Chapter Three Jizo

当文書は電子版の「The Project Gutenberg eBook of Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan」(著作権フリー)より引用しています。

1894年に出版された『 Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan』の表紙

Chapter Three Jizo
Sec. 1

I HAVE passed another day in wandering among the temples, both Shinto and Buddhist. I have seen many curious things; but I have not yet seen the face of the Buddha.

Repeatedly, after long wearisome climbing of stone steps, and passing under gates full of gargoyles—heads of elephants and heads of lions—and entering shoeless into scented twilight, into enchanted gardens of golden lotus-flowers of paper, and there waiting for my eyes to become habituated to the dimness, I have looked in vain for images. Only an opulent glimmering confusion of things half-seen—vague altar-splendours created by gilded bronzes twisted into riddles, by vessels of indescribable shape, by enigmatic texts of gold, by mysterious glittering pendent things—all framing in only a shrine with doors fast closed.

What has most impressed me is the seeming joyousness of popular faith. I have seen nothing grim, austere, or self-repressive. I have not even noted anything approaching the solemn. The bright temple courts and even the temple steps are thronged with laughing children, playing curious games; and mothers, entering the sanctuary to pray, suffer their little ones to creep about the matting and crow. The people take their religion lightly and cheerfully: they drop their cash in the great alms-box, clap their hands, murmur a very brief prayer, then turn to laugh and talk and smoke their little pipes before the temple entrance. Into some shrines, I have noticed the worshippers do not enter at all; they merely stand before the doors and pray for a few seconds, and make their small offerings. Blessed are they who do not too much fear the gods which they have made!

Sec. 2

Akira is bowing and smiling at the door. He slips off his sandals, enters in his white digitated stockings, and, with another smile and bow, sinks gently into the proffered chair. Akira is an interesting boy. With his smooth beardless face and clear bronze skin and blue-black hair trimmed into a shock that shadows his forehead to the eyes, he has almost the appearance, in his long wide-sleeved robe and snowy stockings, of a young Japanese girl.

I clap my hands for tea, hotel tea, which he calls ‘Chinese tea.’ I offer him a cigar, which he declines; but with my permission, he will smoke his pipe. Thereupon he draws from his girdle a Japanese pipe-case and tobacco-pouch combined; pulls out of the pipe-case a little brass pipe with a bowl scarcely large enough to hold a pea; pulls out of the pouch some tobacco so finely cut that it looks like hair, stuffs a tiny pellet of this preparation in the pipe, and begins to smoke. He draws the smoke into his lungs, and blows it out again through his nostrils. Three little whiffs, at intervals of about half a minute, and the pipe, emptied, is replaced in its case.

Meanwhile I have related to Akira the story of my disappointments.

‘Oh, you can see him to-day,’ responds Akira, ‘if you will take a walk with me to the Temple of Zotokuin. For this is the Busshoe, the festival of the Birthday of Buddha. But he is very small, only a few inches high. If you want to see a great Buddha, you must go to Kamakura. There is a Buddha in that place, sitting upon a lotus; and he is fifty feet high.’

So I go forth under the guidance of Akira. He says he may be able to show me ‘some curious things.’

Sec. 3

There is a sound of happy voices from the temple, and the steps are crowded with smiling mothers and laughing children. Entering, I find women and babies pressing about a lacquered table in front of the doorway. Upon it is a little tub-shaped vessel of sweet tea—amacha; and standing in the tea is a tiny figure of Buddha, one hand pointing upward and one downward. The women, having made the customary offering, take up some of the tea with a wooden ladle of curious shape, and pour it over the statue, and then, filling the ladle a second time, drink a little, and give a sip to their babies. This is the ceremony of washing the statue of Buddha.

Near the lacquered stand on which the vessel of sweet tea rests is another and lower stand supporting a temple bell shaped like a great bowl. A priest approaches with a padded mallet in his hand and strikes the bell. But the bell does not sound properly: he starts, looks into it, and stoops to lift out of it a smiling Japanese baby. The mother, laughing, runs to relieve him of his burden; and priest, mother, and baby all look at us with a frankness of mirth in which we join.

Akira leaves me a moment to speak with one of the temple attendants, and presently returns with a curious lacquered box, about a foot in length, and four inches wide on each of its four sides. There is only a small hole in one end of it; no appearance of a lid of any sort.

‘Now,’ says Akira, ‘if you wish to pay two sen, we shall learn our future lot according to the will of the gods.’

I pay the two sen, and Akira shakes the box. Out comes a narrow slip of bamboo, with Chinese characters written thereon.

‘Kitsu!’ cries Akira. ‘Good-fortune. The number is fifty-and-one.’

Again he shakes the box; a second bamboo slip issues from the slit.

‘Dai kitsu! great good-fortune. The number is ninety-and-nine.

Once more the box is shaken; once more the oracular bamboo protrudes.

‘Kyo!’ laughs Akira. ‘Evil will befall us. The number is sixty-and-four.’

He returns the box to a priest, and receives three mysterious papers, numbered with numbers corresponding to the numbers of the bamboo slips. These little bamboo slips, or divining-sticks, are called mikuji.

This, as translated by Akira, is the substance of the text of the paper numbered fifty-and-one:

‘He who draweth forth this mikuji, let him live according to the heavenly law and worship Kwannon. If his trouble be a sickness, it shall pass from him. If he have lost aught, it shall be found. If he have a suit at law, he shall gain. If he love a woman, he shall surely win her, though he should have to wait. And many happinesses will come to him.’

The dai-kitsu paper reads almost similarly, with the sole differences that, instead of Kwannon, the deities of wealth and prosperity—Daikoku, Bishamon, and Benten—are to be worshipped, and that the fortunate man will not have to wait at all for the woman loved. But the kyo paper reads thus:

‘He who draweth forth this mikuji, it will be well for him to obey the heavenly law and to worship Kwannon the Merciful. If he have any sickness, even much more sick he shall become. If he have lost aught, it shall never be found. If he have a suit at law, he shall never gain it. If he love a woman, let him have no more expectation of winning her. Only by the most diligent piety can he hope to escape the most frightful calamities. And there shall be no felicity in his portion.’

‘All the same, we are fortunate,’ declares Akira. ‘Twice out of three times we have found luck. Now we will go to see another statue of Buddha.’ And he guides me, through many curious streets, to the southern verge of the city.

Sec. 4

Before us rises a hill, with a broad flight of stone steps sloping to its summit, between foliage of cedars and maples. We climb; and I see above me the Lions of Buddha waiting—the male yawning menace, the female with mouth closed. Passing between them, we enter a large temple court, at whose farther end rises another wooded eminence.

And here is the temple, with roof of blue-painted copper tiles, and tilted eaves and gargoyles and dragons, all weather-stained to one neutral tone. The paper screens are open, but a melancholy rhythmic chant from within tells us that the noonday service is being held: the priests are chanting the syllables of Sanscrit texts transliterated into Chinese—intoning the Sutra called the Sutra of the Lotus of the Good Law. One of those who chant keeps time by tapping with a mallet, cotton-wrapped, some grotesque object shaped like a dolphin’s head, all lacquered in scarlet and gold, which gives forth a dull, booming tone—a mokugyo.

To the right of the temple is a little shrine, filling the air with fragrance of incense-burning. I peer in through the blue smoke that curls up from half a dozen tiny rods planted in a small brazier full of ashes; and far back in the shadow I see a swarthy Buddha, tiara-coiffed, with head bowed and hands joined, just as I see the Japanese praying, erect in the sun, before the thresholds of temples. The figure is of wood, rudely wrought and rudely coloured: still the placid face has beauty of suggestion.

Crossing the court to the left of the building, I find another flight of steps before me, leading up a slope to something mysterious still higher, among enormous trees. I ascend these steps also, reach the top, guarded by two small symbolic lions, and suddenly find myself in cool shadow, and startled by a spectacle totally unfamiliar.

Dark—almost black—soil and the shadowing of trees immemorially old, through whose vaulted foliage the sunlight leaks thinly down in rare flecks; a crepuscular light, tender and solemn, revealing the weirdest host of unfamiliar shapes—a vast congregation of grey, columnar, mossy things, stony, monumental, sculptured with Chinese ideographs. And about them, behind them, rising high above them, thickly set as rushes in a marsh-verge, tall slender wooden tablets, like laths, covered with similar fantastic lettering, pierce the green gloom by thousands, by tens of thousands.

And before I can note other details, I know that I am in a hakaba, a cemetery—a very ancient Buddhist cemetery.

These laths are called in the Japanese tongue sotoba. [1] All have notches cut upon their edges on both sides near the top-five notches; and all are painted with Chinese characters on both faces. One inscription is always the phrase ‘To promote Buddhahood,’ painted immediately below the dead man’s name; the inscription upon the other surface is always a sentence in Sanscrit whose meaning has been forgotten even by those priests who perform the funeral rites. One such lath is planted behind the tomb as soon as the monument (haka) is set up; then another every seven days for forty-nine days, then one after the lapse of a hundred days; then one at the end of a year; then one after the passing of three years; and at successively longer periods others are erected during one hundred years.

And in almost every group I notice some quite new, or freshly planed unpainted white wood, standing beside others grey or even black with age; and there are many, still older from whose surface all the characters have disappeared. Others are lying on the sombre clay. Hundreds stand so loose in the soil that the least breeze jostles and clatters them together.

Not less unfamiliar in their forms, but far more interesting, are the monuments of stone. One shape I know represents five of the Buddhist elements: a cube supporting a sphere which upholds a pyramid on which rests a shallow square cup with four crescent edges and tilted corners, and in the cup a pyriform body poised with the point upwards. These successively typify Earth, Water, Fire, Wind, Ether, the five substances wherefrom the body is shapen, and into which it is resolved by death; the absence of any emblem for the Sixth element, Knowledge, touches more than any imagery conceivable could do. And nevertheless, in the purpose of the symbolism, this omission was never planned with the same idea that it suggests to the Occidental mind.

Very numerous also among the monuments are low, square, flat-topped shafts, with a Japanese inscription in black or gold, or merely cut into the stone itself. Then there are upright slabs of various shapes and heights, mostly rounded at the top, usually bearing sculptures in relief. Finally, there are many curiously angled stones, or natural rocks, dressed on one side only, with designs etched upon the smoothed surface. There would appear to be some meaning even in the irregularity of the shape of these slabs; the rock always seems to have been broken out of its bed at five angles, and the manner in which it remains balanced perpendicularly upon its pedestal is a secret that the first hasty examination fails to reveal.

The pedestals themselves vary in construction; most have three orifices in the projecting surface in front of the monument supported by them, usually one large oval cavity, with two small round holes flanking it. These smaller holes serve for the burning of incense-rods; the larger cavity is filled with water. I do not know exactly why. Only my Japanese companion tells me ‘it is an ancient custom in Japan thus to pour out water for the dead.’ There are also bamboo cups on either side of the monument in which to place flowers.

Many of the sculptures represent Buddha in meditation, or in the attitude of exhorting; a few represent him asleep, with the placid, dreaming face of a child, a Japanese child; this means Nirvana. A common design upon many tombs also seems to be two lotus-blossoms with stalks intertwined.

In one place I see a stone with an English name upon it, and above that name a rudely chiselled cross. Verily the priests of Buddha have blessed tolerance; for this is a Christian tomb!

And all is chipped and mouldered and mossed; and the grey stones stand closely in hosts of ranks, only one or two inches apart, ranks of thousands upon thousands, always in the shadow of the great trees. Overhead innumerable birds sweeten the air with their trilling; and far below, down the steps behind us, I still hear the melancholy chant of the priests, faintly, like a humming of bees.

Akira leads the way in silence to where other steps descend into a darker and older part of the cemetery; and at the head of the steps, to the right, I see a group of colossal monuments, very tall, massive, mossed by time, with characters cut more than two inches deep into the grey rock of them. And behind them, in lieu of laths, are planted large sotoba, twelve to fourteen feet high, and thick as the beams of a temple roof. These are graves of priests.

Sec. 5

Descending the shadowed steps, I find myself face to face with six little statues about three feet high, standing in a row upon one long pedestal. The first holds a Buddhist incense-box; the second, a lotus; the third, a pilgrim’s staff (tsue); the fourth is telling the beads of a Buddhist rosary; the fifth stands in the attitude of prayer, with hands joined; the sixth bears in one hand the shakujo or mendicant priest’s staff, having six rings attached to the top of it and in the other hand the mystic jewel, Nio-i ho-jiu, by virtue whereof all desires may be accomplished. But the faces of the Six are the same: each figure differs from the other by the attitude only and emblematic attribute; and all are smiling the like faint smile. About the neck of each figure a white cotton bag is suspended; and all the bags are filled with pebbles; and pebbles have been piled high also about the feet of the statues, and upon their knees, and upon their shoulders; and even upon their aureoles of stone, little pebbles are balanced. Archaic, mysterious, but inexplicably touching, all these soft childish faces are.

Roku Jizo—’The Six Jizo’—these images are called in the speech of the people; and such groups may be seen in many a Japanese cemetery. They are representations of the most beautiful and tender figure in Japanese popular faith, that charming divinity who cares for the souls of little children, and consoles them in the place of unrest, and saves them from the demons. ‘But why are those little stones piled about the statues?’ I ask.

Well, it is because some say the child-ghosts must build little towers of stones for penance in the Sai-no-Kawara, which is the place to which all children after death must go. And the Oni, who are demons, come to throw down the little stone-piles as fast as the children build; and these demons frighten the children, and torment them. But the little souls run to Jizo, who hides them in his great sleeves, and comforts them, and makes the demons go away. And every stone one lays upon the knees or at the feet of Jizo, with a prayer from the heart, helps some child-soul in the Sai-no-Kawara to perform its long penance. [2]

‘All little children,’ says the young Buddhist student who tells
all this, with a smile as gentle as Jizo’s own, ‘must go to the
Sai-no-Kawara when they die. And there they play with Jizo. The
Sai-no-Kawara is beneath us, below the ground. [3]
‘And Jizo has long sleeves to his robe; and they pull him by the sleeves in their play; and they pile up little stones before him to amuse themselves. And those stones you see heaped about the statues are put there by people for the sake of the little ones, most often by mothers of dead children who pray to Jizo. But grown people do not go to the Sai-no-Kawara when they die.’ [4]

And the young student, leaving the Roku-Jizo, leads the way to other strange surprises, guiding me among the tombs, showing me the sculptured divinities.

Some of them are quaintly touching; all are interesting; a few are positively beautiful.

The greater number have nimbi. Many are represented kneeling, with hands joined exactly like the figures of saints in old Christian art. Others, holding lotus-flowers, appear to dream the dreams that are meditations. One figure reposes on the coils of a great serpent. Another, coiffed with something resembling a tiara, has six hands, one pair joined in prayer, the rest, extended, holding out various objects; and this figure stands upon a prostrate demon, crouching face downwards. Yet another image, cut in low relief, has arms innumerable. The first pair of hands are joined, with the palms together; while from behind the line of the shoulders, as if shadowily emanating therefrom, multitudinous arms reach out in all directions, vapoury, spiritual, holding forth all kinds of objects as in answer to supplication, and symbolising, perhaps, the omnipotence of love. This is but one of the many forms of Kwannon, the goddess of mercy, the gentle divinity who refused the rest of Nirvana to save the souls of men, and who is most frequently pictured as a beautiful Japanese girl. But here she appears as Senjiu-Kwannon (Kwannon-of-the-Thousand-Hands). Close by stands a great slab bearing upon the upper portion of its chiselled surface an image in relief of Buddha, meditating upon a lotus; and below are carven three weird little figures, one with hands upon its eyes, one with hands upon its ears, one with hands upon its mouth; these are Apes. ‘What do they signify?’ I inquire. My friend answers vaguely, mimicking each gesture of the three sculptured shapes: ‘I see no bad thing; I hear no bad thing; I speak no bad thing.’

Gradually, by dint of reiterated explanations, I myself learn to recognise some of the gods at sight. The figure seated upon a lotus, holding a sword in its hand, and surrounded by bickering fire, is Fudo-Sama—Buddha as the Unmoved, the Immutable: the Sword signifies Intellect; the Fire, Power. Here is a meditating divinity, holding in one hand a coil of ropes: the divinity is Buddha; those are the ropes which bind the passions and desires. Here also is Buddha slumbering, with the gentlest, softest Japanese face—a child face—and eyes closed, and hand pillowing the cheek, in Nirvana. Here is a beautiful virgin-figure, standing upon a lily: Kwannon-Sama, the Japanese Madonna. Here is a solemn seated figure, holding in one hand a vase, and lifting the other with the gesture of a teacher: Yakushi-Sama, Buddha the All-Healer, Physician of Souls.

Also, I see figures of animals. The Deer of Buddhist birth-stories stands, all grace, in snowy stone, upon the summit of toro, or votive lamps. On one tomb I see, superbly chiselled, the image of a fish, or rather the Idea of a fish, made beautifully grotesque for sculptural purposes, like the dolphin of Greek art. It crowns the top of a memorial column; the broad open jaws, showing serrated teeth, rest on the summit of the block bearing the dead man’s name; the dorsal fin and elevated tail are elaborated into decorative impossibilities. ‘Mokugyo,’ says Akira. It is the same Buddhist emblem as that hollow wooden object, lacquered scarlet-and-gold, on which the priests beat with a padded mallet while chanting the Sutra. And, finally, in one place I perceive a pair of sitting animals, of some mythological species, supple of figure as greyhounds. ‘Kitsune,’ says Akira—’foxes.’ So they are, now that I look upon them with knowledge of their purpose; idealised foxes, foxes spiritualised, impossibly graceful foxes. They are chiselled in some grey stone. They have long, narrow, sinister, glittering eyes; they seem to snarl; they are weird, very weird creatures, the servants of the Rice-God, retainers of Inari-Sama, and properly belong, not to Buddhist iconography, but the imagery of Shinto.

No inscriptions upon these tombs corresponding to our epitaphs. Only family names—the names of the dead and their relatives and a sculptured crest, usually a flower. On the sotoba, only Sanscrit words.

Farther on, I find other figures of Jizo, single reliefs, sculptured upon tombs. But one of these is a work of art so charming that I feel a pain at being obliged to pass it by. More sweet, assuredly, than any imaged Christ, this dream in white stone of the playfellow of dead children, like a beautiful young boy, with gracious eyelids half closed, and face made heavenly by such a smile as only Buddhist art could have imagined, the smile of infinite lovingness and supremest gentleness. Indeed, so charming the ideal of Jizo is that in the speech of the people a beautiful face is always likened to his—’Jizo-kao,’ as the face of Jizo.

Sec. 6

And we come to the end of the cemetery, to the verge of the great grove.

Beyond the trees, what caressing sun, what spiritual loveliness in the tender day! A tropic sky always seemed to me to hang so low that one could almost bathe one’s fingers in its lukewarm liquid blue by reaching upward from any dwelling-roof. But this sky, softer, fainter, arches so vastly as to suggest the heaven of a larger planet. And the very clouds are not clouds, but only dreams of clouds, so filmy they are; ghosts of clouds, diaphanous spectres, illusions!

All at once I become aware of a child standing before me, a very young girl who looks up wonderingly at my face; so light her approach that the joy of the birds and whispering of the leaves quite drowned the soft sound of her feet. Her ragged garb is Japanese; but her gaze, her loose fair hair, are not of Nippon only; the ghost of another race—perhaps my own—watches me through her flower-blue eyes. A strange playground surely is this for thee, my child; I wonder if all these shapes about thee do not seem very weird, very strange, to that little soul of thine. But no; ‘tis only I who seem strange to thee; thou hast forgotten the Other Birth, and thy father’s world.

Half-caste and poor and pretty, in this foreign port! Better thou wert with the dead about thee, child! better than the splendour of this soft blue light the unknown darkness for thee. There the gentle Jizo would care for thee, and hide thee in his great sleeves, and keep all evil from thee, and play shadowy play with thee; and this thy forsaken mother, who now comes to ask an alms for thy sake, dumbly pointing to thy strange beauty with her patient Japanese smile, would put little stones upon the knees of the dear god that thou mightest find rest.

Sec. 7

‘Oh, Akira! you must tell me something more about Jizo, and the ghosts of the children in the Sai-no-Kawara.’ ‘I cannot tell you much more,’ answers Akira, smiling at my interest in this charming divinity; ‘but if you will come with me now to Kuboyama, I will show you, in one of the temples there, pictures of the Sai-no-Kawara and of Jizo, and the Judgment of Souls.’

So we take our way in two jinricksha to the Temple Rinko-ji, on Kuboyama. We roll swiftly through a mile of many-coloured narrow Japanese streets; then through a half-mile of pretty suburban ways, lined with gardens, behind whose clipped hedges are homes light and dainty as cages of wicker-work; and then, leaving our vehicles, we ascend green hills on foot by winding paths, and traverse a region of fields and farms. After a long walk in the hot sun we reach a village almost wholly composed of shrines and temples.

The outlying sacred place—three buildings in one enclosure of bamboo fences—belongs to the Shingon sect. A small open shrine, to the left of the entrance, first attracts us. It is a dead-house: a Japanese bier is there. But almost opposite the doorway is an altar covered with startling images.

What immediately rivets the attention is a terrible figure, all vermilion red, towering above many smaller images—a goblin shape with immense cavernous eyes. His mouth is widely opened as if speaking in wrath, and his brows frown terribly. A long red beard descends upon his red breast. And on his head is a strangely shaped crown, a crown of black and gold, having three singular lobes: the left lobe bearing an image of the moon; the right, an image of the sun; the central lobe is all black. But below it, upon the deep gold-rimmed black band, flames the mystic character signifying KING. Also, from the same crown-band protrude at descending angles, to left and right, two gilded sceptre-shaped objects. In one hand the King holds an object similar of form, but larger, his shaku or regal wand. And Akira explains.

This is Emma-O, Lord of Shadows, Judge of Souls, King of the Dead. [5]
Of any man having a terrible countenance the Japanese are wont to say,
‘His face is the face of Emma.’
At his right hand white Jizo-Sama stands upon a many-petalled rosy lotus.

At his left is the image of an aged woman—weird Sodzu-Baba, she who takes the garments of the dead away by the banks of the River of the Three Roads, which flows through the phantom-world. Pale blue her robe is; her hair and skin are white; her face is strangely wrinkled; her small, keen eyes are hard. The statue is very old, and the paint is scaling from it in places, so as to lend it a ghastly leprous aspect.

There are also images of the Sea-goddess Benten and of Kwannon-Sama, seated on summits of mountains forming the upper part of miniature landscapes made of some unfamiliar composition, and beautifully coloured; the whole being protected from careless fingering by strong wire nettings stretched across the front of the little shrines containing the panorama. Benten has eight arms: two of her hands are joined in prayer; the others, extended above her, hold different objects a sword, a wheel, a bow, an arrow, a key, and a magical gem. Below her, standing on the slopes of her mountain throne, are her ten robed attendants, all in the attitude of prayer; still farther down appears the body of a great white serpent, with its tail hanging from one orifice in the rocks, and its head emerging from another. At the very bottom of the hill lies a patient cow. Kwannon appears as Senjiu-Kwannon, offering gifts to men with all the multitude of her arms of mercy.

But this is not what we came to see. The pictures of heaven and hell await us in the Zen-Shu temple close by, whither we turn our steps.

On the way my guide tells me this:

‘When one dies the body is washed and shaven, and attired in white, in the garments of a pilgrim. And a wallet (sanyabukkero), like the wallet of a Buddhist pilgrim, is hung about the neck of the dead; and in this wallet are placed three rin. [6] And these coin are buried with the dead.

‘For all who die must, except children, pay three rin at the Sanzu-no-Kawa, “The River of the Three Roads.” When souls have reached that river, they find there the Old Woman of the Three Roads, Sodzu-Baba, waiting for them: she lives on the banks of that river, with her husband, Ten Datsu-Ba. And if the Old Woman is not paid the sum of three rin, she takes away the clothes of the dead, and hangs them upon the trees.’

Sec. 8

The temple is small, neat, luminous with the sun pouring into its widely opened shoji; and Akira must know the priests well, so affable their greeting is. I make a little offering, and Akira explains the purpose of our visit. Thereupon we are invited into a large bright apartment in a wing of the building, overlooking a lovely garden. Little cushions are placed on the floor for us to sit upon; and a smoking-box is brought in, and a tiny lacquered table about eight inches high. And while one of the priests opens a cupboard, or alcove with doors, to find the kakemono, another brings us tea, and a plate of curious confectionery consisting of various pretty objects made of a paste of sugar and rice flour. One is a perfect model of a chrysanthemum blossom; another is a lotus; others are simply large, thin, crimson lozenges bearing admirable designs—flying birds, wading storks, fish, even miniature landscapes. Akira picks out the chrysanthemum, and insists that I shall eat it; and I begin to demolish the sugary blossom, petal by petal, feeling all the while an acute remorse for spoiling so beautiful a thing.

Meanwhile four kakemono have been brought forth, unrolled, and suspended from pegs upon the wall; and we rise to examine them.

They are very, very beautiful kakemono, miracles of drawing and of colour-subdued colour, the colour of the best period of Japanese art; and they are very large, fully five feet long and more than three broad, mounted upon silk.

And these are the legends of them:

First kakemono:

In the upper part of the painting is a scene from the Shaba, the world of men which we are wont to call the Real—a cemetery with trees in blossom, and mourners kneeling before tombs. All under the soft blue light of Japanese day.

Underneath is the world of ghosts. Down through the earth-crust souls are descending. Here they are flitting all white through inky darknesses; here farther on, through weird twilight, they are wading the flood of the phantom River of the Three Roads, Sanzu-no-Kawa. And here on the right is waiting for them Sodzu-Baba, the Old Woman of the Three Roads, ghastly and grey, and tall as a nightmare. From some she is taking their garments;—the trees about her are heavily hung with the garments of others gone before.

Farther down I see fleeing souls overtaken by demons—hideous blood-red demons, with feet like lions, with faces half human, half bovine, the physiognomy of minotaurs in fury. One is rending a soul asunder. Another demon is forcing souls to reincarnate themselves in bodies of horses, of dogs, of swine. And as they are thus reincarnated they flee away into shadow.

Second kakemono:

Such a gloom as the diver sees in deep-sea water, a lurid twilight. In the midst a throne, ebon-coloured, and upon it an awful figure seated—Emma Dai-O, Lord of Death and Judge of Souls, unpitying, tremendous. Frightful guardian spirits hover about him—armed goblins. On the left, in the foreground below the throne, stands the wondrous Mirror, Tabarino-Kagami, reflecting the state of souls and all the happenings of the world. A landscape now shadows its surface,—a landscape of cliffs and sand and sea, with ships in the offing. Upon the sand a dead man is lying, slain by a sword slash; the murderer is running away. Before this mirror a terrified soul stands, in the grasp of a demon, who compels him to look, and to recognise in the murderer’s features his own face. To the right of the throne, upon a tall-stemmed flat stand, such as offerings to the gods are placed upon in the temples, a monstrous shape appears, like a double-faced head freshly cut off, and set upright upon the stump of the neck. The two faces are the Witnesses: the face of the Woman (Mirume) sees all that goes on in the Shaba; the other face is the face of a bearded man, the face of Kaguhana, who smells all odours, and by them is aware of all that human beings do. Close to them, upon a reading-stand, a great book is open, the record-book of deeds. And between the Mirror and the Witnesses white shuddering souls await judgment.

Farther down I see the sufferings of souls already sentenced. One, in lifetime a liar, is having his tongue torn out by a demon armed with heated pincers. Other souls, flung by scores into fiery carts, are being dragged away to torment. The carts are of iron, but resemble in form certain hand-wagons which one sees every day being pulled and pushed through the streets by bare-limbed Japanese labourers, chanting always the same melancholy alternating chorus, Haidak! hei! haidak hei! But these demon-wagoners—naked, blood-coloured, having the feet of lions and the heads of bulls—move with their flaming wagons at a run, like jinricksha-men.

All the souls so far represented are souls of adults.

Third kakemono:

A furnace, with souls for fuel, blazing up into darkness. Demons stir the fire with poles of iron. Down through the upper blackness other souls are falling head downward into the flames.

Below this scene opens a shadowy landscape—a faint-blue and faint-grey world of hills and vales, through which a river serpentines—the Sai-no-Kawara. Thronging the banks of the pale river are ghosts of little children, trying to pile up stones. They are very, very pretty, the child-souls, pretty as real Japanese children are (it is astonishing how well is child-beauty felt and expressed by the artists of Japan). Each child has one little short white dress.

In the foreground a horrible devil with an iron club has just dashed down and scattered a pile of stones built by one of the children. The little ghost, seated by the ruin of its work, is crying, with both pretty hands to its eyes. The devil appears to sneer. Other children also are weeping near by. But, lo! Jizo comes, all light and sweetness, with a glory moving behind him like a great full moon; and he holds out his shakujo, his strong and holy staff, and the little ghosts catch it and cling to it, and are drawn into the circle of his protection. And other infants have caught his great sleeves, and one has been lifted to the bosom of the god.

Below this Sai-no-Kawara scene appears yet another shadow-world, a wilderness of bamboos! Only white-robed shapes of women appear in it. They are weeping; the fingers of all are bleeding. With finger-nails plucked out must they continue through centuries to pick the sharp-edged bamboo-grass.

Fourth kakemono:

Floating in glory, Dai-Nichi-Nyorai, Kwannon-Sama, Amida Buddha. Far below them as hell from heaven surges a lake of blood, in which souls float. The shores of this lake are precipices studded with sword-blades thickly set as teeth in the jaws of a shark; and demons are driving naked ghosts up the frightful slopes. But out of the crimson lake something crystalline rises, like a beautiful, clear water-spout; the stem of a flower,—a miraculous lotus, bearing up a soul to the feet of a priest standing above the verge of the abyss. By virtue of his prayer was shaped the lotus which thus lifted up and saved a sufferer.

Alas! there are no other kakemonos. There were several others: they have been lost!

No: I am happily mistaken; the priest has found, in some mysterious recess, one more kakemono, a very large one, which he unrolls and suspends beside the others. A vision of beauty, indeed! but what has this to do with faith or ghosts? In the foreground a garden by the waters of the sea, of some vast blue lake,—a garden like that at Kanagawa, full of exquisite miniature landscape-work: cascades, grottoes, lily-ponds, carved bridges, and trees snowy with blossom, and dainty pavilions out-jutting over the placid azure water. Long, bright, soft bands of clouds swim athwart the background. Beyond and above them rises a fairy magnificence of palatial structures, roof above roof, through an aureate haze like summer vapour: creations aerial, blue, light as dreams. And there are guests in these gardens, lovely beings, Japanese maidens. But they wear aureoles, star-shining: they are spirits!

For this is Paradise, the Gokuraku; and all those divine shapes are Bosatsu. And now, looking closer, I perceive beautiful weird things which at first escaped my notice.

They are gardening, these charming beings!—they are caressing the lotus-buds, sprinkling their petals with something celestial, helping them to blossom. And what lotus-buds with colours not of this world. Some have burst open; and in their luminous hearts, in a radiance like that of dawn, tiny naked infants are seated, each with a tiny halo. These are Souls, new Buddhas, hotoke born into bliss. Some are very, very small; others larger; all seem to be growing visibly, for their lovely nurses are feeding them with something ambrosial. I see one which has left its lotus-cradle, being conducted by a celestial Jizo toward the higher splendours far away.

Above, in the loftiest blue, are floating tennin, angels of the Buddhist heaven, maidens with phoenix wings. One is playing with an ivory plectrum upon some stringed instrument, just as a dancing-girl plays her samisen; and others are sounding those curious Chinese flutes, composed of seventeen tubes, which are used still in sacred concerts at the great temples.

Akira says this heaven is too much like earth. The gardens, he declares, are like the gardens of temples, in spite of the celestial lotus-flowers; and in the blue roofs of the celestial mansions he discovers memories of the tea-houses of the city of Saikyo. [7]

Well, what after all is the heaven of any faith but ideal reiteration and prolongation of happy experiences remembered—the dream of dead days resurrected for us, and made eternal? And if you think this Japanese ideal too simple, too naive, if you say there are experiences of the material life more worthy of portrayal in a picture of heaven than any memory of days passed in Japanese gardens and temples and tea-houses, it is perhaps because you do not know Japan, the soft, sweet blue of its sky, the tender colour of its waters, the gentle splendour of its sunny days, the exquisite charm of its interiors, where the least object appeals to one’s sense of beauty with the air of something not made, but caressed, into existence.

Sec. 9

‘Now there is a wasan of Jizo,’ says Akira, taking from a shelf in the temple alcove some much-worn, blue-covered Japanese book. ‘A wasan is what you would call a hymn or psalm. This book is two hundred years old: it is called Saino-Kawara-kuchi-zu-sami-no-den, which is, literally, “The Legend of the Humming of the Sai-no-Kawara.” And this is the wasan’; and he reads me the hymn of Jizo—the legend of the murmur of the little ghosts, the legend of the humming of the Sai-no-Kawara-rhythmically, like a song: [8]

‘Not of this world is the story of sorrow. The story of the Sai-no-Kawara, At the roots of the Mountain of Shide; Not of this world is the tale; yet ‘tis most pitiful to hear. For together in the Sai-no-Kawara are assembled Children of tender age in multitude, Infants but two or three years old, Infants of four or five, infants of less than ten:

In the Sai-no-Kawara are they gathered together. And the voice of their longing for their parents, The voice of their crying for their mothers and their fathers—”Chichi koishi! haha koishi!”—Is never as the voice of the crying of children in this world, But a crying so pitiful to hear That the sound of it would pierce through flesh and bone. And sorrowful indeed the task which they perform—Gathering the stones of the bed of the river, Therewith to heap the tower of prayers. Saying prayers for the happiness of father, they heap the first tower; Saying prayers for the happiness of mother, they heap the second tower; Saying prayers for their brothers, their sisters, and all whom they loved at home, they heap the third tower. Such, by day, are their pitiful diversions. But ever as the sun begins to sink below the horizon, Then do the Oni, the demons of the hells, appear, And say to them—”What is this that you do here?” Lo! your parents still living in the Shaba-world “Take no thought of pious offering or holy work “They do nought but mourn for you from the morning unto the evening. “Oh, how pitiful! alas! how unmerciful! “Verily the cause of the pains that you suffer “Is only the mourning, the lamentation of your parents.” And saying also, “Blame never us!” The demons cast down the heaped-up towers, They dash the stones down with their clubs of iron. But lo! the teacher Jizo appears. All gently he comes, and says to the weeping infants:— “Be not afraid, dears! be never fearful! “Poor little souls, your lives were brief indeed! “Too soon you were forced to make the weary journey to the Meido, “The long journey to the region of the dead! “Trust to me! I am your father and mother in the Meido, “Father of all children in the region of the dead.” And he folds the skirt of his shining robe about them; So graciously takes he pity on the infants. To those who cannot walk he stretches forth his strong shakujo; And he pets the little ones, caresses them, takes them to his loving bosom So graciously he takes pity on the infants.

Namu Amida Butsu!

  1. 1.鎌倉のこと

    稲村ケ崎(2) -謎の洞窟-
  2. 2.江ノ島のこと

  3. 1.鎌倉のこと

    中世鎌倉の港湾遺跡をドローンで空から撮影しました! ―『春を忘るな』の周辺(7)…
  4. 5.著作のこと

  5. 1.鎌倉のこと