GLIMPSES OF UNFAMILIAR JAPAN
by LAFCADIO HEARN
TO THE FRIENDS
WHOSE KINDNESS ALONE RENDERED POSSIBLE
MY SOJOURN IN THE ORIENT,
PAYMASTER MITCHELL McDONALD, U.S.N.
BASIL HALL CHAMBERLAIN, ESQ.
Emeritus Professor of Philology and Japanese in the
Imperial University of Tokyo
I DEDICATE THESE VOLUMES
IN TOKEN OF
AFFECTION AND GRATITUDE
1 MY FIRST DAY IN THE ORIENT
2 THE WRITING OF KOBODAISHI
4 A PILGRIMAGE TO ENOSHIMA
5 AT THE MARKET OF THE DEAD
7 THE CHIEF CITY OF THE PROVINCE OF THE GODS
8 KITZUKI: THE MOST ANCIENT SHRINE IN JAPAN
9 IN THE CAVE OF THE CHILDREN'S GHOSTS
10 AT MIONOSEKI
11 NOTES ON KITZUKI
12 AT HINOMISAKI
In the Introduction to his charming Tales of Old Japan, Mr. Mitford
wrote in 1871:
'The books which have been written of late years about Japan have either
been compiled from official records, or have contained the sketchy
impressions of passing travellers. Of the inner life of the Japanese the
world at large knows but little: their religion, their superstitions,
their ways of thought, the hidden springs by which they move—all these
are as yet mysteries.'
This invisible life referred to by Mr. Mitford is the Unfamiliar Japan
of which I have been able to obtain a few glimpses. The reader may,
perhaps, be disappointed by their rarity; for a residence of little more
than four years among the people—even by one who tries to adopt their
habits and customs—scarcely suffices to enable the foreigner to begin
to feel at home in this world of strangeness. None can feel more than
the author himself how little has been accomplished in these volumes,
and how much remains to do.
The popular religious ideas—especially the ideas derived from Buddhism
-and the curious superstitions touched upon in these sketches are
little shared by the educated classes of New Japan. Except as regards
his characteristic indifference toward abstract ideas in general and
metaphysical speculation in particular, the Occidentalised Japanese of
to-day stands almost on the intellectual plane of the cultivated
Parisian or Bostonian. But he is inclined to treat with undue contempt
all conceptions of the supernatural; and toward the great religious
questions of the hour his attitude is one of perfect apathy. Rarely does
his university training in modern philosophy impel him to attempt any
independent study of relations, either sociological or psychological.
For him, superstitions are simply superstitions; their relation to the
emotional nature of the people interests him not at all.  And this
not only because he thoroughly understands that people, but because the
class to which he belongs is still unreasoningly, though quite
naturally, ashamed of its older beliefs. Most of us who now call
ourselves agnostics can recollect the feelings with which, in the period
of our fresh emancipation from a faith far more irrational than
Buddhism, we looked back upon the gloomy theology of our fathers.
Intellectual Japan has become agnostic within only a few decades; and
the suddenness of this mental revolution sufficiently explains the
principal, though not perhaps all the causes of the present attitude of
the superior class toward Buddhism. For the time being it certainly
borders upon intolerance; and while such is the feeling even to religion
as distinguished from superstition, the feeling toward superstition as
distinguished from religion must be something stronger still.
But the rare charm of Japanese life, so different from that of all other
lands, is not to be found in its Europeanised circles. It is to be found
among the great common people, who represent in Japan, as in all
countries, the national virtues, and who still cling to their delightful
old customs, their picturesque dresses, their Buddhist images, their
household shrines, their beautiful and touching worship of ancestors.
This is the life of which a foreign observer can never weary, if
fortunate and sympathetic enough to enter into it—the life that forces
him sometimes to doubt whether the course of our boasted Western
progress is really in the direction of moral development. Each day,
while the years pass, there will be revealed to him some strange and
unsuspected beauty in it. Like other life, it has its darker side; yet
even this is brightness compared with the darker side of Western
existence. It has its foibles, its follies, its vices, its cruelties;
yet the more one sees of it, the more one marvels at its extraordinary
goodness, its miraculous patience, its never-failing courtesy, its
simplicity of heart, its intuitive charity. And to our own larger
Occidental comprehension, its commonest superstitions, however condemned
at Tokyo have rarest value as fragments of the unwritten literature of
its hopes, its fears, its experience with right and wrong—its
primitive efforts to find solutions for the riddle of the Unseen flow
much the lighter and kindlier superstitions of the people add to the
charm of Japanese life can, indeed, be understood only by one who has
long resided in the interior. A few of their beliefs are sinister—such
as that in demon-foxes, which public education is rapidly dissipating;
but a large number are comparable for beauty of fancy even to those
Greek myths in which our noblest poets of today still find inspiration;
while many others, which encourage kindness to the unfortunate and
kindness to animals, can never have produced any but the happiest moral
results. The amusing presumption of domestic animals, and the
comparative fearlessness of many wild creatures in the presence of man;
the white clouds of gulls that hover about each incoming steamer in
expectation of an alms of crumbs; the whirring of doves from temple-
eaves to pick up the rice scattered for them by pilgrims; the familiar
storks of ancient public gardens; the deer of holy shrines, awaiting
cakes and caresses; the fish which raise their heads from sacred lotus-
ponds when the stranger's shadow falls upon the water—these and a
hundred other pretty sights are due to fancies which, though called
superstitious, inculcate in simplest form the sublime truth of the Unity
of Life. And even when considering beliefs less attractive than these,-
superstitions of which the grotesqueness may provoke a smile—the
impartial observer would do well to bear in mind the words of Lecky:
Many superstitions do undoubtedly answer to the Greek conception of
slavish "fear of the Gods," and have been productive of unspeakable
misery to mankind; but there are very many others of a different
tendency. Superstitions appeal to our hopes as well as our fears. They
often meet and gratify the inmost longings of the heart. They offer
certainties where reason can only afford possibilities or probabilities.
They supply conceptions on which the imagination loves to dwell. They
sometimes impart even a new sanction to moral truths. Creating wants
which they alone can satisfy, and fears which they alone can quell, they
often become essential elements of happiness; and their consoling
efficacy is most felt in the languid or troubled hours when it is most
needed. We owe more to our illusions than to our knowledge. The
imagination, which is altogether constructive, probably contributes more
to our happiness than the reason, which in the sphere of speculation is
mainly critical and destructive. The rude charm which, in the hour of
danger or distress, the savage clasps so confidently to his breast, the
sacred picture which is believed to shed a hallowing and protecting
influence over the poor man's cottage, can bestow a more real
consolation in the darkest hour of human suffering than can be afforded
by the grandest theories of philosophy. . . . No error can be more grave
than to imagine that when a critical spirit is abroad the pleasant
beliefs will all remain, and the painful ones alone will perish.'
That the critical spirit of modernised Japan is now indirectly aiding
rather than opposing the efforts of foreign bigotry to destroy the
simple, happy beliefs of the people, and substitute those cruel
superstitions which the West has long intellectually outgrown—the
fancies of an unforgiving God and an everlasting hell—is surely to be
regretted. More than hundred and sixty years ago Kaempfer wrote of the
Japanese 'In the practice of virtue, in purity of life and outward
devotion they far outdo the Christians.' And except where native morals
have suffered by foreign contamination, as in the open ports, these
words are true of the Japanese to-day. My own conviction, and that of
many impartial and more experienced observers of Japanese life, is that
Japan has nothing whatever to gain by conversion to Christianity, either
morally or otherwise, but very much to lose.
Of the twenty-seven sketches composing these volumes, four were
originally purchased by various newspaper syndicates and reappear in a
considerably altered form, and six were published in the Atlantic
Monthly (1891-3). The remainder forming the bulk of the work, are new.
KUMAMOTO, KYUSHU, JAPAN. May, 1894.
GLIMPSES OF UNFAMILIAR JAPAN by LAFCADIO HEARN
Chapter One My First Day in the Orient
'Do not fail to write down your first impressions as soon as possible,'
said a kind English professor [Basil Hall Chamberlain: PREPARATOR'S
NOTE] whom I had the pleasure of meeting soon after my arrival in Japan:
'they are evanescent, you know; they will never come to you again, once
they have faded out; and yet of all the strange sensations you may
receive in this country you will feel none so charming as these.' I am
trying now to reproduce them from the hasty notes of the time, and find
that they were even more fugitive than charming; something has
evaporated from all my recollections of them—something impossible to
recall. I neglected the friendly advice, in spite of all resolves to
obey it: I could not, in those first weeks, resign myself to remain
indoors and write, while there was yet so much to see and hear and feel
in the sun-steeped ways of the wonderful Japanese city. Still, even
could I revive all the lost sensations of those first experiences, I
doubt if I could express and fix them in words. The first charm of Japan
is intangible and volatile as a perfume.
It began for me with my first kuruma-ride out of the European quarter of
Yokohama into the Japanese town; and so much as I can recall of it is
hereafter set down.
It is with the delicious surprise of the first journey through Japanese
streets—unable to make one's kuruma-runner understand anything but
gestures, frantic gestures to roll on anywhere, everywhere, since all is
unspeakably pleasurable and new—that one first receives the real
sensation of being in the Orient, in this Far East so much read of, so
long dreamed of, yet, as the eyes bear witness, heretofore all unknown.
There is a romance even in the first full consciousness of this rather
commonplace fact; but for me this consciousness is transfigured
inexpressibly by the divine beauty of the day. There is some charm
unutterable in the morning air, cool with the coolness of Japanese
spring and wind-waves from the snowy cone of Fuji; a charm perhaps due
rather to softest lucidity than to any positive tone—an atmospheric
limpidity extraordinary, with only a suggestion of blue in it, through
which the most distant objects appear focused with amazing sharpness.
The sun is only pleasantly warm; the jinricksha, or kuruma, is the most
cosy little vehicle imaginable; and the street-vistas, as seen above the
dancing white mushroom-shaped hat of my sandalled runner, have an
allurement of which I fancy that I could never weary.
Elfish everything seems; for everything as well as everybody is small,
and queer, and mysterious: the little houses under their blue roofs, the
little shop-fronts hung with blue, and the smiling little people in
their blue costumes. The illusion is only broken by the occasional
passing of a tall foreigner, and by divers shop-signs bearing
announcements in absurd attempts at English. Nevertheless such discords
only serve to emphasise reality; they never materially lessen the
fascination of the funny little streets.
'Tis at first a delightfully odd confusion only, as you look down one of
them, through an interminable flutter of flags and swaying of dark blue
drapery, all made beautiful and mysterious with Japanese or Chinese
lettering. For there are no immediately discernible laws of
construction or decoration: each building seems to have a fantastic
prettiness of its own; nothing is exactly like anything else, and all is
bewilderingly novel. But gradually, after an hour passed in the quarter,
the eye begins to recognise in a vague way some general plan in the
construction of these low, light, queerly-gabled wooden houses, mostly
unpainted, with their first stories all open to the street, and thin
strips of roofing sloping above each shop-front, like awnings, back to
the miniature balconies of paper-screened second stories. You begin to
understand the common plan of the tiny shops, with their matted floors
well raised above the street level, and the general perpendicular
arrangement of sign-lettering, whether undulating on drapery or
glimmering on gilded and lacquered signboards. You observe that the same
rich dark blue which dominates in popular costume rules also in shop
draperies, though there is a sprinkling of other tints—bright blue and
white and red (no greens or yellows). And then you note also that the
dresses of the labourers are lettered with the same wonderful lettering
as the shop draperies. No arabesques could produce such an effect. As
modified for decorative purposes these ideographs have a speaking
symmetry which no design without a meaning could possess. As they appear
on the back of a workman's frock—pure white on dark blue—and large
enough to be easily read at a great distance (indicating some guild or
company of which the wearer is a member or employee), they give to the
poor cheap garment a fictitious appearance of splendour.
And finally, while you are still puzzling over the mystery of things,
there will come to you like a revelation the knowledge that most of the
amazing picturesqueness of these streets is simply due to the profusion
of Chinese and Japanese characters in white, black, blue, or gold,
decorating everything—even surfaces of doorposts and paper screens.
Perhaps, then, for one moment, you will imagine the effect of English
lettering substituted for those magical characters; and the mere idea
will give to whatever aesthetic sentiment you may possess a brutal
shock, and you will become, as I have become, an enemy of the
Romaji-Kwai—that society founded for the ugly utilitarian purpose of
introducing the use of English letters in writing Japanese.
An ideograph does not make upon the Japanese brain any impression
similar to that created in the Occidental brain by a letter or
combination of letters—dull, inanimate symbols of vocal sounds. To the
Japanese brain an ideograph is a vivid picture: it lives; it speaks; it
gesticulates. And the whole space of a Japanese street is full of such
living characters—figures that cry out to the eyes, words that smile
or grimace like faces.
What such lettering is, compared with our own lifeless types, can be
understood only by those who have lived in the farther East. For even
the printed characters of Japanese or Chinese imported texts give no
suggestion of the possible beauty of the same characters as modified for
decorative inscriptions, for sculptural use, or for the commonest
advertising purposes. No rigid convention fetters the fancy of the
calligrapher or designer: each strives to make his characters more
beautiful than any others; and generations upon generations of artists
have been toiling from time immemorial with like emulation, so that
through centuries and centuries of tire-less effort and study, the
primitive hieroglyph or ideograph has been evolved into a thing of
beauty indescribable. It consists only of a certain number of brush-
strokes; but in each stroke there is an undiscoverable secret art of
grace, proportion, imperceptible curve, which actually makes it seem
alive, and bears witness that even during the lightning-moment of its
creation the artist felt with his brush for the ideal shape of the
stroke equally along its entire length, from head to tail. But the art
of the strokes is not all; the art of their combination is that which
produces the enchantment, often so as to astonish the Japanese
themselves. It is not surprising, indeed, considering the strangely
personal, animate, esoteric aspect of Japanese lettering, that there
should be wonderful legends of calligraphy relating how words written by
holy experts became incarnate, and descended from their tablets to hold.
converse with mankind.
My kurumaya calls himself 'Cha.' He has a white hat which looks like the
top of an enormous mushroom; a short blue wide-sleeved jacket; blue
drawers, close-fitting as 'tights,' and reaching to his ankles; and
light straw sandals bound upon his bare feet with cords of palmetto-
fibre. Doubtless he typifies all the patience, endurance, and insidious
coaxing powers of his class. He has already manifested his power to make
me give him more than the law allows; and I have been warned against him
in vain. For the first sensation of having a human being for a horse,
trotting between shafts, unwearyingly bobbing up and down before you for
hours, is alone enough to evoke a feeling of compassion. And when this
human being, thus trotting between shafts, with all his hopes, memories,
sentiments, and comprehensions, happens to have the gentlest smile, and
the power to return the least favour by an apparent display of infinite
gratitude, this compassion becomes sympathy, and provokes unreasoning
impulses to self-sacrifice. I think the sight of the profuse
perspiration has also something to do with the feeling, for it makes one
think of the cost of heart-beats and muscle-contractions, likewise of
chills, congestions, and pleurisy. Cha's clothing is drenched; and he
mops his face with a small sky-blue towel, with figures of bamboo-sprays
and sparrows in white upon it, which towel he carries wrapped about his
wrist as he runs.
That, however, which attracts me in Cha—Cha considered not as a motive
power at all, but as a personality—I am rapidly learning to discern in
the multitudes of faces turned toward us as we roll through these
miniature streets. And perhaps the supremely pleasurable impression of
this morning is that produced by the singular gentleness of popular
scrutiny. Everybody looks at you curiously; but there is never anything
disagreeable, much less hostile in the gaze: most commonly it is
accompanied by a smile or half smile. And the ultimate consequence of
all these kindly curious looks and smiles is that the stranger finds
himself thinking of fairy-land. Hackneyed to the degree of provocation
this statement no doubt is: everybody describing the sensations of his
first Japanese day talks of the land as fairyland, and of its people as
fairy-folk. Yet there is a natural reason for this unanimity in choice
of terms to describe what is almost impossible to describe more
accurately at the first essay. To find one's self suddenly in a world
where everything is upon a smaller and daintier scale than with us—a
world of lesser and seemingly kindlier beings, all smiling at you as if
to wish you well—a world where all movement is slow and soft, and
voices are hushed—a world where land, life, and sky are unlike all
that one has known elsewhere—this is surely the realisation, for
imaginations nourished with English folklore, of the old dream of a
World of Elves.
The traveller who enters suddenly into a period of social change—
especially change from a feudal past to a democratic present—is likely
to regret the decay of things beautiful and the ugliness of things new.
What of both I may yet discover in Japan I know not; but to-day, in
these exotic streets, the old and the new mingle so well that one seems
to set off the other. The line of tiny white telegraph poles carrying
the world's news to papers printed in a mixture of Chinese and Japanese
characters; an electric bell in some tea-house with an Oriental riddle
of text pasted beside the ivory button, a shop of American sewing-
machines next to the shop of a maker of Buddhist images; the
establishment of a photographer beside the establishment of a
manufacturer of straw sandals: all these present no striking
incongruities, for each sample of Occidental innovation is set into an
Oriental frame that seems adaptable to any picture. But on the first
day, at least, the Old alone is new for the stranger, and suffices to
absorb his attention. It then appears to him that everything Japanese is
delicate, exquisite, admirable—even a pair of common wooden chopsticks
in a paper bag with a little drawing upon it; even a package of
toothpicks of cherry-wood, bound with a paper wrapper wonderfully
lettered in three different colours; even the little sky-blue towel,
with designs of flying sparrows upon it, which the jinricksha man uses
to wipe his face. The bank bills, the commonest copper coins, are things
of beauty. Even the piece of plaited coloured string used by the
shopkeeper in tying up your last purchase is a pretty curiosity.
Curiosities and dainty objects bewilder you by their very multitude: on
either side of you, wherever you turn your eyes, are countless wonderful
things as yet incomprehensible.
But it is perilous to look at them. Every time you dare to look,
something obliges you to buy it—unless, as may often happen, the
smiling vendor invites your inspection of so many varieties of one
article, each specially and all unspeakably desirable, that you flee
away out of mere terror at your own impulses. The shopkeeper never asks
you to buy; but his wares are enchanted, and if you once begin buying
you are lost. Cheapness means only a temptation to commit bankruptcy;
for the resources of irresistible artistic cheapness are inexhaustible.
The largest steamer that crosses the Pacific could not contain what you
wish to purchase. For, although you may not, perhaps, confess the fact
to yourself, what you really want to buy is not the contents of a shop;
you want the shop and the shopkeeper, and streets of shops with their
draperies and their inhabitants, the whole city and the bay and the
mountains begirdling it, and Fujiyama's white witchery overhanging it in
the speckless sky, all Japan, in very truth, with its magical trees and
luminous atmosphere, with all its cities and towns and temples, and
forty millions of the most lovable people in the universe.
Now there comes to my mind something I once heard said by a practical
American on hearing of a great fire in Japan: 'Oh! those people can
afford fires; their houses are so cheaply built.' It is true that the
frail wooden houses of the common people can be cheaply and quickly
replaced; but that which was within them to make them beautiful cannot—
and every fire is an art tragedy. For this is the land of infinite hand-
made variety; machinery has not yet been able to introduce sameness and
utilitarian ugliness in cheap production (except in response to foreign
demand for bad taste to suit vulgar markets), and each object made by
the artist or artisan differs still from all others, even of his own
making. And each time something beautiful perishes by fire, it is a
something representing an individual idea.
Happily the art impulse itself, in this country of conflagrations, has a
vitality which survives each generation of artists, and defies the flame
that changes their labour to ashes or melts it to shapelessness. The
idea whose symbol has perished will reappear again in other creations—
perhaps after the passing of a century—modified, indeed, yet
recognisably of kin to the thought of the past. And every artist is a
ghostly worker. Not by years of groping and sacrifice does he find his
highest expression; the sacrificial past is within 'him; his art is an
inheritance; his fingers are guided by the dead in the delineation of a
flying bird, of the vapours of mountains, of the colours of the morning
and the evening, of the shape of branches and the spring burst of
flowers: generations of skilled workmen have given him their cunning,
and revive in the wonder of his drawing. What was conscious effort in
the beginning became unconscious in later centuries—becomes almost
automatic in the living man,—becomes the art instinctive. Wherefore,
one coloured print by a Hokusai or Hiroshige, originally sold for less
than a cent, may have more real art in it than many a Western painting
valued at more than the worth of a whole Japanese street.
Here are Hokusai's own figures walking about in straw raincoats, and
immense mushroom-shaped hats of straw, and straw sandals—bare-limbed
peasants, deeply tanned by wind and sun; and patient-faced mothers with
smiling bald babies on their backs, toddling by upon their geta (high,
noisy, wooden clogs), and robed merchants squatting and smoking their
little brass pipes among the countless riddles of their shops.
Then I notice how small and shapely the feet of the people are—whether
bare brown feet of peasants, or beautiful feet of children wearing tiny,
tiny geta, or feet of young girls in snowy tabi. The tabi, the white
digitated stocking, gives to a small light foot a mythological aspect—
the white cleft grace of the foot of a fauness. Clad or bare, the
Japanese foot has the antique symmetry: it has not yet been distorted by
the infamous foot-gear which has deformed the feet of Occidentals. Of
every pair of Japanese wooden clogs, one makes in walking a slightly
different sound from the other, as kring to krang; so that the echo of
the walker's steps has an alternate rhythm of tones. On a pavement, such
as that of a railway station, the sound obtains immense sonority; and a
crowd will sometimes intentionally fall into step, with the drollest
conceivable result of drawling wooden noise.
'Tera e yuke!'
I have been obliged to return to the European hotel—not because of the
noon-meal, as I really begrudge myself the time necessary to eat it, but
because I cannot make Cha understand that I want to visit a Buddhist
temple. Now Cha understands; my landlord has uttered the mystical words:
'Tera e yuke!'
A few minutes of running along broad thoroughfares lined with gardens
and costly ugly European buildings; then passing the bridge of a canal
stocked with unpainted sharp-prowed craft of extraordinary construction,
we again plunge into narrow, low, bright pretty streets—into another
part of the Japanese city. And Cha runs at the top of his speed between
more rows of little ark-shaped houses, narrower above than below;
between other unfamiliar lines of little open shops. And always over the
shops little strips of blue-tiled roof slope back to the paper-screened
chamber of upper floors; and from all the facades hang draperies dark
blue, or white, or crimson—foot-breadths of texture covered with
beautiful Japanese lettering, white on blue, red on black, black on
white. But all this flies by swiftly as a dream. Once more we cross a
canal; we rush up a narrow street rising to meet a hill; and Cha,
halting suddenly before an immense flight of broad stone steps, sets the
shafts of his vehicle on the ground that I may dismount, and, pointing
to the steps, exclaims: 'Tera!'
I dismount, and ascend them, and, reaching a broad terrace, find myself
face to face with a wonderful gate, topped by a tilted, peaked, many-
cornered Chinese roof. It is all strangely carven, this gate. Dragons
are inter-twined in a frieze above its open doors; and the panels of the
doors themselves are similarly sculptured; and there are gargoyles—
grotesque lion heads—protruding from the eaves. And the whole is grey,
stone-coloured; to me, nevertheless, the carvings do not seem to have
the fixity of sculpture; all the snakeries and dragonries appear to
undulate with a swarming motion, elusively, in eddyings as of water.
I turn a moment to look back through the glorious light. Sea and sky
mingle in the same beautiful pale clear blue. Below me the billowing of
bluish roofs reaches to the verge of the unruffled bay on the right, and
to the feet of the green wooded hills flanking the city on two sides.
Beyond that semicircle of green hills rises a lofty range of serrated
mountains, indigo silhouettes. And enormously high above the line of
them towers an apparition indescribably lovely—one solitary snowy
cone, so filmily exquisite, so spiritually white, that but for its
immemorially familiar outline, one would surely deem it a shape of
cloud. Invisible its base remains, being the same delicious tint as the
sky: only above the eternal snow-line its dreamy cone appears, seeming
to hang, the ghost of a peak, between the luminous land and the luminous
heaven—the sacred and matchless mountain, Fujiyama.
And suddenly, a singular sensation comes upon me as I stand before this
weirdly sculptured portal—a sensation of dream and doubt. It seems to
me that the steps, and the dragon-swarming gate, and the blue sky
arching over the roofs of the town, and the ghostly beauty of Fuji, and
the shadow of myself there stretching upon the grey masonry, must all
vanish presently. Why such a feeling? Doubtless because the forms before
me—the curved roofs, the coiling dragons, the Chinese grotesqueries of
carving—do not really appear to me as things new, but as things
dreamed: the sight of them must have stirred to life forgotten memories
of picture-books. A moment, and the delusion vanishes; the romance of
reality returns, with freshened consciousness of all that which is truly
and deliciously new; the magical transparencies of distance, the
wondrous delicacy of the tones of the living picture, the enormous
height of the summer blue, and the white soft witchery of the Japanese
I pass on and climb more steps to a second gate with similar gargoyles
and swarming of dragons, and enter a court where graceful votive
lanterns of stone stand like monuments. On my right and left two great
grotesque stone lions are sitting—the lions of Buddha, male and
female. Beyond is a long low light building, with curved and gabled roof
of blue tiles, and three wooden steps before its entrance. Its sides are
simple wooden screens covered with thin white paper. This is the temple.
On the steps I take off my shoes; a young man slides aside the screens
closing the entrance, and bows me a gracious welcome. And I go in,
feeling under my feet a softness of matting thick as bedding. An immense
square apartment is before me, full of an unfamiliar sweet smell—the
scent of Japanese incense; but after the full blaze of the sun, the
paper-filtered light here is dim as moonshine; for a minute or two I can
see nothing but gleams of gilding in a soft gloom. Then, my eyes
becoming accustomed to the obscurity, I perceive against the paper-paned
screens surrounding the sanctuary on three sides shapes of enormous
flowers cutting like silhouettes against the vague white light. I
approach and find them to be paper flowers—symbolic lotus-blossoms
beautifully coloured, with curling leaves gilded on the upper surface
and bright green beneath, At the dark end of the apartment, facing the
entrance, is the altar of Buddha, a rich and lofty altar, covered with
bronzes and gilded utensils clustered to right and left of a shrine like
a tiny gold temple. But I see no statue; only a mystery of unfamiliar
shapes of burnished metal, relieved against darkness, a darkness behind
the shrine and altar—whether recess or inner sanctuary I cannot
The young attendant who ushered me into the temple now approaches, and,
to my great surprise, exclaims in excellent English, pointing to a
richly decorated gilded object between groups of candelabra on the
'That is the shrine of Buddha.'
'And I would like to make an offering to Buddha,' I respond.
'It is not necessary,' he says, with a polite smile.
But I insist; and he places the little offering for me upon the altar.
Then he invites me to his own room, in a wing of the building—a large
luminous room, without furniture, beautifully matted. And we sit down
upon the floor and chat. He tells me he is a student in the temple. He
learned English in Tokyo and speaks it with a curious accent, but with
fine choice of words. Finally he asks me:
'Are you a Christian?'
And I answer truthfully:
'Are you a Buddhist?'
'Why do you make offerings if you do not believe in Buddha?'
'I revere the beauty of his teaching, and the faith of those who
'Are there Buddhists in England and America?'
'There are, at least, a great many interested in Buddhist
And he takes from an alcove a little book, and gives it to me to
examine. It is an English copy of Olcott's Buddhist Catechism.
'Why is there no image of Buddha in your temple?' I ask.
'There is a small one in the shrine upon the altar,' the student
answers; 'but the shrine is closed. And we have several large ones. But
the image of Buddha is not exposed here every day—only upon festal
days. And some images are exposed only once or twice a year.
From my place, I can see, between the open paper screens, men and women
ascending the steps, to kneel and pray before the entrance of the
temple. They kneel with such naive reverence, so gracefully and so
naturally, that the kneeling of our Occidental devotees seems a clumsy
stumbling by comparison. Some only join their hands; others clap them
three times loudly and slowly; then they bow their heads, pray silently
for a moment, and rise and depart. The shortness of the prayers
impresses me as something novel and interesting. From time to time I
hear the clink and rattle of brazen coin cast into the great wooden
money-box at the entrance.
I turn to the young student, and ask him:
'Why do they clap their hands three times before they pray?'
'Three times for the Sansai, the Three Powers: Heaven, Earth, Man.'
'But do they clap their hands to call the Gods, as Japanese clap their
hands to summon their attendants?'
'Oh, no!' he replied. 'The clapping of hands represents only the
awakening from the Dream of the Long Night.' 
'What night? what dream?'
He hesitates some moments before making answer:
'The Buddha said: All beings are only dreaming in this fleeting world
'Then the clapping of hands signifies that in prayer the soul awakens
from such dreaming?'
'You understand what I mean by the word "soul"?'
'Oh, yes! Buddhists believe the soul always was—always will be.'
'Even in Nirvana?'
While we are thus chatting the Chief Priest of the temple enters—a
very aged man-accompanied by two young priests, and I am presented to
them; and the three bow very low, showing me the glossy crowns of their
smoothly-shaven heads, before seating themselves in the fashion of gods
upon the floor. I observe they do not smile; these are the first
Japanese I have seen who do not smile: their faces are impassive as the
faces of images. But their long eyes observe me very closely, while the
student interprets their questions, and while I attempt to tell them
something about the translations of the Sutras in our Sacred Books of
the East, and about the labours of Beal and Burnouf and Feer and Davids
and Kern, and others. They listen without change of countenance, and
utter no word in response to the young student's translation of my
remarks. Tea, however, is brought in and set before me in a tiny cup,
placed in a little brazen saucer, shaped like a lotus-leaf; and I am
invited to partake of some little sugar-cakes (kwashi), stamped with a
figure which I recognise as the Swastika, the ancient Indian symbol of
the Wheel of the Law.
As I rise to go, all rise with me; and at the steps the student asks for
my name and address. 'For,' he adds, 'you will not see me here again, as
I am going to leave the temple. But I will visit you.'
'And your name?' I ask.
'Call me Akira,' he answers.
At the threshold I bow my good-bye; and they all bow very, very low,-
one blue-black head, three glossy heads like balls of ivory. And as I
go, only Akira smiles.
'Tera?' queries Cha, with his immense white hat in his hand, as I resume
my seat in the jinricksha at the foot of the steps. Which no doubt
means, do I want to see any more temples? Most certainly I do: I have
not yet seen Buddha.
'Yes, tera, Cha.'
And again begins the long panorama of mysterious shops and tilted eaves,
and fantastic riddles written over everything. I have no idea in what
direction Cha is running. I only know that the streets seem to become
always narrower as we go, and that some of the houses look like great
wickerwork pigeon-cages only, and that we pass over several bridges
before we halt again at the foot of another hill. There is a lofty
flight of steps here also, and before them a structure which I know is
both a gate and a symbol, imposing, yet in no manner resembling the
great Buddhist gateway seen before. Astonishingly simple all the lines
of it are: it has no carving, no colouring, no lettering upon it; yet it
has a weird solemnity, an enigmatic beauty. It is a torii.
'Miya,' observes Cha. Not a tera this time, but a shrine of the gods of
the more ancient faith of the land—a miya.
I am standing before a Shinto symbol; I see for the first time, out of a
picture at least, a torii. How describe a torii to those who have never
looked at one even in a photograph or engraving? Two lofty columns, like
gate-pillars, supporting horizontally two cross-beams, the lower and
lighter beam having its ends fitted into the columns a little distance
below their summits; the uppermost and larger beam supported upon the
tops of the columns, and projecting well beyond them to right and left.
That is a torii: the construction varying little in design, whether made
of stone, wood, or metal. But this description can give no correct idea
of the appearance of a torii, of its majestic aspect, of its mystical
suggestiveness as a gateway. The first time you see a noble one, you
will imagine, perhaps, that you see the colossal model of some beautiful
Chinese letter towering against the sky; for all the lines of the thing
have the grace of an animated ideograph,—have the bold angles and
curves of characters made with four sweeps of a master-brush. 
Passing the torii I ascend a flight of perhaps one hundred stone steps,
and find at their summit a second torii, from whose lower cross-beam
hangs festooned the mystic shimenawa. It is in this case a hempen rope
of perhaps two inches in diameter through its greater length, but
tapering off at either end like a snake. Sometimes the shimenawa is made
of bronze, when the torii itself is of bronze; but according to
tradition it should be made of straw, and most commonly is. For it
represents the straw rope which the deity Futo-tama-no-mikoto stretched
behind the Sun-goddess, Ama-terasu-oho-mi-Kami, after Ame-no-ta-jikara-
wo-no-Kami, the Heavenly-hand-strength-god, had pulled her out, as is
told in that ancient myth of Shinto which Professor Chamberlain has
translated.  And the shimenawa, in its commoner and simpler form,
has pendent tufts of straw along its entire length, at regular
intervals, because originally made, tradition declares, of grass pulled
up by the roots which protruded from the twist of it.
Advancing beyond this torii, I find myself in a sort of park or
pleasure-ground on the summit of the hill. There is a small temple on
the right; it is all closed up; and I have read so much about the
disappointing vacuity of Shinto temples that I do not regret the absence
of its guardian. And I see before me what is infinitely more
interesting,—a grove of cherry-trees covered with something
unutterably beautiful,—a dazzling mist of snowy blossoms clinging like
summer cloud-fleece about every branch and twig; and the ground beneath
them, and the path before me, is white with the soft, thick, odorous
snow of fallen petals.
Beyond this loveliness are flower-plots surrounding tiny shrines; and
marvellous grotto-work, full of monsters—dragons and mythologic beings
chiselled in the rock; and miniature landscape work with tiny groves of
dwarf trees, and Lilliputian lakes, and microscopic brooks and bridges
and cascades. Here, also, are swings for children. And here are
belvederes, perched on the verge of the hill, wherefrom the whole fair
city, and the whole smooth bay speckled with fishing-sails no bigger
than pin-heads, and the far, faint, high promontories reaching into the
sea, are all visible in one delicious view—blue-pencilled in a beauty
of ghostly haze indescribable.
Why should the trees be so lovely in Japan? With us, a plum or cherry
tree in flower is not an astonishing sight; but here it is a miracle of
beauty so bewildering that, however much you may have previously read
about it, the real spectacle strikes you dumb. You see no leaves—only
one great filmy mist of petals. Is it that the trees have been so long
domesticated and caressed by man in this land of the Gods, that they
have acquired souls, and strive to show their gratitude, like women
loved, by making themselves more beautiful for man's sake? Assuredly
they have mastered men's hearts by their loveliness, like beautiful
slaves. That is to say, Japanese hearts. Apparently there have been some
foreign tourists of the brutal class in this place, since it has been
deemed necessary to set up inscriptions in English announcing that 'IT
IS FORBIDDEN TO INJURE THE TREES.'
'Yes, Cha, tera.'
But only for a brief while do I traverse Japanese streets. The houses
separate, become scattered along the feet of the hills: the city thins
away through little valleys, and vanishes at last behind. And we follow
a curving road overlooking the sea. Green hills slope steeply down to
the edge of the way on the right; on the left, far below, spreads a vast
stretch of dun sand and salty pools to a line of surf so distant that it
is discernible only as a moving white thread. The tide is out; and
thousands of cockle-gatherers are scattered over the sands, at such
distances that their stooping figures, dotting the glimmering sea-bed,
appear no larger than gnats. And some are coming along the road before
us, returning from their search with well-filled baskets—girls with
faces almost as rosy as the faces of English girls.
As the jinricksha rattles on, the hills dominating the road grow higher.
All at once Cha halts again before the steepest and loftiest flight of
temple steps I have yet seen.
I climb and climb and climb, halting perforce betimes, to ease the
violent aching of my quadriceps muscles; reach the top completely out of
breath; and find myself between two lions of stone; one showing his
fangs, the other with jaws closed. Before me stands the temple, at the
farther end of a small bare plateau surrounded on three sides by low
cliffs,-a small temple, looking very old and grey. From a rocky height
to the left of the building, a little cataract rumbles down into a pool,
ringed in by a palisade. The voice of the water drowns all other sounds.
A sharp wind is blowing from the ocean: the place is chill even in the
sun, and bleak, and desolate, as if no prayer had been uttered in it for
a hundred years.
Cha taps and calls, while I take off my shoes upon the worn wooden steps
of the temple; and after a minute of waiting, we bear a muffled step
approaching and a hollow cough behind the paper screens. They slide
open; and an old white-robed priest appears, and motions me, with a low
bow, to enter. He has a kindly face; and his smile of welcome seems to
me one of the most exquisite I have ever been greeted 'with Then he
coughs again, so badly that I think if I ever come here another time, I
shall ask for him in vain.
I go in, feeling that soft, spotless, cushioned matting beneath my feet
with which the floors of all Japanese buildings are covered. I pass the
indispensable bell and lacquered reading-desk; and before me I see other
screens only, stretching from floor to ceiling. The old man, still
coughing, slides back one of these upon the right, and waves me into the
dimness of an inner sanctuary, haunted by faint odours of incense. A
colossal bronze lamp, with snarling gilded dragons coiled about its
columnar stem, is the first object I discern; and, in passing it, my
shoulder sets ringing a festoon of little bells suspended from the
lotus-shaped summit of it. Then I reach the altar, gropingly, unable yet
to distinguish forms clearly. But the priest, sliding back screen after
screen, pours in light upon the gilded brasses and the inscriptions; and
I look for the image of the Deity or presiding Spirit between the altar-
groups of convoluted candelabra. And I see—only a mirror, a round,
pale disk of polished metal, and my own face therein, and behind this
mockery of me a phantom of the far sea.
Only a mirror! Symbolising what? Illusion? or that the Universe exists
for us solely as the reflection of our own souls? or the old Chinese
teaching that we must seek the Buddha only in our own hearts? Perhaps
some day I shall be able to find out all these things.
As I sit on the temple steps, putting on my shoes preparatory to going,
the kind old priest approaches me again, and, bowing, presents a bowl. I
hastily drop some coins in it, imagining it to be a Buddhist alms-bowl,
before discovering it to be full of hot water. But the old man's
beautiful courtesy saves me from feeling all the grossness of my
mistake. Without a word, and still preserving his kindly smile, he takes
the bowl away, and, returning presently with another bowl, empty, fills
it with hot water from a little kettle, and makes a sign to me to drink.
Tea is most usually offered to visitors at temples; but this little
shrine is very, very poor; and I have a suspicion that the old priest
suffers betimes for want of what no fellow-creature should be permitted
to need. As I descend the windy steps to the roadway I see him still
looking after me, and I hear once more his hollow cough.
Then the mockery of the mirror recurs to me. I am beginning to wonder
whether I shall ever be able to discover that which I seek—outside of
myself! That is, outside of my own imagination.
'Tera?' once more queries Cha.
'Tera, no—it is getting late. Hotel, Cha.'
But Cha, turning the corner of a narrow street, on our homeward route,
halts the jinricksha before a shrine or tiny temple scarcely larger than
the smallest of Japanese shops, yet more of a surprise to me than any of
the larger sacred edifices already visited. For, on either side of the
entrance, stand two monster-figures, nude, blood-red, demoniac,
fearfully muscled, with feet like lions, and hands brandishing gilded
thunderbolts, and eyes of delirious fury; the guardians of holy things,
the Ni-O, or "Two Kings."  And right between these crimson monsters
a young girl stands looking at us; her slight figure, in robe of silver
grey and girdle of iris-violet, relieved deliciously against the
twilight darkness of the interior. Her face, impassive and curiously
delicate, would charm wherever seen; but here, by strange contrast with
the frightful grotesqueries on either side of her, it produces an effect
unimaginable. Then I find myself wondering whether my feeling of
repulsion toward those twin monstrosities be altogether lust, seeing
that so charming a maiden deems them worthy of veneration. And they even
cease to seem ugly as I watch her standing there between them, dainty
and slender as some splendid moth, and always naively gazing at the
foreigner, utterly unconscious that they might have seemed to him both
unholy and uncomely.
What are they? Artistically they are Buddhist transformations of Brahma
and of Indra. Enveloped by the absorbing, all-transforming magical
atmosphere of Buddhism, Indra can now wield his thunderbolts only in
defence of the faith which has dethroned him: he has become a keeper of
the temple gates; nay, has even become a servant of Bosatsu
(Bodhisattvas), for this is only a shrine of Kwannon, Goddess of Mercy,
not yet a Buddha.
'Hotel, Cha, hotel!' I cry out again, for the way is long, and the sun
sinking,—sinking in the softest imaginable glow of topazine light. I
have not seen Shaka (so the Japanese have transformed the name Sakya-
Muni); I have not looked upon the face of the Buddha. Perhaps I may be
able to find his image to-morrow, somewhere in this wilderness of wooden
streets, or upon the summit of some yet unvisited hill.
The sun is gone; the topaz-light is gone; and Cha stops to light his
lantern of paper; and we hurry on again, between two long lines of
painted paper lanterns suspended before the shops: so closely set, so
level those lines are, that they seem two interminable strings of pearls
of fire. And suddenly a sound—solemn, profound, mighty—peals to my
ears over the roofs of the town, the voice of the tsurigane, the great
temple-bell of Nogiyama.
All too short the day seemed. Yet my eyes have been so long dazzled by
the great white light, and so confused by the sorcery of that
interminable maze of mysterious signs which made each street vista seem
a glimpse into some enormous grimoire, that they are now weary even of
the soft glowing of all these paper lanterns, likewise covered with
characters that look like texts from a Book of Magic. And I feel at last
the coming of that drowsiness which always follows enchantment.
A woman's voice ringing through the night, chanting in a tone of
singular sweetness words of which each syllable comes through my open
window like a wavelet of flute-sound. My Japanese servant, who speaks a
little English, has told me what they mean, those words:
And always between these long, sweet calls I hear a plaintive whistle,
one long note first, then two short ones in another key. It is the
whistle of the amma, the poor blind woman who earns her living by
shampooing the sick or the weary, and whose whistle warns pedestrians
and drivers of vehicles to take heed for her sake, as she cannot see.
And she sings also that the weary and the sick may call her in.
The saddest melody, but the sweetest voice. Her cry signifies that for
the sum of 'five hundred mon' she will come and rub your weary body
'above and below,' and make the weariness or the pain go away. Five
hundred mon are the equivalent of five sen (Japanese cents); there are
ten rin to a sen, and ten mon to one rin. The strange sweetness of the
voice is haunting,—makes me even wish to have some pains, that I might
pay five hundred mon to have them driven away.
I lie down to sleep, and I dream. I see Chinese texts—multitudinous,
weird, mysterious—fleeing by me, all in one direction; ideographs
white and dark, upon signboards, upon paper screens, upon backs of
sandalled men. They seem to live, these ideographs, with conscious life;
they are moving their parts, moving with a movement as of insects,
monstrously, like phasmidae. I am rolling always through low, narrow,
luminous streets in a phantom jinricksha, whose wheels make no sound.
And always, always, I see the huge white mushroom-shaped hat of Cha
dancing up and down before me as he runs.
Chapter Two The Writing of Kobodaishi
KOBODAISHI, most holy of Buddhist priests, and founder of the Shingon-
sho—which is the sect of Akira—first taught the men of Japan to
write the writing called Hiragana and the syllabary I-ro-ha; and
Kobodaishi was himself the most wonderful of all writers, and the most
skilful wizard among scribes.
And in the book, Kobodaishi-ichi-dai-ki, it is related that when he was
in China, the name of a certain room in the palace of the Emperor having
become effaced by time, the Emperor sent for him and bade him write the
name anew. Thereupon Kobodaishi took a brush in his right hand, and a
brush in his left, and one brush between the toes of his left foot, and
another between the toes of his right, and one in his mouth also; and
with those five brushes, so holding them, he limned the characters upon
the wall. And the characters were beautiful beyond any that had ever
been seen in China—smooth-flowing as the ripples in the current of a
river. And Kobodaishi then took a brush, and with it from a distance
spattered drops of ink upon the wall; and the drops as they fell became
transformed and turned into beautiful characters. And the Emperor gave
to Kobodaishi the name Gohitsu Osho, signifying The Priest who writes
with Five Brushes.
At another time, while the saint was dwelling in Takawasan, near to
Kyoto, the Emperor, being desirous that Kobodaishi should write the
tablet for the great temple called Kongo-jo-ji, gave the tablet to a
messenger and bade him carry it to Kobodaishi, that Kobodaishi might
letter it. But when the Emperor's messenger, bearing the tablet, came
near to the place where Kobodaishi dwelt, he found a river before him so
much swollen by rain that no man might cross it. In a little while,
however, Kobodaishi appeared upon the farther bank, and, hearing from
the messenger what the Emperor desired, called to him to hold up the
tablet. And the messenger did so; and Kobodaishi, from his place upon
the farther bank, made the movements of the letters with his brush; and
as fast as he made them they appeared upon the tablet which the
messenger was holding up.
Now in that time Kobodaishi was wont to meditate alone by the river-
side; and one day, while so meditating, he was aware of a boy standing
before him, gazing at him curiously. The garments of the boy were as the
garments worn by the needy; but his face was beautiful. And while
Kobodaishi wondered, the boy asked him: 'Are you Kobodaishi, whom men
call "Gohitsu-Osho"—the priest who writes with five brushes at once?'
And Kobodaishi answered: 'I am he.' Then said the boy: 'If you be he,
write, I pray you, upon the sky.' And Kobodaishi, rising, took his
brush, and made with it movements toward the sky as if writing; and
presently upon the face of the sky the letters appeared, most
beautifully wrought. Then the boy said: 'Now I shall try;' and he wrote
also upon the sky as Kobodaishi had done. And he said again to
Kobodaishi: 'I pray you, write for me—write upon the surface of the
river.' Then Kobodaishi wrote upon the water a poem in praise of the
water; and for a moment the characters remained, all beautiful, upon the
face of the stream, as if they had fallen upon it like leaves; but
presently they moved with the current and floated away. 'Now I will
try,' said the boy; and he wrote upon the water the Dragon-character—
the character Ryu in the writing which is called Sosho, the 'Grass-
character;' and the character remained upon the flowing surface and
moved not. But Kobodaishi saw that the boy had not placed the ten, the
little dot belonging to the character, beside it. And he asked the boy:
'Why did you not put the ten?' 'Oh, I forgot!' answered the boy; 'please
put it there for me,' and Kobodaishi then made the dot. And lo! the
Dragon-character became a Dragon; and the Dragon moved terribly in the
waters; and the sky darkened with thunder-clouds, and blazed with
lightnings; and the Dragon ascended in a whirl of tempest to heaven.
Then Kobodaishi asked the boy: 'Who are you?' And the boy made answer:
'I am he whom men worship on the mountain Gotai; I am the Lord of
Wisdom,—Monju Bosatsu!' And even as he spoke the boy became changed;
and his beauty became luminous like the beauty of gods; and his limbs
became radiant, shedding soft light about. And, smiling, he rose to
heaven and vanished beyond the clouds.
But Kobodaishi himself once forgot to put the ten beside the character O
on the tablet which he painted with the name of the Gate O-Te-mon of the
Emperor's palace. And the Emperor at Kyoto having asked him why he had
not put the ten beside the character, Kobodaishi answered: 'I forgot;
but I will put it on now.' Then the Emperor bade ladders be brought; for
the tablet was already in place, high above the gate. But Kobodaishi,
standing on the pavement before the gate, simply threw his brush at the
tablet; and the brush, so thrown, made the ten there most admirably, and
fell back into his hand.
Kobodaishi also painted the tablet of the gate called Ko-kamon of the
Emperor's palace at Kyoto. Now there was a man, dwelling near that gate,
whose name was Kino Momoye; and he ridiculed the characters which
Kobodaishi had made, and pointed to one of them, saying: 'Why, it looks
like a swaggering wrestler!' But the same night Momoye dreamed that a
wrestler had come to his bedside and leaped upon him, and was beating
him with his fists. And, crying out with the pain of the blows, he
awoke, and saw the wrestler rise in air, and change into the written
character he had laughed at, and go back to the tablet over the gate.
And there was another writer, famed greatly for his skill, named Onomo
Toku, who laughed at some characters on the tablet of the Gate Shukaku-
mon, written by Kobodaishi; and he said, pointing to the character Shu:
'Verily shu looks like the character "rice".' And that night he dreamed
that the character he had mocked at became a man; and that the man fell
upon him and beat him, and jumped up and down upon his face many times—
even as a kometsuki, a rice-cleaner, leaps up and down to move the
hammers that beat the rice—saying the while: 'Lo! I am the messenger
of Kobodaishi!' And, waking, he found himself bruised and bleeding as
one that had been grievously trampled.
And long after Kobodaishi's death it was found that the names written by
him on the two gates of the Emperor's palace Bi-fuku-mon, the Gate of
Beautiful Fortune; and Ko-ka-mon, the Gate of Excellent Greatness—were
well-nigh effaced by time. And the Emperor ordered a Dainagon , whose
name was Yukinari, to restore the tablets. But Yukinari was afraid to
perform the command of the Emperor, by reason of what had befallen other
men; and, fearing the divine anger of Kobodaishi, he made offerings, and
prayed for some token of permission. And the same night, in a dream,
Kobodaishi appeared to him, smiling gently, and said: 'Do the work even
as the Emperor desires, and have no fear.' So he restored the tablets in
the first month of the fourth year of Kwanko, as is recorded in the
And all these things have been related to me by my friend Akira.
Chapter Three Jizo
I HAVE passed another day in wandering among the temples, both Shinto
and Buddhist. I have seen many curious things; but I have not yet seen
the face of the Buddha.
Repeatedly, after long wearisome climbing of stone steps, and passing
under gates full of gargoyles—heads of elephants and heads of lions—
and entering shoeless into scented twilight, into enchanted gardens of
golden lotus-flowers of paper, and there waiting for my eyes to become
habituated to the dimness, I have looked in vain for images. Only an
opulent glimmering confusion of things half-seen—vague altar-
splendours created by gilded bronzes twisted into riddles, by vessels of
indescribable shape, by enigmatic texts of gold, by mysterious
glittering pendent things—all framing in only a shrine with doors fast
What has most impressed me is the seeming joyousness of popular faith. I
have seen nothing grim, austere, or self-repressive. I have not even
noted anything approaching the solemn. The bright temple courts and even
the temple steps are thronged with laughing children, playing curious
games; arid mothers, entering the sanctuary to pray, suffer their little
ones to creep about the matting and crow. The people take their religion
lightly and cheerfully: they drop their cash in the great alms-box, clap
their hands, murmur a very brief prayer, then turn to laugh and talk and
smoke their little pipes before the temple entrance. Into some shrines,
I have noticed the worshippers do not enter at all; they merely stand
before the doors and pray for a few seconds, and make their small
offerings. Blessed are they who do not too much fear the gods which they
Akira is bowing and smiling at the door. He slips off his sandals,
enters in his white digitated stockings, and, with another smile and
bow, sinks gently into the proffered chair. Akira is an interesting boy.
With his smooth beardless face and clear bronze skin and blue-black hair
trimmed into a shock that shadows his forehead to the eyes, he has
almost the appearance, in his long wide-sleeved robe and snowy
stockings, of a young Japanese girl.
I clap my hands for tea, hotel tea, which he calls 'Chinese tea.' I
offer him a cigar, which he declines; but with my permission, he will
smoke his pipe. Thereupon he draws from his girdle a Japanese pipe-case
and tobacco-pouch combined; pulls out of the pipe-case a little brass
pipe with a bowl scarcely large enough to hold a pea; pulls out of the
pouch some tobacco so finely cut that it looks like hair, stuffs a tiny
pellet of this preparation in the pipe, and begins to smoke. He draws
the smoke into his lungs, and blows it out again through his nostrils.
Three little whiffs, at intervals of about half a minute, and the pipe,
emptied, is replaced in its case.
Meanwhile I have related to Akira the story of my disappointments.
'Oh, you can see him to-day,' responds Akira, 'if you will take a walk
with me to the Temple of Zotokuin. For this is the Busshoe, the festival
of the Birthday of Buddha. But he is very small, only a few inches high.
If you want to see a great Buddha, you must go to Kamakura. There is a
Buddha in that place, sitting upon a lotus; and he is fifty feet high.'
So I go forth under the guidance of Akira. He says he may be able to
show me 'some curious things.'
There is a sound of happy voices from the temple, and the steps are
crowded with smiling mothers and laughing children. Entering, I find
women and babies pressing about a lacquered table in front of the
doorway. Upon it is a little tub-shaped vessel of sweet tea—amacha;
and standing in the tea is a tiny figure of Buddha, one hand pointing
upward and one downward. The women, having made the customary offering,
take up some of the tea with a wooden ladle of curious shape, and pour
it over the statue, and then, filling the ladle a second time, drink a
little, and give a sip to their babies. This is the ceremony of washing
the statue of Buddha.
Near the lacquered stand on which the vessel of sweet tea rests is
another and lower stand supporting a temple bell shaped like a great
bowl. A priest approaches with a padded mallet in his hand and strikes
the bell. But the bell does not sound properly: he starts, looks into
it, and stoops to lift out of it a smiling Japanese baby. The mother,
laughing, runs to relieve him of his burden; and priest, mother, and
baby all look at us with a frankness of mirth in which we join.
Akira leaves me a moment to speak with one of the temple attendants, and
presently returns with a curious lacquered box, about a foot in length,
and four inches wide on each of its four sides. There is only a small
hole in one end of it; no appearance of a lid of any sort.
'Now,' says Akira, 'if you wish to pay two sen, we shall learn our
future lot according to the will of the gods.'
I pay the two sen, and Akira shakes the box. Out comes a narrow slip of
bamboo, with Chinese characters written thereon.
'Kitsu!' cries Akira. 'Good-fortune. The number is fifty-and-one.'
Again he shakes the box; a second bamboo slip issues from the slit.
'Dai kitsu! great good-fortune. The number is ninety-and-nine.
Once more the box is shaken; once more the oracular bamboo protrudes.
'Kyo!' laughs Akira. 'Evil will befall us. The number is sixty-and-
He returns the box to a priest, and receives three mysterious papers,
numbered with numbers corresponding to the numbers of the bamboo slips.
These little bamboo slips, or divining-sticks, are called mikuji.
This, as translated by Akira, is the substance of the text of the paper
'He who draweth forth this mikuji, let him live according to the
heavenly law and worship Kwannon. If his trouble be a sickness, it shall
pass from him. If he have lost aught, it shall be found. If he have a
suit at law, he shall gain. If he love a woman, he shall surely win her
-though he should have to wait. And many happinesses will come to him.'
The dai-kitsu paper reads almost similarly, with the sole differences
that, instead of Kwannon, the deities of wealth and prosperity—
Daikoku, Bishamon, and Benten—are to be worshipped, and that the
fortunate man will not have to wait at all for the woman loved. But the
kyo paper reads thus:
'He who draweth forth this mikuji, it will be well for him to obey the
heavenly law and to worship Kwannon the Merciful. If he have any
sickness, even much more sick he shall become. If he have lost aught, it
shall never be found. If he have a suit at law, he shall never gain it.
If he love a woman, let him have no more expectation of winning her.
Only by the most diligent piety can he hope to escape the most frightful
calamities. And there shall be no felicity in his portion.'
'All the same, we are fortunate,' declares Akira. 'Twice out of three
times we have found luck. Now we will go to see another statue of
Buddha.' And he guides me, through many curious streets, to the
southern verge of the city.
Before us rises a hill, with a broad flight of stone steps sloping to
its summit, between foliage of cedars and maples. We climb; and I see
above me the Lions of Buddha waiting—the male yawning menace, the
female with mouth closed. Passing between them, we enter a large temple
court, at whose farther end rises another wooded eminence.
And here is the temple, with roof of blue-painted copper tiles, and
tilted eaves and gargoyles and dragons, all weather-stained to one
neutral tone. The paper screens are open, but a melancholy rhythmic
chant from within tells us that the noonday service is being held: the
priests are chanting the syllables of Sanscrit texts transliterated into
Chinese—intoning the Sutra called the Sutra of the Lotus of the Good
Law. One of those who chant keeps time by tapping with a mallet, cotton-
wrapped, some grotesque object shaped like a dolphin's head, all
lacquered in scarlet and gold, which gives forth a dull, booming tone—
To the right of the temple is a little shrine, filling the air with
fragrance of incense-burning. I peer in through the blue smoke that
curls up from half a dozen tiny rods planted in a small brazier full of
ashes; and far back in the shadow I see a swarthy Buddha, tiara-coiffed,
with head bowed and hands joined, just as I see the Japanese praying,
erect in the sun, before the thresholds of temples. The figure is of
wood, rudely wrought and rudely coloured: still the placid face has
beauty of suggestion.
Crossing the court to the left of the building, I find another flight of
steps before me, leading up a slope to something mysterious still
higher, among enormous trees. I ascend these steps also, reach the top,
guarded by two small symbolic lions, and suddenly find myself in cool
shadow, and startled by a spectacle totally unfamiliar.
Dark—almost black—soil and the shadowing of trees immemorially old,
through whose vaulted foliage the sunlight leaks thinly down in rare
flecks; a crepuscular light, tender and solemn, revealing the weirdest
host of unfamiliar shapes—a vast congregation of grey, columnar, mossy
things, stony, monumental, sculptured with Chinese ideographs. And about
them, behind them, rising high above them, thickly set as rushes in a
marsh-verge, tall slender wooden tablets, like laths, covered with
similar fantastic lettering, pierce the green gloom by thousands, by
tens of thousands.
And before I can note other details, I know that I am in a hakaba, a
cemetery—a very ancient Buddhist cemetery.
These laths are called in the Japanese tongue sotoba.  All have
notches cut upon their edges on both sides near the top-five notches;
and all are painted with Chinese characters on both faces. One
inscription is always the phrase 'To promote Buddhahood,' painted
immediately below the dead man's name; the inscription upon the other
surface is always a sentence in Sanscrit whose meaning has been
forgotten even by those priests who perform the funeral rites. One such
lath is planted behind the tomb as soon as the monument (haka) is set
up; then another every seven days for forty-nine days, then one after
the lapse of a hundred days; then one at the end of a year; then one
after the passing of three years; and at successively longer periods
others are erected during one hundred years.
And in almost every group I notice some quite new, or freshly planed
unpainted white wood, standing beside others grey or even black with
age; and there are many, still older from whose surface all the
characters have disappeared. Others are lying on the sombre clay.
Hundreds stand so loose in the soil that the least breeze jostles and
clatters them together.
Not less unfamiliar in their forms, but far more interesting, are the
monuments of stone. One shape I know represents five of the Buddhist
elements: a cube supporting a sphere which upholds a pyramid on which
rests a shallow square cup with four crescent edges and tilted corners,
and in the cup a pyriform body poised with the point upwards. These
successively typify Earth, Water, Fire, Wind, Ether, the five substances
wherefrom the body is shapen, and into which it is resolved by death;
the absence of any emblem for the Sixth element, Knowledge, touches more
than any imagery conceivable could do. And nevertheless, in the purpose
of the symbolism, this omission was never planned with the same idea
that it suggests to the Occidental mind.
Very numerous also among the monuments are low, square, flat-topped
shafts, with a Japanese inscription in black or gold, or merely cut into
the stone itself. Then there are upright slabs of various shapes and
heights, mostly rounded at the top, usually bearing sculptures in
relief. Finally, there are many curiously angled stones, or natural
rocks, dressed on one side only, with designs etched upon the smoothed
surface. There would appear to be some meaning even in the irregularity
of the shape of these slabs; the rock always seems to have been broken
out of its bed at five angles, and the manner in which it remains
balanced perpendicularly upon its pedestal is a secret that the first
hasty examination fails to reveal.
The pedestals themselves vary in construction; most have three orifices
in the projecting surface in front of the monument supported by them,
usually one large oval cavity, with two small round holes flanking it.
These smaller holes serve for the burning of incense-rods; the larger
cavity is filled with water. I do not know exactly why. Only my Japanese
companion tells me 'it is an ancient custom in Japan thus to pour out
water for the dead.' There are also bamboo cups on either side of the
monument in which to place flowers.
Many of the sculptures represent Buddha in meditation, or in the
attitude of exhorting; a few represent him asleep, with the placid,
dreaming face of a child, a Japanese child; this means Nirvana. A common
design upon many tombs also seems to be two lotus-blossoms with stalks
In one place I see a stone with an English name upon it, and above that
name a rudely chiselled cross. Verily the priests of Buddha have blessed
tolerance; for this is a Christian tomb!
And all is chipped and mouldered and mossed; and the grey stones stand
closely in hosts of ranks, only one or two inches apart, ranks of
thousands upon thousands, always in the shadow of the great trees.
Overhead innumerable birds sweeten the air with their trilling; and far
below, down the steps behind us, I still hear the melancholy chant of
the priests, faintly, like a humming of bees.
Akira leads the way in silence to where other steps descend into a
darker and older part of the cemetery; and at the head of the steps, to
the right, I see a group of colossal monuments, very tall, massive,
mossed by time, with characters cut more than two inches deep into the
grey rock of them. And behind them, in lieu of laths, are planted large
sotoba, twelve to fourteen feet high, and thick as the beams of a temple
roof. These are graves of priests.
Descending the shadowed steps, I find myself face to face with six
little statues about three feet high, standing in a row upon one long
pedestal. The first holds a Buddhist incense-box; the second, a lotus;
the third, a pilgrim's staff (tsue); the fourth is telling the beads of
a Buddhist rosary; the fifth stands in the attitude of prayer, with
hands joined; the sixth bears in one hand the shakujo or mendicant
priest's staff, having six rings attached to the top of it and in the
other hand the mystic jewel, Nio-i ho-jiu, by virtue whereof all desires
may be accomplished. But the faces of the Six are the same: each figure
differs from the other by the attitude only and emblematic attribute;
and all are smiling the like faint smile. About the neck of each figure
a white cotton bag is suspended; and all the bags are filled with
pebbles; and pebbles have been piled high also about the feet of the
statues, and upon their knees, and upon their shoulders; and even upon
their aureoles of stone, little pebbles are balanced. Archaic,
mysterious, but inexplicably touching, all these soft childish faces
Roku Jizo—'The Six Jizo'—these images are called in the speech of
the people; and such groups may be seen in many a Japanese cemetery.
They are representations of the most beautiful and tender figure in
Japanese popular faith, that charming divinity who cares for the souls
of little children, and consoles them in the place of unrest, and saves
them from the demons. 'But why are those little stones piled about the
statues?' I ask.
Well, it is because some say the child-ghosts must build little towers
of stones for penance in the Sai-no-Kawara, which is the place to which
all children after death must go. And the Oni, who are demons, come to
throw down the little stone-piles as fast as the children build; and
these demons frighten the children, and torment them. But the little
souls run to Jizo, who hides them in his great sleeves, and comforts
them, and makes the demons go away. And every stone one lays upon the
knees or at the feet of Jizo, with a prayer from the heart, helps some
child-soul in the Sai-no-Kawara to perform its long penance. 
'All little children,' says the young Buddhist student who tells all
this, with a smile as gentle as Jizo's own, 'must go to the Sai-no-
Kawara when they die. And there they play with Jizo. The Sai-no-Kawara
is beneath us, below the ground. 
'And Jizo has long sleeves to his robe; and they pull him by the sleeves
in their play; and they pile up little stones before him to amuse
themselves. And those stones you see heaped about the statues are put
there by people for the sake of the little ones, most often by mothers
of dead children who pray to Jizo. But grown people do not go to the
Sai-no-Kawara when they die.' 
And the young student, leaving the Roku-Jizo, leads the way to other
strange surprises, guiding me among the tombs, showing me the sculptured
Some of them are quaintly touching; all are interesting; a few are
The greater number have nimbi. Many are represented kneeling, with hands
joined exactly like the figures of saints in old Christian art. Others,
holding lotus-flowers, appear to dream the dreams that are meditations.
One figure reposes on the coils of a great serpent. Another, coiffed
with something resembling a tiara, has six hands, one pair joined in
prayer, the rest, extended, holding out various objects; and this figure
stands upon a prostrate demon, crouching face downwards. Yet another
image, cut in low relief, has arms innumerable. The first pair of hands
are joined, with the palms together; while from behind the line of the
shoulders, as if shadowily emanating therefrom, multitudinous arms reach
out in all directions, vapoury, spiritual, holding forth all kinds of
objects as in answer to supplication, and symbolising, perhaps, the
omnipotence of love. This is but one of the many forms of Kwannon, the
goddess of mercy, the gentle divinity who refused the rest of Nirvana to
save the souls of men, and who is most frequently pictured as a
beautiful Japanese girl. But here she appears as Senjiu-Kwannon
(Kwannon-of-the-Thousand-Hands). Close by stands a great slab bearing
upon the upper portion of its chiselled surface an image in relief of
Buddha, meditating upon a lotus; and below are carven three weird little
figures, one with hands upon its eyes, one with hands upon its ears, one
with hands upon its mouth; these are Apes. 'What do they signify?' I
inquire. My friend answers vaguely, mimicking each gesture of the three
sculptured shapes:-'I see no bad thing; I hear no bad thing; I speak no
Gradually, by dint of reiterated explanations, I myself learn to
recognise some of the gods at sight. The figure seated upon a lotus,
holding a sword in its hand, and surrounded by bickering fire, is Fudo-
Sama—Buddha as the Unmoved, the Immutable: the Sword signifies
Intellect; the Fire, Power. Here is a meditating divinity, holding in
one hand a coil of ropes: the divinity is Buddha; those are the ropes
which bind the passions and desires. Here also is Buddha slumbering,
with the gentlest, softest Japanese face—a child face—and eyes
closed, and hand pillowing the cheek, in Nirvana. Here is a beautiful
virgin-figure, standing upon a lily: Kwannon-Sama, the Japanese Madonna.
Here is a solemn seated figure, holding in one hand a vase, and lifting
the other with the gesture of a teacher: Yakushi-Sama, Buddha the All-
Healer, Physician of Souls.
Also, I see figures of animals. The Deer of Buddhist birth-stories
stands, all grace, in snowy stone, upon the summit of toro, or votive
lamps. On one tomb I see, superbly chiselled, the image of a fish, or
rather the Idea of a fish, made beautifully grotesque for sculptural
purposes, like the dolphin of Greek art. It crowns the top of a memorial
column; the broad open jaws, showing serrated teeth, rest on the summit
of the block bearing the dead man's name; the dorsal fin and elevated
tail are elaborated into decorative impossibilities. 'Mokugyo,' says
Akira. It is the same Buddhist emblem as that hollow wooden object,
lacquered scarlet-and-gold, on which the priests beat with a padded
mallet while chanting the Sutra. And, finally, in one place I perceive
a pair of sitting animals, of some mythological species, supple of
figure as greyhounds. 'Kitsune,' says Akira—'foxes.' So they are, now
that I look upon them with knowledge of their purpose; idealised foxes,
foxes spiritualised, impossibly graceful foxes. They are chiselled in
some grey stone. They have long, narrow, sinister, glittering eyes; they
seem to snarl; they are weird, very weird creatures, the servants of the
Rice-God, retainers of Inari-Sama, and properly belong, not to Buddhist
iconography, but the imagery of Shinto.
No inscriptions upon these tombs corresponding to our epitaphs. Only
family names—the names of the dead and their relatives and a
sculptured crest, usually a flower. On the sotoba, only Sanscrit words.
Farther on, I find other figures of Jizo, single reliefs, sculptured
upon tombs. But one of these is a work of art so charming that I feel a
pain at being obliged to pass it by. More sweet, assuredly, than any
imaged Christ, this dream in white stone of the playfellow of dead
children, like a beautiful young boy, with gracious eyelids half closed,
and face made heavenly by such a smile as only Buddhist art could have
imagined, the smile of infinite lovingness and supremest gentleness.
Indeed, so charming the ideal of Jizo is that in the speech of the
people a beautiful face is always likened to his—'Jizo-kao,' as the
face of Jizo.
And we come to the end of the cemetery, to the verge of the great grove.
Beyond the trees, what caressing sun, what spiritual loveliness in the
tender day! A tropic sky always seemed to me to hang so low that one
could almost bathe one's fingers in its lukewarm liquid blue by reaching
upward from any dwelling-roof. But this sky, softer, fainter, arches so
vastly as to suggest the heaven of a larger planet. And the very clouds
are not clouds, but only dreams of clouds, so filmy they are; ghosts of
clouds, diaphanous spectres, illusions!
All at once I become aware of a child standing before me, a very young
girl who looks up wonderingly at my face; so light her approach that the
joy of the birds and whispering of the leaves quite drowned the soft
sound of her feet. Her ragged garb is Japanese; but her gaze, her loose
fair hair, are not of Nippon only; the ghost of another race—perhaps
my own-watches me through her flower-blue eyes. A strange playground
surely is this for thee, my child; I wonder if all these shapes about
thee do not seem very weird, very strange, to that little soul of thine.
But no; 'tis only I who seem strange to thee; thou hast forgotten the
Other Birth, and thy father's world.
Half-caste and poor and pretty, in this foreign port! Better thou wert
with the dead about thee, child! better than the splendour of this soft
blue light the unknown darkness for thee. There the gentle Jizo would
care for thee, and hide thee in his great sleeves, and keep all evil
from thee, and play shadowy play with thee; and this thy forsaken
mother, who now comes to ask an alms for thy sake, dumbly pointing to
thy strange beauty with her patient Japanese smile, would put little
stones upon the knees of the dear god that thou mightest find rest.
'Oh, Akira! you must tell me something more about Jizo, and the ghosts
of the children in the Sai-no-Kawara.' 'I cannot tell you much more,'
answers Akira, smiling at my interest in this charming divinity; 'but if
you will come with me now to Kuboyama, I will show you, in one of the
temples there, pictures of the Sai-no-Kawara and of Jizo, and the
Judgment of Souls.'
So we take our way in two jinricksha to the Temple Rinko-ji, on
Kuboyama. We roll swiftly through a mile of many-coloured narrow
Japanese streets; then through a half-mile of pretty suburban ways,
lined with gardens, behind whose clipped hedges are homes light and
dainty as cages of wicker-work; and then, leaving our vehicles, we
ascend green hills on foot by winding paths, and traverse a region of
fields and farms. After a long walk in the hot sun we reach a village
almost wholly composed of shrines and temples.
The outlying sacred place—three buildings in one enclosure of bamboo
fences—belongs to the Shingon sect. A small open shrine, to the left
of the entrance, first attracts us. It is a dead-house: a Japanese bier
is there. But almost opposite the doorway is an altar covered with
What immediately rivets the attention is a terrible figure, all
vermilion red, towering above many smaller images—a goblin shape with
immense cavernous eyes. His mouth is widely opened as if speaking in
wrath, and his brows frown terribly. A long red beard descends upon his
red breast. And on his head is a strangely shaped crown, a crown of
black and gold, having three singular lobes: the left lobe bearing an
image of the moon; the right, an image of the sun; the central lobe is
all black. But below it, upon the deep gold-rimmed black band, flames
the mystic character signifying KING. Also, from the same crown-band
protrude at descending angles, to left and right, two gilded sceptre-
shaped objects. In one hand the King holds an object similar of form,
but larger his shaku or regal wand. And Akira explains.
This is Emma-O, Lord of Shadows, Judge of Souls, King of the Dead.' 
Of any man having a terrible countenance the Japanese are wont to say,
'His face is the face of Emma.'
At his right hand white Jizo-Sama stands upon a many-petalled rosy
At his left is the image of an aged woman—weird Sodzu-Baba, she who
takes the garments of the dead away by the banks of the River of the
Three Roads, which flows through the phantom-world. Pale blue her robe
is; her hair and skin are white; her face is strangely wrinkled; her
small, keen eyes are hard. The statue is very old, and the paint is
scaling from it in places, so as to lend it a ghastly leprous aspect.
There are also images of the Sea-goddess Benten and of Kwannon-Sama,
seated on summits of mountains forming the upper part of miniature
landscapes made of some unfamiliar composition, and beautifully
coloured; the whole being protected from careless fingering by strong
wire nettings stretched across the front of the little shrines
containing the panorama. Benten has eight arms: two of her hands are
joined in prayer; the others, extended above her, hold different objects
-a sword, a wheel, a bow, an arrow, a key, and a magical gem. Below
her, standing on the slopes of her mountain throne, are her ten robed
attendants, all in the attitude of prayer; still farther down appears
the body of a great white serpent, with its tail hanging from one
orifice in the rocks, and its head emerging from another. At the very
bottom of the hill lies a patient cow. Kwannon appears as Senjiu-
Kwannon, offering gifts to men with all the multitude of her arms of
But this is not what we came to see. The pictures of heaven and hell
await us in the Zen-Shu temple close by, whither we turn our steps.
On the way my guide tells me this:
'When one dies the body is washed and shaven, and attired in white, in
the garments of a pilgrim. And a wallet (sanyabukkero), like the wallet
of a Buddhist pilgrim, is hung about the neck of the dead; and in this
wallet are placed three rin.  And these coin are buried with the
'For all who die must, except children, pay three rin at the Sanzu-no-
Kawa, "The River of the Three Roads." When souls have reached that
river, they find there the Old Woman of the Three Roads, Sodzu-Baba,
waiting for them: she lives on the banks of that river, with her
husband, Ten Datsu-Ba. And if the Old Woman is not paid the sum of three
rin, she takes away the clothes of the dead, and hangs them upon the
The temple is small, neat, luminous with the sun pouring into its widely
opened shoji; and Akira must know the priests well, so affable their
greeting is. I make a little offering, and Akira explains the purpose of
our visit. Thereupon we are invited into a large bright apartment in a
wing of the building, overlooking a lovely garden. Little cushions are
placed on the floor for us to sit upon; and a smoking-box is brought in,
and a tiny lacquered table about eight inches high. And while one of the
priests opens a cupboard, or alcove with doors, to find the kakemono,
another brings us tea, and a plate of curious confectionery consisting
of various pretty objects made of a paste of sugar and rice flour. One
is a perfect model of a chrysanthemum blossom; another is a lotus;
others are simply large, thin, crimson lozenges bearing admirable
designs—flying birds, wading storks, fish, even miniature landscapes.
Akira picks out the chrysanthemum, and insists that I shall eat it; and
I begin to demolish the sugary blossom, petal by petal, feeling all the
while an acute remorse for spoiling so beautiful a thing.
Meanwhile four kakemono have been brought forth, unrolled, and suspended
from pegs upon the wall; and we rise to examine them.
They are very, very beautiful kakemono, miracles of drawing and of
colour-subdued colour, the colour of the best period of Japanese art;
and they are very large, fully five feet long and more than three broad,
mounted upon silk.
And these are the legends of them:
In the upper part of the painting is a scene from the Shaba, the world
of men which we are wont to call the Real—a cemetery with trees in
blossom, and mourners kneeling before tombs. All under the soft blue
light of Japanese day.
Underneath is the world of ghosts. Down through the earth-crust souls
are descending. Here they are flitting all white through inky
darknesses; here farther on, through weird twilight, they are wading the
flood of the phantom River of the Three Roads, Sanzu-no-Kawa. And here
on the right is waiting for them Sodzu-Baba, the Old Woman of the Three
Roads, ghastly and grey, and tall as a nightmare. From some she is
taking their garments;—the trees about her are heavily hung with the
garments of others gone before.
Farther down I see fleeing souls overtaken by demons—hideous blood-red
demons, with feet like lions, with faces half human, half bovine, the
physiognomy of minotaurs in fury. One is rending a soul asunder. Another
demon is forcing souls to reincarnate themselves in bodies of horses, of
dogs, of swine. And as they are thus reincarnated they flee away into
Such a gloom as the diver sees in deep-sea water, a lurid twilight. In
the midst a throne, ebon-coloured, and upon it an awful figure seated—
Emma Dai-O, Lord of Death and Judge of Souls, unpitying, tremendous.
Frightful guardian spirits hover about him—armed goblins. On the left,
in the foreground below the throne, stands the wondrous Mirror,
Tabarino-Kagami, reflecting the state of souls and all the happenings of
the world. A landscape now shadows its surface,—a landscape of cliffs
and sand and sea, with ships in the offing. Upon the sand a dead man is
lying, slain by a sword slash; the murderer is running away. Before this
mirror a terrified soul stands, in the grasp of a demon, who compels him
to look, and to recognise in the murderer's features his own face. To
the right of the throne, upon a tall-stemmed flat stand, such as
offerings to the gods are placed upon in the temples, a monstrous shape
appears, like a double-faced head freshly cut off, and set upright upon
the stump of the neck. The two faces are the Witnesses: the face of the
Woman (Mirume) sees all that goes on in the Shaba; the other face is the
face of a bearded man, the face of Kaguhana, who smells all odours, and
by them is aware of all that human beings do. Close to them, upon a
reading-stand, a great book is open, the record-book of deeds. And
between the Mirror and the Witnesses white shuddering souls await
Farther down I see the sufferings of souls already sentenced. One, in
lifetime a liar, is having his tongue torn out by a demon armed with
heated pincers. Other souls, flung by scores into fiery carts, are being
dragged away to torment. The carts are of iron, but resemble in form
certain hand-wagons which one sees every day being pulled and pushed
through the streets by bare-limbed Japanese labourers, chanting always
the same melancholy alternating chorus, Haidak! hei! haidah hei! But
these demon-wagoners—naked, blood-coloured, having the feet of lions
and the heads of bulls—move with their flaming wagons at a run, like
All the souls so far represented are souls of adults.
A furnace, with souls for fuel, blazing up into darkness. Demons stir
the fire with poles of iron. Down through the upper blackness other
souls are falling head downward into the flames.
Below this scene opens a shadowy landscape—a faint-blue and faint-grey
world of hills and vales, through which a river serpentines—the Sai-
no-Kawara. Thronging the banks of the pale river are ghosts of little
children, trying to pile up stones. They are very, very pretty, the
child-souls, pretty as real Japanese children are (it is astonishing how
well is child-beauty felt and expressed by the artists of Japan). Each
child has one little short white dress.
In the foreground a horrible devil with an iron club has just dashed
down and scattered a pile of stones built by one of the children. The
little ghost, seated by the ruin of its work, is crying, with both
pretty hands to its eyes. The devil appears to sneer. Other children
also are weeping near by. But, lo! Jizo comes, all light and sweetness,
with a glory moving behind him like a great full moon; and he holds out
his shakujo, his strong and holy staff, and the little ghosts catch it
and cling to it, and are drawn into the circle of his protection. And
other infants have caught his great sleeves, and one has been lifted to
the bosom of the god.
Below this Sai-no-Kawara scene appears yet another shadow-world, a
wilderness of bamboos! Only white-robed shapes of women appear in it.
They are weeping; the fingers of all are bleeding. With finger-nails
plucked out must they continue through centuries to pick the sharp-edged
Floating in glory, Dai-Nichi-Nyorai, Kwannon-Sama, Amida Buddha. Far
below them as hell from heaven surges a lake of blood, in which souls
float. The shores of this lake are precipices studded with sword-blades
thickly set as teeth in the jaws of a shark; and demons are driving
naked ghosts up the frightful slopes. But out of the crimson lake
something crystalline rises, like a beautiful, clear water-spout; the
stem of a flower,—a miraculous lotus, hearing up a soul to the feet of
a priest standing above the verge of the abyss. By virtue of his prayer
was shaped the lotus which thus lifted up and saved a sufferer.
Alas! there are no other kakemonos. There were several others: they have
No: I am happily mistaken; the priest has found, in some mysterious
recess, one more kakemono, a very large one, which he unrolls and
suspends beside the others. A vision of beauty, indeed! but what has
this to do with faith or ghosts? In the foreground a garden by the
waters of the sea, of some vast blue lake,—a garden like that at
Kanagawa, full of exquisite miniature landscape-work: cascades,
grottoes, lily-ponds, carved bridges, and trees snowy with blossom, and
dainty pavilions out-jutting over the placid azure water. Long, bright,
soft bands of clouds swim athwart the background. Beyond and above them
rises a fairy magnificence of palatial structures, roof above roof,
through an aureate haze like summer vapour: creations aerial, blue,
light as dreams. And there are guests in these gardens, lovely beings,
Japanese maidens. But they wear aureoles, star-shining: they are
For this is Paradise, the Gokuraku; and all those divine shapes are
Bosatsu. And now, looking closer, I perceive beautiful weird things
which at first escaped my notice.
They are gardening, these charming beings!—they are caressing the
lotus-buds, sprinkling their petals with something celestial, helping
them to blossom. And what lotus-buds with colours not of this world.
Some have burst open; and in their luminous hearts, in a radiance like
that of dawn, tiny naked infants are seated, each with a tiny halo.
These are Souls, new Buddhas, hotoke born into bliss. Some are very,
very small; others larger; all seem to be growing visibly, for their
lovely nurses are feeding them with something ambrosial. I see one which
has left its lotus-cradle, being conducted by a celestial Jizo toward
the higher splendours far away.
Above, in the loftiest blue, are floating tennin, angels of the Buddhist
heaven, maidens with phoenix wings. One is playing with an ivory
plectrum upon some stringed instrument, just as a dancing-girl plays her
samisen; and others are sounding those curious Chinese flutes, composed
of seventeen tubes, which are used still in sacred concerts at the great
Akira says this heaven is too much like earth. The gardens, he declares,
are like the gardens of temples, in spite of the celestial lotus-
flowers; and in the blue roofs of the celestial mansions he discovers
memories of the tea-houses of the city of Saikyo. 
Well, what after all is the heaven of any faith but ideal reiteration
and prolongation of happy experiences remembered—the dream of dead
days resurrected for us, and made eternal? And if you think this
Japanese ideal too simple, too naive, if you say there are experiences
of the material life more worthy of portrayal in a picture of heaven
than any memory of days passed in Japanese gardens and temples and tea-
houses, it is perhaps because you do not know Japan, the soft, sweet
blue of its sky, the tender colour of its waters, the gentle splendour
of its sunny days, the exquisite charm of its interiors, where the least
object appeals to one's sense of beauty with the air of something not
made, but caressed, into existence.
'Now there is a wasan of Jizo,' says Akira, taking from a shelf in the
temple alcove some much-worn, blue-covered Japanese book. 'A wasan is
what you would call a hymn or psalm. This book is two hundred years old:
it is called Saino-Kawara-kuchi-zu-sami-no-den, which is, literally,
"The Legend of the Humming of the Sai-no-Kawara." And this is the
wasan'; and he reads me the hymn of Jizo—the legend of the murmur of
the little ghosts, the legend of the humming of the Sai-no-Kawara-
rhythmically, like a song: 
'Not of this world is the story of sorrow.
The story of the Sai-no-Kawara,
At the roots of the Mountain of Shide;
Not of this world is the tale; yet 'tis most pitiful to hear.
For together in the Sai-no-Kawara are assembled
Children of tender age in multitude,
Infants but two or three years old,
Infants of four or five, infants of less than ten:
In the Sai-no-Kawara are they gathered together.
And the voice of their longing for their parents,
The voice of their crying for their mothers and their fathers—
"Chichi koishi! haha koishi!"—
Is never as the voice of the crying of children in this world,
But a crying so pitiful to hear
That the sound of it would pierce through flesh and bone.
And sorrowful indeed the task which they perform—
Gathering the stones of the bed of the river,
Therewith to heap the tower of prayers.
Saying prayers for the happiness of father, they heap the first tower;
Saying prayers for the happiness of mother, they heap the second tower;
Saying prayers for their brothers, their sisters, and all whom they
loved at home, they heap the third tower.
Such, by day, are their pitiful diversions.
But ever as the sun begins to sink below the horizon,
Then do the Oni, the demons of the hells, appear,
And say to them—"What is this that you do here?
"Lo! your parents still living in the Shaba-world
"Take no thought of pious offering or holy work
"They do nought but mourn for you from the morning unto the evening.
"Oh, how pitiful! alas! how unmerciful!
"Verily the cause of the pains that you suffer
"Is only the mourning, the lamentation of your parents."
And saying also, "Blame never us!"
The demons cast down the heaped-up towers,
They dash the stones down with their clubs of iron.
But lo! the teacher Jizo appears.
All gently he comes, and says to the weeping infants:—
"Be not afraid, dears! be never fearful!
"Poor little souls, your lives were brief indeed!
"Too soon you were forced to make the weary journey to the Meido,
"The long journey to the region of the dead!
"Trust to me! I am your father and mother in the Meido,
"Father of all children in the region of the dead."
And he folds the skirt of his shining robe about them;
So graciously takes he pity on the infants.
To those who cannot walk he stretches forth his strong shakujo;
And he pets the little ones, caresses them, takes them to his loving bosom
So graciously he takes pity on the infants.
Namu Amida Butsu!
A Pilgrimage to Enoshima
A long, straggling country village, between low wooded hills, with a
canal passing through it. Old Japanese cottages, dingy, neutral-tinted,
with roofs of thatch, very steeply sloping, above their wooden walls and
paper shoji. Green patches on all the roof-slopes, some sort of grass;
and on the very summits, on the ridges, luxurious growths of yaneshobu,
 the roof-plant, bearing pretty purple flowers. In the lukewarm air a
mingling of Japanese odours, smells of sake, smells of seaweed soup,
smells of daikon, the strong native radish; and dominating all, a sweet,
thick, heavy scent of incense,—incense from the shrines of gods.
Akira has hired two jinricksha for our pilgrimage; a speckless azure sky
arches the world; and the land lies glorified in a joy of sunshine. And
yet a sense of melancholy, of desolation unspeakable, weighs upon me as
we roll along the bank of the tiny stream, between the mouldering lines
of wretched little homes with grass growing on their roofs. For this
mouldering hamlet represents all that remains of the million-peopled
streets of Yoritomo's capital, the mighty city of the Shogunate, the
ancient seat of feudal power, whither came the envoys of Kublai Khan
demanding tribute, to lose their heads for their temerity. And only some
of the unnumbered temples of the once magnificent city now remain, saved
from the conflagrations of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries,
doubtless because built in high places, or because isolated from the
maze of burning streets by vast courts and groves. Here still dwell the
ancient gods in the great silence of their decaying temples, without
worshippers, without revenues, surrounded by desolations of rice-fields,
where the chanting of frogs replaces the sea-like murmur of the city
that was and is not.
The first great temple—En-gaku-ji—invites us to cross the canal by a
little bridge facing its outward gate—a roofed gate with fine Chinese
lines, but without carving. Passing it, we ascend a long, imposing
succession of broad steps, leading up through a magnificent grove to a
terrace, where we reach the second gate. This gate is a surprise; a
stupendous structure of two stories—with huge sweeping curves of roof
and enormous gables—antique, Chinese, magnificent. It is more than
four hundred years old, but seems scarcely affected by the wearing of
the centuries. The whole of the ponderous and complicated upper
structure is sustained upon an open-work of round, plain pillars and
cross-beams; the vast eaves are full of bird-nests; and the storm of
twittering from the roofs is like a rushing of water. Immense the work
is, and imposing in its aspect of settled power; but, in its way, it has
great severity: there are no carvings, no gargoyles, no dragons; and yet
the maze of projecting timbers below the eaves will both excite and
delude expectation, so strangely does it suggest the grotesqueries and
fantasticalities of another art. You look everywhere for the heads of
lions, elephants, dragons, and see only the four-angled ends of beams,
and feel rather astonished than disappointed. The majesty of the edifice
could not have been strengthened by any such carving.
After the gate another long series of wide steps, and more trees,
millennial, thick-shadowing, and then the terrace of the temple itself,
with two beautiful stone lanterns (toro) at its entrance. The
architecture of the temple resembles that of the gate, although on a
lesser scale. Over the doors is a tablet with Chinese characters,
signifying, 'Great, Pure, Clear, Shining Treasure.' But a heavy
framework of wooden bars closes the sanctuary, and there is no one to
let us in. Peering between the bars I see, in a sort of twilight, first
a pavement of squares of marble, then an aisle of massive wooden pillars
upholding the dim lofty roof, and at the farther end, between the
pillars, Shaka, colossal, black-visaged, gold-robed, enthroned upon a
giant lotus fully forty feet in circumference. At his right hand some
white mysterious figure stands, holding an incense-box; at his left,
another white figure is praying with clasped hands. Both are of
superhuman stature. But it is too dark within the edifice to discern who
they may be—whether disciples of the Buddha, or divinities, or figures
Beyond this temple extends an immense grove of trees—ancient cedars
and pines—with splendid bamboos thickly planted between them, rising
perpendicularly as masts to mix their plumes with the foliage of the
giants: the effect is tropical, magnificent. Through this shadowing, a
flight of broad stone steps slant up gently to some yet older shrine.
And ascending them we reach another portal, smaller than the imposing
Chinese structure through which we already passed, but wonderful, weird,
full of dragons, dragons of a form which sculptors no longer carve,
which they have even forgotten how to make, winged dragons rising from a
storm-whirl of waters or thereinto descending. The dragon upon the panel
of the left gate has her mouth closed; the jaws of the dragon on the
panel of the right gate are open and menacing. Female and male they are,
like the lions of Buddha. And the whirls of the eddying water, and the
crests of the billowing, stand out from the panel in astonishing
boldness of relief, in loops and curlings of grey wood time-seasoned to
the hardness of stone.
The little temple beyond contains no celebrated image, but a shari only,
or relic of Buddha, brought from India. And I cannot see it, having no
time to wait until the absent keeper of the shari can be found.
'Now we shall go to look at the big bell,' says Akira.
We turn to the left as we descend along a path cut between hills faced
for the height of seven or eight feet with protection-walls made green
by moss; and reach a flight of extraordinarily dilapidated steps, with
grass springing between their every joint and break—steps so worn down
and displaced by countless feet that they have become ruins, painful and
even dangerous to mount. We reach the summit, however, without mishap,
and find ourselves before a little temple, on the steps of which an old
priest awaits us, with smiling bow of welcome. We return his salutation;
but ere entering the temple turn to look at the tsurigane on the right—
the famous bell.
Under a lofty open shed, with a tilted Chinese roof, the great bell is
hung. I should judge it to be fully nine feet high, and about five feet
in diameter, with lips about eight inches thick. The shape of it is not
like that of our bells, which broaden toward the lips; this has the same
diameter through all its height, and it is covered with Buddhist texts
cut into the smooth metal of it. It is rung by means of a heavy swinging
beam, suspended from the roof by chains, and moved like a battering-ram.
There are loops of palm-fibre rope attached to this beam to pull it by;
and when you pull hard enough, so as to give it a good swing, it strikes
a moulding like a lotus-flower on the side of the bell. This it must
have done many hundred times; for the square, flat end of it, though
showing the grain of a very dense wood, has been battered into a convex
disk with ragged protruding edges, like the surface of a long-used
A priest makes a sign to me to ring the bell. I first touch the great
lips with my hand very lightly; and a musical murmur comes from them.
Then I set the beam swinging strongly; and a sound deep as thunder, rich
as the bass of a mighty organ—a sound enormous, extraordinary, yet
beautiful—rolls over the hills and away. Then swiftly follows another
and lesser and sweeter billowing of tone; then another; then an eddying
of waves of echoes. Only once was it struck, the astounding bell; yet it
continues to sob and moan for at least ten minutes!
And the age of this bell is six hundred and fifty years. 
In the little temple near by, the priest shows us a series of curious
paintings, representing the six hundredth anniversary of the casting of
the bell. (For this is a sacred bell, and the spirit of a god is
believed to dwell within it.) Otherwise the temple has little of
interest. There are some kakemono representing Iyeyasu and his
retainers; and on either side of the door, separating the inner from the
outward sanctuary, there are life-size images of Japanese warriors in
antique costume. On the altars of the inner shrine are small images,
grouped upon a miniature landscape-work of painted wood—the Jiugo-
Doji, or Fifteen Youths—the Sons of the Goddess Benten. There are
gohei before the shrine, and a mirror upon it; emblems of Shinto. The
sanctuary has changed hands in the great transfer of Buddhist temples to
the State religion.
In nearly every celebrated temple little Japanese prints are sold,
containing the history of the shrine, and its miraculous legends. I find
several such things on sale at the door of the temple, and in one of
them, ornamented with a curious engraving of the bell, I discover, with
Akira's aid, the following traditions:-
In the twelfth year of Bummei, this bell rang itself. And one who
laughed on being told of the miracle, met with misfortune; and another,
who believed, thereafter prospered, and obtained all his desires.
Now, in that time there died in the village of Tamanawa a sick man whose
name was Ono-no-Kimi; and Ono-no-Kimi descended to the region of the
dead, and went before the Judgment-Seat of Emma-O. And Emma, Judge of
Souls, said to him, 'You come too soon! The measure of life allotted you
in the Shaba-world has not yet been exhausted. Go back at once.' But
Ono-no-Kimi pleaded, saying, 'How may I go back, not knowing my way
through the darkness?' And Emma answered him, 'You can find your way
back by listening to the sound of the bell of En-gaku-ji, which is heard
in the Nan-en-budi world, going south.' And Ono-no-Kimi went south, and
heard the bell, and found his way through the darknesses, and revived in
Also in those days there appeared in many provinces a Buddhist priest of
giant stature, whom none remembered to have seen before, and whose name
no man knew, travelling through the land, and everywhere exhorting the
people to pray before the bell of En-gaku-ji. And it was at last
discovered that the giant pilgrim was the holy bell itself, transformed
by supernatural power into the form of a priest. And after these things
had happened, many prayed before the bell, and obtained their wishes.
'Oh! there is something still to see,' my guide exclaims as we reach the
great Chinese gate again; and he leads the way across the grounds by
another path to a little hill, previously hidden from view by trees. The
face of the hill, a mass of soft stone perhaps one hundred feet high, is
hollowed out into chambers, full of images. These look like burial-
caves; and the images seem funereal monuments. There are two stories of
chambers—three above, two below; and the former are connected with the
latter by a narrow interior stairway cut through the living rock. And
all around the dripping walls of these chambers on pedestals are grey
slabs, shaped exactly like the haka in Buddhist cemeteries, and
chiselled with figures of divinities in high relief. All have glory-
disks: some are na´ve and sincere like the work of our own mediaeval
image-makers. Several are not unfamiliar. I have seen before, in the
cemetery of Kuboyama, this kneeling woman with countless shadowy hands;
and this figure tiara-coiffed, slumbering with one knee raised, and
cheek pillowed upon the left hand—the placid and pathetic symbol of
the perpetual rest. Others, like Madonnas, hold lotus-flowers, and their
feet rest upon the coils of a serpent. I cannot see them all, for the
rock roof of one chamber has fallen in; and a sunbeam entering the ruin
reveals a host of inaccessible sculptures half buried in rubbish.
But no!—this grotto-work is not for the dead; and these are not haka,
as I imagined, but only images of the Goddess of Mercy. These chambers
are chapels; and these sculptures are the En-gaku-ji-no-hyaku-Kwannon,
'the Hundred Kwannons of En-gaku-ji.' And I see in the upper chamber
above the stairs a granite tablet in a rock-niche, chiselled with an
inscription in Sanscrit transliterated into Chinese characters,
'Adoration to the great merciful Kwan-ze-on, who looketh down above the
sound of prayer.' 
Entering the grounds of the next temple, the Temple of Ken-cho-ji,
through the 'Gate of the Forest of Contemplative Words,' and the 'Gate
of the Great Mountain of Wealth,' one might almost fancy one's self
reentering, by some queer mistake, the grounds of En-gaku-ji. For the
third gate before us, and the imposing temple beyond it, constructed
upon the same models as those of the structures previously visited, were
also the work of the same architect. Passing this third gate—colossal,
severe, superb—we come to a fountain of bronze before the temple
doors, an immense and beautiful lotus-leaf of metal, forming a broad
shallow basin kept full to the brim by a jet in its midst.
This temple also is paved with black and white square slabs, and we can
enter it with our shoes. Outside it is plain and solemn as that of En-
gaku-ji; but the interior offers a more extraordinary spectacle of faded
splendour. In lieu of the black Shaka throned against a background of
flamelets, is a colossal Jizo-Sama, with a nimbus of fire—a single
gilded circle large as a wagon-wheel, breaking into fire-tongues at
three points. He is seated upon an enormous lotus of tarnished gold—
over the lofty edge of which the skirt of his robe trails down. Behind
him, standing on ascending tiers of golden steps, are glimmering hosts
of miniature figures of him, reflections, multiplications of him, ranged
there by ranks of hundreds—the Thousand Jizo. From the ceiling above
him droop the dingy splendours of a sort of dais-work, a streaming
circle of pendants like a fringe, shimmering faintly through the webbed
dust of centuries. And the ceiling itself must once have been a marvel;
all beamed in caissons, each caisson containing, upon a gold ground, the
painted figure of a flying bird. Formerly the eight great pillars
supporting the roof were also covered with gilding; but only a few
traces of it linger still upon their worm-pierced surfaces, and about
the bases of their capitals. And there are wonderful friezes above the
doors, from which all colour has long since faded away, marvellous grey
old carvings in relief; floating figures of tennin, or heavenly spirits
playing upon flutes and biwa.
There is a chamber separated by a heavy wooden screen from the aisle on
the right; and the priest in charge of the building slides the screen
aside, and bids us enter. In this chamber is a drum elevated upon a
brazen stand,—the hugest I ever saw, fully eighteen feet in
circumference. Beside it hangs a big bell, covered with Buddhist texts.
I am sorry to learn that it is prohibited to sound the great drum. There
is nothing else to see except some dingy paper lanterns figured with the
svastika—the sacred Buddhist symbol called by the Japanese manji.
Akira tells me that in the book called Jizo-kyo-Kosui, this legend is
related of the great statue of Jizo in this same ancient temple of Ken-
Formerly there lived at Kamakura the wife of a Ronin  named Soga
Sadayoshi. She lived by feeding silkworms and gathering the silk. She
used often to visit the temple of Kencho-ji; and one very cold day that
she went there, she thought that the image of Jizo looked like one
suffering from cold; and she resolved to make a cap to keep the god's
head warm—such a cap as the people of the country wear in cold
weather. And she went home and made the cap and covered the god's head
with it, saying, 'Would I were rich enough to give thee a warm covering
for all thine august body; but, alas! I am poor, and even this which I
offer thee is unworthy of thy divine acceptance.'
Now this woman very suddenly died in the fiftieth year of her age, in
the twelfth month of the fifth year of the period called Chisho. But her
body remained warm for three days, so that her relatives would not
suffer her to be taken to the burning-ground. And on the evening of the
third day she came to life again.
Then she related that on the day of her death she had gone before the
judgment-seat of Emma, king and judge of the dead. And Emma, seeing her,
became wroth, and said to her: 'You have been a wicked woman, and have
scorned the teaching of the Buddha. All your life you have passed in
destroying the lives of silkworms by putting them into heated water. Now
you shall go to the Kwakkto-Jigoku, and there burn until your sins shall
be expiated.' Forthwith she was seized and dragged by demons to a great
pot filled with molten metal, and thrown into the pot, and she cried out
horribly. And suddenly Jizo-Sama descended into the molten metal beside
her, and the metal became like a flowing of oil and ceased to burn; and
Jizo put his arms about her and lifted her out. And he went with her
before King Emma, and asked that she should be pardoned for his sake,
forasmuch as she had become related to him by one act of goodness. So
she found pardon, and returned to the Shaba-world.
'Akira,' I ask, 'it cannot then be lawful, according to Buddhism, for
any one to wear silk?'
'Assuredly not,' replies Akira; 'and by the law of Buddha priests are
expressly forbidden to wear silk. Nevertheless.' he adds with that quiet
smile of his, in which I am beginning to discern suggestions of sarcasm,
'nearly all the priests wear silk.'
Akira also tells me this:
It is related in the seventh volume of the book Kamakurashi that there
was formerly at Kamakura a temple called Emmei-ji, in which there was
enshrined a famous statue of Jizo, called Hadaka-Jizo, or Naked Jizo.
The statue was indeed naked, but clothes were put upon it; and it stood
upright with its feet upon a chessboard. Now, when pilgrims came to the
temple and paid a certain fee, the priest of the temple would remove the
clothes of the statue; and then all could see that, though the face was
the face of Jizo, the body was the body of a woman.
Now this was the origin of the famous image of Hadaka-Jizo standing upon
the chessboard. On one occasion the great prince Taira-no-Tokyori was
playing chess with his wife in the presence of many guests. And he made
her agree, after they had played several games, that whosoever should
lose the next game would have to stand naked on the chessboard. And in
the next game they played his wife lost. And she prayed to Jizo to save
her from the shame of appearing naked. And Jizo came in answer to her
prayer and stood upon the chessboard, and disrobed himself, and changed
his body suddenly into the body of a woman.
As we travel on, the road curves and narrows between higher elevations,
and becomes more sombre. 'Oi! mat!' my Buddhist guide calls softly to
the runners; and our two vehicles halt in a band of sunshine,
descending, through an opening in the foliage of immense trees, over a
flight of ancient mossy steps. 'Here,' says my friend, 'is the temple of
the King of Death; it is called Emma-Do; and it is a temple of the Zen
sect—Zen-Oji. And it is more than seven hundred years old, and there
is a famous statue in it.'
We ascend to a small, narrow court in which the edifice stands. At the
head of the steps, to the right, is a stone tablet, very old, with
characters cut at least an inch deep into the granite of it, Chinese
characters signifying, 'This is the Temple of Emma, King.'
The temple resembles outwardly and inwardly the others we have visited,
and, like those of Shaka and of the colossal Jizo of Kamakura, has a
paved floor, so that we are not obliged to remove our shoes on entering.
Everything is worn, dim, vaguely grey; there is a pungent scent of
mouldiness; the paint has long ago peeled away from the naked wood of
the pillars. Throned to right and left against the high walls tower nine
grim figures—five on one side, four on the other—wearing strange
crowns with trumpet-shapen ornaments; figures hoary with centuries, and
so like to the icon of Emma, which I saw at Kuboyama, that I ask, 'Are
all these Emma?' 'Oh, no!' my guide answers; 'these are his attendants
only—the Jiu-O, the Ten Kings.' 'But there are only nine?' I query.
'Nine, and Emma completes the number. You have not yet seen Emma.'
Where is he? I see at the farther end of the chamber an altar elevated
upon a platform approached by wooden steps; but there is no image, only
the usual altar furniture of gilded bronze and lacquer-ware. Behind the
altar I see only a curtain about six feet square—a curtain once dark
red, now almost without any definite hue—probably veiling some alcove.
A temple guardian approaches, and invites us to ascend the platform. I
remove my shoes before mounting upon the matted surface, and follow the
guardian behind the altar, in front of the curtain. He makes me a sign
to look, and lifts the veil with a long rod. And suddenly, out of the
blackness of some mysterious profundity masked by that sombre curtain,
there glowers upon me an apparition at the sight of which I
involuntarily start back—a monstrosity exceeding all anticipation—a
A Face tremendous, menacing, frightful, dull red, as with the redness of
heated iron cooling into grey. The first shock of the vision is no doubt
partly due to the somewhat theatrical manner in which the work is
suddenly revealed out of darkness by the lifting of the curtain. But as
the surprise passes I begin to recognise the immense energy of the
conception—to look for the secret of the grim artist. The wonder of
the I creation is not in the tiger frown, nor in the violence of the
terrific mouth, nor in the fury and ghastly colour of the head as a
whole: it is in the eyes—eyes of nightmare.
Now this weird old temple has its legend.
Seven hundred years ago, 'tis said, there died the great image-maker,
the great busshi; Unke-Sosei. And Unke-Sosei signifies 'Unke who
returned from the dead.' For when he came before Emma, the Judge of
Souls, Emma said to him: 'Living, thou madest no image of me. Go back
unto earth and make one, now that thou hast looked upon me.' And Unke
found himself suddenly restored to the world of men; and they that had
known him before, astonished to see him alive again, called him Unke-
Sosei. And Unke-Sosei, bearing with him always the memory of the
countenance of Emma, wrought this image of him, which still inspires
fear in all who behold it; and he made also the images of the grim Jiu-
O, the Ten Kings obeying Emma, which sit throned about the temple.
I want to buy a picture of Emma, and make my wish known to the temple
guardian. Oh, yes, I may buy a picture of Emma, but I must first see the
Oni. I follow the guardian Out of the temple, down the mossy steps, and
across the village highway into a little Japanese cottage, where I take
my seat upon the floor. The guardian disappears behind a screen, and
presently returns dragging with him the Oni—the image of a demon,
naked, blood-red, indescribably ugly. The Oni is about three feet high.
He stands in an attitude of menace, brandishing a club. He has a head
shaped something like the head of a bulldog, with brazen eyes; and his
feet are like the feet of a lion. Very gravely the guardian turns the
grotesquery round and round, that I may admire its every aspect; while a
na´ve crowd collects before the open door to look at the stranger and
Then the guardian finds me a rude woodcut of Emma, with a sacred
inscription printed upon it; and as soon as I have paid for it, he
proceeds to stamp the paper, with the seal of the temple. The seal he
keeps in a wonderful lacquered box, covered with many wrappings of soft
leather. These having been removed, I inspect the seal—an oblong,
vermilion-red polished stone, with the design cut in intaglio upon it.
He moistens the surface with red ink, presses it upon the corner of the
paper bearing the grim picture, and the authenticity of my strange
purchase is established for ever.
You do not see the Dai-Butsu as you enter the grounds of his long-
vanished temple, and proceed along a paved path across stretches of
lawn; great trees hide him. But very suddenly, at a turn, he comes into
full view and you start! No matter how many photographs of the colossus
you may have already seen, this first vision of the reality is an
astonishment. Then you imagine that you are already too near, though the
image is at least a hundred yards away. As for me, I retire at once
thirty or forty yards back, to get a better view. And the jinricksha man
runs after me, laughing and gesticulating, thinking that I imagine the
image alive and am afraid of it.
But, even were that shape alive, none could be afraid of it. The
gentleness, the dreamy passionlessness of those features,—the immense
repose of the whole figure—are full of beauty and charm. And, contrary
to all expectation, the nearer you approach the giant Buddha, the
greater this charm becomes You look up into the solemnly beautiful face
-into the half-closed eyes that seem to watch you through their eyelids
of bronze as gently as those of a child; and you feel that the image
typifies all that is tender and calm in the Soul of the East. Yet you
feel also that only Japanese thought could have created it. Its beauty,
its dignity, its perfect repose, reflect the higher life of the race
that imagined it; and, though doubtless inspired by some Indian model,
as the treatment of the hair and various symbolic marks reveal, the art
So mighty and beautiful the work is, that you will not for some time
notice the magnificent lotus-plants of bronze, fully fifteen feet high,
planted before the figure, on either side of the great tripod in which
incense-rods are burning.
Through an orifice in the right side of the enormous lotus-blossom on
which the Buddha is seated, you can enter into the statue. The interior
contains a little shrine of Kwannon, and a statue of the priest Yuten,
and a stone tablet bearing in Chinese characters the sacred formula,
Namu Amida Butsu.
A ladder enables the pilgrim to ascend into the interior of the colossus
as high as the shoulders, in which are two little windows commanding a
wide prospect of the grounds; while a priest, who acts as guide, states
the age of the statue to be six hundred and thirty years, and asks for
some small contribution to aid in the erection of a new temple to
shelter it from the weather.
For this Buddha once had a temple. A tidal wave following an earthquake
swept walls and roof away, but left the mighty Amida unmoved, still
meditating upon his lotus.
And we arrive before the far-famed Kamakura temple of Kwannon—Kwannon,
who yielded up her right to the Eternal Peace that she might save the
souls of men, and renounced Nirvana to suffer with humanity for other
myriad million ages—Kwannon, the Goddess of Pity and of Mercy.
I climb three flights of steps leading to the temple, and a young girl,
seated at the threshold, rises to greet us. Then she disappears within
the temple to summon the guardian priest, a venerable man, white-robed,
who makes me a sign to enter.
The temple is large as any that I have yet seen, and, like the others,
grey with the wearing of six hundred years. From the roof there hang
down votive offerings, inscriptions, and lanterns in multitude, painted
with various pleasing colours. Almost opposite to the entrance is a
singular statue, a seated figure, of human dimensions and most human
aspect, looking upon us with small weird eyes set in a wondrously
wrinkled face. This face was originally painted flesh-tint, and the
robes of the image pale blue; but now the whole is uniformly grey with
age and dust, and its colourlessness harmonises so well with the
senility of the figure that one is almost ready to believe one's self
gazing at a living mendicant pilgrim. It is Benzuru, the same personage
whose famous image at Asakusa has been made featureless by the wearing
touch of countless pilgrim-fingers. To left and right of the entrance
are the Ni-O, enormously muscled, furious of aspect; their crimson
bodies are speckled with a white scum of paper pellets spat at them by
worshippers. Above the altar is a small but very pleasing image of
Kwannon, with her entire figure relieved against an oblong halo of gold,
imitating the flickering of flame.
But this is not the image for which the temple is famed; there is
another to be seen upon certain conditions. The old priest presents me
with a petition, written in excellent and eloquent English, praying
visitors to contribute something to the maintenance of the temple and
its pontiff, and appealing to those of another faith to remember that
'any belief which can make men kindly and good is worthy of respect.' I
contribute my mite, and I ask to see the great Kwannon.
Then the old priest lights a lantern, and leads the way, through a low
doorway on the left of the altar, into the interior of the temple, into
some very lofty darkness. I follow him cautiously awhile, discerning
nothing whatever but the flicker of the lantern; then we halt before
something which gleams. A moment, and my eyes, becoming more accustomed
to the darkness, begin to distinguish outlines; the gleaming object
defines itself gradually as a Foot, an immense golden Foot, and I
perceive the hem of a golden robe undulating over the instep. Now the
other foot appears; the figure is certainly standing. I can perceive
that we are in a narrow but also very lofty chamber, and that out of
some mysterious blackness overhead ropes are dangling down into the
circle of lantern-light illuminating the golden feet. The priest lights
two more lanterns, and suspends them upon hooks attached to a pair of
pendent ropes about a yard apart; then he pulls up both together slowly.
More of the golden robe is revealed as the lanterns ascend, swinging on
their way; then the outlines of two mighty knees; then the curving of
columnar thighs under chiselled drapery, and, as with the still waving
ascent of the lanterns the golden Vision towers ever higher through the
gloom, expectation intensifies. There is no sound but the sound of the
invisible pulleys overhead, which squeak like bats. Now above the golden
girdle, the suggestion of a bosom. Then the glowing of a golden hand
uplifted in benediction. Then another golden hand holding a lotus. And
at last a Face, golden, smiling with eternal youth and infinite
tenderness, the face of Kwannon.
So revealed out of the consecrated darkness, this ideal of divine
feminity—creation of a forgotten art and time—is more than
impressive. I can scarcely call the emotion which it produces
admiration; it is rather reverence. But the lanterns, which paused
awhile at the level of the beautiful face, now ascend still higher, with
a fresh squeaking of pulleys. And lo! the tiara of the divinity appears
with strangest symbolism. It is a pyramid of heads, of faces-charming
faces of maidens, miniature faces of Kwannon herself.
For this is the Kwannon of the Eleven Faces—Jiu-ichimen-Kwannon.
Most sacred this statue is held; and this is its legend.
In the reign of Emperor Gensei, there lived in the province of Yamato a
Buddhist priest, Tokudo Shonin, who had been in a previous birth Hold
Bosatsu, but had been reborn among common men to save their souls. Now
at that time, in a valley in Yamato, Tokudo Shonin, walking by night,
saw a wonderful radiance; and going toward it found that it came from
the trunk of a great fallen tree, a kusunoki, or camphor-tree. A
delicious perfume came from the tree, and the shining of it was like the
shining of the moon. And by these signs Tokudo Shonin knew that the wood
was holy; and he bethought him that he should have the statue of Kwannon
carved from it. And he recited a sutra, and repeated the Nenbutsu,
praying for inspiration; and even while he prayed there came and stood
before him an aged man and an aged woman; and these said to him, 'We
know that your desire is to have the image of Kwannon-Sama carved from
this tree with the help of Heaven; continue therefore, to pray, and we
shall carve the statue.'
And Tokudo Shonin did as they bade him; and he saw them easily split the
vast trunk into two equal parts, and begin to carve each of the parts
into an image. And he saw them so labour for three days; and on the
third day the work was done—and he saw the two marvellous statues of
Kwannon made perfect before him. And he said to the strangers: 'Tell me,
I pray you, by what names you are known.' Then the old man answered: 'I
am Kasuga Myojin.' And the woman answered: 'I am called Ten-sho-ko-dai-
jin; I am the Goddess of the Sun.' And as they spoke both became
transfigured and ascended to heaven and vanished from the sight of
Tokudo Shonin. 
And the Emperor, hearing of these happenings, sent his representative to
Yamato to make offerings, and to have a temple built. Also the great
priest, Gyogi-Bosatsu, came and consecrated the images, and dedicated
the temple which by order of the Emperor was built. And one of the
statues he placed in the temple, enshrining it, and commanding it: 'Stay
thou here always to save all living creatures!' But the other statue he
cast into the sea, saying to it: 'Go thou whithersoever it is best, to
save all the living.'
Now the statue floated to Kamakura. And there arriving by night it shed
a great radiance all about it as if there were sunshine upon the sea;
and the fishermen of Kamakura were awakened by the great light; and they
went out in boats, and found the statue floating and brought it to
shore. And the Emperor ordered that a temple should be built for it, the
temple called Shin-haseidera, on the mountain called Kaiko-San, at
As we leave the temple of Kwannon behind us, there are no more dwellings
visible along the road; the green slopes to left and right become
steeper, and the shadows of the great trees deepen over us. But still,
at intervals, some flight of venerable mossy steps, a carven Buddhist
gateway, or a lofty torii, signals the presence of sanctuaries we have
no time to visit: countless crumbling shrines are all around us, dumb
witnesses to the antique splendour and vastness of the dead capital; and
everywhere, mingled with perfume of blossoms, hovers the sweet, resinous
smell of Japanese incense. Be-times we pass a scattered multitude of
sculptured stones, like segments of four-sided pillars—old haka, the
forgotten tombs of a long-abandoned cemetery; or the solitary image of
some Buddhist deity—a dreaming Amida or faintly smiling Kwannon. All
are ancient, time-discoloured, mutilated; a few have been weather-worn
into unrecognisability. I halt a moment to contemplate something
pathetic, a group of six images of the charming divinity who cares for
the ghosts of little children—the Roku-Jizo. Oh, how chipped and
scurfed and mossed they are! Five stand buried almost up to their
shoulders in a heaping of little stones, testifying to the prayers of
generations; and votive yodarekake, infant bibs of divers colours, have
been put about the necks of these for the love of children lost. But one
of the gentle god's images lies shattered and overthrown in its own
scattered pebble-pile-broken perhaps by some passing wagon.
The road slopes before us as we go, sinks down between cliffs steep as
the walls of a ca±on, and curves. Suddenly we emerge from the cliffs,
and reach the sea. It is blue like the unclouded sky—a soft dreamy
And our path turns sharply to the right, and winds along cliff-summits
overlooking a broad beach of dun-coloured sand; and the sea wind blows
deliciously with a sweet saline scent, urging the lungs to fill
themselves to the very utmost; and far away before me, I perceive a
beautiful high green mass, an island foliage-covered, rising out of the
water about a quarter of a mile from the mainland—Enoshima, the holy
island, sacred to the goddess of the sea, the goddess of beauty. I can
already distinguish a tiny town, grey-sprinkling its steep slope.
Evidently it can be reached to-day on foot, for the tide is out, and has
left bare a long broad reach of sand, extending to it, from the opposite
village which we are approaching, like a causeway.
At Katase, the little settlement facing the island, we must leave our
jinricksha and walk; the dunes between the village and the beach are too
deep to pull the vehicle over. Scores of other jinricksha are waiting
here in the little narrow street for pilgrims who have preceded me. But
to-day, I am told, I am the only European who visits the shrine of
Our two men lead the way over the dunes, and we soon descend upon damp
As we near the island the architectural details of the little town
define delightfully through the faint sea-haze—curved bluish sweeps of
fantastic roofs, angles of airy balconies, high-peaked curious gables,
all above a fluttering of queerly shaped banners covered with mysterious
lettering. We pass the sand-flats; and the ever-open Portal of the Sea-
city, the City of the Dragon-goddess, is before us, a beautiful torii.
All of bronze it is, with shimenawa of bronze above it, and a brazen
tablet inscribed with characters declaring: 'This is the Palace of the
Goddess of Enoshima.' About the bases of the ponderous pillars are
strange designs in relievo, eddyings of waves with tortoises struggling
in the flow. This is really the gate of the city, facing the shrine of
Benten by the land approach; but it is only the third torii of the
imposing series through Katase: we did not see the others, having come
by way of the coast.
And lo! we are in Enoshima. High before us slopes the single street, a
street of broad steps, a street shadowy, full of multi-coloured flags
and dank blue drapery dashed with white fantasticalities, which are
words, fluttered by the sea wind. It is lined with taverns and miniature
shops. At every one I must pause to look; and to dare to look at
anything in Japan is to want to buy it. So I buy, and buy, and buy!
For verily 'tis the City of Mother-of-Pearl, this Enoshima. In every
shop, behind the' lettered draperies there are miracles of shell-work
for sale at absurdly small prices. The glazed cases laid flat upon the
matted platforms, the shelved cabinets set against the walls, are all
opalescent with nacreous things—extraordinary surprises, incredible
ingenuities; strings of mother-of-pearl fish, strings of mother-of-pearl
birds, all shimmering with rainbow colours. There are little kittens of
mother-of-pearl, and little foxes of mother-of-pearl, and little puppies
of mother-of-pearl, and girls' hair-combs, and cigarette-holders, and
pipes too beautiful to use. There are little tortoises, not larger than
a shilling, made of shells, that, when you touch them, however lightly,
begin to move head, legs, and tail, all at the same time, alternately
withdrawing or protruding their limbs so much like real tortoises as to
give one a shock of surprise. There are storks and birds, and beetles
and butterflies, and crabs and lobsters, made so cunningly of shells,
that only touch convinces you they are not alive. There are bees of
shell, poised on flowers of the same material—poised on wire in such a
way that they seem to buzz if moved only with the tip of a feather.
There is shell-work jewellery indescribable, things that Japanese girls
love, enchantments in mother-of-pearl, hair-pins carven in a hundred
forms, brooches, necklaces. And there are photographs of Enoshima.
This curious street ends at another torii, a wooden torii, with a
steeper flight of stone steps ascending to it. At the foot of the steps
are votive stone lamps and a little well, and a stone tank at which all
pilgrims wash their hands and rinse their mouths before approaching the
temples of the gods. And hanging beside the tank are bright blue towels,
with large white Chinese characters upon them. I ask Akira what these
'Ho-Keng is the sound of the characters in the Chinese; but in Japanese
the same characters are pronounced Kenjitatetmatsuru, and signify that
those towels are mostly humbly offered to Benten. They are what you call
votive offerings. And there are many kinds of votive offerings made to
famous shrines. Some people give towels, some give pictures, some give
vases; some offer lanterns of paper, or bronze, or stone. It is common
to promise such offerings when making petitions to the gods; and it is
usual to promise a torii. The torii may be small or great according to
the wealth of him who gives it; the very rich pilgrim may offer to the
gods a torii of metal, such as that below, which is the Gate of
'Akira, do the Japanese always keep their vows to the gods?'
Akira smiles a sweet smile, and answers: 'There was a man who promised
to build a torii of good metal if his prayers were granted. And he
obtained all that he desired. And then he built a torii with three
exceedingly small needles.'
Ascending the steps, we reach a terrace, overlooking all the city roofs.
There are Buddhist lions of stone and stone lanterns, mossed and
chipped, on either side the torii; and the background of the terrace is
the sacred hill, covered with foliage. To the left is a balustrade of
stone, old and green, surrounding a shallow pool covered with scum of
water-weed. And on the farther bank above it, out of the bushes,
protrudes a strangely shaped stone slab, poised on edge, and covered
with Chinese characters. It is a sacred stone, and is believed to have
the form of a great frog, gama; wherefore it is called Gama-ishi, the
Frog-stone. Here and there along the edge of the terrace are other
graven monuments, one of which is the offering of certain pilgrims who
visited the shrine of the sea-goddess one hundred times. On the right
other flights of steps lead to loftier terraces; and an old man, who
sits at the foot of them, making bird-cages of bamboo, offers himself as
We follow him to the next terrace, where there is a school for the
children of Enoshima, and another sacred stone, huge and shapeless:
Fuku-ishi, the Stone of Good Fortune. In old times pilgrims who rubbed
their hands upon it believed they would thereby gain riches; and the
stone is polished and worn by the touch of innumerable palms.
More steps and more green-mossed lions and lanterns, and another terrace
with a little temple in its midst, the first shrine of Benten. Before it
a few stunted palm-trees are growing. There is nothing in the shrine of
interest, only Shinto emblems. But there is another well beside it with
other votive towels, and there is another mysterious monument, a stone
shrine brought from China six hundred years ago. Perhaps it contained
some far-famed statue before this place of pilgrimage was given over to
the priests of Shinto. There is nothing in it now; the monolith slab
forming the back of it has been fractured by the falling of rocks from
the cliff above; and the inscription cut therein has been almost effaced
by some kind of scum. Akira reads 'Dai-Nippongoku-Enoshima-no-reiseki-
ken . . .'; the rest is undecipherable. He says there is a statue in the
neighbouring temple, but it is exhibited only once a year, on the
fifteenth day of the seventh month.
Leaving the court by a rising path to the left, we proceed along the
verge of a cliff overlooking the sea. Perched upon this verge are pretty
tea-houses, all widely open to the sea wind, so that, looking through
them, over their matted floors and lacquered balconies one sees the
ocean as in a picture-frame, and the pale clear horizon specked with
snowy sails, and a faint blue-peaked shape also, like a phantom island,
the far vapoury silhouette of Oshima. Then we find another torii, and
other steps leading to a terrace almost black with shade of enormous
evergreen trees, and surrounded on the sea side by another stone
balustrade, velveted with moss. On the right more steps, another torii,
another terrace; and more mossed green lions and stone lamps; and a
monument inscribed with the record of the change whereby Enoshima passed
away from Buddhism to become Shino. Beyond, in the centre of another
plateau, the second shrine of Benten.
But there is no Benten! Benten has been hidden away by Shinto hands. The
second shrine is void as the first. Nevertheless, in a building to the
left of the temple, strange relics are exhibited. Feudal armour; suits
of plate and chain-mail; helmets with visors which are demoniac masks of
iron; helmets crested with dragons of gold; two-handed swords worthy of
giants; and enormous arrows, more than five feet long, with shafts
nearly an inch in diameter. One has a crescent head about nine inches
from horn to horn, the interior edge of the crescent being sharp as a
knife. Such a missile would take off a man's head; and I can scarcely
believe Akira's assurance that such ponderous arrows were shot from a
bow by hand only. There is a specimen of the writing of Nichiren, the
great Buddhist priest—gold characters on a blue ground; and there is,
in a lacquered shrine, a gilded dragon said to have been made by that
still greater priest and writer and master-wizard, Kobodaishi.
A path shaded by overarching trees leads from this plateau to the third
shrine. We pass a torii and beyond it come to a stone monument covered
with figures of monkeys chiselled in relief. What the signification of
this monument is, even our guide cannot explain. Then another torii. It
is of wood; but I am told it replaces one of metal, stolen in the night
by thieves. Wonderful thieves! that torii must have weighed at least a
ton! More stone lanterns; then an immense count, on the very summit of
the mountain, and there, in its midst, the third and chief temple of
Benten. And before the temple is a Lange vacant space surrounded by a
fence in such manner as to render the shrine totally inaccessible.
Vanity and vexation of spirit!
There is, however, a little haiden, or place of prayer, with nothing in
it but a money-box and a bell, before the fence, and facing the temple
steps. Here the pilgrims make their offerings and pray. Only a small
raised platform covered with a Chinese roof supported upon four plain
posts, the back of the structure being closed by a lattice about breast
high. From this praying-station we can look into the temple of Beaten,
and see that Benten is not there.
But I perceive that the ceiling is arranged in caissons; and in a
central caisson I discover a very curious painting-a foreshortened
Tortoise, gazing down at me. And while I am looking at it I hear Akira
and the guide laughing; and the latter exclaims, 'Benten-Sama!'
A beautiful little damask snake is undulating up the lattice-work,
poking its head through betimes to look at us. It does not seem in the
least afraid, nor has it much reason to be, seeing that its kind are
deemed the servants and confidants of Benten. Sometimes the great
goddess herself assumes the serpent form; perhaps she has come to see
Near by is a singular stone, set on a pedestal in the court. It has the
form of the body of a tortoise, and markings like those of the
creature's shell; and it is held a sacred thing, and is called the
Tortoise-stone. But I fear exceedingly that in all this place we shall
find nothing save stones and serpents!
Now we are going to visit the Dragon cavern, not so called, Akira says,
because the Dragon of Benten ever dwelt therein, but because the shape
of the cavern is the shape of a dragon. The path descends toward the
opposite side of the island, and suddenly breaks into a flight of steps
cut out of the pale hard rock—exceedingly steep, and worn, and
slippery, and perilous—overlooking the sea. A vision of low pale
rocks, and surf bursting among them, and a toro or votive stone lamp in
the centre of them—all seen as in a bird's-eye view, over the verge of
an awful precipice. I see also deep, round holes in one of the rocks.
There used to be a tea-house below; and the wooden pillars supporting it
were fitted into those holes. I descend with caution; the Japanese
seldom slip in their straw sandals, but I can only proceed with the aid
of the guide. At almost every step I slip. Surely these steps could
never have been thus worn away by the straw sandals of pilgrims who came
to see only stones and serpents!
At last we reach a plank gallery carried along the face of the cliff
above the rocks and pools, and following it round a projection of the
cliff enter the sacred cave. The light dims as we advance; and the sea-
waves, running after us into the gloom, make a stupefying roar,
multiplied by the extraordinary echo. Looking back, I see the mouth of
the cavern like a prodigious sharply angled rent in blackness, showing a
fragment of azure sky.
We reach a shrine with no deity in it, pay a fee; and lamps being
lighted and given to each of us, we proceed to explore a series of
underground passages. So black they are that even with the light of
three lamps, I can at first see nothing. In a while, however, I can
distinguish stone figures in relief—chiselled on slabs like those I
saw in the Buddhist graveyard. These are placed at regular intervals
along the rock walls. The guide approaches his light to the face of each
one, and utters a name, 'Daikoku-Sama,' 'Fudo-Sama,' 'Kwannon-Sama.'
Sometimes in lieu of a statue there is an empty shrine only, with a
money-box before it; and these void shrines have names of Shinto gods,
'Daijingu,' 'Hachiman,' 'Inari-Sama.' All the statues are black, or seem
black in the yellow lamplight, and sparkle as if frosted. I feel as if I
were in some mortuary pit, some subterranean burial-place of dead gods.
Interminable the corridor appears; yet there is at last an end—an end
with a shrine in it—where the rocky ceiling descends so low that to
reach the shrine one must go down on hands and knees. And there is
nothing in the shrine. This is the Tail of the Dragon.
We do not return to the light at once, but enter into other lateral
black corridors—the Wings of the Dragon. More sable effigies of
dispossessed gods; more empty shrines; more stone faces covered with
saltpetre; and more money-boxes, possible only to reach by stooping,
where more offerings should be made. And there is no Benten, either of
wood or stone.
I am glad to return to the light. Here our guide strips naked, and
suddenly leaps head foremost into a black deep swirling current between
rocks. Five minutes later he reappears, and clambering out lays at my
feet a living, squirming sea-snail and an enormous shrimp. Then he
resumes his robe, and we re-ascend the mountain.
'And this,' the reader may say,—'this is all that you went forth to
see: a torii, some shells, a small damask snake, some stones?'
It is true. And nevertheless I know that I am bewitched. There is a
charm indefinable about the place—that sort of charm which comes with
a little ghostly 'thrill never to be forgotten.
Not of strange sights alone is this charm made, but of numberless subtle
sensations and ideas interwoven and inter-blended: the sweet sharp
scents of grove and sea; the blood-brightening, vivifying touch of the
free wind; the dumb appeal of ancient mystic mossy things; vague
reverence evoked by knowledge of treading soil called holy for a
thousand years; and a sense of sympathy, as a human duty, compelled by
the vision of steps of rock worn down into shapelessness by the pilgrim
feet of vanished generations.
And other memories ineffaceable: the first sight of the sea-girt City of
Pearl through a fairy veil of haze; the windy approach to the lovely
island over the velvety soundless brown stretch of sand; the weird
majesty of the giant gate of bronze; the queer, high-sloping, fantastic,
quaintly gabled street, flinging down sharp shadows of aerial balconies;
the flutter of coloured draperies in the sea wind, and of flags with
their riddles of lettering; the pearly glimmering of the astonishing
And impressions of the enormous day—the day of the Land of the Gods—
a loftier day than ever our summers know; and the glory of the view from
those green sacred silent heights between sea and sun; and the
remembrance of the sky, a sky spiritual as holiness, a sky with clouds
ghost-pure and white as the light itself—seeming, indeed, not clouds
but dreams, or souls of Bodhisattvas about to melt for ever into some
And the romance of Benten, too,—the Deity of Beauty, the Divinity of
Love, the Goddess of Eloquence. Rightly is she likewise named Goddess of
the Sea. For is not the Sea most ancient and most excellent of Speakers
-the eternal Poet, chanter of that mystic hymn whose rhythm shakes the
world, whose mighty syllables no man may learn?
We return by another route.
For a while the way winds through a long narrow winding valley between
wooded hills: the whole extent of bottom-land is occupied by rice-farms;
the air has a humid coolness, and one hears only the chanting of frogs,
like a clattering of countless castanets, as the jinricksha jolts over
the rugged elevated paths separating the flooded rice-fields.
As we skirt the foot of a wooded hill upon the right, my Japanese
comrade signals to our runners to halt, and himself dismounting, points
to the blue peaked roof of a little temple high-perched on the green
slope. 'Is it really worth while to climb up there in the sun?' I ask.
'Oh, yes!' he answers: 'it is the temple of Kishibojin—Kishibojin, the
Mother of Demons!'
We ascend a flight of broad stone steps, meet the Buddhist guardian
lions at the summit, and enter the little court in which the temple
stands. An elderly woman, with a child clinging to her robe, comes from
the adjoining building to open the screens for us; and taking off our
footgear we enter the temple. Without, the edifice looked old and dingy;
but within all is neat and pretty. The June sun, pouring through the
open shoji, illuminates an artistic confusion of brasses gracefully
shaped and multi-coloured things—images, lanterns, paintings, gilded
inscriptions, pendent scrolls. There are three altars.
Above the central altar Amida Buddha sits enthroned on his mystic golden
lotus in the attitude of the Teacher. On the altar to the right gleams a
shrine of five miniature golden steps, where little images stand in
rows, tier above tier, some seated, some erect, male and female, attired
like goddesses or like daimyo: the Sanjiubanjin, or Thirty Guardians.
Below, on the façade of the altar, is the figure of a hero slaying a
monster. On the altar to the left is the shrine of the Mother-of-Demons.
Her story is a legend of horror. For some sin committed in a previous
birth, she was born a demon, devouring her own children. But being saved
by the teaching of Buddha, she became a divine being, especially loving
and protecting infants; and Japanese mothers pray to her for their
little ones, and wives pray to her for beautiful boys.
The face of Kishibojin  is the face of a comely woman. But her eyes
are weird. In her right hand she bears a lotus-blossom; with her left
she supports in a fold of her robe, against her half-veiled breast, a
naked baby. At the foot of her shrine stands Jizo-Sama, leaning upon his
shakujo. But the altar and its images do not form the startling feature
of the temple-interior. What impresses the visitor in a totally novel
way are the votive offerings. High before the shrine, suspended from
strings stretched taut between tall poles of bamboo, are scores, no,
hundreds, of pretty, tiny dresses—Japanese baby-dresses of many
colours. Most are made of poor material, for these are the thank-
offerings of very poor simple women, poor country mothers, whose prayers
to Kishibojin for the blessing of children have been heard.
And the sight of all those little dresses, each telling so naively its
story of joy and pain—those tiny kimono shaped and sewn by docile
patient fingers of humble mothers-touches irresistibly, like some
unexpected revelation of the universal mother-love. And the tenderness
of all the simple hearts that have testified thus to faith and
thankfulness seems to thrill all about me softly, like a caress of
Outside the world appears to have suddenly grown beautiful; the light is
sweeter; it seems to me there is a new charm even in the azure of the
Then, having traversed the valley, we reach a main road so level and so
magnificently shaded by huge old trees that I could believe myself in an
English lane—a lane in Kent or Surrey, perhaps—but for some exotic
detail breaking the illusion at intervals; a torii, towering before
temple-steps descending to the highway, or a signboard lettered with
Chinese characters, or the wayside shrine of some unknown god.
All at once I observe by the roadside some unfamiliar sculptures in
relief—a row of chiselled slabs protected by a little bamboo shed; and
I dismount to look at them, supposing them to be funereal monuments.
They are so old that the lines of their sculpturing are half
obliterated; their feet are covered with moss, and their visages are
half effaced. But I can discern that these are not haka, but six images
of one divinity; and my guide knows him—Koshin, the God of Roads. So
chipped and covered with scurf he is, that the upper portion of his form
has become indefinably vague; his attributes have been worn away. But
below his feet, on several slabs, chiselled cunningly, I can still
distinguish the figures of the Three Apes, his messengers. And some
pious soul has left before one image a humble votive offering—the
picture of a black cock and a white hen, painted upon a wooden shingle.
It must have been left here very long ago; the wood has become almost
black, and the painting has been damaged by weather and by the droppings
of birds. There are no stones piled at the feet of these images, as
before the images of Jizo; they seem like things forgotten, crusted over
by the neglect of generations—archaic gods who have lost their
But my guide tells me, 'The Temple of Koshin is near, in the village of
Fujisawa.' Assuredly I must visit it.
The temple of Koshin is situated in the middle of the village, in a
court opening upon the main street. A very old wooden temple it is,
unpainted, dilapidated, grey with the greyness of all forgotten and
weather-beaten things. It is some time before the guardian of the temple
can be found, to open the doors. For this temple has doors in lieu of
shoji—old doors that moan sleepily at being turned upon their hinges.
And it is not necessary to remove one's shoes; the floor is matless,
covered with dust, and squeaks under the unaccustomed weight of entering
feet. All within is crumbling, mouldering, worn; the shrine has no
image, only Shinto emblems, some poor paper lanterns whose once bright
colours have vanished under a coating of dust, some vague inscriptions.
I see the circular frame of a metal mirror; but the mirror itself is
gone. Whither? The guardian says: 'No priest lives now in this temple;
and thieves might come in the night to steal the mirror; so we have
hidden it away.' I ask about the image of Koshin. He answers it is
exposed but once in every sixty-one years: so I cannot see it; but there
are other statues of the god in the temple court.
I go to look at them: a row of images, much like those upon the public
highway, but better preserved. One figure of Koshin, however, is
different from the others I have seen—apparently made after some
Hindoo model, judging by the Indian coiffure, mitre-shaped and lofty.
The god has three eyes; one in the centre of his forehead, opening
perpendicularly instead of horizontally. He has six arms. With one hand
he supports a monkey; with another he grasps a serpent; and the other
hands hold out symbolic things—a wheel, a sword, a rosary, a sceptre.
And serpents are coiled about his wrists and about his ankles; and under
his feet is a monstrous head, the head of a demon, Amanjako, sometimes
called Utatesa ('Sadness'). Upon the pedestal below the Three Apes are
carven; and the face of an ape appears also upon the front of the god's
I see also tablets of stone, graven only with the god's name,—votive
offerings. And near by, in a tiny wooden shrine, is the figure of the
Earth-god, Ken-ro-ji-jin, grey, primeval, vaguely wrought, holding in
one hand a spear, in the other a vessel containing something
Perhaps to uninitiated eyes these many-headed, many-handed gods at first
may seem—as they seem always in the sight of Christian bigotry—only
monstrous. But when the knowledge of their meaning comes to one who
feels the divine in all religions, then they will be found to make
appeal to the higher aestheticism, to the sense of moral beauty, with a
force never to be divined by minds knowing nothing of the Orient and its
thought. To me the image of Kwannon of the Thousand Hands is not less
admirable than any other representation of human loveliness idealised
bearing her name—the Peerless, the Majestic, the Peace-Giving, or even
White Sui-Getsu, who sails the moonlit waters in her rosy boat made of a
single lotus-petal; and in the triple-headed Shaka I discern and revere
the mighty power of that Truth, whereby, as by a conjunction of suns,
the Three Worlds have been illuminated.
But vain to seek to memorise the names and attributes of all the gods;
they seem, self-multiplying, to mock the seeker; Kwannon the Merciful is
revealed as the Hundred Kwannon; the Six Jizo become the Thousand. And
as they multiply before research, they vary and change: less multiform,
less complex, less elusive the moving of waters than the visions of this
Oriental faith. Into it, as into a fathomless sea, mythology after
mythology from India and China and the farther East has sunk and been
absorbed; and the stranger, peering into its deeps, finds himself, as in
the tale of Undine, contemplating a flood in whose every surge rises and
vanishes a Face—weird or beautiful or terrible—a most ancient shoreless
sea of forms incomprehensibly interchanging and intermingling, but
symbolising the protean magic of that infinite Unknown that shapes and
re-shapes for ever all cosmic being.
I wonder if I can buy a picture of Koshin. In most Japanese temples
little pictures of the tutelar deity are sold to pilgrims, cheap prints
on thin paper. But the temple guardian here tells me, with a gesture of
despair, that there are no pictures of Koshin for sale; there is only an
old kakemono on which the god is represented. If I would like to see it
he will go home and get it for me. I beg him to do me the favour; and he
hurries into the street.
While awaiting his return, I continue to examine the queer old statues,
with a feeling of mingled melancholy and pleasure. To have studied and
loved an ancient faith only through the labours of palaeographers and
archaeologists, and as a something astronomically remote from one's own
existence, and then suddenly in after years to find the same faith a
part of one's human environment,—to feel that its mythology, though
senescent, is alive all around you—is almost to realise the dream of
the Romantics, to have the sensation of returning through twenty
centuries into the life of a happier world. For these quaint Gods of
Roads and Gods of Earth are really living still, though so worn and
mossed and feebly worshipped. In this brief moment, at least, I am
really in the Elder World—perhaps just at that epoch of it when the
primal faith is growing a little old-fashioned, crumbling slowly before
the corrosive influence of a new philosophy; and I know myself a pagan
still, loving these simple old gods, these gods of a people's childhood.
And they need some human love, these naive, innocent, ugly gods. The
beautiful divinities will live for ever by that sweetness of womanhood
idealised in the Buddhist art of them: eternal are Kwannon and Benten;
they need no help of man; they will compel reverence when the great
temples shall all have become voiceless and priestless as this shrine of
Koshin is. But these kind, queer, artless, mouldering gods, who have
given ease to so many troubled minds, who have gladdened so many simple
hearts, who have heard so many innocent prayers—how gladly would I
prolong their beneficent lives in spite of the so-called 'laws of
progress' and the irrefutable philosophy of evolution!
The guardian returns, bringing with him a kakemono, very small, very
dusty, and so yellow-stained by time that it might be a thousand years
old. But I am disappointed as I unroll it; there is only a very common
print of the god within—all outline. And while I am looking at it, I
become for the first time conscious that a crowd has gathered about me,
-tanned kindly-faced labourers from the fields, and mothers with their
babies on their backs, and school children, and jinricksha men, all
wondering that a stranger should be thus interested in their gods. And
although the pressure about me is very, very gentle, like a pressure of
tepid water for gentleness, I feel a little embarrassed. I give back the
old kakemono to the guardian, make my offering to the god, and take my
leave of Koshin and his good servant.
All the kind oblique eyes follow me as I go. And something like a
feeling of remorse seizes me at thus abruptly abandoning the void,
dusty, crumbling temple, with its mirrorless altar and its colourless
lanterns, and the decaying sculptures of its neglected court, and its
kindly guardian whom I see still watching my retreating steps, with the
yellow kakemono in his hand. The whistle of a locomotive warns me that I
shall just have time to catch the train. For Western civilisation has
invaded all this primitive peace, with its webs of steel, with its ways
of iron. This is not of thy roads, O Koshin!—the old gods are dying
along its ash-strewn verge!
Chapter Five At the Market of the Dead
IT is just past five o'clock in the afternoon. Through the open door of
my little study the rising breeze of evening is beginning to disturb the
papers on my desk, and the white fire of the Japanese sun is taking that
pale amber tone which tells that the heat of the day is over. There is
not a cloud in the blue—not even one of those beautiful white
filamentary things, like ghosts of silken floss, which usually swim in
this most ethereal of earthly skies even in the driest weather.
A sudden shadow at the door. Akira, the young Buddhist student, stands
at the threshold slipping his white feet out of his sandal-thongs
preparatory to entering, and smiling like the god Jizo.
'Ah! komban, Akira.'
'To-night,' says Akira, seating himself upon the floor in the posture of
Buddha upon the Lotus, 'the Bon-ichi will be held. Perhaps you would
like to see it?'
'Oh, Akira, all things in this country I should like to see. But tell
me, I pray you; unto what may the Bon-ichi be likened?'
'The Bon-ichi,' answers Akira, 'is a market at which will be sold all
things required for the Festival of the Dead; and the Festival of the
Dead will begin to-morrow, when all the altars of the temples and all
the shrines in the homes of good Buddhists will be made beautiful.'
'Then I want to see the Bon-ichi, Akira, and I should also like to see a
Buddhist shrine—a household shrine.'
'Yes, will you come to my room?' asks Akira. 'It is not far—in the
Street of the Aged Men, beyond the Street of the Stony River, and near
to the Street Everlasting. There is a butsuma there—a household shrine
-and on the way I will tell you about the Bonku.'
So, for the first time, I learn those things—which I am now about to
From the 13th to the 15th day of July is held the Festival of the Dead—
the Bommatsuri or Bonku—by some Europeans called the Feast of
Lanterns. But in many places there are two such festivals annually; for
those who still follow the ancient reckoning of time by moons hold that
the Bommatsuri should fall on the 13th, 14th, and 15th days of the
seventh month of the antique calendar, which corresponds to a later
period of the year.
Early on the morning of the 13th, new mats of purest rice straw, woven
expressly for the festival, are spread upon all Buddhist altars and
within each butsuma or butsudan—the little shrine before which the
morning and evening prayers are offered up in every believing home.
Shrines and altars are likewise decorated with beautiful embellishments
of coloured paper, and with flowers and sprigs of certain hallowed
plants—always real lotus-flowers when obtainable, otherwise lotus-
flowers of paper, and fresh branches of shikimi (anise) and of misohagi
(lespedeza). Then a tiny lacquered table—a zen-such as Japanese meals
are usually served upon, is placed upon the altar, and the food
offerings are laid on it. But in the smaller shrines of Japanese homes
the offerings are more often simply laid upon the rice matting, wrapped
in fresh lotus-leaves.
These offerings consist of the foods called somen, resembling our
vermicelli, gozen, which is boiled rice, dango, a sort of tiny dumpling,
eggplant, and fruits according to season—frequently uri and saikwa,
slices of melon and watermelon, and plums and peaches. Often sweet cakes
and dainties are added. Sometimes the offering is only O-sho-jin-gu
(honourable uncooked food); more usually it is O-rio-gu (honourable
boiled food); but it never includes, of course, fish, meats, or wine.
Clear water is given to the shadowy guest, and is sprinkled from time to
time upon the altar or within the shrine with a branch of misohagi; tea
is poured out every hour for the viewless visitors, and everything is
daintily served up in little plates and cups and bowls, as for living
guests, with hashi (chopsticks) laid beside the offering. So for three
days the dead are feasted.
At sunset, pine torches, fixed in the ground before each home, are
kindled to guide the spirit-visitors. Sometimes, also, on the first
evening of the Bommatsuri, welcome-fires (mukaebi) are lighted along the
shore of the sea or lake or river by which the village or city is
situated—neither more nor less than one hundred and eight fires; this
number having some mystic signification in the philosophy of Buddhism.
And charming lanterns are suspended each night at the entrances of homes
-the Lanterns of the Festival of the Dead—lanterns of special forms
and colours, beautifully painted with suggestions of landscape and
shapes of flowers, and always decorated with a peculiar fringe of paper
Also, on the same night, those who have dead friends go to the
cemeteries and make offerings there, and pray, and burn incense, and
pour out water for the ghosts. Flowers are placed there in the bamboo
vases set beside each haka, and lanterns are lighted and hung up before
the tombs, but these lanterns have no designs upon them.
At sunset on the evening of the 15th only the offerings called Segaki
are made in the temples. Then are fed the ghosts of the Circle of
Penance, called Gakido, the place of hungry spirits; and then also are
fed by the priests those ghosts having no other friends among the living
to care for them. Very, very small these offerings are—like the
offerings to the gods.
Now this, Akira tells me, is the origin of the Segaki, as the same is
related in the holy book Busetsuuran-bongyo:
Dai-Mokenren, the great disciple of Buddha, obtained by merit the Six
Supernatural Powers. And by virtue of them it was given him to see the
soul of his mother in the Gakido—the world of spirits doomed to suffer
hunger in expiation of faults committed in a previous life. Mokenren saw
that his mother suffered much; he grieved exceedingly because of her
pain, and he filled a bowl with choicest food and sent it to her. He saw
her try to eat; but each time that she tried to lift the food to her
lips it would change into fire and burning embers, so that she could not
eat. Then Mokenren asked the Teacher what he could do to relieve his
mother from pain. And the Teacher made answer: 'On the fifteenth day of
the seventh month, feed the ghosts of the great priests of all
countries.' And Mokenren, having done so, saw that his mother was freed
from the state of gaki, and that she was dancing for joy.  This is
the origin also of the dances called Bono-dori, which are danced on the
third night of the Festival of the Dead throughout Japan.
Upon the third and last night there is a weirdly beautiful ceremony,
more touching than that of the Segaki, stranger than the Bon-odori—the
ceremony of farewell. All that the living may do to please the dead has
been done; the time allotted by the powers of the unseen worlds unto the
ghostly visitants is well nigh past, and their friends must send them
all back again.
Everything has been prepared for them. In each home small boats made of
barley straw closely woven have been freighted with supplies of choice
food, with tiny lanterns, and written messages of faith and love. Seldom
more than two feet in length are these boats; but the dead require
little room. And the frail craft are launched on canal, lake, sea, or
river—each with a miniature lantern glowing at the prow, and incense
burning at the stern. And if the night be fair, they voyage long. Down
all the creeks and rivers and canals the phantom fleets go glimmering to
the sea; and all the sea sparkles to the horizon with the lights of the
dead, and the sea wind is fragrant with incense.
But alas! it is now forbidden in the great seaports to launch the
shoryobune, 'the boats of the blessed ghosts.'
It is so narrow, the Street of the Aged Men, that by stretching out
one's arms one can touch the figured sign-draperies before its tiny
shops on both sides at once. And these little ark-shaped houses really
seem toy-houses; that in which Akira lives is even smaller than the
rest, having no shop in it, and no miniature second story. It is all
closed up. Akira slides back the wooden amado which forms the door, and
then the paper-paned screens behind it; and the tiny structure, thus
opened, with its light unpainted woodwork and painted paper partitions,
looks something like a great bird-cage. But the rush matting of the
elevated floor is fresh, sweet-smelling, spotless; and as we take off
our footgear to mount upon it I see that all within is neat, curious,
'The woman has gone out,' says Akira, setting the smoking-box (hibachi)
in the middle of the floor, and spreading beside it a little mat for me
to squat upon.
'But what is this, Akira?' I ask, pointing to a thin board suspended by
a ribbon on the wall—a board so cut from the middle of a branch as to
leave the bark along its edges. There are two columns of mysterious
signs exquisitely painted upon it.
'Oh, that is a calendar,' answers Akira. 'On the right side are the
names of the months having thirty-one days; on the left, the names of
those having less. Now here is a household shrine.'
Occupying the alcove, which is an indispensable part of the structure of
Japanese guest-rooms, is a native cabinet painted with figures of flying
birds; and on this cabinet stands the butsuma. It is a small lacquered
and gilded shrine, with little doors modelled after those of a temple
gate—a shrine very quaint, very much dilapidated (one door has lost
its hinges), but still a dainty thing despite its crackled lacquer and
faded gilding. Akira opens it with a sort of compassionate smile; and I
look inside for the image. There is none; only a wooden tablet with a
band of white paper attached to it, bearing Japanese characters—the
name of a dead baby girl—and a vase of expiring flowers, a tiny print
of Kwannon, the Goddess of Mercy, and a cup filled with ashes of
'Tomorrow,' Akira says, 'she will decorate this, and make the offerings
of food to the little one.'
Hanging from the ceiling, on the opposite side of the room, and in front
of the shrine, is a wonderful, charming, funny, white-and-rosy mask—
the face of a laughing, chubby girl with two mysterious spots upon her
forehead, the face of Otafuku.  It twirls round and round in the
soft air-current coming through the open shoji; and every time those
funny black eyes, half shut with laughter, look at me, I cannot help
smiling. And hanging still higher, I see little Shinto emblems of paper
(gohei), a miniature mitre-shaped cap in likeness of those worn in the
sacred dances, a pasteboard emblem of the magic gem (Nio-i hojiu) which
the gods bear in their hands, a small Japanese doll, and a little wind-
wheel which will spin around with the least puff of air, and other
indescribable toys, mostly symbolic, such as are sold on festal days in
the courts of the temples—the playthings of the dead child.
'Komban!' exclaims a very gentle voice behind us. The mother is standing
there, smiling as if pleased at the stranger's interest in her butsuma—
a middle-aged woman of the poorest class, not comely, but with a most
kindly face. We return her evening greeting; and while I sit down upon
the little mat laid before the hibachi, Akira whispers something to her,
with the result that a small kettle is at once set to boil over a very
small charcoal furnace. We are probably going to have some tea.
As Akira takes his seat before me, on the other side of the hibachi, I
'What was the name I saw on the tablet?'
'The name which you saw,' he answers, 'was not the real name. The real
name is written upon the other side. After death another name is given
by the priest. A dead boy is called Ryochi Doji; a dead girl, Mioyo
While we are speaking, the woman approaches the little shrine, opens it,
arranges the objects in it, lights the tiny lamp, and with joined hands
and bowed head begins to pray. Totally unembarrassed by our presence and
our chatter she seems, as one accustomed to do what is right and
beautiful heedless of human opinion; praying with that brave, true
frankness which belongs to the poor only of this world—those simple
souls who never have any secret to hide, either from each other or from
heaven, and of whom Ruskin nobly said, 'These are our holiest.' I do
not know what words her heart is murmuring: I hear only at moments that
soft sibilant sound, made by gently drawing the breath through the lips,
which among this kind people is a token of humblest desire to please.
As I watch the tender little rite, I become aware of something dimly
astir in the mystery of my own life—vaguely, indefinably familiar,
like a memory ancestral, like the revival of a sensation forgotten two
thousand years. Blended in some strange way it seems to be with my faint
knowledge of an elder world, whose household gods were also the beloved
dead; and there is a weird sweetness in this place, like a shadowing of
Then, her brief prayer over, she turns to her miniature furnace again.
She talks and laughs with Akira; she prepares the tea, pours it out in
tiny cups and serves it to us, kneeling in that graceful attitude—
picturesque, traditional—which for six hundred years has been the
attitude of the Japanese woman serving tea. Verily, no small part of the
life of the woman of Japan is spent thus in serving little cups of tea.
Even as a ghost, she appears in popular prints offering to somebody
spectral tea-cups of spectral tea. Of all Japanese ghost-pictures, I
know of none more pathetic than that in which the phantom of a woman
kneeling humbly offers to her haunted and remorseful murderer a little
cup of tea!
'Now let us go to the Bon-ichi,' says Akira, rising; 'she must go there
herself soon, and it is already getting dark. Sayonara!'
It is indeed almost dark as we leave the little house: stars are
pointing in the strip of sky above the street; but it is a beautiful
night for a walk, with a tepid breeze blowing at intervals, and sending
long flutterings through the miles of shop draperies. The market is in
the narrow street at the verge of the city, just below the hill where
the great Buddhist temple of Zoto-Kuin stands—in the Motomachi, only
ten squares away.
The curious narrow street is one long blaze of lights—lights of
lantern signs, lights of torches and lamps illuminating unfamiliar rows
of little stands and booths set out in the thoroughfare before all the
shop-fronts on each side; making two far-converging lines of multi-
coloured fire. Between these moves a dense throng, filling the night
with a clatter of geta that drowns even the tide-like murmuring of
voices and the cries of the merchant. But how gentle the movement!-
there is no jostling, no rudeness; everybody, even the weakest and
smallest, has a chance to see everything; and there are many things to
'Hasu-no-hana!—hasu-no-hana!' Here are the venders of lotus-flowers
for the tombs and the altars, of lotus leaves in which to wrap the food
of the beloved ghosts. The leaves, folded into bundles, are heaped upon
tiny tables; the lotus-flowers, buds and blossoms intermingled, are
fixed upright in immense bunches, supported by light frames of bamboo.
'Ogara!—ogara-ya! White sheaves of long peeled rods. These are hemp-
sticks. The thinner ends can be broken up into hashi for the use of the
ghosts; the rest must be consumed in the mukaebi. Rightly all these
sticks should be made of pine; but pine is too scarce and dear for the
poor folk of this district, so the ogara are substituted.
'Kawarake!—kawarake-ya!' The dishes of the ghosts: small red shallow
platters of unglazed earthenware; primeval pottery suku-makemasu!' Eh!
what is all this? A little booth shaped like a sentry-box, all made of
laths, covered with a red-and-white chess pattern of paper; and out of
this frail structure issues a shrilling keen as the sound of leaking
steam. 'Oh, that is only insects,' says Akira, laughing; 'nothing to do
with the Bonku.' Insects, yes!—in cages! The shrilling is made by
scores of huge green crickets, each prisoned in a tiny bamboo cage by
itself. 'They are fed with eggplant and melon rind,' continues Akira,
'and sold to children to play with.' And there are also beautiful little
cages full of fireflies—cages covered with brown mosquito-netting,
upon each of which some simple but very pretty design in bright colours
has been dashed by a Japanese brush. One cricket and cage, two cents.
Fifteen fireflies and cage, five cents.
Here on a street corner squats a blue-robed boy behind a low wooden
table, selling wooden boxes about as big as match-boxes, with red paper
hinges. Beside the piles of these little boxes on the table are shallow
dishes filled with clear water, in which extraordinary thin flat shapes
are floating—shapes of flowers, trees, birds, boats, men, and women.
Open a box; it costs only two cents. Inside, wrapped in tissue paper,
are bundles of little pale sticks, like round match-sticks, with pink
ends. Drop one into the water, it instantly unrolls and expands into the
likeness of a lotus-flower. Another transforms itself into a fish. A
third becomes a boat. A fourth changes to an owl. A fifth becomes a tea-
plant, covered with leaves and blossoms. . . . So delicate are these
things that, once immersed, you cannot handle them without breaking
them. They are made of seaweed.
'Tsukuri hana!—tsukuri-hana-wa-irimasenka?' The sellers of artificial
flowers, marvellous chrysanthemums and lotus-plants of paper, imitations
of bud and leaf and flower so cunningly wrought that the eye alone
cannot detect the beautiful trickery. It is only right that these should
cost much more than their living counterparts.
High above the thronging and the clamour and the myriad fires of the
merchants, the great Shingon temple at the end of the radiant street
towers upon its hill against the starry night, weirdly, like a dream—
strangely illuminated by rows of paper lanterns hung all along its
curving eaves; and the flowing of the crowd bears me thither. Out of the
broad entrance, over a dark gliding mass which I know to be heads and
shoulders of crowding worshippers, beams a broad band of yellow light;
and before reaching the lion-guarded steps I hear the continuous
clanging of the temple gong, each clang the signal of an offering and a
prayer. Doubtless a cataract of cash is pouring into the great alms-
chest; for to-night is the Festival of Yakushi-Nyorai, the Physician of
Souls. Borne to the steps at last, I find myself able to halt a moment,
despite the pressure of the throng, before the stand of a lantern-seller
selling the most beautiful lanterns that I have ever seen. Each is a
gigantic lotus-flower of paper, so perfectly made in every detail as to
seem a great living blossom freshly plucked; the petals are crimson at
their bases, paling to white at their tips; the calyx is a faultless
mimicry of nature, and beneath it hangs a beautiful fringe of paper
cuttings, coloured with the colours of the flower, green below the
calyx, white in the middle, crimson at the ends. In the heart of the
blossom is set a microscopic oil-lamp of baked clay; and this being
lighted, all the flower becomes luminous, diaphanous—a lotus of white
and crimson fire. There is a slender gilded wooden hoop by which to hang
it up, and the price is four cents! How can people afford to make such
things for four cents, even in this country of astounding cheapness?
Akira is trying to tell me something about the hyaku-hachino-mukaebi,
the Hundred and Eight Fires, to be lighted to-morrow evening, which bear
some figurative relation unto the Hundred and Eight Foolish Desires; but
I cannot hear him for the clatter of the geta and the komageta, the
wooden clogs and wooden sandals of the worshippers ascending to the
shrine of Yakushi-Nyorai. The light straw sandals of the poorer men, the
zori and the waraji, are silent; the great clatter is really made by the
delicate feet of women and girls, balancing themselves carefully upon
their noisy geta. And most of these little feet are clad with spotless
tabi, white as a white lotus. White feet of little blue-robed mothers
they mostly are—mothers climbing patiently and smilingly, with pretty
placid babies at their backs, up the hill to Buddha.
And while through the tinted lantern light I wander on with the gentle
noisy people, up the great steps of stone, between other displays of
lotus-blossoms, between other high hedgerows of paper flowers, my
thought suddenly goes back to the little broken shrine in the poor
woman's room, with the humble playthings hanging before it, and the
laughing, twirling mask of Otafuku. I see the happy, funny little eyes,
oblique and silky-shadowed like Otafuku's own, which used to look at
those toys,—toys in which the fresh child-senses found a charm that I
can but faintly divine, a delight hereditary, ancestral. I see the
tender little creature being borne, as it was doubtless borne many
times, through just such a peaceful throng as this, in just such a
lukewarm, luminous night, peeping over the mother's shoulder, softly
clinging at her neck with tiny hands.
Somewhere among this multitude she is—the mother. She will feel again
to-night the faint touch of little hands, yet will not turn her head to
look and laugh, as in other days.
Over the mountains to Izumo, the land of the Kamiyo,  the land of the
Ancient Gods. A journey of four days by kuruma, with strong runners,
from the Pacific to the Sea of Japan; for we have taken the longest and
least frequented route.
Through valleys most of this long route lies, valleys always open to
higher valleys, while the road ascends, valleys between mountains with
rice-fields ascending their slopes by successions of diked terraces
which look like enormous green flights of steps. Above them are
shadowing sombre forests of cedar and pine; and above these wooded
summits loom indigo shapes of farther hills overtopped by peaked
silhouettes of vapoury grey. The air is lukewarm and windless; and
distances are gauzed by delicate mists; and in this tenderest of blue
skies, this Japanese sky which always seems to me loftier than any other
sky which I ever saw, there are only, day after day, some few filmy,
spectral, diaphanous white wandering things: like ghosts of clouds,
riding on the wind.
But sometimes, as the road ascends, the rice-.fields disappear a while:
fields of barley and of indigo, and of rye and of cotton, fringe the
route for a little space; and then it plunges into forest shadows. Above
all else, the forests of cedar sometimes bordering the way are
astonishments; never outside of the tropics did I see any growths
comparable for density and perpendicularity with these. Every trunk is
straight and bare as a pillar: the whole front presents the spectacle of
an immeasurable massing of pallid columns towering up into a cloud of
sombre foliage so dense that one can distinguish nothing overhead but
branchings lost in shadow. And the profundities beyond the rare gaps in
the palisade of blanched trunks are night-black, as in Dore's pictures
of fir woods.
No more great towns; only thatched villages nestling in the folds of the
hills, each with its Buddhist temple, lifting a tilted roof of blue-grey
tiles above the congregation of thatched homesteads, and its miya, or
Shinto shrine, with a torii before it like a great ideograph shaped in
stone or wood. But Buddhism still dominates; every hilltop has its tera;
and the statues of Buddhas or of Bodhisattvas appear by the roadside, as
we travel on, with the regularity of milestones. Often a village tera is
so large that the cottages of the rustic folk about it seem like little
out-houses; and the traveller wonders how so costly an edifice of prayer
can be supported by a community so humble. And everywhere the signs of
the gentle faith appear: its ideographs and symbols are chiselled upon
the faces of the rocks; its icons smile upon you from every shadowy
recess by the way; even the very landscape betimes would seem to have
been moulded by the soul of it, where hills rise softly as a prayer. And
the summits of some are domed like the head of Shaka, and the dark bossy
frondage that clothes them might seem the clustering of his curls.
But gradually, with the passing of the days, as we journey into the
loftier west, I see fewer and fewer tera. Such Buddhist temples as we
pass appear small and poor; and the wayside images become rarer and
rarer. But the symbols of Shinto are more numerous, and the structure of
its miya larger and loftier. And the torii are visible everywhere, and
tower higher, before the approaches to villages, before the entrances of
courts guarded by strangely grotesque lions and foxes of stone, and
before stairways of old mossed rock, upsloping, between dense growths of
ancient cedar and pine, to shrines that moulder in the twilight of holy
At one little village I see, just beyond, the torii leading to a great
Shinto temple, a particularly odd small shrine, and feel impelled by
curiosity to examine it. Leaning against its closed doors are many short
gnarled sticks in a row, miniature clubs. Irreverently removing these,
and opening the little doors, Akira bids me look within. I see only a
mask—the mask of a goblin, a Tengu, grotesque beyond description,
with an enormous nose—so grotesque that I feel remorse for having
looked at it.
The sticks are votive offerings. By dedicating one to the shrine, it is
believed that the Tengu may be induced to drive one's enemies away.
Goblin-shaped though they appear in all Japanese paintings and carvings
of them, the Tengu-Sama are divinities, lesser divinities, lords of the
art of fencing and the use of all weapons.
And other changes gradually become manifest. Akira complains that he can
no longer understand the language of the people. We are traversing
regions of dialects. The houses are also architecturally different from
those of the country-folk of the north-east; their high thatched roofs
are curiously decorated with bundles of straw fastened to a pole of
bamboo parallel with the roof-ridge, and elevated about a foot above it.
The complexion of the peasantry is darker than in the north-east; and I
see no more of those charming rosy faces one observes among the women of
the Tokyo districts. And the peasants wear different hats, hats pointed
like the straw roofs of those little wayside temples curiously enough
called an (which means a straw hat).
The weather is more than warm, rendering clothing oppressive; and as we
pass through the little villages along the road, I see much healthy
cleanly nudity: pretty naked children; brown men and boys with only a
soft narrow white cloth about their loins, asleep on the matted floors,
all the paper screens of the houses having been removed to admit the
breeze. The men seem to be lightly and supply built; but I see no
saliency of muscles; the lines of the figure are always smooth. Before
almost every dwelling, indigo, spread out upon little mats of rice
straw, may be seen drying in the sun.
The country-folk gaze wonderingly at the foreigner. At various places
where we halt, old men approach to touch my clothes, apologising with
humble bows and winning smiles for their very natural curiosity, and
asking my interpreter all sorts of odd questions. Gentler and kindlier
faces I never beheld; and they reflect the souls behind them; never yet
have I heard a voice raised in anger, nor observed an unkindly act.
And each day, as we travel, the country becomes more beautiful—
beautiful with that fantasticality of landscape only to be found in
volcanic lands. But for the dark forests of cedar and pine, and this far
faint dreamy sky, and the soft whiteness of the light, there are moments
of our journey when I could fancy myself again in the West Indies,
ascending some winding way over the mornes of Dominica or of Martinique.
And, indeed, I find myself sometimes looking against the horizon glow
for shapes of palms and ceibas. But the brighter green of the valleys
and of the mountain-slopes beneath the woods is not the green of young
cane, but of rice-fields—thousands upon thousands of tiny rice-fields
no larger than cottage gardens, separated from each other by narrow
In the very heart of a mountain range, while rolling along the verge of
a precipice above rice-fields, I catch sight of a little shrine in a
cavity of the cliff overhanging the way, and halt to examine it. The
sides and sloping roof of the shrine are formed by slabs of unhewn rock.
Within smiles a rudely chiselled image of Bato-Kwannon—Kwannon-with-
the-Horse's-Head—and before it bunches of wild flowers have been
placed, and an earthen incense-cup, and scattered offerings of dry rice.
Contrary to the idea suggested by the strange name, this form of Kwannon
is not horse-headed; but the head of a horse is sculptured upon the
tiara worn by the divinity. And the symbolism is fully explained by a
large wooden sotoba planted beside the shrine, and bearing, among other
inscriptions, the words, 'Bato Kwan-ze-on Bosatsu, giu ba bodai han ye.'
For Bato-Kwannon protects the horses and the cattle of the peasant; and
he prays her not only that his dumb servants may be preserved from
sickness, but also that their spirits may enter after death, into a
happier state of existence. Near the sotoba there has been erected a
wooden framework about four feet square, filled with little tablets of
pine set edge to edge so as to form one smooth surface; and on these are
written, in rows of hundreds, the names of all who subscribed for the
statue and its shrine. The number announced is ten thousand. But the
whole cost could not have exceeded ten Japanese dollars (yen); wherefore
I surmise that each subscriber gave not more than one rin—one tenth
of one sen, or cent. For the hyakusho are unspeakably poor. 
In the midst of these mountain solitudes, the discovery of that little
shrine creates a delightful sense of security. Surely nothing save
goodness can be expected from a people gentle-hearted enough to pray for
the souls of their horses and cows. 
As we proceed rapidly down a slope, my kurumaya swerves to one side with
a suddenness that gives me a violent start, for the road overlooks a
sheer depth of several hundred feet. It is merely to avoid hurting a
harmless snake making its way across the path. The snake is so little
afraid that on reaching the edge of the road it turns its head to look
And now strange signs begin to appear in all these rice-fields: I see
everywhere, sticking up above the ripening grain, objects like
white-feathered arrows. Arrows of prayer! I take one up to examine it. The
shaft is a thin bamboo, split down for about one-third of its length;
into the slit a strip of strong white paper with ideographs upon it—an
ofuda, a Shinto charm—is inserted; and the separated ends of the cane
are then rejoined and tied together just above it. The whole, at a
little distance, has exactly the appearance of a long, light,
well-feathered arrow. That which I first examine bears the words,
'Yu-Asaki-jinja-kozen-son-chu-an-zen' (From the God whose shrine is before the
Village of Peace). Another reads, 'Mihojinja-sho-gwan-jo-ju-go-kito-shugo,'
signifying that the Deity of the temple Miho-jinja granteth
fully every supplication made unto him. Everywhere, as we proceed, I see
the white arrows of prayer glimmering above the green level of the
grain; and always they become more numerous. Far as the eye can reach
the fields are sprinkled with them, so that they make upon the verdant
surface a white speckling as of flowers.
Sometimes, also, around a little rice-field, I see a sort of magical
fence, formed by little bamboo rods supporting a long cord from which
long straws hang down, like a fringe, and paper cuttings, which are
symbols (gohei) are suspended at regular intervals. This is the
shimenawa, sacred emblem of Shinto. Within the consecrated space
inclosed by it no blight may enter—no scorching sun wither the young
shoots. And where the white arrows glimmer the locust shall not prevail,
nor shall hungry birds do evil.
But now I look in vain for the Buddhas. No more great tera, no Shaka, no
Amida, no Dai-Nichi-Nyorai; even the Bosatsu have been left behind.
Kwannon and her holy kin have disappeared; Koshin, Lord of Roads, is
indeed yet with us; but he has changed his name and become a Shinto
deity: he is now Saruda-hiko-no-mikoto; and his presence is revealed
only by the statues of the Three Mystic Apes which are his servants—
Mizaru, who sees no evil, covering his eyes with his hands, Kikazaru,
who hears no evil, covering his ears with his hands. Iwazaru, who speaks
no evil, covering his mouth with his hands.
Yet no! one Bosatsu survives in this atmosphere of magical Shinto: still
by the roadside I see at long intervals the image of Jizo-Sama, the
charming playfellow of dead children. But Jizo also is a little changed;
even in his sextuple representation,  the Roku-Jizo, he appears not
standing, but seated upon his lotus-flower, and I see no stones piled up
before him, as in the eastern provinces.
At last, from the verge of an enormous ridge, the roadway suddenly
slopes down into a vista of high peaked roofs of thatch and green-mossed
eaves—into a village like a coloured print out of old Hiroshige's
picture-books, a village with all its tints and colours precisely like
the tints and colours of the landscape in which it lies. This is Kami-
Ichi, in the land of Hoki.
We halt before a quiet, dingy little inn, whose host, a very aged man,
comes forth to salute me; while a silent, gentle crowd of villagers,
mostly children and women, gather about the kuruma to see the stranger,
to wonder at him, even to touch his clothes with timid smiling
curiosity. One glance at the face of the old innkeeper decides me to
accept his invitation. I must remain here until to-morrow: my runners
are too wearied to go farther to-night.
Weather-worn as the little inn seemed without, it is delightful within.
Its polished stairway and balconies are speckless, reflecting like
mirror-surfaces the bare feet of the maid-servants; its luminous rooms
are fresh and sweet-smelling as when their soft mattings were first laid
down. The carven pillars of the alcove (toko) in my chamber, leaves and
flowers chiselled in some black rich wood, are wonders; and the kakemono
or scroll-picture hanging there is an idyll, Hotei, God of Happiness,
drifting in a bark down some shadowy stream into evening mysteries of
vapoury purple. Far as this hamlet is from all art-centres, there is no
object visible in the house which does not reveal the Japanese sense of
beauty in form. The old gold-flowered lacquer-ware, the astonishing box
in which sweetmeats (kwashi) are kept, the diaphanous porcelain wine-
cups dashed with a single tiny gold figure of a leaping shrimp, the tea-
cup holders which are curled lotus-leaves of bronze, even the iron
kettle with its figurings of dragons and clouds, and the brazen hibachi
whose handles are heads of Buddhist lions, delight the eye and surprise
the fancy. Indeed, wherever to-day in Japan one sees something totally
uninteresting in porcelain or metal, something commonplace and ugly, one
may be almost sure that detestable something has been shaped under
foreign influence. But here I am in ancient Japan; probably no European
eyes ever looked upon these things before.
A window shaped like a heart peeps out upon the garden, a wonderful
little garden with a tiny pond and miniature bridges and dwarf trees,
like the landscape of a tea-cup; also some shapely stones of course, and
some graceful stone-lanterns, or toro, such as are placed in the courts
of temples. And beyond these, through the warm dusk, I see lights,
coloured lights, the lanterns of the Bonku, suspended before each home
to welcome the coming of beloved ghosts; for by the antique calendar,
according to which in this antique place the reckoning of time is still
made, this is the first night of the Festival of the Dead.
As in all the other little country villages where I have been stopping,
I find the people here kind to me with a kindness and a courtesy
unimaginable, indescribable, unknown in any other country, and even in
Japan itself only in the interior. Their simple politeness is not an
art; their goodness is absolutely unconscious goodness; both come
straight from the heart. And before I have been two hours among these
people, their treatment of me, coupled with the sense of my utter
inability to repay such kindness, causes a wicked wish to come into my
mind. I wish these charming folk would do me some unexpected wrong,
something surprisingly evil, something atrociously unkind, so that I
should not be obliged to regret them, which I feel sure I must begin to
do as soon as I go away.
While the aged landlord conducts me to the bath, where he insists upon
washing me himself as if I were a child, the wife prepares for us a
charming little repast of rice, eggs, vegetables, and sweetmeats. She is
painfully in doubt about her ability to please me, even after I have
eaten enough for two men, and apologises too much for not being able to
offer me more.
There is no fish,' she says, 'for to-day is the first day of the Bonku,
the Festival of the Dead; being the thirteenth day of the month. On the
thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth of the month nobody may eat fish.
But on the morning of the sixteenth day, the fishermen go out to catch
fish; and everybody who has both parents living may eat of it. But if
one has lost one's father or mother then one must not eat fish, even
upon the sixteenth day.'
While the good soul is thus explaining I become aware of a strange
remote sound from without, a sound I recognise through memory of
tropical dances, a measured clapping of hands. But this clapping is very
soft and at long intervals. And at still longer intervals there comes to
us a heavy muffled booming, the tap of a great drum, a temple drum.
'Oh! we must go to see it,' cries Akira; 'it is the Bon-odori, the Dance
of the Festival of the Dead. And you will see the Bon-odori danced here
as it is never danced in cities—the Bon-odori of ancient days. For
customs have not changed here; but in the cities all is changed.'
So I hasten out, wearing only, like the people about me, one of those
light wide-sleeved summer robes—yukata—which are furnished to male
guests at all Japanese hotels; but the air is so warm that even thus
lightly clad, I find myself slightly perspiring. And the night is divine
-still, clear, vaster than nights of Europe, with a big white moon
flinging down queer shadows of tilted eaves and horned gables and
delightful silhouettes of robed Japanese. A little boy, the grandson of
our host, leads the way with a crimson paper lantern; and the sonorous
echoing of geta, the koro-koro of wooden sandals, fills all the street,
for many are going whither we are going, to see the dance.
A little while we proceed along the main street; then, traversing a
narrow passage between two houses, we find ourselves in a great open
space flooded by moonlight. This is the dancing-place; but the dance has
ceased for a time. Looking about me, I perceive that we are in the court
of an ancient Buddhist temple. The temple building itself remains
intact, a low long peaked silhouette against the starlight; but it is
void and dark and unhallowed now; it has been turned, they tell me, into
a schoolhouse. The priests are gone; the great bell is gone; the Buddhas
and the Bodhisattvas have vanished, all save one—a broken-handed Jizo
of stone, smiling with eyelids closed, under the moon.
In the centre of the court is a framework of bamboo supporting a great
drum; and about it benches have been arranged, benches from the
schoolhouse, on which villagers are resting. There is a hum of voices,
voices of people speaking very low, as if expecting something solemn;
and cries of children betimes, and soft laughter of girls. And far
behind the court, beyond a low hedge of sombre evergreen shrubs, I see
soft white lights and a host of tall grey shapes throwing long shadows;
and I know that the lights are the white lanterns of the dead (those
hung in cemeteries only), and that the grey shapes are shapes of tombs.
Suddenly a girl rises from her seat, and taps the huge drum once. It is
the signal for the Dance of Souls.
Out of the shadow of the temple a processional line of dancers files
into the moonlight and as suddenly halts—all young women or girls,
clad in their choicest attire; the tallest leads; her comrades follow in
order of stature; little maids of ten or twelve years compose the end of
the procession. Figures lightly poised as birds—figures that somehow
recall the dreams of shapes circling about certain antique vases; those
charming Japanese robes, close-clinging about the knees, might seem, but
for the great fantastic drooping sleeves, and the curious broad girdles
confining them, designed after the drawing of some Greek or Etruscan
artist. And, at another tap of the drum, there begins a performance
impossible to picture in words, something unimaginable, phantasmal—a
dance, an astonishment.
All together glide the right foot forward one pace, without lifting the
sandal from the ground, and extend both hands to the right, with a
strange floating motion and a smiling, mysterious obeisance. Then the
right foot is drawn back, with a repetition of the waving of hands and
the mysterious bow. Then all advance the left foot and repeat the
previous movements, half-turning to the left. Then all take two gliding
paces forward, with a single simultaneous soft clap of the hands, and
the first performance is reiterated, alternately to right and left; all
the sandalled feet gliding together, all the supple hands waving
together, all the pliant bodies bowing and swaying together. And so
slowly, weirdly, the processional movement changes into a great round,
circling about the moonlit court and around the voiceless crowd of
And always the white hands sinuously wave together, as if weaving
spells, alternately without and within the round, now with palms upward,
now with palms downward; and all the elfish sleeves hover duskily
together, with a shadowing as of wings; and all the feet poise together
with such a rhythm of complex motion, that, in watching it, one feels a
sensation of hypnotism—as while striving to watch a flowing and
shimmering of water.
And this soporous allurement is intensified by a dead hush. No one
speaks, not even a spectator. And, in the long intervals between the
soft clapping of hands, one hears only the shrilling of the crickets in
the trees, and the shu-shu of sandals, lightly stirring the dust. Unto
what, I ask myself, may this be likened? Unto nothing; yet it suggests
some fancy of somnambulism—dreamers, who dream themselves flying,
dreaming upon their feet.
And there comes to me the thought that I am looking at something
immemorially old, something belonging to the unrecorded beginnings of
this Oriental life, perhaps to the crepuscular Kamiyo itself, to the
magical Age of the Gods; a symbolism of motion whereof the meaning has
been forgotten for innumerable years. Yet more and more unreal the
spectacle appears, with its silent smilings, with its silent bowings, as
if obeisance to watchers invisible; and I find myself wondering whether,
were I to utter but a whisper, all would not vanish for ever save the
grey mouldering court and the desolate temple, and the broken statue of
Jizo, smiling always the same mysterious smile I see upon the faces of
Under the wheeling moon, in the midst of the round, I feel as one within
the circle of a charm. And verily this is enchantment; I am bewitched,
bewitched by the ghostly weaving of hands, by the rhythmic gliding of
feet, above all by the flitting of the marvellous sleeves—
apparitional, soundless, velvety as a flitting of great tropical bats.
No; nothing I ever dreamed of could be likened to this. And with the
consciousness of the ancient hakaba behind me, and the weird invitation
of its lanterns, and the ghostly beliefs of the hour and the place there
creeps upon me a nameless, tingling sense of being haunted. But no!
these gracious, silent, waving, weaving shapes are not of the Shadowy
Folk, for whose coming the white fires were kindled: a strain of song,
full of sweet, clear quavering, like the call of a bird, gushes from
some girlish mouth, and fifty soft voices join the chant:
Sorota soroimashita odorikoga sorota, Soroikite, kita hare yukata.
'Uniform to view [as ears of young rice ripening in the field] all clad
alike in summer festal robes, the company of dancers have assembled.'
Again only the shrilling of the crickets, the shu-shu of feet, the
gentle clapping; and the wavering hovering measure proceeds in silence,
with mesmeric lentor—with a strange grace, which, by its very na´vetÚ,
seems old as the encircling hills.
Those who sleep the sleep of centuries out there, under the grey stones
where the white lanterns are, and their fathers, and the fathers of
their fathers' fathers, and the unknown generations behind them, buried
in cemeteries of which the place has been forgotten for a thousand
years, doubtless looked upon a scene like this. Nay! the dust stirred by
those young feet was human life, and so smiled and so sang under this
self-same moon, 'with woven paces, and with waving hands.'
Suddenly a deep male chant breaks the hush. Two giants have joined the
round, and now lead it, two superb young mountain peasants nearly nude,
towering head and shoulders above the whole of the assembly. Their
kimono are rolled about their waistilike girdles, leaving their bronzed
limbs and torsos naked to the warm air; they wear nothing else save
their immense straw hats, and white tabi, donned expressly for the
festival. Never before among these people saw I such men, such thews;
but their smiling beardless faces are comely and kindly as those of
Japanese boys. They seem brothers, so like in frame, in movement, in the
timbre of their voices, as they intone the same song:
No demo yama demo ko wa umiokeyo, Sen ryo kura yori ko ga takara.
'Whether brought forth upon the mountain or in the field, it matters
nothing: more than a treasure of one thousand ryo, a baby precious is.'
And Jizo the lover of children's ghosts, smiles across the silence.
Souls close to nature's Soul are these; artless and touching their
thought, like the worship of that Kishibojin to whom wives pray. And
after the silence, the sweet thin voices of the women answer:
Oomu otoko ni sowa sanu oya Wa, Qyade gozaranu ko no kataki.
The parents who will not allow their girl to be united with her lover;
they are not the parents, but the enemies of their child.'
And song follows song; and the round ever becomes larger; and the hours
pass unfelt, unheard, while the moon wheels slowly down the blue steeps
of the night.
A deep low boom rolls suddenly across the court, the rich tone of some
temple bell telling the twelfth hour. Instantly the witchcraft ends,
like the wonder of some dream broken by a sound; the chanting ceases;
the round dissolves in an outburst of happy laughter, and chatting, and
softly-vowelled callings of flower-names which are names of girls, and
farewell cries of 'Sayonara!' as dancers and spectators alike betake
themselves homeward, with a great koro-koro of getas.
And I, moving with the throng, in the bewildered manner of one suddenly
roused from sleep, know myself ungrateful. These silvery-laughing folk
who now toddle along beside me upon their noisy little clogs, stepping
very fast to get a peep at my foreign face, these but a moment ago were
visions of archaic grace, illusions of necromancy, delightful phantoms;
and I feel a vague resentment against them for thus materialising into
Lying down to rest, I ask myself the reason of the singular emotion
inspired by that simple peasant-chorus. Utterly impossible to recall the
air, with its fantastic intervals and fractional tones—as well attempt
to fix in memory the purlings of a bird; but the indefinable charm of it
lingers with me still.
Melodies of Europe awaken within us feelings we can utter, sensations
familiar as mother-speech, inherited from all the generations behind us.
But how explain the emotion evoked by a primitive chant totally unlike
anything in Western melody,—impossible even to write in those tones
which are the ideographs of our music-tongue?
And the emotion itself—what is it? I know not; yet I feel it to be
something infinitely more old than I—something not of only one place
or time, but vibrant to all common joy or pain of being, under the
universal sun. Then I wonder if the secret does not lie in some untaught
spontaneous harmony of that chant with Nature's most ancient song, in
some unconscious kinship to the music of solitudes—all trillings of
summer life that blend to make the great sweet Cry of the Land.
Chapter Seven The Chief City of the Province of the Gods
THE first of the noises of a Matsue day comes to the sleeper like the
throbbing of a slow, enormous pulse exactly under his ear. It is a
great, soft, dull buffet of sound—like a heartbeat in its regularity,
in its muffled depth, in the way it quakes up through one's pillow so as
to be felt rather than heard. It is simply the pounding of the ponderous
pestle of the kometsuki, the cleaner of rice—a sort of colossal wooden
mallet with a handle about fifteen feet long horizontally balanced on a
pivot. By treading with all his force on the end of the handle, the
naked kometsuki elevates the pestle, which is then allowed to fall back
by its own weight into the rice-tub. The measured muffled echoing of its
fall seems to me the most pathetic of all sounds of Japanese life; it is
the beating, indeed, of the Pulse of the Land.
Then the boom of the great bell of Tokoji the Zenshu temple, shakes over
the town; then come melancholy echoes of drumming from the tiny little
temple of Jizo in the street Zaimokucho, near my house, signalling the
Buddhist hour of morning prayer. And finally the cries of the earliest
itinerant venders begin—'Daikoyai! kabuya-kabu!'—the sellers of
daikon and other strange vegetables. 'Moyaya-moya!'—the plaintive call
of the women who sell little thin slips of kindling-wood for the
lighting of charcoal fires.
Roused thus by these earliest sounds of the city's wakening life, I
slide open my little Japanese paper window to look out upon the morning
over a soft green cloud of spring foliage rising from the river-bounded
garden below. Before me, tremulously mirroring everything upon its
farther side, glimmers the broad glassy mouth of the Ohashigawa, opening
into the grand Shinji Lake, which spreads out broadly to the right in a
dim grey frame of peaks. Just opposite to me, across the stream, the
blue-pointed Japanese dwellings have their to  all closed; they are
still shut up like boxes, for it is not yet sunrise, although it is day.
But oh, the charm of the vision—those first ghostly love-colours of a
morning steeped in mist soft as sleep itself resolved into a visible
exhalation! Long reaches of faintly-tinted vapour cloud the far lake
verge—long nebulous bands, such as you may have seen in old Japanese
picture-books, and must have deemed only artistic whimsicalities unless
you had previously looked upon the real phenomena. All the bases of the
mountains are veiled by them, and they stretch athwart the loftier peaks
at different heights like immeasurable lengths of gauze (this singular
appearance the Japanese term 'shelving'),  so that the lake appears
incomparably larger than it really is, and not an actual lake, but a
beautiful spectral sea of the same tint as the dawn-sky and mixing with
it, while peak-tips rise like islands from the brume, and visionary
strips of hill-ranges figure as league-long causeways stretching out of
sight—an exquisite chaos, ever-changing aspect as the delicate fogs
rise, slowly, very slowly. As the sun's yellow rim comes into sight,
fine thin lines of warmer tone—spectral violets and opalines-shoot
across the flood, treetops take tender fire, and the unpainted façades
of high edifices across the water change their wood-colour to vapoury
gold through the delicious haze.
Looking sunward, up the long Ohashigawa, beyond the many-pillared wooden
bridge, one high-pooped junk, just hoisting sail, seems to me the most
fantastically beautiful craft I ever saw—a dream of Orient seas, so
idealised by the vapour is it; the ghost of a junk, but a ghost that
catches the light as clouds do; a shape of gold mist, seemingly semi-
diaphanous, and suspended in pale blue light.
And now from the river-front touching my garden there rises to me a
sound of clapping of hand,—one, two, three, four claps,—but the
owner of the hands is screened from view by the shrubbery. At the same
time, however, I see men and women descending the stone steps of the
wharves on the opposite side of the Ohashigawa, all with little blue
towels tucked into their girdles. They wash their faces and hands and
rinse their mouths—the customary ablution preliminary to Shinto
prayer. Then they turn their faces to the sunrise and clap their hands
four times and pray. From the long high white bridge come other
clappings, like echoes, and others again from far light graceful craft,
curved like new moons—extraordinary boats, in which I see bare-limbed
fishermen standing with foreheads bowed to the golden East. Now the
clappings multiply—multiply at last into an almost continuous
volleying of sharp sounds. For all the population are saluting the
rising sun, O-Hi-San, the Lady of Fire—Ama-terasu-oho-mi-Kami, the
Lady of the Great Light.  'Konnichi-Sama! Hail this day to thee,
divinest Day-Maker! Thanks unutterable unto thee, for this thy sweet
light, making beautiful the world!' So, doubt-less, the thought, if not
the utterance, of countless hearts. Some turn to the sun only, clapping
their hands; yet many turn also to the West, to holy Kitzuki, the
immemorial shrine and not a few turn their faces successively to all the
points of heaven, murmuring the names of a hundred gods; and others,
again, after having saluted the Lady of Fire, look toward high Ichibata,
toward the place of the great temple of Yakushi Nyorai, who giveth sight
to the blind—not clapping their hands as in Shinto worship, but only
rubbing the palms softly together after the Buddhist manner. But all—
for in this most antique province of Japan all Buddhists are Shintoists
likewise—utter the archaic words of Shinto prayer: 'Harai tamai kiyome
tamai to Kami imi tami.'
Prayer to the most ancient gods who reigned before the coming of the
Buddha, and who still reign here in their own Izumo-land,—in the Land
of Reed Plains, in the Place of the Issuing of Clouds; prayer to the
deities of primal chaos and primeval sea and of the beginnings of the
world—strange gods with long weird names, kindred of U-hiji-ni-no-
Kami, the First Mud-Lord, kindred of Su-hiji-ni-no-Kanii, the First
Sand-Lady; prayer to those who came after them—the gods of strength
and beauty, the world-fashioners, makers of the mountains and the isles,
ancestors of those sovereigns whose lineage still is named 'The Sun's
Succession'; prayer to the Three Thousand Gods 'residing within the
provinces,' and to the Eight Hundred Myriads who dwell in the azure
Takamano-hara—in the blue Plain of High Heaven. 'Nippon-koku-chu-
My uguisu is awake at last, and utters his morning prayer. You do not
know what an uguisu is? An uguisu is a holy little bird that professes
Buddhism. All uguisu have professed Buddhism from time immemorial; all
uguisu preach alike to men the excellence of the divine Sutra.
In the Japanese tongue, Ho-ke-kyo; in Sanscrit, Saddharma Pundarika: 'The
Sutra of the Lotus of the Good Law,' the divine book of the Nichiren
sect. Very brief, indeed, is my little feathered Buddhist's confession
of faith—only the sacred name reiterated over and over again like a
litany, with liquid bursts of twittering between.
Only this one phrase, but how deliciously he utters it! With what slow
amorous ecstasy he dwells upon its golden syllables! It hath been
written: 'He who shall keep, read, teach, or write this Sutra shall
obtain eight hundred good qualities of the Eye. He shall see the whole
Triple Universe down to the great hell Aviki, and up to the extremity of
existence. He shall obtain twelve hundred good qualities of the Ear. He
shall hear all sounds in the Triple Universe,—sounds of gods, goblins,
demons, and beings not human.'
A single word only. But it is also written: 'He who shall joyfully
accept but a single word from this Sutra, incalculably greater shall be
his merit than the merit of one who should supply all beings in the four
hundred thousand Asankhyeyas of worlds with all the necessaries for
Always he makes a reverent little pause after uttering it and before
shrilling out his ecstatic warble—his bird-hymn of praise. First the
warble; then a pause of about five seconds; then a slow, sweet, solemn
utterance of the holy name in a tone as of meditative wonder; then
another pause; then another wild, rich, passionate warble. Could you see
him, you would marvel how so powerful and penetrating a soprano could
ripple from so minute a throat; for he is one of the very tiniest of all
feathered singers, yet his chant can be heard far across the broad
river, and children going to school pause daily on the bridge, a whole
cho away, to listen to his song. And uncomely withal: a neutral-tinted
mite, almost lost in his immense box-cage of hinoki wood, darkened with
paper screens over its little wire-grated windows, for he loves the
Delicate he is and exacting even to tyranny. All his diet must be
laboriously triturated and weighed in scales, and measured out to him at
precisely the same hour each day. It demands all possible care and
attention merely to keep him alive. He is precious, nevertheless. 'Far
and from the uttermost coasts is the price of him,' so rare he is.
Indeed, I could not have afforded to buy him. He was sent to me by one
of the sweetest ladies in Japan, daughter of the governor of Izumo,
who, thinking the foreign teacher might feel lonesome during a brief
illness, made him the exquisite gift of this dainty creature.
The clapping of hands has ceased; the toil of the day begins;
continually louder and louder the pattering of geta over the bridge. It
is a sound never to be forgotten, this pattering of geta over the Ohashi
-rapid, merry, musical, like the sound of an enormous dance; and a
dance it veritably is. The whole population is moving on tiptoe, and the
multitudinous twinkling of feet over the verge of the sunlit roadway is
an astonishment. All those feet are small, symmetrical—light as the
feet of figures painted on Greek vases—and the step is always taken
toes first; indeed, with geta it could be taken no other way, for the
heel touches neither the geta nor the ground, and the foot is tilted
forward by the wedge-shaped wooden sole. Merely to stand upon a pair of
geta is difficult for one unaccustomed to their use, yet you see
Japanese children running at full speed in geta with soles at least
three inches high, held to the foot only by a forestrap fastened between
the great toe and the other toes, and they never trip and the geta never
falls off. Still more curious is the spectacle of men walking in bokkuri
or takageta, a wooden sole with wooden supports at least five inches
high fitted underneath it so as to make the whole structure seem the
lacquered model of a wooden bench. But the wearers stride as freely as
if they had nothing upon their feet.
Now children begin to appear, hurrying to school. The undulation of the
wide sleeves of their pretty speckled robes, as they run, looks
precisely like a fluttering of extraordinary butterflies. The junks
spread their great white or yellow wings, and the funnels of the little
steamers which have been slumbering all night by the wharves begin to
One of the tiny lake steamers lying at the opposite wharf has just
opened its steam-throat to utter the most unimaginable, piercing,
desperate, furious howl. When that cry is heard everybody laughs. The
other little steamboats utter only plaintive mooings, but unto this
particular vessel—newly built and launched by a rival company—there
has been given a voice expressive to the most amazing degree of reckless
hostility and savage defiance. The good people of Matsue, upon hearing
its voice for the first time, gave it forthwith a new and just name—
Okami-Maru. 'Maru' signifies a steamship. 'Okami' signifies a wolf.
A very curious little object now comes slowly floating down the river,
and I do not think that you could possibly guess what it is.
The Hotoke, or Buddhas, and the beneficent Kami are not the only
divinities worshipped by the Japanese of the poorer classes. The deities
of evil, or at least some of them, are duly propitiated upon certain
occasions, and requited by offerings whenever they graciously vouchsafe
to inflict a temporary ill instead of an irremediable misfortune. 
(After all, this is no more irrational than the thanksgiving prayer at
the close of the hurricane season in the West Indies, after the
destruction by storm of twenty-two thousand lives.) So men sometimes
pray to Ekibiogami, the God of Pestilence, and to Kaze-no-Kami, the God
of Wind and of Bad Colds, and to Hoso-no-Kami, the God of Smallpox, and
to divers evil genii.
Now when a person is certainly going to get well of smallpox a feast is
given to the Hoso-no-Kami, much as a feast is given to the Fox-God when
a possessing fox has promised to allow himself to be cast out. Upon a
sando-wara, or small straw mat, such as is used to close the end of a
rice-bale, one or more kawarake, or small earthenware vessels, are
placed. These are filled with a preparation of rice and red beans,
called adzukimeshi, whereof both Inari-Sama and Hoso-no-Kami are
supposed to be very fond. Little bamboo wands with gohei (paper
cuttings) fastened to them are then planted either in the mat or in the
adzukimeshi, and the colour of these gohei must be red. (Be it observed
that the gohei of other Kami are always white.) This offering is then
either suspended to a tree, or set afloat in some running stream at a
considerable distance from the home of the convalescent. This is called
'seeing the God off.'
The long white bridge with its pillars of iron is recognisably modern.
It was, in fact, opened to the public only last spring with great
ceremony. According to some most ancient custom, when a new bridge has
been built the first persons to pass over it must be the happiest of the
community. So the authorities of Matsue sought for the happiest folk,
and selected two aged men who had both been married for more than half a
century, and who had had not less than twelve children, and had never
lost any of them. These good patriarchs first crossed the bridge,
accompanied by their venerable wives, and followed by their grown-up
children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, amidst a great clamour
of rejoicing, the showering of fireworks, and the firing of cannon.
But the ancient bridge so recently replaced by this structure was much
more picturesque, curving across the flood and supported upon
multitudinous feet, like a long-legged centipede of the innocuous kind.
For three hundred years it had stood over the stream firmly and well,
and it had its particular tradition.
When Horio Yoshiharu, the great general who became daimyo of Izumo in
the Keicho era, first undertook to put a bridge over the mouth of this
river, the builders laboured in vain; for there appeared to be no solid
bottom for the pillars of the bridge to rest upon. Millions of great
stones were cast into the river to no purpose, for the work constructed
by day was swept away or swallowed up by night. Nevertheless, at last
the bridge was built, but the pillars began to sink soon after it was
finished; then a flood carried half of it away and as often as it was
repaired so often it was wrecked. Then a human sacrifice was made to
appease the vexed spirits of the flood. A man was buried alive in the
river-bed below the place of the middle pillar, where the current is
most treacherous, and thereafter the bridge remained immovable for three
This victim was one Gensuke, who had lived in the street Saikamachi; for
it had been determined that the first man who should cross the bridge
wearing hakama without a machi  should be put under the bridge; and
Gensuke sought to pass over not having a machi in his hakama, so they
sacrificed him Wherefore the midmost pillar of the bridge was for three
hundred years called by his name—Gensuke-bashira. It is averred that
upon moonless nights a ghostly fire flitted about that pillar—always
in the dead watch hour between two and three; and the colour of the
light was red, though I am assured that in Japan, as in other lands, the
fires of the dead are most often blue.
Now some say that Gensuke was not the name of a man, but the name of an
era, corrupted by local dialect into the semblance of a personal
appellation. Yet so profoundly is the legend believed, that when the new
bridge was being built thousands of country folk were afraid to come to
town; for a rumour arose that a new victim was needed, who was to be
chosen from among them, and that it had been determined to make the
choice from those who still wore their hair in queues after the ancient
manner. Wherefore hundreds of aged men cut off their queues. Then
another rumour was circulated to the effect that the police had been
secretly instructed to seize the one-thousandth person of those who
crossed the new bridge the first day, and to treat him after the manner
of Gensuke. And at the time of the great festival of the Rice-God, when
the city is usually thronged by farmers coming to worship at the many
shrines of Inari this year there came but few; and the loss to local
commerce was estimated at several thousand yen.
The vapours have vanished, sharply revealing a beautiful little islet in
the lake, lying scarcely half a mile away—a low, narrow strip of land
with a Shinto shrine upon it, shadowed by giant pines; not pines like
ours, but huge, gnarled, shaggy, tortuous shapes, vast-reaching like
ancient oaks. Through a glass one can easily discern a torii, and before
it two symbolic lions of stone (Kara-shishi), one with its head broken
off, doubtless by its having been overturned and dashed about by heavy
waves during some great storm. This islet is sacred to Benten, the
Goddess of Eloquence and Beauty, wherefore it is called Benten-no-shima.
But it is more commonly called Yomega-shima, or 'The Island of the Young
Wife,' by reason of a legend. It is said that it arose in one night,
noiselessly as a dream, bearing up from the depths of the lake the body
of a drowned woman who had been very lovely, very pious, and very
unhappy. The people, deeming this a sign from heaven, consecrated the
islet to Benten, and thereon built a shrine unto her, planted trees
about it, set a torii before it, and made a rampart about it with great
curiously-shaped stones; and there they buried the drowned woman.
Now the sky is blue down to the horizon, the air is a caress of spring.
I go forth to wander through the queer old city.
I perceive that upon the sliding doors, or immediately above the
principal entrance of nearly every house, are pasted oblong white papers
bearing ideographic inscriptions; and overhanging every threshold I see
the sacred emblem of Shinto, the little rice-straw rope with its long
fringe of pendent stalks. The white papers at once interest me; for they
are ofuda, or holy texts and charms, of which I am a devout collector.
Nearly all are from temples in Matsue or its vicinity; and the Buddhist
ones indicate by the sacred words upon them to what particular shu or
sect, the family belong—for nearly every soul in this community
professes some form of Buddhism as well as the all-dominant and more
ancient faith of Shinto. And even one quite ignorant of Japanese
ideographs can nearly always distinguish at a glance the formula of the
great Nichiren sect from the peculiar appearance of the column of
characters composing it, all bristling with long sharp points and
banneret zigzags, like an army; the famous text Namu-myo-ho-ren-gekyo
inscribed of old upon the flag of the great captain Kato Kiyomasa, the
extirpator of Spanish Christianity, the glorious vir ter execrandus of
the Jesuits. Any pilgrim belonging to this sect has the right to call at
whatever door bears the above formula and ask for alms or food.
But by far the greater number of the ofuda are Shinto Upon almost every
door there is one ofuda especially likely to attract the attention of a
stranger, because at the foot of the column of ideographs composing its
text there are two small figures of foxes, a black and a white fox,
facing each other in a sitting posture, each with a little bunch of
rice-straw in its mouth, instead of the more usual emblematic key. These
ofuda are from the great Inari temple of Oshiroyama,  within the
castle grounds, and are charms against fire. They represent, indeed, the
only form of assurance against fire yet known in Matsue, so far, at
least, as wooden dwellings are concerned. And although a single spark
and a high wind are sufficient in combination to obliterate a larger
city in one day, great fires are unknown in Matsue, and small ones are
of rare occurrence.
The charm is peculiar to the city; and of the Inari in question this
When Naomasu, the grandson of Iyeyasu, first came to Matsue to rule the
province, there entered into his presence a beautiful boy, who said: 'I
came hither from the home of your august father in Echizen, to protect
you from all harm. But I have no dwelling-place, and am staying
therefore at the Buddhist temple of Fu-mon-in. Now if you will make for
me a dwelling within the castle grounds, I will protect from fire the
buildings there and the houses of the city, and your other residence
likewise which is in the capital. For I am Inari Shinyemon.' With these
words he vanished from sight. Therefore Naomasu dedicated to him the
great temple which still stands in the castle grounds, surrounded by one
thousand foxes of stone.
I now turn into a narrow little street, which, although so ancient that
its dwarfed two-story houses have the look of things grown up from the
ground, is called the Street of the New Timber. New the timber may have
been one hundred and fifty years ago; but the tints of the structures
would ravish an artist—the sombre ashen tones of the woodwork, the
furry browns of old thatch, ribbed and patched and edged with the warm
soft green of those velvety herbs and mosses which flourish upon
However, the perspective of the street frames in a vision more
surprising than any details of its mouldering homes. Between very lofty
bamboo poles, higher than any of the dwellings, and planted on both
sides of the street in lines, extraordinary black nets are stretched,
like prodigious cobwebs against the sky, evoking sudden memories of
those monster spiders which figure in Japanese mythology and in the
picture-books of the old artists. But these are only fishing-nets of
silken thread; and this is the street of the fishermen. I take my way to
the great bridge.
A stupendous ghost!
Looking eastward from the great bridge over those sharply beautiful
mountains, green and blue, which tooth the horizon, I see a glorious
spectre towering to the sky. Its base is effaced by far mists: out of
the air the thing would seem to have shaped itself—a phantom cone,
diaphanously grey below, vaporously white above, with a dream of
perpetual snow—the mighty mountain of Daisen.
At the first approach of winter it will in one night become all blanched
from foot to crest; and then its snowy pyramid so much resembles that
Sacred Mountain, often compared by poets to a white inverted fan, half
opened, hanging in the sky, that it is called Izumo-Fuji, 'the Fuji of
Izumo.' But it is really in Hoki, not in Izumo, though it cannot be seen
from any part of Hoki to such advantage as from here. It is the one
sublime spectacle of this charming land; but it is visible only when the
air is very pure. Many are the marvellous legends related concerning it,
and somewhere upon its mysterious summit the Tengu are believed to
At the farther end of the bridge, close to the wharf where the little
steamboats are, is a very small Jizo temple (Jizo-do). Here are kept
many bronze drags; and whenever anyone has been drowned and the body not
recovered, these are borrowed from the little temple and the river is
dragged. If the body be thus found, a new drag must be presented to the
From here, half a mile southward to the great Shinto temple of Tenjin,
deity of scholarship and calligraphy, broadly stretches Tenjinmachi, the
Street of the Rich Merchants, all draped on either side with dark blue
hangings, over which undulate with every windy palpitation from the lake
white wondrous ideographs, which are names and signs, while down the
wide way, in white perspective, diminishes a long line of telegraph
Beyond the temple of Tenjin the city is again divided by a river, the
Shindotegawa, over which arches the bridge Tenjin-bashi. Again beyond
this other large quarters extend to the hills and curve along the lake
shore. But in the space between the two rivers is the richest and
busiest life of the city, and also the vast and curious quarter of the
temples. In this islanded district are likewise the theatres, and the
place where wrestling-matches are held, and most of the resorts of
Parallel with Tenjinmachi runs the great street of the Buddhist temples,
or Teramachi, of which the eastern side is one unbroken succession of
temples—a solid front of court walls tile-capped, with imposing
gateways at regular intervals. Above this long stretch of tile-capped
wall rise the beautiful tilted massive lines of grey-blue temple roofs
against the sky. Here all the sects dwell side by side in harmony—
Nichirenshu, Shingon-shu, Zen-shu, Tendai-shu, even that Shin-shu,
unpopular in Izumo because those who follow its teaching strictly must
not worship the Kami. Behind each temple court there is a cemetery, or
hakaba; and eastward beyond these are other temples, and beyond them yet
others—masses of Buddhist architecture mixed with shreds of gardens
and miniature homesteads, a huge labyrinth of mouldering courts and
fragments of streets.
To-day, as usual, I find I can pass a few hours very profitably in
visiting the temples; in looking at the ancient images seated within the
cups of golden lotus-flowers under their aureoles of gold; in buying
curious mamori; in examining the sculptures of the cemeteries, where I
can nearly always find some dreaming Kwannon or smiling Jizo well worth
The great courts of Buddhist temples are places of rare interest for one
who loves to watch the life of the people; for these have been for
unremembered centuries the playing-places of the children. Generations
of happy infants have been amused in them. All the nurses, and little
girls who carry tiny brothers or sisters upon their backs, go thither
every morning that the sun shines; hundreds of children join them; and
they play at strange, funny games—'Onigokko,' or the game of Devil,
'Kage-Oni,' which signifies the Shadow and the Demon, and
'Mekusangokko,' which is a sort of 'blindman's buff.'
Also, during the long summer evenings, these temples are wrestling-
grounds, free to all who love wrestling; and in many of them there is a
dohyo-ba, or wrestling-ring. Robust young labourers and sinewy artisans
come to these courts to test their strength after the day's tasks are
done, and here the fame of more than one now noted wrestler was first
made. When a youth has shown himself able to overmatch at wrestling all
others in his own district, he is challenged by champions of other
districts; and if he can overcome these also, he may hope eventually to
become a skilled and popular professional wrestler.
It is also in the temple courts that the sacred dances are performed and
that public speeches are made. It is in the temple courts, too, that the
most curious toys are sold, on the occasion of the great holidays—toys
most of which have a religious signification. There are grand old trees,
and ponds full of tame fish, which put up their heads to beg for food
when your shadow falls upon the water. The holy lotus is cultivated
'Though growing in the foulest slime, the flower remains pure and
'And the soul of him who remains ever pure in the midst of temptation is
likened unto the lotus.
'Therefore is the lotus carven or painted upon the furniture of temples;
therefore also does it appear in allthe representations of our Lord
'In Paradise the blessed shall sit at ease enthroned upon the cups of
golden lotus-flowers.' 
A bugle-call rings through the quaint street; and round the corner of
the last temple come marching a troop of handsome young riflemen,
uniformed somewhat like French light infantry, marching by fours so
perfectly that all the gaitered legs move as if belonging to a single
body, and every sword-bayonet catches the sun at exactly the same angle,
as the column wheels into view. These are the students of the Shihan-
Gakko, the College of Teachers, performing their daily military
exercises. Their professors give them lectures upon the microscopic
study of cellular tissues, upon the segregation of developing nerve
structure, upon spectrum analysis, upon the evolution of the colour
sense, and upon the cultivation of bacteria in glycerine infusions. And
they are none the less modest and knightly in manner for all their
modern knowledge, nor the less reverentially devoted to their dear old
fathers and mothers whose ideas were shaped in the era of feudalism.
Here come a band of pilgrims, with yellow straw overcoats, 'rain-coats'
(mino), and enormous yellow straw hats, mushroom-shaped, of which the
down-curving rim partly hides the face. All carry staffs, and wear their
robes well girded up so as to leave free the lower limbs, which are
inclosed in white cotton leggings of a peculiar and indescribable kind.
Precisely the same sort of costume was worn by the same class of
travellers many centuries ago; and just as you now see them trooping by
-whole families wandering together, the pilgrim child clinging to the
father's hands—so may you see them pass in quaint procession across
the faded pages of Japanese picture-books a hundred years old.
At intervals they halt before some shop-front to look at the many
curious things which they greatly enjoy seeing, but which they have no
money to buy.
I myself have become so accustomed to surprises, to interesting or
extraordinary sights, that when a day happens to pass during which
nothing remarkable has been heard or seen I feel vaguely discontented.
But such blank days are rare: they occur in my own case only when the
weather is too detestable to permit of going out-of-doors. For with ever
so little money one can always obtain the pleasure of looking at curious
things. And this has been one of the chief pleasures of the people in
Japan for centuries and centuries, for the nation has passed its
generations of lives in making or seeking such things. To divert one's
self seems, indeed, the main purpose of Japanese existence, beginning
with the opening of the baby's wondering eyes. The faces of the people
have an indescribable look of patient expectancy—the air of waiting
for something interesting to make its appearance. If it fail to appear,
they will travel to find it: they are astonishing pedestrians and
tireless pilgrims, and I think they make pilgrimages not more for the
sake of pleasing the gods than of pleasing themselves by the sight of
rare and pretty things. For every temple is a museum, and every hill and
valley throughout the land has its temple and its wonders.
Even the poorest farmer, one so poor that he cannot afford to eat a
grain of his own rice, can afford to make a pilgrimage of a month's
duration; and during that season when the growing rice needs least
attention hundreds of thousands of the poorest go on pilgrimages. This
is possible, because from ancient times it has been the custom for
everybody to help pilgrims a little; and they can always find rest and
shelter at particular inns (kichinyado) which receive pilgrims only, and
where they are charged merely the cost of the wood used to cook their
But multitudes of the poor undertake pilgrimages requiring much more
than a month to perform, such as the pilgrimage to the thirty-three
great temples of Kwannon, or that to the eighty-eight temples of
Kobodaishi; and these, though years be needed to accomplish them, are as
nothing compared to the enormous Sengaji, the pilgrimage to the thousand
temples of the Nichiren sect. The time of a generation may pass ere this
can be made. One may begin it in early youth, and complete it only when
youth is long past. Yet there are several in Matsue, men and women, who
have made this tremendous pilgrimage, seeing all Japan, and supporting
themselves not merely by begging, but by some kinds of itinerant
The pilgrim who desires to perform this pilgrimage carries on his
shoulders a small box, shaped like a Buddhist shrine, in which he keeps
his spare clothes and food. He also carries a little brazen gong, which
he constantly sounds while passing through a city or village, at the
same time chanting the Namu-myo-ho-ren-ge-kyo; and he always bears with
him a little blank book, in which the priest of every temple visited
stamps the temple seal in red ink. The pilgrimage over, this book with
its one thousand seal impressions becomes an heirloom in the family of
I too must make divers pilgrimages, for all about the city, beyond the
waters or beyond the hills, lie holy places immemorially old.
Kitzuki, founded by the ancient gods, who 'made stout the pillars upon
the nethermost rock bottom, and made high the cross-beams to the Plain
of High Heaven'—Kitzuki, the Holy of Holies, whose high-priest claims
descent from the Goddess of the Sun; and Ichibata, famed shrine of
Yakushi-Nyorai, who giveth sight to the blind—Ichibata-no-Yakushi,
whose lofty temple is approached by six hundred and forty steps of
stone; and Kiomidzu, shrine of Kwannon of the Eleven Faces, before whose
altar the sacred fire has burned without ceasing for a thousand years;
and Sada, where the Sacred Snake lies coiled for ever on the sambo of
the gods; and Oba, with its temples of Izanami and Izanagi, parents of
gods and men, the makers of the world; and Yaegaki, whither lovers go to
pray for unions with the beloved; and Kaka, Kaka-ura, Kaka-noKukedo San
-all these I hope to see.
But of all places, Kaka-ura! Assuredly I must go to Kaka. Few pilgrims
go thither by sea, and boatmen are forbidden to go there if there be
even wind enough 'to move three hairs.' So that whosoever wishes to
visit Kaka must either wait for a period of dead calm—very rare upon
the coast of the Japanese Sea—or journey thereunto by land; and by
land the way is difficult and wearisome. But I must see Kaka. For at
Kaka, in a great cavern by the sea, there is a famous Jizo of stone; and
each night, it is said, the ghosts of little children climb to the high
cavern and pile up before the statue small heaps of pebbles; and every
morning, in the soft sand, there may be seen the fresh prints of tiny
naked feet, the feet of the infant ghosts. It is also said that in the
cavern there is a rock out of which comes a stream of milk, as from a
woman's breast; and the white stream flows for ever, and the phantom
children drink of it. Pilgrims bring with them gifts of small straw
sandals—the zori that children wear—and leave them before the
cavern, that the feet of the little ghosts may not be wounded by the
sharp rocks. And the pilgrim treads with caution, lest he should
overturn any of the many heaps of stones; for if this be done the
The city proper is as level as a table, but is bounded on two sides by
low demilunes of charming hills shadowed with evergreen foliage and
crowned with temples or shrines. There are thirty-five thousand souls
dwelling in ten thousand houses forming thirty-three principal and many
smaller streets; and from each end of almost every street, beyond the
hills, the lake, or the eastern rice-fields, a mountain summit is always
visible—green, blue, or grey according to distance. One may ride,
walk, or go by boat to any quarter of the town; for it is not only
divided by two rivers, but is also intersected by numbers of canals
crossed by queer little bridges curved like a well-bent bow.
Architecturally (despite such constructions in European style as the
College of Teachers, the great public school, the Kencho, the new post-
office), it is much like other quaint Japanese towns; the structure of
its temples, taverns, shops, and private dwellings is the same as in
other cities of the western coast. But doubtless owing to the fact that
Matsue remained a feudal stronghold until a time within the memory of
thousands still living, those feudal distinctions of caste so sharply
drawn in ancient times are yet indicated with singular exactness by the
varying architecture of different districts. The city can be definitely
divided into three architectural quarters: the district of the merchants
and shop-keepers, forming the heart of the settlement, where all the
houses are two stories high; the district of the temples, including
nearly the whole south-eastern part of the town; and the district or
districts of the shizoku (formerly called samurai), comprising a vast
number of large, roomy, garden-girt, one-story dwellings. From these
elegant homes, in feudal days, could be summoned at a moment's notice
five thousand 'two-sworded men' with their armed retainers, making a
fighting total for the city alone of probably not less than thirteen
thousand warriors. More than one-third of all the city buildings were
then samurai homes; for Matsue was the military centre of the most
ancient province of Japan. At both ends of the town, which curves in a
crescent along the lake shore, were the two main settlements of samurai;
but just as some of the most important temples are situated outside of
the temple district, so were many of the finest homesteads of this
knightly caste situated in other quarters. They mustered most thickly,
however, about the castle, which stands to-day on the summit of its
citadel hill—the Oshiroyama—solid as when first built long centuries
ago, a vast and sinister shape, all iron-grey, rising against the sky
from a cyclopean foundation of stone. Fantastically grim the thing is,
and grotesquely complex in detail; looking somewhat like a huge pagoda,
of which the second, third, and fourth stories have been squeezed down
and telescoped into one another by their own weight. Crested at its
summit, like a feudal helmet, with two colossal fishes of bronze lifting
their curved bodies skyward from either angle of the roof, and bristling
with horned gables and gargoyled eaves and tilted puzzles of tiled
roofing at every story, the creation is a veritable architectural
dragon, made up of magnificent monstrosities—a dragon, moreover, full
of eyes set at all conceivable angles, above below, and on every side.
From under the black scowl of the loftiest eaves, looking east and
south, the whole city can be seen at a single glance, as in the vision
of a soaring hawk; and from the northern angle the view plunges down
three hundred feet to the castle road, where walking figures of men
appear no larger than flies.
The grim castle has its legend.
It is related that, in accordance with some primitive and barbarous
custom, precisely like that of which so terrible a souvenir has been
preserved for us in the most pathetic of Servian ballads, 'The
Foundation of Skadra,' a maiden of Matsue was interred alive under the
walls of the castle at the time of its erection, as a sacrifice to some
forgotten gods. Her name has never been recorded; nothing concerning her
is remembered except that she was beautiful and very fond of dancing.
Now after the castle had been built, it is said that a law had to be
passed forbidding that any girl should dance in the streets of Matsue.
For whenever any maiden danced the hill Oshiroyama would shudder, and
the great castle quiver from basement to summit.
One may still sometimes hear in the streets a very humorous song, which
every one in town formerly knew by heart, celebrating the Seven Wonders
of Matsue. For Matsue was formerly divided into seven quarters, in each
of which some extraordinary object or person was to be seen. It is now
divided into five religious districts, each containing a temple of the
State religion. People living within those districts are called ujiko,
and the temple the ujigami, or dwelling-place of the tutelary god. The
ujiko must support the ujigami. (Every village and town has at least one
There is probably not one of the multitudinous temples of Matsue which
has not some marvellous tradition attached to it; each of the districts
has many legends; and I think that each of the thirty-three streets has
its own special ghost story. Of these ghost stories I cite two
specimens: they are quite representative of one variety of Japanese
Near to the Fu-mon-in temple, which is in the north-eastern quarter,
there is a bridge called Adzuki-togi-bashi, or The Bridge of the Washing
of Peas. For it was said in other years that nightly a phantom woman sat
beneath that bridge washing phantom peas. There is an exquisite Japanese
iris-flower, of rainbow-violet colour, which flower is named kaki-
tsubata; and there is a song about that flower called kaki-tsubata-no-
uta. Now this song must never be sung near the Adzuki-togi-bashi,
because, for some strange reason which seems to have been forgotten, the
ghosts haunting that place become so angry upon hearing it that to sing
it there is to expose one's self to the most frightful calamities. There
was once a samurai who feared nothing, who one night went to that bridge
and loudly sang the song. No ghost appearing, he laughed and went home.
At the gate of his house he met a beautiful tall woman whom he had never
seen before, and who, bowing, presented him with a lacquered box-fumi-
bako—such as women keep their letters in. He bowed to her in his
knightly way; but she said, 'I am only the servant—this is my
mistress's gift,' and vanished out of his sight. Opening the box, he saw
the bleeding head of a young child. Entering his house, he found upon
the floor of the guest-room the dead body of his own infant son with the
head torn off.
Of the cemetery Dai-Oji, which is in the street called Nakabaramachi,
this story is told-
In Nakabaramachi there is an ameya, or little shop in which midzu-ame is
sold—the amber-tinted syrup, made of malt, which is given to children
when milk cannot be obtained for them. Every night at a late hour there
came to that shop a very pale woman, all in white, to buy one rin 
worth of midzu-ame. The ame-seller wondered that she was so thin and
pale, and often questioned her kindly; but she answered nothing. At last
one night he followed her, out of curiosity. She went to the cemetery;
and he became afraid and returned.
The next night the woman came again, but bought no midzu-ame, and only
beckoned to the man to go with her. He followed her, with friends, into
the cemetery. She walked to a certain tomb, and there disappeared; and
they heard, under the ground, the crying of a child. Opening the tomb,
they saw within it the corpse of the woman who nightly visited the
ameya, with a living infant, laughing to see the lantern light, and
beside the infant a little cup of midzu-ame. For the mother had been
prematurely buried; the child was born in the tomb, and the ghost of the
mother had thus provided for it—love being stronger than death.
Over the Tenjin-bashi, or Bridge of Tenjin, and through small streets
and narrow of densely populated districts, and past many a tenantless
and mouldering feudal homestead, I make my way to the extreme south-
western end of the city, to watch the sunset from a little sobaya 
facing the lake. For to see the sun sink from this sobaya is one of the
delights of Matsue.
There are no such sunsets in Japan as in the tropics: the light is
gentle as a light of dreams; there are no furies of colour; there are no
chromatic violences in nature in this Orient. All in sea or sky is tint
rather than colour, and tint vapour-toned. I think that the exquisite
taste of the race in the matter of colours and of tints, as exemplified
in the dyes of their wonderful textures, is largely attributable to the
sober and delicate beauty of nature's tones in this all-temperate world
where nothing is garish.
Before me the fair vast lake sleeps, softly luminous, far-ringed with
chains of blue volcanic hills shaped like a sierra. On my right, at its
eastern end, the most ancient quarter of the city spreads its roofs of
blue-grey tile; the houses crowd thickly down to the shore, to dip their
wooden feet into the flood. With a glass I can see my own windows and
the far-spreading of the roofs beyond, and above all else the green
citadel with its grim castle, grotesquely peaked. The sun begins to set,
and exquisite astonishments of tinting appear in water and sky.
Dead rich purples cloud broadly behind and above the indigo blackness of
the serrated hills—mist purples, fading upward smokily into faint
vermilions and dim gold, which again melt up through ghostliest greens
into the blue. The deeper waters of the lake, far away, take a tender
violet indescribable, and the silhouette of the pine-shadowed island
seems to float in that sea of soft sweet colour. But the shallower and
nearer is cut from the deeper water by the current as sharply as by a
line drawn, and all the surface on this side of that line is a
shimmering bronze—old rich ruddy gold-bronze.
All the fainter colours change every five minutes,—wondrously change
and shift like tones and shades of fine shot-silks.
Often in the streets at night, especially on the nights of sacred
festivals (matsuri), one's attention will be attracted to some small
booth by the spectacle of an admiring and perfectly silent crowd
pressing before it. As soon as one can get a chance to look one finds
there is nothing to look at but a few vases containing sprays of
flowers, or perhaps some light gracious branches freshly cut from a
blossoming tree. It is simply a little flower-show, or, more correctly,
a free exhibition of master skill in the arrangement of flowers. For the
Japanese do not brutally chop off flower-heads to work them up into
meaningless masses of colour, as we barbarians do: they love nature too
well for that; they know how much the natural charm of the flower
depends upon its setting and mounting, its relation to leaf and stem,
and they select a single graceful branch or spray just as nature made
it. At first you will not, as a Western stranger, comprehend such an
exhibition at all: you are yet a savage in such matters compared with
the commonest coolies about you. But even while you are still wondering
at popular interest in this simple little show, the charm of it will
begin to grow upon you, will become a revelation to you; and, despite
your Occidental idea of self-superiority, you will feel humbled by the
discovery that all flower displays you have ever seen abroad were only
monstrosities in comparison with the natural beauty of those few simple
sprays. You will also observe how much the white or pale blue screen
behind the flowers enhances the effect by lamp or lantern light. For the
screen has been arranged with the special purpose of showing the
exquisiteness of plant shadows; and the sharp silhouettes of sprays and
blossoms cast thereon are beautiful beyond the imagining of any Western
It is still the season of mists in this land whose most ancient name
signifies the Place of the Issuing of Clouds. With the passing of
twilight a faint ghostly brume rises over lake and landscape, spectrally
veiling surfaces, slowly obliterating distances. As I lean over the
parapet of the Tenjin-bashi, on my homeward way, to take one last look
eastward, I find that the mountains have already been effaced. Before me
there is only a shadowy flood far vanishing into vagueness without a
horizon—the phantom of a sea. And I become suddenly aware that little
white things are fluttering slowly down into it from the fingers of a
woman standing upon the bridge beside me, and murmuring something in a
low sweet voice. She is praying for her dead child. Each of those little
papers she is dropping into the current bears a tiny picture of Jizo and
perhaps a little inscription. For when a child dies the mother buys a
small woodcut (hanko) of Jizo, and with it prints the image of the
divinity upon one hundred little papers. And she sometimes also writes
upon the papers words signifying 'For the sake of . .'—inscribing
never the living, but the kaimyo or soul-name only, which the Buddhist
priest has given to the dead, and which is written also upon the little
commemorative tablet kept within the Buddhist household shrine, or
butsuma. Then, upon a fixed day (most commonly the forty-ninth day after
the burial), she goes to some place of running water and drops the
little papers therein one by one; repeating, as each slips through her
fingers, the holy invocation, 'Namu Jizo, Dai Bosatsu!'
Doubtless this pious little woman, praying beside me in the dusk, is
very poor. Were she not, she would hire a boat and scatter her tiny
papers far away upon the bosom of the lake. (It is now only after dark
that this may be done; for the police-I know not why—have been
instructed to prevent the pretty rite, just as in the open ports they
have been instructed to prohibit the launching of the little straw boats
of the dead, the shoryobune.)
But why should the papers be cast into running water? A good old Tendai
priest tells me that originally the rite was only for the souls of the
drowned. But now these gentle hearts believe that all waters flow
downward to the Shadow-world and through the Sai-no-Kawara, where Jizo
At home again, I slide open once more my little paper window, and look
out upon the night. I see the paper lanterns flitting over the bridge,
like a long shimmering of fireflies. I see the spectres of a hundred
lights trembling upon the black flood. I see the broad shoji of
dwellings beyond the river suffused with the soft yellow radiance of
invisible lamps; and upon those lighted spaces I can discern slender
moving shadows, silhouettes of graceful women. Devoutly do I pray that
glass may never become universally adopted in Japan—there would be no
more delicious shadows.
I listen to the voices of the city awhile. I hear the great bell of
Tokoji rolling its soft Buddhist thunder across the dark, and the songs
of the night-walkers whose hearts have been made merry with wine, and
the long sonorous chanting of the night-peddlers.
'U-mu-don-yai-soba-yai!' It is the seller of hot soba, Japanese
buckwheat, making his last round.
'Umai handan, machibito endan, usemono ninso kaso kichikyo no urainai!'
The cry of the itinerant fortune-teller.
'Ame-yu!' The musical cry of the seller of midzu-ame, the sweet amber
syrup which children love.
'Amail' The shrilling call of the seller of amazake, sweet rice wine.
'Kawachi-no-kuni-hiotan-yama-koi-no-tsuji-ura!' The peddler of love-
papers, of divining-papers, pretty tinted things with little shadowy
pictures upon them. When held near a fire or a lamp, words written upon
them with invisible ink begin to appear. These are always about
sweethearts, and sometimes tell one what he does not wish to know. The
fortunate ones who read them believe themselves still more fortunate;
the unlucky abandon all hope; the jealous become even more jealous than
they were before.
From all over the city there rises into the night a sound like the
bubbling and booming of great frogs in a march—the echoing of the tiny
drums of the dancing-girls, of the charming geisha. Like the rolling of
a waterfall continually reverberates the multitudinous pattering of geta
upon the bridge. A new light rises in the east; the moon is wheeling up
from behind the peaks, very large and weird and wan through the white
vapours. Again I hear the sounds of the clapping of many hands. For the
wayfarers are paying obeisance to O-Tsuki-San: from the long bridge they
are saluting the coming of the White Moon-Lady.
I sleep, to dream of little children, in some mouldering mossy temple
court, playing at the game of Shadows and of Demons.
Chapter Eight Kitzuki: The Most Ancient Shrine of Japan
SHINKOKU is the sacred name of Japan—Shinkoku, 'The Country of the
Gods'; and of all Shinkoku the most holy ground is the land of Izumo.
Hither from the blue Plain of High Heaven first came to dwell awhile the
Earth-makers, Izanagi and Izanami, the parents of gods and of men;
somewhere upon the border of this land was Izanami buried; and out of
this land into the black realm of the dead did Izanagi follow after her,
and seek in vain to bring her back again. And the tale of his descent
into that strange nether world, and of what there befell him, is it not
written in the Kojiki?  And of all legends primeval concerning the
Underworld this story is one of the weirdest—more weird than even the
Assyrian legend of the Descent of Ishtar.
Even as Izumo is especially the province of the gods, and the place of
the childhood of the race by whom Izanagi and Izanami are yet worshiped,
so is Kitzuki of Izumo especially the city of the gods, and its
immemorial temple the earliest home of the ancient faith, the great
religion of Shinto.
Now to visit Kitzuki has been my most earnest ambition since I learned
the legends of the Kojiki concerning it; and this ambition has been
stimulated by the discovery that very few Europeans have visited
Kitzuki, and that none have been admitted into the great temple itself.
Some, indeed, were not allowed even to approach the temple court. But I
trust that I shall be somewhat more fortunate; for I have a letter of
introduction from my dear friend Nishida Sentaro, who is also a personal
friend of the high pontiff of Kitzuki. I am thus assured that even
should I not be permitted to enter the temple—a privilege accorded to
but few among the Japanese themselves—I shall at least have the honour
of an interview with the Guji, or Spiritual Governor of Kitzuki, Senke
Takanori, whose princely family trace back their descent to the Goddess
of the Sun. 
I leave Matsue for Kitzuki early in the afternoon of a beautiful
September day; taking passage upon a tiny steamer in which everything,
from engines to awnings, is Lilliputian. In the cabin one must kneel.
Under the awnings one cannot possibly stand upright. But the miniature
craft is neat and pretty as a toy model, and moves with surprising
swiftness and steadiness. A handsome naked boy is busy serving the
passengers with cups of tea and with cakes, and setting little charcoal
furnaces before those who desire to smoke: for all of which a payment of
about three-quarters of a cent is expected.
I escape from the awnings to climb upon the cabin roof for a view; and
the view is indescribably lovely. Over the lucent level of the lake we
are steaming toward a far-away heaping of beautiful shapes, coloured
with that strangely delicate blue which tints all distances in the
Japanese atmosphere—shapes of peaks and headlands looming up from the
lake verge against a porcelain-white horizon. They show no details,
whatever. Silhouettes only they are—masses of absolutely pure colour.
To left and right, framing in the Shinjiko, are superb green surgings of
wooded hills. Great Yakuno-San is the loftiest mountain before us,
north-west. South-east, behind us, the city has vanished; but proudly
towering beyond looms Daisen—enormous, ghostly blue and ghostly white,
lifting the cusps of its dead crater into the region of eternal snow.
Over all arches a sky of colour faint as a dream.
There seems to be a sense of divine magic in the very atmosphere,
through all the luminous day, brooding over the vapoury land, over the
ghostly blue of the flood—a sense of Shinto. With my fancy full of the
legends of the Kojiki, the rhythmic chant of the engines comes to my
ears as the rhythm of a Shinto ritual mingled with the names of gods:
The great range on the right grows loftier as we steam on; and its
hills, always slowly advancing toward us, begin to reveal all the rich
details of their foliage. And lo! on the tip of one grand wood-clad peak
is visible against the pure sky the many-angled roof of a great Buddhist
temple. That is the temple of Ichibata, upon the mountain Ichibata-yama,
the temple of Yakushi-Nyorai, the Physician of Souls. But at Ichibata he
reveals himself more specially as the healer of bodies, the Buddha who
giveth sight unto the blind. It is believed that whosoever has an
affection of the eyes will be made well by praying earnestly at that
great shrine; and thither from many distant provinces do afflicted
thousands make pilgrimage, ascending the long weary mountain path and
the six hundred and forty steps of stone leading to the windy temple
court upon the summit, whence may be seen one of the loveliest
landscapes in Japan. There the pilgrims wash their eyes with the water
of the sacred spring, and kneel before the shrine and murmur the holy
formula of Ichibata: 'On-koro-koro-sendai-matoki-sowaka'—words of
which the meaning has long been forgotten, like that of many a Buddhist
invocation; Sanscrit words transliterated into Chinese, and thence into
Japanese, which are understood by learned priests alone, yet are known
by heart throughout the land, and uttered with the utmost fervour of
I descend from the cabin roof, and squat upon the deck, under the
awnings, to have a smoke with Akira. And I ask:
'How many Buddhas are there, O Akira? Is the number of the Enlightened
'Countless the Buddhas are,' makes answer Akira; 'yet there is truly but
one Buddha; the many are forms only. Each of us contains a future
Buddha. Alike we all are except in that we are more or less unconscious
of the truth. But the vulgar may not understand these things, and so
seek refuge in symbols and in forms.'
'And the Kami,—the deities of Shinto?'
'Of Shinto I know little. But there are eight hundred myriads of Kami in
the Plain of High Heaven—so says the Ancient Book. Of these, three
thousand one hundred and thirty and two dwell in the various provinces
of the land; being enshrined in two thousand eight hundred and sixty-one
temples. And the tenth month of our year is called the "No-God-month,"
because in that month all the deities leave their temples to assemble in
the province of Izumo, at the great temple of Kitzuki; and for the same
reason that month is called in Izumo, and only in Izumo, the "God-is-
month." But educated persons sometimes call it the "God-present-
festival," using Chinese words. Then it is believed the serpents come
from the sea to the land, and coil upon the sambo, which is the table of
the gods, for the serpents announce the coming; and the Dragon-King
sends messengers to the temples of Izanagi and Izanami, the parents of
gods and men.'
'O Akira, many millions of Kami there must be of whom I shall always
remain ignorant, for there is a limit to the power of memory; but tell
me something of the gods whose names are most seldom uttered, the
deities of strange places and of strange things, the most extraordinary
'You cannot learn much about them from me,' replies Akira. 'You will
have to ask others more learned than I. But there are gods with whom it
is not desirable to become acquainted. Such are the God of Poverty, and
the God of Hunger, and the God of Penuriousness, and the God of
Hindrances and Obstacles. These are of dark colour, like the clouds of
gloomy days, and their faces are like the faces of gaki.' 
'With the God of Hindrances and Obstacles, O Akira I have had more than
a passing acquaintance. Tell me of the others.'
'I know little about any of them,' answers Akira, 'excepting Bimbogami.
It is said there are two gods who always go together,—Fuku-no-Kami,
who is the God of Luck, and Bimbogami, who is the God of Poverty. The
first is white, and the second is black.'
'Because the last,' I venture to interrupt, 'is only the shadow of the
first. Fuku-no-Kami is the Shadow-caster, and Bimbogami the Shadow; and
I have observed, in wandering about this world, that wherever the one
goeth, eternally followeth after him the other.'
Akira refuses his assent to this interpretation, and resumes:
'When Bimbogami once begins to follow anyone it is extremely difficult
to be free from him again. In the village of Umitsu, which is in the
province of Omi, and not far from Kyoto, there once lived a Buddhist
priest who during many years was grievously tormented by Bimbogami. He
tried oftentimes without avail to drive him away; then he strove to
deceive him by proclaiming aloud to all the people that he was going to
Kyoto. But instead of going to Kyoto he went to Tsuruga, in the province
of Echizen; and when he reached the inn at Tsuruga there came forth to
meet him a boy lean and wan like a gaki. The boy said to him, "I have
been waiting for you"—and the boy was Bimbogami.
'There was another priest who for sixty years had tried in vain to get
rid of Bimbogami, and who resolved at last to go to a distant province.
On the night after he had formed this resolve he had a strange dream, in
which he saw a very much emaciated boy, naked and dirty, weaving sandals
of straw (waraji), such as pilgrims and runners wear; and he made so
many that the priest wondered, and asked him, "For what purpose are you
making so many sandals?" And the boy answered, "I am going to travel
with you. I am Bimbogami."'
'Then is there no way, Akira, by which Bimbogami may be driven away?'
'It is written,' replies Akira, 'in the book called Jizo-Kyo-Kosui that
the aged Enjobo, a priest dwelling in the province of Owari, was able to
get rid of Bimbogami by means of a charm. On the last day of the last
month of the year he and his disciples and other priests of the Shingon
sect took branches of peach-trees and recited a formula, and then, with
the branches, imitated the action of driving a person out of the temple,
after which they shut all the gates and recited other formulas. The same
night Enjobo dreamed of a skeleton priest in a broken temple weeping
alone, and the skeleton priest said to him, "After I had been with you
for so many years, how could you drive me away?" But always thereafter
until the day of his death, Enjobo lived in prosperity.'
For an hour and a half the ranges to left and right alternately recede
and approach. Beautiful blue shapes glide toward us, change to green,
and then, slowly drifting behind us, are all blue again. But the far
mountains immediately before us—immovable, unchanging—always remain
ghosts. Suddenly the little steamer turns straight into the land—a
land so low that it came into sight quite unexpectedly—and we puff up
a narrow stream between rice-fields to a queer, quaint, pretty village
on the canal bank—Shobara. Here I must hire jinricksha to take us to
There is not time to see much of Shobara if I hope to reach Kitzuki
before bedtime, and I have only a flying vision of one long wide street
(so picturesque that I wish I could pass a day in it), as our kuruma
rush through the little town into the open country, into a vast plain
covered with rice-fields. The road itself is only a broad dike, barely
wide enough for two jinricksha to pass each other upon it. On each side
the superb plain is bounded by a mountain range shutting off the white
horizon. There is a vast silence, an immense sense of dreamy peace, and
a glorious soft vapoury light over everything, as we roll into the
country of Hyasugi to Kaminawoe. The jagged range on the left is Shusai-
yama, all sharply green, with the giant Daikoku-yama overtopping all;
and its peaks bear the names of gods. Much more remote, upon our right,
enormous, pansy-purple, tower the shapes of the Kita-yama, or northern
range; filing away in tremendous procession toward the sunset, fading
more and more as they stretch west, to vanish suddenly at last, after
the ghostliest conceivable manner, into the uttermost day.
All this is beautiful; yet there is no change while hours pass. Always
the way winds on through miles of rice-fields, white-speckled with
paper-winged shafts which are arrows of prayer. Always the voice of
frogs—a sound as of infinite bubbling. Always the green range on the
left, the purple on the right, fading westward into a tall file of
tinted spectres which always melt into nothing at last, as if they were
made of air. The monotony of the scene is broken only by our occasional
passing through some pretty Japanese village, or by the appearance of a
curious statue or monument at an angle of the path, a roadside Jizo, or
the grave of a wrestler, such as may be seen on the bank of the Hiagawa,
a huge slab of granite sculptured with the words, 'Ikumo Matsu
But after reaching Kandogori, and passing over a broad but shallow
river, a fresh detail appears in the landscape. Above the mountain chain
on our left looms a colossal blue silhouette, almost saddle-shaped,
recognisable by its outline as a once mighty volcano. It is now known by
various names, but it was called in ancient times Sa-hime-yama; and it
has its Shinto legend.
It is said that in the beginning the God of Izumo, gazing over the land,
said, 'This new land of Izumo is a land of but small extent, so I will
make it a larger land by adding unto it.' Having so said, he looked
about him over to Korea, and there he saw land which was good for the
purpose. With a great rope he dragged therefrom four islands, and added
the land of them to Izumo. The first island was called Ya-o-yo-ne, and
it formed the land where Kitzuki now is. The second island was called
Sada-no-kuni, and is at this day the site of the holy temple where all
the gods do yearly hold their second assembly, after having first
gathered together at Kitzuki. The third island was called in its new
place Kurami-no-kuni, which now forms Shimane-gori. The fourth island
became that place where stands the temple of the great god at whose
shrine are delivered unto the faithful the charms which protect the
Now in drawing these islands across the sea into their several places
the god looped his rope over the mighty mountain of Daisen and over the
mountain Sa-hime-yama; and they both bear the marks of that wondrous
rope even unto this day. As for the rope itself, part of it was changed
into the long island of ancient times  called Yomi-ga-hama, and a
part into the Long Beach of Sono.
After we pass the Hori-kawa the road narrows and becomes rougher and
rougher, but always draws nearer to the Kitayama range. Toward sundown
we have come close enough to the great hills to discern the details of
their foliage. The path begins to rise; we ascend slowly through the
gathering dusk. At last there appears before us a great multitude of
twinkling lights. We have reached Kitzuki, the holy city.
Over a long bridge and under a tall torii we roll into upward-sloping
streets. Like Enoshima, Kitzuki has a torii for its city gate; but the
torii is not of bronze. Then a flying vision of open lamp-lighted shop-
fronts, and lines of luminous shoji under high-tilted eaves, and
Buddhist gateways guarded by lions of stone, and long, low, tile-coped
walls of temple courts overtopped by garden shrubbery, and Shinto
shrines prefaced by other tall torii; but no sign of the great temple
itself. It lies toward the rear of the city proper, at the foot of the
wooded mountains; and we are too tired and hungry to visit it now. So we
halt before a spacious and comfortable-seeming inn,—the best, indeed,
in Kitzuki—and rest ourselves and eat, and drink sake out of exquisite
little porcelain cups, the gift of some pretty singing-girl to the
hotel. Thereafter, as it has become much too late to visit the Guji, I
send to his residence by a messenger my letter of introduction, with an
humble request in Akira's handwriting, that I may be allowed to present
myself at the house before noon the next day.
Then the landlord of the hotel, who seems to be a very kindly person,
comes to us with lighted paper lanterns, and invites us to accompany him
to the Oho-yashiro.
Most of the houses have already closed their wooden sliding doors for
the night, so that the streets are dark, and the lanterns of our
landlord indispensable; for there is no moon, and the night is starless.
We walk along the main street for a distance of about six squares, and
then, making a tum, find ourselves before a superb bronze torii, the
gateway to the great temple avenue.
Effacing colours and obliterating distances, night always magnifies by
suggestion the aspect of large spaces and the effect of large objects.
Viewed by the vague light of paper lanterns, the approach to the great
shrine is an imposing surprise—such a surprise that I feel regret at
the mere thought of having to see it to-morrow by disenchanting day: a
superb avenue lined with colossal trees, and ranging away out of sight
under a succession of giant torii, from which are suspended enormous
shimenawa, well worthy the grasp of that Heavenly-Hand-Strength Deity
whose symbols they are. But, more than by the torii and their festooned
symbols, the dim majesty of the huge avenue is enhanced by the
prodigious trees—many perhaps thousands of years old—gnarled pines
whose shaggy summits are lost in darkness. Some of the mighty trunks are
surrounded with a rope of straw: these trees are sacred. The vast roots,
far-reaching in every direction, look in the lantern-light like a
writhing and crawling of dragons.
The avenue is certainly not less than a quarter of a mile in length; it
crosses two bridges and passes between two sacred groves. All the broad
lands on either side of it belong to the temple. Formerly no foreigner
was permitted to pass beyond the middle torii The avenue terminates at a
lofty wall pierced by a gateway resembling the gateways of Buddhist
temple courts, but very massive. This is the entrance to the outer
court; the ponderous doors are still open, and many shadowy figures are
passing in or out.
Within the court all is darkness, against which pale yellow lights are
gliding to and fro like a multitude of enormous fireflies—the lanterns
of pilgrims. I can distinguish only the looming of immense buildings to
left and right, constructed with colossal timbers. Our guide traverses a
very large court, passes into a second, and halts before an imposing
structure whose doors are still open. Above them, by the lantern glow, I
can see a marvellous frieze of dragons and water, carved in some rich
wood by the hand of a master. Within I can see the symbols of Shinto, in
a side shrine on the left; and directly before us the lanterns reveal a
surface of matted floor vaster than anything I had expected to find.
Therefrom I can divine the scale of the edifice which I suppose to be
the temple. But the landlord tells us this is not the temple, but only
the Haiden or Hall of Prayer, before which the people make their
orisons, By day, through the open doors, the temple can be seen But we
cannot see it to-night, and but few visitors are permitted to go in.
'The people do not enter even the court of the great shrine, for the
most part,' interprets Akira; 'they pray before it at a distance.
All about me in the shadow I hear a sound like the plashing and dashing
of water—the clapping of many hands in Shinto prayer.
'But this is nothing,' says the landlord; 'there are but few here now.
Wait until to-morrow, which is a festival day.'
As we wend our way back along the great avenue, under the torii and the
giant trees, Akira interprets for me what our landlord tells him about
the sacred serpent.
'The little serpent,' he says, 'is called by the people the august
Dragon-Serpent; for it is sent by the Dragon-King to announce the coming
of the gods. The sea darkens and rises and roars before the coming of
Ryu-ja-Sama. Ryu-ja. Sama we call it because it is the messenger of
Ryugu-jo, the palace of the dragons; but it is also called Hakuja, or
the 'White Serpent.' 
'Does the little serpent come to the temple of its own accord?'
'Oh, no. It is caught by the fishermen. And only one can be caught in a
year, because only one is sent; and whoever catches it and brings it
either to the Kitzuki-no-oho-yashiro, or to the temple Sadajinja, where
the gods hold their second assembly during the Kami-ari-zuki, receives
one hyo  of rice in recompense. It costs much labour and time to
catch a serpent; but whoever captures one is sure to become rich in
after time.' 
'There are many deities enshrined at Kitzuki, are there not?' I ask.
'Yes; but the great deity of Kitzuki is Oho-kuni-nushi-no-Kami, 
whom the people more commonly call Daikoku. Here also is worshipped his
son, whom many call Ebisu. These deities are usually pictured together:
Daikoku seated upon bales of rice, holding the Red Sun against his
breast with one hand, and in the other grasping the magical mallet of
which a single stroke gives wealth; and Ebisu bearing a fishing-rod, and
holding under his arm a great tai-fish. These gods are always
represented with smiling faces; and both have great ears, which are the
sign of wealth and fortune.'
A little wearied by the day's journeying, I get to bed early, and sleep
as dreamlessly as a plant until I am awakened about daylight by a heavy,
regular, bumping sound, shaking the wooden pillow on which my ear rests
-the sound of the katsu of the kometsuki beginning his eternal labour
of rice-cleaning. Then the pretty musume of the inn opens the chamber to
the fresh mountain air and the early sun, rolls back all the wooden
shutters into their casings behind the gallery, takes down the brown
mosquito net, brings a hibachi with freshly kindled charcoal for my
morning smoke, and trips away to get our breakfast.
Early as it is when she returns, she brings word that a messenger has
already arrived from the Guji, Senke Takanori, high descendant of the
Goddess of the Sun. The messenger is a dignified young Shinto priest,
clad in the ordinary Japanese full costume, but wearing also a superb
pair of blue silken hakama, or Japanese ceremonial trousers, widening
picturesquely towards the feet. He accepts my invitation to a cup of
tea, and informs me that his august master is waiting for us at the
This is delightful news, but we cannot go at once. Akira's attire is
pronounced by the messenger to be defective. Akira must don fresh white
tabi and put on hakama before going into the august presence: no one may
enter thereinto without hakama. Happily Akira is able to borrow a pair
of hakama from the landlord; and, after having arranged ourselves as
neatly as we can, we take our way to the temple, guided by the
I am agreeably surprised to find, as we pass again under a magnificent
bronze torii which I admired the night before, that the approaches to
the temple lose very little of their imposing character when seen for
the first time by sunlight. The majesty of the trees remains
astonishing; the vista of the avenue is grand; and the vast spaces of
groves and grounds to right and left are even more impressive than I had
imagined. Multitudes of pilgrims are going and coming; but the whole
population of a province might move along such an avenue without
jostling. Before the gate of the first court a Shinto priest in full
sacerdotal costume waits to receive us: an elderly man, with a pleasant
kindly face. The messenger commits us to his charge, and vanishes
through the gateway, while the elderly priest, whose name is Sasa, leads
Already I can hear a heavy sound, as of surf, within the temple court;
and as we advance the sound becomes sharper and recognisable—a
volleying of handclaps. And passing the great gate, I see thousands of
pilgrims before the Haiden, the same huge structure which I visited last
night. None enter there: all stand before the dragon-swarming doorway,
and cast their offerings into the money-chest placed before the
threshold; many making contribution of small coin, the very poorest
throwing only a handful of rice into the box.  Then they clap their
hands and bow their heads before the threshold, and reverently gaze
through the Hall of Prayer at the loftier edifice, the Holy of Holies,
beyond it. Each pilgrim remains but a little while, and claps his hands
but four times; yet so many are coming and going that the sound of the
clapping is like the sound of a cataract.
Passing by the multitude of worshippers to the other side of the Haiden,
we find ourselves at the foot of a broad flight of iron-bound steps
leading to the great sanctuary—steps which I am told no European
before me was ever permitted to approach. On the lower steps the priests
of the temple, in full ceremonial costume, are waiting to receive us.
Tall men they are, robed in violet and purple silks shot through with
dragon-patterns in gold. Their lofty fantastic head-dresses, their
voluminous and beautiful costume, and the solemn immobility of their
hierophantic attitudes make them at first sight seem marvellous statues
only. Somehow or other there comes suddenly back to me the memory of a
strange French print I used to wonder at when a child, representing a
group of Assyrian astrologers. Only their eyes move as we approach. But
as I reach the steps all simultaneously salute me with a most gracious
bow, for I am the first foreign pilgrim to be honoured by the privilege
of an interview in the holy shrine itself with the princely hierophant,
their master, descendant of the Goddess of the Sun—he who is still
called by myriads of humble worshippers in the remoter districts of this
ancient province Ikigami, 'the living deity.' Then all become absolutely
I remove my shoes, and am about to ascend the steps, when the tall
priest who first received us before the outer gate indicates, by a
single significant gesture, that religion and ancient custom require me,
before ascending to the shrine of the god, to perform the ceremonial
ablution. I hold out my hands; the priest pours the pure water over them
thrice from a ladle-shaped vessel of bamboo with a long handle, and then
gives me a little blue towel to wipe them upon, a Votive towel with
mysterious white characters upon it. Then we all ascend; I feeling very
much like a clumsy barbarian in my ungraceful foreign garb.
Pausing at the head of the steps, the priest inquires my rank in
society. For at Kitzuki hierarchy and hierarchical forms are maintained
with a rigidity as precise as in the period of the gods; and there are
special forms and regulations for the reception of visitors of every
social grade. I do not know what flattering statements Akira may have
made about me to the good priest; but the result is that I can rank only
as a common person—which veracious fact doubtless saves me from some
formalities which would have proved embarrassing, all ignorant as I
still am of that finer and more complex etiquette in which the Japanese
are the world's masters.
The priest leads the way into a vast and lofty apartment opening for its
entire length upon the broad gallery to which the stairway ascends. I
have barely time to notice, while following him, that the chamber
contains three immense shrines, forming alcoves on two sides of it. Of
these, two are veiled by white curtains reaching from ceiling to matting
-curtains decorated with perpendicular rows of black disks about four
inches in diameter, each disk having in its centre a golden blossom. But
from before the third shrine, in the farther angle of the chamber, the
curtains have been withdrawn; and these are of gold brocade, and the
shrine before which they hang is the chief shrine, that of Oho-kuni-
nushi-no-Kami. Within are visible only some of the ordinary emblems of
Shinto, and the exterior of that Holy of Holies into which none may
look. Before it a long low bench, covered with strange objects, has been
placed, with one end toward the gallery and one toward the alcove. At
the end of this bench, near the gallery, I see a majestic bearded
figure, strangely coifed and robed all in white, seated upon the matted
floor in hierophantic attitude. Our priestly guide motions us to take
our places in front of him and to bow down before him. For this is Senke
Takanori, the Guji of Kitzuki, to whom even in his own dwelling none may
speak save on bended knee, descendant of the Goddess of the Sun, and
still by multitudes revered in thought as a being superhuman.
Prostrating myself before him, according to the customary code of
Japanese politeness, I am saluted in return with that exquisite courtesy
which puts a stranger immediately at ease. The priest who acted as our
guide now sits down on the floor at the Guji's left hand; while the
other priests, who followed us to the entrance of the sanctuary only,
take their places upon the gallery without.
Senke Takanori is a youthful and powerful man. As he sits there before
me in his immobile hieratic pose, with his strange lofty head-dress, his
heavy curling beard, and his ample snowy sacerdotal robe broadly
spreading about him in statuesque undulations, he realises for me all
that I had imagined, from the suggestion of old Japanese pictures, about
the personal majesty of the ancient princes and heroes. The dignity
alone of the man would irresistibly compel respect; but with that
feeling of respect there also flashes through me at once the thought of
the profound reverence paid him by the population of the most ancient
province of Japan, the idea of the immense spiritual power in his hands,
the tradition of his divine descent, the sense of the immemorial
nobility of his race—and my respect deepens into a feeling closely
akin to awe. So motionless he is that he seems a sacred statue only—
the temple image of one of his own deified ancestors. But the solemnity
of the first few moments is agreeably broken by his first words, uttered
in a low rich basso, while his dark, kindly eyes remain motionlessly
fixed upon my face. Then my interpreter translates his greeting—large
fine phrases of courtesy—to which I reply as I best know how,
expressing my gratitude for the exceptional favour accorded me.
'You are, indeed,' he responds through Akira, 'the first European ever
permitted to enter into the Oho-yashiro. Other Europeans have visited
Kitzuki and a few have been allowed to enter the temple court; but you
only have been admitted into the dwelling of the god. In past years,
some strangers who desired to visit the temple out of common curiosity
only were not allowed to approach even the court; but the letter of Mr.
Nishida, explaining the object of your visit, has made it a pleasure for
us to receive you thus.'
Again I express my thanks; and after a second exchange of courtesies the
conversation continues through the medium of Akira.
'Is not this great temple of Kitzuki,' I inquire, 'older than the
temples of Ise?'
'Older by far,' replies the Guji; 'so old, indeed, that we do not well
know the age of it. For it was first built by order of the Goddess of
the Sun, in the time when deities alone existed. Then it was exceedingly
magnificent; it was three hundred and twenty feet high. The beams and
the pillars were larger than any existing timber could furnish; and the
framework was bound together firmly with a rope made of taku  fibre,
one thousand fathoms long.
'It was first rebuilt in the time of the Emperor Sui-nin.  The
temple so rebuilt by order of the Emperor Sui-nin was called the
Structure of the Iron Rings, because the pieces of the pillars, which
were composed of the wood of many great trees, had been bound fast
together with huge rings of iron. This temple was also splendid, but far
less splendid than the first, which had been built by the gods, for its
height was only one hundred and sixty feet.
'A third time the temple was rebuilt, in the reign of the Empress Sai-
mei; but this third edifice was only eighty feet high. Since then the
structure of the temple has never varied; and the plan then followed has
been strictly preserved to the least detail in the construction of the
'The Oho-yashiro has been rebuilt twenty-eight times; and it has been
the custom to rebuild it every sixty-one years. But in the long period
of civil war it was not even repaired for more than a hundred years. In
the fourth year of Tai-ei, one Amako Tsune Hisa, becoming Lord of Izumo,
committed the great temple to the charge of a Buddhist priest, and even
built pagodas about it, to the outrage of the holy traditions. But when
the Amako family were succeeded by Moro Mototsugo, this latter purified
the temple, and restored the ancient festivals and ceremonies which
before had been neglected.'
'In the period when the temple was built upon a larger scale,' I ask,
'were the timbers for its construction obtained from the forests of
The priest Sasa, who guided us into the shrine, makes answer: 'It is
recorded that on the fourth day of the seventh month of the third year
of Ten-in one hundred large trees came floating to the sea coast of
Kitzuki, and were stranded there by the tide. With these timbers the
temple was rebuilt in the third year of Ei-kyu; and that structure was
called the Building-of-the-Trees-which-came-floating. Also in the same
third year of Ten-in, a great tree-trunk, one hundred and fifty feet
long, was stranded on the seashore near a shrine called Ube-no-yashiro,
at Miyanoshita-mura, which is in Inaba. Some people wanted to cut the
tree; but they found a great serpent coiled around it, which looked so
terrible that they became frightened, and prayed to the deity of Ube-
noyashiro to protect them; and the deity revealed himself, and said:
"Whensoever the great temple in Izumo is to be rebuilt, one of the gods
of each province sends timber for the building of it, and this time it
is my turn. Build quickly, therefore, with that great tree which is
mine." And therewith the god disappeared. From these and from other
records we learn that the deities have always superintended or aided the
building of the great temple of Kitzuki.'
'In what part of the Oho-yashiro,' I ask, 'do the august deities
assemble during the Kami-ari-zuki?'
'On the east and west sides of the inner court,' replies the priest
Sasa, 'there are two long buildings called the Jiu-kusha. These contain
nineteen shrines, no one of which is dedicated to any particular god;
and we believe it is in the Jiu-ku-sha that the gods assemble.'
'And how many pilgrims from other provinces visit the great shrine
yearly?' I inquire.
'About two hundred and fifty thousand,' the Guji answers. 'But the
number increases or diminishes according to the condition of the
agricultural classes; the more prosperous the season, the larger the
number of pilgrims. It rarely falls below two hundred thousand.'
Many other curious things the Guji and his chief priest then related to
me; telling me the sacred name of each of the courts, and of the fences
and holy groves and the multitudinous shrines and their divinities; even
the names of the great pillars of the temple, which are nine in number,
the central pillar being called the august Heart-Pillar of the Middle.
All things within the temple grounds have sacred names, even the torii
and the bridges.
The priest Sasa called my attention to the fact that the great shrine of
Oho-kuni-nushi-no-Kami faces west, though the great temple faces east,
like all Shinto temples. In the other two shrines of the same apartment,
both facing east, are the first divine Kokuzo of Izumo, his seventeenth
descendant, and the father of Nominosukune, wise prince and famous
wrestler. For in the reign of the Emperor Sui-nin one Kehaya of Taima
had boasted that no man alive was equal to himself in strength.
Nominosukune, by the emperor's command, wrestled with Kehaya, and threw
him down so mightily that Kehaya's ghost departed from him. This was the
beginning of wrestling in Japan; and wrestlers still pray unto
Nominosukune for power and skill.
There are so many other shrines that I could not enumerate the names of
all their deities without wearying those readers unfamiliar with the
traditions and legends of Shinto. But nearly all those divinities who
appear in the legend of the Master of the Great Land are still believed
to dwell here with him, and here their shrines are: the beautiful one,
magically born from the jewel worn in the tresses of the Goddess of the
Sun, and called by men the Torrent-Mist Princess—and the daughter of
the Lord of the World of Shadows, she who loved the Master of the Great
Land, and followed him out of the place of ghosts to become his wife—
and the deity called 'Wondrous-Eight-Spirits,' grandson of the 'Deity of
Water-Gates,' who first made a fire-drill and platters of red clay for
the august banquet of the god at Kitzuki—and many of the heavenly
kindred of these.
The priest Sasa also tells me this:
When Naomasu, grandson of the great Iyeyasu, and first daimyo of that
mighty Matsudaira family who ruled Izumo for two hundred and fifty
years, came to this province, he paid a visit to the Temple of Kitzuki,
and demanded that the miya of the shrine within the shrine should be
opened that he might look upon the sacred objects—upon the shintai or
body of the deity. And this being an impious desire, both of the Kokuzo
 unitedly protested against it. But despite their remonstrances and
their pleadings, he persisted angrily in his demand, so that the priests
found themselves compelled to open the shrine. And the miya being
opened, Naomasu saw within it a great awabi  of nine holes—so
large that it concealed everything behind it. And when he drew still
nearer to look, suddenly the awabi changed itself into a huge serpent
more than fifty feet in length; —and it massed its black coils
before the opening of the shrine, and hissed like the sound of raging
fire, and looked so terrible, that Naomasu and those with him fled away
-having been able to see naught else. And ever thereafter Naomasu
feared and reverenced the god.
The Guji then calls my attention to the quaint relics lying upon the
long low bench between us, which is covered with white silk: a metal
mirror, found in preparing the foundation of the temple when rebuilt
many hundred years ago; magatama jewels of onyx and jasper; a Chinese
flute made of jade; a few superb swords, the gifts of shoguns and
emperors; helmets of splendid antique workmanship; and a bundle of
enormous arrows with double-pointed heads of brass, fork-shaped and
After I have looked at these relics and learned something of their
history, the Guji rises and says to me, 'Now we will show you the
ancient fire-drill of Kitzuki, with which the sacred fire is kindled.'
Descending the steps, we pass again before the Haiden, and enter a
spacious edifice on one side of the court, of nearly equal size with the
Hall of Prayer. Here I am agreeably surprised to find a long handsome
mahogany table at one end of the main apartment into which we are
ushered, and mahogany chairs placed all about it for the reception of
guests. I am motioned to one chair, my interpreter to another; and the
Guji and his priests take their seats also at the table. Then an
attendant sets before me a handsome bronze stand about three feet long,
on which rests an oblong something carefully wrapped in snow-white
cloths. The Guji removes the wrappings; and I behold the most primitive
form of fire-drill known to exist in the Orient.  It is simply a
very thick piece of solid white plank, about two and a half feet long,
with a line of holes drilled along its upper edge, so that the upper
part of each hole breaks through the sides of the plank. The sticks
which produce the fire, when fixed in the holes and rapidly rubbed
between the palms of the hands, are made of a lighter kind of white
wood; they are about two feet long, and as thick as a common lead
While I am yet examining this curious simple utensil, the invention of
which tradition ascribes to the gods, and modern science to the earliest
childhood of the human race, a priest places upon the table a light,
large wooden box, about three feet long, eighteen inches wide, and four
inches high at the sides, but higher in the middle, as the top is arched
like the shell of a tortoise. This object is made of the same hinoki
wood as the drill; and two long slender sticks are laid beside it. I at
first suppose it to be another fire-drill. But no human being could
guess what it really is. It is called the koto-ita, and is one of the
most primitive of musical instruments; the little sticks are used to
strike it. At a sign from the Guji two priests place the box upon the
floor, seat themselves on either side of it, and taking up the little
sticks begin to strike the lid with them, alternately and slowly, at the
same time uttering a most singular and monotonous chant. One intones
only the sounds, 'Ang! ang!' and the other responds, 'Ong! ong!' The
koto-ita gives out a sharp, dead, hollow sound as the sticks fall upon
it in time to each utterance of 'Ang! ang!' 'Ong! ong!' 
These things I learn:
Each year the temple receives a new fire-drill; but the fire-drill is
never made in Kitzuki, but in Kumano, where the traditional regulations
as to the manner of making it have been preserved from the time of the
gods. For the first Kokuzo of Izumo, on becoming pontiff, received the
fire-drill for the great temple from the hands of the deity who was the
younger brother of the Sun-Goddess, and is now enshrined at Kumano. And
from his time the fire-drills for the Oho-yashiro of Kitzuki have been
made only at Kumano.
Until very recent times the ceremony of delivering the new fire-drill to
the Guji of Kitzuki always took place at the great temple of Oba, on the
occasion of the festival called Unohimatauri. This ancient festival,
which used to be held in the eleventh month, became obsolete after the
Revolution everywhere except at Oba in Izumo, where Izanami-no-Kami, the
mother of gods and men, is enshrined.
Once a year, on this festival, the Kokuzo always went to Oba, taking
with him a gift of double rice-cakes. At Oba he was met by a personage
called the Kame-da-yu, who brought the fire-drill from Kumano and
delivered it to the priests at Oba. According to tradition, the Kame-da-
yu had to act a somewhat ludicrous role so that no Shinto priest ever
cared to perform the part, and a man was hired for it. The duty of the
Kame-da-yu was to find fault with the gift presented to the temple by
the Kokuzo; and in this district of Japan there is still a proverbial
saying about one who is prone to find fault without reason, 'He is like
The Kame-da-yu would inspect the rice-cakes and begin to criticise them.
'They are much smaller this year,' he would observe, 'than they were
last year.' The priests would reply: 'Oh, you are honourably mistaken;
they are in truth very much larger.' 'The colour is not so white this
year as it was last year; and the rice-flour is not finely ground.' For
all these imaginary faults of the mochi the priests would offer
elaborate explanations or apologies.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, the sakaki branches used in it were
eagerly bid for, and sold at high prices, being believed to possess
It nearly always happened that there was a great storm either on the day
the Kokuzo went to Oba, or upon the day he returned therefrom. The
journey had to be made during what is in Izumo the most stormy season
(December by the new calendar). But in popular belief these storms were
in some tremendous way connected with the divine personality of the
Kokuzo whose attributes would thus appear to present some curious
analogy with those of the Dragon-God. Be that as it may, the great
periodical storms of the season are still in this province called
Kokuzo-are ; it is still the custom in Izumo to say merrily to the
guest who arrives or departs in a time of tempest, 'Why, you are like
The Guji waves his hand, and from the farther end of the huge apartment
there comes a sudden burst of strange music—a sound of drums and
bamboo flutes; and turning to look, I see the musicians, three men,
seated upon the matting, and a young girl with them. At another sign
from the Guji the girl rises. She is barefooted and robed in snowy
white, a virgin priestess. But below the hem of the white robe I see the
gleam of hakama of crimson silk. She advances to a little table in the
middle of the apartment, upon which a queer instrument is lying, shaped
somewhat like a branch with twigs bent downward, from each of which
hangs a little bell. Taking this curious object in both hands, she
begins a sacred dance, unlike anything I ever saw before. Her every
movement is a poem, because she is very graceful; and yet her
performance could scarcely be called a dance, as we understand the word;
it is rather a light swift walk within a circle, during which she shakes
the instrument at regular intervals, making all the little bells ring.
Her face remains impassive as a beautiful mask, placid and sweet as the
face of a dreaming Kwannon; and her white feet are pure of line as the
feet of a marble nymph. Altogether, with her snowy raiment and white
flesh and passionless face, she seems rather a beautiful living statue
than a Japanese maiden. And all the while the weird flutes sob and
shrill, and the muttering of the drums is like an incantation.
What I have seen is called the Dance of the Miko, the Divineress.
Then we visit the other edifices belonging to the temple: the
storehouse; the library; the hall of assembly, a massive structure two
stories high, where may be seen the portraits of the Thirty-Six Great
Poets, painted by Tosano Mitsu Oki more than a thousand years ago, and
still in an excellent state of preservation. Here we are also shown a
curious magazine, published monthly by the temple—a record of Shinto
news, and a medium for the discussion of questions relating to the
After we have seen all the curiosities of the temple, the Guji invites
us to his private residence near the temple to show us other treasures—
letters of Yoritomo, of Hideyoshi, of Iyeyasu; documents in the
handwriting of the ancient emperors and the great shoguns, hundreds of
which precious manuscripts he keeps in a cedar chest. In case of fire
the immediate removal of this chest to a place of safety would be the
first duty of the servants of the household.
Within his own house the Guji, attired in ordinary Japanese full dress
only, appears no less dignified as a private gentleman than he first
seemed as pontiff in his voluminous snowy robe. But no host could be
more kindly or more courteous or more generous. I am also much impressed
by the fine appearance of his suite of young priests, now dressed, like
himself, in the national costume; by the handsome, aquiline,
aristocratic faces, totally different from those of ordinary Japanese-
faces suggesting the soldier rather than the priest. One young man has a
superb pair of thick black moustaches, which is something rarely to be
seen in Japan.
At parting our kind host presents me with the ofuda, or sacred charms
given to pilgrimsh—two pretty images of the chief deities of Kitzuki—
and a number of documents relating to the history of the temple and of
Having taken our leave of the kind Guji and his suite, we are guided to
Inasa-no-hama, a little sea-bay at the rear of the town, by the priest
Sasa, and another kannushi. This priest Sasa is a skilled poet and a man
of deep learning in Shinto history and the archaic texts of the sacred
books. He relates to us many curious legends as we stroll along the
This shore, now a popular bathing resort—bordered with airy little
inns and pretty tea-houses—is called Inasa because of a Shinto
tradition that here the god Oho-kuni-nushi-noKami, the Master-of-the-
Great-Land, was first asked to resign his dominion over the land of
Izumo in favour of Masa-ka-a-katsu-kachi-hayabi-ame-no-oshi-ho-mimi-no-
mikoto; the word Inasa signifying 'Will you consent or not?'  In
the thirty-second section of the first volume of the Kojiki the legend
is written: I cite a part thereof:
'The two deities (Tori-bune-no-Kami and Take-mika-dzuchi-no-wo-no-Kami),
descending to the little shore of Inasa in the land of Izumo, drew their
swords ten handbreadths long, and stuck them upside down on the crest of
a wave, and seated themselves cross-legged upon the points of the
swords, and asked the Deity Master-of-the-Great-Land, saying: "The
Heaven-Shining-Great-August-Deity and the High-Integrating-Deity have
charged us and sent us to ask, saying: 'We have deigned to charge our
august child with thy dominion, as the land which he should govern. So
how is thy heart?'" He replied, saying: "I am unable to say. My son Ya-
he-koto-shiro-nushi-no-Kami will be the one to tell you." . . . So they
asked the Deity again, saying: "Thy son Koto-shiro-nushi-no-Kami has now
spoken thus. Hast thou other sons who should speak?" He spoke again,
saying: "There is my other son, Take-mi-na-gata-no-Kami." . . . While he
was thus speaking the Deity Take-mi-na-gata-no-Kami came up [from the
sea], bearing on the tips of his fingers a rock which it would take a
thousand men to lift, and said, "I should like to have a trial of
Here, close to the beach, stands a little miya called Inasa-no-kami-no-
yashiro, or, the Temple of the God of Inasa; and therein Take-mika-dzu-
chi-no-Kami, who conquered in the trial of strength, is enshrined. And
near the shore the great rock which Take-mi-na-gata-no-Kami lifted upon
the tips of his fingers, may be seen rising from the water. And it is
We invite the priests to dine with us at one of the little inns facing
the breezy sea; and there we talk about many things, but particularly
about Kitzuki and the Kokuzo.
Only a generation ago the religious power of the Kokuzo extended over
the whole of the province of the gods; he was in fact as well as in name
the Spiritual Governor of Izumo. His jurisdiction does not now extend
beyond the limits of Kitzuki, and his correct title is no longer Kokuzo,
but Guji.  Yet to the simple-hearted people of remoter districts he
is still a divine or semi-divine being, and is mentioned by his ancient
title, the inheritance of his race from the epoch of the gods. How
profound a reverence was paid to him in former ages can scarcely be
imagined by any who have not long lived among the country folk of Izumo.
Outside of Japan perhaps no human being, except the Dalai Lama of
Thibet, was so humbly venerated and so religiously beloved. Within Japan
itself only the Son of Heaven, the 'Tenshi-Sama,' standing as mediator
'between his people and the Sun,' received like homage; but the
worshipful reverence paid to the Mikado was paid to a dream rather than
to a person, to a name rather than to a reality, for the Tenshi-Sama was
ever invisible as a deity 'divinely retired,' and in popular belief no
man could look upon his face and live.  Invisibility and mystery
vastly enhanced the divine legend of the Mikado. But the Kokuzo, within
his own province, though visible to the multitude and often journeying
among the people, received almost equal devotion; so that his material
power, though rarely, if ever, exercised, was scarcely less than that of
the Daimyo of Izumo himself. It was indeed large enough to render him a
person with whom the shogunate would have deemed it wise policy to
remain upon good terms. An ancestor of the present Guji even defied the
great Taiko Hideyoshi, refusing to obey his command to furnish troops
with the haughty answer that he would receive no order from a man of
common birth.  This defiance cost the family the loss of a large
part of its estates by confiscation, but the real power of the Kokuzo
remained unchanged until the period of the new civilisation.
Out of many hundreds of stories of a similar nature, two little
traditions may be cited as illustrations of the reverence in which the
Kokuzo was formerly held.
It is related that there was a man who, believing himself to have become
rich by favour of the Daikoku of Kitzuki, desired to express his
gratitude by a gift of robes to the Kokuzo.
The Kokuzo courteously declined the proffer; but the pious worshipper
persisted in his purpose, and ordered a tailor to make the robes. The
tailor, having made them, demanded a price that almost took his patron's
breath away. Being asked to give his reason for demanding such a price,
he made answer: Having made robes for the Kokuzo, I cannot hereafter
make garments for any other person. Therefore I must have money enough
to support me for the rest of my life.'
The second story dates back to about one hundred and seventy years ago.
Among the samurai of the Matsue clan in the time of Nobukori, fifth
daimyo of the Matsudaira family, there was one Sugihara Kitoji, who was
stationed in some military capacity at Kitzuki. He was a great favourite
with the Kokuzo, and used often to play at chess with him. During a
game, one evening, this officer suddenly became as one paralysed, unable
to move or speak. For a moment all was anxiety and confusion; but the
Kokuzo said: 'I know the cause. My friend was smoking, and although
smoking disagrees with me, I did not wish to spoil his pleasure by
telling him so. But the Kami, seeing that I felt ill, became angry with
him. Now I shall make him well.' Whereupon the Kokuzo uttered some
magical word, and the officer was immediately as well as before.
Once more we are journeying through the silence of this holy land of
mists and of legends; wending our way between green leagues of ripening
rice white-sprinkled with arrows of prayer between the far processions
of blue and verdant peaks whose names are the names of gods. We have
left Kitzuki far behind. But as in a dream I still see the mighty
avenue, the long succession of torii with their colossal shimenawa, the
majestic face of the Guji, the kindly smile of the priest Sasa, and the
girl priestess in her snowy robes dancing her beautiful ghostly dance.
It seems to me that I can still hear the sound of the clapping of hands,
like the crashing of a torrent. I cannot suppress some slight exultation
at the thought that I have been allowed to see what no other foreigner
has been privileged to see—the interior of Japan's most ancient
shrine, and those sacred utensils and quaint rites of primitive worship
so well worthy the study of the anthropologist and the evolutionist.
But to have seen Kitzuki as I saw it is also to have seen something much
more than a single wonderful temple. To see Kitzuki is to see the living
centre of Shinto, and to feel the life-pulse of the ancient faith,
throbbing as mightily in this nineteenth century as ever in that unknown
past whereof the Kojiki itself, though written in a tongue no longer
spoken, is but a modern record.  Buddhism, changing form or slowly
decaying through the centuries, might seem doomed to pass away at last
from this Japan to which it came only as an alien faith; but Shinto,
unchanging and vitally unchanged, still remains all dominant in the land
of its birth, and only seems to gain in power and dignity with time.
Buddhism has a voluminous theology, a profound philosophy, a literature
vast as the sea. Shinto has no philosophy, no code of ethics, no
metaphysics; and yet, by its very immateriality, it can resist the
invasion of Occidental religious thought as no other Orient faith can.
Shinto extends a welcome to Western science, but remains the
irresistible opponent of Western religion; and the foreign zealots who
would strive against it are astounded to find the power that foils their
uttermost efforts indefinable as magnetism and invulnerable as air.
Indeed the best of our scholars have never been able to tell us what
Shinto is. To some it appears to be merely ancestor-worship, to others
ancestor-worship combined with nature-worship; to others, again, it
seems to be no religion at all; to the missionary of the more ignorant
class it is the worst form of heathenism. Doubtless the difficulty of
explaining Shinto has been due simply to the fact that the sinologists
have sought for the source of it in books: in the Kojiki and the
Nihongi, which are its histories; in the Norito, which are its prayers;
in the commentaries of Motowori and Hirata, who were its greatest
scholars. But the reality of Shinto lives not in books, nor in rites,
nor in commandments, but in the national heart, of which it is the
highest emotional religious expression, immortal and ever young. Far
underlying all the surface crop of quaint superstitions and artless
myths and fantastic magic there thrills a mighty spiritual force, the
whole soul of a race with all its impulses and powers and intuitions. He
who would know what Shinto is must learn to know that mysterious soul in
which the sense of beauty and the power of art and the fire of heroism
and magnetism of loyalty and the emotion of faith have become inherent,
immanent, unconscious, instinctive.
Trusting to know something of that Oriental soul in whose joyous love of
nature and of life even the unlearned may discern a strange likeness to
the soul of the old Greek race, I trust also that I may presume some day
to speak of the great living power of that faith now called Shinto, but
more anciently Kami-no-michi, or 'The Way of the Gods.'
In the Cave of the Children's Ghosts
IT is forbidden to go to Kaka if there be wind enough 'to move three
Now an absolutely windless day is rare on this wild western coast. Over
the Japanese Sea, from Korea, or China, or boreal Siberia, some west or
north-west breeze is nearly always blowing. So that I have had to wait
many long months for a good chance to visit Kaka.
Taking the shortest route, one goes first to Mitsu-ura from Matsue,
either by kuruma or on foot. By kuruma this little journey occupies
nearly two hours and a half, though the distance is scarcely seven
miles, the road being one of the worst in all Izumo. You leave Matsue to
enter at once into a broad plain, level as a lake, all occupied by rice-
fields and walled in by wooded hills. The path, barely wide enough for a
single vehicle, traverses this green desolation, climbs the heights
beyond it, and descends again into another and a larger level of rice-
fields, surrounded also by hills. The path over the second line of hills
is much steeper; then a third rice-plain must be crossed and a third
chain of green altitudes, lofty enough to merit the name of mountains.
Of course one must make the ascent on foot: it is no small labour for a
kurumaya to pull even an empty kuruma up to the top; and how he manages
to do so without breaking the little vehicle is a mystery, for the path
is stony and rough as the bed of a torrent. A tiresome climb I find it;
but the landscape view from the summit is more than compensation.
Then descending, there remains a fourth and last wide level of rice-
fields to traverse. The absolute flatness of the great plains between
the ranges, and the singular way in which these latter 'fence off' the
country into sections, are matters for surprise even in a land of
surprises like Japan. Beyond the fourth rice-valley there is a fourth
hill-chain, lower and richly wooded, on reaching the base of which the
traveller must finally abandon his kuruma, and proceed over the hills on
foot. Behind them lies the sea. But the very worst bit of the journey
now begins. The path makes an easy winding ascent between bamboo growths
and young pine and other vegetation for a shaded quarter of a mile,
passing before various little shrines and pretty homesteads surrounded
by high-hedged gardens. Then it suddenly breaks into steps, or rather
ruins of steps—partly hewn in the rock, partly built, everywhere
breached and worn which descend, all edgeless, in a manner amazingly
precipitous, to the village of Mitsu-ura. With straw sandals, which
never slip, the country folk can nimbly hurry up or down such a path;
but with foreign footgear one slips at nearly every step; and when you
reach the bottom at last, the wonder of how you managed to get there,
even with the assistance of your faithful kurumaya, keeps you for a
moment quite unconscious of the fact that you are already in Mitsu-ura.
Mitsu-ura stands with its back to the mountains, at the end of a small
deep bay hemmed in by very high cliffs. There is only one narrow strip
of beach at the foot of the heights; and the village owes its existence
to that fact, for beaches are rare on this part of the coast. Crowded
between the cliffs and the sea, the houses have a painfully compressed
aspect; and somehow the greater number give one the impression of things
created out of wrecks of junks. The little streets, or rather alleys,
are full of boats and skeletons of boats and boat timbers; and
everywhere, suspended from bamboo poles much taller than the houses,
immense bright brown fishing-nets are drying in the sun. The whole curve
of the beach is also lined with boats, lying side by side so that I
wonder how it will be possible to get to the water's edge without
climbing over them. There is no hotel; but I find hospitality in a
fisherman's dwelling, while my kurumaya goes somewhere to hire a boat
In less than ten minutes there is a crowd of several hundred people
about the house, half-clad adults and perfectly naked boys. They
blockade the building; they obscure the light by filling up the doorways
and climbing into the windows to look at the foreigner. The aged
proprietor of the cottage protests in vain, says harsh things; the crowd
only thickens. Then all the sliding screens are closed. But in the paper
panes there are holes; and at all the lower holes the curious take
regular turns at peeping. At a higher hole I do some peeping myself. The
crowd is not prepossessing: it is squalid, dull-featured, remarkably
ugly. But it is gentle and silent; and there are one or two pretty faces
in it which seem extraordinary by reason of the general homeliness of
At last my kurumaya has succeeded in making arrangements for a boat; and
I effect a sortie to the beach, followed by the kurumaya and by all my
besiegers. Boats have been moved to make a passage for us, and we embark
without trouble of any sort. Our crew consists of two scullers—an old
man at the stem, wearing only a rokushaku about his loins, and an old
woman at the bow, fully robed and wearing an immense straw hat shaped
like a mushroom. Both of course stand to their work and it would be hard
to say which is the stronger or more skilful sculler. We passengers
squat Oriental fashion upon a mat in the centre of the boat, where a
hibachi, well stocked with glowing charcoal, invites us to smoke.
The day is clear blue to the end of the world, with a faint wind from
the east, barely enough to wrinkle the sea, certainly more than enough
to 'move three hairs.' Nevertheless the boatwoman and the boatman do not
seem anxious; and I begin to wonder whether the famous prohibition is
not a myth. So delightful the transparent water looks, that before we
have left the bay I have to yield to its temptation by plunging in and
swimming after the boat. When I climb back on board we are rounding the
promontory on the right; and the little vessel begins to rock. Even
under this thin wind the sea is moving in long swells. And as we pass
into the open, following the westward trend of the land, we find
ourselves gliding over an ink-black depth, in front of one of the very
grimmest coasts I ever saw.
A tremendous line of dark iron-coloured cliffs, towering sheer from the
sea without a beach, and with never a speck of green below their
summits; and here and there along this terrible front, monstrous
beetlings, breaches, fissures, earthquake rendings, and topplings-down.
Enormous fractures show lines of strata pitched up skyward, or plunging
down into the ocean with the long fall of cubic miles of cliff. Before
fantastic gaps, prodigious masses of rock, of all nightmarish shapes,
rise from profundities unfathomed. And though the wind to-day seems
trying to hold its breath, white breakers are reaching far up the
cliffs, and dashing their foam into the faces of the splintered crags.
We are too far to hear the thunder of them; but their ominous sheet-
lightning fully explains to me the story of the three hairs. Along this
goblin coast on a wild day there would be no possible chance for the
strongest swimmer, or the stoutest boat; there is no place for the foot,
no hold for the hand, nothing but the sea raving against a precipice of
iron. Even to-day, under the feeblest breath imaginable, great swells
deluge us with spray as they splash past. And for two long hours this
jagged frowning coast towers by; and, as we toil on, rocks rise around
us like black teeth; and always, far away, the foam-bursts gleam at the
feet of the implacable cliffs. But there are no sounds save the lapping
and plashing of passing swells, and the monotonous creaking of the
sculls upon their pegs of wood.
At last, at last, a bay—a beautiful large bay, with a demilune of soft
green hills about it, overtopped by far blue mountains—and in the very
farthest point of the bay a miniature village, in front of which many
junks are riding at anchor: Kaka-ura.
But we do not go to Kaka-ura yet; the Kukedo are not there. We cross the
broad opening of the bay, journey along another half-mile of ghastly
sea-precipice, and finally make for a lofty promontory of naked Plutonic
rock. We pass by its menacing foot, slip along its side, and lo! at an
angle opens the arched mouth of a wonderful cavern, broad, lofty, and
full of light, with no floor but the sea. Beneath us, as we slip into
it, I can see rocks fully twenty feet down. The water is clear as air.
This is the Shin-Kukedo, called the New Cavern, though assuredly older
than human record by a hundred thousand years.
A more beautiful sea-cave could scarcely be imagined. The sea,
tunnelling the tall promontory through and through, has also, like a
great architect, ribbed and groined and polished its mighty work. The
arch of the entrance is certainly twenty feet above the deep water, and
fifteen wide; and trillions of wave tongues have licked the vault and
walls into wondrous smoothness. As we proceed, the rock-roof steadily
heightens and the way widens. Then we unexpectedly glide under a heavy
shower of fresh water, dripping from overhead. This spring is called the
o-chozubachi or mitarashi  of Shin-Kukedo-San.. From the high vault
at this point it is believed that a great stone will detach itself and
fall upon any evil-hearted person who should attempt to enter the cave.
I safely pass through the ordeal!
Suddenly as we advance the boatwoman takes a stone from the bottom of
the boat, and with it begins to rap heavily on the bow; and the hollow
echoing is reiterated with thundering repercussions through all the
cave. And in another instant we pass into a great burst of light, coming
from the mouth of a magnificent and lofty archway on the left, opening
into the cavern at right angles. This explains the singular illumination
of the long vault, which at first seemed to come from beneath; for while
the opening was still invisible all the water appeared to be suffused
with light. Through this grand arch, between outlying rocks, a strip of
beautiful green undulating coast appears, over miles of azure water. We
glide on toward the third entrance to the Kukedo, opposite to that by
which we came in; and enter the dwelling-place of the Kami and the
Hotoke, for this grotto is sacred both to Shinto and to Buddhist faith.
Here the Kukedo reaches its greatest altitude and breadth. Its vault is
fully forty feet above the water, and its walls thirty feet apart. Far
up on the right, near the roof, is a projecting white rock, and above
the rock an orifice wherefrom a slow stream drips, seeming white as the
This is the legendary Fountain of Jizo, the fountain of milk at which
the souls of dead children drink. Sometimes it flows more swiftly,
sometimes more slowly; but it never ceases by night or day. And mothers
suffering from want of milk come hither to pray that milk may be given
unto them; and their prayer is heard. And mothers having more milk than
their infants need come hither also, and pray to Jizo that so much as
they can give may be taken for the dead children; and their prayer is
heard, and their milk diminishes.
At least thus the peasants of Izumo say.
And the echoing of the swells leaping against the rocks without, the
rushing and rippling of the tide against the walls, the heavy rain of
percolating water, sounds of lapping and gurgling and plashing, and
sounds of mysterious origin coming from no visible where, make it
difficult for us to hear each other speak. The cavern seems full of
voices, as if a host of invisible beings were holding tumultuous
Below us all the deeply lying rocks are naked to view as if seen through
glass. It seems to me that nothing could be more delightful than to swim
through this cave and let one's self drift with the sea-currents through
all its cool shadows. But as I am on the point of jumping in, all the
other occupants of the boat utter wild cries of protest. It is certain
death! men who jumped in here only six months ago were never heard of
again! this is sacred water, Kami-no-umi! And as if to conjure away my
temptation, the boatwoman again seizes her little stone and raps
fearfully upon the bow. On finding, however, that I am not sufficiently
deterred by these stories of sudden death and disappearance, she
suddenly screams into my ear the magical word,
Sharks! I have no longer any desire whatever to swim through the many-
sounding halls of Shin-Kukedo-San. I have lived in the tropics!
And we start forthwith for Kyu-Kukedo-San, the Ancient Cavern.
For the ghastly fancies about the Kami-no-umi, the word 'same' afforded
a satisfactory explanation. But why that long, loud, weird rapping on
the bow with a stone evidently kept on board for no other purpose? There
was an exaggerated earnestness about the action which gave me an uncanny
sensation—something like that which moves a man while walking at night
upon a lonesome road, full of queer shadows, to sing at the top of his
voice. The boatwoman at first declares that the rapping was made only
for the sake of the singular echo. But after some cautious further
questioning, I discover a much more sinister reason for the performance.
Moreover, I learn that all the seamen and seawomen of this coast do the
same thing when passing through perilous places, or places believed to
be haunted by the Ma. What are the Ma?
From the caves of the Kami we retrace our course for about a quarter of
a mile; then make directly for an immense perpendicular wrinkle in the
long line of black cliffs. Immediately before it a huge dark rock towers
from the sea, whipped by the foam of breaking swells. Rounding it, we
glide behind it into still water and shadow, the shadow of a monstrous
cleft in the precipice of the coast. And suddenly, at an unsuspected
angle, the mouth of another cavern yawns before us; and in another
moment our boat touches its threshold of stone with a little shock that
sends a long sonorous echo, like the sound of a temple drum, booming
through all the abysmal place. A single glance tells me whither we have
come. Far within the dusk I see the face of a Jizo, smiling in pale
stone, and before him, and all about him, a weird congregation of grey
shapes without shape—a host of fantasticalities that strangely suggest
the wreck of a cemetery. From the sea the ribbed floor of the cavern
slopes high through deepening shadows hack to the black mouth of a
farther grotto; and all that slope is covered with hundreds and
thousands of forms like shattered haka. But as the eyes grow accustomed
to the gloaming it becomes manifest that these were never haka; they are
only little towers of stone and pebbles deftly piled up by long and
'Shinda kodomo no shigoto,' my kurumaya murmurs with a compassionate
smile; 'all this is the work of the dead children.'
And we disembark. By counsel, I take off my shoes and put on a pair of
zori, or straw sandals provided for me, as the rock is extremely
slippery. The others land barefoot. But how to proceed soon becomes a
puzzle: the countless stone-piles stand so close together that no space
for the foot seems to be left between them.
'Mada michiga arimasu!' the boatwoman announces, leading the way. There
is a path.
Following after her, we squeeze ourselves between the wall of the cavern
on the right and some large rocks, and discover a very, very narrow
passage left open between the stone-towers. But we are warned to be
careful for the sake of the little ghosts: if any of their work be
overturned, they will cry. So we move very cautiously and slowly across
the cave to a space bare of stone-heaps, where the rocky floor is
covered with a thin layer of sand, detritus of a crumbling ledge above
it. And in that sand I see light prints of little feet, children's feet,
tiny naked feet, only three or four inches long—the footprints of the
Had we come earlier, the boatwoman says, we should have seen many more.
For 'tis at night, when the soil of the cavern is moist with dews and
drippings from the roof, that They leave Their footprints upon it; but
when the heat of the day comes, and the sand and the rocks dry up, the
prints of the little feet vanish away.
There are only three footprints visible, but these are singularly
distinct. One points toward the wall of the cavern; the others toward
the sea. Here and there, upon ledges or projections of the rock, all
about the cavern, tiny straw sandals—children's zori—are lying:
offerings of pilgrims to the little ones, that their feet may not be
wounded by the stones. But all the ghostly footprints are prints of
Then we advance, picking our way very, very carefully between the stone-
towers, toward the mouth of the inner grotto, and reach the statue of
Jizo before it. A seated Jizo carven in granite, holding in one hand the
mystic jewel by virtue of which all wishes may be fulfilled; in the
other his shakujo, or pilgrim's staff. Before him (strange condescension
of Shinto faith!) a little torii has been erected, and a pair of gohei!
Evidently this gentle divinity has no enemies; at the feet of the lover
of children's ghosts, both creeds unite in tender homage.
I said feet. But this subterranean Jizo has only one foot. The carven
lotus on which he reposes has been fractured and broken: two great
petals are missing; and the right foot, which must have rested upon one
of them, has been knocked off at the ankle. This, I learn upon inquiry,
has been done by the waves. In times of great storm the billows rush
into the cavern like raging Oni, and sweep all the little stone towers
into shingle as they come, and dash the statues against the rocks. But
always during the first still night after the tempest the work is
reconstructed as before!
Hotoke ga shimpai shite: naki-naki tsumi naoshi-masu.' They make
mourning, the hotoke; weeping, they pile up the stones again, they
rebuild their towers of prayer.
All about the black mouth of the inner grotto the bone-coloured rock
bears some resemblance to a vast pair of yawning jaws. Downward from
this sinister portal the cavern-floor slopes into a deeper and darker
aperture. And within it, as one's eyes become accustomed to the gloom, a
still larger vision of stone towers is disclosed; and beyond them, in a
nook of the grotto, three other statues of Jizo smile, each one with a
torii before it. Here I have the misfortune to upset first one stone-
pile and then another, while trying to proceed. My kurumaya, almost
simultaneously, ruins a third. To atone therefore, we must build six new
towers, or double the number of those which we have cast down. And while
we are thus busied, the boatwoman tells of two fishermen who remained in
the cavern through all one night, and heard the humming of the viewless
gathering, and sounds of speech, like the speech of children murmuring
Only at night do the shadowy children come to build their little stone-
heaps at the feet of Jizo; and it is said that every night the stones
are changed. When I ask why they do not work by day, when there is none
to see them, I am answered: 'O-Hi-San  might see them; the dead
exceedingly fear the Lady-Sun.'
To the question, 'Why do they come from the sea?' I can get no
satisfactory answer. But doubtless in the quaint imagination of this
people, as also in that of many another, there lingers still the
primitive idea of some communication, mysterious and awful, between the
world of waters and the world of the dead. It is always over the sea,
after the Feast of Souls, that the spirits pass murmuring back to their
dim realm, in those elfish little ships of straw which are launched for
them upon the sixteenth day of the seventh moon. Even when these are
launched upon rivers, or when floating lanterns are set adrift upon
lakes or canals to light the ghosts upon their way, or when a mother
bereaved drops into some running stream one hundred little prints of
Jizo for the sake of her lost darling, the vague idea behind the pious
act is that all waters flow to the sea and the sea itself unto the
Some time, somewhere, this day will come back to me at night, with its
visions and sounds: the dusky cavern, and its grey hosts of stone
climbing back into darkness, and the faint prints of little naked feet,
and the weirdly smiling images, and the broken syllables of the waters
inward-borne, multiplied by husky echoings, blending into one vast
ghostly whispering, like the humming of the Sai-no-Kawara.
And over the black-blue bay we glide to the rocky beach of Kaka-ura.
As at Mitsu-ura, the water's edge is occupied by a serried line of
fishing-boats, each with its nose to the sea; and behind these are ranks
of others; and it is only just barely possible to squeeze one's way
between them over the beach to the drowsy, pretty, quaint little streets
behind them. Everybody seems to be asleep when we first land: the only
living creature visible is a cat, sitting on the stern of a boat; and
even that cat, according to Japanese beliefs, might not be a real cat,
but an o-bake or a nekomata—in short, a goblin-cat, for it has a long
tail. It is hard work to discover the solitary hotel: there are no
signs; and every house seems a private house, either a fisherman's or a
farmer's. But the little place is worth wandering about in. A kind of
yellow stucco is here employed to cover the exterior of walls; and this
light warm tint under the bright blue day gives to the miniature streets
a more than cheerful aspect.
When we do finally discover the hotel, we have to wait quite a good
while before going in; for nothing is ready; everybody is asleep or
away, though all the screens and sliding-doors are open. Evidently there
are no thieves in Kaka-ura. The hotel is on a little hillock, and is
approached from the main street (the rest are only miniature alleys) by
two little flights of stone steps. Immediately across the way I see a
Zen temple and a Shinto temple, almost side by side.
At last a pretty young woman, naked to the waist, with a bosom like a
Naiad, comes running down the street to the hotel at a surprising speed,
bowing low with a smile as she hurries by us into the house. This little
person is the waiting-maid of the inn, O-Kayo-San—name signifying
'Years of Bliss.' Presently she reappears at the threshold, fully robed
in a nice kimono, and gracefully invites us to enter, which we are only
too glad to do. The room is neat and spacious; Shinto kakemono from
Kitzuki are suspended in the toko and upon the walls; and in one corner
I see a very handsome Zen-but-sudan, or household shrine. (The form of
the shrine, as well as the objects of worship therein, vary according to
the sect of the worshippers.) Suddenly I become aware that it is growing
strangely dark; and looking about me, perceive that all the doors and
windows and other apertures of the inn are densely blocked up by a
silent, smiling crowd which has gathered to look at me. I could not have
believed there were so many people in Kaka-ura.
In a Japanese house, during the hot season, everything is thrown open to
the breeze. All the shoji or sliding paper-screens, which serve for
windows; and all the opaque paper-screens (fusuma) used in other seasons
to separate apartments, are removed. There is nothing left between floor
and roof save the frame or skeleton of the building; the dwelling is
literally unwalled, and may be seen through in any direction. The
landlord, finding the crowd embarrassing, closes up the building in
front. The silent, smiling crowd goes to the rear. The rear is also
closed. Then the crowd masses to right and left of the house; and both
sides have to be closed, which makes it insufferably hot. And the crowd
make gentle protest.
Wherefore our host, being displeased, rebukes the multitude with
argument and reason, yet without lifting his voice. (Never do these
people lift up their voices in anger.) And what he says I strive to
translate, with emphasis, as follows:
'You-as-for! outrageousness doing—what marvellous is?
'Theatre is not!
'Juggler is not!
'Wrestler is not!
'What amusing is?
'Honourable-Guest this is!
'Now august-to-eat-time-is; to-look-at evil matter is.
But outside, soft laughing voices continue to plead; pleading,
shrewdly enough, only with the feminine portion of the family:
the landlord's heart is less easily touched. And these, too,
have their arguments:
'Shoji-to-open-condescend!—want to see! 'Though-we-look-at,
'So that not-to-hinder looking-at is good.
'Hasten therefore to open!'
As for myself, I would gladly protest against this sealing-up, for there
is nothing offensive nor even embarrassing in the gaze of these
innocent, gentle people; but as the landlord seems to be personally
annoyed, I do not like to interfere. The crowd, however, does not go
away: it continues to increase, waiting for my exit. And there is one
high window in the rear, of which the paper-panes contain some holes;
and I see shadows of little people climbing up to get to the holes.
Presently there is an eye at every hole.
When I approach the window, the peepers drop noiselessly to the ground,
with little timid bursts of laughter, and run away. But they soon come
back again. A more charming crowd could hardly be imagined: nearly all
boys and girls, half-naked because of the heat, but fresh and clean as
flower-buds. Many of the faces are surprisingly pretty; there are but
very few which are not extremely pleasing. But where are the men, and
the old women? Truly, this population seems not of Kaka-ura, but rather
of the Sai-no-Kawara. The boys look like little Jizo.
During dinner, I amuse myself by poking pears and little pieces of
radish through the holes in the shoji. At first there is much hesitation
and silvery laughter; but in a little while the silhouette of a tiny
hand reaches up cautiously, and a pear vanishes away. Then a second pear
is taken, without snatching, as softly as if a ghost had appropriated
it. Thereafter hesitation ceases, despite the effort of one elderly
woman to create a panic by crying out the word Mahotsukai, 'wizard.' By
the time the dinner is over and the shoji removed, we have all become
good friends. Then the crowd resumes its silent observation from the
four cardinal points.
I never saw a more striking difference in the appearance of two village
populations than that between the youth of Mitsu-ura and of Kaka. Yet
the villages are but two hours' sailing distance apart. In remoter
Japan, as in certain islands of the West Indies, particular physical
types are developed apparently among communities but slightly isolated;
on one side of a mountain a population may be remarkably attractive,
while upon the other you may find a hamlet whose inhabitants are
decidedly unprepossessing. But nowhere in this country have I seen a
prettier jeunesse than that of Kaka-ura.
'Returning-time-in-to-look-at-as-for-is-good.' As we descend to the bay,
the whole of Kaka-ura, including even the long-invisible ancients of the
village, accompanies us; making no sound except the pattering of geta.
Thus we are escorted to our boat. Into all the other craft drawn up on
the beach the younger folk clamber lightly, and seat themselves on the
prows and the gunwales to gaze at the marvellous Thing-that-by-looking-
at-worn-out-is-not. And all smile, but say nothing, even to each other:
somehow the experience gives me the sensation of being asleep; it is so
soft, so gentle, and so queer withal, just like things seen in dreams.
And as we glide away over the blue lucent water I look back to see the
people all waiting and gazing still from the great semicircle of boats;
all the slender brown child-limbs dangling from the prows; all the
velvety-black heads motionless in the sun; all the boy-faces smiling
Jizo-smiles; all the black soft eyes still watching, tirelessly
watching, the Thing-that-by-looking-at-worn-out-is-not. And as the
scene, too swiftly receding, diminishes to the width of a kakemono, I
vainly wish that I could buy this last vision of it, to place it in my
toko, and delight my soul betimes with gazing thereon. Yet another
moment, and we round a rocky point; and Kaka-ura vanishes from my sight
for ever. So all things pass away.
Assuredly those impressions which longest haunt recollection are the
most transitory: we remember many more instants than minutes, more
minutes than hours; and who remembers an entire day? The sum of the
remembered happiness of a lifetime is the creation of seconds. 'What is
more fugitive than a smile? yet when does the memory of a vanished smile
expire? or the soft regret which that memory may evoke?
Regret for a single individual smile is something common to normal human
nature; but regret for the smile of a population, for a smile considered
as an abstract quality, is certainly a rare sensation, and one to be
obtained, I fancy, only in this Orient land whose people smile for ever
like their own gods of stone. And this precious experience is already
mine; I am regretting the smile of Kaka.
Simultaneously there comes the recollection of a strangely grim Buddhist
legend. Once the Buddha smiled; and by the wondrous radiance of that
smile were countless worlds illuminated. But there came a Voice, saying:
'It is not real! It cannot last!' And the light passed.
Seki wa yoi toko,
Asahi wo ukete;
(SONG OF MIONOSEKI.)
[Seki is a goodly place, facing the morning sun. There, from the holy
mountains, the winds blow softly, softly—soyosoyoto.]
THE God of Mionoseki hates eggs, hen's eggs. Likewise he hates hens and
chickens, and abhors the Cock above all living creatures. And in
Mionoseki there are no cocks or hens or chickens or eggs. You could not
buy a hen's egg in that place even for twenty times its weight in gold.
And no boat or junk or steamer could be hired to convey to Mionoseki so
much as the feather of a chicken, much less an egg. Indeed, it is even
held that if you have eaten eggs in the morning you must not dare to
visit Mionoseki until the following day. For the great deity of
Mionoseki is the patron of mariners and the ruler of storms; and woe
unto the vessel which bears unto his shrine even the odour of an egg.
Once the tiny steamer which runs daily from Matsue to Mionoseki
encountered some unexpectedly terrible weather on her outward journey,
just after reaching the open sea. The crew insisted that something
displeasing to Koto-shiro-nushi-no-Kami must have been surreptitiously
brought on board. All the passengers were questioned in vain. Suddenly
the captain discerned upon the stem of a little brass pipe which one of
the men was smoking, smoking in the face of death, like a true Japanese,
the figure of a crowing cock! Needless to say, that pipe was thrown
overboard. Then the angry sea began to grow calm; and the little vessel
safely steamed into the holy port, and cast anchor before the great
torii of the shrine of the god!
Concerning the reason why the Cock is thus detested by the Great Deity
of Mionoseki, and banished from his domain, divers legends are told; but
the substance of all of them is about as follows: As we read in the
Kojiki, Koto-shiro-nushi-no-Kami, Son of the Great Deity of Kitsuki, was
wont to go to Cape Miho,  'to pursue birds and catch fish.' And for
other reasons also he used to absent himself from home at night, but had
always to return before dawn. Now, in those days the Cock was his
trusted servant, charged with the duty of crowing lustily when it was
time for the god to return. But one morning the bird failed in its duty;
and the god, hurrying back in his boat, lost his oars, and had to paddle
with his hands; and his hands were bitten by the wicked fishes.
Now the people of Yasugi, a pretty little town on the lagoon of Naka-
umi, through which we pass upon our way to Mionoseki, most devoutly
worship the same Koto-shiro-nushi-no-Kami; and nevertheless in Yasugi
there are multitudes of cocks and hens and chickens; and the eggs of
Yasugi cannot be excelled for size and quality. And the people of Yasugi
aver that one may better serve the deity by eating eggs than by doing as
the people of Mionoseki do; for whenever one eats a chicken or devours
an egg, one destroys an enemy of Koto-shiro-nushi-no-Kami.
From Matsue to Mionoseki by steamer is a charming journey in fair
weather. After emerging from the beautiful lagoon of Naka-umi into the
open sea, the little packet follows the long coast of Izumo to the left.
Very lofty this coast is, all cliffs and hills rising from the sea,
mostly green to their summits, and many cultivated in terraces, so as to
look like green pyramids of steps. The bases of the cliffs are very
rocky; and the curious wrinklings and corrugations of the coast suggest
the work of ancient volcanic forces. Far away to the right, over blue
still leagues of sea, appears the long low shore of Hoki, faint as a
mirage, with its far beach like an endless white streak edging the blue
level, and beyond it vapoury lines of woods and cloudy hills, and over
everything, looming into the high sky, the magnificent ghostly shape of
Daisen, snow-streaked at its summit.
So for perhaps an hour we steam on, between Hoki and Izumo; the rugged
and broken green coast on our left occasionally revealing some miniature
hamlet sheltered in a wrinkle between two hills; the phantom coast on
the right always unchanged. Then suddenly the little packet whistles,
heads for a grim promontory to port, glides by its rocky foot, and
enters one of the prettiest little bays imaginable, previously concealed
from view. A shell-shaped gap in the coast—a semicircular basin of
clear deep water, framed in by high corrugated green hills, all wood-
clad. Around the edge of the bay the quaintest of little Japanese
There is no beach, only a semicircle of stone wharves, and above these
the houses, and above these the beautiful green of the sacred hills,
with a temple roof or two showing an angle through the foliage. From the
rear of each house steps descend to deep water; and boats are moored at
all the back-doors. We moor in front of the great temple, the Miojinja.
Its great paved avenue slopes to the water's edge, where boats are also
moored at steps of stone; and looking up the broad approach, one sees a
grand stone torii, and colossal stone lanterns, and two magnificent
sculptured lions, karashishi, seated upon lofty pedestals, and looking
down upon the people from a height of fifteen feet or more. Beyond all
this the walls and gate of the outer temple court appear, and beyond
them, the roofs of the great haiden, and the pierced projecting cross-
beams of the loftier Go-Miojin, the holy shrine itself, relieved against
the green of the wooded hills. Picturesque junks are lying in ranks at
anchor; there are two deep-sea vessels likewise, of modern build, ships
from Osaka. And there is a most romantic little breakwater built of hewn
stone, with a stone lantern perched at the end of it; and there is a
pretty humped bridge connecting it with a tiny island on which I see a
shrine of Benten, the Goddess of Waters.
I wonder if I shall be able to get any eggs!
Unto the pretty waiting maiden of the inn Shimaya I put this scandalous
question, with an innocent face but a remorseful heart:
'Ano ne! tamago wa arimasenka?'
With the smile of a Kwannon she makes reply:-'He! Ahiru-no tamago-ga
There augustly exist eggs—of ducks!
But there exist no ducks. For ducks could not find life worth living in
a city where there is only deep-sea water. And all the ducks' eggs come
This pretty little hotel, whose upper chambers overlook the water, is
situated at one end, or nearly at one end, of the crescent of Mionoseki,
and the Miojinja almost at the other, so that one must walk through the
whole town to visit the temple, or else cross the harbour by boat. But
the whole town is well worth seeing. It is so tightly pressed between
the sea and the bases of the hills that there is only room for one real
street; and this is so narrow that a man could anywhere jump from the
second story of a house upon the water-side into the second story of the
opposite house upon the land-side. And it is as picturesque as it is
narrow, with its awnings and polished balconies and fluttering figured
draperies. From this main street several little ruelles slope to the
water's edge, where they terminate in steps; and in all these miniature
alleys long boats are lying, with their prows projecting over the edge
of the wharves, as if eager to plunge in. The temptation to take to the
water I find to be irresistible: before visiting the Miojinja I jump
from the rear of our hotel into twelve feet of limpid sea, and cool
myself by a swim across the harbour.
On the way to Miojinja, I notice, in multitudes of little shops,
fascinating displays of baskets and utensils made of woven bamboo. Fine
bamboo-ware is indeed the meibutsu, the special product of Mionoseki;
and almost every visitor buys some nice little specimen to carry home
The Miojinja is not in its architecture more remarkable than ordinary
Shinto temples in Izumo; nor are its interior decorations worth
describing in detail. Only the approach to it over the broad sloping
space of level pavement, under the granite torii, and between the great
lions and lamps of stone, is noble. Within the courts proper there is
not much to be seen except a magnificent tank of solid bronze, weighing
tons, which must have cost many thousands of yen. It is a votive
offering. Of more humble ex-votos, there is a queer collection in the
shamusho or business building on the right of the haiden: a series of
quaintly designed and quaintly coloured pictures, representing ships in
great storms, being guided or aided to port by the power of Koto-shiro-
nushi-no-Kami. These are gifts from ships.
The ofuda are not so curious as those of other famous Izumo temples; but
they are most eagerly sought for. Those strips of white paper, bearing
the deity's name, and a few words of promise, which are sold for a few
rin, are tied to rods of bamboo, and planted in all the fields of the
country roundabout. The most curious things sold are tiny packages of
rice-seeds. It is alleged that whatever you desire will grow from these
rice-seeds, if you plant them uttering a prayer. If you desire bamboos,
cotton-plants, peas, lotus-plants, or watermelons, it matters not; only
plant the seed and believe, and the desired crop will arise.
Much more interesting to me than the ofuda of the Miojinja are the
yoraku, the pendent ex-votos in the Hojinji, a temple of the Zen sect
which stands on the summit of the beautiful hill above the great Shinto
shrine. Before an altar on which are ranged the images of the Thirty-
three Kwannons, the thirty-three forms of that Goddess of Mercy who
represents the ideal of all that is sweet and pure in the Japanese
maiden, a strange, brightly coloured mass of curious things may be seen,
suspended from the carven ceiling. There are hundreds of balls of
worsted and balls of cotton thread of all colours; there are skeins of
silk and patterns of silk weaving and of cotton weaving; there are
broidered purses in the shape of sparrows and other living creatures;
there are samples of bamboo plaiting and countless specimens of
needlework. All these are the votive offerings of school children,
little girls only, to the Maid-mother of all grace and sweetness and
pity. So soon as a baby girl learns something in the way of woman 's
work—sewing, or weaving, or knitting, or broidering, she brings her
first successful effort to the temple as an offering to the gentle
divinity, 'whose eyes are beautiful,' she 'who looketh down above the
sound of prayer.' Even the infants of the Japanese kindergarten bring
their first work here—pretty paper-cuttings, scissored out and plaited
into divers patterns by their own tiny flower-soft hands.
Very sleepy and quiet by day is Mionoseki: only at long intervals one
hears laughter of children, or the chant of oarsmen rowing the most
extraordinary boats I ever saw outside of the tropics; boats heavy as
barges, which require ten men to move them. These stand naked to the
work, wielding oars with cross-handles (imagine a letter T with the
lower end lengthened out into an oar-blade). And at every pull they push
their feet against the gunwales to give more force to the stroke;
intoning in every pause a strange refrain of which the soft melancholy
calls back to me certain old Spanish Creole melodies heard in West
The chant begins with a long high note, and descends by fractional tones
with almost every syllable, and faints away a last into an almost
indistinguishable hum. Then comes the stroke, 'Ghi!—ghi!'
But at night Mionoseki is one of the noisiest and merriest little havens
of Western Japan. From one horn of its crescent to the other the fires
of the shokudai, which are the tall light of banquets, mirror themselves
in the water; and the whole air palpitates with sounds of revelry.
Everywhere one hears the booming of the tsudzumi, the little hand-drums
of the geisha, and sweet plaintive chants of girls, and tinkling of
samisen, and the measured clapping of hands in the dance, and the wild
cries and laughter of the players at ken. And all these are but echoes
of the diversions of sailors. Verily, the nature of sailors differs but
little the world over. Every good ship which visits Mionoseki leaves
there, so I am assured, from three hundred to five hundred yen for sake
and for dancing-girls. Much do these mariners pray the Great Deity who
hates eggs to make calm the waters and favourable the winds, so that
Mionoseki may be reached in good time without harm. But having come
hither over an unruffled sea with fair soft breezes all the way, small
indeed is the gift which they give to the temple of the god, and
marvellously large the sums which they pay unto geisha and keepers of
taverns. But the god is patient and longsuffering—except in the matter
However, these Japanese seamen are very gentle compared with our own
Jack Tars, and not without a certain refinement and politeness of their
own. I see them sitting naked to the waist at their banquets; for it is
very hot, but they use their chopsticks as daintily and pledge each
other in sake almost as graciously as men of a better class. Likewise
they seem to treat their girls very kindly. It is quite pleasant to
watch them feasting across the street. Perhaps their laughter is
somewhat more boisterous and their gesticulation a little more vehement
than those of the common citizens; but there is nothing resembling real
roughness—much less rudeness. All become motionless and silent as
statues—fifteen fine bronzes ranged along the wall of the zashiki, 
-when some pretty geisha begins one of those histrionic dances which,
to the Western stranger, seem at first mysterious as a performance of
witchcraft—but which really are charming translations of legend and
story into the language of living grace and the poetry of woman's smile.
And as the wine flows, the more urbane becomes the merriment—until
there falls upon all that pleasant sleepiness which sake brings, and the
guests, one by one, smilingly depart. Nothing could be happier or
gentler than their evening's joviality—yet sailors are considered in
Japan an especially rough class. What would be thought of our own roughs
in such a country?
Well, I have been fourteen months in Izumo; and I have not yet heard
voices raised in anger, or witnessed a quarrel: never have I seen one
man strike another, or a woman bullied, or a child slapped. Indeed I
have never seen any real roughness anywhere that I have been in Japan,
except at the open ports, where the poorer classes seem, through contact
with Europeans, to lose their natural politeness, their native morals—
even their capacity for simple happiness.
Last night I saw the seamen of Old Japan: to-day I shall see those of
New Japan. An apparition in the offing has filled all this little port
with excitement—an Imperial man-of-war. Everybody is going out to look
at her; and all the long boats that were lying in the alleys are already
hastening, full of curious folk, to the steel colossus. A cruiser of the
first class, with a crew of five hundred.
I take passage in one of those astounding craft I mentioned before—a
sort of barge propelled by ten exceedingly strong naked men, wielding
enormous oars—or rather, sweeps—with cross-handles. But I do not go
alone: indeed I can scarcely find room to stand, so crowded the boat is
with passengers of all ages, especially women who are nervous about
going to sea in an ordinary sampan. And a dancing-girl jumps into the
crowd at the risk of her life, just as we push off—and burns her arm
against my cigar in the jump. I am very sorry for her; but she laughs
merrily at my solicitude. And the rowers begin their melancholy
It is a long pull to reach her—the beautiful monster, towering
motionless there in the summer sea, with scarce a curling of thin smoke
from the mighty lungs of her slumbering engines; and that somnolent song
of our boatmen must surely have some ancient magic in it; for by the
time we glide alongside I feel as if I were looking at a dream. Strange
as a vision of sleep, indeed, this spectacle: the host of quaint craft
hovering and trembling around that tremendous bulk; and all the long-
robed, wide-sleeved multitude of the antique port—men, women, children
-the grey and the young together—crawling up those mighty flanks in
one ceaseless stream, like a swarming of ants. And all this with a great
humming like the humming of a hive,—a sound made up of low laughter,
and chattering in undertones, and subdued murmurs of amazement. For the
colossus overawes them—this ship of the Tenshi-Sama, the Son of
Heaven; and they wonder like babies at the walls and the turrets of
steel, and the giant guns and the mighty chains, and the stern bearing
of the white-uniformed hundreds looking down upon the scene without a
smile, over the iron bulwarks. Japanese those also—yet changed by some
mysterious process into the semblance of strangers. Only the experienced
eye could readily decide the nationality of those stalwart marines: but
for the sight of the Imperial arms in gold, and the glimmering
ideographs upon the stern, one might well suppose one's self gazing at
some Spanish or Italian ship-of-war manned by brown Latin men.
I cannot possibly get on board. The iron steps are occupied by an
endless chain of clinging bodies—blue-robed boys from school, and old
men with grey queues, and fearless young mothers holding fast to the
ropes with over-confident babies strapped to their backs, and peasants,
and fishers, and dancing-girls. They are now simply sticking there like
flies: somebody-has told them they must wait fifteen minutes. So they
wait with smiling patience, and behind them in the fleet of high-prowed
boats hundreds more wait and wonder. But they do not wait for fifteen
minutes! All hopes are suddenly shattered by a stentorian announcement
from the deck: 'Mo jikan ga naikara, miseru koto dekimasen!' The
monster is getting up steam—going away: nobody else will be allowed to
come on board. And from the patient swarm of clingers to the hand-ropes,
and the patient waiters in the fleet of boats, there goes up one
exceedingly plaintive and prolonged 'Aa!' of disappointment, followed by
artless reproaches in Izumo dialect: 'Gun-jin wa uso iwanuka to omoya!-
uso-tsuki dana!—aa! so dana!' ('War-people-as-for-lies-never-say-that-
we-thought!—Aa-aa-aa!') Apparently the gunjin are accustomed to such
scenes; for they do not even smile.
But we linger near the cruiser to watch the hurried descent of the
sightseers into their boats, and the slow ponderous motion of the chain-
cables ascending, and the swarming of sailors down over the bows to
fasten and unfasten mysterious things. One, bending head-downwards,
drops his white cap; and there is a race of boats for the honour of
picking it up. A marine leaning over the bulwarks audibly observes to a
comrade: 'Aa! gwaikojn dana!—nani ski ni kite iru daro?'—The other
vainly suggests: 'Yasu-no-senkyoshi daro.' My Japanese costume does not
disguise the fact that I am an alien; but it saves me from the
imputation of being a missionary. I remain an enigma. Then there are
loud cries of 'Abunail'—if the cruiser were to move now there would be
swamping and crushing and drowning unspeakable. All the little boats
scatter and flee away.
Our ten naked oarsmen once more bend to their cross-handled oars, and
recommence their ancient melancholy song. And as we glide back, there
comes to me the idea of the prodigious cost of that which we went forth
to see, the magnificent horror of steel and steam and all the multiple
enginery of death—paid for by those humble millions who toil for ever
knee-deep in the slime of rice-fields, yet can never afford to eat their
own rice! Far cheaper must be the food they live upon; and nevertheless,
merely to protect the little that they own, such nightmares must be
called into existence—monstrous creations of science mathematically
applied to the ends of destruction.
How delightful Mionoseki now seems, drowsing far off there under its
blue tiles at the feet of the holy hills!—immemorial Mionoseki, with
its lamps and lions of stone, and its god who hates eggs!—pretty
fantastic Mionoseki, where all things, save the schools, are medieval
still: the high-pooped junks, and the long-nosed boats, and the
plaintive chants of oarsmen!
And we touch the mossed and ancient wharves of stone again: over one
mile of lucent sea we have floated back a thousand years! I turn to look
at the place of that sinister vision—and lo!—there is nothing there!
Only the level blue of the flood under the hollow blue of the sky—and,
just beyond the promontory, one far, small white speck: the sail of a
junk. The horizon is naked. Gone!—but how soundlessly, how swiftly!
She makes nineteen knots. And, oh! Koto-shiro-nushi-no-Kami, there
probably existed eggs on board!
Notes on Kitzuki
KITZUKI, July 20, 1891.
AKIRA is no longer with me. He has gone to Kyoto, the holy Buddhist
city, to edit a Buddhist magazine; and I already feel without him like
one who has lost his way—despite his reiterated assurances that he
could never be of much service to me in Izumo, as he knew nothing about
But for the time being I am to have plenty of company at Kitzuki, where
I am spending the first part of the summer holidays; for the little city
is full of students and teachers who know me. Kitzuki is not only the
holiest place in the San-indo; it is also the most fashionable bathing
resort. The beach at Inasa bay is one of the best in all Japan; the
beach hotels are spacious, airy, and comfortable; and the bathing
houses, with hot and cold freshwater baths in which to wash off the
brine after a swim, are simply faultless. And in fair weather, the
scenery is delightful, as you look out over the summer space of sea.
Closing the bay on the right, there reaches out from the hills
overshadowing the town a mighty, rugged, pine-clad spur—the Kitzuki
promontory. On the left a low long range of mountains serrate the
horizon beyond the shore-sweep, with one huge vapoury shape towering
blue into the blue sky behind them—the truncated silhouette of
Sanbeyama. Before you the Japanese Sea touches the sky. And there, upon
still clear nights, there appears a horizon of fire—the torches of
hosts of fishing-boats riding at anchor three and four miles away—so
numerous that their lights seem to the naked eye a band of unbroken
The Guji has invited me and one of my friends to see a great harvest
dance at his residence on the evening of the festival of Tenjin. This
dance—Honen-odori—is peculiar to Izumo; and the opportunity to
witness it in this city is a rare one, as it is going to be performed
only by order of the Guji.
The robust pontiff himself loves the sea quite as much as anyone in
Kitzuki; yet he never enters a beach hotel, much less a public bathing
house. For his use alone a special bathing house has been built upon a
ledge of the cliff overhanging the little settlement of Inasa: it is
approached by a narrow pathway shadowed by pine-trees; and there is a
torii before it, and shimenawa. To this little house the Guji ascends
daily during the bathing season, accompanied by a single attendant, who
prepares his bathing dresses, and spreads the clean mats upon which he
rests after returning from the sea. The Guji always bathes robed. No one
but himself and his servant ever approaches the little house, which
commands a charming view of the bay: public reverence for the pontiff's
person has made even his resting-place holy ground. As for the country-
folk, they still worship him with hearts and bodies. They have ceased to
believe as they did in former times, that anyone upon whom the Kokuzo
fixes his eye at once becomes unable to speak or move; but when he
passes among them through the temple court they still prostrate
themselves along his way, as before the Ikigami.
KITZUKI, July 23rd
Always, through the memory of my first day at Kitzuki, there will pass
the beautiful white apparition of the Miko, with her perfect passionless
face, and strange, gracious, soundless tread, as of a ghost.
Her name signifies 'the Pet,' or 'The Darling of the Gods,'-Mi-ko.
The kind Guji, at my earnest request, procured me—or rather, had taken
for me—a photograph of the Miko, in the attitude of her dance,
upholding the mystic suzu, and wearing, over her crimson hakama, the
snowy priestess-robe descending to her feet.
And the learned priest Sasa told me these things concerning the Pet of
the Gods, and the Miko-kagura—which is the name of her sacred dance.
Contrary to the custom at the other great Shinto temples of Japan, such
as Ise, the office of miko at Kitzuki has always been hereditary.
Formerly there were in Kitzuki more than thirty families whose daughters
served the Oho-yashiro as miko: to-day there are but two, and the number
of virgin priestesses does not exceed six—the one whose portrait I
obtained being the chief. At Ise and elsewhere the daughter of any
Shinto priest may become a miko; but she cannot serve in that capacity
after becoming nubile; so that, except in Kitzuki, the miko of all the
greater temples are children from ten to twelve years of age. But at the
Kitzuki Oho-yashiro the maiden-priestesses are beautiful girls of
between sixteen and nineteen years of age; and sometimes a favourite
miko is allowed to continue to serve the gods even after having been
married. The sacred dance is not difficult to learn: the mother or
sister teaches it to the child destined to serve in the temple. The miko
lives at home, and visits the temple only upon festival days to perform
her duties. She is not placed under any severe discipline or
restrictions; she takes no special vows; she risks no dreadful penalties
for ceasing to remain a virgin. But her position being one of high
honour, and a source of revenue to her family, the ties which bind her
to duty are scarcely less cogent than those vows taken by the
priestesses of the antique Occident.
Like the priestesses of Delphi, the miko was in ancient times also a
divineress—a living oracle, uttering the secrets of the future when
possessed by the god whom she served. At no temple does the miko now act
as sibyl, oracular priestess, or divineress. But there still exists a
class of divining-women, who claim to hold communication with the dead,
and to foretell the future, and who call themselves miko—practising
their profession secretly; for it has been prohibited by law.
In the various great Shinto shrines of the Empire the Mikokagura is
differently danced. In Kitzuki, most ancient of all, the dance is the
most simple and the most primitive. Its purpose being to give pleasure
to the gods, religious conservatism has preserved its traditions and
steps unchanged since the period of the beginning of the faith. The
origin of this dance is to be found in the Kojiki legend of the dance of
Ame-nouzume-no-mikoto—she by whose mirth and song the Sun-goddess was
lured from the cavern into which she had retired, and brought back to
illuminate the world. And the suzu—the strange bronze instrument with
its cluster of bells which the miko uses in her dance—still preserves
the form of that bamboo-spray to which Ame-no-uzume-no-mikoto fastened
small bells with grass, ere beginning her mirthful song.
Behind the library in the rear of the great shrine, there stands a more
ancient structure which is still called the Miko-yashiki, or dwelling-
place of the miko. Here in former times all the maiden-priestesses were
obliged to live, under a somewhat stricter discipline than now. By day
they could go out where they pleased; but they were under obligation to
return at night to the yashiki before the gates of the court were
closed. For it was feared that the Pets of the Gods might so far forget
themselves as to condescend to become the darlings of adventurous
mortals. Nor was the fear at all unreasonable; for it was the duty of a
miko to be singularly innocent as well as beautiful. And one of the most
beautiful miko who belonged to the service of the Oho-yashiro did
actually so fall from grace—giving to the Japanese world a romance
which you can buy in cheap printed form at any large bookstore in Japan.
Her name was O-Kuni, and she was the daughter of one Nakamura Mongoro of
Kitzuki, where her descendants still live at the present day. While
serving as dancer in the great temple she fell in love with a ronin
named Nagoya Sanza—a desperate, handsome vagabond, with no fortune in
the world but his sword. And she left the temple secretly, and fled away
with her lover toward Kyoto. All this must have happened not less than
three hundred years ago.
On their way to Kyoto they met another ronin, whose real name I have not
been able to learn. For a moment only this 'wave-man' figures in the
story, and immediately vanishes into the eternal Night of death and all
forgotten things. It is simply recorded that he desired permission to
travel with them, that he became enamoured of the beautiful miko, and
excited the jealousy of her lover to such an extent that a desperate
duel was the result, in which Sanza slew his rival.
Thereafter the fugitives pursued their way to Kyoto without other
interruption. Whether the fair O-Kuni had by this time found ample
reason to regret the step she had taken, we cannot know. But from the
story of her after-life it would seem that the face of the handsome
ronin who had perished through his passion for her became a haunting
We next hear of her in a strange role at Kyoto. Her lover appears to
have been utterly destitute; for, in order to support him, we find her
giving exhibitions of the Miko-kagura in the Shijo-Kawara—which is the
name given to a portion of the dry bed of the river Kamagawa—doubtless
the same place in which the terrible executions by torture took place.
She must have been looked upon by the public of that day as an outcast.
But her extraordinary beauty seems to have attracted many spectators,
and to have proved more than successful as an exhibition. Sanza's purse
became well filled. Yet the dance of O-Kuni in the Shijo-Kawara was
nothing more than the same dance which the miko of Kitzuki dance to-day,
in their crimson hakama and snowy robes—a graceful gliding walk.
The pair next appear in Tokyo—or, as it was then called, Yedo—as
actors. O-Kuni, indeed, is universally credited by tradition, with
having established the modern Japanese stage—the first profane drama.
Before her time only religious plays, of Buddhist authorship, seem to
have been known. Sanza himself became a popular and successful actor,
under his sweetheart's tuition. He had many famous pupils, among them
the great Saruwaka, who subsequently founded a theatre in Yedo; and the
theatre called after him Saruwakaza, in the street Saruwakacho, remains
even unto this day. But since the time of O-Kuni, women have been—at
least until very recently-excluded from the Japanese stage; their
parts, as among the old Greeks, being taken by men or boys so effeminate
in appearance and so skilful in acting that the keenest observer could
never detect their sex.
Nagoya Sanza died many years before his companion. O-Kuni then returned
to her native place, to ancient Kitzuki, where she cut off her beautiful
hair, and became a Buddhist nun. She was learned for her century, and
especially skilful in that art of poetry called Renga; and this art she
continued to teach until her death. With the small fortune she had
earned as an actress she built in Kitzuki the little Buddhist temple
called Rengaji, in the very heart of the quaint town—so called because
there she taught the art of Renga. Now the reason she built the temple
was that she might therein always pray for the soul of the man whom the
sight of her beauty had ruined, and whose smile, perhaps, had stirred
something within her heart whereof Sanza never knew. Her family enjoyed
certain privileges for several centuries because she had founded the
whole art of the Japanese stage; and until so recently as the
Restoration the chief of the descendants of Nakamura Mongoro was always
entitled to a share in the profits of the Kitzuki theatre, and enjoyed
the title of Zamoto. The family is now, however, very poor.
I went to see the little temple of Rengaji, and found that it had
disappeared. Until within a few years it used to stand at the foot of
the great flight of stone steps leading to the second Kwannondera, the
most imposing temple of Kwannon in Kitzuki. Nothing now remains of the
Rengaji but a broken statue of Jizo, before which the people still pray.
The former court of the little temple has been turned into a vegetable
garden, and the material of the ancient building utilised, irreverently
enough, for the construction of some petty cottages now occupying its
site. A peasant told me that the kakemono and other sacred objects had
been given to the neighbouring temple, where they might be seen.
Not far from the site of the Rengaji, in the grounds of the great hakaba
of the Kwannondera, there stands a most curious pine. The trunk of the
tree is supported, not on the ground, but upon four colossal roots which
lift it up at such an angle that it looks like a thing walking upon four
legs. Trees of singular shape are often considered to be the dwelling-
places of Kami; and the pine in question affords an example of this
belief. A fence has been built around it, and a small shrine placed
before it, prefaced by several small torii; and many poor people may be
seen, at almost any hour of the day, praying to the Kami of the place.
Before the little shrine I notice, besides the usual Kitzuki ex-voto of
seaweed, several little effigies of horses made of straw. Why these
offerings of horses of straw? It appears that the shrine is dedicated to
Koshin, the Lord of Roads; and those who are anxious about the health of
their horses pray to the Road-God to preserve their animals from
sickness and death, at the same time bringing these straw effigies in
token of their desire. But this role of veterinarian is not commonly
attributed to Koshin;—and it appears that something in the fantastic
form of the tree suggested the idea.
Sec. 6 KITZUKI, July 24th
Within the first court of the Oho-yashiro, and to the left of the chief
gate, stands a small timber structure, ashen-coloured with age, shaped
like a common miya or shrine. To the wooden gratings of its closed doors
are knotted many of those white papers upon which are usually written
vows or prayers to the gods. But on peering through the grating one sees
no Shinto symbols in the dimness within. It is a stable! And there, in
the central stall, is a superb horse—looking at you. Japanese
horseshoes of straw are suspended to the wall behind him. He does not
move. He is made of bronze!
Upon inquiring of the learned priest Sasa the story of this horse, I was
told the following curious things:
On the eleventh day of the seventh month, by the ancient calendar,
falls the strange festival called Minige, or 'The Body escaping.' Upon
that day, 'tis said that the Great Deity of Kitzuki leaves his shrine to
pass through all the streets of the city, and along the seashore, after
which he enters into the house of the Kokuzo. Wherefore upon that day
the Kokuzo was always wont to leave his house; and at the present time,
though he does not actually abandon his home, he and his family retire
into certain apartments, so as to leave the larger part of the dwelling
free for the use of the god. This retreat of the Kokuzo is still called
Now while the great Deity Oho-kuni-nushi-no-Kami is passing through the
streets, he is followed by the highest Shinto priest of the shrine—
this kannushi having been formerly called Bekkwa. The word 'Bekkwa'
means 'special' or 'sacred fire'; and the chief kannushi was so called
because for a week before the festival he had been nourished only with
special food cooked with the sacred fire, so that he might be pure in
the presence of the God. And the office of Bekkwa was hereditary; and
the appellation at last became a family name. But he who performs the
rite to-day is no longer called Bekkwa.
Now while performing his function, if the Bekkwa met anyone upon the
street, he ordered him to stand aside with the words: 'Dog, give way!'
And the common people believed, and still believe, that anybody thus
spoken to by the officiating kannushi would be changed into a dog. So on
that day of the Minige nobody used to go out into the streets after a
certain hour, and even now very few of the people of the little city
leave their homes during the festival.
After having followed the deity through all the city, the Bekkwa used to
perform, between two and three o'clock in the darkness of the morning,
some secret rite by the seaside. (I am told this rite is still annually
performed at the same hour.) But, except the Bekkwa himself, no man
might be present; and it was believed, and is still believed by the
common people, that were any man, by mischance, to see the rite he would
instantly fall dead, or become transformed into an animal.
So sacred was the secret of that rite, that the Bekkwa could not even
utter it until after he was dead, to his successor in office.
Therefore, when he died, the body was laid upon the matting of a certain
inner chamber of the temple, and the son was left alone with the corpse,
after all the doors had been carefully closed. Then, at a certain hour
of the night, the soul returned into the body of the dead priest, and he
lifted himself up, and whispered the awful secret into the ear of his
son—and fell back dead again.
But what, you may ask, has all this to do with the Horse of Bronze?
Upon the festival of the Minige, the Great Deity of Kitzuki rides
through the streets of his city upon the Horse of Bronze.
The Horse of Bronze, however, is far from being the only statue in Izumo
which is believed to run about occasionally at night: at least a score
of other artistic things are, or have been, credited with similar
ghastly inclinations. The great carven dragon which writhes above the
entrance of the Kitzuki haiden used, I am told, to crawl about the roofs
at night—until a carpenter was summoned to cut its wooden throat with
a chisel, after which it ceased its perambulations. You can see for
yourself the mark of the chisel on its throat! At the splendid Shinto
temple of Kasuga, in Matsue, there are two pretty life-size bronze deer,
-stag and doe—the heads of which seemed to me to have been separately
cast, and subsequently riveted very deftly to the bodies. Nevertheless I
have been assured by some good country-folk that each figure was
originally a single casting, but that it was afterwards found necessary
to cut off the heads of the deer to make them keep quiet at night. But
the most unpleasant customer of all this uncanny fraternity to have
encountered after dark was certainly the monster tortoise of Gesshoji
temple in Matsue, where the tombs of the Matsudairas are. This stone
colossus is almost seventeen feet in length and lifts its head six feet
from the ground. On its now broken back stands a prodigious cubic
monolith about nine feet high, bearing a half-obliterated inscription.
Fancy—as Izumo folks did—this mortuary incubus staggering abroad at
midnight, and its hideous attempts to swim in the neighbouring lotus-
pond! Well, the legend runs that its neck had to be broken in
consequence of this awful misbehaviour. But really the thing looks as if
it could only have been broken by an earthquake.
Sec. 8 KITZUKI, July 25th. At the Oho-yashiro it is the annual festival of
the God of Scholarship, the God of Calligraphy—Tenjin. Here in
Kitzuki, the festival of the Divine Scribe, the Tenjin-Matsuri, is still
observed according to the beautiful old custom which is being forgotten
elsewhere. Long ranges of temporary booths have been erected within the
outer court of the temple; and in these are suspended hundreds of long
white tablets, bearing specimens of calligraphy. Every schoolboy in
Kitzuki has a sample of his best writing on exhibition. The texts are
written only in Chinese characters—not in hirakana or katakana-and
are mostly drawn from the works of Confucius or Mencius.
To me this display of ideographs seems a marvellous thing of beauty—
almost a miracle, indeed, since it is all the work of very, very young
boys. Rightly enough, the word 'to write' (kaku) in Japanese signifies
also to 'paint' in the best artistic sense. I once had an opportunity of
studying the result of an attempt to teach English children the art of
writing Japanese. These children were instructed by a Japanese writing-
master; they sat upon the same bench with Japanese pupils of their own
age, beginners likewise. But they could never learn like the Japanese
children. The ancestral tendencies within them rendered vain the efforts
of the instructor to teach them the secret of a shapely stroke with the
brush. It is not the Japanese boy alone who writes; the fingers of the
dead move his brush, guide his strokes.
Beautiful, however, as this writing seems to me, it is far from winning
the commendation of my Japanese companion, himself a much experienced
teacher. 'The greater part of this work,' he declares, 'is very bad.'
While I am still bewildered by this sweeping criticism, he points out to
me one tablet inscribed with rather small characters, adding: 'Only that
is tolerably good.'
'Why,' I venture to observe, 'that one would seem to have cost much less
trouble; the characters are so small.'
'Oh, the size of the characters has nothing to do with the matter,'
interrupts the master, 'it is a question of form.'
'Then I cannot understand. What you call very bad seems to me
'Of course you cannot understand,' the critic replies; 'it would take
you many years of study to understand. And even then-,
'And even then?'
'Well, even then you could only partly understand.'
Thereafter I hold my peace on the topic of calligraphy.
Vast as the courts of the Oho-yashiro are, the crowd within them is now
so dense that one must move very slowly, for the whole population of
Kitzuki and its environs has been attracted here by the matsuri. All are
making their way very gently toward a little shrine built upon an island
in the middle of an artificial lake and approached by a narrow causeway.
This little shrine, which I see now for the first time (Kitzuki temple
being far too large a place to be all seen and known in a single visit),
is the Shrine of Tenjin. As the sound of a waterfall is the sound of the
clapping of hands before it, and myriads of nin, and bushels of handfuls
of rice, are being dropped into the enormous wooden chest there placed
to receive the offerings. Fortunately this crowd, like all Japanese
crowds, is so sympathetically yielding that it is possible to traverse
it slowly in any direction, and thus to see all there is to be seen.
After contributing my mite to the coffer of Tenjin, I devote my
attention to the wonderful display of toys in the outer counts.
At almost every temple festival in Japan there is a great sale of toys,
usually within the count itself—a miniature street of small booths
being temporarily erected for this charming commence. Every matsuri is a
children's holiday. No mother would think of attending a temple-festival
without buying her child a toy: even the poorest mother can afford it;
for the price of the toys sold in a temple court varies from one-fifth
of one sen  or Japanese cent, to three or four sen; toys worth so
much as five sen being rarely displayed at these little shops. But cheap
as they are, these frail playthings are full of beauty and
suggestiveness, and, to one who knows and loves Japan, infinitely more
interesting than the costliest inventions of a Parisian toy-
manufacturer. Many of them, however, would be utterly incomprehensible
to an English child. Suppose we peep at a few of them.
Here is a little wooden mallet, with a loose tiny ball fitted into a
socket at the end of the handle. This is for the baby to suck. On either
end of the head of the mallet is painted the mystic tomoye—that
Chinese symbol, resembling two huge commas so united as to make a
perfect circle, which you may have seen on the title-page of Mr.
Lowell's beautiful Soul of the Far East. To you, however, this little
wooden mallet would seem in all probability just a little wooden mallet
and nothing more. But to the Japanese child it is full of suggestions.
It is the mallet of the Great Deity of Kitzuki, Ohokuni-nushi-no-Kami—
vulgarly called Daikoku—the God of Wealth, who, by one stroke of his
hammer, gives fortune to his worshippers.
Perhaps this tiny drum, of a form never seen in the Occident (tsudzumi),
or this larger drum with a mitsudomoye, or triple-comma symbol, painted
on each end, might seem to you without religious signification; but both
are models of drums used in the Shinto and the Buddhist temples. This
queer tiny table is a miniature sambo: it is upon such a table that
offerings are presented to the gods. This curious cap is a model of the
cap of a Shinto priest. Here is a toy miya, or Shinto shrine, four
inches high. This bunch of tiny tin bells attached to a wooden handle
might seem to you something corresponding to our Occidental tin rattles;
but it is a model of the sacred suzu used by the virgin priestess in her
dance before the gods. This face of a smiling chubby girl, with two
spots upon her forehead-a mask of baked clay—is the traditional image
of Ame-no-uzume-no-mikoto, commonly called Otafuku, whose merry
laughter lured the Goddess of the Sun out of the cavern of darkness. And
here is a little Shinto priest in full hieratic garb: when this little
string between his feet is pulled, he claps his hands as if in prayer.
Hosts of other toys are here—mysterious to the uninitiated European,
but to the Japanese child full of delightful religious meaning. In these
faiths of the Far East there is little of sternness or grimness—the
Kami are but the spirits of the fathers of the people; the Buddhas and
the Bosatsu were men. Happily the missionaries have not succeeded as yet
in teaching the Japanese to make religion a dismal thing. These gods
smile for ever: if you find one who frowns, like Fudo, the frown seems
but half in earnest; it is only Emma, the Lord of Death, who somewhat
appals. Why religion should be considered too awful a subject for
children to amuse themselves decently with never occurs to the common
Japanese mind. So here we have images of the gods and saints for toys—
Tenjin, the Deity of Beautiful Writing—and Uzume, the laughter-loving
-and Fukusuke, like a happy schoolboy—and the Seven Divinities of
Good Luck, in a group—and Fukurojin, the God of Longevity, with head
so elongated that only by the aid of a ladder can his barber shave the
top of it—and Hotei, with a belly round and huge as a balloon—and
Ebisu, the Deity of Markets and of fishermen, with a tai-fish under his
arm—and Daruma, ancient disciple of Buddha, whose legs were worn off
by uninterrupted meditation.
Here likewise are many toys which a foreigner could scarcely guess the
meaning of, although they have no religious signification. Such is this
little badger, represented as drumming upon its own belly with both
forepaws. The badger is believed to be able to use its belly like a
drum, and is credited by popular superstition with various supernatural
powers. This toy illustrates a pretty fairy-tale about some hunter who
spared a badger's life and was rewarded by the creature with a wonderful
dinner and a musical performance. Here is a hare sitting on the end of
the handle of a wooden pestle which is set horizontally upon a pivot. By
pulling a little string, the pestle is made to rise and fall as if moved
by the hare. If you have been even a week in Japan you will recognise
the pestle as the pestle of a kometsuki, or rice-cleaner, who works it
by treading on the handle. But what is the hare? This hare is the Hare-
in-the-Moon, called Usagi-no-kometsuki: if you look up at the moon on a
clear night you can see him cleaning his rice.
Now let us see what we can discover in the way of cheap ingenuities.
Tombo, 'the Dragon-Fly.' Merely two bits of wood joined together in the
form of a T. The lower part is a little round stick, about as thick as a
match, but twice as long; the upper piece is flat, and streaked with
paint. Unless you are accustomed to look for secrets, you would scarcely
be able to notice that the flat piece is trimmed along two edges at a
particular angle. Twirl the lower piece rapidly between the palms of
both hands, and suddenly let it go. At once the strange toy rises
revolving in the air, and then sails away slowly to quite a distance,
performing extraordinary gyrations, and imitating exactly—to the eye
at least—the hovering motion of a dragon-fly. Those little streaks of
paint you noticed upon the top-piece now reveal their purpose; as the
tombo darts hither and thither, even the tints appear to be those of a
real dragon-fly; and even the sound of the flitting toy imitates the
dragon-fly's hum. The principle of this pretty invention is much like
that of the boomerang; and an expert can make his tombo, after flying
across a large room, return into his hand. All the tombo sold, however,
are not as good as this one; we have been lucky. Price, one-tenth of one
Here is a toy which looks like a bow of bamboo strung with wire. The
wire, however, is twisted into a corkscrew spiral. On this spiral a pair
of tiny birds are suspended by a metal loop. When the bow is held
perpendicularly with the birds at the upper end of the string, they
descend whirling by their own weight, as if circling round one another;
and the twittering of two birds is imitated by the sharp grating of the
metal loop upon the spiral wire. One bird flies head upward, and the
other tail upward. As soon as they have reached the bottom, reverse the
bow, and they will recommence their wheeling flight. Price, two cents—
because the wire is dear.
O-Saru, the 'Honourable Monkey.'  A little cotton monkey, with a blue
head and scarlet body, hugging a bamboo rod. Under him is a bamboo
spring; and when you press it, he runs up to the top of the rod. Price,
one-eighth of one cent.
O-Saru. Another Honourable Monkey. This one is somewhat more complex in
his movements, and costs a cent. He runs up a string, hand over hand,
when you pull his tail.
Tori-Kago. A tiny gilded cage, with a bird in it, and plum flowers.
Press the edges of the bottom of the cage, and a minuscule wind-
instrument imitates the chirping of the bird. Price, one cent.
Karuwazashi, the Acrobat. A very loose-jointed wooden boy clinging with
both hands to a string stretched between two bamboo sticks, which are
curiously rigged together in the shape of an open pair of scissors.
Press the ends of the sticks at the bottom; and the acrobat tosses his
legs over the string, seats himself upon it, and finally turns a
somersault. Price, one-sixth of one cent.
Kobiki, the Sawyer. A figure of a Japanese workman, wearing only a
fundoshi about his loins, and standing on a plank, with a long saw in
his hands. If you pull a string below his feet, he will go to work in
good earnest, sawing the plank. Notice that he pulls the saw towards
him, like a true Japanese, instead of pushing it from him, as our own
carpenters do. Price, one-tenth of one cent.
Chie-no-ita, the 'Intelligent Boards,' or better, perhaps, 'The Planks
of Intelligence.' A sort of chain composed of about a dozen flat square
pieces of white wood, linked together by ribbons. Hold the thing
perpendicularly by one end-piece; then turn the piece at right angles to
the chain; and immediately all the other pieces tumble over each other
in the most marvellous way without unlinking. Even an adult can amuse
himself for half an hour with this: it is a perfect trompe-l'oeil in
mechanical adjustment. Price, one cent.
Kitsune-Tanuki. A funny flat paper mask with closed eyes. If you pull a
pasteboard slip behind it, it will open its eyes and put out a tongue of
surprising length. Price, one-sixth of one cent.
Chin. A little white dog, with a collar round its neck. It is in the
attitude of barking. From a Buddhist point of view, I should think this
toy somewhat immoral. For when you slap the dog's head, it utters a
sharp yelp, as of pain. Price, one sen and five rin. Rather dear.
Fuki-agari-koboshi, the Wrestler Invincible. This is still dearer; for
it is made of porcelain, and very nicely coloured The wrestler squats
upon his hams. Push him down in any direction, he always returns of his
own accord to an erect position. Price, two sen.
Oroga-Heika-Kodomo, the Child Reverencing His Majesty the Emperor. A
Japanese schoolboy with an accordion in his hands, singing and playing
the national anthem, or Kimiga. There is a little wind-bellows at the
bottom of the toy; and when you operate it, the boy's arms move as if
playing the instrument, and a shrill small voice is heard. Price, one
cent and a half.
Jishaku. This, like the preceding, is quite a modern toy. A small wooden
box containing a magnet and a tiny top made of a red wooden button with
a steel nail driven through it. Set the top spinning with a twirl of the
fingers; then hold the magnet over the nail, and the top will leap up to
the magnet and there continue to spin, suspended in air. Price, one
It would require at least a week to examine them all. Here is a model
spinning-wheel, absolutely perfect, for one-fifth of one cent. Here are
little clay tortoises which swim about when you put them into water—
one rin for two. Here is a box of toy-soldiers—samurai in full armour
—nine rin only. Here is a Kaze-Kuruma, or wind-wheel—a wooden whistle
with a paper wheel mounted before the orifice by which the breath is
expelled, so that the wheel turns furiously when the whistle is blown—
three rin. Here is an Ogi, a sort of tiny quadruple fan sliding in a
sheath. When expanded it takes the shape of a beautiful flower—one
The most charming of all these things to me, however, is a tiny doll—
O-Hina-San (Honourable Miss Hina)—or beppin ('beautiful woman'). The
body is a phantom, only—a flat stick covered with a paper kimono—but
the head is really a work of art. A pretty oval face with softly
shadowed oblique eyes—looking shyly downward—and a wonderful maiden
coiffure, in which the hair is arranged in bands and volutes and
ellipses and convolutions and foliole curlings most beautiful and
extraordinary. In some respects this toy is a costume model, for it
imitates exactly the real coiffure of Japanese maidens and brides. But
the expression of the face of the beppin is, I think, the great
attraction of the toy; there is a shy, plaintive sweetness about it
impossible to describe, but deliciously suggestive of a real Japanese
type of girl-beauty. Yet the whole thing is made out of a little
crumpled paper, coloured with a few dashes of the brush by an expert
hand. There are no two O-Hina-San exactly alike out of millions; and
when you have become familiar by long residence with Japanese types, any
such doll will recall to you some pretty face that you have seen. These
are for little girls. Price, five rin.
Here let me tell you something you certainly never heard of before in
relation to Japanese dolls—not the tiny O-Hina-San I was just speaking
about, but the beautiful life-sized dolls representing children of two
or three years old; real toy-babes which, although far more cheaply and
simply constructed than our finer kinds of Western dolls, become, under
the handling of a Japanese girl, infinitely more interesting. Such dolls
are well dressed, and look so life-like—little slanting eyes, shaven
pates, smiles, and all!—that as seen from a short distance the best
eyes might be deceived by them. Therefore in those stock photographs of
Japanese life, of which so many thousands are sold in the open ports,
the conventional baby on the mother's back is most successfully
represented by a doll. Even the camera does not betray the substitution.
And if you see such a doll, though held quite close to you, being made
by a Japanese mother to reach out his hands, to move its little bare
feet, and to turn its head, you would be almost afraid to venture a
heavy wager that it was only a doll. Even after having closely examined
the thing, you would still, I fancy, feel a little nervous at being left
alone with it, so perfect the delusion of that expert handling.
Now there is a belief that some dolls do actually become alive.
Formerly the belief was less rare than it is now. Certain dolls were
spoken of with a reverence worthy of the Kami, and their owners were
envied folk. Such a doll was treated like a real son or daughter: it was
regularly served with food; it had a bed, and plenty of nice clothes,
and a name. If in the semblance of a girl, it was O-Toku-San; if in that
of a boy, Tokutaro-San. It was thought that the doll would become angry
and cry if neglected, and that any ill-treatment of it would bring ill-
fortune to the house. And, moreover, it was believed to possess
supernatural powers of a very high order.
In the family of one Sengoku, a samurai of Matsue, there was a Tokutaro-
San which had a local reputation scarcely inferior to that of Kishibojin
—she to whom Japanese wives pray for offspring. And childless couples
used to borrow that doll, and keep it for a time—ministering unto it—
and furnish it with new clothes before gratefully returning it to its
owners. And all who did so, I am assured, became parents, according to
their heart's desire. 'Sengoku's doll had a soul.' There is even a
legend that once, when the house caught fire, the TokutarO-San ran out
safely into the garden of its own accord!
The idea about such a doll seems to be this: The new doll is only a
doll. But a doll which is preserved for a great many years in one
family,  and is loved and played with by generations of children,
gradually acquires a soul. I asked a charming Japanese girl: 'How can a
'Why,' she answered, 'if you love it enough, it will live!'
What is this but Renan's thought of a deity in process of evolution,
uttered by the heart of a child?
But even the most beloved dolls are worn out at last, or get broken in
the course of centuries. And when a doll must be considered quite dead,
its remains are still entitled to respect. Never is the corpse of a doll
irreverently thrown away. Neither is it burned or cast into pure running
water, as all sacred objects of the miya must be when they have ceased
to be serviceable. And it is not buried. You could not possibly imagine
what is done with it.
It is dedicated to the God Kojin, —a somewhat mysterious divinity,
half-Buddhist, half-Shinto. The ancient Buddhist images of Kojin
represented a deity with many arms;—the Shinto Kojin of Izumo has, I
believe, no artistic representation whatever. But in almost every
Shinto, and also in many Buddhist, temple grounds, is planted the tree
called enoki  which is sacred to him, and in which he is supposed by
the peasantry to dwell; for they pray before the enoki always to Kojin.
And there is usually a small shrine placed before the tree, and a little
torii also. Now you may often see laid upon such a shrine of Kojin, or
at the foot of his sacred tree, or in a hollow thereof—if there be any
hollow—pathetic remains of dolls. But a doll is seldom given to Kojin
during the lifetime of its possessor. When you see one thus exposed, you
may be almost certain that it was found among the effects of some poor
dead woman—the innocent memento of her girlhood, perhaps even also of
the girlhood of her mother and of her mother's mother.
And now we are to see the Honen-odori—which begins at eight o'clock.
There is no moon; and the night is pitch-black overhead: but there is
plenty of light in the broad court of the Guji's residence, for a
hundred lanterns have been kindled and hung out. I and my friend have
been provided with comfortable places in the great pavilion which opens
upon the court, and the pontiff has had prepared for us a delicious
Already thousands have assembled before the pavilion—young men of
Kitzuki and young peasants from the environs, and women and children in
multitude, and hundreds of young girls. The court is so thronged that it
is difficult to assume the possibility of any dance. Illuminated by the
lantern-light, the scene is more than picturesque: it is a carnivalesque
display of gala-costume. Of course the peasants come in their ancient
attire: some in rain-coats (mino), or overcoats of yellow straw; others
with blue towels tied round their heads; many with enormous mushroom
hats—all with their blue robes well tucked up. But the young townsmen
come in all guises and disguises. Many have dressed themselves in female
attire; some are all in white duck, like police; some have mantles on;
others wear shawls exactly as a Mexican wears his zarape; numbers of
young artisans appear almost as lightly clad as in working-hours,
barelegged to the hips, and barearmed to the shoulders. Among the girls
some wonderful dressing is to be seen—ruby-coloured robes, and rich
greys and browns and purples, confined with exquisite obi, or girdles of
figured satin; but the best taste is shown in the simple and very
graceful black and white costumes worn by some maidens of the better
classes—dresses especially made for dancing, and not to be worn at any
other time. A few shy damsels have completely masked themselves by tying
down over their cheeks the flexible brims of very broad straw hats. I
cannot attempt to talk about the delicious costumes of the children: as
well try to describe without paint the variegated loveliness of moths
In the centre of this multitude I see a huge rice-mortar turned upside
down; and presently a sandalled peasant leaps upon it lightly, and
stands there—with an open paper umbrella above his head. Nevertheless
it is not raining. That is the Ondo-tori, the leader of the dance, who
is celebrated through all Izumo as a singer. According to ancient
custom, the leader of the Honen-odori  always holds an open umbrella
above his head while he sings.
Suddenly, at a signal from the Guji, who has just taken his place in the
pavilion, the voice of the Ondo-tori, intoning the song of thanksgiving,
rings out over all the murmuring of the multitude like a silver cornet.
A wondrous voice, and a wondrous song, full of trills and quaverings
indescribable, but full also of sweetness and true musical swing. And as
he sings, he turns slowly round upon his high pedestal, with the
umbrella always above his head; never halting in his rotation from right
to left, but pausing for a regular interval in his singing, at the close
of each two verses, when the people respond with a joyous outcry:
'Ya-ha-to-nai!-ya-ha-to-nai!' Simultaneously, an astonishingly rapid
movement of segregation takes place in the crowd; two enormous rings of
dancers form, one within the other, the rest of the people pressing back
to make room for the odori. And then this great double-round, formed by
fully five hundred dancers, begins also to revolve from right to
left—lightly, fantastically—all the tossing of arms and white twinkling of
feet keeping faultless time to the measured syllabification of the
chant. An immense wheel the dance is, with the Ondo-tori for its
axis—always turning slowly upon his rice-mortar, under his open umbrella, as
he sings the song of harvest thanksgiving:
And the voices of all the dancers in unison roll out the chorus:
Utterly different this whirling joyous Honen-odori from the Bon-odori
which I witnessed last year at Shimo-Ichi, and which seemed to me a very
dance of ghosts. But it is also much more difficult to describe. Each
dancer makes a half-wheel alternately to left and right, with a peculiar
bending of the knees and tossing up of the hands at the same time—as
in the act of lifting a weight above the head; but there are other
curious movements-jerky with the men, undulatory with the women—as
impossible to describe as water in motion. These are decidedly complex,
yet so regular that five hundred pairs of feet and hands mark the
measure of the song as truly as if they were under the control of a
single nervous system.
It is strangely difficult to memorise the melody of a Japanese popular
song, or the movements of a Japanese dance; for the song and the dance
have been evolved through an aesthetic sense of rhythm in sound and in
motion as different from the corresponding Occidental sense as English
is different from Chinese. We have no ancestral sympathies with these
exotic rhythms, no inherited aptitudes for their instant comprehension,
no racial impulses whatever in harmony with them. But when they have
become familiar through study, after a long residence in the Orient, how
nervously fascinant the oscillation of the dance, and the singular swing
of the song!
This dance, I know, began at eight o'clock; and the Ondo-tori, after
having sung without a falter in his voice for an extraordinary time, has
been relieved by a second. But the great round never breaks, never
slackens its whirl; it only enlarges as the night wears on. And the
second Ondo-tori is relieved by a third; yet I would like to watch that
dance for ever.
'What time do you think it is?' my friend asks, looking at his watch.
'Nearly eleven o'clock,' I make answer.
'Eleven o'clock! It is exactly eight minutes to three o'clock. And our
host will have little time for sleep before the rising of the sun.'
Chapter Twelve At Hinomisaki
KITZUKI, August 10, 1891.
MY Japanese friends urge me to visit Hinomisaki, where no European has
ever been, and where there is a far-famed double temple dedicated to
Amaterasu-oho-mi-Kami, the Lady of Light, and to her divine brother
Take-haya-susa-no-wo-no-mikoto. Hinomisaki is a little village on the
Izumo coast about five miles from Kitzuki. It maybe reached by a
mountain path, but the way is extremely steep, rough, and fatiguing. By
boat, when the weather is fair, the trip is very agreeable. So, with a
friend, I start for Hinomisaki in a very cozy ryosen, skilfully sculled
by two young fishermen.
Leaving the pretty bay of Inasa, we follow the coast to the right—a
very lofty and grim coast without a beach. Below us the clear water
gradually darkens to inky blackness, as the depth increases; but at
intervals pale jagged rocks rise up from this nether darkness to catch
the light fifty feet under the surface. We keep tolerably close to the
cliffs, which vary in height from three hundred to six hundred feet—
their bases rising from the water all dull iron-grey, their sides and
summits green with young pines and dark grasses that toughen in sea-
wind. All the coast is abrupt, ravined, irregular—curiously breached
and fissured. Vast masses of it have toppled into the sea; and the black
ruins project from the deep in a hundred shapes of menace. Sometimes our
boat glides between a double line of these; or takes a zigzag course
through labyrinths of reef-channels. So swiftly and deftly is the little
craft impelled to right and left, that one could almost believe it sees
its own way and moves by its own intelligence. And again we pass by
extraordinary islets of prismatic rock whose sides, just below the
water-line, are heavily mossed with seaweed. The polygonal masses
composing these shapes are called by the fishermen 'tortoise-shell
stones.' There is a legend that once Oho-kuni-nushi-no-Kami, to try his
strength, came here, and, lifting up one of these masses of basalt,
flung it across the sea to the mountain of Sanbeyama. At the foot of
Sanbe the mighty rock thus thrown by the Great Deity of Kitzuki may
still be seen, it is alleged, even unto this day.
More and more bare and rugged and ghastly the coast becomes as we
journey on, and the sunken ledges more numerous, and the protruding
rocks more dangerous, splinters of strata piercing the sea-surface from
a depth of thirty fathoms. Then suddenly our boat makes a dash for the
black cliff, and shoots into a tremendous cleft of it—an earthquake
fissure with sides lofty and perpendicular as the walls of a canon-and
lo! there is daylight ahead. This is a miniature strait, a short cut to
the bay. We glide through it in ten minutes, reach open water again, and
Hinomisaki is before us-a semicircle of houses clustering about a bay
curve, with an opening in their centre, prefaced by a torii.
Of all bays I have ever seen, this is the most extraordinary. Imagine an
enormous sea-cliff torn out and broken down level with the sea, so as to
leave a great scoop-shaped hollow in the land, with one original
fragment of the ancient cliff still standing in the middle of the gap—
a monstrous square tower of rock, bearing trees upon its summit. And a
thousand yards out from the shore rises another colossal rock, fully one
hundred feet high. This is known by the name of Fumishima or
Okyogashima; and the temple of the Sun-goddess, which we are now about
to see, formerly stood upon that islet. The same appalling forces which
formed the bay of Hinomisaki doubtless also detached the gigantic mass
of Fumishima from this iron coast.
We land at the right end of the bay. Here also there is no beach; the
water is black-deep close to the shore, which slopes up rapidly. As we
mount the slope, an extraordinary spectacle is before us. Upon thousands
and thousands of bamboo frames—shaped somewhat like our clothes-horses
-are dangling countless pale yellowish things, the nature of which I
cannot discern at first glance. But a closer inspection reveals the
mystery. Millions of cuttlefish drying in the sun! I could never have
believed that so many cuttlefish existed in these waters. And there is
scarcely any variation in the dimensions of them: out of ten thousand
there is not the difference of half an inch in length.
The great torii which forms the sea-gate of Hinomisaki is of white
granite, and severely beautiful. Through it we pass up the main street
of the village—surprisingly wide for about a thousand yards, after
which it narrows into a common highway which slopes up a wooded hill and
disappears under the shadow of trees. On the right, as you enter the
street, is a long vision of grey wooden houses with awnings and
balconies—little shops, little two-story dwellings of fishermen—and
ranging away in front of these other hosts of bamboo frames from which
other millions of freshly caught cuttlefish are hanging. On the other
side of the street rises a cyclopean retaining wall, massive as the wall
of a daimyo's castle, and topped by a lofty wooden parapet pierced with
gates; and above it tower the roofs of majestic buildings, whose
architecture strongly resembles that of the structures of Kitzuki; and
behind all appears a beautiful green background of hills. This is the
Hinomisaki-jinja. But one must walk some considerable distance up the
road to reach the main entrance of the court, which is at the farther
end of the inclosure, and is approached by an imposing broad flight of
The great court is a surprise. It is almost as deep as the outer court
of the Kitzuki-no-oho-yashiro, though not nearly so wide; and a paved
cloister forms two sides of it. From the court gate a broad paved walk
leads to the haiden and shamusho at the opposite end of the court—
spacious and dignified structures above whose roofs appears the quaint
and massive gable of the main temple, with its fantastic cross-beams.
This temple, standing with its back to the sea, is the shrine of the
Goddess of the Sun. On the right side of the main court, as you enter,
another broad flight of steps leads up to a loftier court, where another
fine group of Shinto buildings stands—a haiden and a miya; but these
are much smaller, like miniatures of those below. Their woodwork also
appears to be quite new. The upper miya is the shrine of the god Susano-
o, —brother of Amaterasu-oho-mi-Kami.
To me the great marvel of the Hinomisaki-jinja is that structures so
vast, and so costly to maintain, can exist in a mere fishing hamlet, in
an obscure nook of the most desolate coast of Japan. Assuredly the
contributions of peasant pilgrims alone could not suffice to pay the
salary of a single kannushi; for Hinomisaki, unlike Kitzuki, is not a
place possible to visit in all weathers. My friend confirms me in this
opinion; but I learn from him that the temples have three large sources
of revenue. They are partly supported by the Government; they receive
yearly large gifts of money from pious merchants; and the revenues from
lands attached to them also represent a considerable sum. Certainly a
great amount of money must have been very recently expended here; for
the smaller of the two miya seems to have just been wholly rebuilt; the
beautiful joinery is all white with freshness, and even the carpenters'
odorous chips have not yet been all removed.
At the shamusho we make the acquaintance of the Guji of Hinomisaki, a
noble-looking man in the prime of life, with one of those fine aquiline
faces rarely to be met with except among the high aristocracy of Japan.
He wears a heavy black moustache, which gives him, in spite of his
priestly robes, the look of a retired army officer. We are kindly
permitted by him to visit the sacred shrines; and a kannushi is detailed
to conduct us through the buildings.
Something resembling the severe simplicity of the Kitzuki-no-oho-yashiro
was what I expected to see. But this shrine of the Goddess of the Sun is
a spectacle of such splendour that for the first moment I almost doubt
whether I am really in a Shinto temple. In very truth there is nothing
of pure Shinto here. These shrines belong to the famous period of Ryobu-
Shinto, when the ancient faith, interpenetrated and allied with
Buddhism, adopted the ceremonial magnificence and the marvellous
decorative art of the alien creed. Since visiting the great Buddhist
shrines of the capital, I have seen no temple interior to be compared
with this. Daintily beautiful as a casket is the chamber of the shrine.
All its elaborated woodwork is lacquered in scarlet and gold; the altar-
piece is a delight of carving and colour; the ceiling swarms with dreams
of clouds and dragons. And yet the exquisite taste of the decorators—
buried, doubtless, five hundred years ago—has so justly proportioned
the decoration to the needs of surface, so admirably blended the
colours, that there is no gaudiness, no glare, only an opulent repose.
This shrine is surrounded by a light outer gallery which is not visible
from the lower court; and from this gallery one can study some
remarkable friezes occupying the spaces above the doorways and below the
eaves—friezes surrounding the walls of the miya. These, although
exposed for many centuries to the terrific weather of the western coast,
still remain masterpieces of quaint carving. There are apes and hares
peeping through wonderfully chiselled leaves, and doves and demons, and
dragons writhing in storms. And while looking up at these, my eye is
attracted by a peculiar velvety appearance of the woodwork forming the
immense projecting eaves of the roof. Under the tiling it is more than a
foot thick. By standing on tiptoe I can touch it; and I discover that it
is even more velvety to the touch than to the sight. Further examination
reveals the fact that this colossal roofing is not solid timber, only
the beams are solid. The enormous pieces they support are formed of
countless broad slices thin as the thinnest shingles, superimposed and
cemented together into one solid-seeming mass. I am told that this
composite woodwork is more enduring than any hewn timber could be. The
edges, where exposed to wind and sun, feel to the touch just like the
edges of the leaves of some huge thumb-worn volume; and their stained
velvety yellowish aspect so perfectly mocks the appearance of a book,
that while trying to separate them a little with my fingers, I find
myself involuntarily peering for a running-title and the number of a
We then visit the smaller temple. The interior of the sacred chamber is
equally rich in lacquered decoration and gilding; and below the miya
itself there are strange paintings of weird foxes—foxes wandering in
the foreground of a mountain landscape. But here the colours have been
damaged somewhat by time; the paintings have a faded look. Without the
shrine are other wonderful carvings, doubtless executed by the same
chisel which created the friezes of the larger temple.
I learn that only the shrine-chambers of both temples are very old; all
the rest has been more than once rebuilt. The entire structure of the
smaller temple and its haiden, with the exception of the shrine-room,
has just been rebuilt—in fact, the work is not yet quite done—so
that the emblem of the deity is not at present in the sanctuary. The
shrines proper are never repaired, but simply reinclosed in the new
buildings when reconstruction becomes a necessity. To repair them or
restore them to-day would be impossible: the art that created them is
dead. But so excellent their material and its lacquer envelope that they
have suffered little in the lapse of many centuries from the attacks of
One more surprise awaits me—the homestead of the high pontiff, who
most kindly invites us to dine with him; which hospitality is all the
more acceptable from the fact that there is no hotel in Hinomisaki, but
only a kichinyado  for pilgrims. The ancestral residence of the high
pontiffs of Hinomisaki occupies, with the beautiful gardens about it, a
space fully equal to that of the great temple courts themselves. Like
most of the old-fashioned homes of the nobility and of the samurai, it
is but one story high—an immense elevated cottage, one might call it.
But the apartments are lofty, spacious, and very handsome—and there is
a room of one hundred mats.  A very nice little repast, with
abundance of good wine, is served up to us-and I shall always remember
one curious dish, which I at first mistake for spinach. It is seaweed,
deliciously prepared—not the common edible seaweed, but a rare sort,
fine like moss.
After bidding farewell to our generous host, we take an uphill stroll to
the farther end of the village. We leave the cuttlefish behind; but
before us the greater part of the road is covered with matting, upon
which indigo is drying in the sun. The village terminates abruptly at
the top of the hill, where there is another grand granite torii—a
structure so ponderous that it is almost as difficult to imagine how it
was ever brought up the hill as to understand the methods of the
builders of Stonehenge. From this torii the road descends to the pretty
little seaport of U-Ryo, on the other side of the cape; for Hinomisaki
is situated on one side of a great promontory, as its name implies—a
mountain-range projecting into the Japanese Sea.
The family of the Guji of Hinomisaki is one of the oldest of the Kwazoku
or noble families of Izumo; and the daughters are still addressed by the
antique title of Princess—O-Hime-San. The ancient official designation
of the pontiff himself was Kengyo, as that of the Kitzuki pontiff was
Kokuzo; and the families of the Hinomisaki and of the Kitzuki Guji are
There is one touching and terrible tradition in the long history of the
Kengyos of Hinomisaki, which throws a strange light upon the social
condition of this province in feudal days.
Seven generations ago, a Matsudaira, Daimyo of Izumo, made with great
pomp his first official visit to the temples of Hinomisaki, and was
nobly entertained by the Kengyo—doubtless in the same chamber of a
hundred mats which we to-day were privileged to see. According to
custom, the young wife of the host waited upon the regal visitor, and
served him with dainties and with wine. She was singularly beautiful;
and her beauty, unfortunately, bewitched the Daimyo. With kingly
insolence he demanded that she should leave her husband and become his
concubine. Although astounded and terrified, she answered bravely, like
the true daughter of a samurai, that she was a loving wife and mother,
and that, sooner than desert her husband and her child, she would put an
end to her life with her own hand. The great Lord of Izumo sullenly
departed without further speech, leaving the little household plunged in
uttermost grief and anxiety; for it was too well known that the prince
would suffer no obstacle to remain in the way of his lust or his hate.
The anxiety, indeed, proved to be well founded. Scarcely had the Daimyo
returned to his domains when he began to devise means for the ruin of
the Kengyo. Soon afterward, the latter was suddenly and forcibly
separated from his family, hastily tried for some imaginary offence, and
banished to the islands of Oki. Some say the ship on which he sailed
went down at sea with all on board. Others say that he was conveyed to
Oki, but only to die there of misery and cold. At all events, the old
Izumo records state that, in the year corresponding to A.D. 1661 'the
Kengyo Takatoshi died in the land of Oki.'
On receiving news of the Kengyo's death, Matsudaira scarcely concealed
his exultation. The object of his passion was the daughter of his own
Karo, or minister, one of the noblest samurai of Matsue, by name Kamiya.
Kamiya was at once summoned before the Daimyo, who said to him: 'Thy
daughter's husband being dead, there exists no longer any reason that
she should not enter into my household. Do thou bring her hither.' The
Karo touched the floor with his forehead, and departed on his errand.
Upon the following day he re-entered the prince's apartment, and,
performing the customary prostration, announced that his lord's commands
had been obeyed-that the victim had arrived.
Smiling for pleasure, the Matsudaira ordered that she should be brought
at once into his presence. The Karo prostrated himself, retired and
presently returning, placed before his master a kubi-oke  upon which
lay the freshly-severed head of a beautiful woman—the head of the
young wife of the dead Kengyo—with the simple utterance:
'This is my daughter.'
Dead by her own brave will—but never dishonoured.
Seven generations have been buried since the Matsudaira strove to
appease his remorse by the building of temples and the erection of
monuments to the memory of his victim. His own race died with him: those
who now bear the illustrious name of that long line of daimyos are not
of the same blood; and the grim ruin of his castle, devoured by
vegetation, is tenanted only by lizards and bats. But the Kamiya family
endures; no longer wealthy, as in feudal times, but still highly
honoured in their native city. And each high pontiff of Hinomisakei
chooses always his bride from among the daughters of that valiant race.
NOTE.—The Kengyo of the above tradition was enshrined by Matsudaira in
the temple of Shiyekei-jinja, at Oyama, near Matsue. This miya was built
for an atonement; and the people still pray to the spirit of the Kengyo.
Near this temple formerly stood a very popular theatre, also erected by
the Daimyo in his earnest desire to appease the soul of his victim; for
he had heard that the Kengyo was very fond of theatrical performances.
The temple is still in excellent preservation; but the theatre has long
since disappeared; and its site is occupied by a farmer's vegetable
Chapter Thirteen Shinju
SOMETIMES they simply put their arms round each other, and lie down
together on the iron rails, just in front of an express train. (They
cannot do it in Izumo, however, because there are no railroads there
yet.) Sometimes they make a little banquet for themselves, write very
strange letters to parents and friends, mix something bitter with their
rice-wine, and go to sleep for ever. Sometimes they select a more
ancient and more honoured method: the lover first slays his beloved with
a single sword stroke, and then pierces his own throat. Sometimes with
the girl's long crape-silk under-girdle (koshi-obi) they bind themselves
fast together, face to face, and so embracing leap into some deep lake
or stream. Many are the modes by which they make their way to the Meido,
when tortured by that world-old sorrow about which Schopenhauer wrote so
marvellous a theory.
Their own theory is much simpler.
None love life more than the Japanese; none fear death less. Of a future
world they have no dread; they regret to leave this one only because it
seems to them a world of beauty and of happiness; but the mystery of the
future, so long oppressive to Western minds, causes them little concern.
As for the young lovers of whom I speak, they have a strange faith which
effaces mysteries for them. They turn to the darkness with infinite
trust. If they are too unhappy to endure existence, the fault is not
another's, nor yet the world's; it is their own; it is innen, the result
of errors in a previous life. If they can never hope to be united in
this world, it is only because in some former birth they broke their
promise to wed, or were otherwise cruel to each other. All this is not
heterodox. But they believe likewise that by dying together they will
find themselves at once united in another world, though Buddhism
proclaims that self-destruction is a deadly sin. Now this idea of
winning union through death is incalculably older than the faith of
Shaka; but it has somehow borrowed in modern time from Buddhism a
particular ecstatic colouring, a mystical glow. Hasu no hana no ue ni
oite matan. On the lotus-blossoms of paradise they shall rest together.
Buddhism teaches of transmigrations countless, prolonged through
millions of millions of years, before the soul can acquire the Infinite
Vision, the Infinite Memory, and melt into the bliss of Nehan, as a
white cloud melts into the summer 's blue. But these suffering ones
think never of Nehan; love's union, their supremest wish, may be
reached, they fancy, through the pang of a single death. The fancies of
all, indeed—as their poor letters show—are not the same. Some think
themselves about to enter Amida's paradise of light; some see in their
visional hope the saki-no-yo only, the future rebirth, when beloved
shall meet beloved again, in the all-joyous freshness of another youth;
while the idea of many, indeed of the majority, is vaguer far—only a
shadowy drifting together through vapoury silences, as in the faint
bliss of dreams.
They always pray to be buried together. Often this prayer is refused by
the parents or the guardians, and the people deem this refusal a cruel
thing, for 'tis believed that those who die for love of each other will
find no rest, if denied the same tomb. But when the prayer is granted
the ceremony of burial is beautiful and touching. From the two homes the
two funeral processions issue to meet in the temple court, by light of
lanterns. There, after the recitation of the kyo and the accustomed
impressive ceremonies, the chief priest utters an address to the souls
of the dead. Compassionately he speaks of the error and the sin; of the
youth of the victims, brief and comely as the flowers that blossom and
fall in the first burst of spring. He speaks of the Illusion—Mayoi—
which so wrought upon them; he recites the warning of the Teacher.. But
sometimes he will even predict the future reunion of the lovers in some
happier and higher life, re-echoing the popular heart-thought with a
simple eloquence that makes his hearers weep. Then the two processions
form into one, which takes its way to the cemetery where the grave has
already been prepared. The two coffins are lowered together, so that
their sides touch as they rest at the bottom of the excavation. Then the
yama-no-mono  folk remove the planks which separate the pair—making
the two coffins into one; above the reunited dead the earth is heaped;
and a haka, bearing in chiselled letters the story of their fate, and
perhaps a little poem, is placed above the mingling of their dust.
These suicides of lovers are termed 'joshi' or 'shinju'—(both words
being written with the same Chinese characters)-signifying 'heart-
death,' 'passion-death,' or 'love-death.' They most commonly occur, in
the case of women, among the joro  class; but occasionally also among
young girls of a more respectable class. There is a fatalistic belief
that if one shinju occurs among the inmates of a joroya, two more are
sure to follow. Doubtless the belief itself is the cause that cases of
shinju do commonly occur in series of three.
The poor girls who voluntarily sell themselves to a life of shame for
the sake of their families in time of uttermost distress do not, in
Japan (except, perhaps, in those open ports where European vice and
brutality have become demoralising influences), ever reach that depth of
degradation to which their Western sisters descend. Many indeed retain,
through all the period of their terrible servitude, a refinement of
manner, a delicacy of sentiment, and a natural modesty that seem, under
such conditions, as extraordinary as they are touching.
Only yesterday a case of shinju startled this quiet city. The servant of
a physician in the street called Nadamachi, entering the chamber of his
master's son a little after sunrise, found the young man lying dead with
a dead girl in his arms. The son had been disinherited. The girl was a
joro. Last night they were buried, but not together; for the father was
not less angered than grieved that such a thing should have been.
Her name was Kane. She was remarkably pretty and very gentle; and from
all accounts it would seem that her master had treated her with a
kindness unusual in men of his infamous class. She had sold herself for
the sake of her mother and a child-sister. The father was dead, and they
had lost everything. She was then seventeen. She had been in the house
scarcely a year when she met the youth. They fell seriously in love with
each other at once. Nothing more terrible could have befallen them; for
they could never hope to become man and wife. The young man, though
still allowed the privileges of a son, had been disinherited in favour
of an adopted brother of steadier habits. The unhappy pair spent all
they had for the privilege of seeing each other: she sold even her
dresses to pay for it. Then for the last time they met by stealth, late
at night, in the physician's house, drank death, and laid down to sleep
I saw the funeral procession of the girl winding its way by the light of
paper lanterns—the wan dead glow that is like a shimmer of
phosphorescence—to the Street of the Temples, followed by a long train
of women, white-hooded, white-robed, white-girdled, passing all
soundlessly—a troop of ghosts.
So through blackness to the Meido the white Shapes flit-the eternal
procession of Souls—in painted Buddhist dreams of the Underworld.
My friend who writes for the San-in Shimbun, which to-morrow will print
the whole sad story, tells me that compassionate folk have already
decked the new-made graves with flowers and with sprays of shikimi. 
Then drawing from a long native envelope a long, light, thin roll of
paper covered with beautiful Japanese writing, and unfolding it before
me, he adds:—'She left this letter to the keeper of the house in which
she lived: it has been given to us for publication. It is very prettily
written. But I cannot translate it well; for it is written in woman's
language. The language of letters written by women is not the same as
that of letters written by men. Women use particular words and
expressions. For instance, in men's language "I" is watakushi, or ware,
or yo, or boku, according to rank or circumstance, but in the language
of woman, it is warawa. And women's language is very soft and gentle;
and I do not think it is possible to translate such softness and
amiability of words into any other language. So I can only give you an
imperfect idea of the letter.'
And he interprets, slowly, thus:
'I leave this letter:
'As you know, from last spring I began to love Tashiro-San; and he also
fell in love with me. And now, alas!—the influence of our relation in
some previous birth having come upon us-and the promise we made each
other in that former life to become wife and husband having been broken
-even to-day I must travel to the Meido.
'You not only treated me very kindly, though you found me so stupid and
without influence,  but you likewise aided in many ways for my
worthless sake my mother and sister. And now, since I have not been able
to repay you even the one myriadth part of that kindness and pity in
which you enveloped me—pity great as the mountains and the sea —
it would not be without just reason that you should hate me as a great
'But though I doubt not this which I am about to do will seem a wicked
folly, I am forced to it by conditions and by my own heart. Wherefore I
still may pray you to pardon my past faults. And though I go to the
Meido, never shall I forget your mercy to me—great as the mountains
and the sea. From under the shadow of the grasses  I shall still try
to recompense you—to send back my gratitude to you and to your house.
Again, with all my heart I pray you: do not be angry with me.
'Many more things I would like to write. But now my heart is not a
heart; and I must quickly go. And so I shall lay down my writing-brush.
'It is written so clumsily, this.
'Kane thrice prostrates herself before you.
'Well, it is a characteristic shinju letter,' my friend comments, after
a moment's silence, replacing the frail white paper in its envelope. 'So
I thought it would interest you. And now, although it is growing dark, I
am going to the cemetery to see what has been done at the grave. Would
you like to come with me?'
We take our way over the long white bridge, up the shadowy Street of the
Temples, toward the ancient hakaba of Miokoji—and the darkness grows
as we walk. A thin moon hangs just above the roofs of the great temples.
Suddenly a far voice, sonorous and sweet—a man's voice-breaks into
song under the starred night: a song full of strange charm and tones
like warblings—those Japanese tones of popular emotion which seem to
have been learned from the songs of birds. Some happy workman returning
home. So clear the thin frosty air that each syllable quivers to us; but
I cannot understand the words:-
Saite yuke toya, ano ya wo saite; Yuke ba chikayoru nushi no soba.
'What is that?' I ask my friend.
He answers: 'A love-song. "Go forward, straight forward that way, to the
house that thou seest before thee;—the nearer thou goest thereto, the
nearer to her  shalt thou be."'
Chapter Fourteen Yaegaki-jinja
UNTO Yaegaki-jinja, which is in the village of Sakusa in Iu, in the Land
of Izumo, all youths and maidens go who are in love, and who can make
the pilgrimage. For in the temple of Yaegaki at Sakusa, Take-haya-susa-
no-wo-no-mikoto and his wife Inada-hime and their son Sa-ku-sa-no-mikoto
are enshrined. And these are the Deities of Wedlock and of Love—and
they set the solitary in families—and by their doing are destinies
coupled even from the hour of birth. Wherefore one should suppose that
to make pilgrimage to their temple to pray about things long since
irrevocably settled were simple waste of time. But in what land did ever
religious practice and theology agree? Scholiasts and priests create or
promulgate doctrine and dogma; but the good people always insist upon
making the gods according to their own heart—and these are by far the
better class of gods. Moreover, the history of Susano-o the Impetuous
Male Deity, does not indicate that destiny had anything to do with his
particular case: he fell in love with the Wondrous Inada Princess at
first sight—as it is written in the Kojiki:
'Then Take-haya-susa-no-wo-no-mikoto descended to a place called Tori-
kami at the headwaters of the River Hi in the land of Idzumo. At this
time a chopstick came floating down the stream. So Take-haya-susa-no-wo-
no-mikoto, thinking that there must be people at the headwaters of the
river, went up it in quest of them. And he came upon an old man and an
old woman who had a young girl between them, and were weeping. Then he
deigned to ask: "Who are ye?" So the old man replied, saying: "I am an
Earthly Deity, son of the Deity Oho-yama-tsu-mi-no-Kami. I am called by
the name of Ashi-nadzu-chi; my wife is called by the name of Te-nadzu-
chi; and my daughter is called by the name of Kushi-Inada-hime." Again
he asked: "What is the cause of your crying?" The old man answered,
saying: "I had originally eight young daughters. But the eight-forked
serpent of Koshi has come every year, and devoured one; and it is now
its time to come, wherefore we weep." Then he asked him: "What is its
form like?" The old man answered, saying: "Its eyes are like akaka-
gachi; it has one body with eight heads and eight tails. Moreover, upon
its body grow moss and sugi and hinoki trees. Its length extends over
eight valleys and eight hills; and if one look at its belly, it is all
constantly bloody and inflamed." Then Take-haya-susa-no-wo-no-mikoto
said to the old man: "If this be thy daughter, wilt thou offer her to
me?" He replied: "With reverence; but I know not thine august name."
Then he replied, saying: "I am elder brother to Ama-terasu-oho-mi-Kami.
So now I have descended from heaven." Then the Deities Ashi-nadzu-chi
and Te-nadzu-chi said: "If that be so, with reverence will we offer her
to thee." So Take-haya-susa-no-wo-no-mikoto, at once taking and changing
the young girl into a close-toothed comb, which he stuck into his august
hair-bunch, said to the Deities Ashi-nadzu-chi and Te-nadzu-chi: "Do you
distil some eightfold refined liquor. Also make a fence round about; in
that fence make eight gates; at each gate tie a platform; on each
platform put a liquor-vat; and into each vat pour the eightfold refined
liquor, and wait." So as they waited after having prepared everything in
accordance with his bidding, the eight-forked serpent came and put a
head into each vat and drank the liquor. Thereupon it was intoxicated,
and all the heads lay down and slept. Then Take-haya-susa-no-wo-nomikoto
drew the ten-grasp sabre that was augustly girded upon him, and cut the
serpent in pieces, so that the River Hi flowed on changed into a river
'Then Take-haya-susa-no-wo-no-mikoto sought in the Land of Idzumo where
he might build a palace.
'When this great Deity built the palace, clouds rose up thence. Then he
made an august song:
Sono ya-he-gaki wo!' 
Now the temple of Yaegaki takes its name from the words of the august
song Ya-he-gaki, and therefore signifies The Temple of the Eightfold
Fence. And ancient commentators upon the sacred books have said that the
name of Idzumo (which is now Izumo), as signifying the Land of the
Issuing of Clouds, was also taken from that song of the god. 
Sakusa, the hamlet where the Yaegaki-jinja stands, is scarcely more than
one ri south from Matsue. But to go there one must follow tortuous paths
too rough and steep for a kuruma; and of three ways, the longest and
roughest happens to be the most interesting. It slopes up and down
through bamboo groves and primitive woods, and again serpentines through
fields of rice and barley, and plantations of indigo and of ginseng,
where the scenery is always beautiful or odd. And there are many famed
Shinto temples to be visited on the road, such as Take-uchi-jinja,
dedicated to the venerable minister of the Empress Jingo, Take-uchi, to
whom men now pray for health and for length of years; and Okusa-no-miya,
or Rokusho-jinja, of the five greatest shrines in Izumo; and Manaijinja,
sacred to Izanagi, the Mother of Gods, where strange pictures may be
obtained of the Parents of the World; and Obano-miya, where Izanami is
enshrined, also called Kamoshijinja, which means, 'The Soul of the God.'
At the Temple of the Soul of the God, where the sacred fire-drill used
to be delivered each year with solemn rites to the great Kokuzo of
Kitzuki, there are curious things to be seen—a colossal grain of rice,
more than an inch long, preserved from that period of the Kamiyo when
the rice grew tall as the tallest tree and bore grains worthy of the
gods; and a cauldron of iron in which the peasants say that the first
Kokuzo came down from heaven; and a cyclopean toro formed of rocks so
huge that one cannot imagine how they were ever balanced upon each
other; and the Musical Stones of Oba, which chime like bells when
smitten. There is a tradition that these cannot be carried away beyond a
certain distance; for 'tis recorded that when a daimyo named Matsudaira
ordered one of them to be conveyed to his castle at Matsue, the stone
made itself so heavy that a thousand men could not move it farther than
the Ohashi bridge. So it was abandoned before the bridge; and it lies
there imbedded in the soil even unto this day.
All about Oba you may see many sekirei or wagtails-birds sacred to
Izanami and Izanagi—for a legend says that from the sekirei the gods
first learned the art of love. And none, not even the most avaricious
farmer, ever hurts or terrifies these birds. So that they do not fear
the people of Oba, nor the scarecrows in the fields.
The God of Scarecrows is Sukuna-biko-na-no-Kami.
The path to Sakusa, for the last mile of the journey, at least, is
extremely narrow, and has been paved by piety with large flat rocks laid
upon the soil at intervals of about a foot, like an interminable line of
stepping-stones. You cannot walk between them nor beside them, and you
soon tire of walking upon them; but they have the merit of indicating
the way, a matter of no small importance where fifty rice-field paths
branch off from your own at all bewildering angles. After having been
safely guided by these stepping-stones through all kinds of labyrinths
in rice valleys and bamboo groves, one feels grateful to the peasantry
for that clue-line of rocks. There are some quaint little shrines in the
groves along this path—shrines with curious carvings of dragons and of
lion-heads and flowing water—all wrought ages ago in good keyaki-wood,
 which has become the colour of stone. But the eyes of the dragons
and the lions have been stolen because they were made of fine crystal-
quartz, and there was none to guard them, and because neither the laws
nor the gods are quite so much feared now as they were before the period
Sakusa is a very small cluster of farmers' cottages before a temple at
the verge of a wood—the temple of Yaegaki. The stepping-stones of the
path vanish into the pavement of the court, just before its lofty
unpainted wooden torii Between the torii and the inner court, entered by
a Chinese gate, some grand old trees are growing, and there are queer
monuments to see. On either side of the great gateway is a shrine
compartment, inclosed by heavy wooden gratings on two sides; and in
these compartments are two grim figures in complete armour, with bows in
their hands and quivers of arrows upon their backs,-.-the Zuijin, or
ghostly retainers of the gods, and guardians of the gate. Before nearly
all the Shinto temples of Izumo, except Kitzuki, these Zuijin keep grim
watch. They are probably of Buddhist origin; but they have acquired a
Shinto history and Shinto names.  Originally, I am told, there was
but one Zuijin-Kami, whose name was Toyo-kushi-iwa-mato-no-mikoto. But
at a certain period both the god and his name were cut in two—perhaps
for decorative purposes. And now he who sits upon the left is called
Toyo-iwa-ma-to-no-mikoto; and his companion on the right, Kushi-iwa-ma-
Before the gate, on the left side, there is a stone monument upon which
is graven, in Chinese characters, a poem in Hokku, or verse of seventeen
syllables, composed by Cho-un:
My companion translates the characters thus:—'Where high heap the dead
leaves, there is the holy place upon the hills, where dwell the gods.'
Near by are stone lanterns and stone lions, and another monument—a
great five-cornered slab set up and chiselled—bearing the names in
Chinese characters of the Ji-jin, or Earth-Gods—the Deities who
protect the soil: Uga-no-mitama-no-mikoto (whose name signifies the
August Spirit-of-Food), Ama-terasu-oho-mi-Kami, Ona-muji-no-Kami, Kaki-
yasu-hime-no-Kami, Sukuna-hiko-na-no-Kami (who is the Scarecrow God).
And the figure of a fox in stone sits before the Name of the August
The miya or Shinto temple itself is quite small—smaller than most of
the temples in the neighbourhood, and dingy, and begrimed with age. Yet,
next to Kitzuki, this is the most famous of Izumo shrines. The main
shrine, dedicated to Susano-o and Inada-hime and their son, whose name
is the name of the hamlet of Sakusa, is flanked by various lesser
shrines to left and right. In one of these smaller miya the spirit of
Ashi-nadzu-chi, father of Inada-hime, is supposed to dwell; and in
another that of Te-nadzu-chi, the mother of Inada-hime. There is also a
small shrine of the Goddess of the Sun. But these shrines have no
curious features. The main temple offers, on the other hand, some
displays of rarest interest.
To the grey weather-worn gratings of the doors of the shrine hundreds
and hundreds of strips of soft white paper have been tied in knots:
there is nothing written upon them, although each represents a heart's
wish and a fervent prayer. No prayers, indeed, are so fervent as those
of love. Also there are suspended many little sections of bamboo, cut
just below joints so as to form water receptacles: these are tied
together in pairs with a small straw cord which also serves to hang them
up. They contain offerings of sea-water carried here from no small
distance. And mingling with the white confusion of knotted papers there
dangle from the gratings many tresses of girls' hair—love-sacrifices
—and numerous offerings of seaweed, so filamentary and so sun-
blackened that at some little distance it would not be easy to
distinguish them from long shorn tresses. And all the woodwork of the
doors and the gratings, both beneath and between the offerings, is
covered with a speckling of characters graven or written, which are
names of pilgrims.
And my companion reads aloud the well-remembered name of—AKIRA!
If one dare judge the efficacy of prayer to these kind gods of Shinto
from the testimony of their worshippers, I should certainly say that
Akira has good reason to hope. Planted in the soil, all round the edge
of the foundations of the shrine, are multitudes of tiny paper flags of
curious shape (nobori), pasted upon splinters of bamboo. Each of these
little white things is a banner of victory, and a lover's witness of
gratitude.  You will find such little flags stuck into the ground
about nearly all the great Shinto temples of Izumo. At Kitzuki they
cannot even be counted—any more than the flakes of a snowstorm.
And here is something else that you will find at most of the famous miya
in Izumo—a box of little bamboo sticks, fastened to a post before the
doors. If you were to count the sticks, you would find their number to
be exactly one thousand. They are counters for pilgrims who make a vow
to the gods to perform a sendo-mairi. To perform a sendo-mairi means to
visit the temple one thousand times. This, however, is so hard to do
that busy pious men make a sort of compromise with the gods, thus: they
walk from the shrine one foot beyond the gate, and back again to the
shrine, one thousand times—all in one day, keeping count with the
little splints of bamboo.
There is one more famous thing to be seen before visiting the holy grove
behind the temple, and that is the Sacred Tama-tsubaki, or Precious-
Camellia of Yaegaki. It stands upon a little knoll, fortified by a
projection-wall, in a rice-field near the house of the priest; a fence
has been built around it, and votive lamps of stone placed before it. It
is of vast age, and has two heads and two feet; but the twin trunks grow
together at the middle. Its unique shape, and the good quality of
Iongevity it is believed to possess in common with all of its species,
cause itto be revered as a symbol of undying wedded love, and as
tenanted by the Kami who hearken to lovers' prayers—enmusubi-no-kami.
There is, however, a strange superstition, about tsubaki-trees; and this
sacred tree of Yaegaki, in the opinion of some folk, is a rare exception
to the general ghastliness of its species. For tsubaki-trees are goblin
trees, they say, and walk about at night; and there was one in the
garden of a Matsue samurai which did this so much that it had to be cut
down. Then it writhed its arms and groaned, and blood spurted at every
stroke of the axe.
At the spacious residence of the kannushi some very curious ofuda and o-
mamori—the holy talismans and charms of Yaegaki—are sold, together
with pictures representing Take-haya-susa-no-wo-no-mikoto and his bride
Inada-hime surrounded by the 'manifold fence' of clouds. On the pictures
is also printed the august song whence the temple derives its name of
Yaegaki-jinja,—'Ya kumo tatsu Idzumo ya-he-gaki.' Of the o-mamori
there is quite a variety; but by far the most interesting is that
labelled: 'Izumo-Yaegaki-jinja-en-musubi-on-hina' (August wedlock—
producing 'hina' of the temple of Yaegaki of Izumo). This oblong, folded
paper, with Chinese characters and the temple seal upon it, is purchased
only by those in love, and is believed to assure nothing more than the
desired union. Within the paper are two of the smallest conceivable
doll-figures (hina), representing a married couple in antique costume—
the tiny wife folded to the breast of the tiny husband by one long-
sleeved arm. It is the duty of whoever purchases this mamori to return
it to the temple if he or she succeed in marrying the person beloved. As
already stated, the charm is not supposed to assure anything more than
the union: it cannot be accounted responsible for any consequences
thereof. He who desires perpetual love must purchase another mamori
labelled: 'Renri-tama-tsubaki-aikyo-goki-to-on-mamori' (August amulet of
august prayer-for-kindling-love of the jewel-precious tsubaki-tree-of-
Union). This charm should maintain at constant temperature the warmth of
affection; it contains only a leaf of the singular double-bodied
camelliatree beforementioned. There are also small amulets for exciting
love, and amulets for the expelling of diseases, but these have no
special characteristics worth dwelling upon.
Then we take our way to the sacred grove—the Okuno-in, or Mystic
Shades of Yaegaki.
This ancient grove—so dense that when you first pass into its shadows
out of the sun all seems black—is composed of colossal cedars and
pines, mingled with bamboo, tsubaki (Camellia Japonica), and sakaki, the
sacred and mystic tree of Shinto. The dimness is chiefly made by the
huge bamboos. In nearly all sacred groves bamboos are thickly set
between the trees, and their feathery foliage, filling every lofty
opening between the heavier crests, entirely cuts off the sun. Even in a
bamboo grove where no other trees are, there is always a deep twilight.
As the eyes become accustomed to this green gloaming, a pathway outlines
itself between the trees—a pathway wholly covered with moss, velvety,
soft, and beautifully verdant. In former years, when all pilgrims were
required to remove their footgear before entering the sacred grove, this
natural carpet was a boon to the weary. The next detail one observes is
that the trunks of many of the great trees have been covered with thick
rush matting to a height of seven or eight feet, and that holes have
been torn through some of the mats. All the giants of the grove are
sacred; and the matting was bound about them to prevent pilgrims from
stripping off their bark, which is believed to possess miraculous
virtues. But many, more zealous than honest, do not hesitate to tear
away the matting in order to get at the bark. And the third curious fact
which you notice is that the trunks of the great bamboos are covered
with ideographs—with the wishes of lovers and the names of girls.
There is nothing in the world of vegetation so nice to write a
sweetheart's name upon as the polished bark of a bamboo: each letter,
however lightly traced at first, enlarges and blackens with the growth
of the bark, and never fades away.
The deeply mossed path slopes down to a little pond in the very heart of
the grove—a pond famous in the land of Izumo. Here there are many
imori, or water-newts, about five inches long, which have red bellies.
Here the shade is deepest, and the stems of the bamboos most thickly
tattooed with the names of girls. It is believed that the flesh of the
newts in the sacred pond of Yaegaki possesses aphrodisiac qualities; and
the body of the creature, reduced to ashes, by burning, was formerly
converted into love-powders. And there is a little Japanese song
referring to the practice:
'Hore-gusuri koka niwa naika to imori ni toeba, yubi-wo marumete kore
The water is very clear; and there are many of these newts to be seen.
And it is the custom for lovers to make a little boat of paper, and put
into it one rin, and set it afloat and watch it. So soon as the paper
becomes wet through, and allows the water to enter it, the weight of the
copper coin soon sends it to the bottom, where, owing to the purity of
the water, it can be still seen distinctly as before. If the newts then
approach and touch it, the lovers believe their happiness assured by the
will of the gods; but if the newts do not come near it, the omen is
evil. One poor little paper boat, I observe, could not sink at all; it
simply floated to the inaccessible side of the pond, where the trees
rise like a solid wall of trunks from the water's edge, and there became
caught in some drooping branches. The lover who launched it must have
departed sorrowing at heart.
Close to the pond, near the pathway, there are many camellia-bushes, of
which the tips of the branches have been tied together, by pairs, with
strips of white paper. These are shrubs of presage. The true lover must
be able to bend two branches together, and to keep them united by tying
a paper tightly about them—all with the fingers of one hand. To do
this well is good luck. Nothing is written upon the strips of paper.
But there is enough writing upon the bamboos to occupy curiosity for
many an hour, in spite of the mosquitoes. Most of the names are yobi-na,
-that is to say, pretty names of women; but there are likewise names of
men—jitsumyo;  and, oddly enough, a girl's name and a man's are in
no instance written together. To judge by all this ideographic
testimony, lovers in Japan—or at least in Izumo—are even more
secretive than in our Occident. The enamoured youth never writes his own
jitsumyo and his sweetheart's yobi-na together; and the family name, or
myoji, he seldom ventures to inscribe. If he writes his jitsumyo, then
he contents himself with whispering the yobi-na of his sweetheart to the
gods and to the bamboos. If he cuts her yobi-na into the bark, then he
substitutes for his own name a mention of his existence and his age
only, as in this touching instance:
Takata-Toki-to-en-musubi-negaimas. Jiu-hassai-no-otoko 
This lover presumes to write his girl's whole name; but the example, so
far as I am able to discover, is unique. Other enamoured ones write only
the yobi-na of their bewitchers; and the honourable prefix, 'O,' and the
honourable suffix, 'San,' find no place in the familiarity of love.
There is no 'O-Haru-San,' 'O-Kin-San,' 'O-Take-San,' 'O-Kiku-San'; but
there are hosts of Haru, and Kin, and Take, and Kiku. Girls, of course,
never dream of writing their lovers' names. But there are many geimyo
here, 'artistic names,'—names of mischievous geisha who worship the
Golden Kitten, written by their saucy selves: Rakue and Asa and Wakai,
Aikichi and Kotabuki and Kohachi, Kohana and Tamakichi and Katsuko, and
Asakichi and Hanakichi and Katsukichi, and Chiyoe and Chiyotsuru.
'Fortunate-Pleasure,' 'Happy-Dawn,' and 'Youth' (such are their
appellations), 'Blest-Love' and 'Length-of-Days,' and 'Blossom-Child'
and 'Jewel-of-Fortune' and 'Child-of-Luck,' and 'Joyous-Sunrise' and
'Flower-of-Bliss' and 'Glorious Victory,' and 'Life-as-the-Stork's-for-
a-thousand-years.' Often shall he curse the day he was born who falls in
love with Happy-Dawn; thrice unlucky the wight bewitched by the Child-
of-Luck; woe unto him who hopes to cherish the Flower-of-Bliss; and more
than once shall he wish himself dead whose heart is snared by Life-as-
the-Stork's-for-a-thou sand-years. And I see that somebody who inscribes
his age as twenty and three has become enamoured of young Wakagusa,
whose name signifies the tender Grass of Spring. Now there is but one
possible misfortune for you, dear boy, worse than falling in love with
Wakagusa—and that is that she should happen to fall in love with you.
Because then you would, both of you, write some beautiful letters to
your friends, and drink death, and pass away in each other's arms,
murmuring your trust to rest together upon the same lotus-flower in
Paradise: 'Hasu no ha no ue ni oite matsu.' Nay! pray the Deities rather
to dissipate the bewitchment that is upon you:
Te ni toru na, Yahari no ni oke Gengebana. 
And here is a lover's inscription—in English! Who presumes to suppose
that the gods know English? Some student, no doubt, who for pure shyness
engraved his soul's secret in this foreign tongue of mine—never
dreaming that a foreign eye would look upon it. 'I wish You, Harul' Not
once, but four—no, five times!—each time omitting the preposition.
Praying—in this ancient grove—in this ancient Land of Izumo—unto
the most ancient gods in English! Verily, the shyest love presumes much
upon the forbearance of the gods. And great indeed must be, either the
patience of Take-haya-susano-wo-no-mikoto, or the rustiness of the ten-
grasp sabre that was augustly girded upon him.
Chapter Fifteen Kitsune
By every shady wayside and in every ancient grove, on almost every
hilltop and in the outskirts of every village, you may see, while
travelling through the Hondo country, some little Shinto shrine, before
which, or at either side of which, are images of seated foxes in stone.
Usually there is a pair of these, facing each other. But there may be a
dozen, or a score, or several hundred, in which case most of the images
are very small. And in more than one of the larger towns you may see in
the court of some great miya a countless host of stone foxes, of all
dimensions, from toy-figures but a few inches high to the colossi whose
pedestals tower above your head, all squatting around the temple in
tiered ranks of thousands. Such shrines and temples, everybody knows,
are dedicated to Inari the God of Rice. After having travelled much in
Japan, you will find that whenever you try to recall any country-place
you have visited, there will appear in some nook or corner of that
remembrance a pair of green-and-grey foxes of stone, with broken noses.
In my own memories of Japanese travel, these shapes have become de
rigueur, as picturesque detail.
In the neighbourhood of the capital and in Tokyo itself-sometimes in
the cemeteries—very beautiful idealised figures of foxes may be seen,
elegant as greyhounds. They have long green or grey eyes of crystal
quartz or some other diaphanous substance; and they create a strong
impression as mythological conceptions. But throughout the interior,
fox-images are much less artistically fashioned. In Izumo, particularly,
such stone-carving has a decidedly primitive appearance. There is an
astonishing multiplicity and variety of fox-images in the Province of
the Gods—images comical, quaint, grotesque, or monstrous, but, for the
most part, very rudely chiselled. I cannot, however, declare them less
interesting on that account. The work of the Tokkaido sculptor copies
the conventional artistic notion of light grace and ghostliness. The
rustic foxes of Izumo have no grace: they are uncouth; but they betray
in countless queer ways the personal fancies of their makers. They are
of many moods—whimsical, apathetic, inquisitive, saturnine, jocose,
ironical; they watch and snooze and squint and wink and sneer; they wait
with lurking smiles; they listen with cocked ears most stealthily,
keeping their mouths open or closed. There is an amusing individuality
about them all, and an air of knowing mockery about most of them, even
those whose noses have been broken off. Moreover, these ancient country
foxes have certain natural beauties which their modern Tokyo kindred
cannot show. Time has bestowed upon them divers speckled coats of
beautiful soft colours while they have been sitting on their pedestals,
listening to the ebbing and flowing of the centuries and snickering
weirdly at mankind. Their backs are clad with finest green velvet of old
mosses; their limbs are spotted and their tails are tipped with the dead
gold or the dead silver of delicate fungi. And the places they most
haunt are the loveliest—high shadowy groves where the uguisu sings in
green twilight, above some voiceless shrine with its lamps and its lions
of stone so mossed as to seem things born of the soil—like mushrooms.
I found it difficult to understand why, out of every thousand foxes,
nine hundred should have broken noses. The main street of the city of
Matsue might be paved from end to end with the tips of the noses of
mutilated Izumo foxes. A friend answered my expression of wonder in this
regard by the simple but suggestive word, 'Kodomo', which means, 'The
Inari the name by which the Fox-God is generally known, signifies 'Load-
of-Rice.' But the antique name of the Deity is the August-Spirit-of-
Food: he is the Uka-no-mi-tama-no-mikoto of the Kojiki.  In much more
recent times only has he borne the name that indicates his connection
with the fox-cult, Miketsu-no-Kami, or the Three-Fox-God. Indeed, the
conception of the fox as a supernatural being does not seem to have been
introduced into Japan before the tenth or eleventh century; and although
a shrine of the deity, with statues of foxes, may be found in the court
of most of the large Shinto temples, it is worthy of note that in all
the vast domains of the oldest Shinto shrine in Japan—Kitzuki—you
cannot find the image of a fox. And it is only in modern art—the art
of Toyokuni and others—that Inari is represented as a bearded man
riding a white fox. 
Inari is not worshipped as the God of Rice only; indeed, there are many
Inari just as in antique Greece there were many deities called Hermes,
Zeus, Athena, Poseidon—one in the knowledge of the learned, but
essentially different in the imagination of the common people. Inari has
been multiplied by reason of his different attributes. For instance,
Matsue has a Kamiya-San-no-Inari-San, who is the God of Coughs and Bad
Colds—afflictions extremely common and remarkably severe in the Land
of Izumo. He has a temple in the Kamachi at which he is worshipped under
the vulgar appellation of Kaze-no-Kami and the politer one of Kamiya-
San-no-Inari. And those who are cured of their coughs and colds after
having prayed to him, bring to his temple offerings of tofu.
At Oba, likewise, there is a particular Inari, of great fame. Fastened
to the wall of his shrine is a large box full of small clay foxes. The
pilgrim who has a prayer to make puts one of these little foxes in his
sleeve and carries it home, He must keep it, and pay it all due honour,
until such time as his petition has been granted. Then he must take it
back to the temple, and restore it to the box, and, if he be able, make
some small gift to the shrine.
Inari is often worshipped as a healer; and still more frequently as a
deity having power to give wealth. (Perhaps because all the wealth of
Old Japan was reckoned in koku of rice.) Therefore his foxes are
sometimes represented holding keys in their mouths. And from being the
deity who gives wealth, Inari has also become in some localities the
special divinity of the joro class. There is, for example, an Inari
temple worth visiting in the neighbourhood of the Yoshiwara at Yokohama.
It stands in the same court with a temple of Benten, and is more than
usually large for a shrine of Inari. You approach it through a
succession of torii one behind the other: they are of different heights,
diminishing in size as they are placed nearer to the temple, and planted
more and more closely in proportion to their smallness. Before each
torii sit a pair of weird foxes—one to the right and one to the left.
The first pair are large as greyhounds; the second two are much smaller;
and the sizes of the rest lessen as the dimensions of the torii lessen.
At the foot of the wooden steps of the temple there is a pair of very
graceful foxes of dark grey stone, wearing pieces of red cloth about
their necks. Upon the steps themselves are white wooden foxes—one at
each end of each step—each successive pair being smaller than the pair
below; and at the threshold of the doorway are two very little foxes,
not more than three inches high, sitting on sky-blue pedestals. These
have the tips of their tails gilded. Then, if you look into the temple
you will see on the left something like a long low table on which are
placed thousands of tiny fox-images, even smaller than those in the
doorway, having only plain white tails. There is no image of Inari;
indeed, I have never seen an image of Inari as yet in any Inari temple.
On the altar appear the usual emblems of Shinto; and before it, just
opposite the doorway, stands a sort of lantern, having glass sides and a
wooden bottom studded with nail-points on which to fix votive candles.
And here, from time to time, if you will watch, you will probably see
more than one handsome girl, with brightly painted lips and the
beautiful antique attire that no maiden or wife may wear, come to the
foot of the steps, toss a coin into the money-box at the door, and call
out: 'O-rosoku!' which means 'an honourable candle.' Immediately, from
an inner chamber, some old man will enter the shrine-room with a lighted
candle, stick it upon a nail-point in the lantern, and then retire. Such
candle-offerings are always accompanied by secret prayers for good-
fortune. But this Inari is worshipped by many besides members of the
The pieces of coloured cloth about the necks of the foxes are also
Fox-images in Izumo seem to be more numerous than in other provinces,
and they are symbols there, so far as the mass of the peasantry is
concerned, of something else besides the worship of the Rice-Deity.
Indeed, the old conception of the Deity of Rice-fields has been
overshadowed and almost effaced among the lowest classes by a weird cult
totally foreign to the spirit of pure Shinto—the Fox-cult. The worship
of the retainer has almost replaced the worship of the god. Originally
the Fox was sacred to Inari only as the Tortoise is still sacred to
Kompira; the Deer to the Great Deity of Kasuga; the Rat to Daikoku; the
Tai-fish to Ebisu; the White Serpent to Benten; or the Centipede to
Bishamon, God of Battles. But in the course of centuries the Fox usurped
divinity. And the stone images of him are not the only outward evidences
of his cult. At the rear of almost every Inari temple you will generally
find in the wall of the shrine building, one or two feet above the
ground, an aperture about eight inches in diameter and perfectly
circular. It is often made so as to be closed at will by a sliding
plank. This circular orifice is a Fox-hole, and if you find one open,
and look within, you will probably see offerings of tofu or other food
which foxes are supposed to be fond of. You will also, most likely, find
grains of rice scattered on some little projection of woodwork below or
near the hole, or placed on the edge of the hole itself; and you may see
some peasant clap his hands before the hole, utter some little prayer,
and swallow a grain or two of that rice in the belief that it will
either cure or prevent sickness. Now the fox for whom such a hole is
made is an invisible fox, a phantom fox—the fox respectfully referred
to by the peasant as O-Kitsune-San. If he ever suffers himself to become
visible, his colour is said to be snowy white.
According to some, there are various kinds of ghostly foxes. According
to others, there are two sorts of foxes only, the Inari-fox (O-Kitsune-
San) and the wild fox (kitsune). Some people again class foxes into
Superior and Inferior Foxes, and allege the existence of four Superior
Sorts—Byakko, Kokko, Jenko, and Reiko—all of which possess
supernatural powers. Others again count only three kinds of foxes—the
Field-fox, the Man-fox, and the Inari-fox. But many confound the Field-
fox or wild fox with the Man-fox, and others identify the Inari-fox with
the Man-fox. One cannot possibly unravel the confusion of these beliefs,
especially among the peasantry. The beliefs vary, moreover, in different
districts. I have only been able, after a residence of fourteen months
in Izumo, where the superstition is especially strong, and marked by
certain unique features, to make the following very loose summary of
All foxes have supernatural power. There are good and bad foxes. The
Inari-fox is good, and the bad foxes are afraid of the Inari-fox. The
worst fox is the Ninko or Hito-kitsune (Man-fox): this is especially the
fox of demoniacal possession. It is no larger than a weasel, and
somewhat similar in shape, except for its tail, which is like the tail
of any other fox. It is rarely seen, keeping itself invisible, except to
those to whom it attaches itself. It likes to live in the houses of men,
and to be nourished by them, and to the homes where it is well cared for
it will bring prosperity. It will take care that the rice-fields shall
never want for water, nor the cooking-pot for rice. But if offended, it
will bring misfortune to the household, and ruin to the crops. The wild
fox (Nogitsune) is also bad. It also sometimes takes possession of
people; but it is especially a wizard, and prefers to deceive by
enchantment. It has the power of assuming any shape and of making itself
invisible; but the dog can always see it, so that it is extremely afraid
of the dog. Moreover, while assuming another shape, if its shadow fall
upon water, the water will only reflect the shadow of a fox. The
peasantry kill it; but he who kills a fox incurs the risk of being
bewitched by that fox's kindred, or even by the ki, or ghost of the fox.
Still if one eat the flesh of a fox, he cannot be enchanted afterwards.
The Nogitsune also enters houses. Most families having foxes in their
houses have only the small kind, or Ninko; but occasionally both kinds
will live together under the same roof. Some people say that if the
Nogitsune lives a hundred years it becomes all white, and then takes
rank as an Inari-fox.
There are curious contradictions involved in these beliefs, and other
contradictions will be found in the following pages of this sketch. To
define the fox-superstition at all is difficult, not only on account of
the confusion of ideas on the subject among the believers themselves,
but also on account of the variety of elements out of which it has been
shapen. Its origin is Chinese ; but in Japan it became oddly blended
with the worship of a Shinto deity, and again modified and expanded by
the Buddhist concepts of thaumaturgy and magic. So far as the common
people are concerned, it is perhaps safe to say that they pay devotion
to foxes chiefly because they fear them. The peasant still worships what
It is more than doubtful whether the popular notions about different
classes of foxes, and about the distinction between the fox of Inari and
the fox of possession, were ever much more clearly established than they
are now, except in the books of old literati. Indeed, there exists a
letter from Hideyoshi to the Fox-God which would seem to show that in
the time of the great Taiko the Inari-fox and the demon fox were
considered identical. This letter is still preserved at Nara, in the
Buddhist temple called Todaiji:
KYOTO, the seventeenth day
of the Third Month.
TO INARI DAIMYOJIN:-
My Lord—I have the honour to inform you that one of the foxes under
your jurisdiction has bewitched one of my servants, causing her and
others a great deal of trouble. I have to request that you will make
minute inquiries into the matter, and endeavour to find out the reason
of your subject misbehaving in this way, and let me know the result.
If it turns out that the fox has no adequate reason to give for his
behaviour, you are to arrest and punish him at once. If you hesitate to
take action in this matter, I shall issue orders for the destruction of
every fox in the land.
Any other particulars that you may wish to be informed of in reference
to what has occurred, you can learn from the high-priest YOSHIDA.
Apologising for the imperfections of this letter, I have the honour to be
Your obedient servant,
Your obedient servant,
HIDEYOSHI TAIKO 
But there certainly were some distinctions established in localities,
owing to the worship of Inari by the military caste. With the samurai of
Izumo, the Rice-God, for obvious reasons, was a highly popular deity;
and you can still find in the garden of almost every old shizoku
residence in Matsue, a small shrine of Inari Daimyojin, with little
stone foxes seated before it. And in the imagination of the lower
classes, all samurai families possessed foxes. But the samurai foxes
inspired no fear. They were believed to be 'good foxes'; and the
superstition of the Ninko or Hito-kitsune does not seem to have
unpleasantly affected any samurai families of Matsue during the feudal
era. It is only since the military caste has been abolished, and its
name, simply as a body of gentry, changed to shizoku,  that some
families have become victims of the superstition through intermarriage
with the chonin or mercantile classes, among whom the belief has always
By the peasantry the Matsudaira daimyo of Izumo were supposed to be the
greatest fox-possessors. One of them was believed to use foxes as
messengers to Tokyo (be it observed that a fox can travel, according to
popular credence, from Yokohama to London in a few hours); and there is
some Matsue story about a fox having been caught in a trap  near
Tokyo, attached to whose neck was a letter written by the prince of
Izumo only the same morning. The great Inari temple of Inari in the
castle grounds—O-Shiroyama-no-InariSama—with its thousands upon
thousands of foxes of stone, is considered by the country people a
striking proof of the devotion of the Matsudaira, not to Inari, but to
At present, however, it is no longer possible to establish distinctions
of genera in this ghostly zoology, where each species grows into every
other. It is not even possible to disengage the ki or Soul of the Fox
and the August-Spirit-of-Food from the confusion in which both have
become hopelessly blended, under the name Inari by the vague conception
of their peasant-worshippers. The old Shinto mythology is indeed quite
explicit about the August-Spirit-of-Food, and quite silent upon the
subject of foxes. But the peasantry in Izumo, like the peasantry of
Catholic Europe, make mythology for themselves. If asked whether they
pray to Inari as to an evil or a good deity, they will tell you that
Inari is good, and that Inari-foxes are good. They will tell you of
white foxes and dark foxes—of foxes to be reverenced and foxes to be
killed—of the good fox which cries 'kon-kon,' and the evil fox which
cries 'kwai-kwai.' But the peasant possessed by the fox cries out: 'I am
Inari—Tamabushi-no-Inari!'—or some other Inari.
Goblin foxes are peculiarly dreaded in Izumo for three evil habits
attributed to them. The first is that of deceiving people by
enchantment, either for revenge or pure mischief. The second is that of
quartering themselves as retainers upon some family, and thereby making
that family a terror to its neighbours. The third and worst is that of
entering into people and taking diabolical possession of them and
tormenting them into madness. This affliction is called 'kitsune-tsuki.'
The favourite shape assumed by the goblin fox for the purpose of
deluding mankind is that of a beautiful woman; much less frequently the
form of a young man is taken in order to deceive some one of the other
sex. Innumerable are the stories told or written about the wiles of fox-
women. And a dangerous woman of that class whose art is to enslave men,
and strip them of all they possess, is popularly named by a word of
Many declare that the fox never really assumes human shape; but that he
only deceives people into the belief that he does so by a sort of
magnetic power, or by spreading about them a certain magical effluvium.
The fox does not always appear in the guise of a woman for evil
purposes. There are several stories, and one really pretty play, about a
fox who took the shape of a beautiful woman, and married a man, and bore
him children—all out of gratitude for some favour received—the
happiness of the family being only disturbed by some odd carnivorous
propensities on the part of the offspring. Merely to achieve a
diabolical purpose, the form of a woman is not always the best disguise.
There are men quite insusceptible to feminine witchcraft. But the fox is
never at a loss for a disguise; he can assume more forms than Proteus.
Furthermore, he can make you see or hear or imagine whatever he wishes
you to see, hear, or imagine. He can make you see out of Time and Space;
he can recall the past and reveal the future. His power has not been
destroyed by the introduction of Western ideas; for did he not, only a
few years ago, cause phantom trains to run upon the Tokkaido railway,
thereby greatly confounding, and terrifying the engineers of the
company? But, like all goblins, he prefers to haunt solitary places. At
night he is fond of making queer ghostly lights,  in semblance of
lantern-fires, flit about dangerous places; and to protect yourself from
this trick of his, it is necessary to learn that by joining your hands
in a particular way, so as to leave a diamond-shaped aperture between
the crossed fingers, you can extinguish the witch-fire at any distance
simply by blowing through the aperture in the direction of the light and
uttering a certain Buddhist formula.
But it is not only at night that the fox manifests his power for
mischief: at high noon he may tempt you to go where you are sure to get
killed, or frighten you into going by creating some apparition or making
you imagine that you feel an earthquake. Consequently the old-fashioned
peasant, on seeing anything extremely queer, is slew to credit the
testimony of his own eyes. The most interesting and valuable witness of
the stupendous eruption of Bandai-San in 1888—which blew the huge
volcano to pieces and devastated an area of twenty-seven square miles,
levelling forests, turning rivers from their courses, and burying
numbers of villages with all their inhabitants—was an old peasant who
had watched the whole cataclysm from a neighbouring peak as
unconcernedly as if he had been looking at a drama. He saw a black
column of ashes and steam rise to the height of twenty thousand feet and
spread out at its summit in the shape of an umbrella, blotting out the
sun. Then he felt a strange rain pouring upon him, hotter than the water
of a bath. Then all became black; and he felt the mountain beneath him
shaking to its roots, and heard a crash of thunders that seemed like the
sound of the breaking of a world. But he remained quite still until
everything was over. He had made up his mind not to be afraid—deeming
that all he saw and heard was delusion wrought by the witchcraft of a
Strange is the madness of those into whom demon foxes enter. Sometimes
they run naked shouting through the streets. Sometimes they lie down and
froth at the mouth, and yelp as a fox yelps. And on some part of the
body of the possessed a moving lump appears under the skin, which seems
to have a life of its own. Prick it with a needle, and it glides
instantly to another place. By no grasp can it be so tightly compressed
by a strong hand that it will not slip from under the fingers. Possessed
folk are also said to speak and write languages of which they were
totally ignorant prior to possession. They eat only what foxes are
believed to like—tofu, aburage,  azukimeshi,  etc.—and they
eat a great deal, alleging that not they, but the possessing foxes, are
It not infrequently happens that the victims of fox-possession are
cruelly treated by their relatives—being severely burned and beaten in
the hope that the fox may be thus driven away. Then the Hoin  or
Yamabushi is sent for—the exorciser. The exorciser argues with the
fox, who speaks through the mouth of the possessed. When the fox is
reduced to silence by religious argument upon the wickedness of
possessing people, he usually agrees to go away on condition of being
supplied with plenty of tofu or other food; and the food promised must
be brought immediately to that particular Inari temple of which the fox
declares himself a retainer. For the possessing fox, by whomsoever sent,
usually confesses himself the servant of a certain Inari though
sometimes even calling himself the god.
As soon as the possessed has been freed from the possessor, he falls
down senseless, and remains for a long time prostrate. And it is said,
also, that he who has once been possessed by a fox will never again be
able to eat tofu, aburage, azukimeshi, or any of those things which
It is believed that the Man-fox (Hito-kitsune) cannot be seen. But if he
goes close to still water, his SHADOW can be seen in the water. Those
'having foxes' are therefore supposed to avoid the vicinity of rivers
The invisible fox, as already stated, attaches himself to persons. Like
a Japanese servant, he belongs to the household. But if a daughter of
that household marry, the fox not only goes to that new family,
following the bride, but also colonises his kind in all those families
related by marriage or kinship with the husband's family. Now every fox
is supposed to have a family of seventy-five—neither more, nor less
than seventy-five—and all these must be fed. So that although such
foxes, like ghosts, eat very little individually, it is expensive to
have foxes. The fox-possessors (kitsune-mochi) must feed their foxes at
regular hours; and the foxes always eat first—all the seventy-live. As
soon as the family rice is cooked in the kama (a great iron cooking-
pot), the kitsune-mochi taps loudly on the side of the vessel, and
uncovers it. Then the foxes rise up through the floor. And although
their eating is soundless to human ear and invisible to human eye, the
rice slowly diminishes. Wherefore it is fearful for a poor man to have
But the cost of nourishing foxes is the least evil connected with the
keeping of them. Foxes have no fixed code of ethics, and have proved
themselves untrustworthy servants. They may initiate and long maintain
the prosperity of some family; but should some grave misfortune fall
upon that family in spite of the efforts of its seventy-five invisible
retainers, then these will suddenly flee away, taking all the valuables
of the household along with them. And all the fine gifts that foxes
bring to their masters are things which have been stolen from somebody
else. It is therefore extremely immoral to keep foxes. It is also
dangerous for the public peace, inasmuch as a fox, being a goblin, and
devoid of human susceptibilities, will not take certain precautions. He
may steal the next-door neighbour's purse by night and lay it at his own
master's threshold, so that if the next-door neighbour happens to get up
first and see it there is sure to be a row.
Another evil habit of foxes is that of making public what they hear said
in private, and taking it upon themselves to create undesirable scandal.
For example, a fox attached to the family of Kobayashi-San hears his
master complain about his neighbour Nakayama-San, whom he secretly
dislikes. Therewith the zealous retainer runs to the house of Nakayama-
San, and enters into his body, and torments him grievously, saying: 'I
am the retainer of Kobayashi-San to whom you did such-and-such a wrong;
and until such time as he command me to depart, I shall continue to
And last, but worst of all the risks of possessing foxes, is the danger
that they may become wroth with some member of the family. Certainly a
fox may be a good friend, and make rich the home in which he is
domiciled. But as he is not human, and as his motives and feelings are
not those of men, but of goblins, it is difficult to avoid incurring his
displeasure. At the most unexpected moment he may take offence without
any cause knowingly having been given, and there is no saying what the
consequences may be. For the fox possesses Instinctive Infinite Vision—
and the Ten-Ni-Tsun, or All-Hearing Ear—and the Ta-Shin-Tsun, which is
the Knowledge of the Most Secret Thoughts of Others—and Shiyuku-Mei-
Tsun, which is the Knowledge of the Past—and Zhin-Kiyan-Tsun, which
means the Knowledge of the Universal Present—and also the Powers of
Transformation and of Transmutation.  So that even without including
his special powers of bewitchment, he is by nature a being almost
omnipotent for evil.
For all these reasons, and, doubtless many more, people believed to have
foxes are shunned. Intermarriage with a fox-possessing family is out of
the question; and many a beautiful and accomplished girl in Izumo cannot
secure a husband because of the popular belief that her family harbours
foxes. As a rule, Izumo girls do not like to marry out of their own
province; but the daughters of a kitsune-mochi must either marry into
the family of another kitsune-mochi, or find a husband far away from the
Province of the Gods. Rich fox-possessing families have not overmuch
difficulty in disposing of their daughters by one of the means above
indicated; but many a fine sweet girl of the poorer kitsune-mochi is
condemned by superstition to remain unwedded. It is not because there
are none to love her and desirous of marrying her—young men who have
passed through public schools and who do not believe in foxes. It is
because popular superstition cannot be yet safely defied in country
districts except by the wealthy. The consequences of such defiance would
have to be borne, not merely by the husband, but by his whole family,
and by all other families related thereunto. Which are consequences to
be thought about!
Among men believed to have foxes there are some who know how to turn the
superstition to good account. The country-folk, as a general rule, are
afraid of giving offence to a kitsune-mochi, lest he should send some of
his invisible servants to take possession of them. Accordingly, certain
kitsune-mochi have obtained great ascendancy over the communities in
which they live. In the town of Yonago, for example, there is a certain
prosperous chonin whose will is almost law, and whose opinions are never
opposed. He is practically the ruler of the place, and in a fair way of
becoming a very wealthy man. All because he is thought to have foxes.
Wrestlers, as a class, boast of their immunity from fox-possession, and
care neither for kitsune-mochi nor for their spectral friends. Very
strong men are believed to be proof against all such goblinry. Foxes are
said to be afraid of them, and instances are cited of a possessing fox
declaring: 'I wished to enter into your brother, but he was too strong
for me; so I have entered into you, as I am resolved to be revenged upon
some one of your family.'
Now the belief in foxes does not affect persons only: it affects
property. It affects the value of real estate in Izumo to the amount of
hundreds of thousands.
The land of a family supposed to have foxes cannot be sold at a fair
price. People are afraid to buy it; for it is believed the foxes may
ruin the new proprietor. The difficulty of obtaining a purchaser is most
great in the case of land terraced for rice-fields, in the mountain
districts. The prime necessity of such agriculture is irrigation—
irrigation by a hundred ingenious devices, always in the face of
difficulties. There are seasons when water becomes terribly scarce, and
when the peasants will even fight for water. It is feared that on lands
haunted by foxes, the foxes may turn the water away from one field into
another, or, for spite, make holes in the dikes and so destroy the crop.
There are not wanting shrewd men to take advantage of this queer belief.
One gentleman of Matsue, a good agriculturist of the modern school,
speculated in the fox-terror fifteen years ago, and purchased a vast
tract of land in eastern Izumo which no one else would bid for. That
land has sextupled in value, besides yielding generously under his
system of cultivation; and by selling it now he could realise an immense
fortune. His success, and the fact of his having been an official of the
government, broke the spell: it is no longer believed that his farms are
fox-haunted. But success alone could not have freed the soil from the
curse of the superstition. The power of the farmer to banish the foxes
was due to his official character. With the peasantry, the word
'Government' is talismanic.
Indeed, the richest and the most successful farmer of Izumo, worth more
than a hundred thousand yen—Wakuri-San of Chinomiya in Kandegori—is
almost universally believed by the peasantry to be a kitsune-mochi. They
tell curious stories about him. Some say that when a very poor man he
found in the woods one day a little white fox-cub, and took it home, and
petted it, and gave it plenty of tofu, azukimeshi, and aburage—three
sorts of food which foxes love—and that from that day prosperity came
to him. Others say that in his house there is a special zashiki, or
guest-room for foxes; and that there, once in each month, a great
banquet is given to hundreds of Hito-kitsune. But Chinomiya-no-Wakuri,
as they call him, canaffordto laugh at all these tales. He is a refined
man, highly respected in cultivated circles where superstition never
When a Ninko comes to your house at night and knocks, there is a
peculiar muffled sound about the knocking by which you can tell that the
visitor is a fox—if you have experienced ears. For a fox knocks at
doors with its tail. If you open, then you will see a man, or perhaps a
beautiful girl, who will talk to you only in fragments of words, but
nevertheless in such a way that you can perfectly well understand. A fox
cannot pronounce a whole word, but a part only—as 'Nish . . . Sa. . .'
for 'Nishida-San'; 'degoz . . .' for 'degozarimasu, or 'uch . . . de . .?'
for 'uchi desuka?' Then, if you are a friend of foxes, the visitor
will present you with a little gift of some sort, and at once vanish
away into the darkness. Whatever the gift may be, it will seem much
larger that night than in the morning. Only a part of a fox-gift is
A Matsue shizoku, going home one night by way of the street called
Horomachi, saw a fox running for its life pursued by dogs. He beat the
dogs off with his umbrella, thus giving the fox a chance to escape. On
the following evening he heard some one knock at his door, and on
opening the to saw a very pretty girl standing there, who said to him:
'Last night I should have died but for your august kindness. I know not
how to thank you enough: this is only a pitiable little present. And she
laid a small bundle at his feet and went away. He opened the bundle and
found two beautiful ducks and two pieces of silver money—those long,
heavy, leaf-shaped pieces of money—each worth ten or twelve dollars—
such as are now eagerly sought for by collectors of antique things.
After a little while, one of the coins changed before his eyes into a
piece of grass; the other was always good.
Sugitean-San, a physician of Matsue, was called one evening to attend a
case of confinement at a house some distance from the city, on the hill
called Shiragayama. He was guided by a servant carrying a paper lantern
painted with an aristocratic crest.  He entered into a magnificent
house, where he was received with superb samurai courtesy. The mother
was safely delivered of a fine boy. The family treated the physician to
an excellent dinner, entertained him elegantly, and sent him home,
loaded with presents and money. Next day he went, according to Japanese
etiquette, to return thanks to his hosts. He could not find the house:
there was, in fact, nothing on Shiragayama except forest. Returning
home, he examined again the gold which had been paid to him. All was
good except one piece, which had changed into grass.
Curious advantages have been taken of the superstitions relating to the
In Matsue, several years ago, there was a tofuya which enjoyed an
unusually large patronage. A tofuya is a shop where tofu is sold—a
curd prepared from beans, and much resembling good custard in
appearance. Of all eatable things, foxes are most fond of tofu and of
soba, which is a preparation of buckwheat. There is even a legend that a
fox, in the semblance of an elegantly attired man, once visited Nogi-no-
Kuriharaya, a popular sobaya on the lake shore, and ate much soba. But
after the guest was gone, the money he had paid changed into wooden
The proprietor of the tofuya had a different experience. A man in
wretched attire used to come to his shop every evening to buy a cho of
tofu, which he devoured on the spot with the haste of one long famished.
Every evening for weeks he came, and never spoke; but the landlord saw
one evening the tip of a bushy white tail protruding from beneath the
stranger's rags. The sight aroused strange surmises and weird hopes.
From that night he began to treat the mysterious visitor with obsequious
kindness. But another month passed before the latter spoke. Then what he
said was about as follows:
'Though I seem to you a man, I am not a man; and I took upon myself
human form only for the purpose of visiting you. I come from Taka-
machi, where my temple is, at which you often visit. And being desirous
to reward your piety and goodness of heart, I have come to-night to save
you from a great danger. For by the power which I possess I know that
tomorrow this street will burn, and all the houses in it shall be
utterly destroyed except yours. To save it I am going to make a charm.
But in order that I may do this, you must open your go-down (kura) that
I may enter, and allow no one to watch me; for should living eye look
upon me there, the charm will not avail.'
The shopkeeper, with fervent words of gratitude, opened his storehouse,
and reverently admitted the seeming Inari and gave orders that none of
his household or servants should keep watch. And these orders were so
well obeyed that all the stores within the storehouse, and all the
valuables of the family, were removed without hindrance during the
night. Next day the kura was found to be empty. And there was no fire.
There is also a well-authenticated story about another wealthy
shopkeeper of Matsue who easily became the prey of another pretended
Inari This Inari told him that whatever sum of money he should leave at
a certain miya by night, he would find it doubled in the morning—as
the reward of his lifelong piety. The shopkeeper carried several small
sums to the miya, and found them doubled within twelve hours. Then he
deposited larger sums, which were similarly multiplied; he even risked
some hundreds of dollars, which were duplicated. Finally he took all his
money out of the bank and placed it one evening within the shrine of the
god—and never saw it again.
Vast is the literature of the subject of foxes—ghostly foxes. Some of
it is old as the eleventh century. In the ancient romances and the
modern cheap novel, in historical traditions and in popular fairy-tales,
foxes perform wonderful parts. There are very beautiful and very sad and
very terrible stories about foxes. There are legends of foxes discussed
by great scholars, and legends of foxes known to every child in Japan—
such as the history of Tamamonomae, the beautiful favourite of the
Emperor Toba—Tamamonomae, whose name has passed into a proverb, and
who proved at last to be only a demon fox with Nine Tails and Fur of
Gold. But the most interesting part of fox-literature belongs to the
Japanese stage, where the popular beliefs are often most humorously
reflected—as in the following excerpts from the comedy of Hiza-Kuruge,
written by one Jippensha Ikku:
[Kidahachi and Iyaji are travelling from Yedo to Osaka. When within a
short distance of Akasaka, Kidahachi hastens on in advance to secure
good accommodations at the best inn. Iyaji, travelling along leisurely,
stops a little while at a small wayside refreshment-house kept by an old
OLD WOMAN.—Please take some tea, sir. IYAJI.—Thank you! How far is
it from here to the next town?—Akasaka? OLD WOMAN.—About one ri. But
if you have no companion, you had better remain here to-night, because
there is a bad fox on the way, who bewitches travellers. IYAJI.—I am
afraid of that sort of thing. But I must go on; for my companion has
gone on ahead of me, and will be waiting for me.
[After having paid for his refreshments, Iyaji proceeds on his way. The
night is very dark, and he feels quite nervous on account of what the
old woman has told him. After having walked a considerable distance, he
suddenly hears a fox yelping—kon-kon. Feeling still more afraid, he
shouts at the top of his voice:-]
IYAJI.—Come near me, and I will kill you!
[Meanwhile Kidahachi, who has also been frightened by the old woman's
stories, and has therefore determined to wait for Iyaji, is saying to
himself in the dark: 'If I do not wait for him, we shall certainly be
deluded.' Suddenly he hears Iyaji's voice, and cries out to him:-]
IYAJI.—What are you doing there?
KIDAHACHI.—I did intend to go on ahead; but I became afraid, and so
I concluded to stop here and wait for you.
IYAJI (who imagines that the fox has taken the shape of Kidahachi to
deceive him).—Do not think that you are going to dupe me?
KIDAHACHI.—That is a queer way to talk! I have some nice mochi 
here which I bought for you.
IYAJI.—Horse-dung cannot be eaten! 
KIDAHACHI.—Don't be suspicious!—I am really Kidahachi.
IYAJI (springing upon him furiously).—Yes! you took the form of
Kidahachi just to deceive me!
KIDAHACHI.—What do you mean?—What are you going to do to me?
IYAJI.—I am going to kill you! (Throws him down.)
KIDAHACHI.—Oh! you have hurt me very much—please leave me alone!
IYAJI.—If you are really hurt, then let me see you in your real shape!
(They struggle together.)
KIDAHACHI.—What are you doing?—putting your hand there?
IYAJI.—I am feeling for your tail. If you don't put out your tail at
once, I shall make you! (Takes his towel, and with it ties Kidahachi's
hands behind his back, and then drives him before him.)
KIDAHACHI.—Please untie me—please untie me first!
[By this time they have almost reached Akasaka, and Iyaji, seeing a dog,
calls the animal, and drags Kidahachi close to it; for a dog is believed
to be able to detect a fox through any disguise. But the dog takes no
notice of Kidahachi. Iyaji therefore unties him, and apologises; and
they both laugh at their previous fears.]
But there are some very pleasing forms of the Fox-God.
For example, there stands in a very obscure street of Matsue—one of
those streets no stranger is likely to enter unless he loses his way—a
temple called Jigyoba-no-Inari,  and also Kodomo-no-Inari, or 'the
Children's Inari.' It is very small, but very famous; and it has been
recently presented with a pair of new stone foxes, very large, which
have gilded teeth and a peculiarly playful expression of countenance.
These sit one on each side of the gate: the Male grinning with open
jaws, the Female demure, with mouth closed.  In the court you will
find many ancient little foxes with noses, heads, or tails broken, two
great Karashishi before which straw sandals (waraji) have been suspended
as votive offerings by somebody with sore feet who has prayed to the
Karashishi-Sama that they will heal his affliction, and a shrine of
Kojin, occupied by the corpses of many children's dolls. 
The grated doors of the shrine of Jigyoba-no-Inari, like those of the
shrine of Yaegaki, are white with the multitude of little papers tied to
them, which papers signify prayers. But the prayers are special and
curious. To right and to left of the doors, and also above them, odd
little votive pictures are pasted upon the walls, mostly representing
children in bath-tubs, or children getting their heads shaved. There are
also one or two representing children at play. Now the interpretation of
these signs and wonders is as follows:
Doubtless you know that Japanese children, as well as Japanese adults,
must take a hot bath every day; also that it is the custom to shave the
heads of very small boys and girls. But in spite of hereditary patience
and strong ancestral tendency to follow ancient custom, young children
find both the razor and the hot bath difficult to endure, with their
delicate skins. For the Japanese hot bath is very hot (not less than 110
degs F., as a general rule), and even the adult foreigner must learn
slowly to bear it, and to appreciate its hygienic value. Also, the
Japanese razor is a much less perfect instrument than ours, and is used
without any lather, and is apt to hurt a little unless used by the most
skilful hands. And finally, Japanese parents are not tyrannical with
their children: they pet and coax, very rarely compel or terrify. So
that it is quite a dilemma for them when the baby revolts against the
bath or mutinies against the razor.
The parents of the child who refuses to be shaved or bathed have
recourse to Jigyoba-no-Inati. The god is besought to send one of his
retainers to amuse the child, and reconcile it to the new order of
things, and render it both docile and happy. Also if a child is naughty,
or falls sick, this Inari is appealed to. If the prayer be granted, some
small present is made to the temple—sometimes a votive picture, such
as those pasted by the door, representing the successful result of the
petition. To judge by the number of such pictures, and by the prosperity
of the temple, the Kodomo-no-Inani would seem to deserve his popularity.
Even during the few minutes I passed in his court I saw three young
mothers, with infants at their backs, come to the shrine and pray and
make offerings. I noticed that one of the children—remarkably pretty—
had never been shaved at all. This was evidently a very obstinate case.
While returning from my visit to the Jigyoba Inani, my Japanese servant,
who had guided me there, told me this story:
The son of his next-door neighbour, a boy of seven, went out to play one
morning, and disappeared for two days. The parents were not at first
uneasy, supposing that the child had gone to the house of a relative,
where he was accustomed to pass a day or two from time to time. But on
the evening of the second day it was learned that the child had not been
at the house in question. Search was at once made; but neither search
nor inquiry availed. Late at night, however, a knock was heard at the
door of the boy's dwelling, and the mother, hurrying out, found her
truant fast asleep on the ground. She could not discover who had
knocked. The boy, upon being awakened, laughed, and said that on the
morning of his disappearance he had met a lad of about his own age, with
very pretty eyes, who had coaxed him away to the woods, where they had
played together all day and night and the next day at very curious funny
games. But at last he got sleepy, and his comrade took him home. He was
not hungry. The comrade promised 'to come to-morrow.'
But the mysterious comrade never came; and no boy of the description
given lived in the neighbourhood. The inference was that the comrade was
a fox who wanted to have a little fun. The subject of the fun mourned
long in vain for his merry companion.
Some thirty years ago there lived in Matsue an ex-wrestler named
Tobikawa, who was a relentless enemy of foxes and used to hunt and kill
them. He was popularly believed to enjoy immunity from bewitchment
because of his immense strength; but there were some old folks who
predicted that he would not die a natural death. This prediction was
Tobikawa died in a very curious manner. He was excessively fond of
practical jokes. One day he disguised himself as a Tengu, or sacred
goblin, with wings and claws and long nose, and ascended a lofty tree in
a sacred grove near Rakusan, whither, after a little while, the innocent
peasants thronged to worship him with offerings. While diverting himself
with this spectacle, and trying to play his part by springing nimbly
from one branch to another, he missed his footing and broke his neck in
But these strange beliefs are swiftly passing away. Year by year more
shrines of Inari crumble down, never to be rebuilt. Year by year the
statuaries make fewer images of foxes. Year by year fewer victims of
fox-possession are taken to the hospitals to be treated according to the
best scientific methods by Japanese physicians who speak German. The
cause is not to be found in the decadence of the old faiths: a
superstition outlives a religion. Much less is it to be sought for in
the efforts of proselytising missionaries from the West—most of whom
profess an earnest belief in devils. It is purely educational. The
omnipotent enemy of superstition is the public school, where the
teaching of modern science is unclogged by sectarianism or prejudice;
where the children of the poorest may learn the wisdom of the Occident;
where there is not a boy or a girl of fourteen ignorant of the great
names of Tyndall, of Darwin, of Huxley, of Herbert Spencer. The little
hands that break the Fox-god's nose in mischievous play can also write
essays upon the evolution of plants and about the geology of Izumo.
There is no place for ghostly foxes in the beautiful nature-world
revealed by new studies to the new generation The omnipotent exorciser
and reformer is the Kodomo.
Note for preface
1 In striking contrast to this indifference is the strong, rational,
far-seeing conservatism of Viscount Torio—a noble exception.
Notes for Chapter One
1 I do not think this explanation is correct; but it is interesting,
as the first which I obtained upon the subject. Properly speaking,
Buddhist worshippers should not clap their hands, but only rub them
softly together. Shinto worshippers always clap their hands four times.
2 Various writers, following the opinion of the Japanologue Satow,
have stated that the torii was originally a bird-perch for fowls offered
up to the gods at Shinto shrines—'not as food, but to give warning of
daybreak.' The etymology of the word is said to be 'bird-rest' by some
authorities; but Aston, not less of an authority, derives it from words
which would give simply the meaning of a gateway. See Chamberlain's
Things Japanese, pp. 429, 430.
3 Professor Basil Hall Chamberlain has held the extraordinary position
of Professor of Japanese in the Imperial University of Japan—no small
honour to English philology!
4 These Ni-O, however, the first I saw in Japan, were very clumsy
figures. There are magnificent Ni-O to be seen in some of the great
temple gateways in Tokyo, Kyoto, and elsewhere. The grandest of all are
those in the Ni-O Mon, or 'Two Kings' Gate,' of the huge Todaiji temple
at Nara. They are eight hundred years old. It is impossible not to
admire the conception of stormy dignity and hurricane-force embodied in
those colossal figures. Prayers are addressed to the Ni-O, especially
by pilgrims. Most of their statues are disfigured by little pellets of
white paper, which people chew into a pulp and then spit at them. There
is a curious superstition that if the pellet sticks to the statue the
prayer is heard; if, on the other hand, it falls to the ground, the
prayer will not be answered.
Note for Chapter Two
1 Dainagon, the title of a high officer in the ancient Imperial Court.
Notes for Chapter Three
1 Derived from the Sanscrit stupa.
2 'The real origin of the custom of piling stones before the images of
Jizo and other divinities is not now known to the people. The Custom is
founded upon a passage in the famous Sutra, "The Lotus of the Good Law."
'Even the little hoys who, in playing, erected here and there heaps of
sand, with the intention of dedicating them as Stupas to the Ginas,-
they have all of them reached enlightenment.'—Saddharma Pundarika, c.
II. v. 81 (Kern's translation), 'Sacred Books of the East,' vol. xxi.
3 The original Jizo has been identified by Orientalists with the
Sanscrit Kshitegarbha; as Professor Chamberlain observes, the
resemblance in sound between the names Jizo and Jesus 'is quite
fortuitous.' But in Japan Jizo has become totally transformed: he may
justly be called the most Japanese of all Japanese divinities. According
to the curious old Buddhist book, Sai no Kawara Kuchi zu sams no den,
the whole Sai-no-Kawara legend originated in Japan, and was first
written by the priest Kuya Shonin, in the sixth year of the period
called TenKei, in the reign of the Emperor Shuyaku, who died in the year
946. To Kuya was revealed, in the village of Sai-in, near Kyoto, during
a night passed by the dry bed of the neighbouring river, Sai-no-Kawa
(said to be the modern Serikawa), the condition of child-souls in the
Meido. (Such is the legend in the book; but Professor Chamberlain has
shown that the name Sai-no-Kawara, as now written, signifies 'The Dry
Bed of the River of Souls,' and modern Japanese faith places that river
in the Meido.) Whatever be the true history of the myth, it is certainly
Japanese; and the conception of Jizo as the lover and playfellow of dead
children belongs to Japan. There are many other popular forms of Jizo,
one of the most common being that Koyasu-Jizo to whom pregnant women
pray. There are but few roads in Japan upon which statues of Jizo may
not be seen; for he is also the patron of pilgrims.
4 Except those who have never married.
5 In Sanscrit, 'Yama-Raja.' But the Indian conception has been totally
transformed by Japanese Buddhism.
6 Funeral customs, as well as the beliefs connected with them, vary
considerably in different parts of Japan. Those of the eastern provinces
differ from those of the western and southern. The old practice of
placing articles of value in the coffin—such as the metal mirror
formerly buried with a woman, or the sword buried with a man of the
Samurai caste—has become almost obsolete. But the custom of putting
money in the coffin still prevails: in Izumo the amount is always six
rin, and these are called Rokudo-kane, or 'The Money for the Six Roads.'
7 Literally 'Western Capital,'—modern name of Kyoto, ancient
residence of the emperors. The name 'Tokyo,' on the other hand,
signifies 'Eastern Capital.'
8 These first ten lines of the original will illustrate the measure
of the wasan:
Kore wa konoyo no koto narazu,
Shide no yamaji no suso no naru,
Sai-no-Kawara no monogatari
Kiku ni tsuketemo aware nari
Futatsu-ya, mitsu-ya, yotsu, itsutsu,
To nimo taranu midorigo ga
Sai-no-Kawara ni atsumari te,
Chichi koishi! haha koishi!
Koishi! koishi! to naku koe wa
Konoyo no koe towa ko to kawari..
Notes for Chapter Four
1 Yane, 'roof'; shobu, 'sweet-flag' (Acorus calamus).
2 At the time this paper was written, nearly three years ago, I had
not seen the mighty bells at Kyoto and at Nara.
The largest bell in Japan is suspended in the grounds of the grand Jodo
temple of Chion-in, at Kyoto. Visitors are not allowed to sound it. It
was east in 1633. It weighs seventy-four tons, and requires, they say,
twenty-five men to ring it properly. Next in size ranks the hell of the
Daibutsu temple in Kyoto, which visitors are allowed to ring on payment
of a small sum. It was cast in 1615, and weighs sixty-three tons. The
wonderful bell of Todaiji at Nara, although ranking only third, is
perhaps the most interesting of all. It is thirteen feet six inches
high, and nine feet in diameter; and its inferiority to the Kyoto bells
is not in visible dimensions so much as in weight and thickness. It
weighs thirty-seven tons. It was cast in 733, and is therefore one
thousand one hundred and sixty years old. Visitors pay one cent to sound
3 'In Sanscrit, Avalokitesvara. The Japanese Kwannon, or Kwanze-on, is
identical in origin with the Chinese virgin-goddess Kwanyin adopted by
Buddhism as an incarnation of the Indian Avalokitesvara. (See Eitel's
Handbook of Chinese Buddhism.) But the Japanese Kwan-non has lost all
Chinese characteristics,—has become artistically an idealisation of
all that is sweet and beautiful in the woman of Japan.
4 Let the reader consult Mitford's admirable Tales of Old Japan for
the full meaning of the term 'Ronin.
5 There is a delicious Japanese proverb, the full humour of which is
only to be appreciated by one familiar with the artistic representations
of the divinities referred to: Karutoki no Jizo-gao, Nasutoki no Emma-
'Borrowing-time, the face of Jizo;
Repaying-time, the face of Emma.'
6 This old legend has peculiar interest as an example of the efforts
made by Buddhism to absorb the Shinto divinities, as it had already
absorbed those of India and of China. These efforts were, to a great
extent, successful prior to the disestablishment of Buddhism and the
revival of Shinto as the State religion. But in Izumo, and other parts
of western Japan, Shinto has always remained dominant, and has even
appropriated and amalgamated much belonging to Buddhism.
7 In Sanscrit 'Hariti'—Karitei-Bo is the Japanese name for one form
Notes for Chapter Five
1 It is related in the same book that Ananda having asked the Buddha how
came Mokenren's mother to suffer in the Gakido, the Teacher replied that
in a previous incarnation she had refused, through cupidity, to feed
certain visiting priests.
2 A deity of good fortune
Notes for Chapter Six
1 The period in which only deities existed.
2 Hyakusho, a peasant, husbandman. The two Chinese characters forming
the word signify respectively, 'a hundred' (hyaku), and 'family name'
(sei). One might be tempted to infer that the appellation is almost
equivalent to our phrase, 'their name is legion.' And a Japanese friend
assures me that the inference would not be far wrong. Anciently the
peasants had no family name; each was known by his personal appellation,
coupled with the name of his lord as possessor or ruler. Thus a hundred
peasants on one estate would all be known by the name of their master.
3 This custom of praying for the souls of animals is by no means
general. But I have seen in the western provinces several burials of
domestic animals at which such prayers were said. After the earth was
filled in, some incense-rods were lighted above the grave in each
instance, and the prayers were repeated in a whisper. A friend in the
capital sends me the following curious information: 'At the Eko-in
temple in Tokyo prayers are offered up every morning for the souls of
certain animals whose ihai [mortuary tablets] are preserved in the
building. A fee of thirty sen will procure burial in the temple-ground
and a short service for any small domestic pet.' Doubtless similar
temples exist elsewhere. Certainly no one capable of affection for our
dumb friends and servants can mock these gentle customs.
4 Why six Jizo instead of five or three or any other number, the reader
may ask. I myself asked the question many times before receiving any
satisfactory reply. Perhaps the following legend affords the most
According to the Book Taijo-Hoshi-mingyo-nenbutsu-den, Jizo-Bosatsu was
a woman ten thousand ko (kalpas) before this era, and became filled with
desire to convert all living beings of the Six Worlds and the Four
Births. And by virtue of the Supernatural Powers she multiplied herself
and simultaneously appeared in all the Rokussho or Six States of
Sentient Existence at once, namely in the Jigoku, Gaki, Chikusho, Shura,
Ningen, Tenjo, and converted the dwellers thereof. (A friend insists
that in order to have done this Jizo must first have become a man.)
Among the many names of Jizo, such as 'The Never Slumbering,' 'The
Dragon-Praiser,' 'The Shining King,' 'Diamond-of-Pity,' I find the
significant appellation of 'The Countless Bodied.'
5 Since this sketch was written, I have seen the Bon-odori in many
different parts of Japan; but I have never witnessed exactly the same
kind of dance. Indeed, I would judge from my experiences in Izumo, in
Oki, in Tottori, in Hoki, in Bingo, and elsewhere, that the Bonodori is
not danced in the same way in any two provinces. Not only do the motions
and gestures vary according to locality, but also the airs of the songs
sung—and this even when the words are the same. In some places the
measure is slow and solemn; in others it is rapid and merry, and
characterised by a queer jerky swing, impossible to describe. But
everywhere both the motion and the melody are curious and pleasing
enough to fascinate the spectator for hours. Certainly these primitive
dances are of far greater interest than the performances of geisha.
Although Buddhism may have utilised them and influenced them, they are
beyond doubt incomparably older than Buddhism.
Notes for Chapter Seven
1 Thick solid sliding shutters of unpainted wood, which in Japanese
houses serve both as shutters and doors.
3 Ama-terasu-oho-mi-Kami literally signifies 'the Heaven-Shining Great-
August-Divinity.' (See Professor Chamberlain's translation of the
4 'The gods who do harm are to be appeased, so that they may not punish
those who have offended them.' Such are the words of the great Shinto
teacher, Hirata, as translated by Mr. Satow in his article, ~ The
Revival of Pure Shintau.
5 Machi, a stiff piece of pasteboard or other material sewn into the
waist of the hakama at the back, so as to keep the folds of the garment
perpendicular and neat-looking.
7 From an English composition by one of my Japanese pupils.
8 Rin, one tenth of one cent. A small round copper coin with a square
hole in the middle.
9 An inn where soba is sold.
10 According to the mythology of the Kojiki the Moon-Deity is a male
divinity. But the common people know nothing of the Kojiki, written in
an archaic Japanese which only the learned can read; and they address
the moon as O-Tsuki-San, or 'Lady Moon,' just as the old Greek idyllists
Notes for Chapter Eight
1 The most ancient book extant in the archaic tongue of Japan. It is the
most sacred scripture of Shinto. It has been admirably translated, with
copious notes and commentaries, by Professor Basil Hall Chamberlain, of
2 The genealogy of the family is published in a curious little book
with which I was presented at Kitzuki. Senke Takanori is the eighty-
first Pontiff Governor (formerly called Kokuzo) of Kitzuki. His lineage
is traced back through sixty-five generations of Kokuzo and sixteen
generations of earthly deities to Ama-terasu and her brother Susanoo-no-
3 In Sanscrit pretas. The gaki are the famished ghosts of that Circle
of Torment in hell whereof the penance is hunger; and the mouths of some
are 'smaller than the points of needles.'
5 Now solidly united with the mainland. Many extraordinary changes, of
rare interest to the physiographer and geologist, have actually taken
place along the coast of Izumo and in the neighbourhood of the great
lake. Even now, each year some change occurs. I have seen several very
6 The Hakuja, or White Serpent, is also the servant of Benten, 01 Ben-
zai-ten, Goddess of Love, of Beauty, of Eloquence, and of the Sea. 'The
Hakuja has the face of an ancient man, with white eyebrows and wears
upon its head a crown.' Both goddess and serpent can be identified with
ancient Indian mythological beings, and Buddhism first introduced both
into Japan. Among the people, especially perhaps in Izumo, certain
divinities of Buddhism are often identified, or rather confused, with
certain Kami, in popular worship and parlance.
Since this sketch was written, I have had opportunity of seeing a Ryu-ja
within a few hours after its capture. It was between two and three feet
long, and about one inch in diameter at its thickest girth The upper
part of the body was a very dark brown, and the belly yellowish white;
toward the tail there were some beautiful yellowish mottlings. The body
was not cylindrical, but curiously four-sided—like those elaborately
woven whip-lashes which have four edges. The tail was flat and
triangular, like that of certain fish. A Japanese teacher, Mr. Watanabe,
of the Normal School of Matsue, identified the little creature as a
hydrophid of the species called Pela-mis bicalor. It is so seldom seen,
however, that I think the foregoing superficial description of it may
not be without interest to some readers.
7 Ippyo, one hyo 2 1/2 hyo make one koku = 5.13 bushels. The word hyo
means also the bag made to contain one hyo.
8 Either at Kitzuki or at Sada it is possible sometimes to buy a
serpent. On many a 'household-god-shelf' in Matsue the little serpent
may be seen. I saw one that had become brittle and black with age, but
was excellently preserved by some process of which I did not learn the
nature. It had been admirably posed in a tiny wire cage, made to fit
exactly into a small shrine of white wood, and must have been, when
alive, about two feet four inches in length. A little lamp was lighted
daily before it, and some Shinto formula recited by the poor family to
whom it belonged.
9 Translated by Professor Chamberlain the 'Deity Master-of-the-Great-
Land'-one of the most ancient divinities of Japan, but in popular
worship confounded with Daikoku, God of Wealth. His son, Koto-shiro-
nushi-no-Kami, is similarly confounded with Ebisu, or Yebisu, the patron
of honest labour. The origin of the Shinto custom of clapping the hands
in prayer is said by some Japanese writers to have been a sign given by
Both deities are represented by Japanese art in a variety of ways, Some
of the twin images of them sold at Kitzuki are extremely pretty as well
10 Very large donations are made to this temple by wealthy men. The
wooden tablets without the Haiden, on which are recorded the number of
gifts and the names of the donors, mention several recent presents of
1000 yen, or dollars; and donations of 500 yen are not uncommon. The
gift of a high civil official is rarely less than 50 yen.
11 Taku is the Japanese name for the paper mulberry.
12 See the curious legend in Professor Chamberlain's translation of the
13 From a remote period there have been two Kokuzo in theory, although
but one incumbent. Two branches of the same family claim ancestral right
to the office,—the rival houses of Senke and Kitajima. The government
has decided always in favour of the former; but the head of the Kitajima
family has usually been appointed Vice-Kokuzo. A Kitajima to-day holds
the lesser office. The term Kokuzo is not, correctly speaking, a
spiritual, but rather a temporal title. The Kokuzo has always been the
emperor's deputy to Kitzuki,—the person appointed to worship the deity
in the emperor's stead; but the real spiritual title of such a deputy is
that still borne by the present Guji,—'Mitsuye-Shiro.'
14 Haliotis tuberculata, or 'sea-ear.' The curious shell is pierced with
a row of holes, which vary in number with the age and size of the animal
15 Literally, 'ten hiro,' or Japanese fathoms.
16 The fire-drill used at the Shinto temples of Ise is far more
complicated in construction, and certainly represents a much more
advanced stage of mechanical knowledge than the Kitzuki fire-drill
17 During a subsequent visit to Kitzuki I learned that the koto-ita is
used only as a sort of primitive 'tuning' instrument: it gives the right
tone for the true chant which I did not hear during my first visit. The
true chant, an ancient Shinto hymn, is always preceded by the
performance above described.
18 The tempest of the Kokuzo.
19 That is, according to Motoori, the commentator. Or more briefly: 'No
or yes?' This is, according to Professor Chamberlain, a mere fanciful
etymology; but it is accepted by Shinto faith, and for that reason only
is here given.
20 The title of Kokuzo indeed, still exists, but it is now merely
honorary, having no official duties connected with it. It is actually
borne by Baron Senke, the father of Senke Takanori, residing in the
capital. The active religious duties of the Mitsuye-shiro now devolve
upon the Guji.
21 As late as 1890 I was told by a foreign resident, who had travelled
much in the interior of the country, that in certain districts many old
people may be met with who still believe that to see the face of the
emperor is 'to become a Buddha'; that is, to die.
22 Hideyoshi, as is well known, was not of princely extraction
23 The Kojiki dates back, as a Written work, only to A.D. 722. But its
legends and records are known to have existed in the form of oral
literature from a much more ancient time.
24 In certain provinces of Japan Buddhism practically absorbed Shinto in
other centuries, but in Izumo Shinto absorbed Buddhism; and now that
Shinto is supported by the State there is a visible tendency to
eliminate from its cult certain elements of Buddhist origin.
Notes for Chapter Nine
1 Such are the names given to the water-vessels or cisterns at which
Shinto worshippers must wash their hands and rinse their mouths ere
praying to the Kami. A mitarashi or o-chozubachi is placed before every
Shinto temple. The pilgrim to Shin-Kukedo-San should perform this
ceremonial ablution at the little rock-spring above described, before
entering the sacred cave. Here even the gods of the cave are said to
wash after having passed through the seawater.
2 August Fire-Lady'; or, 'the August Sun-Lady,' Amaterasu-oho-mi-Kami.
Notes for Chapter Ten
2 Zashiki, the best and largest room of a Japanese dwelling—the guest-
room of a private house, or the banquet-room of a public inn.
Notes for Chapter Eleven
1 Fourteenth of August.
2 In the pretty little seaside hotel Inaba-ya, where I lived during my
stay in Kitzuki, the kind old hostess begged her guests with almost
tearful earnestness not to leave the house during the Minige.
3 There are ten rin to one sen, and ten mon to one rin, on one hundred
to one sen. The majority of the cheap toys sold at the matsuri cost from
two to nine rin. The rin is a circular copper coin with a square hole in
the middle for stringing purposes.
4 Why the monkey is so respectfully mentioned in polite speech, I do
not exactly know; but I think that the symbolical relation of the
monkey, both to Buddhism and to Shinto, may perhaps account for the use
of the prefix 'O' (honourable) before its name.
5 As many fine dolls really are. The superior class of O-Hina-San, such
as figure in the beautiful displays of the O-Hina-no-Matsuri at rich
homes, are heirlooms. Dolls are not given to children to break; and
Japanese children seldom break them. I saw at a Doll's Festival in the
house of the Governor of Izumo, dolls one hundred years old-charming
figurines in ancient court costume.
6 Not to be confounded with Koshin, the God of Roads.
7 Celtis Wilidenowiana. Sometimes, but rarely, a pine or other tree is
substituted for the enoki.
8 'Literally, 'The Dance of the Fruitful Year.'
First,—unto the Taisha-Sama of Izunio;
Second,—to Irokami-Sama of Niigata;
Third,—unto Kompira-Sama of Sanuki;
Fourth,—unto Zenkoji-Sama of Shinano;
Fifth,—to O-Yakushi-San of Ichibata;
Sixth,—to O-Jizo-Sama of Rokkakudo;
Seventh,—to O-Ebisu-Sama of Nana-ura;
Eighth,—unto Hachiman-Sama of Yawata;
Ninth,—unto everyholy shrine of Koya;
Tenth,—to the Ujigami-Sama of our village.'
Japanese readers will appreciate the ingenious manner in which the numeral
at the beginning of each phrase is repeated in the name of the sacred
place sung of.
Notes for Chapter Twelve
1 This deity is seldom called by his full name, which has been shortened
by common usage from Susano-o-no-mikoto.
2 A kichinyado is an inn at which the traveller is charged only the
price of the wood used for fuel in cooking his rice.
3 The thick fine straw mats, fitted upon the floor of every Japanese
room, are always six feet long by three feet broad. The largest room in
the ordinary middle-class house is a room of eight mats. A room of one
hundred mats is something worth seeing.
4 The kubi-oke was a lacquered tray with a high rim and a high cover.
The name signifies 'head-box.' It was the ancient custom to place the
head of a decapitated person upon a kubi-oke before conveying the
ghastly trophy into the palace of the prince desirous of seeing it.
Notes for Chapter Thirteen
1 Yama-no-mono ('mountain-folk,'—so called from their settlement on
the hills above Tokoji),—a pariah-class whose special calling is the
washing of the dead and the making of graves.
2 Joro: a courtesan.
3 Illicium religiosum
4 Literally: 'without shadow' or 'shadowless.'
7 Or 'him.' This is a free rendering. The word 'nushi' simply refers
to the owner of the house.
Notes for Chapter Fourteen
1 ''Eight clouds arise. The eightfold [or, manifold] fence of Idzumo
makes an eightfold [or, manifold] fence for the spouses to retire
within. Oh! that eightfold fence!' This is said to be the oldest song in
the Japanese language. It has been differently translated by the great
scholars and commentators. The above version and text are from Professor
B. H. Chamberlain's translation of the Kojiki (pp.60-64).
2 Professor Chamberlain disputes this etymology for excellent reasons.
But in Izumo itself the etymology is still accepted, and will be
accepted, doubtless, until the results of foreign scholarship in the
study of the archaic texts is more generally known.
3 Planeca Japonica.
4 So absolutely has Shinto in Izumo monopolised the Karashishi, or
stone lions, of Buddhist origin, that it is rare in the province to find
a pair before any Buddhist temple. There is even a Shinto myth about
their introduction into Japan from India, by the Fox-God!
5 Such offerings are called Gwan-hodoki. Gwan wo hodoki, 'to make a
6 A pilgrim whose prayer has been heard usually plants a single nobori
as a token. Sometimes you may see nobori of five colours (goshiki),—
black, yellow, red, blue, and white—of which one hundred or one
thousand have been planted by one person. But this is done only in
pursuance of some very special vow.
7 'On being asked if there were any other love charm, the Newt replied,
making a ring with two of his toes—"Only this." The sign signifies,
8 There are no less than eleven principal kinds of Japanese names. The
jitsumyo, or 'true name,' corresponds to our Christian name. On this
intricate and interesting topic the reader should consult Professor B.
H. Chamberlain's excellent little book, Things Japanese, pp. 250-5.
9 That I may be wedded to Takaki-Toki, I humbly pray.—A youth of
10 The gengebana (also called renge-so, and in Izumo miakobana) is an
herb planted only for fertilizing purposes. Its flowers are extremely
small, but so numerous that in their blossoming season miles of fields
are coloured by them a beautiful lilaceous blue. A gentleman who wished
to marry a joro despite the advice of his friends, was gently chided by
them with the above little verse, which, freely translated, signifies:
'Take it not into thy hand: the flowers of the gengebans are fair to
view only when left all together in the field.'
Notes for Chapter Fifteen
1 Toyo-uke-bime-no-Kami, or Uka-no-mi-tana ('who has also eight other
names), is a female divinity, according to the Kojiki and its
commentators. Moreover, the greatest of all Shinto scholars, Hirata, as
cited by Satow, says there is really no such god as Inari-San at all—
that the very name is an error. But the common people have created the
God Inari: therefore he must be presumed to exist—if only for
folklorists; and I speak of him as a male deity because I see him so
represented in pictures and carvings. As to his mythological existence,
his great and wealthy temple at Kyoto is impressive testimony.
2 The white fox is a favourite subject with Japanese artists. Some very
beautiful kakemono representing white foxes were on display at the Tokyo
exhibition of 1890. Phosphorescent foxes often appear in the old
coloured prints, now so rare and precious, made by artists whose names
have become world-famous. Occasionally foxes are represented wandering
about at night, with lambent tongues of dim fire—kitsune-bi—above
their heads. The end of the fox's tail, both in sculpture and drawing,
is ordinarily decorated with the symbolic jewel (tama) of old Buddhist
art. I have in my possession one kakemono representing a white fox with
a luminous jewel in its tail. I purchased it at the Matsue temple of
Inari—'O-Shiroyama-no-Inari-Sama.' The art of the kakemono is clumsy;
but the conception possesses curious interest.
3 The Japanese candle has a large hollow paper wick. It is usually
placed upon an iron point which enters into the orifice of the wick at
the flat end.
4 See Professor Chamberlain's Things Japanese, under the title
5 Translated by Walter Dening.
6 The word shizoku is simply the Chinese for samurai. But the term now
means little more than 'gentleman' in England.
7 The fox-messenger travels unseen. But if caught in a trap, or
injured, his magic fails him, and he becomes visible.
8 The Will-o'-the-Wisp is called Kitsune-bi, or 'fox-fire.'
9 'Aburage' is a name given to fried bean-curds or tofu.
10 Azukimeshi is a preparation of red beans boiled with rice.
11 The Hoin or Yamabushi was a Buddhist exorciser, usually a priest.
Strictly speaking, the Hoin was a Yamabushi of higher rank. The
Yamabushi used to practise divination as well as exorcism. They were
forbidden to exercise these professions by the present government; and
most of the little temples formerly occupied by them have disappeared or
fallen into ruin. But among the peasantry Buddhist exorcisers are still
called to attend cases of fox-possession, and while acting as exorcisers
are still spoken of as Yamabushi.
12 A most curious paper on the subject of Ten-gan, or Infinite Vision—
being the translation of a Buddhist sermon by the priest Sata Kaiseki—
appeared in vol. vii. of the Transactions of the Asiatic Society of
Japan, from the pen of Mr. J. M. James. It contains an interesting
consideration of the supernatural powers of the Fox.
13 All the portable lanterns used to light the way upon dark nights
bear a mon or crest of the owner.
14 Cakes made of rice flour and often sweetened with sugar.
15 It is believed that foxes amuse themselves by causing people to eat
horse-dung in the belief that they are eating mochi, or to enter a
cesspool in the belief they are taking a bath.
16 'In Jigyobamachi, a name signifying 'earthwork-street.' It stands
upon land reclaimed from swamp.
17 This seems to be the immemorial artistic law for the demeanour of
all symbolic guardians of holy places, such as the Karashishi, and the
Ascending and Descending Dragons carved upon panels, or pillars. At
Kumano temple even the Suijin, or warrior-guardians, who frown behind
the gratings of the chambers of the great gateway, are thus
represented—one with mouth open, the other with closed lips.
On inquiring about the origin of this distinction between the two
symbolic figures, I was told by a young Buddhist scholar that the male
figure in such representations is supposed to be pronouncing the sound
'A,' and the figure with closed lips the sound of nasal 'N'-
corresponding to the Alpha and Omega of the Greek alphabet, and also
emblematic of the Beginning and the End. In the Lotos of the Good Law,
Buddha so reveals himself, as the cosmic Alpha and Omega, and the Father
of the World,—like Krishna in the Bhagavad-Gita.
18 There is one exception to the general custom of giving the dolls of
dead children, or the wrecks of dolls, to Kojin. Those images of the God
of Calligraphy and Scholarship which are always presented as gifts to
boys on the Boys' Festival are given, when broken, to Tenjin himself,
not to Kojin; at least such is the custom in Matsue.