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side kick ; the fore kick ; the separate kick ; the
extra-tree kick ; the numerical kick, and the in-
definite kick all were clearly prescribed. In
short, foot-ball became a cult, and even the


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physical strength that it demanded was decorously
and elegantly exercised.

Gambling, which in the Nara and Heian
epochs had been regarded as a somewhat vulgar
pastime, prevailed extensively under the Military
regimen. From the General officer to the trans-
port coolie, almost every one was addicted to this
vice. Usually dice were employed, but some-
times shells took their place, the hazard depend-
ing upon the faces exposed by the shells when
thrown. Money was wagered also upon the
game of go, and it is recorded that the ranks of
the vagabond and burglar classes received large
accessions, owing to the ruin which constantly
overtook devotees of these various games. An
attempt made by the Kamakura rulers at the
zenith of their power, in the middle of the thir-
teenth century, failed to check the abuse, and at
a later period the samurai fell into the habit of
staking their arms, armour, and horse-trappings
on a cast of the dice, so that men would go into
battle with helmets and no cuirasses, or in partial
panoply without swords. Finally (in the middle
of the fourteenth century), the vice prevailed so
extensively that a fully equipped soldier, from
the medium grade downward, was rarely seen in
the fight. One effect of the abuse was that men
began to think robbery more respectable and less
dangerous than going into battle with deficient
arms or armour. They took what they wanted
wherever they could find it, and presently the

VOL. III. 2 I 7


right of property received so little respect that
articles not in their possession were staked by
gamblers, the loser pledging himself to steal
them. Even the storehouses of temples and
shrines were not safe against raids by unsuccess-
ful gamesters, though not infrequently the winner
of a sum of money sought to make reparation for
previous acts of lawlessness by employing his gains
to build or furnish a store for the sometime vic-
tim of his burglary. It has to be noted in partial
extenuation of this disorderly conduct, that it was
due, in some degree, to the contempt entertained
by the military class for the other orders of the
people, and that the priests, by their violence and
extortion during the Heian epoch, had conferred
on the men of the Military age a kind of right
of retaliation. A samurai never thought of help-
ing himself to the belongings of a comrade. He
obeyed the theory that all sections of the nation
were bound to contribute to the support of the
military man, and that the highest codes of
honour and integrity had binding force in the
intercourse of military men only.

Singing and dancing were as much loved by
the soldier in the provinces as they had ever been
by the courtier in the capital. But there came
into vogue now a new application of the former
art ; a kind of musical recitative, which never
thereafter ceased to be popular. A Buddhist
priest of the Tendai sect Shinano Zenji Yuki-
naga composed a prose epic based on the for-



tunes of the great Taira family, and taught it to
one Shobutsu, a Biwa bonze (Biiva-bozu, priest
from Biwa), as blind players of the four-stringed
Chinese lute were called; not that they were really
bonzes, but merely because they shaved their heads
after the manner of Buddhist priests. Yukinaga
naturally instructed the lutist to adopt the manner
of intonation practised by the priests of the
Tendai sect in reading the Sutras or repeating
litanies, and there resulted a recitative to which
the name Heike-bushi (tune of the House of Hei)
was given. The soldier class took keen pleasure
in listening to this entertainment, and gradually
the repertoire of the blind lute-player was ex-
tended so as to include stirring episodes of
military history in every age. The Biwa-bozu
exhibited great skill alike in the modulation of
his voice, the excellence of his elocution, and the
reality of his simulated passion. He could hold
an audience in rapt attention and move it to tears
as well as to laughter.

Closely resembling the performance of the
Biwa-bozu so far as method was concerned, but
differing from it in the nature of the subject of
the recitative as well as in the instrument em-
ployed, was the Joruri. This is said to have
been originated by Ono no O-tsu, a lady in the
household of either Oda Nobunaga or the Taiko,
who recited the story of Yoshitsune's light of
love, Joruri, accompanying herself with the s ami-
sen. Thus while the lutist took his subject from

1 9


warlike annals, the 'Joruri performer chose events
from every-day life, singing some parts and re-
citing others, the recitation being, of course,
without music. The Joruri won the nation's
heart at once, and soon had numerous professors,
both male and female, of whom the most cele-
brated devised new styles and gave distinguishing
names to them. The Eiwa-bozu always recited
from memory, and the stirring passages of the
subject were delivered in a manner bearing much
resemblance to the " patter " songs of modern
Europe and America, the lute's rapid shower of
notes being poured out so as to punctuate the
passage of the recitative rather than to accom-
pany them. This was pre-eminently the martial
music of Japan, and continues to be so, partly
because deeds of bravery and devotion have always
been the theme of the song, partly because a
strain of rattle and dash infuses the whole per-
formance. The JTtruri appeals rather to plaintive
and pitiful moods. Many of its passages are tear-
ful, and the singer is expected to simulate emo-
tions not permitted to the Biiva-bozu. A score
containing a species of musical notation as well
as the words of the Jvruri is placed before the
performer on a lectern, and the samisen is tuned
in a low minor key. It may be noted that both
the Biwa-bozu and the Joruri performer often
sing from the chest, instead of limiting them-
selves to the head-voice usually characteristic of
Japanese singing. The lutist is frequently blind,



but a blind Joruri performer would be out of

An important fact connected with the Military
epoch is that it saw the beginnings of the histri-
onic art in Japan. There is some obscurity about
this point, but the most accurate researches go to
show that the embryo of the Japanese drama is
to be found in the Den-gaku, or " bucolic mime,"
reference to which has already been made. The
Den-gaku suggested spectacular effects, and the
dramatic idea was derived from the various kinds
of song and dance described above, the spirited
epics of the Biiva-bozu ; the tragic recitative of
the yoruri performer ; the genre sonnets (ima-yo)
and semi-poetical chaunts (mono-gafart) of the
" white measure-markers ; " and the Buddhist
"life-lengthening dance" (yennen-mai) , in which
a fan-bearing acolyte postured while friars beat

It seems impossible to trace the exact processes
by which a true drama was evolved from these
elements, but there is little room to doubt that
Buddhist priests first conceived the project of
combining the spectacular effects of the Den-gaku
with the emotional appeals of the various musical
and recitative performances in vogue from the
thirteenth century downward. Unfortunately
there does not survive even one clearly identified
example of a Den-gaku performance thus modi-
fied. The Den-gaku, as tradition describes it and
as the national memory recalls it, was simply a



display of acrobatic feats. Popular patois, more
retentive than history, applies the name Den-gaku
to a rectangular slice of bean-curd having a
skewer thrust through it from end to end, be-
cause a cake thus transfixed is supposed to re-
semble a Den-gaku gymnast mounted on a single
stilt. By the Hojo rulers in Kamakura, however,
the Den-gaku, even before it had emerged from
its acrobatic stage, was generously patronised.
The Taiheiki, a celebrated work, part history, part
romance, compiled in the fourteenth century,
contains a unique but brief account of the Den-
gaku as performed at Kamokura before the
Buddhist priests had interfered to change it from
a musical and spectacular display of gymnastic
exercises to an artistic and dramatic representa-
tion :

The pure tones of the music ringing in the ears of
the audience, the drums beating blithely and the flute
sounding the cadence, there emerge from the eastern
orchestra-room eight beautifully apparelled youths,
wearing tunics of gold brocade. Simultaneously eight
tonsured youths, robed in pure white tunics decorated
with designs of flowers and birds lightly traced in gold,
and wearing voluminous ankle-gathered trousers with a
variegated pattern in silver, flash into sight from the
Western room, beating out the measure and swaying
their broad hats in unison. Then, led respectively by
Ako of the Honza and Hikoyasha of the Shinza, they
play with daggers and balls, showing such divine skill
that eyes and ears alike of the audience are astounded.
This display ended, a boy of eight or nine, wearing a



monkey mask and holding a sacred wand (gohei) on
high, crosses the steeply arched bridge diagonally from
the orchestra-room of the Shinza, and springing upon
the high railing, spins round to the right, spins round
to the left, leaps down and leaps up again, with such
grace and agility as to seem more than mortal.

This is merely a refined exhibition of dancing
and acrobatics, distinguished, however, from any
previous performances by the fact that a regular
stage was provided. Exactly how the Buddhist
priests proceeded to introduce the innovations
attributed to them, history and tradition alike are
silent. But it was natural that after the union
of Shinto and Buddhism, the representatives of
the latter should pay some attention to dancing,
for an essential part of Shinto worship had always
been the Kagura, a dance derived, as already
stated, from the mythical performance of the
Celestial Deities before the cave of the Sun God-
dess ; and it was equally natural that while their
shrewd eclecticism enabled the Buddhist monks
to detect the dramatic and spectacular possibili-
ties of the chaunts and recitative of the "white
measure- marker," the Biwa-bozu and the "Joruri
experts, their literary ability should have helped
them to work up these materials into a histri-
onic form. Perhaps the simplest explanation
is that, seeing the passionate fondness of the
Japanese people for dance and song, the Bud-
dhist monks conceived the idea of enlisting those
agents in the cause of religious propagandism.



The following is an example of the words they
put into the mouth of the musician who ac-
companied the dance :

Our days are a dream that fades in the darkness ,
A hundred years hence who can hope to remain ?
Empty and vain are all things around us ;
Where to find permanence who can pretend ?
Life is as foam that flaketh the water,
Shred by the wild wind and scattered at will ;
Man's soul like a caged bird the opening awaiteth
To wing to the skies its foredestined flight
That which is gone can ne'er be recalled,
He that departs will come not again ;
Followeth death after birth in a moment,
Bloom in an instant by blight is replaced ;
And for him that in fame and in fortune rejoices,
Riseth already the smoke of the grave-pyre.
What travail from hell's doom can purchase evasion ?
Mammon or moil, can they save from the grave ?
Gathereth who by what labour so ceaseless,
Shall not his sins outnumber his gains ?
Recall with closed eyes the days that have faded,
All the old friendships, have they not gone ?
Count with bent fingers the men that were once here,
Dear ones and distant, hidden are all.
Times change and things pass, who shall set limits ?
One stays and one goes, nothing is safe.
As flame-shrivelled tinder vanish the three worlds ; l
Angel or anchorite, death's pangs for each.
Whence then reprieve for common or low-born ?
Light not their trespass, heavy their pains ;
Sins they have sowed bear ripe crop of sorrow,
The tale of their deeds is reckoned in full.
Brayed in the mortar of hell without pity ;
1 See Appendix, note 3.



Hewed into myriads of blood-streaming parts ;
Dying ten thousand deaths daily, yet living ;
Clutching sharp blades and treading on spears ;
Shattered and crushed by the rock-piling torture ;
Writhing in flames that fuse marrow and bone ;
Choked by the breath of fierce-burning fires ;
Clasped in the bergs of the frozen blood-sea ;
Famished, and feeding on fragments of iron ;
Slaking parched thirst with drafts of lead molten
Countless the tortures hell holds for the wicked.
Shall they be spared that have wittingly sinned ?
Shall not the demon that dwells in their bosom
Give them shrewd earnest of sufferings to come ?
And like frail clouds that float through the moonlight,
In the after-world life they shall wander distraught.

In the absence of any rational connection
between religious chaunts like the above and
acrobatic performances of the nature of the Den-
gaku, it seems reasonable to assume that the
relation between the two did not extend beyond
the borrowing of the Den-gaku stage and acces-
sories for the purposes of the Buddhist dance.
At the same time, the credit of originating a
stage does not belong to the Den-gaku per-
formers. Stages for the Kagura dance had
long existed at many of the principal Shinto
shrines three in the province of Ise for the
Daijin-gu services ; three in Omi for the Hyoshi
services ; one in Tamba, one in Kawachi and
one in Settsu for the Sumiyoshi services, and
four in Nara for the Kasuga services. The
Den-gaku stage was only a modified form of


that used for the Kagura, one of the modifica-
tions being the addition of a bridge with a
steeply arched roadway on which the acrobats
commenced their feats as they emerged from
the orchestra-room. Danced upon this stage
the Buddhist versions of the Den-gaku assumed
a stateliness -and a splendour not previously
imagined. But they did not obtain more than
temporary patronage at the Imperial Court.
Perhaps the favour with which they were viewed
by the military rulers in Kamakura tended to
discredit them in Kyoto, but concerning that
conjecture alone is possible. At all events, the
Den-gaku was put aside in the Imperial capital,
and the Saru-gaku (monkey mime) was adopted
in its place.

The traditional origin of this curiously named
dance has already been described, and the various
theories about the derivation of the name have
been noted. Whatever be truth as to those
points, it is certain that up to the time now
under consideration, namely, the middle of the
fourteenth century, the Saru-gaku was simply
a comic dance, and that its character then under-
went a complete change. The Buddhist monks
took it up, just as they had taken up the Den-
gaku, and not only converted it into an instru-
ment for propagating religious truths, but also
employed it as a means of obtaining funds for
charitable purposes. It is to be observed that at
this time the Buddhist priesthood had virtually



a monopoly of literary ability, and that such of
the Kyoto aristocrats as might have disputed that
title were not less profoundly imbued with
Buddhist doctrine than the friars themselves.
Thus the task of compiling new odes or recita-
tive for dances devolved of necessity on the
priests, who, to use the words of an eminent
Japanese author, " saw in the blossoms of sum-
mer and the red leaves of autumn only types
of heaven's beauties ; heard in the sigh of the
wind and the plash of the water only echoes of
Shaka's voice ; recognised in a mother's love
for her child only a reflection of Kwannon's
infinite mercy, and regarded the death of a
warrior on the battlefield as only a link in the
great chain of destiny." The inevitable tendency
of such authors was strengthened by the circum-
stances amid which they lived, the endless fight-
ings, bloodshed, and commotions. They thought
that a grave and softening tone should be
imparted even to the frivolities of life, and they
did thoroughly for the Saru-gaku what they
had already done tentatively for the Den-gaku,
transformed it into a religious performance,
inculcating the instability of life and the vanity
of all things human. The change in each case
was radical, from the spectacular acrobatics
of the original Den-gaku to the religious recita-
tive of the later Kamakura performance ; and
from the broad jests and suggestive antics of the
" monkey mime " to the stately measure, solemn



demeanour, and moral teaching of the new

For the Saru-gaku thus modified became, in
effect, a drama. Its performers ceased to be
mere dancers and were converted into actors.
Even the name Saru-gaku passed out of use,
being replaced by No 1 (accomplishment), which
term continues in vogue until to-day. The stage
for the performance of the new drama was in
the open air, a platform eighteen feet square,
having on either side a species of gallery for the
audience, and in front a more elevated seat for
any high official or court dignitary that might
attend. Behind the platform and connected
with it by an open passage or bridge, stood the
"green room," and when a performer emerged
from the green room, he passed first through
an antechamber where a large round mirror
stood, and then made his debut upon the bridge,
commencing his role from that moment just as
the acrobats of the Den-gaku did. A stage-
manager had his place in the dressing-room,
and at the back of the stage were seated a row
of musicians, numbering from ten to twenty,
who acted the part of a chorus, accompanying
the dance with flute and drum, and from time
to time intoning the words of the drama. The
costumes were magnificent ; the music was weird
and slow ; masks modelled with admirable skill
were worn, and the spectacular effects often

1 See Appendix, note 4.



reached a high level of art. It is, indeed, more
than doubtful whether any other people ever
developed such an expressive vocabulary of mo-
tion, such impressive eloquence of gesture.
These masked dancers of the No, deprived of
the important assistance of facial expression, and
limited to a narrow range of cadence, never-
theless succeeded in investing their performance
with a character of noble dignity and profound
intensity of sentiment. Very soon the No ob-
tained extraordinary vogue. With the sole
exception of the Emperor himself, every great
personage took part in the performance ; a stage
was erected within the precincts of the Palace ;
costumes of the costliest and most beautiful ma-
terials were provided, and a collection of such
garments as well as of masks and other acces-
sories for the No, was counted an essential part
of every aristocratic mansion's furniture. By
degrees the practice of the art became a profes-
sion, but princes, nobles, and high officials did
not cease to study it assiduously, and were pre-
pared at any moment to organise performances
or to take part in them. It need scarcely be
said that various schools came into existence.
At first, although Buddhist priests had taken
such a large share in developing the No, Shinto
shrines continued to be the principal scenes of
its performance, the dance being then a cere-
mony of worship. But from the days of the
Ashikaga S/iogun Yoshimitsu (13681394) it



underwent popularisation, and without losing
its moral character, received an extension of
' motive, becoming an adjunct of congratulatory
or commemorative occasions and even a pure
diversion. With this change is associated a
skilled performer (Yusaki) upon whom Yoshi-
mitsu conferred the name Kwanami. This
man, as well as his son Seami, 1 compiled several
dramas based upon historical incidents of the
Kamakura epoch, though the two writers care-
fully refrained from seeking materials in the
events of their own time. Buddhist priests also
continued to contribute to the literature of the
art, and before the end of the fifteenth century
some twenty dramas were regarded as the
classics of the No. That prince of dilettante,
Yoshimasa, who has already been seen extending
lavish patronage to the tea cult, the incense cult,
the landscape-garden cult and art in every form,
gave a new impetus to the No by officially
declaring it a ceremonious accomplishment of
military men. He organised the renowned
dancers into four orders, and enacted that a
representative of each must repair to Kyoto and
give a performance there once during his career.
Naturally that performance became the culmi-
nation of each great expert's triumph, and the
" once-in-a-life No " were conducted on a con-
spicuously magnificent scale. The Taiko loved
the No. Several of the best dramas were written

1 See Appendix, note 5.



at his suggestion, a new school was started by
one of his proteges, and despite his personal dis-
advantages he took a place enthusiastically on the
platform. When he attained the post of Regent,
the highest office within reach of a subject, he
repaired to the Court and himself performed a
No dance in the presence of the Emperor.

The No as here described was solemn and
stately, the postures and paces as well as the
drama itself being purged of every comic ele-
ment, and thus completely differentiated from
the mimes out of which it had grown. But art
demanded that the sombreness of such representa-
tions should be relieved by some lighter scenes,
and to satisfy that requirement farces were com-
piled for independent acting between the No.
These farces (Kyogen) were essentially of a his-
trionic character, the dance being omitted alto-
gether, or entirely subordinated to the action of
the piece and the dialogue. Many of them
showed not only humour but wit, and the skill
of the actors was excellent. The chief and the
first-assistant performers in the No and the Kyogen
alike received the title of taiyu, which conferred
upon them the right to have the curtain of the
green-room held up by two men for their exits
or entries, and also rendered them eligible for
admission to any society. The Kyogen may be
regarded as a revival of the Saru-gaku from which
the Nd was originally evolved. History is silent
as to the author or circumstances of the revival,


but since several Kyvgen composed in the Ashi-
kaga era are still extant, it may fairly be concluded
that the laughter-loving element of Japanese char-
acter did not long consent to the abolition of the
comic Saru-gaku.

The similarity between the No performances
and the ancient Greek drama has often attracted
attention. The chorus, the masked actors, the
religious tone pervading the piece, the stage in
the open air, all these features were common
to the two dramas. But a closer analogy can be
found without going so far afield. The embryo
of the Indian drama was a combination of song
and dance at sacred festivals, just as the Kagura
was the foundation of the Japanese No, and the
development of the art in India was by narrative
recitation and subsequently by dialogue, first sung,
then spoken, just as the stages of progress in Japan
were the recitative of the " tonsured lutist " and
the " white measure-marker," followed by the
sung and spoken dialogue of the No. A further
point of resemblance is seen in the fact that, while
the Japanese Kagura was founded on a mythical
dance performed by the divinities before the cave
of the Sun Goddess, so the Indian natya is sup-
posed to have been a dance accompanied by ges-
ticulation and speech, which was performed by
the spirits and nymphs of Indra's heaven before
the gods. Again, in the Indian drama the con-
nection of the narrative was often preserved by
interpreters, whose function closely resembled that




of the chorus in the Japanese N6, and both alike
being performed in the open courts of palaces or
temples, artificial scenery was of necessity absent,
and unity of place became, therefore, an impos-
sibility, nor was it considered strange that a char-
acter should make journeys on the stage under
the eyes of the audience. Further, from both

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Online LibraryF. (Frank) BrinkleyJapan, its history, arts and literature (Volume 3) → online text (page 2 of 16)