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Japan, its history, arts and literature (Volume 3) online

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Its History Arts and Literature






Copyright, 1902

Entered at Stationers' Hall, London, England





EPOCH (Continued)



EPOCH (Continued) 49








Rear View of a Japanese Nobleman's Residence . Frontispiece

Interior of the Imperial Palace, Kyoto 16

Yoshitsune's Helmet (Iron) ; Twelfth Century ... 32

Interior of one of the Largest Temples, Nikko ... 48

Suicide of Oishi, Leader of the " Forty-seven Ronin " . 64

Ceremony on the Arrival and Departure of a Guest . . 80

No Dance . . . The Bugaku 96

Capture of Osaka Castle by the Troops of lyeyasu . . 104

Nakajima, Nagasaki 112

Bugaku, the Sword Dance 128

A Wrestling Ring . . . 144

Big Bronze Bell at Kyoto 152

Kago Bearers 160

Pappenburg at Nagasaki 176

Japanese Types 192

Stone Steps at Nikko 208

The Village Water-Wheel 224

Fishermen Launching Their Boat 240




Chapter I


A OTHER aristocratic amusement of the
Military epoch was the " comparing of
incenses'* (Kd-awase). This particular
product of Japanese civilisation has
hitherto evoked only ridicule from the few
foreign writers who have made any reference to
it. 1 Apparently it presented itself to them under
no guise except that of a frivolous game, designed
to test the delicacy of men's sense of smell by re-
quiring them to distinguish between the aromas
of various kinds of incense. Even when thus in-
terpreted, the pastime is not more childish than
many of the diversions that hold the attention of
grown persons at social reunions in Europe and
America. But the Kfi-awase was not merely a

1 See Appendix, note i .



question of smelling incense : it was a literary
pursuit, designed in great part for testing the
players' knowledge of classical poetry and their
ability to apply the knowledge. Burning incense
had been fashionable in Japan long before the
Military epoch. As early as the seventh cen-
tury, the names of twenty-four varieties of fra-
grant wood were known and used, the prince of
them all being ranjatai, a quantity of which was
imported by the Emperor Shomu (724-748) and
placed in the temple Todai-ji. After the estab-
lishment of the military administration at Kama-
kura, it became the custom that each Sfogun, on
receipt of his patent from the Throne, should
repair to the temple, and cut off a small portion
of the incense for his own use. The celebrated
Ashikaga chief, Takauji, performed this cere-
mony with much state, and even the bluff soldier
Oda Nobunaga did not neglect it. Not yet, how-
ever, had the pastime of " listening to incense "
a devotee never spoke of" smelling " or " sniff-
ing " but always of" listening " been elaborated
into the form afterwards so fashionable. Shino
Soshin, who flourished at the beginning of the
sixteenth century, is regarded as the " father " of
the pursuit, but it had undoubtedly received a
great impulse from that king of dilettante, Ashi-
kaga Yoshimasa, and his proteges Shuko and
Soami, the founders of the tea cult. Now, for
the first time, compound incenses began to be
manufactured, so that the disciples of the Shino


school recognised sixty-six distinct kinds, all dis-
tinguished by names derived from literary allu-
sions. A great authority of later times alleged
that the use of compound incenses was confined
to the Court aristocracy, military men always
preferring a simple kind ; but that rule seems to
have received only limited recognition. Briefly
stated, the outlines of the pastime were these.
Three varieties of incense were taken and divided
into three parcels each. A fourth kind was then
added, making ten packets. This method of
division was so invariable that the game came to
be designated by the term Jissbu-ko, or " ten va-
rieties of incense." The units of each subdivided
group were numbered from one to three, and
each group was indicated by one of the names
" plum," " pine," " bamboo," " cherry," " snow,"
or " moon," but the supplementary, or undivided,
incense received invariably the title of " guest."
The players having been formed into parties, a
stick from each of the subdivided groups of in-
cense was placed in a censer and passed round to
be " listened to " by way of trial, the name being
declared, but the " guest incense " was never tried.
Thereafter portions were taken from each group
indiscriminately, and the players had to identify
the names by the aroma only, writing down the
result of their identification. The most accurate
identifications constituted a partial title to victory,
but to each incense a literary name had to be
given in addition to its identification, and by the



erudition and ideality displayed in choosing names
the contest was ultimately decided. For example,
each side having made a correct identification,
one was found to have chosen the name " moon-
light on a couch ; " the other that of "water from
the hill," the former being derived from the

When autumn's wind breathes

Chill and lone my chamber through,

And night grows aged,

Dark shadows of the moonlight,

Cast athwart my couch,

Sink deep into my being;

while the second was taken from the verse,

Stream with scented breast

From flower-robed hills that flowest,

Here thy burden lay,

Thy freight of perfumed dew-drops

Sipped from sweet chrysanthemum.

Between these two names the judgment was
that, concerning the second, it was comparatively
commonplace, the scent of flowers being an
every-day simile in praising incense ; whereas the
first, while its derivation had no material allusion
to anything suggestive of incense-burning, con-
veyed a rarely forcible idea of the profoundly
penetrating influence of a fine aroma. Victory,
then, went to the first. Sometimes the names
were not necessarily taken from classical litera-
ture but were invented by the players. Thus,



at a contest in Yoshimasa's Silver Pavilion, one
side chose the name " flowers of the Law," the
other " sanderling ; " and the judgment was that
though the flight of the sanderling across the
chill skies of winter and its plaintive voice in-
duce reflections on the uncertainty of life, the
expression " flowers of the Law " at once inclines
the heart towards the all-merciful Buddha and
fills the soul with pure yearning. The verdict,
then, was in favour of the latter. One more
illustration may be given. At another contest
the names selected were "myriad-fenced" and
" Miyoshi moor," the former having the signifi-
cation " primal verse," since the earliest couplet
on record in Japan contained the word " myriad-
fenced," and the latter being an indirect allusion
to the cherry-blossom for which Miyoshi is
famous. The judgment was that an ancient
couplet could not be supposed to retain its per-
fume, whereas the cherries of Yoshino were even
then scenting the sunbeams.

Even this brief notice shows that the pastime
signified a great deal more than the mere smell-
ing of different kinds of incense. It may be
regarded as supplementary to the couplet-com-
posing compositions (uta-aivase) mentioned in a
previous chapter, the one being intended to test
original literary ability, the other to determine
literary knowledge. Every social usage that has
grown to maturity in Japan shows traces of elab-
orate care bestowed on it by generation after



generation of refined practice. The . incense pas-
time illustrates that fact almost as strikingly as
the tea cult. It may be said to have a literature
of its own. Volumes have been compiled setting
forth the exact principles that should be observed
in the competition and explaining the numerous
modifications that the game underwent from time
to time. The various incenses were divided into
groups according to the seasons. Thus for spring
there were the " white plum incense," the " aged
plum," the "blossom and snow," etc.; for sum-
mer, the " flower petal," the " green plum,"
the " iris," the " orange," etc. ; for autumn,
the "waning moon," the "maple leaf," the
" Weaver " (Vega), the " double chrysanthe-
mum," etc. ; and for winter, the " evening rain,"
the " early plum," the " first snow," the " frosty
night," and so on. Then there were incenses
suggesting love the " arm pillow," the " wak-
ing from sleep," the " sweet face," the " dishev-
elled hair," etc. ; there were miscellaneous in-
censes, the " smoke of Fuji," the beautiful
" Yokihi," the "myriad fences," and there
were many incenses called after famous places.
The pastime itself took various forms, each of
them deriving its name from some recondite
motive. For example : the anchorite Kisen,
who lived on Mount Mimaro beside the Uji
River, composed a thousand poems and threw
nine hundred and ninety-nine of them into the
stream, finding one alone worthy of preservation.



This idea of infinite eclecticism suggested the
name Uji-yama (Mount Uji) for a special kind of
incense competition. Again, it had been from
time immemorial an aristocratic amusement that
ladies should go in search of flowers peeping
through the snow on the plains of Kasuga and
Sagano. Hence the identification of certain in-
censes having the names of early wild flowers
written on their envelopes, was called " little
flower incense." Another quaint variety was
the " small birds incense," in which, instead
of identifying incenses by numbers, they were
indicated by duplicated syllables in a bird's name.
Thus, if the second and third specimens in a group
had been detected by the " listener," he wrote
bototogisu (nightingale), because the same syl-
lable, to, occurs in the second and third numbers
of the word. If the specimens detected were
the third and fourth, he wrote tsbitataki (wag-
tail), the duplication of ta giving the indication,
and so on. There were also two variants of the
game, called the Gem-pei (Minamoto and Taira)
and the " horse race " incenses, each of which
proceeded exactly after the manner of the West-
ern " race game," a successful identification being
marked by the advance of a flag or a puppet
through a certain number of squares towards the
goal. Many others might be described, but it
will be enough to add that there was a minute
code of etiquette to be observed in conduct-
ing the pastime ; that even here the ubiquitous



" Book of Changes " made its appearance, the
order of the male and female principles being
strictly observed, and that the implements used
in preparing and burning incense were of the
most exquisite workmanship and costliest mate-
rial. There are no finer specimens of lacquer to
be found than the boxes in which were kept the
censers, miniature chopping-blocks, mallets and
knives ; tiny tongs and spatula of gold or silver ;
elaborately chiselled silver stands for the in-
struments ; marking-board of silver, gold, and
vermilion lacquer, or of finely carved mother-
of-pearl, and envelopes of illuminated paper.
Incredible sums were paid for a choice set of
implements in a rare box. The censer, above all,
attracted attention. It . might be of gold, or of
iron inlaid with gold or silver, or of porcelain.
The most highly prized of all kinds was celadon
of the peculiar tint known as the greenish blue
seen between the clouds after rain in summer
the u-kwo-tien-tsing of the Chinese yo-yao. One
of these tiny vessels, named the " sanderling
censer," because its delicate colour recalled the
plaintive note of that bird flying across winter
moonlight, was in the possession of the Taiko
and enjoyed the credit of protecting him against
all danger. On another censer of the same ware
Tokugawa lyeyasu borrowed a sum of ten thou-
sand pieces of gold to meet a sudden need.

The Ko-awasa had its frivolous aspects, of
course ; it would not otherwise have been a



game. But some credit may be claimed for a
society which occupied itself with such refined
pastimes rather than with roulette, faro, or

Another remarkable outcome of the Military
epoch was the art of flower arrangement. The
name applied to it, ike-bana, or " living flower,"
explains at once the fundamental principle of the
art ; namely, that the flowers must be so ar-
ranged as to suggest the idea of actual life,
must look as though they were growing, not as
though they had been cut from their stems. In
the Occident flowers, whether grouped in bou-
quets or placed in vases, are disposed with a
unique view to colour effect. They are crushed
together in glowing masses, delighting the bar-
baric sense of colour but preserving no sem-
blance of the conditions of their living existence.
From a decorative point of view the Western
method has much to recommend it. But its
scope is narrow, and when compared with the
art as practised in Japan, the great advantages of
the latter are necessarily recognised. The Jap-
anese considers that the beauty of a plant or a
tree is not derived from its blossoms more than
from the manner of their growth. The curve
of a bough, the bend of a stalk, has for him a
charm equal to that presented by the shape of
the petal and the tint of the blossoms. Hence
in arranging flowers he seeks to retain all the
graces that they possess in their natural condi-



tion. His grouping of them is a composition
wherein linear effects are as much studied as
colour harmonies. It is not necessary, indeed,
that colour should enter into the scheme at all,
except in so far as it enters into every natural
picture. A tree's foliage may be regarded as its
flowers, and not the least beautiful productions
of the ike-bana deal solely with branches and
leaves. This art is essentially Japanese. A
Buddhist origin has been attributed to it by some,
on the ground that the idea of preserving the
living aspect of a flower is derived from the
Buddhist veto against taking life. Such an ex-
planation seems fanciful and far-fetched. It is
true that vases containing sprays of lotus formed
an essential element in the altar furniture of
Buddhist temples, and that such decorative
objects, having been entirely absent from Shinto
paraphernalia may have been introduced to the
Japanese for the first time by the propagandists
of Buddhism. That hypothesis is confirmed by
examination of the floral compositions attributed
to Prince Shotoku and the religious teachers of
the seventh and eighth centuries. They show
all the essentially non-Japanese features of the
art, being, in short, sprays and boughs symmet-
rically disposed on either side of a central
standard. The floral compositions of Indian,
Persian, and Grecian decorative art obey the
same rule, symmetry by equipoise ; whereas the
fundamental principle of Japanese decorative art,



as well as of Japanese floral arrangement, is
symmetry by suggestion. What the Buddhists
imported from India was a method based on
equality of distribution. What the Japanese
themselves conceived was a method based on bal-
ance of inequalities. There can be little doubt
that the conception was derived from close obser-
vation of nature's fashions, and that the wide
vogue its practice attained was due primarily to the
bonsai cult, which, as already described, grew out
of the great aesthetic movement of the fifteenth
century. It is, indeed, to the celebrated painter
Soami, whose name is so closely connected with
that movement, that the Japanese attribute the
new departure, and it was at the Silver Pavilion,
where the cults, of the Cba-no-Tu and the Ko-
awase may be said to have been evolved, that
the art of ike-bana received its first great develop-
ment. But though the theory and something
of the practice were due to Soami, his pupil, a
priest named Ikenobo, is justly credited with
having elaborated the principles and canons of
the art into something like an exact science.
Thereafter many men of taste made contribu-
tions to the cult, until finally it came to possess
a code of its own, accurate and consistent, but
not without disfigurement of excessive detail.
Here, too, as in the case of landscape gardening,
the philosophy of the yang and the ying y the
male and the female principles, obtruded it-
self; not with any transcendental significance,



however, but merely for the purpose of extend-
ing even to flower arrangement the applica-
tion of the law that nature delights in balance,
and that she contrives it primarily by the asso-
ciation of correlated pairs. If the study of
Japanese ike-bana be approached with a con-
stant recollection of its basic rule, namely,
that a state of vigorous vitality and actual
growth must always be simulated, the elab-
orations of the art became easy to comprehend.
Evidently the first requirement of such a rule
is that the floral or leafy sprays should spring
naturally and strongly from the vase containing
them, and out of that necessity there grew vari-
ous forms of " holder," as well as a series of
directions for adapting each arrangement of
flowers or branches to the shape of the vase and
to its position in a room. Following the indica-
tions of nature, the next point was to determine
what combinations of plants or flowers were
permissible, and also to fix those appropriate for
each reason. Here, however, the influence of
tradition and even of superstition made itself
felt, lucky or unlucky attributes being assigned
to certain flowers and trees, partly in conse-
quence of historical or mythological associations,
and partly because of poisonous properties sup-
posed to belong to them. Every one having
even a passing acquaintance with Japanese dec-
orative art is familiar with the trio, pine,
bamboo, and plum, so often found in combination



and so perennially beautiful and harmonious ; but
without special study of the ike-bana cult it
could not be inferred that there is an exact
list of proper combinations and improper com-
binations, and that the flowers appropriate for
occasions of congratulation in each month of
the year as well as for all ceremonials, social,
religious, sad, or joyful, are exactly catalogued.
Another consideration governing combinations
was that "strong" sprays (trees) must not be
placed on either side of " weak " (plants), or
vice versa, because, in the first place, such com-
positions would show mathematical symmetry,
and, in the second, they would violate the true
principles of natural balance. A still more
important law was that of lineal distribution.
It has been well said that " the floral decorations
of Japan are synthetic designs in line, in which
every individual stem, flower, and leaf stands
out distinctly silhouetted. 1 Appreciation of
lineal grace seems, indeed, to be a specially
developed faculty among the Japanese. Evi-
dences of it are displayed in every branch of
their art, and it found expression from the first
in the ike-bana science. Three-lined, five-lined,
and seven - lined compositions were designed,
forming what may be called the skeletons of
all arrangements. The directions and inter-
relations of their curves were carefully mapped
out ; their relative lengths were approximately

1 See Appendix, note 2.


determined so as to secure harmonious balance,
and explicit vetoes were formulated against
faults of interference, confusion, entanglement,
or parallelism. As for receptacles, they were
in themselves a science. Mr. Conder describes
and depicts no less than forty-six varieties of
bamboo vases alone, each of which has a distinct
appellation and a definitely approved shape.
Then there were bronze vases, porcelain vases,
pottery vases, basket vases, boat vases, bell-vases,
wooden vases, bucket vases, chariot vases, sus-
pended vases, standing vases, umbrella vases,
margin vases, hooked vases, flower horses, and
flower cabinets, each having its appropriate
varieties of floral arrangement. The scope of
the art is well illustrated in the case of the
boat vase, which, according to the description
of the sprays placed in it, was made to represent
a homeward-bound ship, an outward-bound ship,
a ship-in-port, a swiftly-sailing ship, or a branch-
laden ship. It will readily be supposed that
attention had to be paid to environment in
designing a floral composition. Every article
and every part of a Japanese chamber is regarded
as a co-operative element in a general scheme
of decoration, and each must enhance the value
of the rest. Hence a vase of floral or leaf sprays
standing or hanging in an alcove is required to
harmonise with the picture hanging beside it,
and even to be in accord with the landscape
presented by the nearest portion of the garden


outside. There is also a philosophy of the art.
It is supposed to educate certain moral qualities
in those that practise it sincerely ; to wean them
from earthly thoughts ; to lighten the burdens
of life ; to impart gentleness and courtesy to
the demeanour, and to purge the heart of
selfishness. It has its rival schools, and some
of them have sought to win credit by imparting
esoteric elements into their methods. But such
things are mere unessential mannerisms, entirely
distinct from the cult itself.

To these refinements of life specially developed
in the Military epoch may be added those be-
queathed from previous ages, flower-viewing
at all seasons, even in winter, when, by a pretty
fancy, the snow was regarded as the bloom of the
time and the "silvered world" became a land-
scape garden ; moonlight picnics in autumn ; pull-
ing young pines at the New Year ; fishing with
hand-nets ; mushroom-picking parties ; maple
gathering ; go ; chess ; couplet composing ; foot-
ball, and so forth. Foot-ball merits special notice,
for it attained extraordinary vogue. It had the
honour of being classed with poetry-writing as
one of the " two ways/' and noblemen took as
much pride in excelling in it as ever Anglo-Saxon
youths did in gaining fame at cricket or base-
ball. Great families, families which enjoyed an
hereditary title to such offices as councillor of
State and minister of justice, constituted them-
selves professional instructors of the art, and the



enclosure of the office of Public Roads was as-
signed by the Imperial Court as a foot-ball ground.
It will readily be inferred from what has been
already written about the cults of the Cha-no-Tu,
the Kb-awase and the Ike-bana, that the pastime
of kicking a ball came to have its exact rules and
even its esoteric mysteries, the latter extravagances
being inventions of rival schools which sought to
win popularity by appealing to the superstitions
of the time. The ordinary foot-ball ground of
orthodox kickers took the form of a square, its
side either twelve, sixteen, or twenty-four yards,
and at its four corners a pine-tree, a bamboo, a
maple, and a willow were planted. If these di-
mensions were exceeded, six pine-trees replaced
the varieties just mentioned. Two noble fam-
ilies, however, special repositories of the arcana
of the game, enjoyed the estimable privilege of
setting up a pine-tree and a post at each corner,
and of enclosing the ground with a fence of
crossed bamboos. A code of minute regulations
governed the apparel of the players, robes, head-
gear, sandals, stockings, and fans, and another
code indicated the proper postures of the body,
the movements of the hands, the paces of the
feet, the expression of the face ; the pose of
the hips ; the spread of the step ; the recover ; the

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Online LibraryF. (Frank) BrinkleyJapan, its history, arts and literature (Volume 3) → online text (page 1 of 16)