Gleaings in Buddha-Fields, by Lafcadio Hearn, , at sacred-texts.com
IT had been intended to celebrate in spring the eleven hundredth anniversary of the foundation of Kyôto; but the outbreak of pestilence caused postponement of the festival to the autumn, and the celebration began on the 15th of the tenth month. Little festival medals of nickel, made to be pinned to the breast, like military decorations, were for sale at half a yen each. These medals entitled the wearers to special cheap fares on all the Japanese railroad and steamship lines, and to other desirable privileges, such as free entrance to wonderful palaces, gardens, and temples. On the 23d of October I found myself in possession of a medal, and journeying to Kyôto by the first morning train, which was overcrowded with people eager to witness, the great historical processions announced for the
24th and 25th. Many had to travel standing, but the crowd was good-natured and merry. A number of my fellow-passengers were Ôsaka geisha going to the festival. They diverted themselves by singing songs and by playing ken with some male acquaintances, and their kittenish pranks and funny cries kept everybody amused. One had an extraordinary voice, with which she could twitter like a sparrow.
You can always tell by the voices of women conversing anywhere—in a hotel, for example—if there happen to be any geisha among them, because the peculiar timbre given by professional training is immediately recognizable. The wonderful character of that training, however, is fairly manifested only when the really professional tones of the voice are used,—falsetto tones, never touching, but often curiously sweet. Now, the street singers, the poor blind women who sing ballads with the natural voice only, use tones that draw tears. The voice is generally a powerful contralto; and the deep tones are the tones that touch. The falsetto tones of the geisha rise into a treble above the natural
range of the adult voice, and as penetrating as a bird's. In a banquet-hall full of guests, you can distinctly hear, above all the sound of drums and samisen and chatter and laughter, the thin, sweet cry of the geisha playing ken,—
"Futatsu! futatsu! futatsu!—
while you may be quite unable to hear the shouted response of the man she plays with,—
"Mitsu! mitsu! mitsu!
The first surprise with which Kyôto greeted her visitors was the beauty of her festival decorations. Every street had been prepared for illumination. Before each house had been planted a new lantern-post of unpainted wood, from which a lantern bearing some appropriate design was suspended. There were also national flags and sprigs of pine above each entrance. But the lanterns made the charm of the display. In each section of street they were of the same form, and were fixed at exactly the same height, and were protected from possible bad weather by the same kind of covering. But in different streets the
lanterns were different. In some of the wide thoroughfares they were very large; and while in some streets each was sheltered by a little wooden awning, in others every lantern had a Japanese paper umbrella spread and fastened above it.
There was no pageant on the morning of my arrival, and I spent a couple of hours delightfully at the festival exhibition of kakemono in the imperial summer palace called Omuro Gosho. Unlike the professional art display which I had seen in the spring, this represented chiefly the work of students; and I found it incomparably more original and attractive. Nearly all the pictures, thousands in number, were for sale, at prices ranging from three to fifty yen; and it was impossible not to buy to the limit of one's purse. There were studies of nature evidently made on the spot: such as a glimpse of hazy autumn rice-fields, with dragonflies darting over the drooping grain; maples crimsoning above a tremendous gorge; ranges of peaks steeped in morning mist; and a peasant's cottage perched on the verge of some dizzy mountain road. Also there were fine
bits of realism, such as a cat seizing a mouse in the act of stealing the offerings placed in a Buddhist household shrine.
But I have no intention to try the reader's patience with a description of pictures. I mention my visit to the display only because of something I saw there more interesting than any picture. Near the main entrance was a specimen of handwriting, intended to be mounted as a kakemono later on, and temporarily fixed upon a board about three feet long by eighteen inches wide,—a Japanese poem. It was a wonder of calligraphy. Instead of the usual red stamp or seal with which the Japanese calligrapher marks his masterpieces, I saw the red imprint of a tiny, tiny hand,—a living hand, which had been smeared with crimson printing-ink and deftly pressed upon the paper. I could distinguish those little finger-marks of which Mr. Galton has taught us the characteristic importance.
That writing had been done in the presence of His Imperial Majesty by a child of six years,—or of five, according to our Western method of computing age from the date of
birth. The prime minister, Marquis Ito, saw the miracle, and adopted the little boy, whose present name is therefore Ito Medzui.
Even Japanese observers could scarcely believe the testimony of their own eyes. Few adult calligraphers could surpass that writing. Certainly no Occidental artist, even after years of study, could repeat the feat performed by the brush of that child before the Emperor. Of course such a child can be born but once in a thousand years,—to realize, or almost realize, the ancient Chinese legends of divinely inspired writers.
Still, it was not the beauty of the thing in itself which impressed me, but the weird, extraordinary, indubitable proof it afforded of an inherited memory so vivid as to be almost equal to the recollection of former births. Generations of dead calligraphers revived in the fingers of that tiny hand. The thing was never the work of an individual child five years old, but beyond all question the work of ghosts,—the countless ghosts that make the compound ancestral soul. It was proof visible and tangible of psychological and physiological wonders justifying both the
Shintô doctrine of ancestor worship and the Buddhist doctrine of preëxistence.
After looking at all the pictures I visited the great palace garden, only recently opened to the public. It is called the Garden of the Cavern of the Genii. (At least "genii" is about the only word one can use to translate the term "Sennin," for which there is no real English equivalent; the Sennin, who are supposed to possess immortal life, and to haunt forests or caverns, being Japanese, or rather Chinese mythological transformations of the Indian Rishi.) The garden deserves its name. I felt as if I had indeed entered an enchanted place.
It is a landscape-garden,—a Buddhist creation, belonging to what is now simply a palace, but was once a monastery, built as a religious retreat for emperors and princes weary of earthly vanities. The first impression received after passing the gate is that of a grand old English park: the colossal trees, the shorn grass, the broad walks, the fresh sweet scent of verdure, all awaken English
memories. But as you proceed farther these memories are slowly effaced, and the true Oriental impression defines: you perceive that the forms of those mighty trees are not European; various and surprising exotic details reveal themselves; and then you are gazing down upon a sheet of water containing high rocks and islets connected by bridges of the strangest shapes. Gradually,—only gradually,—the immense charm, the weird Buddhist charm of the place, grows and grows upon you; and the sense of its vast antiquity defines to touch that chord of the æsthetic feeling which brings the vibration of awe.
Considered as a human work alone, the garden is a marvel: only the skilled labor of thousands could have joined together the mere bones of it, the prodigious rocky skeleton of its plan. This once shaped and earthed and planted, Nature was left alone to finish the wonder. Working through ten centuries, she has surpassed—nay, unspeakably magnified—the dream of the artist. Without exact information, no stranger unfamiliar with the laws and the purpose of Japanese garden-construction could imagine that all this had a
human designer some thousand years ago: the effect is that of a section of primeval forest, preserved untouched from the beginning, and walled away from the rest of the world in the heart of the old capital. The rock-faces, the great fantastic roots, the shadowed bypaths, the few ancient graven monoliths, are all cushioned with the moss of ages; and climbing things have developed stems a foot thick, that hang across spaces like monstrous serpents. Parts of the garden vividly recall some aspects of tropical nature in the Antilles;—though one misses the palms, the bewildering web and woof of lianas, the reptiles, and the sinister day-silence of a West Indian forest. The joyous storm of bird life overhead is an astonishment, and proclaims gratefully to the visitor that the wild creatures of this monastic paradise have never been harmed or frightened by man. As I arrived at last, with regret, at the gate of exit, I could not help feeling envious of its keeper: only to be a servant in such a garden were a privilege well worth praying for.
Feeling hungry, I told my runner to take me to a restaurant, because the hotel was very far; and the kuruma bore me into an obscure street, and halted before a rickety-looking house with some misspelled English painted above the entrance. I remember only the word "forign." After taking off my shoes I climbed three flights of breakneck stairs, or rather ladders, to find in the third story a set of rooms furnished in foreign style. The windows were glass; the linen was satisfactory; the only things Japanese were the mattings and a welcome smoking-box. American chromo-lithographs decorated the walls. Nevertheless, I suspected that few foreigners had ever been in the house: it existed by sending out Western cooking, in little tin boxes, to native hotels; and the rooms had doubtless been fitted up for Japanese visitors.
I noticed that the plates, cups, and other utensils bore the monogram of a long-defunct English hotel which used to exist in one of the open ports. The dinner was served by nice-looking girls, who had certainly been
trained by somebody accustomed to foreign service; but their innocent curiosity and extreme shyness convinced me that they had never waited upon a real foreigner before. Suddenly I observed on a table at the other end of the room something resembling a music-box, and covered with a piece of crochet-work! I went to it, and discovered the wreck of a herophone. There were plenty of perforated musical selections. I fixed the crank in place, and tried to extort the music of a German song, entitled "Five Hundred Thousand Devils." The herophone gurgled, moaned, roared for a moment, sobbed, roared again, and relapsed into silence. I tried a number of, other selections, including "Les Cloches de Corneville;" but the noises produced were in all cases about the same. Evidently the thing had been bought, together with the monogram-bearing delft and britannia ware, at some auction sale in one of the foreign settlements. There was a queer melancholy in the experience, difficult to express. One must have lived in Japan to understand why the thing appeared so exiled, so pathetically out of place, so utterly
misunderstood. Our harmonized Western music means simply so much noise to the average Japanese ear; and I felt quite sure that the internal condition of the herophone remained unknown to its Oriental proprietor.
An equally singular but more pleasant experience awaited me on the road back to the hotel. I halted at a second-hand furniture shop to look at some curiosities, and perceived, among a lot of old books, a big volume bearing in letters of much-tarnished gold the title, ATLANTIC MONTHLY. Looking closer, I saw "Vol. V. Boston: Ticknor & Fields. 1860." Volumes of The Atlantic of 1860 are not common anywhere. I asked the price; and the Japanese shopkeeper said fifty sen, because it was "a very large book." I was much too pleased to think of bargaining with him, and secured the prize. I looked through its stained pages for old friends, and found them,—all anonymous in 1865, many world-famous in 1895. There were installments of "Elsie Venner," under the title of "The Professor's Story;" chapters of "Roba di Roma;" a poem called "Pythagoras," but since renamed
"Metempsychosis," as lovers of Thomas Bailey Aldrich are doubtless aware; the personal narrative of a filibuster with Walker in Nicaragua; admirable papers upon the Maroons of Jamaica and the Maroons of Surinam; and, among other precious things, an essay on Japan, opening with the significant sentence, "The arrival in this country of an embassy from Japan, the first political delegation ever vouchsafed to a foreign nation by that reticent and jealous people, is now a topic of universal interest." A little farther on, some popular misapprehensions of the period were thus corrected: "Although now known to be entirely distinct, the Chinese and Japanese . . . were for a long time looked upon as kindred races, and esteemed alike. . . . We find that while, on close examination, the imagined attractions of China disappear, those of Japan become more definite." Any Japanese of this self-assertive twenty-eighth year of Meiji could scarcely find fault with The Atlantic's estimate of his country thirty-five years ago: "Its commanding position, its wealth, its commercial resources, and the quick intelligence of its people,—not at all inferior to that of the
people of the West, although naturally restricted in its development,—give to Japan . . . an importance far above that of any other Eastern country." The only error of this generous estimate was an error centuries old,—the delusion of Japan's wealth. What made me feel a little ancient was to recognize in the quaint spellings Ziogoon, Tycoon, Sintoo, Kusiu, Fide-yosi, Nobanunga,—spellings of the old Dutch and old Jesuit writers,—the modern and familiar Shôgun, Taikun, Shintô, Kyûshû, Hideyoshi, and Nobunaga.
I passed the evening wandering through the illuminated streets, and visited some of the numberless shows. I saw a young man writing Buddhist texts and drawing horses with his feet; the extraordinary fact about the work being that the texts were written backwards,—from the bottom of the column up, just as an ordinary calligrapher would write them from the top of the column down,—and the pictures of horses were always commenced with the tail. I saw a kind of amphitheatre, with an aquarium in lieu of arena, where mermaids swam and sang Japanese
songs. I saw maidens "made by glamour out of flowers" by a Japanese cultivator of chrysanthemums. And between whiles I peeped into the toy-shops, full of novelties. What there especially struck me was the display of that astounding ingenuity by which Japanese inventors are able to reach, at a cost too small to name, precisely the same results as those exhibited in our expensive mechanical toys. A group of cocks and hens made of paper were set to pecking imaginary grain out of a basket by the pressure of a bamboo spring,—the whole thing costing half a cent. An artificial mouse ran about, doubling and scurrying, as if trying to slip under mats or into chinks: it cost only one cent, and was made with a bit of colored paper, a spool of baked clay, and a long thread; you had only to pull the thread, and the mouse began to run. Butterflies of paper, moved by an equally simple device, began to fly when thrown into the air. An artificial cuttlefish began to wriggle all its tentacles when you blew into a little rush tube fixed under its head.
When I decided to return, the lanterns were out, the shops were closing; and the streets darkened about me long before I reached the hotel. After the great glow of the illumination, the witchcrafts of the shows, the merry tumult, the sea-like sound of wooden sandals, this sudden coming of blankness and silence made me feel as if the previous experience had been unreal,—an illusion of light and color and noise made just to deceive, as in stories of goblin foxes. But the quick vanishing of all that composes a Japanese festival-night really lends a keener edge to the pleasure of remembrance: there is no slow fading out of the phantasmagoria, and its memory is thus kept free from the least tinge of melancholy.
While I was thinking about the fugitive charm of Japanese amusements, the question put itself, Are not all pleasures keen in proportion to their evanescence? Proof of the affirmative would lend strong support to the Buddhist theory of the nature of pleasure. We know that mental enjoyments are powerful
in proportion to the complexity of the feelings and ideas composing them; and the most complex feelings would therefore seem to be of necessity the briefest. At all events, Japanese popular pleasures have the double peculiarity of being evanescent and complex, not merely because of their delicacy and their multiplicity of detail, but because this delicacy and multiplicity are adventitious, depending upon temporary conditions and combinations. Among such conditions are the seasons of flowering and of fading, hours of sunshine or full moon, a change of place, a shifting of light and shade. Among combinations are the fugitive holiday manifestations of the race genius: fragilities utilized to create illusion; dreams made visible; memories revived in symbols, images, ideographs, dashes of color, fragments of melody; countless minute appeals both to individual experience and to national sentiment. And the emotional result remains incommunicable to Western minds, because the myriad little details and suggestions producing it belong to a world incomprehensible without years of familiarity,—a world of traditions, beliefs, superstitions,
feelings, ideas, about which foreigners, as a general rule, know nothing. Even by the few who do know that world, the nameless delicious sensation, the great vague wave of pleasure excited by the spectacle of Japanese enjoyment, can only be described as the feeling of Japan.
A sociological fact of interest is suggested by the amazing cheapness of these pleasures. The charm of Japanese life presents us with the extraordinary phenomenon of poverty as an influence in the development of æsthetic sentiment, or at least as a factor in deciding the direction and expansion of that development. But for poverty, the race could not have discovered, ages ago, the secret of making pleasure the commonest instead of the costliest of experiences,—the divine art of creating the beautiful out of nothing!
One explanation of this cheapness is the capacity of the people to find in everything natural—in landscapes, mists, clouds, sunsets,—in the sight of birds, insects, and flowers—a much keener pleasure than we, as the vividness of their artistic presentations
of visual experience bears witness. Another explanation is that the national religions and the old-fashioned education have so developed imaginative power that it can be stirred into an activity of delight by anything, however trifling, able to suggest the traditions or the legends of the past.
Perhaps Japanese cheap pleasures might be broadly divided into those of time and place furnished by nature with the help of man, and those of time and place invented by man at the suggestion of nature. The former class can be found in every province, and yearly multiply. Some locality is chosen on hill or coast, by lake or river: gardens are made, trees planted, resting-houses built to command the finest points of view; and the wild site is presently transformed into a place of pilgrimage for pleasure-seekers. One spot is famed for cherry-trees, another for maples, another for wistaria; and each of the seasons—even snowy winter—helps to make the particular beauty of some resort. The sites of the most celebrated temples, or at least of the greater number of them, were thus selected,—always where the beauty of nature could inspire and
aid the work of the religious architect, and where it still has power to make many a one wish that he could become a Buddhist or Shintô priest. Religion, indeed, is every, where in Japan associated with famous scenery: with landscapes, cascades, peaks, rocks, islands; with the best places from which to view the blossoming of flowers, the reflection of the autumn moon on water, or the spark. ling of fireflies on summer nights.
Decorations, illuminations, street displays of every sort, but especially those of holy days, compose a large part of the pleasures of city life which all can share. The appeals thus made to æsthetic fancy at festivals represent the labor, perhaps, of tens of thousands of hands and brains; but each individual contributor to the public effort works according to his particular thought and taste, even while obeying old rules, so that the total ultimate result is a wondrous, a bewildering an incalculable variety. Anybody can contribute to such an occasion; and everybody does, for the cheapest material is used. Paper, straw, or stone makes no real difference: the art sense is superbly independent
of the material. What shapes that material is perfect comprehension of something natural, something real. Whether a blossom made of chicken feathers, a clay turtle or duck or sparrow, a pasteboard cricket or mantis or frog, the idea is fully conceived and exactly realized. Spiders of mud seem to be spinning webs; butterflies of paper delude the eye. No models are needed to work from;—or rather, the model in every case is only the precise memory of the object or living fact. I asked at a doll-maker's for twenty tiny paper dolls, each with a different coiffure,—the whole set to represent the principal Kyôto styles of dressing women's hair. A girl went to work with white paper, paint, paste, thin slips of pine; and the dolls were finished in about the same time that an artist would have taken to draw a similar number of such figures. The actual time needed was only enough for the necessary digital movements,—not for correcting, comparing, improving: the image in the brain realized itself as fast as the slender hands could work. Thus most of the wonders of festival nights are created: toys thrown into existence
with a twist of the fingers, old rags turned into figured draperies with a few motions of the brush, pictures made with sand. The same power of enchantment puts human grace under contribution. Children who on other occasions would attract no attention are converted into fairies by a, few deft touches of paint and powder, and costumes devised for artificial light. Artistic sense of line and color suffices for any transformation. The tones of decoration are never of chance, but of knowledge: even the lantern illuminations prove this fact, certain tints only being used in combination. But the whole exhibition is as evanescent as it is wonderful. It vanishes much too quickly to be found fault with. It is a mirage that leaves you marveling and dreaming for a month after having seen it.
Perhaps one inexhaustible source of the contentment, the simple happiness, belonging to Japanese common life is to be found in this universal cheapness of pleasure. The delight of the eyes is for everybody. Not the seasons only nor the festivals furnish enjoyment: almost any quaint street, any
truly Japanese interior, can give real pleasure to the poorest servant who works without wages. The beautiful, or the suggestion of the beautiful, is free as air. Besides, no man or woman can be too poor to own something pretty; no child need be without delightful toys. Conditions in the Occident are otherwise. In our great cities, beauty is for the rich; bare walls and foul pavements and smoky skies for our poor, and the tumult of hideous machinery,—a hell of eternal ugliness and joylessness invented by our civilization to punish the atrocious crime of being unfortunate, or weak, or stupid, or overconfident in the morality of one's fellow-man.
When I went out, next morning, to view the great procession, the streets were packed so full of people that it seemed impossible for anybody to go anywhere. Nevertheless, all were moving, or rather circulating; there was a universal gliding and slipping, as of fish in a shoal. I find no difficulty in getting through the apparently solid press of heads and shoulders to the house of a friendly
merchant, about half a mile away. How any crowd could be packed so closely, and yet move so freely, is a riddle to which Japanese character alone can furnish the key. I was not once rudely jostled. But Japanese crowds are not all alike: there are some through which an attempt to pass would be attended with unpleasant consequences. Of course the yielding fluidity of any concourse is in proportion to its gentleness; but the amount of that gentleness in Japan varies greatly according to locality. In the central and eastern provinces the kindliness of a crowd seems to be proportionate to its inexperience of "the new civilization." This vast gathering, of probably not less than a million persons, was astonishingly good-natured and good-humored, because the majority of those composing it were simple country folk. When the police finally made a lane for the procession, the multitude at once arranged itself in the least egotistical manner possible,—little children to the front, adults to the rear.
Though announced for nine o'clock, the procession did not appear till nearly eleven; and the long waiting in those densely packed
streets must have been a strain even upon Buddhist patience. I was kindly given a kneeling-cushion in the front room of the merchant's house; but although the cushion was of the softest and the courtesy shown me of the sweetest, I became weary of the immobile posture at last, and went out into the crowd, where I could vary the experience of waiting by standing first on one foot, and then on the other. Before thus deserting my post, however, I had the privilege of seeing some very charming Kyôto ladies, including a princess, among the merchant's guests. Kyôto is famous for the beauty of its women; and the most charming Japanese woman I ever saw was in that house,—not the princess, but the shy young bride of the merchant's eldest son. That the proverb about beauty being only skin-deep "is but a skin-deep saying" Herbert Spencer has amply proved by the laws of physiology; and the same laws show that grace has a much more profound significance than beauty. The charm of the bride was just that rare form of grace which represents the economy of force in the whole framework of the physical structure,—
the grace that startles when first seen, and appears more and more wonderful every time it is again looked at. It is very seldom indeed that one sees in Japan a pretty woman who would look equally pretty in another than her own beautiful national attire. What we usually call grace in Japanese women is daintiness of form and manner rather than what a Greek would have termed grace. In this instance, one felt assured that long, light, slender, fine, faultlessly knit figure would ennoble any costume: there was just that suggestion of pliant elegance which the sight of a young bamboo gives when the wind is blowing.
To describe the procession in detail would needlessly tire the reader; and I shall venture only a few general remarks. The purpose of the pageant was to represent the various official and military styles of dress worn during the great periods of the history of Kyôto, from the time of its foundation in the eighth century to the present era of Meiji, and also the chief military personages of that history. At least two thousand persons marched in the
procession, figuring daimyô, kugé, hatamoto, samurai, retainers, carriers, musicians, and dancers. The dancers were impersonated by geisha; and some were attired so as to look like butterflies with big gaudy wings. All the armor and the weapons, the ancient headdresses and robes, were veritable relics of the past, lent for the occasion by old families, by professional curio-dealers, and by private collectors. The great captains—Oda Nobunaga, Kato Kiyomasa, Iyeyasu, Hideyoshi—were represented according to tradition; a really monkey-faced man having been found to play the part of the famous Taikô.
While these visions of dead centuries were passing by, the people kept perfectly silent,—which fact, strange as the statement may seem to Western readers, indicated extreme pleasure. It is not really in accordance with national sentiment to express applause by noisy demonstration,—by shouting and clapping of hands, for example. Even the military cheer is an importation; and the tendency to boisterous demonstrativeness in Tôkyô is probably as factitious as it is modern. I remember two impressive silences in Kobe during 1895.
The first was on the occasion of an imperial visit. There was a vast crowd; the foremost ranks knelt down as the Emperor passed; but there was not oven a whisper. The second remarkable silence was on the return of the victorious troops from China, who marched under the triumphal arches erected to welcome them without hearing a syllable from the people. I asked why, and was answered, "We Japanese think we can better express our feelings by silence." I may here observe, also, that the sinister silence of the Japanese armies before some of the late engagements terrified the clamorous Chinese much more than the first opening of the batteries. Despite exceptions, it may be stated as a general truth that the deeper the emotion, whether of pleasure or of pain, and the more solemn or heroic the occasion, in Japan, the more naturally silent those who feel or act.
Some foreign spectators criticised the display as spiritless, and commented on the unheroic port of the great captains and the undisguised fatigue of their followers, oppressed under a scorching sun by the unaccustomed weight of armor. But to the Japanese all
this only made the pageant seem more real, and I fully agreed with them. As a matter of fact, the greatest heroes of military history have appeared at their best in exceptional moments only; the stoutest veterans have known fatigue; and undoubtedly Nobunaga and Hideyoshi and Kato Kiyomasa must have more than once looked just as dusty, and ridden or marched just as wearily, as their representatives in the Kyôto procession. No merely theatrical idealism clouds, for any educated Japanese, the sense of the humanity of his country's greatest men: on the contrary, it is the historical evidence of that ordinary humanity that most endears them to the common heart, and makes by contrast more admirable and exemplary all of the inner life which was not ordinary.
After the procession I went to the Dai-Kioku-Den, the magnificent memorial Shintô temple built by the government, and described in a former book. On displaying my medal I was allowed to pay reverence to the spirit of good Kwammu-Tennô, and to drink a little rice wine in his honor, out of a new wine-cup
of pure white clay presented by a lovely child-miko. After the libation, the little priestess packed the white cup into a neat wooden box and bade me take it home for a souvenir; one new cup being presented to every purchaser of a medal.
Such small gifts and memories make up much of the unique pleasure of Japanese travel. In almost any town or village you can buy for a souvenir some pretty or curious thing made only in that one place, and not to be found elsewhere. Again, in many parts of the interior a trifling generosity is certain to be acknowledged by a present, which, however cheap, will seldom fail to prove a surprise and a pleasure. Of all the things which I picked up here and there, in traveling about the country, the prettiest and the most beloved are queer little presents thus obtained.
I wanted, before leaving Kyôto, to visit the tomb of Yuko Hatakeyama. After having vainly inquired of several persons where she was buried, it occurred to me to ask a Buddhist Priest who had come to the hotel on
some parochial business. He answered at once, "In the cemetery of Makkeiji." Makkeiji was a temple not mentioned in guidebooks, and situated somewhere at the outskirts of the city. I took a kuruma forthwith, and found myself at the temple gate after about half an hour's run.
A priest, to whom I announced the purpose of my visit, conducted me to the cemetery,—a very large one,—and pointed out the grave. The sun of a cloudless autumn day flooded everything with light, and tinged with spectral gold the face of a monument on which I saw, in beautiful large characters very deeply cut, the girl's name, with the Buddhist prefix Retsujo, signifying chaste and true,—
RETSUJO HATAKEYAMA YUKO HAKA.
The grave was well kept, and the grass had been recently trimmed. A little wooden awning erected in front of the stone sheltered the offerings of flowers and sprays of shikimi, and a cup of fresh water. I did sincere reverence to the heroic and unselfish spirit, and pronounced the customary formula. Some other visitors, I noticed, saluted the spirit after the
Shintô manner. The tombstones were so thickly crowded about the spot that, in order to see the back of the monument, I found I should have to commit the rudeness of stepping on the grave. But I felt sure she would forgive me; so, treading reverently, I passed round, and copied the inscription: "Yuko, of Nagasagori, Kamagawamachi . . . from day of birth always good. . . Meiji, the twenty-fourth year, the fifth month, the twentieth day . . . cause of sorrow the country having . . . the Kyôto government-house to went . . . and her own throat cut . . . twenty and seven years . . . Tani Tetsuomi made . . . Kyôto-folk-by erected this stone is." The Buddhist Kaimyô read, "Gi-yu-in-ton-shi-chu-myô-kyô,"—apparently signifying, "Right-meaning and valiant woman, instantly attaining to the admirable doctrine of loyalty."
In the temple, the priest showed me the relics and mementos of the tragedy: a small Japanese razor, blood-crusted, with the once white soft paper thickly wrapped round its handle caked into one hard red mass; the
cheap purse; the girdle and clothing, blood-stiffened (all except the kimono, washed by order of the police before having been given to the temple); letters and memoranda; photographs, which I secured, of Yuko and her tomb; also a photograph of the gathering in the cemetery, where the funeral rites were performed by Shintô priests. This fact interested me; for, although condoned by Buddhism, the suicide could not have been regarded in the same light by the two faiths. The clothing was coarse and cheap: the girl had pawned her best effects to cover the expenses of her journey and her burial. I bought a little book containing the story of her life and death, copies of her last letters, poems written about her by various persons,—some of very high rank,—and a clumsy portrait. In the photographs of Yuko and her relatives there was nothing remarkable: such types you can meet with every day and anywhere in Japan. The interest of the book was psychological only, as regarded both the author and the subject. The printed letters of Yuko revealed that strange state of Japanese exaltation in which the mind remains
capable of giving all possible attention to the most trivial matters of fact, while the terrible purpose never slackens. The memoranda gave like witness:—
Meiji twenty-fourth year, fifth month, eighteenth day.
5 sen to kurumaya from Nihonbashi to Uyeno.
5 sen to kurumaya to Asakusa Umamachi.
1 sen 5 rin for sharpening something to hair-dresser in Shitaya.
10 yen received from Sano, the pawnbroker in Baba.
20 sen for train to Shincho.
1 yen 2 sen for train from Hama to Shidzuoka.
2 yen 9 sen for train from Shidzuoka to Hama.
6 sen for postage-stamps for two letters.
14 sen in Kiyomidzu.
12 sen 5 rin for umbrella given to kurumaya.
But in strange contrast to the methodical faculty thus manifested was the poetry of a farewell letter, containing such thoughts as these:—
"The eighty-eighth night [that is, from the festival of the Setsubun] having passed like a dream, ice changed itself into clear drops, and snow gave place to rain. Then cherry-blossoms came to please everybody; but
now, poor things! they begin to fall even before the wind touches them. Again a little while, and the wind will make them fly through the bright air in the pure spring weather. Yet it may be that the hearts of those who love me will not be bright, will feel no pleasant spring. The season of rains will come next, and there will be no joy in their hearts. . . . Oh! what shall I do? There has been no moment in which I have not thought of you. . . . But all ice, all snow, becomes at last free water; the incense buds of the kiku will open even in frost. I pray you, think later about these things. . . . Even now, for me, is the time of frost, the time of kiku buds: if only they can blossom, perhaps I shall please you much. Placed in this world of sorrow, but not to stay, is the destiny of all. I beseech you, think me not unfilial; say to none that you have lost me, that I have passed into the darkness. Rather wait and hope for the fortunate time that shall come."
The editor of the pamphlet betrayed rather too much of the Oriental manner of judging woman, even while showering generous praise
upon one typical woman. In a letter to the authorities Yuko had spoken of a family claim, and this was criticised as a feminine weakness. She had, indeed, achieved the extinction of personal selfishness, but she had been "very foolish" to speak about her family. In some other ways the book was disappointing. Under the raw, strong light of its commonplace revelations, my little sketch, "Yuko," written in 1894, seemed for the moment much too romantic. And yet the real poetry of the event remained unlessened,—the pure ideal that impelled a girl to take her own life merely to give proof of the love and loyalty of a nation. No small, mean, dry facts could ever belittle that large fact.
The sacrifice had stirred the feelings of the nation much more than it had touched my own. Thousands of photographs of Yuko and thousands of copies of the little book about her were sold. Multitudes visited her tomb and made offerings there, and gazed with tender reverence at the relics in Makkeiji; and all this, I thought, for the best of reasons. If commonplace facts are repellent to what we are pleased, in the West, to call "refined feeling,"
it is proof that the refinement is factitious and the feeling shallow. To the Japanese, who recognize that the truth of beauty belongs to the inner being, commonplace details are precious: they help to accentuate and verify the conception of a heroism. Those poor blood-stained trifles—the coarse honest robes and girdle, the little cheap purse, the memoranda of a visit to the pawnbroker, the glimpses of plain, humble, every-day humanity shown by the letters and the photographs and the infinitesimal precision of police records—all serve, like so much ocular evidence, to perfect the generous comprehension of the feeling that made the fact. Had Yuko been the most beautiful person in Japan, and her people of the highest rank, the meaning of her sacrifice would have been far less intimately felt. In actual life, as a general rule, it is the common, not the uncommon person who does noble things; and the people, seeing best, by the aid of ordinary facts, what is heroic in one of their own class, feel them. selves honored. Many of us in the West will have to learn our ethics over again from the common people. Our cultivated classes have
lived so long in an atmosphere of false idealism, mere conventional humbug, that the real, warm, honest human emotions seem to them vulgar; and the natural and inevitable punishment is inability to see, to hear, to feel, and to think. There is more truth in the little verse poor Yuko wrote on the back of her mirror than in most of our conventional idealism:—
"By one keeping the heart free from stain, virtue and right and wrong are seen clearly as forms in a mirror."
I returned by another way, through a quarter which I had never seen before,—all temples. A district of great spaces,—vast and beautiful and hushed as by enchantment. No dwellings or shops. Pale yellow walls only, sloping back from the roadway on both sides, like fortress walls, but coped with a coping or rooflet of blue tiles; and above these yellow sloping walls (pierced with elfish gates at long, long intervals), great soft hilly masses of foliage—cedar and pine and bamboo—with superbly curved roofs sweeping up through
them. Each vista of those silent streets of temples, bathed in the gold of the autumn afternoon, gave me just such a thrill of pleasure as one feels on finding in some poem the perfect utterance of a thought one has tried for years in vain to express.
Yet what was the charm made with? The wonderful walls were but painted mud; the gates and the temples only frames of wood supporting tiles; the shrubbery, the stonework, the lotos-ponds, mere landscape-gardening. Nothing solid, nothing enduring; but a combination so beautiful of lines and colors and shadows that no speech could paint it. Nay! even were those earthen walls turned into lemon-colored marble, and their tiling into amethyst; even were the material of the temples transformed into substance precious as that of the palace described in the Sutra of the Great King of Glory,—still the æsthetic suggestion, the dreamy repose, the mellow loveliness and softness of the scene, could not be in the least enhanced. Perhaps it is just because the material of such creation is so frail that its art is so marvelous. The most wonderful architecture, the most entrancing
landscapes, are formed with substance the most imponderable,—the substance of clouds.
But those who think of beauty only in connection with costliness, with stability, with "firm reality," should never look for it in this land,—well called the Land of Sunrise, for sunrise is the hour of illusions. Nothing is more lovely than a Japanese village among the hills or by the coast when seen just after sunrise,—through the slowly lifting blue mists of a spring or autumn morning. But for the matter-of-fact observer, the enchantment passes with the vapors: in the raw, clear light he can find no palaces of amethyst, no sails of gold, but only flimsy sheds of wood and thatch and the unpainted queerness of wooden junks.
So perhaps it is with all that makes life beautiful in any land. To view men or nature with delight, we must see them through illusions, subjective or objective. How they appear to us depends upon the ethical conditions within us. Nevertheless, the real and the unreal are equally illusive in themselves. The vulgar and the rare, the seemingly transient and the seemingly enduring, are all
alike mere ghostliness. Happiest he who, from birth to death, sees ever through some beautiful haze of the soul,—best of all, that haze of love which, like the radiance of this Orient day, turns common things to gold.