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 granite steps.

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, [1] - 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 folio!

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 time.

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 [2] 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. [3] 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 closely related.

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 [4] 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 garden.