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supernatural trickster was in connection with a
tea-urn which fell into the uncanny habit of
developing the tail, snout, and claws of a badger
at most inopportune moments of a social reunion.
This half-transformed tea-urn the bunbuku-
chagama, as it is called furnishes a favourite
subject to carvers in wood or ivory. Another
feat of the badger's has also been frequently de-
picted by Japanese sculptors and painters. It is
called the hara-tsuzumi (paunch drum). On
moonlit nights the animal raises himself on his
hind-legs and goes roystering about the country,
beating a drum on his paunch, knocking at the
doors of timid folks, leading belated travellers



into wrong roads, and terrifying children and old
women in sundry ways. The house of a farmer
in the province of Awa recently became the
beast's playground. A kitchen knife moved
automatically from peg to block, and the fish-
kettle was found to contain only boiling water
when meal-time arrived. One day a rustic pre-
sented himself as the servant of a man to whom
the farmer owed money, and demanded payment
in his master's name. The farmer handed over
three pieces of silver. After a time the creditor
himself came and asked for his money. Then,
of course, the farmer knew that he had been
tricked by a badger. Presently the tail of the
farm-horse was shorn off by invisible agency, and
the horse itself, escaping from the stable, took
refuge in a neighbouring village. The farmer
led it back, locked it in, and locked the badger
out ; but again the horse absconded, and on
searching its stall, the farmer found the three
pieces of silver that had been carried off by the
pseudo-servant. In such roles the badger thrusts
himself upon the stage of human existence.

The badger's sphere of influence is occasionally
invaded by the kama-itachi (sickle-imp), a nonde-
script demon which sometimes cuts tresses from
women's hair as they walk in unfrequented
places, and often inflicts bleeding wounds on
people's legs and arms without any visible exer-
cise of effort. The kama-itacht s performances
are vaguely connected with a sudden solution of



atmospheric continuity, a whirlwind, or other
aerial disturbance, and if a country bumpkin finds
that he has unconsciously received a hurt, he
has no hesitation in attributing it to the demonia-
cal sickle-carrier.

The kappa (river-urchin) is another fabulous
monster, malevolent like the sickle-bearer, but
more deadly in its doings. It dwells in rivers and
lakes, and its favourite haunts are catalogued with
solemn accuracy. No one has attempted to de-
scribe the kama-itacbi, but the kappa s appearance
is minutely depicted. It has the body of a
ten-year-old child ; is hairy like a monkey ;
possesses eyes of piercing brilliancy ; has in its
skull a cup-like cavity ; speaks the language of
human beings ; lives in the water, but emerges
at nightfall and steals melons and egg-fruit, its
favourite food. Wrestling is the pastime affected
by it. It invites men to try a bout, and, despite
its puny proportions, comes off violently vic-
torious ; unless, indeed, the water contained in
its skull-cup be spilled, when its strength vanishes.
To defeat it, however, is as bad as to be defeated,
for the result is loss of reason and gradual wasting
away. This river-urchin, in common with the
snapping-turtle, is credited with vampire propen-
sities : it attacks people in the water and sucks
their blood. In the Uma district of lyo province
there is a lake where country-folk often bathe in
the dog days. There the river-urchin or the snap-
ping-turtle is said to claim two victims yearly.



They lose their colour after emerging from the
lake, and gradually pine away with symptoms
that do not bear description.

Even the dog has a place in Japanese demon-
ology. How the faithful animal originally fell
under suspicion of supernatural wickedness, it is
difficult to ascertain, but tradition represents him,
not as naturally malevolent, but merely as the
agent of human passion. An old woman, con-
sumed with hatred of a powerful enemy whom
her vengeance could not reach, buried her favour-
ite dog in the ground so that its head alone
emerged, and then, having fondled the head for
a time, cut it off with a bamboo saw, saying :
"If you have a soul, kill my enemy and I will
worship you as a deity." Her wish was granted,
but the spirit of the dog became thenceforth an
inmate of her house, and made her suffer for her
cruelty. The example set by this vengeful old
woman is said to have been followed by others
in a more logical fashion. Their idea being to
convert the spirit of longing into a physical
agency, they buried a dog, leaving only the head
exposed, and surrounding it with tempting viands,
suffered it to starve to death. Having thus
received a vivid object lesson in the pain of un-
satisfied desire, the dog's spirit was supplicated to
save its former master or mistress from similar

The superstition outlined by this legend gen-
erally takes the form of a belief that the blood



of the dog-demon (mu-gami) flows in the veins
of certain families. In the " island of the four
provinces " (Sbikoku} and in the eight provinces
forming the "mountain shadow district " (San-
in-do}, the dog-demon is supposed to have tainted
many households, and ignorant folks, before con-
tracting a marriage, are careful to employ an
expert who examines the genealogical tables of
the bride and bridegroom in order to ascertain
whether any trace of the evil influence is appar-
ent. Bakin, Japan's greatest writer of fiction,
based his celebrated romance, the "Eight-dog
Tale" (Hakken-deri), upon the Buddhist doctrine
that animals have souls. Frequently character-
istic of fox-possessed men is an outrageous insist-
ence on being served with the best of everything
at the shortest notice, but when any one lineally
related to the dog-demon covets the possessions
of a neighbour, the influence of the inu-gami
overtakes the latter and quickly reduces him to a
state of dementia. It is also supposed that if a
member of a dog-demon family casts eyes of
longing on viands belonging to another person,
they immediately become putrid.

It will readily be conceived that if the dog
finds a place in demonology, the cat is not
exempted. The latter, indeed, figures promi-
nently in some most aristocratic legends ; for
example, the sanguinary connection caused by a
cat in the noble family of Nabeshima, a story
familiar under the name of Nabeshima Sodo to



every reader of Japanese literature. Crimes
which, under less romantic circumstances, would
be ascribed to very vulgar passions, are laid to the
cat's charge. Old age develops its evil propen-
sities. When time has rendered it gaunt and
grisly, it becomes a neko-mata, or cat-imp. Its
agency is detected in weird lights that dance
above the floor, darting out of reach when pur-
sued ; in the spinning of untouched wheels ; in
the turning of beds during their inmates' sleep.
Then, perhaps, the old cat is detected sitting on
its hind-legs with its head wrapped in the towel
of the person it intends to bewitch, and if it is
killed at the right moment, it is found to have
two tails and a body five feet long.

Among people so profoundly convinced of the
truth of animistic philosophy and at the same
time so keenly appreciative of the beauties of
nature, it was inevitable that the most graceful or
brilliant objects in the world of foliage and
flowers should be invested with spirit attributes.
The spirit of a tree is called Kodama. The
Tenoki (Celtis sinensis), which grows to an immense
size and shows strange gnarling of trunk and dis-
tortion of branch, is a frequent object of this
superstition. In Itabashi, a suburb of Tokyo,
there stands a tree called the " love-severing
Tenoki" (Tenkiri Tenokt), which has the property of
separating all lovers that come within its shadow.
In the seventeenth century, when Princess Iso
travelled from Kyoto to Yedo to be the Sb'dgun's



bride, her cortege made a long detour to avoid
the vicinity of this tree, and the same precaution
was observed in the cases of Princesses Raku and
Kazu at subsequent dates. Another tree of the
same kind at Yenoki-zaka in Tokyo cures tooth-
ache, and the leaves of an oak at Azuma-mari
drive away ague. Sometimes a cordon of straw
rope plaited in the style of the New-Year shime-
nawa is drawn about such sacred trees ; sometimes
they are fenced off, and sometimes a shrine with
a box for thank-offerings is placed under their
boughs by persons not indisposed to derive profit
from their fellow-beings' piety. The cedar and
camphor-tree are notable objects of such respect.
Plants growing in an abnormal manner or present-
ing any peculiar features are also thought to pos-
sess miraculous power. Many pretty legends
grew out of that conviction. The cherry bloom,
type of glowing loveliness, and the willow, image
of everything that is refined and gentle, often
took the shape of winsome maidens and bestowed
themselves upon some great warrior or noble exile.
So, too, when Sugawara-no-Michizane, the most
unfortunate of Japanese statesmen, became the
victim of a rival's slanders and was banished to
Dazaifu in Chikuzen, the rosy-petalled plum-tree
on whose boughs he had hung verselets every
spring from the days of his boyhood, flew through
the clouds from Kyoto, and planted itself by his
side in the place of his solitude. The Japanese
love this legend of the flying plum (tobi-ume), and



love also to tell of the peonies of Ono-no-Komachi,
the celebrated poetess, whose life included the
most luxurious and the most illustrious experiences,
as well as the most miserable and the most abject,
that ever fell to the lot of an Oriental lady. In
the village where she was born a shrine stands
dedicated to her memory, and near it grow
ninety-nine peony-trees, planted by her own
hand, just a thousand years ago, and now tended
by her spirit. From time to time a few of the
little trees were transplanted to some city garden
for the sake of their magnificent blossoms, but
invariably they pined away and would have per-
ished had they not been carried back to their old
place beside the shrine, where the homage of all
sympathetic souls is paid to them still under the
name of Komachi-Sbakuyaku.

Tombstones, too, are supposed to have healing
power. A fragment of the Sankatsu sepulchre
in Osaka, if powdered and drunk with water, cures
consumption ; and the tomb of a green-grocer's
daughter, Oshichi, in Tokyo, if similarly treated,
has the property of conferring an exceptional ca-
pacity for wine-bibbing.

Buddhism, with its worlds of hungry devils and
of infernal beings, and its realistic pictures of the
torments suffered by the souls of men in the
kingdom of the god of Hades (Yemma), is re-
sponsible for the Japanese people's conception of
an anthropomorphic demon (pni}. They repre-
sent him with horns, a vast, heavy-fanged mouth,



glaring eyes, a flat nose, broadly expanding nos-
trils, three-fingered hands and three-toed feet, long
silvery talons, and wearing nothing but a girdle
of tiger skin. He has all the ferocity and all the
malignity proper to his kind. He takes his pas-
time when on earth in the depths of forests and
the caverns of remote mountains, lives there on
human flesh, and carries off beautiful women to
share his orgies. In the ninth century he began
to be a prominent figure in Japanese imagination,
and his doings since that era are recorded in a
library of startling records too voluminous to be
opened here.

There is another genus of demon that deserves
notice as being essentially an outcome of Japanese
fancy. It is the tengu, generally imagined as a
monster of huge stature and enormous strength,
with the body of a man and the face and wings
of a bird. The tengu is one of the most mysteri-
ous of Japanese monsters. The ideographs with
which the name is written signify "heavenly
dog." One tradition says that, in the year 638
A.D. the Emperor Jomei gave the name tengu to
a meteor which flashed from east to west with a
loud detonation. Another and more venerable
account alleges that the tengu were emanations
from the excessive ardour of the " Impetuous
Male Deity " (Susa-no-o) ; that they were female
demons, with human bodies, beasts' heads, vast
ears, noses so long that they could hang men on
them and fly a thousand miles without feeling the




burden, teeth that bit through swords and spears,
and the faculty of becoming pregnant by inhaling
miasma. They defy the control of the celestial
deities, and are altogether an unruly, tameless
band. The demon proper (pni) has his permanent
abode in other worlds, but the tengu is still sup-
posed to frequent the recesses of high mountains.
He is not a particularly malevolent being. Some-
times he spirits men away and restores them to
their homes in a semi-demented condition. This
is called tengu-kakushi (hidden by a tengu}. A
great scholar of the eighteenth century, Hirata
Atsutane, has recorded an example furnished by
his own era : On the evening of the i jth of March
in the year 1740, Kiuchi Heizayemon disappeared.
A retainer of Ishikawa Seiyemon, he had ac-
companied his master from Otsu, the latter being
deputed to superintend some repairs at the mon-
astery of Hiei-zan. Kiuchi's comrades searched
for him everywhere. They found only his
wooden clogs cast far apart ; the scabbard of his
sword broken into fragments ; the blade bent like
the handle of a kettle, and his girdle cut into
three pieces. At midnight, between the sobs of
a dying storm, a voice, hoarse as the wind itself,
was heard calling for help. Passing through the
rain and sleet, Suzuki Shichiro saw a winged
figure standing on the roof of the temple. The
others drew near, and observing that the wing-
like appendages were only a torn umbrella flap-
ping in the gale, they called out to know

VOL. V. 14 OQO


whether the figure was Kiuchi. He answered
yes, and prayed to be taken down. But no
sooner had they laid hands on him than he fainted
away and lay for three days in a swoon. When
he recovered consciousness he said : " That even-
ing I heard my name called, and going out, found
a monk, dressed in black, shouting ' Heizaye-
mon, Heizayemon.' Beside him stood a huge
man with flaming red visage and dishevelled hair
reaching to the ground, who ordered me roughly
to climb to the roof of the vestibule. I refused
and drew my sword, but in a moment he seized
it, broke the scabbard in pieces and bent the
blade into the shape of a kettle-handle. Then
they tore off my girdle, and with three blows of
their staffs cut it into as many pieces. After that
I was raised to the roof, beaten severely, and
finally compelled to take my seat on a round tray,
which ascended with me into the air and travelled
at lightning speed to various regions. It seemed
to me that I had been ten days flying through
space when I began to pray to Buddha, and im-
mediately I was lowered, apparently to the sum-
mit of a high mountain, but really to the roof of
the temple. At the same time I recognised the
voice of a venerable priest who had previously in-
terfered to prevent the monsters from beating me
to death. I asked the name of my benefactor, but
he answered only that he had lived on Mount
Hiei for nine hundred years." Sometimes the
tengu assists heroes to achieve their aims, as when



Yoshitsune received fencing-lessons from a tengu
near the monastery where his boyhood was
passed ; and sometimes the strange creature enters
into frail girls and endows them with miraculous
martial prowess. This possession by a tengu is
called tengu-gakari. Dr. Inouye Enryo, an emi-
nent Japanese philosopher of the present era,
recently delivered a lecture on demonology, in
connection with which he referred to a case of
/^TzgTf-possession, affirmed by the fencing-master
of the Tokyo Police School. The learned pro-
fessor declared that a girl who had lost the use
of her left hand sprang from her bed one night
crying that the tengu was coming, and that a
youth with a halberd and a fencing-sword would
arrive the next day. The following morning
she had no recollection of what had happened,
but the youth arriving, as she had predicted,
the fit overtook her again, and with closed
eyes, using her one sound hand, she exhibited
extraordinary skill of fence with halberd and
sword alike.

The tengu has faded, for the most part, out of
the vista of adult observation, and now figures
chiefly in children's tales and old women's
stories, but at a date not more remote than
the Ansei era (1854-1860) the officials of the
Yedo Government showed that their faith in
such supernatural beings was practical. On the
occasion of a projected visit of the ShUgun to
Nikko, they directed that the following notice



should be exhibited in the neighbourhood of the
mausolea :


Whereas our Sbogun intends to visit the Nikko
Mausolea next April, now therefore ye Tengu and
other Demons inhabiting these mountains must re-
move elsewhere until the Sbogun's visit is concluded.

(Signed) MIZUNO, Lord of Dewa.
Dated July, 1860.

On another notice-board the local officials ad-
dressed the supernatural beings as follows:


Having received orders from the Sh'bgun's chief
officers to exhibit the accompanying tablet in con-
nection with the coming of His Highness to Nikko,
we obey as in duty bound. Therefore ye Tengu and
Demons had better disperse to Mounts Kurama and
Atago of Kyoto, Mount Akibu of Totomi province,
and Mount Hiko of Buzen province.

It will be observed that appropriate routine is
followed in these notices. The order from the
Sboguns chief minister is couched in general
terms ; the order from the local officials at
Nikko gives detailed directions to the goblins
and imps as to the places of their retreat.

It need scarcely be said that the deities are
credited with ability to inflict punishment before
death, as when a man that stole nails from a
Buddhist idol lost the use of four fingers, and a
youth that derided Shaka was permanently fixed



in the window through which he had looked at
the image. Like many other peoples the igno-
rant classes in Japan regard comets as omens of
evil and falling stars as precursors of death. They
believe also in plague gods, so that when small-
pox becomes epidemic special prayers are uttered
and charms employed, and when influenza pre-
vails the deity of the evil blast is manufactured
in straw effigy, and escorted out of the district
with beating of drums and reciting of exorcisms.
Of course miraculous events have frequently oc-
curred. At the beginning of the eighteenth cen-
tury the spirit of the renowned prelate Kob5
Daishi fashioned the grooves on a mill-stone in
one night by way of token that the people of the
district should enjoy his protection during the
year, and in the middle of the nineteenth cen-
tury the inhabitants of Owari and Mino were
thrown into a state of ecstasy by a shower of
sacred paper which fell from heaven to indicate
the presence of the deities.

Believing that the spirits of the dead watch
over and protect their living kindred, the Jap-
anese believe also that the ghosts of the departed
sometimes vex and torture those that used them
ill on this side of the grave. Deeds of blood and
cruelty have brought upon their perpetrators ap-
paritions and mental torments ending in madness,
ruined fortunes, and suicide. The lower orders
found comfort in thinking that the miseries they
had sometimes to suffer unresistingly at the hands



of the great might be thus requited after the
death of the sufferer, but, on the whole, the
restless ghost with a mission of revenge never
seriously disturbed the public mind. Haunted
houses, however, are so common that in every
city two or three may be seen standing unten-
anted. Educated men might have no hesitation in
renting or purchasing such places, but they would
certainly find difficulty in getting servants to live
there, from which it may be inferred that the
reality of ghostly appearances is not questioned
by the masses. When a girl warns her faithless
lover that her spirit will haunt him (tottsuku), she
does not doubt her ability to make the threat
good, and when folks allege that they have seen
the soul of the newly dead float away over eaves
and roof, a transparent globe (hito-dama) of im-
palpable essence, their faith in the accuracy of
their eyesight is honest. When rain falls at mid-
night ghosts love to walk abroad, and timid mor-
tals are correspondingly careful to remain within
doors. Yet there is never much hesitation to
take part in a spirit-summoning reunion. The
convives sit within a circle of a hundred lamps
and recount a hundred legends (hiyaku-monogatari),
one lamp being extinguished for each legend.
When the last light has disappeared, the party
are in a mental condition suitable to welcome the
ghosts, demons, or other supernatural beings that
inevitably come upon the scene.

Death is not an essential preliminary to the ex-



ercise of spirit power. The passion of hatred or
revenge may become so intense as to liberate the
soul from its bodily tenement, and despatch it
upon a mission of hostility. All these beliefs
have left their mark upon the literature of the
nation and upon the canvas of the artist. In a
deeper stratum of superstition may be found still
stranger fossils of tradition the wild man, the
wild woman, the female ogre (kijo), and the moun-
tain genius (sen-nin). The wild man and the wild
woman literally, the " mountain man" and the
"mountain woman" are harmless curiosities.

There is a story of a wild woman caught in a
spring trap in Hiuga province. Her body dif-
fered from that of an ordinary female only in
being covered with white hair. The wild man
is said to abound among the mountains of Kiu-
shiu, where the people call him yama-waro. He
is described as a large black-haired monkey, pos-
sessing enormous muscular strength. He steals
food from the villages, but is always ready to
help woodcutters to transport timber in return
for a ball of rice. Any attempt to capture or
kill him brings dire calamity, insanity, plague, or
sudden death upon his assailants. The female
ogre (kijo) figures frequently in the pages of
romance. She is a cannibal capable of flitting
about like a moth and traversing pathless moun-
tains. Once in every circle of sixty years, when
the "senior fire element" is linked with the zodi-
acal horse, a female man-eater is born, but it does



not follow that the intervening years are never
disgraced by the appearance of such monsters,
which, for the rest, belong rather to the phan-
tasies of the nursery than to the superstitions of
grown-up folks.

A more widely disseminated belief, which has
also left indelible traces in the realm of fine art
and sculpture, is based upon the theory that, by
mortification of the flesh and complete annihila-
tion of all carnal desires, the divine attributes of
the soul may be actively developed though it
still retains its earthly tenement. This supersti-
tion came to Japan from China. It had its
origin in the hermits or ascetics who hid them-
selves in mountain caves beyond the sounds of
the world's passion and confusion, and thus, fad-
ing imperceptibly out of human knowledge, were
supposed to have attained immortality. In eso-
teric terms the Chinese sieng-nung are supposed
to be beings released from the chain of transmi-
grations for a hundred thousand years, which
period of rest they spend in mountain solitudes.
The first Japanese sen-nin was a native of Noto,
by name Yosho. He was born in 870 A. D., and
his supernatural character was presaged by his
mother's dream that she had swallowed the sun.
Exceptional ability and profound charity marked
his early life, which was devoted chiefly to the
study of the " Lotus of the Law." Abstaining
from rice and barley, he lived on fruit only, and
at length he succeeded in reducing his diet to a



grain of millet daily. Thus, having attained
supernatural power, he departed from the earth
in the year 901. His mantle was found hanging
from the branch of a tree, with a scroll : " I
bequeath my mantle to Emmei of Dbgen-ji" (the

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Online LibraryF. (Frank) BrinkleyJapan, its history, arts and literature (Volume 5) → online text (page 13 of 16)