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Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan Second Series   By: (1850-1904)

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Glimpses of Unfamilar Japan Second Series by Lafcadio Hearn

CONTENTS

1 IN A JAPANESE GARDEN

2 THE HOUSEHOLD SHRINE

3 OF WOMEN'S HAIR

4 FROM THE DIARY OF AN ENGLISH TEACHER

5 TWO STRANGE FESTIVALS

6 BY THE JAPANESE SEA

7 OF A DANCING GIRL

8 FROM HOKI TO OKI

9 OF SOULS

10 OF GHOSTS AND GOBLINS

11 THE JAPANESE SMILE

12 SAYONARA!

Chapter One In a Japanese Garden

º1 MY little two story house by the Ohashigawa, although dainty as a bird cage, proved much too small for comfort at the approach of the hot season the rooms being scarcely higher than steamship cabins, and so narrow that an ordinary mosquito net could not be suspended in them. I was sorry to lose the beautiful lake view, but I found it necessary to remove to the northern quarter of the city, into a very quiet Street behind the mouldering castle. My new home is a katchiu yashiki, the ancient residence of some samurai of high rank. It is shut off from the street, or rather roadway, skirting the castle moat by a long, high wall coped with tiles. One ascends to the gateway, which is almost as large as that of a temple court, by a low broad flight of stone steps; and projecting from the wall, to the right of the gate, is a look out window, heavily barred, like a big wooden cage. Thence, in feudal days, armed retainers kept keen watch on all who passed by invisible watch, for the bars are set so closely that a face behind them cannot be seen from the roadway. Inside the gate the approach to the dwelling is also walled in on both sides, so that the visitor, unless privileged, could see before him only the house entrance, always closed with white shoji. Like all samurai homes, the residence itself is but one story high, but there are fourteen rooms within, and these are lofty, spacious, and beautiful. There is, alas, no lake view nor any charming prospect. Part of the O Shiroyama, with the castle on its summit, half concealed by a park of pines, may be seen above the coping of the front wall, but only a part; and scarcely a hundred yards behind the house rise densely wooded heights, cutting off not only the horizon, but a large slice of the sky as well. For this immurement, however, there exists fair compensation in the shape of a very pretty garden, or rather a series of garden spaces, which surround the dwelling on three sides. Broad verandas overlook these, and from a certain veranda angle I can enjoy the sight of two gardens at once. Screens of bamboos and woven rushes, with wide gateless openings in their midst, mark the boundaries of the three divisions of the pleasure grounds. But these structures are not intended to serve as true fences; they are ornamental, and only indicate where one style of landscape gardening ends and another begins.

º2

Now a few words upon Japanese gardens in general.

After having learned merely by seeing, for the practical knowledge of the art requires years of study and experience, besides a natural, instinctive sense of beauty something about the Japanese manner of arranging flowers, one can thereafter consider European ideas of floral decoration only as vulgarities. This observation is not the result of any hasty enthusiasm, but a conviction settled by long residence in the interior. I have come to understand the unspeakable loveliness of a solitary spray of blossoms arranged as only a Japanese expert knows how to arrange it not by simply poking the spray into a vase, but by perhaps one whole hour's labour of trimming and posing and daintiest manipulation and therefore I cannot think now of what we Occidentals call a 'bouquet' as anything but a vulgar murdering of flowers, an outrage upon the colour sense, a brutality, an abomination. Somewhat in the same way, and for similar reasons, after having learned what an old Japanese garden is, I can remember our costliest gardens at home only as ignorant displays of what wealth can accomplish in the creation of incongruities that violate nature.

Now a Japanese garden is not a flower garden; neither is it made for the purpose of cultivating plants... Continue reading book >>




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