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and considers it her duty as a good hostess, and as a
matter of common politeness, to practically tuck one up
ere quitting the room. Then after this is done, with a

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quaintness which is charming, and a bow so low that she
seems for the moment, in the soft and dim light of the
room, to double up into a little heap of clothing on the
floor, she says u Oyasumi nasa" and vanishes through the
karakami, which click together in their grooves after her.
Then one is at last in bed after the Japanese fashion.

The servants of the household usually sleep either in
the kitchen or on the floor of the room which opens into
it — men, women, boys, and girls together, upon their
mattress-like beds — in one long row, each comfortably
tucked up on his or her futon, and with his or her head
hanging over the makura. The use of the futon t instead
of the more complicated sleeping arrangements of Western
people, has not a few advantages. Firstly, the beds can
be easily and completely purified by sunshine and aired.
Secondly, they are very portable, and can be easily stowed
away during the daytime, leaving the wide expanse of
floor unencumbered, and in case of fire or "moving" can
be quickly rolled up and transported to a place of safety
or the new home. Thirdly, they are cheap ; only those
used by the rich, which are stuffed with wadding formed
of pure silk and covered with a heavy silk fabric, cost
more than a few shillings, and the best are generally
cheaper than a first-class hair mattress in England or

In summer the futon bed possesses many obvious
advantages, amongst others that if the weather be very hot
it can be arranged on the engawa. In winter, as the
Japanese house of any age is somewhat draughty, owing
to the "easing" by constant sliding to and fro of the
shoji, amado, and karakt7?ti, and the strain put upon the
joinery work generally by frequent earthquake shocks, it
is rather the reverse. One may pile on extra yagu, and
sleep (as most Japanese do) with one's feet almost against
the kotatsu or stove, around which the beds are ranged for


warmth ; but towards morning, when the fire dies down,
chill is sure to strike the sleeper and cause discomfort. But
nowadays, in some Japanese houses stoves of a more
substantial and efficient kind are being slowly introduced,
and the Japanese room is after all easily warmed when the
proper means for doing so are taken.

One of not the least quaint privileges the Japanese
host and hostess enjoy, when entertaining a party of guests
who show no inclination to depart at a reasonable hour, is
that of retiring to rest. The host or hostess does not
mention the fact that he or she intends to do so — that
would be a breach of etiquette and hospitality. They
simply disappear, leaving their guests (to whom by
Japanese politeness the house now really belongs) to
enjoy themselves. The host can do this without any
misgivings, for his servants will see to the comfort of the
visitors with punctilious exactness and charming complete-
ness, and should any inquiries regarding the host's where-
abouts be instituted, the maids will merely remark that the
master of the house is just outside, and will be back again
soon — generally making use of that wonderfully elastic
and non-committing word tadaima, which means "pre-
sently," "just now," "in a moment," and various other
spaces of time. If the entertainment offered to the guests
is good, the host may be almost certain, when he makes his
appearance in the morning, of finding his guests calmly
sleeping on the futon, which the thoughtful maid-servant
will have spread for their use on the floor of the room in
which they have sat playing games, smoking their tiny
pipes, or drinking sakd until the small hours.

The ceremony of tea-drinking plays an important part
in the Japanese homes of the better class, the girls of
the family being trained from childhood in the complicated
rites which go to the entertainment of guests with the
Japanese equivalent of "afternoon tea."


The Cha-no-e or tea ceremony was formerly a " rite " of
the Buddhist priests, who learned from the Chinese to use
and appreciate the tea plant, which came from China in the
tenth century a.d. For many hundreds of years its culti-
vation, as well as the preparation of the drink itself, was
a monopoly of the priests, with a few exceptions of wealthy
men-of-letters. Thus it came to pass that tea itself was
regarded as something precious, and the drinking of it of
the nature of a ceremony. The use of tea remaining so
long in the hands of the priests and the more aristocratic
portion of the community, a most elaborate and curious cere-
monial gradually grew up and surrounded it ; although four
centuries after its introduction from China it was sold by
Buddhist priests in the streets at the equivalent of about
a penny per cup.

Nowadays there are two varieties of the tea ceremony
known as " Great Tea " and " Little Tea." Though differ-
ing in some material respects, both are in effect a system of
cultivating good manners and elegant deportment in daily
life with a cup of tea as the pivot upon which the system
turns. The principal thing is not really the tea-drinking,
but through its medium the attainment of a graceful deport-
ment, inward dignity, and presence of mind. In Cha-no-e
every movement of the body and of each separate limb has
to be studied to the least important detail, and by this
means the whole ceremony is ensured the most perfectly
graceful expression. But this alone is not all, for the
dignity and self-control of the partaker in the rite is of
equal importance, and without these things ultimate success
is considered impossible. Thus it is that one must regard
the " Great Tea " more in the light of a physical and moral
exercise than as a mere pastime or simple satisfying of
one's thirst. But this high mission has not always been
kept sight of by even the greatest masters of the tea cere-
mony. And divested of this mission of instruction in grace


and politeness Cka-no-e has often degenerated into a tire-
some and apparently meaningless set of formalities, and
this is especially so with its abbreviated form known as
11 Little Tea."

But, nevertheless, the " Great Tea" still remains one
of the most complicated ceremonials of Japan, of which a
knowledge how to push aside the karakami to enable one
to enter the room where tea is to be made ; how to bring
in and arrange, in the proper order, the different utensils
required for the brewing ; how to sit down noiselessly and
gracefully in front of the boiling kettle ; how to put the tea
leaves in the pot ; how to pour the infusion into the tiny
porcelain cups ; how to give the tea a " head " ; and how,
when, and where to place the cup for the guest, are but a
few of the things which have to be as carefully thought out,
studied, and practised as the ramifications of " Drawing-
room" etiquette must be mastered by a debutante in

And this is not all ; for the guest will have had to
master the art of taking a sweet from the dish ; how to
hold the teacup when he has taken it up off the floor ; how
to drink up its contents in the right number of sips ; how
to wipe the edge of the cup clean ; how to turn the cup
round horizontally ; how to place it within easy reach of his
host or hostess, and a score of other things. And for each
of these actions, both on the part of the dispenser and
receiver of the tea, there is a prescribed and immutable
form even regarding the slightest and most unimportant
movement. The finger must be bent in a particular way ;
the wrist turned round so ; and the body held in a certain
position, all the while varying slightly or considerably with
each motion of the hand, wrist, or arm, as the case may be.

Superfluous, and even absurd in many respects, as all
this ceremonial may be in Western eyes, that it has served
a useful and instructive purpose in the past is undeniable.


It has educated the Japanese in a love of harmonious
curves, purity of line, repose of disposition, and grace of
movement. And none of these things are to be despised.
The same root idea which permeates the tea ceremonial is
to be traced in other branches of Japanese art, including
that of landscape gardening on a minutely designed scale,
painting, and flower arrangement. To all of which things
a sense of harmonious completeness has been imparted.

The spring cleaning which afflicts English households
in each year with a burden of discomfort and responsibility,
is undertaken by the Japanese housewife in December.
Even though the amount of furniture be small, the opera-
tion is an elaborate one. Every nook and corner, every
box and cabinet, is turned out, cleaned, polished, and put
in order ; the tatami are taken up, brushed, and if necessary
beaten ; the woodwork of the dwelling is scrubbed from
floor to ceiling ; the paper walls and panels are flicked with
a paper brush, which is the Japanese equivalent for a
European "feather" duster. And all articles of clothing
and bedding are sunned, aired, and carefully overhauled,
and when necessary repaired. The numerous articles of
porcelain ware, bronzes, lacquer goods, and other curios,
which are stored away in boxes for use when a change of
those in the house is decided upon, are all taken from their
cases, denuded of their wrappings, dusted and carefully
packed up again. The garden also comes in for its share
of "spring" cleaning, fresh flowers are planted, the trees
clipped, and all made as beautiful and charming as possible.

The N orgie of cleanliness " lasts about a week, as a
general rule. If the house is large, the helpers are more
numerous, that is all ; and so an undertaking which may
mean a month's or more upheaval in England is curtailed
within reasonable limits. When the cleaning is completely
finished, and the house has received a final beating down
with fresh bamboo, a festival of thankfulness takes place.



During the following week much time is devoted to
the preparation of the mochi and other food for the New
Year's celebration. This kind of dumpling, made of rice,
is so distinctly connected in the Japanese home with festivi-
ties that, if one finds it in a friend's house at a time not
dedicated to a known festival, it is always polite to inquire
what domestic event of a pleasant character its presence
indicates. One is sure to discover a marriage, birth, or
some other occasion for rejoicing has caused its prepara-
tion. It holds in the affections of Japanese children much
the same place as do plum-pudding and mince-pies in those
of English little ones.

During, or just before, the last week of the old year the
Japanese tradesmen begin to send in their bills. How
lengthy some are, too! We remember a friend who used
always to keep a register of the yards (we are not sure it
was not miles) his annual bills came to. Every little item
is set out in detail, and complicated little sums in rin and
sen (there are ten of the former to the half-penny) appear
on the margin in prodigal profusion. The provident
housewife, however, knows what to expect, and either
settles these portentous bills herself promptly — as is ex-
pected of her — or gets the master of the house to do so.

Every one, indeed, is expected to clear up his books
or pay his debts by the last day of the old year, so as to
start the New Year afresh. And so universal is this
custom, and so disgraceful is debt esteemed, that if a man
has not or cannot raise sufficient money to pay his creditors
by the usual day, it is by no means an uncommon thing
for him to sell off sufficient or even all his property at an
"alarming sacrifice" to enable him to do so. The only
other honourable way out of his difficulties is for him to
commit suicide. The world is evidently too " difficult "
for him.

At the end of the year any one who happens to be in


Japan and wishes to bring away curios and other things,
has very often an unrivalled opportunity of acquiring them
at a price never touched at any other season. Shop-
keepers will be holding bargain sales, to enable them to
pay the wholesale houses from which they have obtained
their stock ; and the small worker in enamel, lacquer, or
metal will frequently be compelled to part with his choicest
work for half its regular price.

The New Year is a very busy time in Japan, and there
is, indeed, so much work done in the average Japanese
home during the last week or two of the year, that one can
well believe the capable and good-tempered women who
preside over the domestic destinies of each household, and
the industrious little maids who work tirelessly over the
complicated house-cleaning, must heave sighs of relief when
the New Year with its delightful festivities dawns.

Life in the Japanese home, as will have been gathered,
differs in many particulars from that of an English one ;
but in some respects it is much the same. It has just the
same cares, joys, sorrows, and satisfactions ; and upon
O Ku Sama — the Honourable Lady of the House — as in
Western lands, depends much of the comfort and prosperity
of the household who dwell beneath its roof.




FOR many years past the Japanese woman has
been chiefly presented to Western eyes as a
fascinating and somewhat irresponsible little
being, with gracious manners, charming costume,
and many graceful customs. In fact, to most
Western people the geisha^ who does in a large measure
combine in her person the characteristics we have
mentioned which are attributed to her sex in Japan
generally, has been the Alpha and Omega of Japanese
womanhood. But no greater mistake could be made
than to place all Japanese women in so restricted a class
as we have indicated. But although all seem to be in-
spired by the national spirit of self-sacrifice, patriotism,
and courtesy, they vary in type, disposition, and occupa-
tion quite as greatly as the women of other lands.

That there is an undefinable charm emanating from
the women of Japan is not to be questioned, but those
who know them well and have studied them in their
different moods have not found them lacking in the
greater and, shall we say, sterner qualities, which must,
indeed, have been present in the women of any nation
which was destined to attain the position which Japan
occupies at the present day.

Unlike so many Eastern nations, the Japanese draw
no hard and fast distinction between the sexes at their


birth. Whether a boy or a girl be born in a family it
is a matter for rejoicing, and this, although boys alone
are capable of perpetuating the family name and inherit-
ing titles or estates. With many Eastern peoples the girl
starts life with the stigma attaching to a distinctly inferior
being, or at least is openly unwelcome ; but in Japan girls
are considered as having an almost equally important place
in the family circle as their brothers.

A birth in a family is an event for great rejoicing, and
both mother and infant have a trying time of it during the
first few weeks of its life. Much rest neither of them get ;
for the baby is fussed over and handed from person to
person, and talked to in a way that would make a Western
mother tremble for its health and even chances of ultimate

The baby, who generally receives numberless presents,
all of which have to be wrapped in white paper on which
some inscription has been written, the parcel being tied
with a peculiar make of red and white paper string and
containing noshi, or dried fish, carefully wrapped up in a
piece of coloured paper, is christened before the seventh
day. But although there is no especial ceremony con-
nected with this event — the child's birth being merely
inscribed at the office of registration in the district — the
family and household make the day a holiday in honour
of the name-giving.

One curious point concerning the naming of the child
is that it seldom receives that of a living member of the
family or of any friend. To a boy the father's name,
slightly modified, is frequently given, and the names of
long dead ancestors are sometimes used. As a general
rule the father names the child, although in some instances
a great friend or patron of the family may be asked to do
so. In the case of girls names of beautiful objects, such
as flowers and trees ; natural phenomena, such as sun-


shine, moonlight, snow, etc., are given ; whilst boys of
the lower classes frequently receive such descriptive names
as wolf, bear, rock, etc.

On the thirty-first day of its life the baby, if a boy, and
on the thirty-third if a girl, is taken for the first time to
the temple, which ceremony is called miya mairi. For
this event great preparations are usually made, and the
little one is dressed in its finest clothes of gay colours
of silk or crape. In various places upon the dress the
crest of the family is embroidered, as it is indeed on all
ceremonial dresses for young and old alike. The young
baby is carried, accompanied by the other members of the
family, to one of the Shinto temples, and is there placed
under the protection of the presiding deity of that temple,
which in future is supposed to become the special guardian
or patron saint of the child throughout its life. Offerings
are made to the god and also to the priests of the temple,
and then, the ceremony over, there is generally an enter-
tainment of some kind or other at the home of its parents.
In the case of families of high rank these festivities are on
an elaborate and costly scale.

On this auspicious day the family usually send some
acknowledgment of the presents which have been received
at the time of the baby's birth, or since that event ; and the
acknowledgment very frequently takes the shape of other
presents in return, which are sometimes cakes of mochi, or
rice paste, and sometimes gifts of the red bean rice. If
rice is sent, it is usually put in a handsome lacquer box
which is placed on a lacquer tray, all usually covered with
a square of crape or silk. The curious part of this is that
both the box and tray and the silk (the only really valuable
parts of the present) must be returned, and the box is sent
back unwashed after its contents have been removed, as it
would be most unlucky to wash it. As a general rule, a
letter of thanks accompanies the present of rice, etc., and


occasionally, when it is wished to make an especially hand-
some gift, a b ox of eggs or some katsuobushi (a kind of
drie d fis. h) is also included in the gift. As frequently a
hundred or more return presents must be made, the mother's
memory is well taxed to see that no one has been forgotten,
and several men and boys are often kept busily employed
for days in running the various messages.

Japanese babies, whether girls or boys, are dressed very
much alike ; and are, indeed, quaint and interesting little
beings, as a rule very good tempered and easy to manage.
Babies of the commoner people are within a very few weeks
after birth carried about tied to the back of some member
of the family, who may be either an older sister or brother,
in the way which has been made familiar by pictures of
Japanese children. One would scarcely imagine that it was
very comfortable for the child, and one frequently sees
infants of only three or four weeks old tied to the backs of
their little nurses (who are, many of them, not more than
seven or eight years old themselves), with nodding heads
and blinking eyes, but generally with a good-tempered
smile lighting up their little faces.

The babies live almost entirely in the open air, even in
all weathers, and when it is cold the sister's or brother's
haori) or coat, serves not only as an extra cover for the
wearer, but also for the baby. One effect of the babies
living so much in public is that they very early in life have
an intelligent and interested look, and seem to watch and
enjoy the games of older children. Perhaps to Western
ideas for small children to be so much in the streets and
gardens would not be considered as good for them ;
but it may be remarked that, though they are so much in
evidence, they are allowed to pass their early days without
being talked to too much, and without the jogging up and
down and fussing over which is so much the practice of
nurses, and even of parents, in more Western countries.


Of course, the babies of the middle class have proper
nurses or nursemaids to attend upon them, who carry them
about on their backs until they are able to run by them-
selves. They are not much seen in the streets, as most
middle-class Japanese possess a pleasant garden, though
often a small one, of their own, in which the children
play. Babies of the upper class are never carried about
on the backs of their nurses, but are carried in the arms,
European fashion, or nowadays sometimes wheeled in
European baby-carriages. And as this, of course, entails
the entire attention of the nurse, only the rich people can
afford for their little ones to be so treated.

The poorer women are so skilful by long practice that
they can do all their household work, draw water, wash
clothes, and even do some amount of gardening, with the
babies strapped to their backs, without inconvenience to
themselves or harm to the little ones.

The babies of the Imperial family, from the moment of
their birth until they are able to toddle, are held night and
day in the arms of attendants.

From a very early stage the Japanese baby is made to
sit with its legs bent under it, and thus the extraordinary
flexibility of the knees, which is necessary for comfort and
ease of sitting in the Japanese way, is insured. Authorities,
doctors and others, who have made a study of the Japanese
physique, have come to the conclusion that this method of
sitting is not only unnatural and even injurious, but has
had a very considerable effect upon the physique of the
race. It would doubtless take several generations to over-
come these physical characteristics by the introduction of
European chairs and tables and other articles of furniture,
but these would probably, in the course of time, bring about
a very distinct change.

The Japanese home, with its soft matted floors and
freedom from superfluous ornaments and furniture, is a


perfect paradise for babies who, with their little feet covered
with soft tabi (digitated socks), can toddle and tumble about
without any risk of coming to harm or of hurting themselves.
After learning to walk so comfortably and easily in the
house, the baby is at first somewhat handicapped when it
comes to out-of-door explorations by the fact that its move-
ments are hampered by geta or zori, the former being
wooden clogs worn by a strap passing between the toes,
and the latter light sandals. But the Japanese baby has
already had some experience in balancing when tied to its
nurse's back, and so it soon becomes accustomed to trot
about on its little wooden clogs, generally balancing itself
with skill, sometimes with a difficulty which if very alarm-
ing is at the same time amusing.

The distinction between the dress of boys and girls —
although they are in early babyhood dressed alike — begins
quite early, the boy being dressed in the soberer colours,
greys, browns, darker blues and greens ; whilst the little
girl still wears the most gorgeous of tints and largest of
patterns on her kimono, the predominant colour of which is
red. White being the garb of mourning in Japan, one
never sees small children dressed in it, but always in colours.
The materials used for children's dresses are just the same
as for their elders in a similar station of life, and as these
are frequently not so washable as the cambric, linen, or
flannel garments of Western children, the Japanese baby
of the poorer class, though of spotless cleanliness in its
person, often wears garments which would be the better for
washing or renewal.

The Japanese language lends itself to the early expres-
sions of young children, and long before their little
European brothers or sisters would be able to talk in an
intelligible manner and ask definitely for things, the

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Online LibraryClive HollandOld and new Japan → online text (page 7 of 23)