My Japanese Friend

MY Japanese friend writes from Osaka: ‘This is the “season of mist and mellow fruitfulness” in Japan. The persimmons have ripened, and the pomegranates are open into the mouth of the prophets . . .

‘Just at this time we are celebrating the formal ascension of our Emperor upon the sovereign throne first established by the Goddess of the Sun 2,575 years ago, and occupied ever after by her divine descendants unto this day of money and mortals. Last Sunday I went out to Kyoto to see the ceremony. It began with entry of the Emperor into the ancient capital shortly after noon. A hundred thousand people gathered along the street through which the Emperor was to pass, and scrambled for a standing place. I should say “squatting place,” for these people squatted on the ground. And they began to squat on a coarse straw mat and under the blue sky as early as two o’clock in the morning — indeed, even from the previous night! — with nothing to keep them from the dew and the wind of the night. As for me, I was offered a seat inside a house facing the street, which I was obliged to occupy, however, at three o’clock in the morning, no reservation of seats being guaranteed. Thus we waited — a hundred thousand loyal subjects of the Mikado. We waited and kept on waiting, watching the many slow hours begin and expire.

‘Strange is the emotional attitude of the Japanese. This is certainly a happy occasion. The people have draped their houses and decorated their streets with flags, banners, flowers, paper lanterns, electric lights — the whole city blossoms out in profusion of hilarious colors. Yet, they talk quietly and walk about with grave looks upon their faces, because they have deep in their hearts a sense of awe and reverence. Thus we waited, dumb and devout like sinners doing penance.

‘At last, the rumbling sounds of guns firing their salutes from the outskirts of the city signaled the arrival of the Imperial train at the railway station. All along the long and crowded way every whisper was hushed; the heavy silence was not at all to be broken except by the approach of the Imperial cortège — a pompous and picturesque train of mounted police; soldiers; a crew of them carrying on their shoulders a palanquin; more soldiers; his Majesty’s car drawn by six steeds; followed by many more carriages of the Imperial household and the high officers of the Emperor. These moved past — a phantom procession of green and yellow, of dazzling gold and brilliant red. The audience held their breath; many dared not lift their admiring eyes toward the spectacle for which they had waited so long and so patiently. When all was over — and it was over in a few minutes for each man who could not move from his place — the audience heaved a sigh, rose from the ground, and went their way.

‘What do you think of the psychology of the Japanese?’