Charles Frederick Holder.

The Californian (Volume 4) online

. (page 88 of 120)
Online LibraryCharles Frederick HolderThe Californian (Volume 4) → online text (page 88 of 120)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook



of the native dress, such a carriage
does not seem awkward or ungrace-
ful, but in Western attire the effect
is singularly bad.

The national dress demands a very
curious gait, a sort of short, shuffling
trot. The narrow skirt open down
the front would flap round the legs
and make more exposure than would
be either comfortable or decorous if
our easy, free walk were adopted. In
order to prevent the least tendency
to striding, girls frequently have a
cord tied from one knee to the other.
The shuffling is due to the heavy
geta or wooden sandal, which is fast-
ened to the foot only by a strap
passing over and between the great

The geis/ia have a peculiar swaying
walk and carry the hands before the
body in a manner considered partic-
ularly elegant. The dress of the
"beauty," the empress and the maid-
servant differs only in the daintiness,
the richness, or cheapness of the ma-
terial employed; the cut and style

are the same, with the exception of
the court robe, which is longer and
drags on the ground.

On state occasions, the ladies at-
tached to the court wear long trailing
costumes of exquisite painted crepe,
set out round the lower edge by a
roll of silk batting.

Some of these court robes are
indescribably beautiful. I remem-
ber seeing one worn by a Japanese
marchioness at a ball in Tokyo,
which surpassed anything I had ever
imagined. It was of pale blue-gray
crepe, with a flower pattern in dark
blue, light blue, white and palest
rose-pink, embroidered in silver and
white silk floss.

The Japanese are essentially a na-
tion of bathers, and the native belle
frequently takes two or even three
Bcalding hot baths a day.

Strange as it may appear, this ex-
cessively hot bathing has a beneficial
effect and is refreshing instead of
weakening, as we might naturally
suppose. The water used is so warm




that the bather comes out the color of
a boiled lobster; no soap is used, and
the little towel, with its artistic blue
or red border, is about as large as a
fair-sized pocket-handkerchief.

After her bath the beauty rubs
herself with a little coarse muslin bag
filled with rice chaff, which is sup-
posed to have a wonderfully good
effect upon the skin and complexion.
Probably its real benefit lies in the
fact that the skin is thus more thor-
oughly dried than by the simple use
of the towel.

This part of her toilet completed,
a light cotton kimono is slipped on,
and the geisha comes out of the bath-
room fresh and smiling, to place her-
self in the hands of the shampooer,
who is usually a blind man, sham-
pooing or massage being almost as
opular a resource as organ-playing
is in America.

The Japanese amah rubs down only,

ever up, and he uses the flat part of

the forearm as well as his hand.

ometimes he rubs with a " massage

ox." This is a wooden ball fitted

into a round wooden box sufficiently

ghtly to prevent its falling out, but

oosely enough to allow it to move


After paying the amah the custom-

ry fee of three cents an hour, the

eauty places herself under the hands

f the professional hair-dresser, who

omes twice or four times a week,

ccording to the length of his cus-

omer's purse. One of the greatest

eauties of the Japanese women is

ong, lustrous black hair, the slight

oarseness of which is more than

toned for by its length and abun-


Unfastening the heavy coil of hair

om the top of her head, where the

cisha had rolled it up while she took

er bath, the hair-dresser carefully

ashes it in tepid water, anoints it

berally with fragrant camellia oil,

nd fans it until it is dry. He pro-

eeds then to build it into that elab-

rate superstructure affected by Jap-

ese women. In order to make it

into that apparently solid ebon mass,
he stiffens it with of black

wax, similar to the cosmetique used
by our dandies and men of fashion
upon their mustachios.

The hair of the native beautv is
never disordered, and no husband or
lover would dream of stroking or
caressing the wonderful coiffure of
his lady-love. No rebellious lit
curls run riot in sweet confusion over
her pretty head. The slightest ten-
dency to curl or wave the Japanese
girl regards with horror, and e\
hair is marshalled into place like a

Except costly and elaborate hair
ornaments she wears little or no
elry— no earrings, bracelets, rings,
etc., but the inlaid tortoise-shell pins
in her hair may cost a small fortune.
After the hair-dresser has Soil
dressing his customer's abun<:
locks, he draws out of his case a pair
of tiny tweezers and removes all the
superfluous hair about the eyebn
forehead, and neck.

Before the days of much foreign
intercourse the ladies of the imperial
family and court had the eyebrows
entirely plucked out, and two black
dots or lines high up on the forehead
replaced them ; but this custom is
now obsolete.

If the geisha has no very ck
maid, the hair-dresser will probably
finish his work by painting Beair
face for her. First with white rice-
powder he marks out two V-shaped
points, one running just below the
nape of the neck at the back, and the
other to a similar depth in front.
He then powders her whole face and
neck as far as the points indicated,
rouges her cheeks slightly, redd-
the lower lip in the centre, and care-
fully dots it with three gold sp-
it is not at all uncommon to see the
red paint on the lips put on so heav-
ily that it shows the metallic green

Though all geisha and many aristo-
cratic women of the old school still
paint their faces upon special occa-



sions, the custom is dying out among
the latter. The use of cosmetics on
the face is never looked at askance,
or as a secret of the toilet as it is
with us. A few years ago Japanese
women not only painted the neck
and face upon festive occasions, but
the company were supposed to be
quite well aware of the fact. Indeed
a native lady would have felt morti-
fied if she thought the other guests
imagined she did not know enough
to wear cosmetics upon ceremonial
occasions. It was as much a feature
-of full dress as de'collete' costume is in
Europe and Great Britain.

Native ladies who have received a
Western education, either at home or
abroad, do not openly assume paint
or wear the three gold dots on the
lower lip. But numbers of Japanese
women beside the geisha retain the
custom. The paint on the lower lip
requires that it should be slightly
protruded lest the moisture of the
upper lip affect it, which tends to
give a half-pouting but not ill-tem-
pered expression to the face, though
it can scarcely be said to improve the
appearance. The blackening of the
teeth by married women has become
almost obsolete. About twenty years
ago the present empress endeavored
to totally abolish this ugly practice,
and discouraged it not only by pre-
cept but by example. The stain was
made by soaking iron filings in sake 1
and was of so temporary a nature that
it had to be renewed at least once a
week, and if it was not constantly ap-
plied the teeth soon regained their
natural hue. Here and there an old
woman may be found who refuses to
yield to the strange new-fangled ideas
that are contaminating the young
women of the day, and still blackens
her teeth to-day just as she did when
first married.

Certainly no custom could be more
disfiguring or produce a more ghastly
effect, but it has so nearly died out
that a foreigner might live for months
in Japan without meeting a woman
with blackened teeth. Yet Mr.

Clement Scott is credited with de-
nouncing the Japanese women for
following this unsightly fashion,
which is much as if a Japanese writer
were to condemn American women
for wearing nightcaps, because he
chanced to know, here and there,
some old lady too conservative to
change from the fashions of her
youth when every one wore nightcaps
as a matter of course.

Until very recently the age and
condition of a Japanese woman was
signified by the manner in which she
wore her hair.

If it was rolled back from the face
in one pompadour puff, the wearer
was a married woman; if the puff
was divided into three, forming one
in the middle and one on each side,
she was unmarried. Widows wore
two different styles of coiffure, ac-
cording to whether they wished to
marry again or not. But these fash-
ions are not so closely followed as
they used to be, though they may
still be seen occasionally.

In one particular the distinctive
way of dressing the hair is very
strictly preserved. No woman of
good character ever wears the elab-
orate coiffure or the array of gaudy
hair-pins that ayugo does. A halo of
tortoise-shell ornaments, some of
which may be a foot long, and a sash
tied in front proclaim to the world at
large the yugo's calling. Never under
any circumstances does the geisha
wear her sash thus; a fashion which
is imposed by law upon the yugo.

After the geisha has been thorough-
ly rubbed by the amah and had her
tresses arranged and her face painted
by the professional hair-dresser, she
retires to her own room to dress.

Slipping off her cotton kimono, she
ties two little aprons round her waist,
puts a sort of shirt over them, then
an inner kimono is assumed. This is
fastened round the waist by a narrow
band called a shita-jimc, which is
drawn as tightly as possible. The
shita-jime' is placed not at the waist
line, but round the hips and lower



part of the waist. The beauty of a
woman's figure, according to the
Japanese standard, lies in a straight
line drawn from under the arm to the
feet. The long, severe lines of the
kimono do not accord with curves,
but demand that the lines of the
figure beneath it be as little undulat-
ing as possible.

If the fair geisha* s figure shows an
unfortunate tendency to curve at the
waist and enlarge at the hips, she
procures the assistance of her maid
to draw her shita-jimi as tightly as
she can endure it.

Western dress reformers who advo-
cate the Japanese costume as not only
artistic but healthy, would do well
to consider these two points: in the
first place, though there is little or no
compression at the waist, there is
frequently very severe pressure round
the hips; and secondly, the skirt of
the kimono is so exceedingly narrow
that free movement of the legs is al-
most impossible.

Though from the standpoint of
beauty I admire the Japanese dress,
I very much doubt if from the side
of ease and comfort it can be highly

Over the inner kitno?w and shita-jime
comes the outside kimono, which bears
in five places the coat of arms of the
establishment to which the geisha is
attached. If the wearer is a lady,
the wife of a gentleman or noble, she
wears the crest of her husband's fam-
ily stamped or worked in these five
places, viz., between the shoulders
in the back, each side of the breast in
front, and on each sleeve near the
wrist. If the weather is cold two or
three kimonos are worn, one over an-
other, while in warm weather only
one is put on.

Last of all comes the obi, the pride
and glory of the Japanese belle.
This obi or broad sash may cost a
small fortune or only a few dollars.
It may be stiff with gold bullion, sil-
ver embroidery, or of silk woven
with an exquisite pattern, designed
by some great artist.

A silk cord fastens it at the back,
and a cushion or pad is placed under
the broad ends. This pad, 1 horn
acknowledge, spoils the effect of the
whole costume, to my eye The
ends are frequently too short to be
graceful, and the padding bo 1
as to be out of all proportion to the

The geisha s toilet is completed
when she assumes her tabi or thick
white socks with a compartment
the big toe, and padded If,

however, she is going out the maid
brings her sandals of lacquered w
and fine plaited rice-straw, and slip-
ping her big toe under the brilliant
velvet strap, the beauty is attired for
the street. She is ready then eitln
pay visits or to go shopping. No bat,
bonnet, gloves, mantle, or cloak trou-
bles her. If the weather is very cold
a square of silk lined with crepi
tied over the head. Inside of it
two little ear-straps, which make it
fit over the head smoothly, but to
arrange it quickly and graceful In-
quires considerable knack. It is al-
ways worn square, never three-cor-

Should the weather chance to be
stormy, the geisha shelters her pretty
head with a paper or silk umbrella,
and replaces her sandals with a pair
of high clogs.

The "professional beauty" shines
in all her glory in entertainments
given at private clubs. This is her
own particular domain, the realm for
which she is so long and carefully
trained. She never appears at a
public theatre, either to actor dance;
that is only for men to do. The
geisha s mission in life is to make
other people enjoy themselves.

Japan is a land of clubs and has
been ever since the Middle A,
when tea clubs (iha-no-w) came into
fashion. These institutions have in-
creased and flourished until there are
clubs for every conceivable and in-
conceivable object under the sun.
Both now and in those days of old,
singing and dancing by beautiful

6 S 6


"geisha has always formed one of the
principal attractions of club enter-
tainments. Ladies, that is, the
wives, daughters, or sisters of the host
or guests, are never invited to dinners
or entertainments, whether given at
the club or a private house. So the
brilliant, captivating geisha, with her
beauty and wit, supplies the feminine
element that would otherwise be

One of the most celebrated clubs
in Tokyo is the Koyo or Momeji
Kwan, the Maple Leaf Club. The
geisha connected with this establish-
ment are the most famous and beau-
tiful in Japan, and receive the highest
prices for their services.

Whatever the morals of the girls
connected with this and similar in-
stitutions may be as private individ-
uals, as a whole, they bear a very
good character and their conduct
while at the clubhouse is decorous
and modest.

A member of the club who intends
to give a dinner or fete of any sort
with geisha performances must make
his arrangements some time before,
as the engagement list of a fashion-
able and lovely geisha is filled long in

The Koyo Kwan is situated in that
part of Tokyo called Shiba. It is a
lovely, picturesque place, surrounded
by maple trees and overlooking the
Bay of Tokyo.

Strange surroundings these for a
fashionable club-house, but Japanese
taste does not coincide with Western
ideas in such matters.

The outside of the building and its
interior are as beautiful as are the sur-
roundings. Everything in any way
connected with the Koyo Kwan bears
the imprint of the maple leaf. The
carvings round the ceilings, the
square crepe cushions for the guests,
the dresses of the attendants, even
the little tables and tiny sake 1 cups
show the same pretty emblem. The
sweetmeats offered at the end of a
meal are deftly moulded into this
shape, and colored brilliant red, yel-

low, pale green, etc., to give them
the appearance of autumn leaves
touched with the frost.

During the latter part of my visit in
Tokyo it was my good fortune to
receive an invitation to a dinner at
this club.

The host was a very distinguished
Japanese gentleman of views so en-
lightened that he is known by the
sobriquet of "Young Japan."

This gentleman, Mr. Fukuzawa,
has not only established a college for
the training of young men, but he is
also the editor of one of the most ad-
vanced papers in Japan.

The dinner was a very gorgeous
and elaborate function, for upon such
occasions the Japanese spend money
with lavish prodigality.

There were about a hundred and
fifty gentlemen present and only four
ladies including myself, the latter all
foreigners of course. The apartment
in which we dined was in reality
three rooms thrown into one. All
round it ran a ledge of beautiful pol-
ished and grained wood about eight
inches high and three or four feet
wide. Upon this the large square
crepe cushions were placed on which
the guests sat.

Through some misunderstanding
my invitation was not received until
the dinner had begun.

Arriving at the door of the club-
house the writer was met by a group
of girls in soft dark kimonos, stamped
with maple leaves. These were the
attendants of the club, and two of
them kneeling before me unbuttoned
my boots. Knowing that a Japanese
house could not be entered with boots
on to cut and mar the fine, soft mat-
ting with sharp leather heels, a pair
of bedroom slippers had been pro-
vided by me, being convinced that
upon entering in my stocking-feet,
there would be a nervous apprehen-
sion lest some hitherto unsuspected
and impish hole should suddenly
make its unwelcome appearance to
disgrace me in the face of that distin-
guished company.



Five courses had passed, and there
were thirty-five more to follow.

All the guests sat on their heels on
their square cushions; an attitude to
which the Japanese are accustomed,
but which foreigners find very trying.

Before each stood a little lacquer
stand about four inches high, and on
this was set the dinner in tiny bowls,
saucers, and cups. Pretty Japanese
girls attended the guests, each one
waiting upon three or four, before
whom she knelt in turn, or as her
services were required.

Neither bell nor gong was used to
summon the servants. A guest who
desired attention simply clapped his
hands sharply together and a girl
came running immediately to know
his wishes.

The first course had been soy, that
most delicious of all Japanese sauces.
Another was boiled lotus root, which
to my untutored palate tasted like
cold boiled potatoes very much
sweetened. There were flakes of
raw fish which we all ate and enjoyed.
But of all those forty or more courses
two dishes were especially delicious.
One of these is a sort of soup made
of tiny oysters and the other boiled
hachi-ya-kana. There were salads in-
numerable, seaweed daikon and bean

For one course a soup made of lit-
tle eels was brought to us. We hoped
those eels were not alive, but they
did not taste cooked.

Presently three beautifully dressed
geisha, carrying their musical instru-
ments, entered the lower end of the
room, and, after prostrating them-
selves in salutation, withdrew to one
side. Seating themselves they began
to twang their instruments and sing
in a highly dramatic though rather
liscordant manner.

In a few moments three gorgeous
'adiant creatures in soft crepe kimono,
covered with a pattern suggestive
of maple leaves, glided in. One of
the attendants handed each geisha
a gilt fan with which they went
through a variety of figures called

the "Tokyo Dance," but which
more like some sort of drill than a
dance. This particular performance
is so exceedingly difficult and so sel-
dom given, that some of the foreign-
ers present, who had been reddest in
Japan for fifteen years, told me this
was the first time they had seen it.

To describe the figures or poses
would be impossible, but the soft,
gayly colored dresses, the glitte-
fans, and the rhythmic motion pro-
duced a brilliant kaleidoscopic |
ture not easily forgotten. Sudden lv
the dancers dropped their fa:
floor, then fell on their knees and,
bowing, rose and glided from the
room as noiselessly as they had <.

After an interval of twenty min-
utes, during which the dinner went
on, two geisha entered, one wearing
the trailing, inflated court robes of
former days, and the other full, loose
trousers, and carrying a long Bp<
After saluting the company (ai
customary) these geisha enacted a
scene from one of the classical
dramas. It represented in conven-
tional style the famous duel between
Yoshitsune* and the giant Benkei, on
the Hojo Bridge. Yoshitsund, an
historical hero, is said to have been
gifted with superhuman agility, and
tradition declares that upon this cel-
ebrated occasion he conquered the
bewildered Benkei by jumping up
in the air until he was out of si^ht,
each time the latter made a pa^
him. As a matter of course, the
principal feature of this scene was
the extraordinary springs into the
air made by the geisha. Many of
these leaps were exceedingly diffi-
cult, but they could scarcely be called
either graceful or beautiful.

During the progress of the dinner,
there were in all (our geisha perform-
ances, two of which were scenes from
plays, and two emblematic dan
The dresses were gorgeous, the obi
stiff with gold bullion, and the color-
ing and materials of the kimono v.
nificent. The costumes that most

6 5 8


vividly impressed themselves upon
my mind were worn by three geisha
who took part in a dance called " The
Maple Leaf." Their long, trailing
kimono were of heavy ribbed white
crepe strewn with deep crimson
maple leaves, and their obi scarlet
silk woven with gold leaves.

Two of the geisha who danced that
evening were beautiful, the other
only pretty or good-looking. One of
them, a beautiful, unusually tall girl,
was Ai-san, a beauty famous all over
Japan for her loveliness. Slender
and willowy, she looks taller than
she really is. Her perfect oval face
is set with great dark eyes, whose
pleading, melancholy expression is
enhanced by long black lashes. Her
mouth is that prettiest of all shapes,
a"cupid's bow," behind' which her
little white teeth show when her
crimson lips part in that pathetic yet
brilliant smile which is one of her
greatest attractions.

No one who has seen these lovely
geisha, in their rich brocades and
dainty silks, can have any doubt con-
cerning the beauty of Japanese
women, but all will agree that the
standard is different, and usually
those Japanese women who are pret-
tiest in our judgment are not so in
the opinion of their countrymen.
This fact was brought to notice by a
little incident that occurred at the
dinner before mentioned. It was re-
marked to a Japanese gentleman that
a certain relative of Mr. Fukuzawa's
was a very handsome man.

" When you see Mr. I think

you will find him much handsomer,"
was the reply.

In a few moments the gentleman
in question was introduced. He was
short and slender, with a long, nar-
row face, oblique eyes, and slanting
eyebrows, the male counterpart, in
fact, of the conventional pictures of
Japanese ladies, yet his countrymen
considered him much handsomer
than the man admired, who was tall,
broad-shouldered, and well made,
with a strong, manly face of much

the same type as the familiar picture
of Murillo's " Neapolitan Beggar" — a
handsome, Italian cast of features,
seen from time to time among the

To compare American and Japan-
ese women mentally, morally, and
physically, is no easy task. If we
are to judge of the beauty of these
women by our own standard, the
mass of Japanese women are not as
good-looking to us as American or
European women. But this is about
as fair a criticism as if we asked a
Japanese to tell us if he found our
women beautiful as compared with
his countrywomen.

Allowing the comparison, whether
fair or unfair, there are Japanese girls
whose beauty even the most preju-
diced must acknowledge; lovely
women, whose clear, white complex-
ions, soft, dark eyes, and delicate fea-
tures would excite the admiration of
either Americans or Europeans.

One in particular rises before the
writer's imagination, a vision of
dainty loveliness that could not
easily be surpassed ; soft, dark eyes,
fringed with jetty lashes, set in a
face with the exquisite tinting of a
child's skin; pencilled eyebrows, a
small, scarlet mouth, pearly teeth,
and hair so black that it made the
complexion more white by contrast.
She was the eighteen-year-old wife
of a typical modern Japanese noble-
man, but she wore the national dress
of her country, the kimono, and her
lower lip was painted with three gold

Undoubtedly, to our eyes the ordi-
nary plebeian Japanese women are
not pretty. Their soft and courteous
manners may bias our judgment in
their favor, but in reality they are
as little beautiful to us as we are to

Here and there in the streets of the
cities, or perhaps in the villages, we
may meet pretty girls, but great
beauties are as rare in Japan as all

Online LibraryCharles Frederick HolderThe Californian (Volume 4) → online text (page 88 of 120)