First published in 1891.
This online edition was created and published by Global Grey on the 7th April 2022.
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In offering a revised edition of a book which has been before the public for more than ten years, there is little to say that has not been said in the original Preface. The work as published before, however, was always, to its author's mind, unfinished, for the reason that a chapter on household customs, which was necessary for the completion of the plan, had to be omitted because it could not be written in America.
This defect has now been remedied, and the chapter "Within the Home" contains the supplementary matter necessary to complete the picture of a Japanese woman's life. In addition to this a thorough revision has been made of the whole book, and the subjects discussed in each chapter have been brought up to date by means of notes in an Appendix. The reader will find these notes referred to by asterisks in the text.
Finally, a second supplementary chapter has been added, in which an effort has been made to analyze present conditions. From its nature, this chapter is only a rapid survey of the progress of ten years. It is not easy to write with judgment of conditions actually present. A little perspective is necessary to make sure that one sees things in their proper proportions. It is therefore with some hesitation that I offer to the public the result of two years' experience of the present state of affairs. If subsequent events show that my observation has been incorrect, I can only say that what I have written has been the "Thing-as-I-see-It," and does not lay claim to being the "Thing-as-It-is."
In closing, I would thank once more the friends whose names appear in the previous Preface, and would add to their number the names of Mr. H. Sakurai and Mr. and Mrs. Seijiro Saito, who have rendered me valuable aid in gathering material.
A. M. B.
New Haven, Connecticut,
It seems necessary for a new author to give some excuse for her boldness in offering to the public another volume upon a subject already so well written up as Japan. In a field occupied by Griffis, Morse, Greey, Lowell, and Rein, what unexplored corner can a woman hope to enter? This is the question that will be asked, and that accordingly the author must answer.
While Japan as a whole has been closely studied, and while much and varied information has been gathered about the country and its people, one half of the population has been left entirely unnoticed, passed over with brief mention, or altogether misunderstood. It is of this neglected half that I have written, in the hope that the whole fabric of Japanese social life will be better comprehended when the women of the country, and so the homes that they make, are better known and understood.
The reason why Japanese home-life is so little understood by foreigners, even by those who have lived long in Japan, is that the Japanese, under an appearance of frankness and candor, hides an impenetrable reserve in regard to all those personal concerns which he believes are not in the remotest degree the concerns of his foreign guest. Only life in the home itself can show what a Japanese home may be; and only by intimate association—such as no foreign man can ever hope to gain—with the Japanese ladies themselves can much be learned of the thoughts and daily lives of the best Japanese women.
I have been peculiarly fortunate in having enjoyed the privilege of long and intimate friendship with a number of Japanese ladies, who have spoken with me as freely, and shown the details of their lives to me as openly, as if bound by closest ties of kindred. Through them, and only through them, I have been enabled to study life from the point of view of the refined and intelligent Japanese women, and have found the study so interesting and instructive that I have felt impelled to offer to others some part of what I have received through the aid of these friends. I have, moreover, been encouraged in my work by reading, when it was already more than half completed, the following words from Griffis's "Mikado's Empire:"—
"The whole question of the position of Japanese women—in history, social life, education, employments, authorship, art, marriage, concubinage, prostitution, benevolent labor, the ideals of literature, popular superstitions, etc.—discloses such a wide and fascinating field of inquiry that I wonder no one has as yet entered it."
In closing, I should say that this work is by no means entirely my own. It is, in the first place, largely the result of the interchange of thought through many and long conversations with Japanese ladies upon the topics herein treated. It has also been carefully revised and criticised; and many valuable additions have been made to it by Miss Umé Tsuda, teacher of English in the Peeresses' School in Tōkyō, and an old and intimate friend. Miss Tsuda is at present in this country, on a two years' leave, for purposes of further study. She has, amid her many duties as a student at Bryn Mawr College, given much time and thought to this work; and a large part of whatever value it may possess is due to her.
I would say, too, that in the verification of dates, names, and historical incidents, I have relied altogether upon Griffis's "Mikado's Empire" and Rein's "Japan," knowing that those two authors represent the best that has been done by foreigners in the field of Japanese history.
This work also owes much, not only to the suggestions and historical aids contained in the "Mikado's Empire," but to Mr. Griffis himself, for his careful reading of my manuscript, and for his criticisms and suggestions. No greater encouragement can be given to an inexperienced author than the helpful criticism of one who has already distinguished himself in the same field of labor; and for just such friendly aid my warmest thanks are due to Mr. Griffis.
A. M. B.
Hampton, Va., February, 1891.
To the Japanese baby the beginning of life is not very different from its beginning to babies in the Western world. Its birth, whether it be girl or boy, is the cause of much rejoicing. As boys alone can carry on the family name and inherit titles and estates, they are considered of more importance, but many parents' hearts are made glad by the addition of a daughter to the family circle.
As soon as the event takes place, a special messenger is dispatched to notify relatives and intimate friends, while formal letters of announcement are sent to those less closely related. All persons thus notified must make an early visit to the newcomer, in order to welcome it into the world, and must either take with them or send before them some present. Toys, pieces of cotton, silk, or crêpe for the baby's dress are regarded as suitable; and everything must be accompanied by fish or eggs, for good luck. Where eggs are sent, they are neatly arranged in a covered box, which may contain thirty, forty, or even one hundred eggs. The baby, especially if it be the first one in a family, receives many presents in the first few weeks of its life, and at a certain time proper acknowledgment must be made and return presents sent. This is done when the baby is about thirty days old.
Both baby and mother have a hard time of it for the first few weeks of its life. The baby is passed from hand to hand, fussed over, and talked to so much by the visitors that come in, that it must think this world a trying place. The mother, too, is denied the rest and quiet she needs, and wears herself out in the excitement of seeing her friends, and the physical exercise of going through, so far as possible, the ceremonious bows and salutations that etiquette prescribes.
Before the seventh day the baby receives its name. There is no especial ceremony connected with this, but the child's birth must be formally registered, together with its name, at the district office of registration, and the household keep holiday in honor of the event. A certain kind of rice, cooked with red beans, a festival dish denoting good fortune, is usually partaken of by the family on the seventh day.
The next important event in the baby's life is the miya mairi, a ceremony which corresponds roughly with our christening. On the thirtieth day after birth, the baby is taken for its first visit to the temple. For this visit great preparations are made, and the baby is dressed in finest silk or crêpe, gayly figured,—garments made especially for the occasion. Upon the dress appears in various places the crest of the family, as on all ceremonial dresses, whether for young or old, for every Japanese family has its crest. Thus arrayed, and accompanied by members of the family, the young baby is carried to one of the Shinto temples, and there placed under the protection of the patron deity of the temple. This god, chosen from a great number of Shinto deities, is supposed to become the special guardian of the child through life. Offerings are made to the god and to the priest, and a blessing is obtained; and the baby is thus formally placed under the care of a special deity. This ceremony over, there is usually an entertainment of some kind at the home of the parents, especially if the family be one of high rank. Friends are invited, and if there are any who have not as yet sent in presents, they may give them at this time.
It is usually on this day that the family send to their friends some acknowledgment of the presents received. This sometimes consists of the red bean rice, such as is prepared for the seventh day celebration, and sometimes of cakes of mochi, or rice paste. A letter of thanks usually accompanies the return present. If rice is sent, it is put in a handsome lacquered box, the box placed on a lacquered tray, and the whole covered with a square of crêpe or silk, richly decorated. The box, the tray, and the cover are of course returned, and, curious to say, the box must be returned unwashed, as it would be very unlucky to send it back clean. A piece of Japanese paper must be slipped into the box after its contents have been removed, and box and tray must be given back, just as they are, to the messenger. Sometimes a box of eggs, or a peculiar kind of dried fish, called katsuobushi, is sent with this present, when it is desired to make an especially handsome return. When as many as fifty or one hundred return presents of this kind are to be sent, it is no slight tax on the mistress of the house to see that no one is forgotten, and that all is properly done. As special messengers are sent, a number of men are sometimes kept busy for two or three days.
After all these festivities, a quiet, undisturbed life begins for the baby,—a life which is neither unpleasant nor unhealthful. It is not jolted, rocked, or trotted to sleep; it is allowed to cry if it chooses, without anybody's supposing that the world will come to an end because of its crying; and its dress is loose and easily put on, so that very little time is spent in the tiresome process of dressing and undressing. Under these conditions the baby thrives and grows strong and fat; learns to take life with some philosophy, even at a very early age; and is not subject to fits of hysterical or passionate crying, brought on by much jolting or trotting, or by the wearisome process of pinning, buttoning, tying of strings, and thrusting of arms into tight sleeves.
The Japanese baby's dress, though not as pretty as that of our babies, is in many ways much more sensible. It consists of as many wide-sleeved, straight, silk, cotton, or flannel garments as the season of the year may require,—all cut after nearly the same pattern, and that pattern the same in shape as the grown-up kimono. These garments are fitted, one inside of the other, before they are put on; then they are laid down on the floor and the baby is laid into them; a soft belt, attached to the outer garment or dress, is tied around the waist, and the baby is dressed without a shriek or a wail, as simply and easily as possible. The baby's dresses, like those of our babies, are made long enough to cover the little bare feet; and the sleeves cover the hands as well, so preventing the unmerciful scratching that most babies give to their faces, as well as keeping the hands warm and dry.
Babies of the lower classes, within a few weeks after birth, are carried about tied upon the back of some member of the family, frequently an older sister or brother, who is sometimes not more than five or six years old. The poorer the family, the earlier is the young baby thus put on some one's back, and one frequently sees babies not more than a month old, with bobbing heads and blinking eyes, tied by long bands of cloth to the backs of older brothers or sisters, and living in the streets in all weathers. When it is cold, the sister's haori, or coat, serves as an extra covering for the baby as well; and when the sun is hot, the sister's parasol keeps off its rays from the bobbing bald head. Living in public, as the Japanese babies do, they soon acquire an intelligent, interested look, and seem to enjoy the games of the elder children, upon whose backs they are carried, as much as the players themselves. Babies of the middle classes do not live in public in this way, but ride about upon the backs of their nurses until they are old enough to toddle by themselves, and they are not so often seen in the streets; as few but the poorest Japanese, even in the large cities, are unable to have a pleasant bit of garden in which the children can play and take the air. The children of the richest families, the nobility, and the imperial family, are never carried about in this way. The young child is borne in the arms of an attendant, within doors and without; but as this requires the care of some one constantly, and prevents the nurse from doing anything but care for the child, only the richest can afford this luxury. With the baby tied to her back, a woman is able to care for a child, and yet go on with her household labors, and baby watches over mother's or nurse's shoulder, between naps taken at all hours, the processes of drawing water, washing and cooking rice, and all the varied work of the house. Imperial babies are held in the arms of some one night and day, from the moment of birth until they have learned to walk, a custom which seems to render the lot of the high-born infant less comfortable in some ways than that of the plebeian child.
The flexibility of the knees, which is required for comfort in the Japanese method of sitting, is gained in very early youth by the habit of setting a baby down with its knees bent under it, instead of with its legs out straight before it, as seems to us the natural way. To the Japanese, the normal way for a baby to sit is with its knees bent under it, and so, at a very early age, the muscles and tendons of the knees are accustomed to what seems to us a most unnatural and uncomfortable posture.
Among the lower classes, where there are few bathing facilities in the houses, babies of a few weeks old are often taken to the public bath house and put into the hot bath. These Japanese baths are usually heated to a temperature of a hundred to a hundred and twenty Fahrenheit,—a temperature that most foreigners visiting Japan find almost unbearable. To a baby's delicate skin, the first bath or two is usually a severe trial, but it soon becomes accustomed to the high temperature, and takes its bath, as it does everything else, placidly and in public. Born into a country where cow's milk is never used, the Japanese baby is wholly dependent upon its mother for milk, and is not weaned entirely until it reaches the age of three or four years, and is able to live upon the ordinary food of the class to which it belongs. There is no intermediate stage of bread and milk, oatmeal and milk, gruel, or pap of some kind; for the all-important factor—milk—is absent from the bill of fare, in a land where there is neither "milk for babes" nor "strong meat for them that are full of age."
In consequence, partly, of the lack of proper nourishment after the child is too old to live wholly upon its mother's milk, and partly, perhaps, because of the poor food that the mothers, even of the higher classes, live upon, many babies in Japan are afflicted with disagreeable skin troubles, especially of the scalp and face,—troubles which usually disappear as soon as the child becomes accustomed to the regular food of the adult. Another consequence, as I imagine, of the lack of proper food at the teething period, is the early loss of the child's first teeth, which usually turn black and decay some time before the second teeth begin to show themselves. With the exception of these two troubles, Japanese babies seem healthy, hearty, and happy to an extraordinary degree, and show that most of the conditions of their lives are wholesome. The constant out-of-door life and the healthful dress serve to make up in considerable measure for the poor food, and the Japanese baby, though small after the manner of the race, is usually plump, and of firm, hard flesh. One striking characteristic of the Japanese baby is, that at a very early age it learns to cling like a kitten to the back of whoever carries it, so that it is really difficult to drop it through carelessness, for the baby looks out for its own safety like a young monkey. The straps that tie it to the back are sufficient for safety; but the baby, from the age of one month, is dependent upon its own exertions to secure a comfortable position, and it soon learns to ride its bearer with considerable skill, instead of being merely a bundle tied to the shoulders. Any one who has ever handled a Japanese baby can testify to the amount of intelligence shown in this direction at a very early age; and this clinging with arms and legs is, perhaps, a valuable part of the training which gives to the whole nation the peculiar quickness of motion and hardness of muscle that characterize them from childhood. It is the agility and muscular quality that belong to wild animals, that we see something of in the Indian, but to a more marked degree in the Japanese, especially of the lower classes.
The Japanese baby's first lessons in walking are taken under favorable circumstances. With feet comfortably shod in the soft tabi, or mitten-like sock, babies can tumble about as they like, with no bump nor bruise, upon the soft matted floors of the dwelling houses. There is no furniture to fall against, and nothing about the room to render falling a thing to be feared. After learning the art of walking in the house, the baby's first attempts out of doors are hampered by the zori or géta,—a light straw sandal or small wooden clog attached to the foot by a strap passing between the toes. At the very beginning the sandal or clog is tied to the baby's foot by bits of string fastened around the ankle, but this provision for security is soon discarded, and the baby patters along like the grown people, holding on the géta by the strap passing between the toes. This somewhat cumbersome and inconvenient foot gear must cause many falls at first, but baby's experience in the art of balancing upon people's backs now aids in this new art of balancing upon the little wooden clogs. Babies of two or three trot about quite comfortably in géta that seem to give most insecure footing, and older children run, jump, hop on one foot, and play all manner of active games upon heavy clogs that would wrench our ankles and toes out of all possibility of usefulness. This foot gear, while producing an awkward, shuffling gait, has certain advantages over our own, especially for children whose feet are growing rapidly. The géta, even if outgrown, can never cramp the toes nor compress the ankles. If the foot is too long for the clog the heel laps over behind, but the toes do not suffer, and the use of the géta strengthens the ankles by affording no artificial aid or support, and giving to all the muscles of foot and leg free play, with the foot in a natural position. The toes of the Japanese retain their prehensile qualities to a surprising degree, and are used, not only for grasping the foot gear, but among mechanics almost like two supplementary hands, to aid in holding the thing worked upon. Each toe knows its work and does it, and they are not reduced to the dull uniformity of motion that characterizes the toes of a leather-shod nation.
The distinction between the dress of the boy and the girl, that one notices from childhood, begins in babyhood. A very young baby wears red and yellow, but soon the boy is dressed in sober colors,—blues, grays, greens, and browns; while the little girl still wears the most gorgeous of colors and the largest of patterns in her garments, red being the predominant hue. The sex, even of a young baby, may be distinguished by the color of its clothing. White, the garb of mourning in Japan, is never used for children, but the minutest babies are dressed in bright-colored garments, and of the same materials—wadded cotton, silk, or crêpe—as those worn by adults of their social grade. As these dresses are not as easily washed as our own cambric and flannel baby clothes, there is a loss among the poorer classes in the matter of cleanliness; and the gorgeous soiled gowns are not as attractive as the more washable white garments in which our babies are dressed. For model clothing for a baby, I would suggest a combination of the Japanese style with the foreign, easily washed materials,—a combination that I have seen used in their own families by Japanese ladies educated abroad, and one in which the objections to the Japanese style of dress are entirely obviated.
The Japanese baby begins to practice the accomplishment of talking at a very early age, for its native language is singularly happy in easy expressions for children; and little babies will be heard chattering away in soft, easily spoken words long before they are able to venture alone from their perches on their mothers' or nurses' backs. A few simple words express much, and cover all wants. Iya expresses discontent or dislike of any kind, and is also used for "no"; mam ma means food; bé bé is the dress; ta ta is the sock, or house shoe, etc. We find many of the same sounds as in the baby language of English, with meanings totally different. The baby is not troubled with difficult grammatical changes, for the Japanese language has few inflections; and it is too young to be puzzled with the intricacies of the various expressions denoting different degrees of politeness, which are the snare and the despair of the foreigner studying Japanese.
As our little girl emerges from babyhood she finds the life opening before her a bright and happy one, but one hedged about closely by the proprieties, and one in which, from babyhood to old age, she must expect to be always under the control of one of the stronger sex. Her position will be an honorable and respected one only as she learns in her youth the lesson of cheerful obedience, of pleasing manners, and of personal cleanliness and neatness. Her duties must be always either within the house, or, if she belongs to the peasant class, on the farm. There is no career or vocation open to her: she must be dependent always upon either father, husband, or son, and her greatest happiness is to be gained, not by cultivation of the intellect, but by the early acquisition of the self-control which is expected of all Japanese women to an even greater degree than of the men. This self-control must consist, not simply in the concealment of all the outward signs of any disagreeable emotion,—whether of grief, anger, or pain,—but in the assumption of a cheerful smile and agreeable manner under even the most distressing of circumstances. The duty of self-restraint is taught to the little girls of the family from the tenderest years; it is their great moral lesson, and is expatiated upon at all times by their elders. The little girl must sink herself entirely, must give up always to others, must never show emotions except such as will be pleasing to those about her: this is the secret of true politeness, and must be mastered if the woman wishes to be well thought of and to lead a happy life. The effect of this teaching is seen in the attractive but dignified manners of the Japanese women, and even of the very little girls. They are not forward nor pushing, neither are they awkwardly bashful; there is no self-consciousness, neither is there any lack of savoir faire; a childlike simplicity is united with a womanly consideration for the comfort of those around them. A Japanese child seems to be the product of a more perfect civilization than our own, for it comes into the world with little of the savagery and barbarian bad manners that distinguish children in this country, and the first ten or fifteen years of its life do not seem to be passed in one long struggle to acquire a coating of good manners that will help to render it less obnoxious in polite society. How much of the politeness of the Japanese is the result of training, and how much is inherited from generations of civilized ancestors, it is difficult to tell; but my impression is, that babies are born into the world with a good start in the matter of manners, and that the uniformly gentle and courteous treatment that they receive from those about them, together with the continual verbal teaching of the principle of self-restraint and thoughtfulness of others, produce with very little difficulty the universally attractive manners of the people. One curious thing in a Japanese household is to see the formalities that pass between brothers and sisters, and the respect paid to age by every member of the family. The grandfather and grandmother come first of all in everything,—no one at table must be helped before them in any case; after them come the father and mother; and lastly, the children according to their ages. A younger sister must always wait for the elder and pay her due respect, even in the matter of walking into the room before her. The wishes and convenience of the elder, rather than of the younger, are to be consulted in everything, and this lesson must be learned early by children. The difference in years may be slight, but the elder-born has the first right in all cases.
Our little girl's place in the family is a pleasant one: she is the pet and plaything of father and elder brothers, and she is never saluted by any one in the family, except her parents, without the title of respect due to her position. If she is the eldest daughter, to the servants she is O Jō Sama, literally, young lady; to her own brothers and sisters, Né San, elder sister. Should she be one of the younger ones, her given name, preceded by the honorific O and followed by San, meaning Miss, will be the name by which she will be called by younger brothers and sisters, and by the servants. As she passes from babyhood to girlhood, and from girlhood to womanhood, she is the object of much love and care and solicitude; but she does not grow up irresponsible or untrained to meet the duties which womanhood will surely bring to her. She must learn all the duties that fall upon the wife and mother of a Japanese household, as well as obtain the instruction in books and mathematics that is coming to be more and more a necessity for the women of Japan. She must take a certain responsibility in the household; must see that tea is made for the guests who may be received by her parents,—in all but the families of highest rank, must serve it herself. Indeed, it is quite the custom in families of the higher classes, should a guest, whom it is desired to receive with especial honor, dine at the house, to serve the meal, not with the family, but separately for the father and his visitor; and it is the duty of the wife or daughter, oftener the latter, to wait on them. This is in honor of the guest, not on account of the lack of servants, for there may be any number of them within call, or even in the back part of the room, ready to receive from the hands of the young girl what she has removed. She must, therefore, know the proper etiquette of the table, how to serve carefully and neatly, and, above all, have the skill to ply the saké bottle, so that the house may keep up its reputation for hospitality. Should guests arrive in the absence of her parents, she must receive and entertain them until the master or mistress of the house returns. She also feels a certain care about the behavior of the younger members of the family, especially in the absence of the parents. In these various ways she is trained for taking upon herself the cares of a household when the time comes. In all but the very wealthiest and most aristocratic families, the daughters of the house do a large part of the simple housework. In a house with no furniture, no carpets, no bric-à-brac, no mirrors, picture frames or glasses to be cared for, no stoves or furnaces, no windows to wash, a large part of the cooking to be done outside, and no latest styles to be imitated in clothing, the amount of work to be done by women is considerably diminished, but still there remains enough to take a good deal of time. Every morning there are the beds to be rolled up and stored away in the closet, the mosquito nets to be taken down, the rooms to be swept, dusted, and aired before breakfast. Besides this, there is the washing and polishing of the engawa, or piazza, which runs around the outside of a Japanese house between the shoji, or paper screens that serve as windows, and the amado, or sliding shutters, that are closed only at night, or during heavy, driving rains. Breakfast is to be cooked and served, dishes to be washed (in cold water); and then perhaps there is marketing to be done, either at shops outside or from the vendors of fish and vegetables who bring their huge baskets of provisions to the door; but after these duties are performed, it is possible to sit down quietly to the day's work of sewing, studying, or whatever else may suit the taste or necessities of the housewife. Of sewing there is always a good deal to be done, for many Japanese dresses must be taken to pieces whenever they are washed, and are turned, dyed, and made over again and again, so long as there is a shred of the original material left to work upon. There is washing, too, to be done, although neither with hot water nor soap; and in the place of ironing, the cotton garments, which are usually washed without ripping, must be hung up on a bamboo pole passed through the armholes, and pulled smooth and straight before they dry; and the silk, always ripped into breadths before washing, must be smoothed while wet upon a board which is set in the sun until the silk is dry.
Then there are the every day dishes which our Japanese maiden must learn to prepare. The proper boiling of rice is in itself a study. The construction of the various soups which form the staple in the Japanese bill of fare; the preparation of mochi, a kind of rice dough, which is prepared at the New Year, or to send to friends on various festival occasions: these and many other branches of the culinary art must be mastered before the young girl is prepared to assume the cares of married life.
But though the little girl's life is not without its duties and responsibilities, it is also not at all lacking in simple and innocent pleasures. First among the annual festivals, and bringing with it much mirth and frolic, comes the Feast of the New Year. At this time father, mother, and all older members of the family lay aside their work and their dignity, and join in the fun and sports that are characteristic of this season. Worries and anxieties are set aside with the close of the year, and the first beams of the New Year's sun bring in a season of unlimited joy for the children. For about one week the festival lasts, and the festal spirit remains through the whole month, prompting to fun and amusements of all kinds. From early morning until bedtime the children wear their prettiest clothes, in which they play without rebuke. Guests come and go, bringing congratulations to the family, and often gifts for all. The children's stock of toys is thus greatly increased, and the house overflows with the good things of the season, of which mochi, or cake made from rice dough, prepared always especially for this time, is one of the most important articles.
The children are taken with their parents to make New Year's visits to their friends and to offer them congratulations, and much they enjoy this, as, dressed in their best, they ride from house to house in jinrikishas.
And then, during the long, happy evenings, the whole family, including even the old grandfather and grandmother, join in merry games; the servants, too, are invited to join the family party, and, without seeming forward or out of place, enter into the games with zest. One of the favorite games is "Hyaku nin isshu," literally "The poems of a hundred poets." It consists of two hundred cards, on each of which is printed either the first or last half of one of the hundred famous Japanese poems which give the name to the game. The poems are well known to all Japanese, of whatever sort or condition. All Japanese poems are short, containing only thirty-one syllables, and have a natural division into two parts. The one hundred cards containing the latter halves of the poems are dealt and laid out in rows, face upward, before the players. One person is appointed reader. To him are given the remaining hundred cards, and he reads the beginnings of the poems in whatever order they come from the shuffled pack. Skill in the game consists in remembering quickly the line following the one read, and rapidly finding the card on which it is written. Especially does the player watch his own cards, and if he finds there the end of the poem, the beginning of which has just been read, he must pick it up before any one sees it and lay it aside. If some one else spies the card first, he seizes it and gives to the careless player several cards from his own hand. Whoever first disposes of all his cards is the winner. The players usually arrange themselves in two lines down the middle of the room, and the two sides play against each other, the game not being ended until either one side or the other has disposed of all its cards. The game requires great quickness of thought and of motion, and is invaluable in giving to all young people an education in the classical poetry of their own nation, as well as being a source of great merriment and jollity among young and old.
Scattered throughout the year are various flower festivals, when, often with her whole family, our little girl visits the famous gardens where the plum, the cherry, the chrysanthemum, the iris, or the azalea attain their greatest loveliness, and spends the day out of doors in æsthetic enjoyment of the beauties of nature supplemented by art. And then there is the feast most loved in the whole year, the Feast of Dolls, when on the third day of the third month the great fire-proof storehouse gives forth its treasures of dolls,—in an old family, many of them hundreds of years old,—and for three days, with all their belongings of tiny furnishings in silver, lacquer, and porcelain, they reign supreme, arranged on red-covered shelves in the finest room of the house. Most prominent among the dolls are the effigies of the Emperor and Empress in antique court costume, seated in dignified calm, each on a lacquered dais. Near them are the figures of the five court musicians in their robes of office, each with his instrument. Beside these dolls, which are always present and form the central figures at the feast, numerous others, more plebeian, but more lovable, find places on the lower shelves, and the array of dolls' furnishings which is brought out on these occasions is something marvelous. It was my privilege to be present at the Feast of Dolls in the house of one of the Tokugawa daimiōs, a house in which the old forms and ceremonies were strictly observed, and over which the wave of foreign innovation had passed so slightly that even the calendar still remained unchanged, and the feast took place upon the third day of the third month of the old Japanese year, instead of on the third day of March, which is the usual time for it now. At this house, where the dolls had been accumulating for hundreds of years, five or six broad, red-covered shelves, perhaps twenty feet long or more, were completely filled with them and with their belongings. The Emperor and Empress appeared again and again, as well as the five court musicians, and the tiny furnishings and utensils were wonderfully costly and beautiful. Before each Emperor and Empress was set an elegant lacquered table service,—tray, bowls, cups, saké pots, rice buckets, etc., all complete; and in each utensil was placed the appropriate variety of food. The saké used on this occasion is a sweet, white liquor, brewed especially for this feast, as different from the ordinary saké as sweet cider is from the hard cider upon which a man may drink himself into a state of intoxication. Besides the table service, everything that an imperial doll can be expected to need or desire is placed upon the shelves. Lacquered norimono, or palanquins; lacquered bullock carts, drawn by bow-legged black bulls,—these were the conveyances of the great in Old Japan, and these, in minute reproductions, are placed upon the red-covered shelves. Tiny silver and brass hibachi, or fire boxes, are there, with their accompanying tongs and charcoal baskets,—whole kitchens, with everything required for cooking the finest of Japanese feasts, as finely made as if for actual use; all the necessary toilet apparatus,—combs, mirrors, utensils for blackening the teeth, for shaving the eyebrows, for reddening the lips and whitening the face,—all these things are there to delight the souls of all the little girls who may have the opportunity to behold them. For three days the imperial effigies are served sumptuously at each meal, and the little girls of the family take pleasure in serving their imperial majesties; but when the feast ends, the dolls and their belongings are packed away in their boxes, and lodged in the fire-proof warehouse for another year.
The Tokugawa collection, of which I have spoken, is remarkably full and costly, for it has been making for hundreds of years in one of the younger branches of a family which for two and a half centuries was possessed of almost imperial power, and lived in more than imperial luxury; but there are few households so poor that they do not from year to year accumulate a little store of toys wherewith to celebrate the feast, and, whether the toys are many or few, the feast is the event of the year in the lives of the little girls of Japan.
Beside the regular feasts at stated seasons, our little girl has a great variety of toys and games, some belonging to particular seasons, some played at any time during the year. At the New Year the popular out-of-door games are battledoor and shuttlecock, and ball. There is no prettier sight, to my mind, than a group of little girls in their many-colored wide-sleeved dresses playing with battledoor or ball. The graceful, rhythmic motion of their bodies, the bright upturned eyes, the laughing faces, are set off to perfection by the coloring of their flowing drapery; and their agility on their high, lacquered clogs is a constant source of wonder and admiration to any one who has ever made an effort to walk upon the clumsy things. There are dolls, too, that are not relegated to the storehouse when the Feast of Dolls is ended, but who are the joy and comfort of their little mothers during the whole year; and at every kwan-ko-ba, or bazaar, an endless variety of games, puzzles, pictures to be cut out and glued together, and amusements of all kinds, may be purchased at extremely low rates. There is no dearth of games for our little girl, and many pleasant hours are spent in the household sitting room with games, or conundrums, or stories, or the simple girlish chatter that elicits constant laughter from sheer youthful merriment.
As for fairy tales, so dear to the hearts of children in every country, the Japanese child has her full share. Often she listens, half asleep, while cuddling under the warm quilted cover of the kotatsu, in the cold winter evenings, to the drowsy voice of the old grandmother or nurse, who carries her away on the wings of imagination to the wonderful palace of the sea gods, or to the haunts of the terrible oni, monsters with red, distorted faces and fearful horns. Momotaro, the Peach Boy, with his wonderful feats in the conquest of the oni, is her hero, until he is supplanted by the more real ones of Japanese history.
There are occasional all-day visits to the theatre, too, where, seated on the floor in a box, railed off from those adjoining, our little girl, in company with her mother and sisters, enjoys, though with paroxysms of horror and fear, the heroic historical plays which are now almost all that is left of the heroic old Japan. Here she catches the spirit of passionate loyalty that belonged to those days, forms her ideals of what a noble Japanese woman should be willing to do for parents or husband, and comes away taught, as she could be by no other teaching, what the spirit was that animated her ancestors,—what spirit must animate her, should she wish to be a worthy descendant of the women of old.
Among these surroundings, with these duties and amusements, our little girl grows to womanhood. The unconscious and beautiful spirit of her childhood is not driven away at the dawn of womanhood by thoughts of beaux, of coming out in society, of a brief career of flirtation and conquest, and at the end as fine a marriage, either for love or money, as her imagination can picture. She takes no thought for these things herself, and her intercourse with young men, though free and unconstrained, has about it no grain of flirtation or romantic interest. When the time comes for her to marry, her father will have her meet some eligible young man, and both she and the young man will know, when they are brought together, what is the end in view, and will make up their minds about the matter. But until that time comes, the modest Japanese maiden carries on no flirtations, thinks little of men except as higher beings to be deferred to and waited on, and preserves the childlike innocence of manner, combined with a serene dignity under all circumstances, that is so noticeable a trait in the Japanese woman from childhood to old age.
The Japanese woman is, under this discipline, a finished product at the age of sixteen or eighteen. She is pure, sweet, and amiable, with great power of self-control, and a knowledge of what to do upon all occasions. The higher part of her nature is little developed; no great religious truths have lifted her soul above the world into a clearer and higher atmosphere; but as far as she goes, in regard to all the little things of daily life, she is bright, industrious, sweet-tempered, and attractive, and prepared to do well her duty, when that duty comes to her, as wife and mother and mistress of a household. The highest principle upon which she is taught to act is obedience, even to the point of violating all her finest feminine instincts, at the command of father or husband; and acting under that principle, she is capable of an entire self-abnegation such as few women of any race can achieve.
With the close of her childhood, the happiest period in the life of a Japanese woman closes. The discipline that she has received so far, repressive and constant as it has often been, has been from kind and loving parents. She has freedom, to a certain degree, such as is unknown to any other country in Asia. In the home she is truly loved, often the pet and plaything of the household, though not receiving the caresses and words of endearment that children in America expect as a right, for love in Japan is undemonstrative. But just at the time when her mind broadens, and the desire for knowledge and self-improvement develops, the restraints and checks upon her become more severe. Her sphere seems to grow narrower, difficulties one by one increase, and the young girl, who sees life before her as something broad and expansive, who looks to the future with expectant joy, may become, in a few years, the weary, disheartened woman.
So far we have spoken only of the domestic training of a Japanese girl. That part of her education that she gains through teachers and schools must be the subject of a separate chapter. Japan differs from most Oriental countries in the fact that her women are considered worthy of a certain amount of the culture that comes from the study of books; and although, until recently, schools for girls were unknown in the empire, nevertheless every woman, except those of the lower classes, received instruction in the ordinary written language, while some were well versed in the Chinese classics and the poetic art. These, with some musical accomplishment, an acquaintance with etiquette and the arts of arranging flowers, of making the ceremonial tea, and in many cases not only of writing a beautiful hand, but of flower-painting as well, in the old days made up the whole of an ordinary woman's education. Among the lower classes, especially the merchant class, instruction was sometimes given in the various pantomimic dances which one sees most frequently presented by professional dancing girls. The art of dancing is not usually practiced by women of the higher classes, but among the daughters of the merchants special dances were learned for exhibition at home, or even at the matsuri or religious festival, and their performance was for the amusement of spectators, and not especially for the pleasure of the dancers themselves. These dances are modest and graceful, but from the fact that they are always learned for entertaining an audience, however small and select, and are most frequently performed by professional dancers of questionable character, the more refined and higher class Japanese do not care especially to have their daughters learn them.
In the old days, little girls were not sent to school, but, going to the house of a private teacher, received the necessary instruction in reading, and writing. The writing and reading at the beginning, are taught simultaneously, the teacher writing a letter upon a sheet of paper and telling the scholar its name, and the scholar writing it over and over until, by the time she has acquired the necessary skill in writing it, both name and form are indelibly imprinted upon her memory. To write, with a brush dipped in India ink, upon soft paper, the hand entirely without support, is an art that seldom can be acquired by a grown person, but when learned in childhood it gives great deftness in whatever other art may be subsequently studied. This is perhaps the reason why the Japanese value a good handwriting more highly than any other accomplishment, for it denotes a manual dexterity that is the secret of success in all the arts, and one who writes the Chinese characters well and rapidly can quickly learn to do anything else with the fingers.
The fault that one finds with the Japanese system—a fault that lies deeper than the mere methods of teaching, and has its root in the ideographic character of the written language—is that, while it cultivates the memory and powers of observation to a remarkable extent, and while it gives great skill in the use of the fingers, it affords little opportunity for the development of the reasoning powers. The years of study that are required for mastering the written language, so as to be able to grasp the thoughts already given to the world, leave comparatively little time for the conducting of any continuous thought on one's own account, and so we find in Japanese scholars—whether boys or girls—quickness of apprehension, retentive memories, industry and method in their study of their lessons, but not much originality of thought. This result comes, I believe, from the nature of the written language and the difficulties that attend the mastery of it; as a consequence of which, an educated man or woman becomes simply a student of other men's thoughts and sayings about things instead of being a student of the things themselves.
Music in Japan is an accomplishment reserved almost entirely for women, for priests, and for blind men. It seems to me quite fortunate that the musical art is not more generally practiced, as Japanese music, as a rule, is far from agreeable to the untrained ear of the outside barbarian. The koto is the pleasantest of the Japanese instruments, but probably on account of its large size, which makes it inconvenient to keep in a small Japanese house, it is used most among the higher classes, from the samurai upwards. The koto is an embryo piano, a horizontal sounding-board, some six feet long, upon which are stretched strings supported by ivory bridges. It is played by means of ivory finger-tips fitted to the thumb, forefinger, and middle finger of the right hand, and gives forth agreeable sounds, not unlike those of the harp. The player sits before the koto on knees and heels, in the ordinary Japanese attitude, and her motions are very graceful and pretty as she touches the strings, often supplementing the strains of the instrument with her voice. The teaching of this instrument and of the samisen, or Japanese guitar, is almost entirely in the hands of blind men, who in Japan support themselves by the two professions of music and massage,—all the blind, who cannot learn the former, becoming adepts in the latter profession.
The arrangement of flowers is taught as a fine art, and much time may be spent in learning how, by clipping, bending, and fixing in its place in the vase, each spray and twig may be made to look as if actually growing, for flower arranging is not merely to show the flower itself, but includes the proper arrangement of the branches, twigs, and leaves of plants. The flower plays only a small part, and is not used in decoration, except on the branch and stem as it is in nature, and the art consists in the preservation of the natural bend and growth when fixed in the vase. In every case, each branch has certain curves, which must be in harmony with the whole. Branches of pine, bamboo, and the flowering plum are much used.
Teachers spend much time in showing proper and improper combinations of different flowers, as well as the arrangement of them. Many different styles have come up, originated by the famous teachers who have founded various schools of the art,—an art which is unique and exceedingly popular, requiring artistic talent and a cultivated eye. One often sees, on going into the guest room of a Japanese house, a vase containing gracefully arranged flowers set in the tokonoma, or raised alcove of the room, under the solitary kakémono that forms the chief ornament of the apartment. As these two things, the vase of flowers and the hanging scroll, are the only adornments, it is more necessary that the flowers should be carefully arranged, than in our crowded rooms, where a vase of flowers may easily escape the eye, perplexed by the multitude of objects which surround it.
The ceremonial tea must not be confounded with the ordinary serving of tea for refreshment. The proper making, and serving, and drinking of the ceremonial tea is the most formal of social observances, each step in which is prescribed by a rigid code of etiquette. The tea, instead of being the whole leaf, such as is used for ordinary occasions, is a fine, green powder. The infusion is made, not in a small pot, from which it is poured out into cups, but in a bowl, into which the hot water is poured from a dipper on to the powdered tea. The mixture is stirred with a bamboo whisk until it foams, then handed with much ceremony to the guest, who takes it with equal ceremony and drinks it from the bowl, emptying the receptacle at three gulps. Should there be a number of guests, tea is made for each in turn, in the order of their rank, in the same bowl. For this ceremonial tea, a special set of utensils is used, all of antique and severely simple style. The charcoal used for heating the water is of a peculiar variety; and the room in which the tea is made and served is built for that special purpose, and kept sacred for that use. This art, which is often part of the education of women of the higher classes, is taught by regular teachers, often by gentlewomen who have fallen into distressed circumstances. I remember with great vividness a visit paid to an old lady living near a provincial city of Japan, who had for years supported herself by giving lessons in this politest of arts. Her little house, of the daintiest and neatest type, seemed filled to overflowing by three foreigners, whom she received with the courtliest of welcomes. At the request of my friend, an American lady engaged in missionary work in that part of the country, she gave us a lesson in the etiquette of the tea ceremony. Every motion, from the bringing in and arranging of the utensils to the final rinsing and wiping of the tea bowl, was according to rules strictly laid down, and the whole ceremony had more the solemnity of a religious ritual than the lightness and gayety of a social occasion.
Etiquette of all kinds is not left in Japan to chance, to be learned by observation and imitation of any model that may present itself, but is taught regularly by teachers who make a specialty of it. Everything in the daily life has its rules, and the etiquette teacher has them all at her fingers' ends. There have been several famous teachers of etiquette, and they have formed systems which differ in minor points, while agreeing in the principal rules. The etiquette of bowing, the position of the body, the arms, and the head while saluting, the methods of shutting and opening the door, rising and sitting down on the floor, the manner of serving a meal, or tea, are all, with the minutest details, taught to the young girls, who, I imagine, find it rather irksome. I know two young girls of new Japan who find nothing so wearisome as their etiquette lesson, and would gladly be excused from it. I have heard them, after their teacher had left, slyly make fun of her stiff and formal manners. Such people as she will, I fear, soon belong only to the past, though it still remains to be seen how much of European manners will be engrafted on the old formalities of Japanese life. It is, perhaps, because of this regular teaching in the ways of polite society, that the Japanese girl seems never at a loss, even under unusual circumstances, but bears herself with self-possession in places where young girls in America would be embarrassed and awkward.
But the Japanese are rapidly finding out that this busy nineteenth century gives little time for learning how to shut and open doors in the politest manner, and indeed such things under the newly established school system are now relegated entirely to the girls' schools, the boys having no lessons in etiquette.
The method of teaching flower-painting is so interesting that I must speak of it before I leave the subject of accomplishments. I have said that the acquisition of skill in writing the Chinese characters was the best possible preparation for skill in all other arts. This is especially true of the art of painting, which is simply the next step, after writing has been learned. The painting master, when he comes to the house, brings no design as a model, but sits down on the floor before the little desk, and on a sheet of paper paints with great rapidity the design that he wishes the pupil to copy. It may be simply two or three blades of grass upon which the pupil makes a beginning, but she is expected to make her picture with exactly the same number of bold strokes that the master puts into his. Again and again she blunders her strokes on to a sheet of paper, until at last, when sheet after sheet has been spoiled, she begins to see some semblance of the master's copy in her own daub. She perseveres, making copy after copy, until she is able from memory to put upon the paper at a moment's notice the three blades of grass to her master's satisfaction. Only then can she go on to a new copy, and only after many such designs have been committed to memory, and the free, dashing stroke necessary for Japanese painting has been acquired, is she allowed to undertake any copying from nature, or original designing.
I have dwelt thus far only upon the entirely Japanese education that was permitted to women under the old régime. That it was an effective and refining system, all can testify who have made the acquaintance of any of the charming Japanese ladies whose schooling was finished before Commodore Perry disturbed the repose of old Japan. As I write, the image comes before me of a sweet-faced, bright-eyed little gentlewoman with whom it was my good fortune to become intimately acquainted during my stay in Tōkyō. A widow, left penniless, with one child to support, she earned the merest pittance by teaching sewing at one of the government schools in Tōkyō; but in all the circumstances of her life, narrow and busy as it needs must be, she proved herself a lady through and through. Polite, cheerful, an intelligent and cultivated reader, a thrifty housekeeper, a loving and careful mother, a true and helpful friend, her memory is associated with many of my pleasantest hours in Japan, and she is but one of the many who bear witness to the culture that might be acquired by women in the old days.
But the Japan of old is not the Japan of to-day, and in the school system now prevalent throughout the empire girls and boys are equally provided for. First the schools established by the various missionary societies, and then the government schools, offered to girls a broader education than the old instruction in Chinese, in etiquette, and in accomplishments. Now, every morning, the streets of the cities and villages are alive with boys and girls clattering along, with their books and lunch boxes in their hands, to the kindergarten, primary, grammar, high, or normal school. Every rank in life, every grade in learning, may find its proper place in the new school system, and the girls eagerly grasp their opportunities, and show themselves apt and willing students of the new learning offered to them.
By the new system, at its present stage of development, too much is expected of the Japanese boy or girl. The work required would be a burden to the quickest mind. The whole of the old education in Japanese and Chinese literature and composition—an education requiring the best years of a boy's life—is given, and grafted upon this, our common-school and high-school studies of mathematics, geography, history, and natural science. In addition to these, at all higher schools, one foreign language is required, and often two, English ranking first in the popular estimation. Many a headache do the poor, hard-working students have over the puzzling English language, in which they have to begin at the wrong end of the book and read across the page from left to right, instead of from top to bottom, and from right to left, as is natural to them. But in spite of its hard work, the new school life is cheerful and healthful, and the children enjoy it. It helps them to be really children, and, while they are young, to be merry and playful, not dignified and formal little ladies at all times. Upon the young girls, the influence of the schools is to make them more independent, self-reliant, and stronger women. In the houses of the higher classes, even now, much of the old-time system of repression is still in force. Children are indeed "seen but not heard," and from the time when they learn to walk they must learn to be polite and dignified. At school, the more progressive feeling of the times predominates among the authorities, and the children are encouraged to unbend and enjoy themselves in games and frolics, as true children should do. Much is done for the pleasure of the little ones, who often enjoy school better than home, and declare that they do not like holidays.
But the young girl, who has finished this pleasant school life, with all its advantages, is not as well fitted as under the old system for the duties and trials of married life, unless under exceptional circumstances, where the husband chosen has advanced ideas. To those teaching the young girls of Japan to-day, the problem of how to educate them aright is a deep one, and with each newly trained girl sent out go many hopes, mingled with anxieties, in regard to the training she has had as a preparation for the new life she is about to enter. The few, the pioneers, will have to suffer for the happiness and good of the many, for the problem of grafting the new on to the old is indeed a difficult one, to be solved only after many experiments.
There are many difficulties which lie in the way of the new schools that must be met, studied, and overcome. One of them is the one already referred to, the problem of how best to combine the new and the old in the school curriculum. That the old learning and literature, the old politeness and sweetness of manner, must not be given up or made little of, is evident to every right-minded student of the matter. That the newer and broader culture, with its higher morality, its greater development of the best powers of the mind, must play a large part in the Japan of the future, there is not a shadow of doubt, and the women must not be left behind in the onward movement of the nation. But how to give to the young minds the best products of the thought of two such distinct civilizations is a question that is as yet unanswered, and cannot be satisfactorily settled until the effect of the new education has begun to show itself in a generation or so of graduates from the new schools. Another difficulty is in the matter of health. Most of the new school-houses are fitted with seats and desks, such as are found in American schools. Many of them are heated by stoves or furnaces. The scholars in most cases wear the Japanese dress, which in winter is made warm enough to be worn in rooms having no artificial heat. Put this warm costume into an artificially heated room and the result is an over-heating of the body, and a subsequent chill when the pupil goes, with no extra covering, into the keen out-of-door air. From this cause alone, arise many colds and lung troubles, which can be prevented when more experience has shown how the costumes of the East and West can be combined to suit the new conditions. Another part of the health problem lies in the fact that in many cases the parents do not understand the proper care of a growing girl, ambitious to excel in her studies. Instead of the regular hours, healthful food, and gentle restraint that a girl needs under those circumstances, our little Japanese maiden is allowed to sit up to any hour of the night, or arise at any hour in the morning, to prepare her lessons, is given food of most indigestible quality at all hours of the day between her regular meals, and is frequently urged to greater mental exertion than her delicate body can endure.
Another difficulty, in fitting the new school system into the customs of the people, lies in the early age at which marriages are contracted. Before the girl has finished her school course, her parents begin to wonder whether there is not danger of her being left on their hands altogether, if they do not hand her over to the first eligible young man who presents himself. Sometimes the girl makes a brave fight, and remains in school until her course is finished; more often she succumbs and is married off, bids a weeping farewell to her teachers and schoolmates, and leaves the school, to become a wife at sixteen, a mother at eighteen, and an old woman at thirty. In some cases, the breaking down of a girl's health may be traced to threats on the part of her parents that, if she does not take a certain rank in her studies, she will be taken from school and married off.
These are difficulties that may be overcome when a generation has been educated who can, as parents, avoid the mistakes that now endanger the health of a Japanese school-girl. In the mean time, boarding schools, that can attend to matters of health and hygiene among the girls, would, if they could be conducted with the proper admixture of Eastern and Western learning and manners, do a great deal toward educating that generation. The missionary schools do much in this direction, but the criticism of the Japanese upon the manners of the girls educated in missionary schools is universally severe. To a foreigner who has lived almost entirely among Japanese ladies of pure Japanese education, the manners of the girls in these schools seem brusque and awkward; and though they are many of them noble women and doing noble work, there is room for hope that in the future of Japan the charm of manner which is the distinguishing feature of the Japanese woman will not be lost by contact with our Western shortness and roughness. A happy mean undoubtedly can be reached; and when it is, the women of new Japan will be able to bear a not unfavorable comparison with the women of the old régime.
When the Japanese maiden arrives at the age of sixteen, or thereabouts, she is expected as a matter of course to marry. She is usually allowed her choice in regard to whether she will or will not marry a certain man, but she is expected to marry some one, and not to take too much time in making up her mind. The alternative of perpetual spinsterhood is never considered, either by herself or her parents. Marriage is as much a matter of course in a woman's life as death, and is no more to be avoided. This being the case, our young woman has only as much liberty of choice accorded to her as is likely to provide against a great amount of unhappiness in her married life. If she positively objects to the man who is proposed to her, she is seldom forced to marry him, but no more cordial feeling than simple toleration is expected of her before marriage.
The courtship is somewhat after the following manner. A young man, who finds himself in a position to marry, speaks to some married friend, and asks him to be on the lookout for a beautiful and accomplished maiden, who would be willing to become his wife. The friend, acting
rather as advance agent, makes a canvass of all the young maidens of his acquaintance, inquiring among his friends; and finally decides that so-and-so (Miss Flower, let us say) will be a very good match for his friend. Having arrived at this decision, he goes to Miss Flower's parents and lays the case of his friend before them. Should they approve of the suitor, a party is arranged at the house of some common friend, where the young people may have a chance to meet each other and decide each upon the other's merits. Should the young folks find no fault with the match, presents are exchanged, a formal betrothal is entered into, and the marriage is hastened forward. All arrangements between the contracting parties are made by go-betweens, or seconds, who hold themselves responsible for the success of the marriage, and must be concerned in the divorce proceedings, should divorce become desirable or necessary.
The marriage ceremony, which seems to be neither religious nor legal in its nature, takes place at the house of the groom, to which the bride is carried, accompanied by her go-betweens, and, if she be of the higher classes, by her own confidential maid, who will serve her as her personal attendant in the new life in her husband's house. The trousseau and household goods, which the bride is expected to bring with her, are sent before. The household goods required by custom as a part of the outfit of every bride are as follows: A bureau; a low desk or table for writing; a work-box; two of the lacquer trays or tables on which meals are served, together with everything required for furnishing them, even to the chopsticks; and two or more complete sets of handsome bed furnishings. The trousseau will contain, if the bride be of a well-to-do family, dresses for all seasons, and handsome sashes without number; for the unchanging fashions of Japan, together with the durable quality of the dress material, make it possible for a woman, at the time of her marriage, to enter her husband's house with a supply of clothing that may last her through her lifetime. The parents of the bride, in giving up their daughter, as they do when she marries, show the estimation in which they have held her by the beauty and completeness of the trousseau with which they provide her. This is her very own; and in the event of a divorce, she brings back with her to her father's house the clothing and household goods that she carried away as a bride.
With the bride and her trousseau are sent a great number of presents from the family of the bride to the members of the groom's household. Each member of the family, from the aged grandfather to the youngest grandchild, receives some remembrance of the occasion; and even the servants and retainers, down to the jinrikisha men, and the bettō in the stables, are not forgotten by the bride's relatives. Beside this present-giving, the friends and relatives of the bride and groom, as in this country, send gifts to the young couple, often some article for use in the household, or crêpe or silk for dresses.
In old times, the wedding took place in the afternoon, but it is now usually celebrated in the evening. The ceremony consists merely in a formal drinking of the native wine (saké) from a two-spouted cup, which is presented to the mouths of the bride and groom alternately. This drinking from one cup is a symbol of the equal sharing of the joys and sorrows of married life. At the ceremony no one is present but the bride and bridegroom, their go-betweens, and a young girl, whose duty it is to present the cup to the lips of the contracting parties. When this is over, the wedding guests, who have been assembled in the next room during the ceremony, join the wedding party, a grand feast is spread, and much merriment ensues.
On the third day after the wedding, the newly married couple are expected to make a visit to the bride's family, and for this great preparations are made. A large party is usually given by the bride's parents, either in the afternoon or evening, in honor of this occasion, to which the friends of the bride's family are invited. The young couple bring with them presents from the groom's family to the bride's, in return for the presents sent on the wedding day.
The festivities often begin early in the afternoon and keep up until late at night. A fine dinner is served, and music and dancing, by professional performers, or some other entertainment, serve to make the time pass pleasantly. The bride appears as hostess with her mother, entertaining the company, and receiving their congratulations, and must remain to speed the last departing guest, before leaving the paternal roof.
Within the course of two or three months, the newly married couple are expected to give an entertainment, or series of entertainments, to their friends, as an announcement of the marriage. As the wedding ceremony is private, and no notice is given, nor are cards sent out, this is sometimes the first intimation that is received of the marriage by many of the acquaintances, though the news of a wedding usually travels quickly. The entertainment may be a dinner party, given at home, or at some tea-house, similar in many ways to the one given at the bride's home by her parents. Sometimes it is a garden party, and very lately it has become the fashion for officials and people of high rank to give a ball in foreign style.
Besides the entertainment, presents of red rice, or mochi, are sent as a token of thanks to all who have remembered the young couple. These are arranged even more elaborately than the ones sent after the birth of an heir.
The young people are not, as in this country, expected to set up housekeeping by themselves, and establish a new home. Marriages often take place early in life, even before the husband has any means of supporting a family; and as a matter of course, a son with his wife makes his abode with his parents, and forms simply a new branch of the household.
The only act required to make the marriage legal is the withdrawal of the bride's name from the list of her father's family as registered by the government, and its entry upon the register of her husband's family. From that time forward she severs all ties with her father's house, save those of affection, and is more closely related by law and custom to her husband's relatives than to her own. Even this legal recognition of her marriage is a comparatively new thing in Japan, as is any limitation of the right of divorce on the part of the husband, or extension of that right to the wife.
At present in Japan the marriage relation is by no means a permanent one, as it is virtually dissoluble at the will of either party, and the condition of public opinion is such among the lower classes that it is not an unknown occurrence for a man to marry and divorce several wives in succession; and for a woman, who has been divorced once or twice, to be willing and able to marry well a second or even a third time. Among the higher classes, the dread of the scandal and gossip, that must attach themselves to troubles between man and wife, serves as a restraint upon too free use of the power of divorce; but still, divorces among the higher classes are so common now that one meets numerous respectable and respected persons who have at some time in their lives gone through such an experience.
One provision of the law, which serves to make most mothers endure any evil of married life rather than sue for a divorce, is the fact that the children belong to the father; and no matter how unfit a person he may be to have the care of them, the disposal of them in case of a divorce rests absolutely with him. A divorced woman returns childless to her father's house; and many women, in consequence of this law or custom, will do their best to keep the family together, working the more strenuously in this direction, the more brutal and worthless the husband proves himself to be.
The ancestor worship, as found in Japan, the tracing of relationship in the male line only, and the generally accepted belief that children inherit their qualities from their father rather than from the mother, make them his children and not hers. Thus we often see children of noble rank on the father's side, but ignoble on the mother's, inherit the rank of their father, and not permitted even to recognize their mother as in any way their equal. If she is plebeian, the children are not regarded as tainted by it.
In the case of divorce, even if the law allowed the mother to keep her children, it would be almost an impossibility for her to do so. She has no means of earning her bread and theirs, for few occupations are open to women, and she is forced to become a dependent on her father, or some male relative. Whatever they may be willing to do for her, it is quite likely that they would begrudge aid to the children of another family, with whom custom hardly recognizes any tie. The children are the children of the man whose name they bear. If the woman is a favorite daughter, it may happen that her father will take her and her children under his roof, and support them all; but this is a rare exception, and only possible when the husband first gives up all claim to the children.
There comes to my mind now a case illustrating this point, which I think I may cite without betraying confidence. It is that of a most attractive young woman who was married to a worthless husband, but lived faithfully with him for several years, and became the mother of three children. The husband, who seemed at first merely good-for-nothing, became worse as the years went by, drank himself out of situation after situation procured for him by powerful relatives, and at last became so violent that he even beat his wife and threatened his children, a proceeding most unusual on the part of a Japanese husband and father. The poor wife was at last obliged to flee from her husband's house to her mother's, taking her children with her. She sued for a divorce and obtained it, and is now married again; her youth, good looks, and high connections procuring her a very good catch for her second venture in matrimony; but her children are lost to her, and belong wholly to their worthless, drunken father.
Of the lack of permanence in the marriage relation among the lower classes, the domestic changes of one of my servants in Tōkyō afford an amusing illustration. The man, whom I had hired in the double capacity of jinrikisha man and bettō or groom, was a strong, faithful, pleasant-faced fellow, recently come to Tōkyō from the country. I inquired, when I engaged him, whether he had a wife, as I wanted some one who could remain in his room in the stable in care of the horse when he was pulling me about in the jinrikisha. He replied that he had a wife, but she was now at Utsunomiya, the country town from which he had come, but he would send for her at once, and she would be in Tōkyō in the course of a week or two. Two or three weeks passed and no wife appeared, so I inquired of my cook and head servant what had become of Yasaku's wife. He replied, with a twinkle in his eye, that she had found work in Utsunomiya and did not wish to come. A week more passed, and still no wife, and further inquiries elicited from the cook the information that Yasaku had divorced her for disobedience, and was on the lookout for a new and more docile helpmate. His first thought was of the maidservant of the Japanese family who lived in the same house with me, a broad-faced, red-cheeked country girl, of a very low grade of intelligence. He gave this up, however, because he thought it would not be polite to put my friends to inconvenience by taking away their servant. His next effort was by negotiation through a Tōkyō friend; but apparently Yasaku's country manners were not to the taste of the Tōkyō damsels, for he met with no success, and was at last driven to write to his father in Utsunomiya asking him to select him a wife and bring her down to Tōkyō.
The selection took a week or two, and at last my maid told me that Yasaku's wife was coming by the next morning's train. A look into the bettō's quarters in the stable showed great preparations for the bride. The mats, new-covered with nice straw matting, were white and clean; the shoji were mended with new paper; the walls covered with bright-colored pictures; and various new domestic conveniences had nearly bankrupted Yasaku, in spite of his large salary of ten dollars a month. He had ordered a fine feast at a neighboring tea house, had had cards printed with his own name in English and Japanese, and had altogether been to such great expense that he had had to put his winter clothes in pawn to secure the necessary money.
The day chosen for the marriage was rainy, and, though Yasaku spent all his time in going to trains, no bridal party appeared; and he came home at night disconsolate, to smoke his good-night pipe over his solitary hibachi. He was, no doubt, angry as well as disconsolate, for he sat down and penned a severe letter to his father, in which he said that, if the bride did not appear on the next day counted lucky for a wedding (no Japanese would be married on an unlucky day), they could send her back to her father's house, for he would none of her. This letter did its work, for on the next lucky day, about ten days later, the bride appeared, and Yasaku was given two days of holiday on the agreement that he should not be married again while he remained in my service. On the evening of the second day, the bride came in to pay me her respects, and, crouching on her hands and knees before me, literally trembled under the excitement of her first introduction to a foreigner. She was a girl of rather unattractive exterior, fat and heavy, and rather older than Yasaku had bargained for, I imagine; at any rate, from the first, he seemed dissatisfied with his "pig in a poke," and after a couple of months sent her home to her parents, and was all ready to start out again in the hope of better luck next time.
Here is another instance, from the woman's side. Upon one occasion, when I was visiting a Japanese lady of high rank who kept a retinue of servants, the woman who came in with the tea bowed and smiled upon me as if greeting me after a long absence. As I was in and out of the house nearly every day, I was a little surprised at this demonstration, which was quite different from the formal bow that is given by the servant to her mistress's guest upon ordinary occasions. When she went out my friend said, "You see O Kiku has come back." As I did not know that the woman had been away, the news of her return did not affect me greatly until I learned the history of her departure. It seemed that about a month before, she had left her mistress's house to be married; and the day before my visit she had quietly presented herself, and announced that she had come back, if they would take her in. My friend had asked her what had happened,—whether she had found her husband unkind. No, her husband was very nice, very kind and good, but his mother was simply unbearable; she made her work so hard that she actually had no time to rest at all. She had known before her marriage that her proposed mother-in-law was a hard task-mistress, but her husband had promised that his mother should live with his older brother, and they should have their housekeeping quite independent and separate. As the mother was then living with her older son, it seemed unlikely that she would care to move, and O Kiku San had married on that supposition. But it seemed that the wife of the older brother was both lazy and bad-tempered, and the new wife of the younger brother soon proved herself industrious and good-natured. As the mother's main thought was to go where she would get the most comfort and waiting upon, she moved from the elder son's house to that of her younger son, and began leading her new daughter-in-law such a life that she soon gave up the effort to live with her husband, sued for a divorce, obtained it, and was back in her old place, all in a month's time from the date of her marriage.
But our readers must not suppose, from the various incidents given, that few happy marriages take place in Japan, or that, in every rank of life, divorce is of every-day occurrence. On the contrary, there seems cause for wonder, not that there are so many divorces, but that there are so many happy marriages, with wives and husbands devoted and faithful. For a nobleman in the olden times to divorce his wife would have caused such a scandal and talk that it rarely occurred. If the wife were disliked, he need have little or nothing to do with her, their rooms, their meals, and their attendance being entirely separate, but he rarely took away from her the name of wife, empty as it might be. She usually would be from some other noble house, and great trouble would arise between the families if he attempted to divorce her. The samurai also, with the same loyalty which they displayed for their lords, were loyal to their wives, and many a novel has been written, or play acted, showing the devotion of husband and wife. The quiet, undemonstrative love, though very different from the ravings of a lover in the nineteenth century novel, is perhaps truer to life.
Among the merchants and lower classes there has been, and is, a much lower standard of morality, but the few years which have passed since the Revolution of 1868 are not a fair sample of what Japan has been. Noblemen, samurai, and merchants have had much to undergo in the great changes, and, as is the case in all such transition periods, old customs and restraints, and old standards of morality, have been broken down and have not been replaced. There is no doubt that men have run to excesses of all sorts, and divorces have been much more frequent of late years.
Our little Japanese maiden knows, when she blackens her teeth, dons her wedding dress, and starts on her bridal journey to her husband's house, that upon her good behavior alone depend her chances of a happy life. She is to be henceforth the property of a man of whom she probably knows little, and who has the power, at any whim, to send her back to her father's house in disgrace, deprived of her children, with nothing to live for or hope for, except that some man will overlook the disgrace of her divorce, and by marrying her give her the only opportunity that a Japanese woman can have of a home other than that of a servant or dependent. That these evils will be remedied in time, there seems little reason to doubt, but just now the various cooks who are engaged in brewing the broth of the new civilization are disagreed in regard to the condiments required for its proper flavoring. The conservatives wish to flavor strongly with the subjection and dependence of women, believing that only by that means can feminine virtue be preserved. The younger men, of foreign education, would drop into the boiling pot the flavor of culture and broader outlook; for by this means they hope to secure happier homes for all, and better mothers for their children. The missionaries and native Christians believe that, when the whole mixture is well impregnated with practical Christianity, the desired result will be achieved. All are agreed on this point, that a strong public opinion is necessary before improved legislation can produce much effect; and so, for the present, legislation remains in the background, until the time shall come when it can be used in the right way.
Let us examine the two remedies suggested by the reformers, and see what effect has been produced by each so far, and what may be expected of them in the future. Taking education first, what are the effects produced so far by educating women to a point above the old Japanese standard? In many happy homes to-day, we find husbands educated abroad, and knowing something of the home life of foreign lands, who have sought out wives of broad intellectual culture, and who make them friends and confidants, not simply housekeepers and head-servants. In such homes the wife has freedom, not such as is enjoyed by American women, perhaps, but equal to that of most European women. In such homes love and equality rule, and the power of the mother-in-law grows weak. To her is paid due respect, but she seldom has the despotic control which often makes the beginning of married life hard to the Japanese wife. These homes are sending out healthy influences that are daily having their effect, and raising the position of women in Japan.
But for the young girl whose mind has been broadened by the new education, and who marries, as the majority of Japanese girls must, not in accordance with her own wishes, but in obedience to the will of her parents, a hard life is in store. A woman's education, under the old régime, was one that fitted her well for the position that she was to occupy. The higher courses of study only serve to make her kick against the pricks, and render herself miserable where she might before have been happy. With mind and character developed by education, she may be obliged to enter the home of her husband's family, to be perhaps one among many members under the same roof. In the training of her own children, in the care of her own health and theirs, her wishes and judgment must often yield to the prejudices of those above her, under whose authority she is, and it may not be until many years have passed that she will be in a position to influence in any measure the lives of those nearest and dearest to her. Then, too, her life must be passed entirely within the home, with no opportunities to meet or to mingle with the great world of which she has read and studied. Surely her lot is harder than that of the woman of the olden time, whose plain duty always lay in the path of implicit obedience to her superiors, and who never for one moment considered obedience to the dictates of her own reason and conscience as an obligation higher than deference to the wishes of husband and parents. Education, without further amelioration of their lot as wives and mothers, can but result in making the women discontented and unhappy,—in many cases injuring their health by worry over the constant petty disappointments and baffled desires of their lives.
This to superficial observers would seem a step backward rather than forward, and it is to this cause that the present reaction against female education may be traced. The first generation or two of educated women must endure much for the sake of those who come after, and by many this vicarious suffering is misunderstood, and distaste on the part of educated girls for marriage, as it now exists in Japan, is regarded as one of the sure signs that education is a failure. Without some change in the position of wife and mother, this feeling will grow into absolute repugnance, if women continue to be educated after the Western fashion.
The second remedy that is suggested is Christianity, a remedy which is even now at work. Wherever one finds in Japan a Christian home, there one finds the wife and mother occupying the position that she occupies all over Christendom. The Christian man, in choosing his wife, feels that it is not an ordinary contract, which may be dissolved at any time at the will of the contracting parties, but that it is a union for life. Consequently, in making his choice he is more careful, takes more time, and thinks more of the personal qualities of the woman he is about to marry. Thus the chances are better at the beginning for the establishment of a happy home, and such homes form centres of influence throughout the length and breadth of the land to-day. Christianity in the future will do much to mould public sentiment in the right way, and can be trusted as a force that is sure to grow in time to be a mighty power in the councils of the nation.
One more remedy might be suggested, as a preliminary to proper legislation, or a necessary accompaniment of it, and that is, the opening of new avenues of employment for women, and especially for women of the cultivated classes. To-day marriage, no matter how distasteful, is the only opening for a woman; for she can do nothing for her own support, and cannot require her father to support her after she has reached a marriageable age. As new ways of self-support present themselves, and a woman may look forward to making a single life tolerable by her own labor, the intelligent girls of the middle class will no longer accept marriage as inevitable, but will only marry when the suitor can offer a good home, kindness, affection, and security in the tenure of these blessings. So far, there is little employment for women, except as teachers; but even this change in the condition of things is forming a class, as yet small, but increasing yearly, of women who enjoy a life of independence, though accompanied by much hard work, more than the present life of a Japanese married woman. In this class we find some of the most intelligent and respected of the women of new Japan; and the growth of this class is one of the surest signs that the present state of the laws and customs concerning marriage and divorce is so unsatisfactory to the women that it must eventually be remedied, if the educated and intelligent of the men care to take for their wives, and for the mothers of their children, any but the less educated and less intelligent of the women of their own nation.
It is difficult for us in America, who live under customs and laws in which the individual is the social unit and the family a union of individuals, to understand a system of society in which the individual is little or nothing and the family the social unit recognized both by law and custom. In Japan, a man is simply a member of some family, and his daily affairs, his marrying and giving in marriage, are more or less under the control of the head of his family, or of the family council. Only in case he is the head of the family is he able to marry without securing some one's consent, and then his responsibilities in regard to the headship may in themselves hamper him. If this is the case with the more independent man, it may be imagined how completely the woman is submerged under family influence. She may, under exceptional circumstances, become the head of a family, but this is usually only a temporary expedient, and even then she must subordinate herself more completely to the family and its interests than when she occupies a lowlier place.
The headship of an unmarried woman lasts only until a husband has been selected for her, and the headship of a widow lasts during her guardianship of the rightful heir to the position. By Japanese law a widow is always the guardian of her minor children.
The only way in which individuality before the law can be obtained by man or woman in Japan is through cutting the tie that binds to the family, and starting out in life afresh as the head of a new family. This new family must always be héimin, or plebeian, no matter how high in rank may have been the family from which the founder has gone out, but there is a continually increasing number of young men and women who prefer the freedom that comes from the headship of a small and new family, even if of low rank, to the state of tutelage or of hampering responsibility which must accompany connection with a larger and older social group. It seems likely that through this means an evolution from the family to the individual system will be effected, as the nation grows more and more modernized in its way of looking at things.
For the Japanese woman, as I have already said, marriage is in most cases the entrance into a new family. She is cut off from the old ways and interests, in which she has until now had her part, and she has begun life anew as the latest addition to and therefore the lowest and most ignorant member of another social group. It is her duty simply to learn the ways and obey the will of those above her, and it is the duty of those above her, and especially of her husband's mother, to fit her by training and discipline for her new surroundings. The physical strength of the young wife, her sweetness of temper, her manners, her morals, her way of looking at life, are all put to the test by this sharp-eyed guardian of the family interests, and woe to the younger woman if she fail to come up to the standard set. She may be a good woman and a faithful wife, but if, under the training given her, she does not adapt herself readily to the traditions and customs of the family she enters, it is more than likely, even under the new laws, that she may be sent back to her father's house as persona non grata, and even her husband's love cannot save her. It is because of this predominance of the family over the individual that the young wife, when she enters her husband's home, is not, as in our own country, entering upon a new life as mistress of a house, with absolute control over all of her little domain.
The young wife, when she enters her husband's home, is not, as in our own country, entering upon a new life as mistress of a house, with absolute control over all of her little domain. Should her husband's parents be living, she becomes almost as their servant, and even her husband is unable to defend her from the exactions of her mother-in-law, should this new relative be inclined to make full use of the power given her by custom. Happy is the girl whose husband has no parents. Her comfort in life is materially increased by her husband's loss, for, instead of having to serve two masters, she will then have to serve only one, and that one more kind and thoughtful of her strength and comfort than the mother-in-law.
In Japan the idea of a wife's duty to her husband includes no thought of companionship on terms of equality. The wife is simply the housekeeper, the head of the establishment, to be honored by the servants because she is the one who is nearest to the master, but not for one moment to be regarded as the master's equal. She governs and directs the household, if it be a large one, and her position is one of much care and responsibility; but she is not the intimate friend of her husband, is in no sense his confidante or adviser, except in trivial affairs of the household. She appears rarely with him in public, is expected always to wait upon him and save him steps, and must bear all things from him with smiling face and agreeable manners, even to the receiving with open arms into the household some other woman, whom she knows to bear the relation of concubine to her own husband.
In return for this, she has, if she be of the higher classes, much respect and honor from those beneath her. She has, in many cases the real though often inconsiderate affection of her husband. If she be the mother of children, she is doubly honored, and if she be endowed with a good temper, good manners, and tact, she can render her position not only agreeable to herself, but one of great usefulness to those about her. It lies with her alone to make the home a pleasant one, or to make it unpleasant. Nothing is expected of the husband in this direction; he may do as he likes with his own, and no one will blame him; but if his home is not happy, even through his own folly or bad temper, the blame will fall upon his wife, who should by management do whatever is necessary to supply the deficiencies caused by her husband's shortcomings. In all things the husband goes first, the wife second. If the husband drops his fan or his handkerchief the wife picks it up. The husband is served first, the wife afterwards, and so on through the countless minutiæ of daily life. It is not the idea of the strong man considering the weak woman, saving her exertion, guarding and deferring to her; but it is the less important waiting upon the more important, the servant deferring to her master.
But though the present position of a Japanese wife is that of a dependent who owes all she has to her protector, and for whom she is bound to do all she can in return, the dependence is in many cases a happy one. The wife's position, especially if she be the mother of children, is often pleasant, and her chief joy and pride lies in the proper conduct of her house and the training of her children. The service of her parents-in-law, however, must remain her first duty during their lifetime. She must make it her care to see that they are waited upon and served with what they like at meals, that their clothes are carefully and nicely made, and that countless little attentions are heaped upon them. As long as her mother-in-law lives, the latter is the real ruler of the house; and though in many cases the elder lady prefers freedom from responsibility to the personal superintendence of the details of housekeeping, she will not hesitate to require of her daughter-in-law that the house be kept to her satisfaction. If the maiden's lot is to be the first daughter-in-law in a large family, she becomes simply the one of the family from whom the most drudgery is expected, who obtains the fewest favors, and who is expected to have always the pleasantest of tempers under circumstances not altogether conducive to repose of spirit. The wife of the oldest son has, however, the advantage that, when her mother-in-law dies or retires, she becomes the mistress of the house and the head lady of the family, a position for which her apprenticeship to the old lady has probably exceptionally well fitted her.
Next to her parents-in-law, her duty is to her husband. She must herself render to him the little services that a European expects of his valet. She must not only take care of his clothing, but must bring it to him and help him put it on, and must put away with care whatever he has taken off; and she often takes pride in doing with her own hands many acts of service which might be left to servants, and which are not actually demanded of her, unless she has no one under her to do them. In the poorer families all the washing, sewing, and mending that is required is always done by the wife; and even the Empress herself is not exempt from these duties of personal service, but must wait upon her husband in various ways.
When the earliest beams of the sun shine in at the cracks of the dark wooden shutters which surround the house at night, the young wife in the family softly arises, puts out the feeble light of the andon, which has burned all night, and, quietly opening one of the sliding doors, admits enough light to make her own toilet. She dresses hastily, only putting a few touches here and there to her elaborate coiffure, which she has not taken down for her night's rest. Next she goes to arouse the servants, if they are not already up, and with them prepares the modest breakfast. When the little lacquer tables, with rice bowls, plates, and chopsticks are arranged in place, she goes softly to see whether her parents and husband are awake, and if they have hot water, charcoal fire, and whatever else they may need for their toilet. Then with her own hands, or with the help of the servants, she slides back the wooden shutters, opening the whole house to the fresh morning air and sunlight. It is she, also, who directs the washing and wiping of the polished floors, and the folding and putting away of the bedding, so that all is in readiness before the morning meal.
When breakfast is over, the husband starts for his place of business, and the little wife is in waiting to send him off with her sweetest smile and her lowest bow, after having seen that his foot-gear—whether sandal, clog, or shoe—is at the door ready for him to put on, his umbrella, book, or bundle at hand, and his kuruma waiting for him.
Certainly a Japanese man is lucky in having all the little things in his life attended to by his thoughtful wife,—a good, considerate, careful body-servant, always on hand to bear for him the trifling worries and cares. There is no wonder that there are no bachelors in Japan. To some degree, I am sure, the men appreciate these attentions; for they often become much in love with their sweet, helpful wives, though they do not share with them the greater things of life, the ambitions and the hopes of men.
The husband started on his daily rounds, the wife settles down to the work of the house. Her sphere is within her home, and though, unlike other Asiatic women, she goes without restraint alone through the streets, she does not concern herself with the great world, nor is she occupied with such a round of social duties as fill the lives of society women in this country. Yet she is not barred out from all intercourse with the outer world, for there are sometimes great dinner parties, given perhaps at home, when she must appear as hostess, side by side with her husband, and share with him the duty of entertaining the guests. There are, besides, smaller gatherings of friends of her husband, when she must see that the proper refreshments are served, if they be only the omnipresent tea and cake. She may, perhaps, join in the number and listen to the conversation; but if there are no ladies, she will probably not appear, except to attend to the wants of her guests. There are also lady visitors—friends and relatives—who come to make calls, oftentimes from a distance, and nearly always unexpectedly, whose entertainment devolves on the wife. Owing to the great distances in many of the cities, and the difficulties that used to attend going from place to place, it has become a custom not to make frequent visits, but long ones at long intervals. A guest often stays several hours, remaining to lunch or dinner, as the case may be, and, should the distance be great, may spend the night. So rigid are the requirements of Japanese hospitality that no guest is ever allowed to leave a house without having been pressed to partake of food, if it be only tea and cake. Even tradesmen or messengers who come to the house must be offered tea, and if carpenters, gardeners, or workmen of any kind are employed about the house, tea must be served in the middle of the afternoon with a light lunch, and tea sent out to them often during their day's work. If a guest arrives in jinrikisha, not only the guest, but the jinrikisha men must be supplied with refreshments. All these things involve much thought and care on the part of the lady of the house.
In the homes of rich and influential men of wide acquaintance, there is a great deal going on to make a pleasant variety for the ladies of the household, even although the variety involves extra work and responsibility. The mistress of such a household sees and hears a great deal of life; and her position requires no little wisdom and tact, even where the housewife has the assistance of good servants, capable, as many are, of sharing not only the work, but the responsibility as well. Clever wives in such homes see and learn much, in an indirect way, of the outside world in which the men live; and may become, if they possess the natural capabilities for the work, wise advisers and sympathizers with their husbands in many things far beyond their ordinary field of action. An intelligent woman, with a strong will, has often been, unseen and unknown, a mighty influence in Japan. That her power for good or bad, outside of her influence as wife and mother, is a recognized fact, is seen in the circumstance that in novels and plays women are frequently brought in as factors in political plots and organized rebellions, as well as in acts of private revenge.
Still the life of the average woman is a quiet one, with little to interrupt the monotony of her days with their never-ending round of duties; and to the most secluded homes only an occasional guest comes to enliven the dull hours. The principal occupation of the wife, outside of her housekeeping and the little duties of personal service to husband and parents, is needle-work. Every Japanese woman (excepting those of the highest rank) knows how to sew, and makes not only her own garments and those of her children, but her husband's as well. Sewing is one of the essentials in the education of a Japanese girl, and from childhood the cutting and putting together of crêpe, silk, and cotton is a familiar occupation to her. Though Japanese garments seem very simple, custom requires that each stitch and seam be placed in just such a way; and this way is something of a task to learn. To the uninitiated foreigner, the general effect of the loosely worn kimono is the same, whether the garment be well or ill made; but the skillful seamstress can easily discover that this seam is not turned just as it should be, or that those stitches are too long or too short, or carelessly or unevenly set.
Fancy work or embroidery is not done in the house, the gorgeous embroidered Japanese robes being the product of professional workmen. Instead of the endless fancy work with silks, crewels, or worsteds, over which so many American ladies spend their leisure hours, many of the Japanese ladies, even of the highest rank, devote much time to the cultivation of the silkworm. In country homes, and in the great cities as well, wherever spacious grounds afford room for the growth of mulberry trees, silkworms are raised and watched with care; an employment giving much pleasure to those engaged in it.
It is difficult for any one who has not experimented in this direction to realize how tender these little spinners are. If a strong breeze blow upon them, they are likely to suffer for it, and the least change in the atmosphere must be guarded against. For forty days they must be carefully watched, and the great, shallow, bamboo basket trays containing them changed almost daily. New leaves for their food must be given frequently, and as the least dampness might be fatal, each leaf, in case of rainy weather, is carefully wiped. Then, too, the different ages of the worms must be considered in preparing their food; as, for the young worms, the leaves should be cut up, while for the older ones it is better to serve them whole. When, finally, the buzzing noise of the crunching leaves has ceased, and the last worm has put himself to sleep in his precious white cocoon, the work of the ladies is ended; for the cocoons are sent to women especially skilled in the work, by them to be spun off, and the thread afterwards woven into the desired fabric. When at last the silk, woven and dyed, is returned to the ladies by whose care the worms were nourished until their work was done, it is shown with great pride as the product of the year's labor, and if given as a present will be highly prized by the recipient.
Among the daily tasks of the housewife, one, and by no means the least of her duties, is to receive, duly acknowledge, and return in suitable manner, the presents received in the family. Presents are not confined to special seasons, although upon certain occasions etiquette is rigid in its requirements in this matter, but they may be given and received at all times, for the Japanese are preëminently a present-giving nation. For every present received, sooner or later, a proper return must be sent, appropriate to the season and to the rank of the receiver, and neatly arranged in the manner that etiquette prescribes. Presents are not necessarily elaborate; callers bring fruit of the season, cake, or any delicacy, and a visit to a sick person must be accompanied by something appropriate. Children visiting in the family are always given toys, and for this purpose a stock is kept on hand. The present-giving culminates at the close of the year, when all friends and acquaintances exchange gifts of more or less value, according to their feelings and means. Should there be any one who has been especially kind, and to whom return should be made, this is the time to do so.
Tradesmen send presents to their patrons, scholars to teachers, patients to their physicians, and, in short, it is the time when all obligations and debts are paid off, in one way or another. On the seventh day of the seventh month, there is another general interchange of presents, although not so universal as at the New Year. It can easily be imagined that all this present-giving entails much care, especially in families of influence; and it must be attended to personally by the wife, who, in the secret recesses of her storeroom, skillfully manages to rearrange the gifts received, so that those not needed in the house may be sent, not back to their givers, but to some place where a present is due. The passing-on of the presents is an economy not of course acknowledged, but frequently practiced even in the best families, as it saves much of the otherwise ruinous expense of this custom.
As time passes by, occasional visits are paid by the young wife to her own parents or to other relatives. At stated times, too, she, and others of the family, will visit the tombs of her husband's ancestors, or of her own parents, if they are no longer living, to make offerings and prayers at the graves, to place fresh branches of the sakaki before the tombs, and to see that the priests in charge of the cemetery have attended to all the little things which the Japanese believe to be required by the spirits of the dead. Even these visits are often looked forward to as enlivening the monotony of the humdrum home life. Sometimes all the members of the family go together on a pleasure excursion, spending the day out of doors, in beautiful gardens, when some one of the much-loved flowers of the nation is in its glory; and the little wife may join in this pleasure with the rest, but more often she is the one who remains at home to keep the house in the absence of others. The theatre, too, a source of great amusement to Japanese ladies, is often a pleasure reserved for a time later in life.
The Japanese mother takes great delight and comfort in her children, and her constant thought and care is the right direction of their habits and manners. She seems to govern them entirely by gentle admonition, and the severest chiding that is given them is always in a pleasant voice, and accompanied by a smiling face. No matter how many servants there may be, the mother's influence is always direct and personal. No thick walls and long passageways separate the nursery from the grown people's apartments, but the thin paper partitions make it possible for the mother to know always what her children are doing, and whether they are good and gentle with their nurses, or irritable and passionate. The children never leave the house, nor return to it, without going to their mother's room, and there making the little bows and repeating the customary phrases used upon such occasions. In the same way, when the mother goes out, all the servants and the children escort her to the door; and when her attendant shouts "O kaeri," which is the signal of her return, children and servants hasten to the gate to greet her, and do what they can to help her from her conveyance and make her home-coming pleasant and restful.
The father has little to do with the training of his children, which is left almost entirely to the mother, and, except for the interference of the mother-in-law, she has her own way in their training, until they are long past childhood. The children are taught to look to the father as the head, and to respect and obey him as the one to whom all must defer; but the mother comes next, almost as high in their estimation, and, if not so much feared and respected, certainly enjoys a larger share of their love.
The Japanese mother's life is one of perfect devotion to her children; she is their willing slave. Her days are spent in caring for them, her evenings in watching over them; and she spares neither time nor trouble in doing anything for their comfort and pleasure. In sickness, in health, day and night, the little ones are her one thought; and from the home of the noble to the humble cot of the peasant, this tender mother-love may be seen in all its different phases. The Japanese woman has so few on whom to lavish her affection, so little to live for beside her children, and no hopes in the future except through them, that it is no wonder that she devotes her life to their care and service, deeming the drudgery that custom requires of her for them the easiest of all her duties. Even with plenty of servants, the mother performs for her children nearly all the duties often delegated to nurses in this country. Mother and babe are rarely separated, night or day, during the first few years of the baby's life, and the mother denies herself any entertainment or journey from home when the baby cannot accompany her. To give the husband any share in the baby-work would be an unheard-of thing, and a disgrace to the wife; for in public and in private the baby is the mother's sole charge, and the husband is never asked to sit up all night with a sick baby, or to mind it in any way at all. Nothing in all one's study of Japanese life seems more beautiful and admirable than the influence of the mother over her children,—an influence that is gentle and all-pervading, bringing out all that is sweetest and noblest in the feminine character, and affording the one almost unlimited opportunity of a Japanese woman's life. The lot of a childless wife in Japan is a sad one. Not only is she denied the hopes and the pleasures of a mother in her children, but she is an object of pity to her friends, and well does she know that Confucius has laid down the law that a man is justified in divorcing a childless wife. All feel that through her, innocent though she is, the line has ceased; that her duty is unfulfilled; and that, though the name be given to adopted sons, there is no heir of the blood. A man rarely sends away his wife solely with this excuse, but children are the strongest of the ties which bind together husband and wife, and the childless wife is far less sure of pleasing her husband. In many cases she tries to make good her deficiencies by her care of adopted children; in them she often finds the love which fills the void in her heart and home, and she receives from them in after-life the respect and care which is the crown of old age.
We have hitherto spoken of married life when the wife is received into her husband's home. Another interesting side of Japanese marriage is when a man enters the wife's family, taking her name and becoming entirely one of her family, as usually the wife becomes of the husband's. When there are daughters but no sons in a family to inherit the name, one of three things may happen: a son may be adopted early in life and grow up as heir; or he may be adopted with the idea of marrying one of the daughters; or, again, no one may have been formally adopted, but on the eldest daughter's coming to a marriageable age, her family and friends seek for her a yōshi, that is to say, some man (usually a younger son) who is willing and able to give up his family name, and, by marrying the daughter, become a member of her family and heir to the name. He cuts off all ties from his own family, and becomes a member of hers, and the young couple are expected to live with her parents. In this case the tables are turned, and it is he who has to dread the mother-in-law; it is his turn to have to please his new relatives and to do all he can to be agreeable. He, too, may be sent away and divorced by the all-powerful parents, if he does not please; and such divorces are not uncommon. Of course, in such marriages, the woman has the greater power, and the man has to remember what he owes her; and though the woman yields to him obediently in all respects, it is an obedience not demanded by the husband, as under other circumstances. In such marriages the children belong to the family whose name they bear, so that in case of divorce they remain in the wife's family, unless some special arrangement is made about them.
It may be wondered why young men ever care to enter a family as yōshi. There is only one answer,—it is the attraction of wealth and rank, very rarely that of the daughter herself. In the houses of rich daimiōs without sons, yōshi are very common, and there are many younger sons of the nobility, themselves of high birth, but without prospects, who are glad enough to become great lords. In feudal times, the number of samurai families was limited. Several sons of one family could not establish different samurai families, but all but the eldest son, if they formed separate houses, must enroll themselves among the ranks of the common people. Hence the younger sons were often adopted into other samurai families as yōshi, where it was desired to secure a succession to a name that must otherwise die out. Since the Restoration, and the breaking down of the old class distinctions, young men care more for independence than for their rank as samurai; and it is now quite difficult to find yōshi to enter samurai families, unless it be because of the attractiveness and beauty of the young lady herself. Many a young girl who could easily make a good marriage with some suitable husband, could she enter his family, is now obliged to take some inferior man as yōshi, because few men in these days are willing to change their names, give up their independence, and take upon themselves the support of aged parents-in-law; for this also is expected of the yōshi, unless the family that he enters is a wealthy one.
From this custom of yōshi, and its effect upon the wife's position, we see that, in certain cases, Japanese women are treated as equal with men. It is not because of their sex that they are looked down upon and held in subjection, but it is because of their almost universal dependence of position. The men have the right of inheritance, the education, habits of self-reliance, and are the bread-winners. Wherever the tables are turned, and the men are dependents of the women, and even where the women are independent of the men,—there we find the relations of men to women vastly changed. The women of Japan must know how to do some definite work in the world beyond the work of the home, so that their position will not be one of entire dependence upon father, husband, or son. If fathers divided their estates between sons and daughters alike, and women were given, before the law, right to hold property in their own names, much would be accomplished towards securing them in their positions as wives and mothers; and divorce, the great evil of Japanese home life to-day, would become simply a last resort to preserve the purity of the home, as it is in most civilized countries now.
The difference between the women of the lower and those of the higher classes, in the matter of equality with their husbands, is quite noticeable. The wife of the peasant or merchant is much nearer to her husband's level than is the wife of the Emperor. Apparently, each step in the social scale is a little higher for the man than it is for the woman, and lifts him a little farther above his wife. The peasant and his wife work side by side in the field, put their shoulders to the same wheel, eat together in the same room, at the same time, and whichever of them happens to be the stronger in character governs the house, without regard to sex. There is no great gulf fixed between them, and there is frequently a consideration for the wife shown by husbands of the lower class, that is not unlike what we see in our own country. I remember the case of a jinrikisha man employed by a friend of mine in Tōkyō, who was much laughed at by his friends because he actually used to spend some of his leisure moments in drawing the water required for his household from a well some distance away, and carrying the heavy buckets to the house, in order to save the strength of his little, delicate wife. That cases of such devotion are rare is no doubt true, but that they occur shows that there is here and there a recognition of the claims that feminine weakness has upon masculine strength.
A frequent sight in the morning, in Tōkyō, is a cart heavily laden with wood, charcoal, or some other country produce, creaking slowly along the streets, propelled by a farmer and his family. Sometimes one will see an old man, his son, and his son's wife with a baby on her back, all pushing or pulling with might and main; the woman with tucked-up skirts and tight-fitting blue trousers, a blue towel enveloping her head,—only to be distinguished from the men by her smaller size and the baby tied to her back. But when evening comes, and the load of produce has been disposed of, the woman and baby are seen seated upon the cart, while the two men pull it back to their home in some neighboring village. Here, again, is the recognition of the law that governs the position of woman in this country,—the theory, not of inferior position, but of inferior strength; and the sight of the women riding back in the empty carts at night, drawn by their husbands, is the thing that strikes a student of Japanese domestic life as nearest to the customs of our own civilization in regard to the relations of husbands and wives.
Throughout the country districts, where the women have a large share in the labor that is directly productive of wealth, where they not only work in the rice fields, pick the tea crops, gather the harvests, and help draw them to market, but where they have their own productive industries, such as caring for the silkworms, and spinning, and weaving both silk and cotton, we find the conventional distance between the sexes much diminished by the important character of feminine labor; but in the cities, and among the classes who are largely either indirect producers or non-producers, the only labor of the women is that personal service which we account as menial. It is for this reason, perhaps, that the gap widens as we go upward in society, and between the same social levels as we go cityward.
The wife of the countryman, though she may work harder and grow old earlier, is more free and independent than her city sister; and the wife of the peasant, pushing her produce to market, is in some ways happier and more considered than the wife of the noble, who must spend her life among her ladies-in-waiting, in the seclusion of her great house with its beautiful garden, the plaything of her husband in his leisure hours, but never his equal, or the sharer of his cares or of his thoughts.
One of the causes which must be mentioned as contributing to the lowering of the wife's position, among the higher and more wealthy classes, lies in the system of concubinage which custom allows, and the law until quite recently has not discouraged. From the Emperor, who was, by the old Chinese code of morals, allowed twelve supplementary wives, to the samurai, who are permitted two, the men of the higher classes are allowed to introduce into their families these mékaké, who, while beneath the wife in position, are frequently more beloved by the husband than the wife herself. It must be said, however, to the credit of many husbands, that in spite of this privilege, which custom allows, there are many men of the old school who are faithful to one wife, and never introduce this discordant element into the household. Even should he keep mékaké, it is often unknown to the wife, and she is placed in a separate establishment of her own. And in spite of the code of morals requiring submission in any case on the part of the woman, there are many wives of the samurai and lower classes who have enough spirit and wit to prevent their husbands from ever introducing a rival under the same roof. In this way the practice is made better than the theory.
Not so with the more helpless wife of the nobleman, for wealth and leisure make temptation greater for the husband. She submits unquestioningly to the custom requiring that the wife treat these women with all civility. Their children she may even have to adopt as her own. The lot of the mékaké herself is rendered the less endurable, from the American point of view, by the fact that, should the father of her child decide to make it his heir, the mother is thenceforth no more to it than any other of the servants of the household. For instance, suppose a hitherto childless noble is presented with a son by one of his concubines, and he decides by legal adoption to make that son his heir: the child at its birth, or as soon afterwards as is practicable, is taken from its mother and placed in other hands, and the mother never sees her own child until, on the thirtieth day after its birth, she goes with the other servants of the household to pay her respects to her young master. If it were not for the habit of abject obedience to parents which Japanese custom has exalted into the one feminine virtue, few women could be found of respectable families who would take a position so devoid of either honor or satisfaction of any kind as that of mékaké. That these positions are not sought after must be said, to the honor of Japanese womanhood. A nobleman may obtain samurai women for his "O mékaké" (literally, honorable concubines), but they are never respected by their own class for taking such positions. In the same way the mékaké of samurai are usually from the héimin. No woman who has any chance of a better lot will ever take the unenviable position of mékaké.
A law which has recently been promulgated strikes at the root of this evil, and, if enforced, will in course of time go far toward extirpating it. Henceforth in Japan, no child of a concubine, or of adoption from any source, can inherit a noble title. The heir to the throne must hereafter be the son, not only of the Emperor, but of the Empress, or the succession passes to some collateral branch of the family. This law does not apply to Prince Haru, the present heir to the throne, as, although he is not the son of the Empress, he was legally adopted before the promulgation of the law; but should he die, it will apply to all future heirs.
That public opinion is moving in the right direction is shown by the fact that the young men of the higher classes do not care to marry the daughters of mékaké, be they ever so legally adopted by their own fathers. When the girls born of such unions become a drug in the matrimonial market, and the boys are unable to keep up the succession, the mékaké will go out of fashion, and the real wife will once more assume her proper importance.
Upon the 11th day of February, 1889, the day on which the Emperor, by his own act in giving a constitution to the people, limited his own power for the sake of putting his nation upon a level with the most civilized nations of the earth, he at the same time, and for the first time, publicly placed his wife upon his own level. In an imperial progress made through the streets of Tōkyō, the Emperor and Empress, for the first time in the history of Japan, rode together in the imperial coach. Until then, the Emperor, attended by his chief gentlemen-in-waiting and his guards, had always headed the procession, while the Empress must follow at a distance with her own attendants. That this act on the part of the Emperor signifies the beginning of a new and better era for the women of Japan, we cannot but hope; for until the position of the wife and mother in Japan is improved and made secure, little permanence can be expected in the progress of the nation toward what is best and highest in the Western civilization. Better laws, broader education for the women, a change in public opinion on the subject, caused by the study, by the men educated abroad, of the homes of Europe and America,—these are the forces which alone can bring the women of Japan up to that place in the home which their intellectual and moral qualities fit them to fill. That Japan is infinitely ahead of other Oriental countries in her practices in this matter is greatly to her credit; but that she is far behind the civilized nations of Europe and America, not only in practice but in theory, is a fact that is incontestable, and a fact that, unless changed, must sooner or later be a stumbling-block in the path of her progress toward the highest civilization of which she is capable. The European practice cannot be grafted upon the Asiatic theory, but the change in the home must be a radical one, to secure permanent good results. As long as the wife has no rights which the husband is bound to respect, no great advance can be made, for human nature is too mean and selfish to give in all cases to those who are entirely unprotected by law, and entirely unable to protect themselves, those things which the moral nature declares to be their due. In the old slave times in the South, many of the negroes were better fed, better cared for, and happier than they are to-day; but they were nevertheless at the mercy of men who too often thought only of themselves, and not of the human bodies and souls over which they had unlimited power. It was a condition of things that could not be prevented by educating the masters so as to induce them to be kind to their slaves; it was a condition that was wrong in theory, and so could not be righted in practice. In the same way the position of the Japanese wife is wrong in theory, and can never be righted until legislation has given to her rights which it still denies. Education will but aggravate the trouble to a point beyond endurance. The giving to the wife power to obtain a divorce will not help much, but simply tend to weaken still further the marriage tie. Nothing can help surely and permanently but the growth of a sound public opinion, in regard to the position of the wife, that will, sooner or later, have its effect upon the laws of the country. Legislation once effected, all the rest will come, and the wife, secure in her home and her children, will be at the point where her new education can be of use to her in the administration of her domestic affairs and the training of her children; and where she will finally become the friend and companion of her husband, instead of his mere waitress, seamstress, and housekeeper,—the plaything of his leisure moments, too often the victim of his caprices.
No Japanese woman is ashamed to show that she is getting along in years, but all take pains that every detail of the dress and coiffure shall show the full age of the wearer. The baby girl is dressed in the brightest of colors and the largest of patterns, and looks like a gay butterfly or tropical bird. As she grows older, colors become quieter, figures smaller, stripes narrower, until in old age she becomes a little gray moth or plain-colored sparrow. By the sophisticated eye, a woman's age can be told with considerable accuracy by the various little things about her costume, and no woman cares to appear younger than her real age, or hesitates to tell with entire frankness the number of years that have passed over her head.
The reason for this lies, at least in part, in the fact that every woman looks forward to the period of old age as the time when she will attain freedom from her life-long service to those about her,—will be in the position of adviser of her sons, and director of her daughters-in-law; will be a person of much consideration in the family, privileged to amuse herself in various ways, to speak her own mind on most subjects, and to be waited upon and cared for by children and grandchildren, in return for her long years of faithful service in the household. Should her sight and other bodily powers remain good, she will doubtless perform many light tasks for the general good, will seldom sit idle by herself, but will help about the sewing and mending, the marketing, shopping, housework, and care of the babies, tell stories to her grandchildren after their lessons are learned, give the benefit of her years of experience to the young people who are still bearing the heat and burden of the day, and, by her prayers and visits to the temple at stated seasons, will secure the favor of the gods for the whole family, as well as make her own preparations for entry into the great unknown toward which she is rapidly drifting. Is there wonder that the young wife, steering her course with difficulty among the many shoals and whirlpools of early married life, looks forward with anticipation to the period of comparative rest and security that comes at the end of the voyage? As she bears all things, endures all things, suffers long, and is kind, as she serves her mother-in-law, manages her husband's household, cares for her babies, the thought that cheers and encourages her in her busy and not too happy life is the thought of the sunny calm of old age, when she can lay her burdens and cares on younger shoulders, and bask in the warmth and sunshine which this Indian Summer of her life will bring to her.
In the code of morals of the Japanese, obedience to father, husband, or son is exalted into the chief womanly virtue, but the obedience and respect of children, both male and female, to their parents, also occupies a prominent position in their ethical system. Hence, in this latter stage of a woman's career, the obedience expected of her is often only nominal, and in any case is not so absolute and unquestioning as that of the early period; and the consideration and respect that a son is bound to show to his mother necessitates a care of her comfort, and a consultation of her wishes, that renders her position one of much greater freedom than can be obtained by any woman earlier in life. She has, besides, reached an age when she is not expected to remain at home, and she may go out into the streets, to the theatre, or other shows, without the least restraint or fear of losing her dignity.
A Japanese woman loses her beauty early. At thirty-five her fresh color is usually entirely gone, her eyes have begun to sink a little in their sockets, her youthful roundness and symmetry of figure have given place to an absolute leanness, her abundant black hair has grown thin, and much care and anxiety have given her face a pathetic expression of quiet endurance. One seldom sees a face that indicates a soured temper or a cross disposition, but the lines that show themselves as the years go by are lines that indicate suffering and disappointment, patiently and sweetly borne. The lips never forget to smile; the voice remains always cheerful and sympathetic, never grows peevish and worried, as is too often the case with overworked or disappointed women in this country. But youth with its hopeful outlook, its plans and its ambitions, gives way to age with its peaceful waiting for the end, with only a brief struggle for its place; and the woman of thirty-five is just at the point when she has bid good-by to her youth, and, having little to hope for in her middle life, is doing her work faithfully, and looking forward to an old age of privilege and authority, the mistress of her son's house, and the ruler of the little domain of home.
But I have spoken so far only of those happy women whose sons grow to maturity, and who manage to evade the dangerous reefs of divorce upon which so many lives are shipwrecked. What becomes of the hundreds who have no children to rise up and call them blessed, but who have in old age to live as dependents upon their brothers or nephews? Even these, who in this country often lead hard and unrewarded lives of toil among their happier relatives, find in old age a pleasanter lot than that of youth. Many such old ladies I have met, whose short hair or shaven heads proclaim to all who see them that the sorrow of widowhood has taken from them the joy that falls to other women, but whose cheerful, wrinkled faces and happy, childlike ways have given one a feeling of pleasure that the sorrow is past, and peace and rest have come to their declining years. Fulfilling what little household tasks they can, respected and self-respecting members of the household, the O Bă San, or Aunty, is not far removed in the honor and affection of the children from the O Bā San, or Grandma, but both alike find a peaceful shelter in the homes of those nearest and dearest to them.
One of the happiest old ladies I have ever seen was one who had had a rough and stormy life. The mother of many children, most of whom had died in infancy, she was at last left childless and a widow. In her children's death the last tie that bound her to her husband's family was broken, and, rather than be a burden to them, she made her home for many years with her own younger brother, taking up again the many cares and duties of a mother's life in sharing with the mother the bringing up of a large family of children. One by one, from the oldest to the youngest, each has learned to love the old aunty, to be lulled asleep on her back, and to go to her in trouble when mother's hands were too full of work. Many the caress received, the drives and walks enjoyed in her company, the toys and candies that came out unexpectedly from the depths of mysterious drawers, to comfort many an hour of childish grief. That was years ago, and the old aunty's hard times are nearly over. Hale and hearty at three-score years and ten, she has seen these children grow up one by one, until now some have gone to new homes of their own. Her bent form and wrinkled face are ever welcome to her children,—hers by the right of years of patient care and toil for them. They now, in their turn, enjoy giving her pleasure, and return to her all the love she has lavished upon them. It is a joy to see her childlike pride and confidence in them all, and to know that they have filled the place left vacant by the dead with whom had died all her hopes of earthly happiness.
The old women of Japan,—how their withered faces, bent frames, and shrunken, yellow hands abide in one's memory! One seldom sees among them what we would call beauty, for the almost universal shrinking with age that takes place among the Japanese covers the face with multitudinous wrinkles, and produces the effect of a withered russet apple; for the skin, which in youth is usually brightened by red cheeks and glossy black hair, in old age, when color leaves cheek and hair, has a curiously yellow and parchment-like look. But with all their wrinkles and ugliness, there is a peculiar charm about the old women of Japan.
In Tōkyō, when the grass grows long upon your lawn, and you send to the gardener to come and cut it, no boy with patent lawn-mower, nor stalwart countryman with scythe and sickle, answers your summons, but some morning you awake to find your lawn covered with old women. The much-washed cotton garments are faded to a light blue, the exact match of the light blue cotton towels in which their heads are swathed, and on hands and knees, each armed with an enormous pair of shears, the old ladies clip and chatter cheerfully all day long, until the lawn is as smooth as velvet under their careful cutting. An occasional rest under a tree, for pipes and tea, is the time for much cheerful talk and gossip; but the work, though done slowly and with due attention to the comfort of the worker, is well done, and certainly accomplished as rapidly as any one could expect of laborers who earn only from eight to twelve cents a day. Another employment for this same class of laborers is the picking of moss and grass from the crevices of the great walls that inclose the moats and embankments of the capital. Mounted on little ladders, they pick and scrape with knives until the wall is clear and fresh, with no insidious growth to push the great uncemented stones out of their places.
In contrast with these humble but cheerful toilers may be mentioned another class of women, often met with in the great cities. Dressed in rags and with covered heads and faces, they wander about the streets playing the samisen outside the latticed windows, and singing with cracked voices some wailing melody. As they go from house to house, gaining a miserable pittance by their weird music, they seem the embodiment of all that is hopeless and broken-hearted. What they are or whence they come, I know not, but they always remind me of the grasshopper in the fable, who danced and sang through the brief summer, to come, wailing and wretched, seeking aid from her thriftier neighbor when at last the winter closed in upon her.
As one rides about the streets, one often sees a little, white-haired old woman trotting about with a yoke over her shoulders from which are suspended two swinging baskets, filled with fresh vegetables. The fact that her hair is still growing to its natural length shows that she is still a wife and not a widow; her worn and patched blue cotton clothes, bleached light from much washing, show that extreme poverty is her lot in life; and as she hobbles along with the gait peculiar to those who carry a yoke, my thoughts are busy with her home, which, though poor and small, is doubtless clean and comfortable, but my eye follows her through the city's crowd, where laborer, soldier, student, and high official jostle each other by the way. Suddenly I see her pause before the gateway of a temple. She sets her burden down, and there in the midst of the bustling throng, with bowed head, folded hands, and moving lips, she invokes her god, snatching this moment from her busy life to seek a blessing for herself and her dear ones. The throng moves busily on, making a little eddy around the burden she has laid down, but paying no heed to the devout little figure standing there; then in a moment the prayer is finished; she stoops, picks up her yoke, balances it on her shoulders, and moves on with the crowd, to do her share while her strength lasts, and to be cared for tenderly, I doubt not, by children and children's children when her work is done.
Another picture comes to me, too, a picture of one whose memory is an inspiring thought to the many who have the honor to call her "mother." A stately old lady, left a widow many years ago, before the recent changes had wrought havoc preparatory to further progress, she seemed always to me the model of a mother of the old school. Herself a woman of thorough classical education, her example and teaching were to both sons and daughters a constant inspiration; and in her old age she found herself the honored head of a family well known in the arts of war and peace, a goodly company of sons and daughters, every one of them heirs of her spirit and of her intellect. Though conservative herself, and always clinging to the old customs, she put no block in the path of her children's progress, and her fine character, heroic spirit, and stanch loyalty to what she believed were worth more to her children than anything else could have been. Tried by war, by siege, by banishment, by danger and sufferings of all kinds, to her was given at last an old age of prosperity among children of whom she might well be proud. Keeping her physical vigor to the end, and dying at last, after an illness of only two days, her spirit passed out into the great unknown, ready to meet its dangers as bravely as she had met those of earth, or to enjoy its rest as sweetly and appreciatively as she had enjoyed that of her old age in the house of her oldest son.
My acquaintance with her was limited by our lack of common language, but was a most admiring and appreciative one on my side; and I esteem it one of the chief honors of my stay in Japan, that upon my last meeting with her, two weeks before her death, she gave me her wrinkled but still beautiful and delicately shaped hand at parting,—a deference to foreign customs that she only paid upon special occasions.
Two weeks later, amid such rain as Japanese skies know all too well how to let fall, I attended her funeral at the cemetery of Aoyama. The cemetery chapel was crowded, but a place was reserved for me, on account of special ties that bound me to the family, just behind the long line of white-robed mourners. In the Buddhist faith she had lived, and by the Buddhist ceremonial she was buried,—the chanted ritual, the gorgeously robed priests, and the heavy smell of incense in the air reminding one of a Roman Catholic ceremony. The white wooden coffin was placed upon a bier at the entrance to the chapel, and when the priests had done their work, and the ecclesiastical ceremony was over, the relatives arose, one by one, walked over to the coffin, bowed low before it, and placed a grain of incense upon the little censer that stood on a table before the bier, then, bowing again, retired to their places. Slowly and solemnly, from the tall soldier son, his hair already streaked with gray, to the two-year-old grandchild, all paid this last token of respect to a noble spirit; and after the relatives the guests, each in the order of rank or nearness to the deceased, stepped forward and performed the same ceremony before leaving the room. What the meaning of the rite was, I did not know, whether a worship of strange gods or no; but to me, as I performed the act, it only signified the honor in which I held the memory of a heroic woman who had done well her part in the world according to the light that God had given her.
Japanese art loves to picture the old woman with her kindly, wrinkled face, leaving out no wrinkle of them all, but giving with equal truthfulness the charm of expression that one finds in them. Long life is desired by all as passionately as by ancient Hebrew poet and psalmist, and with good reason, for only by long life can a woman attain the greatest honor and happiness. We often exclaim in impatience at the thought of the weakness and dependence of old age, and pray that we may die in the fullness of our powers, before the decay of advancing years has made us a burden upon our friends. But in Japan, dependence is the lot of woman, and the dependence of old age is that which is most respected and considered. An aged parent is never a burden, is treated by all with the greatest love and tenderness; and if times are hard, and food and other comforts are scarce, the children, as a matter of course, deprive themselves and their children to give ungrudgingly to their old father and mother. Faults there are many in the Japanese social system, but ingratitude to parents, or disrespect to the aged, must not be named among them; and Young America may learn a salutary lesson by the study of the place that old people occupy in the home.
It is not only for the women of Japan, but for the men as well, that old age is a time of peace and happiness. When a man reaches the age of fifty or thereabouts, often while apparently in the height of his vigor, he gives up his work or business and retires, leaving all the property and income to the care of his eldest son, upon whom he becomes entirely dependent for his support. This support is never begrudged him, for the care of parents by their children is as much a matter of course in Japan as the care of children by those who give them birth. A man thus rarely makes provision for the future, and looks with scorn on foreign customs which seem to betoken a fear lest, in old age, ungrateful children may neglect their parents and cast them aside. The feeling, so strong in America, that dependence is of itself irksome and a thing to be dreaded, is altogether strange to the Japanese mind. The married son does not care to take his wife to a new and independent home of his own, and to support her and her children by his own labor or on his own income, but he takes her to his father's house, and thinks it no shame that his family live upon his parents. But in return, when the parents wish to retire from active life, the son takes upon himself ungrudgingly the burden of their support, and the bread of dependence is never bitter to the parents' lips, for it is given freely. To the time-honored European belief, that a young man must be independent and enterprising in early life in order to lay by for old age, the Japanese will answer that children in Japan are taught to love their parents rather than ease and luxury, and that care for the future is not the necessity that it is in Europe and America, where money is above everything else,—even filial love. This habit of thought may account for the utter want of provision for the future, and the disregard for things pertaining to the accumulation of wealth, which often strikes curiously the foreigner in Japan. A Japanese considers his provision for the future made when he has brought up and educated for usefulness a large family of children. He invests his capital in their support and education, secure of bountiful returns in their gratitude and care for his old age. It is hard for the men of old Japan to understand the rush and struggle for riches in America,—a struggle that too often leaves not a pause for rest or quiet pleasure until sickness or death overtakes the indefatigable worker. The go inkyo of Japan is glad enough to lay down early in life the cares of the world, to have a few years of calm and peace, undisturbed by responsibilities or cares for outside matters. If he be an artist or a poet, he may, uninterrupted, spend his days with his beloved art. If he is fond of the ceremonial tea, he has whole afternoons that he may devote to this æsthetic repast; and even if he has none of these higher tastes, he will always have congenial friends who are ready to share the saké bottle, to join in a quiet smoke over the hibachi, or to play the deep-engrossing game of go, or shogi, the Japanese chess. To the Japanese mind, to be in the company of a few kindred souls, to spend the long hours of a summer's afternoon at the ceremonial tea party, sipping tea and conversing in a leisurely manner on various subjects, is an enjoyment second to none. A cultivated Japanese of the old times must receive an education fitting him especially for such pursuits. At these meetings of friends, artistically or poetically inclined, the time is spent in making poems and exchanging wittily turned sentiments, to be read, commented on, and responded to; or in the making of drawings, with a few bold strokes of the brush, in illustration of some subject given out. Such enjoyments as these, the Japanese believe, cannot be appreciated or even understood by the practical, rush-ahead American, the product of the wonderful but material civilization of the West.
Thus, amid enjoyments and easy labors suited to their closing years, the elder couple spend their days with the young people, cared for and protected by them. Sometimes there will be a separate suite of rooms provided for them; sometimes a little house away from the noises of the household, and separated from the main building by a well-kept little garden. In any case, as long as they live they will spend their days in quiet and peace; and it is to this haven, the inkyo, that all Japanese look forward, as to the time when they may carry out their own inclinations and tastes with an income provided for the rest of their days.
The court of the Emperor was, in the early ages of Japan, the centre of whatever culture and refinement the country could boast, and the emperors themselves took an active part in the promotion of civilization. The earliest history of Japan is so wrapped in the mists of legend and tradition that only here and there do we get glimpses of heroic figures,—leaders in those early days. Demigods they seem, children of Heaven, receiving from Heaven by special revelation the wisdom or strength by means of which they conquered their enemies, or gave to their subjects new arts and better laws. The traditional emperors, the early descendants of the great Jimmu Tenno, seem to have been merely conquering chieftains, who by virtue of their descent were regarded as divine, but who lived the simple, hardy life of the savage king, surrounded by wives and concubines, done homage to by armed retainers and subject chiefs, but living in rude huts, and moving in and out among the soldiers, not in the least retired into the mysterious solitude which in later days enveloped the Son of the Gods. The first emperors ruled not only by divine right, but by personal force and valor; and the stories of the valiant deeds of these early rulers kept strong the faith of the people in the divine qualities of the imperial house during the hundreds of years when the Emperor was a mere puppet in the hands of ambitious and powerful nobles.
Towards the end of this legendary period, a figure comes into view that for heroic qualities cannot be excelled in the annals of any nation,—Jingo Kōgō, the conqueror of Corea, who alone, among the nine female rulers of Japan, has made an era in the national history. She seems to have been from the beginning, like Jeanne D'Arc, a hearer of divine voices; and through her was conveyed to her unbelieving husband a divine command, to take ship and sail westward to the conquest of an unknown land. Her husband questioned the authenticity of the message, took the earthly and practical view that, as there was no land to be seen in the westward, there could be no land there, and refused to organize any expedition in fulfillment of the command; but for his unbelief was sternly told that he should never see the land, but that his wife should conquer it for the son whom she should bear after the father's death. This message from the gods was fulfilled. The Emperor died in battle shortly after, and the Empress, after suppressing the rebellion in which her husband had been killed, proceeded to organize an expedition for the conquest of the unknown land beyond the western sea. By as many signs as those required by Gideon to assure himself of his divine mission, the Empress tested the call that had come to her, but at last, satisfied that the voices were from Heaven, she gave her orders for the collection of troops and the building of a navy. I quote from Griffis the inspiring words with which she addressed her generals: "The safety or destruction of our country depends upon this enterprise. I intrust the details to you. It will be your fault if they are not carried out. I am a woman and young. I shall disguise myself as a man, and undertake this gallant expedition, trusting to the gods and to my troops and captains. We shall acquire a wealthy country. The glory is yours, if we succeed; if we fail, the guilt and disgrace shall be mine." What wonder that her captains responded to such an appeal, and that the work of recruiting and shipbuilding began with a will! It was a long preparation that was required—sometimes, to the impatient woman, it seemed unnecessarily slow—but by continual prayer and offerings she appealed to the gods for aid; and at last all was ready, and the brave array of ships set sail for the unknown shore, the Empress feeling within her the new inspiration of hope for her babe as yet unborn. Heaven smiled upon them from the start. The clearest of skies, the most favoring of breezes, the smoothest of seas, favored the god-sent expedition; and tradition says that even the fishes swarmed in shoals about their keels, and carried them on to their desired haven. The fleet ran safely across to southern Corea, but instead of finding battles and struggles awaiting them, the king of the country met them on the beach to receive and tender allegiance to the invaders, whose unexpected appearance from the unexplored East had led the natives to believe that their gods had forsaken them. The expedition returned laden with vast wealth, not the spoil of battle, but the peaceful tribute of a bloodless victory; and from that time forward Japan, through Corea, and later by direct contact with China itself, began to receive and assimilate the civilization, arts, and religions of China. Thus through a woman Japan received the start along the line of progress which made her what she is to-day, for the sequel of Jingo Kōgō's Corean expedition was the introduction of almost everything which we regard as peculiar to civilized countries. With characteristic belittling of the woman and exalting of the man, the whole martial career of the Empress is ascribed to the influence of her son as yet unborn,—a son who by his valor and prowess has secured for his deified spirit the position of God of War in the Japanese pantheon. We should say that pre-natal influences and heredity produced the heroic son; the Japanese reason from the other end, and show that all the noble qualities of the mother were produced by the influence of the unborn babe.
With the introduction of literature, art, and Buddhism, a change took place in the relations of the court to the people. About the Emperor's throne there gathered not only soldiers and governors, but the learned, the accomplished, the witty, the artistic, who found in the Emperor and the court nobles munificent patrons by whom they were supported, and before whom they laid whatever pearls they were able to produce. The new culture sought not the clash of arms and the shout of soldiers, but the quiet and refinement of palaces and gardens far removed from the noise and clamor of the world. And while emperors sought to encourage the new learning and civilization, and to soften the warlike qualities of the people about them, there was a frontier along which the savages still made raids into the territory which the Japanese had wrested from them, and which it required a strong arm and a quick hand to guard for the defense of the people. But the Emperor gradually gave up the personal leadership in war, and passed the duty of defending the nation into the hands of one or another of the great noble families. The nobles were not by any means slow to see the advantage to be gained for themselves by the possession of the military power in an age when might made right, even more than it does to-day, and when force, used judiciously and with proper deference to the prejudices of the people, could be made to give to its possessor power even over the Emperor himself. And so gradually, in the pursuit of the new culture and the new religion, the emperors withdrew themselves more and more into seclusion, and the court became a little world in itself,—a centre of culture and refinement into which few excitements of war or politics ever came. While the great nobles wrangled for the possession of the power, schemed and fought and turned the nation upside down; while the heroes of the country rose, lived, fought, and died,—the Emperor, amid his ladies and his courtiers, his priests and his literary men, spent his life in a world of his own; thinking more of this pair of bright eyes, that new and charming poem, the other witty saying of those about him, than of the kingdom that he ruled by divine right; and retiring, after ten years or so of puppet kinghood, from the seclusion of his court to the deeper seclusion of some Buddhist monastery.
Within the sacred precincts of the court, much time was given to such games and pastimes as were not too rude or noisy for the refinement that the new culture brought with it. Polo, football, hunting with falcons, archery, etc., were exercises not unworthy of even the most refined of gentlemen, and certain noble families were trained hereditarily in the execution of certain stately, antique dances, many of them of Chinese or Corean origin. The ladies, in trailing garments and with flowing hair, reaching often below the knees, played a not inconspicuous part, not only because of their beauty and grace, but for their quickness of wit, their learning in the classics, their skill in repartee, and their quaint fancies, which they embodied in poetic form.
Much attention was given to that harmony of art with nature that the Japanese taste makes the sine qua non of all true artistic effort. The gorgeously embroidered gowns must change with the changing season, so that the cherry succeeds the plum, the wistaria the cherry, and so on through the whole calendar of flowers, upon the silken robes of the court, as regularly as in the garden that graces the palace grounds. And so with the confectionery, which in Japan is made in dainty imitation of flowers and fruits. The chrysanthemum blooms in sugar no earlier than on its own stalk; the little golden orange, with its dark green leaves, is on the confectioner's list in winter, when the real orange is yellow on its tree. The very decorations of the palace must be changed with the changing of the months; and kakémono and vase are alternately stored in the kura and brought out to decorate the room, according as their designs seem in harmony with the mood of Nature. This effort to harmonize Nature and Art is seen to-day, not only in the splendid furnishings of the court, but all through the decorative art of Japan. In every house the decorations are changed to suit the changing seasons.
Through the years when Japan was adopting the civilization of China, a danger threatened the nation,—the same danger that threatens it to-day: it was the danger lest the adoption of so much that was foreign should result in a servile copying of all that was not Japanese, and lest the introduction of literature, art, and numerous hitherto unknown luxuries should take from the people their independence, patriotism, and manliness. But this result was happily avoided; and at a time when the language was in danger of being swept almost out of existence by the introduction of Chinese learning through Chinese letters, the women of Japan, not only in their homes and conversation, but in the poetry and lighter literature of the country, preserved a strain of pure and graceful Japanese, and produced some of the standard works of a distinctly national literature. Favor at court to-day, as in the olden times, is the reward, not of mere rank, beauty, and grace of person, but must be obtained through the same intellectual endowments, polished by years of education, that made so many women famous in the mediæval history of Japan. Many court ladies have read much of their national literature, so that they are able to appreciate the bonmots which contain allusions in many cases to old poems, or plays on words; and are able to write and present to others, at fitting times, those graceful but untranslatable turns of phrase which form the bulk of Japanese poetry. Even in this busy era of Méiji, the Emperor and his court keep up the old-time customs, and strive to promote a love of the beautiful poetry of Japan. At each New Year some subject appropriate to the time is chosen and publicly announced. Poems may be written upon this subject by any one in the whole realm, and may be sent to the palace before a certain date fixed as the time for closing the list of competitors. All the poems thus sent are examined by competent judges, who select the best five and send them to the Emperor, an honor more desired by the writers than the most favorable of reviews or the largest of emoluments are desired by American poets. Many of the other poems are published in the newspapers. It is interesting to note that many of the prominent men and women of the country are known as competitors, and that many of the court ladies join in the contest.
There are also, at the palace, frequent meetings of the poets and lovers of poetry connected with the court. At these meetings poems are composed for the entertainment of the Emperor and Empress, as well as for the amusement of the poets themselves.
In the school recently established for the daughters of the nobles, under the charge of the imperial household, much attention is given to the work of thoroughly grounding the scholars in the Japanese language and literature, and also to making them skillful in the art of composing poetry. At the head of the school, in the highest position held by any woman in the employ of the government, is a former court lady, who is second to none in the kingdom, not only in her knowledge of all that belongs to court etiquette, but in her study of the history and literature of her own people, and in her skill in the composition of these dainty poems. A year or two ago, when one of the scholars in the school died after a brief decline, her schoolmates, teachers, and school friends wrote poems upon her death, which they sent to the bereaved parents.
It is difficult for any Japanese, much more so for a foreigner, to penetrate into the seclusion of the palace and see anything of the life there, except what is shown to the public in the occasional entertainments given at court, such as formal receptions and dinner parties. In 1889, the new palace, built on the site of the old Tokugawa Castle, burnt seventeen years ago, was finally completed; and it was my privilege to see, before the removal of the court, not only the grand reception rooms, throne-room, and dining-room, but also the private apartments of the Emperor and Empress. The palace is built in Japanese style, surrounded by the old castle moats, but there are many foreign additions to the palace and grounds. It is heated and lighted in foreign style, and the larger rooms are all furnished after the magnificent manner of European palaces; while the lacquer work, carvings, and gorgeous paneled ceilings remind one of the finest of Japanese temples. The private apartments of the Emperor and Empress are, on the other hand, most simple, and in thorough Japanese style; and though the woodwork and polished floors of the corridors are very beautiful, the paintings and lacquer work most exquisite, there is little in this simplicity to denote the abode of royalty. It seems that their majesties, though outwardly conforming to many European customs, and to the European manner of dress, prefer to live in Japanese ways, on matted, not carpeted floors, reposing on them rather than on chairs and bedsteads.
Their apartments are not large; each suite consisting of three rooms opening out of each other, the Empress's rooms being slightly smaller than the Emperor's, and those of the young Prince Haru, the heir apparent, again a little smaller. The young prince has a residence of his own, and it is only on his visits that he occupies his apartments in his father's palace. There are also rooms for the Empress dowager to occupy on her occasional visits. All of these apartments are quite close together in one part of the palace, and are connected by halls; but the private rooms of the court ladies are in an entirely separate place, quite removed, and only connected with the main building by a long, narrow passageway, running through the garden. There, in the rooms assigned to them, each one has her own private establishment, where she stays when she is not on duty in attendance on the Emperor and Empress. Each lady has her own servants, and sometimes a younger sister or a dependent may be living there with her, though they are entirely separate from the court and the life there, and must never be seen in any of the other parts of the building. In these rooms, which are like little homes in themselves, cooking and housekeeping are done, entirely independent of the other parts of the great palace; and the tradesmen find their way through some back gate to these little establishments, supplying them with all the necessaries of life, as well as the luxuries.
A court lady is a personage of distinction, and lives in comparative ease and luxury, with plenty of servants to do all the necessary work. Besides her salary, which of course varies with the rank and the duties performed, but is always liberal enough to cover the necessary expenses of dress, the court lady receives many presents from the Emperor and Empress, which make her position one of much luxury.
The etiquette of the imperial household is very complicated and very strict, though many of the formalities of the olden times have been given up. The court ladies are models of conservatism. In order to be trained for the life there and its duties, they usually enter the court while mere children of ten or eleven, and serve apprenticeship to the older members. In the rigid seclusion of the palace they are strictly, almost severely, brought up, and trained in all the details of court etiquette. Cut off from all outside influences while young, the little court maidens are taught to go through an endless round of formalities which they are made to think indispensable. These details of etiquette extend not only to all that concerns the imperial household, but to curious customs among themselves, and in regard to their own habits. Many of these ideas have come down from one generation to another, within the narrow limits of the court, so that the life there is a curious world in itself, and very unlike that in ordinary Japanese homes.
But among all the ladies of Japan to-day,—charming, intellectual, refined, and lovely as many of them are,—there is no one nobler, more accomplished, more beautiful in life and character, than the Empress herself. The Emperor of Japan, though he may have many concubines, may have but one wife, and she must be chosen out of one of the five highest noble families. Haru Ko, of the noble family of Ichijō, became Empress in the year 1868, one year after her husband, then a boy of seventeen, had ascended the throne, and the very year of the overthrow of the Shōgunate, and the restoration of the Emperor to actual power and the leading part in the government. Reared amid the deep and scholarly seclusion of the old court at Kyōto, the young Empress found herself occupying a position very different from that for which she had been educated,—a position the duties and responsibilities of which grow more multifarious as the years go by. Instead of a life of rigid seclusion, unseeing and unseen, the Empress has had to go forth into the world, finding there the pleasures as well as the duties of actual leadership. With the removal of the court to Tōkyō, and the reappearance of the Emperor, in bodily form, before his people, there came new opportunities for the Empress, and nobly has she used them. From the time when, in 1871, she gave audience to the five little girls of the samurai class who were just setting forth on a journey to America, there to study and fit themselves to play a part in the Japan of the future, on through twenty years of change and progress, the Empress Haru Ko has done all that lay within her power to advance the women of her country. Many stories are afloat which show the lovable character of the woman, and which have given her an abiding place in the affections of the people.
Some years ago, when the castle in Tōkyō was burned, and the Emperor and Empress were obliged to take refuge in an old daimiō's house, a place entirely lacking in luxuries and considerably out of repair, some one expressed to her the grief that all her people felt, that she should have to put up with so many inconveniences. Her response was a graceful little poem, in which she said that the narrowness of her abode would not limit her love for her people, and that for them she would endeavor to explore wisely the unlimited fields of knowledge.
Upon another occasion, when Prince Iwakura, one of the leaders of Japan in the early days of the crisis through which the country is still passing, lay dying at his home, the Empress sent him word that she was coming to visit him. The prince, afraid that he could not do honor to such a guest, sent her word back that he was very ill, and unable to make proper preparation to entertain an Empress. To this the Empress replied that he need make no preparations for her, for she was coming, not as an Empress, but as the daughter of Ichijō, his old friend and colleague, and as such he could receive her. And then, setting aside imperial state and etiquette, she visited the dying statesman, and brightened his last hours with the thought of how lovely a woman stood as an example before the women of his beloved country.
Many of the charities and schools of new Japan are under the Empress's special patronage; and this does not mean simply that she allows her name to be used in connection with them, but it means that she thinks of them, studies them, asks questions about them, and even practices little economies that she may have the more money to give to them. There is a charity hospital in Tōkyō, having in connection with it a training school for nurses, that is one of the special objects of her care. Last year she gave to it, at the end of the year, the savings from her own private allowance, and concerning this act an editorial from the "Japan Mail" speaks as follows:—
"The life of the Empress of Japan is an unvarying routine of faithful duty-doing and earnest charity. The public, indeed, hears with a certain listless indifference, engendered by habit, that her Majesty has visited this school, or gone round the wards at that hospital. Such incidents all seem to fall naturally into the routine of the imperial day's work. Yet to the Empress the weariness of long hours spent in classrooms or in laboratories, or by the beds of the sick, must soon become quite intolerable did she not contrive, out of the goodness of her heart, to retain a keen and kindly interest in everything that concerns the welfare of her subjects. That her Majesty does feel this interest, and that it grows rather than diminishes as the years go by, every one knows who has been present on any of the innumerable occasions when the promoters of some charity or the directors of some educational institution have presented, with merciless precision, all the petty details of their projects or organizations for the examination of the imperial lady. The latest evidence of her Majesty's benevolence is, however, more than usually striking. Since the founding of the Tōkyō Charity Hospital, where so many poor women and children are treated, the Empress has watched the institution closely, has bestowed on it patronage of the most active and helpful character, and has contributed handsomely to its funds. Little by little the hospital grew, extending its sphere of action and enlarging its ministrations, until the need of more capacious premises—a need familiar to such undertakings—began to be strongly felt. The Empress, knowing this, cast about for some means of assisting this project. To practice strict economy in her own personal expenses, and to devote whatever money might thus be saved from her yearly income to the aid of the hospital, appears to have suggested itself to her Majesty as the most feasible method of procedure. The result is, that a sum of 8,446 yen, 90 sen, and 8 rin has just been handed over to Dr. Takagi, the chief promoter and mainstay of the hospital, by Viscount Kagawa, one of her Majesty's chamberlains. There is something picturesque about these sen and rin. They represent an account minutely and faithfully kept between her Majesty's unavoidable expenses and the benevolent impulse that constantly urged her to curtail them. Such gracious acts of sterling effort command admiration and love."
Not very long ago, on one of her visits to the hospital, the Empress visited the children's ward, and took with her toys, which she gave with her own hand to each child there. When we consider that this hospital is free to the poorest and lowest person in Tōkyō, and that twenty years ago the persons of the Emperor and Empress were so sacred in the eyes of the people that no one but the highest nobles and the near officials of the court could come into their presence,—that even these high nobles were received at court by the Emperor at a distance of many feet, and his face even then could not be seen,—when we think of all this, we can begin to appreciate what the Empress Haru has done in bridging the distance between herself and her people so that the poorest child of a beggar may receive a gift from her hand. In the country places to this day, there are peasants who yet believe that no one can look on the sacred face of the Emperor and live.
The school for the daughters of the nobles, to which I have before referred, is an institution whose welfare the Empress has very closely at heart, for she sees the need of rightly combining the new and the old in the education of the young girls who will so soon be filling places in the court. At the opening of the school the Empress was present, and herself made a speech to the scholars; and her visits, at intervals of one or two months, show her continued interest in the work that she has begun. Upon all state occasions, the scholars, standing with bowed heads as if in prayer, sing a little song written for them by the Empress herself; and at the graduating exercises, the speeches and addresses are listened to by her with the profoundest interest. The best specimens of poetry, painting, and composition done by the scholars are sent to the palace for her inspection, and some of these are kept by her in her own private rooms. When she visits the class-rooms, she does not simply pass in and pass out again, as if doing a formal duty, but sits for half an hour or so listening intently, and watching the faces of the scholars as they recite. In sewing and cooking classes (for the daughters of the nobles are taught to sew and cook), she sometimes speaks to the scholars, asking them questions. Upon one occasion she observed a young princess, a newcomer in the school, working somewhat awkwardly with needle and thimble. "The first time, Princess, is it not?" said the Empress, smiling, and the embarrassed Princess was obliged to confess that this was her first experience with those domestic implements.
Sometimes in her leisure hours—and they are rare in her busy life—the Empress amuses herself by receiving the little daughters of some imperial prince or nobleman, or even the children of some of the high officials. In the kindness of her heart, she takes great pleasure in seeing and talking to these little ones, some of whom are intensely awed by being in the presence of the Empress, while others, in their innocence, ignorant of all etiquette, prattle away unrestrainedly, to the great entertainment of the court ladies as well as of the Empress herself. These visits always end with some choice toy or gift, which the child takes home and keeps among her most valued treasures in remembrance of her imperial hostess. In this way the Empress relieves the loneliness of the great palace, where the sound of childish voices is seldom heard, for the Emperor's children are brought up in separate establishments, and only pay occasional visits to the palace, until they have passed early childhood.
The present life of the Empress is not very different from that of European royalty. Her carriage and escort are frequently met with in the streets of Tōkyō as she goes or returns on one of her numerous visits of ceremony or beneficence. Policemen keep back the crowds of people who always gather to see the imperial carriage, and stand respectfully, but without demonstration, while the horsemen carrying the imperial insignia, followed closely by the carriages of the Empress and her attendants, pass by. The official Gazette announces almost daily visits by the Emperor, Empress, or other members of the imperial family, to different places of interest,—sometimes to various palaces in different parts of Tōkyō, at other times to schools, charitable institutions or exhibitions, as well as occasional visits to the homes of high officials or nobles, for which great preparations are made by those who have the honor of entertaining their Majesties.
Among the amusements within the palace grounds, one lately introduced, and at present in high favor, is that of horseback-riding, an exercise hitherto unknown to the ladies of Japan. The Empress and her ladies are said to be very fond of this active exercise,—an amusement forming a striking contrast to the quiet of former years.
The grounds about the palaces in Tōkyō are most beautifully laid out and cultivated, but not in that artificial manner, with regular flower beds and trees at certain equal distances, which is seen so often in the highly cultivated grounds of the rich in this country. The landscape gardening of Japan keeps unchanged the wildness and beauty of nature, and imitates it closely. The famous flowers, however, are, in the imperial gardens, changed by art and cultivated to their highest perfection, blooming each season for the enjoyment of the members of the court. Especially is attention given to the cultivation of the imperial flower of Japan, the chrysanthemum; and some day in November, when this flower is in its perfection, the gates of the Akasaka palace are thrown open to invited guests, who are received in person by the Emperor and Empress. Here the rarest species of this favorite flower, and the oddest colors and shapes, the results of much care and cultivation, are exhibited in spacious beds, shaded by temporary roofs of bamboo twigs and decorated with the imperial flags. This is the great chrysanthemum party of the Emperor, and another of similar character is given in the spring under the flower-laden boughs of the cherry trees.
In these various ways the Empress shows herself to her people,—a gracious and lovely figure, though distant, as she needs must be, from common, every-day life. Only by glimpses do the people know her, but those glimpses reveal enough to excite the warmest admiration, the most tender love. Childless herself, destined to see a child not her own, although her husband's, heir to the throne, the Empress devotes her lonely and not too happy life to the actual, personal study of the wants of daughters of her people, and side by side with Jingo, the majestic but shadowy Empress of the past, should be enshrined in the hearts of the women of Japan the memory of Haru Ko, the leader of her countrywomen into that freer and happier life that is opening to them.
Each marks the beginning of a new era,—the first, of the era of civilization and morality founded upon the teachings of Buddha and Confucius; the second, of the civilization and morality that have sprung from the teachings of Christ. Buddhism and Confucianism were elevating and civilizing, but failed to place the women of Japan upon even as high a plane as they had occupied in the old barbaric times. To Christianity they must look for the security and happiness which it has never failed to give to the wives and mothers of all Christian nations.
Yashiki, or spread-out house, was the name given to the palace and grounds of a daimiō's city residence, and also to the barracks occupied by his retainers, both in city and country. In the city the barracks of the samurai were built as a hollow square, in the centre of which stood the palace and grounds of their lord, and this whole place was the daimiō's yashiki. In the castle towns the daimiō's palace and gardens stood within the castle inclosure, surrounded by a moat, while the yashikis of the samurai were placed without the moat. They in turn were separated from the business part of the village sometimes by a second or third moat. By life in castle and yashiki we mean the life of the daimiō, whether in city or country.
The seclusion of the Emperors and the gathering of the reins of government into the hands of Shōguns was a gradual process, beginning not long after the introduction of Chinese civilization, and continuing to grow until Iyéyasŭ, the founder of the Tokugawa dynasty, through his code of laws, took from the Emperor the last vestige of real power, and perfected the feudal system which maintained the sway of his house for two hundred and fifty years of peace.
The Emperor's court, with its literary and æsthetic quiet, its simplicity of life and complexity of etiquette, was the centre of the culture and art of Japan, but never the centre of luxury. After the growth of the Tokugawa power had secured for that house and its retainers great hereditary possessions, the Emperor's court was a mere shadow in the presence of the magnificence in which the Tokugawas and the daimiōs chose to live. The wealth of the country was in the hands of those who held the real power, and the Emperor was dependent for his support upon his great vassal, who held the land, collected the taxes, made the laws, and gave to his master whatever seemed necessary for his maintenance in the simple style of the old days, keeping for himself and for his retainers enough to make Yedo, the Tokugawa capital, the centre of a luxury far surpassing anything ever seen at the Emperor's own court. While the kugé, the old imperial nobility, formerly the governors of the provinces under the Emperors, lived in respectable but often extreme poverty at Kyōto, the landed nobility, or daimiōs, brought, after many struggles, under the sway of the Tokugawas, built for themselves palaces and pleasure gardens in the moated city of Yedo. At Yedo with its castle, its gardens, its yashikis, and its fortifications, was established a new court, more luxurious, but less artistic and cultivated, than the old court of Kyōto. In the various provinces, too, at every castle town, a little court arose about the castle, and the daimiō became not only the feudal chief, but the patron of literature and art among his people, as the years went by filling his kura with choice works of art, in lacquer, bronze, silver, and pottery, to be brought out on special occasions. These nobles, under a law of Iyémitsŭ, the third of the Tokugawa line, were compelled to spend half of each year at the city of the Shōguns; and each had his yashiki, or large house and garden, in the city. At this house, his family must reside permanently, as hostages for the loyalty of their lord while away. The annual journeys to and from Yedo were events not only in the lives of the daimiōs and their trains of retainers, but in the lives of the country people who lived along the roads by which they must travel. The time and style of each journey for each daimiō were rigidly prescribed in the laws of Iyémitsŭ, as well as the behavior of the country people who might meet the procession moving towards Yedo, or returning therefrom. When some noble, or any member of his family, was to pass through a certain section of the country, great preparations were made beforehand. Not only was traffic stopped along the route, but every door and window had to be closed. By no means was any one to show himself, or to look in any way upon the passing procession. To do so was to commit a profane deed, punishable by a fine. Among other things, no cooking was allowed on that day. All the food must be prepared the day before, as the air was supposed to become polluted by the smoke from the fires. Thus through crowded cities, full and busy with life, the daimiō in his curtained palanquin, with numerous retinue, would pass by; but wherever he approached, the place would be as deserted and silent as if plague-stricken. It is hardly necessary to add that these journeys, attended with so much ceremony and inconvenience to the people, were not as frequent as the trips now taken, at a moment's notice, from one city to another, by these very same men.
One story current in Tōkyō shows the narrowing effect of such seclusion. A noble who had traveled into Yedo, across one of the large bridges built over the Sumida River, remarked one day to his companions that he was greatly disappointed on seeing that bridge. "From the pictures," he said, "which I have seen, the bridge seemed alive with people, the centre of life and activity, but the artists must exaggerate, for not a soul was on the bridge when I passed by."
The castle of the Shōgun in Yedo, with its moats and fortifications, and its fine house and great kura, was reproduced on a small scale in the castles scattered through the country; and as in Yedo the yashikis of the daimiōs stood next to the inner moat of the castle, that the retainers might be ready to defend their lord at his earliest call, so in the provinces the yashikis of the samurai occupied a similar position about the daimiō's castle.
It is curious to see that, as the Shōgun took away the military and temporal power of the Emperor, making of him only a figure-head without real power, so, to a certain degree, the daimiō gave up, little by little, the personal control of his own province, the power falling into the hands of ambitious samurai, who became the councilors of their lord. The samurai were the learned class and the military class; they were and are the life of Japan; and it is no wonder that the nobles, protected and shielded from the world, and growing up without much education, should have changed in the course of centuries from strong, brave warriors into the delicate, effeminate, luxury-loving nobles of the present day. Upon the loyalty and wisdom of the samurai, often upon some one man of undoubted ability, rested the greatness of the province and the prosperity of the master's house.
The life of the ladies in these daimiōs' houses is still a living memory to many of the older women of Japan; but it is a memory only, and has given place to a different state of things. The Emperor occupies the castle of the Shōgun to-day, and every daimiō's castle throughout the country is in the hands of the imperial government. The old pleasure gardens of the nobles are turned into arsenals, schools, public parks, and other improvements of the new era. But here and there one finds some conservative family of nobles still keeping up in some measure the customs of former times; and daimiōs' houses there are still in Tōkyō, though stripped of power and of retainers, where life goes on in many ways much as it did in the old days. In such a house as this, one finds ladies-in-waiting, of the samurai rank, who serve her ladyship—the daimiō's wife—in all personal service. In the old days, the daughters of the samurai were eager for the training in etiquette, and in all that belongs to nice housekeeping, that might be obtained by a few years of apprenticeship in a daimiō's house, and gladly assumed the most menial positions for the sake of the education and reputation to be gained by such training.
The wife and daughters of a daimiō led the quietest of lives, rarely passing beyond the four great walls that inclose the palace with its grounds. They saw the changes of the seasons in the flowers that bloomed in their lovely gardens, when, followed by numerous attendants, they slowly walked through the bamboo groves or under the bloom-laden boughs of the plum or cherry trees, forming their views of life, its pleasures, its responsibilities, and its meaning, within the narrow limits of the daimiō's yashiki.
Their mornings were passed in the adorning of their own persons, and in the elaborate dressing of their luxuriant hair; the afternoons were spent in the tea ceremony, in writing poetry, or the execution of a sort of silk mosaic that is a favorite variety of fancy work still among the ladies of Japan.
A story is told of one of the Tokugawa princesses that illustrates the amusements of the Shōgun's daughters, and the pains that were taken to gratify their wishes, however unreasonable. The cherry-trees of the castle gardens of Tōkyō are noted for their beauty when in bloom during the month of April. It is said that once a daughter of the Tokugawa house expressed a wish to give a garden party amid the blossoming cherry-trees in the month of December, and nothing would do but that her wishes must be carried out. Her retainers accordingly summoned to their aid skillful artificers, who from pink and white tissue paper produced myriads of cherry blossoms, so natural that they could hardly be distinguished from the real ones. These they fastened upon the trees in just such places as the real flowers would have chosen to occupy, and the happy princess gave her garden party in December under the pink mist of cherry blooms.
The children of a daimiō's wife occupied her attention but little. They were placed in the charge of careful attendants, and the mother, though allowed to see them when she wished, was deprived of the pleasure of constant intercourse with them, and had none of the mother's cares which form so large a part of life to an ordinary Japanese woman.
When we know that the average Japanese girl is brought up strictly by her own mother, and thoroughly drilled in obedience and in all that is proper as regards etiquette and the duties of woman, we can imagine the narrowness of the education of the daimiō's poor little daughter, surrounded, from early childhood, with numerous attendants of the strictest sort, to teach her all that is proper according to the highest and severest standards. Sometimes, by the whim or the indulgence of parents, or through exceptional circumstances in her surroundings, a samurai's daughter became more independent, more self-reliant, or better educated, than others of her rank; but such opportunities never came to the more carefully reared noble's daughter.
From her earliest childhood, she was addressed in the politest and most formal way, so that she could not help acquiring polite manners and speech. She was taught etiquette above all things, so that no rude action or speech would disgrace her rank; and that she should give due reverence to her superiors, courtesy to equals, and polite condescension to inferiors. She was taught especially to show kindness to the families under the rule of her father, and was early told of the noble's duty to protect and love his retainers, as a father loves and protects his children. From childhood, presents were made in her name to those around her, often without her previous knowledge or permission, and from them she would receive profuse thanks,—lessons in the delights of beneficence which could not fail to make their impression on the child princess. Even to inferiors she used the polite language, and never the rude, brusque speech of men, or the careless phrases and expressions of the lower classes.
The education of the daimiō's daughter was conducted entirely at home. Instead of going out to masters for instruction, she was taught by some one in the household,—one of her father's retainers, or perhaps a member of her own private retinue. Teachers for certain branches came from outside, and these were not expected to give the lesson within a certain time and hurry away, but they would remain, conversing, sipping tea, and partaking of sweetmeats, until their noble pupil was ready to receive them. Hospitality required that the teacher be offered a meal after the lesson, and this meal etiquette would not permit him to refuse, so that both teacher and pupil must spend much time waiting for each other and for the lesson.
Pursued in this leisurely way, the education of the noble's daughter could not advance very rapidly, and it usually ended with an extremely early marriage; and the girl wife would sometimes play with her doll in the new home until the living baby took its place to the young mother.
The samurai women, who in one position or another were close attendants on these noble ladies, performing for them every act of service, were often women of more than average intelligence and education. From childhood to old age, the noble ladies were never without one or more of these maids of honor, close at hand to help or advise. Some entered the service in the lower positions for only a short period, leaving sooner or later to be married; for continued service in a daimiō's household meant a single life. Many of them remained in the palace all their days, leading lives of devotion to their mistress; the comfort and ease of which hardly compensated for the endless formalities and the monotonous seclusion.
Even the less responsible and more menial positions were not looked down upon, and the higher offices in the household were exceedingly honorable. When, once in a long while, a day's leave of absence was granted to one of these gentlewomen, and, loaded with presents sent by the daimiō's lady, she went on her visit to her home, she was received as a greatly honored member of her own family. The respect which was paid to her knowledge of etiquette and dress was never lessened because of the menial services she might have performed for those of noble blood.
The lady who was the head attendant, and those in the higher positions, had a great deal of power and influence in matters that concerned their mistress and the household; just as the male retainers decided for the prince, and in their own way, many of the affairs of the province. The few conservative old ladies, the last relics of the numerous retainers that once filled the castle, who still remain faithful in attendance in the homes now deprived of the grandeur of the olden times, look with horror upon the innovations of the present day, and sigh for the glory of old Japan. It is only upon compulsion that they give up many of the now useless formalities, and resign themselves to seeing their once so honored lords jostle elbow to elbow with the common citizen.
I shall never forget the horror of one old lady, attendant on a noble's daughter of high rank, just entering the peeress' school, when it was told her that each student must carry in her own bundle of books and arrange them herself, and that the attendants were not allowed in the classroom. The poor old lady was doubtless indignant at the thought that her noble-born mistress should have to perform even so slight a task as the arranging of her own desk unaided.
In the daimiōs' houses there was little of the culture or wit that graced the more aristocratic seclusion of Kyōto, and none of the duties and responsibilities that belonged to the samurai women, so that the life of the daimiō's lady was perhaps more purposeless, and less stimulating to the noble qualities, than the lives of any other of the women of Japan. Surrounded by endless restrictions of etiquette, lacking both the stimulus that comes from physical toil and that to be derived from intellectual exertion, the ladies of this class of the nobility simply vegetated. There is little wonder that the nobles degenerated both mentally and physically during the years when the Tokugawas held sway; for there was absolutely nothing in the lives of the women to fit them to be the wives and mothers of strong men. Delicate, dainty, refined, dexterous in all manner of little things but helpless to act for themselves,—ladies to the inmost core of their beings, with instincts of honor and of noblesse oblige appearing in them from earliest childhood,—the years of seclusion, of deference from hundreds of retainers, of constant instruction in the duties as well as the dignities of their position, have produced an abiding effect upon the minds of the women of this aristocracy, and to-day even the youngest and smallest of them have the virtues as well as the failings produced by nearly three centuries of training. They are lacking in force, in ambition, in clearness of thought, among a nation abounding in those qualities; but the national characteristics of dignity, charming manners, a quick sense of honor, and indomitable pride of race and nation, combined with a personal modesty almost deprecating in its humility,—these are found among the daughters of the nobles developed to their highest extent. With the qualities of gentleness and delicacy possessed by these ladies, which make them shrink from rough contact with the outer world, there are mingled the stronger qualities of moral and physical courage. A daimiō's wife, as befitted the wife of a warrior and the daughter of long generations of brave men, never shrank from facing danger and death when necessary; and considered the taking of her own life an honorable and easy escape from being captured by her enemy.
Two or three little ripples from the past broke into my life in Tōkyō, giving a little insight into those old feudal times, and the customs that were common then, but that are now gone forever. A story was told me in Japan by a lady who had herself, as a child, witnessed the events narrated. It illustrates the responsibility felt by the retainers for their lord and his house. A daimiō fell into disgrace with the Shōgun, and was banished to his own capital,—a castle town several days' journey from Yedo,—as a punishment for some offense. The castle gates were closed, and no communication with the outer world allowed. During this period of disgrace, it happened that the noble fell ill, and died quite suddenly before his punishment was ended. His death under such circumstances was the most terrible thing that could befall either himself or his family, as his funeral must be without the ordinary tokens of respect; and his tombstone, instead of bearing tribute to his virtues, and the favor in which he had been held by his lord, must be simply the monument of his disgrace. This being the case, the retainers felt that these evils must be averted at any cost. Knowing that the Shōgun's anger was probably not so great as to make him wish to bring eternal disgrace to their dead lord, they at once decided to send a messenger to the Shōgun, begging for pardon on the plea of desperate illness, and asking the restoration of his favor before the approach of death. The death was not announced, but the floor of the room in which the man had died was lifted up, and the body let down to the ground beneath; and through all the town it was announced that the daimiō was hopelessly ill. Forty days passed before the Shōgun sent to the retainers the token that the disgrace was removed, and during all those forty days, in castle and barrack and village, the fiction of the daimiō's illness was kept up. As soon as the messengers returned, the body was drawn up again through the floor and placed on the bed; and all the retainers, from the least unto the greatest, were summoned into the room to congratulate their master upon his restoration to favor. One by one they entered the darkened room, prostrated themselves before the corpse, and uttered the formal words of congratulation. Then when all, even to the little girl who, grown to womanhood, told me the story, had been through the horrible ceremony, it was announced that the master was dead,—that he had died immediately after the return of the messenger with the good tidings of pardon. All obstacles being thus removed, the funeral was celebrated with due pomp and circumstance; and the tombstone of the daimiō to-day gives no hint of the disgrace from which he so narrowly escaped.
Another instance very similar, throwing some light on the custom of adoption or yōshi, referred to in a previous chapter, was the case of a nobleman who died without children, and without an heir appointed to inherit his title. It would never have done, in sending in the official notice of death, to be unable to name the legal head of the house and the successor to the title. There was also no male relative to perform the office of chief mourner at the funeral; and so the death of the nobleman was kept secret, and his house showed no signs of mourning during a long period, until a son satisfactory to all the members of the household had been adopted. When the legal notice of the adoption had been sent in, and the son received into the family as heir, then, and only then, was the death of the lord announced, the period of mourning begun, and the funeral ceremony performed.
Upon one occasion I was visiting a Japanese lady, who knew the interest that I took in seeing and procuring the old-fashioned embroidered kimonos, which are now entirely out of style in Japan, and which can only be obtained at second-hand clothing stores, or at private sale. My friend said that she had just been shown an assortment of old garments which were offered at private sale by the heirs of a lady, recently deceased, who had once been a maid of honor in a daimiō's house. The clothes were still in the house, and were brought in, in a great basket, for my inspection. Very beautiful garments they were, of silk, crêpe, and linen, embroidered elaborately, and in extremely good order. Many of them seemed not to have been worn at all, but had been kept folded away for years, and only brought out when a fitting occasion came round at the proper season of the year. As we turned over the beautiful fabrics, a black broadcloth garment at the bottom of the basket aroused my curiosity, and I pulled it out and held it up for closer inspection. A curious garment it was, bound with white, and with a great white crest appliqué on the middle of the back. Curious white stripes gave the coat a military look, and it seemed appropriate rather to the wardrobe of some two-sworded warrior than to that of a gentlewoman of the old type. To the question, How did such a coat come to be in such a place? the older lady of the company—one to whom the old days were still the natural order and the new customs an exotic growth—explained that the garment rightfully belonged in the wardrobe of any lady-in-waiting in a daimiō's house, for it was made to wear in case of fire or attack when the men were away, and the women were expected to guard the premises. Further search among the relics of the past brought to light the rest of the costume: silk hakama, or full kilted trousers; a stiff, manlike black silk cap bound with a white band; and a spear cover of broadcloth, with a great white crest upon it, like the one on the broadcloth coat. These made up the uniform which must be donned in time of need by the ladies of the palace or the castle, for the defense of their lord's property. They had been folded away for twenty years among the embroidered robes, to come to light at last for the purpose of showing to a foreigner a phase of the old life that was so much a matter of course to the older Japanese that it never occurred to them even to mention it to a stranger. The elder lady of the house was wonderfully amused at my interest in these mute memorials of the past, and could never comprehend why I was willing to expend the sum of one dollar for the sake of gaining possession of a set of garments for which I could have no possible use. The uniform had probably never been worn in actual warfare, but its owner had been trained in the use of the long-handled spear, the cover of which she had kept stored away all these years; and had regarded herself as liable to be called into action at any time as one of the home guard, when the male retainers of her lord were in the field.
There are in the shops of Tōkyō to-day hundreds of colored prints illustrating the splendor of the Shōgunate; for the fine clothes, the pageants, the show and display that ended with the fall of the house of Tokugawa, are still dear to the popular mind. In these one sees reproduced, in more than their original brilliancy of coloring, the daimiōs, with their trains of uniformed retainers, proceeding in stately pageant to the palace of the Shōgun; the games, the dances, the reviews held before the Shōgun himself; the princess, with her train of ladies and attendants, visiting the cherry blossoms at Uyéno, or crossing some swift but shallow river on her journey to Yedo. There one sees the fleet of red-lacquered pleasure barges in which the Shōgun with his court sailed up the river to Mukōjima, in the spring, to view the cherry-trees which bloom along the banks for miles. One sees, too, the interiors of the daimiōs' houses, the intimate domestic scenes into which no outsider could ever penetrate. One picture shows the excitements consequent upon the advent of an heir to a noble house,—the happy mother on her couch, surrounded by brightly dressed ladies-in-waiting; the baby in the room adjoining; another group of brilliant beings preparing his bath; while down the long piazza, which opens upon the little courtyard in the centre of the house, one sees still other groups of servants, bringing the gifts with which the great mansion is flooded at such a time. Still further away, across the courtyard, are the doctors, holding learned consultation around a little table, and mixing medicines to secure the health and strength of both mother and baby.
The fall of the Shōgunate, and the abolition of castle and yashiki, have made a radical change in the fashions of dress in Japan. One sees no longer the beautiful embroidered robes, except upon the stage, for the abolition of the great leisure class has put the flowered kimono out of fashion. There are no courts, small and great, scattered all through the country, where the ladies must be dressed in changing styles for the changing seasons, and where the embroideries that imitate most closely the natural flowers are sure of a market. When one asks, as every foreigner is likely to ask, the Japanese ladies of one's acquaintance, "Why have you given up the beautiful embroideries and gorgeous colors that you used to wear?" the answer always is, "There are no daimiōs' houses now." And this is regarded as a sufficient explanation of the change.
I have in my possession to-day two dainty bits of the silk mosaic work before mentioned, the work of the sixteen-year-old wife of one of the proudest and most conservative of the present generation of nobles. A dainty little creature she was, with a face upon which her two years of wifehood and one year of motherhood had left no trace of care. Living amid her host of ladies and women servants, most of them older and wiser than herself; having no care and no amusements save the easy task of keeping herself pretty and well-dressed, and the amusement of watching her baby grow, and hearing the chance rumors that might come to her from the great new world into which her husband daily went, but with which she herself never mingled,—her days were one pleasant, monotonous round, unawakening alike either to soul or intellect. Into this life of remoteness from all that belongs to the new era, imagine the excitement produced by the advent of a foreign lady, with an educated dog, whose wonderful intelligence had been already related to her by one of her own ladies-in-waiting. I shall always believe that my invitation into that exclusive house was due largely to the reports of my dog, carried to its proprietors by one of the lady servitors who had seen him perform upon one occasion. Certain it is that the first words of the little lady of the house to me were a question about the dog; and her last act of politeness to our party was a warm embrace of the handsome collie, who had given unimpeachable evidence that he understood a great deal of English,—a tongue which the daimiō himself was painfully learning. The dainty child-wife with both arms buried in the heavy ruff of the astonished dog is a picture that comes to me often, and that brings up most pathetically the monotony of an existence into which so small a thing can bring so much. The lifelike black and white silk puppy, the creeping baby doll from Kyōto, the silk mosaic box and chopstick case,—the work of my lady's delicate fingers,—are most agreeable reminders of the kindness and sweetness of the little wife, whose sixteen summers have been spent among the surroundings of thirty years ago, and who lives, like the enchanted princess of the fairy tales, wrapped about by a spell which separates her from the bustling world of to-day. The product of the past,—the daughter of the last of the Shōguns,—she dwells in her enchanted house, among the relics of a past which is still the present to her and to her household. So lovely, so æsthetic, so dainty and charming seems the world into which one enters there, that one would not care to break the spell that holds it as it is, and let the girl-wife, with her gentlewomen and her kneeling servants, hurry forward into the busy, perplexing life of to-day. May time deal gently with her and hers, nor rudely break the enchantment that surrounds her!
Samurai was the name given to the military class among the Japanese,—a class intermediate between the Emperor and his nobles and the great mass of the common people who were engaged in agriculture, mechanical arts, or trade. Upon the samurai rested the defense of the country from enemies at home or abroad, as well as the preservation of literature and learning, and the conduct of all official business. At the time of the fall of feudalism, there were, among the thirty-four millions of Japanese, about two million samurai; and in this class, in the broadest sense of the word, must be included the daimiōs, as well as their two-sworded retainers. But as the greater among the samurai were distinguished by special class names, the word as commonly used, and as used throughout this work, applies to the military class, who served the Shōgun and the daimiōs, and who were supported by yearly allowances from the treasuries of their lords. These form a distinct class, actuated by motives quite different from those of the lower classes, and filling a great place in the history of the country. As the nobility, through long inheritance of power and wealth, became weak in body and mind, the samurai grew to be, more and more, not only the sword, but the brain of Japan; and to-day the great work of bringing the country out of the middle ages into the nineteenth century is being performed by the samurai more than by any other class.
What, it may be asked, are the traits of the samurai which distinguish them, and make them such honored types of the perfect Japanese gentleman, so that to live and die worthy the name of samurai was the highest ambition of the soldier? The samurai's duty may be expressed in one word, loyalty,—loyalty to his lord and master, and loyalty to his country,—loyalty so true and deep that for it all human ties, hopes, and affections, wife, children, and home, must be sacrificed if necessary. Those who have read the tale of "The Loyal Rōnins"—a story which has been so well told by Mitford, Dickins, and Greey that many readers must be already familiar with it—will remember that the head councilor and retainer, Oishi, in his deep desire for revenge for his lord's unjust death, divorces his wife and sends off his children, that they may not distract his thoughts from his plans; and performs his famous act of revenge without once seeing his wife, only letting her know at his death his faithfulness to her and the true cause of his seeming cruelty. And the wife, far from feeling wronged by such an act, only glories in the loyalty of her husband, who threw aside everything to fulfill his one great duty, even though she herself was his unhappy victim.
The true samurai is always brave, never fearing death or suffering in any form. Life and death are alike to him, if no disgrace is attached to his name.
An incident comes into my mind which may serve as an example of the samurai spirit,—a spirit which has filled the history of Japan with heroic deeds. It is the story of a long siege, at the end of which the little garrison in the besieged castle was reduced to the last stages of endurance, though hourly expecting reinforcement. In this state of affairs, the great question is, whether to wait for the expected aid, or to surrender immediately, and the answer to the question can only be obtained through a knowledge of the enemy's strength. At this juncture, one of the samurai volunteers to steal into the camp of the besiegers, inspect their forces, and report their strength before the final decision is made. He disguises himself, and through various chances is able to penetrate, unsuspected, into the midst of the enemy's camp. He discovers that the besiegers are so weak that they cannot maintain the siege much longer, but while returning to the castle he is recognized and taken by the enemy. His captors give him one chance for escape from the horrible death of crucifixion. He is to go to the edge of the moat, and, standing on an elevated place, shout out to the soldiers that they must surrender, for the forces are too strong for them. He seemingly consents to this, and, led down to the water's edge, he sees across the moat his wife and child, who greet him with demonstrations of joy. To her he waves his hand; then, bravely and loudly, so that it may be heard by friend and foe, he shouts out the true tidings, "Wait for reinforcement at any cost, for the besiegers are weak and will soon have to give up." At these words his enraged enemies seize him and put him to a death of horrible torture, but he smiles in their faces as he tells them the sweetness of such a sacrifice for his master. Japanese history abounds with heroic deeds of blood displaying the indomitable courage of the samurai. In the reading of them, we are often reminded of the Spartan spirit of warfare, and samurai women are in some ways very like those Spartan mothers who would rather die than see their sons branded as cowards.
The implicit obedience which samurai gave their lords, when conflicting with feelings of loyalty to their country, often produced two opposing forces which had to be overcome. When the daimiō gave orders that the keener-sighted retainer felt would not be for the good of the house, he had either to disobey his lord, or act against his feeling of loyalty. Divided between the two duties, the samurai would usually do as he thought right for his country or his lord, disobeying his master's orders; write a confession of his real motives; and save his name from disgrace by committing suicide. By this act he would atone for his disobedience, and his loyalty would never be questioned.
The now abolished custom of hara-kiri, or the voluntary taking of one's life to avoid disgrace, and blot out entirely or partially the stain on an honorable name, is a curious custom which has come down from old times. The ancient heroes stabbed themselves as calmly as they did their enemies, and women as well as men knew how to use the short sword worn always at the side of the samurai, his last and easy escape from shame.
The young men of this class, as well as their masters, the daimiōs, were early instructed in the method of this self-stabbing, so that it might be cleanly and easily done, for a bloody and unseemly death would not redound to the honor of the suicide. The fatal cut was not instantaneous in its effect, and there was always opportunity for that display of courage—that show of disregard for death or pain—which was expected of the brave man.
The hara-kiri was of course a last resort, but it was an honorable death. The vulgar criminal must be put to death by the hands of others, but the nobler samurai, who never cares to survive disgrace, was condemned to hara-kiri if found guilty of actions worthy of death. Not to be allowed to do this, but to be executed in the common way, was a double disgrace to a samurai. Even to this day, when crimes such as the assassination of a minister of state are committed, in the mistaken belief that the act is for the good of the country, the idea on the part of the assassin is never to escape detection. He calmly gives himself up to justice or takes his own life, stating his motive for the deed; and, believing himself justified in the act, is willing that his life should be the cost.
The old samurai was proud of his rank, his honorable vocation, his responsibility; proud of his ignorance of trade and barter and of his disregard for the sordid cares of the world, regarding as far beneath him all occupations but those of arms. Wealth, as artisan or farmer, rarely tempted him to sink into the lower ranks; and his support from the daimiō, often a mere pittance, insured to him more respect and greater privileges than wealth as a héimin. To this day even, this feeling exists. Preference for rank or position, rather than for mere salary, remains strongly among the present generation, so that official positions are more sought after than the more lucrative occupations of trade. Japan is flooded with small officials, and yet the samurai now is obliged to lay down his sword and devote his time to the once despised trades, and to learn how important are the arts of peace compared with those of war.
The dislike of anything suggestive of trade or barter—of services and actions springing, not from duty and from the heart, but from the desire of gain—has strongly tinted many little customs of the day, often misunderstood and misconstrued by foreigners. In old Japan, experience and knowledge could not be bought and sold. Physicians did not charge for their services, but on the contrary would decline to name or even receive a compensation from those in their own clan. Patients, on their side, were too proud to accept services free, and would send to the physicians, not as pay exactly, but more as a gift or a token of gratitude, a sum of money which varied according to the means of the giver, as well as to the amount of service received. Daimiōs did not send to ask a teacher how much an hour his time was worth, and then arrange the lessons accordingly; the teacher was not insulted by being expected to barter his knowledge for so much filthy lucre, but was merely asked whether his time and convenience would allow of his taking extra teaching. The request was made, not as a matter of give and take, but a favor to be granted. Due compensation, however, would never fail to be made,—of this the teacher could be sure,—but no agreement was ever considered necessary.
With this feeling yet remaining in Japan,—this dislike of contracts, and exact charges for professional services,—we can imagine the inward disgust of the samurai at the business-like habits of the foreigners with whom he has to deal. On the other hand, his feelings are not appreciated by the foreigner, and his actions clash with the European and American ideas of independence and self-respect. In Japan a present of money is more honorable than pay, whereas in America pay is much more honorable than a present.
The samurai of to-day is rapidly imbibing new ideas, and is learning to see the world from a Western point of view; but his thoughts and actions are still moulded on the ideas of old Japan, and it will be a long time before the loyal, faithful, but proud spirit of the samurai will die out. The pride of clan is now changed to pride of race; loyalty to feudal chief has become loyalty to the Emperor as sovereign; and the old traits of character exist under the European costumes of to-day, as under the flowing robes of the two-sworded retainer.
It is this same spirit of loyalty that has made it hard for Christianity to get a foothold in Japan. The Emperor was the representative of the gods of Japan. To embrace a new religion seemed a desertion of him, and the following of the strange gods of the foreigner. The work of the Catholic missionaries which ended so disastrously in 1637 has left the impression that a Christian is bound to offer allegiance to the Pope in much the same way as the Emperor now receives it from his people; and the bitterness of such a thought has made many refuse to hear what Christianity really is. Such words as "King" and "Lord" they have understood as referring to temporal things, and it has taken years to undo this prejudice; a feeling in no way surprising when we consider how the Jesuit missionaries once interfered with political movements in Japan.
So bitter was this feeling, when Japan was first opened, that a native Christian was at once branded as a traitor to his country, and very severe was the persecution against all Christians. Missionaries at one time dared not acknowledge themselves as such, and lived in danger of their lives; and the Japanese Christian who remained faithful did so knowing that he was despised and hated. I know of one mother who, finding command and entreaty alike unavailing to move her son, a convert to the new religion, threatened to commit suicide, feeling that the disgrace which had fallen on the family could only be wiped out with her death. Happily, all this is of the past, and to-day the samurai has found that he can reconcile the new religion with his loyalty to Japan, and that in receiving the one he is not led to betray the other.
The women of the samurai have shared with the men the responsibilities of their rank, and the pride that comes from hereditary positions of responsibility. A woman's first duty in all ranks of society is obedience; but sacrifice of self, in however horrible a way, was a duty most cheerfully and willingly performed, when by such sacrifice father, husband, or son might be the better able to fulfill his duty towards his feudal superior. The women in the daimiōs' castles who were taught fencing, drilled and uniformed, and relied upon to defend the castle in case of need, were women of this class,—women whose husbands and fathers were soldiers, and in whose veins ran the blood of generations of fighting ancestors. Gentle, feminine, delicate as they were, there was a possibility of martial prowess about them when the need for it came; and the long education in obedience and loyalty did not fail to produce the desired results. Death, and ignominy worse than death, could be met bravely, but disgrace involving loss of honor to husband or feudal lord was the one thing that must be avoided at all hazards. It was my good fortune, many years ago, to make the acquaintance of a little Japanese girl who had lived in the midst of the siege of Wakamatsu, the city in which the Shōgun's forces made their last stand for their lord and the system that he represented. As the Emperor's forces marched upon the castle town, moat after moat was taken, until at last men, women, and children took refuge within the citadel itself to defend it until the last gasp. The bombs of the besiegers fell crashing into the castle precincts, killing the women as they worked at whatever they could do in aid of the defenders; and even the little girls ran back and forth, amid the rain of bullets and balls, carrying cartridges, which the women were making within the castle, to the men who were defending the walls. "Weren't you afraid?" we asked the delicate child, when she told us of her own share in the defense. "No," was the answer. A small but dangerous sword, of the finest Japanese steel, was shown us as the sword that she wore in her belt during all those days of war and tumult. "Why did you wear the sword?" we asked. "So that I would have it if I was taken prisoner." "What would you have done with it?" was the next question, for we could not believe that a child of eight would undertake to defend herself against armed soldiers with that little sword. "I would have killed myself," was the answer, with a flash of the eye that showed her quite capable of committing the act in case of need.
In the olden times, when the spirit of warfare was strong and justice but scantily administered, revenge for personal insult, or for the death of father or lord, fell upon the children, or the retainers. Sometimes the bloody deed has fallen to the lot of a woman, to some weak and feeble girl, who, in many a tale, has braved all the difficulties that beset a woman's path, devoted her life to an act of vengeance, and, with the courage of a man, has often successfully consummated her revenge.
One of the tales of old Japan, and a favorite subject of theatrical representation, is the death and revenge of a lady in a daimiō's palace. Onoyé, a daughter of the people, child of a merchant, has by chance risen to the position of lady-in-waiting to a daimiō's wife,—a thing so uncommon that it has roused the jealousy of the other ladies, who are of the samurai class. Iwafuji, one of the highest and proudest ladies at the court, takes pains on every occasion to insult and torment the poor, unoffending Onoyé, whom she cannot bear to have as an associate. She constantly reminds her of her inferior birth, and at last challenges her to a trial in fencing, in which accomplishment Onoyé is not proficient, having lacked the proper training in her early life. At last the hatred and anger of Iwafuji culminate in a frenzy of rage; she forgets herself, and strikes the meek and gentle Onoyé with her sandal,—the worst insult that could be offered to any one.
Onoyé, overcome by this deep disgrace offered her in public, returns from the main palace to her own apartments, and ponders long and deeply, in the bitterness of her soul, how to wipe out the disgrace of an insult by such an enemy.
Her own faithful maid, seeing her disordered hair and anxious looks, perceives some secret trouble, which her mistress will not disclose, and tries, while performing her acts of service, to dispel the gloom by telling gayly all the gossip of the day. This maid, O Haru, is a type of the clever faithful servant. She is really of higher birth than her mistress, for, though she has been obliged to go out to service, she was born of a samurai family. Onoyé, while listening to the talk of her servant, has made up her mind that only one thing can blot out her disgrace, and that is to commit suicide. She hastily pens a farewell to her family, for the deed must not be delayed, and sends with the letter the token of her disgrace,—Iwafuji's sandal, which she has kept. O Haru is sent on this errand, and, unconscious of the ill-news she is bearing, she starts out. On the way, the ominous croak of the ravens, who are making a dismal noise,—a presage of ill-luck,—frightens the observant O Haru. A little further on, the strap of her clog breaks,—a still more alarming sign. Thoroughly frightened, O Haru turns back, and reaches her mistress' room in time to find that the fatal deed is done, and her mistress is dying. O Haru is heart-broken, learns the whole truth, and vows vengeance on the enemy of her loved mistress.
O Haru, unlike Onoyé, is thoroughly trained in fencing. An occasion arises when she returns to Iwafuji in public the malicious blow, and with the same sandal, which she has kept as a sign of her revenge. She then challenges Iwafuji, in behalf of the dead, to a trial in fencing. The haughty Iwafuji is forced to accept, and is thoroughly defeated and shamed before the spectators. The whole truth is now made known, and the daimiō, who admires and appreciates the spirit of O Haru, sends for her, and raises her from her low position to fill the post of her dead mistress.
These stories show the spirit of the samurai women; they can suffer death bravely, even joyfully, at their own hands or the hands of husband or father, to avoid or wipe out any disgrace which they regard as a loss of honor; but they will as bravely and patiently subject themselves to a life of shame and ignominy, worse than death, for the sake of gaining for husband or father the means of carrying out a feudal obligation. There is a pathetic scene, in one of the most famous of the Japanese historical dramas, in which one seems to get the moral perspective of the ideal Japanese woman, as one cannot get it in any other way. The play is founded on the story of "The Loyal Rōnins," referred to in the beginning of this chapter. The loyal rōnins are plotting to avenge the death of their master upon the daimiō whose cupidity and injustice have brought it about. As there is danger of disloyalty even in their own ranks, Oishi, the leader of the dead daimiō's retainers, displays great caution in the selection of his fellow-conspirators, and practices every artifice to secure absolute secrecy for his plans. One young man, who was in disgrace with his lord at the time of his death, applies to be admitted within the circle of conspirators; but as it is suspected that he may not be true to the cause, a payment in money is exacted from him as a pledge of his honorable intentions. It is thus made his first duty to redeem his honor from all suspicion by the payment of the money, in order that he may perform his feudal obligation of avenging the death of his lord. But the young man is poor; he has married a poor girl, and has agreed to support not only his wife, but her old parents as well, and the payment is impossible for him. In this emergency, his wife, at the suggestion of her parents, proposes, as the only way, to sell herself, for a term of two years, to the proprietor of a house of pleasure, that she may by this vile servitude enable her husband to escape the dishonor that must come to him if he fails to fulfill his feudal duty. Negotiations are entered into, the contract is made, and an advance payment is given which will furnish money enough for the pledge required by the conspirators. All this is done without the knowledge of the husband, lest his love for his wife and his grief for the sacrifice prevent him from accepting the only means left to prove his loyalty. The noble wife even plans to leave her home while he is away on a hunting expedition, and so spare him the pain of parting. His emotion upon learning of this venture in business is not of wrath at the disgrace that has overtaken his family, but simply of grief that his wife and her parents must make so great a sacrifice to save his honor. It is a terrible affliction, but it is not a disgrace in any way parallel to the disgrace of disloyalty to his lord. And the heroic wife, when the men come to carry her away, is upheld through all the trying farewells by the consciousness that she is making as noble a sacrifice of herself as did the wife of Yamato Daké when she leaped into the sea to avert the wrath of the sea-god from her husband. The Japanese, both men and women, knowing this story and many others similar in character, can see, as we cannot from our point of view, that, even if the body be defiled, there is no defilement of the soul, for the woman is fulfilling her highest duty in sacrificing all, even her dearest possession, for the honor of her husband. It is a climax of self-abnegation that brings nothing but honor to the soul of her who reaches it. Japanese women who read this story feel profound pity for the poor wife, and a horror of a sacrifice that binds her to a life which outwardly, to the Japanese mind even, is the lowest depth a woman ever reaches. But they do not despise her for the act; nor would they refuse to receive her even were she to appear in living form to-day in any Japanese home, where, thanks to happier fortunes, such sacrifices are not demanded. Just at this point is the difference of moral perspective that foreigners visiting Japan find so hard to understand, and that leads many, who have lived in the country the longest, to believe that there is no modesty and purity among Japanese women. It is this that makes it possible for the vilest of stories, and those that have the least foundation in fact, to find easy belief among foreigners, even if they be told about the purest, most high-minded, and most honorable of Japanese women. Our maidens, as they grow to womanhood, are taught that anything is better than personal dishonor, and their maidenly instincts side with the teaching. With us, a virtuous woman does not mean a brave, a heroic, an unselfish, or self-sacrificing woman, but means simply one who keeps herself from personal dishonor. Chastity is the supreme virtue for a woman; all other virtues are secondary compared with it. This is our point of view, and the whole perspective is arranged with that virtue in the foreground. Dismiss this for a moment, and consider the moral training of the Japanese maiden. From earliest youth until she reaches maturity, she is constantly taught that obedience and loyalty are the supreme virtues, which must be preserved even at the sacrifice of all other and lesser virtues. She is told that for the good of father or husband she must be willing to meet any danger, endure any dishonor, perpetrate any crime, give up any treasure. She must consider that nothing belonging solely to herself is of any importance compared with the good of her master, her family, or her country. Place this thought of obedience and loyalty, to the point of absolute self-abnegation, in the foreground, and your perspective is altered, the other virtues occupying places of varying importance. Because a Japanese woman will sometimes sacrifice her personal virtue for the sake of father or husband, does it follow that all Japanese women are unchaste and impure? In many cases this sacrifice is the noblest that she believes possible, and she goes to it, as she would go to death in any dreadful form, for those whom she loves, and to whom she owes the duty of obedience. The Japanese maiden grows to womanhood no less pure and modest than our own girls, but our girls are never called upon to sacrifice their modesty for the sake of those whom they love best; nor is it expected of any woman in this country that she exist solely for the good of some one else, in whatever way he chooses to use her, during all the years of her life. Let us take this difference into our thought in forming our judgment, and let us rather seek the causes that underlie the actions than pass judgment upon the actions themselves. From a close study of the characters of many Japanese women and girls, I am quite convinced that few women in any country do their duty, as they see it, more nobly, more single-mindedly, and more satisfactorily to those about them, than the women of Japan.
Many argue that the purity of Japanese women, as compared with the men, the ready obedience which they yield, their sweet characters and unselfish devotion as wives and mothers, are merely the results of the restraint under which they live, and that they are too weak to be allowed to enjoy freedom of thought and action. Whether this be true or no is a point which we leave for others to take up, as time shall have provided new data for reasoning on the subject.
To me, the sense of duty seems to be strongly developed in the Japanese women, especially in those of the samurai class. Conscience seems as active, though often in a different manner, as the old-fashioned New England conscience, transmitted through the bluest of Puritan blood. And when a duty has once been recognized as such, no timidity, or mortification, or fear of ridicule will prevent the performance of it. A case comes to my mind now of a young girl of sixteen, who made public confession before her schoolmates of shortcomings of which none of them knew, for the sake of easing her troubled conscience and warning her schoolmates against similar errors. The circumstances were as follows: The young girl had recently lost her grandmother, a most loving and affectionate old lady, who had taken the place of a mother to the child from her earliest infancy. In a somewhat unhappy home, the love of the old grandmother was the one bright spot; and when she was taken away, the poor, lonely child's memory recalled all of her own shortcomings to this beloved friend; and, too late to make amendment to the old lady herself, she dwelt on her own undutifulness, and decided that she must by some means do penance, or make atonement for her fault. She might, if she made a confession before her schoolmates, warn them against similar mistakes; and accordingly she prepared, for the literary society in which the girls took what part they chose, a long confession, written in poetical style, and read it before her schoolmates and teachers. It was a terrible ordeal, as one could see by the blushing face and breaking voice, often choked with sobs; and when at the conclusion she urged her friends to behave in such a way to their dear ones that they need never suffer what she had had to endure since her grandmother's death, there was not a dry eye in the room, and many of the girls were sobbing aloud. It was a curious expiation and a touching one, but one not in the least exceptional or uncharacteristic of the spirit of duty that actuates the best women of the samurai class.
Here is another instance which illustrates this sense of duty, and desire of atoning for past mistakes or sins. At the time of the overthrow of the feudal system, the samurai, bred to loyalty to their own feudal superiors as their highest duty, found themselves ranged on different sides in the struggle, according to the positions in which their lords placed themselves. At the end of the struggle, those who had followed their daimiōs to the field, in defense of the Shōgunate, found that they had been fighting against the Emperor, the Son of Heaven himself, who had at last emerged from the seclusion of centuries to govern his own empire. Thus the supporters of the Shōgunate, while absolutely loyal to their daimiōs, had been disloyal to the higher power of the Emperor; and had put themselves in the position of traitors to their country. There was a conflict of principles there somewhat similar to that which took place in our Civil War, when, in the South, he who was true to his State became a traitor to his country, and he who was true to his country became a traitor to his State. Two ladies of the finest samurai type had, with absolute loyalty to a lost cause, aided by every means in their power in the defense of the city of Wakamatsu against the victorious forces of the Emperor. They had held on to the bitter end, and had been banished, with others of their family and clan, to a remote province, for some years after the end of the war. In 1877, eleven years after the close of the War of the Restoration, a rebellion broke out in the south which required a considerable expenditure of blood and money for its suppression. When the new war began, these two ladies presented a petition to the government, in which they begged that they might be allowed to make amends for their former position of opposition to the Emperor, by going with the army to the field as hospital nurses. At that time, no lady in Japan had ever gone to the front to nurse the wounded soldiers; but to those two brave women was granted the privilege of making atonement for past disloyalty, by the exercise of the skill and nerve that they had gained in their experience of war against the Emperor, in the nursing of soldiers wounded in his defense.
In the old days, the women of the samurai class fulfilled most nobly the duties that fell to their lot. As wives and mothers in time of peace, they performed their work faithfully in the quiet of their homes; and, their time filled with household cares, they busied themselves with the smaller duties of life. As the wives and mothers of soldiers, they cultivated the heroic spirit befitting their position, fearing no danger save such as involved disgrace. As the home-guard in time of need, they stood ready to defend their master's possessions with their own lives; as gentlewomen and ladies-in-waiting at the court of the daimiō or the Shōgun, they cultivated the arts and accomplishments required for their position, and veiled the martial spirit that dwelt within them under an exterior as feminine, as gracious, as cultivated and charming, as that of any ladies of Europe or America. To-day in the new Japan, where the samurai have no longer their yearly allowance from their lords and their feudal duties, but, scattered through the whole nation, are engaged in all the arts and trades, and are infusing the old spirit into the new life, what are the women doing? As the government of the land to-day lies in the hands of the samurai men under the Emperor, so the progress of the women, the new ideas of work for women, are in the hands of the samurai women, led by the Empress. Wherever there is progress among the women, wherever they are looking about for new opportunities, entering new occupations, elevating the home, opening hospitals, industrial schools, asylums, there you will find the leading spirits always of the samurai class. In the recent changes, some of this class have risen above their former state and joined the ranks of the nobility; and there the presence of the samurai spirit infuses new life into the aristocracy. So, too, the changes that have raised some have lowered others, and the samurai is now to be found in the formerly despised occupations of trade and industry, among the merchants, the farmers, the fishermen, the artisans, and the domestic servants. But wherever his lot is cast, the old training, the old ideals, the old pride of family, still keep him separate from his present rank, and, instead of pulling him down to the level of those about him, tend to raise that level by the example of honor and intelligence that he sets. The changed fortunes were not met without a murmur. Most of the outrages, the reactionary movements, the riots and inflammatory speeches and writings, that characterized the long period of disquiet following the Restoration, came from men of this class, who saw their support taken from them, leaving them unable to dig and ashamed to beg. But the greater part of them went sturdily to work, in government positions if they could get them, in the army, on the police force, on the farm, in the shop, at trades, at service,—even to the humble work of wheeling a jinrikisha, if other honest occupation could not be found; and the women shared patiently and bravely the changed fortunes of the men, doing whatever they could toward bettering them. The samurai women to-day are eagerly working into the positions of teachers, interpreters, trained nurses, and whatever other places there are which may be honorably occupied by women. The girls' schools, both government and private, find many of their pupils among the samurai class; and their deference and obedience to their teachers and superiors, their ambition and keen sense of honor in the school-room, show the influence of the samurai feeling over new Japan. To the samurai women belongs the task—and they have already begun to perform it—of establishing upon a broader and surer foundation the position of women in their own country. They, as the most intelligent, will be the first to perceive the remedy for present evils, and will, if I mistake not, move heaven and earth, at some time in the near future, to have that remedy applied to their own case. Most of them read the literature of the day, some of them in at least one language beside their own; a few have had the benefit of travel abroad, and have seen what the home and the family are in Christian lands. There is as much of the unconquerable spirit of the samurai to-day in the women as in the men; and it will not be very long before that spirit will begin to show itself in working for the establishment of their homes and families upon some stronger basis than the will of the husband and father.
The great héimin class includes not only the peasants of Japan, but also the artisans and merchants; artisans ranking below farmers, and merchants below artisans, in the social structure. It includes the whole of the common people, except such as were in former times altogether below the level of respectability, the éta and hinin,—outcasts who lived by begging, slaughtering animals, caring for dead bodies, tanning skins, and other employments which rendered them unclean according to the old notions. From very early times the agricultural class has been sharply divided from the samurai or military. Here and there one from the peasantry mounts by force of his personal qualities into the higher ranks, for there is no caste system that prevents the passing from one class into another,—only a class prejudice that serves very nearly the same purpose, in keeping samurai and héimin in their places, that the race prejudice in this country serves in confining the negroes, North and South, to certain positions and occupations. The first division of the military from the peasantry occurred in the eighth century, and since then the peculiar circumstances of each class have tended to produce quite different characteristics in persons originally of the same stock. To the soldier class have fallen learning, skill in arms and horsemanship, opportunities to rise to places of honor and power, lives free from sordid care in regard to the daily rice, and in which noble ideas of duty and loyalty can spring up and bear fruit in heroic deeds. To the peasant, tilling his little rice-field year after year, have come the heavy burdens of taxation; the grinding toil for a mere pittance of food for himself and his family; the patient bearing of all things imposed by his superiors, with little hope of gain for himself, whatever change the fortunes of war may bring to those above him in the social scale. Is there wonder that, as the years have gone by, his wits have grown heavy under his daily drudgery; that he knows little and understands less of the changes that are taking place in his native land; that he is easily moved by only one thing, and that the failure of his crops, or the shortening of his returns from his land by heavier taxation? This is true of the héimin as a class: they are conservative, fearing that change will but tend to make harder a lot that is none too easy; and though peaceable and gentle usually, they may be moved to blind acts of riot and bloodshed by any political change that seems likely to produce heavier taxation, or even by a failure of their crops, when they see themselves and their families starving while the military and official classes have enough and to spare. But though, as a class, the farmers are ignorant and heavy, they are seldom entirely illiterate; and everywhere, throughout the country, one finds men belonging to this class who are well educated and have risen to positions of much responsibility and power, and are able to hold their own, and think for themselves and for their brethren. From an article in the "Tōkyō Mail," entitled "A Memorialist of the Latter Days of the Tokugawa Government," I quote passages which show the thoughts of one of the héimin upon the condition of his own class about the year 1850. It is from a petition sent to the Shōgun by the head-man of the village of Ogushi.
The first point in the petition is, that there is a growing tendency to luxury among the military and official classes. "It is useless to issue orders commanding peasants and others to be frugal and industrious, when those in power, whose duty it is to show a good example to the people, are themselves steeped in luxury and idleness." He ventures to reproach the Shōguns themselves by pointing to the extravagance with which they have decorated the mausoleums at Nikkō and elsewhere. "Is this," he asks, "in keeping with the intentions of the glorious founder of your dynasty? Look at the shrines in Isé and elsewhere, and at the sepulchres of the Emperors of successive ages. Is gold or silver used in decorating them?" He then turns to the vassals of the Shōgun, and charges them with being tyrannical, rapacious, and low-minded. "Samurai," he continues,—"samurai are finely attired, but how contemptible they look in the eyes of those peasants who know how to be contented with what they have!"
Further on in the same memorial, he points out what he regards as a grave mistake in the policy of the Shōgun. A decree had just been issued prohibiting the peasantry from exercising themselves with sword-play, and from wearing swords. Of this he says: "Perhaps this decree may have been issued on the supposition that Japan is naturally impregnable and defended on all sides. But when she receives insult from a foreign country, it may become necessary to call on the militia. And who knows that men of extraordinary military genius, like Toyotomi, will not again appear among the lower classes?"
He ends his memorial with this warning: "Should the Shōgun's court, and the military class in general, persist in the present oppressive way of government, Heaven will visit this land with still greater calamities. If this circumstance is not clearly kept in view, the consequence may be civil disturbance. I, therefore, beseech that the instructions of the glorious founder of the dynasty be acted upon; that simplicity and frugality be made the guiding principle of administration; and that a general amnesty be proclaimed, thereby complying with the will of Heaven and placating the people. Should these humble suggestions of mine be acted upon, prospective calamities will fly before the light of virtue. Whether the country is to be safe or not depends upon whether the administration is carried on with mercy or not. What I pray for is, that the country may enjoy peace and tranquillity, that the harvest may be plentiful, and that the people may be happy and prosperous."
One is able to see, by this rather remarkable document, that the peasants of Japan, though frequently almost crushed by the heavy burdens of taxation, do not, even in the most grinding poverty, lose entirely that independence of thought and of action which is characteristic of their nation. They do not consider themselves as a servile class, nor their military rulers as beyond criticism or reproach, but are ready to speak boldly for their rights whenever an opportunity occurs. There is a pathetic story, told in Mitford's "Tales of Old Japan," of a peasant, the head-man of his village, who goes to Yedo to present to the Shōgun a complaint, on behalf of his fellow-villagers, of the extortions and exactions of his daimiō. He is unable to get any one to present his memorial to the Shōgun, so at last he stops the great lord's palanquin in the street,—an act in itself punishable with death,—and thrusts the paper forcibly into his hand. The petition is read, and his fellow-villagers saved from further oppression, but the head-man, for his daring, is condemned by his own daimiō to suffer death by crucifixion,—a fate which he meets with the same heroism with which he dared everything to save his fellows from suffering.
The peasant, though ignorant and oppressed, has not lost his manhood; has not become a slave or a serf, but clings to his rights, so far as he knows what they are; and is ready to hold his own against all comers, when the question in debate is one that appeals to his mind. The rulers of Japan have always the peasantry to reckon with when their ruling becomes unjust or oppressive. They cannot be cowed, though they may be misled for a time, and they form a conservative element that serves to hold in check too hasty rulers who would introduce new measures too quickly, and would be likely to find the new wine bursting the old bottles, as well as to prevent any rash extravagance in the way of personal expenditure on the part of government officials. The influence of this great class will be more and more felt as the new parliamentary institutions gain in power, and a more close connection is established between the throne and public opinion.
In considering this great héimin class, it is well to remember that the artisans, who form so large a part of it, are also the artists who have made the reputation of Japan, in Europe and America, as one of the countries where art and the love of beauty in form and color are still instinct with life. The Japanese artisan works with patient toil, and with the skill and originality of the artist, to produce something that shall be individual and his own; not simply to make, after a pattern, some utensil or ornament for which he cares nothing, so long as a purchaser can be found for it, or an employer can be induced to pay him money for making it. It seems as easy for the Japanese to make things pretty and in good taste, even when they are cheap and only used by the poorer people, as it is for American mills and workers to turn out endless varieties of attempts at decoration,—all so hideous that a poor person must be content, either to be surrounded by the worst possible taste, or to purchase only such furnishings and utensils as are entirely without decoration of any kind. "Cheap" and "nasty" have come to be almost synonymous words with us, for the reason that taste in decoration is so rare that it commands a monopoly price, and can only be procured by the wealthy. In Japan this is not the case, for the cheapest of things may be found in graceful and artistic designs,—indeed can hardly be found in any designs that are not graceful and artistic; and the poorest and commonest of the people may have about them the little things that go to cultivate the æsthetic part of human nature. It was not the costly art of Japan that interested me the most, although that is, of course, the most wonderful proof of the capacity and patience of individuals among this héimin class: but it was the common, cheap, every-day art that meets one at every turn; the love for the beautiful, in both nature and art, that belongs to the common coolie as well as to the nobleman. The cheap prints, the blue and white towels, the common teacups and pots, the great iron kettles in use over the fire in the farmhouse kitchen,—all these are things as pretty and tasteful in their way as the rich crêpes, the silver incense burners, the delicate porcelain, and the elegant lacquer that fill the storehouse of the daimiō; and they show, much more conclusively than these costlier things, the universal sense of beauty among the people.
The artisan works at his home, helped less often by hired laborers than by his own children, who learn the trade of their father; and his house, though small, is clean and tasteful, with its soft mats, its dainty tea service, its little hanging scroll upon the walls, and its vase of gracefully arranged flowers in the corner; for flowers, even in winter and in the great city of Tōkyō, are so cheap that they are never beyond the reach of the poorest. In homes that seem to the foreign mind utterly lacking in the comforts and even the necessities of life, one finds the few furnishings and utensils beautiful in shape and decoration; and the money that in this country must be spent in beds, tables, and chairs can be used for the purchase of kakémonos, flowers, and vases, and for various gratifications of the æsthetic taste. Hence it is that the Japanese laborer, who lives on a daily wage which would reduce an American or European to the verge of starvation, finds both time and money for the cultivation of that sense of beauty which is too often crushed completely out of the lower classes by the burdens of this nineteenth century civilization which they bear upon their shoulders. To the Japanese, the "life is more than meat," it is beauty as well; and this love of beauty has upon him a civilizing and refining effect, and makes him in many ways the superior of the American day-laborer.
The peasants and farmers of Japan, thrifty and hard-working as they are, are not by any means a prosperous class. As one passes into the country districts from the large cities, there seems to be a conspicuous dearth of neat, pleasant homes,—a lack of the comforts and necessities of life such as are enjoyed by city people. The rich farmers are scarce, and the laborers in the rice-fields hardly earn, from days of hardest toil with the rudest implements, the little that will provide for their families. In the face of heavy taxes, the incessant toil, the frequent floods of late years, and the threatening famine, one would expect the poor peasants to be a most discouraged and unhappy class. That all this toil and anxiety does wear on them is no doubt true, but the laborers are always ready to bear submissively whatever comes, and are always hopeful and prepared to enjoy life again in happier times. The charms of the city tempt them sometimes to exchange their daily labor for the excitement of life as jinrikisha men; but in any case they will be perfectly independent, and ask no man for their daily rations.
Although there is much poverty, there are few or no beggars in Japan, for both strong and weak find each some occupation that brings the little pittance required to keep soul and body together, and gives to all enough to make them light-hearted, cheerful, and even happy. From the rich farmer, whose many acres yield enough to provide for a home of luxury quite as fine as the city homes, to the poor little vender of sticks of candy, around whose store the children flock like bees with their rin and sen, all seem independent, contented, and satisfied with their lot in life.
The religious beliefs of old Japan are stronger to-day among the country people than among the dwellers in cities. And they are still willing to give of their substance for the aid of the dying faiths to which they cling, and to undertake toilsome pilgrimages to obtain some longed-for blessing from the gods whom they serve. A great Buddhist temple is being built in Kyōtō to-day, from the lofty ceiling of which hangs a striking proof of the devotion of some of the peasant women to the Buddhist faith. The whole temple, with its immense curved roof, its vast proportions, and its marvelous wood carvings, has been built by offerings of labor, money, and materials made by the faithful. The great timbers were given and brought to the spot by the countrymen; and the women, wishing to have some part in the sacred work, cut off their abundant hair, a beauty perhaps more prized by the Japanese women than by those of other countries, and from the material thus obtained they twisted immense cables, to be used in drawing the timbers from the mountains to the site of the temple. The great black cables hang in the unfinished temple to-day, a sign of the devotion of the women who spared not their chief ornament in the service of the gods in whom they still believe. And a close scrutiny of these touching offerings shows that the glossy black locks of the young women are mingled with the white hairs of those who, by this sacrifice, hope to make sure of a quick and easy departure from a life already near its close.
All along the Tōkaidō, the great road from Tōkyō to Kyōto, in the neighborhood of some holy place, or in the district around the great and sacred Fuji, the mountain so much beloved and honored in Japanese art, will be seen bands of pilgrims slowly walking along the road, their worn and soiled white garments telling of many days' weary march. Their large hats shield them from the sun and the rain, and the pieces of matting slung over their backs serve them for beds to sleep on, when they take shelter for the night in rude huts. The way up the great mountain of Fuji is lined with these pilgrims; for to attain its summit, and worship there the rising sun, is believed to be the means of obtaining some special blessing. Among these religious devotees, in costumes not unlike those of the men, under the same large hat and coarse matting, old women often are seen, their aged faces belying their apparent vigor of body, as they walk along through miles and miles of country, jingling their bells and holding their rosaries until they reach the shrine, where they may ask some special blessing for their homes, or fulfill some vow already made.
Journeying through rural Japan, one is impressed by the important part played by women in the various bread-winning industries. In the village homes, under the heavily thatched roofs, the constant struggle against poverty and famine will not permit the women to hold back, but they enter bravely into all the work of the men. In the rice-field the woman works side by side with the man, standing all day up to her knees in mud, her dress tucked up and her lower limbs encased in tight-fitting, blue cotton trousers, planting, transplanting, weeding, and turning over the evil-smelling mire, only to be distinguished from her husband by her broader belt tied in a bow behind. In mountain regions we meet the women climbing the steep mountain roads, pruning-hook in hand, after wood for winter fires; or descending, towards night, carrying a load that a donkey need not be ashamed of, packed on a frame attached to the shoulders, or poised lightly upon a straw mat upon the head. There is one village near Kyōto, Yasé by name, at the base of Hiyéi Zan, the historic Buddhist stronghold, where the women attain a stature and muscular development quite unique among the pigmy population of the island empire. Strong, jolly, red-cheeked women they are, showing no evidence of the shrinking away with the advance of old age that is characteristic of most of their countrywomen. With their tucked-up kimonos and blue cotton trousers, they stride up and down the mountain, carrying the heaviest and most unwieldy of burdens as lightly and easily as the ordinary woman carries her baby. My first acquaintance with them was during a camping expedition upon the sacred mountain. I myself was carried up the ascent by two small, nearly naked, finely tattooed and moxa-scarred men; but my baggage, consisting of two closely packed hampers as large as ordinary steamer trunks, was lifted lightly to the heads of these feminine porters, and, poised on little straw pads, carried easily up the narrow trail, made doubly difficult by low-hanging branches, to the camp, a distance of three or four miles. From among these women of Yasé, on account of their remarkable physical development, have been chosen frequently the nurses for the imperial infants; an honor which the Yasé villagers duly appreciate, and which makes them bear themselves proudly among their less favored neighbors.
In other parts of the country, in the neighborhood of Nikkō, for instance, the care of the horses, mild little pack-mares that do much of the burden-bearing in those mountains, is mainly in the hands of the women. At Nikkō, when we would hire ponies for a two days' expedition to Yumoto, a little, elderly woman was the person with whom our bargains were made; and a close bargainer she proved to be, taking every advantage that lay in her power. When the caravan was ready to start, we found that, though each saddle-horse had a male groom in attendance, the pack-ponies on which our baggage was carried were led by pretty little country girls of twelve or fourteen, their bright black eyes and red cheeks contrasting pleasantly with the blue handkerchiefs that adorned their heads; their slender limbs encased in blue cotton, and only their red sashes giving any hint of the fact that they belonged to the weaker sex. As we journeyed up the rough mountain roads, the little girls kept along easily with the rest of the party; leading their meek, shock-headed beasts up the slippery log steps, and passing an occasional greeting with some returning pack-train, in which the soft black eyes and bits of red about the costume of the little grooms showed that they, too, were mountain maidens, returning fresh and happy after a two days' tramp through the rocky passes.
In the districts where the silkworm is raised, and the silk spun and woven, the women play a most important part in this productive industry. The care of the worms and of the cocoons falls entirely upon the women, as well as the spinning of the silk and the weaving of the cloth. It is almost safe to say that this largest and most productive industry of Japan is in the hands of the women; and it is to their care and skill that the silk product of the islands is due. In the silk districts one finds the woman on terms of equality with the man, for she is an important factor in the wealth-producing power of the family, and is thus able to make herself felt as she cannot when her work is inferior to that of the men. As a farmer, as a groom, or as a porter, a woman is and must remain an inferior, but in the care of the silkworms, and all the tasks that belong to silk culture, she is the equal of the stronger sex.
Then, again, in the tea districts, the tea plantations are filled with young girls and old women, their long sleeves held back by a band over the shoulder, and a blue towel gracefully fastened over their heads to keep off the sun and the dust. They pick busily away at the green, tender leaves, which will soon be heated and rolled by strong men over the charcoal fire. The occupation is an easy one, only requiring care in the selection of leaves to be picked, and can be performed by young girls and old women, who gather the glossy leaves in their big baskets, while chatting to each other over the gossip and news of the day.
In the hotels, both in the country and the city, women play an important part. The attendants are usually sweet-faced, prettily dressed girls, and frequently the proprietor of the hotel is a woman. My first experience of a Japanese hotel was at Nara, anciently the capital of Japan, and now a place of resort because of its fine old temples, its Dai Butsu, and its beautiful deer park. The day's ride in jinrikisha from Ōsaka had brought our party in very tired, only to find that the hotel to which we had telegraphed for rooms was already filled to overflowing by a daimiō and his suite. Not a room could be obtained, and we were at last obliged to walk some distance, for we had dismissed our tired jinrikisha men, to a hotel in the village, of which we knew nothing. What with fatigue and disappointment, we were not prepared to view the unknown hotel in a very rosy light; and when our guide pointed to a small gate leading into a minute, damp courtyard, we were quite convinced that the hardships of travel in Japan were now about to begin; but disappointment gave way to hope, when we were met at the door by a buxom landlady, whose smile was in itself a refreshment. Although we had little in the way of language in common, she made us feel at home at once, took us to her best room, sent her blooming and prettily dressed daughters to bring us tea and whatever other refreshments the mysterious appetite of a foreigner might require, and altogether behaved toward us in such motherly fashion that fatigue and gloom departed forthwith, leaving us refreshed and cheerful. Soon we began to feel rested, and our kind friend, seeing this, took us upon a tour around the house, in which room after room, spotless, empty, with shining woodwork and softest of mats, showed the good housekeeping of our hostess. A little garden in the centre of the house, with dwarf trees, moss-covered stones, and running water, gave it an air of coolness on the hot July day that was almost deceptive; and the spotless wash-room, with its great stone sink, its polished brass basins, its stone well-curb, half in and half out of the house, was cool and clean and refreshing merely to look at. A two days' stay in this hotel showed that the landlady was the master of the house. Her husband was about the house constantly, as were one or two other men, but they all worked under the direction of the energetic head of affairs. She it was who managed everything, from the cooking of the meals in the kitchen to the filling and heating of the great bath-tub into which the guests were invited to enter every afternoon, one after the other, in the order of their rank. On the second night of my stay, at a late hour, when I supposed that the whole house had retired to rest, I crept softly out of my room to try to soothe the plaintive wails of my dog, who was complaining bitterly that he was made to sleep in the wood-cellar instead of in his mistress's room, as his habit had always been. As I stole quietly along, fearing lest I should arouse the sleeping house, I heard the inquiring voice of my landlady sound from the bath-room, the door of which stood wide open. Afraid that she would think me in mischief if I did not show myself, I went to the door, to find her, after her family was safely stowed away for the night, taking her ease in the great tub of hot water, and so preparing herself for a sound, if short, night's sleep. She accepted my murmured Inu (dog) as an excuse, and graciously dismissed me with a smile, and I returned to my room feeling safe under the vigilant care that seemed to guard the house by night as well as by day. I have seen many Japanese hotels and many careful landladies since, but no one among them all has made such an impression as my pleasant hostess at Nara.
Not only hotels, but little tea-houses all through Japan, form openings for the business abilities of women, both in country and city. Wherever you go, no matter how remote the district or how rough the road, at every halting point you find a tea-house. Sometimes it is quite an extensive restaurant, with several rooms for the entertainment of guests, and a regular kitchen where fairly elaborate cooking can be done; sometimes it is only a rough shelter, at one end of which water is kept boiling over a charcoal brazier, while at the other end a couple of seats, covered with mats or a scarlet blanket or two, serve as resting-places for the patrons of the establishment. But whatever the place is, there will be one woman or more in attendance; and if you sit down upon the mats, you will be served at once with tea, and later, should you require more, with whatever the establishment can afford,—it may be only a slice of watermelon, or a hard pear; it may be eels on rice, vermicelli, egg soup, or a regular dinner, should the tea-house be one of the larger and more elaborately appointed ones. When the feast is over, the refreshments you have especially ordered are paid for in the regular way; but for the tea and sweetmeats offered, for which no especial charge is made, you are expected to leave a small sum as a present. In the less aristocratic resting-places, a few cents for each person is sufficient to leave on the waiter with the empty cups of tea, for which loud and grateful thanks will be shouted out to the retiring party.
In the regular inn, the chadai amounts to several dollars, for a party remaining any time, and it is supposed to pay for all the extra services and attention bestowed on guests by the polite host and hostess and the servants in attendance. The chadai, done up neatly in paper, with the words On chadai written on it, is given with as much formality as any present in Japan. The guest claps his hands to summon the maid. When it is heard, for the thin paper walls of a Japanese house let through every noise, voices from all sides will shout out Hē´-hē´, or Hai, which means that you have been heard, and understood. Presently a maid will softly open your door, and with head low down will ask what you wish. You tell her to summon the landlord. In a few moments he appears, and you push the chadai to him, making some conventional self-depreciating speech, as, "You have done a great deal for our comfort, and we wish to give you this chadai, though it is only a trifle." The landlord, with every expression of surprise, will bow down to the ground with thanks, raising the small package to his head in token of acceptance and gratitude, and will murmur in low tones how little he has done for the comfort of his guests; and then, the self-depreciation and formal words of thanks on his side being ended, he will finally go down stairs to see how much he has gotten. But, whether more or less than he had expected, nothing but extreme gratitude and politeness appears on his face as he presents a fan, confectionery, or some trifle, as a return for the chadai, and speeds the parting guests with his lowest bow and kindliest smile, after having seen to every want that could be attended to.
Once, at Nikkō, I started with a friend for a morning walk to a place described in the guide-book. The day was hot and the guide-book hazy, and we lost the road to the place for which we had set out, but found ourselves at last in a beautiful garden, with a pretty lake in its centre, a little red-lacquered shrine reflected in the lake, and a tea-house hospitably open at one side. The teakettle was boiling over the little charcoal fire; melons, eggs, and various unknown comestibles were on the little counter; but no voice bade us welcome as we approached, and when we sat down on the edge of the piazza, we could see no one within the house. We waited, however, for the day was hot, and time is not worth much in rural Japan. Pretty soon a small, wizened figure made its appearance in the distance, hurrying and talking excitedly as it came near enough to see two foreign ladies seated upon the piazza. Many bows and profuse apologies were made by the little old woman, who seemed to be the solitary occupant of the pretty garden, and who had for the moment deserted her post to do the day's marketing in the neighboring village. The apologies having been smilingly received, the old lady set herself to the task of making her guests comfortable. First she brought two tumblers of water, cold as ice, from the spring that gushed out of a great rock in the middle of the little lake. Then she retired behind a screen and changed her dress, returning speedily to bring us tea. Then she retreated to her diminutive kitchen, and presently came back smiling, bearing eight large raw potatoes on a tray. These she presented to us with a deep bow, apparently satisfied that she had at last brought us something we would be sure to like. We left the potatoes behind us when we went away, and undoubtedly the old lady is wondering still over the mysterious ways of the foreigners, as we are over those of the Japanese tea-house keepers.
One summer, when I was spending a week at a Japanese hotel at quite a fashionable seaside resort, I became interested in a little old woman who visited the hotel daily, carrying, suspended by a yoke from her shoulders, two baskets of fruit, which she sold to the guests of the hotel. As I was on the ground floor, and my room was, in the daytime, absolutely without walls on two sides, she was my frequent visitor, and, for the sake of her pleasant ways and cheerful smiles, I bought enough hard pears of her to have given the colic to an elephant. One day, after her visit to me, as I was sitting upon the matted and roofed square that served me for a room, my eye wandered idly toward the bathing beach, and, under the slight shelter where the bathers were in the habit of depositing their sandals and towels, I spied the well-known yoke and fruit baskets, as well as a small heap of blue cotton garments that I knew to be the clothing of the little fruit-vender. She had evidently taken a moment when trade was slack to enjoy a dip in the soft, blue, summer sea. Hardly had I made up my mind as to the meaning of the fruit baskets and the clothing, when our little friend herself emerged from the sea and, sitting down on a bench, proceeded to rub herself off with the small but artistically decorated blue towel that every peasant in Japan has always with him, however lacking he may be in all other appurtenances of the toilet. As she sat there, placidly rubbing away, a friend of the opposite sex made his appearance on the scene. I watched to see what she would do, for the Japanese code of etiquette is quite different from ours in such a predicament. She continued her employment until he was quite close, showing no unseemly haste, but continuing her polishing off in the same leisurely manner in which she had begun it; then at the proper moment she rose from her seat, bowed profoundly, and smilingly exchanged the greetings proper for the occasion, both parties apparently unconscious of any lack in the toilet of the lady. The male friend then passed on about his business; the little woman completed her toilet without further interruptions, shouldered her yoke, and jogged cheerfully on to her home in the little village, a couple of miles away.
As one travels through rural Japan in summer and sees the half-naked men, women, and children that pour out from every village on one's route and surround the kuruma at every stopping place, one sometimes wonders whether there is in the country any real civilization, whether these half-naked people are not more savage than civilized; but when one finds everywhere good hotels, scrupulous cleanliness in all the appointments of toilet and table, polite and careful service, honest and willing performance of labor bargained for, together with the gentlest and pleasantest of manners, even on the part of the gaping crowd that shut out light and air from the traveling foreigner who rests for a moment at the village inn, one is forced to reconsider a judgment formed only upon one peculiarity of the national life, and to conclude that there is certainly a high type of civilization in Japan, though differing in many important particulars from our own. A careful study of the Japanese ideas of decency, and frequent conversation with refined and intelligent Japanese ladies upon this subject, has led me to the following conclusion. According to the Japanese standard, any exposure of the person that is merely incidental to health, cleanliness, or convenience in doing necessary work, is perfectly modest and allowable; but an exposure, no matter how slight, that is simply for show, is in the highest degree indelicate. In illustration of the first part of this conclusion, I would refer to the open bath-houses, the naked laborers, the exposure of the lower limbs in wet weather by the turning up of the kimono, the entirely nude condition of the country children in summer, and the very slight clothing that even adults regard as necessary about the house or in the country during the hot season. In illustration of the last part, I would mention the horror with which many Japanese ladies regard that style of foreign dress which, while covering the figure completely, reveals every detail of the form above the waist, and, as we say, shows off to advantage a pretty figure. To the Japanese mind it is immodest to want to show off a pretty figure. As for the ball-room costumes, where neck and arms are freely exposed to the gaze of multitudes, the Japanese woman, who would with entire composure take her bath in the presence of others, would be in an agony of shame at the thought of appearing in public in a costume so indecent as that worn by many respectable American and European women. Our judgment would indeed be a hasty one, should we conclude that the sense of decency is wanting in the Japanese as a race, or that the women are at all lacking in the womanly instinct of modesty. When the point of view from which they regard these matters is once obtained, the apparent inconsistencies and incongruities are fully explained, and we can do justice to our Japanese sister in a matter in regard to which she is too often cruelly misjudged.
There seems no doubt at all that among the peasantry of Japan one finds the women who have the most freedom and independence. Among this class, all through the country, the women, though hard-worked and possessing few comforts, lead lives of intelligent, independent labor, and have in the family positions as respected and honored as those held by women in America. Their lives are fuller and happier than those of the women of the higher classes, for they are themselves bread-winners, contributing an important part of the family revenue, and they are obeyed and respected accordingly. The Japanese lady, at her marriage, lays aside her independent existence to become the subordinate and servant of her husband and parents-in-law, and her face, as the years go by, shows how much she has given up, how completely she has sacrificed herself to those about her. The Japanese peasant woman, when she marries, works side by side with her husband, finds life full of interest outside of the simple household work, and, as the years go by, her face shows more individuality, more pleasure in life, less suffering and disappointment, than that of her wealthier and less hard-working sister.
The great cities of Japan afford remarkable opportunities for seeing the life of the common people, for the little houses and shops, with their open fronts, reveal the penetralia in a way not known in our more secluded homes. The employment of the merchant being formerly the lowest of respectable callings, one does not find even yet in Japan many great stores or a very high standard of business morality, for the business of the country was left in the hands of those who were too stupid or too unambitious to raise themselves above that social class. Hence English and American merchants, who only see Japan from the business side, continually speak of the Japanese as dishonest, tricky, and altogether unreliable, and greatly prefer to deal with the Chinese, who have much of the business virtue that is characteristic of the English as a nation. Only within a few years have the samurai, or indeed any one who was capable of figuring in any higher occupation in life, been willing to adopt the calling of the merchant; but many of the abler Japanese of to-day have begun to see that trade is one of the most important factors of a nation's well-being, and that the business of buying and selling, if wisely and honestly done, is an employment that nobody need be ashamed to enter. There are in Japan a few great merchants whose word may be trusted, and whose obligations will be fulfilled with absolute honesty; but a large part of the buying and selling is still in the hands of mercantile freebooters, who will take an advantage wherever it is possible to get one, in whose morality honesty has no place, and who have not yet discovered the efficacy of that virtue simply as a matter of policy. Their trade, conducted in a small way upon small means, is more of the nature of a game, in which one person is the winner and the other the loser, than a fair exchange, in which both parties obtain what they want. It is the mediæval, not the modern idea of business, that is still held among Japanese merchants. With them, trade is a warfare between buyer and seller, in which every man must take all possible advantage for himself, and it is the lookout of the other party if he is cheated.
In Tōkyō, the greatest and most modernized of the cities of the empire, the shops are not the large city stores that one sees in European and American cities, but little open-fronted rooms, on the edge of which one sits to make one's purchases, while the proprietor smiles and bows and dickers; setting his price by the style of his customer's dress, or her apparent ignorance of the value of the desired article. Some few large dry-goods stores there are, where prices are set and dickering is unnecessary; and in the kwankoba, or bazaars, one may buy almost anything needed by Japanese of all classes, from house furnishings to foreign hats, at prices plainly marked upon them, and from which there is no variation. But one's impression of the state of trade in Japan is, that it is still in a very primitive and undeveloped condition, and is surprisingly behind the other parts of Japanese civilization.
The shopping of the ladies of the large yashikis and of wealthy families is done mostly in the home; for all the stores are willing at any time, on receiving an order, to send up a clerk with a bale of crêpes, silks, and cottons tied to his back, and frequently towering high above his head as he walks, making him look like the proverbial ant with a grain of wheat. He sets his great bundle carefully down on the floor, opens the enormous furushiki, or bundle handkerchief, in which it is enveloped, and takes out roll after roll of silk or chintz, neatly done up in paper or yellow cotton. With infinite patience, he waits while the merits of each piece are examined and discussed, and if none of his stock proves satisfactory, he is willing to come again with a new set of wares, knowing that in the end purchases will be made sufficient to cover all his trouble.
The less aristocratic people are content to go to the stores themselves; and the business streets of a Japanese city, such as the Ginza in Tōkyō, are full of women, young and old, as well as merry children, who enjoy the life and bustle of the stores. Like all things else in Japan, shopping takes plenty of time. At Mitsui's, the largest silk store in Tōkyō, one will see crowds of clerks sitting upon the matted floors, each with his soroban, or adding machine, by his side; and innumerable small boys, who rush to and fro, carrying armfuls of fabrics to the different clerks, or picking up the same fabrics after the customer who has called for them has departed. The store appears, to the foreign eye, to be simply a roofed and matted platform upon which both clerks and customers sit. This platform is screened from the street by dark blue cotton curtains or awnings hung from the low projecting eaves of the heavy roof. As the customers take their seats, either on the edge of the platform, or, if they have come on an extended shopping bout, upon the straw mat of the platform itself, a small boy appears with tea for the party; an obsequious clerk greets them with the customary salutations of welcome, pushes the charcoal brazier toward them, that they may smoke, or warm their hands, before proceeding to business, and then waits expectantly for the name of the goods that his customers desire to see. When this is given, the work begins; the little boys are summoned, and are soon sent off to the great fire-proof warehouse, which stands with heavy doors thrown open, on the other side of the platform, away from the street. Through the doorway one can see endless piles of costly stuffs stored safely away, and from these piles the boys select the required fabric, loading themselves down with them so that they can barely stagger under the weights that they carry. As the right goods are not always brought the first time, and as, moreover, there is an endless variety in the colors and patterns in even one kind of silk, there is always plenty of time for watching the busy scene,—for sipping tea, or smoking a few whiffs from the tiny pipes that so many Japanese, both men and women, carry always with them. When the purchase is at last made, there is still some time to be spent by the customer in waiting until the clerk has made an abstruse calculation upon his soroban, the transaction has been entered in the books of the firm, and a long bill has been written and stamped, and handed to her with the bundle. During her stay in the store, the foreign customer, making her first visit to the place, is frequently startled by loud shouts from the whole staff of clerks and small boys,—outcries so sudden, so simultaneous, and so stentorian, that she cannot rid herself of the idea that something terrible is happening every time that they occur. She soon learns, however, that these manifestations of energy are but the way in which the Japanese merchant speeds the departing purchaser, and that the apparently inarticulate shouts are but the formal phrase, "Thanks for your continued favors," which is repeated in a loud tone by every employee in the store whenever a customer departs. When she herself is at last ready to leave, a chorus of yells arises, this time for her benefit; and as she skips into the jinrikisha and is whirled away, she hears continued the busy hum of voices, the clattering of sorobans, the thumping of the bare feet of the heavily laden boys, and the loud shouts of thanks with which departing guests are honored.
There is less pomp and circumstance about the smaller stores, for all the goods are within easy reach, and the shops for household utensils and chinaware seem to have nearly the whole stock in trade piled up in front, or even in the street itself. Many such little places are the homes of the people who keep them. And at the back are rooms, which serve for dwelling rooms, opening upon well-kept gardens. The whole work of the store is often attended to by the proprietor, assisted by his wife and family, and perhaps one or two apprentices. Each of the workers, in turn, takes an occasional holiday, for there is no day in the Japanese calendar when the shops are all closed; and even New Year's Day, the great festival of the year, finds most of the stores open. Yet the dwellers in these little homes, living almost in the street, and in the midst of the bustle and crowd and dust of Tōkyō, have still time to enjoy their holidays and their little gardens, and have more pleasure and less hard work than those under similar circumstances in our own country.
The stranger visiting any of the great Japanese cities is surprised by the lack of large stores and manufactories, and often wonders where the beautiful lacquer work and porcelains are made, and where the gay silks and crêpes are woven. There are no large establishments where such things are turned out by wholesale. The delicate vases, the bronzes, and the silks are often made in humblest homes, the work of one or two laborers with rudest tools. There are no great manufactories to be seen, and the bane of so many cities, the polluting factory smoke, never rises over the cities of Japan. The hard, confining factory life, with its never-ceasing roar of machinery, bewildering the minds and intellects of the men who come under its deadening influences, until they become scarcely more than machines themselves, is a thing as yet almost unknown in Japan. The life of the jinrikisha man even, hard and comfortless as it may seem to run all day like a horse through the crowded city streets, is one that keeps him in the fresh air, under the open sky, and quickens his powers both of body and mind. To the poor in Japanese cities is never denied the fresh air and sunshine, green trees and grass; and the beautiful parks and gardens are found everywhere, for the enjoyment of even the meanest and lowest.
On certain days in the month, in different sections of the city, are held night festivals near temples, and many shopkeepers take the opportunity to erect temporary booths, in which they so arrange their wares as to tempt the passers-by as they go to and fro. Very often there is a magnificent display of young trees, potted plants, and flowers, brought in from the country and ranged on both sides of the street. Here the gardeners make lively sales, as the displays are often fine in themselves, and show to a special advantage in the flaring torchlight. The eager venders, who do all they can to call the attention of the crowd to their wares, make many good bargains. The purchase requires skill on both sides, for flower men are proverbial in their high charges, asking often five and ten times the real value of a plant, but coming down in price almost immediately on remonstrance. You ask the price of a dwarf wistaria growing in a pot. The man answers at once, "Two dollars." "Two dollars!" you answer in surprise, "it is not worth more than thirty or forty cents." "Seventy-five, then," he will respond; and thus the buyer and seller approach nearer in price, until the bargain is struck somewhere near the first price offered. Price another plant and there would be the same process to go over again; but as the evening passes, prices go lower and lower, for the distances that the plants have been brought are great, and the labor of loading up and carrying back the heavy pots is a weary one, and when the last customer has departed the merchants must work late into the night to get their wares safely home again.
But beside the flower shows, there are long rows of booths, which, with the many visitors who throng the streets, make a gay and lively scene. So dense is the crowd that it is with difficulty one can push through on foot or in jinrikisha. The darkness is illuminated by torches, whose weird flames flare and smoke in the wind, and shine down upon the little sheds which line both sides of the road, and contain so tempting a display of cheap toys and trinkets that not only the children, but their elders, are attracted by them. Some of the booths are devoted to dolls; others to toys of various kinds; still others to birds in cages, goldfish in globes, queer chirping insects in wicker baskets, pretty ornaments for the hair, fans, candies, and cakes of all sorts, roasted beans and peanuts, and other things too numerous to mention. The long line of stalls ends with booths, or tents, in which shows of dancing, jugglery, educated animals, and monstrosities, natural or artificial, may be seen for the moderate admission fee of two sen. Each of these shows is well advertised by the beating of drums, by the shouting of doorkeepers, by wonderful pictures on the outside to entice the passer-by, or even by an occasional brief lifting of the curtains which veil the scene from the crowd without, just long enough to afford a tantalizing glimpse of the wonders within. Great is the fascination to the children in all these things, and the little feet are never weary until the last booth is passed, and the quiet of neighboring streets, lighted only by wandering lanterns, strikes the home-returning party by its contrast with the light and noise of the festival. The supposed object of the expedition, the visit to the temple, has occupied but a small share of time and attention, and the little hands are filled with the amusing toys and trifles bought, and the little minds with the merry sights seen. Nor are those who remain at home forgotten, but the pleasure-seekers who visit the fair carry away with them little gifts for each member of the family, and the O miagé, or present given on the return, is a regular institution of Japanese home life.
By ten o'clock, when the crowds have dispersed and the purchasers have all gone home and gone to bed, the busy booth-keepers take down their stalls, pack up their wares, and disappear, leaving no trace of the night's gayeties to greet the morning sun.
Beside these evening shows, which occur monthly or oftener, there are also great festivals of the various gods, some celebrated annually, others at intervals of some years. These matsuri last for several days, and during that time the quarter of the city in which they occur seems entirely given over to festivity. The streets are gayly decorated with flags, and bright lanterns—all alike in design and color—are hung in rows from the low eaves of the houses. Young bamboo-trees set along the street, and decorated with bits of bright-colored tissue paper, are a frequent and effective accompaniment of these festivals, and here and there throughout the district are set up high stands, on the tops of which musicians with squeaky flutes, and drums of varying calibre, keep up a din more festive than harmonious. It takes a day or two for the rejoicings to get fully under way, but by the second or third day the fun is at its height, and the streets are thronged with merrymakers. A great deal of labor and strength, as well as ingenuity, is spent in the construction of enormous floats, or dashi, lofty platforms of two stories, either set on wheels and drawn by black bullocks or crowds of shouting men, or carried by poles on men's shoulders. Upon the first floor of these great floats is usually a company of dancers, or mummers, who dance, attitudinize, or make faces for the amusement of the crowds that gather along their route; while up above, an effigy of some hero in Japanese history, or the figure of some animal or monster, looks down unmoved upon the absurdities below. Each dashi is attended, not only by the men who draw it, but by companies of others in some uniform costume; and sometimes graceful professional dancing-girls are hired to march in the matsuri procession, or to dance upon the lofty dashi. At the time of the festivities which accompanied the promulgation of the Constitution, three days of jollification were held in Tōkyō, days of such universal fun and frolic that it will be known among the common people, to all succeeding generations, as the "Emperor's big matsuri." Every quarter of the city vied with every other in the production of gorgeous dashi, and the streets were gay with every conceivable variety of decoration, from the little red-and-white paper lanterns, that even the poorest hung before their houses, to the great evergreen arches, set with electric lights, with which the great business streets were spanned thickly from end to end. An evening walk through one of these thoroughfares was a sight to be remembered for a lifetime. The magnificent dashi represented all manner of quaint conceits. A great bivalve drawn by yelling crowds—which halted occasionally—opened and displayed between its shells a group of beautifully dressed girls, who danced one of the pantomimic dances of the country, accompanied by the twanging melodies of the samisen. Then slowly the great shell closed, once more the shouting crowds seized hold of the straining ropes, and the great bivalve with its fair freight was drawn slowly along through the gayly illuminated streets. Jimmu Tenno and other heroes of Japanese legend or history, each upon its lofty platform, a white elephant, and countless other subjects were represented in the festival cars sent forth by all the districts of the city to celebrate the great event.
Upon such festival occasions the shopkeeper does not put up his shutters and leave his place of business, but the open shop-fronts add much to the gay appearance of the street. There are no signs of business about, but the floor of the shop is covered with bright-red blankets; magnificent gilded screens form an imposing background to the little room; and seated on the floor are the shopkeeper, his family, and guests, eating, drinking tea, and smoking, as cosily as if all the world and his wife were not gazing upon the gay and homelike interior. Sometimes companies of dancers, or other entertainments furnished by the wealthier shopkeepers, will attract gaping crowds, who watch and block the street until the advance guard of some approaching dashi scatters them for a moment.
In Japan, as in other parts of the world, the country people are rather looked down upon by the dwellers in the city for their slowness of intellect, dowdiness of dress, and boorishness of manners; while the country people make fun of the fads and fashions of the city, and rejoice that they are not themselves the slaves of novelty, and especially of the foreign innovations that play so prominent a part in Japanese city life to-day. "The frog in the well knows not the great ocean," is the snub with which the Japanese cockney sets down Farmer Rice-Field's expressions of opinion; while the conservative countryman laughs at the foreign affectations of the Tōkyō man, and returns to his village with tales of the cookery of the capital: so extravagant is it that sugar is used in everything; it is even rumored that the Tōkyōites put sugar in their tea.
But while the country laughs and wonders at the city, nevertheless, in Japan as elsewhere, there is a constant crowding of the young life of the country into the livelier and more entertaining city. Tōkyō especially is the goal of every young countryman's ambition, and thither he goes to seek his fortune, finding, alas! too often, only the hard lot of the jinrikisha man, instead of the wealth and power that his country dreams had shown him.
The lower class women of the cities are in many respects like their sisters of the rural districts, except that they have less freedom than the country women in what the economists call "direct production." The wells and water tanks that stand at convenient distances along the streets of Tōkyō are frequently surrounded by crowds of women, drawing water, washing rice, and chattering merrily over their occupations. They meet and exchange ideas freely with each other and with the men, but they have not the diversity of labor that country life affords, confining themselves more closely to indoor and domestic work, and leaving the bread-winning more entirely to the men.
There are, however, occupations in the city for women, by which they may support themselves or their families. A good hair-dresser may make a handsome living; indeed, she does so well that it is proverbial among the Japanese that a hair-dresser's husband has nothing to do. Though professional tailors are mostly men, many women earn a small pittance in taking in sewing and in giving sewing lessons; and as instructors in the ceremonial tea, etiquette, music, painting, and flower arrangement, many women of the old school are able to earn an independence, though none of these occupations are confined to the women alone.
The business of hotel-keeping we have referred to in a previous chapter, and it is a well-known fact that unless a hotel-keeper has a capable wife, his business will not succeed. At present, all over Tōkyō, small restaurants, where food is served in the foreign style, are springing up, and these are usually conducted by a man and his wife who have at some time served as cook and waitress in a foreign family, and who conduct the business cöoperatively and on terms of good-fellowship and equality. In these little eating-houses, where a well-cooked foreign dinner of from three to six courses is served for the moderate sum of thirty or forty cents, the man usually does the cooking, the woman the serving and handling of the money, until the time arrives when the profits of the business are sufficient to justify the hiring of more help. When this time comes, the labor is redistributed, the woman frequently taking upon herself the reception of the guests and the keeping of the accounts, while the hired help waits on the tables.
One important calling, in the eyes of many persons, especially those of the lower classes, is that of fortune-telling; and these guides in all matters of life, both great and small, are to be found in every section of the city. They are consulted on every important step by believing ones of all classes. An impending marriage, an illness, the loss of any valuable article, a journey about to be taken,—these are all subjects for the fortune-teller. He tells the right day of marriage, and says whether the fates of the two parties will combine well; gives clues to the causes of sudden illness, and information as to what has become of lost articles, and whether they will be recovered or not. Warned thus by the fortune-teller against evils that may happen, many ingenious expedients are resorted to, to avoid the ill foretold.
A man and his family were about to move from their residence to another part of the city. They sent to know if the fates were propitious to the change for all the family. The day and year of birth of each was told, and then the fortune-teller hunted up the various signs, and sent word that the direction of the new home was excellent for the good luck of the family as a whole, and the move a good one for each member of it except one of the sons; the next year the same move would be bad for the father. As the family could not wait two years before moving, it was decided that the change of residence should be made at once, but that the son should live with his uncle until the next year. The uncle's home was, however, inconveniently remote, and so the young man stayed as a visitor at his father's house for the remaining months of the year, after which he became once more a member of the household. Thus the inconvenience and the evil were both avoided.
Another story comes to my mind now of a dear old lady, the Go Inkyo Sama of a house of high rank, who late in life came to Tōkyō to live with her brother and his young and somewhat foreignized wife. The brother himself, while not a Christian, had little belief in the old superstitions of his people; his wife was a professing Christian. Soon after the old lady's arrival in Tōkyō, her sister-in-law fell ill, and before she had recovered her strength the children, one after another, came down with various diseases, which, though in no case fatal, kept the family in a state of anxiety for more than a year. The old lady was quite sure that there was some witchcraft or art-magic at work among her dear ones, and, after consulting the servants (for she knew that she could expect no sympathy in her plans from either her brother or his wife), she betook herself to a fortune-teller to discover through his means the causes of the illness in the family. The fortune-teller revealed to her the fact that two occult forces were at work bringing evil upon the house. One was the evil spirit of a spring or well that had been choked with stones, or otherwise obstructed in its flow, and that chose this way of bringing its afflictions to the attention of mortals. The other was the spirit of a horse that had once belonged in the family, and that after death revenged itself upon its former masters for the hard service wherewith it had been made to serve. The only way in which these two powers could be appeased would be by finding the well, and removing the obstructions that choked it, and by erecting an image of the horse and offering to it cakes and other meat-offerings. The fortune-teller hinted, moreover, that for a consideration he might be able to afford material aid in the search for the well.
At this information Go Inkyo Sama was much perturbed, for further aid for her afflicted family seemed to require the use of money, and of that commodity she had very little, being mainly dependent upon her brother for support. She returned to her home and consulted the servants upon the matter; but though they quite agreed with her that something should be done, they had little capital to invest in the enterprises suggested by the fortune-teller. At last, the old lady went to her brother, but he only laughed at her well-meant attempts to help his family, and refused to give her money for such a purpose. She retired discouraged, but, urged by the servants, she decided to make a last appeal, this time to her sister-in-law, who must surely be moved by the evil that was threatening herself and her children. Taking some of the head servants with her, she went to her sister and presented the case. This was her last resort, and she clung to her forlorn hope longer than many would have done, the servants adding their arguments to her impassioned appeals, only to find out after all that the steadfast sister could not be moved, and that she would not propitiate the horse's spirit, or allow money to be used for such a purpose. She gave it up then, and sat down to await the fate of her doomed house, doubtless wondering much and sighing often over the foolish skepticism of her near relatives, and wishing that the rationalistic tendencies of the time would take a less dangerous form than the neglecting of the plainest precautions for life and health. The fate has not yet come, and now at last Go Inkyo Sama seems to have resigned herself to the belief that it has been averted from the heads of the dear ones by a power unknown to the fortune-teller.
Beside these callings, there are other employments which are not regarded as wholly respectable by either Japanese or foreigners. The géisha ya, or establishments where dancing-girls are trained, and let out by the day or evening to tea-houses or private parties, are usually managed by women. At these establishments little girls are taken, sometimes by contract with their parents, sometimes adopted by the proprietors of the house, and from very early youth are trained not only in the art of dancing, but are taught singing and samisen-playing, all the etiquette of serving and entertaining guests, and whatever else goes to make a girl charming to the opposite sex. When thoroughly taught, they form a valuable investment, and well repay the labor spent upon them, for a popular géisha commands a good price everywhere, and has her time overcrowded with engagements. A Japanese entertainment is hardly regarded as complete without géishas in attendance, and their dancing, music, and graceful service at supper form a charming addition to an evening of enjoyment at a tea-house. It is these géishas, too, who at matsuri are hired to march in quaint uniforms in the procession, or, borne aloft on great dashi, dance for the benefit of the admiring crowds.
The Japanese dances are charmingly graceful and modest; the swaying of the body and limbs, the artistic management of the flowing draperies, the variety of themes and costumes of the different dances, all go to make an entertainment by géishas one of the pleasantest of Japanese enjoyments. Sometimes, in scarlet and yellow robes, the dainty maidens imitate, with their supple bodies, the dance of the maple leaves as they are driven hither and thither in the autumn wind; sometimes, with tucked-up kimonos and jaunty red petticoats, they play the part of little country girls carrying their eggs to market in the neighboring village. Again, clad in armor, they simulate the warlike gestures and martial stamp of some of the old-time heroes; or, with whitened faces and hoary locks, they perform with rake and broom the dance of the good old man and old woman who play so prominent a part in Japanese pictures. And then, when the dance is over, and all are bewitched with their grace and beauty, they descend to the supper-room and ply their temporary employers with the saké bottle, laughing and jesting the while, until there is little wonder if the young men at the entertainment drink more than is good for them, and leave the tea-house at last thoroughly tipsy, and enslaved by the bright eyes and merry wits of some of the Hebes who have beguiled them through the evening.
The géishas unfortunately, though fair, are frail. In their system of education, manners stand higher than morals, and many a géisha gladly leaves the dancing in the tea-houses to become the concubine of some wealthy Japanese or foreigner, thinking none the worse of herself for such a business arrangement, and going cheerfully back to her regular work, should her contract be unexpectedly ended. The géisha is not necessarily bad, but there is in her life much temptation to evil, and little stimulus to do right, so that, where one lives blameless, many go wrong, and drop below the margin of respectability altogether. Yet so fascinating, bright, and lively are these géishas that many of them have been taken by men of good position as wives, and are now the heads of the most respectable homes. Without true education or morals, but trained thoroughly in all the arts and accomplishments that please,—witty, quick at repartee, pretty, and always well dressed,—the géisha has proved a formidable rival for the demure, quiet maiden of good family, who can only give her husband an unsullied name, silent obedience, and faithful service all her life. The freedom of the present age, as shown in the chapter on "Marriage and Divorce," and as seen in the choice of such wives, has presented this great problem to the thinking women of Japan. If the wives of the leaders in Japan are to come from among such a class of women, something must be done, and done quickly, for the sake of the future of Japan; either to raise the standards of the men in regard to women, or to change the old system of education for girls. A liberal education, and more freedom in early life for women, has been suggested, and is now being tried, but the problem of the géisha and her fascination is a deep one in Japan.
Below the géisha in respectability stands the jōrō, or licensed prostitute. Every city in Japan has its disreputable quarter, where the various jōrōya, or licensed houses of prostitution, are situated. The supervision that the government exercises over these places is extremely rigid; the effort is made, by licensing and regulating them, to minimize the evils that must flow from them. The proprietors of the jōrōya do everything in their power to make their houses, grounds, and employees attractive, and, to the unsuspecting foreigner, this portion of the city seems often the pleasantest and most respectable. A jōrō need never be taken for a respectable woman, for her dress is distinctive, and a stay of a short time in Japan is long enough to teach even the most obtuse that the obi, or sash, tied in front instead of behind, is one of the badges of shame. But though the occupation of the jōrō is altogether disreputable,—though the prostitute quarter is the spot to which the police turn for information in regard to criminals and law-breakers, a sort of a trap into which, sooner or later, the offender against the law is sure to fall,—Japanese public opinion, though recognizing the evil as a great one, does not look upon the professional prostitute with the loathing which she inspires in Christian countries. The reason for this lies, not solely in the lower moral standards although it is true that sins of this character are regarded much more leniently in Japan than in England or America. The reason lies very largely in the fact that these women are seldom free agents. Many of them are virtually slaves, sold in childhood to the keepers of the houses in which they work, and trained, amid the surroundings of the jōrōya, for the life which is the only life they have ever known. A few may have sacrificed themselves freely but reluctantly for those whom they love, and by their revolting slavery may be earning the means to keep their dear ones from starvation or disgrace. Many are the Japanese romances that are woven about the virtuous jōrō, who is eventually rewarded by finding, even in the jōrōya, a lover who is willing to raise her again to a life of respectability, and make her a happy wife and the mother of children. Such stories must necessarily lower the standard of morals in regard to chastity, but in a country in which innocent romance has little room for development, the imagination must find its materials where it can. These jōrōya give employment to thousands of women throughout the country, but in few cases do the women seek that employment, and more openings in respectable directions, together with a change in public opinion securing to every woman the right to her own person, would tend to diminish the number of victims that these institutions yearly draw into their devouring current.
Innocent and reputable amusements are many and varied in the cities. We have already mentioned incidentally the theatre as one of the favorite diversions of the people; and though it has never been regarded as a very refined amusement, it has done and is doing much for the education of the lower classes in the history and spirit of former times. Regular plays were never performed in the presence of the Emperor and his court, or the Shōgun and his nobles, but the No dance was the only dramatic amusement of the nobility. This No is an ancient Japanese theatrical performance, more, perhaps, like the Greek drama than anything in our modern life. All the movements of the actors are measured and conventionalized, speech is a poetical recitative, the costumes are stiff and antique, masks are much used, and a chorus seated upon the stage chants audible comments upon the various situations. This alone, the most ancient and classical of Japanese theatrical performances, is considered worthy of the attention of the Emperor and the nobility, and takes the place with them of the more vulgar and realistic plays which delight common people.
The regular theatre preserves in many ways the life and costumes of old Japan, and the details of dress and scenery are most carefully studied. The actors are usually men, though there are "women theatres" in which all the parts are performed by women. In no case are the rôles taken by both sexes upon one stage. As the performances last all day, from ten or eleven in the forenoon until eight or nine in the evening, going to the theatre means much more than a few hours of entertainment after the day's work is over. A lunch and dinner, with innumerable light edibles between, go to make up the usual bill of fare for a day at the play, and tea-houses in the neighborhood of the theatre provide the necessary meals, a room to take them in, a resting-place between the acts, and whatever tea, cakes, and other refreshments may be ordered. These latter eatables are served by the attendants of the tea-house in the theatre boxes while the play is in progress, and the playgoers eat and smoke all day long through roaring farce or goriest tragedy.
Similar to the theatre in many ways are the public halls, where professional story-tellers, the hanashika, night after night, relate long stories to crowded audiences, as powerfully and vividly as the best trained elocutionist. Each gesture, and each modulation of the voice, is studied as carefully as are those of the actors. Many charming tales are told of old Japan, and even Western stories have found their way to these assemblies. A long story is often continued from night to night until finished. Unfortunately, the class of people who patronize these places is low, and the moral tone of some of the stories is pitched accordingly; but the best of the story-tellers—those who have talent and reputation—are often invited to come to entertainments given at private houses, to amuse a large company by their eloquence or mimicry.
This is a very favorite entertainment, and the hanashika has so perfected the art of imitation that he can change in a moment from the tones of a child to those of an old woman. Solemn and sad subjects are touched upon, as well as merry and bright things, and he never fails to make his audience weep or laugh, according to his theme, and well merits the applause he always receives at the end.
The hanami, or picnic to famous places to view certain flowers as they bloom in their season, though not belonging strictly to city life, forms one of the greatest of the pleasures of city people. The river Sumida, on which Tōkyō is situated, has lining its eastern shore for some miles the famous cherry-trees of Japan, with their large, double pink blossoms, and when, in April and May, these flowers are in their perfection, great crowds of sightseers flock to Mukōjima to enjoy the blossoms under the trees. The river is crowded with picnic parties in boats. Every tea-house along the banks is full of guests, and the little stalls and resting-places on the way find a quick sale for fruit, confectionery, and light lunches. Saké is often too freely imbibed by the merrymakers, whose flushed faces show, when returning homeward, how their day was spent. There is much quiet enjoyment, too, of the lovely blossoms, the broad, calm river, and the gayly dressed crowds. Hundreds and thousands of visitors crowd to the suburban places about Tōkyō,—to Uyéno Park for its cherry and peach blossoms, Kaméido for the plum and wistaria, Oji for its famous maple-trees, and many others, each noted for some special beauty. Dango Zaka has its own peculiar attraction, the famous chrysanthemum dolls. These ingenious figures are arranged so as to form tableaux,—scenes from history or fiction well known to all the people. They are of life size, and the faces, hands, and feet are made of some composition, and closely resemble life in every detail. But the curious thing in these tableaux is that the scenery, whether it be the representation of a waterfall, rocks, or bushes, the animals, and the dresses of the figures are made entirely of chrysanthemum twigs, leaves, and flowers, not cut and woven in, as at the first glance they seem to be,—so closely are the leaves and flowers bound together to make the flat surface of different objects,—but alive and growing on the plants. It is impossible to tell where the roots and stems are hidden, for nothing is visible but (for example) the white spray and greenish shadows of a waterfall, or the parti-colored figures in a young girl's dress. But, should it be the visitor's good fortune to watch the repairing of one of these lifelike images, he will find that the entire body is a frame woven of split bamboo, within which the plants are placed, their roots packed in damp earth and bound about with straw, while their leaves and flowers are pulled through the basket frame and woven into whatsoever pattern the artistic eye and skillful fingers of the gardener may select. A roof of matting shields each group from the sun by day, and a slight sprinkling every night serves to keep the plants fresh for nearly a month, and the flowers continue their blooming during that time, as calmly as if in perfectly natural positions. Each of the gardeners of the neighborhood has his own little show, containing several tableaux, the entrance to which is guarded by an officious gate-keeper, who shouts out the merits of his particular groups of figures, and forces his show-bills upon the passer-by, in the hope of securing the two sen admission fee which is required for each exhibit.
And so, amid the shopping, the festivals, the amusements of the great cities, the women find their lives varied in many ways. Their holidays from home duties are spent amid these enjoyments; and if they have not the out-of-door employments, the long walks up the mountains, the days spent in tea-picking, in harvesting, in all the varied work that comes to the country woman, the dwellers in the city have no lack of sights and sounds to amuse and interest them, and would not often care to exchange their lot for the freer and hardier life of the rustic.
To the foreigner, upon his arrival in Japan, the status of household servants is at first a source of much perplexity. There is a freedom in their relations with the families that they serve, that in this country would be regarded as impudence, and an independence of action that, in many cases, seems to take the form of direct disobedience to orders. From the steward of your household, who keeps your accounts, makes your purchases, and manages your affairs, to your jinrikisha man or groom, every servant in your establishment does what is right in his own eyes, and after the manner that he thinks best. Mere blind obedience to orders is not regarded as a virtue in a Japanese servant; he must do his own thinking, and, if he cannot grasp the reason for your order, that order will not be carried out. Housekeeping in Japan is frequently the despair of the thrifty American housewife, who has been accustomed in her own country to be the head of every detail of household work, leaving to her servants only the mechanical labor of the hands. She begins by showing her Oriental help the work to be done, and just the way in which she is accustomed to having it done at home, and the chances are about one in a hundred that her servant will carry out her instructions. In the ninety-nine other cases, he will accomplish the desired result, but by means totally different from those to which the American housekeeper is accustomed. If the housewife is one of the worrying kind, who cares as much about the way in which the thing is done as about the accomplished result, the chances are that she will wear herself out in a fruitless endeavor to make her servants do things in her own way, and will, when she returns to America, assure you that Japanese servants are the most idle, stupid, and altogether worthless lot that it was ever her bad fortune to have to do with. But on the other hand, if the lady of the house is one who is willing to give general orders, and then sit down and wait until the work is done before criticising it, she will find that by some means or other the work will be accomplished and her desire will be carried out, provided only that her servants see a reason for getting the thing done. And as she finds that her domestics will take responsibility upon themselves, and will work, not only with their hands, but with the will and intellect in her service, she soon yields to their protecting and thoughtful care for herself and her interests, and, when she returns to America, is loud in her praises of the competence and devotion of her Japanese servants. Even in the treaty ports, where contact with foreigners has given to the Japanese attendants the silent and repressed air that we regard as the standard manner for a servant, they have not resigned their right of private judgment, but, if faithful and honest, seek the best good of their employer, even if his best good involves disobedience of his orders. This characteristic of the Japanese servant is aggravated when he is in the employment of foreigners, for the simple reason that he is apt to regard the foreigner as a species of imbecile, who must be cared for tenderly because he is quite incompetent to care for himself, but whose fancies must not be too much regarded. Of the relations of foreign employers and Japanese servants much might be said, but our business is with the position of the servants in a Japanese household.
Under the old feudal system, the servants of every family were its hereditary retainers, and from generation to generation desired no higher lot than personal service in the family to which they belonged. The principle of loyalty to the family interests was the leading principle in the lives of the servants, just as loyalty to the daimiō was the highest duty of the samurai. Long and intimate knowledge of the family history and traits of character rendered it possible for the retainer to work intelligently for his master, and do independently for him many things without orders. The servant in many cases knew his master and his master's interests as well as the master himself, or even better, and must act by the light of his own knowledge in cases where his master was ignorant or misinformed. One can easily see how ties of good-fellowship and sympathy would arise between masters and servants, how a community of interest would exist, so that the good of the master and his family would be the condition for the good of the servant and his family. In America, where the relation between servant and employer is usually a simple business arrangement, each giving certain specified considerations and nothing more, the relation of servant to master is shorn of all sentiment and affection; the servant's interests are quite apart from those of his employer, and his main object is to get the specified work done and obtain more time for himself, and sooner or later to leave the despised occupation of domestic service for some higher and more independent calling. In Japan, where faithful service of a master was regarded as a calling worthy of absorbing any one's highest abilities through a lifetime, the position of a servant was not menial or degrading, but might be higher than that of the farmer, merchant, or artisan. Whether the position was a high or a low one depended, not so much on the work done, as the person for whom it was done, and the servant of a daimiō or high rank samurai was worthy of more honor, and might be of far better birth, than the independent merchant or artisan. As the former feudal system is yet within the memory of many of the present generation, and its feelings still alive in Japan, much of the old sentiment remains, even with the merely hired domestics in a household of the present day. The servant, by his own master, is addressed by name, with no title of respect, is treated as an inferior, and spoken to in the language used toward inferiors; but to all others he is a person to be treated with respect,—to be bowed to profoundly, addressed by the title San, and spoken to in the politest of language. You make a call upon a Japanese household, and the servant who admits you will expect to exchange the formal salutations with you. When you are ushered into the reception-room, should the lady of the house be absent, the head servants will not only serve you with tea and refreshments and offer you hospitalities in their mistress's name, but may, if no one else be there, sit with you in the parlor, entertaining you with conversation until the return of the hostess. The servants of the household are by no means ignored socially, as they are with us, but are always recognized and saluted by visitors as they pass into and out of the room, and are free to join in the conversation of their betters, should they see any place where it is possible that they may shed light on the subject discussed. But though given this liberty of speech, treated with much consideration, and having sometimes much responsibility, servants do not forget their places in the household, and do not seem to be bold or out of place. Indeed, the manners of some of them would seem, to any one but a Japanese, to denote a lack of proper self-respect,—an excess of humility, or an affectation of it.
In explaining to my scholars, who were reading "Little Lord Fauntleroy" in English, a passage where a footman is spoken of as having nearly disgraced himself by laughing at some quaint saying of the young lord, my little peeresses were amazed beyond measure to learn that in Europe and America a servant is expected never to show any interest in, or knowledge of, the conversation of his betters, never to speak unless addressed, and never to smile under any circumstances. Doubtless, in their shrewd little brains, they formed their opinion of a civilization imposing such barbarous restraints upon one class of persons.
The women servants in a family are in position more like the self-respecting, old-fashioned New England "help" than they are like the modern "girl." They do not work all day while the mistress sits in the parlor doing nothing, and then, when their day's work is done, go out, anxious to forget, in the society of their friends, the drudgery which only the necessity for self-support and the high wages to be earned render tolerable. As has been explained in a previous chapter, the mistress of the house—be she princess or peasant—is herself the head servant, and only gives up to her helpers the part of the labor which she has not the time or strength to perform. Certain menial duties toward her husband and children, every Japanese wife and mother must do herself, and would scorn to delegate to any other woman except in case of absolute necessity. Thus there is not that gap between mistress and maid that exists in our days among the women of this country. The servants work with their mistress, helping her in every possible way, and are treated as responsible members of the household, if not of the family itself.
At evening, when the wooden shutters are slid into their places around the porch and the lamps are lighted, the family gather together in the sitting-room around the hibachi to talk, free from interruption, for no visitor comes at such an hour to disturb the family circle. The mother will have her sewing or work, the children will study their lessons, and the others will talk or amuse themselves in various ways. Then, perhaps, the maidservants, having finished their tasks about the house, will join the circle,—always at a respectful distance,—will do their sewing and listen to the talk, and often join in the conversation, but in the most humble manner. Perhaps, at times, some one more ambitious than the others will bring in a book, and ask the meaning of a word or a phrase she has met in studying, and little helps of this kind are given most willingly.
We have seen that the ladies-in-waiting in the houses of the nobles are daughters of samurai, who gladly serve in these positions for the sake of the honor of such service, and the training they receive in noble houses. In a somewhat similar way, places in the homes of those of distinction or skill in any art or profession are held in great demand among the Japanese; and a prominent poet, scholar, physician, or professional man of any kind is often asked by anxious parents to take their sons under his own roof, so that they may be under his influence, and receive the benefits of stay in such an honorable house. The parents who thus send their children may not be of low rank at all, but are usually not sufficiently well-to-do to spend much money in the education of their children. The position that such boys occupy in the household is a curious one. They are called Sho-séi, meaning students, and students they usually are, spending all their leisure moments and their evenings in study. They are never treated as inferiors, except in age and experience; they may or may not eat with the family, and are always addressed with respect. On the other hand, they always feel themselves to be dependents, and must be willing without wages to work in any capacity about the house, for the sake of picking up what crumbs of knowledge may fall to them from their master's table. Service is not absolutely demanded of them, but they are expected to do what will pay for their board, and do not regard menial work as below them, performing cheerfully all that the master may require of them.
In this way, a man of moderate means can help along many poor young men in whom he may feel interested, and in return be saved expense about his household work; and the students, while always considerately treated, are able without great expense to study,—often even to prepare for college, or get a start in one of the professions, for they have many leisure moments to devote to their books. Many prominent men of the present day have been students of this class, and are now in their turn helping the younger generation.
The boys that one sees in shops, or, with workmen of all kinds, helping in many little ways, are not hirelings, but apprentices, who hope some day to hold just as good positions as their masters, and expect to know as much, if not a great deal more. At the shop or in the home, they not only help in the trades or occupations they are learning, but are willing to do any kind of menial work for their master or his family in return for what they receive from him; for they do not pay for their board nor for what they are taught. Even when the age of education is already past, grown men and women are willing to leave quite independent positions to shine with reflected glory as servants of persons of high rank or distinction. "The servant is not greater than his master" in Japan; but if the master is great, the servant is considerably greater than the man without a master.
In a country like Japan, where one finds but few wealthy people, there may be cause for wonder at the large households, where there are so many servants. There will be often as many as ten or more servants in a home where, in other ways, luxury and wealth are not displayed. In the oku, or the part of the house where the lady of the house stays, are found her own maid, and women who help in the work about the house, sew in their leisure moments, and are the higher servants of the family; there are also the children's attendants, often one for each child, as well as the waiting women for the Go Inkyo Sama. In the kitchen are the cooks and their assistants, the lower servants, and usually one or more jinrikisha men, who belong to the house, and, if this be the home of an official who keeps horses, a bettō for each animal. There are also gardeners, errand-boys, and gate-keepers to guard the large yashikis. Such a retinue would seem a great deal to maintain; but servants' wages are so low, and the cost of living is so small, that in this matter Japanese can afford to be luxurious. Three or four dollars will cover the cost of food for a month for one person, and women servants expect only a few dollars in wages for that time. The men receive much higher pay, but at the most it is less than what a good cook receives in many homes here. The wages do not include occasional presents, especially those given semi-annually,—a small sum of money, or dress material of some kind,—which servants expect, and which, of course, are no small item in the family expense.
Homes which maintain a great deal of style need many servants, for they expect to work less than the American servant, and are less able to hurry and rush through their work; and they do not desire, if they could, to take life so hard, even to earn greater pay. The family, too, in many cases are used to having plenty of hands to do the work; the ladies are much less independent, and life has more formalities and red tape in Japan than in America. A great deal of the shopping is done by servants, who are sent out on errands and often do important business. Maids accompany their mistresses to make visits; servants go with parties to the theatre, to picnics, or on journeys, and these expeditions are as heartily enjoyed by them as by their masters. It is expected, especially of ladies and persons of high rank, that the details of the journey, the bargaining with coolies, the hiring of vehicles, and paying of bills, be left in charge of some manservant, who is entirely responsible, and who makes all the bargains, arranges the journey for his employer, and takes charge of everything,—even to the amount of fees given along the way.
Perhaps the highest positions of service now—positions honorable anywhere in Japan—are held by those who remain of the old retainers of daimiōs, and who regulate the households of the nobles. Such men must have good education, and good judgment; for much is left in their hands, and they are usually gentlemen, who would be known as such anywhere. They are the stewards of the household, the secretaries of their masters; keep all accounts, for which they are responsible, and attend to the minor affairs of etiquette,—the latter no trifling duty in a noble's home. It is they who accompany the nobles on their journeys,—regulate, advise, and attend to the little affairs of life, of which the master may be ignorant and cares not to learn. They are the last of the crowds of feudal retainers, who once filled castle and yashiki, and are now scattered throughout the length and breadth of the kingdom.
The higher servants in the household must be always more or less trained in etiquette, and are expected to look neat and tidy; to serve guests with tea and refreshments, without any orders to that effect; and to use their judgment in little household affairs, and thus help the lady of the house. They are usually clever with their fingers, and can sew neatly. When their mistress goes out they assist her to dress, and only a few words from her will be necessary for them to have everything in readiness, from her sash and dress to all the little belongings of a lady's costume. Many a bright, quick servant is found who will understand and guess her mistress's wants without being told each detail, and these not only serve with their hands, but think for their employers.
Much less is expected of the lower servants, who belong to the kitchen, and have less to do with the family in general, and little or no personal contact with their masters. They perform their round of duties with little responsibility, and are regarded as much lower in the social scale of servants, of which we have seen there are many degrees.
The little gozen-taki, or rice-cook, who works all day in the kitchen, may be a fat, red-cheeked, frowsy-haired country girl,—patient, hard-working, and humble-minded,—willing to pother about all day with her kettles and pans, and sit up half the night over her own sewing, or the study of the often unfamiliar art of reading and writing; but entirely unacquainted with the details of etiquette, a knowledge of which is a necessity to the higher servants,—sometimes even thrown into an agony of diffidence should it become necessary to appear before master or mistress.
Some of the customs of the household, in regard to servants, are quite striking to a foreigner. When the master of the house starts out each morning, besides the wife and children who see him off, all the servants who are not especially occupied—a goodly number, sometimes—come to the front door and bow down to bid him good-by. On his return, also, when the noise of the kuruma is heard, and the shout of the men, who call out "O kaeri!" when near the house, the servants go out to greet him, and bowing low speak the customary words of salutation. To a greater or less degree, the same is done to every member of the family, the younger members, however, receiving a smaller share of the attention than their elders.
When, as very often happens, a guest staying for any length of time in a family, or a frequent visitor, gives a servant a present of money or any trifle, the servant, after thanking the donor, takes the white paper bundle to the mistress of the house, and shows it to her, expressing his gratitude to her for the gift, and also asking her to thank the giver. This, of course, is always done, for a gift to a servant is as much of a favor to the mistress as a present to a child is to its mother.
When a servant wishes to leave a family, she rarely goes to her mistress and states that she is dissatisfied with her position, and that some better chance has been offered her. Such a natural excuse never occurs to the Japanese servant, unless he be a jinrikisha man or bettō, who may not know how to do better; for it is a very rude way of leaving service. The high-minded maid will proceed very differently.
A few days' leave of absence to visit home will be asked and usually granted, for Japanese servants never have any settled time to take holiday. At the end of the given time the mistress will begin to wonder what has become of the girl, who has failed to return; and the lady will make up her mind she will not let her go again so readily. Just when she has a sharp reproof ready, a messenger or letter will arrive, with some good excuse, couched in most polite and humble terms. Sometimes it will be that she has found herself too weak for service, or that work at home, or the illness of some member of the family, detains her, so that she is not able to come back at present. The excuse is understood and accepted as final, and another servant is sought for and obtained. After several weeks have passed, very likely after entering a new place, the old servant will turn up some day, express her thanks for all past kindnesses and regrets at not returning in time, will take her pay and her bundles, and disappear forever.
Even when servants come on trial for a few days, they often go away nominally to fetch their belongings, or make arrangements to return, but the lady of the house does not know whether the woman is satisfied or not. If she is not, her refusal is always brought by a third person. If the mistress, on her side, does not wish to hire the girl, she will not tell her so to her face, but will send word at this time to prevent her coming. Such is the etiquette in these matters of mistress and maid.
Only by a multiplicity of details is it possible to give much idea of the position of servants in a Japanese house, and even then the result arrived at is that the positions of what we would call domestic servants vary so greatly in honor and responsibility that it is almost impossible to draw any general conclusions upon this subject. We have seen that there is no distinct servile class in Japan, and that a person's social status is not altered by the fact that he serves in a menial capacity, provided that service be of one above him in rank and not below him. This is largely the result of the grading of society upon other lines than those on which our social distinctions are founded, and partly the result of the fact that women, of whatever class, are servants so far as persons of the opposite sex in their own class are concerned. The women of Japan to-day form the great servile class, and, as they are also the wives and mothers of those whom they serve, they are treated, of course, with a certain consideration and respect never given to a mere servant; and through them, all domestic service is elevated.
There are two employments which I have mentioned among those of domestic servants because they would be so classed by us, but which in Japan rank among the trades. The jinrikisha man and the groom belong, as a rule, to a certain class at the bottom of the social ladder, and no samurai would think of entering either of these occupations, except under stress of severest poverty. The bettōs, or grooms, are a hereditary class and a regular guild, and have a reputation, among both Japanese and foreigners, as a betting, gambling, cheating, good-for-nothing lot. An honest bettō is a rare phenomenon. The jinrikisha men are, many of them, sons of peasants, who come to the cities for the sake of earning more money, or leading a livelier life than can be found in the little thatched cottage among the rice-fields. Few of them are married, or have homes of their own. Many of them drink and gamble, and sow their wild oats in all possible ways; but they are a well-meaning, fairly honest, happy-go-lucky set, who lead hard lives of exhausting labor, and endure long hours of exposure to heat and cold, rain, snow, and blinding sunshine, not only with little complaint or grumbling, but with absolute cheerfulness and hilarity. A strong, fast jinrikisha man takes great pride in his strength and speed. It is a point of honor with him to pull his passenger up the steepest and most slippery of hills, and never to heed him if he expresses a desire to walk in order to save his man. I have had my kurumaya stoutly refuse, again and again, my offers to walk up a steep hill, even when the snow was so soft and slippery under his bare feet that he fell three times in making the ascent. "Dai jobu" (safe) would be his smiling response to all my protestations; and, once in a jinrikisha, the passenger is entirely at the mercy of his man in all matters of getting into and out of the vehicle. But though the jinrikisha man is, for the time being, the autocrat and controlling power over his passenger, and though he will not obey the behests of his employer, except so far as they seem reasonable and in accordance with the best interests of all concerned, he constitutes himself the protector and assistant, the adviser and counselor, of him whom he serves, and gives his best thought and intelligence, as well as his speed and strength, to the service in which he is engaged. If he thinks it safe, he will tear like an unbroken colt through the business portions of the city, knocking bundles out of the hands of foot passengers, or even hitting the wayfarers themselves in a fierce dash through their midst, laughing gayly at their protests, and at threats of wrath to come from his helpless passenger; but should hint of insult or injury against kuruma, passenger, or passenger's dog fall upon his ears, he will drop the jinrikisha shafts, and administer condign punishment to the offender, unchecked by thoughts of the ever-present police, or by any terrors that his employer may hold over his head. In no other country in the world, perhaps, can a lady place more entire confidence in the honor and loyalty of her servant than she can in Japan in her kurumaya, whether he be her private servant, or one from a respectable stand. He may not do what she bids him, but that is quite a secondary matter. He will study her interests; will remember her likes and dislikes; will take a mental inventory of the various accessories or bundles that she carries with her, and will never permit her to lose or forget one of them; will run his legs off in her service, and defend her and her property valiantly in case of need. Of course, as in all classes there are different grades, so there are jinrikisha men who seem to have sunk so low in their calling that they have lost all feeling of loyalty to their employer, and only care selfishly for the pittance they gain. Such men are often found in the treaty ports, eagerly seeking for the rich foreigner, from whom they can get an extra fee, and whom they regard as outside of their code of morals, and hence as their natural prey. Travelers, and even residents of Japan, have often complained of such treatment; and it is only after long stay in Japan, among the Japanese themselves, that one can tell what a jinrikisha man is capable of.
If you employ one kurumaya for any length of time, you come to have a real affection for him on account of his loyal, faithful, cheerful service, such as we seldom find in this country except when inspired by personal feeling. When you have ridden miles and miles, by night and by day, through rain and sleet and hottest sunshine, behind a man who has used every power of body and mind in your service, you cannot but have a strong feeling of affection toward him, and of pride in him as well. It is something the feeling that one has for a good saddle-horse, but more developed. You rejoice, not only in his strength and speed, put forth so willingly in your service; in his picturesque, dark blue costume with your monogram embroidered on the back; in his handsomely turned ankles; in his black, wavy hair; in his delicate hands and trim waist,—though these are often a source of pride to you,—but his skill in divining your wants; his use of his tongue in your service; his helping out of your faltering Japanese with explanations which, if not elegant, have the merit of being easily understood; his combats with extortionate shopkeepers in your behalf; his interest in all your doings and concerns,—remain as a pleasant memory, upon your return to a land where no man would so far forget his manhood as to give himself so completely and without reserve to the service of any master save Mammon.
As old Japan, with its quaintness, its mediæval flavor, its feudalism, its loyalty, its sense of honor, and its transcendental contempt for money and luxury, recedes into the past, and as the memories of my life there grow dim, two figures stand out more and more boldly from the fading background,—both, the figures of faithful servants. One, Yasaku, the kurumaya, a very Hercules, who could keep close to a pair of coach horses through miles of city streets, and who never suffered mortal jinrikisha man to pass him. My champion in all times of danger and alarm, but a very autocrat in all minor matters,—his cheery face, his broad shoulders with their blue draperies, his jolly, boyish voice, and his dainty, delicate hands come before me as I write, and I wonder to what fortunate person he is now giving the intelligent service that he once gave so whole-heartedly to me. The other, O Kaio, my maid, her plain little face, with its upturned eyes, growing, as the days went by, absolutely beautiful in the light of pure goodness that beamed from it. A Japanese Christian, with all the Christian virtues well developed, she became to me not only a good servant, doing her work with conscientious fidelity, but a sympathetic friend, to whom I turned for help in time of need; and whom I left, when I returned to America, with a sincere sorrow in my heart at parting with one who had grown to fill so large a place in my thoughts. Her little, half-shy, half-motherly ways toward her big foreign mistress had a charm all their own. Her pride and delight over my progress in the language; her patient efforts to make me understand new words, or to understand my uncouth foreign idioms; her joy, when at last I reached the point where a story told by her lips could be comprehended and enjoyed,—gave a continual encouragement in a task too often completely disheartening.
During the last summer of my stay in Japan, cutting loose from all foreigners and foreign associations, I traveled alone with her through the heart of the country, stopping only at Japanese hotels, and carrying with me no supplies to eke out the simple Japanese fare. Through floods and typhoons we journeyed. Long days of scorching heat or driving rain in no way abated her cheerfulness, or lessened her desire to do all that she could for my aid and comfort. Not one sad look nor impatient word showed a flaw in her perfect temper; and if she privately made up her mind that I was crazy, she never by word or look gave a hint of her thought. Jinrikisha men grumbled and gave out; hotel-keepers resented the presence of my dog, or presented extortionate bills; but O Kaio's good temper and tact never failed her. Difficulties were smoothed away; bills were compromised and reduced; the dog slept securely by my side on a red blanket in the best rooms of the best hotels; and O Kaio smiled, told her quaint stories, amused me and ministered to me, as if I were her one object in life, though husband and children were far away in distant Tōkyō, and her mother's heart yearned for her little ones.
Into the life of a Japanese home enter many customs and observances that have not been dwelt upon in the preceding pages, but without some understanding of which our knowledge of the life of Japanese women is by no means complete. In Japan the woman's place is so entirely in the home that all the ceremonies and superstitions that gather about the conduct of every-day affairs are more to her than they are to the freer and broader-minded man. The household worship, the yearly round of festivals, each with its special food to be prepared, the observances connected with birth and marriage and death; what is to be done in time of illness, of earthquake, of fire, or of the frequent flittings that render life in Japan one succession of packings and unpackings,—all these are matters of high importance to the wife and mother, and their proper observance is left largely in her hands.
Every well-ordered Japanese home of the old-fashioned kind has its little shrine, which is the centre of the religious life of the house. If the household is of the Shintō faith, this shrine is called the kami-dana, or god shelf, and contains the symbols of the gods, gohei in vases, receptacles for food and drink, and a primitive lamp,—only a saucer of oil in which a bit of pith serves for a wick. Daily offerings must be made before this shrine, and reverence paid by the clapping of hands; while on feast days special offerings and invocations are required. In Buddhist families, the Butsudan, or Buddha shelf, takes the place of the kami-dana, and the worship is slightly more complicated. Greater variety of food is offered, and the simple clapping of the hands and bowing of the head that is the form of prayer in the Shintō religion is replaced by the burning of incense and by actual verbal invocation of Buddha. These religious ceremonies must be attended to by the mother or wife. She it is who sets the rice and wine before the ancestral tablets, who lights the little lamp each night, and who sees that at each feast day and anniversary season the proper food is prepared and set out for the household gods.
Upon the wife, and her attention to minute and apparently trifling details, depends much of the well-being of the family. Each child, as it grows toward maturity, gathers from various sources a collection of amulets, which, while worn always when the child is in full dress, are frequently too precious for ordinary play times and the risks and perils of every-day life. These must be kept carefully by the mother as a safeguard against the many evils that beset child-life. I have spoken of the amulets given at the times of the miya mairi,—both the first, when the name is given to the baby, and the subsequent visits made to the temple by the children as they pass certain stated points in their progress toward maturity. These amulets are simply written papers or slips of wood with the seal of the temple from which they are issued stamped upon them. Visits to noted temples by relatives and friends often result in additions to the child's collection. One kind of charm is good to keep the eyes strong; another will help its possessor to that much-prized accomplishment, a good handwriting; another acts as an assurance against accident and saves the child from harm in case of a fall. All these are put together by the careful mother and preserved as jealously as Queen Althea kept the charred stick that governed the destiny of her son. As the children arrive at years of discretion, these treasures pass out of the mother's faithful keeping into the hands of their actual owners, and they are usually kept stored away in some little-used drawer or cabinet until death removes the necessity for any further safeguards over life. Perhaps of all the curious things that go to make up these intimate personal belongings of a Japanese man or woman, there is none more curious than the small white parcel containing a portion of the umbilical cord,—saved at birth and preserved until death that it may be buried with its possessor and furnish him the means of a new birth. These little paper packages, each marked with the name of the child to whom it belongs, are kept by the mother.
Upon the mother of the family rests very largely the determining of lucky and unlucky days for the beginning or transaction of different kinds of business. A fortune-teller is consulted for important things, such as removals or marriages, but in every-day life one cannot be running to a fortune-teller about everything; and yet there is bad luck lurking in the background that may baffle all our plans if we do not observe the proper times and seasons for our undertakings. Just as the Japanese calendar divides time into cycles of twelve years, each year named for a different animal, so also the days and hours are divided into twelves and bear the names of the same twelve animals,—the Chinese signs of the zodiac. These animals are as follows: the rat, the bull, the tiger, the hare, the dragon, the snake, the horse, the goat, the monkey, the cock, the dog, and the boar. Each animal brings its own kind of good or bad luck into the hour, day, or year over which it presides, and only a skillful balancer of pros and cons can read aright the combinations, and understand what the luck of any particular hour in any particular day of any particular year will be. For instance, the rat, which is the companion of Daikoku, the money god, is a lucky animal so far as money is concerned. A person born in the year of the rat will never need money, and will be economical, possibly miserly; and in one born on the day of the rat in the year of the rat these chances and qualities will be doubled. But the luck of the rat may be very seriously interfered with by the bad luck of the monkey or of the proverbially unlucky dog, when their days and hours occur in the rat year. On the other hand, their bad luck may be counteracted by the good luck of the tiger or hare, for as a rule three animals of different portent are presiding over human prospects every hour. This makes prophecy a ticklish business, requiring a wise head, but it also leaves much room for the subsequent explanation of failures by the superior and unusual influence of one or another of the animals, as the case may require. Momentous questions of this kind have frequently to be settled by the Japanese wife and mother, and she gains dignity and value in her home and neighborhood according to her skill in interpreting the portents of the day and hour.
For the greater events of family life the home prophecies are felt to be too uncertain, and the services of the fortune-teller must be called in. No well-managed family would think of building a new house without finding in what direction to face the front door. In an American city this necessity would cause considerable inconvenience, as the position of the front door is usually determined by the relation of the building-lot to the street; but in a Japanese city, where, in all but the business quarters, every house is concealed by a high board fence, and where the gate that admits one within the fence is the only sign by which any one in the street can judge of the worldly condition of the dwellers within, the houses are faced about any and every way, and the position of each is determined by the good luck that it will bring its owner. After this matter has been settled and the house is fairly begun, there are occasional crises in its construction upon which much depends. Of these the most important is the day when the roof is raised. The roof timbers, which are unsquared logs, often rather crooked, after being carefully fitted and framed in some convenient vacant lot, are brought on carts to the site of the new building, and when all is ready, the head carpenter sends word to the house-owner that he is about to set the roof in place. The house-owner then decides whether the day set by the builder is a lucky one for himself and his family. If it is not, a delay in the building is always preferable to any danger of incurring the displeasure of the luck gods. This crisis safely passed, and the last of the roof beams secured in its place, the men take a holiday, and are feasted on saké and spaghetti by the house-owner. A present of money to each workman is also in order, and will conduce to the rapid and faithful execution of the job in hand. When, at last, the house is finished, and carpenters and plasterers are ready to leave it, the local firemen, who have assisted all along in the building as unskilled laborers, often ascend to the roof, and from the ridge-pole cast down cakes, for which the children of the neighborhood scramble joyfully.
When the builders have left, and the house is ready for occupation, even to the soft, thick mats on the floor and the white paper windows, the family will move in on the first day thereafter that is both lucky and pleasant. So far as possible, everything in the old house will be packed and ready the day before, and very early in the morning the relatives and friends of the mover will begin to rally around him. All come who can, and those who cannot come send servants or provisions. Every tradesman or kurumaya who has had or who hopes to have the patronage of the moving household sends a representative to help along the work, so that there is always a sufficient force to carry the household belongings into the new home and settle them in place before the day is over. All these visiting helpers must be fed and provided with tea and cakes at proper intervals, and the presents of cooked food that pour in at such times are highly acceptable and of great practical usefulness. When the long day is ended and the visitors return one by one to their homes, it is the mistress of the house who must see that every servant and representative of a business firm receives, neatly done up in white paper, a present of money properly proportioned to his services, and the style and circumstances of the family he has been aiding. And when all are gone, the shutters closed, and the family left alone in their new home, the little wife must make a list of all who have helped in any way during the day, and to all, within a short time, make some acknowledgment of their kindness by either a call or a present. It is upon the wife, too, that the duty falls of sending to each of the near neighbors soba, a kind of macaroni, as an announcement of the family's arrival. The number of neighbors to whom this gift is sent is determined differently according to circumstances. If the house is one of several in a compound, soba will be sent to all within the gate; but if the compound is very large, so that the sending to all would be too great an expense, the five nearest houses will be selected to receive the gift, or all who draw water from the same well. A very late fashion in Tōkyō, but one that is gaining ground because of its convenience, is to send, not the macaroni itself, but an order on the nearest restaurant at which that delicacy is sold.
As I have already said, much of a woman's time and thought must be given to the proper distribution of presents among friends and dependents. The subject of what to give, when to give, to whom to give, and how to do up the gift acceptably, is one the thorough understanding of which requires the study of years. No foreigner can hope to do more than dabble in the shallows of it. Presents seem to be used more for the purpose of keeping those persons whose services you may need, or whose enmity you dread, under a sense of obligation, than they are as expressions of sentiment. Every housekeeper, for instance, must need the occasional services of a carpenter or a gardener, and in a large city like Tōkyō the chances are that she will some day need, and need very badly, the services of a fireman. A wise woman—one who is not penny wise and pound foolish—will by timely presents keep herself constantly in the minds of such persons, so that when she sends for them, they may feel under sufficient obligation to her to come at once. So will her house be quickly put in repair after earthquake or other accident; her garden show for only the briefest interval the ravages of the typhoon which has gullied out her lawn and leveled her choicest trees; and when some night "the flower of Yedo" blooms suddenly by her side, she will have the speedy assistance of the firemen, who will seal her storehouse securely with clay, wet her roof and walls thoroughly with water, and light at her gates the great alarm lanterns to tell her friends that her house is in danger and summon them to her assistance. No friend can disregard such a signal, but all will rally round her once more to help in this less orderly and cheerful moving,—will pack and cord and carry out her goods, and if at last the fire consumes her dwelling, will gather her household and belongings into their hospitable homes. But the foolish woman, who neglects or forgets her dependents when she does not need them, finds some day that her roof is leaking, but all the carpenters are too busy to mend it, her garden is destroyed because the gardener had an important engagement elsewhere just when she needed him, and her property is burned up or ruined by water and smoke because the firemen attended to her house last when the fire swept over her compound.
When death enters a house in Japan, there are no undertakers to relieve the family of the painful duty of caring for the dead body and placing it in the coffin. There are coffin-makers and funeral managers who supply the great white bier and lanterns and the bunches of paper flowers that adorn every funeral procession, but within the house the preparations are all made by the family and friends, and the heaviest and most painful part of the work falls, as usual, on the women of the family. As soon as the breath finally leaves the body, it is wrapped in a quilt, laid with its head to the north, and an inverted screen placed around it. On one corner of the screen is hung a sword or knife to keep off any evil spirit that may wander into the room in the shape of a cat and disturb the dead.
Etiquette requires that relatives and intimate friends of the family call immediately on learning of the death. To receive these calls the mourners, in full ceremonial dress, must sit in the death chamber and remove for each guest the covering from the face of the dead. The visitors then offer the ceremonial bows to the corpse, as if it were alive. During this time, too, presents to the spirit of the dead are pouring in. The proper offerings are flowers, cake, vegetables, candles, incense, or small gifts of money for the purchase of incense. If the deceased is a person of rank or distinction, the house is flooded with cumbersome and useless offerings. This custom has become so great an addition to the trials necessarily incident to a bereavement that one occasionally sees in the newspaper announcements of deaths a request that no offerings to the dead be sent.
On the day after the death, often in the evening, the body must be placed in the cask-shaped coffin that until recently was the style commonly in use in Japan. Now, among the wealthier classes, the long coffin has superseded the small square or round one, but the smaller expense connected with burial in the old way makes the survival of the old type a necessity for the majority of Japanese. At an appointed time all the relatives assemble in the death chamber, and preparations are made for the bathing of the corpse. Two of the tatami, or floor mats, are turned over, and upon them are placed a new tub, a new pail, and a new dipper. These utensils must have no metal of any kind about them. In the washing of the body none but members of the family must assist, and respect for the dead absolutely requires that all the relatives of the deceased who are below him in rank must have a hand in these final ablutions. In Japan, the mourning for the dead is the duty of inferiors, never of superiors. There is no official, ceremonial mourning of parents for their children, nor does custom require them to perform any of the last rites, or attend the funeral. Upon the younger brothers and sisters falls the duty of attending to all the last sad ministrations. If the wife dies, her husband does not mourn for her, though her children do; but if the husband dies, the wife must mourn the rest of her life, cutting off her hair and placing it in the coffin as a sign of her perpetual faithfulness.
When the body has been washed, it is dressed in white, in silk habutai whenever the family can afford it. The dress, which must be appropriate to the season, in the making of which all the women of the family must assist, is the plain, straight kimono, but must be folded from right to left, instead of from left to right as in life. The body, to be placed in the coffin, must be folded into a sitting posture, the chin resting upon the knees,—the position of the mummies found in many aboriginal American tombs. This difficult, to us apparently impossible feat, safely accomplished, there are placed in the coffin a number of small things that the dead takes with him to the next world. Some of these have been already mentioned, the others are little keepsakes, or perhaps tokens of the tastes and employments of the dead,—dice, cards, saké bottles, the image of a horse, toy weapons,—anything, provided only that it be not of metal, may be used for this purpose. The single exception to this rule about metal is that small copper coins may be put in, to fee the old hag who guards the bank of the river of death. Last of all, the vacant spaces in the coffin are filled in with bags of tea. Then the coffin is closed and nailed up, wrapped with a white silk cloth fastened with a white silk or cotton cord, and placed on a high stand, and food and incense are placed before it.
So long as the coffin is in the house, it must be watched over continually. To aid in this protracted vigil, which must be kept up day and night until the burial, the relatives, friends, and retainers of the dead assemble at the house in large numbers. In the case of a person of wealth and influence, there will often be a hundred or more of these watchers, who must be fed and cared for; and who take turns in watching, eating, and sleeping. It is their duty to see that the incense burning before the coffin is never allowed to go out, while the food for the dead is renewed at regular intervals by the mourners themselves.
This somewhat detailed description of the duties to be performed by the members of a bereaved family in the house of mourning is sufficient to show that the presence of death in the home is made as terrible as possible by the painful ceremonies, the continual bustle and excitement, and the strain upon the resources and executive ability of the housekeeper and her assistants. There are few enlightened Japanese who will defend the present system of cruelty to the afflicted, or who do not long for some change, but so great is the force of conservatism in this regard, so haunting the fear that any change may indicate a lack of respect for the dead, that reform advances slowly.
Individual instances occur in which some of the worst features of these customs are modified. A case in point is that of the late Mr. Fukuzawa, a man whose life was devoted to the advancement of his countrymen in modern ways, and who in his death continued his teaching. In his will he provided that his body was to be buried, without washing, in the clothing in which he died. This provision would seem in most countries to be mere eccentricity, but when one has seen or heard of the gruesome ceremony that follows immediately after death, and the burden of which falls, not on the old and hardened, but on the young and tender, suffering, in many cases, under the weight of a first and crushing affliction, one can see that only through such means as this can the burden ever be lifted from the shoulders of those who mourn. There are young and enlightened mothers in Japan to-day who have felt, in minds awakened to thought and action, the horrors of the system, and who will not allow their children to suffer for them what they have suffered in paying respect to their dead parents. Through this growing feeling and the unselfishness of maternal affection may come in time the release from these mournful ceremonies.
While the body remains in the house, a priest comes from time to time to offer prayers, longer or shorter according to the wealth of the family employing him; and when the funeral cortège sets out on its way to the cemetery, the priests in their professional robes form an imposing part of the spectacle. The day of the burial is selected with due respect to the calendar, for, though there may be little good luck about a funeral, there is a chance of extremely bad luck growing out of it unless every precaution is taken. Just before the procession starts, a religious ceremony is held at the house, which is attended by the friends of the deceased, and which is substantially the same as that performed at the cemetery. On the day of the burial, great bunches of natural flowers are sent to the dead, each bunch so large as to require the services of one man to carry it. Sometimes with the gift a man is sent to take part in the procession, but if the giver feels too poor to hire a man, this burden, too, falls upon the bereaved household, for etiquette requires that all flowers sent be borne to the grave by uniformed coolies, who march in the funeral train. Another favorite present at this time, among Buddhists, is a cage of living birds, to be borne to the grave and released thereon. This act of mercy is counted to the deceased for righteousness, and is believed to aid in rendering his next incarnation a happy one.
A funeral procession is an imposing spectacle, and, to the uninstructed foreigner, a cheerful one; for there is nothing sad or sombre in the white, or bright-colored, robes of the priests, the white, tinsel-decorated bier, the red and white flags borne aloft, the enormous bunches of gay-colored flowers;—the very mourners in white silk, and with faces apparently unmoved by grief, bring no thought of the object of the procession to the Western mind. It seems more like a bridal than a burial. But if you follow the cortège to the cemetery and there listen to the wailing of the wind instruments, and the droning of the priests as they perform the last rites, and watch the silent company that one by one go forward to bow before the coffin and place upon it a branch of sakaki or burn a bit of incense, the trappings of woe in Japan will impress themselves strongly upon your mind, and the gayly appareled funeral processions will seem to you ever afterward as mournful and hopeless a spectacle as you can find in any country.
The house of death remains a place of mourning for forty-nine days after the funeral. During this period the spirit of the deceased is supposed to be still inhabiting the house, and a tablet or shrine is set up in the death chamber before which food and flowers are renewed daily. Visitors are expected to make obeisance to the dead. At the end of this time, some acknowledgment must be sent to every friend who has sent anything to the house at the funeral. For a time after death has come into the family the relatives of the dead are regarded as ceremonially unclean. The period of defilement varies with the nearness of relationship. In the old days, no one thus defiled was allowed to go about his regular business or to mingle with other men; but busy modern Japan does not find it convenient to pause long in its work, so that government officials and school-children are now sent written papers excusing them for coming back to their tasks even while ceremonially unclean. Thus the old custom is passing away. In the first year after death, certain days are observed with special honors before the memorial tablet, and later, certain anniversaries of the death must be kept, until, at last, at the end of fifty or one hundred years, the personality of the spirit seems to become merged with that of the other ancestral spirits, and no offerings are made to it except at the general feasts of the dead.
With the coming in of the last month of the year begin the preparations for the great New Year's festival, and the housekeeper finds herself occupied through every moment of the brief days. A woman who is at the head of a large household has upon her hands in the month of December spring house-cleaning and preparations for Christmas, New Year's, Thanksgiving, and Easter, all at once. The work of getting the family wardrobe ready for the festival must begin very early in the month, for every man, woman, and child in the household must be provided with new clothes, and the thrifty housewife sends no sewing out. In the old days, it was ordained that the eighth day of the twelfth month should be a needle festival,—a day on which all women rest from their sewing and amuse themselves by indulging their own fancies instead of their husbands', as is their duty on other days. This day was supposed to mark the dividing line between the old year's and the new year's sewing, but, as a matter of fact, the forehanded woman will finish up the old and begin the new even earlier in the month, so as to have this part of her work well out of the way before the house-cleaning, which should be begun not later than the fifteenth.
This house-cleaning, even with the small amount of furniture found in a Japanese house, is an elaborate affair. Every box and closet and rubbish-hole in the house is turned out and put in order, the tatami are taken up and brushed and beaten, the woodwork from ceiling to floor is carefully washed, the plaster and paper walls flicked with the paper flapper that takes the place in Japan of our feather duster. All the quilts and clothing must be sunned and aired, the kakémonos and curios belonging to the family unpacked, carefully dusted, and put back into their wrappings and boxes, and the house and garden put into perfect repair. This work, if thoroughly done, takes about a week. When all is finished, even to the final purification by beating everything in the house with a fresh bamboo, games and festivities and soba are in order. In the old daimiō houses, where great numbers of men and women were employed, and where the women's quarters were in a distinct part of the house, it was considered a great joke to catch a man on the women's side any time between the close of the cleaning and the beginning of the new year. The intruder was promptly seized and shouldered by the women, who carried him about the house in triumph, finally returning him to his own quarters. If, by any chance, they could catch the chief steward, they sang as they carried him about:—
"This is the great pillar of the house!
May he be happy till the stone foundations rot!"
The week following the house-cleaning is devoted to the preparation of food for the festival. Of this, the most characteristic is mochi, a sort of dumpling made of rice steamed and pounded, the preparation of which is so difficult and protracted a process that it is not lightly undertaken. It is so distinctively the festival food of Japan that if you find mochi in a friend's house at any time except the new year, you immediately ask what has happened, and are pretty sure to be told that it is a present received in celebration of a birth or a marriage, or some other domestic festival. It is, to Japanese children, what turkey and cranberry sauce are to American children, not only a delight to the palate, but a dish the very smell of which brings back the most cheerful occasions in the year.
When the mochi is made and set away to await the festal day, the matter of decoration must be attended to. At every gate is erected some token of the season, if it be only a bit of pine stuck into the ground, or a wisp of straw rope decorated with white paper gohei. The great black gates that indicate the homes of the wealthier classes are almost concealed by structures of pine and bamboo, on which oranges, lobsters, straw rope, straw fringe, white paper, and images of the good luck gods are used as decorations. All these things are either efficacious in keeping off evil spirits, or are symbols of good luck. Within the house, in the tokonoma, or place of honor, in the best room, great cakes of mochi, two, three, five, or seven in number, are set one upon another in a dish covered with fern leaves, and the structure surrounded by seaweed.
Before the new year comes in the capable housewife will have sent out presents to every one who has during the year been of service to her husband, her children, or herself in any way. Her own servants will be remembered with gifts of clothing, something will be sent to the servants of friends at whose houses any of the family have visited often, and every dependent, poor relation, employee, and employee's child must be given a present, large or small, according to the amount of obligation felt by the giver. To persons of greater wealth and importance, to whom the family are grateful for past favors or from whom they are hoping for something in the future, gifts, often quite out of proportion to the resources of the givers, are sent,—a method of investing capital that is a little risky, though it sometimes yields prompt and bountiful returns. On the other hand, all the merchants and marketmen who supply the house send presents to the mistress and frequently to the head servants as well, and furushiki (bundle handkerchiefs), cooking utensils, packages of sugar, boxes of eggs, dried fish, etc., flow in at the kitchen; while crêpe, silk, cotton cloth, money, toys, curios, and other valuables flow out of the parlor. All this present-giving is a severe tax upon the strength and resources of the housekeeper, and adds heavily to the burden that the last month of the year imposes upon her.
By the twenty-fifth or twenty-sixth of the month the trades-people begin to send in their bills, for every man expects to square up all his accounts by the last night of the old year, and early payments are expected and made, so that all may begin the new year out of debt. So universal is this custom that the man who finds at the eleventh hour that he cannot clear off all his debts is likely to offer his property at a heavy sacrifice in order to secure the necessary cash. For any one with ready money extraordinary bargains are to be met with in Japanese shops during the last week of the year. In case this resource fails, suicide is still a short and honorable way out of a world that has become too difficult to live in.
The Japanese housewife must feel, when December has been successfully passed, like the Yankee who had noticed that if he lived through the month of March he generally lived through the rest of the year. The observances of January, for which December has been one long preparation, begin with the rising of the New Year's sun, and continue in one form or another for about two weeks. Almost every day has its special food and its special festival duty. For the first three days the very best clothes in the wardrobe are worn by everybody, then till the seventh the second best, and from the seventh to the end of the month new clothes, though not the very best, must be worn. Within the first seven days every man in Japan is expected to call on all his friends and acquaintances, but the women, probably out of consideration for the many duties that the festival season puts upon them, are given until March to finish up their New Year's calls.
The streets of the cities, and even of the small villages, are full of life and interest for a week or two. Kurumayas in their new winter liveries trundle around fathers and mothers and happy children. All manner of mummers, musicians, and dancers go from house to house in search of custom. The manzai, who, with dances and songs and strange grimaces, undertake to drive out from your house for the new year all the devils who may have been residing there hitherto, are a special feature of this season. In every garden and in the public streets little girls, their faces freshly covered with white paint, their shining black hair newly dressed, their wing-sleeved kimonos gorgeous with many colors, play battledore and shuttlecock, toss small bags half filled with rice, or pat balls wound with shining silk to the accompaniment of a weird little chant. For the boys there are kites of many shapes and colors, or tops that they spin under every one's feet, well knowing that no one in Japan is too busy to turn aside for a child's pleasure. The very horses—small, shock-headed, evil-tempered beasts, who drag tremendous loads with many snorts and snaps at their masters—are decked out with gay streamers that reach nearly to the ground, at the ends of which are tinkling bells. The festival season closes on the fifteenth and sixteenth with a visit to the temple of Yemma, the god of hell, and with a holiday for all the apprentices.
Next to the New Year's holiday, perhaps the most important festival of the Japanese year is O Bon, the Feast of the Dead. This is, in its present form, a Buddhist institution, but in spirit it fitted so exactly into the ancient Japanese ideas of the tastes and habits of departed spirits that it merely supplanted the old Shintō feasts of the dead, and it is a little difficult to-day to determine whether its observance is more Buddhist or Shintō in its character. To find the O Bon ceremonies in their most perfect form, it is necessary now to go into the more remote country villages, for though, even in Tōkyō, this feast is still one of the most important in the whole year, it seems to be more distinctly itself in a small village, where all the old forms are still kept up.
In Tōkyō, the three days' festival is kept by the new calendar, and occurs on the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth of July. At O Bon, as at New Year's time, it is customary to square off all obligations by a general giving of presents. This, while not quite as important a matter as at the beginning of the year, is still a severe tax upon the time, purse, and memory of the wife and mother in any large family. At this time, too, as at New Year's, mochi or some other festival dish must be provided, but at this point the resemblance between the two occasions ceases. In accordance with its character as a feast of departed spirits, the observance of O Bon is distinctively religious. On the twelfth, the family go to the graveyard and clean and put in order the graves and tombstones, so that the returning spirits may find all properly cared for. Fresh water and flowers are placed before each stone, and sometimes rice and fresh vegetables. At home, the ancestral tablets in the Butsudan form the centre of the ceremonies. Before the shrine are placed, on the thirteenth, offerings of food of any kind that can be made without fish or meat. Great balls of mochi, saké, flowers, and choice new varieties of vegetables are appropriate offerings. All are tastefully arranged, the lamps are carefully lighted every night, and special services are held before the shrine. For the three days of the feast, the souls of the dead are believed to be visiting their old haunts, and to need light and food and all the conveniences that their descendants can spare them. Each house is decorated with lanterns, that the spirits may be able to find their way. It is from this custom that the feast is often called by foreigners the Feast of Lanterns.
As I have already said, in Tōkyō and other modernized places, this feast is not seen at its best. Only the soft glow of the lanterns swinging from every house, and the decorations in the graveyards and at the household shrines, indicate to the traveler that anything unusual is going on. But in the country regions it is quite another matter, and the welcoming, entertainment, and proper dismissal of the visiting spirits form the entire business of the community for three days. Usually the middle of August is the time for the country celebration. On the twelfth, bands of children carrying red lanterns march singing through the village on their way to the graveyard, where the annual cleaning is taking place. That night bonfires in the cemetery and before the houses light the pathway of the wanderers. Then for three nights all the young people of the village gather in the temple court in grotesque disguises and with towels over their faces, and dance all night long in the moonlight, to primitive music produced by a drum and the monotonous chant of the dancers themselves. These three dance-nights are the great occasion of the year to the young peasants, for this is the only time when persons of both sexes meet together in a social way, and it is long looked forward to and enjoyed intensely. Of late years, the government, fearing the abuses that grow out of this exceptional social event, has endeavored to suppress the dancing, but it continues in full vigor throughout most of rural Japan, though conducted with more decorum than formerly on account of the standing dread of police interference. The object of the dance is to amuse the spirits of the ancestors, who must be imagined as hovering in the background, viewing with approval the antics of their descendants.
Other amusements are going on in the village on the O Bon evenings. At a summer resort every hotel-keeper will have a professional story-teller, a company of musicians, or some other entertainment to which the guests of the hotel are invited, and at which as many of the villagers as can crowd to the open house fronts stare until the dance drum in the temple court draws their feet in that direction. And then, on the last night of the feast, bonfires are once more kindled at every house, so that the spirits may find their way safely back to the land whence they came, and not stay to haunt their descendants at improper seasons.
No account of life in a Japanese home would be complete without a little space devoted to the special delights of the small boy. Although this book deals mainly with feminine concerns, the small boy in Japan, as in America, is the life and fun of the home, and one cannot fail to notice his times of surpassing enjoyment. He rules the house and his mother and his grandmother and his sisters, at all times, and his activity and enterprise secure for him a good share in any fun that is going on; but there are certain seasons that appeal to the boyish heart with a special message and of which he is the central figure.
As the Feast of Dolls is to the girls, so is the Feast of Flags to the boys,—their own special day, set apart for them out of the whole year. It comes on the fifth day of the fifth month (now May fifth), and for long before its arrival the shops are gay with all manner of tempting toys, while in every yard rises a great bamboo pole, from which, when the time comes, will float an enormous carp, its body inflated by the strong spring wind, its great mouth wide open, and its eyes glaring hideously, as it fights its way against the air currents. Sometimes there will be half a dozen such poles in one yard,—signs either that the household is blessed with many boys, or that the way to its heart is through gifts of toys to its son and heir. When the great day at last arrives, the feast within the home is conducted in much the same way as the Feast of Dolls. There are the same red-covered shelves, the same offerings of food and drink; but instead of the placid images of the Emperor and Empress and the five court musicians, the household furnishings and toilet articles, there are effigies of the heroes of history and folklore: Jingo, the warrior Empress; Takenouchi, her white-haired prime minister, holding in his arms her son, the infant war-god; Benkei, the giant retainer of Yoshitsune; Yoshitsune himself, the marvelous fencer and general; Kintaro, the fat, hairy, red boy, who was born and grew up in the mountains, and even in his babyhood fought with bears; Shoki Sama, the strong man who could conquer oni;—these are some of the characters to be found on the shelves at the boys' feast. Behind each figure stands a flag with the crest of the hero that it represents, and before them are set all manner of weapons in miniature. The food offered is mochi wrapped in oak leaves, because the oak is among trees what the carp is among fishes, the emblem of strength and endurance. The flower of this day is the iris or flag, because of its sword-shaped leaves,—hence the name, Shobu Matsuri, feast of iris or flag.
Another feast, which, while not founded for the boys, seems to have been adopted by them as a great occasion, is what is known as Buddha's birthday, celebrated on April eighth. On this day in every Buddhist temple a temporary platform is erected, the roof of which is covered with flowers. Upon this platform, in a great tub filled with licorice tea, is set a small image of the infant Buddha. Hither flock the small boys with bamboo dippers, and spend the day ladling up the tea and pouring it over the image, and then ladling it out into small bamboo buckets. This licorice tea, through contact with the image, acquires miraculous healing properties, and the devout, after making offerings of money twisted up in white paper, carry away the little buckets. The tea is good for the eyes and the throat, and if some of it be used in mixing ink, and then, with the ink thus mixed, a charm be written and placed about the house, it will keep away all vermin. It is not easy to see exactly what the fascination of this feast is to the boys, but I am told that many of them like it even better than their own specially appointed day.
But of all the delights that come into the year, there is nothing to compare for joyous excitement with the great matsuri of the parish temple. For at least a week beforehand there are enough interesting things going on in every house and shop along the street to keep every small boy in the parish agog from morning till night. Here are lanterns being made with the mon of the gods on one side and the rising sun of the Japanese flag on the other. There a dancing platform is being erected, and at every stage of its development it is swarming with active youngsters, who shin up its poles, turn somersaults on the platform, and sit in rows on its edge, with bare legs swinging high over the heads of the passers-by; and when it is done, and the drums installed, they take turns all day and far into the night in keeping them going. Then, too, there are the dashi, or floats, on one of which each street in the parish spends its money and its ingenuity. How the boys haunt the shops in which they are being made! How they watch the wondrous changes of paper into flowers, and of bamboo and cotton cloth into sea waves, or castle walls, or monsters of earth or sea or air! How they chatter and wriggle and push and squirm for front places, when at last the great cars are built up in the open street, the marvelous edifices erected upon them, and at the top of all the heroic figures of well-known mythological or historical characters rise majestic in flowing robes! Then, when the black bullocks, resplendent in collars and halters of red rope, are yoked to the triumphal car, and the structure moves slowly down the shouting street, how the boys crawl into every joint and cranny of the dashi, how they hang from every beam, how they yell from before and behind in sheer abandon of joy! And at last, when the procession forms, and with fantastically garbed men marching in front and wild-eyed singers yelling just behind them, with dancing-girls on moving platforms and jugglers and tumblers on the dashi themselves, the twenty or more festal cars move, with frequent stops, down to the temple, to escort the sacred symbols on their annual pilgrimage through the parish, who so noisy or so ubiquitous as these same bullet-headed, blue-gowned boys? They bob up at every turn, ooze out at every pore of the procession, and enjoy, as only boys can enjoy, the noise and confusion, the barbaric splendor, the dancing and tumbling, the mumming and drumming, the excruciating howls of the singers, the jingling of the marshals' iron-ringed staves, the clapping of the great wooden clappers that time the movement and the stops of the pageant.
Better than all, perhaps, is the evening, when the streets, lighted by many lanterns, are filled with throngs of holiday-makers,—now stopping to stare in at some shop where the devout worshiper has established a beautiful shrine, has set out mochi and other offerings before some image, or has arranged a landscape garden in a box, or constructed a matsuri procession just entering the court of a miniature temple; now haggling with the ever-present booth-keepers for lanterns or cakes or hairpins to take back to the friends left at home. Suddenly there is a joyous, rhythmic shout of many excited boyish voices, there is a gleaming of square red lanterns, a whirl and a rush through the crowd. Now is the time to get out of the way, for the boys move quickly and are too excited to turn aside for anything. On they come at a sharp trot, each little round head bound about with a fillet of blue and white toweling, each lithe, active body more or less covered by a blue and white gown, all shouting in unison and bearing on their shoulders a miniature dashi, made most often of a saké tub mounted on a frame, and decorated with lanterns and white paper. They charge through the crowd, which makes way quickly at their approach, until the pace, the weight of their burden, and the frantic shouting exhaust their breath. Then they plunge down a side street, rest for a few moments, gather themselves together, and charge once more into the crowd. There must be some pretty tired little boys in the parish when the fun is all over, for these performances are kept up far into the night; but for absolute and perfect enjoyment there is nothing I have yet seen that seems to me to compare with the enjoyment that a Japanese boy gets out of a matsuri. It is worth being tired for!
There is no space in this work for a more detailed picture of life in a Japanese home. Enough has been said in this chapter to show that it is made up of many little things,—of cares and sorrows and pleasures,—just as is life in any American home, and it is the little things we care about that make the oneness of the family, and the nation, and the oneness, too, of humanity, if we can only understand one another.
The woman question in Japan is at the present moment a matter of much consideration. There seems to be an uneasy feeling in the minds of even the more conservative men that some change in the status of woman is inevitable, if the nation wishes to keep the pace it has set for itself. The Japanese women of the past and of the present are exactly suited to the position accorded them in society, and any attempt to alter them without changing their status only results in making square pegs for round holes. If the pegs hereafter are to be cut square, the holes must be enlarged and squared to fit them. The Japanese woman stands in no need of alteration unless her place in life is somehow enlarged, nor, on the other hand, can she fill a larger place without additional training. The men of New Japan, to whom the opinions and customs of the Western world are becoming daily more familiar, while they shrink aghast, in many cases, at the thought that their women may ever become like the forward, self-assertive, half-masculine women of the West, show a growing tendency to dissatisfaction with the smallness and narrowness of the lives of their wives and daughters,—a growing belief that better educated women would make better homes, and that the ideal home of Europe and America is the product of a more advanced civilization than that of Japan. Reluctantly in many cases, but still almost universally, it is admitted that in the interest of the homes and for the sake of future generations, something must be done to carry the women forward into a position more in harmony with what the nation is reaching for in other directions. This desire shows itself in individual efforts to improve by more advanced education daughters of exceptional promise, and in general efforts for the improvement of the condition of women. Well-to-do fathers are willing to spend more money on the education of their daughters, to send them abroad, if possible, to complete their studies, or to postpone the time of marriage so that plans for higher education may be carried through. Where, ten years ago, the number of women who had been abroad for study might be counted on the fingers of one hand, there are now three or four times that number in Tōkyō alone. Another sign of the times is the fact that husbands going abroad on business or for pleasure are more inclined to take their wives with them, even if it be only for a few months. There are now to be found, in all the larger cities, women who have spent a longer or shorter time in some foreign country, whose minds have been opened and whose horizons have been enlarged by contact with new ideas. All this cannot fail to have its effect, sooner or later, upon the country at large.
The efforts for the improvement of women in general may be grouped into four classes: by legislation, by education, through the press, and by means of societies for mutual improvement.
Of the recent legislation concerning marriage and divorce and its effect on the family, I have spoken in a preceding chapter. The latest statistics show that, while before the new laws were enacted divorces were one to every three marriages, they have now been reduced to one in five. It must be said, however, that the law is still somewhat in advance of public opinion. While the chance of permanence in marriage is better now than it was before the new code came into force, custom is still stronger than the law, and marriage is too often a temporary arrangement. In many cases the wife knows little or nothing of her new rights, and even when she does know, she has seldom the self-assertion to make a stand for them, but meekly submits to the dictates of those whom she is bound by custom, if not by law, to respect and obey without question. But the fact that the laws have actually been improved means, in a country like Japan, in which the government is the moulder of public opinion, that the custom will some day conform to the law.
In the matter of property owning, women, under the new code, are fairly independent. As I have already stated, every woman in Japan is expected to become a wife, and as a matter of fact, the number of unmarried women is so small that it is hardly necessary to mention them. Wives, under Japanese law, are divided into two classes: the wife who enters her husband's family, and the wife whose husband becomes a member of her family. In the latter case the wife is the head of the family, is responsible for the debts of the family, and has the right to use and profit by the husband's property. In the former case (and as I have already stated, the great majority of wives enter their husband's families), the husband is responsible, and has, consequently, the right to use and profit by his wife's property. In all cases, unless the husband is physically or mentally unfit, he has the management of his wife's wealth. In case of the husband's disability the woman takes care of her own. A wife may, by application to a court, cause the husband to furnish security for the property that she has intrusted to him; and she may, with her husband's consent, engage in independent business. The property that she thus acquires is her own and not the husband's. Any property in the family, the ownership of which is not perfectly established, belongs to the head of the family, whether male or female. We thus see that the law of Japan fully recognizes the right of married women to hold property, although only in exceptional cases are they allowed the management of their own holdings. The law also regards the wife, in household matters, as her husband's agent.
In actual practice, it is not uncommon for the wife to manage the entire income of the family, receiving it from her husband and acting as his treasurer. The wife's own earnings are seldom given to the husband, and her position is one of entire independence in the disposal of whatever she adds to the family revenue. But should the wife bring into the family at marriage property which passes into the husband's management, the chances are that, unless a divorce should occur, she will never lay any claim to the principal, or think of it again as her own. While her husband cannot actually dispose of it without her consent, she is pretty certain to give her consent should he ask it, and he may do very nearly anything that he chooses with it. We thus see that the tendency is to give the management of the income, as a part of the management of the household, to the woman, and leave the disposal of the principal, as a part of the outside business, to the care of the man. This system of domestic finance seems not unlike the common practice in thrifty and well-managed homes in America, and shows that a spirit of mutual confidence between husband and wife belongs to Japan as to Western nations. As the result of my own observation in a number of homes, I should say that the judgment of the wife in money matters is quite as much trusted in Japan as in America, and that, in this one respect at least, her place in the home is as responsible a one as that of the Western housekeeper. One instance may be cited of a woman whose business ability is so well known as to have a national reputation. By birth a member of a family which is remarkable for its success in all financial undertakings, she has inherited a large share of the family characteristic, and is credited with the personal management of a large bank, as well as other successful business undertakings. Her husband's name and not her own appears on the prospectuses and in the newspapers, but unless report is very far astray, she is the business man of the family, and her sound sense and good judgment have built up the fortune which is their common possession.
In the educational system of Japan, schools for girls are provided by the government, but no provision for studies more advanced than those of the middle schools for boys is included in the scheme, with the single exception of the Higher Normal School in Tōkyō, in which a limited number of young women are trained to take positions as teachers in the ordinary normal schools for girls. To quote from the Annual Report of the Minister of Education for the year 1898, the latest to which I have access, "Higher female schools are institutions designed to give instruction in such higher subjects of general education as are necessary for females." This shows with considerable completeness the idea that dominates all government and much private effort for the education of women in Japan. The schools are to teach simply such subjects as are necessary for females; anything more would be superfluous, possibly dangerous. The thought of women as individuals, with minds and souls to be trained and developed to their highest possibilities, is still somewhat foreign to the mind of the average Japanese man. In its stead is the idea that females must be instructed in such subjects as are necessary for a proper understanding of their duties as wives and mothers. But if Japan to-day is where England and America were in the first half of the nineteenth century, the country is certainly moving forward, as the statistics in regard to education for the three successive years 1896, 1897, and 1898 show. Great efforts are being made to increase the attendance of girls at the common schools, and with gratifying results.
As we advance into the higher schools, the discrepancy in numbers between the two sexes grows greater. In the kindergartens the attendance of girls is nearly equal to that of boys; in the elementary schools there are three boys to two girls; in the higher elementary schools, seven boys to two girls. The boys' middle schools, which are equivalent in grade to the girls' high schools, have fourteen boys taking their courses to every two girls in the high schools. In the apprentice and technical schools, there are fifteen men to every two women. Even the normal schools, which in our own country are almost given over to women, in Japan have six male students to every female. The "special schools," mainly professional, have, to 11,069 men, 73 women, all enrolled in private schools, and presumably taking medical courses. Beyond this point women have no opportunities offered to them. In the higher schools, equivalent to the college and graduate courses given by universities in America, 7,224 young men are given opportunities that women must go abroad to obtain.
These figures are, as I have said, for the year 1898. The year 1901 sees two hopeful movements well begun. One of these is the opening of an institution bearing the title of "Female University," endowed and supported by Japanese, through the strenuous efforts of Mr. Jinzo Naruse, a prominent Christian who has spent some time in America. At its opening, five hundred girls were glad to enter, but of these very few are ready for college work. Mr. Naruse, however, believes that in time he will be able to enlarge his college department and diminish the preparatory, which is now almost the whole of the school. He has the support and encouragement of many wealthy and influential Japanese, among them Count Okuma, the well-known progressive statesman. On the day of the opening of the school, Count Okuma, in a speech from the platform, said that the nation would be twice as strong if its women were well educated. This he called "setting up a double standard." He pointed out that Turkey, Egypt, Persia, and China were countries which had tried to get along with a "single standard," and which had fallen conspicuously behind. He called attention to the fact that Japan's primitive religion had for its central figure the Goddess of Light, but that, unfortunately for the well-being of the state, woman had been gradually dethroned and thrust down into a low place. After speaking of the debt that Japan owed to China for the civilization and the ethical system that had stood her so long in good stead, the veteran statesman went on to say that society in Japan was disfigured by abuses which were beyond any simple remedy. The only effective medicine was to be found in a radical reform of the ideals of family life, and this could only be effected by an improvement in the status of woman,—an improvement which such institutions as the one that day opened would greatly aid in bringing about.
These words from one of the most honored leaders of Japanese thought voice the feeling that is prevalent throughout Japan in this thirty-fourth year of Méiji. That it is actually moving both government and people is shown by the words of Mr. Kikuchi, Minister of Education, to the Council of Provincial Governors held in Tōkyō in June, 1901. In speaking of the progress of education throughout the country, he stated his intention to push forward the work of secondary education for girls, saying that a prefecture which refused to make provision for such education by 1903 might be compelled to do so by the government.
The other hopeful educational effort to which I have alluded is a school started on a small scale, but with a high standard, by a Japanese woman whose name is almost as well known in America as in Japan, as an educator of great ability and earnestness of purpose. After many years of work as a teacher in the Peeresses' School, a place of great honor from the Japanese standpoint, she has resigned her position to carry out a long-cherished plan. With the pecuniary aid of friends in America, she has founded a school for the preparation of young women who have finished the courses heretofore open to them, and who wish to become teachers of English in the Government schools. The examinations for such positions have always been open to women, but, because of the difficulty in securing proper preparation, there are few who pass them. Since its opening in September, 1900, the school has been crowded with promising pupils, and the small accommodations with which it began, although already once enlarged, are stretched to the uttermost. The girls come from the government high schools and from the mission schools, and the course offered to them of three years of study in English literature, composition, translation, and methods of teaching has proved a strong attraction. In recognition, perhaps, of this effort on behalf of her countrywomen, certainly, of her position at the head of her profession, this same woman has this year been appointed on the examining committee for the government English examinations, an honor never before given to one of her sex,—in itself a sign of the change in thought that the last few years have wrought.
There can be no doubt that the education of women is moving forward, pushed by the leading men of the country and aided by the earnest work of the women themselves. It is still far behind the education offered to men, and the ideal of most of its promoters is limited to the purely utilitarian; but as long as it moves forward and not backward, and as long as the years of work show an increased number of women fitted to meet the changing conditions of the time, we do well to approve rather than criticise, remembering that the problem is an exceedingly intricate one, and one of which even the best-instructed foreigner can see only a small part of the difficulty.
The year 1901 sees the printing-press almost as much of a power in Japan as in the Western world, and it is interesting to notice that among the innumerable newspapers and magazines now published in the country there are some twenty or more devoted exclusively to the interests of women. To be sure, these women's magazines do not undertake to furnish the loftiest intellectual pabulum, the best of them covering, perhaps, the same range of subjects that is included in "Woman's Journals" in the United States. They devote themselves largely to lectures on morals and manners, and instruction as to how best to perform the duties of the home. These magazines are for the most part written and edited by men, many of them very young men, and serve to show rather what men desire that women should think and do, than to give any insight into the minds of the women themselves. With a combined circulation of perhaps 40,000, they enter many homes, and do something, at least, toward the general enlightening and quickening of the feminine mind that is so noticeable in the Japan of to-day. In regard to the general reading of Japanese women who have had the new education, my own observation leads me to believe that they keep themselves well informed of what is going on in their own country, and of the outside world so far as it affects their own country; but that their interest in the world at large is less than that of American women, and only in exceptional cases do they care much for the sayings or doings of foreigners. In this respect they differ widely from the men, whose minds are reaching continually for new things to graft upon the old civilization.
In the whole list of publications on the woman question, nothing has ever come out in Japan that compares for outspokenness and radical sentiments with a book published within a year or two by Mr. Fukuzawa, the most influential teacher that Japan has seen in this era of enlightenment. It is in two parts, the first an attack, conducted with much skill and humor, upon Kaibara's "Great Learning of Woman," a book which for nearly four hundred years has been supposed to contain all that a woman should know. The last part of Mr. Fukuzawa's work is a constructive essay upon the "New Great Learning of Woman." So revolutionary are the sentiments expressed in the book that many Japanese men hesitate about allowing their wives and daughters to read it, and in at least one modern Christian school it has been ruled out from the school library as too advanced for the reading of the girls. A brief survey of the sentiments and ideas thus boldly set forth will show how far is the attitude of the Japanese from that of the American public on the woman question. We find in Mr. Fukuzawa's book the lofty ideal that belongs to the most advanced modern thought, but its promulgation as a practical working ideal in Japan was of the nature of a thunderclap. Among less tolerant races, men have been lynched, or burned at the stake, for slighter departures from the average code of thought and morals.
Mr. Fukuzawa starts out with the proposition that women are quite equal to men, and should hold equal position and influence. Although he allows that woman's work in the world is quite distinct from that of man, he holds that it is as important, and that she should have the same property-holding privileges and rights. The greatest stress is laid on the point that the same moral obligation for purity of life rests on the husband as on the wife. He goes into the details of the unhappiness resulting from concubinage, putting the duty of the husband in this respect as equal to that of the wife to preserve her chastity, and as this is, next to obedience, the virtue of virtues for a Japanese wife, his argument is as strong as it could well be made. He insists that women should demand as a right from their husbands and families the same privileges and opportunities that men have in society.
Such sentiments are a matter of course in America, and they have been held by a few advanced thinkers in Japan, but no one hitherto has dared in so vigorous and positive a way, and with arguments that come so near home, to try to break the chain of custom that holds women down as inferior beings. Kaibara says that if a woman finds her husband doing wrong, she should gently plead with him, choosing a time when he is most inclined to listen. If he refuses, she should not insist on his hearing her, but wait until he is willing to listen, and though she may try two or three times, she should never anger or irritate him. Fukuzawa says that if this applies to the woman, it should also to the man,—that is to say, if a man finds his wife unfaithful, he is to wait for an opportunity when she is in good humor before he remonstrates with her. Fukuzawa also throws new light on the duty of husbands and fathers to their wives and children in another respect. He says that no man should let the sole responsibility for the happiness of the home fall upon his wife; that a man is responsible for the peace of the home as well as the woman. This view of the matter is entirely new in Japan, as the responsibility for an unhappy home is laid as a matter of course upon the wife. The duty of a wife to her parents-in-law is also treated after the same revolutionary manner. Is it to be wondered at that many men fear the influence of such a book upon their gentle, submissive wives? In this connection it is interesting, however, to note that at a recent Shintō wedding, after the religious ceremony, which in itself marks a great step forward in the Japanese ideal of marriage, the priest who united the couple presented to the bride a copy each of the Kaibara and Fukuzawa books, perhaps with a view to letting her take her choice between the old style and the new, perhaps that she might instruct her husband out of the Fukuzawa book while she put in practice herself the time-honored precepts of Kaibara.
One feature of the times in Tōkyō, that is perhaps worthy of passing notice, is the tendency of women to form themselves into societies and clubs for the attainment of some common object. Of these women's clubs, the greater proportion are perhaps educational, the members meeting once a month or once a fortnight to listen to a lecture upon some subject that helps to keep them up with the times. There is also a patriotic society, that concerns itself with raising money for sending supplies to soldiers in the field, or for widows and orphans of soldiers, or to help along some other patriotic enterprise. There are societies, too, for general benevolence, or to help in carrying on the work of some one institution. A glance at the membership lists of these associations shows that the motive power is, in almost all cases, the same group of earnest, educated women, who are, in this way and in countless others, doing their utmost to broaden the horizons of their countrywomen, and lead them out into a larger life. This is probably true in the other cities in which a movement of women into clubs and societies is noticeable.
It is when the active women of the new way of thinking, whose lives and thoughts are devoted to work and endeavor rather than to the passive submission and self-abnegation of the old days, find themselves suddenly placed among the surroundings of thirty years ago, that the change of conditions becomes most evident. I cannot think of a better way to illustrate this than to tell the story of one of my Japanese friends and her visit to her husband's relatives in a distant provincial city. The lady who told me the story is a stirring, capable young matron, educated after the modern ways, who has spent most of her happy married life of some fifteen or sixteen years entirely in Tōkyō, except for a visit of a year to America. She bears a closer resemblance to many kind-hearted, strong, energetic young American women than to the old-time Japanese lady portrayed in these pages. She rises every morning at five, attends to every detail of her housekeeping, watches carefully and with educated common sense over her family of young children, believes in good food, fresh air, and exercise, for boys and girls alike, and is a helpful friend and good neighbor, filling to the full the position of work and influence in which she is placed. Her husband is a successful business man, whom frequent journeys across the Pacific have made thoroughly cosmopolitan, and their children are accustomed to a freedom from conventional restraints and a healthful diet and regimen such as old Japan never knew.
Last year the plan of spending the summer with the husband's relatives, which had been long projected, was actually carried out, and the whole family migrated to the provincial city from which the husband had sprung. The aged mother, a gentlewoman of the old type, was delighted to meet and entertain her daughter-in-law and grandchildren, and did her best, with all old-fashioned courtesy, to make the visit a pleasant one. The house was clean and spacious, the mats soft and white, the bows of the lowest, the voices and speech the politest that Japan could furnish, but the healthy, restless children found the conventional restraints irksome, and the old-fashioned diet of rice and pickles, with hardly a variation from morning till night and from week to week, was quite different from the bountiful table to which they had been accustomed. The younger woman could not criticise her mother-in-law's arrangements, neither could she bear to see her children growing thin and pale before her eyes. She consulted her husband, who, in accordance with the antique ideas of propriety, was served his meals at a different time and in a different room from his wife and family. To his food his mother had always added various delicacies which her old-time Spartan spirit would not allow her to set before her daughter-in-law and grandchildren. It would have been quite contrary to her ideas of rank and etiquette for her to make any modification of her ordinary fare for them. As the son was already supplying the funds for carrying on his mother's establishment, it occurred to him that he might increase her allowance on the plea that her summer expenses must be heavy with so large an addition to her household. But the old lady was sure that nothing more was necessary, and would not think of burdening her son with any larger expenses, and could not be induced to accept the offered increase.
Another effort was made to get along upon the meagre fare, but the youngest boy fell ill and had to be taken to a hospital, and the mother decided that something must be done if all the family did not wish to follow him. The happy thought occurred to her of buying something that would be an addition to their scanty menu, and giving it as a present to her mother-in-law. Now a present in Japan can never be refused, so it seemed to the younger woman that she must have found a way of escape from her difficulties. Of course, the present was accepted with many thanks and expressions of unworthiness, and when the meal-hour arrived, each member of the family found an infinitesimal quantity of the delicacy in a small plate at his side. But as soon as the meal was over, the dear old lady, who had by strict economy managed to leave the greater part of the gift untouched, sent out to all the neighbors presents from what had been intended to feed the hungry children at home. The experiment was tried again and again, but always with the same result. No present could be kept for family use alone. Of everything but the barest necessaries, the greater part must be sent out in gifts to others.
At last the husband and wife put their heads together to decide on some course of action that, without hurting the feelings of the older lady, would secure sufficient nourishment for the children, and forthwith began a series of all-day picnics to the noted places in the vicinity,—picnics that included always a good meal at some well-kept restaurant before the return to the old-fashioned fare of the grandmother's house. In this way the summer was passed without further illness, though the poor mother on her return to Tōkyō spent several weeks in bed,—what with starvation and worry and the effort to bear heroically, and with a smiling face, the hard life and scanty fare that were the life and fare of most of Japan only a few years ago.
In the changes that the past few years have wrought, perhaps nothing is more striking than the new openings for work that Japan now offers to women. The growth of the public school system has made a demand for women as teachers that is steadily increasing. Although in the normal schools the proportion of women to men is still only one to six, and while teaching, even in the primary schools, is not yet mainly in feminine hands as it is with us, there is still a good showing of women employed as teachers. From the figures of the school report of 1898, we find over 10,000 women as teachers and assistants in the public and private schools. The profession of nursing, too, which ten years ago was just opening, has already drawn many women into its ranks. In the Red Cross hospitals alone there are this year nearly a thousand nurses taking the course, and a thousand graduates scattered throughout the country hold themselves ready to answer the call of the society in the time of need, in the mean time practicing their profession wherever they may chance to be. The quality of the Red Cross graduates has been tested now in two wars, and they show the soldierly virtues of their nation, as well as the more womanly qualities of tenderness and gentleness; and a self-respect that has kept them pure and free from stain in the midst of severe temptation. It is impossible for me to gather statistics of the work done by other institutions for the training of nurses, but the figures given above may, I think, be doubled with absolute safety in making an estimate of the total number of nurses trained and in training throughout the empire.
The growth of commerce and industry has greatly increased the demand for feminine labor outside the home. In the old days the two most important industries of the country, tea and silk, were mainly carried on by women in their homes, but the use of modern machinery is rapidly taking the weaving industries out of the homes and making factory hands of the women and children.
One of the most noticeable effects of this new demand for female labor is the extreme scarcity of servants. Although wages are nearly double what they were ten years ago, it is extremely difficult for Japanese housekeepers now to find servants to replace the old ones as they drop out of the ranks, and the women who apply for positions are apt to be far inferior to those who came to the same families to do the same work ten years ago.
In other ways, too, women are learning to fill new places in the world. The telephone, which now connects towns and cities and villages in Japan, employs girls in large numbers. In the printing-offices we find women at work, not as compositors, but as compositors' assistants, darting from case to case about the room and selecting for the compositor the ideographs that he needs in his work. Inasmuch as a small printing-office cannot get along with less than four thousand characters, and as larger ones may have several times that number, the need of quick-witted and quick-footed assistants to each compositor may be easily recognized. As the schools turn out each year more girls fitted by education to do this kind of work, and as the number of newspapers and other printed matter is continually on the increase, the demand for and supply of this special variety of labor are likely to increase proportionately for some time to come.
A few women are now making their way as reporters on the daily papers, a few more are engaged in literary work. One of the best of modern Japanese novelists was a woman, but she died several years ago at so early an age that her work was a promise rather than a fulfillment. Artists, too, there are, who are making names for themselves, as well as a living, in a country where art is so common that success in that line means hard work and special talent. A few young women support themselves by stenography, a few more as clerks and secretaries in business offices. Until a writing-machine has been invented that will write four thousand characters, there will not be much demand for typewriter girls in Japan outside of the treaty ports, where a few are now employed. The Japanese government has found, as Uncle Sam discovered some time ago, that for the counting of paper money women's fingers are more deft than those of men, and it consequently gives employment to a few women in that work. One railroad has recently begun to employ women as ticket-sellers, and three medical schools have already graduated some women physicians, though it is still doubtful whether there is any great opening for them in the country. These are some of the ways in which women now find themselves able to gain a little more independence of life. The whole matter is so new that no statistics are available that will show the exact extent of the demand for labor in these directions, but from my own observation I am inclined to think that there is little change in the employments of women except in the neighborhood of the larger cities, and that the new occupations as yet have a very slight effect upon the conditions in this country at large.
It is not possible to understand the actual progress made in Japan in improving the condition of women, without some consideration of the effect that Christian thought and Christian lives have had on the thought and lives of the modern Japanese. If Japanese women are ever to be raised to the measure of opportunity accorded to women in Christian countries, it can only be through the growth of Christianity in their own country, and for that reason a study of that growth is pertinent to a study of their condition.
The past ten years in Japan have been discouraging to the missionaries in many ways, and it is not unusual to hear from the less hopeful of them the statement that their work has been at a standstill, or even going backward, during that time. The statistics of missionary effort show a steady, though slight, increase in the number of professing Christians, but if the sum total of the results of missionary effort were the number of converts made, it might, perhaps, be doubtful whether the money spent on missions in Japan might not be better turned to other purposes. There are now in Japan, of Christians of all sects, Protestant, and Roman and Greek Catholic, 121,000, or about one half of one per cent. of the total population of the country; but the influence of these Christians as leaders of thought is out of all proportion to their number. Christian men are found in the Diet, in the army and navy, in the universities and colleges, and in the newspaper offices, in a proportion far beyond their ratio to the total population, exerting their influence in many ways for the uplifting of the nation to loftier moral ideals. The proportion of Christian men and women in the government schools with which I have been connected is rather surprising. In the Higher Normal School, training young women to go out into the whole country as teachers, the proportion of professing Christians upon the teaching staff is striking; and in the Peeresses' School, which is as conservative and anti-foreign as any educational institution in Japan, there are five professing Christians among the thirty-five teachers. While, on the one hand, the Japanese Christians are not all models of all the virtues, while there is with many of them a tendency to modify their Christianity so as to accommodate a considerable amount of worldly wisdom, it is true, on the other hand, that the most active workers in the cause of philanthropy are men who have accepted the Christian faith, and who are striving in all earnestness to model their lives after the life of Jesus of Nazareth. The Christian Church in Japan to-day has its heroes and its back-sliders, and has between these two extremes a rank and file of every-day, commonplace men and women, who amidst frequent failures and in the midst of many temptations are making the name of Christian stand for a certain kind of life and a certain standard of virtue quite above and beyond the lives and standards of their countrymen. It is largely because of them that a Christian public opinion is growing up among non-Christian Japanese. Men to-day who have no special leanings toward Christianity shake their heads over vices and sins which a few years ago were not even thought of as wrong. There is a great deal of talk about the growth of moral depravity in the country, but as a matter of fact, the standards of virtue have never been so high since Japan was opened as they are to-day: it is only that Christian thought has held up a mirror to an un-Christian society, in which it views all too clearly its own defects. There is, to my mind, no more hopeful sign of the times than the growing discouragement over the present condition of morals. When there is added to this a steadily increasing respect for the honesty and strength of character of Christian men and women, it must mean that a great and lasting impression has been made. To-day banks, business offices, and other places requiring trustworthy clerks and employees, prefer, other things being equal, Christian young men, for it is generally known that they are more worthy of confidence than the majority of applicants for such places.
One instance of this increased moral sensitiveness may be cited in the recent successful efforts to limit the power of the brothel-keepers over their victims and virtual slaves, the jōrō or licensed prostitutes. As I have stated in a previous chapter, the women who carry on this business in Japan are, many of them, unwilling victims of a system which allows parents to sell their children to a life of shame; and they enter upon that life so young that they can hardly be regarded as morally responsible for their condition. Even after the actual sale of girls was forbidden by an imperial ordinance in 1872, the purchase price was called a loan to the parents of the girl, and subsequent loans for clothing entered upon the books of the establishment kept the unfortunates so continually in debt to their masters that they could never escape from the bondage in which they were held except through death, or by purchase by some infatuated admirer. Public opinion, while it indulged in some sentimental pity for the hard lot of the jōrō, did little or nothing to aid any one who desired to help them, regarding the profession as a necessary one, and caring not at all for the injustice to which the girls were subjected. Ten or twelve years ago, a movement started by some prominent Japanese Christians against the jōroya fell flat for want of a public opinion behind it. Speeches on the subject were hissed down by audiences of young men, and nothing could be done to help even the most innocent and unhappy of the girls to a better life. In the new code, perhaps as an effect of this movement, a new law provided that the jōrō might leave her calling by giving notice to the police. A police regulation, however, forbade any girl to cease her employment, or to leave the house in which she was kept, unless her official notice of cessation was countersigned by the keeper of the jōroya, so that by her own effort she could not free herself.
In the year 1900, one of these girls in a provincial city appealed to an American missionary for help in getting her liberty. Through his aid, and that of his Japanese helpers, her case came before the court, which decided that the contract under which she was held was opposed to the public welfare and good morals, and that the keeper must affix his seal to her notice without regard to her debt. Although the local police refused to act in the matter, and although the missionary and his helpers were subjected to personal violence by the employees of the jōroya, an appeal to the authorities at Tōkyō resulted in an enforcement of the court's decision, and the girl was freed.
At this juncture the Salvation Army, which has a valiant contingent in Tōkyō, and which was actually spoiling for a good fight with the world, the flesh, and the Devil, in any form, took up the cause of the oppressed jōrō. A special edition of the "War Cry" containing appeals to the girls to leave their lives of shame, and offering aid to any one who might apply to the Army, was published and hawked through the Yoshiwara. When the keepers and their employees found out what the strangely costumed news-venders were about, they charged down upon them, and after a street fight, drove them out of the quarter. Thus the war began, but the Tōkyō police took up the matter, the Tōkyō press joined hands with the Salvationists, and in the end the whole country was stirred to aid in the attack. In return, the brothel-keepers and their employees, feeling that the profits of their business were at stake, made it extremely warm for any Salvationists or newspaper reporters who dared set foot in the disreputable quarters, and in their zeal sometimes made mistakes and drove out their would-be patrons. The office of one newspaper was wrecked by sympathetic roughs, and it took a squad of fifty or sixty police to escort Army officers when they had occasion to visit any of the houses to secure the release of a girl. No lives were lost, though some hard knocks were received, and the work was kept up with unabated noise on both sides, until every girl held in unwilling bondage knew how she might escape and to whom she could go for aid.
During the month of September, 1900, as a direct result of the attacks of and upon the Army, the number of visitors to these houses in Tōkyō was decreased by about 2,000 a night. On October 2, a government ordinance was issued that at one stroke removed all obstacles in the way of a girl's securing her freedom at any moment when she wanted to leave the business. The new regulations made the descent to Avernus as difficult as possible, and the return to the upper world a mere step. In Tōkyō alone, in the first four months after the promulgation of this order, 1,100 out of the 6,335 girls who were licensed as prostitutes left the houses in which they were employed, most of them returning to their homes and families, and as many as applied being cared for in the Rescue Home of the Salvation Army. The places thus vacated are not easy to fill, because the keepers will not advance money to the parents of a girl, now that they can no longer hold her as security for the debt. In consequence, too, of the revelations of the evils of the system, the business has fallen off alarmingly. Thus many of the houses have been obliged to close, owing to lack of custom and to inability to pay the heavy taxes.
We have here the story of a successful attack on a system which has existed in Japan for three hundred years, by a Christian agency acting with the support of so strong a public opinion that police and government have felt bound to obey its behests. There has been no more striking example of the effect of Christian thought upon public sentiment in any country than this crusade against the brothels in Japan. When we remember that ten years ago it was not possible for a speaker to attack the institution before an audience of students without being silenced by hisses, it is interesting to note that this year, the students of that same school greeted with applause and respectful attention an address on this very subject.
It seems to me rather striking that in the year 1900 fifty thousand copies of the Bible were sold in Japan—more than of any other book. Although the present translation is regarded as far from perfect, and much of it is unintelligible to the average Japanese without instruction, whether directly or indirectly, by mission workers, it is still sought after and read for the sake of its literature, and because of the reputation that has been gained for it throughout the country. There are few missionaries of any experience in Japan who cannot tell stories of men coming to them from country villages, who, through the reading of a copy of the Bible in some way fallen into their hands, have been brought by the beauty and nobility of the parts that they could understand to seek additional explanation from some teacher or preacher. One case that is amusing, but at the same time striking, I have heard vouched for from a number of sources:—
Two thieves, one night, broke into the dormitory of a girls' school in search of booty, and by chance awakened two of the girls. As they sat up in their beds, wondering what was best to do under the circumstances, one zealous damsel reached for the Bible in which she had been reading before she went to sleep, and handed it to one of the thieves, saying, "If you read this book, you will not want to steal any more." The other girl followed her companion's example and gave her Bible to the other thief. That was all, so far as the girls knew, and it was some years before the sequel came to light.
There is one place in Japan to which released convicts who are trying to get back to respectability again drift from all parts of the empire. It is a prisoners' home in Tōkyō, where one man, aided by his capable and devoted wife, receives into his own family and gives aid and succor to hundreds of society's outcasts. To this place came one day an ex-convict who told a remarkable story of his conversion, and of his desire to lead a new life. He had received a Bible from a little girl one night in a house that he was robbing, but was too full of professional engagements at the time to follow her advice and read it. Later, however, as he was resting from his labors in the enforced seclusion of a prison, he began to read, and spelled out enough to make up his mind that he did not want to steal any more. Accordingly, as soon as his term was ended, he made his way to the prisoners' refuge, and by the aid of its founder and head, and his good wife, settled down to steady habits of industry. Later, when the prison look had worn off from his face and the prison gait from his walk, he returned to his family and friends, where he is now a respectable member of the society upon which he formerly preyed.
There are other stories showing as deep impressions made on men of culture and respectability, not so striking and amusing as this one, but meaning as much, or even more, for the future of Japan. Such things are hardly possible in Christian countries to-day, for there is little or no novelty in the message that the old book brings to us; but to the Japanese mind the thoughts are absolutely new in many ways, and the reading alone will often change the whole life, because it lifts up the nature to a higher set of ideals.
As a direct effect of Christian thought upon the thought of the Japanese nation, it is interesting to notice the change in meaning of one word. In the teachings of Confucius the highest virtue is benevolence, rendered into Japanese by the word jin; in the teachings of Buddhism the highest virtue is mercy, or jishi. When the Christian missionaries first came to Japan, there was no term in the language that covered the thought of love as it is taught by Christ. For lack of anything better, the word ai, which indicated the love of a superior for an inferior, was made to do duty for the greater thought; and now the old word ai, throughout the length and breadth of Japan, is accepted and understood in its new meaning, a continual witness to the effect of Christianity upon the national mind. Is this a little thing in the education of a race that has shown in the past so great a capacity for living up to its ideals?
One more direct effect of Christian teaching upon Japanese society is the great quickening of philanthropic and benevolent effort. Scattered throughout the country are benevolent or educational societies, orphanages, hospitals, free kindergartens, reform schools, and other evidences of a desire on the part of the more fortunate to help the unfortunate by some means or other; and if you study into the history of any of these efforts, you will usually find that some Japanese Christian, or some man who has come home impressed with the philanthropies of Christian countries, has started the scheme, and has created a society, and a public opinion behind the society, which carries on the work. Even in the government institutions there is no difficulty in tracing the influence of Christians and Christianity. The Red Cross Society, with its seven thousand members, and its hospitals in every prefecture of the empire, bears the sign of Christendom upon all its property and employees. It seems to me quite safe to say that but for the Christian influences of the past forty years, there would be very little altruistic work done in Japan to-day; but by means of the Christians and their teachings, the latest and best thought of the world is working its way out in practical service for humanity in Japan, and this service is ascribed by enlightened Buddhist and Shintō believers alike to the spirit of Christianity, which will not let the fortunate rest while their less fortunate brothers are in want or sin.
No one who studies the religious question in Japan at all can fail to notice the extraordinary revivifying of Buddhism for what it feels to be a life and death struggle with an alien faith. The disestablishment of the Buddhist church by the government at the time of the restoration must be credited with its share of the awakening process; for the priests, finding their own support and that of the temples dependent upon the voluntary contributions of worshipers, were forced to bestir themselves as they had not done since the old missionary days, when they were working for a foothold in the country. But without the competition of Christianity, it is extremely doubtful whether their efforts would have been turned so largely along educational and philanthropic lines, whether the standard of intelligence among the priesthood would have been so quickly raised, whether they would have sent young men abroad to study Sanskrit and history with a view to a better understanding of their own scriptures, or whether they would not rather have relied on less radical methods of quickening the religious life within their body. Certain it is that Buddhism, which upon its introduction into Japan actually lowered the status of women, is now making a bid for public favor by holding meetings and founding societies especially for women, and is doing its best to increase their self-respect and the respect in which they are held by society.
An interesting story which throws some light upon the new influence that is at work among the Buddhists came to me not long ago through a Japanese friend. There were two brothers living in a poor little village on the northern coast of Japan, who were joint heirs to a small piece of property. As the land was not enough for the support of two families, the elder brother, a gentle, thoughtful youth, gave up all title to his share of the inheritance and entered a Buddhist monastery. In the quiet of this retreat, amid the beautiful surroundings, the daily services, the chanting of priests, and the mellow booming of the great monastery bell, his thoughts went out to the poor and the sinful among his own people. He began to feel that a life which seeks merely spiritual uplift for itself is not the highest life, and that only as spiritual gain is shared with others is it real and lasting. Forthwith he began a life of helpfulness to the poor about him,—of teaching and preaching and good deeds that won him many humble friends. Within the monastery, however, his work was not approved. His ideas and actions were not in harmony with the teachings of the sect. He was first disciplined and then expelled, and found his way back at last, penniless, to his native village.
Now, in northern Japan the winters are long and hard, and the most industrious of farmers and fisher-folk can wring only a bare subsistence from the conditions of their toil. It is from these villages, perhaps, more than from any other sources, that the girls are obtained to supply the jōroya of the great cities. At any rate, in this particular village, the only hope that any girl possessed of escaping from the hard home toil was by the sale of her person, and the thought of seeing the great cities, of wearing beautiful dresses, of being admired and petted, and perhaps at last of marrying some rich lover and becoming a great lady, was a tempting bait to these poor peasant girls. To this young man, whose soul had been awakened to a new sensitiveness during his absence, the full horror of the conditions that could so warp and dwarf the souls of women appealed as it had never done before. He must do something to help them, but what to do his previous experience did not help him to know. He sought for aid and sympathy in his native place, among his friends and co-religionists; but the state of affairs was too old and too familiar to excite interest, and at last he worked his way to the capital, feeling that somewhere in that great city he would find light on the question that perplexed him. It was a mere question of ways and means—how to begin a work which he felt driven from within to do. In Tōkyō, as he inquired among his friends, he was told that Christians knew all about the kind of work that he wished to begin, that he must go to them and study their methods, if he would help the people of his native village. So the devout young Buddhist, who had found in his own faith the divine impulse, turned to the study of what Christians had done and were doing for the unfortunate. The story is not finished yet. We cannot tell whether in the end it will result in another addition to the ranks of the Japanese Christians, or whether it will aid in the quickening that has come to Buddhism, but, whatever way it ends, it shows in a concrete example what Christianity is now doing for Japan, and especially for the women of the country.
 These notes have been added as footnotes in this edition - publisher’s note
 All presents in Japan must be wrapped in white paper, although, except for funerals, this paper must have some writing on it, and must be tied with a peculiar red and white paper string, in which is inserted the noshi, or bit of dried fish, daintily folded in a piece of colored paper, which is an indispensable accompaniment of every present.
 A child is rarely given the name of a living member of the family, or of any friend. The father's name, slightly modified, is frequently given to a son, and those of ancestors long ago dead are sometimes used. One reason for this is probably the inconvenience of similar names in the same family, and middle names, as a way of avoiding this difficulty, are unknown. The father usually names the child, but some friend or patron of the family may be asked to do it. Names of beautiful objects in nature, such as Plum, Snow, Sunshine, Lotos, Gold, are commonly used for girls, while boys of the lower classes often rejoice in such appellations as Stone, Bear, Tiger, etc. To call a child after a person would not be considered any especial compliment. The father, or the head of the family, usually names the children, but some friend or patron may be asked to do it. As, until recently, the name given a child in infancy was not the one that he was expected to bear through life, the choice of a name was not a matter of as much importance as it is with us. In some families the boys are called by names indicating their position in the family, the words Taro, "Big one," Jiro, "Second one," Saburo, "Third one," Shiro, "Fourth one," Goro, "Fifth one," etc., being used alone, or placed after adjectives indicating some quality that it is hoped the child may possess. Such combinations are, Eitaro, "Glorious big one," Seijiro, "Pure second one," Tomisaburo, "Rich third one," and so on.
 To speak with greater exactness, the miya mairi of a boy is on the thirty-first day of his life,—of a girl, on the thirty-third.
 Tōkyō just now shows a tendency to change this national custom. Gayly painted wicker baby carriages with cotton awnings are seen in large quantities in the shops, and one meets mothers and little sisters of the lower classes, propelling the baby in a little four-wheeled wagon instead of wearing it on the back, as formerly. These carriages are, of course, the exception, and may prove to be but a passing Tōkyō fashion, but they seem to me to mark another step in the modernizing of Japan, and may prove of value in the physical development of the common people.
 That the position of the Japanese in sitting is really unnatural and unhygienic, is shown by recent measurements taken by the surgeons of the Japanese army. These measurements prove that the small stature of the Japanese is due largely to the shortness of the lower limbs, which are out of proportion to the rest of the body. The sitting from early childhood upon the legs bent at the knee, arrests the development of that part of the body, and produces an actual deformity in the whole nation. This deformity is less noticeable among the peasants, who stand and walk so much as to secure proper development of the legs; but among merchants, literary men, and others of sedentary habits, it is most plainly to be seen. The introduction of chairs and tables, as a necessary adjunct of Japanese home life, would doubtless in time alter the physique of the Japanese as a people.
 Sometimes, in the old days, rice water was given to babies instead of milk, but it was nearly impossible to bring up a baby on this alone. Now both fresh and condensed milk are used, where the mother's milk is insufficient, but only in those parts of Japan where the foreign influence is felt. In the Tōkyō of 1891 butchers and milkmen were very little in evidence, as the demand for their wares came mainly from the few foreigners and foreign restaurants in the city. In 1901 a walk of half a mile or so in the neighborhood of Kojimachi, one of the principal business streets in a purely Japanese section of the city, shows five meat shops; and milkmen, in westernized shirts and knickerbockers, with golf-stockings and straw sandals, draw their gay-colored carts everywhere through the city, and call at a large proportion of the houses. Condensed milk, too, is to be found on the shelves of every provision store, together with canned and dried meats, and the restaurants where foreign food is served are distributed throughout the entire city, and do a thriving business on Japanese patronage. The less extravagant country people declare that Tōkyō is "eating itself up," but so far no terrible increase of indebtedness seems to follow the change in the standard of living. It is interesting to note that the scalp troubles referred to on page 11 seem to have greatly lessened in the last ten years, whether because of the change in the food or for other reasons, I cannot determine.
 Twice, after the miya mairi of her babyhood, does our little maid repair to the temple to seek the blessing of her patron god upon a step forward in her short life: once, when at the age of three, the hair on her small head, which until then has been shaved in fancy patterns, is allowed to begin its growth toward the coiffure of womanhood; and once, when she has attained her seventh year, and exchanges the soft, narrow sash of infancy for the stiff, wide obi which is the pride of every well-dressed Japanese woman. Her little brother, too, though now no longer destined to wear the hammer-shaped queue of the old-time Japanese warrior, and whose fuzzy black head is now usually left unshaven in his babyhood, still goes to the temple at the age of three to give thanks, and when he comes to be five years old, the little boy again goes up to the temple, this time wearing for the first time the manly hakama, or kilt-pleated trousers, and makes offerings to the god who has protected him thus far.
The day set for these ceremonies is the 15th of November, and there is no prettier sight in all Japan than a popular temple on that day. All the streets that converge on the shrine are crowded with gayly dressed children hurrying along to make their offerings, accompanied by parents brimming with pride and pleasure.
"Small feet are pattering, wooden shoes clattering,Little hands clapping, and little tongues chattering:"
three-year-old tots of both sexes trudging sturdily along on their clogs: square little red-cheeked boys, their black eyes shining with pride in their rustling new silk hakama, feeling that they are big boys and no longer to be confused with the babies that they were yesterday: here, too, are the graceful seven-year-old maidens, their many-colored garments and their gorgeous new obi setting off to advantage their shining black hair and sparkling eyes. The children are so many, so happy, and so impressed with the fun that it is to be older than they were, that the grown folks who accompany them seem like shadows; the only real thing is the children.
Within the temple precincts all the candy-sellers and toy-merchants who can find standing-room for a stall are doing a brisk trade. Flags are flying, drums are beating, a kagura dance is going on in the pavilion, about which stands a crowd of youngsters twittering like sparrows, and the steps that lead to the temple itself are as thronged as Jacob's ladder with little ones ascending and descending. Within the shrine the white-robed priests are hard at work from morning to night. A little company forms in the vestibule, goes to the priest in the first room, where they bow and make their offerings, and wait until there is space for them in the inner sanctuary. From within comes the sound of a droning chant, which ends at last, and then a party that has finished its worship issues forth, and those who have been waiting without go in; and when the few minutes of worship are over, and the amulet that rewards the due observance of the day has been received, there are the dances to be seen, and the o miyagé to be purchased, and at last the happy party returns, feeling that one more milestone on the journey of life has been passed propitiously.
 Jinrikisha, or kuruma, a small, light carriage, usually with a broad top, which is drawn by a man. The jinrikisha is the commonest of all vehicles now in use in Japan. Jinrikisha-man and kurumaya are terms commonly used for the runner who draws the carriage.
 The shirōzaké (white saké) used for this occasion is a curious drink, thick and white, made from pounded rice, and brewed especially for this feast. Some antiquarians believe that it is simply the earliest form of saké, the national beverage, which has been preserved in this ancient observance as the fly is preserved in amber.
 The keeping of a feast on the third day of the third month is a custom that has come down from very ancient times. At first the day was set apart for the purification of the people, and a part of the ceremony was the rubbing of the body with bits of white paper, roughly cut into the semblance of a white-robed priest. These paper dolls were believed to take away the sins of the year. When they had been used for purification, they were inscribed with the sex and birth-year of the user and thrown into the river. The third month was also, in early times, the season for cock-fighting among the men, and for doll-playing among the women. The special name by which the dolls of the Doll Feast are called is O Hina Sama. Now hina in modern Japanese means a chicken or other young bird, and is never used to mean anything else except the dolls; thus the dolls are shown to be associated with the ancient cock-fighting, an amusement which has now almost gone out, except in the province of Tosa on the island of Shikoku.
The oldest dolls did not represent the Emperor and Empress, but simply a man and a woman, and were modeled closely after the old white paper dolls of the religious ceremony. When the Tokugawa Shōguns had firmly established their splendid court at Yedo, a decree was issued designating the five feast days upon which the daimiōs were to present themselves at the Shōgun's palace and offer their congratulations. One of the days thus appointed was the third day of the third month. It is believed that the giving of the chief place at the feast to effigies of the Emperor and Empress was a part of the policy of the Shōgunate,—a policy which aimed to keep alive the spirit of loyalty to the throne, while at the same time the occupant of the throne remained a puppet in the hands of his vice-gerent.
Each girl born into a family has a pair of O Hina Sama placed for her upon the red-covered shelf, on the first Feast of Dolls that comes after her birth. When, as a bride, she goes to her husband's house, she carries the dolls with her, and the first feast after her marriage she observes with special ceremonies. Until she has a daughter old enough to carry out the observance, she must keep up the ceremony. The feast, as it exists to-day, is said by the Japanese to serve three purposes: it makes the children of both sexes loyal to the imperial family, it interests the girls in housekeeping, and it trains them in ceremonial etiquette.
 Kotatsu, a charcoal fire in a brazier or a small fireplace in the floor, over which a wooden frame is set and the whole covered by a quilt. The family sit about it in cold weather with the quilt drawn up over the feet and knees.
 Kisses are unknown, and regarded by conservative Japanese as an animal and disgusting way of expressing affection.
 The Japanese written language is a strange combination of Chinese and Japanese, to read which a knowledge of the Chinese characters is necessary. Chinese literature written in the Chinese ideographs, which of course give no clue to the sound, are read by Japanese with the Japanese rendering of the words, and the Japanese order of words in the sentence. When there have not been exact equivalent Japanese words, a Chinese term has come into use, so that much corrupt Chinese is now well engrafted into the Japanese language, both written and spoken. In the forming of new words and technical terms Chinese words are used, as the Greek and Latin are here. There is probably no similarity in the origin of the two languages, but the Japanese borrowed from the Chinese about the sixth century A. D. their cleverly planned but most complex method of expressing thought in writing. The introduction of the Chinese literature has done much for Japan, and to master this language is one of the essentials in the education of every boy. At least seven or eight thousand characters must be learned for daily use, and there are several different styles of writing each of them. For a scholar, twice as many, or even more, must be mastered in order to read the various works in that rich literature.
The Japanese language contains a syllabary of forty-eight letters, and in books and newspapers for the common people is printed, by the side of the Chinese character, the rendering of it, in the letters of the kana, or Japanese alphabet. (Because of the complexity of the Chinese language and the time needed for its mastery, there has been a movement to lessen the study of pure Chinese in the government schools, or abolish it altogether, and with this to simplify the use of the ideographs in the Sinico-Japanese. The educational department is requiring that text-books be limited in their use of ideographs; that those used be written in only one way and that the simplest, and that the kana (the Japanese syllabary) be substituted wherever possible. Several plans for reform in this matter are being agitated, one of which is to limit the use of ideographs to nouns and verbs only.) A Japanese woman is not expected to do much in the study of Chinese. She will, of course, learn a few of the most common characters, such as are used in letter-writing, and for the rest she will read by the help of the kana.
 No one who has been in Japan can have failed to notice the peculiarly strident quality of the Japanese voice in singing, a quality that is gained by professional singers through much labor and actual physical suffering. That this is not a natural characteristic of the Japanese voice is shown by the fact that in speaking, the voices, both of children and adults, are low and sweet. It seems to me to be brought about by the pursuit of a wrong musical ideal, or at least, of a musical ideal quite distinct from that of the Western world. In Japan one seldom finds singing birds kept in cages, but instead crickets, grasshoppers, katydids, and other noisy members of the insect family may be seen exposed for sale in the daintiest of cages any summer night in the Tōkyō streets. These insects delight the ears of the Japanese with their melody, and it seems to me that the voices of singers throughout the empire are modeled after the shrill, rattling chirp of the insect, rather than after the fuller notes of the bird's song.
The introduction of European music by the schools and churches has already begun to show in the songs of the children in the streets, and where ten years ago one might live in Tōkyō for a year, and never hear a note of music except the semi-musical cries of the workmen, when they are pulling or striking in concert, now there are few days when some strain of song from some passing school-child does not come in at the window of one's house in any quarter of the city. The progress made in catching foreign ideas of time and tune is quite surprising, but the singing will never be acceptable to the foreign ear until the voice is modulated according to the foreign standards.
 The samurai in the feudal times were the hereditary retainers of a daimiō, or feudal lord. They formed the military and literary class. For further information, see chap. viii., on Samurai Women.
 Kakémono, a hanging scroll, upon which a picture is painted, or some poem or sentiment written.
 It is said by Japanese versed in the most refined ways that a woman who has learned the tea ceremony thoroughly is easily known by her superior bearing and manner on all occasions.
 Whatever plant she begins with is taken up in a series of studies,—leaves, flowers, roots, and stalks being shown in every possible position and combination,—until not only the stroke is mastered, but the plant is thoroughly known. In the book that lies before me as I write, a book used as a copy-book by a young lady beginning the practice of the art, the teacher has devoted six large pages to studies of one small and simple flower and the pupil has covered hundreds of sheets of paper with efforts to imitate the designs. She has now finished that part of the course, and can, at a moment's notice, reproduce with just the right strokes any of the designs or any part of the plant. The next step forward will be a similar series of bamboo.
 In the government schools for girls, much attention is paid just now to physical culture. The gymnastic exercises rank with the Chinese and English and mathematics as important parts of the course, and the girls are encouraged to spend their recesses out-of-doors, engaging in all kinds of athletic sports. Races, ball games, tugs-of-war, marches, and quadrilles are entered into with zest and enjoyment, and the girls in their dark red hakama are as well able to move quickly and freely as girls of the same age in America. If it were not for the queer pigeon-toed gait, acquired by years of walking in narrow kimono and on high clogs, the Japanese girls would be fully abreast of the American in all these sports. So strongly has the idea of the necessity for physical strength seized upon the nation, that a girl of delicate physique has less chance of marriage than one who is robust and strong.
 It is in the mistakes and failures made in adapting the education given in the schools to the exact conditions that present themselves in the constantly changing Japan of to-day, that the opponents of all alteration in the education of women find their strongest arguments. The conservatives point with scorn to this girl whose new ideas have led her into folly or trouble, or to that one whose health has been broken down by the adverse conditions surrounding her student life, and say, "This will be the case with all our women if we continue this insane practice of educating them along new lines." Advance in female education, as in all other lines of progress in Japan, is a series of violent actions and reactions. In 1889, partly through ill-advised conduct on the part of supporters of the cause, one of the most serious reverses that has come in the progress of Western education for women began to show itself. The reaction was helped along by a paper read before some of the most influential men of Japan, and subsequently reported and discussed in the newspapers, by a German professor in the medical department of the imperial University in Tōkyō. The paper was a serious warning to the men of the country that no women could be good wives, mothers, and housekeepers and at the same time have undergone a thorough literary education. The arguments were reinforced by statistics showing that American college women either did not marry, or that if they married they had very few children. All Japan took fright at this alarming showing, and for several years the education of girls in anything more than the primary studies was not encouraged by the government. The lowest depth of this reaction was reached during or soon after the Japan-China war, when the growth of national vanity resulted in a temporary disdain for all foreign ideas. The tide has turned again now, girls' schools that have been closed for years are being reopened, young men who are thinking of marrying are looking for educated wives, and among the women themselves there is a strong desire for self-improvement. Under this impulse a new generation of educated women will be added to those already exerting an influence in the country, and it is to be hoped that the forward movement will be more difficult to set back when the next reactionary wave strikes the Japanese coast.
 The Japanese standard of female beauty differs in many respects from our own, so that it is almost impossible for a foreigner visiting Japan to comprehend the judgments of the Japanese in regard to the beauty of their own women, and even more impossible for the untraveled Japanese to discover the reasons for a foreigner's judgments upon either Japanese or foreign beauties. To the Japanese, the ideal female face must be long and narrow; the forehead high and narrow in the middle, but widening and lowering at the sides, conforming to the outline of the beloved Fuji, the mountain that Japanese art loves to picture. The hair should be straight and glossy black, and absolutely smooth. Japanese ladies who have the misfortune to have any wave or ripple in their hair, as many of them do, are at as much pains to straighten it in the dressing as American ladies are to simulate a natural curl, when Nature has denied them that charm. The eyes should be long and narrow, slanting upward at the outer corners; and the eyebrows should be delicate lines, high above the eye itself. The distinctly aquiline nose should be low at the bridge, the curve outward beginning much lower down than upon the Caucasian face; and the eye-socket should not be outlined at all, either by the brow, the cheek, or by the nose. It is this flatness of the face about the eyes that gives the mildness of expression to all young people of Mongolian type that is so noticeable a trait always in their physiognomy. The mouth of an aristocratic Japanese lady must be small, and the lips full and red; the neck, a conspicuous feature always when the Japanese dress is worn, should be long and slender, and gracefully curved. The complexion should be light,—a clear ivory-white, with little color in the cheeks. The blooming country girl style of beauty is not admired, and everything, even to color in the cheeks, must be sacrificed to gain the delicacy that is the sine qua non of the Japanese beauty. The figure should be slender, the waist long, but not especially small, and the hips narrow, to secure the best effect with the Japanese dress. The head and shoulders should be carried slightly forward, and the body should also be bent forward slightly at the waist, to secure the most womanly and aristocratic carriage. In walking, the step should be short and quick, with the toes turned in, and the foot lifted so slightly that either clog or sandal will scuff with every step. This is necessary for modesty, with the narrow skirt of the Japanese dress.
Contrast with this type the fair, curling hair, the round blue eyes, the rosy cheeks, the erect, slim-waisted, large-hipped figures of many foreign beauties,—the rapid, long, clean-stepping walk, and the air of almost masculine strength and independence, which belongs especially to English and American women,—and one can see how the Japanese find little that they recognize as beauty among them. Blue eyes, set into deep sockets, and with the bridge of the nose rising as a barrier between them, impart a fierce grotesqueness to the face, that the untraveled Japanese seldom admire. The very babies will scream with horror at first sight of a blue-eyed, light-haired foreigner, and it is only after considerable familiarity with such persons that they can be induced to show anything but the wildest fright in their presence. Foreigners who have lived a great deal among the Japanese find their standards unconsciously changing, and see, to their own surprise, that their countrywomen look ungainly, fierce, aggressive, and awkward among the small, mild, shrinking, and graceful Japanese ladies.
 The present from the groom is usually a piece of handsome silk, used for the obi or girdle. This takes the place of the conventional engagement ring of Europe and America. (The obi is supposed to express by its length the hope that the marriage may be an enduring one. Among the more modernized Japanese a ring is now often given in place of, or, in the wealthier classes, in addition to the obi.) From the family of the bride, silk, such as is made up into men's dresses, is sent.
 It is interesting, however, as a sign of the times, to notice that for the wedding of the Crown Prince, in May, 1900, the Shinto high priest, who is master of ceremonies at the Imperial Court, instituted a solemn religious ceremony within the sanctuary of the palace. Following the example set in so high a quarter, a number of couples, during the winter of 1900-1901, have repaired to Shinto temples in various parts of the empire, to secure the sanction of the ancient national faith upon their union. But still, for the great majority of the Japanese, the wedding ceremony is what it has always been.
 Although new methods of transportation have come into use now in most of the Japanese cities, and wheeled carts drawn by men or horses are used for carrying all other kinds of luggage, the wedding outfit, wrapped in great cloths on which the crest of the bride's family is conspicuous, is borne on men's shoulders to the bridegroom's home, the length of the baggage train and the number and size of the burdens showing the wealth and importance of the bride's family. The bride who goes to her husband's house well provided by her own family, will carry, not only a full wardrobe and the house-furnishings already mentioned, but will be supplied, so far as foresight can manage it, with all the little things that she can need for months in advance. Paper, pens, ink, postage stamps, needles, thread, and sewing materials of all kinds, a store of dress materials and other things to be given as presents to any and all who may do her favors, and pocket money with which she may make good any deficiencies, or meet any unforeseen emergency. When she goes from her father's house, she should be so thoroughly fitted out that she will not have to ask her husband for the smallest thing for a number of months. The parents of the bride, in giving up their daughter, as they do when she marries, show the estimation in which they have held her by the beauty and completeness of the trousseau with which they provide her. The expense of this wedding outfit is often very great, persons even in the most moderate circumstances spending as much as one thousand yen upon the necessary purchases, and among the wealthy, four thousand to five thousand yen is not extravagant. As material wealth increases in Japan, there is a marked tendency to increase the style and cost of the trousseau, and the marriage of a daughter has come to be, in many cases, a severe strain on the family finances. But this outfit is of the nature of a dowry, for it is her very own; and in the event of a divorce, she brings back with her to her father's house the clothing and household goods that she carried away as a bride.
 Many women still blacken their teeth after marriage, after the manner universal in the past; but this custom is, fortunately, rapidly going out of fashion.
 For this visit the bride wears for the first time a dress made for her by her husband's family and bearing its crest, as a sign that she is now a member of that family and only a guest in her father's house.
 "As early as 1870 an edict was published by which official notice and approbation were made necessary preliminaries to every matrimonial contract. In the following year the class-limitations upon freedom of marriage were abolished, and two years later the right of suing for a divorce was conceded to the wife."—Rein's Japan, p. 425.
 Since the adoption of the new code, the conditions of marriage and of divorce have been altered for the better. At present no divorce is possible except through the courts or through mutual consent; the simple change of registration by one party or the other does not constitute a legal divorce. Even a divorce by mutual consent cannot be arranged without the consent of the parents or head of the family of a married person who is under twenty-five years of age. The grounds upon which judicial divorce may be granted seem very trivial measured by European standards, but, on the other hand, they are a distinct gain over the former practice. The wife is no longer dependent for her position simply upon the whim of her husband, but, unless he can secure her consent to the separation, he must formulate charges of immorality or conviction of crime, or of cruel treatment or grave insult on the part of the wife or of her relatives, or of desertion, or of disappearance for a period of three years or more. Only when some such charge has been made and proved before a court can a husband send away his wife. In the case of a separation by mutual consent, though the law still gives the care of the children to the father in case no previous agreement has been made, if a woman sees her way clear to supporting them, she may stipulate for the custody of one or more of them as a condition of her consent to the divorce. In a judicial divorce, the judge may, in the interests of the children, take them away from their father and assign them to the care of some other person. In these changes we can see a distinct advance toward permanence of the family tie; and we can see, too, that the wife has gained a new power to hold her own against injustice and wrong. That when the people have become used to these changes, other and more binding laws will be enacted, we can feel pretty sure, for the drift of enlightened public opinion seems to be in favor of securing better and more firmly established homes just as fast as "the hardness of their hearts" will permit.
 The andon is the standing lamp, inclosed in a paper case, used as a night lamp in all Japanese houses. Until the introduction of kerosene lamps, the andon was the only light used in Japanese houses. The light is produced by a pith wick floating in a saucer of vegetable oil.
 The pillow used by ladies is merely a wooden rest for the head, that supports the neck, leaving the elaborate head-dress undisturbed. The hair is dressed by a professional hair-dresser, who comes to the house once in two or three days. In some parts of Japan, as in Kiōto, where the hair is even more elaborately dressed than in Tōkyō, it is much less frequently arranged. The process takes two hours at least.
 The one exception to this statement, so far as I know, is the species of silk mosaic made by the ladies in the daimiōs' houses. (See chap. vii.)
 Sakaki, the Cleyera Japonica, a sacred plant emblematic of purity, and much used at funerals and in the decoration of graves.
 Since the introduction of the foreign system of medicine and nursing, the Japanese realize so acutely the lack of conveniences and appliances for nursing the sick in their own homes, that cases of severe or even serious illness are usually sent to hospitals, where the invalids can have the comforts that even the wealthy Japanese homes cannot furnish.
 It is worth while to mention in this connection the noteworthy efforts made by the Woman's Christian Temperance Union of Japan in calling the attention of the public to this custom, and in arousing public sentiment in favor of legislation against not only this system, but against the licensed houses of prostitution. Though there has not yet been any practical result, much discussion has ensued in the newspapers and magazines, lectures have been given, and much strong feeling aroused, which may, before long, produce radical change.
 At the time of the celebration of his silver wedding, in 1895, the Emperor came into the Audience Room with the Empress on his arm, an example which was followed by the Imperial Princes. With the engagement and marriage of the Crown Prince, in May, 1900, an entirely new precedent was established in the relations of the Imperial couple. The Western idea of marriage between equals has never existed in the Japanese mind in its thought of the union between their Emperor and Empress. The Empress, though of noble family, was chosen from among the subjects of the Emperor, and the marriage was of the nature of an appointment by the Emperor to the position of Imperial Consort, just as any other appointment might have been made of a subject to fill an important position in the government. In the marriage of the Crown Prince a very different course was pursued. While no departure was made from the old precedents in the selection of a Princess from one of the five families that trace their descent from Jimmu Tenno, the whole manner of obtaining the bride was different from anything that Japan had before known. The Prince asked the father of the young lady to give her to him just as a common man might have done, and everything in the preliminary arrangements was carried out with the idea that by the marriage she was to be raised to his rank and position. Reference has already been made to the religious ceremony that was devised for the occasion, an act that in itself altered the meaning of marriage for the whole nation. Since the wedding, rumors have floated to the world outside of the palace gates, of the kindness and consideration with which the young wife is treated by her husband. To the scandal of some of the more old-fashioned of the Prince's attendants, the heir to the throne insists on observing toward his wife, in private as well as in public, all the minutiæ of Western etiquette. She enters the carriage ahead of him when they drive together, they habitually take their meals together, and he finds in her a cheerful companion and friend, and not simply a devoted and humble servant. In this way, by the highest example that can be set to them, the Japanese people are learning a new lesson. All these things have a deep significance in showing that the sacredness of the marriage tie is gradually being recognized.
 Many of the thinking men of Japan, though fully recognizing the injustice of the present position of woman in society, and the necessity of reform in the marriage and divorce laws, refuse to see the importance of any movement to change them. Their excuse is, that such power in the hands of the husband over his wife might be abused, but that in fact it is not. Wrongs and injustice are rare, they argue, and kind treatment, affection, and even respect for the wife is the general rule; and that the keeping of the power in the hands of the husband is better than giving too much freedom to women who are without education. These men wish to wait until every woman is educated, before acting in a reform movement, while many conservatives oppose the new system of education for girls as making them unwomanly. Between these two parties, the few who really wish for a change are utterly unable to act.
 Children wear their hair on top of their heads while very young, and the manner of arranging it is one of the distinctive marks of the age of the child. The marumagé, the style of headdress of married ladies, consisting of a large puff of hair on the top of the head, diminishes in size with the age of the wearer until, at sixty or seventy, it is not more than a few inches in width. The number, size, and variety of ornamental hairpins, and the tortoise-shell comb worn in front, all vary with the age.
 It is this custom of going into early retirement that made it possible for the nobles in old times to keep the Emperor always a child. The ruling Emperor would be induced to retire from the throne at the age of sixteen or twenty; thus making room for some baby, who would be in his turn the puppet of his ambitious courtiers.
 Go Inkyo Sama is the title belonging to a retired old gentleman or old lady. Inkyo is the name of the house or suite of rooms set apart for such a person, and the title itself is made up of this word with the Chinese honorific go and the title Sama, the same as San, used in addressing all persons except inferiors.
 Something, indeed, may be said on the other side in regard to this system, which I seem to have painted as ideal. If in America we find the burden of expensive grown-up sons and daughters sometimes too heavy upon parents whose powers are on the wane, we must remember that in Japan a young man is often seriously handicapped at the beginning of his active life by the early retirement of his father from self-supporting labor, and that the young wife entering the home of her parents-in-law often finds a happy married life rendered impossible by the fact that she must please an elderly couple thoroughly fixed in their ways,—the rulers of the household and with little to do but rule. With this custom, as with all human customs, everything in the long run depends upon how it is used, and without deep affection between parents and children there seems to be as much danger from the serious handicapping of the rising generation by selfish and inconsiderate parents in Japan, as there is in America of the wearing out of the older people's lives and strength in the service of ungrateful and lazy children.
 The Japanese claim for their present Emperor direct descent from Jimmu Tenno, the Son of the Gods; and it is for this reason that the Emperor is supposed to be divine, and the representative of the gods on the earth. The dynasty, for about twenty-five hundred years since Jimmu Tenno, has never been broken. It must, however, be said in connection with this statement, that the Japanese family is a much looser organization than that known to our Western civilization, on account of the customs of concubinage and adoption, and that descent through family lines is not necessarily actual descent by blood.
 In ancient times, before the long civil wars of the Middle Ages, much attention was given by both men and women to poetry, and many of the classics of Japanese literature are the works of women. Among these distinguished writers can be mentioned Murasaki Shikibu, Seishō Nagon, and Iséno Taiyu, all court ladies in the time of the Emperor Ichijō (about 1000 A. D.). The court at that time was the centre of learning, and much encouragement was given by the Emperor to literary pursuits, the cultivation of poetry, and music. The Emperor gathered around him talented men and women, but the great works that remain are, strange to say, mostly those of women.
 The court ladies in immediate contact with the Emperor and Empress are selected from the daughters of the nobles. Only in the present reign have a few samurai women risen to high positions at court on account of special talents.
 Méiji (Enlightened Rule) is the name of the era that began with the present Emperor's accession to the throne. The year A. D. 1890 is the twenty-third year of Méiji, and would be so designated in all Japanese dates.
 The bed on which the Empress sleeps is made of heavy futons, or quilts, of white habutai wadded with silk wadding. The bedclothing consists of as many similar futons as the state of the weather may require. Every month new futons are provided for Her Majesty, and the discarded ones are given to one of her attendants. The happy recipient is thus provided with wadding enough for all her winter dresses for the rest of her life, as well as with a good supply of dress material.
 The Empresses of Japan are not chosen from any branch of the imperial family, but from among the daughters of the five of the great kugé, or court nobles, who are next in rank to the imperial princes. The choice usually rests with the Emperor or his advisers, and would be naturally given to the most worthy, whether in beauty or accomplishments. No doubt one reason why the Empress is regarded as far below the Emperor is, that she is not of royal blood, but one of the subjects of the Empire. In the old times, the daughters of the Emperor could never marry, as all men were far beneath them in rank. These usually devoted their lives to religion, and as Shintō priestesses or Buddhist nuns dwelt in the retirement of temple courts or the seclusion of cloisters.
 Tokugawa Shōguns were the military rulers of the Tokugawa family, who held the power in Japan for a period of two hundred and fifty years. They are better known to Americans, perhaps, under the title of Tycoon (Great Prince), a name assumed, or rather revived, to impress the foreigners when Commodore Perry was negotiating in regard to treaties. The Shōgun held the daimiōs in forced subjection,—a subjection that was shaken in 1862, and broken at last in the year 1868, when, by the fall of the Shōgunate, the Emperor was restored to direct power over his people.
 Only those who have seen the inner life of the court can realize the difficulties which have attended every step of the Empress Haru's way, for the court has been the scene of great struggles between the conservative and radical elements. Mean and petty jealousies have moved those surrounding the throne. The slightest word or token from the Empress would be used as a weapon for private ends. To move among these varied and discordant factions, and to move for progress, without causing undue friction, has been a task more difficult than the conquest of armies, and to do so successfully has required almost infinite patience, sympathy, and love.
 The Emperor's children are placed, from birth, in the care of some noble or high official, who becomes the guardian of the child. Certain persons are appointed as attendants, and the child with its retinue lives in the establishment of the guardian, who is supposed to exercise his judgment and experience in the physical and mental training of the child.
 Jingo Kōgō, like many of the heroic, half mythical figures of other nations, has suffered somewhat under the assaults of the modern historical criticism. Many of the best Japanese historians deny that she conquered Corea; some go so far as to doubt whether she had right to the title of Empress; all are sure that much of romance has gathered about the figure of this brave woman; but to the mass of the Japanese to-day, she is still an actual historic reality, and she represents to them in feminine form the Spirit of Japan. Whether she conquered Corea or no, she remains the prominent female figure upon the border line where the old barbaric life merges into the newer civilization, just as the present Empress, Haru Ko, stands upon the border line between the Eastern and the Western modes of thought and life.
 And now, after thirty-three years of the enlightened rule of the present Emperor, and of the beneficent life and example of the Empress Haru, is there any assurance that the progress made during their occupation of the throne will be continued in the lives of Japan's future rulers? Prince Haru, or Yoshihito, is now a man twenty-two years of age, with character sufficiently developed to be used as the basis for a guess at what his qualities as a sovereign may prove to be. "As far as the East is from the West" have his life and education been from the life and education of his illustrious father. Instead of the curtained seclusion, the quiet and calm of the old palace in the old capital, the present Crown Prince has known from babyhood the sights and sounds of the stirring city of Tōkyō. He has driven in an open carriage or walked through its streets; he has been to school with boys of his own age, taking the school work and the drill and the games with the other boys, learning to know men and things and himself too, in a way in which none of his ancestors, since the days when they were simply savage chiefs, have had opportunity of knowing. As he grew toward manhood, his delicate health required that he leave the school and pursue his studies as his strength permitted, under masters; but he has retained his love for all athletic exercises, for dogs and horses and guns and bicycles, and he is as expert in outdoor sports as any youth of Western training. His mind is quick and eager, interested especially in foreign ways and thoughts, and seeking most of all to understand how other people think and feel and live. Though he has been emancipated to a wonderful degree from the state and ceremony that surrounded his ancestors, he is nevertheless impatient of what remains, and would gladly dispense with many forms that his conservative guardians regard as necessary; and these same guardians at times find their young eaglet difficult to manage. He has views and ideas of his own, and acts occasionally upon his own initiative in a way that fairly scandalizes his advisers. He wishes to visit his future subjects upon something like equal terms. The rôle of Son of Heaven seems to him less interesting at times than some smaller and more human part. When he walks, he wants to lead his own dog, not have him led by some one else; to stop in the street and watch the common people at their work; to drop in on his friends in a neighborly way and see how they live when they are not expecting a visit from royalty. Provided he does not go too fast or too far, when his turn comes to ascend the throne, he cannot but make a better emperor for the intimate personal knowledge that he is seeking and gaining of the lives and feelings of his people.
The Crown Princess Sada, who has now been for one year in the line of succession to the present beloved Empress, shows in her training and character the influence of the new impulse that is driving Japan forward. The circumstances that led to her selection as the bride of the Prince are in themselves curious enough to be worth recording. The Kujo family is one of the five families from which alone can the wife of the Crown Prince be chosen, and the present Prince Kujo is blessed with many daughters. Of these, the oldest is about the age of Prince Haru, and at one time it was hoped that she might be selected as his consort, but at last that hope was given up, and she was married to another prince. The second daughter was as bright and charming as the first, but she was just enough younger than the Prince to make her marriage with him so dangerous a matter according to all the rules that govern good and bad luck in Japan, that no hope was entertained for her, and she was married, when her time came, with no reference to the greatest match that any Japanese princess can make. The third daughter was six years younger than the Prince, so much younger that it was thought that he would be married long before she grew up, so no special care or attention was given to her. In her babyhood, like most Japanese babies of high rank, she was sent out into the country to be nursed. Her foster parents were plain farmer folk, who loved her and cared for her as their own child. She played bareheaded and barefooted in the sun and wind, tumbled about, jolly and happy, with the village children, and lived and grew like a kitten or a puppy rather than like a future empress until she was old enough for the kindergarten. Then she came back to Tōkyō, to her father's house, and from there she attended the Peeresses' School, going backward and forward every day with her bundle of books, and taking her share of the work and play with the other children. In her school-days she was noticeable for her great physical activity and her hearty enjoyment of the outdoor sports which form so important a part of the training in Japanese schools for girls at present; and for her strength of will and character among a class of students upon whom self-repression amounting almost to self-abnegation has been inculcated from earliest childhood. When this little princess reached the age of fifteen, the Crown Prince's marriage, which had been somewhat deferred on account of his ill-health, was pressed forward, and to the extreme surprise of her own family, and of many others as well, the Princess Sada was chosen, largely on account of her great physical vigor. Then began a great change in her life. From being one of the lowest and least considered in her family, she was suddenly raised high above all the rest, even her father addressing her as a superior. The merry, romping school-girl was transformed in a few days into the great lady, too grand to associate on equal terms with any but the imperial family. Small cause was there for wonder if she shrank from the change and begged that the honor might be bestowed on some one else. The old free life was gone forever, and she dreaded the heavy responsibility that was to fall upon her slender shoulders. The choice was made in August, 1899, and from the moment that the engagement was entered into, the Princess Sada became an honored guest in her father's house. She could no longer play with her brothers and sisters, or take a meal with any member of her own family. A new and handsome suite of rooms was built for her, her old wardrobe was discarded and an entirely new one provided for her, all her table service was new and distinct from that of the rest of the family, and she was addressed by all as if she were already Empress. Her studies were not given up, but masters were chosen for her who came to her and instructed her, with due deference to her high station, in the subjects that she had been studying at school. So passed the nine months of her engagement, and on May 8, 1900, she became one of the principals in a state wedding such as Japan had never before seen. Through all the show and ceremony she acquitted herself decorously and bravely, and since her marriage no word save of approval of the young wife has come out from the palace gates. Her little sisters-in-law, the four small daughters of the Emperor, enjoy nothing so much as to go and spend the day with her, for she is so amusing, and her life has been such a busy and happy one, that she comes like a breath of fresh air into the seclusion of the Court. Her young husband, too, finds in her congenial society, and his frail health seems to be daily strengthening with the brightness that has come into his home. Great was the joy in the empire when, on April 29, 1901, this happy union was rendered still happier by the birth of a strong little prince to carry on the ancient line. By an auspicious coincidence, his birth came just at the time of the annual boys' feast, or Feast of Flags, and his naming day was appointed for May 5, the great day of the feast, when all Japan is decorated with giant carp swinging from tall poles outside of every house, and swimming vigorously at the ends of their tethers in the strong spring wind. The carp is to the Japanese mind the emblem of courage and perseverance, for he swims up the strongest current, leaping the waterfalls that oppose his progress. The baby was named by his grandfather, and will have the personal name of Hirohito, and the title Prince Michi. With this new little prince there are no polite fictions to maintain, nor conventional relationships to be established. He is the son of his father's lawful wife, as well as of his father. There is to be no breaking off of natural ties, and his own mother will nurse and care for him, a fortune that never falls to the lot of the imperial son of a mékaké. If he lives, he will be a standing argument in favor of monogamy, even in noble families, and his birth bodes well for family life throughout the country.
 The Japanese language is full of expressions showing different shades of meaning in the politeness or respect implied. There are words and expressions which superiors in rank use to inferiors, or vice versa, and others used among equals. Some phrases belong especially to the language of the high-born, just as there are common expressions of the people. Some verbs in this extremely complex language must be altered in their termination according to the degree of honor in which the subject of the action is held in the speaker's mind.
 The establishment of the peeress' school, mentioned in the last chapter, is a great innovation upon the old-time ways of many of the aristocratic families.
 A pretty, but most shocking sight, if seen through the eyes of some of these old-fashioned attendants, is the semi-annual undo kai, or exercise day of the Peeresses' School. The large playground is, for this occasion, surrounded by seats divided off to accommodate invited guests of various ranks, who spend the day watching the entertainment. In the most honorable place, surrounded by her ladies-in-waiting, sits the Empress herself, for the education of the daughters of the nobles is a matter of the liveliest interest to her; and the parents and friends and teachers of the girls fill up all available seats after the school itself has been accommodated.
The programme is usually a long one, occupying the greater part of the morning and afternoon, with an interval for lunch. Most of the ordinary English field games—tennis, basket-ball, etc.—are played with skill and vigor, and in addition to these there are races of various kinds, devised to show, not simply fleetness of foot, but quickness of hand and wit as well. These races vary from year to year, as the ingenuity of the directors of the sports may be able to devise new forms of exercise. One extremely pretty contest is as follows: On the playground between the starting-point and the goal are set at equal distances four upright sticks for each runner. Four branches of cherry blossoms and four bright-colored ribbons for each contestant are laid on the ground at the starting-point. At the signal, each girl picks up a cherry branch and a ribbon, and runs to one of the upright sticks, tying the flowers firmly thereto; then she runs back for a second branch, and so on until all four have been fastened in place. The race is won by the child who first reaches the goal leaving behind her four blooming trees where before there were bare poles. This seems to be the æsthetic Japanese equivalent for our prosaic potato race. Another contest is after this manner: Along the course of each runner are laid at certain intervals bright-colored balls,—a different color for each contestant. The object of the race is, within a certain time, to pick up all the balls and throw them into the nearly closed mouth of a great net at the far end of the grounds. The contest is not decided until the balls have been counted, when the girl who has succeeded in getting the greatest number of balls of her color into the net is declared the winner. Another and extremely pretty race, calling for great steadiness of hand and body, is the running from one end of the ground to the other with a ball balanced on a battledore. The Japanese battledore is made of light but hard wood, and is long and narrow in shape. If one had not seen it done, it would be well-nigh impossible to believe that any child could carry a ball upon it for more than a few slow steps: but these children run at a smart trot, keeping the ball immovable upon its small and smooth surface. Beside the games and races, there are calisthenic exhibitions, in which great precision of motion and flexibility of body are manifested. One of the most graceful and attractive of these is the fan drill shown on this occasion, when some twenty or thirty girls, with their bright-colored dresses, long, waving sleeves, and red hakama, posture in perfect rhythm, with fans opened or closed, waving above the head, held before the face, changed from position to position, with the performers' changes of attitude, each new figure seemingly more graceful than the last. In these and many other ways the nobility of new Japan are being fitted for the new part that they have to play in the world. No wonder that the education now given, awakening the mind, toughening the body, arousing ambition and individuality, is regarded by many of the ultra-conservatives as a dangerous innovation, and one likely to bring the nobility down to the level of the common people. Whether this new education is better or worse than the old, we can hardly tell as yet, but there are no signs of the immediate breakdown of the old spirit of the nobility, and the better health and stronger characters of the young women who have received the modern training promise much for the next generation.
 While this was entirely true in 1890, it is interesting to observe that after ten years of commercial and industrial progress there are signs that the embroidered kimono is coming back into fashion. With the growth of large fortunes and of luxury that has marked the past decade, has come the custom of providing wedding garments as magnificently embroidered as were the robes of the daimiōs' ladies, and even the montsuki or ceremonial dress, which was severely plain in 1890, now has little delicate embroidery about the bottom. It will not be surprising if some day, when the present growing commercial and industrial enterprise has reaped a more abundant harvest, Japan blooms forth again in the beautiful garments that went out of fashion when the great political upheaval cut off the revenues of the old nobility.
 Rōnin was the term applied to a samurai who had lost his master, and owed no feudal allegiance to any daimiō. The exact meaning of the word is wave-man, signifying one who wanders to and fro without purpose, like a wave driven by the wind.
 The samurai always wore two swords, a long one for fighting only, and a short one for defense when possible, but, as a last resort, for hara-kiri. The sword is the emblem of the samurai spirit, and as such is respected and honored. A samurai took pride in keeping his swords as sharp and shining as was possible. He was never seen without the two swords, but the longer one he removed and left at the front door when he entered the house of a friend. To use a sword badly, to harm or injure it, or to step over it, was considered an insult to the owner.
 Kurushima, who attempted to take the life of Okuma, the late Minister of Foreign Affairs, as recently as 1889, committed suicide immediately after throwing the dynamite bomb which caused the minister the loss of his leg. This was the more remarkable in that, at the time of his death, the assassin supposed that his victim had escaped all injury.
 At each encroachment of the enemy those of the population who could not find refuge at once within the inner defenses were driven to choose between surrender and self-inflicted death. The unconquerable samurai spirit flamed out in the choice of hundreds of women and children as well as men, and whole families were wiped out of existence at once, the little ones, who were too young to understand the proper method of hara-kiri, kneeling calmly with bowed heads for the death-stroke from father or brother which should free them from the disgrace of defeat.
 That the spirit of the samurai women is still a living force in Japan, no one can doubt who listens to the stories of what the women did and bore in the Japan-China war of 1895. The old self-sacrifice and devotion showed itself throughout the country in deeds of real, if sometimes mistaken, heroism. Husbands, sons, and brothers were sent out to danger and death with smiles and cheerful words, by women dependent upon them for everything in a way that can hardly be understood by Americans. Even tears of grief for the dear ones offered in the country's cause were suppressed as disloyal, and women learned with unmoved countenances of the death of those they loved best, and found the courage to express, in the first shock of bereavement, their sense of the honor conferred on the family by the death of one of its members in the cause of his country.
A few incidents quoted from an article by Miss Umé Tsuda that appeared in the New York "Independent" in 1895 will give my readers an idea of the forms that this devotion assumed:—
"One instance comes into my mind of an old lady who sent out cheerfully and with a smiling face her young and only son, the sole stay of her old age. Left a widow while young, she had lived a life of much sorrow and trouble, and had with almost superhuman efforts managed to give her son an education that would start him in life. It was only a few years ago that the son had begun to help in the family support, and to be able to repay to the mother her tender care of him. Her pride in her son and his young wife was a pleasure to see, and the little home they had together seemed a safe haven for the coming years of old age. Now, in a moment all this was changed,—the son must start off for the wars. Yet not for one instant was a cloud seen on the mother's face, as, smilingly and cheerfully, she assisted in the preparations for his departure. Not in public or in secret did one sigh or regret escape her; not even to the son did a word of anxiety pass her lips. Her face, beaming with joy, looked with pride on the manly strength of the young soldier as he started to fight for his country and win honor for himself,—honor which would surely come to him whether he lived or died.
"Another woman who is well on in years, and whose eldest son is a naval officer, furnishes an interesting example of mother love. Though never showing her anxiety on his account, or grief at his danger, she has taken upon herself, in spite of her old age and by no means vigorous health, to go on foot every morning to one of the temples and worship there before daylight, in order to propitiate the gods, that they may protect her son. She arises at four o'clock in the morning on the coldest of cold days, washes and purifies herself with ice-cold water, and then starts out before daylight for her three-mile walk to the temple. Thus through wind and storm and cold have the faith and love of this old woman upheld her, and one is happy to add that so far her prayers have been heard and no harm has come to the one she has called on her gods to protect.
"A touching story is told of the aged mother of Sakamoto, commander of the warship Akagi, who was killed in the thickest of the fight during the great naval battle of the Yellow Sea. Commander Sakamoto left an aged mother, a wife, and three children. As soon as his death was officially ascertained, a messenger was dispatched from the naval department to convey the sad tidings to his family. The communication was made duly to his wife, and before the messenger had left the house it reached the ears of the old mother, who, tottering into the room where the officer was, saluted and greeted him duly, and then, with dry eyes and a clear voice, said, 'So it seems by your tidings that my son has been of some service this time.'
"One reads pathetic stories in the newspapers daily in connection with the war. Not long ago a sad account was given of a young woman, just past her twentieth year, and only recently married to an army officer. She had belonged by birth to a military family, and, as befitted the wife and daughter of a soldier, she resolved, on hearing of the death of her husband, that she would not survive him, but would follow him to the great unknown. Sending away her servant on some excuse, she remained alone in her home, which she put into perfect order. Then she arranged all her papers, wrote a number of letters, and made her last preparations for death. She dressed herself in full ceremonial dress as she had been dressed for her bridal, and seated herself before a large portrait of her husband. Then, with a short dirk, such as is owned by every samurai woman, she stabbed herself. In her last letters she gives as the reason for her death that, having no ties in the world, she would not survive her husband, but wished to remain faithful to him in death as she had been in life.
"Many such stories might be cited, but enough has been given to show the spirit that exists in Japan. With such women and such teachings in their homes, can it be wondered at that Japan is a brave nation, and that her soldiers are winning battles? Certainly some of the honor and credit must be given to these wives and mothers scattered throughout Japan, who are surely, in some cases, the inspirers of that courage and spirit which is just now surprising the world."
 The laws against the éta and hinin, making of them a distinct, unclean class, and forbidding their intermarriage with any of the higher classes, have recently been abolished. There is now no rank distinction of any practical value, except that between noble and common people. Héimin and samurai are now indiscriminately mingled.
 Toyotomi Hidéyoshi, a peasant boy, rose from the position of a groom to be the actual ruler of Japan during the Middle Ages. He it was who in 1587 issued a decree of banishment against the Christian missionaries in Japan. He is called Faxiba in the writings of these missionaries, and in Japan he is frequently spoken of as Taiko Sama, a title, not a name; but a title that, used alone, refers always to him. For further account of his life, see Griffis, Mikado's Empire, book i., chap. xxiv.
 Much surprise is evinced by foreigners visiting Japan at the lack of taste shown by the Japanese in the imitation of foreign styles. And yet, for these same foreigners, who condemn so patronizingly the Japanese lack of taste in foreign things, the Japanese manufacture pottery, fans, scrolls, screens, etc., that are most excruciating to their sense of beauty, and export them to markets in which they find a ready sale, their manufacturers wondering, the while, why foreigners want such ugly things. The fact is that neither civilization has as yet come into any understanding of the other's æsthetic side, and the sense of beauty of the one is a sealed book to the other. The Japanese nation, in its efforts to adopt foreign ways, has been, up to the present time, blindly imitating, with little or no comprehension of underlying principles. As a result there is an absolute crudeness in foreign things as attempted in Japan that grates on the nerves of travelers fresh from the best to be found in Europe or America. There are signs, however, that the stage of imitation is past and that adaptation has begun. Here and there in Tōkyō may be seen buildings in which the solidity of foreign architecture has been grafted upon the Japanese type. Ten years ago, Japanese men who adopted foreign dress went about in misfitting garments, soiled linen, untidy shoes, and hats that had been discarded by the civilization for which they were made many seasons before they reached Japan. They wore Turkish towels about their necks and red blankets over their shoulders at the desire of unscrupulous importers, who persuaded them that towels for neck-cloths and blankets for overcoats were the latest styles of London and Paris. To-day one sees no such eccentricities of costume in the purely Japanese city of Tōkyō. Men who wear foreign dress wear it made correctly in every particular by Japanese tailors, shoemakers, and hatters. The standard has been attained, for men at least, and in foreign dress as well as in Japanese, the natural good taste of the people has begun to assert itself. So it will be in time with other new things adopted. As no single element of the Chinese civilization secured a permanent footing in Japan except such as could be adapted, not only to the national life, but to the national taste as well, so it will be with European things. All things that are adopted will be adapted, and whatever is adapted is likely in time to be improved and made more beautiful by the national instinct for beauty. During the transition, enormities are omitted and monstrosities are constructed, but when the standard is at last attained, we may expect that the genius of the race will triumph over the difficulties that it is now encountering. Individual Japanese who have lived long in Europe or America show the same nice discrimination in regard to foreign things that they do in their Japanese surroundings, and are rarely at fault in their taste. What is true of the individual now will be true of the nation when European standards have become common property.
 In the remote mountain regions, where the majesty and uncertainty of the great natural forces impress themselves constantly upon the minds of the peasantry, one finds a simple nature worship, and a desire to propitiate all the unseen powers, that is not so evident in the daily life of the dwellers in more populous and progressive parts of the country. As the mountains close in about the road that runs up from the plains below, a great stone, on which is deeply carved "To the God of the Mountains," calls the attention of the traveler to the fact that the supernatural is a recognized power among the mountaineers. In such regions one finds the stated offerings at the shrines which stand near the wayside kept constantly renewed. Nearly every house is protected by some slip of paper pasted above the door, a charm obtained by toilsome pilgrimage to some noted temple. Behind or near the village temple one may see rude wigwams of straw, each sheltering a gohei, (Gohei, a piece of white paper, cut and folded in a peculiar manner, one of the sacred symbols of the Shintō faith.)—witnesses to the vows of devotees who hope, sooner or later, to erect small wooden shrines and so win favor from the unknown rulers of human destinies. In places where pack-horses form a large part of the wealth of the people, stones to the horses' spirits are erected, and the halters of all the horses that die are left upon these stones. Prayers, too, are offered to the guardian spirits of the living horses, before stones on which are carved sometimes the image of a horse bearing a gohei on his back, sometimes a rough figure of the horse-headed Kwannon. To such stones or shrines are brought horses suffering from sickness of any kind, and the hand is rubbed first on the stone and then on the part of the animal supposed to be affected. In one district, when a horse epidemic broke out, its rapid spread was attributed by the authorities to this custom, and all persons were warned of the danger, with what effect in breaking up the ancient habit the newspaper reports failed to say. It is in such regions as this that the oni and the tengu (Tengu, a winged, long-nosed or beak-mouthed monster, supposed to inhabit the mountain regions of Japan. It was from a tengu that Yoshitsune, one of the greatest of Japanese heroes, learned to fence, and so became a swordsman of almost miraculous expertness. Oni, a demon or goblin.) still live in the every-day thought of the people; it is here, too, that the old custom of offering flowers and fruit to the spirits of the dead at the midsummer festival is most conscientiously kept up. All possible spirits are included in these offerings, so that even by the roadside one finds bunches of flowers set up in the clefts of the rock, to the spirits of travelers who have died on the way.
In one little mountain resort, far from the railroad but in touch with the outside world through the hundreds of visitors that seek its hot baths during the summer, it was my good fortune to spend a few weeks recently. Our walks were rather limited in variety, as the village lay in an almost inaccessible mountain valley through which a carefully engineered road ran along the edge of the river gorge. About half a mile out of the village, close to the road and overhanging the waters of the river at a spot where the rocks were so worn and carved by the rushing torrent as to have gained the appropriate title of the "Screen Rocks," was a little shop and a tea-house. It was a pleasant resting-place after a warm and dusty walk, and almost daily we would halt there for a cup of tea and a slice of yokan, or bean marmalade, before returning to our rooms in the hotel. The managers of the place were an old man and his wife, who divided their labor between the shop and the tea-house. The old man was an artist in roots. His life was devoted to searching out grotesquely shaped roots on the forest-covered hills, and whittling, turning, and trimming them into the semblance of animal or human forms. Tengu and goblins, long-legged birds and short-legged beasts, all manner of weird products of his imagination and his handiwork, peopled the interior of the little shop, and he was always ready to welcome us and show us his latest work, with the pride of an artist in his masterpiece.
His wife, a cheery old woman, attended to the tea-house, and as soon as we had seated ourselves, bustled about to bring us cool water from the spring that bubbled out of the rocks across the road, and to set before us the tiny cups of straw-colored tea and the delicious slices of yokan which we soon learned was the specialty of the place. She was glad to have a little gossip as we sipped and nibbled, telling us many interesting bits of folklore about the immediate locality. It was from her that we learned that the pinnacle of rock that dominated the village was built by tengu long ago, though now they were all gone from the woods, for she had looked for them often at night when she went out to shut the house, but she had never seen one,—and even the monkeys were becoming scarce. She it was, too, who sent us to look for the mysterious draught of cold air that crossed the road near the base of the great rock, colder on hot days than on cool ones, and at all times astonishing,—the "Tengu's Wind Hole." We learned through her about the snakes to be found in the woods, and of the wonderful tonic virtues of the mamushi (the one poisonous snake of Japan), if caught and bottled with a sufficient quantity of saké. The saké may be renewed again and again, and the longer the snake has been bottled the more medicinal does it become, so that one mamushi may, if used perseveringly, medicate several casks of saké. We had opportunity later to verify her statements, for we found at a small grocery store, where we stopped to add a few delicacies to our somewhat scanty bill of fare, two snakes, neatly coiled in quart bottles and pickled in saké, one of which could be obtained for the sum of seventy-five sen, though the other, who in his rage at being bottled had buried his fangs in his own body, commanded a higher price because of his courage. We did not feel in need of a tonic that day, so left the mamushi on the grocery shelves, but it is probable that their disintegrating remains are being industriously quaffed to-day by some elderly Japanese whose failing strength demands an unfailing remedy.
When our little friend had learned of our interest in snakes, she was on the lookout for snake stories of all kinds. One day she stopped us as we came by rather later than usual, hurrying home before a threatening shower, to tell us that we ought to have come a little sooner, for the great black snake who was the messenger of the god that lived on the mountain had just been by, and we might have been interested to see him. She had seen him before, herself, so he was no novelty to her, but she was sure that the matter would interest us. Poor little old lady, with her kindly face and pleasant ways, and her friendly cracked voice. Her firm belief in all the uncanny and supernatural things that wiser people have outgrown brought us face to face with the childhood of our race, and drew us into sympathy with a phase of culture in which all nature is wrapped in inscrutable mystery.
 Chadai is, literally, "money for tea," and is equivalent to our tips to the waiters and porters at hotels. The chadai varies with the wealth and rank of the guests, the duration of the stay, and the attention which has been bestowed. On is the honorific placed before the word in writing.
 Each year that passes sees a few more stores adopting the habit of fixed prices, not to be altered by haggling.
 O miagé must be given, not only on the return from an evening of pleasure, but also on the return from a journey or pleasure trip of any kind. As a rule, the longer the absence, the finer and more costly must be the presents given on returning.
 On another occasion the good offices of the fortune-teller were sought concerning a marriage, and the powerful arranger of human destinies discovered that though everything else was favorable, the bride contracted for was to come from a quarter quite opposed to the luck of the bridegroom. This was no laughing matter, as the bride was of a noble family and the breaking of the engagement would be attended with much talk and trouble on both sides; but, on the other hand, the family of the bridegroom dared not face the danger so mysteriously prophesied by the fortune-teller. In this predicament, there was nothing to do but to pull the wool over the eyes of the gods as best they might. For this purpose the bride with all her belongings was sent the day before the wedding from her father's house to that of an uncle living in another part of the city, and on the morning of the wedding-day she came to her husband from a quarter quite favorable to his fortunes. It seems quite probable that the gods were taken in by this somewhat transparent subterfuge, for no serious evil has befallen the young couple in three years of married life.
 To the American mind this method of terminating relations is always irritating and frequently embarrassing, but in Japan any discomfort is to be endured rather than the slightest suspicion of bad manners. If the foreign visitor is trying to learn to be a good Japanese, she must submit patiently when the servant solemnly engaged fails to appear at the appointed hour, sending a letter instead to say that she is ill; or when the woman upon whom she is depending to travel with her the next day to the country receives a telegram calling her to the bedside of a mythical son, and departs, bag and baggage, at a moment's notice, leaving her quondam mistress to shift for herself as best she may.
 Among the many changes that have come over Japan in the transition from feudalism to the conditions of modern life, there is none that Japanese ladies regard with greater regret than the change in the servant question. As the years go by and new employments open to women, it becomes increasingly difficult to engage and keep servants of the old-time, faithful, intelligent sort. Notwithstanding increased pay, and the still existing conditions of considerate treatment, comfortable homes, and light work, it is hard to fill places vacated, even in noble households: and there is almost as much shaking of heads and despondent talk over the servant question in Japan to-day as there is in America.
 It is interesting to note that it is to the quickness and courage of a jinrikisha man who interposed between him and his would-be assassin that the present Czar of Russia owes his escape from death at Otsu, near Kyōtō, in 1891.