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JAPANESE MANNERS AND CUSTOMS. The following brief description of the habits of that re- markable people, the Japanese, has been culled from Mr. Silver's new work, "Sketches of Japanese Manners and Customs," and will not be devoid of interest to the reader:- A bonze is a priest, and, as the Japanese are a very superstitious people, the priesthood is numerous ac- cordingly. As all their houses are built of wood or bamboo, and as they are addicted to a peculiarly care- less and dangerous way of .smoking tobacco, fires are of constant occurrence, and their fire brigades are kept in full practice. Their firemen are as well trained and fearless as our own. and expose their lives with even greater recklessness. The engines in use are nmde of wood, and seem to be of very little use in extinguishing a large fire. They are chiefly employed, it appears, to pump upon the firemen, whose business ic is to pull down the burning houses, and who, being clothed in full suits of armour, would otherwise be literally ba^ed. It is thought, however, that this pri- Biitive practice will ere long be superseded by the introduction of the English method and of English eagiaes. rn&.nother thing in which the Japanese are rather behind the western world is wrestling. This is a very popular sport with the whole people and a champion wrestler there is an object of as much admiration as Tom Orib and Owen Swift once were among ourselves. The mistake of the Japanese is m practising a kind of wrestling wherein weight rather than strength or agility must win the day. The men wrestle on a raised platform, on which a wide circular area is marked out; and it is the object of each athlete to push his antagonist beyond the ring. A fall counts but still the victory is net won until at least a great toe or a 1 n thumb has heen thrust over the boundary line; the result being that when both men are on the ground a process of dragging and pushing and heaving com- mences, in whicb a stone or two of extra weight is obviously very advantageous. The wrestlers fatten themselves up for their work, and as they do not themselves up for their work, and as they do not neglect their muscular development at the same time, their bulk is something quite astonishing. But one of the oddest among the minor oddities of this people is their practice with regard to public singers. The Japanese delight in singing, and a troop of singers seem to belong to the household of each of the Emperors, and perhaps also to the households of the wealthier nobility. Yet, in spite of this public appreciation of the art, these singers, it seems, do not enter their profession because of any natural aptness for it. They are mostly degraded gentlemen whose property has been forfeited to the State for some high crime or misdemeanour, and who are reduced to this method of earning a livelihood. But so it is and, what is more, notwithstanding the general love of song, no Japanese gentleman ever sings. He would be thought to have disgraced himself by such an ac- tion so that the profession and pursuit of this art for money is esteemed no light punishment in itself, over and above the forfeiture of goods. The Japanese live much in public, and the theatre is a very favourite amusement with them. It is open from half-past ten in the morning till late in the even- ing, and the plays are proportionably long. One drawing represents an interior which is more like that of an English church in the worst style than a theatre. The body of it is divided into square boxes like pews, which are generally taken by families who bring their dinners with them. Down each side run long open galleries, row above row and between the middle boxes and the sides are raised planks from which ser- vants are dispensing refreshments. Next to the theatre, wrestling, and concerts, come the tea-houses and the bathing-rooms. Of the "tea-house" different travellers give different ac- counts: some representing it as merely a Japanese Cremorne others as an ordinary place of refresh- ment, more like our suburban tea gardens." Japanese gentlemen take their wives and daughters to these places; but so used English gentlemen to take their wives and daughters to Vauxhall within the memory of living men. The bathing tub, however, is a scandal to European eyes which cannot be glossed over. Not only do the sexes bathe promiscuously, but the bath-rooms are open to the street. The political constitution of Japanese society is per- haps the best known thing about the people. The Government, superficially at least, is very like the feudal system as it flourished five hundred years ago. A powerful and wealthy aristocracy (the Daimios) are presided over by a temporal sovereign (the Tycoon) and a spiritual sovereign (the Mikador). The latter office is strictly hereditary, and is said to have de- scended through the present family for two thousand five hundred years. The Tycoon is both elective and in some sense hereditary. He is chosen by the daimios but their choice is restricted to the members of three families. The idea of a gentleman seems to have taken deep root in the Japanese mind. We have yet a great deal to learn of their more exact views on this point. But they certainly carry the principle of noblesse oblige further than it has ever been carried by those with whom the maxim originated. Hence the strange institution called Hara Kiru, which is an ingenious contrivance for saving the honour of one's family. The only way by which a Japanese gentleman can expiate a misdeed and vindicate his gentility at one and the same time, is to dispossess himself of his bowels. In fact, the privilege of being allowed to rip open his stomach with his own hand is prized by the daimio as one of the choicest gifts of high birth. It is confined to the no- bility, the army, and to a few civilians of high rank, and it simply consists in this, that as a whole family is held to be disgraced by any kind of punishment in- flicted upon one of its members, the Tycoon, in the case of a patrician culprit, is graciously pleased to signify to him that he may commit suicide if he likes. But now follows another very curious feature in the case. The obligation on the part of the offender does not begin until the mandate has been personally served upon him. He may waylay and murder the messenger he may fortify his baronial castle and set his sovereign at defiance and all this contumacy will expose him to no social censure. But when the fatal officer has once effected his entry and read his warrant-when, as we may say, he has once put in his execution—it is all over. Noblesse oblige." It is impossible any longer to affect ignorance of the intended favour. To refuse it would bring intolerable consequences. So the victim washes his face, anoints his head, and sits down to to meat with his companions once more before death. He has previously taken leave of his relations so that he has nothing to do but to pass from the banquet to the block, at a given signal previously arranged between himself and the imperial commissioners. When he rises from table he retires behind a screen which is placed at one end of the room, and there, squatting on the floor with a supporter" on each side of him, he listens to the reading of the mandate. When that is concluded all the attendants retire except the two commissioners and the two supporters, who now, however, fell back a little way on eaeh side of their unlucky friend. A new character now comes upon the stage in the shape of a man who bears a long sharp sword under his arm, and who places before the doomed noble a little square block with the sacrificial knife upon it. What then actually takes place Mr. Silver does not tell us. But as soon as he has done whatever it is usual to do on such occasions the man behind him strikes his head off. So ends the sacrifice to family honour. Another very curious product of Japan is the "lonin" or voluntary outlaw. Every Japanese chief is answerable for the good behaviour of his vassals or clansmen, so that when any of these resolve upon some desperate enterprise they formally renounce his pro- tection in order to void his responsibility. They thus become public enemies, whom all men are forbidden to harbour and though they may never originally have contemplated descending to a regular life of crime, such is too often the result.










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