Tales of Old Japan

conducted in the most private manner, the casual remarks which we overheard in the streets, and a crowd lining the principal entrance to the temple, showed that it was a matter of no little interest to the public. The courtyard of the temple presented a most picturesque sight; it was crowded with soldiers standing about in knots round large fires, which threw a dim flickering light over the heavy eaves and quaint gable-ends of the sacred buildings. We were shown into an inner room, where we were to wait until the preparation for the ceremony was completed: in the next room to us were the high Japanese officers. After a long interval, which seemed doubly long from the silence which prevailed, Itô Shunské, the provisional Governor of Hiogo, came and took down our names, and informed us that seven kenshi, sheriffs or witnesses, would attend on the part of the Japanese. He and another officer represented the Mikado; two captains of Satsuma's infantry, and two of Choshiu's, with a representative of the Prince of Bizen, the clan of the condemned man, completed the number, which was probably arranged in order to tally with that of the foreigners. Itô Shunské further inquired whether we wished to put any questions to the prisoner. We replied in the negative.

A further delay then ensued, after which we were invited to follow the Japanese witnesses into the hondo or main hall of the temple, where the ceremony was to be performed. It was an imposing scene. A large hall with a high roof supported by dark pillars of wood. From the ceiling hung a profusion of those huge gilt lamps and ornaments peculiar to Buddhist temples. In front of the high altar, where the floor, covered with beautiful white mats, is raised some three or four inches from the ground, was laid a rug of scarlet felt. Tall candles placed at regular intervals gave out a dim mysterious light, just sufficient to let all the proceedings be seen. The seven Japanese took their places on the left of the raised floor, the seven foreigners on the right. No other person was present.

After an interval of a few minutes of anxious suspense, Taki Zenzaburô, a stalwart man, thirty-two years of age, with a noble air, walked into the hall attired in his dress of ceremony, with the peculiar hempen-cloth wings which are worn on great occasions. He was accompanied by a kaishaku and three officers, who wore the jimbaori or war surcoat with gold-tissue facings. The word kaishaku, it should be observed, is one to which our word executioner is no equivalent term. The office is that of a gentleman: in many cases it is performed by a kinsman or friend of the condemned, and the relation between them is rather that of principal and second than that of victim and executioner. In this instance the kaishaku was a pupil of Taki Zenzaburô, and was selected by the friends of the latter from among their own number for his skill in swordsmanship.

With the kaishaku on his left hand, Taki Zenzaburô advanced slowly towards the Japanese witnesses, and the two bowed before them, then drawing near to the foreigners they saluted us in the same way, perhaps even with more deference: in each case the salutation was ceremoniously returned. Slowly, and with great dignity, the condemned man mounted on to the raised floor, prostrated himself before the high altar twice, and seated112 himself on the felt carpet with his back to the high altar, the kaishaku crouching on his left-hand side. One of the three attendant officers then came forward, bearing a stand of the kind used in temples for offerings, on which, wrapped in paper, lay the wakizashi, the short sword or dirk of the Japanese, nine inches and a half in length, with a point and an edge as sharp as a razor's. This he handed, prostrating himself, to the condemned man, who received it reverently, raising it to his head with both hands, and placed it in front of himself.

After another profound obeisance, Taki Zenzaburô, in a voice which betrayed just so much emotion and hesitation as might be expected from a man who is making a painful confession, but with no sign of either in his face or manner, spoke as follows:—

"I, and I alone, unwarrantably gave the order to fire on the foreigners at Kôbé, and again as they tried to escape. For this crime I disembowel myself, and I beg you who are present to do me the honour of witnessing the act."

Bowing once more, the speaker allowed his upper garments to slip down to his girdle, and remained naked to the waist. Carefully, according to custom, he tucked his sleeves under his knees to prevent himself from falling backwards; for a noble Japanese gentleman should die falling forwards. Deliberately, with a steady hand, he took the dirk that lay before him; he looked at it wistfully, almost affectionately; for a moment he seemed to collect his thoughts for the last time, and then stabbing himself deeply below the waist on the left-hand side, he drew the dirk slowly across to the right side, and, turning it in the wound, gave a slight cut upwards. During this sickeningly painful operation he never moved a muscle of his face. When he drew out the dirk, he leaned forward and stretched out his neck; an expression of pain for the first time crossed his face, but he uttered no sound. At that moment the kaishaku, who, still crouching by his side, had been keenly watching his every movement, sprang to his feet, poised his sword for a second in the air; there was a flash, a heavy, ugly thud, a crashing fall; with one blow the head had been severed from the body.

A dead silence followed, broken only by the hideous noise of the blood throbbing out of the inert heap before us, which but a moment before had been a brave and chivalrous man. It was horrible.

The kaishaku made a low bow, wiped his sword with a piece of paper which he had ready for the purpose, and retired from the raised floor; and the stained dirk was solemnly borne away, a bloody proof of the execution.

The two representatives of the Mikado then left their places, and, crossing over to where the foreign witnesses sat, called us to witness that the sentence of death upon Taki Zenzaburô had been faithfully carried out. The ceremony being at an end, we left the temple.

The ceremony, to which the place and the hour gave an additional solemnity, was characterized throughout by that extreme dignity and punctiliousness which are the distinctive marks of the proceedings of Japanese gentlemen of rank; and it is important to note this fact, because it carries with it the conviction that the dead man was indeed the officer who had committed the crime, and no substitute. While profoundly impressed by the terrible scene it was impossible at the same time not to be filled with admiration of the firm and manly bearing of the sufferer, and of the nerve with which the kaishaku performed his last duty to his master. Nothing could more strongly show the force of education. The Samurai, or gentleman of the military class, from his earliest years learns to look upon the hara-kiri as a ceremony in which some day he may be called upon to play a part as principal or second. In old-fashioned families, which hold to the traditions of ancient chivalry, the child is instructed in the rite and familiarized with the idea as an honourable expiation of crime or blotting out of disgrace. If the hour comes, he is prepared for it, and gravely faces an ordeal which early training has robbed of half its horrors. In what other country in the world does a man learn that the last tribute of affection which he may have to pay to his best friend may be to act as his executioner?

Since I wrote the above, we have heard that, before his entry into the fatal hall, Taki Zenzaburô called round him all those of his own clan who were present, many of whom had carried out his order to fire, and, addressing them in a short speech, acknowledged the heinousness of his crime and the justice of his sentence, and warned them solemnly to avoid any repetition of attacks upon foreigners. They were also addressed by the officers of the Mikado, who urged them to bear no ill-will against us on account of the fate of their fellow-clansman. They declared that they entertained no such feeling.

The opinion has been expressed that it would have been politic for the foreign representatives at the last moment to have interceded for the life of Taki Zenzaburô. The question is believed to have been debated among the representatives themselves. My own belief is that mercy, although it might have produced the desired effect among the more civilized clans, would have been mistaken for weakness and fear by those wilder people who have not yet a personal knowledge of foreigners. The offence—an attack upon the flags and subjects of all the Treaty Powers, which lack of skill, not of will, alone prevented from ending in a universal massacre—was the gravest that has been committed upon foreigners since their residence in Japan. Death was undoubtedly deserved, and the form chosen was in Japanese eyes merciful and yet judicial. The crime might have involved a war and cost hundreds of lives; it was wiped out by one death. I believe that, in the interest of Japan as well as in our own, the course pursued was wise, and it was very satisfactory to me to find that one of the ablest Japanese ministers, with whom I had a discussion upon the subject, was quite of my opinion.

The ceremonies observed at the hara-kiri appear to vary slightly in detail in different parts of Japan; but the following memorandum upon the subject of the rite, as it used to be practised at Yedo during the rule of the Tycoon, clearly establishes its judicial character. I translated it from a paper drawn up for me by a Japanese who was able to speak of what he had seen himself. Three different ceremonies are described:—

1st. Ceremonies observed at the "hara-kiri" of a Hatamoto (petty noble of the Tycoon's court) in prison.—This is conducted with great secrecy. Six mats are spread in a large courtyard of the prison; an ometsuké (officer whose duties appear to consist in the surveillance of other officers), assisted by two other ometsukés of the second and third class, acts as kenshi (sheriff or witness), and sits in front of the mats. The condemned man, attired in his dress of ceremony, and wearing his wings of hempen cloth, sits in the centre of the mats. At each of the four corners of the mats sits a prison official. Two officers of the Governor of the city act as kaishaku (executioners or seconds), and take their place, one on the right hand and the other on the left hand of the condemned. The kaishaku on the left side, announcing his name and surname, says, bowing, "I have the honour to act as kaishaku to you; have you any last wishes to confide to me?" The condemned man thanks him and accepts the offer or not, as the case may be. He then bows to the sheriff, and a wooden dirk nine and a half inches long is placed before him at a distance of three feet, wrapped in paper, and lying on a stand such as is used for offerings in temples. As he reaches forward to take the wooden sword, and stretches out his neck, the kaifihaku on his left-hand side draws his sword and strikes off his head. The kaishaku on the right-hand side takes up the head and shows it to the sheriff. The body is given to the relations of the deceased for burial. His property is confiscated.

2nd. The ceremonies observed at the "hara-kiri" of a Daimio's retainer.—When the retainer of a Daimio is condemned to perform the hara-kiri, four mats are placed in the yard of the yashiki or palace. The condemned man, dressed in his robes of ceremony and wearing his wings of hempen cloth, sits in the centre. An officer acts as chief witness, with a second witness under him. Two officers, who act as kaishaku, are on the right and left of the condemned man; four officers are placed at the corners of the mats. The kaishaku, as in the former case, offers to execute the last wishes of the condemned. A dirk nine and a half inches long is placed before him on a stand. In this case the dirk is a real dirk, which the man takes and stabs himself with on the left side, below the navel, drawing it across to the right side. At this moment, when he leans forward in pain, the kaishaku on the left-hand side cuts off the head. The kaishaku on the right-hand side takes up the head, and shows it to the sheriff. The body is given to the relations for burial. In most cases the property of the deceased is confiscated.

3rd. Self-immolation of a Daimio on account of disgrace.—When a Daimio had been guilty of treason or offended against the Tycoon, inasmuch as the family was disgraced, and an apology could neither be offered nor accepted, the offending Daimio was condemned to hara-kiri. Calling his councillors around him, he confided to them his last will and testament for transmission to the Tycoon. Then, clothing himself in his court dress, he disembowelled himself, and cut his own throat. His councillors then reported the matter to the Government, and a coroner was sent to investigate it. To him the retainers handed the last will and testament of their lord, and be took it to the Gorôjiu (first council), who transmitted it to the Tycoon. If the offence was heinous, such as would involve the ruin of the whole family, by the clemency of the Tycoon, half the property might be confiscated, and half returned to the heir; if the offence was trivial, the property was inherited intact by the heir, and the family did not suffer.

In all cases where the criminal disembowels himself of his own accord without condemnation and without investigation, inasmuch as he is no longer able to defend himself, the offence is considered as non-proven, and the property is not confiscated. In the year 1869 a motion was brought forward in the Japanese parliament by one Ono Seigorô, clerk of the house, advocating the abolition of the practice of hara-kiri. Two hundred members out of a house of 209 voted against the motion, which was supported by only three speakers, six members not voting on either side. In this debate the seppuku, or hara-kiri, was called "the very shrine of the Japanese national spirit, and the embodiment in practice of devotion to principle," "a great ornament to the empire," "a pillar of the constitution," "a valuable institution, tending to the honour of the nobles, and based on a compassionate feeling towards the official caste," "a pillar of religion and a spur to virtue." The whole debate (which is well worth reading, and an able translation of which by Mr. Aston has appeared in a recent Blue Book) shows the affection with which the Japanese cling to the traditions of a chivalrous past. It is worthy of notice that the proposer, Ono Seigorô, who on more than one occasion rendered himself conspicuous by introducing motions based upon an admiration of our Western civilization, was murdered not long after this debate took place.

There are many stories on record of extraordinary heroism being displayed in the hara-kiri. The case of a young fellow, only twenty years old, of the Choshiu clan, which was told me the other day by an eye-witness, deserves mention as a marvellous instance of determination. Not content with giving himself the one necessary cut, he slashed himself thrice horizontally and twice vertically. Then he stabbed himself in the throat until the dirk protruded on the other side, with its sharp edge to the front; setting his teeth in one supreme effort, he drove the knife forward with both hands through his throat, and fell dead.

One more story and I have done. During the revolution, when the Tycoon, beaten on every side, fled ignominiously to Yedo, he is said to have determined to fight no more, but to yield everything. A member of his second council went to him and said, "Sir, the only way for you now to retrieve the honour of the family of Tokugawa is to disembowel yourself; and to prove to you that I am sincere and disinterested in what I say, I am here ready to disembowel myself with you." The Tycoon flew into a great rage, saying that he would listen to no such nonsense, and left the room. His faithful retainer, to prove his honesty, retired to another part of the castle, and solemnly performed the hara-kiri.




The ceremonies observed at marriages are various, and it is not right for a man, exceeding the bounds of his condition in life, to transgress against the rules which are laid down. When the middle-man has arranged the preliminaries of the marriage between the two parties, he carries the complimentary present, which is made at the time of betrothal, from the future bridegroom to his destined bride; and if this present is accepted, the lady's family can no longer retract their promise. This is the beginning of the contract. The usual betrothal presents are as follows. Persons of the higher classes send a robe of white silk; a piece of gold embroidery for a girdle; a piece of silk stuff; a piece of white silk, with a lozenge pattern, and other silk stuffs (these are made up into a pile of three layers); fourteen barrels of wine, and seven sorts of condiments. Persons of the middle class send a piece of white silk stuff; a piece of gold embroidery for a girdle; a piece of white silk, with a lozenge pattern, and other silk stuffs (these are made up into a pile of two layers); ten barrels of wine, and five sorts of condiments. The lower classes send a robe of white silk, a robe of coloured silk, in a pile of one layer, together with six barrels of wine and three sorts of condiments. To the future father-in-law is sent a sword, with a scabbard for slinging, such as is worn in war-time, together with a list of the presents; to the mother-in-law, a silk robe, with wine and condiments. Although all these presents are right and proper for the occasion, still they must be regulated according to the means of the persons concerned. The future father-in-law sends a present of equal value in return to his son-in-law, but the bride elect sends no return present to her future husband; the present from the father-in-law must by no means be omitted, but according to his position, if he be poor, he need only send wine and condiments.

In sending the presents care must be taken not to fold the silk robe. The two silk robes that are sent on the marriage night must be placed with the collars stitched together in a peculiar fashion.

The ceremonies of sending the litter to fetch the bride on the wedding night are as follows. In families of good position, one of the principal retainers on either side is deputed to accompany the bride and to receive her. Matting is spread before the entrance-door, upon which the bride's litter is placed, while the two principal retainers congratulate one another, and the officers of the bridegroom receive the litter. If a bucket containing clams, to make the wedding broth, has been sent with the bride, it is carried and received by a person of distinction. Close by the entrance-door a fire is lighted on the right hand and on the left. These fires are called garden-torches. In front of the corridor along which the litter passes, on the right hand and on the left, two men and two women, in pairs, place two mortars, right and left, in which they pound rice; as the litter passes, the pounded rice from the left-hand side is moved across to the right, and the two are mixed together into one. This is called the blending of the rice-meal.113 Two candles are lighted, the one on the right hand and the other on the left of the corridor; and after the litter has passed, the candle on the left is passed over to the right, and, the two wicks being brought together, the candles are extinguished. These last three ceremonies are only performed at the weddings of persons of high rank; they are not observed at the weddings of ordinary persons. The bride takes with her to her husband's house, as presents, two silken robes sewed together in a peculiar manner, a dress of ceremony with wings of hempen cloth, an upper girdle and an under girdle, a fan, either five or seven pocket-books, and a sword: these seven presents are placed on a long tray, and their value must depend upon the means of the family.

The dress of the bride is a white silk robe with a lozenge pattern, over an under-robe, also of white silk. Over her head she wears a veil of white silk, which, when she sits down, she allows to fall about her as a mantle.

The bride's furniture and effects are all arranged for her by female attendants from her own house on a day previous to the wedding; and the bridegroom's effects are in like manner arranged by the women of his own house.

When the bride meets her husband in the room where the relations are assembled, she takes her seat for this once in the place of honour, her husband sitting in a lower place, not directly opposite to her, but diagonally, and discreetly avoiding her glance.

On the raised part of the floor are laid out beforehand two trays, the preparations for a feast, a table on which are two wagtails,114 a second table with a representation of Elysium, fowls, fish, two wine-bottles, three wine-cups, and two sorts of kettles for warming wine. The ladies go out to meet the bride, and invite her into a dressing-room, and, when she has smoothed her dress, bring her into the room, and she and the bridegroom take their seats in the places appointed for them. The two trays are then brought out, and the ladies-in-waiting, with complimentary speeches, hand dried fish and seaweed, such as accompany presents, and dried chestnuts to the couple. Two married ladies then each take one of the wine-bottles which have been prepared, and place them in the lower part of the room. Then two handmaids, who act as wine-pourers, bring the kettles and place them in the lower part of the room. The two wine-bottles have respectively a male and female butterfly, made of paper, attached to them. The female butterfly is laid on its back, and the wine is poured from the bottle into the kettle. The male butterfly is then taken and laid on the female butterfly, and the wine from the bottle is poured into the same kettle, and the whole is transferred with due ceremony to another kettle of different shape, which the wine-pourers place in front of themselves. Little low dining-tables are laid, one for each person, before the bride and bridegroom, and before the bride's ladies-in-waiting; the woman deputed to pour the wine takes the three wine-cups and places them one on the top of the other before the bridegroom, who drinks two cups115 from the upper cup, and pours a little wine from the full kettle into the empty kettle. The pouring together of the wine on the wedding night is symbolical of the union that is being contracted. The bridegroom next pours out a third cup of wine and drinks it, and the cup is carried by the ladies to the bride, who drinks three cups, and pours a little wine from one kettle into the other, as the bridegroom did. A cup is then set down and put on the other two, and they are carried back to the raised floor and arranged as before. After this, condiments are set out on the right-hand side of a little table, and the wine-pourers place the three cups before the bride, who drinks three cups from the second cup, which is passed to the bridegroom; he also drinks three cups as before, and the cups are piled up and arranged in their original place, by the wine-pourers. A different sort of condiment is next served on the left-hand side; and the three cups are again placed before the bridegroom, who drinks three cups from the third cup, and the bride does the same. When the cups and tables have been put back in their places, the bridegroom, rising from his seat, rests himself for a while. During this time soup of fishes' fins and wine are served to the bride's ladies-in-waiting and to the serving-women. They are served with a single wine-cup of earthenware, placed upon a small square tray, and this again is set upon a long tray, and a wine-kettle with all sorts of condiments is brought from the kitchen. When this part of the feast is over, the room is put in order, and the bride and bridegroom take their seats again. Soups and a preparation of rice are now served, and two earthenware cups, gilt and silvered, are placed on a tray, on which there is a representation of the island of Takasago.116 This time butterflies of gold and silver paper are attached to the wine-kettles. The bridegroom drinks a cup or two, and the ladies-in-waiting offer more condiments to the couple. Rice, with hot water poured over it, according to custom, and carp soup are brought in, and, the wine having been heated, cups of lacquer ware are produced; and it is at this time that the feast commences. (Up to now the eating and drinking has been merely a form.) Twelve plates of sweetmeats and tea are served; and the dinner consists of three courses, one course of seven dishes, one of five dishes, and one of three dishes, or else two courses of five dishes and one of three dishes, according to the means of the family. The above ceremonies are those which are proper only in families of the highest rank, and are by no means fitting for the lower classes, who must not step out of the proper bounds of their position.

There is a popular tradition that, in the ceremony of drinking wine on the wedding night, the bride should drink first, and then hand the cup to the bridegroom; but although there are some authorities upon ceremonies who are in favour of this course, it is undoubtedly a very great mistake. In the "Record of Rites," by Confucius, it is written, "The man stands in importance before the woman: it is the right of the strong over the weak. Heaven ranks before earth; the prince ranks before his minister. This law of honour is one." Again, in the "Book of History," by Confucius, it is written, "The hen that crows in the morning brings misfortune." In our own literature in the Jusho (Book of the Gods), "When the goddesses saw the gods for the first time, they were the first to cry cut, 'Oh! what beautiful males!' But the gods were greatly displeased, and said, 'We, who are so strong and powerful, should by rights have been the first to speak; how is it that, on the contrary, these females speak first? This is indeed vulgar.'" Again it is written, "When the gods brought forth the cripple Hiruko, the Lord of Heaven, answering, said that his misfortune was a punishment upon the goddesses who had presumed to speak first." The same rule therefore exists in China and in Japan, and it is held to be unlucky that the wife should take precedence: with this warning people should be careful how they commit a breach of etiquette, although it may be sanctioned by the vulgar.

At the wedding of the lower classes, the bride and her ladies and friends have a feast, but the bridegroom has no feast; and when the bride's feast is over, the bridegroom is called in and is presented with the bride's wine-cup; but as the forms observed are very vulgar, it is not worth while to point out the rules which guide them. As this night is essentially of importance to the married couple only, there are some writers on ceremonies who have laid down that no feast need be prepared for the bride's ladies, and in my opinion they are right: for the husband and wife at the beginning of their intercourse to be separated, and for the bride alone to be feasted like an ordinary guest, appears to be an inauspicious opening. I have thus pointed out two ill-omened customs which are to be avoided.

The ceremonies observed at the weddings of persons of ordinary rank are as follows:—The feast which is prepared is in proportion to the means of the individuals. There must be three wine-cups set out upon a tray. The ceremony of drinking wine three times is gone through, as described above, after which the bride changes her dress, and a feast of three courses is produced—two courses of five dishes and one of three dishes, or one course of five dishes, one of three, and one of two, according to the means of the family. A tray, with a representation of the island of Takasago, is brought out, and the wine is heated; sweetmeats of five or seven sorts are also served in boxes or trays; and when the tea comes in, the bridegroom gets up, and goes to rest himself. If the wine kettles are of tin, they must not be set out in the room: they must be brought in from the kitchen; and in that case the paper butterflies are not attached to them.

In old times the bride and bridegroom used to change their dress three or five times during the ceremony; but at the present time, after the nine cups of wine have been drunk, in the manner recorded above, the change of dress takes place once. The bride puts on the silk robe which she has received from the bridegroom, while he dons the dress of ceremony which has been brought by the bride.

When these ceremonies have been observed, the bride's ladies conduct her to the apartments of her parents-in-law. The bride carries with her silk robes, as presents for her parents and brothers and sister-in-law. A tray is brought out, with three wine-cups, which are set before the parents-in-law and the bride. The father-in-law drinks three cups and hands the cup to the bride, who, after she has drunk two cups, receives a present from her father-in-law; she then drinks a third cup, and returns the cup to her father-in-law, who again drinks three cups. Fish is then brought in, and, in the houses of ordinary persons, a preparation of rice. Upon this the mother-in-law, taking the second cup, drinks three cups and passes the cup to the bride, who drinks two cups and receives a present from her mother-in-law: she then drinks a third cup and gives back the cup to the mother-in-law, who drinks three cups again. Condiments are served, and, in ordinary houses, soup; after which the bride drinks once from the third cup and hands it to her father-in-law, who drinks thrice from it; the bride again drinks twice from it, and after her the mother-in-law drinks thrice. The parents-in-law and the bride thus have drunk in all nine times. If there are any brothers or sisters-in-law, soup and condiments are served, and a single porcelain wine-cup is placed before them on a tray, and they drink at the word of command of the father-in-law. It is not indispensable that soup should be served upon this occasion. If the parents of the bridegroom are dead, instead of the above ceremony, he leads his bride to make her obeisances before the tablets on which their names are inscribed.

In old days, after the ceremonies recorded above had been gone through, the bridegroom used to pay a visit of ceremony to the bride's parents; but at the present time the visit is paid before the wedding, and although the forms observed on the occasion resemble those of the ancient times, still they are different, and it would be well that we should resume the old fashion. The two trays which had been used at the wedding feast, loaded with fowl and fish and condiments neatly arranged, used to be put into a long box and sent to the father-in-law's house. Five hundred and eighty cakes of rice in lacquer boxes were also sent. The modern practice of sending the rice cakes in a bucket is quite contrary to etiquette: no matter how many lacquer boxes may be required for the purpose, they are the proper utensils for sending the cakes in. Three, five, seven, or ten men's loads of presents, according to the means of the family, are also offered. The son-in-law gives a sword and a silk robe to his father-in-law, and a silk robe to his mother-in-law, and also gives presents to his brothers and sisters-in-law. (The ceremony of drinking wine is the same as that which takes place between the bride and her parents-in-law, with a very slight deviation: the bridegroom receives no presents from his mother-in-law, and when the third cup is drunk the son-in-law drinks before the father-in-law). A return visit is paid by the bride's parents to the bridegroom, at which similar forms are observed.

At the weddings of the great, the bridal chamber is composed of three rooms thrown into one,117 and newly decorated. If there are only two rooms available, a third room is built for the occasion. The presents, which have been mentioned above, are set out on two trays. Besides these, the bridegroom's clothes are hung up upon clothes-racks. The mattress and bedclothes are placed in a closet. The bride's effects must all be arranged by the women who are sent on a previous day for the purpose, or it may be done whilst the bride is changing her clothes. The shrine for the image of the family god is placed on a shelf adjoining the sleeping-place. There is a proper place for the various articles of furniture. The kaioké118 is placed on the raised floor; but if there be no raised floor, it is placed in a closet with the door open, so that it may be conspicuously seen. The books are arranged on a book-shelf or on a cabinet; if there be neither shelf nor cabinet, they are placed on the raised floor. The bride's clothes are set out on a clothes-rack; in families of high rank, seven robes are hung up on the rack; five of these are taken away and replaced by others, and again three are taken away and replaced by others; and there are either two or three clothes-racks: the towel-rack is set up in a place of more honour than the clothes-racks. If there is no dressing-room, the bride's bedclothes and dressing furniture are placed in the sleeping-room. No screens are put up on the bridal night, but a fitting place is chosen for them on the following day. All these ceremonies must be in proportion to the means of the family.


The author of the "Sho-rei Hikki" makes no allusion to the custom of shaving the eyebrows and blackening the teeth of married women, in token of fidelity to their lords. In the upper classes, young ladies usually blacken their teeth before leaving their father's house to enter that of their husbands, and complete the ceremony by shaving their eyebrows immediately after the wedding, or, at any rate, not later than upon the occasion of their first pregnancy.

The origin of the fashion is lost in antiquity. As a proof that it existed before the eleventh century, A.D., a curious book called "Teijô Zakki," or the Miscellaneous Writings of Teijô, cites the diary of Murasaki Shikibu, the daughter of one Tamésoki, a retainer of the house of Echizen, a lady of the court and famous poetess, the authoress of a book called "Genji-mono-gatari," and other works. In her diary it is written that on the last night of the fifth year of the period Kankô (A.D. 1008), in order that she might appear to advantage on New Year's Day, she retired to the privacy of her own apartment, and repaired the deficiencies of her personal appearance by re-blackening her teeth, and otherwise adorning herself. Allusion is also made to the custom in the "Yeiga-mono-gatari," an ancient book by the same authoress.

The Emperor and nobles of his court are also in the habit of blackening their teeth; but the custom is gradually dying out in their case. It is said to have originated with one Hanazono Arishito, who held the high rank of Sa-Daijin, or "minister of the left," at the commencement of the twelfth century, in the reign of the Emperor Toba. Being a, man of refined and sensual tastes, this minister plucked out his eyebrows, shaved his beard, blackened his teeth, powdered his face white, and rouged his lips in order to render himself as like a woman as possible. In the middle of the twelfth century, the nobles of the court, who went to the wars, all blackened their teeth; and from this time forth the practice became a fashion of the court. The followers of the chiefs of the Hôjô dynasty also blackened their teeth, as an emblem of their fidelity; and this was called the Odawara fashion, after the castle town of the family. Thus a custom, which had its origin in a love of sensuality and pleasure, became mistaken for the sign of a good and faithful spirit.

The fashion of blackening the teeth entails no little trouble upon its followers, for the colour must be renewed every day, or at least every other day. Strange and repelling as the custom appears at first, the eye soon learns to look without aversion upon a well-blacked and polished set of teeth; but when the colour begins to wear away, and turns to a dullish grey, streaked with black, the mouth certainly becomes most hideous. Although no one who reads this is likely to put a recipe for blackening the teeth to a practical test, I append one furnished to me by a fashionable chemist and druggist in Yedo:—

"Take three pints of water, and, having warmed it, add half a teacupful of wine. Put into this mixture a quantity of red-hot iron; allow it to stand for five or six days, when there will be a scum on the top of the mixture, which should then be poured into a small teacup and placed near a fire. When it is warm, powdered gallnuts and iron filings should be added to it, and the whole should be warmed again. The liquid is then painted on to the teeth by means of a soft feather brush, with more powdered gallnuts and iron, and, after several applications, the desired colour will be obtained."

The process is said to be a preservative of the teeth, and I have known men who were habitual sufferers from toothache to prefer the martyrdom of ugliness to that of pain, and apply the black colouring when the paroxysms were severe. One man told me that he experienced immediate relief by the application, and that so long as he blackened his teeth he was quite free from pain.

1 of 2
2 of 2