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Lafcadio Hearn

1 THE hair of the younger daughter of the family is very long; and it is a spectacle of no small interest to see it dressed. It is dressed once in every three days; and the operation, which costs four sen, is acknowledged to require one hour. As a matter of fact it requires nearly two. The hairdresser (kamiyui) first sends her maiden apprentice, who cleans the hair, washes it, perfumes it, and combs it with extraordinary combs of at least five different kinds.


MATSUE, September 2, 1890.

I AM under contract to serve as English teacher in the Jinjo Chugakko, or Ordinary Middle School, and also in the ShihanGakko, or Normal School, of Matsue, Izumo, for the term of one year.

The Jinjo Chugakko is an immense two-story wooden building in European style, painted a dark grey-blue. It has accommodations for nearly three hundred day scholars. It is situated in one corner of a great square of ground, bounded on two sides by canals, and on the other two by very quiet streets. This site is very near the ancient castle.

THE outward signs of any Japanese matsuri are the most puzzling of enigmas to the stranger who sees them for the first time. They are many and varied; they are quite unlike anything in the way of holiday decoration ever seen in the Occident; they have each a meaning founded upon some belief or some tradition - a meaning known to every Japanese child; but that meaning is utterly impossible for any foreigner to guess. Yet whoever wishes to know something of Japanese popular life and feeling must learn the signification of at least the most common among festival symbols and tokens.


IT is the fifteenth day of the seventh month - and I am in Hokii.

1 This was written early in 1892

2 Quoted from Mr. Satow's masterly essay, 'The Revival of Pure Shinto,' published in the Transactions of the Asiatic Society of Japan. By 'gods' are not necessarily meant beneficent Kami. Shinto has no devils; but it has its 'bad gods' as well as good deities.

3 Satow, 'The Revival of Pure Shinto.'

4 Ibid.

5 In the sense of Moral Path, - i.e. an ethical system.

NOTHING is more silent than the beginning of a Japanese banquet; and no one, except a native, who observes the opening scene could possibly imagine the tumultuous ending.

1 Formerly both sexes used the same pillow for the same reason. The long hair of a samurai youth, tied up in an elaborate knot, required much time to arrange. Since it has become the almost universal custom to wear the hair short, the men have adopted a pillow shaped like a small bolster.

1 There is a legend that the Sun-Goddess invented the first hakama by tying together the skirts of her robe.

2 'Let us play the game called kango-kango. Plenteously the water of Jizo-San quickly draw - and pour on the pine-leaves - and turn back again.' Many of the games of Japanese children, like many of their toys, have a Buddhist origin, or at least a Buddhist significance.

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