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esque features to national customs, and giving a new and
strengthened code of morals — the alien faith itself passed
through still greater transmutations. The religious in-
vasion, which had apparently many prospects of ultimate
success and triumph over the older faith, was destined to
fail as a propagandist force. It brought with it a system
of pessimistic philosophy, and for nearly fifteen centuries
it had every facility for inculcating its doctrines; but the
people it sought to teach have remained amongst the most
optimistic and happy-dispositioned in the world. It pro-
vided them with the ideas of a heaven and a hell by
means of dogmas and pictures ; but the Japanese have



38 OLD & NEW JAPAN

never accepted these ideas. Its teaching of a gospel of
peace and gentleness of life was accepted, until the neces-
sity for war came to prove how futile fourteen centuries
of such teaching had been. Thus it will be seen, that
Buddhism, with all its unbounded opportunities to affect
the life of the Japanese people deeply, yet has left Yamato
Damashii — " the innermost Soul of Japan " — unchanged, in
all essentials surviving to-day the same as that evolved
by the influence of Shintoism. It is safe to say that now,
as in the past, the real religious faith of the Japanese is
to be summed up in loyalty to their native land and
enthusiasm for its glory and progress ; and that the
highest conception of the race, regarding religious duty,
is that of dying (if necessary) for their Ruler.

Just as the apparent success and actual acclimatising
of Buddhism was accomplished by a discreet assimilation
of various essential features of the Shinto faith, so later on
was the transitory success of the Jesuit missionaries won in
the sixteenth century. The Goddess of Mercy (Kwannon)
needed but slight modification to serve as the Virgin
Mary, and equally skilful and astute adaptations of the
new faith to the old or vice versa were made, with
the result that the Jesuit missionaries seemingly gained
a firm foothold in Japan, and for a time numerous
converts.

It must, however, be added that these latter knew
little or nothing of the principles or doctrines of the alien
religion they embraced other than those which seemed
so largely in accord with the Shinto faith of their forbears.
And when, at the end of the seventeenth century, the
Catholic converts had to face the fiercest of persecutions,
by which the Western religion was ultimately swept from
the land, their constancy was in most cases far more
traceable to the spirit of loyalty to the princes and nobles
who themselves had been converted than to any personal




A TORII OFTEN MERELY MARKS A BEAUTIFUL SPOT, AND DOES
NOT NECESSARILY LEAD TO A SHRINE.



THE RELIGION OF JAPAN 39

enthusiasm for the new religion itself. That this is a
rational explanation is borne out by several authorities who
provide direct testimony. With few exceptions most of
the converts were peasants, who knew little more of the
religion they had been persuaded to adopt than the mere
names of the Virgin Mary and Christ.

Since the close of the seventeenth century, when with
fire and sword and much spilling of blood the Roman
Catholic faith was uprooted and driven out of every corner
of the Japanese Empire, there have been — more especially
during the last thirty years — several religious invasions.
Of all the exotic faiths which various bodies of mission-
aries have sought to introduce, there can be little doubt
that the Jesuits (for the same reasons which assisted the
success of their forerunners) have met with the most
marked success. But all missionaries, on account of the
complete ruin which overtook the proselytising enter-
prises of three hundred years ago, and the extreme execra-
tion in which the mere names of Catholic and Christian
were held until after the middle of the last century, are
even nowadays faced by almost insurmountable diffi-
culties. In the case of Catholic missionary effort there is
the additional obstacle of the acknowledgment of the
supremacy of the Pope, which by most Japanese would
be regarded as an unthinkable breach of loyalty to their
own Ruler. These things have served to create in the
minds of both nobles and peasants a great distrust of the
Roman Catholic propagandists ; and there still lives in the
hearts of the people a disquieting suspicion that the triumph
of this Western religion and the religious ascendency of
Rome might possibly lead to a political subjection of their
nation. In the past this was the fear which suddenly
turned a hospitable people, with a policy of tolerance
towards an alien religion, into relentless persecutors ; and
those who know Japan of to-day are agreed that in this



4 o OLD & NEW JAPAN

respect there has been little or no real change in the heart
of the Japanese. Any triumphs that may be won by
Rome (and some success has undoubtedly crowned her
efforts) bear with them the ever-living risk of the same
catastrophe overtaking both missionaries and converts as
that which wiped out the Western faith three centuries
ago.

But nevertheless, and in the face of the obstacles we
have referred to, all other Christian missionaries put
together are scarcely as successful as the single body of
Jesuits. The reason is not far to seek. They are propa-
gandists of creeds which are neither capable of nor willing
to make concessions to the ancient national faith. Two
thousand years' discipline in the school of loyalty has
largely made the Japanese character what it is, and is a
factor the potency of which the Jesuits of the past re-
cognised and of the present day frankly admit, and with
which they have endeavoured to cope. The Protestant
Christian missionaries, on the other hand, have seemingly
chosen rather to ignore it.

There is yet another factor which works against the
subjection of the Japanese to a form of Christian faith.
In the past they have ever been willing to adopt anything
which would in any way conduce to the prosperity, advance-
ment, or well-being of the race or nation. And it was
in pursuance of this that some thirty years ago special
Commissions were sent to the most civilised countries
to investigate and report upon their educational, naval,
judicial, military, and industrial systems. A special Com-
mission was also appointed to inquire into the pros and
cons of Christianity as a possible State religion for the
Japanese, and to report whether such adoption would be
in the interests of the moral advancement of the people.
Little as a Western writer may care to refer to the result



THE RELIGION OF JAPAN 41

of the investigations of that Commission, we are bound
to put on record that the report was against the adoption
of the Christian faith, upon the grounds that the moral con-
dition of the peoples professing Christianity was not such as
to inspire in the minds of the Commissioners any ?high
opinion of the power of such faith to mould public opinion
or raise the moral standard of life. It also went on to say
that Christianity as an influence towards right living and
purity did not appear to possess the potency of the faiths
which had so long held dominion over the hearts of the
Japanese people. Into the question of the entire justice
or otherwise of the conclusions arrived at by the Com-
mission we cannot enter here ; but the fact of their opinion,
which was certainly well considered, remains ; and should
be taken into account when the success or non-success of
Christian missionaries is under discussion or considera-
tion.

What the result might have been had those in authority
sent forth to investigate the claims of Christianity been
able to come to a different conclusion, it is not easy to tell.
But this much may be said, that in such an event the
instinctive loyalty of the people would have ensured at
least a fruitful soil for missionary effort, instead of, as is
the case, an increase in an already existing antagonism to
Christian propagandism.

At the present time the prospects of the missionary
field are not encouraging if a broad, unbiassed, and un-
clouded view be taken. And to all the obstacles we have
already mentioned must be added the well-known and
indisputable fact that religious proselytising has always
been confined within racial limits. Christianity only really
flourishes amongst the races of the Aryan family ; Bud-
dhism, on the other hand, has (if one except small portions
of the land in which it had birth) only been accepted by



42 OLD & NEW JAPAN

Turanian peoples ; whilst Mohammedanism is confined to
the Semitic peoples, save for a portion of India where its
triumph was ensured at the point of the sword.

A writer, whose knowledge of the Japanese race (seeing
he was a Western) is probably almost, if not quite, unique,
long ago said that Christendom has never in modern times
been able to ensure the acceptance of its doctrines and
dogmas upon a people able to sustain any hope of a
national existence. And it is this hope of a national exist-
ence, of national glory and success, stimulated by patriotic
pride and an undying love of native land, that will, at least
so far as can yet be seen, ensure Japan's immunity from
successful invasion, either physical or religious.

But it should not be supposed that the Japanese
nation, which has undoubtedly received and accepted
many benefits in the shape of educational, philanthropic,
and social work from the various missionaries who have
come and dwelt within its borders during the last thirty-
five years, is ungrateful or unmindful of these benefits.
They are not. And, indeed, a people so hospitable, so
naturally tolerant and so happy, could scarcely be guilty of
ingratitude where acknowledgment should be made. But
they view not alone unsympathetically, but with even a
marked hostility, all missionary efforts which make for
the belittling of their patriotism and loyalty, or which
concern themselves chiefly with denunciations as idolatry
of the simple, natural, and in a measure beautiful ancestor-
worship and reverence which in the past has had so much
to do with the evolution of the national character, and,
indeed, forms the basis of Japanese morality.

It is not too much to say, in view of all the facts and
historical precedents which confront one, that the system
of Christianity which gains a permanent hold upon Japanese
soil, or exercises any real or lasting influence upon the life
of the people and upon the Island Empire, will be neither



••••♦• • •

'••••• • ••

• • • •




A PAGODA WHICH HAS STOOD A THOUSAND YEARS.



THE RELIGION OF JAPAN 43

Baptist nor Methodist, Church of England nor Church of
Scotland, Unitarian nor Roman Catholic. Nor, indeed,
will it be even English, American, German, Italian, nor of
any other nationality. But, if ever such a thing should
come to pass, the form of it will be essentially Japanese,
based upon and assimilated with the old national faith
and beliefs, and above all compact of patriotism, loyalty,
and an undying love of native land.



CHAPTER III

BUDDHIST AND SHINTO TEMPLES, AND
ANCIENT SHRINES

THE temples of Japan, although to Western eyes
lacking in height and the type of impressive-
ness which comes from it, are yet of great and
even abiding interest from an architectural and
aesthetic point of view. Prevented, by reason of
the frequency of earthquake shocks, from erecting a type
of building which would owe much of its grandeur to its
height, and compelled for that reason to keep their temples
at a low elevation, the ingenuity of the Japanese archi-
tects and builders has been concentrated in the endeavour
to compensate in some measure for the comparative in-
significance of the elevation by the careful selection of the
site, and the spaciousness of the approaches. Thus it
is that almost invariably their environments in Japan are
beautiful and picturesque, wonderfully suggestive of that
inherent and almost idolatrous love of Nature which has
with the Japanese become their religion. The approaches,
too, are seldom without stateliness and an impression of
spaciousness. To these characteristics, indeed, both the
universal torii, mysterious and so significant of the spirit
of the race and of its worship, and the long rows of
ishidoro (stone lanterns) lend themselves ; and the dominat-
ing outlines and mass of the giant cryptomerias, which so
generally lead up to or are found surrounding the shrine,
do much to remove any sense of architectural deficiency

44



TEMPLES AND ANCIENT SHRINES 45

which might otherwise be produced by the absence of
dome, tower, or arresting spire.

Many temples in the large towns and cities, where
there is a crowded population and a necessity for economy
of space, lack the imposing approaches of more fortunately
situated shrines ; but even then one finds a compensating
element in the contrast which appears between the massive
architecture of the temple buildings and the fragile houses
by which they are environed. The low-roofed temple,
though of much the same elevation and general char-
acter as the houses which surround it, still stands out
with distinction by reason of its beautiful and elaborate
carvings and lacquer work, or its entrance gate, and walls,
and eaves ; the wider sweep of its gracefully curved roof,
and the solidity of its construction.

The main endeavour of succeeding generations of
temple architects has been to build for time, to devise a
type of structure which would be beautiful, and yet offer
as little challenge to " the Dragon which writhes in the
Earth" as possible. How successful their efforts have
been may be judged from the beauty of many of the
temples and the age to which some have attained.

Even the taller pagodas which are familiar objects of
many a Japanese landscape, and are apparently built in
defiance of earthquake shocks, have many of them sur-
vived countless attacks. One of the oldest is the famous
Yasuka pagoda in Kyoto, which has withstood seismic
disturbances for upwards of ten centuries. This structure
may be taken as typical of others less famous and smaller.
These pagodas appear to have been purely ornamental
structures, and for this reason the provision of internal
space was of no moment. The interior is therefore gene-
rally a mass of huge timbers, braced in every direction,
and leaving only the smallest well-like space unoccupied.
In this is hung a huge pendulum, the object of which is to



4 6 OLD & NEW JAPAN

swing the centre of gravity into place during an earthquake
shock, and thus prevent the building being overthrown.
The immense strength of the materials used in the con-
struction of the pagoda, and the elaborate and scientific
system of bracing of the beams, guarantees the erection
from destruction by piecemeal collapse.

It is to Nikko, the home of the gods, the last resting-
place of ancient saints, that all who would see the temples
of Japan in their completeness of beauty and magnificence
must come. Here, too, is the most sacred bridge in all
Japan, which spans the rapidly flowing Daiya-gawa. By a
single arch it connects the two sides of the river, and
painted a bright red, when seen in sunlight forms a
brilliant note of colour in dazzling contrast to the dark
green cryptomerias on the banks. Its name Mi-hashi
(the Bridge) is a simple tribute to its importance in
Japanese minds, for it is built on the spot where the sacred
Sho-do Sho-nin crossed the river by the miraculous bridge,
which shone like a rainbow floating amongst the hills,
built for him by a great god of two snakes, one green and
one blue. When the saint had crossed the bridge, and it
and its maker vanished from sight, Sho-do Sho-nin built
himself a cell, where he dwelt for some time and practised
his devotions, and afterwards erected the first Buddhist
temple at Nikko. Nowadays only the Mikado himself
is permitted to traverse Mi-hashi ; formerly the Shoguns
and pilgrims were permitted to cross it, the latter on two
days in each year.

The temples of Nikkd are many, and their beauty of
almost indescribable charm. But it was the burial there of
the three great Shoguns — Iyeyasu, Iyemitsu, and Yorimoto
at Nikko, amidst the Mountains of the Sun's Brightness,
that has had much to do with Nikkd's fame both ancient
and modern.

To the shrine of Iyeyasu, along the far-stretching



TEMPLES AND ANCIENT SHRINES 47

avenue of giant cryptomerias, each year come pilgrims of
all stations in life, prince and peasant, priest and penitent,
to gaze upon the sacred red bridge by which the artistic
soul of their wonderful race linked up the beauties of the
smoke-blue hills, the tree-clad gorge, and the rushing
grey-green Daiya-gawa.

From the end of the bridge the avenue of cryptomerias
ascends the foot of the hill till it loses itself in the wide,
gravelled plateau before the temple-gate. Two mythical
lions, heavily gilded and lacquered, guard the first gate
beneath the granite torii, above which is the baku (tapir)
with four ears and nine tails, which is supposed to possess
the power of overcoming pestilence of all kinds, and to
eat up all bad dreams ! In the first courtyard are grouped
all the minor buildings of the temple, including the beauti-
fully decorated library, containing the two thousand sutras
— a complete collection — of the Buddhist scriptures ; the
stable of the sacred white pony (for the use of the god),
with its wonderful carvings of monkeys under the roof;
the interesting On-chodzu-ya, with its holy-water cistern
cut out of a solid block of granite, with the inflow of the
water from the So-men-daki cascade, which lies behind
the hill, so nicely adjusted that each side of the tank
overflows to an exactly equal extent, giving the effect of
a solid block of water, instead of masonry. All these
buildings are marvels of architectural embellishment ; so
rich and splendid, indeed, in carving and design, and so
brilliant in harmonising colouring, that Western eyes are
at first bedazzled by the sight, and Western minds con-
fused by the lavish nature of their symbolic and mystical
decorations. Separating the temple from its environment
of towering, sombre cryptomerias, is a crimson lacquered
fence, positively covered with coloured carvings, and full
of historic and antiquarian interest.

The second courtyard, which is reached by a flight of



4 8 OLD & NEW JAPAN

granite steps, is almost square. In it stand the bronze
lantern of the King of Korea; the candelabrum of the
King of Loochoo ; and one given by the Dutch (all tri-
butary gifts) ; as well as the famous " Moth-eaten Bell";
innumerable other bronze lanterns sent by long dead
daimio of old Japan as offerings, which have defied the
heat of summer and snow of winter for more than two
centuries ; and the curious drum and bell towers, rather
like dice-boxes, which are found in most important
Buddhist temples. Outside the lacquered fence, and in
gloomy and impressive contrast to it, rise the dark trunks
of the silent, green pines.

Yet another flight of granite steps, running between
crimson friezes rich with coloured carvings, leads from
the sombre hues of the grey stone pedestals and green-
grey bronze lanterns of the second courtyard to the third,
in which stands the most exquisite gateway in all the
world — the Yomei-mon, a double gateway of cream-
white lacquer, supported by four pillars of carved wood.
One of these, known as mayoke no hashira (evil-averting
pillar), was erected upside down by the builders, in quaint
superstitious awe lest the absolute perfection of the gate
and temple should make the gods in heaven jealous, and
thus cause them to pour down wrath upon the house of
Tokugawa. The carving of this wonderful gateway
cannot be described in detail. It would require almost
a little volume to itself. On the pillars appear representa-
tions of tigers and cubs, with the grain of the wood in-
geniously applied to form the markings ; arabesques ; and
more or less conventional designs ; and in the side niches
are patterns of graceful adaptations of the tree peony.
Dragons, children at their game of Karako-asobi, Chinese
sages, Rishi, all play their part in the bewildering de-
signs which make the Yomei-mon not only unique but
magnificent. And above all the carving and elegance










UP THE GREY, LICHEN-STAINED STEPS TO THE
TEMPLE GATE.



TEMPLES AND ANCIENT SHRINES 49

is the demon-crowned roof supported by gilded dragons'
heads.

In this marvellous gateway one has the riotous pro-
fusion of carving and design which distinguishes the
ornamentation of many of the Japanese temples ; growing,
glowing flowers ; sculptured birds and beasts ; hanging,
tinkling lotus bells ; and yet a perfect whole of mysterious
and elusive beauty. The temple, with its torii, its court-
yards, its flights of steps, its wonderful balustradings, its
shrines, its gateways, its crimson fence with thousands of
carvings, was, after all, only the work of forty years from
first stone to last pinnacle. And yet the carving in the
Yomei-mon alone might well have been the life-work of
many artists.

Beyond the great white gate is the beautiful building
in which are housed the three mekoshi^ or sacred cars or
palanquins, which are borne in procession on the ist of
June in each year, when the deified spirits of Japan's
three ancient and greatest warriors — Iyeyasu, Hideyoshi,
and Yoritomo — are supposed to descend to earth and
occupy them. Another flight of steps must be ascended
ere the sacred enclosure known as the Tama-gaki is
reached, which measures fifty yards each way, and is
environed by a lofty gilt fence beautiful with elaborate
carvings of birds. It is this enclosure which is entered
by the Karamon gate, white and gold and exquisite,
known as the Chinese gate, and only less beautiful than
the Yomei-mon because it is so much smaller ; and within
it stands the hai-den or oratory, and the hon-den or chapel ;
these the summit of Japanese gilder's art, and the glory
of the place. None can enter here shod. On the floor
beyond is some of the finest lacquer the world has seen,
and with this knowledge it is difficult to declare with cer-
tainty whether one must be barefoot because of reverence
of the sacred shrine or of the marvellous lacquer. But,

D



5 o OLD & NEW JAPAN

lest the worshipper who treads the stone flags barefoot,
or the more devout who approach the shrine on their
knees, should suffer harm, and contract rheumatism from
the pavement in wet weather, a shed, rough-made, and of
the most common materials, extends from the writhing
dragons which stretch on either hand between the door-
post and the pillar to the beautiful canopy or roof of the
Chinese gate. Its incongruousness strikes one sharply ;
but it serves an artistic purpose, for it enhances the grace
of the gateway and the splendour of the shrine. Inside
is the temple of the memorial tablets, where with elaborate
rites Buddhist priests for three centuries prayed for the
soul of Iyeyasu.

To-day the Buddhist emblems are gone and the shrine
is bare.

Outside, notwithstanding its wonderful roof, multiplicity
of carved figures, strange black gallery, gables gilt and
coloured, the shrine is more or less disfigured by the boards
which have been nailed on it to prevent the ravages of
wind and weather, now that the vast sums formerly needed
and spent for its upkeep are no longer forthcoming. All
the splendour is nowadays in its interior walls, its brilliant
gold lacquer, its rich blue ceiling, its hon-den, with the
gilded doors closed and mysterious, with nothing to be
seen save the gohei of silk or gilt paper, and the paintings
of the thirty-six great Japanese poets. And yet, strange
to say, the tomb of Iyeyasu is not here, but lies above
and beyond the temple. It is reached by a long flight of
two hundred grey-green granite steps climbing up the
sombre hillside. Thirteen years of toilsome labour lies
locked in the quarrying and placing of this flight of broad
stone steps ; which ascend amidst the dark pines, and are
in due season lit with the flaming foliage of interspersed
maples, until the temple roof, the sound of the prayer-bell, and
the murmur of chant are all at last lost to sight and hearing.



TEMPLES AND ANCIENT SHRINES 51

Before this happens, however, the Goma Do is reached,
where priests in white robes sit for the purpose of selling
copies of the " Wise Counsel of Iyeyasu," either in the
form of kakemono, or printed in facsimile of the saint's
handwriting upon sheets of silky-surfaced paper. And


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Online LibraryClive HollandOld and new Japan → online text (page 4 of 23)