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Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan   By: (1850-1904)

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First Page:

GLIMPSES OF UNFAMILIAR JAPAN First Series by LAFCADIO HEARN

(dedication)

TO THE FRIENDS WHOSE KINDNESS ALONE RENDERED POSSIBLE MY SOJOURN IN THE ORIENT, PAYMASTER MITCHELL McDONALD, U.S.N. AND BASIL HALL CHAMBERLAIN, ESQ. Emeritus Professor of Philology and Japanese in the Imperial University of Tokyo I DEDICATE THESE VOLUMES IN TOKEN OF AFFECTION AND GRATITUDE

CONTENTS PREFACE 1 MY FIRST DAY IN THE ORIENT 2 THE WRITING OF KOBODAISHI 3 JIZO 4 A PILGRIMAGE TO ENOSHIMA 5 AT THE MARKET OF THE DEAD 6 BON ODORI 7 THE CHIEF CITY OF THE PROVINCE OF THE GODS 8 KITZUKI: THE MOST ANCIENT SHRINE IN JAPAN 9 IN THE CAVE OF THE CHILDREN'S GHOSTS 10 AT MIONOSEKI 11 NOTES ON KITZUKI 12 AT HINOMISAKI 13 SHINJU 14 YAEGAKI JINJA 15 KITSUNE

PREFACE

In the Introduction to his charming Tales of Old Japan, Mr. Mitford wrote in 1871:

'The books which have been written of late years about Japan have either been compiled from official records, or have contained the sketchy impressions of passing travellers. Of the inner life of the Japanese the world at large knows but little: their religion, their superstitions, their ways of thought, the hidden springs by which they move all these are as yet mysteries.'

This invisible life referred to by Mr. Mitford is the Unfamiliar Japan of which I have been able to obtain a few glimpses. The reader may, perhaps, be disappointed by their rarity; for a residence of little more than four years among the people even by one who tries to adopt their habits and customs scarcely suffices to enable the foreigner to begin to feel at home in this world of strangeness. None can feel more than the author himself how little has been accomplished in these volumes, and how much remains to do.

The popular religious ideas especially the ideas derived from Buddhism and the curious superstitions touched upon in these sketches are little shared by the educated classes of New Japan. Except as regards his characteristic indifference toward abstract ideas in general and metaphysical speculation in particular, the Occidentalised Japanese of to day stands almost on the intellectual plane of the cultivated Parisian or Bostonian. But he is inclined to treat with undue contempt all conceptions of the supernatural; and toward the great religious questions of the hour his attitude is one of perfect apathy. Rarely does his university training in modern philosophy impel him to attempt any independent study of relations, either sociological or psychological. For him, superstitions are simply superstitions; their relation to the emotional nature of the people interests him not at all. [1] And this not only because he thoroughly understands that people, but because the class to which he belongs is still unreasoningly, though quite naturally, ashamed of its older beliefs. Most of us who now call ourselves agnostics can recollect the feelings with which, in the period of our fresh emancipation from a faith far more irrational than Buddhism, we looked back upon the gloomy theology of our fathers. Intellectual Japan has become agnostic within only a few decades; and the suddenness of this mental revolution sufficiently explains the principal, though not perhaps all the causes of the present attitude of the superior class toward Buddhism. For the time being it certainly borders upon intolerance; and while such is the feeling even to religion as distinguished from superstition, the feeling toward superstition as distinguished from religion must be something stronger still.

But the rare charm of Japanese life, so different from that of all other lands, is not to be found in its Europeanised circles... Continue reading book >>




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