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theatre, indeed, in the ordinary sense of the term,
had not come into existence in the age now under
consideration : it was a creation of subsequent
eras, as will presently be shown. Common folks
in the Military epoch had no opportunity of
witnessing a histrionic performance unless a drama
of the No type was put upon one of the religious
stages for purposes of charity, and even then
a certain measure of selection was applied to the
audience. The drama (No) and its associated
farce (Kyogeri) were essentially a pastime of the
upper classes, and to that reason, perhaps, is to
be chiefly attributed their authors' obedience to
the rules of pudicity. The plots were never
complicated. A skinflint leaves his servants in
charge of a jar of sugar, telling them that it is
poison. They eat it in his absence, and then



prepare an excuse by destroying some of his
choicest possessions, in order to be able to tell
him, on his return, that remorse for their care-
lessness induced them to attempt suicide by poison.
Three men set out on a pilgrimage, agreeing that
under no circumstances will they quarrel during
their travels. Two of them shave the head of
the third during his sleep, and when he awakes
and finds what has happened, he forgets his
promise, loses his temper, and turns his face home-
ward. But en route he conceives a scheme of
retribution ; goes to the wives of his two friends ;
tells them that their husbands have been drowned
in crossing a ford, and that he has shaved his head
and become a monk in order to pray for the
repose of their souls ; induces the women also to
shave their heads and become nuns ; carries away
the hair, and shows it to the two travellers as
proof of the deaths of their wives, and thus per-
suades them also to shave their heads and abandon
the world. From such simple materials were
these farces constructed, and though the costumes
were prepared with the greatest fidelity, and the
acting reached a high standard, no attempt was
made to adapt the scenery to the incident, nor
was the audience expected to look for realistic
effects outside the speech, mien, and actions of
the performers. The following is a typical
KyQgen :




HOUSEHOLDER. I am a person of this neighbourhood.
For reasons of my own I am going to support some
infirm folks. I '11 put up a placard. (Hasshi, hasshi ;
noise of nailing up placard.) That 's excellent. [Exit.


BLINDMAN. I 'm a gambler of this neighbourhood.
I 've had a terrible run of bad luck lately and lost all
my money. Even my household furniture has gone.
I don't see any way to get a living, but I hear that a
placard has been put up promising that infirm folks
shall be supported. I have n't any natural infirmity,
but as people are wont to say that the scabbards have
slipped off my eyes, my sight is so sharp, I 'm going to
make a radical change and be blind for a time. I 've
got myself up for the purpose. Now to hurry to the
place. (En route.) Well ! Well! It would have been
better if I 'd stopped when every one warned me ; but
I kept thinking, I '11 get even this time, I '11 win
back this time, and so I 've come to a pretty plight !
Hulloa ! Here 's the place. Now to be a blindman.
Within there ! Within there ! (calling at the gate.)

HOUSEHOLDER. Somebody outside. Who's there?

BLINDMAN. Beg pardon. I 'm a blindman come
on account of the placard posted up.

HOUSEHOLDER. What do you say? A blindman
come on account of the placard ? I '11 support you, by
all means. Come in.



BLINDMAN. Thank you, Sir. With your permis-
sion. (Goes inside, and the door is closed.)

(Enter CRIPPLE.)

CRIPPLE. I 'm a famous gentleman at large belong-
ing to this neighbourhood. Keeping company with
those " boys " and playing games with them, I 've lost
all my money and my house and property into the bar-
gain. I don't see my way to get a living, but I hear
that a rich fellow over there has put up a placard prom-
ising that infirm folks shall be supported. I have n't
any natural infirmity, but as I 'm particularly strong in
the legs, I 'm going to make a radical change and be a
cripple for the time. Now to hurry to the place. (En
route.) Well ! Well ! What an idiot I Ve been ! I
found it so amusing, so amusing ; and now I 've come
to this ! But repentance is of no use. Well, here I am !
Now to be a regular cripple. Within there ! Within
there ! (calling at the gate.)

HOUSEHOLDER. Somebody outside. Who's there?

CRIPPLE. It's I; a cripple come on account of the
placard posted up.

HOUSEHOLDER. What's that? A cripple come on
account of the placard? Why, you are quite young.
How sad ! I '11 support you, by all means. Come in.

CRIPPLE. Thank you, Sir. With your permission.
(Goes in, and the door is closed.)

(Enter a MUTE.)

MUTE. I 'm a well-known gambler of this neighbour-
hood. Keeping company with idle fellows of late and
playing games, I 've had a terrible run of bad luck, and
lost not only all my money but even my wife's clothes
into the bargain. I don't see any way of supporting
myself, but I hear that a rich fellow over there has put



up a placard promising that infirm folks shall be sup-
ported. It 's true I have n't any natural infirmity, but
as people are in the habit of saying that my tongue is
particularly sharp, I 'm going to make a radical change
and be a mute for a time. I 've come provided with
the implements. Now to hurry to the place. This is
truly a case of the old saying, " Heaven does n't leave
people to die." I Ve only to go over there and I shall
get food. Hulloa ! Here 's the place. Now to be a
mute. Mutes carry two bits of bamboo like these and
strike them together thus Wa-a-a ! Wa-a-a !

HOUSEHOLDER. Hulloa! There's a strange noise
outside. What can it be ! Who's there?

MUTE. Wa-a-a!

HOUSEHOLDER. A mute, eh ?

MUTE. Wa-a-a !

HOUSEHOLDER. I '11 support you. But have n't you
any accomplishment?

MUTE (striking the attitude of an archer}. Wa-a-a !

HOUSEHOLDER. You can shoot with a bow, can you?

MUTE. Wa-a-a !

HOUSEHOLDER. Any other accomplishment?

MUTE (striking a spearman s attitude]. Wa-a-a!

HOUSEHOLDER. You can use a spear, can you ?
Why, you 're a very serviceable fellow. I '11 give you
plenty to eat.

MUTE. Oh, thank (Remembers that he is a mute,
covers his mouth^ and begins to move away.}

HOUSEHOLDER. What 's this ? A mute speaking !
However, the proverb says " The speech of a mute is an
earnest of good fortune." I think I '11 support him.
Hi! Hi! I '11 support you. Come in here.

MUTE. Wa-a-a!

HOUSEHOLDER. Put yourself there.

MUTE. Wa-a-a!

HOUSEHOLDER (soliloquising}. Come, come ! I 've



quite a number of infirm people to support. I 'd better
allot to each of them his task, as I am going to be
absent for a time. Hulloa, blindman !

BLINDMAN. What is it, Sir?

HOUSEHOLDER. I 'm going away for three or four
days, and I shall put you in charge of the storeroom
where the Chinese furniture is. Look well after it in
my absence.

BLINDMAN. Certainly, Sir. Pray do not be uneasy.
I trust you will soon return.

HOUSEHOLDER. Good : Hulloa, hulloa, cripple !
I 'm going away for three or four days, and I shall put
you in charge of the money room. Look well after it
in my absence.

CRIPPLE. Certainly, Sir. I trust you will soon return.

HOUSEHOLDER. Good! Hulloa, hulloa there !

MUTE. Wa-a-a !

HOUSEHOLDER. I 'm going away for four or five days.
Look after things well in my absence. I put you in
charge of the cellar.

MUTE. Wa-a-a.

HOUSEHOLDER. Good-bye, all of you, then. I shall
soon be back. [Exit.

BLINDMAN. Well, well! It's very inconvenient keep-
ing one's eyes shut. I '11 just open mine for a little.

CRIPPLE. Come, come ! One's feet feel quite queer
doubled up like this. I '11 just stretch out mine a

(The BLINDMAN and the CRIPPLE recognise each other.)

BLINDMAN. Hulloa! It's you, is it? Well, well,
well ! I suppose the bad luck you 've had lately sent
you here ?

CRIPPLE. Precisely. Just so. But there 's a fellow
there with a queer voice. Let 's go and have a look at



BLINDMAN. Come along. (They see the MUTE.)
BLINDMAN. What's this? Who's that fellow?
Let 's give him a start. (Both together] Hulloa !
Hulloa !

MUTE. Wa-a-a !

BLINDMAN AND CRIPPLE (both laughing). Well !
This is funny !

MUTE. Oh, it 's you fellows, is it? No doubt the
bad luck you 've had lately sent you here ?

CRIPPLE. Precisely. Just so.

MUTE. And what did you come as?

CRIPPLE. He came as a blindman and I as a cripple.
And what are you ? "

MUTE. Well, you see, as folks say that I Ve a par-
ticularly glib tongue, I went in for a change and became
a mute.

BLINDMAN. Yes, indeed. You were a regular mute
just now.

MUTE. Our host has gone away for four or five days.
Did n't he put you in charge of anything ?

CRIPPLE. Certainly we are in charge. The Blind-
man has the Chinese room, and I have the strong-room.

MUTE. Oh, ho ! Those are very nice things !

BLINDMAN. And you, are you in charge of anything ?

MUTE. I am looking after the cellar.

BLINDMAN AND CRIPPLE (both). That's better still.

MUTE. I '11 tell you my idea. Let's first open the
cellar that I am in charge of, and have a drink. Then
we '11 open the strong-room and play a few games ; and
then we '11 open the Chinese room and clear out with its

BLINDMAN AND CRIPPLE (together). That '11 be first-

MUTE. Come along then, come along. I '11 open
the cellar. Here we are. Here we are. Here 's the
door. (Zara zara^ sound of door opening.} Dear me,



what a lot of jars ! Which shall we go for ? I '11 take
the lid off this. It looks like capital sake (rice-wine).
I '11 pour out for you. Drink away ! Drink away !

THE OTHER Two. Pour out. Now then I Ha,
ha ! capital wine. Have a drink yourself, mute.

MUTE. Come, shall I give you a song ?

THE OTHER Two. Good, good !

THE THREE (together). Zaranza, zaranza (sounds
made to accompany a song).

BLINDMAN. Then I '11 do the pouring out.

MUTE. Full enough ! Full enough ! Have a drink,
Blindman. (Sings.)

Spring again; buds and basking;
Kyomizu, Kyomizu !
Ask and get, all 's for asking ;
Love among the leaves.

(All sing together.)

MUTE. Ha, ha ! A fine song, is n't it ? The bottle 's
with me. Fill up. Now, Blindman, give us a little

BLINDMAN. Anything for sport! Shall I dance?

THE OTHER Two. Good, good !

BLINDMAN. Sing, then.

THE OTHER Two. We 're with you.

BLINDMAN (sings).

Down the hill a friar slim,
At his waist a conch-shell,
See his hands the beads tell !
Shall I ask across the fence ?
Whither, friar, and from whence,
Pry thee, priest so prim ?

THE OTHER Two. Fine ! Zaranza, zaranza !
MUTE. Another drink. Come, Cripple, can't you
dance a step?



CRIPPLE. Shall I do a dance ?
THE OTHER Two. Good! Good!
CRIPPLE (sings and dances).

Sweet boy, hey and ho !
Little drummer boy !
Rap a tap, smiles and joy ;
Tap a rap, soft and coy ;
Chichi ta-popo !
Does it speak, is it dumb,
Little boy and drum ?

THE OTHER Two. Fine! Fine ! Come along ; each
in turn. Now, Mute, a dance.

M UTE. Away I go ! (Sings and dances.)

The joiner's daughter wears a gown,

A gown that put men's hearts to proof.

Planes and chisels run adown

Her shapely shoulders ; at her waist

Adze and mallet deftly traced,

With cunning trick of warp and woof.

Aye, but see you, saw and file

Enter not this maiden's style.

Line and rule she doth disdain.

Round her skirt's edge shavings curl ;

Blows the spring breeze, puff and whirl !

Love, the time to part is here ;

Waits the swift ship at the pier.

Maiden, will he come again ?

(The HOUSEHOLDER is seen approaching.)

HOUSEHOLDER. The infirm folks are looking after
things in my absence, but somehow I feel uneasy. I '11
get home quickly. (Getting near.) What can this mean?
Sounds of a revel ! (Enters in the midst of the singing
and dancing.) Here ! Hulloa ! The blindman's eyes


are open! The cripple's jumping around ! The mute's
singing! Oh, you rascals ! Oh, you robbers ! Hi! Hi!

THE THREE MEN. Ugh! He's back. What shall
we do ! ( T'he MUTE shuts his eyes tightly and cries for far-
don; the CRIPPLE springs up and throws himself on his
knees, mumbling, " Wa-a-a I " the BLINDMAN begins to
crawl around.")

HOUSEHOLDER (to CRIPPLE). You were a cripple
and now you 're a mute. Robber ! Villain ! I sha'n't
let you off.

CRIPPLE. Oh, forgive me, Sir! There! I 'm a
cripple again!

HOUSEHOLDER (to MUTE). You were a mute and
now you 're a chattering blindman ?

MUTE. Wa-a-a !

HOUSEHOLDER. At it again, are you ? Thief! I '11
give it to you (beating him).

MUTE. Oh ! Ah ! Let us off, let us off!

HOUSEHOLDER. I sha'n't ! I sha'n't ! *

The old pastime of competitive verse-making
continued to be practised in this era, but owing
in part to the comparative illiteracy of the mili-
tary men, who now formed a prominent element
of society, and in part to the general decay of
classical learning, the quality of a composition
ceased to be of prime importance, and people
preferred to amuse themselves capping verses.
One person gave an opening line, a competition
then followed as to who should first discover a
suitable sequel. The " linked poems " (renka)
thus produced had little literary merit, and were
sometimes carried to extravagant length, as many

1 See Appendix, note 22.



as a hundred lines being chained together by the
flimsiest links. In this matter also the love of
elaboration and the tendency to formalism that
have been noted already in connection with other
refined pursuits, asserted themselves. Minute
formulas were laid down for the guidance of
composers and for testing excellence ; styles
were divided into "subjective" and "objective,"
and some professors of the art went so far as to
allege a knowledge of " mysteries " invisible to
ordinary folks. The Emperor Go-tsuchi-mikado
(14651499) received the name of "beneath the
blossom " in recognition of his skill as a com-
poser of renka, and many names of " masters "
have been handed down to posterity. This was
certainly the most frivolous of Japan's literary
pursuits. In reading its products the student is
constantly obliged to recall the impressionist
proclivity of Japanese art, whether pictorial or
poetical ; its delight in expressing ideas by a few
strong strokes of the brush or a few cleverly
compacted ideographs.

He that fame would find,
Must not balance life to lose.
So the bowman s way
Leads him ever face to foe.

Note of cuckoo heard
From the nest of nightingale.
Green plum peeping out
From the midst of April's bloom.


The italicised portions represent the coupled
lines. It would seem that literature in this form
had a special charm for the sa?nurai, and that he
found it sufficiently interesting to occupy his brief
intervals of leisure even on campaign. History
tells of a military noble, Miyoshi, who attended
a renka party where the theme to be capped

Soft eularia and

Rushes in green company.

While the convives sat searching for an apt
couplet, a letter was handed to Miyoshi. He
read it, and after a moment's thought composed
these lines,

Shallow grows the swamp
Changing slowly to a field.

The couplet having been received with ac-
claim, Miyoshi said quietly : " This letter brings
me news that my troops have been defeated
and that my brother Saneyoshi was killed in the
fight. Our verse, then, is the last gift I shall
receive in my lifetime." Thereupon he went
out and fell in battle.

In the Military epoch there was constant
display of a satirical habit of mind, which has
always marked the Japanese people, and is at
least as strong to-day as it ever was. The Chi-
nese language, and the Japanese in a lesser degree,
lend themselves readily to a species of irony
which owes its force almost entirely to plays



upon words. This fatal facility has certainly
tended to produce shallowness of thought by
tempting men to substitute mere puns for wit
and humour, though it is an extravagance to
say, as some have said, that both of these latter
qualities are wanting in the mental equipment
of the Japanese. Wit is rarely found among
any people, wherever it be sought, but it is not
rarer in Japan than in Occidental countries,
and humour abounds. What is spoken of here,
however, is ironical levity which brings all sub-
jects, grave or gay, terrible or trivial, within
legitimate range of a jeu-de-mot. Thus, when,
in the middle of the tenth century, the arch
traitor Masakado was killed and his head ex-
posed in Kyoto, one of the Fujiwara nobles
composed a couplet owing its attraction solely
to- the facts that Masakado had been struck
down by a blow on the " temple " (kome-kami\ t
which is a homonym for " rice eating," and that
his conqueror was Tawara Toda, whose first
name is synonymous with " rice bag." It is
comprehensible that such trivialities should pro-
voke a smile, but this punning couplet actually
became a popular song so well did it fit the
fancy of the time. Frequently such effusions
were anonymous : their authors wrote them in a
disguised hand and posted them in some public
place. Thus, when a certain Saito Dosan of
Mino in the province of Owari killed his liege
lords, one of whom had married his daughter,



and appropriated their estates, he found a coup-
let placarded throughout his camp :

One's liege lord to slay,
One's son-in-law to slaughter,
Seems to be the vogue
In Mino of Owari.

" Mi-no-owari " has also the significance of
" fate," or " the end of all things," and in this
punning allusion is to be found the whole point
of the verse.

It may almost be said that in the absence of
a newspaper press public opinion found in the
composition of anonymous verselets a vehicle
for expressing itself. They did not all derive
their interest solely from jeu-de-mots. Many were
political criticisms undisfigured by any such verbal
devices, political, that is to say, in the sense
attaching to the term among men who gave no
thought to such matters as popular representation,
forms of government or party platforms, since
they had only one orthodox, though often vio-
lated, code of action, fealty to a liege lord ; only
one ideal of success, the assertion of military
prowess, and only one object of pursuit, the
assertion of family interests.

When Kiyomori created a social panic by re-
moving the capital from Kyoto, with all its clas-
sical associations and sensuous delights, to the
bleak, uninteresting, and vulgarly new Fukuhara,
an indignant critic set up by the wayside a plac-



ard predicting that fate had evil things in store
for a family so infatuated as " to abandon the
city of flowers in full bloom and go forth into
the bleak wilderness ; " and when the Taira
leader, Koremori, returned with an army which
had failed to effect anything against the rival
house of Minamoto, a writing was found next
morning on the gate of his stronghold declaring
that he was rushing to his ruin as swiftly as the
current of Fuji River leaped towards the sea.
Displays of cowardice, departures from the " path
of the soldier," or acts of disloyalty, seldom failed
to evoke satirical censure of this nature, and a
cleverly turned couplet was as potent to invoke
public ridicule or execration as is a leading article
in a modern newspaper.

It will be observed that the middle and lower
orders have not been spoken of in connection
with the pursuits and pastimes here described.
But they were not wholly excluded. They had
their tea ceremonials, their incense parties, their
dancing, their landscape gardening, and above all,
their gambling, fashioned after aristocratic models,
though on a greatly reduced scale. They had
also their religious festivals and their fetes, which
will be spoken of independently. It was always
characteristic of the Japanese that the fashions of
the " upper ten " found imitators on the lowest
planes of society. This is especially true in the
matter of dancing. From the sixteenth cen-
tury it became the custom to organise general



dances throughout the whole of the seventh
month (modern August) in the capital and its
vicinity. At first these were confined to the
higher classes, brilliancy and richness of cos-
tume being an essential. But by degrees the
circle widened, and in the days when Oda
Nobunaga, the Taiko, and Tokugawa lyeyasu
were engaged in restoring peace and order, au-
tumn dances began to be organised by the mer-
cantile, manufacturing, and agricultural orders,
aristocrats taking the place of spectators. These
and other popular dances will be referred to in
a future chapter.

Wrestling was a favourite exercise of the Japan-
ese samurai from the earliest time. When first
heard of historically, two decades before the com-
mencement of the Christian era, it presents itself
simply as the art of applying one's strength to
the best advantage for the destruction of an
enemy. There were no rules, no restrictions, no
vetoes ; only devices. Kicking, striking, grip-
ping anywhere and anyhow ; attacking the most
vital parts of the body all were permissible.
A man sought only to kill his adversary, and if,
after throwing him, he could break bones or
ribs by stamping, or kicking, or pounding with
the knees, success was complete. The earliest
historical wrestler served his opponent in that
manner. One of the Emperor Suinin's (B. c.
2970 A. D.) Palace guards, Tayema no Kehaya,

or " Tayema the quick-kicker," had such thews
VOL. HI. 5 6


that no one could stand against him, and his
truculent, quarrelsome disposition made him uni-
versally hated. It is characteristic of the methods
of early Japanese sovereigns, that, although this
man was an object of dread to all the courtiers,
and although his daily deeds of violence made
him a general terror, no way of getting rid
of him presented itself except to seek some
one who might overmatch him. The custom
of that time was to summon the strongest
men in the country to be the sovereign's
guards. Tayema had been one of such a levy.
A second summons subsequently brought a batch
of recruits, among whom was Nomi no Sukurte.
He challenged Tayema. The encounter took
place in the presence of the Emperor and the
Court nobles, and Nomi threw Tayema and
kicked him to death. It is thus evident that
there were authorised displays of wrestling in
those days, but nothing is known as to the science
of the practice, and its ferocious nature cannot
have recommended it to a nation which has
never shown a love for sports so deadly as those
formerly popular among the Romans and the
Spaniards. Nomi no Sukune is said to have
modified the art, reduced its methods to a recog-
nised system, and deprived it of its deadly charac-
ter. Such action would have been consistent
with his traditional conduct in other matters, but
the annals of Japan are doubtful evidence when
they deal with incidents twenty centuries old.



Curiously enough, wrestling is next heard of
under the patronage of a lady, the Empress
Kogyoku. She assembled the strong men among
her subjects and made them wrestle for the en-
tertainment of Korean envoys. Apparently the
art had then become a pastime robbed of its
brutal features ; an inference which is finally
confirmed by the records of the Emperor Shomu
(724-728). This is the same sovereign who
erected the celebrated Dai-Butsu of Nara and
showed extraordinary zeal for the promotion of
Buddhism. It is easy to conceive that the kind
of wrestling approved by him was not likely to
be a murderous combat. He included it among
the regular sports of the harvest-thanksgiving
in the month of August, and thenceforth the
" wrestler's fete " (sumo-no-sechiye) is classed in the
same category with the " Boys' Celebration," or
the " Lantern Festival." Shomu's idea was to
promote muscle-developing exercises. He invited
strong men from all parts of the Empire, and the
Court nobles matched the rivals, compiling lists
of the pairs just as is done to-day. Thus from a
deadly struggle the practice was transformed into
a harmless trial of strength and skill. Its fortunes
thenceforward reflected the course of politics.
During the sway of the effeminate Fujiwara, it
dropped almost completely out of vogue, to be

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