Glimpses of an Unfamiliar Japan
Part 5 out of 5
'You not only treated me very kindly, though you found me so stupid and
without influence,  but you likewise aided in many ways for my
worthless sake my mother and sister. And now, since I have not been able
to repay you even the one myriadth part of that kindness and pity in
which you enveloped me--pity great as the mountains and the sea --
it would not be without just reason that you should hate me as a great
'But though I doubt not this which I am about to do will seem a wicked
folly, I am forced to it by conditions and by my own heart. Wherefore I
still may pray you to pardon my past faults. And though I go to the
Meido, never shall I forget your mercy to me--great as the mountains
and the sea. From under the shadow of the grasses  I shall still try
to recompense you--to send back my gratitude to you and to your house.
Again, with all my heart I pray you: do not be angry with me.
'Many more things I would like to write. But now my heart is not a
heart; and I must quickly go. And so I shall lay down my writing-brush.
'It is written so clumsily, this.
'Kane thrice prostrates herself before you.
'Well, it is a characteristic shinju letter,' my friend comments, after
a moment's silence, replacing the frail white paper in its envelope. 'So
I thought it would interest you. And now, although it is growing dark, I
am going to the cemetery to see what has been done at the grave. Would
you like to come with me?'
We take our way over the long white bridge, up the shadowy Street of the
Temples, toward the ancient hakaba of Miokoji--and the darkness grows
as we walk. A thin moon hangs just above the roofs of the great temples.
Suddenly a far voice, sonorous and sweet--a man's voice-breaks into
song under the starred night: a song full of strange charm and tones
like warblings--those Japanese tones of popular emotion which seem to
have been learned from the songs of birds. Some happy workman returning
home. So clear the thin frosty air that each syllable quivers to us; but
I cannot understand the words:-
Saite yuke toya, ano ya wo saite; Yuke ba chikayoru nushi no soba.
'What is that?' I ask my friend.
He answers: 'A love-song. "Go forward, straight forward that way, to the
house that thou seest before thee;--the nearer thou goest thereto, the
nearer to her  shalt thou be."'
Chapter Fourteen Yaegaki-jinja
UNTO Yaegaki-jinja, which is in the village of Sakusa in Iu, in the Land
of Izumo, all youths and maidens go who are in love, and who can make
the pilgrimage. For in the temple of Yaegaki at Sakusa, Take-haya-susa-
no-wo-no-mikoto and his wife Inada-hime and their son Sa-ku-sa-no-mikoto
are enshrined. And these are the Deities of Wedlock and of Love--and
they set the solitary in families--and by their doing are destinies
coupled even from the hour of birth. Wherefore one should suppose that
to make pilgrimage to their temple to pray about things long since
irrevocably settled were simple waste of time. But in what land did ever
religious practice and theology agree? Scholiasts and priests create or
promulgate doctrine and dogma; but the good people always insist upon
making the gods according to their own heart--and these are by far the
better class of gods. Moreover, the history of Susano-o the Impetuous
Male Deity, does not indicate that destiny had anything to do with his
particular case: he fell in love with the Wondrous Inada Princess at
first sight--as it is written in the Kojiki:
'Then Take-haya-susa-no-wo-no-mikoto descended to a place called Tori-
kami at the headwaters of the River Hi in the land of Idzumo. At this
time a chopstick came floating down the stream. So Take-haya-susa-no-wo-
no-mikoto, thinking that there must be people at the headwaters of the
river, went up it in quest of them. And he came upon an old man and an
old woman who had a young girl between them, and were weeping. Then he
deigned to ask: "Who are ye?" So the old man replied, saying: "I am an
Earthly Deity, son of the Deity Oho-yama-tsu-mi-no-Kami. I am called by
the name of Ashi-nadzu-chi; my wife is called by the name of Te-nadzu-
chi; and my daughter is called by the name of Kushi-Inada-hime." Again
he asked: "What is the cause of your crying?" The old man answered,
saying: "I had originally eight young daughters. But the eight-forked
serpent of Koshi has come every year, and devoured one; and it is now
its time to come, wherefore we weep." Then he asked him: "What is its
form like?" The old man answered, saying: "Its eyes are like akaka-
gachi; it has one body with eight heads and eight tails. Moreover, upon
its body grow moss and sugi and hinoki trees. Its length extends over
eight valleys and eight hills; and if one look at its belly, it is all
constantly bloody and inflamed." Then Take-haya-susa-no-wo-no-mikoto
said to the old man: "If this be thy daughter, wilt thou offer her to
me?" He replied: "With reverence; but I know not thine august name."
Then he replied, saying: "I am elder brother to Ama-terasu-oho-mi-Kami.
So now I have descended from heaven." Then the Deities Ashi-nadzu-chi
and Te-nadzu-chi said: "If that be so, with reverence will we offer her
to thee." So Take-haya-susa-no-wo-no-mikoto, at once taking and changing
the young girl into a close-toothed comb, which he stuck into his august
hair-bunch, said to the Deities Ashi-nadzu-chi and Te-nadzu-chi: "Do you
distil some eightfold refined liquor. Also make a fence round about; in
that fence make eight gates; at each gate tie a platform; on each
platform put a liquor-vat; and into each vat pour the eightfold refined
liquor, and wait." So as they waited after having prepared everything in
accordance with his bidding, the eight-forked serpent came and put a
head into each vat and drank the liquor. Thereupon it was intoxicated,
and all the heads lay down and slept. Then Take-haya-susa-no-wo-nomikoto
drew the ten-grasp sabre that was augustly girded upon him, and cut the
serpent in pieces, so that the River Hi flowed on changed into a river
'Then Take-haya-susa-no-wo-no-mikoto sought in the Land of Idzumo where
he might build a palace.
'When this great Deity built the palace, clouds rose up thence. Then he
made an august song:
Sono ya-he-gaki wo!' 
Now the temple of Yaegaki takes its name from the words of the august
song Ya-he-gaki, and therefore signifies The Temple of the Eightfold
Fence. And ancient commentators upon the sacred books have said that the
name of Idzumo (which is now Izumo), as signifying the Land of the
Issuing of Clouds, was also taken from that song of the god. 
Sakusa, the hamlet where the Yaegaki-jinja stands, is scarcely more than
one ri south from Matsue. But to go there one must follow tortuous paths
too rough and steep for a kuruma; and of three ways, the longest and
roughest happens to be the most interesting. It slopes up and down
through bamboo groves and primitive woods, and again serpentines through
fields of rice and barley, and plantations of indigo and of ginseng,
where the scenery is always beautiful or odd. And there are many famed
Shinto temples to be visited on the road, such as Take-uchi-jinja,
dedicated to the venerable minister of the Empress Jingo, Take-uchi, to
whom men now pray for health and for length of years; and Okusa-no-miya,
or Rokusho-jinja, of the five greatest shrines in Izumo; and Manaijinja,
sacred to Izanagi, the Mother of Gods, where strange pictures may be
obtained of the Parents of the World; and Obano-miya, where Izanami is
enshrined, also called Kamoshijinja, which means, 'The Soul of the God.'
At the Temple of the Soul of the God, where the sacred fire-drill used
to be delivered each year with solemn rites to the great Kokuzo of
Kitzuki, there are curious things to be seen--a colossal grain of rice,
more than an inch long, preserved from that period of the Kamiyo when
the rice grew tall as the tallest tree and bore grains worthy of the
gods; and a cauldron of iron in which the peasants say that the first
Kokuzo came down from heaven; and a cyclopean toro formed of rocks so
huge that one cannot imagine how they were ever balanced upon each
other; and the Musical Stones of Oba, which chime like bells when
smitten. There is a tradition that these cannot be carried away beyond a
certain distance; for 'tis recorded that when a daimyo named Matsudaira
ordered one of them to be conveyed to his castle at Matsue, the stone
made itself so heavy that a thousand men could not move it farther than
the Ohashi bridge. So it was abandoned before the bridge; and it lies
there imbedded in the soil even unto this day.
All about Oba you may see many sekirei or wagtails-birds sacred to
Izanami and Izanagi--for a legend says that from the sekirei the gods
first learned the art of love. And none, not even the most avaricious
farmer, ever hurts or terrifies these birds. So that they do not fear
the people of Oba, nor the scarecrows in the fields.
The God of Scarecrows is Sukuna-biko-na-no-Kami.
The path to Sakusa, for the last mile of the journey, at least, is
extremely narrow, and has been paved by piety with large flat rocks laid
upon the soil at intervals of about a foot, like an interminable line of
stepping-stones. You cannot walk between them nor beside them, and you
soon tire of walking upon them; but they have the merit of indicating
the way, a matter of no small importance where fifty rice-field paths
branch off from your own at all bewildering angles. After having been
safely guided by these stepping-stones through all kinds of labyrinths
in rice valleys and bamboo groves, one feels grateful to the peasantry
for that clue-line of rocks. There are some quaint little shrines in the
groves along this path--shrines with curious carvings of dragons and of
lion-heads and flowing water--all wrought ages ago in good keyaki-wood,
 which has become the colour of stone. But the eyes of the dragons
and the lions have been stolen because they were made of fine crystal-
quartz, and there was none to guard them, and because neither the laws
nor the gods are quite so much feared now as they were before the period
Sakusa is a very small cluster of farmers' cottages before a temple at
the verge of a wood--the temple of Yaegaki. The stepping-stones of the
path vanish into the pavement of the court, just before its lofty
unpainted wooden torii Between the torii and the inner court, entered by
a Chinese gate, some grand old trees are growing, and there are queer
monuments to see. On either side of the great gateway is a shrine
compartment, inclosed by heavy wooden gratings on two sides; and in
these compartments are two grim figures in complete armour, with bows in
their hands and quivers of arrows upon their backs,-.-the Zuijin, or
ghostly retainers of the gods, and guardians of the gate. Before nearly
all the Shinto temples of Izumo, except Kitzuki, these Zuijin keep grim
watch. They are probably of Buddhist origin; but they have acquired a
Shinto history and Shinto names.  Originally, I am told, there was
but one Zuijin-Kami, whose name was Toyo-kushi-iwa-mato-no-mikoto. But
at a certain period both the god and his name were cut in two--perhaps
for decorative purposes. And now he who sits upon the left is called
Toyo-iwa-ma-to-no-mikoto; and his companion on the right, Kushi-iwa-ma-
Before the gate, on the left side, there is a stone monument upon which
is graven, in Chinese characters, a poem in Hokku, or verse of seventeen
syllables, composed by Cho-un:
My companion translates the characters thus:--'Where high heap the dead
leaves, there is the holy place upon the hills, where dwell the gods.'
Near by are stone lanterns and stone lions, and another monument--a
great five-cornered slab set up and chiselled--bearing the names in
Chinese characters of the Ji-jin, or Earth-Gods--the Deities who
protect the soil: Uga-no-mitama-no-mikoto (whose name signifies the
August Spirit-of-Food), Ama-terasu-oho-mi-Kami, Ona-muji-no-Kami, Kaki-
yasu-hime-no-Kami, Sukuna-hiko-na-no-Kami (who is the Scarecrow God).
And the figure of a fox in stone sits before the Name of the August
The miya or Shinto temple itself is quite small--smaller than most of
the temples in the neighbourhood, and dingy, and begrimed with age. Yet,
next to Kitzuki, this is the most famous of Izumo shrines. The main
shrine, dedicated to Susano-o and Inada-hime and their son, whose name
is the name of the hamlet of Sakusa, is flanked by various lesser
shrines to left and right. In one of these smaller miya the spirit of
Ashi-nadzu-chi, father of Inada-hime, is supposed to dwell; and in
another that of Te-nadzu-chi, the mother of Inada-hime. There is also a
small shrine of the Goddess of the Sun. But these shrines have no
curious features. The main temple offers, on the other hand, some
displays of rarest interest.
To the grey weather-worn gratings of the doors of the shrine hundreds
and hundreds of strips of soft white paper have been tied in knots:
there is nothing written upon them, although each represents a heart's
wish and a fervent prayer. No prayers, indeed, are so fervent as those
of love. Also there are suspended many little sections of bamboo, cut
just below joints so as to form water receptacles: these are tied
together in pairs with a small straw cord which also serves to hang them
up. They contain offerings of sea-water carried here from no small
distance. And mingling with the white confusion of knotted papers there
dangle from the gratings many tresses of girls' hair--love-sacrifices
--and numerous offerings of seaweed, so filamentary and so sun-
blackened that at some little distance it would not be easy to
distinguish them from long shorn tresses. And all the woodwork of the
doors and the gratings, both beneath and between the offerings, is
covered with a speckling of characters graven or written, which are
names of pilgrims.
And my companion reads aloud the well-remembered name of--AKIRA!
If one dare judge the efficacy of prayer to these kind gods of Shinto
from the testimony of their worshippers, I should certainly say that
Akira has good reason to hope. Planted in the soil, all round the edge
of the foundations of the shrine, are multitudes of tiny paper flags of
curious shape (nobori), pasted upon splinters of bamboo. Each of these
little white things is a banner of victory, and a lover's witness of
gratitude.  You will find such little flags stuck into the ground
about nearly all the great Shinto temples of Izumo. At Kitzuki they
cannot even be counted--any more than the flakes of a snowstorm.
And here is something else that you will find at most of the famous miya
in Izumo--a box of little bamboo sticks, fastened to a post before the
doors. If you were to count the sticks, you would find their number to
be exactly one thousand. They are counters for pilgrims who make a vow
to the gods to perform a sendo-mairi. To perform a sendo-mairi means to
visit the temple one thousand times. This, however, is so hard to do
that busy pious men make a sort of compromise with the gods, thus: they
walk from the shrine one foot beyond the gate, and back again to the
shrine, one thousand times--all in one day, keeping count with the
little splints of bamboo.
There is one more famous thing to be seen before visiting the holy grove
behind the temple, and that is the Sacred Tama-tsubaki, or Precious-
Camellia of Yaegaki. It stands upon a little knoll, fortified by a
projection-wall, in a rice-field near the house of the priest; a fence
has been built around it, and votive lamps of stone placed before it. It
is of vast age, and has two heads and two feet; but the twin trunks grow
together at the middle. Its unique shape, and the good quality of
Iongevity it is believed to possess in common with all of its species,
cause itto be revered as a symbol of undying wedded love, and as
tenanted by the Kami who hearken to lovers' prayers--enmusubi-no-kami.
There is, however, a strange superstition, about tsubaki-trees; and this
sacred tree of Yaegaki, in the opinion of some folk, is a rare exception
to the general ghastliness of its species. For tsubaki-trees are goblin
trees, they say, and walk about at night; and there was one in the
garden of a Matsue samurai which did this so much that it had to be cut
down. Then it writhed its arms and groaned, and blood spurted at every
stroke of the axe.
At the spacious residence of the kannushi some very curious ofuda and o-
mamori--the holy talismans and charms of Yaegaki--are sold, together
with pictures representing Take-haya-susa-no-wo-no-mikoto and his bride
Inada-hime surrounded by the 'manifold fence' of clouds. On the pictures
is also printed the august song whence the temple derives its name of
Yaegaki-jinja,--'Ya kumo tatsu Idzumo ya-he-gaki.' Of the o-mamori
there is quite a variety; but by far the most interesting is that
labelled: 'Izumo-Yaegaki-jinja-en-musubi-on-hina' (August wedlock--
producing 'hina' of the temple of Yaegaki of Izumo). This oblong, folded
paper, with Chinese characters and the temple seal upon it, is purchased
only by those in love, and is believed to assure nothing more than the
desired union. Within the paper are two of the smallest conceivable
doll-figures (hina), representing a married couple in antique costume--
the tiny wife folded to the breast of the tiny husband by one long-
sleeved arm. It is the duty of whoever purchases this mamori to return
it to the temple if he or she succeed in marrying the person beloved. As
already stated, the charm is not supposed to assure anything more than
the union: it cannot be accounted responsible for any consequences
thereof. He who desires perpetual love must purchase another mamori
labelled: 'Renri-tama-tsubaki-aikyo-goki-to-on-mamori' (August amulet of
august prayer-for-kindling-love of the jewel-precious tsubaki-tree-of-
Union). This charm should maintain at constant temperature the warmth of
affection; it contains only a leaf of the singular double-bodied
camelliatree beforementioned. There are also small amulets for exciting
love, and amulets for the expelling of diseases, but these have no
special characteristics worth dwelling upon.
Then we take our way to the sacred grove--the Okuno-in, or Mystic
Shades of Yaegaki.
This ancient grove--so dense that when you first pass into its shadows
out of the sun all seems black--is composed of colossal cedars and
pines, mingled with bamboo, tsubaki (Camellia Japonica), and sakaki, the
sacred and mystic tree of Shinto. The dimness is chiefly made by the
huge bamboos. In nearly all sacred groves bamboos are thickly set
between the trees, and their feathery foliage, filling every lofty
opening between the heavier crests, entirely cuts off the sun. Even in a
bamboo grove where no other trees are, there is always a deep twilight.
As the eyes become accustomed to this green gloaming, a pathway outlines
itself between the trees--a pathway wholly covered with moss, velvety,
soft, and beautifully verdant. In former years, when all pilgrims were
required to remove their footgear before entering the sacred grove, this
natural carpet was a boon to the weary. The next detail one observes is
that the trunks of many of the great trees have been covered with thick
rush matting to a height of seven or eight feet, and that holes have
been torn through some of the mats. All the giants of the grove are
sacred; and the matting was bound about them to prevent pilgrims from
stripping off their bark, which is believed to possess miraculous
virtues. But many, more zealous than honest, do not hesitate to tear
away the matting in order to get at the bark. And the third curious fact
which you notice is that the trunks of the great bamboos are covered
with ideographs--with the wishes of lovers and the names of girls.
There is nothing in the world of vegetation so nice to write a
sweetheart's name upon as the polished bark of a bamboo: each letter,
however lightly traced at first, enlarges and blackens with the growth
of the bark, and never fades away.
The deeply mossed path slopes down to a little pond in the very heart of
the grove--a pond famous in the land of Izumo. Here there are many
imori, or water-newts, about five inches long, which have red bellies.
Here the shade is deepest, and the stems of the bamboos most thickly
tattooed with the names of girls. It is believed that the flesh of the
newts in the sacred pond of Yaegaki possesses aphrodisiac qualities; and
the body of the creature, reduced to ashes, by burning, was formerly
converted into love-powders. And there is a little Japanese song
referring to the practice:
'Hore-gusuri koka niwa naika to imori ni toeba, yubi-wo marumete kore
The water is very clear; and there are many of these newts to be seen.
And it is the custom for lovers to make a little boat of paper, and put
into it one rin, and set it afloat and watch it. So soon as the paper
becomes wet through, and allows the water to enter it, the weight of the
copper coin soon sends it to the bottom, where, owing to the purity of
the water, it can be still seen distinctly as before. If the newts then
approach and touch it, the lovers believe their happiness assured by the
will of the gods; but if the newts do not come near it, the omen is
evil. One poor little paper boat, I observe, could not sink at all; it
simply floated to the inaccessible side of the pond, where the trees
rise like a solid wall of trunks from the water's edge, and there became
caught in some drooping branches. The lover who launched it must have
departed sorrowing at heart.
Close to the pond, near the pathway, there are many camellia-bushes, of
which the tips of the branches have been tied together, by pairs, with
strips of white paper. These are shrubs of presage. The true lover must
be able to bend two branches together, and to keep them united by tying
a paper tightly about them--all with the fingers of one hand. To do
this well is good luck. Nothing is written upon the strips of paper.
But there is enough writing upon the bamboos to occupy curiosity for
many an hour, in spite of the mosquitoes. Most of the names are yobi-na,
-that is to say, pretty names of women; but there are likewise names of
men--jitsumyo;  and, oddly enough, a girl's name and a man's are in
no instance written together. To judge by all this ideographic
testimony, lovers in Japan--or at least in Izumo--are even more
secretive than in our Occident. The enamoured youth never writes his own
jitsumyo and his sweetheart's yobi-na together; and the family name, or
myoji, he seldom ventures to inscribe. If he writes his jitsumyo, then
he contents himself with whispering the yobi-na of his sweetheart to the
gods and to the bamboos. If he cuts her yobi-na into the bark, then he
substitutes for his own name a mention of his existence and his age
only, as in this touching instance:
Takata-Toki-to-en-musubi-negaimas. Jiu-hassai-no-otoko 
This lover presumes to write his girl's whole name; but the example, so
far as I am able to discover, is unique. Other enamoured ones write only
the yobi-na of their bewitchers; and the honourable prefix, 'O,' and the
honourable suffix, 'San,' find no place in the familiarity of love.
There is no 'O-Haru-San,' 'O-Kin-San,' 'O-Take-San,' 'O-Kiku-San'; but
there are hosts of Haru, and Kin, and Take, and Kiku. Girls, of course,
never dream of writing their lovers' names. But there are many geimyo
here, 'artistic names,'--names of mischievous geisha who worship the
Golden Kitten, written by their saucy selves: Rakue and Asa and Wakai,
Aikichi and Kotabuki and Kohachi, Kohana and Tamakichi and Katsuko, and
Asakichi and Hanakichi and Katsukichi, and Chiyoe and Chiyotsuru.
'Fortunate-Pleasure,' 'Happy-Dawn,' and 'Youth' (such are their
appellations), 'Blest-Love' and 'Length-of-Days,' and 'Blossom-Child'
and 'Jewel-of-Fortune' and 'Child-of-Luck,' and 'Joyous-Sunrise' and
'Flower-of-Bliss' and 'Glorious Victory,' and 'Life-as-the-Stork's-for-
a-thousand-years.' Often shall he curse the day he was born who falls in
love with Happy-Dawn; thrice unlucky the wight bewitched by the Child-
of-Luck; woe unto him who hopes to cherish the Flower-of-Bliss; and more
than once shall he wish himself dead whose heart is snared by Life-as-
the-Stork's-for-a-thou sand-years. And I see that somebody who inscribes
his age as twenty and three has become enamoured of young Wakagusa,
whose name signifies the tender Grass of Spring. Now there is but one
possible misfortune for you, dear boy, worse than falling in love with
Wakagusa--and that is that she should happen to fall in love with you.
Because then you would, both of you, write some beautiful letters to
your friends, and drink death, and pass away in each other's arms,
murmuring your trust to rest together upon the same lotus-flower in
Paradise: 'Hasu no ha no ue ni oite matsu.' Nay! pray the Deities rather
to dissipate the bewitchment that is upon you:
Te ni toru na, Yahari no ni oke Gengebana. 
And here is a lover's inscription--in English! Who presumes to suppose
that the gods know English? Some student, no doubt, who for pure shyness
engraved his soul's secret in this foreign tongue of mine--never
dreaming that a foreign eye would look upon it. 'I wish You, Harul' Not
once, but four--no, five times!--each time omitting the preposition.
Praying--in this ancient grove--in this ancient Land of Izumo--unto
the most ancient gods in English! Verily, the shyest love presumes much
upon the forbearance of the gods. And great indeed must be, either the
patience of Take-haya-susano-wo-no-mikoto, or the rustiness of the ten-
grasp sabre that was augustly girded upon him.
Chapter Fifteen Kitsune
By every shady wayside and in every ancient grove, on almost every
hilltop and in the outskirts of every village, you may see, while
travelling through the Hondo country, some little Shinto shrine, before
which, or at either side of which, are images of seated foxes in stone.
Usually there is a pair of these, facing each other. But there may be a
dozen, or a score, or several hundred, in which case most of the images
are very small. And in more than one of the larger towns you may see in
the court of some great miya a countless host of stone foxes, of all
dimensions, from toy-figures but a few inches high to the colossi whose
pedestals tower above your head, all squatting around the temple in
tiered ranks of thousands. Such shrines and temples, everybody knows,
are dedicated to Inari the God of Rice. After having travelled much in
Japan, you will find that whenever you try to recall any country-place
you have visited, there will appear in some nook or corner of that
remembrance a pair of green-and-grey foxes of stone, with broken noses.
In my own memories of Japanese travel, these shapes have become de
rigueur, as picturesque detail.
In the neighbourhood of the capital and in Tokyo itself-sometimes in
the cemeteries--very beautiful idealised figures of foxes may be seen,
elegant as greyhounds. They have long green or grey eyes of crystal
quartz or some other diaphanous substance; and they create a strong
impression as mythological conceptions. But throughout the interior,
fox-images are much less artistically fashioned. In Izumo, particularly,
such stone-carving has a decidedly primitive appearance. There is an
astonishing multiplicity and variety of fox-images in the Province of
the Gods--images comical, quaint, grotesque, or monstrous, but, for the
most part, very rudely chiselled. I cannot, however, declare them less
interesting on that account. The work of the Tokkaido sculptor copies
the conventional artistic notion of light grace and ghostliness. The
rustic foxes of Izumo have no grace: they are uncouth; but they betray
in countless queer ways the personal fancies of their makers. They are
of many moods--whimsical, apathetic, inquisitive, saturnine, jocose,
ironical; they watch and snooze and squint and wink and sneer; they wait
with lurking smiles; they listen with cocked ears most stealthily,
keeping their mouths open or closed. There is an amusing individuality
about them all, and an air of knowing mockery about most of them, even
those whose noses have been broken off. Moreover, these ancient country
foxes have certain natural beauties which their modem Tokyo kindred
cannot show. Time has bestowed upon them divers speckled coats of
beautiful soft colours while they have been sitting on their pedestals,
listening to the ebbing and flowing of the centuries and snickering
weirdly at mankind. Their backs are clad with finest green velvet of old
mosses; their limbs are spotted and their tails are tipped with the dead
gold or the dead silver of delicate fungi. And the places they most
haunt are the loveliest--high shadowy groves where the uguisu sings in
green twilight, above some voiceless shrine with its lamps and its lions
of stone so mossed as to seem things born of the soil--like mushrooms.
I found it difficult to understand why, out of every thousand foxes,
nine hundred should have broken noses. The main street of the city of
Matsue might be paved from end to end with the tips of the noses of
mutilated Izumo foxes. A friend answered my expression of wonder in this
regard by the simple but suggestive word, 'Kodomo', which means, 'The
Inari the name by which the Fox-God is generally known, signifies 'Load-
of-Rice.' But the antique name of the Deity is the August-Spirit-of-
Food: he is the Uka-no-mi-tama-no-mikoto of the Kojiki.  In much more
recent times only has he borne the name that indicates his connection
with the fox-cult, Miketsu-no-Kami, or the Three-Fox-God. Indeed, the
conception of the fox as a supernatural being does not seem to have been
introduced into Japan before the tenth or eleventh century; and although
a shrine of the deity, with statues of foxes, may be found in the court
of most of the large Shinto temples, it is worthy of note that in all
the vast domains of the oldest Shinto shrine in Japan--Kitzuki--you
cannot find the image of a fox. And it is only in modern art--the art
of Toyokuni and others--that Inari is represented as a bearded man
riding a white fox. 
Inari is not worshipped as the God of Rice only; indeed, there are many
Inari just as in antique Greece there were many deities called Hermes,
Zeus, Athena, Poseidon--one in the knowledge of the learned, but
essentially different in the imagination of the common people. Inari has
been multiplied by reason of his different attributes. For instance,
Matsue has a Kamiya-San-no-Inari-San, who is the God of Coughs and Bad
Colds--afflictions extremely common and remarkably severe in the Land
of Izumo. He has a temple in the Kamachi at which he is worshipped under
the vulgar appellation of Kaze-no-Kami and the politer one of Kamiya-
San-no-Inari. And those who are cured of their coughs and colds after
having prayed to him, bring to his temple offerings of tofu.
At Oba, likewise, there is a particular Inari, of great fame. Fastened
to the wall of his shrine is a large box full of small clay foxes. The
pilgrim who has a prayer to make puts one of these little foxes in his
sleeve and carries it home, He must keep it, and pay it all due honour,
until such time as his petition has been granted. Then he must take it
back to the temple, and restore it to the box, and, if he be able, make
some small gift to the shrine.
Inari is often worshipped as a healer; and still more frequently as a
deity having power to give wealth. (Perhaps because all the wealth of
Old Japan was reckoned in koku of rice.) Therefore his foxes are
sometimes represented holding keys in their mouths. And from being the
deity who gives wealth, Inari has also become in some localities the
special divinity of the joro class. There is, for example, an Inari
temple worth visiting in the neighbourhood of the Yoshiwara at Yokohama.
It stands in the same court with a temple of Benten, and is more than
usually large for a shrine of Inari. You approach it through a
succession of torii one behind the other: they are of different heights,
diminishing in size as they are placed nearer to the temple, and planted
more and more closely in proportion to their smallness. Before each
torii sit a pair of weird foxes--one to the right and one to the left.
The first pair are large as greyhounds; the second two are much smaller;
and the sizes of the rest lessen as the dimensions of the torii lessen.
At the foot of the wooden steps of the temple there is a pair of very
graceful foxes of dark grey stone, wearing pieces of red cloth about
their necks. Upon the steps themselves are white wooden foxes--one at
each end of each step--each successive pair being smaller than the pair
below; and at the threshold of the doorway are two very little foxes,
not more than three inches high, sitting on sky-blue pedestals. These
have the tips of their tails gilded. Then, if you look into the temple
you will see on the left something like a long low table on which are
placed thousands of tiny fox-images, even smaller than those in the
doorway, having only plain white tails. There is no image of Inari;
indeed, I have never seen an image of Inari as yet in any Inari temple.
On the altar appear the usual emblems of Shinto; and before it, just
opposite the doorway, stands a sort of lantern, having glass sides and a
wooden bottom studded with nail-points on which to fix votive candles.
And here, from time to time, if you will watch, you will probably see
more than one handsome girl, with brightly painted lips and the
beautiful antique attire that no maiden or wife may wear, come to the
foot of the steps, toss a coin into the money-box at the door, and call
out: 'O-rosoku!' which means 'an honourable candle.' Immediately, from
an inner chamber, some old man will enter the shrine-room with a lighted
candle, stick it upon a nail-point in the lantern, and then retire. Such
candle-offerings are always accompanied by secret prayers for good-
fortune. But this Inari is worshipped by many besides members of the
The pieces of coloured cloth about the necks of the foxes are also
Fox-images in Izumo seem to be more numerous than in other provinces,
and they are symbols there, so far as the mass of the peasantry is
concerned, of something else besides the worship of the Rice-Deity.
Indeed, the old conception of the Deity of Rice-fields has been
overshadowed and almost effaced among the lowest classes by a weird cult
totally foreign to the spirit of pure Shinto--the Fox-cult. The worship
of the retainer has almost replaced the worship of the god. Originally
the Fox was sacred to Inari only as the Tortoise is still sacred to
Kompira; the Deer to the Great Deity of Kasuga; the Rat to Daikoku; the
Tai-fish to Ebisu; the White Serpent to Benten; or the Centipede to
Bishamon, God of Battles. But in the course of centuries the Fox usurped
divinity. And the stone images of him are not the only outward evidences
of his cult. At the rear of almost every Inari temple you will generally
find in the wall of the shrine building, one or two feet above the
ground, an aperture about eight inches in diameter and perfectly
circular. It is often made so as to be closed at will by a sliding
plank. This circular orifice is a Fox-hole, and if you find one open,
and look within, you will probably see offerings of tofu or other food
which foxes are supposed to be fond of. You will also, most likely, find
grains of rice scattered on some little projection of woodwork below or
near the hole, or placed on the edge of the hole itself; and you may see
some peasant clap his hands before the hole, utter some little prayer,
and swallow a grain or two of that rice in the belief that it will
either cure or prevent sickness. Now the fox for whom such a hole is
made is an invisible fox, a phantom fox--the fox respectfully referred
to by the peasant as O-Kitsune-San. If he ever suffers himself to become
visible, his colour is said to be snowy white.
According to some, there are various kinds of ghostly foxes. According
to others, there are two sorts of foxes only, the Inari-fox (O-Kitsune-
San) and the wild fox (kitsune). Some people again class foxes into
Superior and Inferior Foxes, and allege the existence of four Superior
Sorts--Byakko, Kokko, Jenko, and Reiko--all of which possess
supernatural powers. Others again count only three kinds of foxes--the
Field-fox, the Man-fox, and the Inari-fox. But many confound the Field-
fox or wild fox with the Man-fox, and others identify the Inari-fox with
the Man-fox. One cannot possibly unravel the confusion of these beliefs,
especially among the peasantry. The beliefs vary, moreover, in different
districts. I have only been able, after a residence of fourteen months
in Izumo, where the superstition is especially strong, and marked by
certain unique features, to make the following very loose summary of
All foxes have supernatural power. There are good and bad foxes. The
Inari-fox is good, and the bad foxes are afraid of the Inari-fox. The
worst fox is the Ninko or Hito-kitsune (Man-fox): this is especially the
fox of demoniacal possession. It is no larger than a weasel, and
somewhat similar in shape, except for its tail, which is like the tail
of any other fox. It is rarely seen, keeping itself invisible, except to
those to whom it attaches itself. It likes to live in the houses of men,
and to be nourished by them, and to the homes where it is well cared for
it will bring prosperity. It will take care that the rice-fields shall
never want for water, nor the cooking-pot for rice. But if offended, it
will bring misfortune to the household, and ruin to the crops. The wild
fox (Nogitsune) is also bad. It also sometimes takes possession of
people; but it is especially a wizard, and prefers to deceive by
enchantment. It has the power of assuming any shape and of making itself
invisible; but the dog can always see it, so that it is extremely afraid
of the dog. Moreover, while assuming another shape, if its shadow fall
upon water, the water will only reflect the shadow of a fox. The
peasantry kill it; but he who kills a fox incurs the risk of being
bewitched by that fox's kindred, or even by the ki, or ghost of the fox.
Still if one eat the flesh of a fox, he cannot be enchanted afterwards.
The Nogitsune also enters houses. Most families having foxes in their
houses have only the small kind, or Ninko; but occasionally both kinds
will live together under the same roof. Some people say that if the
Nogitsune lives a hundred years it becomes all white, and then takes
rank as an Inari-fox.
There are curious contradictions involved in these beliefs, and other
contradictions will be found in the following pages of this sketch. To
define the fox-superstition at all is difficult, not only on account of
the confusion of ideas on the subject among the believers themselves,
but also on account of the variety of elements out of which it has been
shapen. Its origin is Chinese ; but in Japan it became oddly blended
with the worship of a Shinto deity, and again modified and expanded by
the Buddhist concepts of thaumaturgy and magic. So far as the common
people are concerned, it is perhaps safe to say that they pay devotion
to foxes chiefly because they fear them. The peasant still worships what
It is more than doubtful whether the popular notions about different
classes of foxes, and about the distinction between the fox of Inari and
the fox of possession, were ever much more clearly established than they
are now, except in the books of old literati. Indeed, there exists a
letter from Hideyoshi to the Fox-God which would seem to show that in
the time of the great Taiko the Inari-fox and the demon fox were
considered identical. This letter is still preserved at Nara, in the
Buddhist temple called Todaiji:
KYOTO, the seventeenth day
of the Third Month.
TO INARI DAIMYOJIN:-
My Lord--I have the honour to inform you that one of the foxes under
your jurisdiction has bewitched one of my servants, causing her and
others a great deal of trouble. I have to request that you will make
minute inquiries into the matter, and endeavour to find out the reason
of your subject misbehaving in this way, and let me know the result.
If it turns out that the fox has no adequate reason to give for his
behaviour, you are to arrest and punish him at once. If you hesitate to
take action in this matter, I shall issue orders for the destruction of
every fox in the land.
Any other particulars that you may wish to be informed of in reference
to what has occurred, you can learn from the high-priest YOSHIDA.
Apologising for the imperfections of this letter, I have the honour to be
Your obedient servant,
Your obedient servant,
HIDEYOSHI TAIKO 
But there certainly were some distinctions established in localities,
owing to the worship of Inari by the military caste. With the samurai of
Izumo, the Rice-God, for obvious reasons, was a highly popular deity;
and you can still find in the garden of almost every old shizoku
residence in Matsue, a small shrine of Inari Daimyojin, with little
stone foxes seated before it. And in the imagination of the lower
classes, all samurai families possessed foxes. But the samurai foxes
inspired no fear. They were believed to be 'good foxes'; and the
superstition of the Ninko or Hito-kitsune does not seem to have
unpleasantly affected any samurai families of Matsue during the feudal
era. It is only since the military caste has been abolished, and its
name, simply as a body of gentry, changed to shizoku,  that some
families have become victims of the superstition through intermarriage
with the chonin or mercantile classes, among whom the belief has always
By the peasantry the Matsudaira daimyo of Izumo were supposed to be the
greatest fox-possessors. One of them was believed to use foxes as
messengers to Tokyo (be it observed that a fox can travel, according to
popular credence, from Yokohama to London in a few hours); and there is
some Matsue story about a fox having been caught in a trap  near
Tokyo, attached to whose neck was a letter written by the prince of
Izumo only the same morning. The great Inari temple of Inari in the
castle grounds--O-Shiroyama-no-InariSama--with its thousands upon
thousands of foxes of stone, is considered by the country people a
striking proof of the devotion of the Matsudaira, not to Inari, but to
At present, however, it is no longer possible to establish distinctions
of genera in this ghostly zoology, where each species grows into every
other. It is not even possible to disengage the ki or Soul of the Fox
and the August-Spirit-of-Food from the confusion in which both have
become hopelessly blended, under the name Inari by the vague conception
of their peasant-worshippers. The old Shinto mythology is indeed quite
explicit about the August-Spirit-of-Food, and quite silent upon the
subject of foxes. But the peasantry in Izumo, like the peasantry of
Catholic Europe, make mythology for themselves. If asked whether they
pray to Inari as to an evil or a good deity, they will tell you that
Inari is good, and that Inari-foxes are good. They will tell you of
white foxes and dark foxes--of foxes to be reverenced and foxes to be
killed--of the good fox which cries 'kon-kon,' and the evil fox which
cries 'kwai-kwai.' But the peasant possessed by the fox cries out: 'I am
Inari--Tamabushi-no-Inari!'--or some other Inari.
Goblin foxes are peculiarly dreaded in Izumo for three evil habits
attributed to them. The first is that of deceiving people by
enchantment, either for revenge or pure mischief. The second is that of
quartering themselves as retainers upon some family, and thereby making
that family a terror to its neighbours. The third and worst is that of
entering into people and taking diabolical possession of them and
tormenting them into madness. This affliction is called 'kitsune-tsuki.'
The favourite shape assumed by the goblin fox for the purpose of
deluding mankind is that of a beautiful woman; much less frequently the
form of a young man is taken in order to deceive some one of the other
sex. Innumerable are the stories told or written about the wiles of fox-
women. And a dangerous woman of that class whose art is to enslave men,
and strip them of all they possess, is popularly named by a word of
Many declare that the fox never really assumes human shape; but that he
only deceives people into the belief that he does so by a sort of
magnetic power, or by spreading about them a certain magical effluvium.
The fox does not always appear in the guise of a woman for evil
purposes. There are several stories, and one really pretty play, about a
fox who took the shape of a beautiful woman, and married a man, and bore
him children--all out of gratitude for some favour received--the
happiness of the family being only disturbed by some odd carnivorous
propensities on the part of the offspring. Merely to achieve a
diabolical purpose, the form of a woman is not always the best disguise.
There are men quite insusceptible to feminine witchcraft. But the fox is
never at a loss for a disguise; he can assume more forms than Proteus.
Furthermore, he can make you see or hear or imagine whatever he wishes
you to see, hear, or imagine. He can make you see out of Time and Space;
he can recall the past and reveal the future. His power has not been
destroyed by the introduction of Western ideas; for did he not, only a
few years ago, cause phantom trains to run upon the Tokkaido railway,
thereby greatly confounding, and terrifying the engineers of the
company? But, like all goblins, he prefers to haunt solitary places. At
night he is fond of making queer ghostly lights,  in semblance of
lantern-fires, flit about dangerous places; and to protect yourself from
this trick of his, it is necessary to learn that by joining your hands
in a particular way, so as to leave a diamond-shaped aperture between
the crossed fingers, you can extinguish the witch-fire at any distance
simply by blowing through the aperture in the direction of the light and
uttering a certain Buddhist formula.
But it is not only at night that the fox manifests his power for
mischief: at high noon he may tempt you to go where you are sure to get
killed, or frighten you into going by creating some apparition or making
you imagine that you feel an earthquake. Consequently the old-fashioned
peasant, on seeing anything extremely queer, is slew to credit the
testimony of his own eyes. The most interesting and valuable witness of
the stupendous eruption of Bandai-San in 1888--which blew the huge
volcano to pieces and devastated an area of twenty-seven square miles,
levelling forests, turning rivers from their courses, and burying
numbers of villages with all their inhabitants--was an old peasant who
had watched the whole cataclysm from a neighbouring peak as
unconcernedly as if he had been looking at a drama. He saw a black
column of ashes and steam rise to the height of twenty thousand feet and
spread out at its summit in the shape of an umbrella, blotting out the
sun. Then he felt a strange rain pouring upon him, hotter than the water
of a bath. Then all became black; and he felt the mountain beneath him
shaking to its roots, and heard a crash of thunders that seemed like the
sound of the breaking of a world. But he remained quite still until
everything was over. He had made up his mind not to be afraid--deeming
that all he saw and heard was delusion wrought by the witchcraft of a
Strange is the madness of those into whom demon foxes enter. Sometimes
they run naked shouting through the streets. Sometimes they lie down and
froth at the mouth, and yelp as a fox yelps. And on some part of the
body of the possessed a moving lump appears under the skin, which seems
to have a life of its own. Prick it with a needle, and it glides
instantly to another place. By no grasp can it be so tightly compressed
by a strong hand that it will not slip from under the fingers. Possessed
folk are also said to speak and write languages of which they were
totally ignorant prior to possession. They eat only what foxes are
believed to like--tofu, aburage,  azukimeshi,  etc.--and they
eat a great deal, alleging that not they, but the possessing foxes, are
It not infrequently happens that the victims of fox-possession are
cruelly treated by their relatives--being severely burned and beaten in
the hope that the fox may be thus driven away. Then the Hoin  or
Yamabushi is sent for--the exorciser. The exorciser argues with the
fox, who speaks through the mouth of the possessed. When the fox is
reduced to silence by religious argument upon the wickedness of
possessing people, he usually agrees to go away on condition of being
supplied with plenty of tofu or other food; and the food promised must
be brought immediately to that particular Inari temple of which the fox
declares himself a retainer. For the possessing fox, by whomsoever sent,
usually confesses himself the servant of a certain Inari though
sometimes even calling himself the god.
As soon as the possessed has been freed from the possessor, he falls
down senseless, and remains for a long time prostrate. And it is said,
also, that he who has once been possessed by a fox will never again be
able to eat tofu, aburage, azukimeshi, or any of those things which
It is believed that the Man-fox (Hito-kitsune) cannot be seen. But if he
goes close to still water, his SHADOW can be seen in the water. Those
'having foxes' are therefore supposed to avoid the vicinity of rivers
The invisible fox, as already stated, attaches himself to persons. Like
a Japanese servant, he belongs to the household. But if a daughter of
that household marry, the fox not only goes to that new family,
following the bride, but also colonises his kind in all those families
related by marriage or kinship with the husband's family. Now every fox
is supposed to have a family of seventy-five--neither more, nor less
than seventy-five--and all these must be fed. So that although such
foxes, like ghosts, eat very little individually, it is expensive to
have foxes. The fox-possessors (kitsune-mochi) must feed their foxes at
regular hours; and the foxes always eat first--all the seventy-live. As
soon as the family rice is cooked in the kama (a great iron cooking-
pot), the kitsune-mochi taps loudly on the side of the vessel, and
uncovers it. Then the foxes rise up through the floor. And although
their eating is soundless to human ear and invisible to human eye, the
rice slowly diminishes. Wherefore it is fearful for a poor man to have
But the cost of nourishing foxes is the least evil connected with the
keeping of them. Foxes have no fixed code of ethics, and have proved
themselves untrustworthy servants. They may initiate and long maintain
the prosperity of some family; but should some grave misfortune fall
upon that family in spite of the efforts of its seventy-five invisible
retainers, then these will suddenly flee away, taking all the valuables
of the household along with them. And all the fine gifts that foxes
bring to their masters are things which have been stolen from somebody
else. It is therefore extremely immoral to keep foxes. It is also
dangerous for the public peace, inasmuch as a fox, being a goblin, and
devoid of human susceptibilities, will not take certain precautions. He
may steal the next-door neighbour's purse by night and lay it at his own
master's threshold, so that if the next-door neighbour happens to get up
first and see it there is sure to be a row.
Another evil habit of foxes is that of making public what they hear said
in private, and taking it upon themselves to create undesirable scandal.
For example, a fox attached to the family of Kobayashi-San hears his
master complain about his neighbour Nakayama-San, whom he secretly
dislikes. Therewith the zealous retainer runs to the house of Nakayama-
San, and enters into his body, and torments him grievously, saying: 'I
am the retainer of Kobayashi-San to whom you did such-and-such a wrong;
and until such time as he command me to depart, I shall continue to
And last, but worst of all the risks of possessing foxes, is the danger
that they may become wroth with some member of the family. Certainly a
fox may be a good friend, and make rich the home in which he is
domiciled. But as he is not human, and as his motives and feelings are
not those of men, but of goblins, it is difficult to avoid incurring his
displeasure. At the most unexpected moment he may take offence without
any cause knowingly having been given, and there is no saying what the
consequences may be. For the fox possesses Instinctive Infinite Vision--
and the Ten-Ni-Tsun, or All-Hearing Ear--and the Ta-Shin-Tsun, which is
the Knowledge of the Most Secret Thoughts of Others--and Shiyuku-Mei-
Tsun, which is the Knowledge of the Past--and Zhin-Kiyan-Tsun, which
means the Knowledge of the Universal Present--and also the Powers of
Transformation and of Transmutation.  So that even without including
his special powers of bewitchment, he is by nature a being almost
omnipotent for evil.
For all these reasons, and. doubtless many more, people believed to have
foxes are shunned. Intermarriage with a fox-possessing family is out of
the question; and many a beautiful and accomplished girl in Izumo cannot
secure a husband because of the popular belief that her family harbours
foxes. As a rule, Izumo girls do not like to marry out of their own
province; but the daughters of a kitsune-mochi must either marry into
the family of another kitsune-mochi, or find a husband far away from the
Province of the Gods. Rich fox-possessing families have not overmuch
difficulty in disposing of their daughters by one of the means above
indicated; but many a fine sweet girl of the poorer kitsune-mochi is
condemned by superstition to remain unwedded. It is not because there
are none to love her and desirous of marrying her--young men who have
passed through public schools and who do not believe in foxes. It is
because popular superstition cannot be yet safely defied in country
districts except by the wealthy. The consequences of such defiance would
have to be borne, not merely by the husband, but by his whole family,
and by all other families related thereunto. Which are consequences to
be thought about!
Among men believed to have foxes there are some who know how to turn the
superstition to good account. The country-folk, as a general rule, are
afraid of giving offence to a kitsune-mochi, lest he should send some of
his invisible servants to take possession of them. Accordingly, certain
kitsune-mochi have obtained great ascendancy over the communities in
which they live. In the town of Yonago, for example, there is a certain
prosperous chonin whose will is almost law, and whose opinions are never
opposed. He is practically the ruler of the place, and in a fair way of
becoming a very wealthy man. All because he is thought to have foxes.
Wrestlers, as a class, boast of their immunity from fox-possession, and
care neither for kitsune-mochi nor for their spectral friends. Very
strong men are believed to be proof against all such goblinry. Foxes are
said to be afraid of them, and instances are cited of a possessing fox
declaring: 'I wished to enter into your brother, but he was too strong
for me; so I have entered into you, as I am resolved to be revenged upon
some one of your family.'
Now the belief in foxes does not affect persons only: it affects
property. It affects the value of real estate in Izumo to the amount of
hundreds of thousands.
The land of a family supposed to have foxes cannot be sold at a fair
price. People are afraid to buy it; for it is believed the foxes may
ruin the new proprietor. The difficulty of obtaining a purchaser is most
great in the case of land terraced for rice-fields, in the mountain
districts. The prime necessity of such agriculture is irrigation--
irrigation by a hundred ingenious devices, always in the face of
difficulties. There are seasons when water becomes terribly scarce, and
when the peasants will even fight for water. It is feared that on lands
haunted by foxes, the foxes may turn the water away from one field into
another, or, for spite, make holes in the dikes and so destroy the crop.
There are not wanting shrewd men to take advantage of this queer belief.
One gentleman of Matsue, a good agriculturist of the modern school,
speculated in the fox-terror fifteen years ago, and purchased a vast
tract of land in eastern Izumo which no one else would bid for. That
land has sextupled in value, besides yielding generously under his
system of cultivation; and by selling it now he could realise an immense
fortune. His success, and the fact of his having been an official of the
government, broke the spell: it is no longer believed that his farms are
fox-haunted. But success alone could not have freed the soil from the
curse of the superstition. The power of the farmer to banish the foxes
was due to his official character. With the peasantry, the word
'Government' is talismanic.
Indeed, the richest and the most successful farmer of Izumo, worth more
than a hundred thousand yen--Wakuri-San of Chinomiya in Kandegori--is
almost universally believed by the peasantry to be a kitsune-mochi. They
tell curious stories about him. Some say that when a very poor man he
found in the woods one day a little white fox-cub, and took it home, and
petted it, and gave it plenty of tofu, azukimeshi, and aburage--three
sorts of food which foxes love--and that from that day prosperity came
to him. Others say that in his house there is a special zashiki, or
guest-room for foxes; and that there, once in each month, a great
banquet is given to hundreds of Hito-kitsune. But Chinomiya-no-Wakuri,
as they call him, canaffordto laugh at all these tales. He is a refined
man, highly respected in cultivated circles where superstition never
When a Ninko comes to your house at night and knocks, there is a
peculiar muffled sound about the knocking by which you can tell that the
visitor is a fox--if you have experienced ears. For a fox knocks at
doors with its tail. If you open, then you will see a man, or perhaps a
beautiful girl, who will talk to you only in fragments of words, but
nevertheless in such a way that you can perfectly well understand. A fox
cannot pronounce a whole word, but a part only--as 'Nish . . . Sa. . .'
for 'Nishida-San'; 'degoz . . .' for 'degozarimasu, or 'uch . . . de . .?'
for 'uchi desuka?' Then, if you are a friend of foxes, the visitor
will present you with a little gift of some sort, and at once vanish
away into the darkness. Whatever the gift may be, it will seem much
larger that night than in the morning. Only a part of a fox-gift is
A Matsue shizoku, going home one night by way of the street called
Horomachi, saw a fox running for its life pursued by dogs. He beat the
dogs off with his umbrella, thus giving the fox a chance to escape. On
the following evening he heard some one knock at his door, and on
opening the to saw a very pretty girl standing there, who said to him:
'Last night I should have died but for your august kindness. I know not
how to thank you enough: this is only a pitiable little present. And she
laid a small bundle at his feet and went away. He opened the bundle and
found two beautiful ducks and two pieces of silver money--those long,
heavy, leaf-shaped pieces of money--each worth ten or twelve dollars--
such as are now eagerly sought for by collectors of antique things.
After a little while, one of the coins changed before his eyes into a
piece of grass; the other was always good.
Sugitean-San, a physician of Matsue, was called one evening to attend a
case of confinement at a house some distance from the city, on the hill
called Shiragayama. He was guided by a servant carrying a paper lantern
painted with an aristocratic crest.  He entered into a magnificent
house, where he was received with superb samurai courtesy. The mother
was safely delivered of a fine boy. The family treated the physician to
an excellent dinner, entertained him elegantly, and sent him home,
loaded with presents and money. Next day he went, according to Japanese
etiquette, to return thanks to his hosts. He could not find the house:
there was, in fact, nothing on Shiragayama except forest. Returning
home, he examined again the gold which had been paid to him. All was
good except one piece, which had changed into grass.
Curious advantages have been taken of the superstitions relating to the
In Matsue, several years ago, there was a tofuya which enjoyed an
unusually large patronage. A tofuya is a shop where tofu is sold--a
curd prepared from beans, and much resembling good custard in
appearance. Of all eatable things, foxes are most fond of tofu and of
soba, which is a preparation of buckwheat. There is even a legend that a
fox, in the semblance of an elegantly attired man, once visited Nogi-no-
Kuriharaya, a popular sobaya on the lake shore, and ate much soba. But
after the guest was gone, the money he had paid changed into wooden
The proprietor of the tofuya had a different experience. A man in
wretched attire used to come to his shop every evening to buy a cho of
tofu, which he devoured on the spot with the haste of one long famished.
Every evening for weeks he came, and never spoke; but the landlord saw
one evening the tip of a bushy white tail protruding from beneath the
stranger's rags. The sight aroused strange surmises and weird hopes.
From that night he began to treat the mysterious visitor with obsequious
kindness. But another month passed before the latter spoke. Then what he
said was about as follows:
'Though I seem to you a man, I am not a man; and I took upon myself
human form only for the purpose of visiting you. I come from Taka-
machi, where my temple is, at which you often visit. And being desirous
to reward your piety and goodness of heart, I have come to-night to save
you from a great danger. For by the power which I possess I know that
tomorrow this street will burn, and all the houses in it shall be
utterly destroyed except yours. To save it I am going to make a charm.
But in order that I may do this, you must open your go-down (kura) that
I may enter, and allow no one to watch me; for should living eye look
upon me there, the charm will not avail.'
The shopkeeper, with fervent words of gratitude, opened his storehouse,
and reverently admitted the seeming Inari and gave orders that none of
his household or servants should keep watch. And these orders were so
well obeyed that all the stores within the storehouse, and all the
valuables of the family, were removed without hindrance during the
night. Next day the kura was found to be empty. And there was no fire.
There is also a well-authenticated story about another wealthy
shopkeeper of Matsue who easily became the prey of another pretended
Inari This Inari told him that whatever sum of money he should leave at
a certain miya by night, he would find it doubled in the morning--as
the reward of his lifelong piety. The shopkeeper carried several small
sums to the miya, and found them doubled within twelve hours. Then he
deposited larger sums, which were similarly multiplied; he even risked
some hundreds of dollars, which were duplicated. Finally he took all his
money out of the bank and placed it one evening within the shrine of the
god--and never saw it again.
Vast is the literature of the subject of foxes--ghostly foxes. Some of
it is old as the eleventh century. In the ancient romances and the
modern cheap novel, in historical traditions and in popular fairy-tales,
foxes perform wonderful parts. There are very beautiful and very sad and
very terrible stories about foxes. There are legends of foxes discussed
by great scholars, and legends of foxes known to every child in Japan--
such as the history of Tamamonomae, the beautiful favourite of the
Emperor Toba--Tamamonomae, whose name has passed into a proverb, and
who proved at last to be only a demon fox with Nine Tails and Fur of
Gold. But the most interesting part of fox-literature belongs to the
Japanese stage, where the popular beliefs are often most humorously
reflected--as in the following excerpts from the comedy of Hiza-Kuruge,
written by one Jippensha Ikku:
[Kidahachi and Iyaji are travelling from Yedo to Osaka. When within a
short distance of Akasaka, Kidahachi hastens on in advance to secure
good accommodations at the best inn. Iyaji, travelling along leisurely,
stops a little while at a small wayside refreshment-house kept by an old
OLD WOMAN.--Please take some tea, sir. IYAJI.--Thank you! How far is
it from here to the next town?--Akasaka? OLD WOMAN.--About one ri. But
if you have no companion, you had better remain here to-night, because
there is a bad fox on the way, who bewitches travellers. IYAJI.--I am
afraid of that sort of thing. But I must go on; for my companion has
gone on ahead of me, and will be waiting for me.
[After having paid for his refreshments, lyaji proceeds on his way. The
night is very dark, and he feels quite nervous on account of what the
old woman has told him. After having walked a considerable distance, he
suddenly hears a fox yelping--kon-kon. Feeling still more afraid, he
shouts at the top of his voice:-]
IYAJI.--Come near me, and I will kill you!
[Meanwhile Kidahachi, who has also been frightened by the old woman's
stories, and has therefore determined to wait for lyaji, is saying to
himself in the dark: 'If I do not wait for him, we shall certainly be
deluded.' Suddenly he hears lyaji's voice, and cries out to him:-]
IYAJI.--What are you doing there?
KIDAHACHI.--I did intend to go on ahead; but I became afraid, and so
I concluded to stop here and wait for you.
IYAJI (who imagines that the fox has taken the shape of Kidahachi to
deceive him).--Do not think that you are going to dupe me?
KIDAHACHI.--That is a queer way to talk! I have some nice mochi 
here which I bought for you.
IYAJI.--Horse-dung cannot be eaten! 
KIDAHACHI.--Don't be suspicious!--I am really Kidahachi.
IYAJI (springing upon him furiously).--Yes! you took the form of
Kidahachi just to deceive me!
KIDAHACHI.--What do you mean?--What are you going to do to me?
IYAJI.--I am going to kill you! (Throws him down.)
KIDAHACHI.--Oh! you have hurt me very much--please leave me alone!
IYAJI.--If you are really hurt, then let me see you in your real shape!
(They struggle together.)
KIDAHACHI.--What are you doing?--putting your hand there?
IYAJI.--I am feeling for your tail. If you don't put out your tail at
once, I shall make you! (Takes his towel, and with it ties Kidahachi's
hands behind his back, and then drives him before him.)
KIDAHACHI.--Please untie me--please untie me first!
[By this time they have almost reached Akasaka, and lyaji, seeing a dog,
calls the animal, and drags Kidahachi close to it; for a dog is believed
to be able to detect a fox through any disguise. But the dog takes no
notice of Kidahachi. lyaji therefore unties him, and apologises; and
they both laugh at their previous fears.]
But there are some very pleasing forms of the Fox-God.
For example, there stands in a very obscure street of Matsue--one of
those streets no stranger is likely to enter unless he loses his way--a
temple called Jigyoba-no-Inari,  and also Kodomo-no-Inari, or 'the
Children's Inari.' It is very small, but very famous; and it has been
recently presented with a pair of new stone foxes, very large, which
have gilded teeth and a peculiarly playful expression of countenance.
These sit one on each side of the gate: the Male grinning with open
jaws, the Female demure, with mouth closed.  In the court you will
find many ancient little foxes with noses, heads, or tails broken, two
great Karashishi before which straw sandals (waraji) have been suspended
as votive offerings by somebody with sore feet who has prayed to the
Karashishi-Sama that they will heal his affliction, and a shrine of
Kojin, occupied by the corpses of many children's dolls. 
The grated doors of the shrine of Jigyoba-no-Inari, like those of the
shrine of Yaegaki, are white with the multitude of little papers tied to
them, which papers signify prayers. But the prayers are special and
curious. To right and to left of the doors, and also above them, odd
little votive pictures are pasted upon the walls, mostly representing
children in bath-tubs, or children getting their heads shaved. There are
also one or two representing children at play. Now the interpretation of
these signs and wonders is as follows:
Doubtless you know that Japanese children, as well as Japanese adults,
must take a hot bath every day; also that it is the custom to shave the
heads of very small boys and girls. But in spite of hereditary patience
and strong ancestral tendency to follow ancient custom, young children
find both the razor and the hot bath difficult to endure, with their
delicate skins. For the Japanese hot bath is very hot (not less than 110
degs F., as a general rule), and even the adult foreigner must learn
slowly to bear it, and to appreciate its hygienic value. Also, the
Japanese razor is a much less perfect instrument than ours, and is used
without any lather, and is apt to hurt a little unless used by the most
skilful hands. And finally, Japanese parents are not tyrannical with
their children: they pet and coax, very rarely compel or terrify. So
that it is quite a dilemma for them when the baby revolts against the
bath or mutinies against the razor.
The parents of the child who refuses to be shaved or bathed have
recourse to Jigyoba-no-Inati. The god is besought to send one of his
retainers to amuse the child, and reconcile it to the new order of
things, and render it both docile and happy. Also if a child is naughty,
or falls sick, this Inari is appealed to. If the prayer be granted, some
small present is made to the temple--sometimes a votive picture, such
as those pasted by the door, representing the successful result of the
petition. To judge by the number of such pictures, and by the prosperity
of the temple, the Kodomo-no-Inani would seem to deserve his popularity.
Even during the few minutes I passed in his court I saw three young
mothers, with infants at their backs, come to the shrine and pray and
make offerings. I noticed that one of the children--remarkably pretty--
had never been shaved at all. This was evidently a very obstinate case.
While returning from my visit to the Jigyoba Inani, my Japanese servant,
who had guided me there, told me this story:
The son of his next-door neighbour, a boy of seven, went out to play one
morning, and disappeared for two days. The parents were not at first
uneasy, supposing that the child had gone to the house of a relative,
where he was accustomed to pass a day or two from time to time. But on
the evening of the second day it was learned that the child had not been
at the house in question. Search was at once made; but neither search
nor inquiry availed. Late at night, however, a knock was heard at the
door of the boy's dwelling, and the mother, hurrying out, found her
truant fast asleep on the ground. She could not discover who had
knocked. The boy, upon being awakened, laughed, and said that on the
morning of his disappearance he had met a lad of about his own age, with
very pretty eyes, who had coaxed him away to the woods, where they had
played together all day and night and the next day at very curious funny
games. But at last he got sleepy, and his comrade took him home. He was
not hungry. The comrade promised 'to come to-morrow.'
But the mysterious comrade never came; and no boy of the description
given lived in the neighbourhood. The inference was that the comrade was
a fox who wanted to have a little fun. The subject of the fun mourned
long in vain for his merry companion.
Some thirty years ago there lived in Matsue an ex-wrestler named
Tobikawa, who was a relentless enemy of foxes and used to hunt and kill
them. He was popularly believed to enjoy immunity from bewitchment
because of his immense strength; but there were some old folks who
predicted that he would not die a natural death. This prediction was
Tobikawa died in a very curious manner. He was excessively fond of
practical jokes. One day he disguised himself as a Tengu, or sacred
goblin, with wings and claws and long nose, and ascended a lofty tree in
a sacred grove near Rakusan, whither, after a little while, the innocent
peasants thronged to worship him with offerings. While diverting himself
with this spectacle, and trying to play his part by springing nimbly
from one branch to another, he missed his footing and broke his neck in
But these strange beliefs are swiftly passing away. Year by year more
shrines of Inari crumble down, never to be rebuilt. Year by year the
statuaries make fewer images of foxes. Year by year fewer victims of
fox-possession are taken to the hospitals to be treated according to the
best scientific methods by Japanese physicians who speak German. The
cause is not to be found in the decadence of the old faiths: a
superstition outlives a religion. Much less is it to be sought for in
the efforts of proselytising missionaries from the West--most of whom
profess an earnest belief in devils. It is purely educational. The
omnipotent enemy of superstition is the public school, where the
teaching of modern science is unclogged by sectarianism or prejudice;
where the children of the poorest may learn the wisdom of the Occident;
where there is not a boy or a girl of fourteen ignorant of the great
names of Tyndall, of Darwin, of Huxley, of Herbert Spencer. The little
hands that break the Fox-god's nose in mischievous play can also write
essays upon the evolution of plants and about the geology of Izumo.
There is no place for ghostly foxes in the beautiful nature-world
revealed by new studies to the new generation The omnipotent exorciser
and reformer is the Kodomo.
Note for preface
1 In striking contrast to this indifference is the strong, rational,
far-seeing conservatism of Viscount Torio--a noble exception.
Notes for Chapter One
1 I do not think this explanation is correct; but it is interesting,
as the first which I obtained upon the subject. Properly speaking,
Buddhist worshippers should not clap their hands, but only rub them
softly together. Shinto worshippers always clap their hands four times.
2 Various writers, following the opinion of the Japanologue Satow,
have stated that the torii was originally a bird-perch for fowls offered
up to the gods at Shinto shrines--'not as food, but to give warning of
daybreak.' The etymology of the word is said to be 'bird-rest' by some
authorities; but Aston, not less of an authority, derives it from words
which would give simply the meaning of a gateway. See Chamberlain's
Things Japanese, pp. 429, 430.
3 Professor Basil Hall Chamberlain has held the extraordinary position
of Professor of Japanese in the Imperial University of Japan--no small
honour to English philology!
4 These Ni-O, however, the first I saw in Japan, were very clumsy
figures. There are magnificent Ni-O to be seen in some of the great
temple gateways in Tokyo, Kyoto, and elsewhere. The grandest of all are
those in the Ni-O Mon, or 'Two Kings' Gate,' of the huge Todaiji temple
at Nara. They are eight hundred years old. It is impossible not to
admire the conception of stormy dignity and hurricane-force embodied in
those colossal figures. Prayers are addressed to the Ni-O, especially
by pilgrims. Most of their statues are disfigured by little pellets of
white paper, which people chew into a pulp and then spit at them. There
is a curious superstition that if the pellet sticks to the statue the
prayer is heard; if, on the other hand, it falls to the ground, the
prayer will not be answered.
Note for Chapter Two
1 Dainagon, the title of a high officer in the ancient Imperial Court.
Notes for Chapter Three
1 Derived from the Sanscrit stupa.
2 'The real origin of the custom of piling stones before the images of
Jizo and other divinities is not now known to the people. The Custom is
founded upon a passage in the famous Sutra, "The Lotus of the Good Law."
'Even the little hoys who, in playing, erected here and there heaps of
sand, with the intention of dedicating them as Stupas to the Ginas,-
they have all of them reached enlightenment.'--Saddharma Pundarika, c.
II. v. 81 (Kern's translation), 'Sacred Books of the East,' vol. xxi.
3 The original Jizo has been identified by Orientalists with the
Sanscrit Kshitegarbha; as Professor Chamberlain observes, the
resemblance in sound between the names Jizo and Jesus 'is quite
fortuitous.' But in Japan Jizo has become totally transformed: he may
justly be called the most Japanese of all Japanese divinities. According
to the curious old Buddhist book, Sai no Kawara Kuchi zu sams no den,
the whole Sai-no-Kawara legend originated in Japan, and was first
written by the priest Kuya Shonin, in the sixth year of the period
called TenKei, in the reign of the Emperor Shuyaku, who died in the year
946. To Kuya was revealed, in the village of Sai-in, near Kyoto, during
a night passed by the dry bed of the neighbouring river, Sai-no-Kawa
(said to be the modern Serikawa), the condition of child-souls in the
Meido. (Such is the legend in the book; but Professor Chamberlain has
shown that the name Sai-no-Kawara, as now written, signifies 'The Dry
Bed of the River of Souls,' and modern Japanese faith places that river
in the Meido.) Whatever be the true history of the myth, it is certainly
Japanese; and the conception of Jizo as the lover and playfellow of dead
children belongs to Japan. There are many other popular forms of Jizo,
one of the most common being that Koyasu-Jizo to whom pregnant women
pray. There are but few roads in Japan upon which statues of Jizo may
not be seen; for he is also the patron of pilgrims.
4 Except those who have never married.
5 In Sanscrit, 'Yama-Raja.' But the Indian conception has been totally
transformed by Japanese Buddhism.
6 Funeral customs, as well as the beliefs connected with them, vary
considerably in different parts of Japan. Those of the eastern provinces
differ from those of the western and southern. The old practice of
placing articles of value in the coffin--such as the metal mirror
formerly buried with a woman, or the sword buried with a man of the
Samurai caste--has become almost obsolete. But the custom of putting
money in the coffin still prevails: in Izumo the amount is always six
rin, and these are called Rokudo-kane, or 'The Money for the Six Roads.'
7 Literally 'Western Capital,'--modern name of Kyoto, ancient
residence of the emperors. The name 'Tokyo,' on the other hand,
signifies 'Eastern Capital.'
8 These first ten lines of the original will illustrate the measure
of the wasan:
Kore wa konoyo no koto narazu,
Shide no yamaji no suso no naru,
Sai-no-Kawara no monogatari
Kiku ni tsuketemo aware nari
Futatsu-ya, mitsu-ya, yotsu, itsutsu,
To nimo taranu midorigo ga
Sai-no-Kawara ni atsumari te,
Chichi koishi! haha koishi!
Koishi! koishi! to naku koe wa
Konoyo no koe towa ko to kawari..
Notes for Chapter Four
1 Yane, 'roof'; shobu, 'sweet-flag' (Acorus calamus).
2 At the time this paper was written, nearly three years ago, I had
not seen the mighty bells at Kyoto and at Nara.
The largest bell in Japan is suspended in the grounds of the grand Jodo
temple of Chion-in, at Kyoto. Visitors are not allowed to sound it. It
was east in 1633. It weighs seventy-four tons, and requires, they say,
twenty-five men to ring it properly. Next in size ranks the hell of the
Daibutsu temple in Kyoto, which visitors are allowed to ring on payment
of a small sum. It was cast in 1615, and weighs sixty-three tons. The
wonderful bell of Todaiji at Nara, although ranking only third, is
perhaps the most interesting of all. It is thirteen feet six inches
high, and nine feet in diameter; and its inferiority to the Kyoto bells
is not in visible dimensions so much as in weight and thickness. It
weighs thirty-seven tons. It was cast in 733, and is therefore one
thousand one hundred and sixty years old. Visitors pay one cent to sound
3 'In Sanscrit, Avalokitesvara. The Japanese Kwannon, or Kwanze-on, is
identical in origin with the Chinese virgin-goddess Kwanyin adopted by
Buddhism as an incarnation of the Indian Avalokitesvara. (See Eitel's
Handbook of Chinese Buddhism.) But the Japanese Kwan-non has lost all
Chinese characteristics,--has become artistically an idealisation of
all that is sweet and beautiful in the woman of Japan.
4 Let the reader consult Mitford's admirable Tales of Old Japan for
the full meaning of the term 'Ronin.
5 There is a delicious Japanese proverb, the full humour of which is
only to be appreciated by one familiar with the artistic representations
of the divinities referred to: Karutoki no Jizo-gao, Nasutoki no Emma-
'Borrowing-time, the face of Jizo;
Repaying-time, the face of Emma.'
6 This old legend has peculiar interest as an example of the efforts
made by Buddhism to absorb the Shinto divinities, as it had already
absorbed those of India and of China. These efforts were, to a great
extent, successful prior to the disestablishment of Buddhism and the
revival of Shinto as the State religion. But in Izumo, and other parts
of western Japan, Shinto has always remained dominant, and has even
appropriated and amalgamated much belonging to Buddhism.
7 In Sanscrit 'Hariti'--Karitei-Bo is the Japanese name for one form
Notes for Chapter Five
1 It is related in the same book that Ananda having asked the Buddha how
came Mokenren's mother to suffer in the Gakido, the Teacher replied that
in a previous incarnation she had refused, through cupidity, to feed
certain visiting priests.
2 A deity of good fortune
Notes for Chapter Six
1 The period in which only deities existed.
2 Hyakusho, a peasant, husbandman. The two Chinese characters forming
the word signify respectively, 'a hundred' (hyaku), and 'family name'
(sei). One might be tempted to infer that the appellation is almost
equivalent to our phrase, 'their name is legion.' And a Japanese friend
assures me that the inference would not be far wrong. Anciently the
peasants had no family name; each was known by his personal appellation,
coupled with the name of his lord as possessor or ruler. Thus a hundred
peasants on one estate would all be known by the name of their master.
3 This custom of praying for the souls of animals is by no means
general. But I have seen in the western provinces several burials of
domestic animals at which such prayers were said. After the earth was
filled in, some incense-rods were lighted above the grave in each
instance, and the prayers were repeated in a whisper. A friend in the
capital sends me the following curious information: 'At the Eko-in
temple in Tokyo prayers are offered up every morning for the souls of
certain animals whose ihai [mortuary tablets] are preserved in the
building. A fee of thirty sen will procure burial in the temple-ground
and a short service for any small domestic pet.' Doubtless similar
temples exist elsewhere. Certainly no one capable of affection for our
dumb friends and servants can mock these gentle customs.
4 Why six Jizo instead of five or three or any other number, the reader
may ask. I myself asked the question many times before receiving any
satisfactory reply. Perhaps the following legend affords the most
According to the Book Taijo-Hoshi-mingyo-nenbutsu-den, Jizo-Bosatsu was
a woman ten thousand ko (kalpas) before this era, and became filled with
desire to convert all living beings of the Six Worlds and the Four
Births. And by virtue of the Supernatural Powers she multiplied herself
and simultaneously appeared in all the Rokussho or Six States of
Sentient Existence at once, namely in the Jigoku, Gaki, Chikusho, Shura,
Ningen, Tenjo, and converted the dwellers thereof. (A friend insists
that in order to have done this Jizo must first have become a man.)
Among the many names of Jizo, such as 'The Never Slumbering,' 'The
Dragon-Praiser,' 'The Shining King,' 'Diamond-of-Pity,' I find the
significant appellation of 'The Countless Bodied.'
5 Since this sketch was written, I have seen the Bon-odori in many
different parts of Japan; but I have never witnessed exactly the same
kind of dance. Indeed, I would judge from my experiences in Izumo, in
Oki, in Tottori, in Hoki, in Bingo, and elsewhere, that the Bonodori is
not danced in the same way in any two provinces. Not only do the motions
and gestures vary according to locality, but also the airs of the songs
sung--and this even when the words are the same. In some places the
measure is slow and solemn; in others it is rapid and merry, and
characterised by a queer jerky swing, impossible to describe. But
everywhere both the motion and the melody are curious and pleasing
enough to fascinate the spectator for hours. Certainly these primitive
dances are of far greater interest than the performances of geisha.
Although Buddhism may have utilised them and influenced them, they are
beyond doubt incomparably older than Buddhism.
Notes for Chapter Seven
1 Thick solid sliding shutters of unpainted wood, which in Japanese
houses serve both as shutters and doors.
3 Ama-terasu-oho-mi-Kami literally signifies 'the Heaven-Shining Great-
August-Divinity.' (See Professor Chamberlain's translation of the
4 'The gods who do harm are to be appeased, so that they may not punish
those who have offended them.' Such are the words of the great Shinto
teacher, Hirata, as translated by Mr. Satow in his article, ~ The
Revival of Pure .Shintau.
5 Machi, a stiff piece of pasteboard or other material sewn into the
waist of the hakama at the back, so as to keep the folds of the garment
perpendicular and neat-looking.
7 From an English composition by one of my Japanese pupils.
8 Rin, one tenth of one cent. A small round copper coin with a square
hole in the middle.
9 An inn where soba is sold.
10 According to the mythology of the Kojiki the Moon-Deity is a male
divinity. But the common people know nothing of the Kojiki, written in
an archaic Japanese which only the learned can read; and they address
the moon as O-Tsuki-San, or 'Lady Moon,' just as the old Greek idyllists
Notes for Chapter Eight
1 The most ancient book extant in the archaic tongue of Japan. It is the
most sacred scripture of Shinto. It has been admirably translated, with
copious notes and commentaries, by Professor Basil Hall Chamberlain, of
2 The genealogy of the family is published in a curious little book
with which I was presented at Kitzuki. Senke Takanori is the eighty-
first Pontiff Governor (formerly called Kokuzo) of Kitzuki. His lineage
is traced back through sixty-five generations of Kokuzo and sixteen
generations of earthly deities to Ama-terasu and her brother Susanoo-no-
3 In Sanscrit pretas. The gaki are the famished ghosts of that Circle
of Torment in hell whereof the penance is hunger; and the mouths of some
are 'smaller than the points of needles.'
5 Now solidly united with the mainland. Many extraordinary changes, of
rare interest to the physiographer and geologist, have actually taken
place along the coast of Izumo and in the neighbourhood of the great
lake. Even now, each year some change occurs. I have seen several very
6 The Hakuja, or White Serpent, is also the servant of Benten, 01 Ben-
zai-ten, Goddess of Love, of Beauty, of Eloquence, and of the Sea. 'The
Hakuja has the face of an ancient man, with white eyebrows and wears
upon its head a crown.' Both goddess and serpent can be identified with
ancient Indian mythological beings, and Buddhism first introduced both
into Japan. Among the people, especially perhaps in Izumo, certain
divinities of Buddhism are often identified, or rather confused, with
certain Kami, in popular worship and parlance.
Since this sketch was written, I have had opportunity of seeing a Ryu-ja
within a few hours after its capture. It was between two and three feet
long, and about one inch in diameter at its thickest girth The upper
part of the body was a very dark brown, and the belly yellowish white;
toward the tail there were some beautiful yellowish mottlings. The body
was not cylindrical, but curiously four-sided--like those elaborately
woven whip-lashes which have four edges. The tail was flat and
triangular, like that of certain fish. A Japanese teacher, Mr. Watanabe,
of the Normal School of Matsue, identified the little creature as a
hydrophid of the species called Pela-mis bicalor. It is so seldom seen,
however, that I think the foregoing superficial description of it may
not be without interest to some readers.
7 Ippyo, one hyo 2 1/2 hyo make one koku = 5.13 bushels. The word hyo
means also the bag made to contain one hyo.
8 Either at Kitzuki or at Sada it is possible sometimes to buy a
serpent. On many a 'household-god-shelf' in Matsue the little serpent
may be seen. I saw one that had become brittle and black with age, but
was excellently preserved by some process of which I did not learn the
nature. It had been admirably posed in a tiny wire cage, made to fit
exactly into a small shrine of white wood, and must have been, when
alive, about two feet four inches in length. A little lamp was lighted
daily before it, and some Shinto formula recited by the poor family to
whom it belonged.
9 Translated by Professor Chamberlain the 'Deity Master-of-the-Great-
Land'-one of the most ancient divinities of Japan, but in popular
worship confounded with Daikoku, God of Wealth. His son, Koto-shiro-
nushi-no-Kami, is similarly confounded with Ebisu, or Yebisu, the patron
of honest labour. The origin of the Shinto custom of clapping the hands
in prayer is said by some Japanese writers to have been a sign given by
Both deities are represented by Japanese art in a variety of ways, Some
of the twin images of them sold at Kitzuki are extremely pretty as well
10 Very large donations are made to this temple by wealthy men. The
wooden tablets without the Haiden, on which are recorded the number of
gifts and the names of the donors, mention several recent presents of
1000 yen, or dollars; and donations of 500 yen are not uncommon. The
gift of a high civil official is rarely less than 50 yen.
11 Taku is the Japanese name for the paper mulberry.
12 See the curious legend in Professor Chamberlain's translation of the
13 From a remote period there have been two Kokuzo in theory, although
but one incumbent. Two branches of the same family claim ancestral right
to the office,--the rival houses of Senke and Kitajima. The government
has decided always in favour of the former; but the head of the Kitajima
family has usually been appointed Vice-Kokuzo. A Kitajima to-day holds
the lesser office. The term Kokuzo is not, correctly speaking, a
spiritual, but rather a temporal title. The Kokuzo has always been the
emperor's deputy to Kitzuki,--the person appointed to worship the deity
in the emperor's stead; but the real spiritual title of such a deputy is
that still borne by the present Guji,--'Mitsuye-Shiro.'
14 Haliotis tuberculata, or 'sea-ear.' The curious shell is pierced with
a row of holes, which vary in number with the age and size of the animal
15 Literally, 'ten hiro,' or Japanese fathoms.
16 The fire-drill used at the Shinto temples of Ise is far more
complicated in construction, and certainly represents a much more
advanced stage of mechanical knowledge than the Kitzuki fire-drill
17 During a subsequent visit to Kitzuki I learned that the koto-ita is
used only as a sort of primitive 'tuning' instrument: it gives the right
tone for the true chant which I did not hear during my first visit. The
true chant, an ancient Shinto hymn, is always preceded by the
performance above described.
18 The tempest of the Kokuzo.
19 That is, according to Motoori, the commentator. Or more briefly: 'No
or yes?' This is, according to Professor Chamberlain, a mere fanciful
etymology; but it is accepted by Shinto faith, and for that reason only
is here given.
20 The title of Kokuzo indeed, still exists, but it is now merely
honorary, having no official duties connected with it. It is actually
borne by Baron Senke, the father of Senke Takanori, residing in the
capital. The active religious duties of the Mitsuye-shiro now devolve
upon the Guji.
21 As late as 1890 I was told by a foreign resident, who had travelled
much in the interior of the country, that in certain districts many old
people may be met with who still believe that to see the face of the
emperor is 'to become a Buddha'; that is, to die.
22 Hideyoshi, as is well known, was not of princely extraction
23 The Kojiki dates back, as a Written work, only to A.D. 722. But its
legends and records are known to have existed in the form of oral
literature from a much more ancient time.
24 In certain provinces of Japan Buddhism practically absorbed Shinto in
other centuries, but in Izumo Shinto absorbed Buddhism; and now that
Shinto is supported by the State there is a visible tendency to
eliminate from its cult certain elements of Buddhist origin.
Notes for Chapter Nine
1 Such are the names given to the water-vessels or cisterns at which
Shinto worshippers must wash their hands and rinse their mouths ere
praying to the Kami. A mitarashi or o-chozubachi is placed before every
Shinto temple. The pilgrim to Shin-Kukedo-San should perform this
ceremonial ablution at the little rock-spring above described, before
entering the sacred cave. Here even the gods of the cave are said to
wash after having passed through the seawater.
2 August Fire-Lady'; or, 'the August Sun-Lady,' Amaterasu-oho-mi-Kami.
Notes for Chapter Ten
2 Zashiki, the best and largest room of a Japanese dwelling--the guest-
room of a private house, or the banquet-room of a public inn.
Notes for Chapter Eleven
1 Fourteenth of August.
2 In the pretty little seaside hotel Inaba-ya, where I lived during my
stay in Kitzuki, the kind old hostess begged her guests with almost
tearful earnestness not to leave the house during the Minige.
3 There are ten rin to one sen, and ten mon to one rin, on one hundred
to one sen. The majority of the cheap toys sold at the matsuri cost from
two to nine rin. The rin is a circular copper coin with a square hole in
the middle for stringing purposes.
4 Why the monkey is so respectfully mentioned in polite speech, I do
not exactly know; but I think that the symbolical relation of the
monkey, both to Buddhism and to Shinto, may perhaps account for the use
of the prefix 'O' (honourable) before its name.
5 As many fine dolls really are. The superior class of O-Hina-San, such
as figure in the beautiful displays of the O-Hina-no-Matsuri at rich
homes, are heirlooms. Dolls are not given to children to break; and
Japanese children seldom break them. I saw at a Doll's Festival in the
house of the Governor of Izumo, dolls one hundred years old-charming
figurines in ancient court costume.
6 Not to be confounded with Koshin, the God of Roads.
7 Celtis Wilidenowiana. Sometimes, but rarely, a pine or other tree is
substituted for the enoki.
8 'Literally, 'The Dance of the Fruitful Year.'
First,--unto the Taisha-Sama of Izunio;
Second,--to Irokami-Sama of Niigata;
Third,--unto Kompira-Sama of Sanuki;
Fourth,--unto Zenkoji-Sama of Shinano;
Fifth,--to O-Yakushi-San of Ichibata;
Sixth,--to O-Jizo-Sama of Rokkakudo;
Seventh,--to O-Ebisu-Sama of Nana-ura;
Eighth,--unto Hachiman-Sama of Yawata;
Ninth,--unto everyholy shrine of Koya;
Tenth,--to the Ujigami-Sama of our village.'
Japanese readers will appreciate the ingenious manner in which the numeral
at the beginning of each phrase is repeated in the name of the sacred
place sung of.
Notes for Chapter Twelve
1 This deity is seldom called by his full name, which has been shortened
by common usage from Susano-o-no-mikoto.
2 A kichinyado is an inn at which the traveller is charged only the
price of the wood used for fuel in cooking his rice.
3 The thick fine straw mats, fitted upon the floor of every Japanese
room, are always six feet long by three feet broad. The largest room in
the ordinary middle-class house is a room of eight mats. A room of one
hundred mats is something worth seeing.
4 The kubi-oke was a lacquered tray with a high rim and a high cover.
The name signifies 'head-box.' It was the ancient custom to place the
head of a decapitated person upon a kubi-oke before conveying the
ghastly trophy into the palace of the prince desirous of seeing it.
Notes for Chapter Thirteen
1 Yama-no-mono ('mountain-folk,'--so called from their settlement on
the hills above Tokoji),--a pariah-class whose special calling is the
washing of the dead and the making of graves.
2 Joro: a courtesan.
3 Illicium religiosum
4 Literally: 'without shadow' or 'shadowless.'
7 Or 'him.' This is a free rendering. The word 'nushi' simply refers
to the owner of the house.
Notes for Chapter Fourteen
1 ''Eight clouds arise. The eightfold [or, manifold] fence of Idzumo
makes an eightfold [or, manifold] fence for the spouses to retire
within. Oh! that eightfold fence!' This is said to be the oldest song in
the Japanese language. It has been differently translated by the great
scholars and commentators. The above version and text are from Professor
B. H. Chamberlain's translation of the Kojiki (pp.60-64).
2 Professor Chamberlain disputes this etymology for excellent reasons.
But in Izumo itself the etymology is still accepted, and will be
accepted, doubtless, until the results of foreign scholarship in the
study of the archaic texts is more generally known.
3 Planeca Japonica.
4 So absolutely has Shinto in Izumo monopolised the Karashishi, or
stone lions, of Buddhist origin, that it is rare in the province to find
a pair before any Buddhist temple. There is even a Shinto myth about
their introduction into Japan from India, by the Fox-God!
5 Such offerings are called Gwan-hodoki. Gwan wo hodoki, 'to make a
6 A pilgrim whose prayer has been heard usually plants a single nobori
as a token. Sometimes you may see nobori of five colours (goshiki),--
black, yellow, red, blue, and white--of which one hundred or one
thousand have been planted by one person. But this is done only in
pursuance of some very special vow.
7 'On being asked if there were any other love charm, the Newt replied,
making a ring with two of his toes--"Only this." The sign signifies,
8 There are no less than eleven principal kinds of Japanese names. The
jitsumyo, or 'true name,' corresponds to our Christian name. On this
intricate and interesting topic the reader should consult Professor B.
H. Chamberlain's excellent little book, Things Japanese, pp. 250-5.
9 That I may be wedded to Takaki-Toki, I humbly pray.--A youth of
10 The gengebana (also called renge-so, and in Izumo miakobana) is an
herb planted only for fertilizing purposes. Its flowers are extremely
small, but so numerous that in their blossoming season miles of fields
are coloured by them a beautiful lilaceous blue. A gentleman who wished
to marry a joro despite the advice of his friends, was gently chided by
them with the above little verse, which, freely translated, signifies:
'Take it not into thy hand: the flowers of the gengebans are fair to
view only when left all together in the field.'
Notes for Chapter Fifteen
1 Toyo-uke-bime-no-Kami, or Uka-no-mi-tana ('who has also eight other
names), is a female divinity, according to the Kojiki and its
commentators. Moreover, the greatest of all Shinto scholars, Hirata, as
cited by Satow, says there is really no such god as Inari-San at all--
that the very name is an error. But the common people have created the
God Inari: therefore he must be presumed to exist--if only for
folklorists; and I speak of him as a male deity because I see him so
represented in pictures and carvings. As to his mythological existence,
his great and wealthy temple at Kyoto is impressive testimony.
2 The white fox is a favourite subject with Japanese artists. Some very
beautiful kakemono representing white foxes were on display at the Tokyo
exhibition of 1890. Phosphorescent foxes often appear in the old
coloured prints, now so rare and precious, made by artists whose names
have become world-famous. Occasionally foxes are represented wandering
about at night, with lambent tongues of dim fire--kitsune-bi--above
their heads. The end of the fox's tail, both in sculpture and drawing,
is ordinarily decorated with the symbolic jewel (tama) of old Buddhist
art. I have in my possession one kakemono representing a white fox with
a luminous jewel in its tail. I purchased it at the Matsue temple of
Inari--'O-Shiroyama-no-Inari-Sama.' The art of the kakemono is clumsy;
but the conception possesses curious interest.
3 The Japanese candle has a large hollow paper wick. It is usually
placed upon an iron point which enters into the orifice of the wick at
the flat end.
4 See Professor Chamberlain's Things Japanese, under the title
5 Translated by Walter Dening.
6 The word shizoku is simply the Chinese for samurai. But the term now
means little more than 'gentleman' in England.
7 The fox-messenger travels unseen. But if caught in a trap, or
injured, his magic fails him, and he becomes visible.
8 The Will-o'-the-Wisp is called Kitsune-bi, or 'fox-fire.'
9 'Aburage' is a name given to fried bean-curds or tofu.
10 Azukimeshi is a preparation of red beans boiled with rice.
11 The Hoin or Yamabushi was a Buddhist exorciser, usually a priest.
Strictly speaking, the Hoin was a Yamabushi of higher rank. The
Yamabushi used to practise divination as well as exorcism. They were
forbidden to exercise these professions by the present government; and
most of the little temples formerly occupied by them have disappeared or
fallen into ruin. But among the peasantry Buddhist exorcisers are still
called to attend cases of fox-possession, and while acting as exorcisers
are still spoken of as Yamabushi.
12 A most curious paper on the subject of Ten-gan, or Infinite Vision--
being the translation of a Buddhist sermon by the priest Sata Kaiseki--
appeared in vol. vii. of the Transactions of the Asiatic Society of
Japan, from the pen of Mr. J. M. James. It contains an interesting
consideration of the supernatural powers of the Fox.
13 All the portable lanterns used to light the way upon dark nights
bear a mon or crest of the owner.
14 Cakes made of rice flour and often sweetened with sugar.
15 It is believed that foxes amuse themselves by causing people to eat
horse-dung in the belief that they are eating mochi, or to enter a
cesspool in the belief they are taking a bath.
16 'In Jigyobamachi, a name signifying 'earthwork-street.' It stands
upon land reclaimed from swamp.
17 This seems to be the immemorial artistic law for the demeanour of
all symbolic guardians of holy places, such as the Karashishi, and the
Ascending and Descending Dragons carved upon panels, or pillars. At
Kumano temple even the Suijin, or warrior-guardians, who frown behind
the gratings of the chambers of the great gateway, are thus represented
-one with mouth open, the other with closed lips.
On inquiring about the origin of this distinction between the two
symbolic figures, I was told by a young Buddhist scholar that the male
figure in such representations is supposed to be pronouncing the sound
'A,' and the figure with closed lips the sound of nasal 'N '-
corresponding to the Alpha and Omega of the Greek alphabet, and also
emblematic of the Beginning and the End. In the Lotos of the Good Law,
Buddha so reveals himself, as the cosmic Alpha and Omega, and the Father
of the World,--like Krishna in the Bhagavad-Gita.
18 There is one exception to the general custom of giving the dolls of
dead children, or the wrecks of dolls, to Kojin. Those images of the God
of Calligraphy and Scholarship which are always presented as gifts to
boys on the Boys' Festival are given, when broken, to Tenjin himself,
not to Kojin; at least such is the custom in Matsue.
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