Notes for Chapter Five

1 As it has become, among a certain sect of Western Philistines and self-constituted art critics, the fashion to sneer at any writer who becomes enthusiastic about the truth to nature of Japanese art, I may cite here the words of England's most celebrated living naturalist on this very subject. Mr. Wallace's authority will scarcely, I presume, be questioned, even by the Philistines referred to:

'Dr. Mohnike possesses a large collection of coloured sketches of the plants of Japan made by a Japanese lady, which are the most masterly things I have ever seen. Every stem, twig, and leaf is produced by single touches of the brush, the character and perspective of very complicated plants being admirably given, and the articulations of stem and leaves shown in a most scientific manner.' (Malay Archipelago, chap. xx.)

Now this was written in 1857, before European methods of drawing had been introduced. The same art of painting leaves, etc., with single strokes of the brush is still common in Japan - even among the poorest class of decorators.

2 There is a Buddhist saying about the kadomatsu:

Kadomatsu Meido no tabi no Ichi-ri-zuka.

The meaning is that each kadomatsu is a milestone on the journey to the Meido; or, in other words, that each New Year's festival signal only the completion of another stage of the ceaseless journey to death.

3 The difference between the shimenawa and shimekazari is that the latter is a strictly decorative straw rope, to which many curious emblems are attached.

4 It belongs to the sargassum family, and is full of air sacs. Various kinds of edible seaweed form a considerable proportion of Japanese diet.

5 'This is a curiously shaped staff with which the divinity Jizo is commonly represented. It is still carried by Buddhist mendicants, and there are several sizes of it. That carried by the Yaku-otoshj is usually very short. There is a tradition that the shakujo was first invented as a means of giving warning to insects or other little creatures in the path of the Buddhist pilgrim, so that they might not be trodden upon unawares.

6 I may make mention here of another matter, in no way relating to the Setsubun.

There lingers in Izumo a wholesome - and I doubt not formerly a most valuable - superstition about the sacredness of writing. Paper upon which anything has been written, or even printed, must not be crumpled up, or trodden upon, or dirtied, or put to any base use. If it be necessary to destroy a document, the paper should be burned. I have been gently reproached in a little hotel at which I stopped for tearing up and crumpling some paper covered with my own writing.