Chapter Eight. From Hoki to Oki


I RESOLVED to go to Oki.

Not even a missionary had ever been to Oki, and its shores had never been seen by European eyes, except on those rare occasions when men-of-war steamed by them, cruising about the Japanese Sea. This alone would have been a sufficient reason for going there; but a stronger one was furnished for me by the ignorance of the Japanese themselves about Oki. Excepting the far-away Riu-Kiu, or Loo-Choo Islands, inhabited by a somewhat different race with a different language, the least-known portion of the Japanese Empire is perhaps Oki. Since it belongs to the same prefectural district as Izumo, each new governor of Shimane-Ken is supposed to pay one visit to Oki after his inauguration; and the chief of police of the province sometimes goes there upon a tour of inspection. There are also some mercantile houses in Matsue and in other cities which send a commercial traveller to Oki once a year. Furthermore, there is quite a large trade with Oki - almost all carried on by small sailing-vessels. But such official and commercial communications have not been of a nature to make Oki much better known to-day than in the medieval period of Japanese history. There are still current among the common people of the west coast extraordinary stories of Oki much like those about that fabulous Isle of Women, which figures so largely in the imaginative literature of various Oriental races. According to these old legends, the moral notions of the people of Oki were extremely fantastic: the most rigid ascetic could not dwell there and maintain his indifference to earthly pleasures; and, however wealthy at his arrival, the visiting stranger must soon return to his native land naked and poor, because of the seductions of women. I had quite sufficient experiences of travel in queer countries to feel certain that all these marvellous stories signified nothing beyond the bare fact that Oki was a terra incognita; and I even felt inclined to believe that the average morals of the people of Oki - judging by those of the common folk of the western provinces - must be very much better than the morals of our ignorant classes at home.

Which I subsequently ascertained to be the case.

For some time I could find no one among my Japanese acquaintances to give me any information about Oki, beyond the fact that in ancient times it had been a place of banishment for the Emperors Go-Daigo and Go-Toba, dethroned by military usurpers, and this I already knew. But at last, quite unexpectedly, I found a friend - a former fellow-teacher - who had not only been to Oki, but was going there again within a few days about some business matter. We agreed to go together. His accounts of Oki differed very materially from those of the people who had never been there. The Oki folks, he said, were almost as much civilised as the Izumo folks: they, had nice towns and good public schools. They were very simple and honest beyond belief, and extremely kind to strangers. Their only boast was that of having kept their race unchanged since the time that the Japanese had first come to Japan; or, in more romantic phrase, since the Age of the Gods. They were all Shintoists, members of the Izumo Taisha faith, but Buddhism was also maintained among them, chiefly through the generous subscription of private individuals. And there were very comfortable hotels, so that I would feel quite at home.

He also gave me a little book about Oki, printed for the use of the Oki schools, from which I obtained the following brief summary of facts:


Oki-no-Kuni, or the Land of Oki, consists of two groups of small islands in the Sea of Japan, about one hundred miles from the coast of Izumo. Dozen, as the nearer group is termed, comprises, besides various islets, three islands lying close together: Chiburishima, or the Island of Chiburi (sometimes called Higashinoshima, or Eastern Island); Nishinoshima, or the Western Island, and Nakanoshima, or the Middle Island. Much larger than any of these is the principal island, Dogo, which together with various islets, mostly uninhabited, form the remaining group. It is sometimes called Oki - though the name Oki is more generally used for the whole archipelago. [1]

Officially, Oki is divided into four kori or counties. Chiburi and Nishinoshima together form Chiburigori; Nakanoshima, with an islet, makes Amagori, and Dogo is divided into Ochigori and Sukigori.

All these islands are very mountainous, and only a small portion of their area has ever been cultivated. Their chief sources of revenue are their fisheries, in which nearly the whole population has always been engaged from the most ancient times.

During the winter months the sea between Oki and the west coast is highly dangerous for small vessels, and in that season the islands hold little communication with the mainland. Only one passenger steamer runs to Oki from Sakai in Hoki In a direct line, the distance from Sakai in Hoki to Saigo, the chief port of Oki, is said to be thirty-nine ri; but the steamer touches at the other islands upon her way thither.

There are quite a number of little towns, or rather villages, in Oki, of which forty-five belong to Dogo. The villages are nearly all situated upon the coast. There are large schools in the principal towns. The population of the islands is stated to be 30,196, but the respective populations of towns and villages are not given.


From Matsue in Izumo to Sakai in Hoki is a trip of barely two hours by steamer. Sakai is the chief seaport of Shimane-Ken. It is an ugly little town, full of unpleasant smells; it exists only as a port; it has no industries, scarcely any shops, and only one Shinto temple of small dimensions and smaller interest. Its principal buildings are warehouses, pleasure resorts for sailors, and a few large dingy hotels, which are always overcrowded with guests waiting for steamers to Osaka, to Bakkan, to Hamada, to Niigata, and various other ports. On this coast no steamers run regularly anywhere; their owners attach no business value whatever to punctuality, and guests have usually to wait for a much longer time than they could possibly have expected, and the hotels are glad.

But the harbour is beautiful - a long frith between the high land of Izumo and the low coast of Hoki. It is perfectly sheltered from storms, and deep enough to admit all but the largest steamers. The ships can lie close to the houses, and the harbour is nearly always thronged with all sorts of craft, from junks to steam packets of the latest construction.

My friend and I were lucky enough to secure back rooms at the best hotel. Back rooms are the best in nearly all Japanese buildings: at Sakai they have the additional advantage of overlooking the busy wharves and the whole luminous bay, beyond which the Izumo hills undulate in huge green billows against the sky. There was much to see and to be amused at. Steamers and sailing craft of all sorts were lying two and three deep before the hotel, and the naked dock labourers were loading and unloading in their own peculiar way. These men are recruited from among the strongest peasantry of Hoki and of Izumo, and some were really fine men, over whose brown backs the muscles rippled at every movement. They were assisted by boys of fifteen or sixteen apparently - apprentices learning the work, but not yet strong enough to bear heavy burdens. I noticed that nearly all had bands of blue cloth bound about their calves to keep the veins from bursting. And all sang as they worked. There was one curious alternate chorus, in which the men in the hold gave the signal by chanting 'dokoe, dokoel' (haul away!) and those at the hatch responded by improvisations on the appearance of each package as it ascended:

Dokoe, dokoe! Onnago no ko da. Dokoe, dokoe! Oya dayo, oya dayo. Dokoe, dokoel Choi-choi da, choi-choi da. Dokoe, dokoe! Matsue da, Matsueda. Dokoe, dokoe! Koetsumo Yonago da, [20] etc.

But this chant was for light quick work. A very different chant accompanied the more painful and slower labour of loading heavy sacks and barrels upon the shoulders of the stronger men: -

Yan-yui! Yan-yui! Yan-yui! Yan-yui! Yoi-ya-sa-a-a-no-do-koe-shi! [3]

Three men always lifted the weight. At the first yan-yui all stooped; at the second all took hold; the third signified ready; at the fourth the weight rose from the ground; and with the long cry of yoiyasa no dokoeshi it was dropped on the brawny shoulder waiting to receive it.

Among the workers was a naked laughing boy, with a fine contralto that rang out so merrily through all the din as to create something of a sensation in the hotel. A young woman, one of the guests, came out upon the balcony to look, and exclaimed: 'That boy's voice is RED' - whereat everybody smiled. Under the circumstances I thought the observation very expressive, although it recalled a certain famous story about scarlet and the sound of a trumpet, which does not seem nearly so funny now as it did at a time when we knew less about the nature of light and sound.

The Oki steamer arrived the same afternoon, but she could not approach the wharf, and I could only obtain a momentary glimpse of her stern through a telescope, with which I read the name, in English letters of gold - OKI-SARGO. Before I could obtain any idea of her dimensions, a huge black steamer from Nagasaki glided between, and moored right in the way.

I watched the loading and unloading, and listened to the song of the boy with the red voice, until sunset, when all quit work; and after that I watched the Nagasaki steamer. She had made her way to our wharf as the other vessels moved out, and lay directly under the balcony. The captain and crew did not appear to be in a hurry about anything. They all squatted down together on the foredeck, where a feast was spread for them by lantern-light. Dancing-girls climbed on board and feasted with them, and sang to the sound of the samisen, and played with them the game of ken. Late into the night the feasting and the fun continued; and although an alarming quantity of sake was consumed, there was no roughness or boisterousness. But sake is the most soporific of wines; and by midnight only three of the men remained on deck. One of these had not taken any sake at all, but still desired to eat. Happily for him there climbed on board a night-walking mochiya with a box of mochi, which are cakes of rice-flour sweetened with native sugar. The hungry one bought all, and reproached the mochiya because there were no more, and offered, nevertheless, to share the mochi with his comrades. Whereupon the first to whom the offer was made answered somewhat after this manner:

'I-your-servant mochi-for this-world-in no-use-have. Sake alone this- life-in if-there-be, nothing-beside-desirable-is.

'For me-your-servant,' spake the other, 'Woman this-fleeting-life-in the-supreme-thing is; mochi-or-sake-for earthly-use have-I-none.'

But, having made all the mochi to disappear, he that had been hungry turned himself to the mochiya, and said: - 'O Mochiya San, I-your-servant Woman-or-sake-for earthly-requirement have-none. Mochi-than things better this-life-of-sorrow-in existence-have-not !'


Early in the morning we were notified that the Oki-Saigo would start at precisely eight o'clock, and that we had better secure our tickets at once. The hotel-servant, according to Japanese custom, relieved us of all anxiety about baggage, etc., and bought our tickets: first-class fare, eighty sen. And after a hasty breakfast the hotel boat came under the window to take us away.

Warned by experience of the discomforts of European dress on Shimane steamers, I adopted Japanese costume and exchanged my shoes for sandals. Our boatmen sculled swiftly through the confusion of shipping and junkery; and as we cleared it I saw, far out in midstream, the joki waiting for us. Joki is a Japanese name for steam-vessel. The word had not yet impressed me as being capable of a sinister interpretation.

She seemed nearly as long as a harbour tug, though much more squabby; and she otherwise so much resembled the Lilliputian steamers of Lake Shinji, that I felt somewhat afraid of her, even for a trip of one hundred miles. But exterior inspection afforded no clue to the mystery of her inside. We reached her and climbed into her starboard through a small square hole. At once I found myself cramped in a heavily-roofed gangway, four feet high and two feet wide, and in the thick of a frightful squeeze - passengers stifling in the effort to pull baggage three feet in diameter through the two-foot orifice. It was impossible to advance or retreat; and behind me the engine-room gratings were pouring wonderful heat into this infernal corridor. I had to wait with the back of my head pressed against the roof until, in some unimaginable way, all baggage and passengers had squashed and squeezed through. Then, reaching a doorway, I fell over a heap of sandals and geta, into the first-class cabin. It was pretty, with its polished woodwork and mirrors; it was surrounded by divans five inches wide; and in the centre it was nearly six feet high. Such altitude would have been a cause for comparative happiness, but that from various polished bars of brass extended across the ceiling all kinds of small baggage, including two cages of singing-crickets (chongisu), had been carefully suspended. Furthermore the cabin was already extremely occupied: everybody, of course, on the floor, and nearly everybody lying at extreme length; and the heat struck me as being supernatural. Now they that go down to the sea in ships, out of Izumo and such places, for the purpose of doing business in great waters, are never supposed to stand up, but to squat in the ancient patient manner; and coast, or lake steamers are constructed with a view to render this attitude only possible. Observing an open door in the port side of the cabin, I picked my way over a tangle of bodies and limbs - among them a pair of fairy legs belonging to a dancing-girl - and found myself presently in another gangway, also roofed, and choked up to the roof with baskets of squirming eels. Exit there was none: so I climbed back over all the legs and tried the starboard gangway a second time. Even during that short interval, it had been half filled with baskets of unhappy chickens. But I made a reckless dash over them, in spite of frantic cacklings which hurt my soul, and succeeded in finding a way to the cabin-roof. It was entirely occupied by water-melons, except one corner, where there was a big coil of rope. I put melons inside of the rope, and sat upon them in the sun. It was not comfortable; but I thought that there I might have some chance for my life in case of a catastrophe, and I was sure that even the gods could give no help to those below. During the squeeze I had got separated from my companion, but I was afraid to make any attempt to find him. Forward I saw the roof of the second cabin crowded with third- class passengers squatting round a hibachi. To pass through them did not seem possible, and to retire would have involved the murder of either eels or chickens. Wherefore I sat upon the melons.

And the boat started, with a stunning scream. In another moment her funnel began to rain soot upon me - for the so-called first-class cabin was well astern - and then came small cinders mixed with the soot, and the cinders were occasionally red-hot. But I sat burning upon the water- melons for some time longer, trying to imagine a way of changing my position without committing another assault upon the chickens. Finally, I made a desperate endeavour to get to leeward of the volcano, and it was then for the first time that I began to learn the peculiarities of the joki. What I tried to sit on turned upside down, and what I tried to hold by instantly gave way, and always in the direction of overboard. Things clamped or rigidly braced to outward seeming proved, upon cautious examination, to be dangerously mobile; and things that, according to Occidental ideas, ought to have been movable, were fixed like the roots of the perpetual hills. In whatever direction a rope or stay could possibly have been stretched so as to make somebody unhappy, it was there. In the midst of these trials the frightful little craft began to swing, and the water-melons began to rush heavily to and fro, and I came to the conclusion that this joki had been planned and constructed by demons.

Which I stated to my friend. He had not only rejoined me quite unexpectedly, but had brought along with him one of the ship's boys to spread an awning above ourselves and the watermelons, so as to exclude cinders and sun.

'Oh, no!' he answered reproachfully 'She was designed and built at Hyogo, and really she might have been made much worse. . . ' 'I beg your pardon,' I interrupted; 'I don't agree with you at all.'

'Well, you will see for yourself,' he persisted. 'Her hull is good steel, and her little engine is wonderful; she can make her hundred miles in five hours. She is not very comfortable, but she is very swift and strong.'

'I would rather be in a sampan,' I protested, 'if there were rough weather.'

'But she never goes to sea in rough weather. If it only looks as if there might possibly be some rough weather, she stays in port. Sometimes she waits a whole month. She never runs any risks.'

I could not feel sure of it. But I soon forgot all discomforts, even the discomfort of sitting upon water-melons, in the delight of the divine day and the magnificent view that opened wider and wider before us, as we rushed from the long frith into the Sea of Japan, following the Izumo coast. There was no fleck in the soft blue vastness above, not one flutter on the metallic smoothness of the all-reflecting sea; if our little steamer rocked, it was doubtless because she had been overloaded. To port, the Izumo hills were flying by, a long, wild procession of' broken shapes, sombre green, separating at intervals to form mysterious little bays, with fishing hamlets hiding in them. Leagues away to starboard, the Hoki shore receded into the naked white horizon, an ever- diminishing streak of warm blue edged with a thread-line of white, the gleam of a sand beach; and beyond it, in the centre, a vast shadowy pyramid loomed up into heaven - the ghostly peak of Daisen.

My companion touched my arm to call my attention to a group of pine-trees on the summit of a peak to port, and laughed and sang a Japanese song. How swiftly we had been travelling I then for the first time understood, for I recognised the four famous pines of Mionoseki, on the windy heights above the shrine of Koto-shiro-nushi-no-Kami. There used to be five trees: one was uprooted by a storm, and some Izumo poet wrote about the remaining four the words which my friend had sung:

Seki no gohon matsu Ippun kirya, shihon; Ato wa kirarenu Miyoto matsu.

Which means: 'Of the five pines of Seki one has been cut, and four remain; and of these no one must now be cut - they are wedded pairs.' And in Mionoseki there are sold beautiful little sake cups and sake bottles, upon which are pictures of the four pines, and above the pictures, in spidery text of gold, the verses, 'Seki no gohon matsu.' These are for keepsakes, and there are many other curious and pretty souvenirs to buy in those pretty shops; porcelains bearing the picture of the Mionoseki temple, and metal clasps for tobacco pouches representing Koto-shiro- nushi-no-Kami trying to put a big tai-fish into a basket too small for it, and funny masks of glazed earthenware representing the laughing face of the god. For a jovial god is this Ebisu, or Koto-shiro-nushi-no-Kami, patron of honest labour and especially of fishers, though less of a laughter-lover than his father, the Great Deity of Kitzuki, about whom 'tis said: 'Whenever the happy laugh, the God rejoices.'

We passed the Cape - the Miho of the Kojiki - and the harbour of Mionoseki opened before us, showing its islanded shrine of Benten in the midst, and the crescent of quaint houses with their feet in the water, and the great torii and granite lions of the far-famed temple. Immediately a number of passengers rose to their feet, and, turning their faces toward the torii began to clap their hands in Shinto prayer.

I said to my friend: 'There are fifty baskets full of chickens in the gangway; and yet these people are praying to Koto-shiro-nushi-no-Kami that nothing horrible may happen to this boat.'

'More likely,' he answered, 'they are praying for good-fortune; though there is a saying: "The gods only laugh when men pray to them for wealth." But of the Great Deity of Mionoseki there is a good story told. Once there was a very lazy man who went to Mionoseki and prayed to become rich. And the same night he saw the god in a dream; and the god laughed, and took off one of his own divine sandals, and told him to examine it. And the man saw that it was made of solid brass, but had a big hole worn through the sole of it. Then said the god: "You want to have money without working for it. I am a god; but I am never lazy. See! my sandals are of brass: yet I have worked and walked so much that they are quite worn out."'


The beautiful bay of Mionoseki opens between two headlands: Cape Mio (or Miho, according to the archaic spelling) and the Cape of Jizo (Jizo- zaki), now most inappropriately called by the people 'The Nose of Jizo' (Jizo-no-hana). This Nose of Jizo is one of the most dangerous points of the coast in time of surf, and the great terror of small ships returning from Oki. There is nearly always a heavy swell there, even in fair weather. Yet as we passed the ragged promontory I was surprised to see the water still as glass. I felt suspicious of that noiseless sea: its soundlessness recalled the beautiful treacherous sleep of waves and winds which precedes a tropical hurricane. But my friend said:

'It may remain like this for weeks. In the sixth month and in the beginning of the seventh, it is usually very quiet; it is not likely to become dangerous before the Bon. But there was a little squall last week at Mionoseki; and the people said that it was caused by the anger of the god.'

'Eggs?' I queried.

'No: a Kudan.'

'What is a Kudan?'

'Is it possible you never heard of the Kudan? The Kudan has the face of a man, and the body of a bull. Sometimes it is born of a cow, and that is a Sign-of-things-going-to-happen. And the Kudan always tells the truth. Therefore in Japanese letters and documents it is customary to use the phrase, Kudanno-gotoshi - "like the Kudan" - or "on the truth of the Kudan."' [4]

'But why was the God of Mionoseki angry about the Kudan?'

'People said it was a stuffed Kudan. I did not see it, so I cannot tell you how it was made. There was some travelling showmen from Osaka at Sakai. They had a tiger and many curious animals and the stuffed Kudan; and they took the Izumo Maru for Mionoseki. As the steamer entered the port a sudden squall came; and the priests of the temple said the god was angry because things impure - bones and parts of dead animals - had been brought to the town. And the show people were not even allowed to land: they had to go back to Sakai on the same steamer. And as soon as they had gone away, the sky became clear again, and the wind stopped blowing: so that some people thought what the priests had said was true.'


Evidently there was much more moisture in the atmosphere than I had supposed. On really clear days Daisen can be distinctly seen even from Oki; but we had scarcely passed the Nose of Jizo when the huge peak began to wrap itself in vapour of the same colour as the horizon; and in a few minutes it vanished, as a spectre might vanish. The effect of this sudden disappearance was very extraordinary; for only the peak passed from sight, and that which had veiled it could not be any way distinguished from horizon and sky.

Meanwhile the Oki-Saigo, having reached the farthest outlying point of the coast upon her route began to race in straight line across the Japanese Sea. The green hills of Izumi fled away and turned blue, and the spectral shores of Hoki began to melt into the horizon, like bands of cloud. Then was obliged to confess my surprise at the speed of the horrid little steamer. She moved, too, with scarcely any sound, smooth was the working of her wonderful little engine. But she began to swing heavily, with deep, slow swingings. To the eye, the sea looked level as oil; but there were long invisible swells - ocean-pulses - that made themselves felt beneath the surface. Hoki evaporated; the Izumo hills turned grey, a their grey steadily paled as I watched them. They grew more and more colourless - seemed to become transparent. And then they were not. Only blue sky and blue sea, welded together in the white horizon.

It was just as lonesome as if we had been a thousand leagues from land. And in that weirdness we were told some very lonesome things by an ancient mariner who found leisure join us among the water-melons. He talked of the Hotoke-umi and the ill-luck of being at sea on the sixteenth day of the seventh month. He told us that even the great steamers never went to sea during the Bon: no crew would venture to take ship out then. And he related the following stories with such simple earnestness that I think he must have believed what said:

'The first time I was very young. From Hokkaido we had sailed, and the voyage was long, and the winds turned against us. And the night of the sixteenth day fell, as we were working on over this very sea.

'And all at once in the darkness we saw behind us a great junk - all white - that we had not noticed till she was quite close to us. It made us feel queer, because she seemed to have come from nowhere. She was so near us that we could hear voices; and her hull towered up high above us. She seemed to be sailing very fast; but she came no closer. We shouted to her; but we got no answer. And while we were watching her, all of us became afraid, because she did not move like a real ship. The sea was terrible, and we were lurching and plunging; but that great junk never rolled. Just at the same moment that we began to feel afraid she vanished so quickly that we could scarcely believe we had really seen her at all.

'That was the first time. But four years ago I saw something still more strange. We were bound for Oki, in a junk, and the wind again delayed us, so that we were at sea on the sixteenth day. It was in the morning, a little before midday; the sky was dark and the sea very ugly. All at once we saw a steamer running in our track, very quickly. She got so close to us that we could hear her engines - katakata katakata! - but we saw nobody on deck. Then she began to follow us, keeping exactly at the same distance, and whenever we tried to get out of her way she would turn after us and keep exactly in our wake. And then we suspected what she was. But we were not sure until she vanished. She vanished like a bubble, without making the least sound. None of us could say exactly when she disappeared. None of us saw her vanish. The strangest thing was that after she was gone we could still hear her engines working behind us - katakata, katakata, katakata!

'That is all I saw. But I know others, sailors like myself, who have seen more. Sometimes many ships will follow you - though never at the same time. One will come close and vanish, then another, and then another. As long as they come behind you, you need never be afraid. But if you see a ship of that sort running before you, against the wind, that is very bad! It means that all on board will be drowned.'


The luminous blankness circling us continued to remain unflecked for less than an hour. Then out of the horizon toward which we steamed, a small grey vagueness began to grow. It lengthened fast, and seemed a cloud. And a cloud it proved; but slowly, beneath it, blue filmy shapes began to define against the whiteness, and sharpened into a chain of mountains. They grew taller and bluer - a little sierra, with one paler shape towering in the middle to thrice the height of the rest, and filleted with cloud - Takuhizan, the sacred mountain of Oki, in the island Nishinoshima.

Takuhizan has legends, which I learned from my friend. Upon its summit stands an ancient shrine of the deity Gongen-Sama. And it is said that upon the thirty-first night of the twelfth month three ghostly fires arise from the sea and ascend to the place of the shrine, and enter the stone lanterns which stand before it, and there remain, burning like lamps. These lights do not arise at once, but separately, from the sea, and rise to the top of the peak one by one. The people go out in boats to see the lights mount from the water. But only those whose hearts are pure can see them; those who have evil thoughts or desires look for the holy fires in vain.

Before us, as we steamed on, the sea-surface appeared to become suddenly speckled with queer craft previously invisible - light, long fishing- boats, with immense square sails of a beautiful yellow colour. I could not help remarking to my comrade how pretty those sails were; he laughed, and told me they were made of old tatami. [5] I examined them through a telescope, and found that they were exactly what he had said - woven straw coverings of old floor-mats. Nevertheless, that first tender yellow sprinkling of old sails over the soft blue water was a charming sight.

They fleeted by, like a passing of yellow butterflies, and the sea was void again. Gradually, a little to port, a point in the approaching line of blue cliffs shaped itself and changed colour - dull green above, reddish grey below; it defined into a huge rock, with a dark patch on its face, but the rest of the land remained blue. The dark patch blackened as we came nearer - a great gap full of shadow. Then the blue cliffs beyond also turned green, and their bases reddish grey. We passed to the right of the huge rock, which proved to be a detached and uninhabited islet, Hakashima; and in another moment we were steaming into the archipelago of Oki, between the lofty islands Chiburishima and Nakashima.


The first impression was almost uncanny. Rising sheer from the flood on either hand, the tall green silent hills stretched away before us, changing tint through the summer vapour, to form a fantastic vista of blue cliffs and peaks and promontories. There was not one sign of human life. Above their pale bases of naked rock the mountains sloped up beneath a sombre wildness of dwarf vegetation. There was absolutely no sound, except the sound of the steamer's tiny engine - poum-poum, poum! poum-poum, poum! like the faint tapping of a geisha's drum. And this savage silence continued for miles: only the absence of lofty timber gave evidence that those peaked hills had ever been trodden by human foot. But all at once, to the left, in a mountain wrinkle, a little grey hamlet appeared; and the steamer screamed and stopped, while the hills repeated the scream seven times.

This settlement was Chiburimura, of Chiburishima (Nakashima being the island to starboard) - evidently nothing more than a fishing station. First a wharf of uncemented stone rising from the cove like a wall; then great trees through which one caught sight of a torii before some Shinto shrine, and of a dozen houses climbing the hollow hill one behind another, roof beyond roof; and above these some terraced patches of tilled ground in the midst of desolation: that was all. The packet halted to deliver mail, and passed on.

But then, contrary to expectation, the scenery became more beautiful. The shores on either side at once receded and heightened: we were traversing an inland sea bounded by three lofty islands. At first the way before us had seemed barred by vapoury hills; but as these, drawing nearer, turned green, there suddenly opened magnificent chasms between them on both sides - mountain-gates revealing league-long wondrous vistas of peaks and cliffs and capes of a hundred blues, ranging away from velvety indigo into far tones of exquisite and spectral delicacy. A tinted haze made dreamy all remotenesses, an veiled with illusions of colour the rugged nudities of rock.

The beauty of the scenery of Western and Central Japan is not as the beauty of scenery in other lands; it has a peculiar character of its own. Occasionally the foreigner may find memories of former travel suddenly stirred to life by some view on a mountain road, or some stretch of beetling coast seen through a fog of spray. But this illusion of resemblance vanishes as swiftly as it comes; details immediately define into strangeness, and you become aware that the remembrance was evoked by form only, never by colour. Colours indeed there are which delight the eye, but not colours of mountain verdure, not colours of the land. Cultivated plains, expanses of growing rice, may offer some approach to warmth of green; but the whole general tone of this nature is dusky; the vast forests are sombre; the tints of grasses are harsh or dull. Fiery greens, such as burn in tropical scenery, do not exist; and blossom-bursts take a more exquisite radiance by contrast with the heavy tones of the vegetation out of which they flame. Outside of parks and gardens and cultivated fields, there is a singular absence of warmth and tenderness in the tints of verdure; and nowhere need you hope to find any such richness of green as that which makes the loveliness of an English lawn.

Yet these Oriental landscapes possess charms of colour extraordinary, phantom-colour delicate, elfish, indescribable - created by the wonderful atmosphere. Vapours enchant the distances, bathing peaks in bewitchments of blue and grey of a hundred tones, transforming naked cliffs to amethyst, stretching spectral gauzes across the topazine morning, magnifying the splendour of noon by effacing the horizon, filling the evening with smoke of gold, bronzing the waters, banding the sundown with ghostly purple and green of nacre. Now, the Old Japanese artists who made those marvellous ehon - those picture-books which have now become so rare - tried to fix the sensation of these enchantments in colour, and they were successful in their backgrounds to a degree almost miraculous. For which very reason some of their foregrounds have been a puzzle to foreigners unacquainted with certain features of Japanese agriculture. You will see blazing saffron-yellow fields, faint purple plains, crimson and snow-white trees, in those old picture-books; and perhaps you will exclaim: 'How absurd!' But if you knew Japan you would cry out: 'How deliciously real!' For you would know those fields of burning yellow are fields of flowering rape, and the purple expanses are fields of blossoming miyako, and the snow-white or crimson trees are not fanciful, but represent faithfully certain phenomena of efflorescence peculiar to the plum-trees and the cherry-trees of the country. But these chromatic extravaganzas can be witnessed only during very brief periods of particular seasons: throughout the greater part of the year the foreground of an inland landscape is apt to be dull enough in the matter of colour.

It is the mists that make the magic of the backgrounds; yet even without them there is a strange, wild, dark beauty in Japanese landscapes, a beauty not easily defined in words. The secret of it must be sought in the extraordinary lines of the mountains, in the strangely abrupt crumpling and jagging of the ranges; no two masses closely resembling each other, every one having a fantasticality of its own. Where the chains reach to any considerable height, softly swelling lines are rare: the general characteristic is abruptness, and the charm is the charm of Irregularity.

Doubtless this weird Nature first inspired the Japanese with their unique sense of the value of irregularity in decoration - taught them that single secret of composition which distinguishes their art from all other art, and which Professor Chamberlain has said it is their special mission to teach to the Occident. [6] Certainly, whoever has once learned to feel the beauty and significance of the Old Japanese decorative art can find thereafter little pleasure in the corresponding art of the West. What he has really learned is that Nature's greatest charm is irregularity. And perhaps something of no small value might be written upon the question whether the highest charm of human life and work is not also irregularity.


From Chiburimura we made steam west for the port of Urago, which is in the island of Nishinoshima. As we approached it Takuhizan came into imposing view. Far away it had seemed a soft and beautiful shape; but as its blue tones evaporated its aspect became rough and even grim: an enormous jagged bulk all robed in sombre verdure, through which, as through tatters, there protruded here and there naked rock of the wildest shapes. One fragment, I remember, as it caught the slanting sun upon the irregularities of its summit, seemed an immense grey skull. At the base of this mountain, and facing the shore of Nakashima, rises a pyramidal mass of rock, covered with scraggy undergrowth, and several hundred feet in height - Mongakuzan. On its desolate summit stands a little shrine.

'Takuhizan' signifies The Fire-burning Mountain - a name due perhaps either to the legend of its ghostly fires, or to some ancient memory of its volcanic period. 'Mongakuzan' means The Mountain of Mongaku - Mongaku Shonin, the great monk. It is said that Mongaku Shonin fled to Oki, and that he dwelt alone upon the top of that mountain many years, doing penance for his deadly sin. Whether he really ever visited Oki, I am not able to say; there are traditions which declare the contrary. But the peaklet has borne his name for hundreds of years.

Now this is the story of Mongaku Shonin:

Many centuries ago, in the city of Kyoto, there was a captain of the garrison whose name was Endo Morito. He saw and loved the wife of a noble samurai; and when she refused to listen to his desires, he vowed that he would destroy her family unless she consented to the plan which he submitted to her. The plan was that upon a certain night she should suffer him to enter her house and to kill her husband; after which she was to become his wife.

But she, pretending to consent, devised a noble stratagem to save her honour. For, after having persuaded her husband to absent himself from the city, she wrote to Endo a letter, bidding him come upon a certain night to the house. And on that night she clad herself in her husband's robes, and made her hair like the hair of a man, and laid herself down in her husband's place, and pretended to sleep.

And Endo came in the dead of the night with his sword drawn, and smote off the head of the sleeper at a blow, and seized it by the hair and lifted it up and saw it was the head of the woman he had loved and wronged.

Then a great remorse came upon him, and hastening to a neighbouring temple, he confessed his sin, and did penance and cut off his hair, and became a monk, taking the name of Mongaku. And in after years he attained to great holiness, so that folk still pray to him, and his memory is venerated throughout the land.

Now at Asakusa in Tokyo, in one of the curious little streets which lead to the great temple of Kwannon the Merciful, there are always wonderful images to be seen - figures that seem alive, though made of wood only - figures illustrating the ancient legends of Japan. And there you may see Endo standing: in his right hand the reeking sword; in his left the head of a beautiful woman. The face of the woman you may forget soon, because it is only beautiful. But the face of Endo you will not forget, because it is naked hell.


Urago is a queer little town, perhaps quite as large as Mionoseki, and built, like Mionoseki, on a narrow ledge at the base of a steep semicircle of hills. But it is much more primitive and colourless than Mionoseki; and its houses are still more closely cramped between cliffs and water, so that its streets, or rather alleys, are no wider than gangways. As we cast anchor, my attention was suddenly riveted by a strange spectacle - a white wilderness of long fluttering vague shapes, in a cemetery on the steep hillside, rising by terraces high above the roofs of the town. The cemetery was full of grey haka and images of divinities; and over every haka there was a curious white paper banner fastened to a thin bamboo pole. Through a glass one could see that these banners were inscribed with Buddhist texts - 'Namur-myo-ho-renge-kyo'; 'Namu Amida Butsu'; 'Namu Daiji Dai-hi Kwan-ze-on Bosats,' - and other holy words. Upon inquiry I learned that it was an Urago custom to place these banners every year above the graves during one whole month preceding the Festival of the Dead, together with various other ornamental or symbolic things.

The water was full of naked swimmers, who shouted laughing welcomes; and a host of light, swift boats, sculled by naked fishermen, darted out to look for passengers and freight. It was my first chance to observe the physique of Oki islanders; and I was much impressed by the vigorous appearance of both men and boys. The adults seemed to me of a taller and more powerful type than the men of the Izumo coast; and not a few of those brown backs and shoulders displayed, in the motion of sculling what is comparatively rare in Japan, even among men picked for heavy labour - a magnificent development of muscles.

As the steamer stopped an hour at Urago, we had time to dine ashore in the chief hotel. It was a very clean and pretty hotel, and the fare infinitely superior to that of the hotel at Sakai. Yet the price charged was only seven sen; and the old landlord refused to accept the whole of the chadai-gift offered him, retaining less than half, and putting back the rest, with gentle force, into the sleeve of my yukata.


From Urago we proceeded to Hishi-ura, which is in Nakanoshima, and the scenery grew always more wonderful as we steamed between the islands. The channel was just wide enough to create the illusion of a grand river flowing with the stillness of vast depth between mountains of a hundred forms. The long lovely vision was everywhere walled in by peaks, bluing through sea-haze, and on either hand the ruddy grey cliffs, sheering up from profundity, sharply mirrored their least asperities in the flood with never a distortion, as in a sheet of steel. Not until we reached Hishi-ura did the horizon reappear; and even then it was visible only between two lofty headlands, as if seen through a river's mouth.

Hishi-ura is far prettier than Urago, but it is much less populous, and has the aspect of a prosperous agricultural town, rather than of a fishing station. It bends round a bay formed by low hills which slope back gradually toward the mountainous interior, and which display a considerable extent of cultivated surface. The buildings are somewhat scattered and in many cases isolated by gardens; and those facing the water are quite handsome modern constructions. Urago boasts the best hotel in all Oki; and it has two new temples - one a Buddhist temple of the Zen sect, one a Shinto temple of the Izumo Taisha faith, each the gift of a single person. A rich widow, the owner of the hotel, built the Buddhist temple; and the wealthiest of the merchants contributed the other - one of the handsomest miya for its size that I ever saw.


Dogo, the main island of the Oki archipelago, sometimes itself called 'Oki,' lies at a distance of eight miles, north-east of the Dozen group, beyond a stretch of very dangerous sea. We made for it immediately after leaving Urago; passing to the open through a narrow and fantastic strait between Nakanoshima and Nishinoshima, where the cliffs take the form of enormous fortifications - bastions and ramparts, rising by tiers. Three colossal rocks, anciently forming but a single mass, which would seem to have been divided by some tremendous shock, rise from deep water near the mouth of the channel, like shattered towers. And the last promontory of Nishinoshima, which we pass to port, a huge red naked rock, turns to the horizon a point so strangely shaped that it has been called by a name signifying 'The Hat of the Shinto Priest.'

As we glide out into the swell of the sea other extraordinary shapes appear, rising from great depths. Komori, 'The Bat,' a ragged silhouette against the horizon, has a great hole worn through it, which glares like an eye. Farther out two bulks, curved and pointed, and almost joined at the top, bear a grotesque resemblance to the uplifted pincers of a crab; and there is also visible a small dark mass which, until closely approached, seems the figure of a man sculling a boat. Beyond these are two islands: Matsushima, uninhabited and inaccessible, where there is always a swell to beware of; Omorishima, even loftier, which rises from the ocean in enormous ruddy precipices. There seemed to be some grim force in those sinister bulks; some occult power which made our steamer reel and shiver as she passed them. But I saw a marvellous effect of colour under those formidable cliffs of Omorishima. They were lighted by a slanting sun; and where the glow of the bright rock fell upon the water, each black-blue ripple flashed bronze: I thought of a sea of metallic violet ink.

From Dozen the cliffs of Dogo can be clearly seen when the weather is not foul: they are streaked here and there with chalky white, which breaks through their blue, even in time of haze. Above them a vast bulk is visible - a point-de-repre for the mariners of Hoki - the mountain of Daimanji. Dogo, indeed, is one great cluster of mountains.

Its cliffs rapidly turned green for us, and we followed them eastwardly for perhaps half an hour. Then they opened unexpectedly and widely, revealing a superb bay, widening far into the land, surrounded by hills, and full of shipping. Beyond a confusion of masts there crept into view a long grey line of house-fronts at the base of a crescent of cliffs - the city of Saigo; and in a little while we touched a wharf of stone. There I bade farewell for a month to the Oki-Saigo.


Saigo was a great surprise. Instead of the big fishing village I had expected to see, I found a city much larger and handsomer and in all respects more modernised than Sakai; a city of long streets full of good shops; a city with excellent public buildings; a city of which the whole appearance indicated commercial prosperity. Most of the edifices were roomy two story dwellings of merchants, and everything had a bright, new look. The unpainted woodwork of the houses had not yet darkened into grey; the blue tints of the tiling were still fresh. I learned that this was because the town had been recently rebuilt, after a conflagration, and rebuilt upon a larger and handsomer plan.

Saigo seems still larger than it really is. There are about one thousand houses, which number in any part of Western Japan means a population of at least five thousand, but must mean considerably more in Saigo. These form three long streets - Nishimachi, Nakamachi, and Higashimachi (names respectively signifying the Western, Middle, and Eastern Streets), bisected by numerous cross-streets and alleys. What makes the place seem disproportionately large is the queer way the streets twist about, following the irregularities of the shore, and even doubling upon themselves, so as to create from certain points of view an impression of depth which has no existence. For Saigo is peculiarly, although admirably situated. It fringes both banks of a river, the Yabigawa, near its mouth, and likewise extends round a large point within the splendid bay, besides stretching itself out upon various tongues of land. But though smaller than it looks, to walk through all its serpentine streets is a good afternoon's work.

Besides being divided by the Yabigawa, the town is intersected by various water-ways, crossed by a number of bridges. On the hills behind it stand several large buildings, including a public school, with accommodation for three hundred students; a pretty Buddhist temple (quite new), the gift of a rich citizen; a prison; and a hospital, which deserves its reputation of being for its size the handsomest Japanese edifice not only in Oki, but in all Shimane-Ken; and there are several small but very pretty gardens.

As for the harbour, you can count more than three hundred ships riding there of a summer's day. Grumblers, especially of the kind who still use wooden anchors, complain of the depth; but the men-of-war do not.


Never, in any part of Western Japan, have I been made more comfortable than at Saigo. My friend and myself were the only guests at the hotel to which we had been recommended. The broad and lofty rooms of the upper floor which we occupied overlooked the main street on one side, and on the other commanded a beautiful mountain landscape beyond the mouth of the Yabigawa, which flowed by our garden. The sea breeze never failed by day or by night, and rendered needless those pretty fans which it is the Japanese custom to present to guests during the hot season. The fare was astonishingly good and curiously varied; and I was told that I might order Seyoryori (Occidental cooking) if I wished - beefsteak with fried potatoes, roast chicken, and so forth. I did not avail myself of the offer, as I make it a rule while travelling to escape trouble by keeping to a purely Japanese diet; but it was no small surprise to be offered in Saigo what is almost impossible to obtain in any other Japanese town of five thousand inhabitants. From a romantic point of view, however, this discovery was a disappointment. Having made my way into the most primitive region of all Japan, I had imagined myself far beyond the range of all modernising influences; and the suggestion of beefsteak with fried potatoes was a disillusion. Nor was I entirely consoled by the subsequent discovery that there were no newspapers or telegraphs.

But there was one serious hindrance to the enjoyment of these comforts: an omnipresent, frightful, heavy, all-penetrating smell, the smell of decomposing fish, used as a fertiliser. Tons and tons of cuttlefish entrails are used upon the fields beyond the Yabigawa, and the never- sleeping sea wind blows the stench into every dwelling. Vainly do they keep incense burning in most of the houses during the heated term. After having remained three or four days constantly in the city you become better able to endure this odour; but if you should leave town even for a few hours only, you will be astonished on returning to discover how much your nose had been numbed by habit and refreshed by absence.


On the morning of the day after my arrival at Saigo, a young physician called to see me, and requested me to dine with him at his house. He explained very frankly that as I was the first foreigner who had ever stopped in Saigo, it would afford much pleasure both to his family and to himself to have a good chance to see me; but the natural courtesy of the man overcame any scruple I might have felt to gratify the curiosity of strangers. I was not only treated charmingly at his beautiful home, but actually sent away loaded with presents, most of which I attempted to decline in vain. In one matter, however, I remained obstinate, even at the risk of offending - the gift of a wonderful specimen of bateiseki (a substance which I shall speak of hereafter). This I persisted in refusing to take, knowing it to be not only very costly, but very rare. My host at last yielded, but afterwards secretly sent to the hotel two smaller specimens, which Japanese etiquette rendered it impossible to return. Before leaving Saigo, I experienced many other unexpected kindnesses from the same gentleman.

Not long after, one of the teachers of the Saigo public school paid me a visit. He had heard of my interest in Oki, and brought with him two fine maps of the islands made by himself, a little book about Saigo, and, as a gift, a collection of Oki butterflies and insects which he had made. It is only in Japan that one is likely to meet with these wonderful exhibitions of pure goodness on the part of perfect strangers.

A third visitor, who had called to see my friend, performed an action equally characteristic, but which caused me not a little pain. We squatted down to smoke together. He drew from his girdle a remarkably beautiful tobacco-pouch and pipe-case, containing a little silver pipe, which he began to smoke. The pipe-case was made of a sort of black coral, curiously carved, and attached to the tabako-ire, or pouch, by a heavy cord of plaited silk of three colours, passed through a ball of transparent agate. Seeing me admire it, he suddenly drew a knife from his sleeve, and before I could prevent him, severed the pipe-case from the pouch, and presented it to me. I felt almost as if he had cut one of his own nerves asunder when he cut that wonderful cord; and, nevertheless, once this had been done, to refuse the gift would have been rude in the extreme. I made him accept a present in return; but after that experience I was careful never again while in Oki to admire anything in the presence of its owner.


Every province of Japan has its own peculiar dialect; and that of Oki, as might be expected in a country so isolated, is particularly distinct. In Saigo, however, the Izumo dialect is largely used. The townsfolk in their manners and customs much resemble Izumo country-folk; indeed, there are many Izumo people among them, most of the large businesses being in the hands of strangers. The women did not impress me as being so attractive as those of Izumo: I saw several very pretty girls, but these proved to be strangers.

However, it is only in the country that one can properly study the physical characteristics of a population. Those of the Oki islanders may best be noted at the fishing villages many of which I visited. Everywhere I saw fine strong men and vigorous women; and it struck me that the extraordinary plenty and cheapness of nutritive food had quite as much to do with this robustness as climate and constant exercise. So easy, indeed, is it to live in Oki, that men of other coasts, who find existence difficult, emigrate to Oki if they can get a chance to work there, even at less remuneration. An interesting spectacle to me were the vast processions of fishing-vessels which always, weather permitting, began to shoot out to sea a couple of hours before sundown. The surprising swiftness with which those light craft were impelled by their sinewy scullers - many of whom were women - told of a skill acquired only through the patient experience of generations. Another matter that amazed me was the number of boats. One night in the offing I was able to count three hundred and five torch-fires in sight, each one signifying a crew; and I knew that from almost any of the forty-five coast villages I might see the same spectacle at the same time. The main part of the population, in fact, spends its summer nights at sea. It is also a revelation to travel from Izumo to Hamada by night upon a swift steamer during the fishing season. The horizon for a hundred miles is alight with torch-fires; the toil of a whole coast is revealed in that vast illumination.

Although the human population appears to have gained rather than lost vigour upon this barren soil, the horses and cattle of the country seem to have degenerated. They are remarkably diminutive. I saw cows not much bigger than Izumo calves, with calves about the size of goats. The horses, or rather ponies, belong to a special breed of which Oki is rather proud - very small, but hardy. I was told that there were larger horses, but I saw none, and could not learn whether they were imported. It seemed to me a curious thing, when I saw Oki ponies for the first time, that Sasaki Takatsuna's battle-steed - not less famous in Japanese story than the horse Kyrat in the ballads of Kurroglou - is declared by the islanders to have been a native of Oki. And they have a tradition that it once swam from Oki to Mionoseki.


Almost every district and town in Japan has its meibutsu or its kembutsu. The meibutsu of any place are its special productions, whether natural or artificial. The kembutsu of a town or district are its sights - its places worth visiting for any reason - religious, traditional, historical, or pleasurable. Temples and gardens, remarkable trees and curious rocks, are kembutsu. So, likewise, are any situations from which beautiful scenery may be looked at, or any localities where one can enjoy such charming spectacles as the blossoming of cherry-trees in spring, the flickering of fireflies in summer nights, the flushing of maple-leaves in autumn, or even that long snaky motion of moonlight upon water to which Chinese poets have given the delightful name of Kinryo, 'the Golden Dragon.'

The great meibutsu of Oki is the same as that of Hinomisaki - dried cuttlefish; an article of food much in demand both in China and Japan. The cuttlefish of Oki and Hinomisaki and Mionoseki are all termed ika (a kind of sepia); but those caught at Mionoseki are white and average fifteen inches in length, while those of Oki and Hinomisaki rarely exceed twelve inches and have a reddish tinge. The fisheries of Mionoseki and Hinomisaki are scarcely known; but the fisheries of Oki are famed not only throughout Japan, but also in Korea and China. It is only through the tilling of the sea that the islands have become prosperous and capable of supporting thirty thousand souls upon a coast of which but a very small portion can be cultivated at all. Enormous quantities of cuttlefish are shipped to the mainland; but I have been told that the Chinese are the best customers of Oki for this product. Should the supply ever fail, the result would be disastrous beyond conception; but at present it seems inexhaustible, though the fishing has been going on for thousands of years. Hundreds of tons of cuttlefish are caught, cured, and prepared for exportation month after month; and many hundreds of acres are fertilised with the entrails and other refuse. An officer of police told me several strange facts about this fishery. On the north-eastern coast of Saigo it is no uncommon thing for one fisherman to capture upwards of two thousand cuttlefish in a single night. Boats have been burst asunder by the weight of a few hauls, and caution has to be observed in loading. Besides the sepia, however, this coast swarms with another variety of cuttlefish which also furnishes a food-staple - the formidable tako, or true octopus. Tako weighing fifteen kwan each, or nearly one hundred and twenty-five pounds, are sometimes caught near the fishing settlement of Nakamura. I was surprised to learn that there was no record of any person having been injured by these monstrous creatures.

Another meibutsu of Oki is much less known than it deserves to be - the beautiful jet-black stone called bateiseki, or 'horsehoof stone.' [7] It is found only in Dogo, and never in large masses. It is about as heavy as flint, and chips like flint; but the polish which it takes is like that of agate. There are no veins or specks in it; the intense black colour never varies. Artistic objects are made of bateiseki: ink- stones, wine-cups, little boxes, small dai, or stands for vases or statuettes; even jewellery, the material being worked in the same manner as the beautiful agates of Yumachi in Izumo. These articles are comparatively costly, even in the place of their manufacture. There is an odd legend about the origin of the bateiseki. It owes its name to some fancied resemblance to a horse's hoof, either in colour, or in the semicircular marks often seen upon the stone in its natural state, and caused by its tendency to split in curved lines. But the story goes that the bateiseki was formed by the touch of the hoofs of a sacred steed, the wonderful mare of the great Minamoto warrior, Sasaki Takatsuna. She had a foal, which fell into a deep lake in Dogo, and was drowned. She plunged into the lake herself, but could not find her foal, being deceived by the reflection of her own head in the water. For a long time she sought and mourned in vain; but even the hard rocks felt for her, and where her hoofs touched them beneath the water they became changed into bateiseki. [8]

Scarcely less beautiful than bateiseki, and equally black, is another Oki meibutsu, a sort of coralline marine product called umi-matsu, or 'sea-pine.' Pipe-cases, brush-stands, and other small articles are manufactured from it; and these when polished seem to be covered with black lacquer. Objects of umimatsu are rare and dear.

Nacre wares, however, are very cheap in Oki; and these form another variety of meibutsu. The shells of the awabi, or 'sea-ear,' which reaches a surprising size in these western waters, are converted by skilful polishing and cutting into wonderful dishes, bowls, cups, and other articles, over whose surfaces the play of iridescence is like a flickering of fire of a hundred colours.


According to a little book published at Matsue, the kembutsu of Oki-no- Kuni are divided among three of the four principal islands; Chiburishima only possessing nothing of special interest. For many generations the attractions of Dogo have been the shrine of Agonashi Jizo, at Tsubamezato; the waterfall (Dangyo-taki) at Yuenimura; the mighty cedar- tree (sugi) before the shrine of Tama-Wakusa-jinja at Shimomura, and the lakelet called Sai-no-ike where the bateiseki is said to be found. Nakanoshima possesses the tomb of the exiled Emperor Go-Toba, at Amamura, and the residence of the ancient Choja, Shikekuro, where he dwelt betimes, and where relics of him are kept even to this day. Nishinoshima possesses at Beppu a shrine in memory of the exiled Emperor Go-Daigo, and on the summit of Takuhizan that shrine of Gongen-Sama, from the place of which a wonderful view of the whole archipelago is said to be obtainable on cloudless days.

Though Chiburishima has no kembutsu, her poor little village of Chiburi - the same Chiburimura at which the Oki steamer always touches on her way to Saigo - is the scene of perhaps the most interesting of all the traditions of the archipelago.

Five hundred and sixty years ago, the exiled Emperor Go-Daigo managed to escape from the observation of his guards, and to flee from Nishinoshima to Chiburi. And the brown sailors of that little hamlet offered to serve him, even with their lives if need be. They were loading their boats with 'dried fish,' doubtless the same dried cuttlefish which their descendants still carry to Izumo and to Hoki. The emperor promised to remember them, should they succeed in landing him either in Hoki or in Izumo; and they put him in a boat.

But when they had sailed only a little way they saw the pursuing vessels. Then they told the emperor to lie down, and they piled the dried fish high above him. The pursuers came on board and searched the boat, but they did not even think of touching the strong-smelling cuttlefish. And when the men of Chiburi were questioned they invented a story, and gave to the enemies of the emperor a false clue to follow.

And so, by means of the cuttlefish, the good emperor was enabled to escape from banishment.


I found there were various difficulties in the way of becoming acquainted with some of the kembutsu. There are no roads, properly speaking, in all Oki, only mountain paths; and consequently there are no jinricksha, with the exception of one especially imported by the leading physician of Saigo, and available for use only in the streets. There are not even any kago, or palanquins, except one for the use of the same physician. The paths are terribly rough, according to the testimony of the strong peasants themselves; and the distances, particularly in the hottest period of the year, are disheartening. Ponies can be hired; but my experiences of a similar wild country in western Izumo persuaded me that neither pleasure nor profit was to be gained by a long and painful ride over pine-covered hills, through slippery gullies and along torrent-beds, merely to look at a waterfall. I abandoned the idea of visiting Dangyotaki, but resolved, if possible, to see Agonashi-Jizo.

I had first heard in Matsue of Agonashi-Jizo, while suffering from one of those toothaches in which the pain appears to be several hundred miles in depth - one of those toothaches which disturb your ideas of space and time. And a friend who sympathised said:

'People who have toothache pray to Agonashi-Jizo. Agonashi-Jizo is in Oki, but Izumo people pray to him. When cured they go to Lake Shinji, to the river, to the sea, or to any running stream, and drop into the water twelve pears (nashi), one for each of the twelve months. And they believe the currents will carry all these to Oki across the sea.

'Now, Agonashi-Jizo means 'Jizo-who-has-no-jaw.' For it is said that in one of his former lives Jizo had such a toothache in his lower jaw that he tore off his jaw, and threw it away, and died. And he became a Bosatsu. And the people of Oki made a statue of him without a jaw; and all who suffer toothache pray to that Jizo of Oki.'

This story interested me for more than once I had felt a strong desire to do like Agonashi-Jizo, though lacking the necessary courage and indifference to earthly consequences. Moreover, the tradition suggested so humane and profound a comprehension of toothache, and so large a sympathy with its victims, that I felt myself somewhat consoled.

Nevertheless, I did not go to see Agonashi-Jizo, because I found out there was no longer any Agonashi-Jizo to see. The news was brought one evening by some friends, shizoku of Matsue, who had settled in Oki, a young police officer and his wife. They had walked right across the island to see us, starting before daylight, and crossing no less than thirty-two torrents on their way. The wife, only nineteen, was quite slender and pretty, and did not appear tired by that long rough journey.

What we learned about the famous Jizo was this: The name Agonashi-Jizo was only a popular corruption of the true name, Agonaoshi-Jizo, or 'Jizo-the-Healer-of-jaws.' The little temple in which the statue stood had been burned, and the statue along with it, except a fragment of the lower part of the figure, now piously preserved by some old peasant woman. It was impossible to rebuild the temple, as the disestablishment of Buddhism had entirely destroyed the resources of that faith in Oki. But the peasantry of Tsubamezato had built a little Shinto miya on the sight of the temple, with a torii before it, and people still prayed there to Agonaoshi-Jizo.

This last curious fact reminded me of the little torii I had seen erected before the images of Jizo in the Cave of the Children's Ghosts. Shinto, in these remote districts of the west, now appropriates the popular divinities of Buddhism, just as of old Buddhism used to absorb the divinities of Shinto in other parts of Japan.


I went to the Sai-no-ike, and to Tama-Wakasu-jinja, as these two kembutsu can be reached by boat. The Sai-no-ike, however, much disappointed me. It can only be visited in very calm weather, as the way to it lies along a frightfully dangerous coast, nearly all sheer precipice. But the sea is beautifully clear and the eye can distinguish forms at an immense depth below the surface. After following the cliffs for about an hour, the boat reaches a sort of cove, where the beach is entirely corn posed of small round boulders. They form a long ridge, the outer verge of which is always in motion, rolling to and fro with a crash like a volley of musketry at the rush and ebb of every wave. To climb over this ridge of moving stone balls is quite disagreeable; but after that one has only about twenty yards to walk, and the Sai-no-ike appears, surrounded on sides by wooded hills. It is little more than a large freshwater pool, perhaps fifty yards wide, not in any way wonderful You can see no rocks under the surface - only mud and pebbles That any part of it was ever deep enough to drown a foal is hard to believe. I wanted to swim across to the farther side to try the depth, but the mere proposal scandalised the boat men. The pool was sacred to the gods, and was guarded by invisible monsters; to enter it was impious and dangerous I felt obliged to respect the local ideas on the subject, and contented myself with inquiring where the bateiseki was found. They pointed to the hill on the western side of the water. This indication did not tally with the legend. I could discover no trace of any human labour on that savage hillside; there was certainly no habitation within miles of the place; it was the very abomination of desolation. [9]

It is never wise for the traveller in Japan to expect much on the strength of the reputation of kembutsu. The interest attaching to the vast majority of kembutsu depends altogether upon the exercise of imagination; and the ability to exercise such imagination again depends upon one's acquaintance with the history and mythology of the country. Knolls, rocks, stumps of trees, have been for hundreds of years objects of reverence for the peasantry, solely because of local traditions relating to them. Broken iron kettles, bronze mirrors covered with verdigris, rusty pieces of sword blades, fragments of red earthenware, have drawn generations of pilgrims to the shrines in which they are preserved. At various small temples which I visited, the temple treasures consisted of trays full of small stones. The first time I saw those little stones I thought that the priests had been studying geology or mineralogy, each stone being labelled in Japanese characters. On examination, the stones proved to be absolutely worthless in themselves, even as specimens of neighbouring rocks. But the stories which the priests or acolytes could tell about each and every stone were more than interesting. The stones served as rude beads, in fact, for the recital of a litany of Buddhist legends.

After the experience of the Sai-no-ike, I had little reason to expect to see anything extraordinary at Shimonishimura. But this time I was agreeably mistaken. Shimonishimura is a pretty fishing village within an hour's row from Saigo. The boat follows a wild but beautiful coast, passing one singular truncated hill, Oshiroyama, upon which a strong castle stood in ancient times. There is now only a small Shinto shrine there, surrounded by pines. From the hamlet of Shimonishimura to the Temple of Tama-Wakasu-jinja is a walk of twenty minutes, over very rough paths between rice-fields and vegetable gardens. But the situation of the temple, surrounded by its sacred grove, in the heart of a landscape framed in by mountain ranges of many colours, is charmingly impressive. The edifice seems to have once been a Buddhist temple; it is now the largest Shinto structure in Oki. Before its gate stands the famous cedar, not remarkable for height, but wonderful for girth. Two yards above the soil its circumference is forty-five feet. It has given its name to the holy place; the Oki peasantry scarcely ever speak of Tama- Wakasu-jinja, but only of 'O-Sugi,' the Great Cedar.

Tradition avers that this tree was planted by a Buddhist nun more than eight hundred years ago. And it is alleged that whoever eats with chopsticks made from the wood of that tree will never have the toothache, and will live to become exceedingly old.[10]


The shrine dedicated to the spirit of the Emperor Go-Daigo is in Nishinoshima, at Beppu, a picturesque fishing village composed of one long street of thatched cottages fringing a bay at the foot of a demilune of hills. The simplicity of manners and the honest healthy poverty of the place are quite wonderful even for Oki. There is a kind of inn for strangers at which hot water is served instead of tea, and dried beans instead of kwashi, and millet instead of rice. The absence of tea, however, is much more significant than that of rice. But the people of Beppu do not suffer for lack of proper nourishment, as their robust appearance bears witness: there are plenty of vegetables, all raised in tiny gardens which the women and children till during the absence of the boats; and there is abundance of fish. There is no Buddhist temple, but there is an ujigami.

The shrine of the emperor is at the top of a hill called Kurokizan, at one end of the bay. The hill is covered with tall pines, and the path is very steep, so that I thought it prudent to put on straw sandals, in which one never slips. I found the shrine to be a small wooden miya, scarcely three feet high, and black with age. There were remains of other miya, much older, lying in some bushes near by. Two large stones, unhewn and without inscriptions of any sort, have been placed before the shrine. I looked into it, and saw a crumbling metal-mirror, dingy paper gohei attached to splints of bamboo, two little o-mikidokkuri, or Shinto sake-vessels of red earthenware, and one rin. There was nothing else to see, except, indeed, certain delightful glimpses of coast and peak, visible in the bursts of warm blue light which penetrated the consecrated shadow, between the trunks of the great pines.

Only this humble shrine commemorates the good emperor's sojourn among the peasantry of Oki. But there is now being erected by voluntary subscription, at the little village of Gosen-goku-mura, near Yonago in Tottori, quite a handsome monument of stone to the memory of his daughter, the princess Hinako-Nai-Shinno who died there while attempting to follow her august parent into exile. Near the place of her rest stands a famous chestnut-tree, of which this story is told:

While the emperor's daughter was ill, she asked for chestnuts; and some were given to her. But she took only one, and bit it a little, and threw it away. It found root and became a grand tree. But all the chestnuts of that tree bear marks like the marks of little teeth; for in Japanese legend even the trees are loyal, and strive to show their loyalty in all sorts of tender dumb ways. And that tree is called Hagata-guri-no-ki, which signifies: 'The Tree-of-the-Tooth-marked-Chestnuts.'


Long before visiting Oki I had heard that such a crime as theft was unknown in the little archipelago; that it had never been found necessary there to lock things up; and that, whenever weather permitted, the people slept with their houses all open to the four winds of heaven.

And after careful investigation, I found these surprising statements were, to a great extent, true. In the Dozen group, at least, there are no thieves, and practically no crime. Ten policemen are sufficient to control the whole of both Dozen and Dogo, with their population of thirty thousand one hundred and ninety-six souls. Each policeman has under his inspection a number of villages, which he visits on regular days; and his absence for any length of time from one of these seems never to be taken advantage of. His work is mostly confined to the enforcement of hygienic regulations, and to the writing of reports. It is very seldom that he finds it necessary to make an arrest, for the people scarcely ever quarrel.

In the island of Dogo alone are there ever any petty thefts, and only in that part of Oki do the people take any precautions against thieves. Formerly there was no prison, and thefts were never heard of; and the people of Dogo still claim that the few persons arrested in their island for such offences are not natives of Oki, but strangers from the mainland. What appears to be quite true is that theft was unknown in Oki before the port of Saigo obtained its present importance. The whole trade of Western Japan has been increased by the rapid growth of steam communications with other parts of the empire; and the port of Saigo appears to have gained commercially, but to have lost morally, by the new conditions.

Yet offences against the law are still surprisingly few, even in Saigo. Saigo has a prison; and there were people in it during my stay in the city; but the inmates had been convicted only of such misdemeanours as gambling (which is strictly prohibited in every form by Japanese law), or the violation of lesser ordinances. When a serious offence is committed, the offender is not punished in Oki, but is sent to the great prison at Matsue, in Izumo.

The Dozen islands, however, perfectly maintain their ancient reputation for irreproachable honesty. There have been no thieves in those three islands within the memory of man; and there are no serious quarrels, no fighting, nothing to make life miserable for anybody. Wild and bleak as the land is, all can manage to live comfortably enough; food is cheap and plenty, and manners and customs have retained their primitive simplicity.


To foreign eyes the defences of even an Izumo dwelling against thieves seem ludicrous. Chevaux-de-frise of bamboo stakes are used extensively in eastern cities of the empire, but in Izumo these are not often to be seen, and do not protect the really weak points of the buildings upon which they are placed. As for outside walls and fences, they serve only for screens, or for ornamental boundaries; anyone can climb over them. Anyone can also cut his way into an ordinary Japanese house with a pocket-knife. The amado are thin sliding screens of soft wood, easy to break with a single blow; and in most Izumo homes there is not a lock which could resist one vigorous pull. Indeed, the Japanese themselves are so far aware of the futility of their wooden panels against burglars that all who can afford it build kura - small heavy fire-proof and (for Japan) almost burglar-proof structures, with very thick earthen walls, a narrow ponderous door fastened with a gigantic padlock, and one very small iron-barred window, high up, near the roof. The kura are whitewashed, and look very neat. They cannot be used for dwellings, however, as they are mouldy and dark; and they serve only as storehouses for valuables. It is not easy to rob a kura.

But there is no trouble in 'burglariously' entering an Izumo dwelling unless there happen to be good watchdogs on the premises. The robber knows the only difficulties in the way of his enterprise are such as he is likely to encounter after having effected an entrance. In view of these difficulties, he usually carries a sword.

Nevertheless, he does not wish to find himself in any predicament requiring the use of a sword; and to avoid such an unpleasant possibility he has recourse to magic.

He looks about the premises for a tarai - a kind of tub. If he finds one, he performs a nameless operation in a certain part of the yard, and covers the spot with the tub, turned upside down. He believes if he can do this that a magical sleep will fall upon all the inmates of the house, and that he will thus be able to carry away whatever he pleases, without being heard or seen.

But every Izumo household knows the counter-charm. Each evening, before retiring, the careful wife sees that a hocho, or kitchen knife, is laid upon the kitchen floor, and covered with a kanadarai, or brazen wash- basin, on the upturned bottom of which is placed a single straw sandal, of the noiseless sort called zori, also turned upside down. She believes this little bit of witchcraft will not only nullify the robber's spell, but also render it impossible for him - even should he succeed in entering the house without being seen or heard - to carry anything whatever away. But, unless very tired indeed, she will also see that the tarai is brought into the house before the amado are closed for the night.

If through omission of these precautions (as the good wife might aver), or in despite of them, the dwelling be robbed while the family are asleep, search is made early in the morning for the footprints of the burglar; and a moxa [11] is set burning upon each footprint. By this operation it is hoped or believed that the burglar's feet will be made so sore that he cannot run far, and that the police may easily overtake him.


It was in Oki that I first heard of an extraordinary superstition about the cause of okori (ague, or intermittent fever), mild forms of which prevail in certain districts at certain seasons; but I have since learned that this quaint belief is an old one in Izumo and in many parts of the San-indo. It is a curious example of the manner in which Buddhism has been used to explain all mysteries.

Okori is said to be caused by the Gaki-botoke, or hungry ghosts. Strictly speaking, the Gaki-botoke are the Pretas of Indian Buddhism, spirits condemned to sojourn in the Gakido, the sphere of the penance of perpetual hunger and thirst. But in Japanese Buddhism, the name Gaki is given also to those souls who have none among the living to remember them, and to prepare for them the customary offerings of food and tea.

These suffer, and seek to obtain warmth and nutriment by entering into the bodies of the living. The person into whom a gaki enters at first feels intensely cold and shivers, because the gaki is cold. But the chill is followed by a feeling of intense heat, as the gaki becomes warm. Having warmed itself and absorbed some nourishment at the expense of its unwilling host, the gaki goes away, and the fever ceases for a time. But at exactly the same hour upon another day the gaki will return, and the victim must shiver and burn until the haunter has become warm and has satisfied its hunger. Some gaki visit their patients every day; others every alternate day, or even less often. In brief: the paroxysms of any form of intermittent fever are explained by the presence of the gaki, and the intervals between the paroxysms by its absence.


Of the word hotoke (which becomes botoke in such com-pounds as nure-botoke, [12] gaki-botoke) there is something curious to say.

Hotoke signifies a Buddha.

Hotoke signifies also the Souls of the Dead - since faith holds that these, after worthy life, either enter upon the way to Buddhahood, or become Buddhas.

Hotoke, by euphemism, has likewise come to mean a corpse: hence the verb hotoke-zukuri, 'to look ghastly,' to have the semblance of one long dead.

And Hotoke-San is the name of the Image of a Face seen in the pupil of the eye - Hotoke-San, 'the Lord Buddha.' Not the Supreme of the Hokkekyo, but that lesser Buddha who dwelleth in each one of us, - the Spirit. [13]

Sang Rossetti: 'I looked and saw your heart in the shadow of your eyes.' Exactly converse is the Oriental thought. A Japanese lover would have said: 'I looked and saw my own Buddha in the shadow of your eyes.

What is the psychical theory connected with so singular a belief? [14] I think it might be this: The Soul, within its own body, always remains viewless, yet may reflect itself in the eyes of another, as in the mirror of a necromancer. Vainly you gaze into the eyes of the beloved to discern her soul: you see there only your own soul's shadow, diaphanous; and beyond is mystery alone - reaching to the Infinite.

But is not this true? The Ego, as Schopenhauer wonderfully said, is the dark spot in consciousness, even as the point whereat the nerve of sight enters the eye is blind. We see ourselves in others only; only through others do we dimly guess that which we are. And in the deepest love of another being do we not indeed love ourselves? What are the personalities, the individualities of us but countless vibrations in the Universal Being? Are we not all One in the unknowable Ultimate? One with the inconceivable past? One with the everlasting future?


In Oki, as in Izumo, the public school is slowly but surely destroying many of the old superstitions. Even the fishermen of the new generation laugh at things in which their fathers believed. I was rather surprised to receive from an intelligent young sailor, whom I had questioned through an interpreter about the ghostly fire of Takuhizan, this scornful answer: 'Oh, we used to believe those things when we were savages; but we are civilised now!'

Nevertheless, he was somewhat in advance of his time. In the village to which he belonged I discovered that the Fox-.superstition prevails to a degree scarcely paralleled in any part of Izumo. The history of the village was quite curious. From time immemorial it had been reputed a settlement of Kitsune-mochi: in other words, all its inhabitants were commonly believed, and perhaps believed themselves, to be the owners of goblin-foxes. And being all alike kitsune-mochi, they could eat and drink together, and marry and give in marriage among themselves without affliction. They were feared with a ghostly fear by the neighbouring peasantry, who obeyed their demands both in matters reasonable and unreasonable. They prospered exceedingly. But some twenty years ago an Izumo stranger settled among them. He was energetic, intelligent, and possessed of some capital. He bought land, made various shrewd investments, and in a surprisingly short time became the wealthiest citizen in the place. He built a very pretty Shinto temple and presented it to the community. There was only one obstacle in the way of his becoming a really popular person: he was not a kitsune-mochi, and he had even said that he hated foxes. This singularity threatened to beget discords in the mura, especially as he married his children to strangers, and thus began in the midst of the kitsune-mochi to establish a sort of anti-Fox-holding colony.

Wherefore, for a long time past, the Fox-holders have been trying to force their superfluous goblins upon him. Shadows glide about the gate of his dwelling on moonless nights, muttering: 'Kaere! kyo kara kokoye: kuruda!' [Be off now! from now hereafter it is here that ye must dwell: go!] Then are the upper shoji violently pushed apart; and the voice of the enraged house owner is heard: 'Koko Wa kiraida! modori!' [Detestable is that which ye do! get ye gone!] And the Shadows flee away.[15]


Because there were no cuttlefish at Hishi-ura, and no horrid smells, I enjoyed myself there more than I did anywhere else in Oki. But, in any event, Hishi-ura would have interested me more than Saigo. The life of the pretty little town is peculiarly old-fashioned; and the ancient domestic industries, which the introduction of machinery has almost destroyed in Izumo and elsewhere, still exist in Hishi-ura. It was pleasant to watch the rosy girls weaving robes of cotton and robes of silk, relieving each other whenever the work became fatiguing. All this quaint gentle life is open to inspection, and I loved to watch it. I had other pleasures also: the bay is a delightful place for swimming, and there were always boats ready to take me to any place of interest along the coast. At night the sea breeze made the rooms which I occupied deliciously cool; and from the balcony I could watch the bay-swell breaking in slow, cold fire on the steps of the wharves - a beautiful phosphorescence; and I could hear Oki mothers singing their babes to sleep with one of the oldest lullabys in the world:

Nenneko, O-yama no Usagi. no ko, Naze mata O-mimi ga Nagai e yara? Okkasan no O-nak ni Oru toku ni, BiWa no ha, Sasa no ha, Tabeta sona; Sore de O-mimi ga Nagai e sona. [16]

The air was singularly sweet and plaintive, quite different from that to which the same words are sung in Izumo, and in other parts of Japan.

One morning I had hired a boat to take me to Beppu, and was on the point of leaving the hotel for the day, when the old landlady, touching my arm, exclaimed: 'Wait a little while; it is not good to cross a funeral.' I looked round the corner, and saw the procession coming along the shore. It was a Shinto funeral - a child's funeral. Young lads came first, carrying Shinto emblems - little white flags, and branches of the sacred sakaki; and after the coffin the mother walked, a young peasant, crying very loud, and wiping her eyes with the long sleeves of her coarse blue dress. Then the old woman at my side murmured: 'She sorrows; but she is very young: perhaps It will come back to her.' For she was a pious Buddhist, my good old landlady, and doubtless supposed the mother's belief like her own, although the funeral was conducted according to the Shinto rite.


There are in Buddhism certain weirdly beautiful consolations unknown to Western faith.

The young mother who loses her first child may at least pray that it will come back to her out of the night of death - not in dreams only, but through reincarnation. And so praying, she writes within the hand of the little corpse the first ideograph of her lost darling's name.

Months pass; she again becomes a mother. Eagerly she examines the flower-soft hand of the infant. And lo! the self-same ideograph is there - a rosy birth-mark on the tender palm; and the Soul returned looks out upon her through the eyes of the newly-born with the gaze of other days.


While on the subject of death I may speak of a primitive but touching custom which exists both in Oki and Izumo - that of calling the name of the dead immediately after death. For it is thought that the call may be heard by the fleeting soul, which might sometimes be thus induced to return. Therefore, when a mother dies, the children should first call her, and of all the children first the youngest (for she loved that one most); and then the husband and all those who loved the dead cry to her in turn.

And it is also the custom to call loudly the name of one who faints, or becomes insensible from any cause; and there are curious beliefs underlying this custom.

It is said that of those who swoon from pain or grief especially, many approach very nearly to death, and these always have the same experience. 'You feel,' said one to me in answer to my question about the belief, 'as if you were suddenly somewhere else, and quite happy - only tired. And you know that you want to go to a Buddhist temple which is quite far away. At last you reach the gate of the temple court, and you see the temple inside, and it is wonderfully large and beautiful. And you pass the gate and enter the court to go to the temple. But suddenly you hear voices of friends far behind you calling your name - very, very earnestly. So you turn back, and all at once you come to yourself again. At least it is so if your heart cares to live. But one who is really tired of living will not listen to the voices, and walks on to the temple. And what there happens no man knows, for they who enter that temple never return to their friends.

'That is why people call loudly into the ear of one who swoons.

'Now, it is said that all who die, before going to the Meido, make one pilgrimage to the great temple of Zenkoji, which is in the country of Shinano, in Nagano-Ken. And they say that whenever the priest of that temple preaches, he sees the Souls gather there in the hondo to hear him, all with white wrappings about their heads. So Zenkoji might be the temple which is seen by those who swoon. But I do not know.'


I went by boat from Hishi-ura to Amamura, in Nakanoshima, to visit the tomb of the exiled Emperor Go-Toba. The scenery along the way was beautiful, and of softer outline than I had seen on my first passage through the archipelago. Small rocks rising from the water were covered with sea-gulls and cormorants, which scarcely took any notice of the boat, even when we came almost within an oar's length. This fearlessness of wild creatures is one of the most charming impressions of travel in these remoter parts of Japan, yet unvisited by tourists with shotguns. The early European and American hunters in Japan seem to have found no difficulty and felt no compunction in exterminating what they considered 'game' over whole districts, destroying life merely for the wanton pleasure of destruction. Their example is being imitated now by 'Young Japan,' and the destruction of bird life is only imperfectly checked by game laws. Happily, the Government does interfere sometimes to check particular forms of the hunting vice. Some brutes who had observed the habits of swallows to make their nests in Japanese houses, last year offered to purchase some thousands of swallow-skins at a tempting price. The effect of the advertisement was cruel enough; but the police were promptly notified to stop the murdering, which they did. About the same time, in one of the Yokohama papers, there appeared a letter from some holy person announcing, as a triumph of Christian sentiment, that a 'converted' fisherman had been persuaded by foreign proselytisers to kill a turtle, which his Buddhist comrades had vainly begged him to spare.

Amarnura, a very small village, lies in a narrow plain of rice-fields extending from the sea to a range of low hills. From the landing-place to the village is about a quarter of a mile. The narrow path leading to it passes round the base of a small hill, covered with pines, on the outskirts of the village. There is quite a handsome Shinto temple on the hill, small, but admirably constructed, approached by stone steps and a paved walk.

There are the usual lions and lamps of stone, and the ordinary simple offerings of paper and women's hair before the shrine. But I saw among the ex-voto a number of curious things which I had never seen in Izumo - tiny miniature buckets, well-buckets, with rope and pole complete, neatly fashioned out of bamboo. The boatman said that farmers bring these to the shrine when praying for rain. The deity was called Suwa- Dai-Myojin.

It was at the neighbouring village, of which Suwa-Dai-Myojin seems to be the ujigami, that the Emperor Go-Toba is said to have dwelt, in the house of the Choja Shikekuro. The Shikekuro homestead remains, and still belongs to the Choja'sa descendants, but they have become very poor. I asked permission to see the cups from which the exiled emperor drank, and other relics of his stay said to be preserved by the family; but in consequence of illness in the house I could not be received. So I had only a glimpse of the garden, where there is a celebrated pond - a kembutsu.

The pond is called Shikekuro's Pond, - Shikekuro-no-ike. And for seven hundred years, 'tis said, the frogs of that pond have never been heard to croak.

For the Emperor Go-Toba, having one night been kept awake by the croaking of the frogs in that pond, arose and went out and commanded them, saying: 'Be silent!' Wherefore they have remained silent through all the centuries even unto this day.

Near the pond there was in that time a great pine-tree, of which the rustling upon windy nights disturbed the emperor's rest. And he spoke to the pine-tree, and said to it: 'Be still!' And never thereafter was that tree heard to rustle, even in time of storms.

But that tree has ceased to be. Nothing remains of it but a few fragments of its wood and hark, which are carefully preserved as relics by the ancients of Oki. Such a fragment was shown to me in the toko of the guest chamber of the dwelling of a physician of Saigo - the same gentleman whose kindness I have related elsewhere.

The tomb of the emperor lies on the slope of a low hill, at a distance of about ten minutes' walk from the village. It is far less imposing than the least of the tombs of the Matsudaira at Matsue, in the grand old courts of Gesshoji; but it was perhaps the best which the poor little country of Oki could furnish. This is not, however, the original place of the tomb, which was moved by imperial order in the sixth year of Meiji to its present site. A lofty fence, or rather stockade of heavy wooden posts, painted black, incloses a piece of ground perhaps one hundred and fifty feet long, by about fifty broad, and graded into three levels, or low terraces. All the space within is shaded by pines. In the centre of the last and highest of the little terraces the tomb is placed: a single large slab of grey rock laid horizontally. A narrow paved walk leads from the gate to the tomb; ascending each terrace by three or four stone steps. A little within this gateway, which is opened to visitors only once a year, there is a torii facing the sepulchre; and before the highest terrace there are a pair of stone lamps. All this is severely simple, but effective in a certain touching way. The country stillness is broken only by the shrilling of the semi and the tintinnabulation of that strange little insect, the suzumushi, whose calling sounds just like the tinkling of the tiny bells which are shaken by the miko in her sacred dance.


I remained nearly eight days at Hishi-ura on the occasion of my second visit there, but only three at Urago. Urago proved a less pleasant place to stay in - not because its smells were any stronger than those of Saigo, but for other reasons which shall presently appear.

More than one foreign man-of-war has touched at Saigo, and English and Russian officers of the navy have been seen in the streets. They were tall, fair-haired, stalwart men; and the people of Oki still imagine that all foreigners from the West have the same stature and complexion. I was the first foreigner who ever remained even a night in the town, and I stayed there two weeks; but being small and dark, and dressed like a Japanese, I excited little attention among the common people: it seemed to them that I was only a curious-looking Japanese from some remote part of the empire. At Hishi-ura the same impression prevailed for a time; and even after the fact of my being a foreigner had become generally known, the population caused me no annoyance whatever: they had already become accustomed to see me walking about the streets or swimming across the bay. But it was quite otherwise at Urago. The first time I landed there I had managed to escape notice, being in Japanese costume, and wearing a very large Izumo hat, which partly concealed my face. After I left for Saigo, the people must have found out that a foreigner - the very first ever seen in Dozen - had actually been in Urago without their knowledge; for my second visit made a sensation such as I had never been the cause of anywhere else, except at Kaka-ura.

I had barely time to enter the hotel, before the street became entirely blockaded by an amazing crowd desirous to see. The hotel was unfortunately situated on a corner, so that it was soon besieged on two sides. I was shown to a large back room on the second floor; and I had no sooner squatted down on my mat, than the people began to come upstairs quite noiselessly, all leaving their sandals at the foot of the steps. They were too polite to enter the room; but four or five would put their heads through the doorway at once, and bow, and smile, and look, and retire to make way for those who filled the stairway behind them. It was no easy matter for the servant to bring me my dinner. Meanwhile, not only had the upper rooms of the houses across the way become packed with gazers, but all the roofs - north, east, and south - which commanded a view of my apartment had been occupied by men and boys in multitude. Numbers of lads had also climbed (I never could imagine how) upon the narrow eaves over the galleries below my windows; and all the openings of my room, on three sides, were full of faces. Then tiles gave way, and boys fell, but nobody appeared to be hurt. And the queerest fact was that during the performance of these extraordinary gymnastics there was a silence of death: had I not seen the throng, I might have supposed there was not a soul in the street.

The landlord began to scold; but, finding scolding of no avail, he summoned a policeman. The policeman begged me to excuse the people, who had never seen a foreigner before; and asked me if I wished him to clear the street. He could have done that by merely lifting his little finger; but as the scene amused me, I begged him not to order the people away, but only to tell the boys not to climb upon the awnings, some of which they had already damaged. He told them most effectually, speaking in a very low voice. During all the rest of the time I was in Urago, no one dared to go near the awnings. A Japanese policeman never speaks more than once about anything new, and always speaks to the purpose.

The public curiosity, however, lasted without abate for three days, and would have lasted longer if I had not fled from Urago. Whenever I went out I drew the population after me with a pattering of geta like the sound of surf moving shingle. Yet, except for that particular sound, there was silence. No word was spoken. Whether this was because the whole mental faculty was so strained by the intensity of the desire to see that speech became impossible, I am not able to decide. But there was no roughness in all that curiosity; there was never anything approaching rudeness, except in the matter of ascending to my room without leave; and that was done so gently that I could not wish the intruders rebuked. Nevertheless, three days of such experience proved trying. Despite the heat, I had to close the doors and windows at night to prevent myself being watched while asleep. About my effects I had no anxiety at all: thefts are never committed in the island. But that perpetual silent crowding about me became at last more than embarrassing. It was innocent, but it was weird. It made me feel like a ghost - a new arrival in the Meido, surrounded by shapes without voice.


There is very little privacy of any sort in Japanese life. Among the people, indeed, what we term privacy in the Occident does not exist. There are only walls of paper dividing the lives of men; there are only sliding screens instead of doors; there are neither locks nor bolts to be used by day; and whenever weather permits, the fronts, and perhaps even the sides of the house are literally removed, and its interior widely opened to the air, the light, and the public gaze. Not even the rich man closes his front gate by day. Within a hotel or even a common dwelling-house, nobody knocks before entering your room: there is nothing to knock at except a shoji or fusuma, which cannot be knocked upon without being broken. And in this world of paper walls and sunshine, nobody is afraid or ashamed of fellow-men or fellow-women. Whatever is done, is done, after a fashion, in public. Your personal habits, your idiosyncrasies (if you have any), your foibles, your likes and dislikes, your loves or your hates, must be known to everybody. Neither vices nor virtues can be hidden: there is absolutely nowhere to hide them. And this condition has lasted from the most ancient time. There has never been, for the common millions at least, even the idea of living unobserved. Life can be comfortably and happily lived in Japan only upon the condition that all matters relating to it are open to the inspection of the community. Which implies exceptional moral conditions, such as have no being in the West. It is perfectly comprehensible only to those who know by experience the extraordinary charm of Japanese character, the infinite goodness of the common people, their instinctive politeness, and the absence among them of any tendencies to indulge in criticism, ridicule, irony, or sarcasm. No one endeavours to expand his own individuality by belittling his fellow; no one tries to make himself appear a superior being: any such attempt would be vain in a community where the weaknesses of each are known to all, where nothing can be concealed or disguised, and where affectation could only be regarded as a mild form of insanity.


Some of the old samurai of Matsue are living in the Oki Islands. When the great military caste was disestablished, a few shrewd men decided to try their fortunes in the little archipelago, where customs remained old-fashioned and lands were cheap. Several succeeded - probably because of the whole-souled honesty and simplicity of manners in the islands; for samurai have seldom elsewhere been able to succeed in business of any sort when obliged to compete with experienced traders, Others failed, but were able to adopt various humble occupations which gave them the means to live.

Besides these aged survivors of the feudal period, I learned there were in Oki several children of once noble families - youths and maidens of illustrious extraction - bravely facing the new conditions of life in this remotest and poorest region of the empire. Daughters of men to whom the population of a town once bowed down were learning the bitter toil of the rice-fields. Youths, who might in another era have aspired to offices of State, had become the trusted servants of Oki heimin. Others, again, had entered the police, [17] and rightly deemed themselves fortunate.

No doubt that change of civilisation forced upon Japan by Christian bayonets, for the holy motive of gain, may yet save the empire from perils greater than those of the late social disintegration; but it was cruelly sudden. To imagine the consequence of depriving the English landed gentry of their revenues would not enable one to realise exactly what a similar privation signified to the Japanese samurai. For the old warrior caste knew only the arts of courtesy and the arts of war.

And hearing of these things, I could not help thinking about a strange pageant at the last great Izumo festival of Rakuzan-jinja.


The hamlet of Rakuzan, known only for its bright yellow pottery and its little Shinto temple, drowses at the foot of a wooded hill about one ri from Matsue, beyond a wilderness of rice-fields. And the deity of Rakuzan-jinja is Naomasa, grandson of Iyeyasu, and father of the Daimyo of Matsue.

Some of the Matsudaira slumber in Buddhist ground, guarded by tortoises and lions of stone, in the marvellous old courts of Gesshoji. But Naomasa, the founder of their long line, is enshrined at Rakuzan; and the Izumo peasants still clap their hands in prayer before his miya, and implore his love and protection.

Now formerly upon each annual matsuri, or festival, of Rakuzan-jinja, it was customary to carry the miya of Naomasa-San from the village temple to the castle of Matsue. In solemn procession it was borne to .those strange old family temples in the heart of the fortress-grounds - Go-jo- naiInari-Daimyojin, and Kusunoki-Matauhira-Inari-Daimyojin - whose mouldering courts, peopled with lions and foxes of stone, are shadowed by enormous trees. After certain Shinto rites had been performed at both temples, the miya was carried back in procession to Rakuzan. And this annual ceremony was called the miyuki or togyo - 'the August Going,' or Visit, of the ancestor to the ancestral home.

But the revolution changed all things. The daimyo passed away; the castles fell to ruin; the samurai caste was abolished and dispossessed. And the miya of Lord Naomasa made no August Visit to the home of the Mataudaira for more than thirty years.

But it came to pass a little time ago, that certain old men of Matsue bethought them to revive once more the ancient customs of the Rakuzan matauri. And there was a miyuki.

The miya of Lord Naomasa was placed within a barge, draped and decorated, and so conveyed by river and canal to the eastern end of the old Mataubara road, along whose pine-shaded way the daimyo formerly departed to Yedo on their annual visit, or returned therefrom. All those who rowed the barge were aged samurai who had been wont in their youth to row the barge of Matsudaira-Dewa-no-Kami, the last Lord of Izumo. They wore their ancient feudal costume; and they tried to sing their ancient boat-song - o-funa-uta. But more than a generation had passed since the last time they had sung it; and some of them had lost their teeth, so that they could not pronounce the words well; and all, being aged, lost breath easily in the exertion of wielding the oars. Nevertheless they rowed the barge to the place appointed.

Thence the shrine was borne to a spot by the side of the Mataubara road, where anciently stood an August Tea-House, O-Chaya, at which the daimyo, returning from the Shogun's capital, were accustomed to rest and to receive their faithful retainers, who always came in procession to meet them. No tea-house stands there now; but, in accord with old custom, the shrine and its escort waited at the place among the wild flowers and the pines. And then was seen a strange sight.

For there came to meet the ghost of the great lord a long procession of shapes that seemed ghosts also - shapes risen out of the dust of cemeteries: warriors in created helmets and masks of iron and breastplates of steel, girded with two swords; and spearmen wearing queues; and retainers in kamishimo; and bearers of hasami-bako. Yet ghosts these were not, but aged samurai of Matsue, who had borne arms in the service of the last of the daimyo. And among them appeared his surviving ministers, the venerable karo; and these, as the procession turned city-ward, took their old places of honour, and marched before the shrine valiantly, though bent with years.

How that pageant might have impressed other strangers I do not know. For me, knowing something of the history of each of those aged men, the scene had a significance apart from its story of forgotten customs, apart from its interest as a feudal procession. To-day each and all of those old samurai are unspeakably poor. Their beautiful homes vanished long ago; their gardens have been turned into rice-fields; their household treasures were cruelly bargained for, and bought for almost nothing by curio-dealers to be resold at high prices to foreigners at the open ports. And yet what they could have obtained considerable money for, and what had ceased to be of any service to them, they clung to fondly through all their poverty and humiliation. Never could they be induced to part with their armour and their swords, even when pressed by direst want, under the new and harder conditions of existence.

The river banks, the streets, the balconies, and blue-tiled roofs were thronged. There was a great quiet as the procession passed. Young people gazed in hushed wonder, feeling the rare worth of that chance to look upon what will belong in the future to picture-books only and to the quaint Japanese stage. And old men wept silently, remembering their youth.

Well spake the ancient thinker: 'Everything is only for a day, both that which remembers, and that which is remembered.'


Once more, homeward bound, I sat upon the cabin-roof of the Oki-Saigo - this time happily unencumbered by watermelons - and tried to explain to myself the feeling of melancholy with which I watched those wild island- coasts vanishing over the pale sea into the white horizon. No doubt it was inspired partly by the recollection of kindnesses received from many whom I shall never meet again; partly, also, by my familiarity with the ancient soil itself, and remembrance of shapes and places: the long blue visions down channels between islands - the faint grey fishing hamlets hiding in stony bays - the elfish oddity of narrow streets in little primitive towns - the forms and tints of peak and vale made lovable by daily intimacy - the crooked broken paths to shadowed shrines of gods with long mysterious names - the butterfly-drifting of yellow sails out of the glow of an unknown horizon. Yet I think it was due much more to a particular sensation in which every memory was steeped and toned, as a landscape is steeped in the light and toned in the colours of the morning: the sensation of conditions closer to Nature's heart, and farther from the monstrous machine-world of Western life than any into which I had ever entered north of the torrid zone. And then it seemed to me that I loved Oki - in spite of the cuttlefish - chiefly because of having felt there, as nowhere else in Japan, the full joy of escape from the far-reaching influences of high-pressure civilisation - the delight of knowing one's self, in Dozen at least, well beyond the range of everything artificial in human existence.