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In a certain village in the province of Izumo there was,
and probably still is, a girl doll which enjoys a fame quite
outside the immediate district in which its owners reside.
Indeed, Rishibojin, the goddess — who for some terrible sin,
committed in a state of pre-existence, was born a demon
and devoured her own children, but afterwards, being con-
verted and redeemed by the compassionateness of Buddha,


became the specially loving protector of infants and children,
to whom Japanese mothers pray for their little ones, and
childless women that she may send them beautiful boy
children — was scarcely more venerated. This wonderful
O-Toku-San was constantly borrowed by childless women,
who kept it for a time* attending to its supposed wants
most carefully, and fitting it out with new clothes of as
beautiful a description as they could afford before returning
it. The story of the " doll which had a soul " goes on to
say that all who had it for a time in their possession were
blessed with their heart's desire. And there is even a
legendary story that many years ago a woman was nursing
the doll whilst sitting by a stream, and, falling asleep, it
fell into the water and was swept away. But, lo and
behold ! when she ran stumbling amidst the rocks which
strewed the bank in vain endeavours to rescue the precious
doll, it suddenly floated or swam ashore, climbed up the
steep bank of the river, and was found a few minutes later
by the grief-stricken woman sitting beside a rock, unhurt
and dry !

The Japanese idea concerning these miraculous dolls
would appear to be this : a doll only attains these powers
after it has been in a family for many years. A new doll
is only a doll ; but even the common ones in Japan are
treated much more tenderly by their little girl owners than
in any other country in the world. It is understood by the
Japanese child that dolls are not given to them to be
knocked about and ill-treated or broken, but to be tenderly
cared for, so that the same doll is often handed down from
generation to generation. In some families there are
" honourable little people " which were made more than a
century ago. It is at least a pretty fancy, if nothing more,
that the tender care and love which is lavished by succes-
sive generations of girl owners upon their dolls shall in the
end bear fruit in induing their treasures with souls. If


one should ask a little Japanese girl, who believes in this,
how it is possible for a doll to become alive, she will
answer without hesitation and with evident conviction,
"If it is only loved greatly, it will of course live."

It will be easily understood, however, that even the
most carefully-treasured dolls must in the course of many
generations become broken, and even fall into slow decay.
This sad time comes in every family where ancestors' dolls
have been treasured. But even when one is undoubtedly
14 dead " it is not thrown away ; nor is it burned ; nor
thrown into pure running water, as must be other sacred
things when they are no longer needed or have become
otherwise useless ; nor is it buried. It has still a mission.
It is solemnly dedicated to the half-Shintd, half- Buddhist
divinity, Kojin. Though there would appear to be neither
images nor other representations of this god, there is in
the grounds of many a Shinto and Buddhist temple an
enoki-tree (Celtis Wildenawiana) sacred to him, and in
which he is believed to have his habitation. Before this
tree is often placed a little shrine and tiny torii, where the
country folk pray. Here is the last resting-place of the
beloved dolls who are dead. They are generally either
placed upon the shrine itself, at the foot of the tree, or
if it be hollow (as is frequently the case), in the heart of
the tree itself. But the real pathos of these relics of by-
gone years is that they are seldom thus dedicated to Kojin
whilst their owners are alive. And so these mutilated and
often crumbling dolls of long ago may be the poor remains
of the playthings of some dead child, and often probably
the silent memorials of some dead woman's happy girlhood,
found, when she died, hidden carefully and tenderly away
in some cupboard or cabinet.

The superstitions relating to the sea are numerous in
Japan as well as in most other lands. Many are terrible.
There is a common belief amongst the fishermen all round


the coast, and perhaps more especially amongst those who
toil upon the waters of the beautiful Inland Sea, that the
three days of Bommatsuri (the Festival of the Dead)
always find the sea angry. On the day following the
launching of the shoryobune, or Ships of the Souls, the
ocean is the highway of the dead, whose returning ghosts
must pass along it on their voyage back to the mysterious
land from which they have come. On that day the sea is
poetically called Hotoke-umi, or the Tide of the Return-
ing Souls. On it no one dares to venture ; not a shell-
gatherer wades along the sandy shore, and no boats can
be obtained by would-be voyagers or explorers of the
exquisite coast, for no fisherman will venture afloat. And
on the night of that day, when the vast ocean is kept sacred
to the dead, there are many who say that, whilst standing
by the seashore, they have heard a murmuring of voices
like the hum of a distant town, which was the sound of the
unknowable language of the spirits of the returning ones.

If, as of course must often happen, a fishing-boat
should find itself far out to sea, and unable to reach a
port on the night of the sixteenth day of the seventh
month, notwithstanding the strenuous efforts the crew are
sure to make, then the dead will certainly rise round about
the ship, and whilst waving ghostly arms will cry that a
bucket may be given them. This request is never refused
if there be one on board. But before it is thrown over to
the spirit hands which are stretched out so appealingly, the
bottom is always knocked out ; otherwise, the dead
(angered that the ship should trespass upon the waters on
the night assigned to them) would fill the bucket and use
it to swamp the ship. It is always, indeed, considered
unlucky to drop a sound bucket overboard.

But the Returning Ghosts, who have the freedom of
the sea, after all, but for one day in every year, are not the
only spirits dreaded by seafaring folk. There is the


terrible Kappa or river goblin, which, however, haunts
the sea in the neighbourhood of the mouths of rivers.
Then there is the horrible Ape of the Waters (possibly a
devil-fish or octopus), dreaded by all swimmers, which drags
them down, and is said to devour merely their entrails, so
that their bodies, when they float to the surface and are
found, or drift ashore in due course, show no wound, but are
wonderfully light and hollow.

In many a village along the coast there stand the old
homes of men who went down into the deep waters and
never returned. Sometimes they are deserted and the
thatched roofs are tumbling into ruins ; at others one finds
the widow and sons and daughters of the dead dwelling
in them. But in the hakaba (cemetery) will be the tombs
of the dead ones, and at certain seasons the white paper-
lanterns will shed their soft light upon them ; for in Japan
they erect tombs to the never-returning dead.

There are also many people who believe that the
drowned never make the journey to the Meido (World
of the Dead), but float for ever in the currents off the
coast, oscillate with movements almost lifelike in the
swing of the tides, and that it is they who drag down the
swimmer with white ghostly hands amid the breakers and
the surf. So seamen always speak reverently, or at least
respectfully, of O-bakd, or the honourable ghosts, who are,
strangely enough, believed to dread cats ; and thus it is
that on most Japanese vessels one is carried as a talisman.
Of all cats those of three colours are for some reason or
other most esteemed.

In the many fishing hamlets round the coast there are
sad hearts, as in those of other lands. All the sadder, per-
haps, because from most homes some one has gone across
the sea never to return ; some one whose ghostly figure
will never reach Meido, and can, therefore, never return in
company with the other beloved ghosts of departed ones.

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Amid the swirl of tides, in the eddies of currents in which
dwell the dreaded Kappa, amid the surf that breaks boom-
ing on the sandy shore, they are doomed to remain for all
time ; dreamed of often by sorrowing ones, who in the
end frequently beseech Buddha that they may remember
them in the night-watches no more.

Connected also with the sea is the abode of the little
children's ghosts, where, in a wonderful and beautiful
cavern at Kaka-ura, is the great granite figure of Jizo, the
god and protector of the little ones. Though a Buddhist
deity, before the figure are found not only a tiny torii, but
also gohei, showing that as regards reverence for this god
the two faiths meet, and that at the feet of the tender
divinity who so loves the little children's ghosts, there is
no division brought about by conflicting creeds. In this
deep, beautiful grotto are other figures of Jizo and many
little "towers" (piles of stones), which the ghosts of the
children are doomed to erect as penance. When there
is a great storm outside the surges dash into the cave like
raging demons, and then the tiny towers are swept away,
and the poor little ghosts of dead children have to begin
their work again.

Any visitor to the cavern who may happen to destroy
these tiny piles of stones (and they are not easy to avoid)
is bound to build double the number, and thus not only
atone to the child-souls for cruel destruction of their
labour, but actually aid them in their endless task. There
are many stories told in the district of fishermen who
have been compelled or have ventured to pass the night
in the cave. All tell how they heard the fluttering and
rustling as of the child-souls, and the murmur of the soft
infant voices of the invisible host. It is only when night
has brought darkness to the earth that the children come
to build their towers of stones at the feet and close to Jizo,
and the belief is that every night the stones are changed.


These child-souls, so it is said, are too frightened, lest " the
Lady-Sun " should peep into the cave and see them, to
work by day. Strange to tell, by some inexplicable
mystery many travellers have seen in the crumbling
stone-dust and sand, which lies upon the floor of the cavern,
the tiny footprints of the little workers.

Here they say the infant ghosts at night tread lightly
in performance of their task, leaving traces of tiny bare
feet, which, when the day dawns and the sun's heat dries
the sand, vanish one by one.

In the cavern are many, many pairs of tiny sort (straw
sandals), which the pious and the pitiful have brought and
laid there for the use of the children's ghosts, so that they
shall not cut their little feet on the rocks or bruise them
on the stones. But, strange to say, all the footprints are
of naked feet. Perhaps the Oni (demons), who torment
them and destroy their towers, may not permit the little
ones to use the lovingly offered gifts.

It is not easy to discover what connection there can
be between the spirits of little children and the sea. But
in many Japanese myths and legends the mysterious ocean,
which smiles and sobs and roars around the coast, is
held to have some mysterious and awful connection with
the land of the souls of the dead.

Thus it is that the little ships of straw, often so
wonderful in their completeness and mimicry, are launched
on the last night of Bommatsuri upon the rivers and the
sea, and that the sorrowing mothers of Japan, in loving
memory of their little lost ones, cast a hundred or more
tiny prints of Jizo into some river far away from the ocean,
believing that all running water flows to it, and that the
sea itself borders and reaches that distant land to which
the souls of little children must journey.



IN the previous pages of this book we have dealt
scarcely at all in detail with the great changes which
are taking place in Japan : reforms, transformations,
and upheavals in all grades of life, and in almost every
department of it, save that of the National religion.
Although many competent authorities seem agreed that
it will take generations to alter very materially the main
characteristics of the Japanese race, every year makes it
more obvious that the outward seeming of the nation is
undergoing vast transmutations. The intrusion of the
West upon the East during the last decade has been
plainly marked.

In no place, too, in the past has this subtle Westernising
of the East been more marked than in the foreign conces-
sions of the treaty or open ports (now done away with as
regards their former character and jurisdiction), where in
the often conglomerate hideousness of the streets one is
almost on every side brought face to face with scraps and
suggestions of far-off places. In this phase of the life of
modern Japan one comes in contact with corners of South-
ampton, Liverpool, New York, Marseilles, or Rotterdam,
as though portions had been torn off those particular towns
and magically dropped piecemeal into an Oriental setting.


In the new mercantile houses — that is, the " foreign" ones
— one sees the evidence of change just as one notices also
the astonishing contrast they present to the long, low,
unsubstantial native shops of the old order. The West
has not in the last decade made any pretence of adapting
itself to the East ; it has frankly sought to supplant it ;
and in this one can trace the strong evidence that Japan
herself is undergoing a change.

In the towns, or rather should we perhaps say seaports,
where the foreign element is most strong, one nowadays
finds dwellings of almost every conceivable and inconceiv-
able type of architecture ; the English country-house with
bow windows, the French chateau, or villa, with turrets,
and Indian bungalow competing with each other for recog-
nition ; with trim and very foreign-looking gardens sur-
rounding them, in place of the old-style native houses and
charming and interesting gardens. The roads even have
been " tamed," as an American girl traveller somewhat
happily phrased it ; and the air of conventionalism, as under-
stood with us and in the United States, is surely, if slowly,
dominating the wider areas.

Along country roads, whose picturesqueness was but a
few years ago unspoiled, are nowadays disfiguring signs
and telegraph posts ; and at certain points outside the more
Europeanised cities, one gets the familiar vista of factory
chimneys and church spires, looking not a whit the less
hideous because often also incongruous, towering amid a
picturesque red-brown sea of low roofs. The ancient
wooden "go-downs" by the waterside have given way to
brick cubes, with corrugated iron roofs and iron sliding-
doors. And the social delights of the West, bars and
billiard lounges ; and schools and mission halls crowd each
other. In company with these things naturally came
foreign police, doctors, chemists, grocers, dairymen,
lawyers, dressmakers and tailors. The two last-named

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make a fetish of and advertise largely the fact that they
give * English-Paris " style ; and incidently that they are
therefore willing to convert the hitherto invariably pictur-
esque into the generally ugly.

In the area of the old-time foreign concession is the
town-hall, in which are held public meetings of all kinds,
and where at times lectures, concerts, and other social
functions take place. Sometimes (but very rarely) a
theatrical company on a " world " tour will give a per-
formance, if such a port as Nagasaki or Yokohama
happens to lie in their way ; and what with English
and other clubs, racecourses, cricket grounds, lawn-tennis,
croquet, and bowling-greens, there is very little, except the
environing native element and climate, to remind one that
it is really the East.

The population of these particular districts nowadays
is cosmopolitan to a degree. Russians are a bit " out of
fashion," but one finds one's own countrymen and country-
women, French, Germans, Americans, Swedes, Danes,
Swiss, and even a few Italians, Spaniards, and Levantine
wanderers. The very numerous Chinese enjoy a little
corner all to themselves ; for which fact most Europeans
are not ungrateful. The dominant foreign races are, how-
ever, the English and Americans — the former to the larger

One of the aforetime treaty ports perhaps affords one
of the finest spots in the world in which to study character.
In few places, indeed, are representatives of more races
gathered together in a smaller space. Everybody knows
everybody else. It not unnaturally follows that all the
faults — which expatriation, whether forced or of business
necessity, seems to develop — and some of the finer quali-
ties of the more dominant races can be more easily and
accurately recognised than in the home-land, where the
need for the display of " character" is not perhaps always


so marked. In the foreign colony one hears "strange
tales " verily ; some are such as do not bear either repeat-
ing nor thinking about overmuch ; others are of brave,
straight deeds done by men, and women too, who, at all
events to the world outside, have seemingly little of the
heroic about them, from which quality, however, such
deeds nevertheless usually spring.

But very considerable as the effect of these cosmo-
politan colonies of Westerners has been in the past on
the Japanese themselves who have come into business or
social contact with them, the actual sphere of influence has
reached but little beyond the concession itself; and it is
more than possible that this sphere, already comparatively
narrow, may in the immediately coming years be circum-
scribed and even eliminated altogether. These colonies
sprang up into existence to fill a supposed or real need ;
their growth has been in most cases of too mushroom a
character to encourage the belief that they are likely to
extend their borders in the future, or even perhaps be
permanent in themselves.

The " native town," or real Japanese city, which
surrounds and lies stretching beyond, is little known to
the trader and the official, clerk, or merchant dwelling
in the foreign quarter. To each of them it remains, often
for years, a veritable terra incognita — a mysterious region
possessing for them few attractions ; which, as their indi-
vidual taste may dictate, they may or may not enter once
a year. Some Europeans have lived half a score of years
in the concession without once really penetrating the
Japanese town by which they are hemmed in.

They are there for business purposes, not as students
of native life or character ; and if good business men,
have had no time to think how very quaint, interesting, and
picturesque this " beyond the pale " may possibly be.
There is so wide a distinction between the races that to


merely cross the line of demarcation between the foreign
settlement and the native town was, not so very long ago,
almost as great a thing as a trip across the Pacific. And
but a few years ago to enter the labyrinths of narrow
Japanese streets was to have the dogs barking and chil-
dren staring as though one belonged to some other sphere ;
whilst some, even of the older folk, would call out " Ijin,"
or M Ke-to-jin," which signifying " hairy foreigner," or even
" hairy foreign devil," could not be esteemed as concilia-

The old-time hostility was not, however, altogether
unprovoked. The foreign merchants from the first sought
and had their own way in everything. They forced upon
the native firms with whom they dealt their own Western
methods of business ; which were opposed to all Eastern
ideas, and plainly, alas ! for amicable trading, showed that
the newcomers regarded the native dealers, manufacturers,
and shopkeepers with whom they were to attempt to trade
as dishonest and tricky. Thus it was that in the times to
which we are just now referring no European would think
of purchasing anything until it had been in his possession
long enough to be thoroughly examined ; or would take
any order from the Japanese for imported goods unless
such order was accompanied by a substantial percentage
of the whole amount to be ultimately paid. This came to
be known as " bargain money."

It was useless in those days for the Japanese to protest;
they were compelled to submit. Their yielding, however,
was only that they might conquer in the end.

Almost without exception the foreign towns of the
various concessions proved of astonishingly rapid growth ;
and with this growth came the involving of immense
capital. These two circumstances proved to the Japanese
how much they had to learn ere they could hope to suc-
cessfully resist the trade conditions imposed by the alien


merchants, let alone dictate their own terms. It was not
an easy lesson to learn. We have referred elsewhere to the
fact that in old Japan shopkeepers and even merchants
ranked below the farming and peasant classes, and yet the
Japanese found the foreign traders assuming the tone and
demanding almost the status accorded to native princes.
This state of things, so entirely at variance with ancient
Japanese ideas, was in itself enough to lead to friction of
a very pronounced kind. Added to this, as employers,
the foreigners were generally harsh and frequently even

But the Japanese race possess certain qualities which
have stood them in good stead in their march to the front in
the line of civilised nations. They desire to learn. They
recognised very quickly that though these alien traders
imposed harsh conditions upon them and browbeat them
in trade, yet they knew how to make money ; and, what was
more, with few exceptions (which to the honour of the
community in general were repudiated) kept to their
bargains, and paid what they agreed promptly and without
question. Moreover, they lived in an imposing and, to the
Japanese mind, a luxurious manner, and on the whole paid
their employes well, if demanding unwearying services.
It appeared to the Japanese that it would be well for their
own young men to learn how to make money, and to do
their own trade, and even to suffer in learning, and thus
save the country from falling under a foreign yoke. The
far-sighted amongst the Japanese of that day foresaw that
in the then distant future their nation would possess a
mercantile marine of her own ; have banking agencies ;
enjoy foreign credit ; and then, if only her sons had been
well trained in the arts and tricks of the foreign traders,
they would be able to hold their own in the world, and
ultimately rid themselves of the haughty and overbearing
Westerners. Time has proved how accurate an estimate

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of Japan's possible future was formed by the thinkers of
the race in those days which now seem so far remote.

Thus it was that for a comparatively long period the
import and export trade of the country remained entirely
in the hands of foreigners. In the course of a few
decades it grew from almost nothing to a value of
hundreds of millions ; and all the time Japan was being
"milked" and exploited by the foreigner, and chiefly for
his own benefit.

But at the back of the mind of the apparently only too
acquiescent Japanese, all the time was the idea and know-
ledge that in this they were only paying in order that they
might learn what they needed to enable them to take the
field in the commercial world and markets themselves.
The foreigner must have smiled, nay, did smile, many
times. He mistook (and he could not be altogether
blamed for so doing) the patience of the Japanese for easy-
going indifference, and a forgetfulness of past injuries and

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Online LibraryClive HollandOld and new Japan → online text (page 21 of 23)