The Fan and the Sword
BY ELLERY SEDGWICK
And what a pretty fan it makes!
— SOKAN, 1465-1554
WHEN I was a boy in corduroys and a broad collar, tucked away in the drawer of a Boule cabinet adorning our chill front parlor was a Japanese print which colored all my waking imagination. It was the year 1880 which marked my professional soldiering, and Corporal Trim was not more straitly engaged in tactical problems than I. My eighth birthday had been glorified by an army of tin soldiers right from Paris in the likeness of the Day beside the Pyramids. There were the Pyramids in all their eternity, the Sphinx itself, and the palm trees standing firm on flat tin stands; there was a battalion of French heroes; bashi-bazouks and turbaned Turks curvetted about on dappled horses, and there, majestic on his camel, was the First Consul, recalling to his men that forty centuries contemplated their deeds. This was my world, and I had thought the whole drama of war complete when a Japanese print shattered my ideal of what a warrior should be.
It was the portrait of a Daimyo. What its value as a work of art, I do not know, but as a portrayal of ferocity it was unmatchable. Neither Blake’s Tiger nor Dirk Hatteraick himself could surpass the impression it left upon my mind of the passion of a will to have its way. How was I to know that the figure was short and squat, as Japanese armor shows it must have been? The warrior looked gigantic in his harness of blue and gold. The visor up revealed the menacing brow corrugated with anger. The glaring eyes turned inward till they crossed. The nose was a hawk’s beak, the mouth a venomous slit. The razored scalp wore a blue stain. On his thigh was a twohanded sword, passed sacredly down from some remote ancestor, and his right hand reached for the hilt. I did not know then, but might have guessed, that had that blade been drawn two inches from the scabbard it could not, by the code, be sheathed again until its work was done. Such is the ritual. Once the final gesture is made, there is no turning back. The warrior’s mien breathed fire, pestilence, and death, but in his left hand was — a fan.
Copyright 1936, by The Atlantic Monthly Company, Boston, Mass. All rights reserved.
Now in those days a fan was to me the consummation of the ‘sissy’ world. Such a feminine adornment was a thing to laugh at, but there was nothing laughable about this bearer of it. Instinctively I understood that there was something symbolic here; but only after fifty years have I come to realize that the whole paradox of Japan was printed on that brilliant and compelling sheet.
The Sword and the Fan! Majesty, dominion, power, the illusion of force, the delusion of destiny — this is the meaning of the sword. The arts of living, beauty, friendship, manners — all that civilization has struggled for, all that it has won, finds expression in the fan.
To the Japanese the fan is not the trivial plaything it means to us. To them it is in its essence a symbol of authority — not the domination of a drawing-room, but a jurisdiction compelling civil obedience and social order. Originally, as the archæologues will tell you, the fan was a sceptre, shaped more or less like a mighty papercutter. Why it is that some manual symbol of power has always been thought essential you must ask Sir James Frazer or some other scholar who has gone blinking through the half-light before the dawn of history, but all of us know by instinct that a fairy cannot turn pumpkins into coaches without a wand, and that a grenadier without a baton in his knapsack never becomes a Marshal of France. Certain it is that between power and the sceptre which expresses it there is the closest relation, and in Japan some early genius saw the possibility of enclosing within the sceptre the folds of a fan. To the Japanese, sujehiro — the folding fan — always suggests the expanding future and so proclaims the promise of good fortune. How consummate the invention which both invests the ruler with authority and keeps him cool in the exercise of it!
The impassivity of the Japanese is proverbial, and to one observer their power of perfect quiet seems the necessary prelude to their power of action. Of the language of gesture they are wholly ignorant. A foreigner may talk his way from Lombardy to the Abruzzi by gesticulation. By gesture he can ask his road to any French post office or find a Tyrolean path to the nearest inn, but in Japan gesture will not guide you to the first crossroad. Before the unspoken word a Japanese is helpless, and, with every wish in the world to assist the stranger, the simplest and most natural inquiry by head or hand falls, I was about to say, on deaf eyes.
Upon this gestureless people the fan confers a certain convenient supplement to speech. Nobody well brought up, West or East, would point with the finger in public, and it goes without saying that it is boorish to stick your forefinger at a shrine or any sacred place, but by historic custom a Japanese may use a fan to designate anything he wishes to draw attention to. Even the Lord Buddha, sitting for a thousand years on his golden lotus, thinks it no shame to be pointed at by a fan; and the preacher sitting cross-legged on his chair beside the altar makes ‘the impassable way’ quite plain to his rapt congregation, squatting comfortably before him, with the silent and convincing emphasis of his fan.
It is at the theatre that the fan comes into its complete inheritance. Watch the great Kikugoro, sixth of an illustrious line, give the final touch to the grace and delicacy of his Spring Dance by the fluttering of a fan. I say ‘the final touch,’ but in truth the fan is the soul and spirit of his whole performance. It was my fortune to be introduced to him behind the scenes. The custom of the Japanese theatre is to put on one play immediately after another, and an eight-hour performance is none too long to satisfy the playgoer to whom here, as elsewhere, time is an incident completely to be disregarded. Kikugoro had just dominated a tremendous scene, dying as a daimyo should at the end of it, and my impression of him was that of a man of Herculean build, masculine as the Bull of Bashan. In his greenroom (it is anything but green in Japan) he stood before a long mirror, and as I peered over his shoulder, before my incredulous eyes the burly warrior shrank to a dancing maiden. Oh, that Ovid had seen him! Pan and Syrinx would have given place to a greater Metamorphosis. Pulling a drawstring encircling his face, what had been square before visibly became oval. The rampant eyebrows grew demure, the wide mouth narrowed, the eyes took on a seductive glance, the waist contracted, the lips were transformed to ripe cherries. Then his fan opened: the hero was a maiden, and when he danced a Mohammedan would have left his houris alone in Paradise.
When the fan first came to Japan you must ask the scholars, who will dispute much and give no answer, but certain it is that toward the close of the fifth century the cruel Emperor Yuryaku ordered his servants to make him a silk hat and a sashiha, or round fan with a long handle. So this wicked man who robbed his faithful Taka of a lovely wife, even as the Lord’s Servant David stole the wife of Uriah, blessed his people through the centuries, bequeathing to them the symbol of civilization, courtesy, and manners. For in Japan manners, far from being the smooth and easy lip service we Westerners like to think them by way of justifying our own curler and rougher ways and our heritage of ‘downright candor,’ are the woof and the warp of the national character.
The critical traveler who gives a fortnight to Japan on his way home from the Orient might be led to juster conclusions by a little further study. The truth is that from the earliest times Japanese manners have been not only the subject of systematic instruction but the intense preoccupation of statesmen. In the Jushichi Kempo, or Constitution of the year 604, promulgated by the celebrated prince reformer and saint, Shotoku Taishi, are clauses which would have appealed to many of our forefathers and which one American wishes had been incorporated into our own Constitution.
‘Ministers and functionaries should make decorous behavior their guiding principle, for decorous behavior is the main factor in governing the people. If superiors do not behave with decorum, inferiors are disorderly. If inferiors are wanting in proper behavior, offenses are inevitable. When the people behave with propriety the government of the state proceeds of itself.’
Had this been democratic doctrine, one thinks with regret of the long line of satisfactory impeachments to which our legislators would have been subjected during one hundred and fifty years of American political freedom and social license.
Another clause from this remarkable Constitution is worth quoting: —
‘Let us cease from wrath and refrain from angry looks. Nor let us be resentful when others differ from us. For all men have hearts and each heart has its own leanings. Their right is our wrong, and our right is their wrong. We are not sages, nor they unquestionable fools. Both of us are simply ordinary men.’
These precepts both people and rulers stored in their hearts. From them sprang the Tea Ceremony, which is, in its infinite decorum, a sort of condensed object lesson in the beautiful arts of quiet and of manners. I say ‘condensed,’ though the space of five hours and more required for its complete performance suggests a more spacious adjective to the Western mind. Like the fan, the Tea Ceremony symbolizes not yeasty and vaporous ideas, but practical and precise rules of living. In the seventeenth century — marked in Japan, much as it was in England, by civil wars — a triumvirate of men of genius springing from the people gave permanence to their reforms by curbing the emotional instability of their countrymen through prescribed rituals of manners and ceremonies, both political and social.
How odd and instructive it is to find a Cromwell of a man like Hideyoshi, coarse-fibred and violent, civilizing himself and learning to rule others under the guidance of a Tea Master. Go to his Teahouse, long since transported from his unscalable Momeyama — the Peach Hill to which his castle gave legendary fame, and where the illustrious Emperor Meiji now rests under his mighty tumulus of stone. You will find it now in the Court of the Nishi Hongwan-ji, — the rich and beautiful temple forever associated with the worship of Shinran-Shonin, whom seventeen millions of Japanese yet call blessed, — still protected by a pond, though not the lake which originally encompassed it. In his occasional hours of rest Hideyoshi found it comfortable to be safe. In his island pleasure house, with a boat moored alongside and four swordsmen hidden under the stair to guard him from attack, the Ruler of Japan took his steaming bath in comfort, and, after contemplating the portraits of the thirty-six poets which adorned his walls, would repair to his tiny tearoom, eight mats square, where through the narrowest of apertures, such as we should call a cellar window, his greatest chieftains, one by one, would, doffing their helmets, crawl in backward, thus teaching themselves humility before squatting at their master’s side. There, face to face with the Tea Master, they would follow his sure and ordered movements through the long ritual of a communion of friendship and loyalty.
So it is to-day. Through all the primary grades of school, manners, an essential branch of morals, are inculcated by daily instruction. I have been curious enough to run through the Englished syllabus of half a dozen of these books. They are purely official in their compilation, and seem to be written by some perennial Miss Edgeworth employed by the Japanese Government, for every page glistens with its moral and every maxim is illustrated by some simple tale embodying lessons of virtue, chivalry, and courtesy. For five years at the least these books are studied and their maxims engraved upon young minds. The whole didactic system has about it a faint aroma of Queen Victoria’s virtuous days, rather inhibiting to initiative; but what struck me as illuminating was the constant iteration of the virtues of politeness. ‘Do not laugh at foreigners, however odd they may seem to you,’ the child is counseled; ‘they may have something to teach you.’ And again, ‘Always be kind to strangers. If you see one who has lost his way, make haste to help him. Good children never fail in their politeness to visitors.’
It is astonishing how this training sticks. In moments of perplexity everybody in the vicinity wants to help the wayfarer. That the people so seldom can understand you or you them is your misfortune and not their fault. The other day I was seeking a particular address, armed as always with a map and a card written in Japanese, but since streets have no names (and, if they had, one could n’t read them) maps are a snare and a delusion. In three minutes I was uncertain, in six puzzled, and in ten quite lost. Seeing an intelligent-looking man in a chemist’s shop, I took off my hat and showed my card. Instantly he rose, bowed, and started off, I in his wake. Up this street he turned, down that. Five minutes passed, ten, twenty, still he walked on, and must have traversed a full mile before reaching my address. Then he bowed, this time twice in return to my salutation, and set off briskly on his return journey. I only wish his grade teacher of twenty years before had witnessed so signal a proof of the enduring efficacy of his teaching.
But if the Japanese is instructed in courtesy, he is also self-taught. Two gentlemen meet and bow and bow and bow. To an observer there is something faintly comic in this elaborate ornament of a chance conversation. But the Japanese recognizes the practical advantage of it. During the leisurely progress of the courtesies each establishes in his own mind the precise social status of the other, and in feudal fashion recognizes it by being the first — or the last — to cease his salutations, and further so orders his thoughts that, he can proceed with his interview free from any chance irritation or preoccupation with other matters. Had I not this on high authority, I should hardly credit it.
No discussion of Japanese manners should omit a remarkable fact I have not seen in the books. Since to show emotion is to feel it, and to give vent to perturbation is to augment it, the Japanese never rouses himself or insults another by an oath. Expletives, except among the lowest classes, are simply unknown. Self-control is the basis of Japanese strength, and every Japanese knows it.
While discussing one day with a Japanese gentleman the real hallmarks of civilization, he remarked: ‘I think the planting of trees is a manifestation of it.’ Now amongst the Japanese the planting of trees is not second nature, but nature itself. In the spring it seems to be the main business of the inhabitants. The roads are blocked with Birnam Wood upon the move. Nowhere in the world do trees pass so lively an existence. They are rooted, uprooted, re-rooted, plucked of every superfluous leaf, manicured, barbered, and wrapped in straw, twisted and turned in any required direction. A famous pine at Miajima, trained by monkish skill, has been dwarfed at some sixteen or eighteen feet, but the branch to which it owes its celebrity runs by my measurement full sixty feet along the pathway. In the parks the willows, loveliest and most fairylike among trees, are supported in every direction by bamboo crutches, which, like the shrouded figures in charge of the properties on the Japanese stage, are simply to be ignored by the beholder.
The Japanese are native brothers to all things that grow; there is no doubt about the relationship. They love and understand them as no other people. No tree that shades or ornaments a garden but is pruned and thinned. Not a withered spine is left on the fir; the leaves of the maple are plucked of their abundance, and the clusters which remain stand out against the sky like galaxies of stars. The love of the people is not for the fruits, but for the flowers. One remembers Ruskin’s despairing rhetoric when he asks whether the time will ever come when Englishmen will learn to prefer the blossoms to the fruit.
If the cherry is the intoxication of a Japanese and the maple his delight, the pine is his most enduring friend. The convoluted roots of an ancient pine charm his imagination. The bold trunk promises him security and long life. The pine and the rock — these for him are the enduring things, and he celebrates them endlessly on his screens and in his verse, while in his gardens and beside his temples they are his companions and his protectors, strong bonds between him and the eternal.
Perhaps there is no line in English that will express to the Japanese mind the consummation of earthly things more perfectly than Wordsworth’s
With rocks, and stones, and trees.
The planting of trees may be a capricious test of civilization. Let us take a measure that all will acknowledge — the character of the women it produces. Of a young Japanese on the threshold of marriage, to whom I had given much information concerning the Western world, I asked in return what it is that makes the perfect life. And he made answer: —
An American house
A French cook — and
A Japanese wife.
I am not sure whether large possibilities of this world’s happiness may not be measured by the formula. Of Japanese women our conceptions are still colored by Madame Butterfly and her sister Madame Chrysanthème. But to anyone privileged to enter a Japanese household such a picture seems fantastic. True it is that ‘a servant does not tread in the shadow of his master, nor a woman in the shadow of her lord.’ But the two paces which part a man from his wife when he walks abroad do not impair the intimate confidence between them. Nor does the total absence of any display of intimacy — kissing and its Western concomitants are absolutely unknown in Japan — have any other effect, I think, than to strengthen the domestic relationship. Privacy in Japan is absolute and unquestioned. The frail shoji and the paper screen give more effective seclusion to matters which concern the family alone than all our bolted oak and soundproof plaster.
Since the basis of Japanese society is the family, marriage takes on the nature of an alliance rather than individual relationship. A girl with whom I had been thrown into circumstances of some intimacy talked with me of the problem of her marriage. She had been educated in America, spoke English fluently, and had an excellent position in which she could employ her unquestioned capacities. Yet she saw clearly that at twenty-eight the time was soon coming when she would wish of her own choice to barter her independence for a master — and children.
‘And what sort of man must you have?’ I asked. ‘He must,’ she answered, ‘be mannerly and entirely respectable,’ which has a comic sound in our ears, but carries with it the Japanese philosophy of husbands. They must in family conclave be adjudged wholly worthy of respect, for without respect authority is a sham. And then my confidante went on to say that, although she had had unusual opportunities for education, she realized that a family without a head is an anomalous thing, and the bicephalous arrangement prevalent in America was to her unthinkable. She would, however, be entitled to her own kingdom. The children should be hers till they went to school, their characters already formed. The house would be her domain. A house without furniture and with never a guest, or very seldom, scarcely seems to an American girl a full opportunity for a career. But with flower arrangement, embroidery, and a standard of perfection in cleanliness and order, it fills a woman’s days, and not unseldom in these times her husband takes her to a restaurant and occasionally to the supreme dissipation of the theatre.
In Japan, one must remember, children are a woman’s life to an extent we hardly know. Not only is the Japanese birth rate infinitely higher than our own, but, except in the uppermost classes, a woman and her child are never parted. Its cradle is the mother’s back. Perched in place of her obi, bound in endless convolutions of scarfs, a baby begins its public life at three months or less. One would suppose that a woman washing her husband’s shirts in the brook would find it convenient to lay her baby down. But no, the little oscillating head goes bobbing from one shoulder to the other at every scrub. In the department stores the bright beady eyes of the baby are forever peering and prying over the rim of the maternal shoulder, and at the theatre an infant’s coos and cries are considered a legitimate part of the performance.
The life of a Japanese woman is not quite so empty as one would think.
Then there is dress. My friend Edward Bok, whose mind was a microcosm of infinite femininity, used to make it a part of his editorial discipline to listen to the chatter of women on the seat in front, and two conversations out of three, he maintained, invariably dealt with dress. In America feminine modes filter from Paris through Palm Beach, Atlantic City, and Fifth Avenue to all points west. They are neither native nor natural, and it is difficult for a man to comprehend their importance till he journeys to Japan. There and there only is the ultimate justification of fashion, for there are ladies dressed as a young man’s divinity should be costumed for eternity. It may well be that it is for woman’s eye rather than man’s that their graceful kimonos are embroidered with wistaria, plum, cherry, pear, or maple against the rippling background of pale grays and greens, blues and yellows. But be that as it may, the Queen of Sheba was not more glorious without. If a man’s eyes, with no undue insistence, can catch a transient picture of a Japanese lady as she passes the background of a golden screen, her enchanting costume, with its obi, a culminating radiance of light and color, that night he will know the iridescence of a dream.
Wherein does the charm of woman dwell? I have traveled through the world, and my opinion is that man’s perfect tribute to woman is to her who listens well. If this be true, what is the meed of praise for a Japanese lady as she sits still as Galatea before Pygmalion, her small and comely hands lying in her lap, her dark eyes on the speaker’s lips, paying to him her compliment of a sweet and silent smile?
Take off your shoes before you step on the polished boards. Push back the shoji and look within the room. It is smooth-carpeted with mats of fresh and fragrant straw, all of one size, but matching perfectly the room’s dimensions. Of furniture there is none, except perhaps a table raised a bare six inches from the floor, with four cushions about it. The walls are of rice paper, covering a delicate lattice of soft white wood, and at the further end a recess with a shelf or takemono, the single ornament of the apartment. Here stands the arrangement of flowers on which the housewife has spent hours of labor. Here is a single bronze, choice and small, and above it a kakemono changed according to the seasons and the predilections of the master. That is absolutely all.
In such a room the covetousness of life dies away. A multitude of possessions cannot enrich it. Envy and desire pause at the threshold. A man has what is needful — nothing more. Fire or earthquake can rob him of little. Here a man’s house takes its color from his thoughts, his dreams, and his deeds. His mind is stored with the precepts of Tenkai: —
The more one wants.
Blessed he, unfilled,
And yet content.
This is the Empire of the Fan.
The Japanese are the most instinctive people in the world. I am told that the German philosophies are a favorite study of the undergraduates at the Imperial Universities, but I cannot believe that those billowy ideas, yeasty and sterile as the waves of the sea, will become endemic there. The people are too primitive, their thought too derivative from the early inheritance of the race. They borrow, but they borrow to transform. The vast Oriental tide from China which seemed to engulf the country in the sixth and seventh centuries is paralleled by the Western flood of the Meiji era, which has been continued to recent times. But, visibly now, that inundation is being stayed, and gradually transmuted, as was the earlier invasion, into something of which a native Japanese can say, ‘This is mine own.’
Individual thought in the Western sense is difficult for these people. A single Japanese is apt to be incompetent, and not till a little group gathers does competence succeed. This multiplying of individual inefficiencies into superlative efficiency is a miracle, explain it how you will. Perhaps the family which thinks as a unit under the directing head is the key to the riddle, but certain it is that only the lonely captains of the race who have led their people through the Valley of Decision can sustain the bitter weight of thought.
For ratiocination the crowd has no liking. They distrust the question to which there is no answer. It is the raveling philosophies of the Chinese which have brought their country to its futile present; and the ceaseless iteration in the West of why, whither, whence, the endless answers of each generation as endlessly refuted in the next, seem to the Japanese a waste of energy when there is an empire to be built. Rather they prefer to rely on the unformulated wisdom which seeps through the generations, leaving its anonymous and precious silt. The Japanese are a hive of bees, and Virgil’s simile of the building of Carthage admirably describes them, toiling together for a toilless ruler, scouring the flowered fields for the honey that will support the tribe and thinking nothing of fulfilling their destiny by dying in defense of the precious distillation which it is their duty to protect.
This primitive instinct is, I think, the reason for their acceptance of the naturalness of all things. Death is merely a beat in the slow rhythm of eternity. Rocks and stones, the enduring things, are fellow travelers in the timeless journey of the race. They have personality like the trees, and in every garden the stones which give it character are known and called by individual names. An inscription in verse or prose often bears this witness. ‘The rock bathed in the beams of the crescent moon’ is a name one often meets; and in the garden of the Silver Pavilion at Kyoto, hard by a miniature Fuji of sand so compacted that it has stood white and perfect for three hundred years, is a sentinel rock with a legend to mark it: ‘At the foot of the mountain where we await the rising of the moon, destined soon, alas, to set’; and the shadow of the hill beyond already darkening the pool reminds the visitor how many a lover of gardens has waited there for his brief tryst with Diana.
Trees, streams, rocks, and pools for the common folk still have their Kami — the ‘over’ people. The Japanese have no word for God save the imported one; but the Kami, who never had reason to fly like Pan from the sight of the Christian Cross, knowing well that the Western Deity will never take their people captive, still dwell on every mountaintop and in the heart of every ancient tree. They are a friendly race, these Kami, and will not frighten children, but their dignity as immortals constrains respect; and if, for instance, you live in view of some mountain peak, it is well to pile a few stones before your house as a sort of recognition that the mountain spirit is not far from your thoughts.
These Kami are not gods in the familiar sense; every good Japanese becomes a Kami when he dies. So vivid is this realization of the tie between those who were and those who are, it does not occur to a Japanese that he lives on the very borderland of the supernatural. A man’s ancestors are quite as much a part of his world as his wife or children. If the youthful Hojo or Takeda does well at school, his parents remark that Uncle Togotomi will be gratified, though Uncle Togotomi has been part of his country’s dust these twenty years.
Every man is entitled to his immortality, but those Kami who on earth have proved their worth maintain immortally their eminence. Time and legend lend their weight, and of course the Kami connected with imperial tradition are still imperially great. Not infrequently the Emperor invests with some posthumous honor the spirits of the mighty dead, much as Catholics beatify their saints. And it was not out of the common when last autumn the General commanding the manœuvres in Manchukuo invited the foreign attachés to pay their respects, after due purgation by the priests, at the shrine of Ninigo-noMikoto, who brought down the sacred sword from Heaven and gave Japan her first symbol of powrer.
Everywhere signs of ancient fetishes abound. Stroll into the Asakusa quarter of Tokyo and, save for the jacket and trousers of an occasional workman, you will find a population almost untouched by the West. At the Shrine of the Fox you will see a constant procession of worshipers; families off for a picnic in the park (it is astonishing, in a country where holidays are few, how multitudinous each morning are the holiday crowds) pass the Sentinel Foxes that guard the shrine, and bow their heads before a power they know not quite what; shoppers with their bundles, geishas, their polished hair fashioned with fantastic artifice and bright with spangles, clap their hands in ancient ceremonial, and, bending their self-conscious little heads, disclose the angular tracing at the back of the neck, sign manual of their profession.
Whether one believes or not, everybody likes to have these comforting little foxes somewhere in the vicinity, and in the department stores shrines gay with gilding are dedicated to them, for they bring luck as certain as the rabbit’s foot to the Negro or a horseshoe to the rest of us.
Only over a people who preserve the ancient simplicities could the tradition of the Fan so long hold sway.
The day after to-morrow and the day before yesterday keep step in Japan. In the most modern life curious survivals crop up at every turn. The common folk do not care to move from a house which faces one way to a home that faces another. People like to marry when the stars promise harmony. Seldom are the auguries neglected, and the astrologers do a rushing business with all classes of society. The oracles are never silent.
Yet, in considering these things with that sense of superiority which is so comforting to the Western mind, it is salutary to recall the ghostly writing and spirit rappings, the astral photographs, trances, séances, mediums, table tipping, the paraphernalia of spiritism and the vagaries of our sectarian beliefs. Theosophy, animism, Bahaism — all the way down to voodooism. Is it possible that we children of the Light are contaminated by superstitions quite as gross as those we find so quaintly amusing in our Oriental friends? It was Ben Franklin, I think, who reminded us that all are people walking in a fog. ‘Just see,’ we say to ourselves, ‘those poor folk over there, fair blinded by the mist. How fortunate are we to be able to see just a little.’
The truth is that all of us, West and East alike, are struggling out of the jungles of our ancestors. The light is fitful and uncertain, the road unmarked. Here and there an individual stumbles a few paces ahead, but over us all the black shadows still press down.
It is this primitive character of the Japanese people which makes their relations with God’s creatures so natural and charming. Kim would have lived tolerantly among them. Who ever saw a Japanese cruel to his horse or his bullock or his children? Theirs is not the happiness of having grown up with dogs, for matted floors and paper walls are outrageous to canine nature; but watch how trustfully wild animals approach them. Perhaps it is from their power of quiet that the boundaries between them and the wild creatures are less formalized than in the Western world.
At Beppu, on the Inland Sea, I was told that each month in the dark of the moon the Bandar-log folk troop down from Monkey Mountain to the shore where the hot springs pour comfortably into the sea, and sitting up to their noses in the warm water, chattering undisturbed by the bathers, rid themselves deliciously of their fleas. Still pleasanter it is to think of the turtles swimming up the Japan Stream from the tropics and finding at this same Beppu a little local paradise of steamheated water. Occasionally they entangle themselves in the fisherman’s nets, — and turtles are good eating, — but tradition rules among the people, and the fisherman, saying, ‘How these fellows enjoy themselves,’ gives them a little nip of sake that their joy may be full and slips them over the side to make sure that happiness grows not less in the world.
I have spoken at random and most imperfectly of many characteristics of a happy and unique civilization of which the Fan is the satisfying symbol. How fortunate that a land of infinite loveliness should belong to a people fitted beyond all nations of the earth to understand and to enjoy it — a gay people, though not a humorous one, for humor has its mordant and malignant side; a kindly people, hospitable to strangers; a people of unyielding standards and strong beliefs, a people to whom Duty is the First and Great Commandment.
But there is a symbol still older than the Fan, thrown heavily in the balance against it. It is the symbol of the Sword. If my readers have patience to listen, I shall speak of that next month.