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name of a temple). Emmei, seeking his master
year after year among forests and mountains,
became himself a sen-nin. After Yosho's disap-
pearance, his father fell sick, and prayed fervently
that he might once more see his favourite son.
By and by, the voice of Yosho was heard over-
head, reciting the " Lotus of the Law," and
promising that if flowers were offered and in-
cense burned on the i8th of every month, his
spirit would come, drawn by the perfume and
the flame, to requite his father's love. This
legend inspired imitation in all ages. Even now
there are recluses living in hollow trees or rocky
caverns among the forests and mountains of
Ehime prefecture and of northern Tosan-do. They
subsist on herbs and fruits, and hunters sometimes
carry to country hamlets tales of strange beings
appearing and disappearing so suddenly as to sug-
gest supernatural powers. Doubtless out of such
materials the myths of the sen-nin and probably
of the tengu also, were originally constructed.
The Japanese view the sen-nin (or risht) with
playful gravity. In the innumerable representa-
tions of these strange beings that are to be found
among the works of celebrated painters or carvers
in wood and ivory, a ray of laughter always



lightens the general austerity of the conception.
Sobu, watching his sacred geese, looks as though
he were himself on the verge of cackling ; Cho-
koro, liberating his magic horse from a monster
gourd, seems astounded at his own achievement ;
Gama, with his toad warlock, is sufficiently dirty,
distraught, and unkempt to suit such companion-
ship ; Tekkai, as he blows his soul into space,
presents an inane aspect quite in character with
the myth that he forgot to provide for the safety
of his body during the wanderings of his spirit, and
thus had to be ultimately content with the buried
corpse of a beggar ; Roko balances himself on his
flying tortoise with the air of a decrepit acrobat ;
and Kume, who fell from his cloud-chariot be-
cause his carnal desires were revived by the sight
of a beautiful girl's image mirrored in a stream,
has a wavering mien suggestive of some such
catastrophe. The mountain genii of Japan never
meddled with earthly affairs or placed their super-
natural powers at the disposal of human beings,
whereas the tengu, as shown above, were much
more accommodating.

People to whose imagination the unknown
fate of a hermit or the fanaticism of an ascetic
presented such a mine of vivid myths, did not
fail to find weird explanation of the ignis fatuus.
It was a ghost-fire (in-kwa) 9 a demon-light (oni-bi} t
a fox-flame (kitsune-bi), a flash-pillar (hito-bashira},
a badger-blaze (tanuki-bi\ a dragon-torch (riu-fo), a
lamp of Buddha (Butsu-to\ and so forth. Here



are two of the legends that have grown out of
these wild-fires :

In the Nikaido district of Settsu province,
from the middle of March to the end of June
every year, there may be seen, resting sometimes
on the top of a tree, a globe of fire, about a foot
in diameter, which, when examined intently, is
found to have a human face peering from its
lurid surface. It is a harmless phenomenon.
The people regard it with pity, recalling its
origin. For, in remote ages, there lived in this
district one Nikobo, a beadsman {yamabushi^,
celebrated for his skill in exorcism. His services
having been solicited on behalf of the sick wife
of the local governor, he passed many days by the
side of the lady's couch, practising his pious art.
She recovered, but her husband, in an excess of
jealousy, caused Nikobo to be put to death,
charging him with a foul crime. His benevolent
work thus requited with inhuman wrong, the
soul of the beadsman flamed with resentment,
and taking the form of a miraculous fire, hovered
over the roof of the murderer's house, and
kindled a fever in his blood that finally consumed
him. Since that time Nikobo's ghost-flame pays
a yearly visit to the scene of its suffering and its

At the base of the Katada hills in Omi prov-
ince there lies a lake from whose margin, on
cloudy nights in early autumn, a little ball of
fire emerges. Creeping towards the feet of the



mountains, it grows as it goes, sometimes swelling
to a brilliant sphere, three feet in diameter, some-
times not developing to more than a third of that
size, but always when it rises to the height of a
man's stature above the ground, showing within
its glow two faces, to which gradually the torsos
of two naked wrestlers, struggling furiously,
attach themselves. It takes its way slowly and
harmlessly to the recesses of the hills, but resents,
with superhuman force, any attempt to interrupt
its progress. Once a wrestler of unconquered
fame waited at midnight for its coming, and
sprang to grasp it as it passed through the mists.
He was hurled to a distance of ten or twelve
yards, and barely escaped with his life.

Of the " badger-blaze "it is related that it
wanders in the Kawabe district of Settsu on rainy
nights, and that uninitiated rustics, mistaking it
for the glowing pipe of an ox-driver, hold con-
verse with the badger, who is at all times a
sociable fellow, and have even lit their own
tobacco at his and puffed it in his company.
The numerous legends that Japanese fancy has
woven round the will-o'-the-wisp have an interest
of their own as illustrating the genius of the
people, but limits of space forbid fuller reference
to the subject here.

What has thus far been written about supersti-
tion will have probably prepared the reader to
hear that the Japanese have always been disposed
to attach great importance to divination. It is



unquestionable that Confucianism is largely re-
sponsible for the growth and persistence of such
an irrational mood. So much time and study
did the Chinese Sage devote to the Book of
Changes {Tib-King} that the leather thongs hold-
ing its leaves together were worn out thrice dur-
ing his lifetime. The result of his labours, as
has been well said, was " to add some inexplicable
chapters to an incomprehensible book." Com-
menced by Fuh-hsi, thirty centuries before Christ,
carried far towards completion by Wan Wang,
eighteen centuries later, and enlarged by Confu-
cius, the Tib-King has long been the chief vehicle
for divination in the Far East. The Japanese
call it Te-Ki, and to the method of divination
derived from it give the name boku-zei, or boku-
zeichiku\ boku signifying divination, and zei and
chiku, respectively, Lespedeza sericea and bamboo,
of which woods the divining sticks are made.
Much of the book's supposed value lies in the
mystery that enshrouds it. Starting from the
fundamental idea that the universe had its origin
in the union of the male and female principles,
the yin and the yang, it undertakes to elaborate
a theory of all physical phenomena and of all
moral and political doctrines by means of eight
trigrams and sixty-four diagrams. To attempt
any full explanation of it would be to supplement
vagueness by bewilderment, Chinese literati and
foreign students alike having failed to under-
stand it. One point only may be noted, that as



the evolution of written ideas in China could be
traced in the growth of ideographs, which were
simply linear combinations, partly systematic,
partly arbitrary, so the authors of the Tih-King,
when they sat down to ruminate on the processes
of nature and the operations of the intellect,
instinctively turned to the grouping of long and
short lines as a vehicle for the construction of
philosophical formulae. If the mystical numbers
in which Pythagoras sought the elements of
realities had been themselves necessarily resolvable
into lines, it is probable that he too would have
shaped his fancies into diagrams and trigraphs
instead of expressing them in numerals. Thus
much premised, an explanation may be given of
the simplest manner of divination, as prescribed
by the Tih-King, since by following the process
a tolerably clear idea is obtained of the manner
in which the sexual principle and the trigraphs
serve for purposes of prediction. The Japanese
have a very pithy proverb, Ataru mo hakke ataranu
mo hakke, which means that whatever the event
may prove to be, the eight trigraphs are right ;
in other words, that the diviner always leaves
a margin for his own justification. But it is not
to be denied that the faith of an immense number
of people is belied by such an aphorism, and that
failures to obtain true glimpses of the future by
means of divining rods are generally attributed not
so much to inefficacy in the doctrine as to imper-
fections in the mood of the disciple. The so-



called "orthodox" and "intermediate" methods
are altogether too complicated to be explained
here, but the "abridged" is comparatively easy. It
matters little, indeed, which method is employed,
so far as the method itself is concerned ; but since
everything depends on the singleness of the di-
viner's mind and the fervour of his faith, and
since ordinary men cannot hope to abstract them-
selves completely from their surroundings for any
lengthy period, the quickest process is the most
likely to give good results. The diviner, having
thoroughly cleansed his body, seats himself per-
fectly upright in a secluded chamber, and reveren-
tially grasps the fifty divining rods, remembering
always that they are sacred media through which
the purposes of the all powerful are revealed by
the aid of certain numerical mutations. One
of the rods any one is separated from the
rest and set upright in the rod-rack, thus becom-
ing the "great origin." The lower ends of the
remaining rods are then held with the left hand,
and their upper ends are slightly dovetailed.
With the right hand, thumb inside, fingers outside,
the forty-nine rods are now raised above the head.
This is the supreme moment. The eyes are closed,
the respiration is suspended, the thoughts are con-
centrated solemnly on the almighty intervention
about to be invoked. Presently the senses are
pervaded by a thrill indicating that communica-
tion with the supernatural has been established,
and at that instant the rods are divided into two



groups, the celestial and the terrestrial, the " posi-
tive " and the " negative." The right-hand group
is laid on the table, and one rod, having been
removed from it, is inserted lengthways between
the third and little ringers of the left hand, the fig-
ure thus formed being a trigraph, "heaven, earth,
and mankind." The left-hand group is then
counted in cycles of eight two by two and
the remainder, including the rod held between the
third and little finger, is noted. Evidently there
may be any remainder from cipher to seven, and
these eight possibilities, commencing with unity
and ending with cipher, correspond to eight tri-
graphs representing " heaven," " morass," " fire,"
" thunder," " wind," " water," " mountain," and
" earth." The trigraph indicated by the remainder
is called the " inner complement," and is placed
at the bottom of the group which, when com-
pleted, will give the desired information. The
above process is now repeated, and a second tri-
graph is obtained. It is called the " outer com-
plement," and being placed at the top of the
projected group, gives, with the " inner comple-
ment," a diagram of six lines, which has its
corresponding ideograph. The rods are now
once more divided, and again counted, this time
in cycles of six, and from the remainder another
trigraph is obtained. Thus gradually a diagram of
six trigraphs is built up, and from the pages of the
ink-King, used after the manner of a dictionary,
the corresponding interpretation is taken out.





Professors of this art of divination are numer-
ous, their clients legion. The great adepts live
in imposing mansions ; the rank and file are con-
tent to spread a mat by the roadside, and there,
with conspicuously disposed paraphernalia of rods
and tomes, await the casual consultations that
timid or bashful folks are glad to hold. The
fee varies from two or three sen to a yen, and in
cases of importance very much larger sums are
paid. It will readily be conceived that many
other systems of vaticination are practised. Two
of the best known are the Ten-gen (heavenly ori-
ginal), and the To-kiu (zodiacal essence system).
The former was introduced from China in the
year 960 A. D. ; the latter is a Japanese modifica-
tion of the former, dating from 1835. A third
and cognate system, known as Kanshi-jutsu (the
element and zodiacal art), is of somewhat later
origin than the To-kiu. Among living represent-
atives of the To-kiu are the widows of two of its
formerly renowned professors, and it receives
large support from the noble families of Suwa and
Tachibana. The Ten-gen and To-kiu are much
in vogue. They may be roughly described as the
casting of horoscopes. Both are primarily based
on the assumption that every human being has
received from heaven a vital essence or spirit (kf),
by the influence of which his health, his conduct,
and his moral ability are determined. The hour,
the day, the month, and the year of a man's birth,
when expressed in terms of the elementary and

VOL. V. 15 22C


zodiacal series, furnish materials for constructing
a horoscope, from which the course of procedure
best adapted to the nature of this " spirit " may
be mapped out. Thus these forms of divination
do not aim so much at furnishing exact predic-
tions, as at developing the better side of a man's
character, and enabling him to avert calamities
which the preponderance of his inferior elements
would certainly entail. Men of means and posi-
tion and students on the threshold of independent
life or struggling to win academical laurels, have
recourse to adepts in these systems, which they
regard as more or less useful guides to moral
philosophy. The exact methods pursued by a
professor in analysing the " prime essence " of an
inquirer cannot be defined, the processes of the
art being known only to the families in which
they have been secretly transmitted from genera-
tion to generation and by whose representatives
they are practised. Physiognomy (kwan-so) con-
stitutes a serviceable but not an essential assistant,
the vital indications being drawn from the horo-
scope. It is also practised as an independent
science under the name of Ninso-jutsu.

Considered from the point of view of the large
part that it plays in the every-day life of the
people, the system of " aspect divination " (hoi-
jufsu) is more important than any of the above.
It is a species of astrology based upon the supposi-
tion that the supernatural influences which mould a
man's destiny emanate from certain regions of the



starry firmament, and that good is invited or evil
averted by turning towards the auspicious quarter
or away from the inauspicious at critical seasons
in life. The Gregorian calendar was finally
adopted in Japan thirty years ago, but the two
series of " terrestrial stems " and " celestial
branches " out of which the cycles of the old
almanack were constructed, still present to the
astrologer and horoscopist ready means of estab-
lishing connections between any point of the
compass and the date of a birth, and nothing
then remains except to assign special attributes to
special stars or combinations of stars. It would
appear that in remote ages this theory had not
emerged from a rudimentary form. Men be-
lieved that somewhere away in the northeast
stood the demon's gate (ki-mori), and that human
beings should preserve towards that quarter a
demeanour of reverential deprecation should
not face it in sleeping, should not turn their feet
thitherward at the commencement of a journey,
should not give their houses a northeasterly
aspect, should not cultivate the corner of their
parks or gardens on which the eyes of the evil
spirits looked out from the portals of bad omen.
The celebrated monastery of Hiei-zan on the
northeast of the Imperial Palace in Kyoto, and
the scarcely less celebrated temples of Uyeno on
the northeast of the Shogun's palace in Tokyo,
were religious barriers suggested by this supersti-
tion, and if any one examines the pleasure-grounds



surrounding Japanese houses, he will see that the
northeasterly quarter is always thickly planted
and left without ornamental rockery or pathway.
Such evidences of practical demonology afford,
however, but a slight glimpse of the importance
attached by the middle and lower classes, and
even by many members of the upper, to the ques-
tion of celestial quarter. Oshima Sekibun, the
chief professor of the science of " aspect divina-
tion," is unable, even with the aid of a large
band of disciples, to furnish oracles for the multi-
tudes that come daily to consult him. There
are numbers of sober business men and educated
gentlemen in Tokyo to say nothing of the
softer sex and the uneducated who deem it
absolutely essential to preface every important act
by recourse to this kind of augury. Before build-
ing a house, before selecting a site, before changing
from one residence to another, before opening
a store, before applying for an official post, before
engaging in any industrial or commercial enter-
prise, before betrothing a son or daughter, before
fixing the date of a marriage, before despatching a
cargo, before setting out on a journey, before pre-
paring for an accouchement, before any of these
things, and, in the case of the more superstitious,
before any act that lies outside the most ordinary
routine of every-day existence, the advice of the
aspect diviner has to be sought.

A Tokyo newspaper recently published a state-
ment illustrating the uses to which diviners are



put. A man having purchased a quantity of
vegetables, hired a cart for their transport. Need-
ing to make a diversion from the direct route
homeward, he bade the carter wait at a certain
place. The carter seized the opportunity to ab-
scond with the vegetables. When their owner
discovered his loss, he repaired to the house of a
diviner, obtained information as to the where-
abouts of the thief, and hastening off, apprehended
him in the act of selling the vegetables. Another
story of contemporary doings shows the adroitness
of the diviners in accounting for their failures. A
person in good circumstances learned from a
horoscopist the exact date of his death. He reg-
ulated his affairs accordingly, spent his money
lavishly, and having procured a coffin and paid his
funeral expenses, lay down to await the supreme
moment. It came and passed uneventfully. He
therefore proceeded to upbraid the diviner. The
latter listened calmly to his reproaches, and finally
asked : " May I inquire whether you devoted
any of your fortune to charitable objects?"
" Certainly," replied the other. " Believing that
my opportunities of spending money were brief, I
gave away considerable sums in that way." " Just
so," said the diviner. "But you failed to observe
that benevolent deeds establish a claim upon
heaven's protection, and that they would surely
be rewarded by the lengthening of your life."

Prominence has here been given to modes of
divination which may still be classed among the



important customs of the nation. But others of
great interest, though now more or less obsolete,
deserve passing notice. Among these the oldest
appears to have been scapulimancy, or divining by
the cracks and lines in the scorched shoulder-blade
of a deer. It is suggestive that the same method
of discerning the future was practised in ancient
times in Tartary, Mongolia, Arabia, Lapland, and
even England, being known in the last-named
country as " reading the speal-bone." Tortoise-
shell was subsequently substituted for shoulder-
bones, a change especially convenient for
women, who, by burning the ends of their tor-
toise-shell combs, and observing the divergence or
convergence, regularity or confusion, of the lines
on the charred surface drew inferences about the
course of their love affairs. Another method, much
practised by girls, was to stand by the roadside in
the evening and construct auguries by patching
together such fragments of wayfarers' talk as
were wafted to their ears. This tsuji-ura, or road
divining, has quite gone out of vogue. The term
is now applied to mottoes placed within envelopes
of sweet biscuit, after the " cracker " fashion of
the West. But, in former days, the doubts of the
heart-sick were often resolved, and the aspirations
of the village belle encouraged, by such glimpses
of fate's purposes. Sometimes a rod was planted
in the ground to personify the deity of roads,
the god formed from Izanagi's staff which he
cast behind him to stay the demons as they pur-



sued him from the under-world. Offerings hav-
ing been made to this rod, the conversation of
the passers-by was earnestly listened to. Another
method of later origin required the cooperation of
three maidens. Repairing to a place where roads
crossed, they thrice repeated an invocation to the
deity of ways ; marked out a space over which
they scattered rice to drive away evil spirits, and
then, having drawn their fingers along the teeth
of a box-wood comb box-wood because the
Japanese name for that wood (tsuge) means also
" to tell " stationed themselves, each on a dif-
ferent road, waiting to catch the words of people
going by. Dreams, strange to say, do not seem
to have been regarded in the light of important
supernatural revelations, though auguries were oc-
casionally drawn from them, and the service of
interpreting them has, of course, found professors.
Sometimes an augury was sought by standing
under a bridge and listening to the patter of feet
overhead ; sometimes the familiar device of pitch-
ing coins was employed, and sometimes divine
revelations were supposed to be conveyed in the
sounds made by a priest whistling by inhalation.
It need scarcely be said that the old custom of
trial by ordeal, to which allusion is made in pre-
vious chapters, has disappeared, but there still
exists a device for detecting guilt which, though
not disfigured by physical cruelty, partakes of the
nature of an ordeal. It is called sumi-iro, or the
"colour of ink." Suppose that a theft has oc-



curred in a household. Then each domestic is
required to write a certain word with the same
brush and the same solution of Indian ink. The
writing should take place, if possible, in the pres-
ence of the diviner, but that condition is not
essential. Conscience is supposed to betray its
working in the lines of the ideographs written.
There is in this device a practical element that
often secures the desired result. It is on record
that when the Emperor Inkyo (411-453 A. D.)
commanded the ordeal of boiling water as a
means of detecting usurpers of noble names, the
guilty folks ran away rather than submit to the test.
Something of the same kind frequently happens
when the sumi-iro device is employed ; but, under
any circumstances, the tracing of an ideograph
involves such an effort of muscular directness and
undivided attention that the quality of a suspected
person's writing may often have much significance.
The simplest and perhaps the most senseless
method of divination is by the abacus (sorobari}.
Its use is confined to cases of illness. To the
number of years that the patient has lived are
added the numbers of the month and of the day
of his birth. The sum thus obtained is multiplied
by 3 and divided by 9. If the remainder is 3 or
a smaller number, recovery is considered certain.
If it is a number between 3 and 6, the case is
grave, the danger growing as the remainder
ascends. Equal division is counted as a remain-
der of 9, and signifies certain death.



The reference just made to the ordeal of boil-
ing water brings the student to the confines of a
wide realm of superstitions based upon Shinto be-
lief in the omnipresence of the tutelary spirits and
translated into visible phenomena through the
agency of hypnotism. The Japanese seem to
have discovered, at a very early period, that an
abnormal nervous condition can be produced by
concentrated attention and abeyance of the will,
and, like many other peoples to whom a scientific
explanation of the fact had not presented itself,
they interpreted the strange condition to mean

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Online LibraryF. (Frank) BrinkleyJapan, its history, arts and literature (Volume 5) → online text (page 14 of 16)