Chapter Eleven. 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 Shinto.

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 flame.

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 memory.

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.

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,[1] 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 the Minige.

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.[2]

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?

Only this:

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.

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 exquisitely beautiful.'

'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 [3] 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 cent!

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.' [4] 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 cent.

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 rin. .

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, [5] and is loved and played with by generations of children, gradually acquires a soul. I asked a charming Japanese girl: 'How can a doll live?'

'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, [6] - 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 [7] 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 little supper.

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 and butterflies.

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 [8] 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:

[9] Ichi-wa - Izumo-no-Taisha-Sama-ye; Ni-ni-wa - Niigata-no-Irokami-Sama-ye; San-wa - Sanuki-no-Kompira-Sama-ye; Shi-ni-wa - Shinano-no-Zenkoji-Sama-ye; Itsutsu - Ichibata-O-Yakushi-Sama-ye; Roku-niwa - Rokkakudo-no-O-Jizo-Sama-ye; Nanatsu - Nana-ura-no-O-Ebisu-Sama-ye; Yattsu - Yawata-no-Hachiman-Sama-ye; Kokonotsu - Koya-no-O-teradera-ye; To-niwa - Tokoro-no-Ujigami-Sama-ye.

And the voices of all the dancers in unison roll out the chorus:

Ya-ha-to-nai! Ya-ha-to-nail

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.'