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(Bvitntdil Series 



Limited to One Thousand Numbered and Registered 
Copies^ of which this is 




if^vitntKl ^tvit^ 


Its History Arts and Literature 




Volume I 


Copyright, igor 
By J. B. Millet Co. 

Entered at Stationers' Hall, London, England 




W. G. ASTON, Esq., C.M.G. 



the three great lights of Japanese scholarship 

these volumes are respectfully dedicated 

by the Author 



Present Japan i 

Primeval Japanese 26 

Japan on the Verge of History 50 

Japan in the Early Eras of History .... 89 

The Japanese in the Nara Epoch 131 

The Heian Epoch icy 

The Heian Epoch (^Continued) ' 196 

Appendix 247 



A Portion of Count Okuma's Garden, Tokyo . . Frontispiece 

Wrecked by an Earthquake 1 6 

A Winter Scene in Yokohama 32 

Ornamental Pottery, Taken from Dolmens 40 

Contents of Dolmens 44 

View of Katsura River near Arashiyama 48 

A Group of Ainu 64 

Terra-Cotta Sarcophagus and Cover from Isokami (Bizen) 80 

Dolmen at Domyoji-yama (Kaw^achi) 96 

A Tattooed Man 112 

Buddhist Priests 128 

Garments of the Nara Epoch 144 

Playing Go 160 

Approach to the Kasuga Shrine, Nara 176 

Nobleman of the Heian Epoch 192 

Military Costumes of Thirteenth and Fifteenth Centuries 208 

A Shirabiyashi . . . Aristocratic Lady, Heian Epoch . 224 



Chapter I 


JAPAN, since the resumption of her inter- 
course with Western nations forty years ago, 
has attracted much attention and inspired an 
extraordinarily large number of book-makers 
to discuss her beauties and her quaintnesses. Not 
one of these many authors has been wholly con- 
demnatory. Most of them found something to 
admire in the manners and customs of her people, 
and all were charmed by her art and her scenery. 
Certainly, in the matters of seascape and land- 
scape. Nature has been profusely kind to the Isles 
of Nippon. They rise out of the sea with so 
many graces of form, and lie bathed in an atmos- 
phere of such sparkling softness, that it is easy to 
sympathise with the legend ascribing their origin 
to crystals dropped from the point of the Creator's 
spear. That they fell from some heaven of gen- 
erous gods is a theory more consonant with their 


aspect, than the sober fact that they form part 
of a great ring welded by volcanic energy in the 
Pacific Ocean, and that still, from time to time, 
they shudder with uneasy memories of the fiery 
forces that begot them. 

Eastern Asia thrusts two long slender arms into 
far oriental waters : Kamtchatka in the north, 
Malacca in the south ; and between these lies 
a giant girdle of islands, holding in its embrace 
Siam, Cochin China, the Middle Kingdom, 
Korea, and the eastern end of the Great White 
Czar's dominions, thus extending from latitude 
50° north to the equator. When Commodore 
Perry anchored at Uraga, in 1854, the empire 
of Japan stretched along two-fifths of this girdle. 
Beginning on the south, at Cape Sata, the lowest 
point of the Island of Nine Provinces (Kiushu), 
it ended, on the north, with a disputed fragment 
of Saghalien, and an unsettled number of the 
attenuated filament of islets called the Kuriles. 
Since then, the empire has been pushed ten de- 
grees southward. Now, including the Riukiu 
(Loochoo) Islands and Formosa, it constitutes 
three-fifths of the girdle — a distance of two 
thousand miles — and extends over thirty degrees 
of latitude and thirty-five of longitude. Its ex- 
pansion has followed the law of geographical 
affinities — temporarily transgressed in the case 
of the United States only, and ultimately verified 
by their history also: — southward the star of 
empire has taken its way. One loss of territory 



was suffered by Japan in that interval, perhaps 
by way of permanent punishment for standing so 
long aloof from the outer world : she had to sur- 
render to Russia the island of Saghalien, — Kara- 
futo, in her own nomenclature. But that exception 
tends only to emphasise the general rule of her 
expansion. First, she took steps to assure her 
possession of the Bonin group of islands — Oga- 
sawara-jima, as she calls them — which, though 
discovered by her mariners two hundred years 
previously, were not included in her sphere of 
active occupation until 1871. Next she annexed 
the Riukiu archipelago, known to Western folks 
as the Loochoos, which form a series of stepping- 
stones between her shores and Formosa. They 
were claimed by China as an integral part of her 
empire, and the incidents of their acquisition 
by Japan almost involved the latter in a war 
with her colossal neighbour, at that time (1874) 
believed to be a Power of immense military re- 
sources. But Japan thought that she had a title 
to the islands, and she asserted it with courageous 
tenacity. The war then averted with difficulty, 
broke out twenty years later, and ended in a 
complete victory for Japan, one of the fruits of 
her success being that she added Formosa and 
the Pescadores to her dominions, which thus 
consist now of five large islands and a multitude 
of islets, the latter scattered along her coasts or 
grouped into four clusters, — the Kuriles (Chin- 
shima) on the north ; the Bonins (Ogasawara- 



jima) on the east; the Loochoo (Riukiu or 
Okinawa) on the south; and the Pescadores, off 
the southwest coast of Formosa.^ 

Territorial expansion has therefore been a fea- 
ture of Japan's debut upon the world's stage. 
Growth has marked the opening of her new- 
career. The fact takes its place properly at the 
head of her modern records, for it constitutes a 
convincing proof that the diet of Western civili- 
sation has brought to her an access of vigour, 
instead of overtaxing her digestion, as was gener- 
ally feared at first. 

To speak of a country as making its debut 
upon the world's stage, is to suggest the idea of 
youth. But the age of the Japanese nation, 
measured by the mere lapse of centuries, is very 
mature. They themselves claim to have been an 
organised State for twenty-six hundred years, and 
there is no valid reason to deny at least the proxi- 
mate accuracy of their estimate. It is a great 
age, yet insignificant compared with that of the 
neighbouring empire, China, which can count 
fullv the double of Japan's tale of years. Both 
are ancient from an Occidental point of view, 
and perhaps because their fellowship with the 
West has been so short in comparison with the 
long succession of cycles covered by their records, 
it has become a habit to bracket them together 
as simultaneously introduced to the circle of 
civilised States. There is, however, a radical 

* See Appendix, note i. 


difference between the two countries. China 
stands, in the Far East, an imposing figure with 
her gigantic expanse of territory, her immense 
population, and her vast wealth of undeveloped 
resources. Such elements seem capable of being 
moulded into a world-moving force, and their 
potentialities have even appalled some leaders 
of European thought. But if history teaches 
anything it teaches that there is only one grand 
climacteric in the career of a nation. Beyond 
the summit descent is inevitable. The continuity 
of the downward grade is never broken by a sec- 
ond eminence. As it fares with a man or with a 
tree, so it fares with a nation's growth or decay. 
China long ago reached the zenith of her great- 
ness, and has been sinking steadily to lower levels 
ever since. She was never an isolated State, hus- 
banding her resources in seclusion and waiting to 
be galvanised into new life by contact with rival 
countries. Her very name, the " Middle King- 
dom," indicates the relation in which she stood 
to the rest of the world. Whatever other States 
had to give, she received as a tribute to her own in- 
effable superiority, not as an incentive to emula- 
tion and exertion. That frame of mind became 
at last an instinct. It destroyed her appetite for 
assimilation and condemned her to succumb to 
any civilisation she could not despise. Japan's 
case has been dissimilar from point to point. 
Her whole career has been a continuous effort 
of assimilation ; her invariable attitude, that of 



modest studentship. One advantage only she 
claimed over other States. It was the divine ori- 
gin of her rulers and the consequent guardianship 
extended to her by the gods. But her deities 
were not supposed to contribute anything to 
her material civilisation. Their most beneficent 
function was tutelary. Hence her people never 
classed themselves above other nations in a pro- 
gressive sense. They were always perfectly ready 
to accept and adopt every good thing that a for- 
eign country had to offer, whether of philosophy, 
of art, of technique, of administration, or of legis- 
lation. That is a fact which stands out in doubly 
leaded capitals on the pages of Japan's story. From 
the very earliest hours of her national career the 
stranger was welcomed within her gates. Who- 
ever brought to her any product of foreign learn- 
ing, genius, or industry, whether from China, from 
Korea, or from the South Seas, was received with 
acclaim, and not merely granted a domicile, but 
also admitted to many of the most honourable 
offices the State had to bestow, and to the highest 
ranks of the social organisation. Many of her 
noble families trace their origin to emigrants from 
the Asiatic continent ; many of her artists and 
men of letters are proud to show a strain of 
Chinese or Korean blood in their lineage. 

There was, indeed, a long break in the conti- 
nuity of that liberal attitude, a break of more 
than two hundred years. From the early part 
of the seventeenth century to the middle of the 



nineteenth, Japan led an almost hermit existence. 
Of her own choice she closed her doors to all the 
nations of the Occident except the Dutch, and 
with them, too, her intercourse ultimately became 
an affair of haughty tolerance on one side and 
narrow privileges on the other. But if the world 
learned to regard her in those days as a semi-savage 
recluse, that was simply the world's misconcep- 
tion. Were the sentiments which, at the close 
of the nineteenth century, impel the United 
States and Australia to bar out the Chinese, and 
induce Russia and Germany to ostracise the Jews, 
— were those sentiments multiplied by factors of 
political apprehension and religious intolerance, 
they would still fall short of the feelings that 
Japan learned to cultivate towards Occidentals at 
the end of the sixteenth century and the begin- 
ning of the seventeenth. Opening her ports to 
their traders more freely than any other con- 
temporaneous nation would have done, she found 
them rapidly denude her of her gold and silver. 
Showing towards the preaching and propagandism 
of their religion an attitude of tolerance absolutely 
without precedent in mediaeval days, she discovered 
that the alien creed became a political weapon 
pointed at the heart of her own national integrity 
and independence. Her instincts had prompted 
her to be liberal and receptive ; her experience 
had compelled her to be conservative and repel- 
lent. We who see things assume their due pro- 
portions in the long vista of the past, know that 



a more patient trial would have dispelled her sus- 
picions, and that instead of closing her gates against 
the world for the sake of Roman Catholicism two 
hundred and fifty years ago, she might safely have 
kept them open in its despite, and commenced 
then the career of progress which promises to 
carry her so far to-day. But to adopt such a 
course in the face of such dissuasive experiences, 
she must have been as much in advance of her 
time as she ultimately fell behind it by choosing 
a policy of isolation. No nation with which 
history makes us acquainted would have acted a 
part different from the one she selected, and if 
she clung to her seclusion long enough to be 
counted a benighted bigot, it was largely because 
a geographical accident made it easy for her, on 
the one hand, to live apart, and kept her, on the 
other, beyond the effective range of influences 
which would certainly have drawn her out of 
her hermitage. Besides, on the Occident only, 
or, to narrow the facts to their exact limits, on 
the Roman Catholic countries of the Occident 
only, did she turn her back between 1630 and 
1857. The Dutch had commercial access to her 
dominions, and the Chinese might come and go 
at will. Grant that the Hollanders were sub- 
jected to humiliating restrictions, and grant also 
that there was no reciprocity of intercourse with 
China, since Japanese subjects might not cross to 
the neighbouring empire ; yet it must still be 
conceded that these ultimate vetoes were dictated 



by extraneous causes, whereas the previous sanc- 
tions reflected Japan's natural disposition. She 
had always been liberal by instinct, though her 
mood had sometimes become conservative by 

If these facts are recognised, her modern ca- 
reer becomes much more intelligible. Many 
onlookers have wondered that a nation should be 
able to spring suddenly out of an isolation which 
three centuries of observance had crystallised into a 
creed, and should suddenly embrace an alien civil- 
isation not merely with avidity, but also with apt- 
itude such as only a thoroughly liberal mood could 
beget. The truth is that these singular feats indi- 
cated, not a change of nature, but the re-assertion 
of an inborn disposition. For eighteen centuries 
she had been freely borrowing and assimilating 
everything that her Oriental neighbours had to 
offer, and when, in the middle of the nineteenth, 
she discovered that the Occident was incompara- 
bly a greater teacher, she merely obeyed her im- 
memorial tendency of entering the newly opened 
school. But, it may be urged, though that accounts 
for her liberalism, it does not explain her recep- 
tivity. It tells us why she did not cling to her 
temporary conservatism, but it does not tell us 
why her progress became so rapid as to surprise the 
world. When an American squadron arrived to 
break down her isolation, she did not possess even 
the beginnings of a national fleet or a national 
army ; of an ocean-going mercantile marine ; of 



a telegraphic or postal system ; of a newspaper 
press; of enlightened codes, of a trained judiciary, 
or of properly organised tribunals of justice ; she 
knew nothing of Occidental sciences and philoso- 
phies ; was a complete stranger to international 
law and to the usages of diplomacy ; had no con- 
ception of parliamentary institutions or popular 
representation, and was divided into a number of 
feudal principalities, each virtually independent 
of the other, and all alike untutored in the spirit 
of nationality or imperialism. In thirty years 
these conditions were absolutely metamorphosed. 
Feudalism had been abolished; the whole 
country united under one administration; the 
polity of the State placed on a constitutional 
basis ; the people admitted to a share in the gov- 
ernment under representative institutions; an ab- 
sorbing sentiment of patriotism substituted for 
the narrow local loyalties of rival fiefs ; the coun- 
try intersected with telegraphs and railways, and 
its remotest districts brought within the circuit of 
an excellent postal system ; the flag of the nation 
carried to distant countries by a large mercantile 
marine; a powerful fleet organised, manned by 
expert seamen, and proved to be as capable of 
fighting scientifically as of navigating the high 
seas with marked immunity from mishap ; the 
method of conscription applied to raising a large 
military force, provided with the best modern 
weapons and trained according to Western tactics ; 
the laws recast on the most advanced principles 



of Occidental jurisprudence and embodied in ex- 
haustive codes ; provision made for the adminis- 
tration of justice by well-equipped tribunals and 
an educated judiciary ; an extensive system of 
national education inaugurated, with universities 
turning out students capable of original research 
in the sciences and philosophies of the West; 
the State represented at foreign courts by com- 
petent diplomatists ; the people supplied with an 
ample number of journals and periodicals ; the 
foundations of a great manufacturing career laid, 
and the respect of foreign Powers unreservedly 
won. Such a record may well excite wonder. 

But before crediting the Japanese with excep- 
tional qualities for the sake of their modern 
progress, we must agree upon a standard of com- 
parison, and that is difficult, since the history of 
nations furnishes only one case approximately 
parallel to that of Japan. Were any liberal- 
minded Western people brought suddenly into 
contact with a civilisation immensely higher than 
its own, a civilisation presenting material advan- 
tages and attractions that the least intelligent must 
appreciate, who can venture to gauge the impulse 
of adoption or the speed of assimilation that such 
a people would develop ? Suppose that to the 
eyes of the English of a hundred years ago there 
had been abruptly exposed a stage whereon rail- 
ways ran, steamboats plied, telegraphs flashed 
their messages to limitless distances, telephones 
made whispers audible across continents, torpe- 



does, breech-k^aders, machine guns, and iron-clads 
revolutionised warfare, carriages were propelled 
by electricity, and men travelled at the rate of 
thirty miles an hour on machines which could 
not stand upright at rest, — would not the display 
have revolutionised England?- Yet this catalogue 
of wonders has to be largely extended before it 
covers the exhibition by which Japan was daz- 
zled forty years ago. No wonder that she 
stretched out eager hands to grasp such an array 
of novelties. 

If that were all she had done, it might not be 
fair to say that any intelligent people would have 
acted with less vigour under similar circum- 
stances. But Japan did not confine herself to 
adopting the externals of Western civilisation. 
She became an eager pupil of its scientific, politi- 
cal, moral, philosophic, and legislative systems 
also. She took the spirit as well as the letter, 
and by so doing differentiated herself effectively 
from Oriental States. It has been objected that 
tliis wholesale receptivity was limited to a few 
leaders of thought, — to the literati and the mili- 
tary patricians whose will had always been law 
to the commoners. Certainly that is true as to 
the initiative. But it is unimaginable that such 
sweeping changes could have been effected in a 
quiet and orderly manner had not the hearts of 
the people been with the reformers. In Japan 
no railways were torn up, no machines wrecked, 
no lines of telegraph demolished by labourers 



who feared for their own employment or fanatics 
who saw their superstitions sHghted. Rapid as 
was the pace set by the leaders of progress, the 
masses did not hang back. That tribute at least 
must be paid to the nation's intelligent liberality 
by any honest writer of its modern history. We 
may deny that other peoples might not have 
done as well, but we can scarcely affirm that any 
would have done better. The only known in- 
stance of parallel opportunity was China, and to 
China, after a hundred years of scrutiny, the 
advantages of Occidental civilisation are still 

Another point to be noted in analysing the 
causes of Japan's success is that many phases of 
her own civilisation were superior to the civilisa- 
tion of the West when she began to assimilate 
the better parts of the latter. She did not bring 
to the examination of Occidental systems and 
their products a mind wholly untrained to dis- 
tinguish the good from the bad. In her social 
conventionalisms, in her refinements of life, in 
her altruistic ethics, in many of her canons of 
domestic conduct, in her codes of polite etiquette, 
in her applications of art, she could have given 
to Europe lessons as useful as those she had to 
learn from it. That she should see the right 
quickly might have been anticipated. Then 
there was her ambition, an absorbing sentiment. 
Almost from the first moment when she looked 
out on the world which had so long been hidden 



from her, she detected the wide interval separat- 
ing her material civilisation from that ot the 
West. Thenceforth it becam.e the constantly- 
expressed aspiration of every educated Japanese 
that his country soon "get level" with Occi- 
dental nations in the race of progress. That wish 
was paramount from the very beginning. There 
was not the least attempt to throw any bridge of 
extenuation across the gulf of inferiority. The 
frankly recognised facts inspired an earnest re- 
solve to alter them if possible, and as speedily 
as possible. How many Japanese students have 
overtaxed their powers of endurance under the 
goad of that aspiration, how many statesmen have 
made it the prime motive of their administration, 
no one can conceive who has not observed these 
people closely since they first stepped out of the 
shadow of isolation. 

Strangers discussing the character of the Japan- 
ese have assigned to it an extraordinary element 
of patriotism, and inferred abnormal readiness to 
make sacrifices on the altar of love of country. 
There is no warrant for such a theory. The 
Japanese doubtless have their full share of patri- 
otism, but they cannot claim an unexceptional 
measure of it. What is mistaken for an unusual 
abundance of the sentiment is simply its morbid 
activity, caused, on the one hand, by a genuine 
perception of the distance they have to traverse 
before they reach the elevation of prosperity and 
progress on which Occidental nations stand ; on 



the other, by the treatment they have received at 
the hands of those nations. The most tolerant 
of Europeans has always regarded the Japanese, 
and let them see that he regarded them, merely 
as interesting children. Languidly curious at 
best about the uses to which they would put 
their imported toys, his curiosity was purely 
academical, and whenever circumstances required 
him to be practical, he laid aside all pretence of 
courtesy and let it be plainly seen that he counted 
himself master and intended to be so counted. 
If the archives of the Japanese Foreign Office 
were published without expurgation, their early 
pages would make a remarkable record. Diplo- 
matic euphemisms are the last thing to be sought 
there. And in that respect they reflect the de- 
meanour of the ordinary foreigner. When not 
a harsh critic, he was either contemptuously tol- 
erant or loftily patronising. The Japanese chafed 
under that kind of treatment for many years, and 
they resent it still ; for though a pleasant altera- 
tion has gradually been effected in the foreigner's 
methods, the memory of the evil time survives. 
Besides, they neither consider the change com- 
plete, nor regard its causes with unmixed satis- 
faction. It is not complete because the taint of 
Orientalism has not yet been removed from the 
nation, and the causes are unsatisfactory because 
they suggest a low estimate of Western morality. 
No one who should tell the Japanese to-day 
that the consideration they have won from the 



West is due solely to their progress in peaceful 
arts would find vserious listeners. They them- 
selves held that belief as a working incentive 
twenty years ago, but experience has dissipated 
it, and they now know that the world never took 
any respectful notice of them until they showed 
themselves capable of winning battles. At first 
they imagined that they might efface the Oriental 
stigma by living up to civilised standards. But 
the success they had attained was scarcely per- 
ceptible when suddenly their victorious war with 
China seemed to win for them more esteem in 
half a year than their peaceful industry had won 
for them in half a century. The perception of 
that fact upset their estimate of the qualifications 
necessary for a place in " the foremost files of 
time," and had much to do with the desire they 
henceforth developed for expanded armaments. 
Their military and naval forces had been proved 
competent to beat China to her knees with the 
utmost ease, yet they proceeded at once to double 
their army. Onlookers watch these doings with 
interest and speculate whether Japan's financial 
resources can bear such a strain, but do not seem 
to consider seriously what it all signifies, or how 
Japan accounts to her own conscience for these 
extravagances. Yet the answer appears to lie not 
far from the surface. To reach it we must first 
recognise why she drew the sword against China 
in 1894, — not the approximate cause of the 
struggle, but its remote cause. The approximate 



cause is readily discernible. China's attitude 
towards Korea, her iitful interference in the little 
kingdom's affairs, her exercise of suzerain rights 
while uniformly disclaiming suzerain responsibili- 
ties, created a situation intolerable to Japan, who 
had concluded a treaty with Korea on the avowed 
basis of the latter's independence. A consenting 
party to that treaty, China nevertheless ignored 
it in practice, partly because she despised the 
Japanese and resented their apostasy from Ori- 
ental traditions, but chiefly because her ineffable 
faith in her own superiority to outside nations 
absolved her from"^ any obligation to respect their 
conventions. Japan's material and political in- 
terests in Korea outweigh those of all other States 
put together. In asserting her commercial rights 
she could not possibly avoid collision with a 
Power behaving as China behaved. But there 
was another force pushing the two States into 
the arena : they had to do battle for the suprem- 
acy of the Far East. China, of course, did not 
regard the issue in that light. It was part of her 
immemorial faith in her own transcendence that 
the possibility of being challenged should never 
occur to her. But Japan's case was different. 
Her position might be compared to that of a lad 
who had to win a standing for himself in a new 
school by beating the head boy of his form. 
China was the head boy of the East-Asian form. 
Her huge dimensions, her vast resources, her ap- 
parently inexhaustible " staying power," entitled 



her to that position, and outside nations accorded 
it to her. To worst her meant to leap at one 
hound to the hegemony of the Far East. That 
was the quickest exit from the shadow of Oriental- 
ism, and Japan took it. This is not a suggestion 
that she forced a light upon her neighbour merely 
for the purpose of establishing her own superior- 
ity. What it means is that the causes which led 
to the fight had their remote origin in the differ- 
ent attitudes of the two countries towards West- 
ern civilisation. Having cordially embraced that 
civilisation, Japan could not consent to be in- 
cluded in the contempt with which China re- 
garded it ; and having set out to climb to the 
level of Occidental nations, she had to begin by 
emerging from the ranks of Oriental nations. 

This analysis, if we push it to its logical sequel, 
brings us into the presence of a startling conclu- 
sion. Japan has risen to the headship of the Far 
East. Is that the goal of her ambition ? One 
of her favourite sayings is, " Better be the tail of 
an ox than the comb of a cock.'* She is now 
the comb of the Oriental cock. That is not 
enough : she wants to be the tail of the Occi- 
dental ox. How is it to be done ? Evidently 
by following the route that has already led her 
so far. She cannot turn back. Her destiny 
forces her on, and there is no mistaking the sign- 
post set up by her recent experience. She has 
been taught that fighting capacity is the only sure 
passport to European esteem, and she has also 



been told again and again, is still perpetually 
told, that her victory over China proved nothing 
about her competence to stand in the lists of the 
West. She will complete the proof, or try to 
complete it. Nothing is more certain, nothing 
more apparent to all that have watched her 
closely. Perhaps she has not yet formulated the 
project to herself in explicit terms. But it has 
found a lodgment in her heart, and uncon- 
sciously she is moulding her actions in obedience 
to it. 

These are the reasons that render Japan such 
an interesting figure. She rivets our attention, 
not by what she has done, however remarkable 
that may seem, but rather by what she must still 
try to do. She has undertaken to demonstrate 
that an Eastern nation can act a leading part on 
the same stage with Western peoples, using the 
same properties and obeying the same directions. 
It is the first essay of the kind in history, and it 
will not be consummated without some stirring 

From a physical point of view the Japanese 
race seems ill fitted for the competition upon 
which it has entered and for the grim struggle 
that lies before it. An army of Japanese is to 
an army of Europeans in respect of stature what 
an army of females in the Occident would be 
to an army of males. But the same might be 
said of the Sepoys or the Ghoorkas ; yet no 
English general, estimating the results of a colli- 



sion between Indian troops and Europeans, would 
think of counting the inches of the Ghoorka or 
the Sepoy. The Japanese, indeed, resemble the 
Ghoorkas very closely. There is the same light- 
ness of movement, the same admirable balance of 
muscle and bone, the same symmetry of form and 
power of endurance. A very marked advantage 
in heii^ht is on the side of the Chinaman ; so 
marked that from ancient times he has been 
accustomed to call the Japanese " pygmies." 
Nevertheless, in the war of 1894-95 the Chinese 
went down helplessly before the Japanese wher- 
ever the two met. The same difference of bulk 
exists in favour of the Korean, yet an even greater 
difference of fighting capacity has been practi- 
cally established in favour of the Japanese, There 
is thus no reason to argue any physical disability 
on the part of the Japanese to take a successful 
part in a warlike struggle ; and in the Chili cam- 
paign of 1900, when they marched in the van 
of Europe and America to the relief of Peking, 
they showed themselves at least as efficient as the 
soldiers of any other nationality. They have two 
very marked advantages : the simplicity of their 
diet, which immensely fiicilitates commissariat 
arrangements ; and the excellence of their officers. 
It was owing in great part to the former fact that 
their war with China in 1894-95 ^^^^ them only 
twenty million pounds sterling. They conducted 
seven campaigns over-sea, involving a force of 
a hundred and twenty thousand men, and they 



employed a navy of twenty-eight ships which 
remained on active service for nine months. 

It was the cheapest belligerent feat on record, 
and it established for the Japanese the possession 
of a faculty which had been habitually denied 
to them by foreign critics, the faculty of organi- 
sation. For the purposes of that war their organ- 
isation was really admirable. Such an effort might 
have been expected to tax their strength to the 
utmost, to interrupt the course of every-day busi- 
ness, and to throw their domestic affairs into more 
or less confusion. It did nothing of the kind. 
The home life of the people went on placidly 
and regularly, as though not a ship or a soldier 
had been sent to meet a foreign enemy. Some- 
times a little village community left their farm 
labours to cheer a detachment of troops en route 
for Manchuria or Korea, and sometimes the arri- 
val of a batch of wounded Chinese created a pass- 
ing thrill of excitement. But, for the rest, the 
great fighting machine worked with absolute 
silence and smoothness. The troops, carried 
over specially constructed railways outside the 
boundaries of the chief cities, or marched quietly 
at night through their streets, seldom attracted 
public attention ; the fleet of fifty steam trans- 
ports was descried once or twice gliding through 
the narrow strait that gives upon the China Sea, 
but never came into the vista of national observa- 
tion ; the newspapers reported yesterday that an 
army corps of twenty thousand men had embarked 



for Liaotung, to-day that an equal force had landed 
in Shantung, but if these troops had sprung, fully 
equipped, from the sea at the place of their exit 
or destination, the country could not have known 
less of their comings and goings. There were no 
accidents, no miscarriages, no apparent errors of 
calculation or failures of foresight. One may urge, 
indeed, that neither was there any originality, since 
European modes were followed. But it is certain 
that before the war no foreign critic would have 
credited the Japanese with capacity to conduct 
such operations. He would have denied their 
power of organisation, and he is therefore con- 
strained to attach as much value to the positive 
evidence of success as he would have inferred from 
the negative testimony of failure. 

In truth this favourite theory about a want of 
organising faculty among the Japanese, like that 
other theory about their want of originality, rests 
on pure hypothesis aided by ignorance of history. 
To ascribe lack of originality to a nation which 
has given the world a new grammar of decorative 
art is as consistent with facts as to allege absence 
of organising ability among a people who have 
produced a Yoritomo, a Hideyoshi, and an leyasu. 
The two criticisms may be definitely dismissed. 

And the officers that commanded in the field 
showed themselves as able as those that planned 
in the Cabinet. They shared every hardship that 
their men endured, ate the same food, were con- 
tent with the same shelter, and took the larger 



share of danger. The Japanese officer has this 
fine quality, that to a hereditary love of fighting 
he adds the zeal of a professional soldier. His 
heart is in his calling. He loves his uniform, has 
no aim in life higher than the discharge of his 
duty, and possesses the capacity for obedience 
which lies at the root of powder to command. 

There is nothing decrepit about such a nation. 
It is old in years, but the infused blood of West- 
ern civilisation has renewed its youth. The first 
result of its debut on the world's stage has there- 
fore been territorial expansion, a fact sufficiently 
significant to stand at the head of these pages. 

Japan would go far if she were not crippled 
by a heavy handicap, want of money. She has 
been called the " England of the East ; " but she 
differs radically from England in this vital respect 
that whereas Imperial England has only to follow 
whither the capital of commercial and industrial 
England overflows, industrial and commercial 
Japan is quite unable to utilise the opportunities 
which Imperial Japan creates. In China and Korea, 
Japanese diplomacy or Japanese armed strength 
has won valuable privileges and opened wide 
fields, but they remain to this day almost entirely 
unfruitful. Even in the home country the devel- 
opment of many promising enterprises is delayed 
for lack of funds. Everything is on a petty scale. 
There is not throughout the length and breadth of 
the land a factory or a tradal organisation that 
would be counted of even mediocre importance 



in America or England. Seventy per cent of the 
nation's school-age children receive instruction, 
yet the total sum annually expended on this edu- 
cation is not twice the yearly income of one of 
the great colleges of the United States. The 
aggregate capital invested in all the banks, indus- 
trial, commercial, insurance, shipping, and agri- 
cultural companies throughout the empire is less 
than the fortune of a Rockefeller or a Vanderbilt. 
Many widow's mites are given to relieve distress, 
but the whole of the charitable and philanthropic 
donations made by private individuals during the 
thirty-two years of the Meiji era would look small 
by the side of a respectable Mansion House fund. 
So lilliputian are the dimensions of the market 
that a single speculation disturbs it. Consols are 
quoted, say at 95, but a purchase or sale of half 
a million dollars' worth would drive them up to 
96 or more. The spirit of enterprise, stunted by 
this atmosphere of impecuniosity at home, natur- 
ally makes no excursions abroad. Railways wait 
in vain to be built by Japanese in Korea, new 
settlements to be colonised in China, large re- 
sources to be exploited in Formosa. 

There remains, too, a disposition inherited 
from feudal times, a tendency to rely on official 
initiative and to shrink from every venture un- 
aided by the State. Nearly all the material 
progress of the Meiji era has been led by the 
Government. Matters have greatly mended in 
that respect, but the writings of the vernacular 



journals, with few exceptions, still show that 
instead of making opportunities for themselves, 
the people look to have them made for them 
officially. If they had stores of spare capital 
seeking investment, they would act a very dif- 
ferent part on the neighbouring continent. But 
chill poverty freezes the current of their activity, 
and while they have an abundance of the im- 
perial instinct, they lack the means of making it 
potential. That difficulty must cripple Japan 
seriously. A poor nation has never been great. 
She may succeed in filling her purse before the 
time comes to open it, but no resources now in 
sight definitely promise such a result. All that 
can be said of her is that she has boundless 
ambition ; that she has established her ability to 
reach great ends with small means, and that she 
will certainly bid for a far higher place than 
she has yet attained. 


Chapter II 


THERE are three written records of 
Japan's early history. The oldest ^ of 
them dates from the beginning of the 
eighth century of the Christian era, and 
deals with events extending back for fourteen 
hundred years. The compilation of this work 
was one of the most extraordinary feats ever 
undertaken. The compiler had to construct the 
sounds of his own tongue by means of ideographs 
devised for transcribing a foreign language. He 
had to render Japanese phonetically by using 
Chinese ideographs. It was as though a man 
should set himself to commit Shakespeare's plays 
to writing by the aid of the cuneiform characters 
of Babylon. A book composed in the face of 
such difficulties could not convey a very clear 
idea of contemporary speech or thought. The 
same is true, though' in a less degree, of the other 
two'^ volumes on which it is necessary to rely for 
knowledge of ancient Japan. 

It might reasonably be anticipated, arguing 
from the analogy of other nations, that some 

^ Sec Appendix, note 2. * See Appendix, note 3. 



plain practical theory would exist among the 
Japanese as to their own origin ; that tradition 
would have supplied for them a proud creed 
identifying their forefathers with some of the 
renowned peoples of the earth, and that if the 
progenitors of the nimble-witted, active-bodied, 
refined, and high-spirited people now bidding so 
earnestly for a place in the comity of great 
nations, had migrated originally from a land 
peopled by men possessing qualities such as they 
themselves have for centuries displayed, many 
annals descriptive of their primasval home would 
have been handed down through the ages. 
There are no such theories, no such annals, no 
such traditions. 

When the Japanese first undertook to explain 
their own origin in the three books spoken of 
above, so unfettered were they by genuine remi- 
niscences that they immediately had recourse to 
the supernatural and derived themselves from 
heaven. Reduced to its fundamental outlines, 
the legend they set down was that, in the earliest 
times, a group of the divine dwellers in the plains 
of high heaven descended to a place with a now 
unidentifiable name, and thence gradually pushing 
eastward, established themselves in the " land of 
sunrise," giving to it a race of monarchs, direct 
scions of the goddess of light (Amaterasu). Many 
things are related about these heaven-sent folk 
who peopled Japan hundreds of years before the 
Christian era. They are things that must be 



studied by any one desiring to make himself 
acquainted with the essence of her indigenous 
rcHgion or her pictorial and decorative arts, for 
they there play a picturesque and prominent part. 
But they have nothing to do with sober history. 
Possibly it may be urged that nations whose tra- 
ditions deal with a Mount Sinai, a pillar of cloud 
and lire, and an immaculate conception, have no 
right to reject everything supernatural in Oriental 
annals. That superficial retort has, indeed, been 
made too often. But behind it there undoubtedly 
lurks in the inner consciousness of the educated 
and intelligent Japanese a resolve not to scrutinise 
these things too closely. Whether or not the 
" age of the gods " — kami no yo — of which, as 
a child, he reads with implicit credence, and of 
which, as a man, he recognises the political uses, 
should be openly relegated to the limbo of ab- 
surdities ; whether the deities had to take part in 
an immodest dance in order to lure the offended 
Sun Goddess from a cave to which her brother's 
rudeness had driven her, thus plunging the uni- 
verse in darkness ; whether the god of impulse 
fought with the god of fire on the shores of the 
Island of Nine Provinces ; whether the procrea- 
tive divinities were inspired by a bird ; whether 
the germs of a new civilisation were carried across 
the sea by a prince begotten of the sunshine and 
born in the shape of a crimson jewel, — these are 
not problems that receive very serious considera- 
tion in Japan, though neither a Colenso nor a 



Huxley has yet arisen to attack them publicly. 
They are rather allegories from which emerges 
the serviceable political doctrine that the emper- 
ors of Japan, being of divine origin, rule by divine 
right. It is the Japanese historian's method, or 
the Japanese mythologist's manner, of describing 
an attribute claimed until very recently by all 
Occidental sovereigns, and still asserted on behalf 
of some. As for the foreign student of Japan's 
ancient history, these weird myths and romantic 
allegories have induced him to dismiss it as a 
purely imaginary product of later-day imagina- 
tion. The transcendental elements woven into 
parts of the narrative discredit the whole in his 
eyes. And his scepticism is fortified by a gener- 
ally accepted hypothesis that the events of the 
thirteen opening centuries of the story were pre- 
served solely by oral tradition. The three vol- 
umes which profess to tell about the primeval 
creators of Japan, about Jimmu, the first mortal 
ruler, and about his human successors during a 
dozen centuries, are supposed to be a collection 
of previously unwritten recollections, and it seems 
only logical to doubt whether the outlines of 
figures standing at the end of such a long avenue 
of hearsay can be anything but imaginary. Pos- 
sibly that disbelief is too wholesale. Possibly it 
is too much to conclude that the Japanese had 
no kind of writing prior to their acquisition of 
Chinese ideographs in the fifth century of the 
Christian era. But there is little apparent hope 



that the student will ever be in a position to 
decide these questions conclusively. He must be 
content for the present to regard the annals of 
primaeval Japan as an assemblage of heterogene- 
ous fragments from the traditions of South Sea 
islanders, of central Asian tribes, of Manchurian 
Tartars and of Siberian savages, who reached her 
shores at various epochs, sometimes drifted by 
ocean currents, sometimes crossing by ice-built 
bridges, sometimes migrating by less fortuitous 

What these records, stripped of all their fabu- 
lous features, have to tell is this : — 

At a remote date, a certain race of highly 
civilised men — highly civilised by comparison — 
arrived at the islands of Japan. Migrating from 
the south, the adventurers landed on the Southern 
island, Kiushiu, and found a fair country, covered 
with luxurious vegetation and sparsely populated 
by savages living like beasts of the field, having 
no organised system of administration and inca- 
pable of offering permanent resistance to the supe- 
rior weapons and discipline of the invaders, who 
established themselves with little difficulty in the 
newly found land. But on the main island two 
races of men very different from these savages 
had already gained a footing. One had its head- 
quarters in the province of Izumo, and claimed 
sovereignty over the whole country. The other 
was concentrated in Yamato. Neither of these 
races knew of the other's existence, Izumo and 



Yamato being far apart. At the outset, the 
immigrants who had newly arrived in Kiushiu, 
imagined that they had to deal with the Izumo 
folk only. They began by sending envoys. The 
first of these, bribed by the Izumo rulers, made 
his home in the land he had been sent to spy out. 
The second forgot his duty in the arms of an 
Izumo beauty whose hair fell to her ankles. 
The third discharged his mission faithfully, but 
was put to death in Izumo. The sequel of this 
somewhat commonplace series of events was 
war. Putting forth their full strength, the south- 
ern invaders shattered the power of the Izumo 
court and received its submission. But they did 
not transfer their own court to the conquered 
province. Ignorant that Izumo was a mere frac- 
tion of the main island, they imagined that no 
more regions remained to be subjugated. By and 
by they discovered their mistake. Intelligence 
reached them that, far away in the northeast, 
a race of highly civilised men, who had origi- 
nally come from beyond the sea in ships, were 
settled in the province of Yamato, holding undis- 
puted sway. To the conquest of these colonists 
Jimmu, who then ruled the southern immigrants, 
set out on a campaign which lasted fifteen years, 
and ended, after some fierce fighting, in the 
Yamato rulers' acknowledging their consanguin- 
ity with the invader and abdicating in his favour. 
Whether Jimmu's story be purely a figment 
of later-day imagination or whether it consists of 



poetically embellished facts, there can be no 
question about its interest, since it shows the 
kind of hero that subsequent generations were 
disposed to picture as the founder of the sacred 
dynasty, the chief of the Japanese race. The 
youngest of four sons, he was nevertheless selected 
by his "divine" father to succeed to the ruler- 
ship of the little colony of immigrants then 
settled in Kiushiu, and his elder brothers obedi- 
ently recognised this right of choice. He was 
not then called " Jimmu " : that is his posthu- 
mous name. Sanu, or Hiko Hohodemi, was his 
appellation, and he is represented in the light of 
a kind of viking. Learning of Yamato and its 
rulers from a traveller who visited Kiushiu, he 
embarked all his available forces in war-vessels 
and set out upon a tour of aggression. Creeping 
along the eastern shore of Kiushiu, and finally 
entering the Inland Sea, the adventurers fought 
their way from point to point, landing sometimes 
to do battle with native tribes, sometimes to 
construct new war-junks, until, after fifteen years 
of fighting and wandering, they finally emerged 
from the northern end of the Inland Sea, and 
established themselves in Yamato, destined to be 
thenceforth the Imperial province of Japan. In 
this long series of campaigns the chieftain lost 
his three brothers : one fell in fight ; two threw 
themselves into the sea to calm a tempest that 
threatened to destroy the flotilla. Such are the 
deaths that Japanese in all ages have regarded as 



ideal exits from this mortal scene ; deaths by the 
sword and deaths of loyal self-sacrifice. To the 
leader himself, after his decease, the posthumous 
name of Jimmu, or " the man of divine bravery," 
was given, typifying the honour that has always 
attached to the profession of arms in Japan. 
The distance from this primitive viking's starting- 
point to the place where he established his capital 
and consummated his career of conquest, can 
easily be traversed by a modern steamer in twice 
as many hours as the number of years devoted by 
Jimmu and his followers to the task. That the 
craft in which they travelled were of the most 
inefficient type, may be gathered from the fact 
that the viking's progress eastward v/ould have 
been finally interrupted by the narrow strip of 
water dividing Kiushiu from the main island 
of Japan, had not a fisherman seated on a turtle 
emboldened him to strike sea-ward. Thence- 
forth the turtle assumed a leading place in the 
mythology of Japan, — the type of longevity, 
the messenger of the marine deity, who dwelt in 
the crystal depths of the ocean, his palace peopled 
by lovely maidens. The goddess of the sun shone 
on Jimmu's enterprise at times when tempest or 
fog threatened serious peril, and a kite, circling 
overhead, indicated the direction of inhabited 
districts when he and his warriors had lost their 
way among mountains and forests. 

How much of all this was transmitted by 
tradition, written or oral, to the compilers of 
3 33 


Jimmu's history in the eighth century ; how 
much was a mere reflection of national customs 
which had then hecome sacred, and on which 
the poHtical scholars of the time desired to set 
the seal of antique sanction, who shall determine ? 
If Sanu and his warriors brought with them the 
worship of the sun, that would offer an interesting 
inference as to their origin. If the aid that they 
received from his light was suggested solely by 
the grateful homage that rice-cultivators, thirteen 
centuries later, had learned to pay to his benefi- 
cence, then the oldest written records of Japan 
must be read as mere transcripts of the faiths and 
fashions of the era when they were compiled, not 
as genuine traditions transmitted from previous 
ages. But such distinctions have never been 
recognised by the Japanese. With them these 
annals of their race's beginnings have always 
commanded as inviolable credence as the Testa- 
ments of Christianity used to command in the 
Occident. From the lithographs that embellish 
modern bank-notes the sun looks down on the 
semi-divine conqueror, Jimmu, and receives his 
homage. From the grand cordon of an order 
instituted by his hundred and twenty-seventh 
successor, depends the kite that guided him 
through mountain fastnesses, and on a thousand 
works of art the genius of the tortoise shows him 
the path across the ocean. If these picturesque 
elements were added by subsequent writers to the 
outlines of an ordinary armed invasion by foreign 



adventurers, the nation has received them and 
cherishes them to this day as articles of a sacred 

The annals here briefly summarised reveal three 
tides of more or less civilised immigrants and a 
race of semi-barbarous autochthons. All the 
learned researches of modern arch^ologists and 
ethnologists do not teach us much more. It is 
now known with tolerable certainty that the 
so-called autochthons were composed of two 
swarms of colonists, both coming from Siberia, 
though their advents were separated by a long 

The first, archasologically indicated by pit- 
dwellings and shell-mounds still extant, were the 
Koro-pok-gurUy or " cave-men." They are believed 
to be represented to-day by the inhabitants of 
Saghalien, the Kuriles and Southern Kamschatka. 

The second were the Ainu, a flat-faced, heavy- 
jawed, hirsute people, who completely drove out 
their predecessors and took possession of the land. 
The Ainu of that period had much in common 
with animals. They burrowed in the ground for 
shelter ; they recognised no distinctions of sex in 
apparel or of consanguinity in intercourse ; they 
clad themselves in skins ; they drank blood ; they 
practised cannibalism ; they were insensible to ben- 
efits and perpetually resentful of injuries ; they re- 
sorted to savagely cruel forms of punishment, — 
severing the tendons of the leg, boiling the arms, 
slicing off the nose, etc. ; they used stone im- 



plements, and, unceasingly resisting the civilised 
immigrants who subsequently reached the islands, 
they were driven northward by degrees, and finally 
pushed across the Tsugaru Strait into the island 
of Yezo. That long struggle, and the disasters and 
sufferings it entailed, radically changed the nature 
of the Ainu. They became timid, gentle, submis- 
sive folk ; lost most of the faculties essential to 
survival in a racial contest, and dwindled to a 
mere remnant of semi-savages, incapable of prog- 
ress, indifferent to improvement, and presenting 
a more and more vivid contrast to the energetic, 
intelligent, and ambitious Japanese. 

But these Japanese — who were they originally ? 
Whence did the three or more tides of immigration 
set which ultimately coalesced to form the race 
now standing at the head of Oriental peoples ? 
Strangely varying answers to this question have 
been furnished. Kampfer persuaded himself that 
the primaeval Japanese were a section of the build- 
ers of the Tower of Babel. Hyde-Clarke identi- 
fied them with Turano-Africans who travelled 
eastward through Egypt, China, and Japan. Mac- 
leod recognised in them one of the lost tribes of 
Israel. Several writers have regarded them as 
Malayan colonists. Griffin was content to think 
that they are modern Ainu, and recent scholars 
incline to the belief that they belonged to the 
Tartar-Mongolian stock of Central Asia. Some- 
thing of this diversity of view is due to the fact 
that the Japanese are not a pure race. They pre- 



sent several easily distinguishable types, notably the 
patrician and the plebeian. This is not a question 
of mere coarseness in contrast with refinement ; 
of the degeneration due to toil and exposure as 
compared with the improvement produced by 
gentle living and mental culture. The repre- 
sentative of the Japanese plebs has a conspicu- 
ously dark skin, prominent cheek bones, a large 
mouth, a robust and heavily boned physique, 
a flat nose, full straight eyes, and a receding 
forehead. The aristocratic type is symmetrically 
and delicately built ; his complexion varies from 
yellow to almost pure white ; his eyes are narrow, 
set obliquely to the nose ; the eyelids heavy ; the 
eyebrows lofty ; the mouth small ; the face oval ; 
the nose aquiline ; the hand remarkably slender 
and supple. 

Here are two radically distinct types. What 
is more, they have been distinguished by the Jap- 
anese themselves ever since any method of record- 
ing such distinctions existed. For from the time 
when he first began to paint pictures, the Japan- 
ese artist recognised and represented only one type 
of male and female beauty, namely, that distin- 
guished in a marked, often an exaggerated, degree 
by the features enumerated above as belonging to 
the patrician class. There has been no evolution 
in this matter. The painter had as clear a con- 
ception of his type ten centuries ago as he has 
to-day. Nothing seems more natural than the 
supposition that this higher type represents the 



finally dominant race of immigrants ; the lower, 
their less civilised opponents. 

The theory which seems to fit the facts best is 
that the Japanese are compounded of elements 
from Central and Southern Asia, and that they 
received their patrician type from the former, 
their plebeian from the latter. The Asiatic 
colonists arrived via Korea. But they were 
neither Koreans nor Chinese. That seems certain, 
though the evidence which proves it cannot be 
detailed here. Chinese and Koreans came from 
time to time in later ages ; came occasionally in 
great numbers, and were absorbed into the 
Japanese race, leaving on it some faint traces of 
the amalgamation. But the original colonists 
did not set out from either China or Korea. 
Their birthplace was somewhere in the north 
of Central Asia. As for the South-Asian immi- 
grants, they were drifted to Japan by a strange 
current called the "Black Tide" [Kuro-shiwo)^ 
which sweeps northward from the Philippines, 
and bending thence towards the east, touches the 
promontory of Kii and Yamato before shaping 
its course permanently away from the main 
island of Japan. It is true that in the chrono- 
logical order suggested by early history the 
southern colonists succeeded the northern and are 
supposed to have gained the mastery ; whereas 
among the Japanese, as we now see them, the 
supremacy of the northern type appears to have 
been established for ages. That may be ex- 



plained, however, by an easy hypothesis, namely, 
that although the onset of the impetuous south- 
erns proved at first irresistible, they ultimately 
coalesced with the tribes they had conquered, and 
in the end the principle of natural selection 
replaced the vanquished on their proper plane of 
eminence. But this distinction, it must be 
observed, is one of outward form rather than of 
moral attributes. Neither history nor observa- 
tion furnishes any reason for asserting that the 
so-called " aristocratic," or Mongoloid, cast of 
features accompanies a fuller endowment of either 
physical or mental qualities than the vulgar, or 
Malayan, cast. Numerically the patrician type 
constitutes only a small fraction of the nation, 
and seems to have been lacking in a majority 
of the country's past leaders, as it is certainly 
lacking in a majority of her present publicists, 
and even in the very creme de la cre?ne of society. 
The male of the upper classes is not generally an 
attractive product of nature. He has neither 
commanding stature, refinement of features, nor 
weight of muscle. On the other hand, among 
the labouring populations, and especially among 
the seaside folk, numbers of men are found who, 
though below the average Anglo-Saxon or Teuton 
in bulk, are cast in a perfectly symmetrical mould 
and suggest great possibilities of muscular effort 
and endurance. In short, though the aristocratic 
type has survived, and though its superior beauty 
is universally recognised, it has not impressed 



itself completely on the nation, and there is no 
difficulty in conceiving that its representatives 
went down before the first rush of the southern 
invaders, but subsequently, by tenacity of resist- 
ance and by fortitude under suffering, recovered 
from a shock which would have crushed a lower 
grade of humanity. 

Histories that describe the manners and cus- 
toms of a people have been rare in all ages. The 
compilers of Japan's first annals, in the eighth 
century, paid little attention to this part of their 
task. Were it necessary to rely on their narra- 
tive solely for a knowledge of the primeval 
Japanese, the student would be meagrely in- 
formed. But archeology comes to his assistance. 
It raises these men of old from their graves, and 
reveals many particulars of their civilisation 
which could never have been divined from the 
written records alone. 

The ancient Japanese — not the Koro-pok-guru 
or the Ainu, but the ancestors of the Japanese 
proper — buried their dead, first in barrows and 
afterwards in dolmens. The barrow was merely 
a mound of earth heaped over the remains, after 
the manner of the Chinese. The dolmen was a 
stone chamber. It had walls constructed with 
blocks of stone, generally unhewn and rudely 
laid but sometimes hewn and carefully fitted ; its 
roof consisted of huge and ponderous slabs ; it 
varied in form, sometimes taking the shape of a 
long gallery only ; sometimes of a gallery and a 




chamber, and sometimes of a gallery and two 
chambers ; over it was built a mound of earth 
which occasionally assumed enormous dimensions, 
covering a space of seventy or eighty acres, rising 
to a height of as many feet, and requiring the 
labour of thousands of workmen. The builders 
of the barrows were in the bronze age of civilisa- 
tion ; the constructors of the dolmens, in the iron 
age. In the barrows are found weapons and 
implements of bronze and vessels of hand-made 
pottery ; in the dolmens, weapons and imple- 
ments of iron and vessels of wheel-turned pottery. 
There is an absolute line of division. No iron 
weapon nor any machine-made pottery occurs in 
a barrow ; no bronze weapon nor any hand- 
made pottery in a dolmen. Are the barrow- 
builders and the dolmen-constructors to be 
regarded as distinct races, or as men of the same 
race at different stages of its civilisation ? Barrow 
and dolmen bear common testimony to the fact 
that before the ancestors of the Japanese nation 
crossed the sea to their inland home, they had 
already emerged from the stone age, for neither 
in barrow nor in dolmen have stone-weapons or 
implements been found, though these abound in 
the shell-heaps and kitchen-middens that con- 
stitute the relics of the Koro-pok-guru and the 
Ainu. But, on the other hand, barrow and 
dolmen introduce their explorer to peoples 
who stood on different planes of industrial 



The progress of civilisation is always gradual. 
A nation does not pass, in one stride, from burial 
in rude tumuli to sepulture in highly specialised 
forms of stone vaults, nor yet from a bronze age 
to an iron. It is therefore evident that the evolu- 
tion of dolmen from barrow did not take place 
within Japan. The dolmen-constructor must 
have completely emerged from the bronze age 
and abandoned the fashion of barrow-burial before 
he reached Japan. Otherwise search would cer- 
tainly disclose some transitional form between the 
barrow and the dolmen, and some iron imple- 
ments would occur in the barrows, or bronze 
weapons in the dolmens. If, then, the barrow- 
builder and the dolmen-constructor were racially 
identical, it would seem to follow that the latter 
succeeded the former by a long interval in the 
order of immigration, and brought with him a 
greatly improved type of civilisation evolved in 
the country of his origin. 

The reader will be naturally disposed to antici- 
pate that the geographical distribution of the 
dolmens and the barrows furnishes some aid in 
solving this problem. But though the excep- 
tional number found on the coasts opposite to 
Korea tends to support the theory that the stream 
of Mongoloid immigration came chiefly from the 
Korean peninsula via the island of Tsushima, 
there is not any local differentiation of one kind 
of sepulture from the other, and, for the rest, the 
grouping of the dolmens supplies no information 



except that their builders occupied the tract of 
country from the shores opposite Korea on the 
west to Musashi and the south of Shimotsuke on 
the east, and did not penetrate to the extreme 
northeast, or to the regions of mountain and 
forest in the interior. 

Here another point suggests itself. If the 
fashion of the Japanese dolmen was introduced 
from abroad, evidences of its prototype should 
survive on the adjacent continent of Asia. If the 
numerous dolmens found on the coasts of Kiushiu 
and Izumo facing Korea are to be taken as indi- 
cations that their constructors emigrated origi- 
nally from the Korean peninsula, then Korea also 
should contain similar dolmens, and if an ethno- 
logical connection existed between Japan and 
China in prehistoric days, China, too, should 
have dolmens. But no dolmens have hitherto 
been found in China, and the dolmens of Korea 
differ radically from those of Japan, being " merely 
cists with megalithic cap-stones " (Gowland). It 
has been shown, further, that dolmens similar 
to those of Japan are not to be found in any part 
of Continental Asia eastward of the shores of the 
Caspian Sea, and that Western Europe alone offers 
exactly analogous types. In short, from an eth- 
nological point of view, the dolmens of Japan are 
as perplexing as the dolmens of Europe, and the 
prospect of solving the riddle seems to be equally 
remote in both cases. All that can be affirmed 
is that the dolmens offer strong corroborative 



testimony to the truth of the Japanese historical 
narrative which represents Jimmu as the leader 
of the last and most highly civilised among the 
bands of colonists constituting the ancestors of 
the present Japanese race. Thus the " divine 
warrior," after having been temporarily erased 
from the tablets of history by the modern sceptic 
of the West, is projected upon them once more 
from the newly opened graves of the primeval 
Japanese. It is true that there is an arithmetical 
dirficultv : it has been supposed that the dolmens 
do not date from a period more remote than the 
third century before Christ, whereas Jimmu's 
invasion is assigned to the seventh. But no great 
effort of imagination is required to effect a com- 
promise between the uncertain chronology of the 
Japanese annals and the tentative estimates of 
modern archaeologists. 

Some of the burial customs revealed by these 
ancient tombs resemble the habits of the Scythians 
as described by Herodotus. The Japanese did 
not, it is true, lay the corpse of a chieftain be- 
tween sheets of gold, nor did they inter his 
favourite wife with similar pomp in an adjoining 
chamber ; but they did deposit with him his 
weapons, his ornaments, and the trappings of his 
war-horse, and in remote times they followed the 
barbarous rule of burying alive, in the immediate 
vicinity of his sepulchre, his personal attendants, 
male and female, and probably also his steed. To 
the abrogation of that cruel rule is due much 



1. Shoes of Gilt Copper, length 12'k inches. 

2. Stirrup irons, extreme breadth IM inches. 

3. Horse-bits, Rokuya Dolmen. M length. 

4. Swords with ornamental mounts. 

5. Iron Cuirass and Helmet, 'c length. 

6. Bronze Arrow-heads. }i length. 

7. Bronze two-handled Sword. 

8. Penannular Ring. Copper, plated with Gold. 


information about the garments worn in early 
epochs, for in the century immediately preceding 
the Christian era a kind-hearted emperor decided 
that clay figures should be substituted for human 
victims, and these figures, being modelled, how- 
ever roughly, in the guise of the men and women 
of the time, tell what kind of costumes were 
worn and what was the manner of wearing them. 
Collecting all the available evidence, the story 
shapes itself into this : — 

Prior to the third, or perhaps the fourth, cen- 
tury before the Christian era, when the dead were 
interred in barrows, not dolmens, the Japanese, 
though they stood on a plane considerably above 
the general level of Asiatic civilisation, did not yet 
understand the forging of iron or the use of the 
potter's wheel. They were still in the bronze age, 
and their weapons — swords, halberds, and arrow- 
heads — were made of that metal. Concerning 
the fashion of their garments not much is known, 
but they used, for purpose of personal adornment, 
quaintly shaped objects of jasper, rock-crystal, ste- 
atite, and other stones. Then, owing probably to 
the advent of a second wave of immigration from 
the continent, the civilisation of the nation was 
suddenly raised, and the country passed at once 
from the bronze to the iron age, with a corre- 
sponding development of industrial capacity in 
other directions, and with a novel method of 
sepulture having no exact prototype except in 
Western Europe. The new-comers seem to have 



been, not a race distinct from their predecessors, 
hut a second outgrowth of colonists from the same 
parent stem. Where that stem had its roots there 
is no clear indication, but it is evident that, during 
the interval between the first and the second mi- 
grations, the mother country had far excelled its 
colony in material civilisation, so that, with the 
advent of the second band of wanderers, the con- 
dition of the Japanese underwent marked change. 
They laid aside their bronze weapons and began to 
use iron swords and spears, and iron-tipped arrows. 
A warrior carried one sword and, perhaps, a dagger. 
The sword had a blade which varied from two 
and a half feet to over three feet in length. 
These were not the curved weapons with curi- 
ously modelled faces and wonderful trenchancy 
which became so celebrated in later times. 
Straight, one-edged swords, formidable enough, 
but considerably inferior to the admirable katana 
of mediaeval and modern eras, they were sheathed 
in wooden scabbards, having bands and hoops of 
copper, silver, or iron, by means of which the 
weapon was suspended from the girdle. The 
guards were of iron. Copper, or bronze, often 
coated with gold, and always having holes cut 
in them to render them lighter. Wood was the 
material used for hilt as well as for scabbard, but 
generally in the former case and sometimes in the 
latter a thin sheet of copper with gold plating en- 
veloped the wood. Double barbs characterised 
the arrow-head, and as these projected about four 



inches beyond the shaft, a bow of great strength 
must have been used, though of only medium 
length. Armour does not seem to have been 
generally worn, or to have served for covering 
any part of the body except the head and the 
breast. It was of iron, and it took the shape of 
thin bands of metal, riveted together for casque 
and cuirass. Neither brassart, visor, nor greaves 
have been found in any dolmen, and though sol- 
erets of copper are among the objects exhumed, 
they appear to have been rather ornamental than 
defensive. As to shields, nothing is known. No 
trace of them has been found, and it seems a rea- 
sonable inference that they were not used. Horses 
evidently played an important part in the lives of 
the second batch of immigrants, for horse-furni- 
ture constantly appears among the objects found in 
dolmens. The bit is almost identical with the 
common *' snaffle " of the Occident. Made of 
iron, it has side-rings or cheek-pieces of the same 
metal, elaborately shaped and often sheeted with 
gilded copper. The saddle was of wood, peaked 
before and behind and braced with metal bands, 
and numerous ornaments of repousse iron covered 
with sheets of gilt or silvered copper were attached 
to the trappings. Among these ornaments a pe- 
culiar form of bell is present : an oblate hollow- 
sphere, having a long slit in its shell and containing 
a loose metal pellet. Stirrups are seldom found 
in the dolmens, and the rare specimens hitherto 
exhumed bear no resemblance to the large, heavy, 



shoe-shaped affiiirs of later ages, but are rather of 
the Occidental type. 

The costume of these ancient Japanese had lit- 
tle in common with that of their modern descend- 
ants. They wore an upper garment of woven 
stuff, fashioned after the manner of a loosely 
fitting tunic, and confined at the waist by a 
girdle, and they had loose trousers reaching 
nearly to the feet. For ornaments they used 
necklaces of beads or of rings, — silver, stone, 
or glass ; finger-rings, sometimes of silver or 
gold, sometimes of copper, bronze, or iron plated 
with one of the precious metals ; ring-shaped but- 
tons ; metal armlets ; bands or plates of gilt copper 
which were attached to the tunic ; ear-rings of 
gold, and tiaras. Not one item in this catalogue, 
the tiara excepted, appears among the garments 
or personal ornaments of the Japanese since their 
history and habits began to be known to the outer 
world. No nation has undergone a more radical 
change of taste in the matter of habiliments and 
adornments. The ear-ring, the necklace, the fin- 
ger-ring, the bracelet, and the band or plate of 
metal attached to the tunic, — all these passed 
completely out of vogue so long ago that, with- 
out the evidence of the contents of the dolmen, 
it would be impossible to conceive the existence 
of such things in Japan. One of the most note- 
worthy features of the people's habits in mediaeval 
or modern times is that, with the solitary excep- 
tion of pins and fillets for the hair, they eschew 



every class of personal ornament. Yet the dol- 
mens indicate that personal adornments were 
abundantly, if not profusely, employed by the 
ancestors of these same Japanese in prehistoric 
days. Indeed, the only features common to the 
fashions of the Japanese as they are now known 
and the Japanese as their sepulchres reveal them, 
are the rich decoration of the sword-hilt and scab- 
bard and of the war-horse's trappings. 

As to the food of these early people, it seems 
to have consisted of fish, flesh, and cereals. They 
used wine of some kind, though of its nature 
there is no knowledge, and their household 
utensils were of pottery, graceful in outline but 
unglazed and archaically decorated. Whether or 
not they possessed cattle there is no evidence, nor 
yet is it known what means they employed to 
produce fire, though the fire-drill appears to be 
the most probable. 

That they believed in a future state is evident, 
since they buried with the dead whatever imple- 
ments and weapons might be necessary in the 
life beyond the grave ; that ancestral worship 
constituted an important part of their religious 
cult is proved by the offerings periodically made 
at the tombs of the deceased ; and that idolatry 
was not practised or superstition largely prevalent 
may be deduced from the complete absence of 
charms or amulets among the remains found in 
their sepulchres. 


Chapter III 


IN one respect Japan's story differs from that 
of nearly all other countries : the current 
of her national life was never diverted from 
its normal channel by successful foreign in- 
vasions or by any overwhelming inflow of alien 
races. It is true that her codes of ethics and 
social conventions were largely modified, from 
time to time, by foreign influences. But it is 
also true that she impressed the stamp of her 
own originality on everything coming to her 
from abroad, and that, leading what may be 
called an uninterruptedly domestic existence 
during twenty-five centuries, she developed char- 
acteristics so salient that in studying her annals 
there is forced upon our attention a continuity 
of easily synthesised traits. • 

No traces of autocratic sovereignty are to be 
found in the history of the early colonists. The 
general who led the invaders received recognition 
as their chief, but the ofiices of the newly 
organised States were divided among his principal 
followers, not as arbitrarily conferred gifts, but as 
spoils falling to them by right. The occupants 



of these posts were not removable at the caprice 
of the Sovereign, and they enjoyed the privi- 
lege of transmitting their offices to their sons ; a 
system of hereditary officialdom vi^hich remained 
in operation through long ages. 

Thus the national polity in the earliest times 
assumed a patriarchal form. Public affiiirs were 
administered by a group of official families, and 
at the head of all stood a lineal descendant of the 
divine ancestors, the degree of his sway varying 
from time to time according to the docility of 
his coadjutors. 

All these great families were supposed to be 
of divine lineage ; they traced their origin to a 
Mikoto (an augustness) just as the Sovereign him- 
self did. Some, presumably the most deserving, 
obtained offices near the throne when the spoils 
of conquest were distributed ; others were 
appointed to provincial posts, and as these latter 
generally found their administrative regions 
occupied by barbarians whom they had to subdue 
at first and to hold in check afterwards, they 
gradually organised principalities virtually inde- 
pendent of the central government. That, 
however, is a historical development subsequent 
to the era now under consideration. 

It does not appear that there was anything like 
a fully organised administration until some thir- 
teen hundred years after the date traditionally 
assigned for the conquest of Yamato by the 
Emperor Jimmu. The functions of government 



were divided, not in accordance with any prin- 
ciple of convenient discharge, but simply with 
reference to the claims of the persons undertaking 
them. To two of the imperial princes were 
entrusted sacerdotal and executive duties ; to two 
others, military duties, which consisted chiefly of 
guarding the new palace and capital ; and to two 
others, the duties of worship and administration 
in the provinces. The performance of religious 
rites formed an essential part of state-craft in 
those times. In fact, the term [matsuri'j for 
"worship" was identical with that for "govern- 
ment," and the identity continued until a very 
recent era, so that, in the language of every-day 
life, no distinction was made between the sacred 
business of prayer and the secular business of 
ruling. That fact reveals very clearly the foun- 
dation upon which the national polity stood. 
The Sovereign was the nation's high-priest. 
Like the Jewish patriarchs, he interceded for his 
people direct with Heaven, and ruled them by 
the authority he derived from the deities. His 
administrative assistants followed the same prin- 
ciple. They invoked the aid of Heaven for the 
discharge of all their duties, and its blessing upon 
all the affairs of the people under their control. 

It cannot be affirmed that the high officers of 
State had any officially recognised designations in 
remote times, and the absence of such designa- 
tions goes far to confirm the theory that the 
functions of the patriarchs were of a general 



character, and that no attempt to divide them 
systematically was made. They did, however, 
receive appellations from the people. Just as 
household servants speak of " the master " and 
a ship's crew of " the captain," so the first gov- 
ernor of a province came to be called " the im- 
perial person of the country " [Kunino mi-yatsukd) ; 
the first agricultural superintendent was known 
as " the lord of the fields " (agatanushi) ; the first 
high chamberlain as " the great man of the 
palace" (tniya no obito). In like manner, such 
titles as " great body " (o/;//), " master of the 
multitude " [miirajt^, " honorable intermediary " 
(nakatomi^ and so on, were employed as terms of 
respect, and ultimately passed into use as official 

The share assigned to a patriarch in the central 
or provincial administration became his inalien- 
able property. He transmitted it to his son and 
to his son's son. Thus not only were offices 
hereditary but their occupants multiplied, so that 
all the posts and perquisites of a department fell 
finally into the possession of a clan. The head 
of the clan then came to be distinguished by the 
prefix O (great or senior) ; as 0-mi (the senior 
honourable person), 0-jnuraji (the great master of 
the multitude), and so on. There were no family 
names in the Occidental sense of the term. Men 
were distinguished instead by the titles of the 
administrative posts belonging to their houses. 
The name of the post preceded that of the per- 



son, as was natural, so that a man was spoken of 
as " Hierarch Kasumi " (Nakatomi no Kasumi), 
or " Guardsman Moriya " [Moiiobe Moriya), or 
" Purveyor Kujira" [Kashiwade no Kujira)} 

Eminent as was the position assigned to rehgion 
in the poHty of the ancient Japanese, no trace of 
a doctrinal creed, as creeds are understood in the 
Occident, is found in their lives. Their burial 
customs show that they believed in an existence 
beyond the grave, but they seem to have troubled 
themselves little about the nature of that exist- 
ence, or about transcendental speculations of any 
kind. The chief denizen of celestial space, ac- 
cording to their creed, was a tutelary deity, the 
Goddess of Light, and since her worship, or the 
worship of some lesser spirit, had to preface 
every administrative act of importance, religious 
rites were placed, as has been already stated, at 
the head of all official functions. Yet special 
buildings for ceremonial purposes did not origi- 
nally exist. The Emperor, as the nation's high- 
priest, worshipped in the palace, where were 
kept the insignia of sovereignty, — the sword, the 
mirror, and the jewel of divine origin. Not until 
the first century before Christ were shrines 
erected apart from the palace, and the immediate 
cause of the innovation was a pestilence which 
the soothsayers interpreted as a heavenly protest 
against the method of worship then pursued. 
The creed was not exclusive. Its pantheon, 

1 Sec Appendix, note 4. 



which in the beginning included only the deities 
of high heaven, was soon enlarged by the admis- 
sion of other powers controlling the forces of 
nature, as well as by the spirits of deceased heroes, 
and ultimately received even the supernatural 
beings supposed to preside over the destinies of 
the aboriginal tribes. In other words, the civil- 
ised colonists consented to worship the ancestors 
of the semi-savage aborigines against whom they 
perpetually waged war. This might be inter- 
preted to mean that upon the religion which the 
Japanese brought with them to Japan the religion 
of the autochthons whom they found there was 
engrafted. But nothing is known of the autoch- 
thonous creed. The true explanation seems to 
be that the Japanese, analysing their difficulty in 
subduing the aborigines, attributed it to the influ- 
ence of the latter's deceased rulers, and concluded 
that the wisest plan would be to propitiate these 
hostile powers. Hence it is plain that they be- 
lieved in malevolent spirits as well as in benevo- 
lent ; or perhaps the more accurate statement 
would be that, according to their creed, immortal 
beings continued to be animated by the sentiments 
which had swayed them as mortals, and possessed 
power to give practical effect to their sentiments. 
They did not associate any idea of rewards and 
punishments with a future state. Their theory 
pointed to duality of the soul. They regarded it 
as consisting of two distinct elements : one the 
source of courage, strength, and aggressiveness ; 



the other the mainspring of benevolence, refine- 
ment, and magnanimity. In the good man these 
elements were blended harmoniously during life, 
and they survived in like proportions after the 
death of his body. But whatever had been the 
quality of the mortal tenement, the immortal 
tenant passed from the edge of the grave into the 
"sombre realm" {Tojnotsu-kuni^, which was sep- 
arated from this world by a " broad slope " 
(Totnotsu-hira-zaka), never recrossed by a spirit 
that had eaten anything cooked in the land of 
darkness. The offerings made at the tombs of 
the deceased had the purpose of providing against 
that disaster of eternal banishment, and, in an- 
other sense, were a mark of filial piety, the 
natural outcome of faith in the terrestrial inter- 
ference of the departed. 

In addition to the celestial and the terrestrial 
deities, the animal and vegetable kingdom 
supplied objects of worship. Monster snakes, 
supposed to destroy the crops, were propitiated 
by sacrifice, and giant trees, venerated as the 
abode of supernal beings, were fenced off with 
ropes carrying sacred pendants.^ The folk-lore 
of the nation includes several stories of losses and 
sufferings caused by cutting down sacred trees, 
and the rituals show that herbs, rocks, and trees 
were supposed to have the power of speech prior 
to the descent of the deities, when dumbness fell 
upon all these objects. 

' See Appendix, note 5. 



Out of such beliefs a rudimentary form of the 
doctrine of metempsychosis easily emerges. 
Yamatake, the great hero of prehistoric Japan, 
was transformed into a white bird, and Tamichi, 
the generalissimo vanquished by the Ezo, became 
a monster snake which devoured the desecrators 
of his tomb. Some ethnologists allege that the 
custom of human sacrifices existed in early days ; 
but the theory is founded on a solitary legend of 
the Perseus-and-Andromeda type, which does 
not seem to justify any such inference. Every- 
thing, indeed, goes to show that while a sacri- 
ficial element undoubtedly entered largely into 
the rites of worship, it never involved the taking 
of human life, the objects offered to the gods 
being confined to the fruits of the earth, birds, 
animals, and the products of labour. Auguries 
were obtained by burning the hoof of an ox 
or the shoulder-blade of a stag, and deciphering 
the lines in the calcined bone. But there is 
reason to believe that no such method of sooth- 
saying had a place in the primaeval superstitions 
of the Japanese ; it probably came to them from 
Korea. A device more consistent with their 
own beliefs was to invoke a sign from heaven 
by music, when a deity descended and inspired 
the musician. 

The most famous legend in Japan is that 
which is supposed to describe the origin of 
religious services. The Goddess of the Sun 
(Amaterasu Okami), having retired into a cave so 



that the universe was phinged in darkness, the 
eight hundred myriads of lesser deities assembled 
to propitiate her. Thereafter the act of worship 
took this shape : five hundred saplings of sakakt 
(Clyera japonica^ with their roots were arranged 
round a mirror (made of copper) which typified 
the goddess of light. In the upper branches of 
the trees were hung balls representing the sacred 
jewel, and in the lower branches, blue and white 
pendants. A prayer was then recited by the 
chief hierarch, in lieu of the Emperor, and the 
service concluded with a dance and the lighting 
of fires, in imitation of the devices employed by 
the deities to lure the sun goddess from her 
retirement. The prayers offered on these occa- 
sions were probably rendered into exact formulae 
at an early date, but they were not reduced to 
writing until the tenth century. Twenty-seven 
of them have been preserved, and seventy-five are 
said to have been in use. Their language is often 
majestic, poetical, and sonorous,^ but not one of 
them contains a word suggesting that the 
primaeval Japanese troubled themselves much 
about a future state after death or about posthu- 
mous punishment for sins committed during life. 
Their idea of crime was that it polluted the 
person committing it, but that its commission 
was inevitable. Hence purification services were 
performed twice in every year, the gods of the 
swift streams, the tumbling cataracts, and the 

^ Sec Appendix, note 6. 



raging tides being invoked to wash away and 
dissipate all offences. First among crimes was 
the removal of a neighbour's landmark — de- 
scribed as breaking down divisions between rice- 
fields ; then followed the damming of streams 
and the destruction of water-pipes, whence it 
may be inferred that the problem of irrigation 
for purposes of rice-culture proved as perplexing 
to these ancient folk as it does to their modern 
descendants. On the same plane of heinousness 
stood the cruelty of flaying the living or the 
dead, and among lesser crimes were enumerated 
cutting and wounding, incest and the practice of 
witchcraft. Every religious service was accom- 
panied by offerings betokening gratitude for past 
favours or beseeching future blessings, and the 
things prayed for were good harvests, an abun- 
dance of food, security of dwelling-houses against 
natural calamities, and against the intrusion of 
reptiles or polluting birds, tranquil and efficient 
government, and protection from tempests, con- 
flagrations, pestilence, inundations, and vengeful 
deities — in a word, prosperity and peace. Inci- 
dentally, these rituals further show that the 
Japanese believed in a solid firmament walling 
the universe, though certain passages suggest that 
they thought this distant envelope light enough 
to be supported by the winds, which not only 
filled space, but were also capable of serving as a 
ladder for the feet of the deities when they 
descended to the earth. The fermented liquor 



called sake, that is to say, rice-beer, must have 
been highly appreciated in early times, for no 
ritualistic enumeration of offerings made to the 
gods is without a reference to *' piled up sake- 
pots " or "bellying beer-jars ranged in rows." 

It has been shown above that the story of the 
first mortal emperor's conquest of Yamato indi- 
cates the use of clumsy boats and a marked 
deficiency of navigating enterprise. But the 
rituals of Shinto — as Japan's ancient creed is 
called — do not confirm that idea. They speak 
of ships that " continually crowd on the wide 
sea-plane," and of *' a huge vessel moored in a 
great harbour, which, casting off her stern moor- 
ings, casting off her bow moorings, drives forth 
into the vast ocean." 

It is curious that among the evils from which 
deliverance was besought, earthquakes are no- 
where mentioned, and that robbery is not included 
in the list of polluting crimes. Some have 
inferred that this commonest of all sins in all 
nations was unknown among the ancient Japanese. 
But that is a doubtful conclusion. It might be 
inferred with equal justice that incest was re- 
garded with abhorrence, since the rituals class 
it among sins contaminating the perpetrator. 
Yet it is certain that men had relations v/ith the 
mothers of their wives and even with their own 
mothers and daughters, — though facts will 
presently be cited which mitigate the horror of 
such acts, — that unnatural crimes of a most 



disgusting character were committed not infre- 
quently, and that no veto is known to have been 
pronounced against them. 

There was, in fact, no system of philosophy 
nor any code of ethics. India had Sidathra, 
China had Confucius, but neither in ancient, 
medieval, nor modern time has Japan produced 
a great teacher of morality. She has had plenty 
of brilliant interpreters, plenty of profound modi- 
fiers, but no conspicuous originator. 

The right of primogeniture was not recognised 
in the age here spoken of. A father chose his 
heir at will. Generally the choice fell on his 
youngest son, for reasons which become plain 
when the marital customs of the time are con- 
sidered. The conception of marriage was 
practically limited to cohabitation. A husband 
incurred no obligations or responsibilities towards 
his wife. It is related that the first emperor 
(Jimmu), chancing to meet a band of seven 
maidens, made immediate proposals that one of 
them should become his mate. The girl agreed, 
and the sovereign passed the night at her house, 
a visit which he thenceforth became entitled to 
repeat whenever he pleased. That was wedlock. 
To be married involved no change in a woman's 
life except the liability to receive visits from her 
husband. As to the man, there was absolutely no 
duty of fidelity on his side. He might form as 
many different unions as fancy prompted. The 
children were brought up by the mother, and it 



was possible for one household to remain in 
entire ignorance of another's existence. Mutual 
knowledge generally signified feuds and fighting, 
for the father's favour was naturally bestowed on 
the children of his latest affection, and the elder 
branches of his offspring frequently rebelled 
against such partiality. Another result of the 
system was marriages between half-brothers and 
half-sisters, or between uncles and nieces. These 
unions were not condemned by the moral code 
of the time. Indeed, the existence of any rela- 
tionship was sometimes unknown to the parties 
themselves, a man's wives and families in different 
places not necessarily having any mutual acquaint- 
ance. The only restriction recognised was that 
children of the same mother must not intermarry. 
It is easy to see that under these circumstances 
the ties of consanguinity did not bind men very 
closely. To be sons of the same father carried 
no obligation of friendship or sympathy. Often 
in the annals of the innumerable civil wars that 
disturbed Japan the reader is shocked by deeds 
of vengeance, treachery, or ambitious truculence 
that violate all the dictates of natural affection. 
The origin of these displays of callousness or 
cruelty must be sought in the ancient system 
which condemned a wife to perform the functions 
of a mere animal, and deprived her children of 
any claim on their father's love and protection. 

"Houses" have been spoken of above, but a 
reservation is necessary : the upper classes lived 



in houses ; the lower inhabited caves or holes in 
the earth, choosing hillsides for sites in order to 
escape inundations, which were then of calamitous 
dimensions and frequency. These cave-dwellings 
seem to have measured from four to six square 
yards in area, and to have been closed by a door 
four or five feet high. Common folk used them 
all the year round, and even princes and nobles 
found them comfortable as winter residences, 
transferring themselves in summer to huts built 
near the entrance of the caves.^ In constructing 
houses of the best type, the palaces of the era, 
flat stones^ were sunk in the ground to form a 
foundation, and on these was raised a stout up- 
right, the "heavenly pillar" [a??ie no f?iihashiray 
At every corner also a pillar of lesser dimensions 
was erected, and between the tops of these corner 
pillars, as well as from each of them to the 
central post, beams were stretched, the whole 
bound together with wistaria withes. Reeds or 
rushes served for thatching, and heavy logs laid 
over the thatch prevented it from being blown 
away. The ends of the tie-beams projected high 
above the roof, a feature permanently preserved 
in Shinto architecture ; a hole in the thatch gave 
exit to the smoke of the cooking-fire ; the frames 
of doors and windows were tied in their places 
with stems of creepers, and the walls consisted 
of logs or bark, or of both combined. These 
edifices generally stood near a stream which 

^ See Appendix, note 7. ^ See Appendix, note 8. 



carried off impurities ; mats, rushes, or skins were 
spread for a bed, and furs, cloth, or silk served for 
coverlets. The floor was of timber, but whether 
of logs or of boards is not known, A religious 
service of consecration for propitiating the deities 
of timber and rice was held when the first 
emperor built his palace at Kashibara after he 
had conquered Yamato, and it became customary 
thenceforth to repeat the service at coronations 
and after harvest fetes. Common people, when 
they built a residence, invited their friends to a 
** house-warming," but the Emperor invoked the 
gods against the entry of snakes that bit the 
inmates, or of birds that polluted the food ; against 
groaning timbers, loosening ties, unevenness of 
thatch, and creaking floors. 

All this indicates a comparatively low type of 
civilisation. And yet, as has been shown in a 
previous chapter, objects found in the tombs of 
these early Japanese show that they possessed 
much skill in the casting and chiselling of metals, 
that their arms and the trappings of their horses 
were highly ornamented, and that their costume 
had many elements of refinement. 

Perhaps the most special feature of their habits 
was cleanliness. It distinguishes them from all 
other Oriental nations. Whether this propensity 
grew out of their religious observances or was 
merely reflected in them, there is no means of 
determining. Knowledge is limited to the facts 
that they held every form of pollution to be 



offensive to the gods ; that the chief Shinto ser- 
vice, the " high mass " of the cult, has for its 
purpose the purification of the believer's body as 
well as of his heart : that chastity and simplicity 
were fundamental features of all the rites, con- 
structions, and paraphernalia of the creed, and 
that the virtue of cleanliness received practical 
acknowledgment even among the lowest classes. 

Songs and dances appear among the most an- 
cient pastimes of the people. Love is supposed 
to have inspired the first ode composed in Japan, 
the Emperor Jimmu having been moved to song 
on meeting with the maiden Isuzu. The refer- 
ence here is to mortal poets. A still earlier 
couplet is attributed to one of the immortals 
when she danced before the cave into which the 
Sun Goddess had retired. In the latter incident 
also ethnologists find the supposed origin of danc- 
ing, which from time immemorial has been at 
once a religious observance and an universally 
popular amusement. Virgins danced before the 
shrine of the Sun Goddess at the beginning of 
the nation, and from the highest noble to the 
meanest churl everyone loved the music of motion. 
The first costume-dance was prompted by pain, 
when a deity, vanquished in fight and threatened 
with drowning, painted his face red and lifted 
his feet in an agony of supplication. This hayato- 
mai (the warrior dance), as it is called, is still 
included among the classical mimes of the Impe- 
rial Court. It was performed to the music of a 
5 65 


stringed instrument (the Wa-kin)^ and of a flute, 
perhaps accompanied by a drum. Even the spirits 
of the dead were supposed to be moved by song 
and dance. When a man died, his corpse was 
placed in a building specially erected for the 
purpose. There it lay for ten days, while the 
relatives and friends of the deceased assembled 
and venerated his spirit, making music and danc- 
ing. This ceremony of farewell seems to have 
been originally prompted by a hope of recalling 
the departed, but it soon lost that character and 
became a mere token of respect. Ancient Japan 
was largely indebted to Korea for developments 
of musical instruments. On the death of the 
Emperor Ingyo (453 a. d.), the Korean Court 
sent eighty musicians robed in black, who 
marched in procession from the landing-place to 
the Yamato palace, playing and singing a dirge 
as they went. 

The oldest organised form of amusement seems 
to have been the Ka-gaki, or poetical picnic. 
Parties of men and women met at appointed 
places, either in town or country, and composed 
couplets, delivering them with accompaniment 
of music or dancing. This kind of pastime had 
its practical uses : it brought lovers together and 
soon became a recognised preface to marriage. 
Among amusements confined to men, cock-fight- 
ing and hunting were most affected. Large 
tracts of the country being still unreclaimed, deer 

^ See Appendix, note 9. 



and wild-boar abounded. These were driven by 
beaters into open spaces, there to be pursued by 
men on horseback armed with bows and arrows. 
In the fourth century the pastime of hawking 
was introduced. It came from Korea : a king 
of that country sent a present of falcons to the 
Emperor of Japan, who caused a special office to 
be organised for the care of the birds. 

Chinese annalists, writing in the third century, 
allege that the Japanese tattooed their faces and 
bodies, the positions and size of the designs con- 
stituting an indication of rank. Tattooing the 
body and cutting the hair were counted by the 
Chinese as violations of the rules of civilisation, 
and they offer an interesting explanation of the 
origin of these customs in Japan. They allege 
that the first rulers of that country were wander- 
ing princes of the Chou dynasty (i 200 b. c.) who 
abandoned their patrimony in China, and mi- 
grated southwards, cutting their hair and tattoo- 
ing themselves, to mark the completeness of their 
expatriation. The theory is quite untenable. 
One well-known Chinese work regards tattooing 
in Japan as a protection against the attacks of 
marine creatures of prey. But there are strong 
reasons to doubt whether tattooing was at any 
time prevalent among the Japanese proper. Pos- 
sibly Chinese writers failed to distinguish between 
the inhabitants of the Riukiu archipelago and the 
people of Nippon, for tattooing of the face was 
never practised by the Japanese, whereas the 



habit did prevail among the people of Riukiu. 
Another reasonable hypothesis is that tattooing 
was introduced among a limited section of the 
nation when Japan received the Malayan element 
of her population. At all events, in every era 
it was confined to the lowest classes, namely, those 
who bared their bodies to perform the severe 
labour falling to their lot. 

These Chinese annalists confirm the supposition 
suggested by the rituals, as noted above, that 
crimes of larceny and burglary were very rare in 
old Japan. They say, also, that Japanese women 
were neither sensual nor jealous, which is as- 
suredly true in modern times and seems to have 
been true in every age of the nation's existence. 
Another fact adduced in praise of the people was 
that they gave the law courts very little occupa- 
tion. But there is an unfavourable interpretation 
of that state of affairs. The severity of the law, 
when occasion for its enforcement did arise, was 
terrible. If political considerations aggrav^ated a 
crime, the whole family of the criminal were 
executed, and sometimes every member, even to 
distant relations, was reduced to the condition of 
serfdom. The people in general may be said to 
have been serfs with regard to the interval separat- 
ing them from the upper classes. Thus, if an 
inferior met a superior, the former had to step 
aside and bow profoundly. He was further 
required to squat, or kneel, with both hands on 
the ground, when addressing a man of rank. 



That custom appears to have existed from the 
earHest time, and cannot be said to have yet 
become wholly extinct. 

The accounts that Chinese annalists in the 
third century gave of contemporaneous Japan, 
indicate that intercourse existed between the two 
countries at that remote epoch. Indeed China 
and Korea began at an early date to act some 
part in the civilisation of Japan, and the Japanese 
themselves have always frankly admitted that 
they owe many of their refinements and accom- 
plishments to their continental neighbours. But 
the common belief about that matter needs 

One naturally expects that since a section of 
the original Japanese colonists arrived via Korea, 
they must have received some impress of that 
country's civilisation during their passage through 
it, and must also have preserved permanent touch 
with it subsequently. The former anticipation 
is largely borne out by a comparison of the two 
countries' customs, for they practised in common 
the rules that prisoners taken in war and members 
of a criminal's family should be reduced to slavery ; 
that the corpses of persons executed for crime 
should be exposed ; that the personal attendants 
of a high dignitary should be buried alive at his 
interment ; that a bridegroom should visit his 
bride at her own house ; that before engaging 
in war or undertaking any important enterprise, 
prayer should be addressed to heaven and augu- 



ries drawn from scorched bones, and that festivals 
in honour of the deities should be held in spring, 
in autumn, and at the close of the year. There 
is here too much similarity to be merely fortui- 
tous. But as to the relations between the two 
nations, they were limited for a long time to 
mutual raids. In the century immediately pre- 
ceding the Christian era, when the Japanese had 
been reduced almost to helplessness by a pesti- 
lence, the first historical reference to Korea is 
found, namely, that an incursion of Korean free- 
booters took place into the island of Kiushiu, 
and that thousands of the invaders settled in the 
deserted hamlets of the plague-stricken Japanese. 
Japan's attention was thus disagreeably directed 
towards her neighbour, and when, by and by, 
inter-tribal disputes disturbed the peace of Korea, 
the Yamato rulers were easily induced to inter- 
fere. It appears, further, that Korea constantly 
lent assistance to the semi-savage aborigines of 
Kiushiu, whose subjugation long remained a diffi- 
cult problem for the Japanese. Indeed, the only 
questions of foreign policy with which the early 
Japanese colonists had to deal arose out of the 
fact that the autochthons whom they sought to 
bring under their sway, received aid in the south 
from Korea and in the north from the Tartars. 
There was not much probability that Japan would 
become a disciple of Korean ethics under such 
circumstances. Hence, though Korea and China 
are often bracketed together as Japan's instructors, 



the truth is that Korea was only a channel, whereas 
China was a source. Originally Korea did not 
stand on a much higher plane than her island 
neighbour in any respect, and in some her level 
was distinctly lower. But when she came within 
the range of Chinese civilisation, she began to 
reflect a faint light. Her record ought to have 
been better than it is, for she fell under the direct 
influence of China at a very early date. In the 
twelfth century before Christ, a band of Chinese 
wanderers found their way to the eastern region 
of the peninsula, and settling there, imparted to 
the tribe which received them forms of etiquette, 
principles of justice, methods of irrigation, tillage, 
sericulture, and weaving, and the provisions of 
" the Eight Fundamental Laws." Again, in the 
first century before Christ, a group of Chinese 
nobles, accompanying a fugitive prince, established 
themselves in the district lying nearest to Japan. 
And in the second century after Christ, north- 
western Korea was overrun by a Chinese army, 
and divided into four districts each under the rule 
of a Chinese satrap. If, then, the atmosphere of 
Korea had been favourable to the growth of 
Chinese civilisation, she should have become a 
well-equipped teacher for Japan at an early date. 
But she never showed any strongly receptive 
faculty. Japan had to go direct to China, and 
that was an immense undertaking in days when 
means of communication were primitive. The 
character that the journey bore in the recollection 



of persons making it may be gathered from the 
writings of Chonen, a Bonze, who, in company 
with live acolytes, travelled to the Court of a 
Sung emperor, in the year 984 a. d. : *' I turn 
my face to the setting sun, and journey westward 
over a hundred thousand // (thirty-three thousand 
miles) of boundless billows. I watch for the 
monsoon and return eastward, climbing over 
thousands of thousands of wave-mountain peaks. 
Towards the end of summer, I raise my anchor 
at Cheh-Kiang, and, in the early spring, I reach 
the suburbs of my metropolis." Thus the journey 
occupied six months even in Chonen's day. What 
time and toil must it have involved nine centu- 
ries earlier ! The Japanese appear to have essayed 
it only thrice during the three opening centuries 
of the Christian era : first in the year ^j a. d., 
when envoys, visiting the Chinese court, received 
from the ruler of the Middle Kingdom a gold 
seal and a ribbon; secondly in 107 a. d., when 
a hundred and sixty slaves were presented for the 
Chinese monarch's acceptance ; and thirdly in 
238 A. D. These facts are quoted from Chinese 
history. In Japanese annals the third embassy 
takes the form of an armed invasion of Korea, 
and constitutes one of the most celebrated as 
well as one of the most disputed incidents of 
Japan's story. A female chieftain, the Empress 
Jingo, is represented as having organised the 
expedition in obedience to divine orders. Her 
flotilla, led by a fierce deity and protected by a 



benignant god, travelled over sea on the crest of 
a tidal wave, and sweeping into the realm of her 
enemy, terrified him into unresisting submission. 
At the portals of the Korean palace she set up 
her staff and spear to stand there for five centuries, 
and she compelled the monarch of the defeated 
nation to swear that until the sun rose in the 
west and set in the east, until streams flowed 
towards their source, until pebbles from the 
river bed ascended to the sky and became stars, 
his allegiance should remain inviolate. That is 
the romantic and picturesque form into which 
the writers of Japanese history (the Nihongi) 
wove the legend four centuries later. But modern 
critics have discovered discrepancies which induce 
them to cut down the tale to vanishing propor- 
tions, and to dismiss Jingo as a myth. Their 
iconoclasm is probably excessive. For Chinese 
annalists say that, at the very time when Jingo's 
figure is so picturesquely painted on the pages of 
Japanese records, a female sovereign of Japan 
sent to the Court of China an embassy which 
had to beg permission from the ruler of north- 
western Korea to pass through his territory en 
route westward. Thus, although the celebrated 
empress' foreign policy be stripped of its brilliant 
conquests and reduced to the dimensions of mere 
envoy-sending, her personality at least is recalled 
from the mythical regions to which some sino- 
logues would relegate it. The Chinese relate, it 
may be mentioned incidentally, that she was old 



and unmarried at the time of the coming of her 
envoys ; that she possessed skill in magic arts, by 
which she deluded her people ; that she had a 
thousand female attendants, but suffered no man 
to see her face except one official, who served her 
meals and acted as a means of communication 
with her subjects ; and that she dwelt in a palace 
with lofty pavilions surrounded by a stockade and 
guarded by soldiers. 

Only three instances of direct official commu- 
nication with China during the first thousand 
years of Japan's supposed national existence imply 
very scanty access to the great fount of Far- 
Eastern civilisation. Yet, from another point of 
view, these embassies are significant. For when 
Japan sent her first envoys to Loyang, the then 
capital of the Middle Kingdom, she had never 
been invaded by her neighbour's forces, nor ever 
even threatened with invasion, and in the com- 
plete absence of tangible displays of military 
prowess — the only universally recognised pass- 
port to international respect in those epochs — 
the homage that China received from the island 
empire bears eloquent testimony to the position 
the former held in the Orient. In truth she 
towered gigantic above the heads of Far- 
Eastern States in everything that makes for 
national greatness. The close of the third cen- 
tury saw the rise of the Han dynasty and the 
completion of the magnificent engineering works 
at the Shensi metropolis ; works which still 



excite the world's wonder and must have appeared 
almost miraculous in the eyes of people such as 
the Japanese were in that era. It is therefore 
surprising, that the interval between the civilisa- 
tion of the two empires remained so long 
unbridged, and the explanation suggested by the 
above retrospect is that Korea proved a bad 
medium of transmission, and that China was 
almost inaccessible by direct means. Some 
special factor was needed to bring the real China 
within easier reach of Japanese observation, and 
that factor was furnished in the fourth century 
by a wave of Chinese colonists who came to 
Japan in search of profitable enterprises. Nothing 
is known about the prime cause of their migra- 
tion, but the Chinese seem to have been as 
ardent fortune-questers fifteen centuries ago as 
they are to-day, and seeing that they had already 
exploited the northwest, the east and the south- 
west of Korea, the fact that they pushed on to 
Japan excites no surprise. A large ingress of 
Koreans occurred at nearly the same time. They 
were not voluntary emigrants, but fugitives from 
the effects of defeat in civil war. Their advent, 
however, compared with that of the Chinese, had 
no special importance except as illustrating 
Japan's freedom from international exclusiveness 
at that epoch. 

The Chinese brought with them a compilation 
destined to serve as a primer to Japanese students 
in all ages, " The Thousand Characters," that 



is to say, a book containing a selection of the 
ideographs in commonest daily use ; and they 
brought also the " Analects of Confucius," which 
soon became, and has ever since remained, the 
gospel of Japanese ethics. There is no reasonable 
doubt that the existence of an ideographic script 
was known to the Japanese long before the fourth 
century. That conclusion is easily reached. For 
whatever may be said about the legend that the 
diagrams of Fuh (3200 b. c.) or the tortoise- 
shell mottling of Tsang (2700 b. c.) was the 
embryo of the ideograph, unquestionably the 
Chinese developed that form of writing as far 
back as the eighteenth century before Christ ; and 
since they virtually began to overrun Korea six 
hundred years subsequently, and intercourse 
existed between Korea and Japan from a date 
certainly not later than a thousand years after the 
latter event, it is plain that both Korea and Japan 
must have known about the ideograph long 
before " The Thousand Characters " and the 
"Analects of Confucius" reached the Court at 
Yamato. But to know about the ideograph and 
to use it are two very different things. An 
alphabet, or even a syllabary, being a purely 
phonetic vehicle, lends itself to the transcription 
of any language. But ideographs, having their 
own inflexible sounds and their own fixed sig- 
nificances, cannot readily serve to transcribe the 
words of a foreign language which have difl^erent 
sounds and different significances. Suppose that 



it were required to write English by means of 
Greek monosyllables. Such a word as " garrison," 
for instance, might be composed phonetically by 
putting together -yap U and op^ but if these mono- 
syllables necessarily conveyed the meaning of 
"for," "strength," and "his" respectively, it 
would be perplexing to have to attach to their 
combination the meaning of " a body of troops 
for the defence of a fortress." That is a compara- 
tively easy example of the task that confronted 
the Japanese when they attempted to adapt the 
ideographs of China to the uses of their own 
language. In fact, they did not think of making 
the attempt until the ideograph had been known 
to them as a kind of distant acquaintance for 
many generations, and even when the " Analects " 
reached them, their ambition was limited at first 
to deciphering the strange script. History has 
not thought it worth while to record how or by 
whose genius the ideographs were first employed 
as a kind of syllabary for the purpose of writing 
Japanese. That is what had virtually happened, 
however, before the fifth century. And very 
soon something else happened also, namely, a 
radical modification of the Japanese language. 
For the more familiar the knowledge that 
students obtained of the ideograph, the less could 
they reconcile themselves to use it in a purely 
phonetic manner. It conveyed to their eyes a 
significance quite unconnected with the mean- 
ing of the Japanese word its sound conveyed to 



their cars. Therefore by degrees sense took 
precedence of sound, and Japanese words were 
transcribed by means of ideographs which corre- 
sponded with their meaning, but were pronounced 
in a new manner, divested of all the harshness 
and confusing tones of the Chinese tongue. This 
is a wearisome subject, but some knowledge of 
it is essential to any one desirous of understanding 
the genius of the Japanese language and appreci- 
ating its unique excellence as a vehicle for translat- 
ing new ideas. Suppose that a Japanese wants to 
write the compound word " Western-jewel." 
In his own original language the sounds would 
be nishi-no-ta7na. But he takes two ideographs 
which in China are pronounced see-yuh^ and 
having written them down in their proper sense, 
he reads them either sai-gyokii or nishi-no-taffia, 
calling the former the o?z, or Chinese pronuncia- 
tion — though it is really a Japanese modification 
of the Chinese sounds — and the latter the kini^ 
or pure Japanese sound. Hence one of the 
results of using the ideographs was that the 
Japanese language acquired an alternative pro- 
nunciation : it became a dual language as to 
sound without changing its construction. It 
acquired also an extraordinary capacity of expan- 
sion, becoming the most flexible vehicle for 
translating ideas that the world has ever possessed. 
For the Chinese language, which was thus 
grafted on the Japanese, is not so much a col- 
lection of words as a vast thesaurus of materials 



for constructing words. It is, in fact, a repertoire 
of forty thousand monosyllables each of which 
has its exact significance. These syllables may 
be used singly, or combined two, three, four, or 
five at a time, so as to convey every conceivable 
idea, however complex, delicate, or abstruse. 
The genius of man has never invented any 
machinery so perfect for converting thoughts 
into sounds. Possessors of an alphabet may 
denounce the ideograph as a clumsy, semi- 
civilised form of writing, and may accuse it of 
developing the mechanics of memory at the 
expense of the intellectual faculty. But the 
Chinese ideographist can oppose to such criti- 
cism the answer that as a vehicle for rendering 
the products of the mind the ideograph is with- 
out rival, and that, while the Anglo-Saxon has to 
devise a vocabulary for his scientific and philo- 
sophical developments by the halting aid of dead 
languages, exact equivalents for every new con- 
ception can be coined readily by the unassisted 
ideographic mint. The chronological sequence 
of this retrospect may be anticipated so far as to 
say that it was owing to the possession of such 
mechanism that the Japanese scholar found no 
serious difficulty in fitting an accurate terminology 
to the multitude of novel ideas presented to him 
by Western civilisation in the nineteenth century, 
just as it would scarcely have been possible for 
him to assimilate the ethics of Confucianism and 
the civilisation of China fifteen centuries earlier, 



had he not simultaneously made this great 
linguistic acquisition.^ 

But, as stated above, the Japanese had long 
been admiring and marvelling at the ideographic 
script, and had long been studying it solely for 
the sake of the literature to which it gave access, 
before they succeeded in using it to transcribe 
their own language. That they seem to have 
done during the sixth century, for towards its 
close they began to compile the first records of 
their country's history, — began to reduce to writ- 
ing such tales as had been handed down by tra- 
dition during the preceding twelve hundred years. 
A celebrated litterateur, statesman, and religionist, 
Prince Shotoku, and an equally celebrated Prime 
Minister and patron of Buddhism, Soga no 
Umako, essayed this maiden historiographical 
task. Their work did not survive, but there is 
no doubt that much of its contents found a place 
in the Kojiki and Nihojigi of the eighth century, 
the oldest Japanese annals now extant. 

Here an interesting question suggests itself. 
According to the most conservative estimate, 
China had possessed a written history for at least 
nine hundred years before the first Japanese 
envoys reached her shores. Does her history 
show that she knew, or thought she knew, any- 
thing about the Japanese before they introduced 
themselves to her notice by means of ambassadors ? 
Of course it is quite plain that the two nations 

* Sec Appendix, note lo. 


jviasia) lUAXo^l uoa'^ navoo qvia auoAHioo^Aa attoj-ahh3t 



aue this great 

Lnese had Ions: 


i the ideographic 

Nolely for 

ch It gave access, 


^^y seem to have 

. for towards its 

the first records of 

reduce to writ- 

n by tra- 

ndred years. 

man, and rehgionist. 

Ay celebrated Prime 

>f Buddhism, Soga no 

nniden hist-orincrrnnhir^l 


ich of its contents found a place 
A//^(9W^/ of the ei^ ^^'^^ rentury, 

annals now e^' 

...ting question . ..^-csts itself. 

'^le most conservative estimate, 

"i a written history for at least 

before the first Japanese 

shore . Does her history 

or th ' r she kr ■ 


an tliat the two nations 


must have had some intercourse prior to the 
opening of official relations ; otherwise the Japan- 
ese envoys could not have been intelligible when 
they reached the Chinese Court. The question 
here, however, is not of Chinese history relating 
to a remote past. The question is. Did Prince 
Shotoku and Premier Umako find in Chinese 
history, when its pages were first opened for their 
inspection, any explanation of the Japanese na- 
tion's origin ? It has been related that the pre- 
decessors of Japan's first mortal sovereign are 
declared by her historians to have been heavenly 
deities, and that the recorded incidents of their 
careers are fabulous and supernatural. Now the 
only islands spoken of by the early Chinese his- 
torians in terms suggesting Japan, are described 
as the abode of genii, the land of immortals pos- 
sessing the elixir of life, a corpse-reviving drug, 
golden peaches weighing a pound each, timber 
of immense strength yet so buoyant that no super- 
imposed weight would sink it, rare trees, a moun- 
tain plant that could be plaited into mats and 
cushions, mulberries an inch long, and an envi- 
ronment of black sea, where the waves, not 
driven by any wind, rose to a height of a thou- 
sand feet. At the risk of challenging a cherished 
faith, it is difficult to avoid the hypothesis that 
from these fables the compilers of Japan's first 
written history derived the idea of an " age of 
the gods" and of a divinely descended emperor. 
The unique qualification of Shotoku and Umako 
6 8i 


for their task of history-making was familiarity 
with Chinese ideographic script and with the 
literature of the Middle Kingdom. Could any- 
thing be more natural, more inevitable, than that 
they should search the pages of that literature for 
information about the early ages of their nation's 
existence ; or that they should place implicit 
reliance upon all the information thus acquired ? 
A child, when it sits down to transcribe the 
head-lines of its first copy-book, does not think 
of questioning the logic or morality of the pre- 
cepts inscribed there. Shotoku and Umako were 
in the position of children so far as Chinese 
historical records were concerned. From the 
annalists of the kingdom at whose civilised feet 
the whole semi-barbarous world sat, they learned 
that, prior to the year 700 B. c, islands lying in 
the region of Japan had been known as the habi- 
tation of genii and immortals, and with immortals 
and genii the Prince and the Prime Minister 
peopled the Japanese Islands. 

Sinologues have shown that these primitive 
Japanese annals contain internal evidence of ex- 
tensive reliance on Chinese sources. The posthu- 
mous names — that is to say, the historical names 
— given to the forty-two emperors from Jimmu 
to Mommu (697 a. d.), are all constructed on 
Chinese models ; the name " Jimmu " itself is 
an exact imitation of the title chosen by the 
Toba Tartars for their remote ancestor ; the war- 
like lady whose alleged invasion of Korea stands 



out so prominently in Japan's ancient history, 
was evidently called after the Chinese Empress 
Wu, whose name and style corresponded with 
" Jingo." Of course, it is not implied that every 
event recorded in Japan's first written annals is 
to be counted of foreign suggestion. Domestic 
traditions, more or less trustworthy, are doubt- 
less embodied in their pages, as well as reflec- 
tions of Chinese prehistorical myths. But it 
does seem a reasonable conclusion that, among 
many borrowings made by Japan from China, 
the idea of her "Age of Gods" has to be 

The sequence of events has been somewhat 
anticipated here for the sake of explaining the 
introduction of ideographic script into Japan, an 
event belonging to the second half of the sixth 
century. During the interval of nearly two 
hundred years which separated that consumma- 
tion from the great wave of Chinese and Korean 
immigration that reached Japan in the beginning 
of the fourth century, marked progress had been 
made in many of the essentials of civilisation. 
The science of canal cutting, the art of fine em- 
broidery, improved methods of sericulture and 
of silk-weaving were introduced by the immi- 
grants, and the intelligent interest taken by the 
Government in encouraging progress may be 
inferred from the fact that it caused the new- 
comers to distribute themselves throughout the 
country so as to extend the range of their instruc- 



tion. Some idea of the part played by these 
immigrants is suggested by the fact that, in the 
second half of the fifth century, when it was 
deemed advisable to re-assemble the foreign ex- 
perts and organise them into separate departments, 
the families enrolled in the sericultural section 
alone aggregated nearly nineteen thousand mem- 
bers. By this time (450 a. d.) the policy of 
specially importing skilled aid direct from China 
had been inaugurated, and large bodies of female 
weavers and embroiderers were invited to settle 
in Japan. They taught the use of the loom so 
successfully that fine brocades for the palace were 
among the products of the time. At the same 
epoch the first two-storeyed house was constructed. 
It is strange that the Japanese, who through their 
embassies to the Han, the Tsin, and the Song 
Courts, must have acquired some knowledge of 
the splendours of the Chinese capitals as Loyang, 
Hsian, and Nanking, should have been content to 
live until the middle of the fifth century in log 
huts tied together with wild-vine ligatures. Such 
is the fact, however, and no explanation has been 
suggested. A little later, but still in the fifth 
century, the art of tanning skins was imparted 
by Korean immigrants and greatly developed by 
Chinese instruction. 

In the domain of morals, the fourth century, 
as has been shown, brought to Japan a knowledge 
of the Chinese classics, and her historians claim 
that she then learnt the golden rule, as well as 



the Confucian precepts of refraining from excess, 
abhorring evil and curbing the passions. They 
also claim that she quickly began to practise these 
ethical canons, and they point to the career of 
the Emperor Nintoku (313-399) as an example 
of the new morality. But Nintoku, though he 
displayed some of the most picturesque virtues of 
a ruler, was an extreme type of libertine. He 
crowned a long list of excesses by marrying his 
step-mother's daughter. Fifty years later, the 
Nero of Japanese history appeared in the person 
of Yuraku (457-459), who exiled an official in 
order to obtain possession of his wife, and per- 
petrated a wholesale slaughter of his own brothers, 
their children, and other members of the Imperial 
family. His successor (Seinei) carried out a 
similar massacre, and the Imperial line would 
have become extinct had not a child been secreted 
and reduced to the position of a serf in order to 
escape the quest of the official assassins. Buretsu, 
who reigned a few decades later (499-507), ranks 
even below Yuraku as a fierce and merciless 
despot, and at the same time the great families 
who had become depositories of administrative 
power behaved with the utmost arrogance, de- 
spising the laws, defying the sovereign's authority, 
and perpetrating all kinds of excesses. In brief, 
if Confucianism, and its comparatively high code 
of moral precepts, obtained recognition in Japan 
during the fourth century, its civilising influence 
is not to be detected in the fifth, which may 



justly be called the blackest era in the history of 
Japanese imperialism. 

Of course the moral condition of the inferior 
classes was not better than that of the Court. 
The selfish aims of religion became so para- 
mount as to deprive it of all dignity. Among 
the tutelary deities added to the pantheon there 
were some whose attributes should have deprived 
them of any title to respect ; others whose vene- 
ration betrayed a scarcely credible depth of super- 
stition. An extreme example was the worship of 
caterpillars, which, at that epoch, infested the 
orange trees and the ginger vines. The changes 
these insects underwent were considered typical 
of the poor growing rich, the old renewing their 
youth, and men built shrines and offered sacri- 
fices to the gods thus manifested. 

Society was disfigured by class dissensions. 
The great families which for over a thousand 
years had monopolised the principal offices of 
State as hereditary rights, were no longer repre- 
sented by one or two households ; they had 
grown to the dimensions of clans, and their 
members lived on the proceeds of extortion and 
oppression, secured by the collective protection 
of the clan against inconvenient results. Profit 
and prosperity seem to have been the paramount 
motives of the era. Servants were so indifferent 
to the dictates of loyalty that they turned their 
hand against their liege lords, and wives had so 
little sense of family fidelity that they cheated 



their husbands. Superstition had invaded every 
domain of life. There existed a belief that ex- 
hibitions of the divine will could always be ob- 
tained by employing some process of divination 
or repeating some formula of incantation. Judi- 
cial decisions were based entirely on the result of 
ordeal ; dreams were regarded as revelations for 
guidance at important crises, and the necessity of 
avoiding pollution dictated grotesque rules of 
conduct. Thus the mere fact of encountering a 
stranger, or of coming into contact with any of 
his belongings, was held to cause contamination 
that demanded a service of purification, and a 
traveller was consequently required to carry a 
bell which he rang as he moved along, after the 
manner of a leper in medieval Europe. If he 
boiled his food by the roadside, he exposed him- 
self to the lawful displeasure of the nearest 
household, and if he borrowed cooking utensils 
from anyone in the neighbourhood, they had to 
be solemnly purified before being returned to 
their owner or allowed to touch any other ob- 
ject. Evidently inns could not exist under such 
circumstances, and the difficulties of travel were 
enormous, as everything needed for the journey 
must be carried by the wayfarer. A woman had 
to be moved into a segregated hut at the time of 
parturition, and a ceremony of purification, a 
species of " churching," was necessary before she 
might return to her place in society. To have 
been present at a sudden death was another 



source of contamination, rendering a man re- 
sponsible to the nearest house or hamlet, and 
involving elaborate rites of cleansing. It resulted 
that the companions of a man who fell sick by 
the roadside or was drowned, used generally to 
fly precipitately without waiting to succour or 
inter him, the promptings of charity and of fel- 
lowship being thus subserved to the dictates of 
unreasoning superstition. In short, the nation 
offered a striking example of well-developed ma- 
terial civilisation side by side with most rudimen- 
tary morality. A religion was wanted. The 
Shinto cult, after long and uninterrupted trial, a 
trial lasting for more than eleven hundred years, 
had proved itself essentially deficient in the guid- 
ing influences of a creed. Its want of any code 
of sanctions and vetoes, its indifference to a future 
state, its negative rules of conduct, its exaltation 
of deities whose powers were exercised for tem- 
poral purposes only — all these attributes de- 
prived it of elevating effect upon the masses. 
Confucianism was powerless to correct these 
evils. It appealed to the intellect and left senti- 
ment untouched. A religion was wanted, and it 
came in the form of Buddhism. 


Chapter IV 


THE greatest event in the career of 
ancient Japan was the advent of Bud- 
dhism in the year 552 a. d. It is 
usually said that the Indian creed came 
officially, a copy of its scriptures and an image of 
Buddha having been sent to the Yamato Court 
by the Government of one of the Korean King- 
doms. In a sense this statement is correct, for 
without that ambassadorial introduction the new 
religion would probably have long remained a 
comparative stranger to the mass of the Japanese 
nation. But it is a fact that the doctrine had 
been preached in Japan by enterprising mission- 
aries for many years before the arrival of the 
Korean envoy. Unsuccessfully preached, how- 
ever. Buddhism owes much to its accessories, — 
to its massive and magnificent temples, its 
majestic images, its gorgeous paraphernalia, the 
rich vestments of its priests, and the picturesque 
solemnity of its services. These elements must 
have been absent failing the Government's sanc- 
tion and support. Besides, from the first chapter 



of Japanese history to the last, there is no in- 
stance of a radical reform effected, or a novel 
system inaugurated, without official guidance. 
The people's part has always been to follow; the 
Government's to lead. It may therefore be said 
with truth that Buddhism was planted officially 
in Japan, though a few unfruitful seeds had been 
previously scattered by private enterprise. 

How came it that the Government showed a 
liberal attitude towards an alien faith ? Was 
there genuine conviction of the excellence of the 
Buddhist doctrine, or did some other cause 
operate ? 

Both questions may be answered in the affirma- 
tive with reservations. The first Japanese 
Emperor (Kimmei) who listened to the new 
gospel seems to have found it mysterious, lofty, 
and attractive. Its doctrine of metempsychosis, 
its law of causation, its theory of a future of 
supreme rest, charmed and startled him. But 
the argument most potent in winning his support 
was the ambassador's assurance that Buddhism 
had become the faith of civilised Asia. Japan 
of the sixth century was just as ambitious to 
stand on the highest level of civilisation as Japan 
of the nineteenth. She turned to Buddhism for 
the sake of the converts it had already won 
rather than for the sake of her own conversion. 
At first, the attitude of the Court was tentative. 
When the Sovereign summoned a Council of 
Ministers, as was customary in those days of pa- 



triarchal administration, only the premier — Soga 
no Iname — espoused the cause of the imported 
creed. The rest declared that its adoption would 
insult the hundred and eighty deities, celestial 
and terrestrial, who already had the country under 
their tutelage. The Emperor compromised by 
entrusting the image and the sutras (Buddhist 
canons) to Iname and postponing the final ques- 
tion of adoption or rejection. 

There has never been any attempt to explain 
why the Soga family embraced Buddhism with 
such zealous constancy. Iname and his son and 
successor, Umako, gave to it equally steadfast 
support in the face of fierce opposition. Twice 
the Soga mansion was destroyed by the people, 
who believed that the conversion of the Prime 
Minister's house into a temple for strange deities 
had brought pestilence upon the land. Other 
excesses were committed. A nun was stripped 
and publicly whipped, and the image of the 
Buddha was thrown into a river. But these epi- 
sodes did not shake the faith of the Soga family. 

Soon, too, a powerful coadjutor appeared in 
the person of an imperial prince, Shotoku, whose 
figure justly occupies the frontispiece in the first 
chapter of Japan's moral and intellectual prog- 
ress. Chiefly through his ardent patronage and 
extraordinary fervour of piety Buddhism became 
the creed of the Court and of the nobility. 

Military strength also contributed aid. A 
statement frequently made with all the assurance 



of historical conviction is that Buddhism is 
essentially a peaceful and adaptive creed ; that it 
never demolishes other faiths but rather assimi- 
lates them. That is certainly true of Buddhism 
in the abstract, but its establishment in Japan 
was not unaccompanied by a sanguinary exercise 
of armed force. The question of invoking 
Buddha's succour on behalf of a sick emperor 
led to a fierce conflict between the three great 
political parties of the era, with the result that 
the opponents of the foreign faith suffered defeat. 
They had been led by one of the ancient princely 
families, which occupied a high place in the 
official hierarchy, and now the chiefs of the 
family were put to death, its estates confiscated to 
endow the first great Buddhist temple, and its 
members condemned to serve as slaves in the 
new place of worship. 

Another factor that made for the spread of 
Buddhism was the zeal, almost fanatical, of the 
empress Suiko, who reigned during the epoch of 
Prince Shotoku's reforms. She issued edicts 
enjoining the adoption of the faith ; ordered that 
all the princes of the blood and the Ministers of 
State should have images of Buddha in their pos- 
session, and conferred rank and rewards on sculp- 
tors of idols. Indeed, although the imperial 
ladies of Japan acted a noble role in her early 
history, their careers illustrate the truism that the 
emotional element of female character is a dan- 
gerous factor in state administration. During the 



period of one hundred and sixty-eight years from 
591 to 759, fourteen sovereigns reigned, and five 
of them were females. A sixth lady practically 
ruled though she did not actually reign. The 
sway of these Empresses aggregated seventy-one 
years, and every one of them carried her religious 
fervour almost to the point of hysteria.^ They 
were certainly instrumental in raising Buddhism 
to the place of eminence and influence it occu- 
pied so soon after its arrival in Japan, and it is 
not surprising to find that, in the seventy-second 
year after the Korean ambassador's coming, the 
•country had forty-six temples, eight hundred and 
sixteen priests, and sixty nuns. Neither is it 
surprising to find that, in obedience to Shinto 
precedents. Buddhism was drawn into the field 
of politics, and Buddhist priests were admitted to 
a share in the administration. For the extreme 
practice of these methods also a female was 
responsible. The Empress-dowager Koken 
(749-758) organized a religious government dis- 
tinct from the secular, issued orders for the 
spiritual regulation of men's lives, assisted a 
monk (Dokyo) to dethrone the Emperor, and, if 
she did not sanction, certainly failed to check, 
the crimes he perpetrated to prepare his own 
path to the throne. 

Not in the history of any other country can 
there be found a parallel for the large support 
that sovereign after sovereign of Japan extended 

^ See Appendix, note 11. 



to Buddhism in the seventh and eighth centuries. 
Innumerable temples were built at enormous 
expense and endowed with great revenues. 
Quantities of the precious metals were devoted 
to the casting of idols and the decoration of edi- 
fices to hold them. Arbitrary edicts were issued 
thrusting the faith upon the people by force of 
official authority.^ It even became customary to 
surrender the highest posts and honours in the 
empire for the sake of taking the tonsure and 
leading a recluse life.^ Striking testimony to the 
religious fervour of the Court survives in the 
magnificent assemblage of temples in and about 
Nara. Almost the whole of these were built and 
furnished during the seventy-five years (710-785) 
of the Court's residence at that place, and when 
it is remembered that the immense outlay re- 
quired for such works had to be defrayed by 
taxing a nation of only four and a half millions 
of people, it is apparent that religious zeal com- 
pletely outran financial discretion. It is a con- 
stant assertion of foreign critics that the religious 
instinct is absent from the character of the 
Japanese, but their history cannot be reconciled 
with such a theory. 

Japanese sovereignty, as has been shown al- 
ready, was based upon Shinto. The sovereigns — 
" sons of heaven " (Tenshi) as they were, and are 
still, called — traced their descent to the deities 
of that creed, and the essence of their adminis- 

^ See Appendix, note iz. ^ See Appendix, note 13. 



trative title was that they interceded with the 
gods for the people they governed. All their 
principal traditions and temporal interests should 
have dictated the rejection of a creed which 
preached the supremacy of a new god and took 
no cognisance of their divine descent. It would 
have been in accord with the nature of political 
evolution that the people should have espoused 
the doctrines of a faith which absolved them from 
allegiance to their rulers, but how can the fact be 
explained that the rulers themselves patronised a 
creed which annulled their sovereign title ? Dur- 
ing the first century and a half after the intro- 
duction of Buddhism, that question does not seem 
to have troubled anyone in ancient Japan. If it 
was sometimes urged that the tutelary deities 
might be offended by the worship of a strange 
god, all manifestations of their umbrage were 
associated with the people's welfare, not with 
the sovereign's titles, and no one seems to have 
thought it necessary to assert the divinity of the 
Mikado against the alien theocracy.^ When the 
Prime Minister, Soga no Umako, caused the 
Emperor Sujun to be assassinated (592 a. d.). 
Prince Shotoku justified the act by explaining 
that the sovereign's death had been in accordance 
with the Buddhist doctrine which condemns a 
man to suffer in this life for sins committed in a 
previous state of existence. Thus, only forty 
years after the introduction of Buddhism, the 

^ See Appendix, note 14. 



lives of the " sons of heaven " were declared 
subject to its decrees. A century later, one of 
the Imperial Princes was ordered to commit sui- 
cide because he had struck a mendicant and 
clamorous priest. Only from the sufferings they 
inflicted on the people was the displeasure of the 
Shinto deities inferred. Twice their hostility to 
Buddhism was supposed to have been displayed 
by visitations of pestilence, and at last, during 
the reign of Shomu (724-748), when the enor- 
mous expenditure incurred on account of temple 
building and idol casting had so impoverished 
the people as to produce a famine with its usual 
sequel, pestilence, the aS/'/;z/3 * disciples once again 
insisted that these calamities were the deities' 
protest against the strange faith. It was then 
that the great Buddhist priest Giyogi saved the 
situation by a singularly clever theory. He 
taught that the Sun Goddess, the chief of the 
Shinto deities, had been merely an incarnation of 
the Buddha, and that the same was true of all 
the members of the Shinto pantheon. The two 
creeds were thus reconciled, and as evidence of 
their union the Emperor caused a colossal idol to 
be set up, the celebrated Daihiitsu (great Buddha) 
of Nara ; the copper used for the body of the 
image representing the Shinto faith, the gold that 
covered it typifying Buddhism. This amalgama- 
tion was for the sake of the people's safety ; it 
had nothing to do with rehabilitating the divine 
title of the sovereign. In the face of these facts, 



is it possible to conceive that any such title ranked 
as a vital tenet of the nation's political creed ? 
Must not the theory of heavenly descent be placed 
rather in the category of traditions which had 
not yet begun to assume the paramount im- 
portance subsequently assigned to them ? 

Thus, almost from the very outset, Buddhism 
received the strenuous support of the Imperial 
Court and of the nobles alike. Never did any 
alien faith find warmer welcome in a foreign 
country. It had virtually nothing to contend 
against except the corruption and excesses of its 
own ministers. The lavish patronage extended 
to them disturbed their moral balance. From 
luxury and self-indulgence they passed to chi- 
canery and political intrigue, until, in the middle 
of the eighth century, one of them actively con- 
spired to obtain the throne for himself. Through- 
out the whole course of its history in Japan, alike 
in ancient, in mediaeval, and in modern times. 
Buddhism has been discredited by the conduct 
of its priests. But it has also numbered among 
its propagandists many men of transcendent 
ability, lofty aims, and fanatical courage. It 
found its way to the heart of the Japanese 
nation less for the sake of its doctrines than for 
the sake of the civilisation it introduced. Its 
priests became the people's teachers. They con- 
stituted a bridge across which there passed per- 
petually from the Asiatic continent to Japan a 
stream of new knowledge. To enumerate the 
7 97 


improvements and innovations that came to her 
by that route would be to tell almost the whole 
story of her progress. 

The seventh and eighth centuries are among 
the most memorable epochs of Japan's history. 
They witnessed her passage from a comparatively 
rude condition to a state of civilisation as high as 
that attained by any country in the world, from 
the fall of the Roman Empire to the rise of 
modern Occidental nations, and they witnessed 
also a political revolution the exact prototype of 
that which has made her remarkable in modern 

Prince Shotoku stands at the head of the move- 
ment of progress. Not only did he secure the 
adoption of Buddhism, but he also organised an 
administrative system embodying the first germs 
of practical imperialism, drafted a constitution 
and compiled the earliest historical essays. His 
constitution is full of interest as affording a clear 
outline of the ethical ideals of the time and of the 
polity that this singularly gifted man desired to 
establish : — 

I. Concord and harmony are priceless ; obedience to 
established principles is the fundamental duty of man. 
But in our country each section of the people has its 
own views and few possess the light. Disloyalty to 
Sovereign and parent, disputes among neighbours, are 
the results. That the upper classes should be at unity 
among themselves and intimate with the lower, and that 
all matters in dispute should be submitted to arbitra- 



tion — that is the way to place society on a basis of 
strict justice.^ 

3. Imperial edicts must be respected. The Sover- 
eign is to be regarded as the heaven, his subjects as the 
earth. The heaven hangs above, the earth sustains it 
beneath ; the four seasons follow in ordered succession, 
and all the influences of nature operate satisfactorily. 
Should the earth be placed above the heaven, ruin 
would at once ensue for the universe. So the Sovereign 
directs, the subject conforms. The Sovereign shows 
the way, the subject follows it. Indifference to the 
Imperial edicts signifies national ruin. 

4. Courtesy must be the rule of conduct for all the 
Ministers and officials of the Government. Wise ad- 
ministration of national affairs has its roots in the 
observance of etiquette. Without etiquette on the part 
of the superior, it is impossible to govern the inferior, 
and if inferiors ignore etiquette, they will certainly be 
betrayed into offences. Social order and due distinctions 
between the classes can only be preserved by strict con- 
formity with etiquette. 

5. To punish the evil and reward the good is hu- 
manity's best law. A good deed should never be left 
unrecompensed or an evil unrebuked. Sycophancy and 
dishonesty are the most potent factors for subverting 
the State and destroying the people. Flatterers are 
never wanting to recount the faults of inferiors to su- 
periors and depict the latter's errors to the former. To 
such men we can never look for loyalty to the Sovereign 
or sympathy with their fellow-subjects. They are the 
chief elements of national disturbance. 

9. To be just one must have faith. Every affair 
demands a certain measure of faith on the part of those 
that deal with it. Every question, whatever its nature 
or tendency, requires for its settlement an exercise of 

^ See Appendix, note 1 5. 



faith and authority. Mutual confidence among officials 
renders all things possible of accomplishment ; want of 
confidence between Sovereign and subject makes failure 

lo. Anger is to be curbed, wrath cast away. The 
faults of another should not rouse our resentment. 
Every man's tendency is to follow the bent of his own 
inclination. If one is right, the other is wrong. But 
neither is perfect. Both are victims of passion and 
prejudice, and no one has exclusive competence to dis- 
tinguish the evil from the good. Sagacity is balanced 
by silliness ; small qualities are combined with great, 
so that neither is salient in the total, even as a sphere is 
without angles. To chide a fault does not certainly 
prevent its repetition, nor can the censor himself be 
secure against error. The sure road to accomplish- 
ment is that trodden by the people in combination. 

14. Those in authority should never harbour hatred 
or jealousy of one another. Hate begets hate, and jealousy 
is without discernment. A wise man may be found once 
in five hundred years ; a true sage, hardly once in a 
thousand. Yet without sages no country can be gov- 
erned peacefully. 

15. The imperative duty of man in his capacity of 
subject is to sacrifice his private interest to the public 
good. Egoism forbids cooperation, and without co- 
operation there cannot be any great achievement. 

Prince Shotoku spoke with the wisdom in- 
spired by Buddhism and Confucianism. But 
the principles of constitutional monarchism that 
he enunciated so plainly were suggested by the 
conditions of his era. The patriarchal families 
which filled the principal offices of State by 
hereditary right, had grown into great clans. 



They grasped the reality of administrative power, 
leaving its shadow only to the sovereign, who, 
cut off, on the one hand, from all direct com- 
munication with the people, was condemned, on 
the other, to see his authority abused for purposes 
of oppression and extortion. The state of the 
lower orders was pitiable. They were little better 
than serfs. The products of their toil went almost 
entirely to defray the extravagant outlays of the 
patrician clans, and if sometimes they rose in 
abortive revolt, their more general resource was 
to fly to mountain districts beyond the reach of 
the tax-collector. Permanent escape was im- 
possible, however. They were sought out, and 
forcibly compelled to return to their life of un- 
remunerated labour. Prince Shotoku saw that 
the remedy for these wretched conditions, which 
threatened even the stability of the throne, was to 
crush the power of the patrician class and bring 
the nation under the direct sway of emperors gov- 
erning on constitutional principles. He inculcated 
the spirit of that most enlightened reform, but did 
not live to see its practical consummation. 

Within a quarter of a century after his death, 
however, the last ^ of the great office-owning clans 
was annihilated, and for the first time in Japanese 
history the Emperor became a real ruler. This 
happened in the middle of the seventh century. 
History calls it the "Taikwa Reform."^ A long 
series of changes were crowned by an edict un- 

^ See Appendix, note i6. ^ See Appendix, note 17. 



precedented in Japan. The sovereign addressed 
himself direct to the people, and employed lan- 
guage evidently an echo ot Prince Shotoku's 
constitution. Its gist was that since the faculty 
of self-government must be acquired before at- 
tempting to govern others, and since obedience 
could be obtained only by one worthy to com- 
mand, the sovereign pledged himself to behave 
in strict conformity with the j)rinciples of im- 
perialism, relying on the aid of heaven and the 
support of the people. Tenchi, who issued this 
edict, may be called the father of constitutional 
monarchism in Japan. His fourth successor, 
Mommu (697-708), inaugurated his reign by a 
similar rescript, promising, with the help of his 
ancestors and the gods, to promote the welfare of 
his people. The interval of forty years separating 
Tenchi's accession and Mommu's death (668- 
708) may be regarded as the only period, in all 
the long history of Japan prior to modern times, 
when the sovereign was not divided from the 
people by nobles who usurped his authority. 
Mommu endeavoured to invest the issue of his 
edict with great pomp and ceremony, but of an es- 
sentially democratic character. The princes of 
the blood, the great nobles, and the chief officials 
were all required to attend, and the people were 
invited en ?nasse. Then a crier read the edict 
aloud in four parts, and at the end of each part 
all present, high and low alike, were invited to 
signify their assent. 



This remarkable chapter of Japanese history 
may be broadly described as a political revolution 
resulting from the introduction of Chinese civil- 
isation through the medium of Buddhist priests, 
just as a similar revolution in recent times resulted 
from the introduction of Western civilisation 
through the medium of gunboats. The splen- 
dour and prestige of the Tang dynasty, which in 
the beginning of the seventh century had wrested 
the sceptre of China from the hands of the scarcely 
less magnificent Sui sovereigns, were reflected in 
Japan. Tenchi and Mommu modelled their ad- 
ministration on the lines indicated in the "Golden 
Mirror " of Tatsong, and the grand capital estab- 
lished at Nara in the beginning of the eighth 
century was an imitation of the Tang metropolis 
at Hsian. 

Another feature common to the records of 
seventh-century and nineteenth-century progress 
was extraordinary speed of achievement. Just as 
forty years of contact with Occidental civilisation 
sufficed to metamorphose Japan in modern time, 
so a cycle of Chinese influence revolutionised her 
in ancient days. 

In the era immediately prior to the latter 
change, nothing was more marked than the wide 
interval separating the patrician and the plebeian 
sections of the nation. The lower orders, as has 
been already stated, were reduced to a state of 
virtual slavery, and the upper obeyed only the 
law of their own interests and passions. A patri- 



cian held himself defiled by mere contact with a 
plebeian, and marriages between them were not 
tolerated. Great importance attached to well- 
established pedigrees. During the lapse of ages 
and in the absence of any written records, few 
genealogical trees could be traced clearly through 
all their ramifications, and the danger of admit- 
ting some strain of vulgar blood into a family 
imparted special advantage to marriages between 
children of the same father by different mothers. 
Confucianism proved entirely powerless to check 
that abuse, or to provide any general corrective 
for the relations between the sexes, which were 
frequently subserved to degrading influences. 
Wives had now ceased to live apart from their 
husbands, but concubinage was largely practised, 
and marital and extra-marital relations alike were 
severed on the slightest pretext. A woman, 
however, did not recover her full freedom when 
abandoned by her husband or protector. She 
was still supposed to owe some measure of fidelity 
to him, and if she contracted a second alliance, 
her new partner often found himself exposed to 
extortionate demands from her former mate. 
Another evil practice was that powerful families 
trafficked in the honour of an alliance with 
them, first dictating a marriage, and then making 
it a pretext for levying large contributions on the 
bride's parents. Loss of affection or inclination 
was deemed a sufficient reason for divorcing a 
woman, and sometimes mere suspicion of a wife's 



infidelity induced a husband to appeal to the 
law for an investigation, which meant that the 
unfortunate woman had to undergo the ordeal 
of thrusting her hand into boiling water or 
grasping a red-hot axe. Many women con- 
ceived such a dread of the married state that they 
deliberately chose the life of domestic servants, 
thus incurring the plebeian stigma and becoming 
ineligible for patrician attentions in any form. 
Even the terrible custom oi junshi, or dying to 
accompany a deceased chieftain, had lost some- 
thing of the discredit attached to it by the ordi- 
nance of the enlightened emperor Suinin five 
centuries previously. Faithful vassals still took 
their own lives in order to be buried near their 
lord's tomb, and wives and concubines followed 
their example, voluntarily or on compulsion. 
Horses also were killed to serve their masters 
beyond the grave, and valuables of all kinds were 
interred in sepulchres, as had been the habit from 
time immemorial. When duty to the dead was 
not pushed to these extremes, the survivors con- 
sidered it necessary at least to cut their hair or to 
mutilate their bodies. 

All these abuses were strictly interdicted in the 
reformation foreshadowed by Prince Shotoku's 
adoption of Buddhism and Confucianism, and 
embodied in a series of legislative measures during 
the period 645 to 708.^ The nation suddenly 
sprang to a greatly higher level of civilisation. 

* See Appendix, note 1 8. 



Notably the style of dwellings was altered. 
Architects, turners, tile-makers, decorative artists, 
and sculptors coming from China and Korea, 
magnificent temples were built, enshrining 
images of high artistic beauty, and adorned with 
paintings and carvings which would be worthy 
objects of admiration in any age of aesthetic 
development. Rich nobles, at the same time, 
began to construct for themselves^ mansions 
which already showed several features destined 
to permanently distinguish Japanese residences. 
The processes of manufacturing paper and ink, of 
weaving carpets with wool or the hair of animals, 
of concocting dyes, of preparing whetstones, of 
therapeutics, of compiling a calendar, and of ship- 
building on greatly improved lines, — all these, 
learned from China, were skilfully applied. 

It may be noted incidentally that the growth 
of wealth resulting from this influx of material 
civilisation gave additional emphasis to the 
superiority of the Chinese, for they had to be 
placed at the head of the various bureaux of the 
Treasury, there being no Japanese competent to 
discharge such duties. Commerce also felt the 
expansive impulse. Men travelled from province 
to province selling goods ; foreign vessels fre- 
quented the ports ; a collector of customs and a 
superintendent of trade were appointed, and an 
officially recognised system of weights and meas- 
ures was introduced. 

* See Appendix, note 19. 



Not less marked were the changes of costume. 
Instead of dressing the hair so as to form a loop 
hanging over each ear, men tied it in a queue 
on the top of the head. This novel fashion was 
due to the use of hats as insignia of official ranks. 
There were twelve varieties of hat corresponding 
to as many grades, and each was tied on with 
cord of a distinct colour, just as the colour of a 
cap-button now indicates official quality in 
China. Wigs had hitherto been largely used, 
but they were now abandoned except on occa- 
sions of special ceremonial, when they were fast- 
ened to the hat. The introduction of the queue 
seems to have been responsible for the first dis- 
play of foppery on the part of men. It was 
ornamented with gold in the case of the highest 
officials, with tiger's hair by men of lesser rank, 
and with cock's feathers in a still lower grade. 

The abolition of hereditary offices necessitated 
a thorough re-organisation of the administrative 
system, and it is a remarkable fact that the 
remodelled form remained permanent through 
all ages and still exists to a recognisable degree. 
For managing affairs in the provinces — where 
the great families had gradually become auto- 
cratic, not only levying imposts at will, but also 
appropriating to their own uses the taxes that 
should have gone to the Court — local governors 
and district headmen were appointed, and at the 
head of the central government was placed a de- 
partment of shrines, immediately under it being 



a cabinet with a bureau of councillors, two secre- 
tariats, and finally eight departments of State. A 
system of civil-service examination was also inau- 
gurated. Youths desiring administrative posts had 
to enter one of the educational institutions then 
founded, and subsequently to undergo examina- 
tion, though this routine might be departed from 
in the case of men whose fathers had deserved 
conspicuously well of the country. The name 
of a man's office now ceasing to do duty as a 
patronymic, the hats mentioned above became 
the only means of recognising rank, so that their 
importance grew greater, and their number 
gradually increased, first to thirteen and after- 
wards to forty-eight. But at that point the 
system ceased to be practicable, and certificates 
of grade were substituted, a method still pursued. 
Great pains were taken to efl^ect a distinct 
classification of the people, the general divisions 
adopted being " divine " {^Shin-bet su, i. e. de- 
scended direct from the deities); "imperial" 
[Kwo-betsu)y and " alien " (Hayn-betsu), distinc- 
tions which will be more fully explained in a 
future chapter. A still broader division was that 
of ryd-?mn (noble) and sem-mi?i (ignoble), the 
former including the Kwo-betsu and the Shin- 
betsu ; the latter the Ham-betsu only. The con- 
stant tendency was to accentuate these distinctions, 
though it sometimes happened that men reduced 
to a state of indigence sold their family name and 
descended to the position of servants. Clandes- 



tine intercourse between patrician and plebeian 
lovers was also not infrequent, but the law took 
care that the offspring of such unions should 
seldom obtain admission to the higher rank. It 
is a curious fact that the legislators of the time 
never conceived the possibility of a patrician 
lady's forming a liaison with a plebeian : they 
provided for the contingency of a man's succumb- 
ing to the charms of a plebeian beauty, but they 
made no allowance for any such weakness on the 
part of a nobly born woman. 

Concerning the terms "noble" and "ignoble," 
it is not to be supposed that the former originally 
included only such persons as would be called 
"gentlemen" and "ladies" in Europe or 
America. In addition to the whole of the offi- 
cial and military elements, the ryo-min comprised 
many bread-winners who, under the more exclu- 
sive system of subsequent eras, were relegated to 
a lower social status. The most comprehensive 
definition is that only those pledged to some 
form of servitude stood in the ranks of the sem- 
min, all others being ryd-7nin. There were five 
classes of sem-min, the lowest being private ser- 
vants, and the highest, public employes. The 
distinction of "military man" {samurai or 
shizoku) and "commoner" or "civilian" [hei- 
min) did not exist at the time now under consid- 
eration. Indeed, at this point another resemblance 
is found between the " Restoration " in the 
seventh century and that in the nineteenth cen- 



tury; for just as the modern government signal- 
ised the fall of feudalism and the transfer of 
administrative power to the sovereign by abolish- 
ing the samurai s privilege of wearing two swords, 
and thus, in effect, abolishing the satnurai him- 
self, so when the Taikwa Government put an end 
to the system of hereditary offices in 645, it 
collected all the implements of war from their 
owners and stored this great assemblage of 
swords, bows, and arrows in magazines. The 
bearer of arms thus lost whatever prestige had 
previously attached to that distinction. But such 
a state of affairs could not be permanent in a 
country where the control of the indigenous 
inhabitants still continued to demand constant 
exhibitions of force. Before forty years had 
elapsed, another emperor (Temmu) organised a 
definite military establishment and inaugurated 
a course of training in warlike exercises ; and 
shortly afterwards, an (Jito) introduced 
conscription. At first only twenty-five per cent 
of the youths throughout the realm were required 
to serve, but at the beginning of the eighth cen- 
tury the number was increased to one in every 
three. All the ryo-uiin appear to have been held 
liable for this service. Thus a man engaged one 
day in hawking merchandise or dyeing cloth 
might find himself, the next, bearing arms and 
receiving military training. A regiment was 
organised for every five rural divisions, and from 
among these regiments certain sections were 

1 10 


selected to guard the imperial palace, while 
others were told off for coast duty, three years 
being the term of service in either case. Had 
this system remained in operation, there would 
have been no such thing as a feudal Japan, nor 
would the profession of arms have become the 
special right of a limited class. But the course 
of events may be anticipated so far as to say that, 
before the lapse of a century after the introduc- 
tion of conscription, military duties became 
hereditary, and Japanese society assumed a struc- 
ture which continued without radical change 
until the revolution of recent times. 

It will readily be conjectured that, turning to 
China for models, Japan did not fail to make 
the family system a fundamental feature of her 
reforms. A family might consist of a single 
household, or it might comprise several house- 
holds ; but every family, whatever its dimensions, 
had to have one recognised head, to whom the 
subordinate households were related by blood. 
Thus, since the subordinate households generally 
included wives, concubines, children, and ser- 
vants, the head of the whole family sometimes 
represented a clan of a hundred or a hundred and 
fifty persons. This position of headship could 
not be occupied by any save a legitimate scion, 
but a female was eligible, provided she had at- 
tained the age of twenty, and was not actually a 
widow, a wife, or a concubine. Remembering 
the marked laxity of the marital relation prior to 



the era of this new system, one is astonished at 
the courage with which such sweeping changes 
were effected, and at the complacence with 
which they were received. For whereas previ- 
ously men had been free to adopt any rule of 
succession they pleased, and the legitimacy of an 
heir had scarcely been considered, it now became 
necessary that the successor to the headship of a 
family should be legitimate before everything : 
adoption being declared preferable to the choice 
of a bastard. But the higher the social grade of 
the family, the greater the latitude in this respect. 
It does not appear that the eligibility of an im- 
perial concubine's son was ever questioned, and 
in the case of a noble belonging to one of the 
three first grades, a child born out of wedlock 
might succeed, failing legitimate sons or grand- 
sons. Adoption, too, must be exercised within 
the limits of blood relatives, any departure from 
that rule being criminal. 

Five families living in the same district were 
combined into an administrative group, which 
elected its chief and delegated to him a general 
duty of supervision. The group [ho) was re- 
sponsible for the payment of its members' taxes. 
In those days it was not an uncommon incident 
for a family to abscond en masse, in the hope of 
avoiding extortionate imposts. The group had 
to trace the absconders, and discharge their fiscal 
liabilities during their absence. 

The marriageable age for youths was fifteen, and 

I 12 


for maidens thirteen, but the consent of parents 
or grandparents had to be obtained. Already the 
preliminaries of wedlock were entrusted to a go- 
between, and the degree of order introduced into 
these previously disorderly connections is shown 
by the fact that, so soon as the concurrence of the 
two families had been secured by the go-between, 
a "marriage director" was duly appointed, his 
function being to secure conformity with every 
legal requirement. A girl of the upper classes 
had to consult the views of an extensive circle 
of relatives — parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, 
brothers, and parents-in-law — but this rule was 
relaxed in proportion as the social grade descended. 
Etiquette forbade that a wedding should be cel- 
ebrated during the illness or imprisonment of a 
parent or a grandparent, and an engagement be- 
came invalid when the nuptial ceremony had been 
capriciously deferred for three months by the 
man ; or when he had absconded and remained 
absent for a month ; or when, having fallen into 
pecuniary distress in another part of the realm, 
be failed to return within a year ; or when he 
had committed a serious crime. 

Concerning divorce, a theme much discussed 
by critics of Japan's ethical systems, the family of 
a wife were entitled to demand her freedom in 
two cases : first, in the event of deliberate deser- 
tion, extending to three years when there had 
been offspring of the marriage, and two years 
where the union had been childless ; secondly, in 
8 113 


the event of a husband's incurring pecuniary ruin 
in a distant place, and failing to come home for 
five years if he had left a child, and for three if 
there was no child. But against this exceedingly 
brief list of a wife's rights, there is a long cat- 
alogue of the husband's. He was entitled to 
divorce his wife if she did not bear him a male 
child, if her habits were licentious, if she failed 
in her duty to her parents-in-law, if she indulged 
a love of gossip, if she committed a theft, if she 
betrayed a jealous disposition, or if she suffered 
from an obnoxious disease. The more important 
a man's social position, the greater his obligation 
to secure the assent of his own parents and his 
wife's before putting her away, but in the lowest 
classes scarcely any impediment offered to separa- 
tion. Sentiment, however, interposed a curious 
veto. If a wife had contributed money for the 
funeral of a parent-in-law, or if a husband oc- 
cupying a low social grade at the time of his 
marriage had subsequently risen to a higher, or 
if a wife had no home to which she could retire 
after separation, then divorce was held to be in- 
admissible. The one redeeming feature of the 
wife's position was that all the property, whether 
in money, chattels, or serfs, brought with her 
at the time of her marriage, had to be returned 
on divorce. Her enforced subservience to her 
parents-in-law, and her obligation to patiently 
endure the presence of one or more concubines, 
if her husband so willed it, were often cruel bur- 



dens in her daily life. A concubine acquired by 
this new legislation the status of a second-grade 
relative, but the system was purely morganatic, 
the law peremptorily refusing to recognise two 

The edicts of the era embodied an excellent 
code of ethics. Such virtues were inculcated as 
industry, integrity, frugality, simplicity of funeral 
rites, diligent transaction of business even during 
periods of mourning, and the exclusion of merce- 
nary motives from marriage contracts. Further, 
the new democratic principle extracted from the 
Confucian cult — the principle that the throne 
must be based on the good will of the nation at 
large, and that full consideration should be given 
to the views of the lower orders — found practical 
expression in the erection of numerous petition- 
boxes wherein men were invited to deposit a 
statement of grievances demanding redress and 
in the hanging of bells which were to be'rung 
when It was desired to bring any trouble of a 
pressing nature to official notice. Codes of laws 
were also framed. 

An interesting fact shown by this legislation is 
that the economical principle of a common title 
to the use of land received recognition, practi- 
cally at all events, in ancient Japan. Looking 
as tar back as history throws its light, it is seen 
that the Crown's right of eminent domain was 
an established doctrine, but that, during the era 
of patriarchal government, large tracts of land 


came into the possession of the great governing 
families, and remained their property until the 
fall and virtual extermination of the last of these 
families in the early part of the seventh century. 
The Emperor then becoming, for a time, the 
repository of complete authority, resumed pos- 
session of all private estates, and exact rules for 
the distribution and control of land were em- 
bodied in the new codes. The basis of the 
system then adopted was the general principle 
that every unit of the nation had a natural title 
to the usufruct of the soil. It was therefore 
enacted that to all persons, from the age of five 
upwards, ** sustenance land " should be granted in 
the proportion of two-thirds of an acre to each 
male and one-third to each female. These 
grants were for life, and the grantee was entitled 
to let the land for one year at a time, provided 
that, at his death, it reverted to the Crown. 
Redistribution every sixth year was among the 
provisions of the code, but the difficulties of 
carrying out the rule soon proved deterrent. 
Lands were also conferred in consideration of 
rank. Imperial princes of the first class received 
two hundred acres ; those of the second class, one 
hundred and fifty acres ; those of the third, one 
hundred and twenty-five acres, and those of the 
fourth, one hundred acres. In the case of the 
ten grades into which officialdom had now been 
divided, the grants ranged from twenty to two 
hundred acres, and females belonging to any of 



these grades received two-thirds of a male's 
share, the consideration shown to them being 
thus twice as great as that extended to women 
of inferior position. Finally, land was given in 
lieu of official emoluments ; the Prime Minister's 
salary being the produce of one hundred acres ; 
that of the second and third Ministers, seventy 
five acres each ; and that of other officials rang- 
ing from two to fifty acres. Land, indeed, may 
be said to have constituted the money of the 
epoch. It was given in lieu not only of salaries 
but also of allowances, — even post-stations along 
the high-roads being endowed with estates whose 
produce they were expected to employ in pro- 
viding horses, couriers, and baggage-carriers for 
Government use. It need scarcely be added that 
meritorious public services were rewarded with 
estates, granted sometimes in perpetuity, some- 
times for two generations only. 

A special arrangement existed for encouraging 
sericulture and the lacquer industry. Tracts of 
land were assigned to families for planting mul- 
berry or lacquer trees in fixed quantity, and such 
land might be leased for any term of years or 
sold with official permission ; neither did it revert 
to the Crown unless the family became extinct. 
But any land left uncultivated for three years was 
regarded as forfeited, and had to be resumed or 

The exact amount of taxes levied at various 
eras in Japan has always been difficult to ascer- 



tain, for not only did the method of assessment 
vary in different provinces, but also the legal 
limits were seldom the real limits. In the 
period now under consideration, the records 
show that, for purposes of local administration, 
a tax in kind, representing five per cent of the 
gross produce of the land, was levied, and that 
the expenses of the central government were 
defrayed by means of miscellaneous imposts on 
all the principal staples of production, as silk, 
fish, cloth, etc., and by a corSee of thirty days* 
work annually from every male between the ages 
of twenty-one and sixty-six years, and fifteen days 
from every minor. An adult's labour might be 
commuted by paying three pieces of hempen 
cloth. These labourers were not hardly treated 
in the comparatively rare cases where they chose 
to work rather than to commute. During the 
dog days, they were entitled to rest from noon 
to four p. M., and night work was not required. 
Rations were provided, and in wet weather they 
were not expected to work out of doors. If a 
man fell ill while on corvee^ due provision was 
made for his maintenance, and in case of death 
he was coffined at official expense, and the body 
was either given up to any relative or friend on 
application, or cremated and the ashes buried by 
the wayside. There were, of course, various ex- 
emptions from forced labour. Females or per- 
sons suffering from illness or deformity were 
invariably excused, and holders of official rank 



obtained exemption, not only for themselves, but 
also for their fathers and sons, and even for their 
grandfathers, brothers, and grandsons, in the 
highest grade. 

These imposts were evidently onerous. The 
corvee alone, representing one-twelfth of a man's 
yearly labour, would have been a heavy burden 
without the addition of five per cent of the gross 
produce of the land and a contribution of general 
staples equal, probably, to at least two or three 
per cent more. Mercy was shown, however, in 
the event of defective crops. The remissions on 
that account were regulated by a schedule : the 
land tax being remitted if the shortage amounted 
to fifty per cent of the average yield, the mis- 
cellaneous taxes if the shortage reached seventy 
per cent, and the corvee when there was a loss 
of eighty per cent. The five-families group 
spoken of above was responsible for the cultiva- 
tion of all maintenance estates. Thus, if a man 
fled from the pursuit of justice or the burden of 
his taxes, the group to which he belonged took 
care of the land for three years and discharged 
his fiscal liabilities, at the end of which time the 
land reverted to the State in the event of his 
continued absence. 

The Codes contained provisions with regard 
to inheritance also. The system was regulated 
by strict rules of descent, and not only land, but 
also serfs, houses, and personal property were in- 
cluded in the estate. The eldest son, his mother, 



and his step-mother received two parts each ; the 
younger sons, one part each ; the daughters and 
the concubines, half of a part each. Here, too, 
the general principle applicable to woman's rights 
was observed, namely, that the female ranked as 
a minor, or as one half of an adult male. A 
mother's rights, however, did not descend to her 
daughter. Thus, whereas a son's children of 
either sex represented their father in the division 
of the family estate, a daughter's children did 
not represent their mother. On the other hand, 
property belonging to a woman at the time of 
her marriage was not necessarily absorbed into 
the family estate of her husband. Neither did 
these rules apply to land granted for public ser- 
vices. Such land had to be divided equally among 
all the children, male and female alike. Other 
rules existed, but enough has been said to show 
the general character of the law of inheritance. 

Wills were not considered in the code ; they 
became almost superfluous instruments in the face 
of such precise legal provisions. It does not 
follow, however, that estates were invariably di- 
vided in the manner here indicated, or that the 
law interdicted all liberty of action in such mat- 
ters. If the members of a family agreed to live 
together and have everything in common, they 
were exempted from the obligation of observing 
the rules of inheritance ; and, further, a parent 
was entitled, during his lifetime, to distribute 
the property among his children in accordance 


with the dictates of his own judgment. He also 
possessed the power of expelling a profligate son 
from the paternal home, and such expulsion 
carried with it disinheritance. 

The " serfs," to whom several allusions have 
already been made, had certain exceptional rights. 
A public serf was entitled to receive from the 
State as much maintenance land as a free-man, 
and a private serf received one-third of that 
amount. But a difference existed in the nature 
of the tenure ; for whereas a free- man might let 
or even sell his land with official consent, a serf 
was obliged to cultivate it himself. On the other 
hand, the serf paid no taxes and enjoyed exemp- 
tion from forced labour. 

The Government exercised no scrutiny into 
any transactions of sale unless lands or serfs were 
concerned. But it endeavoured to control trans- 
actions of borrowing. Priests and nuns were 
forbidden to lend money or goods on interest ; 
officials to borrow from any one in their own 
department ; and imperial relatives, of or above 
the fifth grade, to make loans in the districts of 
their residence. Interest was to be collected 
every 60 days, the rate not exceeding one-eighth 
of the principal ; but after 480 days had elapsed, 
the interest might become cent per cent, though 
no accumulation exceeding twice the principal 
was recognised. Loans of rice and millet must 
not run for more than a year. If, at the expira- 
tion of that time, the debtor could not discharge 



his liability, his property might be sold, and its 
proceeds supplemented by his own serfdom, if 
necessary. Official attempts were often made to 
prevent the mortgaging of land, but permanent 
success never attended them. 

The people's chief occupation in those days 
was agriculture. It cannot be said, however, 
that the choice of farming pursuits was specially 
suggested by the nation's aptitudes. The genius 
of the Japanese seems to find most congenial 
exercise in all manufacturing efforts that demand 
skill of hand and delicacy of artistic taste. But 
as yet no considerable demand for the products 
of such skill had arisen, whereas the cultivation 
or reclamation of lands gradually freed from the 
occupation of the stubborn autochthons, being 
always an urgent necessity, was correspondingly 
encouraged by the Government. Rice was the 
chief staple of production, and the methods of 
the rice-farmer differed little from those now in 
vogue, though not until the middle of the ninth 
century did the practice commence of hanging 
the sheaves on wooden frames to dry. Hitherto 
they had been strewn on the ground during the 
process, the fate of the grain thus depending 
wholly on the weather's caprices. Rice is not a 
robust cereal. Deficiency of rain in June, a low 
range of thermometer in July and August, storms 
in September, — any one of these common inci- 
dents largely affects the yield. After the intro- 
duction of Buddhism, when fish and flesh could 



not be eaten without violating the sanctity of life, 
inclement seasons must often have compelled men 
to choose between the laws of the creed and the 
dictates of nature. It was appropriate that the 
female rulers who patronised Buddhism so pas- 
sionately, should make special efforts to save their 
subjects from the temptation of the alternative ; 
and accordingly the Empresses Jito (690—696) and 
Gensho (715—725) took steps to encourage the 
cultivation of barley, Indian corn, wheat, sesamum, 
turnips, peaches, oranges, and chestnuts. Tea, 
buckwheat and beans were added to this list 
during the first half of the ninth century, and it 
is thus seen that Japan possessed at an early date 
all her staple bread-stuffs, except the sweet potato 
and the pear. The Empresses mentioned above 
and the Emperors of their era devised several 
measures to encourage agriculture, — such as grant- 
ing free tenure of waste land or bestowing rewards 
on its cultivators, making loans of money for 
works of irrigation, and munificently recognising 
the services of officials in provinces where farming 
flourished, or punishing them when it fell into 
neglect, — and adopted precautions against famine 
by requiring every farmer to store a certain quan- 
tity of millet annually. In all ages the Japanese 
Court showed itself keenly solicitous for the wel- 
fare of the people, and its solicitude was fully 
shared by its proteges, the Buddhist priests. If at 
one time an Emperor Tenchi (668-671) remitted 
all taxes for three years, until signs of returning 



prosperity were detected, or an imperial prince 
(Yoshimune, 803) invented the water-wheel, at 
another Buddhist prelates of the highest rank 
travelled about the country, and showed the 
people how to make roads, build bridges, con- 
struct reservoirs, and dredge rivers. Stud farms 
and cattle pastures were among the institutions 
of the era, so that, on the whole, agriculture must 
be said to have reached a tolerably high standard. 
But beyond doubt the most noteworthy devel- 
opment of all took place in the domain of art. 
The student is here confronted by one of the 
strangest facts in Japan's story. There are ample 
reasons for concluding that when Buddhism was 
introduced in the middle of the sixth century, 
both pictorial art and applied art were at an alto- 
gether rudimentary stage in Japan. There was 
considerable skill in the casting, chiselling, and 
general manipulation of metals lor the purpose 
of decorating weapons of war and horse-trappings, 
or manufacturing articles of personal adornment, 
but artistic sculpture and painting were virtually 
unknown. Yet, before the lapse of a hundred 
years, both had been carried to a high standard 
of excellence, sculpture specially reaching a point 
never subsequently surpassed, — a point which, 
under ordinary circumstances, should have marked 
the zenith of a long orbit of evolution. It is 
customary to dismiss this enigma by attributing 
the best achievements of the time entirely to 
Korean and Chinese immigrants, and certainly 



many artists from the neighbouring empires 
crossed to Japan at that era.^ But there are 
almost insuperable obstacles to complete accept- 
ance of such a theory. The subject will be re- 
ferred to in another place. Here it must be 
dismissed by noting the extraordinary impulse of 
progress that gave to Japan, in a brief space of 
time, sculptors of noble images, architects of im- 
posing edifices, and painters of grand religious 
pictures. Lacquerers might be added to the cate- 
gory ; but the processes of lacquer manufacture 
are said to have been known in Japan as far back 
as the third century before Christ, and it is pos- 
sible that before the Emperor Kotoku (645-654) 
ordered his coffin and his crown to be lacquered, 
fine examples of that kind of work may have 
been produced. There is no guide here. But 
it is known that, in the second half of the seventh 
century, lacquer was so highly prized that lac- 
quered articles were received in payment of taxes, 
and also that, at about the same epoch, red 
lacquer, five-coloured lacquer, aventurine lacquer, 
and lacquer inlaid with mother-of-pearl were 

In the absence of any form of literature the 
Japanese people remained entirely without intel- 
lectual education during the first thousand years 
of their existence as a nation. That is their 
own account of themselves, and there are no suf- 
ficient grounds for a different version, difficult as 

^ See Appendix, note 20. 



it is to believe that they should have derived so 
little advantage from the neighbourhood of a 
people like the Chinese, whose literary talents 
were already well developed when the earliest 
Japanese colonists crossed from the continent. 
The coming of two Korean literati to the Court 
of the Emperor Ojin at the close of the third 
century of the Christian era is regarded as the 
event that inaugurated the study of books in 
Japan. These two men were naturalised, and 
having received official recognition as instructors, 
settled, one in the province of Yamato, the other 
in that of Kawachi, and there founded, respec- 
tively, the families of Bunshi and Shishi^ whose 
scions, during several generations, enjoyed a mo- 
nopoly of literary teaching. Little is known as 
to the nature of the instruction imparted by 
them, but it was doubtless confined to the ideo- 
graphs and to the exposition of some elementary 
Chinese works. Generally, however, the phi- 
losophy of the Middle Kingdom then began to 
unfold its pages, and before the close of the fifth 
century a tolerably intimate acquaintance with 
the Chinese sages' writings had been acquired by 
the Court and by the heads of the Government, 
though the great mass of the people still re- 
mained in profound ignorance. Thenceforth a 
constant ingress of literati took place from the 
neighbouring continent, especially after the intro- 
duction of Buddhism, and, in the sixth cen- 
tury, the medical science of the Chinese, their 



processes of divination and their methods of 
almanac-compiling, constituted new inducements 
to literary studies. But such a thing as a 
school did not exist until the time of the Empe- 
ror Tenchi (668-671), when the first institution 
of the kind was opened in the capital, to be 
followed, ten years later, by a university and by 
a few provincial seminaries. The curriculum of 
this university represents the ideal of literary 
attainment in its era. There were " four paths " 
of essential learning — the Chinese classics, bi- 
ographies, law and mathematics. Caligraphy 
and music were taught independently. The 
" classics " were divided into three sections : the 
first, or "major classic," consisting of the Book 
of Etiquette and the Biographies ; the second, 
or " middle classic," comprising the Book of 
Poetry and two Books of Etiquette ; and the 
third, or " minor classic," including the Book 
of Changes and the Maxims. These were the 
bases of the regular course of lectures, but 
students of literature were required to study also 
the Classic of Filial Piety and the Analects of 
Confucius. It will be perceived that Buddhism 
had no place in this sphere of study. Yet, at the 
close of the seventh century, when the university 
had four hundred and thirty students, and when 
it represented the only high educational institu- 
tion in the Empire, Buddhism as a religion had 
already absorbed the attention of all the nation's 
leaders. It is, indeed, a remarkable fact of 



Japanese history that religion was thus exckided 
from the range of education. Services were per- 
formed at the university and at the schools in 
honour of ancient men of erudition, and Confu- 
cius was deified under the title of Biinsen-o ; but 
while sovereign, princes, and nobles were pos- 
sessed by passionate zeal for the propagandism of 
Buddha's creed, and were impoverishing them- 
selves and the nation to build magnificent temples 
and furnish them with thousands of costly images 
and quantities of gorgeous paraphernalia, they 
were equally persistent in telling the people that 
filial piety, as exemplified in the Chinese records, 
should be the basis of all action,^ and that the 
whole code of every-day ethics was comprised in 
the teachings of Confucius and Mencius. Per- 
haps if Buddhism had possessed a literature of its 
own, the field might not have been exclusively 
occupied by the Chinese classics. But Buddhism 
has no literature, or to speak more accurately, no 
literature intelligible to laymen. Its scriptures 
are couched in language which specialists only 
can understand, and by sermons and oral teaching 
alone are its precepts communicable to the pub- 
lic. Shinto^ on the other hand, has no code of 
morals at all. Thus Confucianism presented 
itself as the sole working system of ethics avail- 
able for educational purposes in ancient Japan. 

It is easy to appreciate what a perplexing 
problem presented itself to Japanese publicists 

^ See Appendix, note 21. 



and educationalists in the eighth century. The 
foundations of the national polity rested on the 
Shinto tenets that the sovereign was the son of 
heaven, that his intervention with the gods was 
essential to the well-being of the people, and that 
every unit of the nation must look up to him 
with the profoundest veneration. Confucian 
ethics, as expounded by Mencius, taught that 
the sovereign's title to rule rested entirely on his 
qualities as a ruler ; that the people's welfare 
took precedence of the monarch's prerogatives, 
and that filial piety was the highest of all virtues. 
Buddhism placed at the head of its scripture the 
instability of everything human ; compared each 
series of worldly events, however great the actors, 
however large the issues, to a track left by a ship 
upon the wide ocean, and educated a pessimistic 
mood of indifference to sovereign and parent 
alike. Can anything less consistent be conceived 
than the conduct of a government which em- 
ployed all its influence to popularise the religion 
of Buddha, which appealed to Shinto shrines for 
heavenly guidance in every administrative per- 
plexity, and which adopted Confucianism as an 
ethical code in the education of youth ? The 
difficulty, in the case of Buddhism and Shinto^ 
was to some extent overcome, as already shown, 
by a clever adjustment which recognised incarna- 
tions of Buddha in the principal Shinto deities. 
But it was not overcome in the case of the 
Confucian philosophy, nor is there any room 
9 129 


to doubt that the troubles which beat against 
the Throne, and nearly overthrew it, from the 
eighth century to the nineteenth, were in some 
degree the outcome of ideas derived from the 
Chinese Classics. 


Chapter V 


THE restoration of the administrative 
power to the Emperor in the middle 
of the seventh century, which was 
marked by the great legislative meas- 
ures already spoken of and by the re-modelling 
of the government on Chinese bureaucratic lines, 
prefaced a period generally known as the " Nara, 
or Heijo, epoch" (709-784), because the town 
of Nara, then chosen as the imperial capital, had 
the distinction of being the first city to hold that 
rank independently of changes of sovereign. 
Hitherto it had been the custom for the Emperor 
and the heir apparent to reside in different places, 
and of course there grew up about the palace of 
the prince material interests and moral associa- 
tions opposed to a change of habitation. Hence 
on his accession to the throne, he usually trans- 
ferred the capital of the empire from the place 
occupied by his predecessor to the site of his 
own palace. In addition to this source of fre- 
quent change, it happened occasionally that the 
residence of the Imperial Court, and therefore 



the capital of the empire, was moved from one 
place to another twice or even thrice during the 
same reign, the only limit set to all these shift- 
ings being that the five adjacent provinces 
occupying the waist of the main island, and 
known as " Gokinai," were regarded as possess- 
ing some prescriptive title to contain the seat of 
government, Yamato being especially honoured 
in that respect. A long list might be compiled 
of places distinguished by imperial residence 
during the early centuries, notable among them 
being Kashiwara, the capital of the Emperor 
Jimmu ; Naniwa (now Osaka), that of the 
Emperor Nintoku ; Otsu, that of the Emperor 
Tenchi ; and Fujiwara, that of the Emperor 
Temmu. It must be noted, however, that in 
those ages of comparative simplicity and frugal- 
ity, the seat of government was not invested with 
attributes of pomp and grandeur such as the 
haughtier conceptions of later generations pre- 
scribed. The sovereign's mode of life differed 
little from that of his subjects, and the transfer 
of his residence from place to place involved no 
costly or disturbing effect. But as civilisation 
progressed, as the population grew, as the busi- 
ness of administration became more complicated, 
as increasing intercourse with China furnished 
new standards for measuring the interval between 
ruler and ruled, and, above all, as class distinc- 
tions acquired emphasis, the character of the 
palace assumed magnificence proportionate to 




the imperial ceremonies and national receptions 
that had to be held there. By the beginning 
of the eighth century, this development had 
reached a stage which necessitated a permanent 
capital, and Nara, thenceforth called Heijo (the 
castle of peace), was chosen. 

The capital established there was on a scale of 
unprecedented size and splendour, and a lady's 
name — that of the Empress Gemmiyo — is fitly 
associated with this tribute to outward appear- 
ances. The plan of the city was taken from 
that of the Chinese metropolis. There were 
nine gates and nine avenues. The palace stood 
in the northern section and was approached from 
the south by an avenue, broad and perfectly 
straight, which divided the city into two exactly 
equal halves, the " left metropolis " and the 
" right metropolis." All the other streets ran 
in perfect parallelism with this main avenue, or 
at right angles to it.-^ Seven sovereigns reigned 
in succession at Nara. Some partial attempts were 
made from time to time to revive the old custom 
of changing the Court's residence on a change of 
emperor, but the unprecedentedly grand dimen- 
sions which Nara had quickly assumed, and the 
group of magnificent temples that had sprung up 
there in a brief period, constituted a metropolitan 
title which could not be ignored. 

The Nara epoch owes its prominent place 
in history chiefly to the extraordinary zeal 

^ See Appendix, note 22. 



shown by the Court and the great nobles in pro- 
moting the spread of Buddhism. During the 
seventy-live years comprised in the epoch, no 
less than seven of the grandest temples ever seen 
in Japan were erected ; a multitude of idols were 
cast, among them a gigantic Daibutsu; colossal 
bells were founded, and all the best artists and 
artisans of the time devoted their services to 
these costly works. The mania reached its 
zenith in the reign of the Emperor Shomu 
(724-749), whose religious zeal was supple- 
mented by a love of pomp that led him to lavish 
great sums on rich costumes, expensive sports, 
and handsome edifices, and by superstition so 
profound that whenever any natural calamity or 
abnormal phenomenon occurred, he caused reli- 
gious services to be performed at heavy cost. In 
addition to the large demands of the central 
treasury, salaries and emoluments for the leading 
officials were assessed on a liberal scale ; the 
Prime Minister's pay being equal to the earning 
capacities of three thousand families, that of the 
second Minister to the earnings of two thousand 
families, and so on in a descending rate. 

The agricultural classes, who were the chief 
tax-payers, began to show themselves unequal to 
this strain. It was also appreciated that the theory 
of State ownership of land, applied according to 
the provisions of the Taikwa and Taiho legislation, 
produced a demoralising effect upon the farmer, 
since he did not care to improve land which might 



be transferred to some one else in six years, and 
was at best secure for only one generation. The 
Government, therefore, began to recognise the 
principle of private ownership, and also to lend 
to agriculturists in spring such funds or articles 
as were required for the cultivation of their farms. 
In fact, the policy pursued by the State was a 
curious mixture of desire to reform and inability 
to retrench. Resolute efforts were made, for 
example, to improve means of communication 
by constructing roads and organising post-stations ; 
but, at the same time, officially guarded fences 
and barriers were established at commanding 
points, the necessity of fixing the tax-payer im- 
movably in one place being considered more 
important than the expediency of bringing new 
markets within reach of his produce. It was in 
the reign of this same Emperor (Shomu) that men 
witnessed the spectacle of the great Buddhist pre- 
late Giyogi travelling about the country, attended 
by a large body of priests and acolytes, who, under 
his direction, began the building of bridges, the 
making of roads, the digging of canals and reser- 
voirs, the improvement of harbours and the erec- 
tion of embankments in various places where 
special engineering skill was needed. Inspired 
by such an example, the people flocked from all 
sides to complete these works, and the Govern- 
ment showed its appreciation of Giyogi's labours 
by redoubling its patronage of his creed. 

The lower orders did not derive much benefit 



from these improved facilities of communication. 
Government officials alone were allowed to use 
the horses kept at the post-stations and to demand 
a night's board and lodging in the houses of 
wealthy persons en route. Common folk had 
still to carry their food with them when they 
made journeys, and to cook it wherever they 
might. In recognition of that necessity, it be- 
came habitual for a man's friends to present to 
him a little bag containing two or three flints 
and steels when he contemplated a journey. In 
exceptionally favourable conditions the wayfarer 
found shelter for the night under some friendly 
or charitable roof, but in general he bivouacked 
at the foot of a tree, or, if he was a man of rank 
travelling with a retinue, his attendants constructed 
a hut for his accommodation.^ Death from star- 
vation on a journey was a not infrequent occur- 
rence. To such a fate labourers especially were 
exposed who had been summoned to some remote 
place on corvee : they perished on their way home. 
The humane Empresses Gemmyo and Gensho 
(708—723) sought to abate these evils by estab- 
lishing stores of grain at intervals along the prin- 
cipal highways, and by requiring wealthy people 
in the provinces to make arrangements for selling 
rice to travellers. A few years subsequently, an 
edict, issued at the suggestion of a Buddhist priest, 
required that fruit-trees should be planted on both 
sides of the main road in the five metropolitan 

* See Appendix, note 23. 



provinces, and there can be no doubt that the 
noble rows of pines lining some of the public 
avenues of Japan were a later outcome of the 
custom thus inaugurated in the middle of the 
eighth century. 

Architectural improvement was another con- 
spicuous feature of the Nara epoch, and, like 
most incidents of Japanese progress, it owed 
much to official influence. A tiled roof seems 
to have been the chief ambition in the early- 
stage of development, but the first attempt to 
construct one for the palace of the Empress 
Saimei (655-661) proved a failure, and it was not 
till the time of her successor, the Empress Jito, 
that the Government found itself able to issue 
an order for the tiling of all the State offices. 
There is difficulty in believing that during an 
era when applied art made such remarkable 
strides as it did in the second half of the seventh 
century, the bulk of the people were content to 
inhabit rudely built hovels with thatched or 
shingled roofs, and that even the imperial princes 
lived in houses of timber from which the bark 
had not been removed. It is true that to be 
a prince in those days did not necessarily imply 
the possession of wealth or even of a moderate 
competence, for sometimes the sovereign had to 
make special allowances of rice and salt to his 
relatives to save them from absolute want. But the 
opulent as well as the indigent were alike satisfied 
with dwellings of the lowliest character until the 



Nara epoch, when a new conception of the 
proper attributes of an empire's capital presented 
itself to Shomu's privy councillors. They 
addressed to the Throne a memorial insisting 
that the nation needed a metropolis worthy of 
the sovereign's residence and of the receptions 
his Majesty had to give to foreign embassies, and 
they argued that though houses with roofs of 
thatch and shingle had the sanction of ancient 
custom, such a method of construction could not 
be reconciled with any principles of sound econ- 
omy. The result of these representations was an 
edict ordering that the houses of all officials of 
the central government from the fifth grade of 
rank upwards, as well as those of all wealthy 
commoners, must be tiled and painted red as 
expeditiously as possible, and soon afterwards the 
system was extended to the provinces. To esti- 
mate the significance of such an edict it has to 
be remembered that a change of generation 
usually meant the construction of a new house in 
that era. The religious prejudice against pollu- 
tion was so strong that a house where a death 
had taken place was considered unfit for further 
occupation, and was either pulled down and re- 
built or abandoned altogether. The edict, 
therefore, had an immediately practical interest 
for those to whom it was addressed. As to the 
seemingly capricious order about red paint, its 
evident purpose was to put an end to the use of 
timber carrying the bark, and of course the 



choice of red was dictated by an instinctive 
knowledge of the law of complementary colours. 
The beautiful harmonies commonly seen in 
Japan between rich vermilion pagodas, or deep- 
red columns of temples, and their environment 
of green woods, had its origin in the desire to 
make religious edifices an object lesson to archi- 
tects of private residences. But the project 
failed signally. Rough timbers, indeed, soon 
ceased to be used for building the houses of the 
upper classes, but no one could ever be induced 
to have his private residence of the prescribed 
tint. Red, in short, came to be regarded as 
a religious colour, and that fact alone would 
have sufiiced to prevent its employment by lay 
architects, for in every age the Japanese have 
persistently refused to admit the structural or 
decorative style of sacred edifices into the domain 
of private architecture. 

It is, perhaps, by considering the costumes of 
the Nara epoch that the clearest conception is 
obtained of the refinement of the nation's life at 
that time, and of the source from which it 
derived its new civilisation. Speaking generally, 
the garments worn by men differed much less 
from those of modern Europe than did the gar- 
ments of the Japanese when they first became 
known to the Occident. The essentials were 
a tunic-like coat and trousers, the former having 
comparatively tight sleeves, and being girt at the 
waist by a belt made either of Korean brocade 



or of embroidered silk studded with plates of 
jade. Two other garments were added — one 
over the trousers and one over the coat — but 
they had nothing of the loose flowing character 
usually associated with Japanese dress. They 
were, in fact, copied with scarcely any change 
from the Chinese robes of the epoch, and had 
their dimensions been fuller, they would be iden- 
tical with the Chinese robes of the present day. 
We thus conclude that, just as the men of 
modern Japan have copied the costumes of the 
Occident in adopting its civilisation, so the men 
of ancient Japan imported Chinese robes with 
Chinese systems of morality and administration. 

Law after law was enacted regulating the exact 
measurements of these various articles and, above 
all, their quality and texture. In early times, 
the best material available was manufactured 
from the paper mulberry or from hemp ; but, by 
and by, grass cloth and cotton fabrics came into 
use, and, in the fifth century, sericulture and 
silk-weaving were successfully practised. The 
silk then produced was of very inferior quality, 
and though several fine varieties — as sarcenet, 
figured silk, brocade, and so on — were soon 
obtained, they served for ornamental purposes 
rather than for every-day wear. But in the Nara 
epoch, neither the most elaborate fabrics that the 
home loom could turn out, nor yet the rare silks 
and brocades brought from China by the Bud- 
dhist priests, who made it a duty to familiarise 



Japan with all the best products of Asiatic skill, 
were deemed too costly for purposes of personal 
adornment. This extravagant tendency received 
its first impulse in the middle of the seventh 
century when, as part of the reforms and re-or- 
ganisations consequent on the abolition of the 
patriarchal system and the assumption of admin- 
istrative autonomy by the Emperor, the custom 
of employing hats to distinguish official grades 
was imported from China. The designing of 
these hats constituted quite a legislative occupa- 
tion, and the story of the changes they under- 
went is bewildering. One excellent sovereign^ 
seems to have been reduced to a state of despair- 
ing recklessness by sumptuary problems, for he 
issued a decree declaring that everybody might 
wear anything he pleased. Other monarchs, 
however, grappled with the question, and it was 
not until the beginning of the eighth century, 
just before the commencement of the Nara 
epoch, that the many-hued hats of China were 
exchanged for a sober head-gear of uniform 
colour — silk gauze covered with black lacquer 
— better adapted to the artistic instincts of the 
Japanese. It must not be imagined that these 
finally evolved hats were intended to discharge 
any head-covering function ; they were as inno- 
cent of such purpose as is the extravagant head-gear 
of fashionable ladies in the jin-du-shcle Occi- 
dent. The hat, supposed to have the shape of a 

* See Appendix, note 24. 



cicada, was poised on the top of the head much 
as an insect might have perched there. At the 
time when this fortunate simpHcity was attained 
as to one article of costume, there were no less 
than eighteen ranks of princes, thirty principal 
ranks of officials, twenty supernumerary ranks, 
and twelve orders of merit. All these had to be 
differentiated by points of apparel, and as there 
were three costumes for each rank — the cere- 
monial costume, the Court costume, and the ordi- 
nary uniform — the task to be discharged by the 
bureau of etiquette was to devise two hundred 
and sixteen varieties of dress. Necessarily the 
pettiest details had to be enlisted in this phalanx 
of diversities. White trousers were always de 
rigueur, but a pure white girdle might be used 
by the Prince Imperial only : other princes were 
obliged to have embroidered or figured girdles, 
and the girdles of lower dignitaries had to be of 
designated colours. Jewels and jade necessarily 
adorned the belts of the upper ranks of princes. 
But that essentially Chinese fashion did not long 
survive in Japan. It has always been against the 
instinct of the Japanese male to use jewels of any 
kind for purposes of personal adornment. Socks 
were made of silk brocade — another extrava- 
gance ultimately abandoned in favour of white 
cotton-cloth — and the feet were thrust into 
black lacquered shoes with up-tilted toes. As 
for the colour of the upper garments, the general 
rule was that the deeper the colour, the higher 



the rank — purple, Indian red, crimson, cherry- 
red, blue, mulberry, leaf-green, grass-green, and 
so on, in fixed gradation. Unclassed officials and 
commoners had to wear yellow, and servants 
were clothed in black. Any departure from 
these rules in the sense of trespassing upon the 
costume of a higher rank, exposed the delinquent 
to severe punishment. Even the number of 
knots on the strings of an amulet-bag was a 
matter of regulation, and a high official, when in 
full dress, carried in his hand a flat piece of ivory, 
fourteen or fifteen inches long, in imitation of 
the tablets used by Chinese statesmen for writing 
orders or reports. 

Ladies, too, were denied the privilege of 
choosing fashions for themselves. It has already 
been shown that, in very early times, both men 
and women wore strings of beads on their necks, 
arms, and legs, and there is evidence that each 
sex used to fasten spring-flowers or autumn 
sprays in the hair by way of ornament. Why 
and when these customs were abandoned there is 
nothing to show, but it is certain that, in the 
Nara epoch, ladies were required to use orna- 
ments of gold, silver, or jade for their heads, and 
that these ornaments generally took the shape of 
the natural objects for which they were substi- 
tuted, though sometimes forms from the Chinese 
grammar of art were chosen, — as highly conven- 
tionalised dragons and clouds, tortoises and waves, 
or Dogs of Fo and peonies. Legislators had fur- 



ther the temerity to order the binding up of a 
lady's hair,^ which she had hitherto worn hang- 
ing loose, or merely bound by a fillet at the back 
of the head. But the authority of law proved 
abortive at this point : ladies laughed at a threat 
announced in an edict of the Emperor Temmu 
(673-686) that every long-haired female should 
be called a sorceress. In other respects, how- 
ever, they had to bow to the law. High rank 
conferred on a lady the privilege of wearing her 
own locks ; if she was below the sixth grade she 
had to have a wig. Her garments^ appear to 
have been shaped like those of the other sex ; ' 
a fact which must have simplified matters 
considerably for the officials of the bureau of 
etiquette, and which was consistent with the 
important part acted by women in all affairs 
of religion and State. The Emperor Temmu 
(673-686) seems to have considered it desirable 
that the differences between the habits of the 
sexes should be still farther obliterated, for he 
forbade women to ride on horseback with both 
feet in one stirrup, as had hitherto been their 
wont, and ordered them to straddle their steeds 
in male fashion. 

The etiquette of official intercourse naturally 
received much attention side by side with these 
minute regulations about costume. In the reign 
of the fanatically religious Empress Suiko (593— 

* Sec Appendix, note 29. ^ See Appendix, note 26, 

' See Appendix, note 27. 




























o^ — 


— lo -o r^ — 





O o 

w en H X 

— CN n ■* 


628), it had been enacted that any one entering 
the palace gate must kneel on both knees, place 
his hands on the ground, bow his head, and in 
that attitude crawl across the threshold. Twenty 
years later, this prostrate method of approach was 
abandoned ; to be again revived shortly after- 
wards, and again finally abandoned towards the 
close of the seventh century. The Japanese, in 
fact, adopted Chinese customs sometimes faith- 
fully, sometimes tentatively. They were disposed 
to take them wholesale, but equally disposed to 
reject them after trial. They did not then cover 
the floors of their rooms with the clean soft 
mats that subsequently came into universal use. 
Boards were employed, and kneeling on boards 
being irksome, a standing salutation was substi- 
tuted. Matting, cushions, or skins were spread 
on the ground to serve as seats, but by high 
officials a large four-legged dais, a la Chinoise, 
was used. This solid, handsome article of fur- 
niture, with lacquered legs and edges, metal 
mountings, and brocade-rimmed matting on its 
surface, served as a kind of chair of state. Its 
occupant did not kneel with his feet under him, 
as subsequently became the fashion ; he sat tailor- 
wise. Another Chinese custom — that of join- 
ing the palms of the raised hands and clapping 
them by way of greeting to a superior — came 
into vogue and was practised for a considerable 
time. But being associated with the standing 
system of etiquette, this hand-clapping courtesy 
^° 145 


ceased to be allowed after the introduction of 
mats. For chairs and mats were incompatible; 
the former necessarily disappeared when the 
latter were adopted, and since a matted floor 
plainly invited a kneeling salutation, the palm- 
striking obeisance finally disappeared except as 
preface to a prayer before shrines or in temples.^ 
When an inferior official met a superior on the 
road, the former had to step aside and stand still 
until the latter passed, and had further to kneel 
with his hands on the ground whenever he de- 
sired to make a remark. The same rule applied 
to youths and elders irrespectively of rank, and 
if an official of a class lower than fifth, or a com- 
moner, happened to be riding on horseback when 
he encountered a superior, he had to dismount 
and stand aside. 

The food of the people during the Nara era 
consisted of rice, steamed or boiled, millet, barley, 
fish of various kinds (fresh or salted), sea-weed, 
vegetables, fruit (pears, chestnuts, and minor vari- 
eties), and the flesh of fowl, deer, and wild-boar. 
Strenuous effiDrts were made by the Court to en- 
force the Buddhist commandment against taking 
life, but the nation steadily eschewed that kind 
of fanaticism, and even the priests themselves did 
not obey their own laws. Sake — a fermented 
liquor made from rice — and tea, which had 
recently been imported from China, were the 
chief beverages, and soy (a sauce made from 

* Sec Appendix, note 28. 



beans) and vinegar served for seasoning purposes 
In this context reference may be made to a detail 
which constitutes another point of Hkeness between 
the adoption of foreign civilisation in the seventh 
and eighth centuries and its adoption in modern 
times Milk was suggested to the Emperor 
Kotoku (645-654) by a Korean envoy as a useful 
article of medicinal diet, and it found so much 
favour that at the beginning of the eighth cen- 
tury a "milk section" was established in the 
medical bureau, and an imperial edict required 
that butter should be sent to the Court periodi- 
cally from all parts of the empire. The fancy 
did not hve more than a hundred years, nor was it 
revived until the eighteenth century. The lower 
orders enjoyed none of these luxuries. A poem 
of the period shows that instead of fish, salt was 
their principal relish ; instead of rice, barley or 
millet their staple article of diet ; and instead of 
clear sake they drank the lees of the brewer's vat 
diluted with water. 

In a peculiarly constructed ^ wooden storehouse 
attached to the celebrated temple Totai-ji there 
IS preserved a collection of objects from the pal- 
aces of the Emperors and Empresses that reigned 
during the Nara epoch. It would plainly be a 
false conclusion to regard these things as sped- 
mens of the furniture and utensils ordinarily used 
at the Court of Japan in the eighth century. 
Had they not been rare and choice in their time. 

See Appendix, note 29. 


they would not have been thought worthy of 
preservation. But they certainly bear witness to 
the refinements of the era and to the affinities of 
its civilisation, just as the ornaments of a French 
salon in the sixteenth century bear witness to the 
graces of life at that time and to the Italian in- 
fluences that then pervaded French a^stheticism. 
Many of the Totai-ji treasures are of Chinese 
pro'venance ; a few are Indian, and a still smaller 
number, Persian. China's large contribution 
might have been expected, for if the Japanese in 
the seventh and eighth centuries regarded their 
continental neighbour as the source of everything 
that was best in matters legislative, ethical, philo- 
sophical, political, and literary, they would natur- 
ally look to her also for standards of social 
refinement. The story these relics tell is that 
the occupants of the Nara palace had their rice 
served in small covered cups of stone-ware, with 
celadon glaze — these from Chinese potteries, for 
as yet the manufacture of vitrifiable glazes was 
beyond the capacity of Japanese keramists ; — ate 
fruit from deep dishes of white agate ; poured 
water from golden ewers of Persian form, having 
bird-shaped spouts, narrow necks and bands of 
frond diaper ; played the game of go on boards 
of rich lacquer, using discs of white jade and red 
coral for pieces ; burned incense in censers of 
bronze inlaid with gems, and kept the incense in 
small boxes of Paullownia wood with gold lacquer 
decoration — these of Japanese make, — or in 



receptacles of Chinese celadon ; wrote with camel's 
hair brushes having bamboo handles, and placed 
them upon rests of prettily carved coral ; employed 
plates of nephrite to rub down sticks of Chinese 
ink ; sat upon the cushioned floor to read or 
write, placing the book or paper on a low lec- 
tern of wood finely grained or ornamented with 
lacquer ; set up flowers in slender, long-necked 
vases of bronze with a purple patina ; used for 
pillow a silk-covered bolster stuffed with cotton 
and having designs embroidered in low relief; 
carried long, straight, two-edged swords attached 
to the girdle by strings (not thrust into it, as after- 
wards became the fashion) ; kept their writing 
materials in boxes of coloured or gold lacquer ; 
saw their faces reflected in mirrors of polished 
metal, having the back repousse and chiselled in 
elaborate designs ; kept their mirrors in cases 
lined with brocaded silk ; girdled themselves with 
narrow leather belts, ornamented with plaques of 
silver or jade and fastened by means of buckles 
exactly similar to those used in Europe or America 
to-day ; and played on flutes made of bamboo 
wood. In short, the Shoso-in relics introduce us 
to a people imbued with a strong taste for the 
refinements of civilisation, but not yet possessed 
of artistic and technical skill sufficient to supply 
their own wants. 

In this Nara epoch a legislative attempt was 
made to restrain all illicit intercourse between 
the sexes, but it does not appear that the slightest 



success attended the experiment. There is noth- 
ing to show that virgin purity was levSS esteemed 
in a Japanese maiden of gentle birth than it has 
ever been esteemed by any nation under any 
system of ethics. But the recognition extended 
to concubinage necessarily produced a confusion 
of principles. From the sovereign down to the 
artisan, a man's extra-marital relations were 
limited only by his means and opportunities. 
The obligation of sexual fidelity rested on the 
woman alone, and constituted her whole code of 
morality. She valued virtue, not for virtue's 
sake, but as part of her duty to some one man 
either in esse or in posse, and she discharged that 
duty with remarkable steadfastness whether as a 
maiden, a mistress, or a wife. But it is easy to 
see that since society did not scrutinise with any 
severity her relation to the man claiming her 
affection, and frowned on her only when she 
betrayed him, her first concessions to love were 
often made without much ceremony. The cus- 
tom of leaving a wife to reside in her parental 
house had long ceased in practice, but its princi- 
ple found expression in a rule that when a man 
married, he must construct special apartments 
for his bride's accommodation.^ Another cu- 
rious canon was that until a girl became be- 
trothed, she must never speak of herself by her 
family name, and that when lovers parted, the 
string of the man's under-garment was tied to 

* Sec Appendix, note 30. 



that of the woman, with a promise that the knot 
should never be loosened till they were reunited. 
It was also by her betrothed that a maiden's hair, 
which in girlhood flowed over her shoulders, was 
for the first time bound with a fillet. This last 
custom survives in a degraded fiDrm until the 
present day, as will be seen when the time 
comes to speak of public fetes in which profes- 
sional dancing-girls [geisha) act a prominent 

Japan's borrowings from China were of course 
liberal in the sphere of literary culture. Having 
no books of her own, she depended entirely on 
the library of her neighbour. Compared with 
the barrenness of her intellectual realm, that 
library opened up to her an immensely fruitful 
area of science, philosophy, and belles lettres, and 
there would be no grounds for surprise had she 
lost herself in its multitudinous paths. But if wc 
except the engrossing claim that Confucianism 
made upon her attention, the chief effect pro- 
duced upon her by Chinese literature was to set 
her to writing poetry. Throughout the century 
culminating at the zenith of the Nara epoch, she 
abandoned herself almost deliriously to that oc- 
cupation. To turn a couplet deftly became the 
test not merely of literary education but even of 
administrative competence. There is difficulty 
in conveying to the mind of a Western reader 
any exact idea of the habit that grew out of this 
poetic extravagance. If at a banquet given by 



the sovereign of England to his Ministers and 
leading civil and military officials, or at a recep- 
tion by the President of the United States in the 
White House, pens and paper were handed 
round, and all the guests were invited to spend 
several hours composing versicles on themes set 
by Mr. McKinley or King Edward, and further, 
if the pastime were repeated again and again, 
day after day, until the construction of couplets 
became an engrossing national occupation, such 
a state of affairs would represent with tolerable 
accuracy the custom that began to come into 
vogue in the middle of the seventh century, — 
a custom which produced its best results from a 
literary point of view a hundred years later in 
the Nara epoch, and continued in an even in- 
creasing degree through several generations. 

But although this poetic mania is here asso- 
ciated with the introduction of Chinese literature, 
it did not derive its metric inspiration from that 
source. The Japanese system of versification is 
their own,^ nor did their poets borrow anything 
from the treasures of Chinese literature. It is a 
system radically different from the Chinese system ; 
radically different from the system of any other 
country, Eastern or Western. Uniquely in this 
one path they ignored their neighbour's influence, 
and wrote unrhymed lines which derived their 
poetic character solely from the rhythmic beat 
of a fixed number of syllables, five followed by 

' Sec Appendix, note 31. 



seven, seven followed by five, in changeless alter- 
nation. What Chinese intercourse did was to 
supply a medium for transcribing these stanzas, 
and to suggest the custom of composing them as 
a pastime at social reunions. The art itself had 
long existed in Japan, but from the middle of the 
seventh century it became a polite accomplish- 
ment. The Japanese stanza defies translation in 
any other language. It is a verbal melody which 
cannot be transposed ; cannot be played on a 
foreign instrument. There is virtually no such 
thing as versified narrative ; no subject is treated 
continuously in varying phases. In Occidental 
poetry the cadence of the verse is the accompani- 
ment of the idea ; in Japanese poetry, the idea is 
set to the cadence. The Greeks by a laboured 
organisation of strophe, antistrophe, and epode, 
strove to impart to their chorus harmonic as well 
as metrical value. The Japanese, by a regular 
alternation of syllabic chords, succeeded in com- 
bining the effects of music and metre. The em- 
bodied idea is seldom more than a mere suggestion; 
the whisper of a thought pervading the melody. 
The music is everything. To seek in the pro- 
ductions of such an art high displays of dramatic 
imagination, is as idle as to render these snatches 
of music into the rhymed verses of Western metri- 
cal art. To form a true conception of Japanese 
poetry one must read it in the original. 

It is easy to understand that in an age when 
the passion for verbal melody attained such pro- 


portions, dancing also must have been in wide 
favour. There is no Japanese music that will 
not serve as accompaniment for the Japanese 
stanza, and the stanza, in turn, adapts itself per- 
fectly to the fashion of the Japanese dance. The 
law of the unities seems to have prescribed that 
the cadence of the stanza should melt into the 
lilt of the song, and that the measure of the song 
should be worked out by the " woven paces and 
waving hands " of the dance. That is the inevit- 
able impression produced by Japanese poetry, 
Japanese music, and Japanese dancing. The affin- 
ity between them is so close that it is difficult to 
tell where one begins and the other ends.^ The 
music of words, the music of motion, and the 
music of song rank equally in popular apprecia- 
tion. Of course Buddhist music is not included 
in that description. Buddhist music is a wail, a 
threnody. It makes no appeal to the natural 
disposition of the Japanese, and the vogue it ob- 
tained from the Nara epoch onwards largely con- 
tributed to the growth of a dangerous form of 
pessimism. The tendency of the Japanese has 
always been to accompany their feasting and 
merry-making with music, versifying, and danc- 
ing. At the time now under consideration, there 
was the "winding water fete," when princes, 
high officials, courtiers, and noble ladies seated 
themselves by the banks of a rivulet meandering 
gently through some fair park, and launched tiny 

^ See Appendix, note 32. 



cups of mulled wine upon the current, each com- 
posing a stanza as the little messenger reached 
him, or drinking its contents by way of penalty 
for lack of poetic inspiration. There were also 
the flower festivals — that for the plum-blossoms, 
that for the iris, and that for the lotus, all of which 
were instituted in this same Nara epoch — when 
the composition of couplets was quite as impor- 
tant as the viewing of the flowers. There was 
further the grand New Year's banquet in the 
" hall of tranquillity " at the Court, when all 
officials from the sixth grade downwards sang a 
stanza of loyal gratitude, accompanying themselves 
on the koto} Specially remarkable was the uta- 
gakiy which in this epoch assumed the dimensions 
of a grand spectacular display. Hundreds of 
youths and maidens, wearing blue silk robes with 
long red girdles, assembled at the palace gate and 
danced in the presence of the Emperor, the men 
and women in separate rows ; and thereafter con- 
tinued the performance through the city, singing 
in union some simple stanza, such as 

Crystal-born river, 
Hakata, thy jewelled stream 
Flows through ten thousand 
Times ten thousand ages, pure. 

It was an era of refined, effeminate amusements. 
Wrestling had now become the pursuit of pro- 
fessionals. Aristocrats engaged in no rougher 

^ See Appendix, note 33. 


pastime than archery, polo, a species of football, 
hawking and hunting. Everybody gambled. It 
was in vain that, from the time of the Empress 
Jito (694-696), edicts were issued against dicing 
[sugoroku). The vice defied official restraint. 


Chapter VI 


{End of the Eighth to the Middle of the Twelfth Century) 

IT has been shown that after the fall of the 
patriarchal system of government the ad- 
ministrative power reverted to the sovereign, 
and that a series of vigorous reforms were 
undertaken on the lines of Chinese civilisation. 
But the Emperor did not long remain autocratic, 
nor did many of the reforms prove permanent. 
Mommu's (697-707) democratic edict, declaring 
that the throne rested on the people, had scarcely 
been acclaimed by the nation when the Fujiwara ^ 
family began to wield power which soon assumed 
extraordinary proportions. 

This family was founded by Kamatari. He 
came into notice by compassing the destruction 
of the last of the patriarchal clans (the Soga), and 
fate, with her usual irony, decreed that he him- 
self should be the founder of a clan beside whose 
usurpations those of the Soga, or any other Japan- 
ese clan, look insignificant. Kamatari traced his 
descent back to the days of Jimmu, but even if 

^ See Appendix, note 34. 


the reckoning commence with himself in the 
seventh century, the Fujiwara are sufficiently- 
antique. There has been no break in the con- 
tinuity of their line. They were the repositories 
of the administrative power for nearly five cen- 
turies. Their name is borne by ninety-five out 
of the hundred and forty-five families constituting 
the Japanese court nobility. Their daughters en- 
joyed through all ages, and still enjoy, a kind of 
prescriptive title to be the Emperors' consorts.^ 
Their sons established a hereditary right to fill 
the highest offices in the State. The history of 
Japan, during the twelve hundred years covered 
by her written annals, may truly be described as 
the history of four families, the Fujiwara, the 
Taira, the Minamoto, and the Tokugawa. 

It is usual to adopt as lines of division the Nara 
epoch, the Heian (Kyoto) epoch, the Kamakura 
epoch, and the Yedo epoch, — a classification based 
on the fact that each of these places was in turn 
the seat of administrative authority. But the 
course of political change is more intelligently 
indicated by taking for landmarks the successive 
usurpations of the four great families. The Fuji- 
wara governed through the Emperor ; the Taira, 
the Minamoto, and the Tokugawa may be said 
to have governed in spite of the Emperor. The 
Fujiwara based their power on matrimonial al- 
liances with the Throne ; the Taira, the Mina- 
moto, and the Tokugawa based theirs on the 

^ See Appendix, note 35. 



possession of armed strength which the Throne 
had no competence to control. There another 
broad line of cleavage is seen. Throughout the 
Fujiwara era the centre of political gravity, though 
shifted from the sovereign to the Court nobles, 
remained always in the Court. Throughout the 
era of the Taira, the Minamoto, and the Toku- 
gawa, the centre of political gravity was transferred 
to a point altogether outside the Court, the head- 
quarters of a military feudalism. " • 

One fact has always to be remembered in con- 
nection with the usurpations of these families : 
their ancestors were not ordinary subjects. The 
Fujiwara traced their origin to the era of gods. The 
progenitors of the Taira and the Minamoto were 
sons of Emperors reigning at the commencement 
of the ninth century. The Tokugawa were a 
branch of the Minamoto. If a broad survey of 
Japanese history indicates that the sanctity derived 
by a sovereign from his divine lineage contributed 
to the stability of his throne only in so far as it 
constituted a charter of power for the nominal, 
but really usurping, agents of his will, the same 
history indicates that those agents were themselves 
scions of the Imperial stock. 

In the year 794 the Imperial capital was 
transferred from Nara to Kyoto ^ by order of the 
Emperor, Kwammu. It has been conjectured 
that one of the chief objects of the change was 
to separate religion and politics. The extrav- 

^ See Appendix, note 36. 


agant patronage bestowed on the Buddhist priests 
during the Nara epoch had educated in them a 
spirit of arrogance which Kwammu saw the ne- 
cessity of checking. Some colour is lent to this 
theory by a fact, independently interesting, namely, 
that Kwammu worshipped the " heavenly King '* 
with offerings of burnt sacrifices, thus apparently 
setting up a new supreme ruler and a new method 
of propitiating him. But that incident of his 
career probably indicates nothing more than a 
close study of Confucianism, which couples wor- 
ship of Shang Ti, a shadowy " Supreme," with 
worship of ancestors, nor can any hostility to 
Buddhism be attributed to a monarch whose zeal 
in building and endowing Buddhist temples is 
historical. The more rational explanation of the 
transfer of the capital to Kyoto is that it was part 
of a scheme for the better centralisation of ad- 
ministrative power. 

At the close of the eighth century the three 
great difficulties of the time were the growth of 
provisional autocrats who ignored the mandates 
of the Throne; the continued revolt of the au- 
tochthons, and the reappearance of the system 
of hereditary office-bearers. 

Less than a century had sufficed to nullify 
many of the Taikwa and Taiho reforms described 
in the last chapter. One great purpose of those 
reforms had been to give practical force to the 
principle of the Throne's eminent domain and to 
make the land the chief source of the State's 

1 60 


income. But the reckless expenditure of the 
Court and of the patrician class necessitated such 
heavy rates of taxation that the farmers had to bor- 
row money and rice from officials or Buddhist 
priests, and since they had nothing to offer by 
way of security except their lands, it resulted 
that the temples and the nobles began to acquire 
great estates of which the Government hesitated 
to resume possession, as prescribed by law, and 
the agricultural population gradually fell into 
a condition of practical serfdom. So miserable 
was their plight that many preferred to embrace 
the status of slaves, and others turned to highway 
robbery and piracy. The Court, absorbed in 
ceremonial observances, elaborate pastimes, and 
superstitious extravagances, made no serious effort 
to check these abuses, or to assert its authority 
over the provincial magnates, who generally took 
the precaution of allying themselves with some 
of the prominent families in the capital. Grad- 
ually both the provincial magnates and the 
metropolitan nobles began to openly defy the 
restrictions imposed by law upon the bearing of 
arms, attached to their persons large guards of 
sword-girt soldiers, and maintained autocratic 
state not much inferior to that of the Court 
itself. The sovereign might not venture to 
deprive such men of the administrative posts 
held by them, and thus the old vice of heredi- 
tary office-bearers again came into practice, 
while, at the same time, the administrative im- 
II i6i 


potence resulting from such anarchy en- 
couraged the autochthons to vigorous revolt in 
the north. 

These were the conditions with which 
Kwammu had to deal when he ascended the 
throne towards the close of the eighth century. 
The Taikiva and Taiho reforms had failed in cer- 
tain important respects, and it is not difficult to 
detect the reason of their want of success. The 
system they introduced was, on the one hand, 
incompatible with the ends they were intended 
to compass, and, on the other, encouraged the 
tendencies they were designed to eradicate. The 
administrative principles of the Tang dynasty 
which the reformers copied, were so permeated 
with the spirit of pomp and ceremony ; the func- 
tions of each office conferred such privileges and 
distinctions on its holder ; the whole body of 
officialdom, wide as were the intervals between 
its various grades, was so far removed from the 
mass of the plebs, that irresistible forces became 
operative for the resurrection of the patriarchal 
rights which the fall of the Soga family had 
buried. Tenchi appreciated that his reforms 
conld never be permanent unless he radically 
changed the status of the plebs. But the means 
he devised for that end — probably the only 
means within his power — were quite inade- 
quate, and he does not seem to have perceived 
that the immense access of dignity and impor- 
tance gained by the administrative class under the 



Chinese system, must surely revive the ambitions 
which had proved so irksome to his predecessors. 
He himself sought to better the condition of the 
commoners by remitting their taxes, but his suc- 
cessors paid little attention to that important 
point, and even if the exotic system had not 
tended to widen the distance between the two 
sections of the nation, the crushing fiscal burdens 
imposed on the lower orders must have produced 
that result. Kwammu, following him at an 
interval of nearly two centuries, showed equal 
vigour of purpose, but, for the same reasons, pro- 
duced an equally ephemeral impression upon the 
abuses he sought to remedy. He commenced, 
as stated above, by transferring the capital to 
Ky5t6, and building it on a scale that educated 
in the minds of the people an overwhelming 
conception of the might and majesty of the 
Court, He then undertook to separate religion 
and politics by removing all priests from adminis- 
trative posts, and he essayed to check the nation's 
extravagant expenditures on Buddhism by inter- 
dicting the building of temples without imperial 
permission. He forbade the seizure of lands for 
debt. He abolished offices that had been created 
for the sake of their occupants, and he ruthlessly 
removed all incompetent officials. To deal with 
the northern rebels, he ordered the eight prov- 
inces watered by the river Tone — namely, the 
Bando section of Japan — to organise each a 
body of from 500 to 1000 men, the sons of local 



administrators and ex-officials,' and he directed 
that they should be constantly trained in military 
arts. He made a bold effort to free himself from 
the interference of the great families which were 
again beginning to usurp the governing power. 
He essayed to get into close touch with the 
people, as his great-grandfather, Tenchi, had 
done. He tried to thrust aside the provincial 
autocrats and to bring the lower officials within 
the range of direct responsibility. He exhibited 
magnanimity ^ rare in any record. In short, he 
ranks as one of Japan's three greatest sovereigns, 
— Tenchi, Kwammu, and Godaigo, — yet he left 
no permanent mark upon his time, except, per- 
haps, the subjugation of the northern rebels, — 
the Yezo, — whose revolt, continuous during 
twenty-two years, was finally quelled by his gen- 
erals after an eight years' campaign. It was 
partly Kwammu's misfortune, largely his fault, 
that so far from giving any financial relief to the 
lower classes, he imposed upon them a heavier 
burden of taxation than ever ; for to the inevitable 
outlays caused by the long war against the Yezo, 
he added large expenditures for the building of 
temples in spite of his professed desire to check 
such extravagance, — and still larger for the in- 
dulgence of his passionate love of hunting, a 
mania that led him to organise no less than one 
hundred and forty hunting excursions during his 
reign of twenty-five years. 

* See Appendix, note 37. ^ See Appendix, note 38. 



Kwammu's reign deserves this somewhat de- 
tailed notice because it marks the parting of the 
ways in medieval Japan. His was the last really 
resolute struggle made during three and a half 
centuries to stem the influences that were plainly 
tending towards the substitution of bureaucracy 
for imperialism, the subordination of the Throne 
to the nobility. 

Extraordinary importance attached to rank 
under the system introduced from China. With- 
out attempting to explain the elaborate classifi- 
cation prescribed and strictly observed, it will 
suffice to say that the privilege of entree to the 
"hall of purity and freshness" in the Palace 
was confined to officials of a certain grade and 
their sons, and could scarcely be obtained by 
any length of service or display of merit in a 
lower grade. Thus arose a broad division of the 
patrician order into " palatials " {denjo-bito^ and 
" groundlings " {chige-bito)^ and so sternly was 
the distinction preserved that the latter stood to 
the former in a relation not much superior to 
serfdom.-^ The power and perquisites attaching 
to the higher offices were proportionately great, 
and since it thus became worth while to purchase 
the patronage of the leading dignitaries at the 
cost of almost any service, there grew up a large 
body of fortune-seekers who occupied a position 
of vassalage towards their patrons. The Em- 
peror nevertheless remained the nominal fountain 

^ See Appendix, note 39. 



of all rank and office, and His Majesty's favour 
was courted not solely by displays of poetising 
skill or administrative ability, but also by the 
more elementary device of female influence. 

There could be only one Empress. To that 
high dignity, therefore, not many aspired. But 
no limit existed as to the number of ladies hav- 
ing the entree of the Imperial bed-chamber, and 
since any one of these nyogo (imperial dames), or 
koi (ladies of the wardrobe), as they were called, 
might become an " Imperial Resting Place " 
(Myasudokoro), if she had the good fortune to 
bear a child to the sovereign, or might attain the 
splendid title of " national mother" (Kokubo) if 
her son was nominated heir apparent ; and since, 
even in the absence of any such incident, she 
might hope to win her Imperial master's favour 
by other means, the great nobles vied with each 
other to get their daughters or sisters into the 
palace. Some sacrifice had to be made for the 
purpose. The lady was required to have a 
guardian prepared to defray all the expenses of 
her apparel and paraphernalia, and to superin- 
tend her personal affairs. Without a guardian a 
girl's prospects were hopeless, and the same was 
true of a boy. However noble his birth, he 
ceased to be an object of consideration if, on the 
death of his parents, no man of position and 
means undertook responsibility for him. 

But if the general body of the nobles were al- 
lowed to compete for their daughters' admission 



to the Imperial chamber, the Fujiwara family 
took care that the post of Empress should be re- 
served for ladies of their own lineage. That was 
their great political device. By progressive exer- 
cises of arbitrariness they gradually contrived that 
the choice of a consort for the sovereign should 
be legally limited to a daughter of their family, 
five branches of which were specially designated 
to that honour through all ages, and were con- 
sequently distinguished by the name Go-sekke 
(the five assistant houses). When a son was born 
to a sovereign, the Fujiwara took the child into 
one of their palaces, and on his accession to the 
Throne, the particular Fujiwara noble that hap- 
pened to be his maternal grandfather became 
Regent of the Empire. 

It is necessary to understand this term " Re- 
gent." Prior to the Fujiwara usurpations, the 
first subject in the Empire had been the Prime 
Minister [Daijo Daijin). But the Fujiwara's 
method of procedure demanded an office with 
still greater potentialities. Their plan for retain- 
ing the supreme power in their own hands was 
not to allow the sceptre to be held by an Em- 
peror after he had attained his majority, or, if 
they suffered him to figure as sovereign during 
a few years of manhood, they compelled him to 
abdicate at the moment when his independent 
aspirations began to impair his docility. For 
purposes of administration in these constantly 
recurring minorities a new office was required, 



and towards the close of the ninth century the 
post of Kwampaku (Regent) was created and 
made hereditary in the Fujiwara family, as the 
office of Prime Minister had already become. 
The Regent continued to officiate even when the 
sovereign was a major. He stood between the 
Throne and the nation. Every official commu- 
nication must pass through his hands before 
reaching the Emperor. Thus the authority of 
the Mikado (sublime gate) practically passed to 
the Fujiwara.^ 

If the responsibility of restoring the evil system 
of hereditary office-holding in the capital rests 
with the Fujiwara, the abuse, it must be admitted, 
had never been fully abolished in the provinces. 
An attempt to abolish it was made, but practical 
experience suggested that in the administration 
of remote regions, the interests of the central 
government, as well as those of the people, were 
best served by officials having permanent associa- 
tions with the localities where their duties lay. 
Hence a provincial governor (Koku-shu), himself 
commissioned by the Court, received authority to 
appoint and remove district headmen {Gun-shi). 
But his nominees were generally creatures of his 
own, as was natural, and thus the whole province 
gradually passed beyond the control of the capi- 
tal. In vain the Court tried to enforce its 
authority by means of ** high constables " (chitn- 
bunshi) and inspectors {a?isatsus/it). These offi- 

^ See Appendix, note 40. 



cials were unable to assert themselves against the 
Governors and District Headmen acting in collu- 
sion, and it was therefore deemed expedient to 
make the two last mutually independent by- 
restoring its hereditary character to the office of 
Headman. The expedient did not achieve its 
purpose. No expedient could have been service- 
able under the conditions that existed ; namely, 
powerlessness on the Court's part to give effect 
to its mandates, exceeding imperfection of com- 
munications, and large opportunities for profit- 
able dishonesty. The Court had long ceased to 
possess any military force of its own. Having no 
standing army, it relied for protection solely on 
guards temporarily drafted from the provincial 
levies. The nation's perception of this weakness 
might have been postponed had not the rebellion 
of the autochthons in the north occurred. But 
the subjugation of these semi-savages defied the 
resources of the Court for twenty-two years, and 
was effected at last by the troops of the Bando 
provinces whom the Emperor Kwammu had 
caused to be organised. Here, then, was an 
object lesson not to be misinterpreted. The power 
of the sword obviously lay with the provinces, 
and the Court nobles showed their appreciation 
of the fact by cementing alliances with the 
Bando captains. Now the State derived its rev- 
enue chiefly from taxes levied on the land, and 
if a provincial governor reported that drought, 
tempest, or inundation had impaired or destroyed 



the tax-paying capacities of the farmers, no trust- 
worthy means existed of verifying the report, 
for an imperial inspector could either be thwarted 
with impunity or shown a course more profitable 
than sincerity, and, failing those expedients, 
a defaulting governor could count on the protec- 
tion of some great magnate in the capital with 
whose family he was connected. The Court was 
thus gradually stripped alike of its authority and 
of its revenues. 

This page of history deserves attention, for it 
lays bare the foundations of the feudal system 
destined to come into existence three centuries 
later, and to stand intact for eight hundred years. 
Closely connected with that system is the land 
question. Japanese rulers, though their practice 
tended to the adoption of the single tax, do not 
appear to have been guided by any economical 
principle in dealing with this problem. Their 
fundamental idea was to bring a maximum area 
of land within the range of the tax-collector. 
It was always a recognised rule, however, that 
lands granted as official emoluments or in recog- 
nition of public merit should be exempted from 
taxation. Hence hereditary office involved per- 
petual tenure of untaxed land, and every claim 
established on the Court's favour by great families 
meant a further reduction of the taxable area 
with a correspondingly increased impost on the 
remaining lands. These abuses were well illus- 
trated at the commencement of the Heian epoch. 



The Emperor Saga (810-825) conferred an estate 
of " fifteen thousand houses " on the Fujiwara 
family, and made large grants to princes, prin- 
cesses, Court ladies and nobles ; and a few years 
later, the Emperor Seiwa (859-876) so greatly 
extended the system that twenty-eight kinds 
of tax-free estates were officially catalogued, in- 
cluding temple lands, musicians' lands, school 
lands, and so on. Hence, during the first forty 
years of the Heian epoch, the rate of taxation 
for those remaining liable was doubled, and 
before the close of the ninth century each farmer 
was paying to the central government one- 
eleventh of the gross produce of his rice-land, in 
addition to a corvee of thirty days' labour annu- 
ally. Further, in many instances the provincial 
governors levied independent taxes on behalf 
of Court magnates and imperial relatives with 
whom they had special relations. The Court 
itself possessed estates chosen in the most fruitful 
parts of the empire, but these resources did not 
suffice for the support of the rapidly growing 
number of Imperial princes, and it became neces- 
sary to give them family names so that they 
might lay aside their princely titles, and be en- 
abled to take office in the capital or the prov- 
inces. Thus, in the year 814, the name of 
" Minamoto " was conferred on four princes, and 
in 835 the name of " Taira " on a fifth, the prov- 
inces of Kazusa, Hitachi, and Kozuke being 
assigned for the support of the former, who 



thenceforth ruled there as governors, while dis- 
tricts in the south were similarly allotted to the 
Taira family. In this way the foundations of 
the feudal system were firmly laid, and the 
ephemeral reforms directed against hereditary 
offices and perpetual tenure of land, ceased to be 
even nominally effective in the capital and the 
country alike. 

This fall from the administrative and economic 
standards set up by the sovereigns Tenchi and 
Kwammu can scarcely be called retrogression, 
for in truth the nation had never lived up to such 
standards : they had been from the first incom- 
patible with the state of its intelligence. And 
if, on the other side of the account, there stands 
to the credit of the Heian epoch much progress 
in the refinements of civilisation, it was a civilisa- 
tion which tended rapidly to moral degeneration, 
and must have produced fatal consequences had 
it not been happily checked in the twelfth cen- 
tury by the evolution of a robust though com- 
paratively rude militarism. 

It is often said of the Japanese that they are 
conspicuously indifl^erent to religion. If by reli- 
gion is meant belief in the supernatural, and in 
the constant interference of supernatural beings 
in the affairs of every-day life, then such a saying 
cannot be reconciled with the story of the Heian 
epoch. Perhaps it should be explained here 
that the term ** Heian epoch " is used chrono- 
logically in the sense of the interval between the 



close of the eighth century and the beginning of 
the twelfth ; and politically in the sense of the 
era during which the Fujiwara family adminis- 
tered the national affairs through the Court in 

There are, in fact, six great divisions of Japan- 
ese history : first, the patriarchal age when the 
sovereign was only the head of a group of tribal 
chiefs, each possessing a hereditary share of the 
governing power ; secondly, a brief period, from 
the middle of the seventh to the early part of the 
eighth century, when the tribal chiefs had dis- 
appeared and the Throne was approximately 
autocratic ; thirdly, an interval of some eighty 
years, called the Nara epoch, during which the 
propagandism of Buddhism, and the development 
of the material and artistic civilisation that came 
in that religion's train, engrossed the attention of 
the nation ; fourthly, the Heian epoch, a period 
of three centuries, when the Court in Kyoto 
ruled vicariously through the Fujiwara family ; 
fifthly, the age of military feudalism, from the 
beginning of the twelfth to the middle of the 
nineteenth century, when the administrative 
power was grasped by soldier nobles ; and sixthly, 
the present, or Meiji, epoch of constitutional 
monarchy. Among these six eras, the Nara and 
Heian were richest in religious influences ; the 
Meiji is poorest. 

It has been shown already that the supernatu- 
ral had a large place in the thoughts of the early 



Japanese, and that for important guidance they 
relied on divination, omens, ordeals, and portents 
of various kinds. With the introduction of 
Chinese civilisation they added to this catalogue 
the superstitions of Confucianism as well as those 
of Taoism, and when Buddhism arrived, its teach- 
ings accentuated the confusion between the mun- 
dane and the supernal. This phase of Japanese 
ethics merits a moment's attention. 

There is a tradition that the first professional 
fortune-teller in Japan learned his art in Korea. 
The truth appears to be that, about the third 
century of the Christian era, the method of divi- 
nation anciently practised in Japan by scorching 
the bones of a deer, was replaced by a tortoise- 
shell-burning process, imported from Korea, while, 
at the same time, the marks produced by the fire 
ceased to be arbitrarily interpreted by the diviner 
and were explained by the aid of elaborate dia- 
grams. In either case the soothsayer had to pref- 
ace his divination by several days of supplication 
to the particular deity within whose province the 
affair lay, and had to abstain for some period 
from eating or touching anything unclean in a 
religious sense. Direct revelations from heaven 
vouchsafed after long fasting and meditation in a 
temple or shrine, were also regarded with as 
much reverential faith by the Japanese as by the 
Jews of old or the early Christians. This method 
of obtaining transcendental guidance had been in 
vogue for centuries before the introduction of 



Buddhism, but its credit was greatly enhanced by 
the latter, for the Buddhist priests attributed all 
their important acts to heavenly inspiration. The 
most vital affairs of State were regulated by these 
revelations. Even the title of an usurper to dis- 
place the legitimate line of emperors was thus 
determined. Confucianism with its Book of 
Changes, to which the great philosopher had 
devoted profoundest study, gave a new impetus 
to divination. At the beginning of the eighth 
century — in other words, at the very time when 
radical reforms, legislative, administrative, fiscal, 
and social, were being introduced from China, 
an office called the Bureau of the Two Principles 
was organised in the Department of Home Affairs, 
and placed under the direction of six diviners 
who undertook to read the will of heaven by 
reference to the operations of the male and 
female principles of nature — the yo (yang) and 
the in (ying). Faith in this form of divination 
increased constantly. It replaced almost com- 
pletely the process of burning tortoise-shell, 
which ultimately was limited to religious services 
held in the Imperial Court or at the great Shinto 
shrine. The people, of course, resorted to simpler 
methods in the affairs of every day. Listening 
for the first words of a wayfarer at cross-roads 
or beyond the gate of a dwelling ; planting a 
post, approaching it with steps adapted to a for- 
mula and constructing an omen from the word 
coincident with the last step ; raising the first 



stone found on the wayside and calculating its 
weight ; finding signs in water, in the sounds of 
music, in the bubhles of the rice-caldron, — these 
and a dozen other trivial accidents helped men 
and women to shirk the exercise of robust judg- 
ment. The Buddhist doctrine of metempsy- 
chosis added largely to the mystery of things. 
People now learned that the spirits of the dead, 
which had always been accredited with divine 
influence, might be present in their midst in 
some unrecognisable form. The ancestor before 
whose cenotaph a man burned incense might be 
watching him from the eyes of the ox that had 
drawn him to the temple, and the baying of a 
dog at the fall of the moon might be a voice 
from the grave of an honoured relative. Mirac- 
ulous manifestations began to be generally cred- 
ited. A disentombed skull found voice to 
express gratitude for favours bestowed on it in 
life. The mouth of a man who insulted a reader 
of the sutras was suddenly twisted by paralysis. 
A local headman, levying heavy taxes from the 
people, was transformed into a beast of burden. 
A fisherman who threw his nets with merciless 
frequency, fell into a supernaturally kindled flame. 
A man who overloaded his horse was beaten to 
death by hailstones. A crab became the means 
of bringing riches to its liberator. Multitudes 
of such tales circulated throughout the country. 
Even an Emperor (Koken) was stricken with 
sickness for desecrating the foundations of a 



in the efficacy of prayer and incantation grew 
also. From the welfare of the humblest subject 
to the safety of the State, everything was sup- 
posed to be obtainable by worship, and the 
priests who chaunted litanies and performed re- 
ligious rites became objects of profound venera- 
tion. Every chamber in the Palace was open to 
them. So long as Shinto was the sole creed of 
the nation, men did not trouble themselves much 
about malevolent spirits. But with the advent 
of Buddhism, preaching its many hells peopled 
by cruel demons, people learned to attribute all 
the ills and mischances of life to the influence of 
dead enemies endowed with demoniacal attri- 
butes, or to supernatural power exercised by 
the living through the medium of incantations. 
The maleficent spirits were supposed to be al- 
ways on the watch for an opportunity to work 
evil, and it was therefore necessary that constant 
watch should be kept by the side of a sick per- 
son. Some protection was obtained by observing 
;,certain ceremonies and repeating certain formula, 
Imt <-he intervention of a priest seemed the only 
complef". safeguard, and thus the intoning of 
litanies and the rolling of rosaries came to be 
counted much more efficacious in cases of illness 
than the services of a physician. Scarcely any 
incident of every-day life failed to be interpreted 
as a portent, and men had to be constantly on 
the watch lest by neglecting some precaution 
they should cause a harmless sign to be perverted 



temple. It is observable that the ethical teach- 
ing of these miracles was good, however destruc- 
tive their effects on the moral fibre of the nation. 
They were of course accompanied by an under- 
growth of minor superstitions. A lover sleeping 
with his robe turned inside out, would certainly 
dream of the object of his affection. A man 
longed for by another or destined soon to enjoy 
a happy meeting, found the string of his under- 
garment loosen automatically. An itching eye- 
brow or a troublesome nose had its significance. 
A knot made on the twig of a tree remained 
tight or came untied according as a project was 
to succeed or fail. The house of a person who 
had set out on a journey must not be swept, nor 
must hair be combed there, for the space of three 
days. The traveller prayed at a cross-way or on 
a hill-top raising a periapt aloft in his hands. A 
voyage by sea was preceded by worship of the 
god of the wind. The grass of forgetfulness 
(wasiire-gusa, the Day lily) was carried as a means 
of burying sad thoughts in oblivion, and a stum- 
bling horse indicated homesickness on the part 
of his rider. All pure white animals o^ birds, 
a black fox, a forked lotus root or tree-branch, — 
these were held to be objects of the best omen. 
People procuring them and presenting them to 
the palace were liberally rewarded, and sometimes 
the imperial satisfaction took the form of a 
general amnesty or a change of the era's title. 
With the growth of these superstitions faith 



into an omen of evil. Naturally these disquiet- 
ing fantasies had the effect of rendering people 
nervous and timid. Even a soldier dreaded to 
walk alone in the darkness. The feat by which 
Michinaga, one of the greatest and most unscru- 
pulous of the Fujiwara nobles, laid the founda- 
tion of his fame, illustrates this craven mood. 
At a reunion of princes and nobles in the Palace 
of the Emperor Kwazan (985-987), some tales 
of ghostly appearances having been recounted, it 
was proposed that the listeners should exhibit 
their courage by proceeding, one at a time, to 
remote parts of the Palace. The three Fujiwara 
brothers volunteered to undertake the task, but 
only one of them, Michinaga, was able to 
achieve it, and his valour won universal eulogy. 
Sensual excesses, which were without limit in 
the Heian epoch, supplemented and strengthened 
this ever-present dread of the spirits of the dead 
and of evil, so that idiocy became common and 
the span of life in the upper classes was shortened 
to thirty or forty years. The Emperor Daigo 
(898-930) actually fell into a dangerous illness, 
owing to a belief that he was pursued by the 
vengeance of a loyal minister, Michizane, whose 
unjust punishment he had sanctioned, and as a 
protection against the same danger his baby son, 
the prince imperial, was confined day and night 
in one apartment and guarded by a chosen band 
of soldiers during the first three years after his 
birth. When the renowned Fujiwara chief, 



Tokihira, died, men said that he had been de- 
stroyed by the spirit of this same Michizane, 
whose disgrace and banishment he had con- 
trived/ and every misfortune that befell a con- 
spicuous family was ascribed to the angry ghost 
of some prince, nobleman, or soldier who had 
been done to death in the numerous political 
intrigues of the era. The Emperor Sanjo 
(1012-1015) believed that his calamity of partial 
blindness was caused by a vengeful spirit which, 
assuming the form of a winged dog, rode on 
his neck and flapped its pinions over his eyes. 
Above the palace of another sovereign a hideous 
creature, half monkey, half snake, hovered every 
night, throwing His Majesty into convulsions ; 
and it was counted a deed of magnificent valour 
that a Minamoto warrior shot an arrow into the 
cloud enshrouding the monster. 

The Buddhist priests would probably have 
striven earnestly to dispel this noxious atmosphere 
of superstition had it not contributed so much to 
the growth of their own importance. At the 
close of the eighth century and in the beginning 
of the ninth, the creed found two propagandists 
of the highest genius, Dengyo and K5b6 — 
otherwise called Saicho and Kokai, — the first 
preachers of sectarian Buddhism in Japan, 
Dengyo being the founder of the Teiidai sect and 
K6b5 of the Shingon. The doctrines of these 
two sects presented no violent contrasts. They 

^ Sec Appendix, note 41. 



may be described as exoteric and esoteric exegeses 
of the same scripture ; and in an era when reli- 
gious tolerance extended to the blending of Shinto 
and Buddhism, distinctions so obscure as those 
between the Tendai and the Shingon sects were not 
likely to reflect any doubts on the infallibility 
of the original doctrine. The two great ex- 
pounders contributed equally to the spread of 
Buddhism, and not only were they assisted dur- 
ing their life and after their death by zealots of 
scarcely inferior calibre, but their example of 
ecstatic devotion exercised an ennobling influence 
on the conduct of the priests in general. Long 
fasts, years of asceticism in mountain solitudes, 
and even self-inflicted tortures contributed, on 
the one hand, to win respect for the faith, and, 
on the other, to inculcate the importance of 
abstinence and self-denial. The chief temple of 
the Tendai sect (on Hiyei-zan) was erected on 
the northeast of Kyoto in order to be a barrier 
against the evil spirits supposed to issue con- 
stantly from the " Demons' Gate," which was 
situated in that quarter of the firmament, and the 
priests, apparently without any exception, spared 
no pains to promote a belief that their services 
were essential to avert calamity or insure suc- 
cess. All classes of the nation accepted that view. 
Religious ceremonies on a magnificent scale were 
constantly held at the Imperial Court, as many as 
a thousand priests sometimes officiating. How- 
ever straitened might be the finances of the State, 



funds were never spared for these purposes, or 
for the building of splendid temples. The Fuji- 
wara family behaved as though it considered that 
its fortunes depended solely on the intervention 
of the priests, and the example thus set by the 
greatest nobles in the land did not fail to pro- 
duce its effect on their inferiors. This delirious 
devotion- to Buddhism reached its acme at the 
close of the eleventh century, when, during a 
reign of only thirteen years, the Emperor Shi- 
rakawa caused 5,470 religious pictures to be 
painted, ordered the casting of one hundred and 
twenty-seven statues of Buddha, each sixteen feet 
high, of 3,150 life-size images and of 2,930 
smaller idols, and constructed twenty-one large 
temples and 446,630 religious edifices of various 
kinds. This same sovereign, in obedience to 
the Buddhist commandment against taking life, 
issued an edict prohibiting the slaughter of any 
living thing, ordering the release of all hawks, 
falcons, and other caged birds, forbidding the 
presentation of fish to the Palace, and requiring 
the destruction of all fishing nets, which last 
mandate was carried out in 8,800 cases. It be- 
came customary also to have services performed 
at temples on festive occasions. The enormous 
expense thus entailed may be inferred from the 
fact that, when a man reached the age of forty, 
he purchased a further span of life and happiness 
by causing masses to be said in forty temples; at 
fifty he enlisted the services of fifty temples ; and 



at sixty those of sixty. Recovery from serious 
illness being generally attributed to the mercy of 
Buddha, men began to receive the tonsure as an 
evidence of gratitude, and many did so from a 
mere altruistic conception, namely, that if a per- 
son entered the priesthood, the future salvation of 
nine families related to him would be secured. 

All these things refuse to be reconciled with 
the theory that the religious sentiment is deficient 
among the Japanese. They have proved them- 
selves as accessible to supernatural influences as 
any nation known to history. 

Undoubtedly Buddhism contributed immensely 
to the nation's moral and material progress. But 
its teachings had an unwholesome effect in the 
Heian epoch. The character of the Japanese 
underwent very marked modification during the 
first sixteen centuries of their history. At the 
time of their arrival as invaders they were hardy, 
fierce people, fond of fighting and ready to reduce 
to slavery every one that they overcame by force 
of arms. But by degrees the comparatively genial 
climate of their new home, its soft scenery, the 
introduction of Chinese civilisation with its end- 
less codes of ceremony and etiquette, and the spread 
of a literature which occupied itself chiefly with 
tender sentiments and scenic charms, produced 
enervating effects. The rude warriors were trans- 
formed, first into votaries of pleasure, then into 
hysterical profligates, and finally into blase pessi- 
mists. Buddhism greatly assisted the growth of 



this last mood. Partly from sincere belief, partly 
because the presence of a prince or noble in a 
cloister contributed materially to its wealth and 
reputation, the priests preached the doctrine of 
abandoning this sinful world and devoting life 
to heaven's service. Their exhortations prevailed 
even with emperors.^ When a great personage 
took the tonsure, he presented usually a sum of 
money and often a tract of land to the temple 
which received him, and the priests obtained sim- 
ilar acknowledgment for preserving and praying 
before the cenotaphs of the dead.^ The temples 
were not merely edifices for worship like Occi- 
dental churches. In the vicinity of the sacred 
structure where the image of Buddha was en- 
shrined, there stood extensive buildings forming 
the residences of the priests, and containing suites 
of chambers where illustrious parishioners found 
accommodation on ceremonial occasions. The 
greater the prosperity of the temple, the more 
numerous and magnificent these buildings, so that, 
in some cases, a monastery constituted a little town 
inhabited by thousands of monks. Living practi- 
cally beyond the pale of the civil authority, these 
communities of priests soon began to form mili- 
tary organisations, which were used at first for 
purposes of self-protection, but ultimately for all 
kinds of lawlessness and aggression. Formidable 
bands of halberdiers would issue from one monas- 
tery to attack another, or even to raid and burn 

^ See Appendix, note 42. - See Appendix, note 43. 



the houses of their lay enemies, and if the Govern- 
ment attempted to check them, or if they saw- 
reason to complain of any administrative interfer- 
ence, they would march in a body to the Imperial 
Palace or to the residence of the Prime Minister, 
and prefer a clamorous protest. On such occasions 
they were careful to carry with them a " sacred 
car," or a " divine tree," ^ for the presence of these 
emblems secured them effectually against armed 
opposition. If the authorities declined to grant 
them redress, they would roll their thousands of 
rosaries between the palms of their hands with 
frenzied vehemence, at the same time loudly 
invoking the curses of heaven and the pains of the 
nethermost hell on any one, however exalted his 
rank, who ventured to oppose the will of Buddha. 
Even the Emperor prostrated himself before this 
multitudinous imprecation and conceded every- 
thing demanded by the suppliants. It might be 
supposed that such acts would have discredited 
Buddhism in the eyes of the nation. But the 
priests never raised their hand against the people. 
Their feuds were with the usurping aristocrats, 
and especially with the military class ; for the 
latter, as the Heian epoch wore to its close, be- 
gan to grasp the administrative power and to 
exercise it in a manner subversive of much of the 
progress with which Buddhism had been closely 
associated from the time of its advent. 

In spite of the vogue acquired by Buddhism, 

^ See Appendix, note 44. 



and in spite of the fact that it had apparently 
absorbed Shinto, the latter retained its hold on the 
heart of the nation, and its ceremonials continued 
to be scrupulously observed in the Imperial Court. 
Buddhist priests were strictly excluded from the 
great rites of the indigenous creed. More extrav- 
agant than ever were the restrictions imposed by 
the canon of purity, which, with ancestor-worship, 
may be called the basis of Shhitb. Defilement, 
originally attributed only to uncleanliness or to 
the commission of sin, was extended in this age 
of superstition to many inevitable incidents of 
daily life — such as deaths, births,^ burials, in 
meynoriain ceremonies, the eating of flesh, the 
tasting of anything acid, the application of the 
moxa, contact with disease and so on. To have 
been contaminated in any of these ways disqual- 
ified a man for association with his friends and for 
the discharge of his official duties, during a period 
of varying duration. There was an elaborate chain 
of vicarious defilement. If, A being defiled, B 
happened to sit where A had sat, then B and all 
his family incurred defilement ; and if, thereafter, 
C went into B' s residence, then C too became 
defiled, but not the members of his family. If, 
however, the process were reversed by B going 
into C'j- house, then the taint fell upon the whole 
of C'j- family. At C the chain ended: jD might 
enter C'j- house with impunity.^ In the observance 
of these rules most unnatural violence was done 

' See Appendix, note 45. ^ See Appendix, note 46. 



to the instinct of charity. Servants attacked by 
serious maladies were sometimes shut into a se- 
cluded building and left to die without succour, 
or were '^.ven carried to an unfrequented place and 
abandoned to their fate. A man having driven 
his sick brother from his house, the patient, fail- 
ing to obtain admittance to the residence of any 
friend, was ultimately transported to the crema- 
tion ground, where he lay till death came ; and 
an apparently credible record tells how the corpse 
of a mendicant friar lay unburied for a month in 
the belfry of a temple, neither priests nor parish- 
ioners venturing to incur defilement by removing 
the body. Such indifference to the prompting 
of mercy is strange to Japanese character. It 
was an artificial mood bred of the superstitious 
vapours that obscured men's moral vision in that 
singular age. 

The effeminacy of the Court nobles was as great 
as their superstition, and their eccentricities sug- 
gest that sensual indulgence had reduced them 
to a state of imbecility. Tadahira, the younger 
brother of Tokihira, the great Fujiwara chief, 
painted a cuckoo on his fan, and imitated the 
cry of the bird whenever he opened the fan. At 
the time when he distinguished himself by these 
callow antics he held high military rank. An- 
other of the Fujiwara nobles (Yasutada) made a 
habit of carrying hot rice-dumplings in the bosom 
of his garment, for the sake of their warmth, and 
throwing them away when they cooled, for the 



sake of displaying his opulence. To play the 
samisen ^ was the accomplishment of a legislator ; 
to turn a couplet the proof of a statesman's ca- 
pacity. It is impossible to recognise the Japanese 
of later eras in some of the hysterical creatures 
with whom history peoples the Heian Court. 
The stoical samurai, whose first rule of conduct 
was imperturbability whatever gusts of passion 
assailed him, had no representative among these 
voluptuaries of the capital : they were as emo- 
tional as the weakest of women. The disap- 
pointment of not meeting his lover, or of brief 
separation from her, produced an access of weep- 
ing that drove a man to his couch, and no one 
thought shame of shedding floods of idle tears 
in the presence of verdant spring and solemn 
autumn, or of sobbing in unison with the cricket's 
chirp and the stag's cry. At no time in the na- 
tion's story did wifely fidelity fall so low in public 
esteem. Widows took a second or a third husband 
without compunction. Divorced women did not 
forfeit their eligibility for new ties. Wives had 
often two or three " protectors." Husbands made 
a boast of the number of mistresses they supported. 
A wife was put away or a mistress deserted in the 
ordinary routine of daily doings. An extraordinary 
and scarcely comprehensible mania for poetical 
composition contributed to this immorality. It 
would have been almost a sacrilege to limit the 
success of a gracefully turned couplet. Men and 

' Sec Appendix, note 47. 



women surrendered themselves to the poetical de- 
lirium, so that a dainty thought deftly expressed 
came to be counted a sufficient price for a lady's 
virtue. Imperial concubines received the ad- 
dresses of court officials. To rob a man of his 
wife did not shock society. Brothers and cousins 
suffered such thefts at each other's hands. Fuji- 
wara no Tokihira, regent and prime minister, pur- 
chased his uncle's wife. Mothers received the 
embraces of their step-sons. Such vices among 
the patrician classes found a rude reflection in 
the conduct of the plebeians. Women were 
expected, or compelled, to be facile under all 
circumstances, and in the general extermination 
of shame Buddhist priests took their part by 
openly violating their vows of celibacy or 
abandoning the cowl for the sake of pursuing 
an illicit intrigue. 

This immorality was not accompanied by 
immodesty. On the contrary, social punctilio 
exacted the closest observance. A love affair 
might be notorious, but it must never be scan- 
dalous or obtrusive. Even the preliminaries of 
marriage consisted often in an interchange of 
letters and poems rather than in meetings or 
conversations. A man estimated the conjugal 
qualities of a young lady by her skill in finding 
scholarly similes and her perception of the cadence 
of words. If, indeed, a woman was so fortunate 
as to acquire a reputation for learning, she pos- 
sessed a certificate of universal virtue and amia- 



bility. Therefore polite society tabooed every 
form of wooing more demonstrative than the use 
of pen and paper. Nothing could exceed the de- 
corum of the aristocratic lady. She hid her de- 
pravity behind a mask of demureness. To allow 
her face to be seen in public or her voice to be heard 
by a stranger was a shocking solecism. If she 
had not a carriage to ride abroad, she covered her 
face with a hood. She never addressed a man of 
the lower orders except through a servant, and 
even then did not permit him to ascend to the 
level where she sat. With one of a better, though 
still inferior, grade she conversed directly, divided 
from him, however, by a paper sliding-door; and 
the next step of condescension was to talk from 
behind a screen, hiding her face with a fan. Even 
her own step-brother must not be met face to 

The pastimes of the upper classes reached their 
highest point of elaboration in this era. At the 
head of all stood the game of competitive-couplet 
making {uta-awase). The manner of this pursuit, 
as practised in the Nara epoch, has already been 
briefly described. New importance was given to 
it by the Empress K5ko, at the close of the ninth 
century. In her Palace of Horikawa she organ- 
ised poem parties on an unprecedented scale. 
The proprieties were strictly observed. On one 
side of the room the ladies were marshalled, on 
the other the men, and a genuine contest of lit- 
erary skill ensued, every guest being required to 



compose a stanza on a given subject. Sometimes 
Chinese poetic models were followed ; sometimes 
Japanese ; sometimes both. But it is not to be 
understood that the rhyming terminals of Chinese 
verse formed at any time a visible feature of 
Japanese poetical composition. Here, indeed, is 
exposed one of the most irrational conceits that 
the literature of any country furnishes. Many of 
the Japanese poetasters of the Heian era took 
infinite pains to compose couplets which, they 
supposed, would satisfy the rhyming requirements 
of Chinese verse if the Chinese sounds of the 
ideographs were accurately given and Chinese 
syntactical order duly preserved. But the true 
Chinese pronunciation of an ideograph was never 
known in Japan, and the Chinese order of words 
had to be changed to make a sentence intelligible 
to Japanese ears. Hence a verselet laboriously 
constructed according to the Chinese laws, lost 
its rhyming terminals altogether when the ideo- 
graphs received their true pronunciation, and, in 
fact, retained nothing of its original character 
except the sense. To expect that an English 
verbatim translation of the Bucolics of Virgil 
must fall naturally into hexameters and pentam- 
eters, were not more reasonable than to antici- 
pate that a Japanese rendering of a Chinese 
couplet should preserve the rhyme and metre of 
the Chinese original. It was characteristic of 
the silly artificialism of the time that men's ener- 
gies should be absorbed in the manufacture of 



such deformities. The genuine Japanese style 
of couplet was chiefly in vogue, however, though 
always with increasing loss of the old vigour of 
thought, and increasing reliance on tricks of dic- 
tion and trivialities of conception. Several of 
these poem-composing parties became historical 
events, not merely for the sake of the couplets 
produced, but also because of the magnificence 
and tastefulness of the entertainments. Often a 
feature of the arrangements was a display of choice 
flowering plants which served to inspire the poet- 
asters and to reward the most successful. Loose 
as were the morals of the time, the language of 
these verses was seldom indelicate. But in the 
closing days of the Heian epoch, when luxury 
and self-indulgence reached their extreme point, 
a new pastime was introduced, — the competi- 
tive composition of love-letters. In these all 
phases of carnal affection were depicted or sug- 
gested by the aid of refined and scholarly 
phraseology.^ Nevertheless, in everything that 
concerned outward appearance, the conventions 
of decorum were observed with the utmost strict- 
ness in all Japanese polite pastimes at what- 
ever era. The costumes and customs of an 
Occidental ball-room in the nineteenth century 
would have seemed altogether shocking to 
mediaeval Japanese. 

Gathering plants of the sweet-flag in June and 
comparing the length of their roots ; writing verses 

^ See Appendix, note 48. 



or dawing pictures on fans supplied by the host ; 
composing poetic conundrums; fitting together the 
valves of shells on the inside of which poems were 
inscribed and decorative designs painted ; burning 
incense, an amusement so elaborate as to amount 
to a science, its paraphernalia of the most costly 
and beautiful description ; playing chess or go ; 
reconstructing celebrated stanzas from one or 
two clue words ; writing lists of ideographs with 
a common part ; ^ fan lotteries ; foot-ball and 
hawking, — these were the chief amusements of 
the aristocrats in the Heian epoch. Betting was 
added to give zest to the games. But the stakes 
did not take the form of money : a work of art, 
a roll of brocade, a house, a feast, a horse, and so 
on were objects that a gentleman might play for, 
though gold or silver as media of exchange must 
not enter his thoughts. Japanese foot-ball — de- 
rived originally from China — bore no resemblance 
to the rough-and-tumble contests of the Occident. 
It was simply the art of kicking a ball high and 
keeping it continuously off the ground. A certain 
Narimichi, whose official position corresponded 
to that of a Minister of State, gained undying fame 
by his skill in this amusement. After devoting a 
considerable part of seven thousand consecutive 
days to the practice of the art, rising even from 
his sick-bed for the purpose, he attained such 
lightness and deftness of foot that, while kicking 
the ball, he traversed the shoulders of a row of 

* See Appendix, note 49. 

13 193 


servitors, including a tonsured priest, and the men 
thus trodden on declared that they had felt nothing 
more than a hawk hopping along their backs, 
the priest saying that for his part it had seemed 
simply as though some one had put a hat on 
his bald pate. That is the historical record! 
The patience that supported this statesman 
through nineteen years of perpetual foot-ball 
practice, and the terms used by the annalists to 
describe his achievements, are equally suggestive 
of the mood of the era. 

Love for flowers, which amounts almost to a pas- 
sion in Japan, had declared itself long before the 
time now under review, but, like everything else, 
it assumed an extravagant character in that epoch. 
Large trees were completely covered with artificial 
blossoms of the plum or the cherry to recall the 
spring, ancient pines overhanging miniature lakes 
were festooned with wistaria blooms in autumn, 
snow was piled in vast heaps so as to preserve 
some traces of it under sunny skies. To be un- 
natural, abnormal, unreasonable, was to possess a 
special charm. One of the manias of the time 
was to keep pet dogs and cats. The annals speak 
of the " delightful voice and winning ways " of 
the cat, and tell how not only were cats and dogs 
called by human beings' names, but official titles 
also were bestowed on them, and religious ser- 
vices were performed when they died. A pet cat 
in the Palace bore kittens in the year 999, where- 
upon the Emperor and the Ministers of State sent 



presents appropriate to occasions of childbirth, 
and a Court lady was appointed to nurse the kit- 
tens. This incident provoked ridicule among 
the public, but did not seem inconsistent with 
the ways of the Court. 


Chapter VII 

THE HEIAN EPOCH {Continued) 

{End of the Eighth to the Middle of the Twelfth Century) 

IT was in this epoch that Japanese civilisa- 
tion assumed many of the external features 
so much and so justly admired by foreigners 
in modern times. The nation's profound 
appreciation of natural beauties asserted itself in 
the embellishment of the new capital, though 
the prim mathematical regularity of the city's 
Chinese plan might well have deterred any exer- 
cise of Japanese taste, which abhors stiffness and 
formality. Along the sides of the streets willows 
and cherries were planted. Limpid streams 
flowed from green hills that held the city in 
their embrace. Every mansion had its park, 
and in every park the four seasons found well- 
devised opportunities for the display of their 
special charms. From temples whose colossal 
roofs looked down upon the dwellings of their 
parishioners, the sweet and sonorous voices of 
mighty bells tolled the hours, and the sound of 
chaunted litanies summoned people to bow be- 
fore altars resplendent with gold and silver. 
Each month brought an opportunity for the city 



to make holiday. Sometimes people flocked to 
watch the spring sun rise above the cherry- 
blossoms at Sagano ; sometimes they went to see 
autumn moonlight bathe the maples by the 
Oi-gawa. Sometimes they lavished great sums 
on brilliant festivals in honour of the numerous 
deities, whose places of worship had now become 
comparatively magnificent in architectural pro- 
portions and interior decoration. Many of the 
graces that distinguished all phases of Japanese 
mediaeval life and all branches of Japanese 
medieval art were still wanting, or only present 
in embryo, the models and fashions imported 
wholesale from China not having yet been 
purged of their formal conventionalism. But 
the nation had turned its back finally on every- 
thing rude and archaic, and taken a long stride 
toward the heights of refinement it ultimately 

Architectural designs were obtained in the 
main from China. During the Nara epoch 
the construction of temples had chiefly occupied 
attention, but in the Heian era the palaces of 
the sovereign and the mansions of ministers and 
nobles were built on a scale of unprecedented 
grandeur. It is true that all the structures of 
the time had the defect of a box-like appear- 
ance. Massive, towering roofs, which impart 
an air of stateliness even to a wooden building 
and yet, by their graceful curves, avoid any sug- 
gestion of ponderosity, were still confined to 



Buddhist edifices. The architect of private 
dwellings attached more importance to satin- 
surfaced boards and careful joinery than to any 
appearance of strength or solidity. Spaciousness 
and elegance, however, were not altogether want- 
ing. The main gate of the Palace was flanked 
on either side by guard-houses having a forest of 
pagoda-like minarets, which served as watch- 
towers, and there stood on its east and west, in- 
side, two buildings, where officials assembled 
before proceeding to the place of audience, 
which consisted of twelve halls, symmetrically 
disposed and each having its own status. Be- 
yond these there was the " hall of pleasure and 
plenty," where social entertainments were held ; 
the '* hall of the word of truth " for rites of wor- 
ship ; the " hall of military virtue " for soldierly 
exercises ; the " hall of central tranquillisation " 
for venerating the spirits of the imperial ances- 
tors ; and, finally, the residence of the sovereign, 
comprising sixteen halls and five galleries.^ At 
the entrance to the principal of these sixteen 
halls — the Shishinden or *' purple hall of the 
north star " — there were planted a cherry-tree 
and an orange-tree, the " guardian cherry of the 
left" and the "guardian orange of the right." 
The floor of all these edifices was raised some six 
feet above the ground, and was reached by flights 
of wooden steps placed at frequent intervals. 
The general plan excepted, there was little to 

* Sec Appendix, note 50. 



distinguish the Imperial Palace from the man- 
sion of a great nobleman or minister of State. 
The latter consisted of a principal hall, where 
the master of the house lived, ate, and slept — 
there being no practically recognised distinctions 
of dining-room, sitting-room and bedroom, — 
and of three suites of chambers, disposed on the 
north, the east, and the west of the principal hall. 
In the northern suite the lady of the house 
dwelt,^ the eastern and western suites being al- 
lotted to the other members of the family. It 
was essential that no room should face the north, 
lest supernal influences of malign tendency should 
pervade the household. Corridors joined the 
principal hall to the subordinate edifices, for as 
yet the idea had not been conceived of having 
more than one chamber under the same roof. 

In front of this row of linked buildings a garden 
was laid out. Much care and sometimes large 
sums of money were lavished on its construction. 
But the general plan was almost uniform. Little 
of the great variety of landscape, breadth of 
design, and subtlety of arrangement that ulti- 
mately distinguished Japanese parks could be 
seen in the gardens of the Heian epoch. Any 
one who has made a study of Chinese paintings 
must have recognised that they fall into one of 
two broad categories, literary pictures and artistic 
pictures. The former are to the latter what 
the stiff formality of the square ideograph is to 

^ See Appendix, note 51. 



the graceful softness of the cursive script. In the 
literary picture, the rocks assume fantastic shapes ; 
the cliffs marshal themselves in strange, unnatural 
phalanxes ; the trees, gnarled and distorted, grow 
in perplexing places, and the whole scene suggests 
rigid irregularity and conventional quaintness. 
Something of that was visible in the gardens of 
the Heian time. The general design had only 
one orthodox type. A lake, not ungracefully 
shaped, occupied the centre, surrounding an arti- 
ficial island to which wooden bridges gave access. 
Trees of various kinds, notably pines, trained with 
infinite patience into strange curves of stem and 
wayward disposition of branch, overhung the lake, 
presenting strong contrasts of foliage. A water- 
fall, or the semblance of one if the reality could 
not be achieved, fed the lake from the south, and 
on its eastern and western shores, respectively, 
stood an " angling grotto " and a ** hermitage of 
spring waters," whither the family and their 
friends repaired on summer evenings, gaining ac- 
cess to these buildings by corridors which formed 
the boundaries of the garden and were recessed 
at intervals by waiting-rooms for domestics and 
guards. In the most orthodox park a limpid 
stream flowed, with ribbon-like windings, from 
the row of buildings to the eastern and western 
sides of the lake, and was spanned here and there 
by bridges of varied form. Round the margin 
of the lake and at the feet of the ** angling grotto " 
lay rocks of many liues, beaten into fantastic 



shapes by centuries of collision with rushing 
waters. The arrangement of these rocks did not 
yet suggest the complete concealment of art which 
was attained in later ages. Although the great 
painter, Kose no Kanaoka (850—890), whose per- 
ception of the glories of decorative art was almost 
a revelation, devoted his genius to the planning 
of parks and rockeries, his designs did not break 
away altogether from the hard stiff style of the 
Chinese horticulturists, nor give much promise 
of the delightfully natural originality that dis- 
tinguished the work of his successors in subse- 
quent eras. Nevertheless he certainly showed his 
countrymen that the Chinese " garden of the 
sacred fountain " (shinsen-yeri)^ which they had 
hitherto regarded as an inviolable model, might 
be replaced by other conceptions, and within the 
two centuries immediately following his death, 
Kyoto was enriched with a number of detached 
palaces and noblemen's villas sufficiently grand 
and beautiful to be recorded in the pages of his- 
tory. Of these the most famous was the " tiled 
hall " [Kawara-hi) of the Minamoto chief, Toru ; 
so famous, indeed, that its owner received the 
pseudonym of the " tyled first-minister" (Kawara- 
no-Sadaijin). This villa has a special interest be- 
cause its park showed the first definite attempt to 
reproduce in miniature one of the country's most 
celebrated scenic gems, the *' salt-shore " (shio- 
ha?na) of the province of Mutsu. Fidelity of imi- 
tation was carried to the extent of boiling down 



eight hundred gallons of sea-water daily, and put- 
ting the salt into the park lake so that the traces 
of its water might be realistically briny. Kyoto 
had no less than ten " detached palaces " by the 
beginning of the twelfth century, and on days of 
festival their western gates were thrown open for 
the admission of all visitors without distinction 
of rank. But it did not occur to any annalist or 
writer of the era to pen detailed descriptions of 
these buildings or their surroundings. All that 
can be certainly affirmed is that nature in her 
normal aspects began at this time to be taken as 
the best guide by planners of parks and gardens. 

The area occupied by the buildings and the 
park was enclosed, in the case of a princely or 
noble mansion, by a high earthen wall having a 
fosse at its foot ; but people of inferior rank had 
to be content with a wooden fence. Social status 
influenced the form of the principal entrance-gate 
also. The "four-footed gate," that is to say, a 
two-leaved gate having a roof supported by four 
pillars, was the most aristocratit ; a " two-footed " 
gate, still with two leaves, came next in order of 
respectability, and a postern was the humblest 
of all. 

The interior arrangement and furniture of an 
aristocrat's mansion showed much refinement in 
this era, though the architect suffered himself to 
be trammelled by rules which he afterwards vio- 
lated with advantage. The principal hall — dis- 
tinguished externally from the minor edifices by 



having a four-faced roof without gables, whereas 
they had roofs of only two faces with gables at 
the ends — was usually of the same dimensions, 
42 feet square. Its centre was occupied by a 
"parent chamber," 30 feet square, around which 
ran an ambulatory {Jiisashi) and a veranda [yen- 
gawaV each 6 feet wide. The " mother cham- 
ber " and the ambulatory were ceiled, sometimes 
with interlacing strips of bark or broad laths, so 
as to produce a plaited effect ; sometimes with 
plain boards. The veranda had no ceiling. 
Sliding doors, a characteristic feature of modern 
Japanese houses, had not yet come into use, and 
no means were provided for closing the veranda, 
so that, at night, the space included in the 
" mother chamber " and the ambulatory was 
alone habitable. The ambulatory, however, was 
surrounded by a wall of latticed timber or plain 
boards, the lower half of which could be removed 
altogether, whereas the upper half, being sus- 
pended from hinges, could be swung upward and 
outward. It was thus possible to regulate the 
amount of light and air admitted. Privacy was 
obtainable by hanging blinds of split bamboo in 
the place of the latticed wall, and communica- 
tion from the ambulatory to the veranda was by 
doors, three on each side of the room, opening 
outward. As for the " mother chamber," it was 
separated from the ambulatory by similar bamboo 
blinds, with silk cords for raising or lowering 
them, or by curtains. Round the outer edge of 



the veranda ran a railing, broken at three places 
to give access to wooden steps by which the 
garden was reached, and the main entrance had 
a porch to shelter palanquins and ox-carriages. 

Such was the general scheme of all aristocratic 
dwellings. It was derived in great part from the 
plan of Buddhist temples. The idea of dividing 
the interior space into several rooms had not yet 
been conceived. Neither was the floor covered 
with thick rectangular mats of uniform size, fit- 
ting together so exactly as to form a perfectly 
level surface. That extensive use of tatami^ as 
this essentially Japanese kind of mat is called, 
came into fashion at a later period. In the 
Heian epoch floors were boarded, mats being 
sometimes laid in a limited part of the room 
only, and always in the space which served for 
a bed. The aristocratic sleeping-place of the 
time was a species of movable matted dais. Its 
sides were lacquered, and posts rose from each 
corner to support a canopy and curtains of silk 
and fine gauze, — a mosquito net in fact. This 
drapery was held in place round the base of the 
dais by means of weights in the form of Dogs of 
Fo, chiselled in bronze or silver, and the mats 
had broad borders of brocade for patrician dwell- 
ings and of coarse cotton cloth for humbler folks. 
Toward the close of the epoch it became cus- 
tomary to cover the floors entirely with mats,^ 
especially in rooms reserved for the habitation of 

' Sec Appendix, note 52. 



women, and the lattice-work panels and hinged 
doors surrounding the " parent chamber " were 
replaced by sliding doors which, being mere 
skeletons of interlacing ribs covered with thin 
white silk,^ acted like windows for admitting 
light. Then, also, the partitioning of wide in- 
terior spaces into several rooms began to be prac- 
tised, and the partitioning was effected by means 
of sliding doors similar to those mentioned above, 
or covered with thicker paper which now be- 
gan to offer a field for the brush of decorative 
artists. As years passed and as the scale of living 
grew more and more luxurious in Kyoto, the 
dimensions of great noblemen's mansions became 
extravagant, and at the beginning of the eleventh 
century an imperial edict limited the size of a 
house to two hundred and forty yards square, at 
the same time imposing other restrictions as to 
the materials of roofs and walls. These vetoes 
proved quite ineffective. 

House-furniture was then, and always remained, 
a comparatively insignificant affair. The Japan- 
ese never had to trouble themselves much about 
such things as curtains, carpets, chairs, sofas, or 
tables. When an aristocrat wanted to read, for 
example, a small cushion was placed on the 
floor for his seat, having on the left an arm-rest, 
in front a lectern, on the right a bookcase. All 
these objects were made of rich lacquer. A 
screen also stood close at hand ; not the six-leaved 

^ See Appendix, note 53. 



folding screen of later times, but a silk curtain 
depending from a horizontal bar, which was sup- 
ported by a slender pillar fixed in a heavy socket. 
A metal mirror mounted on an elaborate tripod- 
stand, a clothes-horse, usually of gold lacquer, 
and a species of low two-shelved table on which 
stood a censer and a box of incense-implements, 
completed the furniture of the apartment in 
warm weather, but in winter there was added a 
box for burning charcoal — metal braziers not 
having yet come into fashion. For lighting 
purposes the commonest device was a rush-wick 
laid in a shallow vessel of oil from which the 
end of the wick projected. This vessel was 
either supported on a bamboo tripod, or fixed to 
an upright rod moving in a vertical socket, so 
that the height of the light could be regulated 
at will. The annals speak of " combustible 
earth " and " combustible water," in other words, 
coal and oil, as having been presented to the 
Court in the middle of the seventh century by 
the inhabitants of a part of Japan correspond- 
ing to the present province of Echigo,^ but it 
does not appear that coal was ever employed 
in ancient times. Tallow candles seem to have 
been in use from the ninth century. They 
were set on a pricket stand. In short, the 
Japanese of the Heian epoch were as well sup- 
plied with lighting apparatus as any of their 
successors until modern times. 

* Sec Appendix, note $4. 



For riding abroad ox-carriages and palanquins 
were used. The palanquin, essentially a Chinese 
institution, was originally reserved for the sover- 
eign, the Empress, and the chief ritualist, — an 
imperial prince, — but that rule ultimately lost 
its exclusive force. In general form the palan- 
quin bore a strong resemblance to the sedan-chair 
of the eighteenth century in England. The 
shafts, however, were of great length, and a long 
curtain of thin silk completely draped the body, 
concealing the inmate from public gaze. Some- 
times richest gold lacquer covered the wood- 
work of this vehicle ; sometimes the body, shafts, 
and roof were of glossy black, contrasting finely 
with the snow-white curtain and the gilded 
mountings. A very much more elaborate and 
brilliant equipage was the ox-carriage. Its portly 
wheels and strong shafts were generally black, 
but the body glowed with richly tinted lacquer, 
and was set off by ornaments of silver elaborately 
chased and chiselled. Delicate bamboo blinds, 
coloured green and having bands of red brocade 
and tassels of silk, hung at the four sides, and the 
ox, generally a jet-black beast of fine proportions, 
was handsomely caparisoned with red harness. 
One of these carriages, moving along at a stately 
pace and escorted by a strong body of officers in 
flowing robes of silk and brocade and men at 
arms with picturesque costumes and glittering 
accoutrements, presented a spectacle in harmony 
with the luxurious extravagance of the time. 



" Carriage folk " stood on a special social pedestal 
then just as they do now. Everybody kept a 
carriage if he could possibly afford the luxury, 
and everybody that could not afford it tried to 
borrow one for public occasions. Now and then 
economical sovereigns made efforts to check the 
spendthrift tendency of the aristocrats in these 
matters, but no permanent success was achieved. 

There was an elaborate code of procedure for 
the guidance of equipages meeting en route. 
Whether to dismount from horseback, whether 
to stop one's carriage, whether to get out of it 
and stand on the road ; whether even to unyoke 
the ox whether to limit the etiquette to an 
attendant's obeisance, — all these and other points 
were regulated by accurate canons. 

As to costume, comparing the Heian epoch 
with the Nara, there is found in the former a 
marked tendency to increased elaboration and 
fuller dimensions. The head-dress, in the case 
of princes and principal military officials, became 
again an imposing structure glittering with jewels ; 
the sleeves grew so large that they hung to the 
knees when a man's arms were crossed, and the 
trousers also were made full and baggy, so that 
they resembled a divided skirt. Unprecedented 
importance attached to the patterns of the rich 
silks and brocades used for garments. The sover- 
eign's robe of State was necessarily ornamented 
with a design of nine objects, — the sun, the 
moon, the stars, a mountain, a dragon, etc., — 



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but no restrictions applied in the case of subjects. 
The designer was free to conventionalise his mo- 
tives or to follow nature closely, and the embroid- 
erer's needle came to the assistance of the weaver's 
shuttle. From this era may be said to have com- 
menced the manufacture of the tasteful and gor- 
geous textile fabrics for which Japan afterwards 
became famous. The decorative design on a 
garment did not serve as a badge of rank. Colour 
indicated social status. The sovereign wore a 
yellow robe in the Palace and a red one when he 
went abroad. Deep purple and crimson followed 
these colours in order of dignity. A fop's ideal 
was to wear several suits, one above the other, 
disposing them so that their various colours 
showed in harmoniously contrasting lines at the 
folds on the bosom and at the edges of the long 
sleeves. A successful costume created a sensation 
in Court circles. Its wearer became the hero 
of the hour, and under the pernicious influence 
of such ambition men began even to powder their 
faces and rouge their cheeks like women. 

The costume of women reached the acme of 
unpracticality and extravagance in this epoch. 
Long flowing hair was essential. Unless her 
tresses trailed on the ground when she sat down, 
a lady's toilet was counted contemptible, and if 
her locks swept two feet below her heels as she 
walked, her style was perfect. Then, what with 
developing the volume and multiplying the num- 
ber of her robes, and wearing above her trousers 
H 209 


a many-plyed train which followed her like a 
gigantic enlargement of the fan that never for a 
moment left her hand, she always seemed to be 
struggling to emerge from a cataract of habili- 
ments that threatened at any moment to over- 
whelm her. The records say, and the paintings of 
contemporary artists show, that twenty garments, 
one above the other, went to the costume of a 
fine lady a la mode of the tenth and eleventh cen- 
turies. Of course the object of this extravagance 
was not to produce an appearance of bulk. On 
the contrary, the aim of a well-dressed woman 
was to have her robes cut so deftly and to don 
them so skilfully that they conveyed the impres- 
sion, not of a mass of stuffs, but of a play of har- 
monious colours. There was nothing garish or 
rainbow-like in the combination. The ground 
colour — that is to say, the colour of the outer gar- 
ment — seemed at first to be all-pervading ; but 
closer inspection showed that where these multi- 
tudinous robes lay folded across the bosom and 
where their pendent sleeves telescoped into one 
another, each ply receded by a fraction of an inch 
from the ply below it, so that the whole pro- 
duced the effect of a slightly oblique section 
made across numerous superimposed layers of 
differently tinted silks. Much attention was di- 
rected also to the art of transmitted colour. By 
using material thin enough to give passage to a 
breath of the underlying garment's hue, and by 
carefully studying, not the science of colours, but 



their practical values in combination and in con- 
trast, the aristocratic lady of the Heian epoch 
dressed herself so that she seemed to move in an 
atmosphere of delightful tints, tender and rich 
but never crude or obtrusive. Fashion, being 
governed by the instincts of art rather than the 
suggestions of fancy, was not capricious. There 
were few changes of shape or style. All that 
was necessary was to have robes of appropriate 
colour for each season — robes resembling the 
bloom of the plum and the cherry in spring ; 
that of the azalea and the scrabra in summer ; 
that of the bush-clover, the yellow or white 
chrysanthemum, the dying maple leaf and the 
flower of the 07mnameshi [Patrinia scabiose folia) 
in autumn, and that of the pine spray and the 
withered leaf in winter. There were colours 
that might be worn at all times of the year, but 
the four seasons had their distinctive tints. In a 
contemporary record of a fete at the Palace of 
the Emperor Shirakawara in the year 1 1 1 7, it is 
stated that forty ladies made their appearance 
costumed in the most novel and beautiful styles. 
Some wore as many as twenty-five suits, showing 
glimpses of purple, of crimson, of grass-green, of 
wild-rose yellow and of sapan-wood brown, their 
sleeves and skirts decorated with golden designs. 
Others, by subtle commingling of willow sprays 
and cherry blossoms and by embroidered patterns 
picked out with gems, represented the poem of 
the jewels and the flowers. Others had costumes 



to recall that "water is nature's mirror ; " or that 
" the sun of spring disperses doubt and care," or 
that ** love lurks in summer's hazes." 

But if the ladies of the Heian epoch took 
nature's guidance in choosing colours and deco- 
rative patterns for their costumes, they relied 
solely on art in making up their faces. The 
eyebrows were either plucked out by the roots 
or shaved off, and in their stead two black spots 
were painted on the forehead ; the teeth were 
stained until they shone like ebony ; the face and 
neck were covered with white powder, and the 
cheeks were rouged.' 

The rule still held that ladies must never show 
their faces in public. Those that had no car- 
riages for riding abroad enveloped their heads in 
a species of silk hood. This hood helped them 
to manage their long hair also. The back hair 
was disposed under the hood, and the ends were 
pushed into the girdle. Generally when a lady 
went abroad on foot, she wore a wide-rimmed 
picturesque hat, and an umbrella was held over 
her head by an attendant. 

It is to be noted that men showed greater 
extravagance than women in the matter of cos- 
tume and ornaments. The romantic Emperor 
Kwazan carried a mirror on his hat, and in the 
reign (987-101 i) of his successor, one of the 
Fujiwara magnates had crystal notches for his 
arrows. Bows, arrows, and swords became mere 

^ See Appendix, note 55. 


ornaments. The sheath of the sword, the quiver, 
and even the bow were magnificently lacquered 
and sometimes studded with gems. Gold lacquer 
was used even for ornamenting the sleeves. No 
self-respecting aristocrat failed to have a looking- 
glass on his person or to apply perfume to his 
clothes. A dignified bearing was sought by 
severity of line, and in the beginning of the 
twelfth century this foible had been carried so 
far that a well-dressed man looked as if his gar- 
ments had been cut out of boards, and his move- 
ments were carefully studied to enhance that 
effect. He expended as much thought on his 
head-gear as a modern lady of the West does 
upon her hat, for though the orthodox shapes of 
head-covering did not present much variety, there 
were many little points upon which care and 
taste might be exercised. Colours, as has been 
already shown, served to distinguish ranks under 
the system inaugurated in the seventh century, 
but that rule having lost much of its force in 
the Heian epoch, families commenced to design 
badges for purposes of distinction. A long skirt 
also began to be used in this era as a mark of 
social status, but the innovation did not receive 
extravagant development until the succeeding 

The viands of the time and the method of 
cooking and serving them, though not so varied 
and elaborate as those of modern days, neverthe- 
less indicated a high state of refinement. It is 



not possible, of course, to speak with much detail 
of this subject, but, reducing the matter to arith- 
metic, it appears that rice was prepared in ten 
different ways ; that there were nineteen staples 
of fish diet and twenty-two ways of cooking 
them ; that there were three relishes ; nine edible 
sea-weeds; twenty-four kinds of vegetable ; seven- 
teen varieties of fruit ; eleven kinds of cake ; six 
kinds of fiesh of animals and birds, and three 
kinds of beverages.-^ Religious superstition inter- 
fered with diet as with everything else. The 
flesh of deer, boar, and cattle ceased to be eaten, 
but as the sport of flying hawks at wild duck and 
pheasants survived even the veto of Buddhism, 
the flesh of those birds as well as of barn-door 
fowl appeared constantly on the tables of the 
upper classes. Milk, however, and a species of 
cheese or butter obtained from it, went entirely 
out of vogue. Many combinations of edibles 
were tabooed from superstitious motives. For 
example, sesamum must not be eaten with onion ; 
vinegar with clams ; parsley with the flesh of the 
wild boar ; ginger with plums and so on. Nearly 
every month, too, had its list of forbidden foods. 
A strange custom had its origin in the impor- 
tance attached to cleanliness in the art of cooking. 
Before dinner was served, the cook, dressed in 
ceremonial robes, came into the guest-chamber, 
made his obeisance, placed a cooking-board on 
the ground, and holding a knife in his right hand 

* Sec Appendix, note 56. 



and a pair of long chopsticks in his left, pro- 
ceeded to kill a lish and prepare it for the fire, 
never allowing anything to touch it except the 
knife and the sticks. Seen for the first time, the 
spectacle was frank enough to be disgusting ; but 
its revolting features were soon forgotten in con- 
sideration of the dexterity, grace, and solemn 
dignity of the officiating cook's movements and 
demeanour. Sometimes the host himself took 
a conventional part in this function by way of 
special compliment to his guests. 

Considering how much the Japanese borrowed 
from China during the interval from the seventh 
to the twelfth century, it is not surprising to find 
that, like the Chinese, they used a large table for 
dining purposes. But they did not employ chairs 
or stools, nor were dishes handed round. They 
sat on cushions, and all the viands for each diner 
were ranged before him in utensils reserved for 
him alone. Even salt, vinegar, and soy were not 
in common, every convive having his own special 
supply. According to Chinese custom the prin- 
cipal viand is piled in a large bowl or dish from 
which all help themselves at will. Such a method 
could never have been reconciled with the Japan- 
ese instinct of cleanliness. Besides, the Japanese 
considered that a good dinner must be picturesque 
as well as palatable. The shaping and decorating 
of trays and stands, and the arranging of the 
viands upon them became a deeply studied art. 
Fine porcelains were not yet procurable, for 



China, under the Sung emperors, had not begun 
to manufacture on a large scale the delicate, trans- 
lucid ware for which she afterwards became 
famous, and Japan's ceramic ability was on a 
still lower level. Cups and bowls of solid celadoti 
stone-ware filled the place of honour at aristo- 
cratic feasts, and tea,^ on the rare occasions of 
its use, was drunk from cups of unglazed pottery, 
as was sake also, though a favourite decanter for 
serving it took the form of a section of fresh, 
green bamboo. Effects of purity and due subor- 
dination were studied by fashioning many of the 
trays and stands out of milk-white pine, cut to 
the thinness of a wafer, the viands themselves 
being so disposed as to give a play of colour and 
an air of variety. Lacquered utensils also had a 
place at the board, but were always in a minority. 
The menus of two dinners given by Fujiwara 
Ministers of State in the eleventh and twelfth 
centuries have been handed down by annalists. 
One of them shows that arithmetical symmetry 
was considered as well as the pleasures of the 
palate. There were eight entrees — rice-dump- 
lings, three varieties of oranges, chestnuts (boiled), 
dried persimmons, pears and jujubes ; — eight 
"dry viands" — steamed clam, dried bird's flesh, 
dried fish in slices (eaten with soy and vinegar), 
roasted sea-bream, fried swzuki [percalabrax^^ 
grilled salmon, roasted cuttle-fish and lobsters ; — 
and eight '* moist viands " — carp, trout, salt-trout 

^ See Appendix, note 57. 



boiled, pheasant (steamed with mushrooms), 
salmon-trout, boiled sea-bream, cuttle-fish soup, 
and Suzuki soup. All these seem to have been 
served at once. When a guest took his place, he 
found that his section of the table bore a phalanx 
of vessels and utensils marshalled with symmetri- 
cal regularity. Immediately before him were a 
pair of chopsticks and a spoon ; beyond these lay 
an empty cup, and, ranged in a line from left to 
right, having the cup for the centre, were a plate 
of sliced pears, a vessel of vinegar, a decanter of 
sake, and a pot of soy. Beyond these and parallel 
to them a row of four dishes were set, containing 
jelly-fish, trepang and beche-de-??ier. These con- 
stituted the hors d'ceuvre. Beyond them, mar- 
shalled in two horizontal ranks of four plates 
each, were the entrees ; and on the right and left, 
respectively, were the eight " dry viands " and 
the eight " moist viands," each group in two 
vertical ranks of four plates per rank. 

Nothing in the way of table-decoration, as 
practised in Europe and America, seems to have 
been attempted. Flower and other decorative 
devices did, however, make their appearance in 
the banqueting-hall in accordance with peculiar 
customs. From ancient times, when offerings 
of scalloped paper and a mirror were presented 
at a shrine, etiquette required that they should 
be suspended from a branch of the Cly era japonic a, 
since to touch them with the hand was to defile 
them. By refinement of conception habitual to 



the Japanese, this idea was extended to presents ; 
they were fastened to a branch of some flowering 
tree. Then the same fancy received obscure 
development at the hands of poetasters, who, in 
sending a couplet to a friend or a lover, accom- 
panied it by a blossom suitable to the season. If 
an article was too large to be hung from a flower- 
spray, convention must be complied with by tying 
the spray to the article.^ The same custom found 
another form of expression in the despatch of 
letters : they were placed in a split bamboo held 
aloft by the messenger as he ran. Social etiquette 
delighted in this language of allegory. Thus, in 
the epoch under review it was customary to place 
in a hall, at times of feasting or couplet-compos- 
ing, a miniature ship carved in the perfumed 
wood of the agallochu77i. It stood upon a tray 
strewn with sand among which glistened frag- 
ments of rock-crystal, coral, jade, carnelians, and 
other brightly coloured minerals. This was the 
ship of fortune arriving at the isle of elysium. 
In later times it often took the form of the 
mountain of paradise with the symbols of lon- 
gevity, the crane, the tortoise, and the pine. 

The development of singing, dancing, and 
music is among the most remarkable features of 
the Heian epoch. It would be an extravagance 
to say that the era produced any great scholars in 
the Occidental sense of the term, for the range 
of accessible knowledge was extremely narrow. 

* See Appendix, note 58. 



Men profoundly versed in the Chinese philo- 
sophical writings were not wanting, but, as a 
general rule, refined accomplishments were the 
test of high education. From princes, ministers 
of State, and military magnates down to office- 
clerks and house-stewards, everybody studied sing- 
ing, dancing, and the art of composing stanzas. 
Songs and dances of comparatively simple charac- 
ter had been in vogue from ancient times, as has 
been already seen. Now, however, not only 
were large drafts made upon the repertories of 
Korea and China, but extensive modifications and 
elaborations were devised by the Japanese them- 
selves. Imperial progresses, public feasts, reli- 
gious ceremonies, private entertainments, — every 
conspicuous incident of existence was treated as 
an occasion for playing instruments, treading 
measures, or extemporising verses. From perus- 
ing the literature of the epoch the student rises 
with a bewildered impression that society's per- 
petual occupation was to dance among forests of 
blossom or in the glow of the moonlight ; to float 
over the water in boats with sculptured dragons 
or phoenixes at the prow, fair girls exquisitely 
costumed at the poles, and for passengers noble- 
men and high officials playing flutes and guitars 
and beating drums ; to marshal gorgeous pageants 
in worship of the gods ; to write verses for hang- 
ing on blossomy trees and plants or for reading at 
competitive fetes, and to issue or accept invitations 
to feasts or sports. There were twenty varieties 



of musical instruments — several kinds of flute, 
five kinds of drum, a species of pandean pipe, 
two kinds of flageolet, a species of harmonica, an 
oboe, a horizontal harp, a vertical harp, two 
kinds of guitar, and a cymbal, etc. Many of 
these became so famous for the beauty of their 
tone that special appellations ^ were given to 
them, and although neither their sound nor the 
music produced with them would have delighted 
Occidental ears, the Japanese were wont to say 
that if a skilled performer with a perfectly pure 
heart played on one of these famous instruments, 
the very dust on the ceiling could not choose but 

It would be an interminable task to attempt 
any exhaustive description of the dances in vogue 
during the Heian epoch. Only eight varieties 
of genuine old Japanese dance existed, but these 
were supplemented by twenty-flve Chinese, 
twelve of Indian origin transmitted by China, 
eighteen Korean, and eleven Japanese adapta- 
tions. When seventy-four varieties of dance are 
thus indicated, it must not be understood that 
there were a corresponding number of salient dif- 
ferences of style. It is true that the movements 
in every case were carefully trained, and that each 
combination constituting a particular dance could 
be distinguished by practised observers. But the 
main feature of variety had to be sought in the 
pantomime. Nearly all dances performed in 

^ See Appendix, note 59. 



Japan were pantomimic. The Japanese seem 
to have possessed, from the dawn of their national 
existence, a profound appreciation of the beauty 
and grace of cadence and emphasis in modulated 
muscular efforts, but the great majority of their 
dances had some mimetic import, and were not 
suggested solely by the pleasure of rhythmic and 
measured movement. That is the chief reason 
why these dances seldom produce in a foreign 
observer the sense of exquisite delight that they 
excite in the Japanese. The uninitiated stranger 
feels, when he sees them, like one watching a 
drama where an unknown plot is acted in an 
unintelligible language. In its origin the Japan- 
ese dance was an invocation addressed, as has been 
already explained, to the Sun Goddess to lure her 
from her cave. It was accompanied by a formula 
altogether subordinate to the dance, and serving 
chiefly to mark the cadence and the measure. 
Thereafter every offering made to the gods had 
to be supplemented by some music of motion, 
and gradually the dance and its accompaniment 
of metrical chant came to be prolonged after the 
conclusion of the offering, so that they ultimately 
constituted an important part of the ceremony of 
worship, as well as a prominent feature of the sub- 
sequent feast. Then followed their division into 
" chants of the worship-dance " {tori-mono-utd) 
and " chants of the fete-dance " {mayebari), both 
being included in the term Kagura^ which mime 
may still be seen by any one visiting the shrine 



of Kasuga at Nara, and is, indeed, constantly per- 
formed at Shinto festivals elsewhere. Towards 
the close of the tenth century, the chants that 
accompanied the kagwa as then danced, were 
committed to writing, and found to number 
thirty-eight. They are almost wholly devoid of 
poetic inspiration and depend entirely on rhythm 
and cadence of syllabic pulsations, live beats fol- 
lowed by seven, live again by seven, and then 
seven by seven. Here are some examples : — 


Deeply dipping deep 

In the rain-fed river's tide, 

Robe and stole we dye. 

Rain it raineth, yet, 

Rain it raineth, yet, 

Rain it raineth, yet. 

Dies the colour never-more ; 

Never fades the deep-dyed hue. 


Sacred offerings pure, 

Not for mortal beings spread, 

But for her, sky-throned, 

Majestic Toyooka. 

Offerings for the Gods divine, 

Offerings for the Gods. 

These verses, it will be seen, have no pretence 
to be called poetry : they merely supply the mo- 



tive of the dance in rhythmical language. The 
motions accompanying the first would suggest 
the dipping of cloth in lye, the dropping of rain, 
and immutability. The motions accompanying 
the second would indicate adoration, humility, and 
reverent presentation. In fact, all the Kagura 
dances may be described as solemn hand-wavings 
and body-swayings, without any movement of the 
feet except such as is necessary to preserve equi- 
librium, and without the least approach to strong 
emotional activity suggesting religious exaltation. 
The musical accompaniment was a weird, mo- 
notonous strain performed on a Japanese hori- 
zontal harp {koto\ a shrill flute, and a drum. 
From the sedate Kagura the next step was to the 
Saibara, which may be described as street sonnets 
set to Chinese music with appropriate mimetic 
dances. In these the performers were usually men 
and women of the highest degree, the orchestra 
consisted of two kinds of flutes, and the dancers 
beat out the measure with ivory batons, commonly 
carried by nobles and ministers in that era. Sixty- 
one of these ancient dance-songs have been pre- 
served. Like the Kagura they embody suggestions 
of simple scenes and simple actions, the only dif- 
ference being greater variety of gesture, greater 
intricacy of movement, and more picturesque 
costumes. For example, a party of youths and 
maidens, robed in many-coloured garments and 
carrying toy nets and baskets, glide upon the scene, 
imitating the undulating movement of the waves, 



the slow sweep of the ebbing tide, the graceful 
searches for sea treasures, and, finally, the in- 
ward roll of the returning sea, chanting as they 
move : — 

Salt-waved Ise's sea, 
Ebbing, ebbing, leaves behind 
Strips of salt sea-shore. 
Wave-washed sea-weed gather we ? 
Sighing sea-shells gather we ? 
Gems the sea-waves wore ? 

Differing little from the Saibara were the 
Aztwia-maiy or dances of the eastern provinces ; 
the Fuzoku-tita, or genre chants ; the Royei, or 
lays of delight, and the huayo, or songs of life. 
The two last had their origin in the intoning of 
the Sutras by Buddhist priests, and many of them 
deal with religious subjects. But the vast major- 
ity are purely secular. If one introduces a sin- 
ner lamenting that heaven has rejected him, 
another shows a lover perplexed about the path 
to the object of his affections. The irony of fate 
decided that these particular dances should be the 
ones chosen by the Shirahiyoshi in the twelfth 
century. These Shirahiyoshi were the prototypes 
of the modern Geisha (professional danseuses). 
Their name — white measure-markers — was de- 
rived from the fact that they originally appeared 
in snow-white robes, carrying a white-sheathed 
sword, and wearing a man's head-dress. They 
were not the first females who made dancing a 
business. In the middle of the ninth century 





dancing-girls gave their services to amuse the 
Court, and the Emperor Uda (888-897) took 
one of them to his arms. But the " white 
measure-markers" were much more than ordi- 
nary danseuses. Their accompUshments were of 
the mind as well as of the muscles. If they 
could translate the motive of a couplet into an 
exquisitely graceful pantomime, they could also 
suggest novel motives and weave them into 
verses at once sweet and scholarly. Besides, no 
sacrifice overtaxed their complaisance. They 
became the rage in the closing days of the 
Heian epoch, and their favourite measure was 
the quasi-religious Imayo. It was as though 
love-sonnets should be sung to hymn music. 
The number of the Imayo was legion, but the 
manner of dancing them did not materially differ 
from that of the Saibara. 


Pass we by the sea-side road, 
High swell the wave-hills ; 
Climb we by the hill-side track, 
High the cloud-clad pass ; 
Wend we by the northern road, 
High piled the snow-drifts ; 
Come, come by Ise's high way, 
One way, only one. 

Sad sadness of the sweet past. 
Sweet the sad gone-by ; 
Mem'ry of a severed love. 
Dead but ne'er to die. 
J5 225 


Parents part and children part, 
But of woes the worst, 
The parting of lovers while 
Love is still athirst.^ 

There was also a large miscellany of dances 
with accompaniment of street-songs [rika) and 
popular ballads [zokuyo), the motives of which 
generally betrayed extreme triviality of concep- 
tion and the mimetic execution showed little 
fidelity. Many of them nevertheless found fa- 
vour at Court and in aristocratic circles, where 
their frank silliness made a pleasant contrast to 
the stately measure of the classic dance. The 
** cloud-land coxcombs," who painted their faces 
after the manner of women and carried a look- 
ing-glass in their sleeves, had no difficulty in 
appreciating such flights of fancy as — 

Ancient rat youthful rattie. 

Rats of Saiji's fane, 

Gnaw the cassock, gnaw the stole. 

Gnaw the vestments well. 

Tell the priest, tell the prelate. 

Ah ! the prelate tell. 

Combs ten, combs seven. 
Combs I counted yestereve. 
Counted one by one. 
One by one have vanished, combs, 
Count to-day combs none. 

To these varieties of dance-motives have to be 
added two which had wide vogue among all 

* Sec Appendix, note 60. 



classes of the nation, namely, the Saru-gakUy or 
" monkey mime," and the Den-gaku, or " bu- 
colic mime." The monkey mime was suggested 
by a courtier, who went about the Palace garden 
one night with the skirts of his robe tucked up, 
simulating cold and dancing to a refrain that will 
not bear translation. It was, in short, a comic 
dance adapted to any and every motive, its sole 
purpose being to create laughter. There were 
thirty celebrated Saru-gaku (or San-gaku, as it is 
also called), all of which were reputed to be 
capable of drawing tears of laughter from a con- 
firmed misanthrope. The stanzas recited by 
Saru-gaku performers in early times have not 
been preserved. They seem to have been of a 
trivial, jesting character, unworthy of record and 
entertaining only in connection with the dance. 
Neither is it quite certain that the account here 
given of the origin of the Saru-gaku is correct. 
Some authorities maintain that the dance dates 
from the time of Prince Shotoku (572—621); 
that its real name was, not " monkey [saru) 
mime," but " three {sari) instruments music ; " 
that it derived the appellation from the fact of 
three kinds of Korean hand-drum having been 
then, for the first time, used to accompany songs, 
and that the prefix ** three " {sari) was afterwards 
changed into saru (monkey) owing to mispro- 
nunciation, or because the dance received an 
essentially comic character. Yet another theory 
assigns to the prefix san the significance of " dis- 



orderly," and attributes that designation to the 
irregular nature of the costume worn by the 
dancer. This perplexity illustrates a notable 
defect of the ideographic script : two different 
ideographs, one meaning " disorderly " and the 
other " three," are phonetically identical, and 
might easily be interchanged by a writer relying 
on sound only. It matters very little, however, 
how the dance originated or by what name it 
was called at first. The only point of interest is 
that, in the Heian epoch, it took the form of 
grotesque posturing and pacing to the accompani- 
ment of a comic couplet, the playing of a flute 
and the beating of a hand-drum. The " bucolic 
mime " (Dengaku) belonged to a still lower rank 
of art than the Saru-gaku. It scarcely rose to the 
level of a definite combination of graceful move- 
ments, but was rather a display of mere muscular 
activity, in short, a species of acrobatic perform- 
ance, including pole-balancing, stilt-walking, and a 
kind of sword-and-ball exercise by men mounted 
on high clogs. It nevertheless deserves the name 
of dance, because the movements of the performer 
were measured, and because there was a musical 
accompaniment of flute and drum. Thus de- 
scribed, the " monkey mime " and the " bucolic 
mime " seem very trivial and unworthy of atten- 
tion, but it will be seen by and by that their 
developments are of some importance. 

If lengthy reference is here made to dancing 
and singing in the Heian epoch, it is because 



these pastimes occupied an extraordinary share 
of popular attention. The few sober men of the 
time came to the conclusion that a " divine fox *' 
had bewitched the nation. This deHrious mood 
looks even stranger when contrasted with the 
zeal for religion and the obedience to superstition 
that prevailed. Sovereigns, nobles, and princes, 
who did not shrink from impoverishing them- 
selves to endow temples, set up idols, or have 
masses said for their welfare, and who were ready 
at all times to shave their heads and enter a clois- 
ter, nevertheless had no hesitation about indulg- 
ing in voluptuous excesses of every kind. Perhaps 
the explanation is that morality did not enter 
seriouslv into the programme of education. The 
" Scripture of Filial Piet}' " and the " Analects of 
Confucius " were studied in the schools, but 
neither of these volumes touched the question 
of a supreme being or of a life bevond the grave, 
and though the Buddhist priests preached a noble 
doctrine, their own lives did not conform to their 
precepts. Thus the displays of munificent piety 
that characterised the era seem to have been an 
hysterical aftermath of extreme self-indulgence 
rather than an outgrowth of earnest conviction. 

The education here spoken of must not be 
interpreted in the ordinary sense of the term. 
There was no such thing as national education 
in the Xara and Heian epochs. A few schools 
existed in Kvoto, but thev were founded and sup- 
ported bv the sreat families and destined solely 



for the instruction of the latter's children, rela- 
tives and vassals. The Wake family, the Fuji- 
wara family, the Ariwara family, the Minamoto 
family, and the Tachibana family, each had its 
own school in the capital, but for the vast bulk 
of the nation no educational facilities of any kind 
existed. What the schools taught, too, was the 
art of employing the Chinese language deftly for 
composing stanzas and writing essays. Science 
and philosophy were not in the curricula. And 
even that meagre education ceased to be obtain- 
able as Ky5t6 fell into disorder towards the 
closing years of the Heian epoch. For in pro- 
portion as the Fujiwara nobles, who usurped the 
administrative authority, abandoned themselves to 
pleasure and neglected their official duties, their 
own followers set an example of lawlessness 
which provoked a retaliatory mood on the part 
of its victims, and, at the same time, not only 
did the provincial authorities become more and 
more independent of the central government, but 
the people also, rendered desperate by excessive 
taxation, took to robbery and piracy on an exten- 
sive scale. Gangs of bandits infested the prov- 
inces and invaded the capital itself, not hesitating 
even to besiege the house of a great noble. For 
several years a notorious leader of robbers lived 
openly in Kyoto. At one time the officers of the 
Imperial guards trooped to the Palace en masse to 
clamour for rice ; at another, armed soldiers inti- 
midated and despoiled the citizens. A police 



force existed under the control of an official, who 
wielded large power. The members of the 
board {Kebiishi) over which he presided performed 
the functions not only of administrative police 
but also of magistrates and judges ; the decrees of 
the board ranked with imperial ordinances, and 
persons violating them were treated as though 
they had disobeyed the sovereign's commands. 
But this organisation showed itself quite unable 
to preserve order. It could not check the law- 
lessness of the bandits that invaded Kyoto and 
Nara ; still less could it accomplish anything 
against the multitude of these depredators that 
infested the Island of Four Provinces (Shikoku). 
The bandits were, in truth, a sign of the time. 
Brigandage, in default of serfdom, suggested it- 
self to many as the only possible refuge from the 
intolerable burden of taxation imposed to supply 
funds for the extravagant luxury of the aristo- 
crats. Fourteen hundred houses lay untenanted 
at one time in Kyoto, their inmates having fled 
to the provinces to live by plunder. The system 
of five-family guilds, under which the guild 
became collectively responsible if any of its 
members absconded without paying his taxes, 
ceased to have practical efficacy, for the guilds 
made their escape en masse. Once outside a circle 
of small radius surrounding Kyoto, the fugitives 
were effectually beyond the reach of the central 
government's authority, for not only did the 
provincial nobles ignore Kyoto's mandates, but 



also means of communication were so bad that 
the Court could not hope, by its own unaided 
strength, to follow and arrest a fugitive. It is 
true that some of the barriers erected to check 
the freedom of men's movements had been 
removed, but these artificial obstructions counted 
for very little compared with the absence of roads 
and inns, the dangers from bandits and pirates 
and the want of any organised system of convey- 
ances. In the middle of the tenth century, 
a famous litterateur describes how a journey from 
Tosa to Kyoto took more than fifty days, and 
a century later a high official spent a hundred and 
twenty days getting from Hitachi to the capital. 
The only important place easily accessible from 
Kyoto was Naniwa, the modern Osaka. It was, 
in effect, the port of Kyoto, and a man could 
travel thither by boat, calHng en route at four 
towns, and paying a visit finally at the shrine of 
the three Sea-Gods at Sumiyoshi, where, if he 
intended to pursue his journey, he prayed very 
fervently for protection. Many a citizen of 
Kyoto made the trip down the Yodo River to 
Naniwa merely for pleasure. Houses of enter- 
tainment abounded in the towns on the way, and 
before a ship dropped anchor she was surrounded 
by boats carrying courtesans, dancing girls, musi- 
cians, and other agents of amusement. 

It must not be supposed that the courtesan of 
those days descended to any depth of moral degra- 
dation when she espoused her abandoned calling. 



The aesthetic enthusiasm and voluptuous delirium 
of the era created an atmosphere in which polite 
accomplishments could eclipse any environment, 
and ministers to pleasure had honour irrespective 
of their methods. In this respect the morality 
of the era resembled that of Greece in the days 
when Praxiteles carved a statue of Phryne and 
Apelles painted Lais. There did not indeed exist 
a social vacancy which the Tujo'^ could fill, such 
as was created in Athens by the seclusion and 
ignorance to which wives were condemned. The 
Japanese wife took her due place in society, and 
owed as much to her literary attainments as to 
her beauty and tact. But the marital tie did not 
possess, even approximately, the value attached 
to it in Christian communities. A woman might 
occupy the leading place in a household and be 
the principal star in any social galaxy from that 
of the Imperial Court downward, without having 
the status of a lawful spouse. Students of Japan- 
ese history, when they observe the great part played 
by females in the politics and Court life of the 
Heian epoch, cannot fail to observe also that the 
ethical rule applied to women's conduct was almost . 
as lax as that applied to men's. The beautiful Aki, 
with hair that exceeded her stature by ten feet, 
who bewitched the Emperor Ichijo ; the fair 
danseuse Tamabuchi, whom the staid Emperor 
Uda loved ; the female augurs who held the 
threads of the Fujiwara intrigues ; the group of 

^ See Appendix, note 6i. 


brilliant writers — Sei, Murasaki, Daini no Sammi, 
Izumi, Koshikibu, and Udaisho — whose names 
are never to be forgotten so long as Japanese 
literature exists, not one of these celebrities can 
be said to have worn the white flower of a virtuous 
life. In the hands of the Fujiwara nobles women 
were an essential instrument, since it was by giv- 
ing a daughter to be the mistress of a sovereign, 
if not his consort, that the political supremacy 
of the family was maintained in each generation. 
A woman might always be required to sacrifice 
her virtue in the interests of others, and naturally 
she did not shrink from sacrificing it voluntarily 
in her own interests. She fought the battle of 
life with every weapon that nature had given her. 
Yoritomo, the great Minamoto leader, before he 
came to power and during his exile in the prov- 
ince of Izu, loved a girl of good family who bore 
him a son. But her father, fearing Yoritomo's 
enemies, caused the child to be thrown into a 
river and married the girl to another man under 
another name. Yoritomo then paid his addresses 
to a younger daughter of Hojo Tokimasa, but was 
loved in turn by the elder daughter, Masa, who 
ultimately succeeded in winning his afi^ections. 
By and by Yoritomo showed signs of transferring 
his heart elsewhere. Masa did not remonstrate 
with him. She sent a body of soldiers to raid 
the new love's house and drive her family across 
the border. Yet this Masa was a very high type 
of woman. Conspicuous for frugality, keen fore- 



sight, and wise judgment, she brought up her 
children admirably, and despite her own fierce 
ruthlessness towards a female rival, she spared 
no pains to soften the rude, sanguinary ways of 
military feudalism in the Kamakura epoch. In 
later life, when she passed through Ky6t5 after 
worshipping at the shrines of Kumano, the ex- 
Emperor conferred on her a rank seldom won 
even by the most prominent statesman, and asked 
her to visit him, but she ridiculed the idea, de- 
claring that though a rustic like her might go to 
pray at a shrine, she had no place in courts and 
among courtiers. If women could attain to such 
distinction in spite of the taint of irregular sexual 
connections and often by their aid, virtue might 
well cease to be esteemed. It goes without say- 
ing that incontinence was not counted a dis- 
graceful feature in the life of a good man. The 
Emperor Ichijo, who lived in the midst of most 
sensuous surroundings and was himself a slave to an 
extra-marital affection, nevertheless had sufficient 
nobility of character to pass a winter's night in an 
almost nude condition in order that he might be 
able to sympathise fully with the sufferings of the 
poor. There was, indeed, a much lower depth 
of immorality to which men had learned to de- 
scend in that epoch, unnatural love. To the 
everlasting disgrace of the Buddhist priesthood, 
that vice had the sanction of their practice, and 
no condemnations of it are found in the literature 
of the time. All these circumstances prepare the 



student to find that the frail sister of medieval 
Japan was in no sense a social outcast. She had 
ready access to the houses of ministers of state 
and other chief officials or prominent noblemen. 
Her singing and dancing were features at refined 
entertainments. She delighted aristocratic society 
with her clever manipulation of puppets, and she 
composed poems which found a permanent place 
in literature.^ Men learned to call her ** castle- 
conqueror " [keisei) rather xh^in Jilk-de-joie . 

The reader of course perceives that these de- 
scriptions of the manners and customs of the 
Japanese have been confined almost entirely to 
the upper classes. It must be confessed that with 
regard to the lower orders in the early ages, very 
little information is available. Independent refer- 
ence will be made to the development of trade and 
industry, and in connection with that subject some 
light will be thrown on the life of the farmer, the 
mechanic, and the merchant. But in truth these 
people played a very subordinate part in the his- 
tory of the nation. Except for the sake of the 
taxes they paid and the forced labour they per- 
formed, they were of small account. The arti- 
san, however, especially the art artisan, became 
a person of great and growing importance from 
the time of the Empress Suiko (593-628) on- 
ward, since upon him devolved the task of build- 
ing and decorating the grand temples and spacious 
mansions which began from that time to be called 

' See Appendix, note 63. 



into existence. Thus the painter, the sculptor, the 
architect, the lacquerer, and the worker in metals, 
all were recipients of honour, patronage, and even 
rank, and in that way was laid the foundation of a 
class of men who gave to their country many beau- 
tiful works, and ultimately won for her the distinc- 
tion of being as richly dowered with the art instinct 
and with competence to give it faithful expression 
as was even ancient Greece in her best days. 

Brief allusion has already been made to the 
se?m?iin^ or "despised people, " who did not 
belong to the agricultural, the industrial, or 
the trading class, being regarded as social out- 
casts. Since some affinities may be traced be- 
tween their condition and occupations and those 
of the Roman servi^ the term "serfs" has been 
applied to the semmin in these pages, and the facts 
relating to them may conveniently be set down 

It has been postulated by ethnologists that 
slavery never constitutes a vital element of any 
social system in which a theocratic organisation 
is established. Communities where the military 
order has obtained the ascendancy are the natural 
home of caste divisions which relegate the indus- 
trial and agricultural functions to serfs and slaves. 
A partial vindication of that theory is traceable 
in the story of the Japanese, among whom the 
tiller of the soil, the mechanic, and the trader 
ranked as plebeians, or commoners, in comparison 
with the military patricians. But if the polity of 



Japan partook largely of the military character, it 
was purely theocratic in its alleged beginnings, 
and thus the social problems connected with it 
refuse to be solved by precedents derived from 
simpler organisations. The "commoners" [hei- 
??iin ) certainly were not serfs or slaves, according 
to any acknowledged rendering of those terms, 
and even the "despised people," while some of 
them may unquestionably be classed as slaves, do 
not find their exact counterpart in any system 
that has come under the notice of Western his- 
torians. As far back as the middle of the fifth 
century of the Christian era, Japanese annals refer 
to sejnmin. They speak of a nobleman who, 
being convicted of plotting against the Court 
(460 A. D.), was condemned to death, his pos- 
terity for eighty generations being degraded to 
the rank of common labourers. Thenceforth 
various incidents, legal enactments and ordinances 
exhibit six causes which operated to produce 
semmifi; namely, crime, subjugation, debt, special 
circumstances of birth, naturalisation, and kid- 
napping. Treason in every form and armed con- 
quest were sources of State slaves — corresponding 
to the Roman servi piihlici. A rebel or a con- 
spirator against the sovereign sufl^ered death — 
frequently shared by his sons and brothers — and 
all the rest of his family as well as his property 
were confiscated. As for conquest, the rights 
conferred by it held against Japanese as well as. 
against aliens. Raids made by Japanese generals 



into the Korean peninsula resulted in the capture 
of numerous Koreans who, being carried to 
Japan, were drafted into the ranks of the sem- 
min, and employed in various menial capacities. 
Probably sections of the aboriginal inhabitants of 
Japan suffered the same fate after subjugation by 
the invaders. With regard to debt as a source of 
serfdom, in very early eras its influence must 
have been considerable, for, at the close of the 
seventh century the sovereign found it necessary 
to impose restrictions. Proclamation was then 
made that where a creditor prescribed serfdom as 
a penalty for failure to discharge a monetary obli- 
gation, interest must not be charged. Later on, 
the first code — promulgated at the beginning of 
the eighth century — sanctioned the principle that 
an insolvent debtor's person might become the 
property of the creditor, but imposed legal limits 
of interest, namely, that interest payable every 
sixtieth day must not exceed one-eighth of the 
principal, and that, even though a period of four 
hundred and eighty days had elapsed without 
discharge of the debt, the interest must not ag- 
gregate a larger sum than the original obligation. 
The issue of serf parents remained a serf, but, 
by a curious stretch of liberality, an immigrant 
from a foreign land who had been a serf in his 
own country, acquired his freedom on touch- 
ing Japanese soil, though, if he subsequently 
suffered degradation, any of his relatives fol- 
lowing him to Japan shared his fate. The ab- 



duction and kidnapping of men and women and 
their sale into serfdom were practices against 
which laws had to be enacted in the eighth cen- 
tury. The crime was punished by a maximum 
penalty of three years' penal servitude. But here 
evidence is found of the large recognition ac- 
corded to rights of relationship, for the closer the 
degree of consanguinity between the person sold 
and the seller, the milder the penalty. A man 
selling his own parent or cousin became liable to 
two and a half years' penal servitude, but the sale 
of one's own child or grandchild involved only 
one year of punishment, and if the sale was that 
of a daughter, the law did not undertake to re- 
habilitate her. 

As to the price at which a serf was valued, 
there is documentary evidence preserved among 
the archives of the Nara Court (eighth century). 
Three males, aged respectively 34, 22, and 15, 
were sold, the first two for a thousand sheaves of 
rice each ; the third for seven hundred sheaves. 
Three females, aged 22, 20, and 15, sold at the 
same time, were appraised, the first two at eight 
hundred sheaves each, the last at six hundred. 
A hundred sheaves of rice represent a koku (5.13 
bushels) which now sells for about 12 ye?!. Thus 
an adult male serf was valued at about i 20 yen^ 
and a female at about 1 00 yen. 

The cooperation of these various causes must 
have produced a considerable number of se??i??ii?i, 
and, indeed, the best statistics available indicate 



that the ratio was five per cent of the total popu- 
lation. Thus, since the population in the middle 
of the eighth century was estimated 3,694,33 i, the 
ratio of the male and female elements being at 
4.6 to 5.4, there must then have been 84,970 
male serfs and 99,737 female. 

The treatment of serfs in Japan did not display 
cruelties like those practised in ancient Rome. 
There were five classes: guards of the Imperial 
sepulchres, servants employed in Administrative 
offices, domestic servants, State serfs, and private 
serfs. Men belonging to the first two classes 
differed little from ordinary subjects, and were 
often rehabilitated. They had establishments of 
their own and could acquire property. Domestic 
serfs may be described, not incorrectly, as poor 
relatives who, generation after generation, earned 
a livelihood by performing menial household 
duties in families to which they were bound by 
ties of kith and kin. It seems a misnomer to 
call such persons " serfs," but they were so classed 
in old Japan. State serfs were captives made in 
war, or the domestic serfs — that is to say, the 
indigent relatives — of men convicted of offences 
involving degradation and confiscation. The lot 
of these serfs was ameliorated, rather than aggra- 
vated, by transfer to the State. Private serfdom 
seems to have been the worst condition of all. 
The private serf was bought and sold like any 
ordinary chattel, the only proviso being that the 
transaction must be duly registered. But the lash 
16 241 


was not used to compel work, nor is there any 
record that the idea of chaining a serf ever sug- 
gested itself to a Japanese householder or official. 
It would appear, too, that the prospect of an 
aged person's dying without having tasted the 
sweets of freedom, revolted ancient legislators. 
They enacted that, if a State serf attained the age 
of sixty-six, or became incapacitated by disease, he 
should be promoted to be an official employe, and at 
seventy-six he was rehabilitated. Even a man who 
had been degraded for treason, was restored to his 
old status when he reached the age of eighty. 
Other causes of manumission were emancipation 
(which carried with it exemption from taxation 
during a period of three years from the date of 
rehabilitation), judgment of a law court, extinc- 
tion of a master's family, meritorious service, and 
adoption of the Buddhist priesthood, for a Bud- 
dhist priest had no social status, and consequently 
a serf entering the priesthood ceased to be subject 
to social discrimination. But despite this disposi- 
tion to lighten the lot o{ the serf, stringent meas- 
ures were adopted to preserve the distinctions of 
caste. Nothing save the pride of rank prevented 
intermarriages between the patricians and the 
commoners [hcimin). If, however, either a patri- 
cian or a commoner married a serf, the offspring 
of the union became a serf. Even among the 
serfs themselves, difference of grade originally 
constituted a barrier to marriage.^ These harsh 

* Sec Appendix, note 64. 



enactments received modification at the beginning 
of the ninth century. Thenceforth the issue of 
a mixed marriage received the status of which- 
ever parent stood higher in the social scale. But 
the spirit of exclusiveness underwent no change, 
and there is also evidence that, in the long medi- 
eval era of incessant war, the practice of kid- 
napping young persons of both sexes and selling 
them into serfdom constituted one of the promi- 
nent abuses of the age. 





Note i. — The total area of these islands and islets is 
162,000 square miles, in round numbers, of which 16,000 
square miles have been added since the centralisation of the 
Government in 1867. Taken in order of magnitude, the 
five principal islands are Hondo, or Nippon (86,373 square 
miles); Yezo (30,148 square miles); Kiushu (13,778 square 
miles); Formosa (13,429 square miles), and Skikoku (6,861 
square miles). Previously to the acquisition of Formosa, the 
area of the Japanese empire was equal to that of the British 
Isles, Holland, and Belgium combined. With the addition of 
Formosa and the Pescadores, it has become approximately 
equal to the area of the British Isles, Holland, Belgium, and 

Note 2. — The Koji-ki, or annals of ancient matters. 

Note 3. — The Nihon-gi (history of Japan) and the 
Koga-shu (ancient records). 

Note 4. — Personal names were taken from the terminology 
of natural objects. Thus an Emperor was called " large wren," 
and noblemen were designated " mackerel," '' red fish," " fire- 
fly," " weazel," " bonito," "earth-worm," "dragon," "whale," 
etc. No change in this system occurred until the introduction 
of Chinese learning and Buddhism, when curiously incongruous 
appellations began to be adopted ; as " Head-fisherman Amida " 
{Jmabe no Amidd)^ " Silk-embroiderer Confucius " {Kinunui no 
Koshi)^ "Bow-maker Buddha" {Tuge no i'^aia), " Field-dog- 
keeper Laotsze " (Agata no Tsuka't no Roshi)^ and others equally 
startling, even courtesans taking the names of deities. In the 
ninth century the Emperor Nimmiyo set a new example. He 
gave himself a name signifying "just and righteous" (seiryo)^ 
being thus the first to import an abstract idea into personal 



nomenclature. The fashion of the namri (self-given name) 
was thus inaugurated. A i^v^ years previously, another sover- 
eign (Kwammu, 782-806) caused an eminent scholar to assign 
posthumous names to the former occupants of the Throne, and 
the result was that the Rulers of Japan came to be known in 
history by names of which many were borrowed from the annals 
of China or Tartary, and none was borne during his lifetime 
by the sovereign thus designated. In mediaeval times, strange 
confusion was caused by extending the old methods of nomen- 
clature without regard to the motives that had governed them. 
It thus fell out that many of the official titles which had been 
prefixed to personal names in the early ages and used in lieu of 
patronyms, took permanent place in the language as family 
appellations, and were employed without the slightest discrimi- 
nation as to their fitness. To this abuse was due the common 
adoption of such names as Otomo (Great subject), Okura (Im- 
perial treasury), Inukai (Master of hounds), Hatori (Weaver), 
and so on. A still more indiscriminate extension of this habit 
is attributable to the levelling of time-honoured social distinc- 
tions that took place during the military epoch, when soldiers 
ruled the country and provincial captains supplanted the Court 
nobles in the metropolis. The old official titles then began to 
do duty as personal names, so that (to convert the facts into 
their English equivalents) the sons of private soldiers received 
baptismal names such as " Lord Chamberlain " or " Com- 
modore " ; the child of a farmer might be dubbed " Prince " or 
" Lord Chamberlain," and a courtesan or danseuse went by the 
name of " High Prelate " or " Field Marshal," even differences 
of sex being lost sight of in the general confusion. Another 
method of naming was inaugurated in very early times : the 
sovereign bestowed a patronym, much as titles were given in 
the West. In constructing such a name, the feat that it com- 
memorated was translated into symbolical language — as when 
a great archer was called " noble target," — or some natural 
object of special beauty or grandeur was taken, or else a part 
of the donor's name was joined to a part of the recipient's. 
The greatest family that Japan ever possessed — the Fujiwara 
(wistaria plain) — had the honour of obtaining its designation 
from an Emperor. There are only 292 family names in Japan, 



and of these 39 are derived from the nomenclature of the 
vegetable kingdom, 44 from that of other natural objects, 14 
from that of geographical divisions, and the rest from ancient 
official titles, moral or physical qualities, and miscellaneous 
sources. The method that finally came into commonest vogue 
may be thus described. Parents in naming their sons generally 
adopted a numerical suffix, — taro (great male) for the eldest; 
jiro (second male) for the next ; saburo (third male) for the next, 
and so on — and, by way of prefix, chose the name of some 
natural object, as kin (gold), gin (silver), tetm (iron), matsu 
(pine), ume (plum), take (bamboo), etc. Thus there resulted 
such names as Kintaro^ or Matsujiro^ or Ginzaburo^ vi'hich had 
the advantage of conveying information about the number of a 
man's elder brothers as well as about himself. Another method 
of constructing boys' names was to use the numerical compo- 
nent as prefix, appending to it the designation of an office, as suke 
(assistant official), hiyo-yei (military guard), j^;wo« (gate guard), 
etc. Thus were obtained Tarosuke^ Jiro-hiyoyei (abbreviated to 
yirobei')^ Saburo-yemon^ and so on. It will be easily understood 
that names of the latter kind were originally confined to persons 
eligible for the offices indicated : they are, in fact, an outcome 
of the ancient custom which merged the personality of the 
individual in his official position, and bestowed on families a 
hereditary title to certain posts. For a similar reason, family 
names, since they had their origin in offices of State, might not 
be borne by commoners ; that is to say, they were limited to 
the comparatively small section of the nation which could trace 
its descent from the chiefs of the first colonists and had been 
admitted to that rank for special reasons. The rule held until 
modern times. Hence, if a man possessed a family name, it 
was possible to be at once assured that he belonged to the patri- 
cian order. Japanese names are a source of considerable per- 
plexity to foreigners, because, in addition to the family name 
(uji or miyoji') and the personal name (zokumiyoy^ there was a 
child-name (osana) ; there was an " adopted name " or " true 
name " {nanori or jitsumiyo) ; there was a posthumous name 
{okurina or kaimeiy^ and there was sometimes an art name (^go'). 
The " adopted " or " true " name was nothing more than a 
second personal name — independent of any of the suffixes or 



prefixes mentioned above — which was taken by a patrician lad 
on emerging from childhood, the posthumous name was given 
by the Buddhist priests and inscribed on the tomb, and the art 
name was taken by a painter, an author, a musician, an artisan, 
or a professional expert of any kind. 

Just as in the West it has always been a point of etiquette 
to avoid using the name of a person of rank to whom one 
addresses oneself, so in Japan, the post of an official, or the 
palace of a nobleman, or some other impersonal designation 
was always used in speaking to illustrious individuals. But 
that is a matter connected with the genius of the language 
rather than with the question of nomenclature. 

Note 5. — These gohei (sacred offerings), as they are called, 
have never ceased to be an important part of the paraphernalia 
of worship. They maybe seen to-day suspended at the shrines, 
near the sepulchres of the dead and before the family altar. It 
is supposed by some that they originally served merely as means 
of accentuating the outlines of the rope fences enclosing a 
deified tree, and that, like all other objects employed for cere- 
monial purposes, they were subsequently endued with sanctity 
of their own. Another, and more probable, theory is that they 
were pieces of the cloth offered to the deities. 

Note 6. — Admirable translations of many of these rituals 
have been made by Sir Earnest Satow, Mr. W. G. Aston, and 
Dr. F^lorenz. 

Note 7. — " Rock-house " (/zfa-/y^) or "demon's closet" 
(oni no setsuin^ was the term applied to these caves by later 

Note 8. — It is doubtful whether in the oldest form of 
building the pillars were not sunk in the ground without stone 

Note 9. — It would seem that a refined sense of tone 
existed among the early Japanese, for the records say that the 
Emperor Ojin, who reigned at the close of the third century, 
used ship-building wood for the body of the IVa-kin and that 
the instrument gave particularly melodious notes. 

Note 10. — Examples of adaptability of Chinese ideographs 
are innumerable. Thus, dempo (transmitted intelligence) is the 
exact equivalent of " telegram ; " Kaikiuan-xei (sea-gate tax) 



well expresses "customs duty;" rigaku (natural-law science 
accurately represents " physics ; " Kikwa-ho (country-change 
law) conveys without mistake the idea of " naturalization law," 
and such instances might be multiplied ad infinitum. 

Note ii. — A legend of the Empress Komyo says that, in 
obedience to a voice audible to herself alone, she vowed to wash 
with her own hands the bodies of a thousand beggars. The 
task had been completed as far as 999, when there presented 
himself a loathsome leper, covered with revolting sores. The 
courageous woman did not hesitate. She proceeded to wash 
the leper, and when he told her that if there were found in the 
world any woman sufficiently merciful to draw the venom from 
his sores with her mouth he should be healed, she did him that 
service. Thereupon the place was filled with dazzling efful- 
gence ; an exquisite aroma diffused itself around, and the leper, 
declaring himself the Buddha, disappeared. 

Note 12. — The Emperor Temmu (673-686) ordered that 
every house in the land should have an altar for the worship of 
Buddha, and his successors called temples and idols into existence 
by edicts. 

Note 13. — The Emperor Shomu (724-748) was the 
inaugurator of this custom. After a reign of twenty-four 
years, he shaved his head and retired to a cloister. 

Note 14. — Dokyo, the favourite Minister of the Empress 
Dowager Koken. 

Note 15. — Only certain portions of the document are 
quoted here. 

Note 16. — The Soga family. This was the clan that dis- 
tinguished itself by its unique fidelity to the cause of Buddhism, 
and assisted Prince Shotoku to destroy its own great rival, the 
Mononobe clan, which inveterately opposed the foreign faith. 
The Soga survived the Mononobe for thirty years only. Their 
disloyal arbitrariness towards the Throne provoked a revolt 
which ended fatally for themselves. 

Note 17. — Ti7//fzt;a signifies " great change." It was the 
first year-name in Japan, the period 645-649 a. d. being called 

Note 18. — The student will hear this memorable 
reformation described sometimes as the Taikwa (great change) 



and sometimes as the Tailjo (or Daih'o) reform, the former term 
being derived from the name of the year-period (645-649) when 
the new legislation commenced ; the latter from that of the 
period (701—703) when it terminated. 

Note 19. — A residence built for himself by the Soga chief 
Iruka is said to have been surrounded with a palisade and pro- 
vided with storehouses for weapons and armour, and each gate 
had buckets hung near it as a precaution against fire. The 
residence of the same Minister's father was encircled with 
moats and had arrow-magazines. 

Note 20. — In the reign of the Empress Jito (690-696), 
for example, no less than seven waves of immigrants are said 
to have flowed to the shores of Japan, and all these strangers 
were hospitably welcomed and their services utilised. 

Note 21. — The Empress Koken (749-758) issued an 
edict that every house throughout the realm should be provided 
with a copy of the Classic of Filial Piety, and should regard it 
as the primer of morality; and from her time onwards successive 
sovereigns employed their influence to popularise Confucian- 
ism, bestowing liberal rewards upon women who distinguished 
themselves by fidelity to their husbands, upon children con- 
spicuous for piety to their parents, or upon servants noted for 
loyalty to their masters. 

NoTe 22. — The Mara of the present day lies mainly to the 
eastward of the old capital, but the temples occupy their original 

Note 23. — A couplet written at that era embodied the 
popular conception of a journey : " The grandest rice-bowl 
used at home becomes for the traveller an oak-leaf." 

Note 24. — Temmu (673-686). 

Note 25. — The method of treating children's hair in the 
Nara epoch was picturesque. At the age of three the little 
one's hair was cut short but of equal length all over. It was 
then allowed to grow until it reached the shoulders, at which 
length it was kept, the hair over the forehead, however, being 
trimmed so as to form a fringe hanging to the eyebrows. A 
izvf years later, a boy's hair was looped up on each side in the 
shape of a gourd-flower, and a girl's was suff^ered to grow 
thenceforth without restraint. 



Note 26. — Japanese antiquarians assert that both men and 
women of rank wore long veils in early times, and were equally 
averse to exposing their complexions. 

Note 27. — Another evidence of the fidelity with which 
Chinese fashions were copied. 

Note 28. — It has been alleged that by striking the palms 
together when about to worship, a Japanese intends to attract 
the attention of the deity. The explanation is fanciful and 

Note 29. — It is built with logs of wood, hexagonal in 
section, laid horizontally, so that the walls present a deeply 
corrugated appearance. Though repaired from time to time, 
this storehouse retains the exact form given to it by its archi- 
tects nearly twelve centuries ago. 

Note 30. — Out of this rule grew the appellation shinzo 
(new building) still commonly applied to Japanese wives in the 
middle classes. 

Note 31. — Mr. Basil H. Chamberlain, in the admirable 
preface to his " Classical Poetry of the Japanese," explains 
this point with great clearness, and M. D. E. Aston, in his 
exhaustive treatise on " Japanese Literature," shows why rhyme 
would scarcely be possible to a poet using the Japanese language, 
namely, that as all Japanese words end in one of the five vowels, 
constant iteration of the same sound would be inevitable. 

Note 32. — This is illustrated by the fact that the Japanese 
use the same word (uta) to express " song and poem." 

Note 33. — A stringed instrument played with both hands; 
the fingers of the right hand being armed with ivory tips, and 
the fingers of the left being used to press the strings. 

Note 34. — "Fujiwara" signifies "Wistaria plain." 
The name was conferred by the sovereign on Kamatari in rec- 
ognition of his services. 

Note 35. — The consort of the late Emperor Komei 
(1847-66) was a Fujiwara, and the bride of the present Prince 
Imperial is also a Fujiwara. 

Note 36. — Kyoto continued to be the Imperial capital 
during 1,074 years, until the Meiji Restoration of 1867, when 
the Court was transferred to Yedo (now Tokyo). Seventy- 
seven Emperors held their courts successively in Kyoto. 



During an interval so protracted, the city, of course, under- 
went many changes, but to this day its general plan remains 
on the lines of its earliest projection. It was built after the 
general scheme of Nara, but on a much grander scale. The 
outline was rectangular, 17,530 feet from north to south, and 
15,080 feet from east to west. Moats and palisades surrounded 
the whole — the system of crenelated walls and flanking 
towers not having been yet introduced — and the Imperial 
Palace, its citadel, administrative departments, and assembly 
halls occupied the centre of the northern portion. The Palace 
was approached from the south, its main gate opening upon a 
long street 280 feet wide which ran right down the centre of 
the city. Thus the city was divided into two equal parts, of 
which the eastern was designated "left metropolis, " and the 
western, " right metropolis." The superficial division was 
into districts, of which there were nine, all equal in size except 
those on the east and west of the Palace. An elaborate system 
of subdivision was adopted. The unit, or house, was a space 
measuring 100 feet by 50. Eight of these units made a row ; 
four rows, a street; four streets, a division; four divisions, a 
district. The entire capital contained 1,216 streets and 38,912 
houses, with a population of about two hundred thousand. 
The arrangement of the streets was strictly regular. They lay 
parallel and at right angles, like the lines on a checker-board. 
The Imperial citadel measured 3,840 feet from east to west, 
and 4,600 feet from north to south. On each side were three 
gates ; in the middle stood the Palace, surrounded by the build- 
ings of the various administrative departments, and in front 
were the assembly and audience halls. The nine districts 
were divided from each other by main streets, varying in width 
from I 70 feet to 80 feet. They intersected the city from east to 
west ; were numbered from i to 9, and were themselves inter- 
sected in turn by similar streets running north and south, and 
by lanes at regular intervals. The buildings were in general 
lowly and unpretentious. Even in the case of the Palace, the 
architects observed the austere canons of the Shinto cult, which 
prescribed purity and simplicity as the essential attributes of 
refinement; and in the case of the citizens' dwellings, every 
effort to obtain lightness, airiness, or ornamentation was reserved 


for chambers opening upon inner courts, or looking out on 
miniature back-gardens, so that the front effect was sombre and 
monotonous. Many of the houses were roofed with shingles, 
but some had slate-coloured tiles, and the Palace itself was ren- 
dered conspicuous by green glazed tiles imported from China. 
The conception of such a city at such an epoch — half a cen- 
tury before Lodbrok the Dane sailed up the Seine, and fifty- 
five years before the birth of Alfred the Great — bears eloquent 
testimony to the highly civilised condition of Japan and to the 
Emperor Kwammu's greatness of mind and resources. 

Note 37. — Such persons were named ronin^ literally, 
" wave men ; " that is to say, individuals without any fixed 
status or employment. They are met here for the first time 
in Japanese history, where they thenceforth figure as a perpet- 
ual element of unrest. 

Note 38. — He employed able men without any regard 
for the part they had acted in his own life. He gave the com- 
mand of the Bando troops to Tamura-no-maro, whose father 
had intrigued to procure the Throne for a different prince, and 
he appointed as tutor to the Heir apparent a man who had 
twice endeavoured to thwart his purposes. 

Note 39. — It is noticeable that this spirit of exclusiveness 
did not take any account of alien origin. Tamura-no-Maro, 
who commanded the Emperor Kwammu's Bando soldiery, was 
descended from a naturalised Chinaman. Yet, on returning 
to Kyoto after the final defeat of the Yezo, he received the 
Emperor's daughter in marriage, and became the father of the 
next sovereign, Heizei. 

Note 40. — The extreme possibilities of this system were 
illustrated in the case of the Fujiwara chief Michinaga. He 
held the office of Regent during the reigns of three Emperors 
(987-1037); his three daughters became the consorts of three 
successive sovereigns, and he was grandfather simultaneously of 
a reigning Emperor and of an heir apparent. Nothing was 
allowed to interfere with the consummation of this nobleman's 
designs. Desiring that his daughter, Aki, should enter the 
Palace where his elder brother's daughter, Sada, already held the 
position of Empress, and unwilling that his child should have 
inferior rank, he devised for Aki a special title, carrying with 


it all the privileges of an Imperial consort. There were thus 
two Empresses, each living in a palace of her own. 

Note 41. — The memory of this unfortunate statesman, 
Sugawara-no-Michizane, is surrounded by a halo of romance 
which affords an insight into Japanese character. He belonged 
to an ancient family of professional litterateurs, and had none of 
the titles which in that age were commonly considered essen- 
tial to official preferment. By extraordinary scholarship, singu- 
lar sweetness of disposition, and unswerving fidelity to justice 
and truth, he won a high reputation, and had he been content 
with the fame that his writings brought him, and with promot- 
ing the cause of scholarship through the medium of a school 
which he endowed, he might have ended his days in peace. But, 
in an evil hour, he accepted office, and thus found himself 
required to discharge the duties of statesmanship at a time of 
extreme difficulty, when an immense interval separated the rich 
and the poor, when political power was usurped by some and 
abused by others, when the arbitrariness and extortions of the 
local governors had become a burning question, when the 
nobles and princes were crushing the people with merciless 
taxes, and when the finances of the Court were in extreme 
disorder. Michizane, a gentle conservative, was not fitted to 
cope with these difficulties, and his situation at Court was com- 
plicated bv the favour of an ex-Emperor (Uda) who had abdi- 
cated but still sought to take part in the administration, and by 
the jealousy of the Fujiwara representative, Tokihira, a young, 
impetuous, arrogant, but highly gifted nobleman. These two 
men, Michizane and Tokihira, became the central figures in 
a very unequal struggle, the forces on the one side being the 
whole Fujiwara clan headed bv the unscrupulously daring and 
ambitious Tokihira; those on the other, a few scholars, the 
love and respect of the lower orders and the benevolent toler- 
ance of the self-effacing Michizane. The end was inevitable. 
Michizane, falsely accused of conspiring to obtain the Throne 
for his grandson — an Imperial prince had married his daughter 
— was banished to Dazaifu, and his familv and friends were 
cither killed or reduced to serfdom. The story is not remark- 
able. It contains no great crises or dazzling incidents. Yet 
if Michizane had been the most brilliant statesman and the 



most successful general ever possessed by Japan, his name 
could not have been handed down through all generations of 
his countrymen with greater veneration and affection. 

Note 42. — The Emperor Seiwa (859-876) was the first, 
and his example was followed by Uda (888-897). ^"^ there 
was a difference. Seiwa, after surrendering the sceptre, de- 
voted himself sincerely to prayer and pilgrimages : Uda took the 
title of H~o (high pontift) and, as the head of all the Buddhist 
prelates, led a life of splendour scarcely inferior to his previous 

Note 43. — The posthumous name given to the deceased 
by the Buddhist priests was inscribed with letters of gold on 
a black lacquered tablet, and was entrusted to the care of the 
temple where the body was buried. 

Note 44. — The " divine tree " was the emblem of Shinto. 
It will therefore be understood that these menacing demon- 
strations, though inaugurated by the Buddhist priests, were 
employed sometimes by Shinto ministers also. Instances of the 
latter nature were comparatively rare, however. 

Note 45. — This included the birth of a domesticated ani- 
mal or bird, barn-door fowl excepted. 

Note 46. — These rules are quoted from a book of eti- 
quette published at the beginning of the tenth century. 

Note 47. — A species of guitar with three strings ; essen- 
tially a woman's instrument. 

Note 48. — This game was called iro-humi-awase (com- 
posing love-letters), and the method of procedure corresponded 
to that of the uta-awase (composing poems). It found great 
favour during the reign of Horikawa (1087— 1 107). 

Note 49. — Every Chinese ideograph has a basic element, 
which is called the radical ; and a phonetic part which suggests 
the sound. Numbers of ideographs being mononymous, have 
the same phonetic part, with different radicals, and numbers 
have the same radical with different phonetic parts. Given a 
certain radical, to construct from memory as many as possible 
of the ideographs composed with it ; or given a certain pho- 
netic, to draw up an exhaustive list of the mononyms it be- 
longs to, — such was the method of the old-time calligraphic 

17 257 


Note 50. — Every one of these halls and galleries had its 
appellation, as, the " hall of everlasting benevolence," the " hall 
of sweet savour," the "hall of perpetual peace," the " hall of 
virtue and justice," and so on. 

Note 51. — Hence the wife of a nobleman was usually 
called Kita-no-kata, or " the northern personage." 

Note 52. — The dimensions of a mat were invariably six 
feet by three. It served as a unit of superficial measurement. 
Instead of saying that a room measured so many feet each way, 
people said that so many mats could be spread there. Two mats 
made a tsubo (six feet by six feet), the unit of area for lands and 
buildino-s alike. The convenience of this method of measure- 
ment is great. If a house is said to have so many feet of front- 
age and so many feet of depth, little idea of its accommodation 
is conveyed to ordinary minds, and even the dimensions of a 
room, when stated in feet, are difficult to picture to the imagina- 
tion. But when a Japanese hears that a house has fifty tsubo^ 
for example, of superficies, he knows that one hundred mats 
can be spread there, and as he is quite familiar with the space 
enclosed in a room of six mats, or eight mats, or ten mats and 
so on, he obtains at once a clear conception of the number of 
rooms that such a house may contain and their size. He 
speaks, also, of the cost of building at so much a tsubo^ and can 
thus estimate at once the expense of erecting a house with a 
given amount of accommodation. 

Note 53. — The paper of that time was not sufficiently 
tough to be fitted for such a purpose. 

Note 54. — Echigo is now the chief centre of kerosene 
production in Japan. 

Note 55. — 'The custom of putting red and gold on the lip 
had not yet been introduced. 

Note 56. — Tea and two varieties of sake. The sake., or 
rice-beer, of that time was brewed just as it is at present. But, 
after brewing, it was often mixed with ashes of the Cleroden- 
dron tricotomum to give it a bitter taste. It then received the 
name of " black sake." 

Note 57. — It is uncertain when tea was introduced into 
Japan. As early as the reign of Shomu ( 724-748), a tea-drink- 
ing entertainment took place in the Palace. The Buddhist 



priests seem to have obtained the leaf from China, and to have 
remained almost the exclusive users of the beverage until the 
beginning of the ninth century, when the Emperor Saga was so 
pleased with tea given to him by a Buddhist prelate that he 
ordered the plant to be cultivated in five provinces near the 
capital. But he did not succeed in making it popular. Its 
very name was forgotten for nearly three centuries. 

Note 58. — A spray of flowers thus attached to a present 
was called kokoro-bana (blossom of the heart ; /. e.^ flower 
of good wishes). Originally real flowers were used, but subse- 
quently artificial blossoms were substituted or even ribbons. 
In a still later age, it became customary to decorate with a 
paper butterfly the handle of a vessel used for pouring out sake 
on occasions of congratulation, and it is believed that the mod- 
ern habit of attaching coloured paper to a gift had its origin in 
the " heart-blossom." 

Note 59. — The annals of the Heian epoch contain the 
names of five celebrated flutes, four guitars, and nine harps. 
The names given to them were such as " Verdant leaves," 
" Rippling current," " Summer landscape," " Restful peace," 
" Autumn wind," " Pine-scented breeze," " Memories of the 
past," and so on. 

Note 60. — Sung by the celebrated Shizuka when, after her 
parting from Yoshitsune, she had to dance before his brother 
and enemy Yoritomo. 

Note 61. — Fille de joie. The term makes its appearance 
for the first time in books written at the beginning of the tenth 

Note 62. — A striking illustration of the part played by 
women and of the moralitv of this Court is furnished in the 


closing scene of the Heian epoch. The Emperor Toba gave 
his heart to a concubine, Toku (afterwards called Bifuku- 
mon-in). The heir-apparent, Sutoku, though nominally Toba's 
son by his consort Soshi, was suspected to be the son of his 
grandfather, Shirakavva, who had been a lover of Soshi. Toba, 
at the instigation of his mistress Toku, caused the heir-apparent 
to step aside in favour of Toku's son. But the latter died 
childless at an early age. Sutoku then seeking to recover his 
birthright, was opposed by the lady Toku, who maintained that 



her son had been done to death by Sutoku's incantations. 
These complications inaugurated the struggle between the two 
great clans of Minamoto and Taira, and plunged the nation into 
a succession of sanguinary wars. 

Note 63. — The names of these courtesans are appended 
to poems in three of the Japanese classical anthologies. 

Note 64. — The reader will observe that a serf marriage 
was legally recognised. It was not a mere contubernium^ as in 
Rome. In many respects, as indeed might be expected, the 
condition of the serf in Japan resembled that of the slave in