Clive Holland.

Old and new Japan online

. (page 20 of 23)
Online LibraryClive HollandOld and new Japan → online text (page 20 of 23)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


ends.

The baby girl's head is shaved clean, and even when,
a few years later, the hair is allowed to grow, there is still
a large tonsure retained, though this diminishes in size,
year by year, until only a small round spot, about an inch
to an inch and a half in diameter, remains on the very
top of the head. This is the sign of the little maiden's
virginity, and is partly concealed by the manner in which
a band of hair is carried back from the forehead and
fastened at the back of the head. This little tonsure is
allowed to become obliterated after marriage, and then the
more complicated modes of wearing the hair are adopted.

The hair of little girls is usually worn in the O-tobako-
bon style, unless the still simpler style of " knotting" is
adopted. The " honourable tobacco-box '•' method of doing
the hair necessitates it being cut to a length of about five
inches all round, except over the brow, where it is cut even
shorter. Right on the crown of the head, however, it is
allowed to grow longer, and is there gathered up into the
peculiarly-shaped knot which gives this particular style of
coiffure its name. This form of hair-dressing is altered



• : •; i ' •







SUMMER TIME IN JAPAN.



SUPERSTITIONS, LEGENDS, & STORIES 247

when the girls are old enough to attend a. public day-school.
Then the mode — a pretty and simple one — adopted is
known as katsurashita ; unless, indeed, her mother is bitten
with European ideas, when the ugly foreign " bun," less
carefully arranged, sometimes takes the place of the much
more neat and graceful Japanese fashion we have named.
This latter mode has become very popular in boarding-
schools of late years ; and, indeed, the boarding-school
miss of Japan may be often picked out from this very cir-
cumstance. Probably convenience and economy of time
are chiefly responsible for the adoption of a foreign fashion
which is so much less picturesque than the native one.

This period of school life, however, though longer than
it was, say a decade ago, is comparatively brief, for the girls
of the middle classes still frequently marry early.

When a Japanese maiden reaches the age of fifteen or
sixteen her first really elaborate style of coiffure is insti-
tuted. The fashion called omoyedzuki has been the rule
with her from say eleven or twelve to fourteen, after attain-
ing which age the beautiful jorowage mode is followed for
several years, to be in turn displaced by the shinjocho or
" new butterfly" style. This style of doing the hair is
followed by a large number of women and girls, of all ages
above sixteen, and it is not considered in consequence very
distinguished or chic. The beautiful and elaborate shimada
or takawage fashion of doing the hair is chiefly followed by
the coquettish amongst the upper class Japanese. As. a
general rule the more respectable and old-fashioned the
family the simpler and smaller is the style of doing the
hair ; although whatever the method followed, the result is
sure to be neat and attractive. It is the geisha, tea-house
attendants, and joro who adopt the most elaborate, start-
ling, and larger styles. Most of these wear what is called
a " high coiffure" or takawage style.

Another change is made in the mode of dressing the



248 OLD & NEW JAPAN

hair when a girl is between the age of eighteen and twenty ;
and from the latter age and twenty-four she generally
adopts the mode known as the " triple " or mitsuwage, the
basis of which is an arrangement of the hair in three loops.
From twenty-five to twenty-eight the style adopted is
known as mttsuwakudzushi, and this may be said to reach
the high-water mark of elaborateness. Up to this time
each change of style in the case of girls and women of the
better class has been towards greater elaboration and
beauty ; but with the attainment of the age of twenty-
eight a Japanese woman is considered to have reached the
turning-point, and to be no longer young. Hereafter
(except she be a geisha, or courtesan) there is but one
style open to her, known as the mochiriwage. Unfortu-
nately this simple style is also rather ugly, and the woman
wearing it is certainly put at a distinct disadvantage, even
though in some cases she has retained her good looks.

As might perhaps be naturally expected, the coiffure of
the Japanese bride is very beautiful. It is quite different
from any other style usually worn, and is known by the
poetic and descriptive name of hana yotne, or "flower
wife." It is not only the most elaborate of all coiffures,
but also the most beautiful and costly to arrange. So
elaborate, indeed, is it that no description could convey any
accurate idea save of its complexity. The married woman's
coiffure is entirely different to those we have previously
referred to. When the bride has destroyed the erection of
the kamiyui arranged for her bridal, she wears her hair in
several styles, according to her social position. The two
principal modes are known as kumesa and katsuyama.
The former is adopted by the women of the poorer classes ;
the latter is considered more distinguished, and is used by
the women of the upper-middle and upper classes.

A strange custom in connection with hair-dressing is the
shaving of Japanese girls by the kamiyui. Not only are the



SUPERSTITIONS, LEGENDS, & STORIES 249

cheeks, brows, and chins treated in this way, but even the
ears and nose ! There is nothing to shave save the brows,
of course, except the fine peach-like down which beauti-
fies the youthful cheek. This, Japanese taste, however,
decides must be ruthlessly removed by the razor.

As might perhaps be expected in a country where hair-
dressing has become a fine art, and where the hair of
women is so highly esteemed, there are many legends and
superstitions connected with it. There are numberless
stories in which beautiful girls have been distinguished by
their hair turning at night into hissing snakes, and who
themselves are ultimately discovered to be the offspring
of dragons.

In one pathetic and in many respects also beautiful
story a maiden married the son of a daimio of high rank.
They lived happily for a long period, until, through the
slanderous tongue and certain accidental circumstances, the
young husband became suspicious of his wife. Of course,
his suspicions were groundless ; but nevertheless they grew,
and at last the young wife got to hear of them. She was
consumed by a great hatred of the man who thus doubted
her honour, and one night her dragon ancestry (so the story
goes) must have asserted itself, for as the husband lay near
her side her hair suddenly turned into serpents, which stung
him to death. When the servants came in the morning
they found their master dead and swollen with the poison
of the serpents. Then, and not till then, did one of the
retainers, who had been awakened by a noise in the middle
of the night, remember that he had heard a rushing sound
as of wings, and had seen, or fancied he had seen, a dragon
fly out of the house and over the trees of the yashiki
garden. Though a long search was made for the absent
wife she was never found. And so the story is told,
perhaps as a warning to jealous and suspicious husbands ;
perhaps to make men careful lest when they wed an



2 5 o OLD & NEW JAPAN

exceptionally beautiful girl they also ally themselves to a
dragon in disguise.

Another belief is that jealousy between women can also
cause their hair to turn at night into snakes ; and there
are many tales based upon this superstition. In the days
of old Japan it was the custom for the wealthy men who
kept concubines as well as legitimate wives, who were
known respectively as mekakd and O Ku-Sama, to do so
under one roof. And although by long custom this
practice was found to answer fairly well by day, at night
the hatred which animated both these classes of women was
wont to reveal itself by the changing of their hair into a
mass of writhing snakes, which (as the women frequently
slept quite close together in the same room) uncoiled and
crept towards each other in an endeavour to devour one
another. There is one particular story which tells how
a husband once awoke in the night to find his wife's hair
and that of one of his concubines engaged in this horrible
and deadly struggle ; and the sight of the hatred which
existed through his instrumentality so affected him that he
became a Buddhist monk, and went into retreat for the
rest of his life.

Jealousy, which in women is by the Japanese considered
a great fault, even approaching a crime, was held to cause
the hair of the person so sinning to turn into snakes, which
bit and tortured her. Is there not in this idea perhaps an
underlying suggestion of the nature of the mental torture
which jealousy is undoubtedly capable of inflicting upon
the unfortunate individual who suffers from it ?

It is little to be wondered at, when we remember the
care with which it is treated, that the Japanese woman
should value her hair very highly ; and that it should form,
of all her physical possessions, the one she would least
willingly lose. Indeed, in ancient times the unfaithful wife
was not always killed ; the husband often esteeming it




A JAPANESE FISHING FLEET IN THE INLAND SEA.



SUPERSTITIONS, LEGENDS, & STORIES 251

sufficient punishment to turn the erring one adrift after
shearing off all her hair. Thus it is that only the most
devout faith or devoted love will cause a woman or girl to
voluntarily sacrifice her entire head of hair. Than do this
many a Japanese girl, if need be, would undoubtedly sooner
sacrifice her virtue for the salvation or preservation of her
parents or loved ones from want and misery.

The sacrifice of portions of their heads of hair by women
is, however, sometimes made, and the locks may be seen
hanging before many an Izumo shrine. It is also the custom
for the widow to cut off at least some part of her hair so that it
may be placed in her husband's coffin. The quantity is not,
however, fixed by any precedent or custom ; and though,
doubtless, it varies according to the affection in which the
dead were held, it is usually not large, and does not
generally affect the appearance of the widow's coiffure.
There are, however, many instances yearly where the
bereaved one mourns so sincerely and deeply that she
determines to remain faithful to the memory of the dead ;
then with her own hand — which must often tremble with
emotion caused by the sacrifice — she cuts off all her hair,
and lays the rich mass upon the knees of the dead. In
such a case as this it is never permitted to grow again to
any length.

There are many quaint superstitions connected with
Inari or the Fox God, as he is commonly called,(although
Hirata, one of the greatest of Shinto scholars, holds that
there is no god of the name. It seems certain, at all events,
that Inari-San, or the Fox God, is of comparatively modern
date, as although numerous representations of foxes are
found in the courts of most Shinto temples, it is a re-
markable fact that not a single statue or figure of a fox
is discoverable within all the extensive surroundings at
Kitzuki of the oldest Shinto shrine in Japan. It seems,
therefore, probable that the idea of the fox as a super-



252 OLD & NEW JAPAN

natural being was not introduced into Japan until about the
eleventh century> The fox has been a favourite subject
with Japanese artists, and phosphorescent or ghostly foxes
are often seen in the old coloured prints ; and occasionally
they are shown in them as wandering about at night with
tongues of fire appearing above their heads ; and very
frequently the fox's tail, both of sculptured and painted
representations, is decorated with the symbolical jewel of
ancient Buddhist art.

But if Inari-San may be considered as the Fox God,
he is also worshipped under a number of other forms.
Like some of the deities of ancient Greece — Zeus, Athena,
Hermes, for example — Inari has been multiplied because
of the different attributes which were ascribed to him. At
one place he is the God of Coughs, Colds, and Chest com-
plaints ; at another, he is particularly supposed to answer
all kinds of prayers, and at Oba there is an Inari with a
wonderful reputation in this respect. On the wall of his
shrine there hangs a box containing small clay foxes.
Those who have any request to make, or any desire they
wish gratified, take one of these little figures and slip it
into the sleeves of their kimono, and thus carry it home.
It is necessary to keep this and pay it due respect until
such time as the petition which has been offered up is
answered. Then the little clay fox is taken back to the
temple and replaced in the box ; and if the benefited one
can afford to do so, he is expected to make some offering
to the shrine. They say that the supply of little foxes
has nowadays to be constantly replenished ; not because
of the increase in the number of devout pilgrims, but
because of the depredations of tourist souvenir-hunters.

The Fox God is also worshipped in parts of Japan as
a healer in a general way, and as a dispenser of wealth.
In the latter capacity he appeals strongly to the " religious
sentiments " of members of the joro or courtesan class, and



SUPERSTITIONS, LEGENDS, & STORIES 253

there is, indeed, a very interesting shrine of Inari in the
same court in which stands a temple of Benten quite close
to the Yokohama Yoshiwara. Here there are many fox
images of varying size. Some are now very beautiful
with age, the stone of which they are carved having
"weathered" and become lichen-stained. To this temple
comes many a beautiful joro from her neighbouring prison-
house, with brightly-carmined lips, painted face, and wear-
ing the exquisite old-time garments which no Japanese
wife nor maiden would wear. Most of them purchase
O-rosoku, or paper-wicked candles, which the old man who
sells them lights and sticks upon a spike in the lantern,
much as do the old women in the Roman Catholic churches
of Western lands. Then the joro offers up her supplica-
tion for good fortune, and perhaps for that dim ultimate
marriage of which most of them dream, and goes her way
down the steps.

At the back of most Inari shrines there is generally to
be found in the wall of the buildings, a couple of feet or so
above the level of the ground, a small hole of about six or
seven inches across. This little aperture is the fox-hole,
in which are placed offerings of tofu, and other food be-
loved of foxes. To this place peasants and the lower
classes suffering from different complaints come, and from
the little ledge outside the hole they take a few of the
grains of rice usually found there, and eat them in the
belief that they will cure their disease or prevent sickness.
The fox, who is supposed to live in the hole, is, of course,
the invisible one to whom those who seek his aid refer
as O-Kitsune-San. There are, however, supposed to be
several kinds of ghostly foxes ; and all possess supernatural
powers. There are naturally good and bad foxes ; the
worst of all, and the most dreaded, being the Ninko or
Man Fox. It is supposed to be little larger than a squirrel,
and to like to live in houses. So long as it is pleased all



254 OLD & NEW JAPAN

things will go well ; but if offended, misfortunes and terrible
disasters will surely overtake the unfortunate people who
have given it shelter.

The wild fox is also bad, and is supposed to be in
reality a wizard, with the power of changing into other
shapes and making itself invisible. But although it pos-
sesses the latter quality, a dog can always see it, and in
consequence it is afraid of dogs. Another quaint belief is,
that if its shadow fall on water whilst it is changing from
a fox to anything else, it is the image of the fox which will
be seen. The country folk often kill the wild fox, notwith-
standing the fact that it is believed that the fox's relatives,
or even the ghost of the dead animal itself, will bewitch the
slayer. But, on the other hand, any one who has eaten
fox's flesh cannot be afterwards placed under the spell of
enchantment.

In the province of Izumo goblin foxes are much
dreaded, as they are supposed to be able to deceive
people by enchantment ; to become inmates of a home
and members of a family, and make individuals of the
latter an object of terror and horror to their neighbours,
and also to take demoniacal possession of people, which
ultimately causes them to go mad. Following beliefs of
other lands — which credit beautiful women with power
to destroy men — the Japanese believe that the goblin
fox generally assumes the form of a beautiful woman for
the purpose of wreaking its vengeance, or of working
its evil spells. There are many tragic and fascinating
stories of the fox woman and her wiles ; and, indeed, a
dangerous, scheming woman, more especially if of the
joro class, whose art it is to enslave men and strip them
of all they possess, is referred to as kitsune^ which is a
word of the deadliest insult.

The fox, however, has apparently encountered St.
Anthony even amongst the Japanese, for it is admitted



SUPERSTITIONS, LEGENDS, & STORIES 255

that it does not always find it serve its diabolical purpose
to assume the guise of a beautiful woman ; and so there
are many legends of foxes which have taken on other
and very varied shapes.

Regarding the demoniacal possession of human beings
by foxes, there are, indeed, strange stories. Those pos-
sessed often conduct themselves much as do those suffering
from hydrophobia. At other times they tear off their
clothing, and run naked through the streets. Yet at
others they lie on the ground, froth at the mouth, and
yelp like foxes. It is also recorded that lumps appear
beneath their skin, which apparently have separate lives
of their own. When pricked they move to another spot
in the body, and by no means can they be grasped or
compressed by the hand. People thus possessed also not
only speak languages which none can comprehend, and
of which they themselves were formerly quite ignorant,
but also will only eat "foxes' food."

It happens (as might indeed be expected) that often
the poor supposed victims of the fox's machinations are
cruelly treated by their relatives and neighbours, being
beaten and burned almost fatally in the hope that the
fox may be driven out. But if no improvement takes
place in their condition, the Yamabushi or exorciser is
sent for to argue with the fox, who (so tradition and
folk-lore tales aver) is frequently u open to reason," and
upon the promise being made that he shall have plenty
of just the kind of food he most likes, agrees to go away.
The food is to be immediately sent to the temple to which
this particular invisible fox states he is attached. The
poor victim, when the fox goes out of him, usually falls
down senseless, and so remains for a considerable time.

It is impossible to separate the chaff from the grain
in the matter of these fox legends and stories owing to
the complicated and often contradictory nature of the



256 OLD & NEW JAPAN

statements made in them. But it will, we think, occur
to most, that the victims of the fox are after all probably
in many cases epileptics, or smitten of the same kind of
demoniacal possession or madness that figures in many
stories of the Middle Ages and Biblical times.

As is perhaps natural amongst those who are supposed
to be possessed of foxes, there are in Japan many who
manage to turn this fact to good account. The more
superstitious, at all events, of the country folk are very
much afraid of giving offence to a kitsune-mochi, lest he
should send some other fox to take possession of them.
And thus in remoter parts of the Empire kitsune-mochi
have been known to gain a great ascendency in the
villages or districts where they dwell, said to be not
altogether dissimilar in character to the power exercised
by the witch doctors of other lands. In many a village
the richest man is a kitsune-mochi, owing to the fact that
he is so much feared that he is permitted to do much
as he pleases, and even to rob his neighbours. Some-
times, however, the wealth acquired is gained by perfectly
legitimate means. About a quarter of a century ago there
was a perfect terrorism concerning foxes in certain
districts, and several far-seeing individuals bought up
large tracts of land at almost inconceivably small cost for
which no one else would make an offer. Nowadays the
land is not only worth ten times as much as they gave
for it, but its successful cultivation has served to disabuse
the minds of the peasantry of the ancient idea that it
was " fox haunted."

Sometimes, too, to gain their own ends, men have
been known to masquerade as foxes or as representatives
of the god Inari. They usually seek to victimise shop-
keepers, who are always inclined to treat the god rever-
ently, so that good trade and wealth may result. There
are many stories of the ingenuity of pretended " foxes " ;



SUPERSTITIONS, LEGENDS, & STORIES 257

some of whom have been known to show a " brush"
beneath their haori to help the illusion! One story-
must, however, suffice, as it will show not only the extent
to which the fox legends have a hold on the imaginations
of the country and other folk, but also is a remarkable
example of a type of " confidence trick" which has many
a Western counterpart.

One day a pretended Inari entered the shop of a certain
well-to-do shopkeeper in a small town in the province of
Izumo, and after letting the proprietor see that he was an
Inari, told him that he was anxious to do him good on
account of his great piety, and that the god had commis-
sioned him to add to his wealth by a very simple device ;
all the shopkeeper had to do was to leave whatever sum of
money he liked by a certain miya, or shrine, at night, and
in the morning he would find it doubled. The unsuspicious
man, for several nights running, placed small sums on
the appointed spot, and in the morning found that the
Inari's words had verily come true! Then he by degrees
increased the amount with equally satisfactory results, and at
last was placing several hundred yen at the miya. These
large sums were also miraculously increased, till at length
he determined to risk his whole fortune. So he raised
money on his business premises, withdrew all his capital
from the bank, and placed the whole amount, which was a
very large sum indeed, in the usual place. In the morning
he hastened joyfully to the spot, thinking that now surely
his fortune was made, only to find that the money had —
vanished. The Inari had made his grand coup /

In Japan, to even such fragile, though often beautiful
things as dolls, many superstitions and legends attach. There
are, of course, dolls of all sizes and kinds, from the tiny beppin,
or "beautiful woman" — which is but a phantom thing
made out of paper and a flat stick, but yet so beautiful in
its fragility and in its little painted face that it seems insen-

R



258 OLD & NEW JAPAN

sibly to call up memories and visions of other beautiful girl
faces of Japan — to the big baby dolls, which do not in their
finest completeness often appear in the European market.
It is concerning these latter that legends and superstitions
are chiefly current. These beautiful dolls, which accurately
represent babies of two or three years of age, are so well
dressed and so lifelike that at a very little distance they
deceive even the most experienced foreigner. Indeed, so
true to life are they that many a pretty photograph of a
little maiden carrying her baby brother or sister about on
her back is merely a little girl with one of these dolls,
which are much more manageable when sittings are being
given than the living models.

It is doubtless because of this extraordinary lifelikeness
that the belief exists that some dolls in course of time
actually become alive. It is not, we admit, a common
belief, nor is it so frequently met with nowadays as for-
merly ; but even at the present time certain dolls are
treated with all the consideration which would be given to
a real baby — are given food, and are provided with a bed
to sleep upon, besides possessing a definite name. If a
boy doll, it is usually called Tokutara-San, and if a girl,
O-Toku-San ; and these dolls are thought to possess
feelings like other children — to become angry and cry if
ill-treajed or neglected, and to be the direct cause of
misfortune to their owners in the latter case. They are
also credited with the possession of supernatural powers to
a high degree.


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 20 22 23

Online LibraryClive HollandOld and new Japan → online text (page 20 of 23)