms from the Formless, of all material
phenomena from immaterial Unity,—and the ultimate return of all
into "that state which is empty of lusts, of malice, of
dullness,—that state in which the excitements of individuality
are known no more, and which is therefore designated THE VOID
China's chief ally in the late war, being deaf and blind, knew
nothing, and still knows nothing, of treaties or of peace. It
followed the returning armies of Japan, invaded the victorious
empire, and killed about thirty thousand people during the hot
season. It is still slaying; and the funeral pyres burn
continually. Sometimes the smoke and the odor come wind-blown
into my garden down from the hills behind the town, just to
remind me that the cost of burning an adult of my own size is
eighty sen,—about half a dollar in American money at the present
rate of exchange.
From the upper balcony of my house, the whole length of a
Japanese street, with its rows of little shops, is visible down
to the bay. Out of various houses in that street I have seen
cholera-patients conveyed to the hospital,—the last one (only
this morning) my neighbor across the way, who kept a porcelain
shop. He was removed by force, in spite of the tears and cries of
his family. The sanitary law forbids the treatment of cholera in
private houses; yet people try to hide their sick, in spite of
fines and other penalties, because the public cholera-hospitals
are overcrowded and roughly managed, and the patients are
entirely separated from all who love them. But the police are not
often deceived: they soon discover unreported cases, and come
with litters and coolies. It seems cruel; but sanitary law must
be cruel. My neighbor's wife followed the litter, crying, until
the police obliged her to return to her desolate little shop. It
is now closed up, and will probably never be opened again by the
Such tragedies end as quickly as they begin. The bereaved, so
soon as the law allows, remove their pathetic belongings, and
disappear; and the ordinary life of the street goes on, by day
and by night, exactly as if nothing particular had happened.
Itinerant venders, with their bamboo poles and baskets or buckets
or boxes, pass the empty houses, and utter their accustomed
cries; religious processions go by, chanting fragments of sutras;
the blind shampooer blows his melancholy whistle; the private
watchman makes his heavy staff boom upon the gutter-flags; the
boy who sells confectionery still taps his drum, and sings a
love-song with a plaintive sweet voice, like a girl's:—
"You and I together…. I remained long; yet in the moment of
going I thought I had only just come.
"You and I together…. Still I think of the tea. Old or new
tea of Uji it might have seemed to others; but to me it was
Gyokoro tea, of the beautiful yellow of the yamabuki flower.
"You and I together…. I am the telegraph-operator; you are
the one who waits the message. I send my heart, and you receive
it. What care we now if the posts should fall, if the wires be
And the children sport as usual. They chase one another with
screams and laughter; they dance in chorus; they catch
dragon-flies and tie them to long strings; they sing burdens of
the war, about cutting off Chinese heads:—
"Chan-chan bozu no
Kubi wo hane!"
Sometimes a child vanishes; but the survivers continue their
play. And this is wisdom.
It costs only forty-four sen to burn a child. The son of one of
my neighbors was burned a few days ago. The little stones with
which he used to play lie there in the sun just as he left
them…. Curious, this child-love of stones! Stones are the toys
not only of the children of the poor, but of all children at one
period of existence: no matter how well supplied with other
playthings, every Japanese child wants sometimes to play with
stones. To the child-mind a stone is a marvelous thing, and ought
so to be, since even to the understanding of the mathematician
there can be nothing more wonderful than a common stone. The tiny
urchin suspects the stone to be much more than it seems, which is
an excellent suspicion; and if stupid grown-up folk did not
untruthfully tell him that his plaything is not worth thinking
about, he would never tire of it, and would always be finding
something new and extraordinary in it. Only a very great mind
could answer all a child's questions about stones.
According to popular faith, my neighbor's darling is now playing
with small ghostly stones in the Dry Bed of the River of Souls,
—wondering, perhaps, why they cast no shadows. The true poetry
in the legend of the Sai-no-Kawara is the absolute naturalness of
its principal idea,—the phantom-continuation of that play which
all little Japanese children play with stones.
The pipe-stem seller used to make his round with two large boxes
suspended from a bamboo pole balanced upon his shoulder:
one box containing stems of various diameters, lengths, and
colors, together with tools for fitting them into metal pipes;
and the other box containing a baby,—his own baby. Sometimes I
saw it peeping over the edge of the box, and smiling at the
passers-by; sometimes I saw it lying, well wrapped up and fast
asleep, in the bottom of the box; sometimes I saw it playing with
toys. Many people, I was told, used to give it toys. One of the
toys bore a curious resemblance to a mortuary tablet (ihai); and
this I always observed in the box, whether the child were asleep
The other day I discovered that the pipe-stem seller had
abandoned his bamboo pole and suspended boxes. He was coming up
the street with a little hand-cart just big enough to hold his
wares and his baby, and evidently built for that purpose in two
compartments. Perhaps the baby had become too heavy for the more
primitive method of conveyance. Above the cart fluttered a small
white flag, bearing in cursive characters the legend Ki-seru-rao
kae (pipe-stems exchanged), and a brief petition for "honorable
help," O-tasuke wo negaimasu. The child seemed well and happy;
and I again saw the tablet-shaped object which had so often
attracted my notice before. It was now fastened upright to a high
box in the cart facing the infant's bed. As I watched the cart
approaching, I suddenly felt convinced that the tablet was really
an ihai: the sun shone full upon it, and there was no mistaking
the conventional Buddhist text. This aroused my curiosity; and I
asked Manyemon to tell the pipe-stem seller that we had a number
of pipes needing fresh stems,—which was true. Presently the
cartlet drew up at our gate, and I went to look at it.
The child was not afraid, even of a foreign face,—a pretty boy.
He lisped and laughed and held out his arms, being evidently used
to petting; and while playing with him I looked closely at the
tablet. It was a Shinshu ihai, bearing a woman's kaimyo, or
posthumous name; and Manyemon translated the Chinese characters
for me: Revered and of good rank in the Mansion of Excellence,
the thirty-first day of the third month of the twenty-eighth year
of Meiji. Meantime a servant had fetched the pipes which needed
new stems; and I glanced at the face of the artisan as he worked.
It was the face of a man past middle age, with those worn,
sympathetic lines about the mouth, dry beds of old smiles, which
give to so many Japanese faces an indescribable expression of
resigned gentleness. Presently Manyemon began to ask questions;
and when Manyemon asks questions, not to reply is possible for
the wicked only. Sometimes behind that dear innocent old head I
think I see the dawning of an aureole,—the aureole of the
The pipe-stem seller answered by telling his story. Two months
after the birth of their little boy, his wife had died. In the
last hour of her illness she had said: "From what time I die till
three full years be past I pray you to leave the child always
united with the Shadow of me: never let him be separated from my
ihai, so that I may continue to care for him and to nurse him—
since thou knowest that he should have the breast for three
years. This, my last asking, I entreat thee, do not forget." But
the mother being dead, the father could not labor as he had been
wont to do, and also take care of so young a child, requiring
continual attention both night and day; and he was too poor to
hire a nurse. So he took to selling pipe-stems, as he could thus
make a little money without leaving the child even for a minute
alone. He could not afford to buy milk; but he had fed the boy
for more than a year with rice gruel and ame syrup.
I said that the child looked very strong, and none the worse for
lack of milk.
"That," declared Manyemon, in a tone of conviction bordering on
reproof, "is because the dead mother nurses him. How should he
want for milk?"
And the boy laughed softly, as if conscious of a ghostly caress.
SOME THOUGHTS ABOUT ANCESTOR-WORSHIP
"For twelve leagues, Ananda, around the Sala-Grove, there is no
spot in size even as the pricking of the point of the tip of a
hair, which is not pervaded by powerful spirits."
—The Book Of the Great Decease.
The truth that ancestor-worship, in various unobtrusive forms,
still survives in some of the most highly civilized countries of
Europe, is not so widely known as to preclude the idea that any
non-Aryan race actually practicing so primitive a cult must
necessarily remain in the primitive stage of religious thought.
Critics of Japan have pronounced this hasty judgment; and have
professed themselves unable to reconcile the facts of her
scientific progress, and the success of her advanced educational
system, with the continuance of her ancestor-worship. How can the
beliefs of Shinto coexist with the knowledge of modern science?
How can the men who win distinction as scientific specialists
still respect the household shrine or do reverence before the
Shinto parish-temple? Can all this mean more than the ordered
conservation of forms after the departure of faith? Is it not
certain that with the further progress of education, Shinto, even
as ceremonialism, must cease to exist?
Those who put such questions appear to forget that similar
questions might be asked about the continuance of any Western
faith, and similar doubts expressed as to the possibility of its
survival for another century. Really the doctrines of Shinto are
not in the least degree more irreconcilable with modern science
than are the doctrines of Orthodox Christianity. Examined with
perfect impartiality, I would even venture to say that they are
less irreconcilable in more respects than one. They conflict less
with our human ideas of justice; and, like the Buddhist doctrine
of karma, they offer some very striking analogies with the
scientific facts of heredity,—analogies which prove Shinto to
contain an element of truth as profound as any single element of
truth in any of the world's great religions. Stated in the
simplest possible form, the peculiar element of truth in Shinto
is the belief that the world of the living is directly governed
by the world of the dead.
That every impulse or act of man is the work of a god, and that
all the dead become gods, are the basic ideas of the cult. It
must be remembered, however, that the term Kami, although
translated by the term deity, divinity, or god, has really no
such meaning as that which belongs to the English words: it has
not even the meaning of those words as referring to the antique
beliefs of Greece and Rome. It signifies that which is "above,"
"superior," "upper," "eminent," in the non-religious sense; in
the religious sense it signifies a human spirit having obtained
supernatural power after death. The dead are the "powers above,"
the "upper ones,"—the Kami. We have here a conception resembling
very strongly the modern Spiritualistic notion of ghosts, only
that the Shinto idea is in no true sense democratic. The Kami are
ghosts of greatly varying dignity and power,—belonging to
spiritual hierarchies like the hierarchies of ancient Japanese
society. Although essentially superior to the living in certain
respects, the living are, nevertheless, able to give them
pleasure or displeasure, to gratify or to offend them,—even
sometimes to ameliorate their spiritual condition. Wherefore
posthumous honors are never mockeries, but realities, to the
Japanese mind. During the present year(1), for example, several
distinguished statesmen and soldiers were raised to higher rank
immediately after their death; and I read only the other day, in
the official gazette, that "His Majesty has been pleased to
posthumously confer the Second Class of the Order of the Rising
Sun upon Major-General Baron Yamane, who lately died in Formosa."
Such imperial acts must not be regarded only as formalities
intended to honor the memory of brave and patriotic men; neither
should they be thought of as intended merely to confer
distinction upon the family of the dead. They are essentially of
Shinto, and exemplify that intimate sense of relation between the
visible and invisible worlds which is the special religious
characteristic of Japan among all civilized countries. To
Japanese thought the dead are not less real than the living. They
take part in the daily life of the people,—sharing the humblest
sorrows and the humblest joys. They attend the family repasts,
watch over the well-being of the household, assist and rejoice in
the prosperity of their descendants. They are present at the
public pageants, at all the sacred festivals of Shinto, at the
military games, and at all the entertainments especially provided
for them. And they are universally thought of as finding pleasure
in the offerings made to them or the honors conferred upon them.
For the purpose of this little essay, it will be sufficient to
consider the Kami as the spirits of the dead,—without making any
attempt to distinguish such Kami from those primal deities
believed to have created the land. With this general
interpretation of the term Kami, we return, then, to the great
Shinto idea that all the dead still dwell in the world and rule
it; influencing not only the thoughts and the acts of men, but
the conditions of nature. "They direct," wrote Motowori, "the
changes of the seasons, the wind and the rain, the good and the
bad fortunes of states and of individual men." They are, in
short, the viewless forces behind all phenomena.
(1) Written in September, 1896.
The most interesting sub-theory of this ancient spiritualism is
that which explains the impulses and acts of men as due to the
influence of the dead. This hypothesis no modern thinker can
declare irrational, since it can claim justification from the
scientific doctrine of psychological evolution, according to
which each living brain represents the structural work of
innumerable dead lives,—each character a more or less
imperfectly balanced sum of countless dead experiences with good
and evil. Unless we deny psychological heredity, we cannot
honestly deny that our impulses and feelings, and the higher
capacities evolved through the feelings, have literally been
shaped by the dead, and bequeathed to us by the dead; and even
that the general direction of our mental activities has been
determined by the power of the special tendencies bequeathed to
us. In such a sense the dead are indeed our Kami and all our
actions are truly influenced by them. Figuratively we may say
that every mind is a world of ghosts,—ghosts incomparably more
numerous than the acknowledged millions of the higher Shinto Kami
and that the spectral population of one grain of brain-matter
more than realizes the wildest fancies of the medieval schoolmen
about the number of angels able to stand on the point of a
needle. Scientifically we know that within one tiny living cell
may be stored up the whole life of a race,—the sum of all the
past sensation of millions of years; perhaps even (who knows?) of
millions of dead planets.
But devils would not be inferior to angels in the mere power of
congregating upon the point of a needle. What, of bad men and of
bad acts in this theory of Shinto? Motowori made answer;
"Whenever anything goes wrong in the world, it is to be
attributed to the action of the evil gods called the Gods of
Crookedness, whose power is so great that the Sun-Goddess and the
Creator-God are sometimes powerless to restrain them; much less
are human beings always able to resist their influence. The
prosperity of the wicked, and the misfortunes of the good, which
seem opposed to ordinary justice, are thus explained." All bad
acts are due to the influence of evil deities; and evil men may
become evil Kami. There are no self-contradictions in this
simplest of cults(1),—nothing complicated or hard to be
understood. It is not certain that all men guilty of bad actions
necessarily become "gods of crookedness," for reasons hereafter
to be seen; but all men, good or bad, become Kami, or influences.
And all evil acts are the results of evil influences.
Now this teaching is in accord with certain facts of heredity.
Our best faculties are certainly bequests from the best of our
ancestors; our evil qualities are inherited from natures in which
evil, or that which we now call evil, once predominated. The
ethical knowledge evolved within us by civilization demands that
we strengthen the high powers bequeathed us by the best
experience of our dead, and diminish the force of the baser
tendencies we inherit. We are under obligation to reverence and
to obey our good Kami, and to strive against our gods of
crookedness. The knowledge of the existence of both is old as
human reason. In some form or other, the doctrine of evil and of
good spirits in personal attendance upon every soul is common to
most of the great religions. Our own mediaeval faith developed
the idea to a degree which must leave an impress on our language
for all time; yet the faith in guardian angels and tempting
demons evolutionarily represents only the development of a cult
once simple as the religion of the Kami. And this theory of
mediaeval faith is likewise pregnant with truth. The white-winged
form that whispered good into the right ear, the black shape that
murmured evil into the left, do not indeed walk beside the man of
the nineteenth century, but they dwell within his brain; and he
knows their voices and feels their urging as well and as often as
did his ancestors of the Middle Ages.
The modern ethical objection to Shinto is that both good and evil
Kami are to be respected. "Just as the Mikado worshiped the gods
of heaven and of earth, so his people prayed to the good gods in
order to obtain blessings, and performed rites in honor of the
bad gods to avert their displeasure…. As there are bad as well
as good gods, it is necessary to propitiate them with offerings
of agreeable food, with the playing of harps and the blowing of
flutes, with singing and dancing, and with whatever else is
likely to put them in good-humor(2)." As a matter of fact, in
modern Japan, the evil Kami appear to receive few offerings or
honors, notwithstanding this express declaration that they are to
be propitiated. But it will now be obvious why the early
missionaries characterized such a cult as devil-worship,
—although, to Shinto imagination, the idea of a devil, in the
Western meaning of the word, never took shape. The seeming
weakness of the doctrine is in the teaching that evil spirits are
not to be warred upon,—a teaching essentially
repellent to Roman Catholic feeling. But between the evil spirits
of Christian and of Shinto belief there is a vast difference. The
evil Kami is only the ghost of a dead man, and is not believed to
be altogether evil,—since propitiation is possible. The
conception of absolute, unmixed evil is not of the Far East.
Absolute evil is certainly foreign to human nature, and therefore
impossible in human ghosts. The evil Kami are not devils. They
are simply ghosts, who influence the passions of men; and only in
this sense the deities of the passions. Now Shinto is of all
religions the most natural, and therefore in certain respects the
most rational. It does not consider the passions necessarily evil
in themselves, but evil only according to cause, conditions, and
degrees of their indulgence. Being ghosts, the gods are
altogether human,—having the various good and bad qualities of
men in varying proportions. The majority are good, and the sum of
the influence of all is toward good rather than evil. To
appreciate the rationality of this view requires a tolerably high
opinion of mankind,—such an opinion as the conditions of the old
society of Japan might have justified. No pessimist could profess
pure Shintoism. The doctrine is optimistic; and whoever has a
generous faith in humanity will have no fault to find with the
absence of the idea of implacable evil from its teaching.
Now it is just in the recognition of the necessity for
propitiating the evil ghosts that the ethically rational
character of Shinto reveals itself. Ancient experience and modern
knowledge unite in warning us against the deadly error of trying
to extirpate or to paralyze certain tendencies in human
nature,—tendencies which, if morbidly cultivated or freed from
all restraint, lead to folly, to crime, and to countless social
evils. The animal passions, the ape-and-tiger impulses, antedate
human society, and are the accessories to nearly all crimes
committed against it. But they cannot be killed; and they cannot
be safely starved. Any attempt to extirpate them would signify
also an effort to destroy some of the very highest emotional
faculties with which they remain inseparably blended. The
primitive impulses cannot even be numbed save at the cost of
intellectual and emotional powers which give to human life all
its beauty and all its tenderness, but which are, nevertheless,
deeply rooted in the archaic soil of passion. The highest in us
had its beginnings in the lowest. Asceticism, by warring against
the natural feelings, has created monsters. Theological
legislation, irrationally directed against human weaknesses, has
only aggravated social disorders; and laws against pleasure have
only provoked debaucheries. The history of morals teaches very
plainly indeed that our bad Kami require some propitiation. The
passions still remain more powerful than the reason in man,
because they are incomparably older,—because they were once
all-essential to self-preservation,-because they made that primal
stratum of consciousness, out of which the nobler sentiments have
slowly grown. Never can they be suffered to rule; but woe to
whosoever would deny their immemorial rights!
(1) I am considering only the pure Shinto belief as expounded by
Shinto scholars. But it may be necessary to remind the reader
that both Buddhism and Shintoism are blended in Japan, not only
with each other, but with Chinese ideas of various kinds. It is
doubtful whether the pure Shinto ideas now exist in their
original form in popular belief. We are not quite clear as to the
doctrine of multiple souls in Shinto,—whether the psychical
combination was originally thought of as dissolved by death. My
own opinion, the result of investigation in different parts of
Japan, is that the multiple soul was formerly believed to remain
multiple after death.
(2) Motowori, translated by Satow.
Out of these primitive, but—as may now be perceived—not
irrational beliefs about the dead, there have been evolved moral
sentiments unknown to Western civilization. These are well worth
considering, as they will prove in harmony with the most advanced
conception of ethics,—and especially with that immense though
yet indefinite expansion of the sense of duty which has followed
upon the understanding of evolution. I do not know that we have
any reason to congratulate ourselves upon the absence from our
lives of the sentiments in question;—I am even inclined to think
that we may yet find it morally necessary to cultivate sentiments
of the same kind. One of the surprises of our future will
certainly be a return to beliefs and ideas long ago abandoned
upon the mere assumption that they contained no truth,—belief
still called barbarous, pagan, mediaeval, by those who condemn
them out of traditional habit. Year after year the researches of
science afford us new proof that the savage, the barbarian, the
idolater, the monk, each and all have arrived, by different
paths, as near to some one point of eternal truth as any thinker
of the nineteenth century. We are now learning, also, that the
theories of the astrologers and of the alchemists were but
partially, not totally, wrong. We have reason even to suppose
that no dream of the invisible world has ever been dreamed,—that
no hypothesis of the unseen has ever been imagined,—which future
science will not prove to have contained some germ of reality.
Foremost among the moral sentiments of Shinto is that of loving
gratitude to the past,—a sentiment having no real correspondence
in our own emotional life. We know our past better than the
Japanese know theirs;—we have myriads of books recording or
considering its every incident and condition: but we cannot in
any sense be said to love it or to feel grateful to it. Critical
recognitions of its merits and of its defects;—some rare
enthusiasms excited by its beauties; many strong denunciations of
its mistakes: these represent the sum of our thoughts and
feelings about it. The attitude of our scholarship in reviewing
it is necessarily cold; that of our art, often more than
generous; that of our religion, condemnatory for the most part.
Whatever the point of view from which we study it, our attention
is mainly directed to the work of the dead,—either the visible
work that makes our hearts beat a little faster than usual while
looking at it, or the results of their thoughts and deeds in
relation to the society of their time. Of past humanity as
unity,—of the millions long-buried as real kindred,—we either
think not at all, or think only with the same sort of curiosity
that we give to the subject of extinct races. We do indeed find
interest in the record of some individual lives that have left
large marks in history;—our emotions re stirred by the memories
of great captains, statesmen, discoverers, reformers,—but only
because the magnitude of that which they accomplished appeals to
our own ambitions, desires, egotisms, and not at all to our
altruistic sentiments in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred. The
nameless dead to whom we owe most we do not trouble ourselves
about,—we feel no gratitude, no love to them. We even find it
difficult to persuade ourselves that the love of ancestors can
possibly be a real, powerful, penetrating, life-moulding,
religious emotion in any form of human society,—which it
certainly is in Japan. The mere idea is utterly foreign to our
ways of thinking, feeling, acting. A partial reason for this, of
course, is that we have no common faith in the existence of an
active spiritual relation between our ancestors and ourselves. If
we happen to be irreligious, we do not believe in ghosts. If we
are profoundly religious, we think of the dead as removed from us
by judgment,—as absolutely separated from us during the period
of our lives. It is true that among the peasantry of Roman
Catholic countries there still exists a belief that the dead are
permitted to return to earth once a year,—on the night of All
Souls. But even according to this belief they are not considered
as related to the living by any stronger bond than memory; and
they are thought of,—as our collections of folk-lore bear
witness,—rather with fear than love.
In Japan the feeling toward the dead is utterly different. It is
a feeling of grateful and reverential love. It is probably the
most profound and powerful of the emotions of the race,—that
which especially directs national life and shapes national
character. Patriotism belongs to it. Filial piety depends upon
it. Family love is rooted in it. Loyalty is based upon it. The
soldier who, to make a path for his comrades through the battle,
deliberately flings away his life with a shout of "Teikoku
manzai!"—the son or daughter who unmurmuring sacrifices all the
happiness of existence for the sake, perhaps, of an undeserving
or even cruel, parent; the partisan who gives up friends, family,
and fortune, rather than break the verbal promise made in other
years to a now poverty-stricken master; the wife who
ceremoniously robes herself in white, utters a prayer, and
thrusts a sword into her throat to atone for a wrong done to
strangers by her husband,—all these obey the will and hear the
approval of invisible witnesses. Even among the skeptical
students of the new generation, this feeling survives many wrecks
of faith, and the old sentiments are still uttered: "Never must
we cause shame to our ancestors;" "it is our duty to give honor
to our ancestors." During my former engagement as a teacher of
English, it happened more than once that ignorance of the real
meaning behind such phrases prompted me to change them in written
composition. I would suggest, for example, that the expression,
"to do honor to the memory of our ancestors," was more correct
than the phrase given. I remember one day even attempting to
explain why we ought not to speak of ancestors exactly as if they
were living parents! Perhaps my pupils suspected me of trying to
meddle with their beliefs; for the Japanese never think of an
ancestor as having become "only a memory": their dead are alive.
Were there suddenly to arise within us the absolute certainty
that our dead are still with us,—seeing every act, knowing our
every thought, hearing each word we utter, able to feel sympathy
with us or anger against us, able to help us and delighted to
receive our help, able to love us and greatly needing our love,—
it is quite certain that our conceptions of life and duty would
be vastly changed. We should have to recognize our obligations to
the past in a very solemn way. Now, with the man of the Far East,
the constant presence of the dead has been a matter of conviction
for thousands of years: he speaks to them daily; he tries to give
them happiness; and, unless a professional criminal he never
quite forgets his duty towards them. No one, says Hirata, who
constantly discharges that duty, will ever be disrespectful to
the gods or to his living parents. "Such a man will also be loyal
to his friends, and kind and gentle with his wife and children;
for the essence of this devotion is in truth filial piety." And
it is in this sentiment that the secret of much strange feeling
in Japanese character must be sought. Far more foreign to our
world of sentiment than the splendid courage with which death is
faced, or the equanimity with which the most trying sacrifices
are made, is the simple deep emotion of the boy who, in the
presence of a Shinto shrine never seen before, suddenly feels the
tears spring to his eyes. He is conscious in that moment of what
we never emotionally recognize,—the prodigious debt of the
present to the past, and the duty of love to the dead.
If we think a little about our position as debtors, and our way
of accepting that position, one striking difference between
Western and Far-Eastern moral sentiment will become manifest.
There is nothing more awful than the mere fact of life as mystery
when that fact first rushes fully into consciousness. Out of
unknown darkness we rise a moment into sun-light, look about us,
rejoice and suffer, pass on the vibration of our being to other
beings, and fall back again into darkness. So a wave rises,
catches the light, transmits its motion, and sinks back into sea.
So a plant ascends from clay, unfolds its leaves to light and
air, flowers, seeds, and becomes clay again. Only, the wave has
no knowledge; the plant has no perceptions. Each human life seems
no more than a parabolic curve of motion out of earth and back to
earth; but in that brief interval of change it perceives the
universe. The awfulness of the phenomenon is that nobody knows
anything about it No mortal can explain this most common, yet
moat incomprehensible of all facts,—life in itself; yet every
mortal who can think has been obliged betimes, to think about it
in relation to self.
I come out of mystery;—I see the sky and the land, men and women
and their works; and I know that I must return to mystery;—and
merely what this means not even the greatest of philosophers—not
even Mr. Herbert Spencer—can tell me. We are all of us riddles
to ourselves and riddles to each other; and space and motion and
time are riddles; and matter is a riddle. About the before and
the after neither the newly-born nor the dead have any message
for us. The child is dumb; the skull only grins. Nature has no
consolation for us. Out of her formlessness issue forms which
return to formlessness,—that is all. The plant becomes clay; the
clay becomes a plant. When the plant turns to clay, what becomes
of the vibration which was its life? Does it go on existing
viewlessly, like the forces that shape spectres of frondage in
the frost upon a window-pane?
Within the horizon-circle of the infinite enigma, countless
lesser enigmas, old as the world, awaited the coming of man.
Oedipus had to face one Sphinx; humanity, thousands of
thousands,—all crouching among bones along the path of Time, and
each with a deeper and a harder riddle. All the sphinxes have not
been satisfied; myriads line the way of the future to devour
lives yet unborn; but millions have been answered. We are now
able to exist without perpetual horror because of the relative
knowledge that guides us, the knowledge won out of the jaws of
All our knowledge is bequeathed knowledge. The dead have left us
record of all they were able to learn about themselves and the
world,—about the laws of death and life,—about things to be
acquired and things to be avoided,—about ways of making
existence less painful than Nature willed it,—about right and
wrong and sorrow and happiness,—about the error of selfishness,
the wisdom of kindness, the obligation of sacrifice. They left us
information of everything they could find out concerning climates
and seasons and places,—the sun and moon and stars,—the motions
and the composition of the universe. They bequeathed us also
their delusions which long served the good purpose of saving us
from falling into greater ones. They left us the story of their
errors and efforts, their triumphs and failures, their pains and
joys, their loves and hates,—for warning or example. They
expected our sympathy, because they toiled with the kindest
wishes and hopes for us, and because they made our world. They
cleared the land; they extirpated monsters; they tamed and taught
the animals most useful to us. "The mother of Kullervo awoke
within her tomb, and from the deeps of the dust she cried to him,
—'I have left thee the Dog, tied to a tree, that thou mayest go
with him to the chase.'(1)" They domesticated likewise the
useful trees and plants; and they discovered the places and the
powers of the metals. Later they created all that we call
civilization,—trusting us to correct such mistakes as they could
not help making. The sum of their toil is incalculable; and all
that they have given us ought surely to be very sacred, very
precious, if only by reason of the infinite pain and thought
which it cost. Yet what Occidental dreams of saying daily, like
the Shinto believer:—"Ye forefathers of the generations, and of
our families, and of our kindred,—unto you, the founders of our
homes, we utter the gladness of our thanks"?
None. It is not only because we think the dead cannot hear, but
because we have not been trained for generations to exercise our
powers of sympathetic mental representation except within a very
narrow circle,—the family circle. The Occidental family circle
is a very small affair indeed compared with the Oriental family
circle. In this nineteenth century the Occidental family is
almost disintegrated;—it practically means little more than
husband, wife, and children well under age. The Oriental family
means not only parents and their blood-kindred, but grandparents
and their kindred, and great-grandparents, and all the dead
behind them, This idea of the family cultivates sympathetic
representation to such a degree that the range of the emotion
belonging to such representation may extend, as in Japan, to many
groups and sub-groups of living families, and even, in time of
national peril, to the whole nation as one great family: a
feeling much deeper than what we call patriotism. As a religious
emotion the feeling is infinitely extended to all the past; the
blended sense of love, of loyalty, and of gratitude is not less
real, though necessarily more vague, than the feeling to living
In the West, after the destruction of antique society, no such
feeling could remain. The beliefs that condemned the ancients to
hell, and forbade the praise of their works,—the doctrine that
trained us to return thanks for everything to the God of the
Hebrews,—created habits of thought and habits of
thoughtlessness, both inimical to every feeling of gratitude to
the past. Then, with the decay of theology and the dawn of larger
knowledge, came the teaching that the dead had no choice in their
work,—they had obeyed necessity, and we had only received from
them of necessity the results of necessity. And to-day we still
fail to recognize that the necessity itself ought to compel our
sympathies with those who obeyed it, and that its bequeathed
results are as pathetic as they are precious. Such thoughts
rarely occur to us even in regard to the work of the living who
serve us. We consider the cost of a thing purchased or obtained
to ourselves;—about its cost in effort to the producer we do not
allow ourselves to think: indeed, we should be laughed at for any
exhibition of conscience on the subject. And our equal
insensibility to the pathetic meaning of the work of the past,
and to that of the work of the present, largely explains the
wastefulness of our civilization,—the reckless consumption by
luxury of the labor of years in the pleasure of an hour,—the
inhumanity of the thousands of unthinking rich, each of whom
dissipates yearly in the gratification of totally unnecessary
wants the price of a hundred human lives. The cannibals of
civilization are unconsciously more cruel than those of savagery,
and require much more flesh. The deeper humanity,—the cosmic
emotion of humanity,—is essentially the enemy of useless luxury,
and essentially opposed to any form of society which places no
restraints upon the gratifications of sense or the pleasures of
In the Far East, on the other hand, the moral duty of simplicity
of life has been taught from very ancient times, because
ancestor-worship had developed and cultivated this cosmic emotion
of humanity which we lack, but which we shall certainly be
obliged to acquire at a later day, simply to save our selves from
extermination, Two sayings of Iyeyasu exemplify the Oriental
sentiment. When virtually master of the empire, this greatest of
Japanese soldiers and statesmen was seen one day cleaning and
smoothing with his own hands an old dusty pair of silk hakama or
trousers. "What you see me do," he said to a retainer, "I am not
doing because I think of the worth of the garment in itself, but
because I think of what it needed to produce it. It is the result
of the toil of a poor woman; and that is why I value it. If we
do not think, while using things, of the time and effort required
to make them,—then our want of consideration puts us on a level
with the beasts." Again, in the days of his greatest wealth, we
hear of him rebuking his wife for wishing to furnish him too
often with new clothing. "When I think," he protested, "of the
multitudes around me, and of the generations to come after me, I
feel it my duty to be very sparing, for their sake, of the goods
in my possession." Nor has this spirit of simplicity yet departed
from Japan. Even the Emperor and Empress, in the privacy of their
own apartments, continue to live as simply as their subjects, and
devote most of their revenue to the alleviation of public
(1) Kalevala; thirty-sixth Rune.
It is through the teachings of evolution that there will
ultimately be developed in the West a moral recognition of duty
to the past like that which ancestor-worship created in the Far
East. For even to-day whoever has mastered the first principles
of the new philosophy cannot look at the commonest product of
man's handiwork without perceiving something of its evolutional
history. The most ordinary utensil will appear to him not the
mere product of individual capacity on the part of carpenter or
potter, smith or cutler, but the product of experiment continued
through thousands of years with methods, with materials, and with
forms. Nor will it be possible for him to consider the vast time
and toil necessitated in the evolution, of any mechanical
appliance, and yet experience no generous sentiment. Coming
generations must think of the material bequests of the past in
relation to dead humanity.
But in the development of this "cosmic emotion" of humanity, a
much more powerful factor than recognition of our material
indebtedness to the past will be the recognition of our psychical
indebtedness. For we owe to the dead our immaterial world
also,—the world that lives within us,—the world of all that is
lovable in impulse, emotion, thought. Whosoever understands
scientifically what human goodness is, and the terrible cost of
making it, can find in the commonest phases of the humblest lives
that beauty, which is divine, and can feel that in one sense our
dead are truly gods.
So long as we supposed the woman soul one in itself,—a something
specially created to fit one particular physical being,—the
beauty and the wonder of mother-love could never be fully
revealed to us. But with deeper knowledge we must perceive that
the inherited love of myriads of millions of dead mothers has
been treasured up in one life;—that only thus can be interpreted
the infinite sweetness of the speech which the infant hears,—the
infinite tenderness of the look of caress which meets its gaze.
Unhappy the mortal who has not known these; yet what mortal can
adequately speak of them! Truly is mother-love divine; for
everything by human recognition called divine is summed up in
that love; and every woman uttering and transmitting its highest
expression is more than the mother of man: she is the Mater
Needless to speak here about the ghostliness of first love,
sexual love, which is illusion,—because the passion and the
beauty of the dead revive in it, to dazzle, to delude; and to
bewitch. It is very, very wonderful; but it is not all good,
because it is not all true. The real charm of woman in herself is
that which comes later,—when all the illusions fade away to
reveal a reality, lovelier than any illusion, which has been
evolving behind the phantom-curtain of them. What is the divine
magic of the woman thus perceived? Only the affection, the
sweetness, the faith, the unselfishness, the intuitions of
millions of buried hearts. All live again;-all throb anew, in
every fresh warm beat of her own.
Certain amazing faculties exhibited in the highest social life
tell in another way the story of soul structure built up by dead
lives. Wonderful is the man who can really "be all things to all
men," or the woman who can make herself twenty, fifty, a hundred
different women,—comprehending all, penetrating all, unerring to
estimate all others;—seeming to have no individual self, but
only selves innumerable;—able to meet each varying personality
with a soul exactly toned to the tone of that to be encountered.
Rare these characters are, but not so rare that the traveler is
unlikely to meet one or two of them in any cultivated society
which he has a chance of studying. They are essentially multiple
beings,—so visibly multiple that even those who think of the Ego
as single have to describe them as "highly complex." Nevertheless
this manifestation of forty or fifty different characters in the
same person is a phenomenon so remarkable (especially remarkable
because it is commonly manifested in youth long before relative
experience could possibly account for it) that I cannot but
wonder how few persons frankly realize its signification.
So likewise with what have been termed the "intuitions" of some
forms of genius,—particularly those which relate to the
representation of the emotions. A Shakespeare would always remain
incomprehensible on the ancient soul-theory. Taine attempted to
explain him by the phrase, "a perfect imagination;"—and the
phrase reaches far in the truth. But what is the meaning of a
perfect imagination? Enormous multiplicity of
soul-life,—countless past existences revived in one. Nothing
else can explain it…. It is not however, in the world of pure
intellect that the story of psychical complexity is most
admirable: it is in the world which speaks to our simplest
emotions of love honor, sympathy, heroism.
"But by such a theory," some critic may observe, "the source of
impulses to heroism is also the source of the impulses that
people jails. Both are of the dead." This is true. We inherited
evil as well as good. Being composites only,—still evolving,
still becoming,—we inherit imperfections. But the survival of
the fittest in impulses is certainly proven by the average moral
condition of humanity,—using the word "fittest" in its ethical
sense. In spite of all the misery and vice and crime, nowhere so
terribly developed as under our own so-called Christian
civilization, the fact must be patent to any one who has lived
much, traveled much, and thought much, that the mass of humanity
is good, and therefore that the vast majority of impulses
bequeathed us by past humanity is good. Also it is certain that
the more normal a social condition, the better its humanity.
Through all the past the good Kami have always managed to keep
the bad Kami from controlling the world. And with the acceptation
of this truth, our future ideas of wrong and of right must take
immense expansion. Just as a heroism, or any act of pure goodness
for a noble end, must assume a preciousness heretofore
unsuspected,—so a real crime must come to be regarded as a crime
less against the existing individual or society, than against the
sum of human experience, and the whole past struggle of ethical
aspiration. Real goodness will, therefore, be more prized, and
real crime less leniently judged. And the early Shinto teaching,
that no code of ethics is necessary,—that the right rule of
human conduct can always be known by consulting the heart,—is a
teaching which will doubtless be accepted by a more perfect
humanity than that of the present.
"Evolution" the reader may say, "does indeed show through its
doctrine of heredity that the living are in one sense really
controlled by the dead. But it also shows that the dead are
within us, not without us. They are part of us;—there is no
proof that they have any existence which is not our own.
Gratitude to the past would, therefore, be gratitude to
ourselves; love of the dead would be self-love. So that your
attempt at analogy ends in the absurd."
No. Ancestor-worship in its primitive form may be a symbol only
of truth. It may be an index or foreshadowing only of the new
moral duty which larger knowledge must force upon as: the duty of
reverence and obedience to the sacrificial past of human ethical
experience. But it may also be much more. The facts of heredity
can never afford but half an explanation of the facts of
psychology. A plant produces ten, twenty, a hundred plants
without yielding up its own life in the process. An animal gives
birth to many young, yet lives on with all its physical
capacities and its small powers of thought undiminished. Children
are born; and the parents survive them. Inherited the mental life
certainly is, not less than the physical; yet the reproductive
cells, the least specialized of all cells, whether in plant or in
animal, never take away, but only repeat the parental being.
Continually multiplying, each conveys and transmits the whole
experience of a race; yet leaves the whole experience of the race
behind it. Here is the marvel inexplicable: the
self-multiplication of physical and psychical being,—life after
life thrown off from the parent life, each to become complete and
reproductive. Were all the parental life given to the offspring,
heredity might be said to favor the doctrine of materialism. But
like the deities of Hindoo legend, the Self multiplies and still
remains the same, with full capacities for continued
multiplication. Shinto has its doctrine of souls multiplying by
fission; but the facts of psychological emanation are infinitely
more wonderful than any theory.
The great religions have recognized that heredity could not
explain the whole question of self,-could not account for the
fate of the original residual self. So they have generally united
in holding the inner independent of the outer being. Science can
no more fully decide the issues they have raised than it can
decide the nature of Reality-in-itself. Again we may vainly ask,
What becomes of the forces which constituted the vitality of a
dead plant? Much more difficult the question, What becomes of the
sensations which formed the psychical life of a dead man?-since
nobody can explain the simplest sensation. We know only that
during life certain active forces within the body of the plant or
the body of the man adjusted themselves continually to outer
forces; and that after the interior forces could no longer
respond to the pressure of the exterior forces,—then the body in
which the former were stored was dissolved into the elements out
of which it had been built up. We know nothing more of the
ultimate nature of those elements than we know of the ultimate
nature of the tendencies which united them. But we have more
right to believe the ultimates of life persist after the
dissolution of the forms they created, than to believe they
cease. The theory of spontaneous generation (misnamed, for only
in a qualified sense can the term "spontaneous" be applied to the
theory of the beginnings of mundane life) is a theory which the
evolutionist must accept, and which can frighten none aware of
the evidence of chemistry that matter itself is in evolution. The
real theory (not the theory of organized life beginning in
bottled infusions, but of the life primordial arising upon a
planetary surface) has enormous—nay, infinite—spiritual
significance. It requires the belief that all potentialities of
life and thought and emotion pass from nebula to universe, from
system to system, from star to planet or moon, and again back to
cyclonic storms of atomicity; it means that tendencies survive
sunburnings,—survive all cosmic evolutions and disintegrations.
The elements are evolutionary products only; and the difference
of universe from universe must be the creation of tendencies,—of
a form of heredity too vast and complex for imagination. There is
no chance. There is only law. Each fresh evolution must be
influenced by previous evolutions,—just as each individual human
life is influenced by the experience of all the lives in its
ancestral chain. Must not the tendencies even of the ancestral
forms of matter be inherited by the forms of matter to come; and
may not the acts and thoughts of men even now be helping to shape
the character of future worlds? No longer is it possible to say
that the dreams of the Alchemists were absurdities. And no longer
can we even assert that all material phenomena are not
determined, as in the thought of the ancient East, by
Whether our dead do or do not continue to dwell without us as
well as within us,—a question not to be decided in our present
undeveloped state of comparative blindness,—certain it is that
the testimony of cosmic facts accords with one weird belief of
Shinto: the belief that all things are determined by the
dead,—whether by ghosts of men or ghosts of worlds. Even as our
personal lives are ruled by the now viewless lives of the past,
so doubtless the life of our Earth, and of the system to which it
belongs, is ruled by ghosts of spheres innumerable: dead
universes,—dead suns and planets and moons,—as forms long since
dissolved into the night, but as forces immortal and eternally
Back to the Sun, indeed, like the Shintoist, we can trace our
descent; yet we know that even there the beginning of us was not.
Infinitely more remote in time than a million sun-lives was that
beginning,—if it can truly be said there was a beginning.
The teaching of Evolution is that we are one with that unknown
Ultimate, of which matter and human mind are but ever-changing
manifestations. The teaching of Evolution is also that each of us
is many, yet that all of us are still one with each other and
with the cosmos;—that we must know all past humanity not only in
ourselves, but likewise in the preciousness and beauty of every
fellow-life;—that we can best love ourselves in others;—that we
shall best serve ourselves in others;—that forms are but veils
and phantoms;—and that to the formless Infinite alone really
belong all human emotions, whether of the living or the dead.
Mi naran to omo
Wasure nu yori mo
"To wish to be forgotten by the beloved is a soul-task harder far
than trying not to forget."—Poem by Kimiko.
The name is on a paper-lantern at the entrance of a house in the
Street of the Geisha.
Seen at night the street is one of the queerest in the world. It
is narrow as a gangway; and the dark shining woodwork of the
house-fronts, all tightly closed,—each having a tiny sliding
door with paper-panes that look just like frosted glass,—makes
you think of first-class passenger-cabins. Really the buildings
are several stories high; but you do not observe this at
once,—especially if there be no moon,—because only the lower
stories are illuminated up to their awnings, above which all is
darkness. The illumination is made by lamps behind the narrow
paper-paned doors, and by the paper-lanterns hanging
outside,—one at every door. You look down the street between two
lines of these lanterns,—lines converging far-off into one
motionless bar of yellow light. Some of the lanterns are
egg-shaped, some cylindrical; others four-sided or six-sided; and
Japanese characters are beautifully written upon them. The street
is very quiet,—silent as a display of cabinet-work in some great
exhibition after closing-time. This is because the inmates are
mostly away,—at tending banquets and other festivities. Their
life is of the night.
The legend upon the first lantern to the left as you go south is
"Kinoya: uchi O-Kata;" and that means The House of Gold wherein
O-Kata dwells. The lantern to the right tells of the House of
Nishimura, and of a girl Miyotsuru,—which name signifies The
Stork Magnificently Existing. Next upon the left comes the House
of Kajita;—and in that house are Kohana, the Flower-Bud, and
Hinako, whose face is pretty as the face of a doll. Opposite is
the House Nagaye, wherein live Kimika and Kimiko…. And this
luminous double litany of names is half-a-mile long.
The inscription on the lantern of the last-named house reveals
the relationship between Kimika and Kimiko,—and yet something
more; for Kimiko is styled Ni-dai-me, an honorary untranslatable
title which signifies that she is only Kimiko No.2. Kimika is the
teacher and mistress: she has educated two geisha, both named, or
rather renamed by her, Kimiko; and this use of the same name
twice is proof positive that the first Kimiko—Ichi-dai-me—must
have been celebrated. The professional appellation borne by an
unlucky or unsuccessful geisha is never given to her successor.
If you should ever have good and sufficient reason to enter the
house,—pushing open that lantern-slide of a door which sets a
gong-bell ringing to announce visits,—you might be able to see
Kimika, provided her little troupe be not engaged for the
evening. You would find her a very intelligent person, and well
worth talking to. She can tell, when she pleases, the most
remarkable stories,—real flesh-and-blood stories,—true stories
of human nature. For the Street of the Geisha is full of
traditions,—tragic, comic, melodramatic;—every house has its
memories;—and Kimika knows them all. Some are very, very
terrible; and some would make you laugh; and some would make you
think. The story of the first Kimiko belongs to the last class.
It is not one of the most extraordinary; but it is one of the
least difficult for Western people to understand.
There is no more Ichi-dai-me Kimiko: she is only a remembrance.
Kimika was quite young when she called that Kimiko her
"An exceedingly wonderful girl," is what Kimika says of Kimiko.
To win any renown in her profession, a geisha must be pretty or
very clever; and the famous ones are usually both,—having been
selected at a very early age by their trainers according to the
promise of such qualities Even the commoner class of
singing-girls must have some charm in their best years,—if only
that beaute du diable which inspired the Japanese proverb that
even a devil is pretty at eighteen(1). But Kimiko was much more
than pretty. She was according to the Japanese ideal of beauty;
and that standard is not reached by one woman in a hundred
thousand. Also she was more than clever: she was accomplished.
She composed very dainty poems,—could arrange flowers
exquisitely, perform tea-ceremonies faultlessly, embroider, make
silk mosaic: in short, she was genteel. And her first public
appearance made a flutter in the fast world of Kyoto. It was
evident that she could make almost any conquest she pleased, and
that fortune was before her.
But it soon became evident, also, that she had been perfectly
trained for her profession. She had been taught how to conduct
herself under almost any possible circumstances; for what she
could not have known Kimika knew everything about: the power of
beauty, and the weakness of passion; the craft of promises and
the worth of indifference; and all the folly and evil in the
hearts of men. So Kimiko made few mistakes and shed few tears. By
and by she proved to be, as Kimika wished,—slightly dangerous.
So a lamp is to night-fliers: otherwise some of them would put it
out. The duty of the lamp is to make pleasant things visible: it
has no malice. Kimiko had no malice, and was not too dangerous.
Anxious parents discovered that she did not want to enter into
respectable families, nor even to lend herself to any serious
romances. But she was not particularly merciful to that class of
youths who sign documents with their own blood, and ask a
dancing-girl to cut off the extreme end of the little finger of
her left hand as a pledge of eternal affection. She was
mischievous enough with them to cure them of their folly. Some
rich folks who offered her lands and houses on condition of
owning her, body and soul, found her less merciful. One proved
generous enough to purchase her freedom unconditionally, at a
price which made Kimika a rich woman; and Kimiko was
grateful,—but she remained a geisha. She managed her rebuffs
with too much tact to excite hate, and knew how to heal despairs
in most cases. There were exceptions, of course. One old man, who
thought life not worth living unless he could get Kimiko all to
himself, invited her to a banquet one evening, and asked her to
drink wine with him. But Kimika, accustomed to read faces, deftly
substituted tea (which has precisely the same color) for Kimiko's
wine, and so instinctively saved the girl's precious life,—for
only ten minutes later the soul of the silly host was on its way
to the Meido alone, and doubtless greatly disappointed…. After
that night Kimika watched over Kimiko as a wild cat guards her
The kitten became a fashionable mania, a craze,-a delirium,—one
of the great sights and sensations of the period. There is a
foreign prince who remembers her name: he sent her a gift of
diamonds which she never wore. Other presents in multitude she
received from all who could afford the luxury of pleasing her;
and to be in her good graces, even for a day, was the ambition of
the "gilded youth." Nevertheless she allowed no one to imagine
himself a special favorite, and refused to make any contracts for
perpetual affection. To any protests on the subject she answered
that she knew her place. Even respectable women spoke not
unkindly of her,—because her name never figured in any story of
family unhappiness. She really kept her place. Time seemed to
make her more charming. Other geisha grew into fame, but no one
was even classed with her. Some manufacturers secured the sole
right to use her photograph for a label; and that label made a
fortune for the firm.
But one day the startling news was abroad that Kimiko had at last
shown a very soft heart. She had actually said good-by to Kimika,
and had gone away with somebody able to give her all the pretty
dresses she could wish for,—somebody eager to give her social
position also, and to silence gossip about her naughty
past,—somebody willing to die for her ten times over, and
already half-dead for love of her. Kimika said that a fool had
tried to kill himself because of Kimiko, and that Kimiko had
taken pity on him, and nursed him back to foolishness. Taiko
Hideyoshi had said that there were only two things in this world
which he feared,—a fool and a dark night. Kimika had always been
afraid of a fool; and a fool had taken Kimiko away. And she
added, with not unselfish tears, that Kimiko would never come
back to her: it was a case of love on both sides for the time of
Nevertheless, Kimika was only half right. She was very shrewd
indeed; but she had never been able to see into certain private
chambers in the soul of Kimiko. If she could have seen, she would
have screamed for astonishment.
(1) Oni mo jiuhachi, azami no hana. There is a similar saying of
a dragon: ja mo hatachi ("even a dragon at twenty").
Between Kimiko and other geisha there was a difference of gentle
blood. Before she took a professional name, her name was Ai,
which, written with the proper character, means love. Written
with another character the same word-sound signifies grief. The
story of Ai was a story of both grief and love.
She had been nicely brought up. As a child she had been sent to a
private school kept by an old samurai,—where the little girls
squatted on cushions before little writing-tables twelve inches
high, and where the teachers taught without salary. In these days
when teachers get better salaries than civil-service officials,
the teaching is not nearly so honest or so pleasant as it used to
be. A servant always accompanied the child to and from the
school-house, carrying her books, her writing-box, her kneeling
cushion, and her little table.
Afterwards she attended an elementary public school. The first
"modern" text-books had just been issued,—containing Japanese
translations of English, German, and French stories about honor
and duty and heroism, excellently chosen, and illustrated with
tiny innocent pictures of Western people in costumes never of
this world. Those dear pathetic little text-books are now
curiosities: they have long been superseded by pretentious
compilations much less lovingly and sensibly edited. Ai learned
well. Once a year, at examination time, a great official would
visit the school, and talk to the children as if they were all
his own, and stroke each silky head as he distributed the prizes.
He is now a retired statesman, and has doubtless forgotten
Ai;—and in the schools of to-day nobody caresses little girls,
or gives them prizes.
Then came those reconstructive changes by which families of rank
were reduced to obscurity and poverty; and Ai had to leave
school. Many great sorrows followed, till there remained to her
only her mother and an infant sister. The mother and Ai could do
little but weave; and by weaving alone they could not earn enough
to live. House and lands first,—then, article by article, all
things not necessary to existence—heirlooms, trinkets, costly
robes, crested lacquer-ware—passed cheaply to those whom misery
makes rich, and whose wealth is called by the people Namida no
kane,—"the Money of Tears." Help from the living was
scanty,—for most of the samurai-families of kin were in like
distress. But when there was nothing left to sell,—not even Al's
little school-books,—help was sought from the dead.
For it was remembered that the father of Al's father had been
buried with his sword, the gift of a daimyo; and that the
mountings of the weapon were of gold. So the grave was opened,
and the grand hilt of curious workmanship exchanged for a common
one, and the ornaments of the lacquered sheath removed. But the
good blade was not taken, because the warrior might need it. Ai
saw his face as he sat erect in the great red-clay urn which
served in lieu of coffin to the samurai of high rank when buried
by the ancient rite. His features were still recognizable after
all those years of sepulture; and he seemed to nod a grim assent
to what had been done as his sword was given back to him.
At last the mother of Ai became too weak and ill to work at the
loom; and the gold of the dead had been spent. Ai said:—"Mother,
I know there is but one thing now to do. Let me be sold to the
dancing-girls." The mother wept, and made no reply. Ai did not
weep, but went out alone.
She remembered that in other days, when banquets were given in
her father's house, and dancers served the wine, a free geisha
named Kimika had often caressed her. She went straight to the
house of Kimika. "I want you to buy me," said Ai;—"and I want a
great deal of money." Kimika laughed, and petted her, and made
her eat, and heard her story,—which was bravely told, without
one tear. "My child," said Kimika, "I cannot give you a great
deal of money; for I have very little. But this I can do:—I can
promise to support your mother. That will be better than to give
her much money for you,—because your mother, my child, has been
a great lady, and therefore cannot know how to use money
cunningly. Ask your honored mother to sign the bond,—promising
that you will stay with me till you are twenty-four years old, or
until such time as you can pay me back. And what money I can now
spare, take home with you as a free gift."
Thus Ai became a geisha; and Kimika renamed her Kimiko, and kept
the pledge to maintain the mother and the child-sister. The
mother died before Kimiko became famous; the little sister was
put to school. Afterwards those things already told came to pass.
The young man who had wanted to die for love of a dancing-girl
was worthy of better things. He was an only son and his parents,
wealthy and titled people, were willing to make any sacrifice for
him,—even that of accepting a geisha for daughter-in-law.
Moreover they were not altogether displeased with Kimiko, because
of her sympathy for their boy.
Before going away, Kimiko attended the wedding of her young
sister, Ume, who had just finished school. She was good and
pretty. Kimiko had made the match, and used her wicked knowledge
of men in making it. She chose a very plain, honest,
old-fashioned merchant,—a man who could not have been bad, even
if he tried. Ume did not question the wisdom of her sister's
choice, which time proved fortunate.
It was in the period of the fourth moon that Kimiko was carried
away to the home prepared for her,—a place in which to forget
all the unpleasant realities of life,-a sort of fairy-palace lost
in the charmed repose of great shadowy silent high-walled
gardens. Therein she might have felt as one reborn, by reason of
good deeds, into the realm of Horai. But the spring passed, and
the summer came,—and Kimiko remained simply Kimiko. Three times
she had contrived, for reasons unspoken, to put off the
In the period of the eighth moon, Kimiko ceased to be playful,
and told her reasons very gently but very firmly:—"It is time
that I should say what I have long delayed saying. For the sake
of the mother who gave me life, and for the sake of my little
sister, I have lived in hell. All that is past; but the scorch of
the fire is upon me, and there is no power that can take it away.
It is not for such as I to enter into an honored family,—nor to
bear you a son,—nor to build up your house…. Suffer me to
speak; for in the knowing of wrong I am very, very much wiser
than you…. Never shall I be your wife to become your shame. I
am your companion only, your play-fellow, your guest of an hour,
—and this not for any gifts. When I shall be no longer with you
nay! certainly that day must come!—you will have clearer sight.
I shall still be dear to you, but not in the same way as
now—which is foolishness. You will remember these words out of
my heart. Some true sweet lady will be chosen for you, to become
the mother of your children. I shall see them; but the place of a
wife I shall never take, and the joy of a mother I must never
know. I am only your folly, my beloved,—an illusion, a dream, a
shadow flitting across your life. Somewhat more in later time I
may become, but a wife to you never, neither in this existence
nor in the next. Ask me again-and I go."
In the period of the tenth moon, and without any reason
imaginable, Kimiko disappeared,—vanished,—utterly ceased to
Nobody knew when or how or whither she had gone. Even in the
neighborhood of the home she had left, none had seen her pass. At
first it seemed that she must soon return. Of all her beautiful
and precious things-her robes, her ornaments, her presents: a
fortune in themselves—she had taken nothing. But weeks passed
without word or sign; and it was feared that something terrible
had befallen her. Rivers were dragged, and wells were searched.
Inquiries were made by telegraph and by letter. Trusted servants
were sent to look for her. Rewards were offered for any
news—especially a reward to Kimika, who was really attached to
the girl, and would have been only too happy to find her without
any reward at all. But the mystery remained a mystery.
Application to the authorities would have been useless: the
fugitive had done no wrong, broken no law; and the vast machinery
of the imperial police-system was not to be set in motion by the
passionate whim of a boy. Months grew into years; but neither
Kimika, nor the little sister in Kyoto, nor any one of the
thousands who had known and admired the beautiful dancer, ever
saw Kimiko again.
But what she had foretold came true;—for time dries all tears
and quiets all longing; and even in Japan one does not really try
to die twice for the same despair. The lover of Kimiko became
wiser; and there was found for him a very sweet person for wife,
who gave him a son. And other years passed; and there was
happiness in the fairy-home where Kimiko had once been.
There came to that home one morning, as if seeking alms, a
traveling nun; and the child, hearing her Buddhist cry of
"Ha—i! ha—i!" ran to the gate. And presently a house-servant,
bringing out the customary gift of rice, wondered to see the nun
caressing the child, and whispering to him. Then the little one
cried to the servant, "Let me give!"—and the nun pleaded from
under the veiling shadow of her great straw hat: "Honorably allow
the child to give me." So the boy put the rice into the
mendicant's bowl. Then she thanked him, and asked:—"Now will
you say again for me the little word which I prayed you to tell
your honored father?" And the child lisped:—"Father, one whom
you will never see again in this world, says that her heart is
glad because she has seen your son."
The nun laughed softly, and caressed him again, and passed away
swiftly; and the servant wondered more than ever, while the child
ran to tell his father the words of the mendicant.
But the father's eyes dimmed as he heard the words, and he wept
over his boy. For he, and only he, knew who had been at the gate,
—and the sacrificial meaning of all that had been hidden.
Now he thinks much, but tells his thought to no one.
He knows that the space between sun and sun is less than the
space between himself and the woman who loved him.
He knows it were vain to ask in what remote city, in what
fantastic riddle of narrow nameless streets, in what obscure
little temple known only to the poorest poor, she waits for the
darkness before the Dawn of the Immeasurable Light,—when the
Face of the Teacher will smile upon her,—when the Voice of the
Teacher will say to her, in tones of sweetness deeper than ever
came from human lover's lips:—"O my daughter in the Law, thou
hast practiced the perfect way; thou hast believed and understood
the highest truth;—therefore come I now to meet and to welcome
THREE POPULAR BALLADS
Read before the Asiatic Society of Japan, October 17, 1894.
During the spring of 1891, I visited the settlement in Matsue,
Izumo, of an outcast people known as the yama-no-mono. Some
results of the visit were subsequently communicated to the "Japan
Mail," in a letter published June 13, 1891, and some extracts
from that letter I think it may be worth while to cite here, by
way of introduction to the subject of the present paper.
"The settlement is at the southern end of Matsue in a tiny
valley, or rather hollow among the hills which form a half-circle
behind the city. Few Japanese of the better classes have ever
visited such a village; and even the poorest of the common people
shun the place as they would shun a centre of contagion; for the
idea of defilement, both moral and physical, is still attached to
the very name of its inhabitants. Thus, although the settlement
is within half an hour's walk from the heart of the city,
probably not half a dozen of the thirty-six thousand residents of
Matsue have visited it.
"There are four distinct outcast classes in Matsue and its
environs: the hachiya, the koya-no-mono, the yama-no-mono,
and the eta of Suguta.
"There are two settlements of hachiya. These were formerly the
public executioners, and served under the police in various
capacities. Although by ancient law the lowest class of pariahs,
their intelligence was sufficiently cultivated by police service
and by contact with superiors to elevate them in popular opinion
above the other outcasts. They are now manufacturers of bamboo
cages and baskets. They are said to be descendants of the family
and retainers of Taira-no-Masakado-Heishino, the only man in
Japan who ever seriously conspired to seize the imperial throes
by armed force, and who was killed by the famous general
"The koya-no-mono are slaughterers and dealers in hides. They
are never allowed to enter any house in Matsue except the shop of
a dealer in geta and other footgear. Originally vagrants, they
were permanently settled in Matsue by some famous daimyo, who
built for them small houses—koya—on the bank of the canal.
Hence their name. As for the eta proper, their condition and
calling are too familiar to need comment in this connection.
"The yama-no-mono are so called because they live among the
hills (yama) at the southern end of Matsue. They have a
monopoly of the rag-and-waste-paper business, and are buyers of
all sorts of refuse, from old bottles to broken-down machinery.
Some of them are rich. Indeed, the whole class is, compared with
other outcast classes, prosperous. Nevertheless, public prejudice
against them is still almost as strong as in the years previous
to the abrogation of the special laws concerning them. Under no
conceivable circumstances could any of them obtain employment as
servants. Their prettiest girls in old times often became joro;
but at no time could they enter a joroya in any neighboring
city, much less in their own, so they were sold to establishments
in remote places. A yama-no-mono to-day could not even become a
kurumaya. He could not obtain employment as a common laborer in
any capacity, except by going to some distant city where he could
hope to conceal his origin. But if detected under such conditions
he would run serious risk of being killed by his fellow-laborers.
Under any circumstance it would be difficult for a
yama-no-mono to pass himself off for a heimin. Centuries of
isolation and prejudice have fixed and moulded the manners of the
class in recognizable ways; and even its language has become a
special and curious dialect.
"I was anxious to see something of a class so singularly situated
and specialized; and I had the good fortune to meet a Japanese
gentleman who, although belonging to the highest class of Matsue,
was kind enough to agree to accompany me to their village, where
he had never been himself. On the way thither he told me many
curious things about the yama-no-mono. In feudal times these
people had been kindly treated by the samurai; and they were
often allowed or invited to enter the courts of samurai dwellings
to sing and dance, for which performances they were paid. The
songs and the dances with which they were able to entertain even
those aristocratic families were known to no other people, and
were called Daikoku-mai. Singing the Daikoku-mai was, in fact,
the special hereditary art of the yama-no-mono, and represented
their highest comprehension of aesthetic and emotional matters.
In former times they could not obtain admittance to a respectable
theatre; and, like the hachiya, had theatres of their own. It
would be interesting, my friend added, to learn the origin of
their songs and their dances; for their songs are not in their
own special dialect, but in pure Japanese. And that they should
have been able to preserve this oral literature without
deterioration is especially remarkable from the fact that the
yama-no-mono were never taught to read or write. They could not
even avail themselves of those new educational opportunities
which the era of Meiji has given to the masses; prejudice is
still far too strong to allow of their children being happy in a
public school. A small special school might be possible, though
there would perhaps be no small difficulty in obtaining willing
"The hollow in which the village stands is immediately behind the
Buddhist cemetery of Tokoji. The settlement has its own Shinto
temple. I was extremely surprised at the aspect of the place; for
I had expected to see a good deal of ugliness and filth. On the
contrary, I saw a multitude of neat dwellings, with pretty
gardens about them, and pictures on the walls of the rooms. There
were many trees; the village was green with shrubs and plants,
and picturesque to an extreme degree; for, owing to the
irregularity of the ground, the tiny streets climbed up and down
hill at all sorts of angles,—the loftiest street being fifty or
sixty feet above the lowermost. A large public bath-house and a
public laundry bore evidence that the yama-no-mono liked clean
linen as well as their heimin neighbors on the other side of
"A crowd soon gathered to look at the strangers who had come to
their village,—a rare event for them. The faces I saw seemed
much like the faces of the heimin, except that I fancied the
ugly ones were uglier, making the pretty ones appear more pretty
by contrast. There were one or two sinister faces, recalling
faces of gypsies that I had seen; while some little girls, on the
other hand, had remarkably pleasing features. There were no
exchanges of civilities, as upon meeting heimin; a Japanese of
the better class would as soon think of taking off his hat to a
yama-no-mono as a West-Indian planter would think of bowing to
a negro. The yama-no-mono themselves usually show by their
attitude that they expect no forms. None of the men saluted us;
but some of the women, on being kindly addressed, made obeisance.
Other women, weaving coarse straw sandals (an inferior quality of
zori), would answer only 'yes' or 'no' to questions, and seemed
to be suspicious of us. My friend called my attention to the fact
that the women were dressed differently from Japanese women of
the ordinary classes. For example, even among the very poorest
heimin there are certain accepted laws of costume; there are
certain colors which may or may not be worn, according to age.
But even elderly women among these people wear obi of bright red
or variegated hues, and kimono of a showy tint.
"Those of the women seen in the city street, selling or buying,
are the elders only. The younger stay at home. The elderly women
always go into town with large baskets of a peculiar shape, by
which the fact that they are yama-no-mono is at once known.
Numbers of these baskets were visible, principally at the doors
of the smaller dwellings. They are carried on the back, and are
used to contain all that the yama-no-mono buy,—old paper, old
wearing apparel, bottles, broken glass, and scrap-metal.
"A woman at last ventured to invite us to her house, to look at
some old colored prints she wished to sell. Thither we went, and
were as nicely received as in a heimin residence. The pictures
—including a number of drawings by Hiroshige—proved to be worth
buying; and my friend then asked if we could have the pleasure of
hearing the Daikoku-mai. To my great satisfaction the proposal
was well received; and on our agreeing to pay a trifle to each
singer, a small band of neat-looking young girls, whom we had not
seen before, made their appearance, and prepared to sing, while
an old woman made ready to dance. Both the old woman and the
girls provided themselves with curious instruments for the
performance. Three girls had instruments shaped like mallets,
made of paper and bamboo: these were intended to represent the
hammer of Dai-koku(2); they were held in the left hand, a fan
being waved in the right. Other girls were provided with a kind
of castanets,—two flat pieces of hard dark wood, connected by a
string. Six girls formed in a line before the house. The old
woman took her place facing the girls, holding in her hands two
little sticks, one stick being notched along a part of its
length. By drawing it across the other stick, a curious rattling
noise was made.
"My friend pointed out to me that the singers formed two distinct
parties, of three each. Those bearing the hammer and fan were the
Daikoku band: they were to sing the ballads Those with the
castanets were the Ebisu party and formed the chorus.
"The old woman rubbed her little sticks together, and from the
throats of the Daikoku band there rang out a clear, sweet burst
of song, quite different from anything I had heard before in
Japan, while the tapping of the castanets kept exact time to the
syllabification of the words, which were very rapidly uttered.
When the first three girls had sung a certain number of lines,
the voices of the other three joined in, producing a very
pleasant though untrained harmony; and all sang the burden
together. Then the Daikoku party began another verse; and, after
a certain interval, the chorus was again sung. In the meanwhile
the old woman was dancing a very fantastic dance which provoked
laughter from the crowd, occasionally chanting a few comic words.
"The song was not comic, however; it was a very pathetic ballad
entitled 'Yaoya O-Shichi.' Yaoya O-Shichi was a beautiful girl,
who set fire to her own house in order to obtain another meeting
with her lover, an acolyte in a temple where she expected that
her family would be obliged to take refuge after the fire. But
being detected and convicted of arson, she was condemned by the
severe law of that age to be burnt alive. The sentence was
carried into effect; but the youth and beauty of the victim, and
the motive of her offense, evoked a sympathy in the popular heart
which found later expression in song and, drama.
"None of the performers, except the old woman, lifted the feet
from the ground while singing—but all swayed their bodies in
time to the melody. The singing lasted more than one hour, during
which the voices never failed in their quality; and yet, so far
from being weary of it, and although I could not understand a
word uttered, I felt very sorry when it was all over. And with
the pleasure received there came to the foreign listener also a
strong sense of sympathy for the young singers, victims of a
prejudice so ancient that its origin is no longer known."
(1) Since the time this letter to the Mail was written, a primary
school has been established for the yama-no-mono, through the
benevolence of Matsue citizens superior to prejudice. The
undertaking did not escape severe local criticism, but it seems
to have proved successful.
(2) Daikoku is the popular God of Wealth. Ebisu is the patron of
labor. See, for the history of these deities, an article
(translated) entitled "The Seven Gods of Happiness," by Carlo
Puini, vol. iii. Transactions of the Asiatic Society. See, also,
for an account of their place in Shinto worship, Glimpses of
Unfamiliar Japan, vol. 1.
The foregoing extracts from my letter to the "Mail" tell the
history of my interest in the Daikoku-mai. At a later time I was
able to procure, through the kindness of my friend Nishida
Sentaro, of Matsue, written copies of three of the ballads as
sung by the yama-no-mono; and translations of these were
afterwards made for me. I now venture to offer my prose
renderings of the ballads,—based on the translations referred
to,—as examples of folk-song not devoid of interest. An
absolutely literal rendering, executed with the utmost care, and
amply supplied with explanatory notes, would be, of course, more
worthy the attention of a learned society. Such a version would,
however, require a knowledge of Japanese which I do not possess,
as well as much time and patient labor. Were the texts in
them-selves of value sufficient to justify a scholarly
translation, I should not have attempted any translation at all;
but I felt convinced that their interest was of a sort which
could not be much diminished by a free and easy treatment. From
any purely literary point of view, the texts are disappointing,
exhibiting no great power of imagination, and nothing really
worthy to be called poetical art. While reading such verses, we
find ourselves very far away indeed from the veritable poetry of
Japan,—from those compositions which, with a few chosen
syllables only, can either create a perfect colored picture in
the mind, or bestir the finest sensations of memory with
marvelous penetrative delicacy. The Daikoku-mai are extremely
crude; and their long popularity has been due, I fancy, rather to
the very interesting manner of singing them than to any quality
which could permit us to compare them with the old English
The legends upon which these chants were based still exist in
many other forms, including dramatic compositions. I need
scarcely refer to the vast number of artistic suggestions which
they have given, but I may observe that their influence in this
regard has not yet passed away. Only a few months ago, I saw a
number of pretty cotton prints, fresh from the mill, picturing
Oguri-Hangwan making the horse Onikage stand upon a chessboard.
Whether the versions of the ballads I obtained in Izumo were
composed there or elsewhere I am quite unable to say; but the
stories of Shuntoku-maru, Oguri-Hangwan, and Yaoya O-Shichi are
certainly well known in every part of Japan.
Together with these prose translations, I submit to the Society
the original texts, to which are appended some notes of interest
about the local customs connected with the singing of the
Daikoku-mai, about the symbols used by the dancers, and about the
comic phrases chanted at intervals during the
performances,—phrases of which the coarse humor sometimes
forbids any rendering.
All the ballads are written in the same measure, exemplified by
the first four lines of "Yaoya O-Shichi."
Koe ni yoru ne no, aki no skika
Tsuma yori miwoba kogasu nari
Go-nin musume no sanno de
Iro mo kawasanu Edo-zakura.
The chorus, or hayashi, does not seem to be sung at the end of
a fixed number of lines, but rather at the termination of certain
parts of the recitative. There is also no fixed limit to the
number of singers in either band: these may be very many or very
few. I think that the curious Izumo way of singing the burden—so
that the vowel sounds in the word iya uttered by one band, and in
the word sorei uttered by the other, are made to blend together
—might be worth the attention of some one interested in Japanese
folk-music. Indeed, I am convinced that a very delightful and
wholly unexplored field of study offers itself in Japan to the
student of folk-music and popular chants. The songs of the
Honen-odori, or harvest dances, with their curious choruses;
the chants of the Bon-odori, which differ in every district;
the strange snatches of song, often sweet and weird, that one
hears from the rice-fields or the mountain slopes in remote
provinces, have qualities totally different from those we are
accustomed to associate with the idea of Japanese music,—a charm
indisputable even for Western ears, because not less in harmony
with the nature inspiring it than the song of a bird or the
shrilling of cicadae. To reproduce such melodies, with their
extraordinary fractional tones, would be no easy task, but I
cannot help believing that the result would fully repay the
labor. Not only do they represent a very ancient, perhaps
primitive musical sense: they represent also something
essentially characteristic of the race; and there is surely much
to be learned in regard to race-emotion from the comparative
study of folk-music.
The fact, however, that few of those peculiarities which give so
strange a charm to the old peasant-chants are noticeable in the
Izumo manner of singing the Daikoku-mai would perhaps indicate
that the latter are comparatively modern.
THE BALLAD OF SHUNTOKU-MARU
Ara!—Joyfully young Daikoko and Ebisu enter dancing
Shall we tell a tale, or shall we utter felicitations? A tale:
then of what is it best that we should tell? Since we are bidden
to your august house to relate a story, we shall relate the story
Surely there once lived, in the Province of Kawachi, a very rich
man called Nobuyoshi. And his eldest son was called
When Shuntoku-maru, that eldest son, was only three years old,
his mother died. And when he was five years old, there was given
to him a stepmother.
When he was seven years old, his stepmother gave birth to a son
who was called Otowaka-maru. And the two brothers grew up
When Shuntoku became sixteen years old, he went to Kyoto, to the
temple of Tenjin-Sama, to make offerings to the god.
There he saw a thousand people going to the temple, and a
thousand returning, and a thousand remaining: there was a
gathering of three thousand persons(1).
Through that multitude the youngest daughter of a rich man called
Hagiyama was being carried to the temple in a kago(2). Shuntoku
also was traveling in a kago; and the two kago moved side by side
along the way.
Gazing on the girl, Shuntoku fell in love with her. And the two
exchanged looks and letters of love.
All this was told to the stepmother of Shuntoku by a servant that
was a flatterer.
Then the stepmother began to think that should the youth remain
in his father's home, the store-houses east and west, and the
granaries north and south, and the house that stood in the midst,
could never belong to Otowaka-maru.
Therefore she devised an evil thing, and spoke to her husband,
saying, "Sir, my lord, may I have your honored permission to be
free for seven days from the duties of the household?"
Her husband answered, "Yes, surely; but what is it that you wish
to do for seven days?" She said to him: "Before being wedded to
my lord, I made a vow to the August Deity of Kiyomidzu; and now I
desire to go to the temple to fulfill that vow."
Said the master: "That is well. But which of the man servants or
maid servants would you wish to go with you?" Then she made
reply: "Neither man servant nor maid servant do I require. I wish
to go all alone."
And without paying heed to any advice about her journey, she
departed from the house, and made great haste to Kyoto.
Reaching the quarter Sanjo in the city of Kyoto, she asked the
way to the street Kajiyamachi, which is the Street of the Smiths.
And finding it, she saw three smithies side by side.
Going to the middle one, she greeted the smith, and asked him:
"Sir smith, can you make some fine small work in iron?" And he
answered: "Ay, lady, that I can."
Then she said: "Make me, I pray you, nine and forty nails without
heads." But he answered: "I am of the seventh generation of a
family of smiths; yet never did I hear till now of nails without
heads, and such an order I cannot take. It were better that you
should ask elsewhere."
"Nay," said she, "since I came first to you, I do not want to go
elsewhere. Make them for me, I pray, sir smith." He answered: "Of
a truth, if I make such nails, I must be paid a thousand ryo(3)."
She replied to him: "If you make them all for me, I care nothing
whether you desire one thousand or two thousand ryo. Make them, I
beseech you, sir smith." So the smith could not well refuse to
make the nails.
He arranged all things rightly to honor the God of the
Bellows(4). Then taking up his first hammer, he recited the
Kongo-Sutra(5); taking up his second, he recited the
Kwannon-Sutra; taking up his third, he recited the
Amida-Sutra,—because he feared those nails might be used for a
Thus in sorrow he finished the nails. Then was the woman much
pleased. And receiving the nails in her left hand, she paid the
money to the smith with her right, and bade him farewell, and
went upon her way.
When she was gone, then the smith thought: "Surely I have in gold
koban(6) the sum of a thousand ryo. But this life of ours is only
like the resting-place of a traveler journeying, and I must
show to others some pity and kindness. To those who are cold I
will give clothing, and to those who are hungry I will give
And by announcing his intention in writings(7) set up at the
boundaries of provinces and at the limits of villages, he was
able to show his benevolence to many people.
On her way the woman stopped at the house of a painter, and asked
the painter to paint for her a picture.
And the painter questioned her, sayings "Shall I paint you the
picture of a very old plum-tree, or of an ancient pine?"
She said to him; "No: I want neither the picture of an old
plum-tree nor of an ancient pine. I want the picture of a boy of
sixteen years, having a stature of five feet, and two moles upon
"That," said the painter, "will be an easy thing to paint." And
he made the picture in a very little time. It was much like
Shuntoku-maru; and the woman rejoiced as she departed.
With that picture of Shuntoku she hastened to Kiyomidzu; and she
pasted the picture upon one of the pillars in the rear of the
And with forty-seven out of the forty-nine nails she nailed the
picture to the pillar; and with the two remaining nails she
nailed the eyes.
Then feeling assured that she had put a curse upon Shuntoku, that
wicked woman went home. And she said humbly, "I have returned;"
and she pretended to be faithful and true.
(1) These numbers simply indicate a great multitude in the
language of the people; they have no exact significance.
(2) Kago, a kind of palanquin.
(3) The ancient ryo or tael had a value approximating that of the
dollar of 100 sen.
(4) Fuigo Sama, deity of smiths.
(5) "Diamond Sutra."
(6) Koban, a gold coin. There were koban of a great many curious
shapes and designs. The most common form was a flat or oval disk,
stamped with Chinese characters. Some koban were fully five
inches in length by four in width.
(7) Public announcements are usually written upon small wooden
tablets attached to a post; and in the country such announcements
are still set up just as suggested in the ballad.
Now three or four months after the stepmother of Shuntoku had
thus invoked evil upon him he became very sick. Then that
stepmother secretly rejoiced.
And she spoke cunningly to Nobuyoshi, her husband, saying: "Sir,
my lord, this sickness of Shuntoku seems to be a very bad
sickness; and it is difficult to keep one having such sickness in
the house of a rich man."
Then Nobuyoshi was much surprised, and sorrowed greatly; but,
thinking to himself that indeed it could not be helped, he called
Shuntoku to him, and said:—
"Son, this sickness which you have seems to be leprosy; and one
having such a sickness cannot continue to dwell in this house.
"It were best for you, therefore, to make a pilgrimage through
all the provinces, in the hope that you may be healed by divine
"And my storehouses and my granaries I will not give to
Otowaka-maru, but only to you, Shuntoku; so you must come back to
Poor Shuntoku, not knowing how wicked his stepmother was,
besought her in his sad condition, saying: "Dear mother, I have
been told that I must go forth and wander as a pilgrim.
"But now I am blind, and I cannot travel without difficulty. I
should be content with one meal a day in place of three, and glad
for permission to live in a corner of some storeroom or outhouse;
but I should like to remain somewhere near my home.
"Will you not please permit me to stay, if only for a little
time? Honored mother, I beseech you, let me stay."
But she answered: "As this trouble which you now have is only the
beginning of the bad disease, it is not possible for me to suffer
you to stay. You must go away from the house at once."
Then Shuntoku was forced out of the house by the servants, and
into the yard, sorrowing greatly.
And the wicked stepmother, following, cried out: "As your father
has commanded, you must go away at once, Shuntoku."
Shuntoku answered: "See, I have not even a traveling-dress. A
pilgrim's gown and leggings I ought to have, and a pilgrim's
wallet for begging."
At hearing these words, the wicked stepmother was glad; and she
at once gave him all that he required.
Shuntoku received the things, and thanked her, and made ready to
depart, even in his piteous state.
He put on the gown and hung a wooden mamori (charm) upon his
breast(1), and he suspended the wallet about his neck. He put on
his straw sandals and fastened them tightly, and took a bamboo
staff in his hand, and placed a hat of woven rushes upon his
And saying, "Farewell, father; farewell, mother," poor Shuntoku
started on his journey.
Sorrowfully Nobuyoshi accompanied his son a part of the way,
saying: "It cannot be helped, Shuntoku. But if, through the
divine favor Of those august deities to whom that charm is
dedicated, your disease should become cured, then come back to us
at once, my son."
Hearing from his father these kind words of farewell, Shuntoku
felt much happier, and covering his face with the great rush hat,
so as not to be known to the neighbors, he went on alone.
But in a little while, finding his limbs so weak that he was
afraid he could not go far, and feeling his heart always drawn
back toward his home, so that he could not help often stopping
and turning his face thither, he became sad again.
(1) See Professor Chamberlain's "Notes on some Minor Japanese
Religious Practices," for full details of pilgrimages and pilgrim
costumes, in Journal of the Anthropological Institute (1898). The
paper is excellently illustrated.
Since it would have been difficult for him to enter any dwelling,
he had often to sleep under pine-trees or in the forests; but
sometimes he was lucky enough to find shelter in some wayside
shrine containing images of the Buddhas.
And once in the darkness of the morning, before the breaking of
the day, in the hour when the crows first begin to fly abroad and
cry, the dead mother of Shuntoku came to him in a dream.
And she said to him: "Son, your affliction has been caused by the
witchcraft of your wicked stepmother. Go now to the divinity of
Kiyomidzu, and beseech the goddess that you may be healed."
Shuntoku arose, wondering, and took his way toward the city of
Kyoto, toward the temple of Kiyomidzu.
One day, as he traveled, he went to the gate of the house of a
rich man named Hagiyama, crying out loudly: "Alms! alms!"
Then a maid servant of the house, hearing the cry, came out and
gave him food, and laughed aloud, saying: "Who could help
laughing at the idea of trying to give anything to so comical a
Shuntoku asked: "Why do you laugh? I am the son of a rich and
well-famed man, Nobuyoshi of Kawachi. But because of a
malediction invoked upon me by my wicked stepmother, I have
become as you see me."
Then Otohime, a daughter of that family, hearing the voices, came
out, and asked the maid: "Why did you laugh?"
The servant answered: "Oh, my lady, there was a blind man from
Kawachi, who seemed about twenty years old, clinging to the
pillar of the gate, and loudly crying, 'Alms! alms.'
"So I tried to give him some clean rice upon a tray; but when I
held out the tray toward his right hand, he advanced his left;
and when I held out the tray toward his left hand, he advanced
his right: that was the reason I could not help laughing."
Hearing the maid explaining thus to the young lady, the blind man
became angry, and said: "You have no right to despise strangers.
I am the son of a rich and well-famed man in Kawachi, and I am
Then the daughter of that house, Otohime, suddenly remembering
him, also became quite angry, and said to the servant: "You must
not laugh rudely. Laughing at others to-day, you might be laughed
at yourself to-morrow."
But Otohime had been so startled that she could not help
trembling a little, and, retiring to her room, she suddenly
Then in the house all was confusion, and a doctor was summoned in
great baste. But the girl, being quite unable to take any
medicine, only became weaker and weaker.
Then many famous physicians were sent for; and they consulted
together about Otohime; and they decided at last that her
sickness had been caused only by some sudden sorrow.
So the mother said to her sick daughter "Tell me, without
concealment, if you have any secret grief; and if there be
anything you want, whatever it be, I will try to get it for you."
Otohime replied: "I am very much ashamed; but I shall tell you
what I wish.
"The blind man who came here the other day was the son of a rich
and well-famed citizen of Kawachi, called Nobuyoshi.
"At the time of the festival of Tenjin at Kitano in Kyoto, I met
that young man there, on my way to the temple; and we then
exchanged letters of love, pledging ourselves to each other.
"And therefore I very much wish that I may be allowed to travel
in search of him, until I find him, wherever he may be."
The mother kindly made answer: "That, indeed, will be well. If
you wish for a kago, you may have one; or if you would like to
have a horse, you can have one.
"You can choose any servant you like to accompany you, and I can
let you have as many koban as you desire."
Otohime answered: "Neither horse nor kago do I need, nor any
servant; I need only the dress of a pilgrim,—leggings and
gown,—and a mendicant's wallet."
For Otohime held it her duty to set out by herself all alone,
just as Shuntoku had done.
So she left home, saying farewell to her parents, with eyes full
of tears: scarcely could she find voice to utter the word
Over mountains and mountains she passed, and again over
mountains; hearing only the cries of wild deer and the sound of
Sometimes she would lose her way; sometimes she would pursue
alone a steep and difficult path; always she journeyed sorrowing.
At last she saw before her—far, far away—the pine-tree called
Kawama-matsu, and the two rocks called Ota(1); and when she saw
those rocks, she thought of Shuntoku with love and hope.
Hastening on, she met five or six persona going to Kumano; and
she asked them: "Have you not met on your way a blind youth,
about sixteen years old?"
They made answer: "No, not yet; but should we meet him anywhere,
we will tell him whatever you wish."
This reply greatly disappointed Otohime; and she began to think
that all her efforts to find her lover might be in vain; and she
became very sad.
At last she became so end that she resolved not to try to find
him in this world anymore, but to drown herself at once in the
pool of Sawara, that she might be able to meet him in a future
She hurried there as fast as she could. And when she reached the
pond, she fixed her pilgrim's staff in the ground, and hung her
outer robe on a pine-tree, and threw away her wallet, and,
loosening her hair, arranged it in the style called Shimada(2).
Then, having filled her sleeves with stones, she was about to
leap into the water, when there appeared suddenly before her a
venerable man of seemingly not less than eighty years, robed all
in white, and bearing a tablet in his hand.
And the aged man said to her: "Be not thus in haste to die,
Otohime! Shuntoku whom you seek is at Kiyomidzu San: go thither
and meet him."
These were, indeed, the happiest tidings she could have desired,
and she became at once very happy. And she knew she had thus been
saved by the august favor of her guardian deity, and that it was
the god himself who had spoken to her those words.
So she cast away the stones she had put into her sleeves, and
donned again the outer robe she had taken off, and rearranged her
hair, and took her way in all haste to the temple of Kiyomidzu.
(1) One meaning of "Ota" in Japanese is "has met" or "have met."
(2) The simple style in which the hair of dead woman is arranged.
See chapter "Of Women's Hair," in Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan,
At last she reached the temple. She ascended the three lower
steps, and glancing beneath a porch she saw her lover, Shuntoku,
lying there asleep, covered with a straw mat; and she called to
him, "Moshi! Moshi!(1)"
Shuntoku, thus being suddenly awakened, seized his staff, which
was lying by his side, and cried out, "Every day the children of
this neighborhood come here and annoy me, because I am blind!"
Otohime hearing these words, and feeling great sorrow, approached
and laid her hands on her poor lover, and said to him:—
"I am not one of those bad, mischievous children; I am the
daughter of the wealthy Hagiyama. And because I promised myself
to you at the festival of Kitano Tenjin in Kyoto, I have come
here to see you."
Astonished at hearing the voice of his sweet-heart, Shuntoku rose
up quickly, and cried out: "Oh! are you really Otohime? It is a
long time since we last met—but this is so strange! Is it not
all a lie?"
And then, stroking each other, they could only cry, instead of
But presently Shuntoku, giving way to the excitement of his
grief, cried out to Otohime: "A malediction has been laid upon me
by my stepmother, and my appearance has been changed, as you see.
"Therefore never can I be united to you as your husband. Even as
I now am, so must I remain until I fester to death.
"And so you must go beck home at once, and live in happiness and
But she answered in great sorrow: "Never! Are you really in
earnest? Are you truly in your right senses?
"No, no! I have disguised myself thus only because I loved you
enough even to give my life for you.
"And now I will never leave yea, no matter what may become of me
in the future."
Shuntoku was comforted by these words; but he was also filled
with pity for her, so that he wept, without being able to speak a
Then she said to him: "Since your wicked stepmother bewitched you
only because you were rich, I am not afraid to revenge you by
bewitching her also; for I, too, am the child of a rich man."
And then, with her whole heart, she spoke thus to the divinity
within the temple:—"For the space of seven days and seven nights
I shall remain fasting in this temple, to prove my vow; and if
you have any truth and pity, I beseech you to save us.
"For so great a building as this a thatched roof is not the
proper roof. I will re-roof it with feathers of little birds; and
the ridge of the roof I will cover with thigh-feathers of
"This torii and these lanterns of stone are ugly: I will erect a
torii of gold; and I will make a thousand lamps of gold and a
thousand of silver, and every evening I will light them.
"In so large a garden as this there should be trees. I will plant
a thousand hinoki, a thousand sugi, a thousand karamatsu.
"But if Shuntoku should not be healed by reason of this vow, then
he and I will drown ourselves together in yonder lotos-pond.
"And after our death, taking the form of two great serpents, we
will torment all who come to worship at this temple, and bar the
way against pilgrims."
(1) An exclamation uttered to call the attention of another to
the presence of the speaker,—from the respectful verb "to say."
Our colloquial "say" does not give the proper meaning. Our
"please" comes nearer to it.
Now, strange to say, on the night of the seventh day after she
had vowed this vow, there came to her in a dream Kwannon-Sama who
said to her:
"The prayer which you prayed I shall grant."
Forthwith Otohime awoke, and told her dream to Shuntoku, and they
both wondered. They arose, and went down to the river together,
and washed themselves, and worshiped the goddess.
Then, strange to say, the eyes of blind Shuntoku were fully
opened, and his clear sight came back to him, and the disease
passed away from him. And both wept because of the greatness of
Together they sought an inn, and there laid aside their
pilgrim-dresses, and put on fresh robes, and hired kago and
carriers to bear them home.
Reaching the house of his father, Shuntoku cried out: "Honored
parents, I have returned to you! By virtue of the written charm
upon the sacred tablet, I have been healed of my sickness, as you
may see. Is all well with you, honored parents?"
And Shuntoku's father, hearing, ran out and cried: "Oh! how much
troubled I have been for your sake!
"Never for one moment could I cease to think of you; but now—how
glad I am to see you, and the bride you have brought with you!"
And all rejoiced together.
But, on the other hand, it was very strange that the wicked
stepmother at the same moment became suddenly blind, and that her
fingers and her toes began to rot, so that she was in great
Then the bride and the bridegroom said to that wicked stepmother:
"Lo! the leprosy has come upon you!
"We cannot keep a leper in the house of a rich man. Please to go
away at once!
"We shall give you a pilgrim's gown and leggings, a rush hat, and
a staff; for we have all these things ready here."
Then the wicked stepmother knew that even to save her from death
it could not be helped, because she herself had done so wicked a
thing before. Shuntoku and his wife were very glad; how rejoiced
The stepmother prayed them to allow her only one small meal a
day,—just as Shuntoku had done; but Otohime said to the stricken
woman: "We cannot keep you here,—not even in the corner of an
outhouse. Go away at once!"
Also Nobuyoshi said to his wicked wife: "What do you mean by
remaining here? How long do you require to go?"
And he drove her out, and she could not help herself, and she
went away crying, and striving to hide her face from the sight of
Otowaka led his blind mother by the hand; and together they went
to Kyoto and to the temple of Kiyomidzu.
When they got there they ascended three of the temple steps, and
knelt down, and prayed the goddess, saying: "Give us power to
cast another malediction!"
But the goddess suddenly appeared before them, and said: "Were it
a good thing that you pray for, I would grant your prayer; but
with an evil matter I will have no more to do.
"If you must die, then die there! And after your death you shall
be sent to hell, and there put into the bottom of an iron caldron
to be boiled."
This is the end of the Story of Shuntoku. With a jubilant tap of
the fan we finish so! Joyfully!-joyfully!-joyfully!
THE BALLAD OF OGURI-HANGWAN
To tell every word of the tale,—this is the story of
I. THE BIRTH
The famed Takakura Dainagon, whose other name was Kane-ie, was so
rich that he had treasure-houses in every direction.
He owned one precious stone that had power over fire, and another
that had power over water.
He also had the claws of a tiger, extracted from the paws of the
living animal; he had the horns of a colt; and he likewise owned
even a musk-cat (jako-neko)(1).
Of all that a man might have in this world, he wanted nothing
except an heir, and he had no other cause for sorrow.
A trusted servant in his house named Ikenoshoji said at last to
him these words:—
"Seeing that the Buddhist deity Tamon-Ten, enshrined upon the
holy mountain of Kurama, is famed for his divine favor far and
near, I respectfully entreat you to go to that temple and make
prayer to him; for then your wish will surely be fulfilled."
To this the master agreed, and at once began to make preparation
for a journey to the temple.
As he traveled with great speed he reached the temple very soon;
and there, having purified his body by pouring water over it, he
prayed with all his heart for an heir.
And during three days and three nights he abstained from food of
every sort. But all seemed in vain.
Wherefore the lord, despairing because of the silence of the god,
resolved to perform harakiri in the temple, and so to defile
the sacred building.
Moreover, he resolved that his spirit, after his death, should
haunt the mountain of Kurama, to deter and terrify all pilgrims
upon the nine-mile path of the mountain.
The delay of even one moment would have been fatal; but good
Ikenoshoji came running to the place just in time, and prevented
"Oh, my lord!" the retainer cried, "you are surely too hasty in
your resolve to die.
"Rather first suffer me to try my fortune, and see if I may not
be able to offer up prayer for your sake with more success."
Then after having twenty-one times purified his body,—seven
times washing with hot water, seven times with cold, and yet
another seven times washing himself with a bundle of
bamboo-grass,—he thus prayed to the god:—
"If to my lord an heir be given by the divine favor, then I vow
that I will make offering of paving-blocks of bronze wherewith to
pave this temple court.
"Also of lanterns of bronze to stand in rows without the temple,
and of plating of pure gold and pure silver to cover all the
And upon the third of the three nights which he passed in prayer
before the god, Tamon-Ten revealed himself to the pious
Ikenoshoji and said to him:—
"Earnestly wishing to grant your petition, I sought far and near
for a fitting heir,—even as far as Tenjiku (India) and Kara
"But though human beings are numerous as the stars in the sky or
the countless pebbles upon the shore, I was grieved that I could
not find of the seed of man one heir that might well be given to
"And at last, knowing not what else to do, I took away by stealth
[the spirit?] of one of the eight children whose father was one
of the Shi-Tenno(3), residing on the peak Ari-ari, far among the
Dandoku mountains. And that child I will give to become the heir
of your master."
Having thus spoken, the deity retired within the innermost
shrine. Then Ikenoshoji, starting from his real dream, nine times
prostrated himself before the god, and hastened to the dwelling
of his master.
Erelong the wife of Takakura Dainagon found herself with child;
and after the ten(4) happy months she bore a son with painless
It was strange that the infant had upon his forehead, marked
quite plainly and naturally, the Chinese character for "rice."
And it was yet more strange to find that in his eyes four
Buddhas(5) were reflected.
Ikenoshoji and the parents rejoiced; and the name Ari-waka (Young
Ari) was given the child—after the name of the mountain Ari-ari
—on the third day after the birth.
(1)"Musk-rat" is the translation given by some dictionaries.
"Musk-deer" was suggested by my translator. But as some
mythological animal is evidently meant, I thought it better to
translate the word literally.
(2) The Chinese term for harakiri. It is thought to be the more
(3) Shi-Tenno: the Four Deva Kings of Buddhism, who guard the
Four Quarters of the World.
(4) That is, ten by the ancient native manner of reckoning time.
(5) Shitai-no-mi-Hotoke: literally, a four-bodied-august Buddha.
The image in the eye is called the Buddha: the idea here
expressed seems to be that the eyes of the child reflected four
instead of two images. Children of supernatural beings were
popularly said to have double pupils. But I am giving only a
popular explanation of the term.
II. THE BANISHMENT
Very quickly the child grew; and when he became fifteen, the
reigning Emperor gave him the name and title of Oguri-Hangwan
When he reached manhood his father resolved to get him a bride.
So the Dainagon looked upon all the daughters of the ministers
and high officials, but he found none that he thought worthy to
become the wife of his son.
But the young Hangwan, learning that he himself had been a gift
to his parents from Tamon-Ten, resolved to pray to that deity for
a spouse; and he hastened to the temple of the divinity,
accompanied by Ikenoshoji.
There they washed their hands and rinsed their mouths, and
remained three nights without sleep, passing all the time in
But as they had no companions, the young prince at last felt very
lonesome, and began to play on his flute, made of the root of the
Seemingly charmed by these sweet sounds, the great serpent that
lived in the temple pond came to the entrance of the
temple,—transforming its fearful shape into the likeness of a
lovely female attendant of the Imperial Court,—and fondly
listened to the melody.
Then Kane-uji thought he saw before him the very lady he desired
for a wife. And thinking also that she was the one chosen for him
by the deity, he placed the beautiful being in a palanquin and
returned to his home.
But no sooner had this happened than a fearful storm burst upon
the capital, followed by a great flood; and the flood and the
storm both lasted for seven days and seven nights.
The Emperor was troubled greatly by these omens; and he sent for
the astrologers, that they might explain the causes thereof.
They said in answer to the questions asked of them that the
terrible weather was caused only by the anger of the male
serpent, seeking vengeance for the loss of its mate,—which was
none other than the fair woman that Kane-uji had brought back
Whereupon the Emperor commanded that Kane-uji should be banished
to the province of Hitachi, and that the transformed female
serpent should at once be taken back to the pond upon the
mountain of Kurama.
And being thus compelled by imperial order to depart, Kane-uji
went away to the province of Hitachi, followed only by his
faithful retainer, Ikenoshoji.
III. THE EXCHANGE OF LETTERS
Only a little while after the banishment of Kane-uji, a traveling
merchant, seeking to sell his wares, visited the house of the
exiled prince at Hitachi.
And being asked by the Hangwan where he lived, the merchant made
answer, saying:—"I live in Kyoto, in the street called
Muromachi, and my name is Goto Sayemon.
"My stock consists of goods of one thousand and eight different
kinds which I send to China, of one thousand and eight kinds
which I send to India, and yet another thousand and eight kinds
which I sell only in Japan.
"So that my whole stock consists of three thousand and
twenty-four different kinds of goods.
"Concerning the countries to which I have already been, I may
answer that I made three voyages to India and three to China and
this is my seventh journey to this part of Japan."
Having heard these things, Oguri-Hangwan asked the merchant
whether he knew of any young girl who would make a worthy wife,
since he, the prince, being still unmarried, desired to find such
Then said Sayemon: "In the province of Sagami, to the west of us,
there lives a rich man called Tokoyama Choja, who has eight sons.
"Long he lamented that he had no daughter, and he long prayed for
a daughter to the August Sun.
"And a daughter was given him; and after her birth, her parents
thought it behoved them to give her a higher rank than their own,
because her birth had come to pass through the divine influence
of the August Heaven-Shining Deity; so they built for her a
"She is, in very truth, superior to all other Japanese women; nor
can I think of any other person in every manner worthy of you."
This story much pleased Kane-uji; and he at once asked Sayemon to
act the part of match-maker(1) for him; and Sayemon promised to
do everything in his power to fulfill the wish of the Hangwan.
Then Kane-uji called for inkstone and writing-brush, and wrote a
love-letter, and tied it up with such a knot as love-letters are
And he gave it to the merchant to be delivered to the lady; and
he gave him also, in reward for his services, one hundred golden
Sayemon again and again prostrated himself in thanks; and he put
the letter into the box which he always carried with him. And
then he lifted the box upon his back, and bade the prince
Now, although the journey from Hitachi to Sagami is commonly a
journey of seven days, the merchant arrived there at noon upon
the third day, having traveled in all haste, night and day
together, without stopping.
And he went to the building called Inui-no-Goshyo, which had been
built by the rich Yokoyama for the sake of his only daughter,
Terute-Hime, in the district of Soba, in the province of Sagami;
and he asked permission to enter therein.
But the stern gate-keepers bade him go away, announcing that the
dwelling was the dwelling of Terute-Hime, daughter of the famed
Choja Yokoyama, and that no person of the male sex whosoever
could be permitted to enter; and furthermore, that guards had
been appointed to guard the palace—ten by night and ten by
day—with extreme caution and severity.
But the merchant told the gate-keepers that he was Goto Sayemon,
of the street called Muromachi, in the city of Kyoto; that he was
a well-famed merchant there, and was by the people called
Sendanya; that he had thrice been to India and thrice to China,
and was now upon his seventh return journey to the great country
of the Rising Sun.
And he said also to them: "Into all the palaces of Nihon, save
this one only, I have been freely admitted; so I shall be deeply
grateful to you if you permit me to enter."
Thus saying, he produced many rolls of silk, and presented them
to the gate-keepers; and their cupidity made them blind; and the
merchant, without more difficulty, entered, rejoicing.
Through the great outer gate he passed, and over a bridge, and
then found himself in front of the chambers of the female
attendants of the superior class.
And he called out with a very loud voice: "O my ladies, all
things that you may require I have here with me!
"I have all jorogata-no-meshi-dogu; I have hair-combs and
needles and tweezers; I have tategami, and combs of silver, and
kamoji from Nagasaki, and even all kinds of Chinese mirrors!"
Whereupon the ladies, delighted with the idea of seeing these
things, suffered the merchant to enter their apartment, which he
presently made to look like a shop for the sale of female toilet
(1) Nakodo. The profession of nakodo exists; but any person who
arranges marriages for a consideration is for the time being
called the nakodo.
But while making bargains and selling very quickly, Sayemon did
not lose the good chance offered him; and taking from his box the
love-letter which had been confided to him, he said to the
"This letter, if I remember rightly, I picked up in some town in
Hitachi, and I shall be very glad if you will accept it,—either
to use it for a model if it be written beautifully, or to laugh
at if it prove to have been written awkwardly."
Then the chief among the maids, receiving the letter, tried to
read the writing upon the envelope: "Tsuki ni hoshi—ame ni
arare ga—kori kana,"—
Which signified, "Moon and stars—rain and hail—make ice." But
she could not read the riddle of the mysterious words.
The other ladies, who were also unable to guess the meaning of
the words, could not but laugh; and they laughed so shrilly that
the Princess Terute heard, and came among them, fully robed, and
wearing a veil over her night-black hair.
And the bamboo-screen having been rolled up before her,
Terute-Hime asked: "What is the cause of all this laughing? If
there be anything amusing, I wish that you will let me share in
The maids then answered, saying: "We were laughing only at our
being unable to read a letter which this merchant from the
capital says that he picked up in some street. And here is the
letter: even the address upon it is a riddle to us."
And the letter, having been laid upon an open crimson fan, was
properly presented to the princess, who received it, and admired
the beauty of the writing, and said:—
"Never have I seen so beautiful a hand as this: it is like the
writing of Kobodaishi himself, or of Monju Bosatsu.
"Perhaps the writer is one of those princes of the Ichijo, or
Nijo, or Sanjo families, all famed for their skill in writing.
"Or, if this guess of mine be wrong, then I should say that these
characters have certainly been written by Oguri-Hangwan Kane-uji,
now so famed in the province of Hitachi…. I shall read the
letter for you."
Then the envelope was removed; and the first phrase she read was
Fuji no yama (the Mountain of Fuji), which she interpreted as
signifying loftiness of rank. And then she met with such phrases
Kiyomidzu kosaka (the name of a place); arare ni ozasa (hail
on the leaves of the bamboo-grass); itaya ni arare (hail
following upon a wooden roof);
Tamato ni kori (ice in the sleeve); nonaka ni shimidzu (pure
water running through a moor); koike ni makomo (rushes in a
Inoba ni tsuyu (dew on the leaves of the taro); shakunaga obi
(a very long girdle); shika ni momiji (deer and maple-trees);
Futamata-gawa (a forked river); hoso tanigawa-ni marukibashi
(a round log laid over a little stream for a bridge); tsurunashi
yumi ni hanuki dori (a stringless bow, and a wingless bird).
And then she understood that the characters signified:—
Maireba au—they would meet, for he would call upon her.
Arare nai—then they would not be separated. Korobi au—they
would repose together.
And the meaning of the rest was thus:—
"This letter should be opened within the sleeve, so that others
may know nothing of it. Keep the secret in your own bosom.
"You must yield to me even as the rush bends to the wind. I am
earnest to serve you in all things.
"We shall surely be united at last, whatever chance may separate
us at the beginning. I wish for you even as the stag for its mate
in the autumn.
"Even though long kept apart we shall meet, as meet the waters of
a river divided in its upper course into two branches.
"Divine, I pray you, the meaning of this letter, and preserve it.
I hope for a fortunate answer. Thinking of Terute-Hime, I feel as
though I could fly."
And the Princess Terute found at the end of the letter the name
of him who wrote it,—Oguri-Hangwan Kane-uji himself,—together
with her own name, as being written to her.
Then she felt greatly troubled, because she had not at first
supposed that the letter was addressed to her, and had, without
thinking, read it aloud to the female attendants.
For she well knew that her father would quickly kill her in a
most cruel manner, should the iron-hearted Choja(1) come to know
Wherefore, through fear of being mingled with the earth of the
moor Uwanogahara,—fitting place for a father in wrath to slay
his daughter,—she set the end of the letter between her teeth,
and rent it to pieces, and withdrew to the inner apartment.
(1) Choja is not a proper name: it signifies really a wealthy man
only, like the French terms "un richard," "un riche." But it is
used almost like a proper name in the country still; the richest
man in the place, usually a person of influence, being often
referred to as "the Choja."
But the merchant, knowing that he could not go back to Hitachi
without bearing some reply, resolved to obtain one by cunning.
Wherefore he hurried after the princess even into her innermost
apartment, without so much as waiting to remove his sandals, and
he cried out loudly:—"Oh, my princess! I have been taught that
written characters were invented in India by Monju Bosatsu, and
in Japan by Kobodaishi.
"And is it not like tearing the hands of Kobodaishi, thus to tear
a letter written with characters?
"Know you not that a woman is less pure than a man? Wherefore,
then, do you, born a woman, thus presume to tear a letter?
"Now, if you refuse to write a reply, I shall call upon all the
gods; I shall announce to them this unwomanly act, and I shall
invoke their malediction upon you!"
And with these words he took from the box which he always carried
with him a Buddhist rosary; and he began to twist it about with
an awful appearance of anger.
Then the Princess Terute, terrified and grieved, prayed him to
cease his invocations, and promised that she would write an
answer at once.
So her answer was quickly written, and given to the merchant, who
was overjoyed by his success, and speedily departed for Hitachi,
carrying his box upon his back.
IV. HOW KANE-UJI BECAME A BRIDEGROOM WITHOUT HIS FATHER-IN-LAW'S
Traveling with great speed, the nakodo quickly arrived at the
dwelling of the Hangwan, and gave the letter to the master, who
removed the cover with hands that trembled for joy.
Very, very short the answer was,—only these words: Oki naka
bune, "a boat floating in the offing."
But Kane-uji guessed the meaning to be: "As fortunes and
misfortunes are common to all, be not afraid, and try to come
Therewith he summoned Ikenoshoji, and bade him make all needful
preparation for a rapid journey. Goto Sayemon consented to serve
He accompanied them; and when they reached the district of Soba,
and were approaching the house of the princess, the guide said to
"That house before us, with the black gate, is the dwelling of
the far-famed Yokoyama Choja; and that other house, to the
northward of it, having a red gate, is the residence of the
"Be prudent in all things, and you will succeed." And with these
words, the guide disappeared.
Accompanied by his faithful retainer, the Hangwan approached the
Both attempted to enter, when the gate-keeper sought to prevent
them; declaring they were much too bold to seek to enter the
dwelling of Terute-Hime, only daughter of the renowned Yokoyama
Choja,—the sacred child begotten through the favor of the deity
of the Sun.
"You do but right to speak thus," the retainer made reply. "But
you must learn that we are officers from the city in search of a
"And it is just because all males are prohibited from entering
this dwelling that a search therein must be made."
Then the guards, amazed, suffered them to pass, and saw the
supposed officers of justice enter the court, and many of the
ladies in waiting come forth to welcome them as guests.
And the Lady Terute, marvelously pleased by the coming of the
writer of that love-letter, appeared before her wooer, robed in
her robes of ceremony, with a veil abut her shoulders.
Kane-uji was also much delighted at being thus welcomed by the
beautiful maiden. And the wedding ceremony was at once performed,
to the great joy of both, and was followed by a great wine feast.
So great was the mirth, and so joyful were all, that the
followers of the prince and the maids of the princess danced
together, and together made music.
And Oguri-Hangwan himself produced his flute, made of the root of
a bamboo, and began to play upon it sweetly.
Then the father of Terute, hearing all this joyous din in the
house of his daughter, wondered greatly what the cause might be.
But when he had been told how the Hangwan had become the
bridegroom of his daughter without his consent, the Choja grew
wondrous angry, and in secret devised a scheme of revenge.
V. THE POISONING
The next day Yokoyama sent to Prince Kane-uji a message, inviting
him to come to his house, there to perform the wine-drinking
ceremony of greeting each other as father-in-law and son-in-law.
Then the Princess Terute sought to dissuade the Hangwan from
going there, because she had dreamed in the night a dream of ill
But the Hangwan, making light of her fears, went boldly to the
dwelling of the Choja, followed by his young retainers.
Then Yokoyama Choja, rejoicing, caused many dishes to be
prepared, containing all delicacies furnished by the mountains
and the sea(1), and well entertained the Hangwan.
At last, when the wine-drinking began to flag, Yokoyama uttered
the wish that his guest, the lord Kane-uji, would also furnish
"And what shall it be?" the Hangwan asked.
"Truly," replied the Choja, "I am desirous to see you show your
great skill in riding."
"Then I shall ride," the prince made answer. And presently the
horse called Onikage(3) was led out.
That horse was so fierce that he did not seem to be a real horse,
but rather a demon or a dragon, so that few dared even to
But the Prince Hangwan Kane-uji at once loosened the chain by
which the horse was fastened, and rode upon him with wondrous
In spite of his fierceness, Onikage found himself obliged to do
everything which his rider wished. All present, Yokoyama and the
others, could not speak for astonishment.
But soon the Choja, taking and setting up a six-folding screen,
asked to see the prince ride his steed upon the upper edge of the
The lord Oguri, consenting, rode upon the top of the screen; and
then he rode along the top of an upright shoji frame.
Then a chessboard being set out, he rode upon it, making the
horse rightly set his hoof upon the squares of the chessboard as
And, lastly, he made the steed balance himself upon the frame of
Then Yokoyama was at a loss what to do, and he could only say,
bowing low to the prince:
"Truly I am grateful for your entertainment; I am very much
And the lord Oguri, having attached Onikage to a cherry-tree in
the garden, reentered the apartment.
But Saburo, the third son of the house, having persuaded his
father to kill the Hangwan with poisoned wine, urged the prince
to drink sake with which there had been mingled the venom of a
blue centipede and of a blue lizard, and foul water that had long
stood in the hollow joint of a bamboo.
And the Hangwan and his followers, not suspecting the wine had
been poisoned, drank the whole.
Sad to say, the poison entered into their viscera and their
intestines; and all their bones burst asunder by reason of the
violence of that poison.
(1) Or, "with all strange flavors of mountain and sea."
(2) The word is really sakana, "fish." It has always been
the rule to serve fish with sake; and gradually the word
"fish" became used for any entertainment given during the
wine-party by guests, such as songs, dances, etc.
(3) Literally, "Demon-deer-hair." The term "deer-hair" refers to
color. A less exact translation of the original characters would
be "the demon chestnut". Kage, "deer-color" also means
"chestnut." A chestnut horse is Kage-no-uma.
(4) A large portable lantern, having a wooden frame and paper
sides. There are andon of many forms, some remarkably beautiful.
Their lives passed from them quickly as dew in the morning from
And Saburo and his father buried their corpses in the moor
VI. CAST ADRIFT
The cruel Yokoyama thought that it would not do to suffer his
daughter to live, after he had thus killed her husband. Therefore
he felt obliged to order his faithful servants, Onio and Oniji,
(1) who were brothers, to take her far out into the sea of
Sagami, and to drown her there.
And the two brothers, knowing their master was too stony-hearted
to be persuaded otherwise, could do nothing but obey. So they
went to the unhappy lady, and told her the purpose for which they
had been sent.
Terute-Hime was so astonished by her father's cruel decision that
at first she thought all this was a dream, from which she
earnestly prayed to be awakened.
After a while she said: "Never in my whole life have I knowingly
committed any crime…. But whatever happen to my own body, I am
more anxious than I can say to learn what became of my husband
after he visited my father's house."
"Our master," answered the two brothers, "becoming very angry at
learning that you two had been wedded without his lawful
permission, poisoned the young prince, according to a plan
devised by your brother Saburo."
Then Terute, more and more astonished, invoked, with just cause,
a malediction upon her father for his cruelty.
But she was not even allowed time to lament her fate; for Onio
and his brother at once removed her garments, and put her naked
body into a roll of rush matting.
When this piteous package was carried out of the house at night,
the princess and her waiting-maids bade each other their last
farewells, with sobs and cries of grief.
(1) Onio, "the king of devils," Oniji, "the next greatest devil."
The brothers Onio and Oniji then rowed far out to sea with their
pitiful burden. But when they found themselves alone, then Oniji
said to Onio that it were better they should try to save their
To this the elder brother at once agreed without difficulty; and
both began to think of some plan to save her.
Just at the same time an empty canoe came near them, drifting
with the sea-current.
At once the lady was placed in it; and the brothers, exclaiming,
"That indeed was a fortunate happening," bade their mistress
farewell, and rowed back to their master.
VII. THE LADY YORIHIME
The canoe bearing poor Terute was tossed about by the waves for
seven days and seven nights, during which time there was much
wind and rain. And at last it was discovered by some fishermen
who were fishing near Nawoye.
But they thought that the beautiful woman was certainly the
spirit that had caused the long storm of many days; and Terute
might have been killed by their oars, had not one of the men of
Nawoye taken her under his protection.
Now this man, whose name was Murakimi Dayu, resolved to adopt the
princess as his daughter as he had no child of his own to be his
So he took her to his home, and named her Yorihime, and treated
her so kindly that his wife grew jealous of the adopted daughter,
and therefore was often cruel to her when the husband was absent.
But being still more angered to find that Yorihime would not go
away of her own accord, the evil-hearted woman began to devise
some means of getting rid of her forever.
Just at that time the ship of a kidnapper happened to cast anchor
in the harbor. Needless to say that Yorihime was secretly sold to
this dealer in human flesh.
VIII. BECOMING A SERVANT
After this misfortune, the unhappy princess passed from one
master to another as many as seventy-five times. Her last
purchaser was one Yorodzuya Chobei, well known as the keeper of a
large joroya(1) in the province of Mino.
When Terute-Hime was first brought before this new master, she
spoke meekly to him, and begged him to excuse her ignorance of
all refinements and of deportment. And Chobei then asked her to
tell him all about herself, her native place, and her family.
But Terute-Hime thought it would not be wise to mention even the
name of her native province, lest she might possibly be forced to
speak of the poisoning of her husband by her own father.
So she resolved to answer only that she was born in Hitachi;
feeling a sad pleasure in saying that she belonged to the same
province in which the lord Hangwan, her lover, used to live.
"I was born," she said, "in the province of Hitachi; but I am of
too low birth to have a family name. Therefore may I beseech you
to bestow some suitable name upon me?"
Then Terute-Hime was named Kohagi of Hitachi, and she was told
that she would have to serve her master very faithfully in his
But this order she refused to obey, and said that she would
perform with pleasure any work given her to do, however mean or
hard, but that she would never follow the business of a joro.
"Then," cried Chobei in anger, "your daily tasks shall be
"To feed all the horses, one hundred in number, that are kept in
the stables, and to wait upon all other persons in the house when
they take their meals.
"To dress the hair of the thirty-six joro belonging to this
house, dressing the hair of each in the style that best becomes
her; and also to fill seven boxes with threads of twisted hemp.
"Also to make the fire daily in seven furnaces, and to draw water
from a spring in the mountains, half a mile from here."
Terute knew that neither she nor any other being alive could
possibly fulfill all the tasks thus laid upon her by this cruel
master; and she wept over her misfortune.
But she soon felt that to weep could avail her nothing. So wiping
away her tears, she bravely resolved to try what she could do,
and then putting on an apron, and tying back her sleeves, she set
to work feeding the horses.
The great mercy of the gods cannot be understood; but it is
certain that as she fed the first horse, all the others, through
divine influence, were fully fed at the same time.
And the same wonderful thing happened when she waited upon the
people of the house at mealtime, and when she dressed the hair of
the girls, and when she twisted the threads of hemp, and when she
went to kindle the fire in the furnaces.
But saddest of all it was to see Terute-Hime bearing the
water-buckets upon her shoulders, taking her way to the distant
spring to draw water.
And when she saw the reflection of her much-changed face in the
water with which she filled her buckets, then indeed she wept
But the sudden remembrance of the cruel Chobei filled her with
exceeding fear, and urged her back in haste to her terrible
But soon the master of the joroya began to see that his new
servant was no common woman, and to treat her with a great show
(1)A house of prostitution.
IX. DRAWING THE CART
And now we shall tell what became of Kane-uji.
The far-famed Yugyo Shonin, of the temple of Fujisawa in Kagami,
who traveled constantly in Japan to preach the law of Buddha in
all the provinces, chanced to be passing over the moor
There he saw many crows and kites flitting about a grave. Drawing
nearer, he wondered much to see a nameless thing, seemingly
without arms or legs, moving between the pieces of a broken
Then he remembered the old tradition, that those who are put to
death before having completed the number of years allotted to
them in this world reappear or revive in the form called
And he thought that the shape before him must be one of those
unhappy spirits; and the desire arose in his kindly heart to have
the monster taken to the hot springs belonging to the temple of
Kumano, and thereby enable it to return to its former human
So he had a cart made for the gaki-ami, and he placed the
nameless shape in it, and fastened to its breast a wooden tablet,
inscribed with large characters.
And the words of the inscription were these: "Take pity upon this
unfortunate being, and help it upon its journey to the hot
springs of the temple of Kumano.
"Those who draw the cart even a little way, by pulling the rope
attached to it, will be rewarded with very great good fortune.
"To draw the cart even one step shall be equal in merit to
feeding one thousand priests, and to draw it two steps shall be
equal in merit to feeding ten thousand priests;
"And to draw it three steps shall be equal in merit to causing
any dead relation—father, mother, or husband—to enter upon the
way of Buddhahood."
Thus very soon travelers who traveled that way took pity on the
formless one: some drew the cart several miles, and, others were
kind enough to draw it for many days together.
And so, after much time, the gaki-ami in its cart appeared
before the joroya of Yorodzuya Chobei; and Kohagi of Hitachi,
seeing it, was greatly moved by the inscription.
Then becoming suddenly desirous to draw the cart if even for one
day only, and so to obtain for her dead husband the merit
resulting from such work of mercy, she prayed her master to allow
her three days' liberty that she might draw the cart.
And she asked this for the sake of her parents; for she dared not
speak of her husband, fearing the master might become very angry
were he to learn the truth.
Chobei at first refused, declaring in a harsh voice that since
she had not obeyed his former commands, she should never be
allowed to leave the house, even for a single hour.
But Kohagi said to him: "Lo, master! the hens go to their nests
when the weather becomes cold, end the little birds hie to the
deep forest. Even so do men in time of misfortune flee to the
shelter of benevolence.
"Surely it is because you are known as a kindly man that the
gaki-ami rested a while outside the fence of this house.
"Now I shall promise to give up even a life for my master and
mistress in case of need, providing you will only grant me three
days' freedom now."
So at last the miserly Chobei was persuaded to grant the prayer;
and his wife was glad to add even two days more to the time
permitted. And Kohagi, thus freed for five days, was so rejoiced
that she at once without delay commenced her horrible task.
After having, with much hardship, passed through such places as
Fuhanoseki, Musa, Bamba, Samegaye, Ono, and Suenaga-toge, she
reached the famed town of Otsu, in the space of three days.
There she knew that she would have to leave the cart, since it
would take her two days to return thence to the province of Mino.
On her long way to Otsu, the only pleasing sights and sounds were
the beautiful lilies growing wild by the roadside, the voices of
the hibari and shijugara(1) and all the birds of spring that sang
in the trees, and the songs of the peasant girls who were
planting the rice.
But such sights and sounds could please her only a moment; for
most of them caused her to dream of other days, and gave her pain
by making her recollect the hopeless condition into which she had
(1) Hibari, a species of field lark; shijugara, a kind of
Though greatly wearied by the hard labor she had undertaken for
three whole days, she would not go to an inn. She passed the last
night beside the nameless shape, which she would have to leave
"Often have I heard," she thought to herself, "that a gaki-ami
is a being belonging to the world of the dead. This one, then,
should know something about my dead husband.
"Oh that this gaki-ami had the sense either of hearing or of
sight! Then I could question it about Kane-uji, either by word of
mouth or in writing."
When day dawned above the neighboring misty mountains, Kohagi
went away to get an inkstone and a brush; and she soon returned
with these to the place where the cart was.
Then, with the brush, she wrote, below the inscription upon the
wooden tablet attached to the breast of the gaki-ami, these
"When you shall have recovered and are able to return to your
province, pray call upon Kohagi of Hitachi, a servant of
Yorodzuya Chobei of the town of Obaka in the province of Mino.
"For it will give me much joy to see the person for whose sake I
obtained with difficulty five days' freedom, three of which I
gave to drawing your cart as far as this place."
Then she bade the gaki-ami farewell, and turned back upon her
homeward way, although she found it very difficult thus to leave
the cart alone.
X. THE REVIVAL
At last the gaki-ami was brought to the hot springs of the
famed temple of Kumano Gongen, and, by the aid of those
compassionate persons who pitied its state, was daily enabled to
experience the healing effects of the bath.
After a single week the effects of the bath caused the eyes,
nose, ears, and mouth to reappear; after fourteen days all the
limbs had been fully re-formed;
And after one-and-twenty days the nameless shape was completely
transformed into the real Oguri-Hangwan Kane-uji, perfect and
handsome as he had been in other years.
When this marvelous change had been effected, Kane-uji looked all
about him, and wondered much when and how he had been brought to
that strange place.
But through the august influence of the god of Kumano things were
so ordained that the revived prince could return safely to his
home at Nijo in Kyoto, where his parents, the lord Kane-ie and
his spouse, welcomed him with great joy.
Then the august Emperor, hearing all that had happened, thought
it a wonderful thing that an of his subjects, after having been
dead three years, should have thus revived.
And not only did he gladly pardon the fault for which the Hangwan
had been banished, but further appointed him to be lord ruler of
the three provinces, Hitachi, Sagami, and Mino.
XI. THE INTERVIEW
One day Oguri-Hangwan left his residence to make a journey of
inspection through the provinces of which he had been appointed
ruler. And reaching Mino, he resolved to visit Kohagi of Hitachi,
and to utter his thanks to her for her exceeding goodness.
Therefore he lodged at the house of Yorodzuya, where he was
conducted to the finest of all the guest-chambers, which was made
beautiful with screens of gold, with Chinese carpets, with Indian
hangings, and with other precious things of great cost.
When the lord ordered Kohagi of Hitachi to be summoned to his
presence, he was answered that she was only one of the lowest
menials, and too dirty to appear before him. But he paid no heed
to these words, only commanding that she should come at once, no
matter how dirty she might be.
Therefore, much against her will, Kohagi was obliged to appear
before the lord, whom she at first beheld through a screen, and
saw that he so much like the Hangwan that she was greatly
Oguri then asked her to tell him her real name; but Kohagi
refused, saying: "If I may not serve my lord with wine, except on
condition of telling my real name, then I can only leave the
presence of my lord."
But as she was about to go, the Hangwan called to her: "Nay, stop
a little while. I have a good reason to ask your name, because I
am in truth that very gaki-ami whom you so kindly drew last
year to Otsu in a cart."
And with these words he produced the wooden tablet upon which
Kohagi had written.
Then she was greatly moved, and said: "I am very happy to see you
thus recovered. And now I shall gladly tell you all my history;
hoping only that you, my lord, will tell me something of that
ghostly world from which you have come back, and in which my
husband, alas, now dwells.
"I was born (it hurts my heart to speak of former times!) the
only daughter of Yokoyama Choja, who dwelt in the district of
Soba, in the province of Sagami, and my name was Terute-Hime.
"I remember too well, alas! having been wedded, three years ago,
to a famous person of rank, whose name was Oguri-Hangwan
Kane-uji, who used to live in the province of Hitachi. But my
husband was poisoned by my father at the instigation of his own
third son, Saburo.
"I myself was condemned by him to be drowned in the sea of
Sagami. And I owe my present existence to the faithful servants
of my father, Onio and Oniji."
Then the lord Hangwan said, "You see here before you, Terute,
your husband, Kane-uji. Although killed together with my
followers, I had been destined to live in this world many years
"By the learned priest of Fujisawa temple I was saved, and, being
provided with a cart, I was drawn by many kind persons to the hot
springs of Kumano, where I was restored to my former health and
shape. And now I have been appointed lord ruler of the three
provinces, and can have all things that I desire."
Hearing this tale, Terute could scarcely believe it was not all a
dream, and she wept for joy. Then she said: "Ah! since last I saw
you, what hardships have I not passed through!
"For seven days and seven nights I was tossed about upon the sea
in a canoe; then I was in a great danger in the bay of Nawoye,
and was saved by a kind man called Murakami Deyu.
"And after that I was sold and bought seventy-five times; and the
last time I was brought here, where I have been made to suffer
all kinds of hardship only because I refused to become a joro.
That is why you now see me in so wretched a condition."
Very angry was Kane-uji to hear of the cruel conduct of the
inhuman Chobei, and desired to kill him at once.
But Terute besought her husband to spare the man's life, and so
fulfilled the promise she had long before made to Chobei,—that
she would give even her own life, if necessary, for her master
and mistress, on condition of being allowed five days' freedom to
draw the cart of the gaki-ami.
And for this Chobei was really grateful; and in compensation he
presented the Hangwan with the hundred horses from his stable,
and gave to Terute the thirty-six servants belonging to his
And then Terute-Hime, appropriately attired, went away with the
Prince Kane-uji; and, they began their journey to Sagami with
hearts full of joy.
XII. THE VENGEANCE
This is the district of Soba, in the province of Sagami, the
native land of Terute: how many beautiful and how many sorrowful
thoughts does it recall to their minds!
And here also are Yokoyama and his son, who killed Lord Ogiri
So Saburo, the third son, being led to the moor called
Totsuka-no-hara, was there punished.
But Yokoyama Choja, wicked as he had been, was not punished;
because parents, however bad, must be for their children always
like the sun and moon. And hearing this order, Yokoyama repented
very greatly for that which he had done.
Qnio and Oniji, the brothers, were rewarded with many gifts for
having saved the Princess Terute off the coast of Sagami.
Thus those who were good prospered, and the bad were brought to
Fortunate and happy, Oguri-Sama and Terute-Hime together returned
to Miako, to dwell in the residence at Nijo, and their union was
beautiful as the blossoming of spring.
THE BALLAD OF O-SHICHI, THE DAUGHTER OF THE YAOYA (1)
In autumn the deer are lured within reach of the hunters by the
sounds of the flute, which resemble the sounds of the voices of
their mates, and so are killed.
Almost in like manner, one of the five most beautiful girls in
Yedo, whose comely faces charmed all the capital even as the
spring-blossoming of cherry-trees, cast away her life in the
moment of blindness caused by love.
When, having done a foolish thing, she was brought before the
mayor of the city of Yedo, that high official questioned the
young criminal, asking: "Are you not O-Shichi, the daughter of
the yaoya? And being so young, how came you to commit such a
dreadful crime as incendiarism?"
Then O-Shichi, weeping and wringing her hands, made this answer:
"Indeed, that is the only crime I ever committed; and I had no
extraordinary reason for it but this:—
"Once before, when there had been a great fire,—so great a fire
that nearly all Yedo was consumed,—our house also was burned
down. And we three,—my parents and I,—knowing no otherwhere to
go, took shelter in a Buddhist temple, to remain there until our
house could be rebuilt.
"Surely the destiny that draws two young persons to each other is
hard to understand!… In that temple there was a young acolyte,
and love grew up between us.
"In secret we met together, and promised never to forsake each
other; and we pledged ourselves to each other by sucking blood
from small cuts we made in our little fingers, and by exchanging
written vows that we should love each other forever.
"Before our pillows had yet become fixed(2), our new house in
Hongo was built and made ready for us.
"But from that day when I bade a sad farewell to Kichiza-Sama, to
whom I had pledged myself for the time of two existences, never
was my heart consoled by even one letter from the acolyte.
"Alone in my bed at night, I used to think and think, and at last
in a dream there came to me the dreadful idea of setting fire to
the house, as the only means of again being able to meet my
"Then, one evening, I got a bundle of dry rushes, and placed
inside it some pieces of live charcoal, and I secretly put the
bundle into a shed at the back of the house.
"A fire broke out, and there was a great tumult, and I was
arrested and brought here—oh! how dreadful it was!
"I will never, never commit such a fault again. But whatever
happen, oh, pray save me, my Bugyo(3)! Oh, pray take pity on me!"
Ah! the simple apology!… But what was her age? Not twelve? not
thirteen? not fourteen? Fifteen comes after fourteen. Alas! she
was fifteen, and could not be saved!
Therefore O-Shichi was sentenced according to the law. But first
she was bound with strong cords, and was for seven days exposed
to public view on the bridge called Nihonbashi. Ah! what a
piteous sight it was!
Her aunts and cousins, even Bekurai and Kakusuke, the house
servants, had often to wring their sleeves, so wet were their
sleeves with tears.
But, because the crime could not be forgiven, O-Shichi was bound
to four posts, and fuel was kindled, and the fire rose up!… And
poor O-Shichi in the midst of that fire!
Even so the insects of summer fly to the flame.
(1) Yaoya, a seller of vegetables.
(2) This curious expression has its origin in the Japanese saying
that lovers "exchange pillows." In the dark, the little Japanese
wooden pillows might easily be exchanged by mistake. "While the
pillows, were yet not definite or fixed" would mean, therefore,
while the two lovers were still in the habit of seeking each
other secretly at night.
(3) Governor or local chief. The Bugyo of old days often acted as