Christopher Dresser.

Japan: its architecture, art, and art manufactures online

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Ph.D., F.L.S., etc.



Printed ^^ R. & R. Clark, Edinburgh.



An apology is needed for adding to the number of our books on
Japan. We have heard of the ways of the Japanese, of the
pecuHarities of their manners, of their feasts and festivals, of the
food they eat, and of the aspect of the country in which they live.
My excuse for writing is a simple one — I am a specialist.

An architect and ornamentist by profession, and having
knowledge of many manufacturing processes, I went to Japan to
observe what an ordinary visitor would naturally pass unnoticed.
As a specialist, and a specialist only, I submit this volume to
public notice. When in Japan I engaged the best native photo-
grapher that I could find to take views for me ; thus I got not
only architectural edifices, but also architectural details. I also
engaged the best ornamentist in Kioto to make coloured drawings
of temple decorations for me.

Many will be surprised when I say that as yet the English
public know almost nothing, and even our architects very little,
of Japanese architecture. Coloured illustrations are needed to
give anything like a complete idea of the glories of Buddhistic
art ; yet I hope that my book may throw some little light on
Japanese building, and do something towards revealing the fact that
Japan has had a great architectural history, although I have no
chromatic illustrations. Ornament springs from architecture. I



have therefore endeavoured to trace its origin and development ;
and for the first time, so far as I know, the growth of native con-
ventional ornament is brought before the English reader.

Drawings of flowers, of birds, of fish, of insects, are all familiar
to us ; but it is not generally known that just as the Greeks, Moors,
and other peoples associated with their architecture certain conven-
tional forms, so the Japanese have a national style of conventional
ornament ; yet this is the case. To me the fact was almost
unknown up to the time that I visited the country, although I
had been an earnest student of Oriental art for nearly thirty years.

In my book I attempt to explain how the architecture resulted
from climatic and religious influences, and how the ornaments
with which domestic objects arc figured, and the very finish of
the objects themselves, are traceable to religious teachings.

As a guest of the nation, I was not only permitted to enter
sacred edifices (some of which had never before been trodden by
European feet), but I had also opportunities for studying all forms
of art industry. For the privileges enjoyed I shall ever feel under
a debt of gratitude to the members of the Japanese Government.
I had also the honour of presentation to His Majesty the Mikado,
who himself ordered that I should have every facility for seeing
what I wished.

While in Japan I made a daily record of what I saw and did ;
and this record was roughly illustrated. I either bought or had
taken for me about a thousand photographs, some being fifteen
inches by eighteen, the others about nine inches by twelve. I
had a multitude of small coloured drawings made of temple orna-
ments. I visited sixty -eight potteries, and some scores of
manufacturers engaged in other industries. I also brought speci-
mens of work from most of the factories visited.

As to the temples and shrines, I saw about a hundred of the
finest in the countiy, to say nothing of the crowd of temples


nestled together on the top of Mount Koya-zan, manj' of which
I studied minutely. In seeing these things I travelled about two
thousand miles ; but my stay was short, being limited to four

I mention these facts so that the reader may judge of my
opportunities of study, and now I must leave my book in his

I am much indebted to the painstaking care of Mr. Hundley,
who has drawn the illustrations on wood for me, and to Mr. G.
Pearson, the well-known wood engraver, who has cut the blocks.
Both these gentlemen have exerted themselves in the kindest
manner to render the illustrations such as I wished.

I have also to acknowledge the services of my daughters, who
acted as my amanuenses, and thus rendered it possible for the
book to be written during a long and painful illness from which
I suffered while most of the letter -press was prepared. Their
willing assistance was of great value to mc.

Tower Cressy,
NoTTiNG Hii.L, London, W.
October 1881.




Yokohama — The Grand Hotel — Sights in the Streets — Jiniikishas — Japanese hospitality
— Sachi — Yedo, or Tokio — Letter-writing — The Castle — Winter in Ja]ian — Temple
of Shiba — Tombs of the Shoguns ..... Pages i - 1 8


Yokohama — A fire in the hotel — A Japanese banquet — Japanese dancing-girls — Music
— Eating a live fish — Hara-kiri — The Mikado — The New Year — Tokio firemen —
Japanese matting — The Hamagoten palace .... 19-62


Preparation for long journey — l!y water to Kobe — Entrance of tlie Mikado into Kobe —
Awadji, Sanda, Arima, Nara — The Mikado's antiquities . . . 63-ioj


The sacred dance — A feast night — Kioto — The royal collections — Osaka 104-1



The Japanese Calendar— Wakayania — -JaiJanesc culil ami Jaii.incse vegelalion — Koya-
zan — Splendouv of shrines and of scenery — Sakai — News of revoU in Sats^una —
Return to Osaka — Feast of the god of riclies . . . Pages 124-140


Temple of Kioto — ^Japanese estimate of Christianity — Picnics — Honest workmanship —
Lacquer-work — Vahie of Corean ware — Tea-drinking ceremony — Otsu — P'utami-
gaura — Kamiji-yama . . . . . . 141-170


Tidings ofreljellion — Ise — VokUaiclii — Manufactures of Nagoya — Comparative estimates
of wealtli and skill — Castle of Nagoya — Sidsuoka — Fujiyama — Return to Yokohama



A Shinto festival — Nikko — The great Sanctuary — Arrival at Tokio — Japanese reports
and police supervision ...... 197-213


A Japanese blue-book — Object of my visit — Exportation of ginger — Manufacture of
carpets, etc. ....... 214-224




Religion and Architecture ..... Pages 225-320


Analogies and Symbols ...... 321-344

The Lacquer Man'ufactures ..... 345-36/


The Pottery Manufactures ..... 368-414

The Metal Manufactures. ..... 415-430


On the means BY WHICH Fabrics receive Pattern . . 431-449


Minor Manufactures of Japan ..... 450-466




Yokohama — The Grand Hotel — Sights in the Streets — Jinrikishas — Japanese hospitality
— Sachi — Yedo, or Tokio — Letter-writing — The Castle — Winter in Japan — Temple
of Shiba — Tombs of the Shogims.

It was on the 26th day of December at 6.30 in the morning that
I first saw Japan. As yet this strange country was enveloped in
a soft mist above which the sun was only just rising, but as
the mist dispersed we could see that the land w£is pleasantly
undulating and richly wooded ; that in some of the valleys, fissures,
and gorges nestled little picturesque villages ; that in sheltered
spots palm-trees, with their plumous tops, rose high above the
houses that found shelter beneath them, and that junks of quaint
aspect ploughed the shallow waters of the coast.

A cry arises from the Japanese passengers, who are earnestlj'
looking to the left (for we have several on board) — Fujiyama I
I look in the direction in which they gaze, but see no mountain.
The undulating land in front is perfectly distinct, and is thrown
out on a background of gray-and-white cloud which rises high
behind it ; but I see no mountain. Under the guidance, however,
of Japanese friends, I look above these clouds, and there, at a
vast height, shines the immaculate summit of Japan's peerless



c6he.' ■ I have's'ddri alihost c\cr\' alpine peak in the land of Tell ;
I have viewed Monte Rosa from Zermat, Aosta, and Como ; I
have gloried in the wild beaut)- of the Jungfrau and the pre-
cipitous heights of the Matterhorn ; but never before did^^^ a
mountain so pure in its form, so imposing in its grancWI^ so
impressive in its beauty, as tliat at which wc now gaze. I do
not wonder at the Japanese endowing it with marvellous powers ;
I do not wonder at this vast cone around which clouds love to
sleep being regarded as the home of the dragon — the demon of the
storm, — for surely this mountain is one of nature's grandest works !

Rounding a promontory wc soon enter the baj' of Yokohama,
fire two cannon, and drop our anchor.

In a few minutes certain officials come on board, and the
ship is surrounded by a score of native boats. Some belong to
hotels, some seek to take passengers or merchandise on shore,
some bring out servants of the company to which our ship
belongs, and others a variety of things which it is impossible to
describe. A scene of life and activity thus springs up around us
of a character so novel as to be both interesting and amusing. A
small steam-launch is now moored to the side of our great vessel,
and General Saigo, the commander-in-chief of the Japanese army,
who is on board, invites me to step into the launch and accompanj-
him on shore : the launch is a Government boat which has been
sent to convey the General to land.^ Accepting the kind invitation
I am soon seated in the boat, where we find the son of the General,
who is a cheerful smiling-faced urchin about two years old. No
sooner does the father see the little fellow than he caresses him
with that warm affection which the Japanese at all times show
towards their children ; but there is no kissing, for kissing is
unknown in the East, and while the General manifests his love
for his child 1 yet feel that the little fellow has not received all
his due, and I almost long to kiss him myself The screw of our
little launch is soon in motion, and in a few minutes I stand on

' General .Saigo was ictiuning from America, where he had acted as the com-
missioner for Japan at the Philadelphia exhibition. I met General Saigo and liis party
at San Francisco by arrangement, so that we might travel together to his country.


a land which, as a decorative artist, I have for years had an
intense desire to see, whose works I have already learned to
admire, and amidst a people who are saturated with the refine-
m^^^which spring only from an old civilisation. With the
viewW" reaching my hotel I now get into a jinrikisha, a vehicle
somewhat resembling a small hansom cab, only with a hood that
shuts back. It is lighth' built, has two somewhat large wheels,
and slender shafts united together by a tie - piece near their
extremities. It is drawn by a man who gets between the shafts
and most ably acts the part of the best of ponies, or sometimes by
two, or even three men. In the latter cases the tandem principle is
adopted, and the leaders are attached to the vehicle by thin ropes.
As soon as I am seated in my carriage, which is scarcely large
enough to contain my somewhat cumbrous body, my tandem
coolies (for I have two) set off with a speed which is certainly
astonishing, if not alarming, and I soon find myself at the entrance
to the Grand Hotel — a European house — where I secure my room
(terms three and a half dollars or fourteen shillings a da)', including
e\-er)'thing save fire and wine).

Breakfast this morning was somewhat neglected, for the
excitement of nearing land after a twenty-one days' sea-voyage
had lessened our appetites. It seemed impossible to spare time
for a hearty meal when, with the movement of our vessel through
the water, shifting scenes both strange and beautiful were con-
stantly presenting themselves to our sight. The keen, fresh,
exhilarating air, the cloudless sky, the bright and cheering sun-
shine, and the gallop through the wind in my tiny carriage had
caused nature to assert itself and demand some refreshment for
the inner man.

Sitting down to table at the hotel I partook of a somewhat
hurried meal. Fish, entrees, and joint were presented in due
sequence, as though I were sitting in the Grand Hotel at Paris ;
while grouped on dishes were tins of Crosse and Blackwell's
potted meats, and Keiller's Dundee marmalade and jam. I
confess that while these luxuries were in the most perfect state of
preservation, and in every sense enjoyable, I was disappointed in


seeing such familiar forms of food instead of ilic tentacle of an
octopus, the succulent shoot of a bamboo, the fin of a shark, or
some other such natives dainties as I looked for.

Having finished my meal, I am joined by a gcii^^nn
who is to act as my secretary while 1 am in the count^^bj-
Prince Henri of Liechtenstein, and by Prince Alfred Montenuovo
(two Austrian princes with whom I have been a fellow-passenger
from San Francisco), and we start for a walk, the secretary being our
guide. We pass through the European settlement of Yokohama,
where beautiful villas — in character half English and half Japanese
— nestle in lo\-el}- gardens, and on to the native town. Here
all is strange and quaint be}'ond description. The shops are
without fronts and their floors are raised above the ground by one
high step ; they are matted, and the goods are displayed on
stands which resemble the so-called " stage " of a greenhouse.
Strange articles of food, strange people, strange objects meet
the eye on every side. We stop, we look, we admire, we
wonder. We are looked at ; smiles of amusement at the
interest which is taken in things, to them common, meet us
at every turn. We watch children play, — a little girl bounces
a ball and turns round while the ball is ascending from the
ground for her to hit again. We pass by a canal which is
tunnelled through a hill, and on which the strangest of boats
float ; we enter the precincts of a Buddhist Temple, but we
must take our boots off before we cross the threshold. We return
home by crossing " the bluffs," from which we have a glorious
view of the town and the ba}-, and by a road which, bordered
by curious fences (Figs, i to 15), winds its way through nurseries
where strange trees abound. I need scarcely say that we have
enjoyed our walk more than words can tell. Indeed it would
be almost impossible to describe the impression of novelty left
on our minds ; but to give the reader some notion of the
strange aspect of things I may repeat a remark made b)' one
of the Austrian princes during the stroll. " Had we died," he
said, " and risen from the dead the scene presented could not
be more strange."


The princes dine with me, and at 8.30 we set out again ;
this time in jinrikishas, each drawn by one man, who now
bears a lantern, as it is dark, and oft" we go at almost the
pc^^W a race-horse. We laugh heartily at the shouts of the
me^ffhe bobbing of the lanterns, the shaking of the vehicles,
and the excitement of the furious run. In about fifteen minutes
we alight in front of a large house, into one room of which we
enter. Here our conductor orders for us a native repast, to which
are to be added the pleasures of music and the dance. The
room is a plain square, but there is European glass in the
windows, and the doors have European fasteners. Mats cover
the floor, and on the mats stand two brazen vessels (called
hibachi), each containing a few bits of ignited charcoal ; and
these primitive and insignificant fires afford the only means by
which a Japanese room is warmed. We are favoured with Chinese
chairs and two small tables, while the natives, who shortly come
to serve the repast, or to amuse us by their music and dancing,
kneel in front of us on the floor. Preparations having now been
completed, a large lacquer tray is brought in, and placed in the
centre of the group of kneeling female attendants. On this tray
rests a dish of sliced raw, unsalted fish, with condiments of various
kinds, all being arranged much like the French dish of Tcte de
veau vinaigrette if tastefully garnished with leaves. European
plates are used out of compliment to us strangers, but chop-sticks
are supplied instead of knives and forks. We taste the dish after
many unsuccessful attempts at getting the food to our mouths by
the aid of the chop-sticks, but strange to say, the \iands have the
flavours, and the condiments are almost tasteless. After the raw
fish comes fried fish, and with it hot sachi.

Sachi, although generally regarded in England as a spirit,
is in reality a white beer made from rice. Like all alcoholic
drinks, sachi varies much in quality ; and the Japanese estimate
its excellence by flavour, aroma, and other qualities, as we do
our port and other wines. It is drunk both cold and warm, but
it is not made hot by admixture with water, but is itself warmed ;
and in this condition it is now offered to us.

Native Drawings of the Fences which uolnd Gardens.

Native Drawings uf the Fences \\hilh lolnu Gardens

g.,.,.. ....... jA'PAn: its architecture,

Sachi cups are usually small earthen vessels of about two
inches in diameter, much resembling in character shallow tea-
cups, or deep saucers. They are without handle, and are offered
to the guest empty after being placed in hot water for^Bfcw
moments if he is to drink the sachi warm. Into these ^B^ty
cups a second serving- maid pours the warm sachi from a
delicately-formed china bottle.

Following the fish and the wine a dish of sea-slugs with herbs
and sea-weed is served, but the mollusc is as tough as leather,
and my powers of mastication are altogether overcome. After
the repast, music begins with the samasin (banjo), and the coto
(horizontal harp), together with certain drums (the tsudzumu and
the taiko), while girls dance to the weird sounds — their motions
being graceful but strange. This over, there is singing of native
songs, after which we all leave, take our places in the jinrikishas,
and are drawn home at almost lightning speed.

On the following morning I begin to make observations with
some care. Yesterday everything was so new that impressions
resulted chiefly from general effects, or curious incidents, while
details were passed almost unnoticed. I now, however, seem to
be more able to mark accurately what comes before me. Stand-
ing on the steps of our hotel, I glance upwards with the view of
noticing the nature of the building in which I have for the present
taken up my abode. To my astonishment what I yesterday
regarded as a solid stone edifice turns out to be a mere wooden
framework bearing on its surface thin slabs of stone, each of which
is drilled partially through and is hung on two common nails.

This hotel is beautifully situated, having its chief face over-
looking the sea, from which it is separated by a broad and well-
made road. On its right is a canal which here meets the ocean.
As I stand on these steps I have above me a cloudless sky of the
deepest blue, an ocean rippled by the smallest of waves, and
reflecting the azure of the heavens above. The white sails of
picturesque boats reflect the rays of the sun, hidden from my
view by the house in front of which I stand ; while the air has a
crispness, due to the slight frost of the night, which makes it in


the highest degree exhilarating. I breakfast off fish, ham, eggs,
and tea, as though I were sitting at ro}- own table in London,
instead of being i 2,000 miles from home, and then set out to view
thjjj^ps and their contents. During my walk I find many curios
thaBrre to me quite irresistible, and I buy, I fear, in a truly
reckless fashion. At 5.15 I return home somewhat tired, having
had a perfect " field day " amidst the shops.

While I was dressing. Prince Henri came into my room and
asked me to join him and Prince Montenuovo at dinner. Thus
passed my second day in Japan.

I find the following scraps noted in mj' diar\- under date
December 27th. It is customary here to go to a shop to select
a number of goods, and then to ask the owner to send all the
objects selected to your house, or hotel, for you to look over and
decide upon at your leisure.

The people here are most polite and charming ; at one place
while we were making purchases tea was served to us. The tea
is by no means strong, is pale yellow (almost amber) in colour,
and is drunk without milk or sugar. It is served in small cups
without handles or saucers.

The native town of Yokohama is lit with gas, while the
European quarter has at night dark streets. The foreign settler
objects to a gas rate.

The next morning I go by appointment to Yedo (Tokio, or
the northern capital) by 9.34 train. The railway connecting
Yokohama (the port of Tokio) with Tokio is eighteen miles in
length, is well built, and is one of two railways now existing in
Japan ; the other railway connects Hiogo (Kobe) with Kioto (the
southern capital). The Yokohama railway is of specially narrow
gauge, and the carriages are m.ore like omnibuses than any to be
found on our lines — being small in size and entered at the end.
A train leaves Yokohama for Tokio, and Tokio for Yokohama,
every hour of every day in the j'car, and every train carries
mails ; hence, while Yedo and Yokohama are eighteen miles
apart, there is a delivery of letters in both places every hour of
every day.


These places, and intlced all the towns of Japan, are tiow
connected by telegrai)h wires, by the agency of which messages
can be sent in the native character or in most of the European
languages ; but for conveying a message in a strange ton

Online LibraryChristopher DresserJapan: its architecture, art, and art manufactures → online text (page 1 of 36)