Sketches of Japanese Manners and Customs
J. M. W. Silver
SKETCHES OF JAPANESE MANNERS AND CUSTOMS
J. M. W. SILVER
Lieutenant Royal Marines, Light Infantry
(Late of the Royal Marine Battalion for Service in Japan)
Illustrated by Native Drawings,
Reproduced in Fac-Simile by Means of Chromo-Lithography.
[Illustration: Sketches of Japanese Manners and Customs]
COLONEL SIR EDMUND SAUNDERSON PRIDEAUX, BART.
DEAR SIR EDMUND,
These few 'Sketches of Japanese Manners and Customs' were collected
during the years 1864-5, at which time I was attached to the Battalion
of Royal Marines for service in Japan, and it is now very pleasing to
have the privilege of dedicating them to one who was the friend and
companion-in-arms of my late Father.
In memory of this bond of friendship, and in grateful acknowledgment
of the many kindnesses you have shown me, this Dedication of my humble
efforts to assist in the elucidation of the social condition of a
distant and comparatively unknown race, affords me deep gratification.
With much respect and esteem, I am,
Dear Sir Edmund,
Very faithfully yours,
J. M. W. SILVER.
Royal Marine Barracks, Forton,
January 29th, 1867.
I. FESTIVALS AND HOLIDAYS
II. FIRES AND FIRE-BRIGADES
III. DOMESTIC LIFE
IV. THE TYCOON, DAIMIOS, AND ARISTOCRACY
V. THE COURT OF THE MIKADO
VI. THE 'HARA KIRU'
VII. NATIONAL GAMES AND AMUSEMENTS
VIII. CRIMES AND PUNISHMENTS
IX. SUPERSTITIONS AND RELIGIOUS OBSERVANCES
X. ON THE TOKAIDO AND IN THE TEA-HOUSES
XI. THE SPY SYSTEM--THE BATH-HOUSE
XII. LOVE OF FLOWERS
LIST OF PLATES.
FESTIVAL IN HONOUR OF THE BIRTH OF CHILDREN.
MERCHANTS' GREAT FESTIVAL.
A FIRE-BRIGADE ON ITS WAY TO A FIRE.
A JAPANESE WEDDING.
A DAIMIO PAYING A STATE VISIT.
A DAIMIO AND FAMILY WITNESSING FIREWORKS.
A MINISTER OF THE MIKADO ON A RELIGIOUS EXPEDITION.
THEATRICAL PERFORMANCE IN FRONT OF THE MIKADO'S PALACE.
LADIES OF THE MIKADO'S COURT PERFORMING THE BUTTERFLY DANCE.
THE TYCOON'S MESSENGERS READING THE SENTENCE.
A DAIMIO'S FUNERAL.
CREMATION OF THE BODY.
RELATIVES COLLECTING ASHES.
PUBLIC WRESTLING IN THE GREAT AMPHITHEATRE AT VEDDO.
INTERIOR OF A THEATRE.
MODE OF CONDUCTING A CRIMINAL TO EXECUTION.
LONINS, OR OUTLAWS, ROBBING A RICH MERCHANT'S HOUSE.
EXPOSURE FOR INFIDELITY.
SELLING INDULGENCES BY PUBLIC AUCTION.
PRAYING A SOUL OUT OF PURGATORY.
SUDANGEE, OR LAST OFFICES.
A BAKER'S SHOP.
A TEA-HOUSE MERRY-MAKING.
UYA, OR BATH-HOUSE.
A FLOWER SHOW.
[Illustration: FESTIVAL IN HONOUR OF THE BIRTH OF CHILDREN.]
[Illustration: MERCHANTS' GREAT FESTIVAL.]
FESTIVALS AND HOLIDAYS.
The first feature of Japanese life that prominently presents itself to
the notice of the stranger, is the number of festivals and holidays
held in honour of the various deities, warriors, and sages, or in
accordance with some ancient custom of the county, which is as
paramount an authority as the most stringent of its laws. Of these
festivals, the 'Oki-don-tako,' or 'Great Holiday,' which takes place
about Christmas, and lasts a fortnight, is the most important.
Previous to its celebration, it is customary with the people to settle
accounts, and amicably adjust any quarrels or estrangements that may
happen to exist; and they evince the same spirit that actuates
Christian nations at this season, by a general interchange of presents
and complimentary visits with their friends and acquaintance. So
anxious are the merchants to take this opportunity of settling with
their creditors, that, when the dealers have deficiencies to make up,
articles are frequently pressed on foreign residents at the Treaty
Ports at prices previously refused.
The 'Gogata Seku,' the emblems of which form the first subject of
illustration, is also a festival of great importance: it takes place
about the middle of June, which is the fifth month of the Japanese
calendar, from which it derives its designation, and is kept up with
more than ordinary spirit during the three days of its continuance. It
is held in commemoration of Gongen Sama, the great general to whom
the present dynasty owes its existence; and the Japanese date their
births from this festival, even if born the day after its last
It has several curious symbols, the most striking being huge aerial
fishes, in imitation of the 'koi,' or 'carp;' large crimson streamers,
representations of Gongen Sama crushing a demon; and the heads and
tails of crayfish, with which they decorate their dishes and the
entrances of their houses. The floating fish flag is hoisted over
every house in which a boy has been born during the preceding twelve
months, and is emblematical of his future career. As the 'koi,' or
'carp,' which is very plentiful in Japan, finds its way up streams and
rivers, surmounting all obstacles in its way, and rendering itself by
its fecundity and edible qualities useful to the whole country, so the
child is to make his way through life, boldly fulfilling his destiny,
and proving himself a useful and beneficial member of the community.
In the same way, the scarlet streamer indicates the birth of a female
child, and the domestic nature of her duties. The crayfish are used to
remind the people of their humble origin (it being traditionary that
the empire originated from a race of poor fishermen), and the
consequent necessity of humility, temperance, and frugality, in their
different stations in life.
[Footnote 1: The slice of salt-fish which accompanies Japanese letters
is an exhortation to the same effect.]
Various qualities are ascribed to the hero of this festival: he is
considered the especial champion of women, for whose protection he
instituted several laws and regulations; among others, making it
obligatory on them to blacken their teeth on entering into the married
state. He is believed to be able to charm away fevers, to alleviate
suffering, and to prevent the lives of his _protegees_ from being
embittered by jealousy. During the celebration of this festival the
whole country presents an extraordinary appearance; aerial fishes,
streamers, and bamboo decorations, meet the eye in every direction;
and the people in gala costume which is always worn on holidays,
greatly enhance the brilliancy of the scene.
The gala dress is much gayer than that ordinarily worn, but there is
little difference in the material, the dress of every class being
regulated by stringent sumptuary laws. Blues and purples predominate
in winter, the lighter and more varied colours being generally
confined to materials only adapted for summer use. The ladies have a
great partiality for crimson crape, which is generally worn as an
under-robe, and peeps daintily out at the bottom of the dress, and at
the wide open sleeves; it is also entwined in the hair, and with the
girdle, at the back of which it is allowed to droop in full, graceful
folds. The men do not affect such bright colours as the women and
children, although their robes are often fantastically embroidered
with various strange devices, such as shell-fish, frogs, flowers and
landscapes, some of which are beautifully worked.
[Illustration: Mother and Child.(From Photograph.)]
The whole populace on these occasions seem determined to enjoy
themselves; the air of good-natured contentment, which characterises
them at all times, taking a more exuberant tone as they stroll about
the streets, visit in family parties, or make excursions to the
neighbouring tea-houses. Thoroughly domestic in their tastes and
habits, it is a pleasing sight to watch the family groups. Here a
grand-dame is carefully assisted along by her son and daughter-in-law,
preceded by chattering grandchildren in the gayest of dresses, tugging
at extraordinary kites; or a father, in the doorway of his house,
nurses one child, while the mother exhibits for the admiration of
sympathizing friends another infant--probably one of the unconscious
objects of all this rejoicing.
Though the men frequently exceed the bounds of sobriety on these
festivals and holidays, they rarely become quarrelsome. It is,
however, by no means unusual for them to keep in a state of
intoxication for days; alleging this, with perfect _sang froid_, as an
excuse for any neglected promise or unfinished job.
The 'Omatsurie,' or 'Merchants' Great Festival,' which is only
celebrated in the principal towns, takes place about the middle of
July, and may be considered to be an exhibition of the different
trades, as the merchants and craftsmen of the country show the
choicest specimens of their wares and handicraft in a kind of trades'
procession. Like all the rest of their festivals it has a religious
signification, the people believing that misfortunes in business are
warded off by it. Upwards of five hundred trade trophies figure in one
of these processions, the imposing nature of which may be imagined
from the gorgeous materials and fantastic dresses depicted in the
illustration. The car in the foreground bears the trophy of the
wax-figure makers, whose trade is one of the most lucrative in Japan,
as the Japanese not only perpetuate their celebrities by wax-work
effigies, but the majority of the people, being professors of the
Sintoo religion, have Lares and Penates of the same material, called
'Kamis,' which are supposed to intercede on their behalf with the
Supreme Being. And this is in addition to regular wax-work
exhibitions, which are very popular, and the sale of toys which are
hawked about the country by travelling dealers.
[Illustration: Travelling Merchant (Native Drawing.)]
[Illustration: OTINTA LAMA.]
The merchants have a general right of _entree_ to all parts of the
town on these occasions. In the illustration, the procession is
passing through the official quarter of Yeddo, the Tycoon's palace
forming the subject of the background. They halt from time to time in
their progress, which is enlivened by songs descriptive of their
various callings, and the beating of huge drums, and blowing of
strange discordant instruments. There is a kind of analogy between our
industrial exhibitions and these festivals; and, whatever the purpose
may be for which they were originated, it is plain that they admirably
represent the industry, wealth, and resources of the country.
'Otinta Sama' is a comical divinity, who is laughed at by some, and
believed by others to inhabit certain miniature temples, which are
crowned with cocks with outspread wings, as that bird is supposed to
be his favourite incarnation. On holidays and festivals, his temples
are frequently carried about on the shoulders of his votaries, who are
generally the most ignorant and superstitious of the people. This is
always a subject of merriment with the unbelievers, who crowd round
the temples and oppose their progress, and indulge in witticisms at
the expense of the divinity and his bearers. This sometimes leads to a
disturbance, but only when the parties concerned have been indulging
too freely in their favourite saki.
[Illustration: Saki-drunk. (Native drawing.)]
The intercession of Otinta Sama is principally sought in times of
drought or of heavy rains; the temple in the one case being brought
out and exposed to the sun, and in the other sprinkled with water, by
way of intimating the immediate necessity for his good offices.
FIRES AND FIRE-BRIGADES
Fires are necessarily frequent, as the majority of the houses are
constructed of wood; and such dangerous articles as paper-lanterns,
small charcoal fire-boxes, and movable open stoves, for household
purposes, are in common use. The candles burnt in the paper-lanterns
render them extremely dangerous, as they are fixed by a socket inside
the lower end of the candle, which fits on a peg in the
lantern--generally very loosely; and as they flare a great deal, very
little wind or motion will cause a conflagration. Fires are, mostly
attributed, however, to the 'chebache,' or small charcoal fire-box,
which is used for smoking purposes. It is placed on a small stand in
the middle of the thickly-matted rooms, the smokers sitting round
drinking saki, and occasionally filling their small pipes. Their
method of smoking, like all the rest of their habits, is remarkably
peculiar; for, after inhaling a few whiffs, the smoker invariably
knocks out the half-consumed remnant on the 'chebache,' and, presently
refilling, commences another pipe, and so on, two or three times in
succession, rarely troubling himself about the ashes of the last,
which the slightest current of air may carry unperceived to smoulder
in the combustible flooring.
[Illustration: A FIRE BRIGADE ON ITS WAY TO A FIRE.]
Fires occur frequently, notwithstanding the great precautions which
are taken for their prevention. Town and country are divided into
districts, for which certain of the inhabitants are responsible. Each
of these has its alarum, with observatory and regular watchers; while
every guard-house is provided with a supply of ladders, buckets, and
other necessary implements. Whenever a gale is coming on, the
'Yoshongyee and Kanabo,' or 'watch and fire look-outs,' who on
ordinary occasions only go their rounds by night, parade the towns
with rattles and clanking iron instruments, as a warning to the people
to keep their fires low.
They have numerous fire-brigades, which are well organized, and
remarkably efficient. In the illustration one of them is seen hurrying
along the street to the place of action. On the right, a watchman is
striking an alarum, and another may be noticed, half-way up an
observatory in the distance, pointing out the direction of the fire.
The white building on the other side of the street is a fire-proof
storehouse, in which the public documents and valuables of the
district are deposited whenever a fire breaks out in it.
[Illustration: Yoshongyee and Kanabo. (Native drawing.)]
A Japanese 'Shecase,' or fire-brigade, passing silently along the
streets, lighted by its weird red-and-black distinguishing lanterns,
is a strange sight. Some of its members wear armour, with helmets and
black-lacquered iron visors, and carry 'martoe,' or 'fire-charms,' and
various necessary implements; others are clad in head-and-shoulder
pieces and gauntlets of light chain-armour, to protect them while
pulling down and unroofing houses, which is their especial duty. All
have a regular fire costume, from the 'Oki Yaconin,' or 'head man,' to
the bare-legged coolie, who carries the badge of the brigade in large
red characters on his back. On arriving at a fire, a _point de tete_
is selected--generally a house, on the roof of which the fire-charms
are immediately fixed, as if to forbid its further advance. These
charms (the circular white objects with black mouldings) have, of
course, as little effect on one element as Canute's celebrated
command had on another; but the people put such faith in their virtue
that their presence is a powerful auxiliary in prescribing the limits
of fires, which are rarely allowed to pass the bounds marked out by
them. The firemen fight with the flames as they close on the charms,
like men determined to stand by their colours to the last, rushing
into the burning houses, pulling them down, and drenching the blazing
thatch, with great courage and endurance. When, by thus putting their
shoulder to the wheel, the fire is fairly subdued, they turn round and
point exultingly to the martoe as the Hercules that has procured the
result. On one occasion, at a fire in the village of Omura, adjoining
Yokahama, the charms and their supporters were actually licked by the
flames from the house opposite to that on which they were fixed, whose
thatched roof was pulled off while in a state of rampant ignition by
fire-coolies, who with bare hands, and no other protection than their
saturated clothing, fought with the actual fire. One plucky fellow
fell through the roof while thus employed, and, as the spectators
still shuddered at his anticipated fate, rushed out apparently
uninjured, and, re-ascending, resumed his fiery task with unabated
vigour. Although the fire-charms were triumphant on this occasion,
they did not escape unscorched, and several engines had to be kept in
constant play upon them and their supporters, to prevent the one from
ignition, and the other from being baked in their armour like crabs in
The engines in present use are made of wood, and, though simple, are
efficient in damping the roofs of houses (which, being tiled with thin
squares of wood, are very inflammable), putting out embers, and
playing upon the firemen, who, as already indicated, prefer being
stewed to being roasted. The Japanese, however, are thoroughly aware
of the superiority of our engines, which will probably soon take the
place of their own, as the people are singularly quick in availing
themselves of anything useful.
The townspeople generally calculate on being burnt out once in every
seven years, and whenever this calamity falls upon them, no time is
lost in rebuilding. For instance, in December, 1864, a fragment of
blazing wood, from a fire which destroyed the United Service Club at
Yokohama, was blown across to the village of Omura before alluded to,
which was half burnt down, greatly endangering the General Small-Pox
Hospital and the huts of the Royal Marine Battalion in its rear. But
early next morning, while the embers of the old houses were still
smoking, new ones were in course of erection, and before night some of
the industrious occupants were fairly roofed in afresh.
[Footnote 2: As an illustration of the spirit which characterises
British merchants in their intercourse with the Japanese, it may be
mentioned that a liberal subscription was promptly got up for the
re-establishment of these burnt-out villagers; but, although the
Japanese Government seemed thoroughly to appreciate the kindly spirit
in which it was offered, national pride came in the way of its
acceptance, and the people were only induced to waive their objection
on its being urgently pressed upon them that the fire which destroyed
the Foreigners' Club was the cause of the calamity.]
It is impossible to mark the even and peaceable tenor of Japanese
life, the politeness, industry, respect for superiors, and general air
of cheerfulness and content, that pervades all classes, without
admiration of the wise regulations which preserve such order amongst
them as a people. Quarrels and blows are almost unknown in families;
the husband is gentle, the wife exemplary and affectionate, and the
children singularly obedient and reverent to their parents: yet 'Spare
the rod and spoil the child' is a precept totally disregarded. The
children are never beaten, nor do the parents allow themselves to lose
their tempers in rebuking them, however great the provocation may
be--one remarkable result of the complete self-abnegation inculcated
by their social system.
[Illustration: A JAPANESE WEDDING.]
The relative position of father and son is very striking. From an
early age the latter enjoys the entire confidence of the former, who
not only treats him as a grown-up person, but frequently refers
disputed matters to his arbitration, invariably abiding by his
decision. Again, on a son's arriving at manhood, the parents often
resign their property in his favour, relying on him, with a confidence
rarely misplaced, for maintenance during the remainder of their lives;
and so sacred is this trust considered, that in case of the son's
demise it devolves indisputably on his wife and children. So far, what
could be more promising? But, alas! like everything else, Japanese
life has a dark side, and in this case it consists of a repulsive
custom, which permits indigent parents to sell their daughters for a
term of years into a state of bondage, for purposes of the most
degrading nature. This possibility more than counterbalances all the
brighter features of their domestic economy. Generally speaking, when
young girls find themselves a burden to their parents, they seek
employment in the tea-houses, where they are well looked after and
instructed in various accomplishments, for which they serve a certain
apprenticeship, and at its expiration generally marry, as girls so
educated are eagerly sought after.
There are two forms of marriage, either of which is legally binding.
One is a religious, and the other a civil contract, not very
dissimilar from our marriage by the registrar, saving that the bride's
parents sign for her. Whichever form is used, the parents receive a
sum of money from the bridegroom; but in neither case is the husband
supposed to see the face of his bride until all due formalities have
been performed. The religious ceremony takes place in a temple: the
pair, after listening to a lengthy harangue from one of the attendant
priests, approach the altar, where large tapers are presented to them;
the bride, instructed by the priest, lights her taper at the sacred
censer on the altar, and the bridegroom, igniting his from hers,
allows the two flames to combine, and burn steadily together, thus
symbolizing the perfect unity of the marriage state; and this
completes the ceremonial.
The illustration represents the private ratification of the civil
contract, which is a simple form, by which the parties take upon
themselves the respective duties of husband and wife. The veiled
figure in white is the 'hanna-yomie,' or 'bride,' in the act of
acknowledging the 'hanna-moko,' or 'bridegroom' (who sits opposite to
her in an official dress), by partaking of the nuptial saki. This
'saki,' or 'wine,' is prepared by two intimate female friends of the
bride, who first pour it into the gold and silver lacquer vessels on
the stand, which respectively represent the husband and wife, and
then, taking the vessels in hand, mix the contents in a cup, and
deliver it to the 'shewarin,' or 'master of the ceremonies,' who hands
it to the bride, and then to the bridegroom, and both partake of the
contents, which act constitutes the marriage.
Although young ladies are employed to mix the nuptial saki they do not
attend on the bride. Such offices as are required are performed by a
married couple, the shewarin and his wife. It is they who make the
necessary arrangements, and provide the pheasants that appear in the
recess; which signify that the hanna-moko, like the cock-pheasant,
will always jealously guard his charmer, who, like the shy hen-bird,
will readily respond to the call of her mate.
[Illustration: A Dose of Moxa. (Native drawing.)]
A more practical idea of the requirements of married life may be
deduced from the annexed woodcut, representing the application of
moxa, which is very commonly used as a remedy for rheumatism, and to
Japanese women make excellent wives: they are never idle in their
houses; and when other occupations fail them, the spinning-wheel, or
loom, is brought out, and materials for clothing their families are
prepared. In the country, the women share equally with their husbands
and children in agricultural labours; early and late whole families
may be seen in the paddy-fields transplanting rice, or superintending
its irrigation, for which the undulating nature of the country affords
[Illustration: Transplanting Rice. (Native drawing.)]
Notwithstanding the laborious nature of their tasks they have always a
cheerful greeting for the passer-by, even under extremely irritating
circumstances, as they are greatly plagued by leeches, which swarm in
The result of the constant attention paid to the cultivation of the
soil is astonishing. Our farmers would gaze with surprise on the
luxuriant crops of cereals, roots, and vegetables; and this is solely
owing to the care taken in preparing the soil, which is not naturally
productive. Weeds are never to be met with in the fields, which,
however, from the constant manuring bestowed upon them, lack the sweet
fresh smell of our own.
With regard to education, it is rare to meet with a Japanese who
cannot read, write, and cipher; and in buying and selling they use
computing slides like the Chinese, by the aid of which they quickly
settle the amount to be paid. They do not, except in the higher
classes, receive what we understand by a general or scientific
education, the members of each trade or profession being only
instructed in what pertains to their own affairs--a fact the inquiring
stranger soon discovers.
THE TYCOON, DAIMIOS, AND ARISTOCRACY.
The Government of Japan consists of an oligarchy of feudal princes,
called Daimios, wielding absolute authority in their respective
provinces, but subject to the general control of one of their number,
(selected from one of three great families), called the 'Tycoon,' who,
assisted by a 'Gorogio,' or 'Great Council,' presides over the affairs
of the state in the name of the 'Mikado,' or 'Spiritual Emperor,' its
The office of Mikado is apparently the cause of most of the
disturbances which agitate the country. Its temporal importance lies
in possessing the power of issuing decrees, bestowing titles, and
delegating authority to others; and princes discontented with the
Tycoon are constantly intriguing against his legitimate influence with
the Mikado. For instance: an attempt was made in 1864 by a powerful
coalition, headed by Choisiu, prince of Nangato, to obtain possession
of the Mikado's person. This was only prevented after a severe
struggle by the bravery of the Tycoon's guard, to whose care the
palace and its inmates were entrusted. During the conflict a large
portion of the sacred city of Miako was burnt.
[Illustration: A DAIMIO PAYING A STATE VISIT.]
The Tycoon only leaves Yeddo when affairs of state require his
presence elsewhere. His palace is situated in the heart of the city,
and is surrounded by grounds several miles in circumference, and
enclosed by a deep moat. It is there that he receives the compulsory
visits of the grandees of the empire, one of whom, on the point of
being ushered into the audience-chamber, is shown opposite, in his
robes of ceremony, and attended by a sword-bearer, in token of his
high rank. The bonze, or priest, who precedes him, does not impart any
religious signification to the visit, as priests commonly act in the
double capacity of spy and master of the ceremonies. The screen, which
forms the background of the illustration is worthy of attention, as
its subject is taken from the Japanese mythology, and represents the
great sun-god from whom Ten-zio-dai-zin, the patron goddess of the
In public, these oligarchical princes are invariably surrounded by all
the pomp of feudal state, and when they travel are escorted by large
bodies of retainers. At Kanagawa, which adjoins the settlement of
Yokohama, the foreigner has frequent opportunities of witnessing their
processions as they pass to and fro along the 'tokaido,' or 'great
public road,' when they are going on their compulsory visits to Yeddo
from their own country palaces. Nor is much danger attached to this,
as the passing of Daimios whom it would be dangerous to meet on the
tokaido, is always notified by the authorities to the consul. On
witnessing a Daimio's procession for the first time, it is hard to
realise that it is not a scene from some gorgeous pantomime, ao
brilliant and varied are the costumes of the retainers, and so totally
different is it from anything which European eyes are accustomed to
gaze upon. But should anything excite the risible faculties of the
observer, his hallucinations are likely to be quickly scattered by the
scowls of the resolute-looking fellows passing by with 'hand on
sword,' needing but little encouragement to 'set a glory' to it, 'by
giving it the worship of revenge,' as they are extremely jealous of
the honour of their prince, and regard the presence of foreigners on
the tokaido at such times as an insult. This circumstance is also
rendered more galling by foreigners sitting coolly on their horses by
the road-side as the great man passes, generally in a low norimon, on
which they must necessarily look down--in contradiction to Japanese
etiquette, which permits no inferior to look down upon a
superior--while the people of the country are either abjectly
kowtowing to him or patiently waiting in their closed houses until his
passing shall set them once more at liberty.
A review given the by two ministers for foreign affairs to Sir
Rutherford Alcock, shortly before his departure, was a very imposing
spectacle. The approach of the ministers was announced by the beating
of drums (which are sometimes carried on the shoulder and struck by
the palm of the hand) and the blowing of conch-shells, each instrument
being sounded three times in succession, at short intervals. Men in
armour carrying banners, bearing the Tycoon's crest, headed the
procession. They were followed by a large drum in a square case,
carried by two men, and the conch-blowers; then came a number of
spearmen in armour; officers on horseback immediately preceding the
ministers. On arriving at the ground they dismounted, and were
received by Sir Rutherford Alcock, the remainder of their retinue
passing on and forming in rear of the others, to the left of the
English garrison, consisting of the second battalion of the 20th
Regiment, the Royal Marine battalion, and detachments of Royal
Artillery, of the 67th Regiment, and Beloochees, who were drawn up in
brigade in honour of the occasion. At the request of the ministers the
garrison marched past and performed a few manoeuvres, concluding with
discharging blank cartridge in squares and in skirmishing order. The
rapidity of the fire appeared to make a great impression on them. This
over, the Japanese performance commenced; which was a representation
of their ancient order of battle, the retainers dividing and forming
in lines opposite one another, and about one hundred yards apart. The
proceedings were conducted by two marshals on foot; they began by
forming the spearmen in line, with emphatic guttural commands,
stamping of the feet, and flourishing of gilt batons, to the end of
which wisps of paper were attached. All were habited in magnificent
armour: some wore complete suits of mail; others chain armour, lined
with gorgeous silks. Broad lacquered hats were here and there
substituted for helmets; or both were dispensed with, and the temples
of the combatants bound with linen cloth, which is their usual
headdress in action. Presently a signal was given, on which the
opposing lines commenced simultaneously to 'mark line double.' At a
second signal they faced into Indian file, and the marshals, placing
themselves at their head, led them off at a swinging trot, the whole
party flinging up their heels like boys playing at 'follow my leader,'
until startling guttural shouts from the marshals caused the
glittering lines to halt and face each other. The horsemen, who had
hitherto taken no part in the pageant, were now stationed in rear of
the centre of the respective lines, and added greatly to the effect by
their crested helmets, their richly gilt armour, and the heraldic
banners, which were attached to the back of the cuirass and floated
about two feet over their heads. As soon as the horsemen were
stationed the exciting part of the sham-fight began, by the lines
being wheeled backwards and forwards in wings from the centre, and
into zigzag formations from central points, with a slow 'stamp-and-go'
march, the spears being flourished with each motion and pointed high
and low, and right and left, as in our bayonet exercise. The marshals
regulated the movements of their respective lines with great accuracy,
the one being retired directly the other advanced, so that the
relative distance was never altered. After a time both parties
suddenly assumed a sitting posture and exchanged howls of defiance,
which grew fiercer and fiercer, until a simultaneous rush, as if to
engage, finished the performance from which the representatives of
barbaric warfare retired amid the hearty cheers of the representatives
of the bayonet and rifle.
[Illustration: A Daimio Retainer. (Native Drawing.)]
Though most of the Daimios have enormous revenues, and are surrounded
by men devotedly attached to them, the policy of the country so
trammels their actions with formalities and espionage as to keep them
in considerable subjection to the Tycoon; nor is even the privacy of
their houses respected, for their families are retained in Yeddo, as
hostages for their good behaviour, while they are absent in their
principalities. As an occasional relaxation from the cares attendant
on their high position, they avail themselves of a privilege called
'naiboen,' which enables them to share incognito in the pleasures and
amusements of their countrymen. Those drawings and coloured
representations of scenes connected with the higher classes which so
largely engross the attention of Japanese artists, generally depict
naiboen intrigues and adventures: these convey, however, a very
exaggerated idea of the manner in which the Daimios conduct themselves
on these occasions.
[Illustration: Coolies carrying Norimon. (From Native Drawing.)]
The family in the house-boat witnessing a pyrotechnic display in the
bay of Yeddo, may be regarded as a faithful representation of a
Daimio's party enjoying the naiboen. The great man in his light summer
robe has apparently cast aside the cares of office, and seems
thoroughly to enjoy the cool evening breeze and the society of his
wives, only one of whom has a legal claim to that title, by right of
which she takes precedence of the others. Of the two bonzes, or
priests, in the stem of the boat, one, probably, is a member of the
family, and the other its spy, for even naiboen excursions are not
exempted from espionage: indeed the Japanese are so habituated to this
custom that they generally regard it as a necessary check upon
themselves. Naiboen excursions to the tea-houses are very frequent,
notice being sent previously in order to insure proper accommodation
and privacy: the latter precaution being principally taken on account
of the ladies of the family, who never go beyond the palace except in
a norimon guarded by armed retainers.
[Illustration: A DAIMIO AND FAMILY WITNESSING FIREWORKS.]
In their homes, the aristocracy are as simple in their habits as the
rest of the people. They are much given to study, the favourite
subjects being poetry, history, astronomy, and logic. The children
are usually taught the rudiments of education by their mothers, and as
they advance in years, are either privately instructed by masters or
sent to the great schools at Miako, which are said to be attended by
upwards of four thousand scholars.
[Footnote 3: A very interesting volume of translations of Japanese
Lyrical Odes has lately been published by F.V. Dickins, Esq. M.B.:
Smith, Elder, & Co.]
THE COURT OF THE MIKADO.
The spiritual Emperor of Japan is supposed to be a direct descendant
of the gods, and as such enjoys the adoration, as well as the fealty
of his subjects. Unfortunately, his divine attributes deprive him of
the free exercise of his human functions, as his feet are never
permitted to touch the ground out of doors; nor is he allowed to cut
his hair, beard, or nails, or to expose himself to the rays of the
sun, which, would detract from the excellency of his person. His
principal titles are, 'Zen Zi'--'Son of Heaven;' 'Mikado,'--'Emperor;'
and 'Dairi,' or 'Kinrai,'--'Grand Interior:' the latter denoting the
perpetual seclusion of his person. It is said that his ancestry can be
traced in an unbroken line from nearly 700 years before the Christian
The Mikado never goes beyond the precincts of the Imperial residence,
which occupies a large portion of the city of Miako, comprising
numerous palaces and gardens; and connected with it are the schools
alluded to in the last chapter, which are established on the plan of a
university, and are much resorted to by the children of the nobility.
[Illustration: A MINISTER OF THE MIKADO ON A RELIGIOUS EXPEDITION.]
Whenever this great personage wishes to take an airing, he is carried
by fourteen men in a large norimon with latticed windows, through
which he is able to see without being seen; and even when granting an
audience he is said to be concealed from view by bamboo screen-work.
His court consists of the members of his own family and certain great
officers of State appointed by the Tycoon, who nominally receive and
promulgate his commands; but, in ordinary times, he has no real power
in the temporal affairs of the empire, and only refuses to confer
legality on the acts of his lieutenant under the pressure of intrigue,
or of undue family influence.
To relieve the wearisome monotony of his life, as well as to prevent
the possibility of the sacred race becoming extinct, he is allowed
twelve wives, who are chosen from the most beautiful daughters of the
chief princes of the empire. These ladies occupy separate palaces in
the immediate vicinity of his, where they are attended by their own
retainers; but only one of them enjoys the rank of empress, although
they are all treated with the deference due to royalty. He is also
said to have an unlimited number of concubines, who reside within the
bounds of the Imperial establishment.
The distinctive mark of the members of the Mikado's court and of the
ladies of his family consists of two black patches placed on the
forehead, and in the arrangement of the hair, which is gathered up in
a long cue and curved over the head by one sex, and worn dishevelled
and without any kind of ornament by the other. Though the Mikado has
little influence in the secular affairs of state, his authority in
religious questions is supreme; but it is doubtful if he personally
takes any part in the solemnities which are constantly occurring at
The subject of illustration represents one of these sacred
observances: the procession is coming from the Mikado's palace, which,
properly speaking, is a temple, being full of idols and effigies of
the 'Kamis,' or 'canonised saints.' The principal figure is the third
minister of state, and from this circumstance the white dresses worn
by the 'Kargardhee,' or 'fire-bearers,' and the presence of some of
the Imperial children, it is probably a midnight pilgrimage to some
neighbouring shrine, in honour of the manes of a departed member of
The early education of the Mikado's children is entrusted to the
ladies of the court: the sons, while still young, are sent to
different religious fraternities; and the daughters, on attaining a
suitable age, are bestowed in marriage on the nobles of the country,
except the eldest, who is appointed chief priestess of the temple of
the Sun at Issie, which contains the shrine of Ten-zio-dai-zin, to
which all Japanese are supposed to make a pilgrimage once in their
The Mikado is said to spend the greatest portion of his time in the
society of his wives, who contribute to his amusement by singing,
dancing, and theatrical entertainments. The latter sometimes take
place in the open air, as in the scene depicted opposite; on which the
'Grand Interior' and a select party are supposed to be looking down
through the jalousies of the palace. The vocal, instrumental, and
theatrical talents of the performers, are here called into play, the
arena for the latter being the 'Mekoshee,' or movable stage, in which
a female figure may be noticed declaiming her part. The long-handled,
fantastically-coloured umbrellas, belong to the Imperial attendants
taking part in the theatricals, whose hair, it will be noticed, is
arranged according to court etiquette.
[Illustration: A Begging Criminal. (Native Drawing.)]
The men whose features are concealed by their broad hats are
'Ninsokee,' or 'public singers.' Generally speaking they belong to the
aristocratic class, and are reduced to earn their livelihood in this
manner in consequence of some misdemeanour, on account of which their
property has been forfeited to the state. Their occupation is in
itself a punishment, as Japanese gentlemen never sing, regarding that
accomplishment as derogatory to their dignity. A certain class of
criminals also wear a disguise of this nature, as shown in the
[Illustration: THEATRICAL PERFORMANCE IN FRONT OF THE MIKADO'S PALACE.]
[Illustration: LADIES OF THE MIKADO'S COURT PERFORMING THE BUTTERFLY
The band here represented is much stronger than those that generally
figure in Japanese orchestral and theatrical entertainments. Music is
not used, as with us, to fill the interval between the pieces, but
accompanies the performers throughout; the louder instruments being
energetically struck as the singing becomes impassioned or the actors
The butterfly dance is another specimen of the amusements with which
the ladies of the Mikado's court while away their monotonous
existence. As here shown, it is a private performance, of which the
Empress and her principal attendants are the only spectators. The
insects are personated by two of her ladies, who mimic their motions
and sing praises of the different flowers they pretend to alight upon,
to the accompaniment of a band of fair musicians. But the most
interesting part of the affair is a spirited dialogue, in which they
cleverly criticise, under floral appellations, the different ladies of
the court, in a manner equally gratifying and flattering to their
[Illustration: Lady waiting on the Mikado. (from Photograph.)]
The Mikado is always waited upon by the ladies of his court, and is
said never to eat twice from the same vessels, which are broken to
pieces as they are removed. An intelligent yaconin, however, on
being questioned about this point, was much amused; and, though he
professed ignorance of the subject, was evidently very sceptical on
the matter of the dishes.
The 'HARA KIRU.'
Although we have long been aware of the existence of this peculiar
mode of suicide, the exclusive policy of the Japanese has placed
insuperable difficulties in the way of obtaining accurate information
A more enlightened policy is now gaining ground in the country. The
chromo-lithographs that illustrate these 'Sketches' are fac-similes of
paintings by native artists, selected from a series lately published
at Yeddo, and sold to foreigners with the connivance, if not by
permission, of the authorities; for the spy system in Japan is so
perfect, that illicit dealings are next to impossible.
As Japanese punishments entail disgrace on every member of the
culprit's family, the 'Hara Kiru,' or 'happy dispatch,' which is the
only exception, is regarded as a great privilege by the classes
entitled to avail themselves of it These consist of the nobility,
military, and official of a certain rank holding civil appointments.
It seems to be a prevalent idea that this sacrifice is reserved for
political offences; but this is not the case, as crimes of all
descriptions are condoned by it.
A simple act of suicide does not constitute the 'Hara Kiru.' To render
the act legal, and to ensure the heir and family of the person
performing it against disgrace and loss of property, an order for its
performance must be issued by the Tycoon, or by the suzerain prince of
[Illustration: THE TYCOON'S MESSENGERS READING THE SENTENCE.]
The Japanese, being a high-spirited and patriotic people, consider
that death under any circumstances is preferable to dishonour; and the
privileged classes always carry about with them when they travel the
paraphernalia used at the performance of the 'Hara Kiru,' in token of
their readiness to prove their patriotism, or to die rather than
disgrace their family.
The dress consists of a robe and 'harakama,' or 'winged official
dress,' of coarse white cloth--white being the funeral colour of the
country--which is undistinguished by the crest or any sign of the rank
of the owner. There is also the disembowelling knife, the blade of
which is about eight inches long, and very sharp.
When the sentence of the 'Hara Kiru' is awarded, or the humble request
of a defeated politician to perform it is acceded to, a formal
document is made out and duly signed by the competent authorities. It
is then delivered to two commissioners, by whom it is conveyed to the
Should the proposed victim be a Daimio of importance, and sufficiently
powerful to set the Tycoon at defiance, the delivery of the imperial
mandate is likely to be attended with unpleasant results, as the
bearers are sometimes waylaid and murdered by retainers of the doomed
prince, and have frequently to resort to stratagem to accomplish their
task. But when once the mandate is delivered, the prince must submit,
or he would lose caste even with his own followers, so strongly are
the Japanese imbued with respect for the ancient customs of their
The accompanying illustrations represent the different formalities
that are observed at the performance of the 'Hara Kiru' by a Daimio.
On receiving the official intimation of his sentence, he orders the
necessary preparations to be made, and informs his friends and
relatives of it, inviting them to share in a parting carouse with him.
On the appointed day, after taking a private farewell of his family,
he receives his friends. He is habited in his white robes, and
supported by two of his relatives or ministers, similarly attired.
When the time arrives (which is previously arranged with the
commissioners) he takes leave of the guests, as on any ordinary
occasion, and enters the screened enclosure, accompanied by his
supporters. It will be noticed, that the retainers guarding the
exterior and entrance are barefooted, which is a mark of respect in
honour of the rank of the culprit, and of the solemnity of the
The Tycoon's messengers then read the imperial mandate, which
proclaims that, in accordance with the ancient custom of the country,
the Daimio is permitted honourably to sacrifice himself for its
benefit, and thus to expiate in his own person the crime or offence he
has committed against the welfare of the state. In the illustration,
the two officials charged with this disagreeable office are sitting
opposite the Daimio and his friends, reading the fatal document, their
suite surrounding them in respectful attitudes.
The whole party wear the official dress, which intimates at once the
respect due to the victim and the official nature of the ceremony.
The second scene shows the Daimio on the point of performing the
sacrificial ceremony. His forelock is reversed, as a sign of
submission to his fate, and to assist the executioner, who, as soon as
his master goes through the form of disembowelling himself with the
knife on the stand, will, with one blow of his razor-edged sword,
complete the sacrifice by decapitation. Only the two chief
commissioners appointed by the Tycoon, and the sorely-tasked
supporters of the victim, remain to witness the last act of the drama.
The rest of the party await its completion in the adjoining
compartment of the enclosure, which is expressly constructed for that
The funeral procession, which is the subject of the next scene, is
accompanied by all the pomp indicative of the high position of the
deceased. The mourners wear robes of white cloth, and all the feudal
paraphernalia are draped with the same material; which, as before
mentioned, is used in Japanese mourning. The coffin is carried near
the head of the procession; it is a square box of resinous wood,
covered over with white, and the body is placed in it in a sitting
[Illustration: THE SACRIFICE.]
[Illustration: A DAIMIO'S FUNERAL.]
[Illustration: CREMATION OF THE BODY.]
[Illustration: RELATIVES COLLECTING ASHES.]
All the members of the family attend the funeral, either on foot or
in norimons. If the wife and the heir be absent in Yeddo, they are
represented by the nearest relations. In this instance both are
present, from which it may be inferred that the sacrificial act has
taken place in the neighbourhood of Yeddo.
Although the Japanese sometimes bury their dead, they generally
practise cremation. Repulsive as this custom is to European ideas, it
must be remembered that the Japanese are not singular in preferring
it, as several of the most civilised nations of antiquity considered
it the most honourable mode of disposing of the bodies of the dead.
While the body is being reduced to ashes the priests tell their beads
and chant prayers for the soul of the departed, as the followers of
almost every religious sect in Japan believe in a state of purgatory.
The last scene shows the wife and son of the victim of the 'Hara Kiru'
collecting his ashes and depositing them in an earthenware jar. This
is afterwards sealed down and conveyed to the cemetery, or temple,
which contains the remains of his ancestors.
Some of the Japanese cemeteries are very extensive; and they are
generally situated in secluded, picturesque spots, in the
neighbourhood of the towns and villages.
The graves are small, round, cemented receptacles; just large enough
to receive the jar containing the ashes. If the body is buried (which
only happens when the deceased is friendless, or too poor to pay the
expenses of cremation), the head is always placed pointing to the
north. The tombstones are ordinarily about three feet high; and are
either square or circular in shape, resting on square pedestals, in
which small holes are cut to contain rice and water. The supplies of
these are replenished from time to time, generally by the women of the
family, lest the spirit of the deceased should revisit its grave and
imagine itself neglected. Sometimes flowers are placed before the
graves, and flowering sprigs of peach and plum are stuck in the ground
Like the Chinese, the Japanese burn joss-sticks to propitiate the
deities in favour of their departed relatives; and the neighbourhood
of a graveyard may generally he detected by the peculiar aromatic
odour emitted during the burning of these. For some time after a
funeral the relatives daily visit the tomb and intercede for the dead,
holding their hands up in the attitude of prayer, and rubbing the
palms together as they mutter their monotonous orisons.
NATIONAL GAMES AND AMUSEMENTS.
Notwithstanding the industrious habits of the Japanese, they are great
lovers of pleasure, and much addicted to sight-seeing; theatres and
wax-work exhibitions are very numerous, and jugglers, top-spinners, and
tumblers, are regular _habitues_ of the streets.
Though they do not allow pleasure to come before business, they do not
hesitate to associate it with religious observances; and on solemn
festival occasions, the vicinity of even the most sacred temples is
occupied by a variety of shows and common stalls, for the sale of
sweetmeats, toys, and coloured pictures.
Their principal athletic amusement is wrestling, which may he regarded
as the national game of the country. It is very generally practised,
and pairs of 'brawny fellows' are to be frequently met with of an
evening in the outskirts of towns and villages, either crouched down
in the preliminary attitude, which resembles that of angry
fighting-cocks, or dragging one another to and fro like frogs
struggling over a choice morsel. The game is necessarily a dragging
and pulling one, its grand object being to force the opponent beyond a
So popular is it, that in addition to public performers, who travel
about the country exhibiting their prowess, the Daimios keep private
bands: each district has some especial champion; and every Japanese a
favourite '_smoo_' as they term the wrestlers, whose exploits are
canvassed with an enthusiasm totally at variance with the stolid
indifference which usually characterises the people, when any subject
is broached that does not directly concern their ordinary vocations.
The professional wrestlers are generally men of herculean proportions.
From constant practice they attain a muscular development that would
eclipse that of our prize-ring champions; but their paunchy figures
and sluggish movements render any further comparison impossible, as
they neither practise nor appreciate what we call training. Size and
weight are prized more than activity in the limited arena to which
their performances are confined: so, instead of walking down
superabundant flesh, they endeavour to increase it, dieting themselves
on rice and fish, which is far from productive of any Bantingite
result. The illustration of the Great Wrestling Amphitheatre at Yeddo
conveys a fair idea of the estimation in which athletic games are held
by the Japanese. The enclosure is capable of containing several
thousand spectators, and is always filled when a match of importance
In the centre is the '_docho_,' or 'boundary-ring,' which is about
eighteen feet in diameter. The game is generally decided by one or
other of the combatants being forced against this boundary; for,
although a fair throw counts, it rarely decides the mastery, as the
great weight and the crouching position of the wrestlers necessitate
dragging, pushing, and even carrying; and the tenacity of their grasp
is such, that any other results are almost impossible.
The price of admission to these exhibitions is very low; and, like
everything else of a public nature, is regulated by the government
Officials are appointed to superintend the arrangements, and to see
that no accidents arise from overcrowding. For this purpose they are
provided with a box that overlooks the whole building.
The lofty scaffolding outside the enclosure is a time stage, from
which the commencement and duration of each match are intimated to the
audience by a certain number of strokes on the drum that surmounts it.
[Illustration: PUBLIC WRESTLING IN THE GREAT AMPHITHEATRE AT VEDDO.]
Before each wrestling-match commences, the 'geogee,' or 'judge,' who
superintends it, shouts out the names and exploits of the contenders,
who, after kowtowing very ceremoniously to one another, rise to the
At a signal from the judge the combatants commence. At first they move
cautiously about the centre of the ring, watching a favourable
opportunity to close, which they presently do with deep guttural
exclamations. Then great working of muscle and tugging and straining
follow, the spectators cheering on their respective favourites, until
the fall of the geogee's fan--which is the moment depicted by the
artist--proclaims the victor.
Thundering plaudits greet the hero of the occasion, who presently
strolls about among the assembled multitude, attended by his 'coegi,'
or 'servant,' who collects the offerings with which they liberally
reward his exertions. When money fails, articles of clothing are
frequently bestowed--and sometimes too freely, as it is by no means
unusual for both sexes to half denude themselves at these exhibitions;
and it is a favourite joke with the women to send their male friends
to redeem the articles from the wrestler.
Although fencing is a military exercise, it is so commonly practised
by the Japanese 'yaconinierie,' or 'soldiery,' who comprise a large
portion of the population, and is entered into by them in so spirited
a manner, that it deserves to be classed as an amusement.
[Illustration: Yaconins fencing.]
The woodcut is a very faithful representation of yaconins fencing. The
masks cover the whole of the head; and the arms, breast, and hips, are
protected by cuirass, petticoat, &c. of leather ribbed with bamboo.
The fencing sticks are of the same length as the
'obi-todee-auf-catana,' or 'great fighting-sword.' They are made of
split canes, bound tightly together, and are used with both hands.
The Japanese fence well, and deliver their points with great
precision, especially an awkward downward thrust at the breast.
They deliver their cuts and points with fierce guttural exclamations,
which are peculiarly disagreeable to European ears; especially when
the listener is located in the vicinity of a guard-house, whose
occupants notify their employment at daybreak with such cries as
'Hie-e! Ah-h! Atturah-h!' ('That's at! that's into you!') and continue
this information, accompanied by the clashing of their sticks, and
occasional chuckles, until late in the afternoon.
The Japanese are great frequenters of the theatres, of the interior of
one of which the illustration is a very good representation--the
exterior is generally very like that of the temples; and in some, the
ground-floor is laid out with miniature lakes and bridges, the
audience looking down on the performance from lateral and opposite
The stage is a little smaller than ours, but sometimes has a promenade
through the centre of the theatre, which facilitates by-play, to which
the Japanese attach great importance. The body of the house is divided
into boxes, which are generally taken by family parties, who bring
their provisions with them and remain all day, as the performances
begin about 10 A.M. and last until late in the evening. Their plays
are very tedious, although enlivened by a good deal of smart
_repartee_ and telling jokes, but the morality even of the most
correct is very questionable. Love, of course, is the prevailing
feature; and the adventures of the principal heroes contain enough
bloodshed and murder to satisfy the most ardent admirer of sensation
dramas. In their hand-to-hand encounters they cut and slash at one
another with naked swords, which they manage very skilfully, never
permitting the blades to come into contact. The female parts are
performed by boys and young men, who, with the assistance of paint and
powder, make admirable substitutes for women, though singing and
dancing-girls are frequently introduced as divertissements.
[Illustration: INTERIOR OF A THEATRE.]
[Illustration: Getting ready to go to the Theatre.]
Kite-flying is also a favourite amusement; and old age and childhood
may frequently be seen side-by-side, tugging at soaring monsters, in
the construction of which great ingenuity is displayed.
The Japanese often play with cards, which are about a quarter of the
size of ours; and they are much given to gambling, although it is
strictly prohibited, and, when detected, severely punished. But the
most popular in-door game is & sort of combination of draughts and
chess, which frequently engrosses the players for hours at a time.
CRIMES AND PUNISHMENTS.
Crimes against property are rare in Japan, which is owing to the
high-spirited and honourable feelings that actuate all classes of the
community; but from the feudal nature of the government, the small
value attached to life, and the deadly weapons constantly carried, by
the military classes, who are notoriously proud and revengeful, crimes
against the person are very frequent.
A great check upon criminal offences is the severity of the
punishments inflicted, and the disgrace entailed upon the culprit's
Although the laws are extremely severe, and in their administration
there is neither jury nor counsel, justice is delivered with great
impartiality; and the judge, who is generally the governor of the town
or district in which the offence has been committed, is entrusted with
considerable discretionary power.
When a prisoner is being examined his arms are bound to his sides by a
rope, which also passes round his neck, the end of which is held by an
official, who, if his charge prove unruly, manages him by pulls and
'Thrashemono,' or 'public exposure,' is associated with all Japanese
punishments, and is said to be in itself a great preventive of crime,
as the spirited Japanese dread being held up to the reprobation of
their acquaintance more than they fear the extreme penalty of the law.
[Illustration: MODE OF CONDUCTING A CRIMINAL TO EXECUTION.]
The illustration, showing the mode of conducting a criminal to
execution, is an instance of 'thrashemono.' The culprit is bound on a
horse, and is preceded by a placard, borne by his relatives or
neighbours, and indicating his crime. In this manner he is conducted
through the town to the place of execution, where his sentence is read
to him. He is then placed (with his limbs still bound) over a
freshly-dug hole, where he is supported by his relatives till the
executioner's sword performs its task.
After execution, the heads of malefactors are generally exposed: that
of Simono Sedgi (the lonin who was decapitated in the presence of the
British garrison of Yokohama, for being the organizer of the
assassination of Major Baldwin and Lieutenant Bird of Her Majesty's
20th Regiment) was exhibited on the public stand at the guard-house at
the entrance of the town.
This man was a fair specimen of the lonin type, and was a most
determined ruffian, whose whole life had been a career of crime.
When exposed in the streets of Yokohama the day preceding his
execution, he conducted himself with great bravado, remarking on the
improvements in the town since he last visited it, and expressing his
regret that he had not killed a consul.
At the place of execution he made an impassioned speech, in which he
declared that he was a gentleman by birth, and had studied the arts
and sciences, and never believed the government would sacrifice a
Japanese for the death of a foreigner. He said that the days would
come when they would repent the encouragement they were now giving to
strangers; and ended by complimenting the executioner on his
The lonin differs from the ordinary criminal, and is thus ably
described by the highest authority on Japanese matters:--
'As a noble or head of a house is responsible for all who are of his
family, or claim his protection, when any of his people are resolved
upon a desperate enterprise they formally renounce the protection and
declare themselves "lonins;"--in other words, outlaws, or friendless
men: after which no one is responsible for their acts, and this is
considered a highly honourable and proper thing to do.
[Footnote 4: Sir Rutherford Alcock. See 'Capital of the Tycoon.']
The worst of this system is, that any one harbouring or assisting a
lonin endangers his head; and such men are, therefore, compelled to
resort to robbery and extortion as means of supporting themselves. It
generally happens that this legalised method of taking the law into
their own hands drives those who avail themselves of it into a series
of crimes, and frequently they become the associates of common
Of the gang represented in the illustration as robbing a rich
merchant's house, one or two probably are lonins, the rest being
thieves in disguise.
The servants, kowtowing before two men, whose naked swords plainly
intimate the consequences of any attempt to give alarm, or to offer
resistance to their demands, have apparently been collecting all the
money in the house and are laying it before the thieves. The oblong
boxes are iron safes, in which the Japanese keep their money.
From the position of the other members of the gang, it is evident that
they have not got all they require, and are watching something going
on in the interior of the house. They have probably learnt that the
merchant has to forward some money for the purchase of goods by a
certain date, and know exactly how much to expect.
In the spring of 1865 the Tycoon, in levying a tax on the Yeddo
merchants, congratulated them on the fact that the portion of the
country under his immediate control was exempt from the depredations
of lonins; but notwithstanding this statement, a robbery of the nature
described took place in the capital immediately after the issue of the
Tycoon's manifesto, and a lonin concerned in it gave as an excuse for
his conduct, that he had learnt that the money was intended for
foreigners, who were settled in the country in opposition to the laws
of Gongen Sama, which had never been revoked.
With such dread are these men regarded by the non-combatant classes,
that it frequently happens that one or two will go into a village and
extort what they require without the slightest resistance being
[Illustration: LONINS, OR OUTLAWS, ROBBING A RICH MERCHANT'S HOUSE.]
[Illustration: EXPOSURE FOR INFIDELITY.]
As a rule, Japanese punishments resemble those inflicted by the
Chinese, and seem to be based on the Mosaic principle of 'an eye for
an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' Arson, for instance, is punished at
the stake; and a thief who endeavours to conceal the results of his
robberies by burying them, has the disadvantages of that mode of
concealment impressed upon him, by being himself embedded for a day or
two in the ground, with only his head out--a mode of instruction that
rarely requires a repetition of the lesson.
_Apropos_ of this punishment is the testimony of an eye-witness, who,
in passing the public execution place at Yeddo, noticed a head on the
ground, which he supposed to have been recently struck off. He had
turned away with a shudder, when a laugh from the bystanders caused
him to look again, when, to his great astonishment, the head was
vigorously puffing at a pipe which the facetious executioner had a few
moments before been smoking himself.
The last illustration shows a man and woman undergoing public exposure
for adultery--a crime which is rare in Japan and which is punished
with great severity.
With such detestation is it regarded, that, in addition to all legal
cognizance, the husband is permitted, in certain instances, to avenge
himself by taking the lives of the offenders upon the spot.
The board on the right contains the official intimation of the crime.
The curious instruments depicted in the woodcut are Japanese emblems
of justice and are to be seen at all the guard-houses; they are used
to catch runaway offenders or to pin a drunken yaconin against a wall
or house, and so facilitate the task of disarming him without danger
to the captors.
[Illustration: Sodingarami, Satsumata, and Squobo.]
Although the Japanese use torture to extract information from
obstinate criminals, they employ all necessary caution to preserve
life; and a doctor and responsible officer are always present when it
is employed, as representatives of the respective claims of humanity
and justice. A singular punishment, to which only the nobles of the
country are liable, is secret banishment to the island of Fatzisiu,
which is situated on the northern coast of the empire. It is small and
barren, rising perpendicularly from the sea. The only communication
with it is by means of a basket, which is lowered from an overhanging
tree to the water, a distance of about fifty feet. From this island
there is no return, and the unhappy, incarcerated nobles, are
compelled to support themselves by weaving silks, which are the most
beautiful the country produces. A junk visits the island once a-year,
when the silks are exchanged for provisions.
[Footnote 5: In 1853 an English man-of-war visited this island, and
two of the officers were hoisted up in the basket for the purpose of
taking sights. One of them, who was my informant, describes it as a
walled-in barren island, with no other mode of ingress or egress than
SUPERSTITIONS AND RELIGIOUS OBSERVANCES.
The Sintoo faith and Buddhism are the prevalent religions of the
Japanese. The teaching of the other sects is modelled more or less on
the tenets inculcated by these two. Some, however, hold a philosophic
doctrine, which recognises a Supreme Being but denies a future state,
holding that happiness is only to be insured by a virtuous life.
Sintooism may be regarded as the national religion of the country. It
inculcates a high moral standard; and its chief personage is the
Mikado, or spiritual emperor, who is considered to be a mediator
between his subjects and the inhabitants of the other world.
Every Sintoo has the image of a patron 'kami,' or 'saint,' enshrined
in his house, to which he lays open his necessities and confesses his
shortcomings, and by whose intercession with the Supreme Being he
trusts at his death to be translated to the regions of the 'kamis,' as
they designate their heaven.
The wicked are supposed to be consigned to the abodes of the
disembodied spirits, who are punished according to the nature of their
crimes. For instance, saki merchants who have sold bad spirit are
believed to be confined in stagnant pools; and murderers are supposed
to haunt the graves of their victims, until the prayers of their
relatives release them. Purity of life and body is the leading feature
of the Sintoo faith. As an emblem of the natural purity of the soul,
mirrors are hung up in the temples; and the more ignorant people (who
in Japan, like every other country, are most influenced by
superstitions) believe, as they look into the mirror, that the Supreme
Being sees their past lives as easily as they do their own faces. The
value attached to indulgences and charms is very great, and the sale
of them contributes largely to the revenues of the Mikado. Charms are
eagerly purchased by the lower orders, who carry them about their
persons, and never let anybody touch them except themselves.
At a tea-house at Kamakura, one of these charms was accidentally
dropped by a lively little 'moosmie,' or 'girl,' who was waiting on a
party of foreigners. One of them picked it up, and was on the point of
opening the small box in which it is placed for safety when she
discovered the loss, and made a desperate rush for its recovery. On
finding the importance attached to it, the 'friske,' as she called it,
was handed round the group as she eagerly darted after it; and on one
of the party pretending to light a cigar with it she burst into tears,
and was not to be pacified until it was restored.
A religious observance of great importance with the Japanese is
'Osurasma,' or 'praying a soul out of purgatory,' as they wisely
consider that even the most holy must have some small peccadilloes to
This ceremony takes place in the seventh month after death: a white
lamp is its emblem. This is hung up at the entrance of the mourners'
houses, while they offer oblations and burn joss-sticks. Food is also
prepared and laid out, in case the spirit of the departed, finding the
journey to the regions of the 'kamis' a long and wearisome one, should
No Japanese dreams of entering a friend's house while the white lamp
is hung up, or of disturbing in any way the privacy of a family
engaged in these solemn duties, as the spirits of the departed are
firmly believed to revisit their former dwellings at such times, if
they have not already entered into a state of bliss.
[Illustration: SELLING INDULGENCES BY PUBLIC AUCTION.]
[Illustration: PRAYING A SOUL OUT OF PURGATORY.]
In one of their festivals they make pilgrimages at night to the
graves of their friends, on which they place food and hang lamps. It
is said they believe their ancestors to come from heaven to them on
these occasions, and imagine that they return again in small boats, to
which they attach lanterns, and which they place on the water at
ebb-tide, on the evening of the last day of the festival, and eagerly
watch, out of sight. An old fisherman, however, who was observed
intently watching his frail bark floating out to sea, explained, on
being questioned, that he whose lamp burnt longest caught most fish;
and judging from the old man's solemn manner there was no doubt he had
perfect faith in the truth of his statement.
However gross their superstitions may he, there is no doubt that they
affectionately revere the memory of their dead, and treat them with
quite as much respect as the most civilised nation in Christendom.
In battle the Japanese always carry off the fallen.
At the bombardment of the Simono-seki forts, at the entrance of the
Suwo-Nada, or 'Inland Sea,' in September 1864, Prince Choisiu's loss,
according to one of his own officers, amounted to upwards of 500
killed and wounded; but all had been removed when the brigade of
English, French, and Dutch, under the command of Colonel Suther, C.B.,
Royal Marines, took possession of the forts early next day. At the
storming of a stockade (which was pluckily defended) by two battalions
of Royal Marines and the light-armed companies of the British
squadron, the Japanese were noticed carrying away their dead and
wounded, and several were unfortunately shot while thus employed.
A few nights afterwards large fires were noticed in the interior,
which were said to be the funeral pyres of those who had fallen in the
defence of the forts and stockade.
[Footnote 6: The whole of the operations, with the exception of the
storming of the stockade, which took place late in the day after the
French and Dutch had embarked, were under the personal superintendence
of the English and French admirals.]
The illustration representing the last offices, depicts a custom of
Buddhist origin which is generally adopted by the Japanese. They
believe that shaving the head of the dead propitiates the deities in
their favour. It is also considered to be an emblem of sanctity, and
the bonzes, or priests, always keep their heads clean-shaved. Even
children intended for the priesthood, as well as certain religious
societies of both sexes, are similarly distinguished. Odder-looking
creatures than these bald-headed specimens of humanity can hardly be
[Illustration: Itinerant Sweetmeat Vendor. (Native drawing.)]
The itinerant sweetmeat vendor shown in the woodcut is a specimen of
the class of Japanese most prone to superstition. The lantern he
carries serves not only to light his way but to advertise his wares:
it also bears his name, no Japanese of the lower orders being allowed
to stroll about at night without a lantern so distinguished.
[Illustration: SUDANGEE, OR LAST OFFICES.]
ON THE TOKAIDO AND IN THE TEA-HOUSES.
Extending over the whole empire of Japan, regular ferries connecting
it with the different islands, is the 'Tokaido,' or 'Imperial High
Road,' to which occasional reference has been made.
Originally constructed at the instigation of a Tycoon of more than
ordinary abilities, it has, from the constant care bestowed upon it
for centuries (each Daimio being compelled to keep that portion of it
which passes through his dominions in repair), become a broad and
It is frequently sheltered by avenues of colossal pines, cryptomerias,
and other lofty trees; and small plantations of the graceful bamboo
are generally to be seen in the neighbourhood of the roadside houses.
The scenery is sometimes very lovely: mountain-ranges are to be
observed rising one above another, in that wild conglomeration
peculiar to volcanic countries; and in the Island of Nipon the snowy
cone of Fusiyama is almost always visible from the higher ground.
The hilly country is thickly wooded; but terraces of fields are
sometimes cut in the sides, where the formation of the ground permits.
The lowlands and valleys are mostly covered with rich crops of
cereals, which are watered by natural or artificial streams.
As the Tokaido winds along the hill-tops, occasional glimpses of the
sea meet the eye, often with a series of headlands jutting one beyond
another into it, and distant islands dotting the horizon.
By the wayside many rare and beautiful ferns are to be seen; and in
their seasons, the large white lilies of the country, hydrangeas,
violets, orchids, and an endless variety of wild flowers.
[Illustration: Carpenters at work. (Native drawing.)]
Along this beautiful road are constantly passing Daimios and their
hosts of retainers, trains of travellers and pilgrims, and a large
portion of the island traffic of the empire. As the Tokaido passes
through most of the principal towns, the traveller has frequent
opportunities of observing the various avocations of the people; for
mechanics commonly work in front of their doors, as shown in the
woodcut; and in fine weather, the sliding windows through which the
Japanese enter their houses are always drawn back, leaving the
interior and its occupants open to the road.
The baker's shop opposite affords a good specimen of the wayside
scenes, and conveys a fair idea of an ordinary Japanese house. It will
be noticed that the puppies in the foreground, as well as the cat in
the girl's arms, are very differently delineated; but such animals are
the especial stumbling-blocks of the native artists, although they
faithfully represent birds, fishes, and reptiles.
With the exception of the Daimios on their state journeys (who, by the
way, have regular halting-places at tea-houses officially set apart
for their use), for the mass of the people to be seen on the Tokaido
belong to the lower classes--the aristocracy considering it beneath
their dignity to travel for pleasure, or to make pilgrimages.
[Illustration: A BAKER'S SHOP.]
[Illustration: A TEA-HOUSE MERRY-MAKING.]
Naturally hardy and energetic, the Japanese seem thoroughly to enjoy
travelling, which in fine weather has few drawbacks. It is true that
the peremptory order, 'Chetanerio,' or 'Down upon your knees,' at the
approach of one of their oligarchical rulers, would be objectionable
to Europeans; but the Japanese are accustomed to this, and proceed
with their journey after half-an-hour's detention without being in any
way put out by it.
[Illustration: Tea-house Girl waiting. (Native drawing.)]
The numerous and pleasant tea-houses that skirt the Tokaido have a
great deal to do with rendering travelling popular, A smiling welcome
from the pretty waitresses employed at these places may always be
anticipated by the weary wayfarers; and, however slight their
requirements may be, they are certain to be promptly and courteously
If the means of travellers do not permit them to resort to the
tea-houses, there are sheds and stalls at intervals along the road,
where they can obtain fruit or refreshments at a trifling cost.
Some of the tea-houses in the vicinity of large towns are much
frequented in the spring-time by pleasure-parties, on account of the
beauty of their gardens. The chromo-lithograph opposite represents one
of these parties, some of whom appear to have been indulging too
freely in saki. The fellow dancing and waving the fan about is
apparently addressing a love-song to the lady opposite, whose husband
is evidently desirous of putting a stop to the flirtation.
THE SPY SYSTEM--THE BATH-HOUSE.
There are two Japanese customs so diametrically opposed to English
ideas, and so materially affecting the national character, that it is
necessary to call special attention to them.
The espionage system is perhaps the strangest, as every one in the
country is subjected to it, from the Mikado and Tycoon, or spiritual
and temporal emperors, to the humblest of the people.
All offices of importance are double; that is to say, every governor
of a town or district is associated with a vice-governor, who is an
'ometsky,' or 'spy,' upon him, and is in turn spied upon by others. In
this way a constant check is kept upon the executive of the empire.
In addition to this acknowledged system, government officials are
frequently watched by secret spies, who, for aught they know, may be
some apparently trusty friend: so that, even in the absence of their
double, they can never be certain that they are free from supervision.
In private life families spy on each other, for which purpose they are
divided into coteries of five households, the heads of which are not
only responsible for themselves, their families and servants, but also
for the other members of the coterie; and any wrong-doing in one
household must be immediately reported to the proper authorities, to
secure the rest from sharing in the punishment of the offence.
To such an extent is this system of responsibility carried, that a
whole district sometimes suffers for the offence of one of its
residents. In the towns where the streets are intersected with
barriers a few hundred yards apart, which are always closed at night,
the people living within these enclosures are often under the ban of
the officials for some irregularity which has occurred within the
limits. This constant espionage has, of course a very pernicious
effect upon the character of the people, as it necessarily instils
feelings of distrust and suspicion among near neighbours. Yet it is
marvellous how well their social system works, and still more
marvellous that the officials, who in public life practise every kind
of deception and artifice, should be, and from all accounts deservedly
so, distinguished in private life for their truthfulness, candour, and
The other notable peculiarity is the indiscriminate manner in which
the sexes mingle in the public bath-houses. All Japanese perform their
ablutions once or twice a-day; for which purpose the poorer classes
resort to the bath-houses, which are generally open to the road or
[Illustration: UYA, OR BATH-HOUSE.]
Some bath-houses have the women's lavatory separate; and one of these
is the subject of the illustration. This arrangement, however, is more
for convenience than in compliance with the demands of modesty as is
evidenced by the fact that a male attendant is supplying water; and
that his presence is plainly a matter of perfect indifference to the
women bathing, with their children, in his immediate vicinity.
But it is in the common bath-room where this extraordinary feature of
Japanese life unmistakeably presents itself. There men, women and
children, perform their ablutions together, with all the apparent
innocency of our first parents. The proceedings are conducted with
perfect order and good-nature. The steaming occupants make way for one
another with ball-room politeness; they laugh and chat over their
tubs, discuss the public notices on the walls, or, maybe, saunter
occasionally to the open door or window, to look at something which
has attracted their attention, or to exchange greetings with a passing
friend. All this is done with a freedom that speaks for itself of
their utter unconsciousness of any impropriety in their conduct.
Frequently a lady is assisted by her husband in the cleansing
process; and this is not necessarily a matrimonial compliment, as
regular bathing-men are employed for the convenience of those who
require such attention.
The favourite times for bathing are the middle of the day and the
evening; but in the summer the bath-houses are always full.
[Illustration: Going home from the Bath-house. (Native drawing.)]
The _modus operandi_ is very simple. The bather, after duly depositing
his straw shoes at the door and paying a few cash for admittance, at
once proceeds to disrobe himself, placing his garments in an allotted
compartment. He then secures a tub, which is filled with lukewarm
water, and, squatting down before it, lathers himself with a
vegetable, soapy material, which is sewn up in a small bag. At this
stage of the proceeding he will probably enter into conversation with
his neighbours, complacently rejoicing in his soapiness until the
remonstrances of the bathing-house man, or of some would-be possessor
of his tub, compel him to finish his ablutions.
It would seem natural to conclude that such a system must have immoral
effects, but the Japanese attribute no evil consequences to it. They
say that, being accustomed to it from childhood, it only enables them
to carry out those habits of cleanliness which distinguish alike their
persons and their homes.
It is amusing to notice the care taken by the Japanese to protect
themselves from a second bath on returning from the bath-houses to
their homes in rainy weather. The artisan with the umbrella (which
bears his name and direction, by the way) is an instance of this.
LOVE OF FLOWERS.
One of the many traits of the refinement which characterises all
classes of Japanese is their passion for flowers, which the singularly
rich and varied nature of the flora of the country, aided by the
magnificent climate, enables them to cultivate with great success.
Every Japanese has some knowledge of the art of gardening; and,
however humble a house may be, it generally has a potted flower or
dwarf tree about it: or, in the absence of that, a flowering branch of
peach or cherry, placed in water.
Regular professors teach the art of dwarfing, training, and grafting
trees and plants, and of laying out miniature landscapes, into which
artificial mountains and valleys are introduced, and very frequently
lakes, studded with lilliputian fern-covered islands, around which
gold and silver fish may be seen darting about; or, if the sun is hot,
taking refuge under curious Japanese bridges, or the broad leaves of
the lotus, which usually cover a portion of the surface--the only
thing out of proportion, probably, in the details of the miniature
The sitting-apartments in Japanese houses are generally situated at
the sides or back; and either open upon flower-beds, grounds of the
above description, or some kind of enclosure, shaded by peach or
pear-trees, trained trellis-fashion overhead; or by cedars, with one
solitary bough twisting fantastically over the ground, showing, in its
unnatural contortions, the skill of the artist, the other branches
having been lopped off, or stunted, to facilitate the growth and
training of this one.
Gardens for the sale of dwarf trees and flowers are also very common.
Some are perfect _bijoux_. As a rule the varied collections of
flowers, planted in coloured china pots, are arranged, with very
agreeable effect, in tiers of shelves round the sides, and on stands
about the gardens.
Many of the dwarf trees, especially the maples, have great variety of
foliage, the result of constant grafting. To such an extent is this
practised, that it is rare to find pure botanical specimens in a
Japanese garden. Plants are sometimes cultivated for their berries as
well as for their variegated foliage. One very beautiful specimen,
producing at the same time bright scarlet and yellow berries, is
believed by many to have been obtained from cuttings of an exquisite
shrub, which is said to be the principal ornament of the regions of
the 'Kamis,' or Japanese heaven.
Even the fern family undergoes a strange metamorphosis at the hands of
Japanese gardeners. Some of the fronds are artificially variegated;
and others, on reaching maturity, have a curious crumpled appearance.
Again, the roots of certain small species are frequently twisted into
curious devices, and hung up in grottoes, or shady corners. The effect
of these, when the roots are partly concealed by the fresh young
fronds, is very pretty.
Nearly every fortnight a fresh flower comes into season, and is in
great demand for the time; heavy prices being readily paid for fine
The poorer classes commonly buy flowers from men who gain their
livelihood by hawking them about the streets. They buy them not only
to gratify their tastes, but as offerings to their Lares and
Penates--patron 'Kamis;' or to decorate the tombs of departed
relatives--a religious ceremony which is strictly observed.
Flower-shows are often held in the large towns, and are much
frequented by the people.
[Illustration: A FLOWER SHOW.]
The illustration represents a chrysanthemum show. These flowers are
much esteemed by the Japanese, who pay more attention to size and
brilliancy of colour than to perfume. The stone in the centre is
called a 'skakeshe.' On it, poetry in praise of flowers is inscribed.
This is a custom of very ancient origin, and poetical inscriptions on
stones and rocks are to be often seen in public places. The piece of
ornamental stonework is an 'ishedoro,' or 'stone lamp,' which is very
common in gardens, and is much prized on account of the historical
associations connected with it.
The Japanese have many floral compliments. A very pretty one is
intimated by a present of seeds (especially if presented to a
foreigner returning to his own country), the purport being--'Plant
these seeds about your home, and, when you see them growing, think of
[Illustration: Girl with Flowers.]
As an instance of the influence which flowers have upon the Japanese
character, the word 'hanna,' or flower, is commonly used as a term of
endearment: it is usually applied by parents to a favourite daughter,
or by a lover to his mistress; it is also used to distinguish the
bride and the bridegroom, as 'hanna-yomie,' 'hanna-moko.' Floral
love-tokens (although they only consist of a single sprig) are as much
prized among the Japanese as among ourselves; and are, no doubt,
"Treasured in their fading,"
as the Japanese are not only poetical, but much given to sentimental
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