Clive Holland.

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from those meretricious social ambitions by which so many
of her Western sisters are beset when they emerge from
childhood to womanhood.

With the Japanese girl there is no thought of a career
of conquest and flirtation which is to end ultimately in
a fine or successful marriage, the basis of which may be
either love or money as her upbringing or temperament
dictates. Of these things, indeed, she takes little thought,
for she knows that when the time comes for her to preside
over her own household her father will have arranged for
her to meet some suitable young man, and that she and he,
when thus brought together, will know for what reason it
is and will make up their minds to marry and to do their
duty by each other. And thus until that time arrives the
Japanese girl, who is modest and of good repute, indulges
in no flirtations and concerns herself very little with thoughts
of the other sex, except to regard them as beings on a
higher plane than herself, whose wishes must be deferred
to and upon whom she is expected to wait.

The highest lesson she has learned, and upon which
she is taught to act, is that of obedience, at first to her
father, and then to her husband ; and whatever may be

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thought of this system by her more emancipated sisters
of Europe and America, the teaching to which she has
listened throughout her life has at least produced a bright,
industrious, sweet-tempered, and charming type of woman-
hood, and has ensured a self-sacrificing wife and mother,
and an able and charming mistress of the household.

But all the same one must admit that with the end
of childhood the happiest and brightest period in the life
of average Japanese woman comes to an end ; for she
passes from a home where her training, however strict and
repressive it has been, yet has come from the hands of
kind and deeply affectionate parents, and just at a time
when her mind broadens and the desire for deeper know-
ledge and self-improvement arises, the checks on this and
the restrictions placed upon her become more severe.

In her childhood she has enjoyed more freedom than
is found in any other Eastern land ; and now when she has
entered womanhood her sphere is suddenly narrowed and
difficulties increase, and the young girl, who has probably
in most cases looked forward upon life and the future with
joyous expectancy and hope, may, in the course of a few
years, become a weary and even broken-hearted woman.
But it is only fair to say that there are numberless house-
holds, more especially in the Japan of to-day, where much
of the joy anticipated by the girl is found by the woman in
those duties and pleasures which fall to her lot.



JAPAN may not inaccurately be described as a land
of festivals. In it throughout the year are many
quaint and beautiful celebrations for old folk and
young, when the national spirit, Yamato Damashii,
" the Soul of Japan," finds expression in its love
of beauty and artistic display.

Not only first, but chief of all, in the hearts of the
people at large is the great festival of the New Year.
It is one in which all classes join, from the highest prince
of the Mikado's Court to the poorest outcast of a Tokyo
slum. Worries and cares of all kinds are, for a time at least,
cast aside with the close of the old year, and the first
rays of the new year's sun heralds a season of brightness
and joy for the children. The festival lasts almost a week,
and the holiday spirit survives throughout the month,
leading to a succession of festivals and amusements in
which in their various ways all can join. From early
morning till bedtime the children wear their best and
prettiest clothes, and play in them secure against rebuke.
Relatives and guests come and go, bearing wonderful
gifts of sweetmeats and toys for the younger members
of the family, and suitable presents for their elders.

As may be easily understood, so lengthy, great, and
universal a festival entails much forethought. Before
December is half through the preparations for the great
New Year's Festival are being made in almost every


household in Japan. In the large ones much time and
thought are given to them ; and the head of the family
finds her hands over-full with the varied duties which
are necessitated by the u spring cleaning " of her house,
Christmas, New Year, and Thanksgiving festivities. The
work of renewing and replenishing the family wardrobe
is no light task, as every member of the household,
whether man, woman, or child, must be provided with
new clothes. So, as the truly industrious housewife would
scorn to put any of the sewing out, and tailors and dress-
makers are not so much employed as in England or
America, the work of cutting-out and making-up the
various garments is started in good time.

In former times it was the custom to set aside the
8th of December as a " Needle Festival." On this day
all women did no sewing, but amused themselves by
indulging in the form of recreation which their individual
taste dictated, instead of attending on their husbands,
fathers, or brothers, as they were usually bound to do.
This festival was supposed to indicate the divisional
line between the old year's work and the new year's.
But nowadays it is less observed, and, in fact, the in-
dustry of the average Japanese housewife impels her to
end the old and commence the new considerably earlier
in the month so as to get the necessary sewing, entailed
by the provision of new garments for herself and the
other members of the family, finished, or at least well
advanced, ere the house-cleaning (which is usually begun
on or before the fifteenth of the month) claims her un-
divided attention.

After the latter is done the preparation of the food for
the New Year's Festival must be seen to. It is then that
the universal mochi has to be made. And, although only
a sort of dumpling made of rice which has been steamed
and pounded, its making entails so complicated and


lengthy a process that it becomes almost a ceremony by

After the supply of mochi (which has in large families
to be a big one) is made it is put carefully away until re-
quired for the festival. Then the elaborate and quaint
decorations, which form so interesting and picturesque a
part of the celebration of the New Year in Japan, have
to be seen to. At every gate or doorway will be seen
some token of the season. At those of the poorer people
it may be only a pine branch (kadotnatstt> "gate pine-tree")
stuck in the ground, a few flowers, or merely a piece of
rope made of plaited straw adorned with paper gohei.
Before the gateway of the rich are true kadomatsu, in
which are intertwined plum branches and bamboo twigs.
But this is not only a decoration ; it is an emblem with a
lesson, which is enshrined in the Buddhist saying regard-
ing it which runs : Kadomatsu meido no tabi no Ichi-
rizuka ; that is to say, the kadomatsu indicates another
milestone on the journey of life towards the Meido ; or that
each New Year's Festival should be remembered as the
completion of another stage upon the unceasing journey
towards life's end.

All three trees, which are thus joined in a symbolic
lesson, have an individual meaning; the pine has many
in the Japanese mind. The most generally accepted is
that of endurance and the power to flourish even in the
face of misfortune, amid the storms of the mountain sum-
mits and the keen winds and snows of winter. And thus,
just as the pine-tree always retains its foliage, so the strong
and true man always keeps his courage and his power to
endure in days of adversity. The inward significance of
the bamboo is a riddle. There are two Chinese characters,
one meaning the joint of the bamboo, and the other faith-
fulness, virtue, and constancy. Both words are pronounced
setsu, and the name is frequently bestowed on Japanese


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Online LibraryClive HollandOld and new Japan → online text (page 9 of 23)