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- UNBEATEN TRACKS IN JAPAN - 10/58 -
and bringing me flowers, and were always grateful when I walked up hills; and just now, after going for a frolic to the mountains, they called to wish me good-bye, bringing branches of azaleas. I. L. B.
A Japanese Idyll--Musical Stillness -My Rooms--Floral Decorations- -Kanaya and his Household--Table Equipments.
KANAYA'S, NIKKO, June 15.
I don't know what to write about my house. It is a Japanese idyll; there is nothing within or without which does not please the eye, and, after the din of yadoyas, its silence, musical with the dash of waters and the twitter of birds, is truly refreshing. It is a simple but irregular two-storied pavilion, standing on a stone- faced terrace approached by a flight of stone steps. The garden is well laid out, and, as peonies, irises, and azaleas are now in blossom, it is very bright. The mountain, with its lower part covered with red azaleas, rises just behind, and a stream which tumbles down it supplies the house with water, both cold and pure, and another, after forming a miniature cascade, passes under the house and through a fish-pond with rocky islets into the river below. The grey village of Irimichi lies on the other side of the road, shut in with the rushing Daiya, and beyond it are high, broken hills, richly wooded, and slashed with ravines and waterfalls.
Kanaya's sister, a very sweet, refined-looking woman, met me at the door and divested me of my boots. The two verandahs are highly polished, so are the entrance and the stairs which lead to my room, and the mats are so fine and white that I almost fear to walk over them, even in my stockings. The polished stairs lead to a highly polished, broad verandah with a beautiful view, from which you enter one large room, which, being too large, was at once made into two. Four highly polished steps lead from this into an exquisite room at the back, which Ito occupies, and another polished staircase into the bath-house and garden. The whole front of my room is composed of shoji, which slide back during the day. The ceiling is of light wood crossed by bars of dark wood, and the posts which support it are of dark polished wood. The panels are of wrinkled sky-blue paper splashed with gold. At one end are two alcoves with floors of polished wood, called tokonoma. In one hangs a kakemono, or wall-picture, a painting of a blossoming branch of the cherry on white silk--a perfect piece of art, which in itself fills the room with freshness and beauty. The artist who painted it painted nothing but cherry blossoms, and fell in the rebellion. On a shelf in the other alcove is a very valuable cabinet with sliding doors, on which peonies are painted on a gold ground. A single spray of rose azalea in a pure white vase hanging on one of the polished posts, and a single iris in another, are the only decorations. The mats are very fine and white, but the only furniture is a folding screen with some suggestions of landscape in Indian ink. I almost wish that the rooms were a little less exquisite, for I am in constant dread of spilling the ink, indenting the mats, or tearing the paper windows. Downstairs there is a room equally beautiful, and a large space where all the domestic avocations are carried on. There is a kura, or fire-proof storehouse, with a tiled roof, on the right of the house.
Kanaya leads the discords at the Shinto shrines; but his duties are few, and he is chiefly occupied in perpetually embellishing his house and garden. His mother, a venerable old lady, and his sister, the sweetest and most graceful Japanese woman but one that I have seen, live with him. She moves about the house like a floating fairy, and her voice has music in its tones. A half- witted servant-man and the sister's boy and girl complete the family. Kanaya is the chief man in the village, and is very intelligent and apparently well educated. He has divorced his wife, and his sister has practically divorced her husband. Of late, to help his income, he has let these charming rooms to foreigners who have brought letters to him, and he is very anxious to meet their views, while his good taste leads him to avoid Europeanising his beautiful home.
Supper came up on a zen, or small table six inches high, of old gold lacquer, with the rice in a gold lacquer bowl, and the teapot and cup were fine Kaga porcelain. For my two rooms, with rice and tea, I pay 2s. a day. Ito forages for me, and can occasionally get chickens at 10d. each, and a dish of trout for 6d., and eggs are always to be had for 1d. each. It is extremely interesting to live in a private house and to see the externalities, at least, of domestic life in a Japanese middle-class home. I. L. B.
The Beauties of Nikko--The Burial of Iyeyasu--The Approach to the Great Shrines--The Yomei Gate--Gorgeous Decorations--Simplicity of the Mausoleum--The Shrine of Iyemitsu--Religious Art of Japan and India--An Earthquake--Beauties of Wood-carving.
KANAYA'S, NIKKO, June 21.
I have been at Nikko for nine days, and am therefore entitled to use the word "Kek'ko!"
Nikko means "sunny splendour," and its beauties are celebrated in poetry and art all over Japan. Mountains for a great part of the year clothed or patched with snow, piled in great ranges round Nantaizan, their monarch, worshipped as a god; forests of magnificent timber; ravines and passes scarcely explored; dark green lakes sleeping in endless serenity; the deep abyss of Kegon, into which the waters of Chiuzenjii plunge from a height of 250 feet; the bright beauty of the falls of Kiri Furi, the loveliness of the gardens of Dainichido; the sombre grandeur of the passes through which the Daiyagawa forces its way from the upper regions; a gorgeousness of azaleas and magnolias; and a luxuriousness of vegetation perhaps unequalled in Japan, are only a few of the attractions which surround the shrines of the two greatest Shoguns.
To a glorious resting-place on the hill-slope of Hotoke Iwa, sacred since 767, when a Buddhist saint, called Shodo Shonin, visited it, and declared the old Shinto deity of the mountain to be only a manifestation of Buddha, Hidetada, the second Shogun of the Tokugawa dynasty, conveyed the corpse of his father, Iyeyasu, in 1617. It was a splendid burial. An Imperial envoy, a priest of the Mikado's family, court nobles from Kivoto, and hundreds of daimiyos, captains, and nobles of inferior rank, took part in the ceremony. An army of priests in rich robes during three days intoned a sacred classic 10,000 times, and Iyeyasu was deified by a decree of the Mikado under a name signifying "light of the east, great incarnation of Buddha." The less important Shoguns of the line of Tokugawa are buried in Uyeno and Shiba, in Yedo. Since the restoration, and what may be called the disestablishment of Buddhism, the shrine of Iyeyasu has been shorn of all its glories of ritual and its magnificent Buddhist paraphernalia; the 200 priests who gave it splendour are scattered, and six Shinto priests alternately attend upon it as much for the purpose of selling tickets of admission as for any priestly duties.
All roads, bridges, and avenues here lead to these shrines, but the grand approach is by the Red Bridge, and up a broad road with steps at intervals and stone-faced embankments at each side, on the top of which are belts of cryptomeria. At the summit of this ascent is a fine granite torii, 27 feet 6 inches high, with columns 3 feet 6 inches in diameter, offered by the daimiyo of Chikuzen in 1618 from his own quarries. After this come 118 magnificent bronze lanterns on massive stone pedestals, each of which is inscribed with the posthumous title of Iyeyasu, the name of the giver, and a legend of the offering--all the gifts of daimiyo--a holy water cistern made of a solid block of granite, and covered by a roof resting on twenty square granite pillars, and a bronze bell, lantern, and candelabra of marvellous workmanship, offered by the kings of Corea and Liukiu. On the left is a five-storied pagoda, 104 feet high, richly carved in wood and as richly gilded and painted. The signs of the zodiac run round the lower story.
The grand entrance gate is at the top of a handsome flight of steps forty yards from the torii. A looped white curtain with the Mikado's crest in black, hangs partially over the gateway, in which, beautiful as it is, one does not care to linger, to examine the gilded amainu in niches, or the spirited carvings of tigers under the eaves, for the view of the first court overwhelms one by its magnificence and beauty. The whole style of the buildings, the arrangements, the art of every kind, the thought which inspires the whole, are exclusively Japanese, and the glimpse from the Ni-o gate is a revelation of a previously undreamed-of beauty, both in form and colour.
Round the neatly pebbled court, which is enclosed by a bright red timber wall, are three gorgeous buildings, which contain the treasures of the temple, a sumptuous stable for the three sacred Albino horses, which are kept for the use of the god, a magnificent granite cistern of holy water, fed from the Somendaki cascade, and a highly decorated building, in which a complete collection of Buddhist Scriptures is deposited. From this a flight of steps leads into a smaller court containing a bell-tower "of marvellous workmanship and ornamentation," a drum-tower, hardly less beautiful, a shrine, the candelabra, bell, and lantern mentioned before, and some very grand bronze lanterns.
From this court another flight of steps ascends to the Yomei gate, whose splendour I contemplated day after day with increasing astonishment. The white columns which support it have capitals formed of great red-throated heads of the mythical Kirin. Above the architrave is a projecting balcony which runs all round the gateway with a railing carried by dragons' heads. In the centre two white dragons fight eternally. Underneath, in high relief, there are groups of children playing, then a network of richly painted beams, and seven groups of Chinese sages. The high roof is supported by gilded dragons' heads with crimson throats. In the interior of the gateway there are side-niches painted white, which are lined with gracefully designed arabesques founded on the botan or peony. A piazza, whose outer walls of twenty-one compartments are enriched with magnificent carvings of birds, flowers, and trees, runs right and left, and encloses on three of its sides another court, the fourth side of which is a terminal stone wall built against the side of the hill. On the right are two decorated buildings, one of which contains a stage for the performance of the sacred dances, and the other an altar for the burning of cedar wood incense. On the left is a building for the reception of the three
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