Japanese Girls and Women



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To the Japanese baby the beginning of life is not very different from its beginning to babies in the Western world. Its birth, whether it be girl or boy, is the cause of much rejoicing. As boys alone can carry on the family name and inherit titles and estates, they are considered of more importance, but many parents' hearts are made glad by the addition of a daughter to the family circle.

As soon as the event takes place, a special messenger is dispatched to notify relatives and intimate friends, while formal letters of announcement are sent to those less closely related. All persons thus notified must make an early visit to the newcomer, in order to welcome it into the world, and must either take with them or send before them some present. Toys, pieces of cotton, silk, or crêpe for the baby's dress are regarded as suitable; and everything must be accompanied by fish or eggs, for good luck. Where eggs are sent, they are neatly arranged in a covered box, which may contain thirty, forty, or even one hundred eggs. The baby, especially if it be the first one in a family, receives many presents in the first few weeks of its life, and at a certain time proper acknowledgment must be made and return presents sent. This is done when the baby is about thirty days old.

Both baby and mother have a hard time of it for the first few weeks of its life. The baby is passed from hand to hand, fussed over, and talked to so much by the visitors that come in, that it must think this world a trying place. The mother, too, is denied the rest and quiet she needs, and wears herself out in the excitement of seeing her friends, and the physical exercise of going through, so far as possible, the ceremonious bows and salutations that etiquette prescribes.

Before the seventh day the baby receives its name. There is no especial ceremony connected with this, but the child's birth must be formally registered, together with its name, at the district office of registration, and the household keep holiday in honor of the event. A certain kind of rice, cooked with red beans, a festival dish denoting good fortune, is usually partaken of by the family on the seventh day.

The next important event in the baby's life is the miya mairi, a ceremony which corresponds roughly with our christening. On the thirtieth day after birth,* the baby is taken for its first visit to the temple. For this visit great preparations are made, and the baby is dressed in finest silk or crêpe, gayly figured,—garments made especially for the occasion. Upon the dress appears in various places the crest of the family, as on all ceremonial dresses, whether for young or old, for every Japanese family has its crest. Thus arrayed, and accompanied by members of the family, the young baby is carried to one of the Shinto temples, and there placed under the protection of the patron deity of the temple. This god, chosen from a great number of Shinto deities, is supposed to become the special guardian of the child through life. Offerings are made to the god and to the priest, and a blessing is obtained; and the baby is thus formally placed under the care of a special deity. This ceremony over, there is usually an entertainment of some kind at the home of the parents, especially if the family be one of high rank. Friends are invited, and if there are any who have not as yet sent in presents, they may give them at this time.

It is usually on this day that the family send to their friends some acknowledgment of the presents received. This sometimes consists of the red bean rice, such as is prepared for the seventh day celebration, and sometimes of cakes of mochi, or rice paste. A letter of thanks usually accompanies the return present. If rice is sent, it is put in a handsome lacquered box, the box placed on a lacquered tray, and the whole covered with a square of crêpe or silk, richly decorated. The box, the tray, and the cover are of course returned, and, curious to say, the box must be returned unwashed, as it would be very unlucky to send it back clean. A piece of Japanese paper must be slipped into the box after its contents have been removed, and box and tray must be given back, just as they are, to the messenger. Sometimes a box of eggs, or a peculiar kind of dried fish, called katsuobushi, is sent with this present, when it is desired to make an especially handsome return. When as many as fifty or one hundred return presents of this kind are to be sent, it is no slight tax on the mistress of the house to see that no one is forgotten, and that all is properly done. As special messengers are sent, a number of men are sometimes kept busy for two or three days.

After all these festivities, a quiet, undisturbed life begins for the baby,—a life which is neither unpleasant nor unhealthful. It is not jolted, rocked, or trotted to sleep; it is allowed to cry if it chooses, without anybody's supposing that the world will come to an end because of its crying; and its dress is loose and easily put on, so that very little time is spent in the tiresome process of dressing and undressing. Under these conditions the baby thrives and grows strong and fat; learns to take life with some philosophy, even at a very early age; and is not subject to fits of hysterical or passionate crying, brought on by much jolting or trotting, or by the wearisome process of pinning, buttoning, tying of strings, and thrusting of arms into tight sleeves.

The Japanese baby's dress, though not as pretty as that of our babies, is in many ways much more sensible. It consists of as many wide-sleeved, straight, silk, cotton, or flannel garments as the season of the year may require,—all cut after nearly the same pattern, and that pattern the same in shape as the grown-up kimono. These garments are fitted, one inside of the other, before they are put on; then they are laid down on the floor and the baby is laid into them; a soft belt, attached to the outer garment or dress, is tied around the waist, and the baby is dressed without a shriek or a wail, as simply and easily as possible. The baby's dresses, like those of our babies, are made long enough to cover the little bare feet; and the sleeves cover the hands as well, so preventing the unmerciful scratching that most babies give to their faces, as well as keeping the hands warm and dry.

Babies of the lower classes, within a few weeks after birth, are carried about tied upon the back of some member of the family, frequently an older sister or brother, who is sometimes not more than five or six years old. The poorer the family, the earlier is the young baby thus put on some one's back, and one frequently sees babies not more than a month old, with bobbing heads and blinking eyes, tied by long bands of cloth to the backs of older brothers or sisters, and living in the streets in all weathers. When it is cold, the sister's haori, or coat, serves as an extra covering for the baby as well; and when the sun is hot, the sister's parasol keeps off its rays from the bobbing bald head.* Living in public, as the Japanese babies do, they soon acquire an intelligent, interested look, and seem to enjoy the games of the elder children, upon whose backs they are carried, as much as the players themselves. Babies of the middle classes do not live in public in this way, but ride about upon the backs of their nurses until they are old enough to toddle by themselves, and they are not so often seen in the streets; as few but the poorest Japanese, even in the large cities, are unable to have a pleasant bit of garden in which the children can play and take the air. The children of the richest families, the nobility, and the imperial family, are never carried about in this way. The young child is borne in the arms of an attendant, within doors and without; but as this requires the care of some one constantly, and prevents the nurse from doing anything but care for the child, only the richest can afford this luxury. With the baby tied to her back, a woman is able to care for a child, and yet go on with her household labors, and baby watches over mother's or nurse's shoulder, between naps taken at all hours, the processes of drawing water, washing and cooking rice, and all the varied work of the house. Imperial babies are held in the arms of some one night and day, from the moment of birth until they have learned to walk, a custom which seems to render the lot of the high-born infant less comfortable in some ways than that of the plebeian child.

The flexibility of the knees, which is required for comfort in the Japanese method of sitting, is gained in very early youth by the habit of setting a baby down with its knees bent under it, instead of with its legs out straight before it, as seems to us the natural way. To the Japanese, the normal way for a baby to sit is with its knees bent under it, and so, at a very early age, the muscles and tendons of the knees are accustomed to what seems to us a most unnatural and uncomfortable posture.

Among the lower classes, where there are few bathing facilities in the houses, babies of a few weeks old are often taken to the public bath house and put into the hot bath. These Japanese baths are usually heated to a temperature of a hundred to a hundred and twenty Fahrenheit,—a temperature that most foreigners visiting Japan find almost unbearable. To a baby's delicate skin, the first bath or two is usually a severe trial, but it soon becomes accustomed to the high temperature, and takes its bath, as it does everything else, placidly and in public. Born into a country where cow's milk is never used, the Japanese baby is wholly dependent upon its mother for milk, and is not weaned entirely until it reaches the age of three or four years, and is able to live upon the ordinary food of the class to which it belongs. There is no intermediate stage of bread and milk, oatmeal and milk, gruel, or pap of some kind; for the all-important factor—milk—is absent from the bill of fare, in a land where there is neither "milk for babes" nor "strong meat for them that are full of age."

In consequence, partly, of the lack of proper nourishment after the child is too old to live wholly upon its mother's milk, and partly, perhaps, because of the poor food that the mothers, even of the higher classes, live upon, many babies in Japan are afflicted with disagreeable skin troubles, especially of the scalp and face,—troubles which usually disappear as soon as the child becomes accustomed to the regular food of the adult. Another consequence, as I imagine, of the lack of proper food at the teething period, is the early loss of the child's first teeth, which usually turn black and decay some time before the second teeth begin to show themselves. With the exception of these two troubles, Japanese babies seem healthy, hearty, and happy to an extraordinary degree, and show that most of the conditions of their lives are wholesome. The constant out-of-door life and the healthful dress serve to make up in considerable measure for the poor food, and the Japanese baby, though small after the manner of the race, is usually plump, and of firm, hard flesh. One striking characteristic of the Japanese baby is, that at a very early age it learns to cling like a kitten to the back of whoever carries it, so that it is really difficult to drop it through carelessness, for the baby looks out for its own safety like a young monkey. The straps that tie it to the back are sufficient for safety; but the baby, from the age of one month, is dependent upon its own exertions to secure a comfortable position, and it soon learns to ride its bearer with considerable skill, instead of being merely a bundle tied to the shoulders. Any one who has ever handled a Japanese baby can testify to the amount of intelligence shown in this direction at a very early age; and this clinging with arms and legs is, perhaps, a valuable part of the training which gives to the whole nation the peculiar quickness of motion and hardness of muscle that characterize them from childhood. It is the agility and muscular quality that belong to wild animals, that we see something of in the Indian, but to a more marked degree in the Japanese, especially of the lower classes.

The Japanese baby's first lessons in walking are taken under favorable circumstances. With feet comfortably shod in the soft tabi, or mitten-like sock, babies can tumble about as they like, with no bump nor bruise, upon the soft matted floors of the dwelling houses. There is no furniture to fall against, and nothing about the room to render falling a thing to be feared. After learning the art of walking in the house, the baby's first attempts out of doors are hampered by the zori or géta,—a light straw sandal or small wooden clog attached to the foot by a strap passing between the toes. At the very beginning the sandal or clog is tied to the baby's foot by bits of string fastened around the ankle, but this provision for security is soon discarded, and the baby patters along like the grown people, holding on the géta by the strap passing between the toes. This somewhat cumbersome and inconvenient foot gear must cause many falls at first, but baby's experience in the art of balancing upon people's backs now aids in this new art of balancing upon the little wooden clogs. Babies of two or three trot about quite comfortably in géta that seem to give most insecure footing, and older children run, jump, hop on one foot, and play all manner of active games upon heavy clogs that would wrench our ankles and toes out of all possibility of usefulness. This foot gear, while producing an awkward, shuffling gait, has certain advantages over our own, especially for children whose feet are growing rapidly. The géta, even if outgrown, can never cramp the toes nor compress the ankles. If the foot is too long for the clog the heel laps over behind, but the toes do not suffer, and the use of the géta strengthens the ankles by affording no artificial aid or support, and giving to all the muscles of foot and leg free play, with the foot in a natural position. The toes of the Japanese retain their prehensile qualities to a surprising degree, and are used, not only for grasping the foot gear, but among mechanics almost like two supplementary hands, to aid in holding the thing worked upon. Each toe knows its work and does it, and they are not reduced to the dull uniformity of motion that characterizes the toes of a leather-shod nation.

The distinction between the dress of the boy and the girl, that one notices from childhood, begins in babyhood. A very young baby wears red and yellow, but soon the boy is dressed in sober colors,—blues, grays, greens, and browns; while the little girl still wears the most gorgeous of colors and the largest of patterns in her garments, red being the predominant hue. The sex, even of a young baby, may be distinguished by the color of its clothing. White, the garb of mourning in Japan, is never used for children, but the minutest babies are dressed in bright-colored garments, and of the same materials—wadded cotton, silk, or crêpe—as those worn by adults of their social grade. As these dresses are not as easily washed as our own cambric and flannel baby clothes, there is a loss among the poorer classes in the matter of cleanliness; and the gorgeous soiled gowns are not as attractive as the more washable white garments in which our babies are dressed. For model clothing for a baby, I would suggest a combination of the Japanese style with the foreign, easily washed materials,—a combination that I have seen used in their own families by Japanese ladies educated abroad, and one in which the objections to the Japanese style of dress are entirely obviated.

The Japanese baby begins to practice the accomplishment of talking at a very early age, for its native language is singularly happy in easy expressions for children; and little babies will be heard chattering away in soft, easily spoken words long before they are able to venture alone from their perches on their mothers' or nurses' backs. A few simple words express much, and cover all wants. Iya expresses discontent or dislike of any kind, and is also used for "no"; mam ma means food; bé bé is the dress; ta ta is the sock, or house shoe, etc. We find many of the same sounds as in the baby language of English, with meanings totally different. The baby is not troubled with difficult grammatical changes, for the Japanese language has few inflections; and it is too young to be puzzled with the intricacies of the various expressions denoting different degrees of politeness, which are the snare and the despair of the foreigner studying Japanese.

As our little girl emerges from babyhood she finds the life opening before her a bright and happy one, but one hedged about closely by the proprieties, and one in which, from babyhood to old age, she must expect to be always under the control of one of the stronger sex. Her position will be an honorable and respected one only as she learns in her youth the lesson of cheerful obedience, of pleasing manners, and of personal cleanliness and neatness. Her duties must be always either within the house, or, if she belongs to the peasant class, on the farm. There is no career or vocation open to her: she must be dependent always upon either father, husband, or son, and her greatest happiness is to be gained, not by cultivation of the intellect, but by the early acquisition of the self-control which is expected of all Japanese women to an even greater degree than of the men. This self-control must consist, not simply in the concealment of all the outward signs of any disagreeable emotion,—whether of grief, anger, or pain,—but in the assumption of a cheerful smile and agreeable manner under even the most distressing of circumstances. The duty of self-restraint is taught to the little girls of the family from the tenderest years; it is their great moral lesson, and is expatiated upon at all times by their elders. The little girl must sink herself entirely, must give up always to others, must never show emotions except such as will be pleasing to those about her: this is the secret of true politeness, and must be mastered if the woman wishes to be well thought of and to lead a happy life. The effect of this teaching is seen in the attractive but dignified manners of the Japanese women, and even of the very little girls. They are not forward nor pushing, neither are they awkwardly bashful; there is no self-consciousness, neither is there any lack of savoir faire; a childlike simplicity is united with a womanly consideration for the comfort of those around them. A Japanese child seems to be the product of a more perfect civilization than our own, for it comes into the world with little of the savagery and barbarian bad manners that distinguish children in this country, and the first ten or fifteen years of its life do not seem to be passed in one long struggle to acquire a coating of good manners that will help to render it less obnoxious in polite society. How much of the politeness of the Japanese is the result of training, and how much is inherited from generations of civilized ancestors, it is difficult to tell; but my impression is, that babies are born into the world with a good start in the matter of manners, and that the uniformly gentle and courteous treatment that they receive from those about them, together with the continual verbal teaching of the principle of self-restraint and thoughtfulness of others, produce with very little difficulty the universally attractive manners of the people. One curious thing in a Japanese household is to see the formalities that pass between brothers and sisters, and the respect paid to age by every member of the family. The grandfather and grandmother come first of all in everything,—no one at table must be helped before them in any case; after them come the father and mother; and lastly, the children according to their ages. A younger sister must always wait for the elder and pay her due respect, even in the matter of walking into the room before her. The wishes and convenience of the elder, rather than of the younger, are to be consulted in everything, and this lesson must be learned early by children. The difference in years may be slight, but the elder-born has the first right in all cases.

Our little girl's place in the family is a pleasant one: she is the pet and plaything of father and elder brothers, and she is never saluted by any one in the family, except her parents, without the title of respect due to her position. If she is the eldest daughter, to the servants she is O Jō Sama, literally, young lady; to her own brothers and sisters, Né San, elder sister. Should she be one of the younger ones, her given name, preceded by the honorific O and followed by San, meaning Miss, will be the name by which she will be called by younger brothers and sisters, and by the servants. As she passes from babyhood to girlhood, and from girlhood to womanhood, she is the object of much love and care and solicitude; but she does not grow up irresponsible or untrained to meet the duties which womanhood will surely bring to her. She must learn all the duties that fall upon the wife and mother of a Japanese household, as well as obtain the instruction in books and mathematics that is coming to be more and more a necessity for the women of Japan. She must take a certain responsibility in the household; must see that tea is made for the guests who may be received by her parents,—in all but the families of highest rank, must serve it herself. Indeed, it is quite the custom in families of the higher classes, should a guest, whom it is desired to receive with especial honor, dine at the house, to serve the meal, not with the family, but separately for the father and his visitor; and it is the duty of the wife or daughter, oftener the latter, to wait on them. This is in honor of the guest, not on account of the lack of servants, for there may be any number of them within call, or even in the back part of the room, ready to receive from the hands of the young girl what she has removed. She must, therefore, know the proper etiquette of the table, how to serve carefully and neatly, and, above all, have the skill to ply the saké bottle, so that the house may keep up its reputation for hospitality. Should guests arrive in the absence of her parents, she must receive and entertain them until the master or mistress of the house returns. She also feels a certain care about the behavior of the younger members of the family, especially in the absence of the parents. In these various ways she is trained for taking upon herself the cares of a household when the time comes. In all but the very wealthiest and most aristocratic families, the daughters of the house do a large part of the simple housework. In a house with no furniture, no carpets, no bric-à-brac, no mirrors, picture frames or glasses to be cared for, no stoves or furnaces, no windows to wash, a large part of the cooking to be done outside, and no latest styles to be imitated in clothing, the amount of work to be done by women is considerably diminished, but still there remains enough to take a good deal of time. Every morning there are the beds to be rolled up and stored away in the closet, the mosquito nets to be taken down, the rooms to be swept, dusted, and aired before breakfast. Besides this, there is the washing and polishing of the engawa, or piazza, which runs around the outside of a Japanese house between the shoji, or paper screens that serve as windows, and the amado, or sliding shutters, that are closed only at night, or during heavy, driving rains. Breakfast is to be cooked and served, dishes to be washed (in cold water); and then perhaps there is marketing to be done, either at shops outside or from the vendors of fish and vegetables who bring their huge baskets of provisions to the door; but after these duties are performed, it is possible to sit down quietly to the day's work of sewing, studying, or whatever else may suit the taste or necessities of the housewife. Of sewing there is always a good deal to be done, for many Japanese dresses must be taken to pieces whenever they are washed, and are turned, dyed, and made over again and again, so long as there is a shred of the original material left to work upon. There is washing, too, to be done, although neither with hot water nor soap; and in the place of ironing, the cotton garments, which are usually washed without ripping, must be hung up on a bamboo pole passed through the armholes, and pulled smooth and straight before they dry; and the silk, always ripped into breadths before washing, must be smoothed while wet upon a board which is set in the sun until the silk is dry.

Then there are the every day dishes which our Japanese maiden must learn to prepare. The proper boiling of rice is in itself a study. The construction of the various soups which form the staple in the Japanese bill of fare; the preparation of mochi, a kind of rice dough, which is prepared at the New Year, or to send to friends on various festival occasions: these and many other branches of the culinary art must be mastered before the young girl is prepared to assume the cares of married life.

But though the little girl's life is not without its duties and responsibilities, it is also not at all lacking in simple and innocent pleasures.* First among the annual festivals, and bringing with it much mirth and frolic, comes the Feast of the New Year. At this time father, mother, and all older members of the family lay aside their work and their dignity, and join in the fun and sports that are characteristic of this season. Worries and anxieties are set aside with the close of the year, and the first beams of the New Year's sun bring in a season of unlimited joy for the children. For about one week the festival lasts, and the festal spirit remains through the whole month, prompting to fun and amusements of all kinds. From early morning until bedtime the children wear their prettiest clothes, in which they play without rebuke. Guests come and go, bringing congratulations to the family, and often gifts for all. The children's stock of toys is thus greatly increased, and the house overflows with the good things of the season, of which mochi, or cake made from rice dough, prepared always especially for this time, is one of the most important articles.

The children are taken with their parents to make New Year's visits to their friends and to offer them congratulations, and much they enjoy this, as, dressed in their best, they ride from house to house in jinrikishas.

And then, during the long, happy evenings, the whole family, including even the old grandfather and grandmother, join in merry games; the servants, too, are invited to join the family party, and, without seeming forward or out of place, enter into the games with zest. One of the favorite games is "Hyaku nin isshu," literally "The poems of a hundred poets." It consists of two hundred cards, on each of which is printed either the first or last half of one of the hundred famous Japanese poems which give the name to the game. The poems are well known to all Japanese, of whatever sort or condition. All Japanese poems are short, containing only thirty-one syllables, and have a natural division into two parts. The one hundred cards containing the latter halves of the poems are dealt and laid out in rows, face upward, before the players. One person is appointed reader. To him are given the remaining hundred cards, and he reads the beginnings of the poems in whatever order they come from the shuffled pack. Skill in the game consists in remembering quickly the line following the one read, and rapidly finding the card on which it is written. Especially does the player watch his own cards, and if he finds there the end of the poem, the beginning of which has just been read, he must pick it up before any one sees it and lay it aside. If some one else spies the card first, he seizes it and gives to the careless player several cards from his own hand. Whoever first disposes of all his cards is the winner. The players usually arrange themselves in two lines down the middle of the room, and the two sides play against each other, the game not being ended until either one side or the other has disposed of all its cards. The game requires great quickness of thought and of motion, and is invaluable in giving to all young people an education in the classical poetry of their own nation, as well as being a source of great merriment and jollity among young and old.

Scattered throughout the year are various flower festivals, when, often with her whole family, our little girl visits the famous gardens where the plum, the cherry, the chrysanthemum, the iris, or the azalea attain their greatest loveliness, and spends the day out of doors in æsthetic enjoyment of the beauties of nature supplemented by art. And then there is the feast most loved in the whole year, the Feast of Dolls, when on the third day of the third month the great fire-proof storehouse gives forth its treasures of dolls,—in an old family, many of them hundreds of years old,—and for three days, with all their belongings of tiny furnishings in silver, lacquer, and porcelain, they reign supreme, arranged on red-covered shelves in the finest room of the house. Most prominent among the dolls are the effigies of the Emperor and Empress in antique court costume, seated in dignified calm, each on a lacquered dais. Near them are the figures of the five court musicians in their robes of office, each with his instrument. Beside these dolls, which are always present and form the central figures at the feast, numerous others, more plebeian, but more lovable, find places on the lower shelves, and the array of dolls' furnishings which is brought out on these occasions is something marvelous. It was my privilege to be present at the Feast of Dolls in the house of one of the Tokugawa daimiōs, a house in which the old forms and ceremonies were strictly observed, and over which the wave of foreign innovation had passed so slightly that even the calendar still remained unchanged, and the feast took place upon the third day of the third month of the old Japanese year, instead of on the third day of March, which is the usual time for it now. At this house, where the dolls had been accumulating for hundreds of years, five or six broad, red-covered shelves, perhaps twenty feet long or more, were completely filled with them and with their belongings. The Emperor and Empress appeared again and again, as well as the five court musicians, and the tiny furnishings and utensils were wonderfully costly and beautiful. Before each Emperor and Empress was set an elegant lacquered table service,—tray, bowls, cups, saké pots, rice buckets, etc., all complete; and in each utensil was placed the appropriate variety of food. The saké used on this occasion is a sweet, white liquor, brewed especially for this feast, as different from the ordinary saké as sweet cider is from the hard cider upon which a man may drink himself into a state of intoxication.* Besides the table service, everything that an imperial doll can be expected to need or desire is placed upon the shelves. Lacquered norimono, or palanquins; lacquered bullock carts, drawn by bow-legged black bulls,—these were the conveyances of the great in Old Japan, and these, in minute reproductions, are placed upon the red-covered shelves. Tiny silver and brass hibachi, or fire boxes, are there, with their accompanying tongs and charcoal baskets,—whole kitchens, with everything required for cooking the finest of Japanese feasts, as finely made as if for actual use; all the necessary toilet apparatus,—combs, mirrors, utensils for blackening the teeth, for shaving the eyebrows, for reddening the lips and whitening the face,—all these things are there to delight the souls of all the little girls who may have the opportunity to behold them. For three days the imperial effigies are served sumptuously at each meal, and the little girls of the family take pleasure in serving their imperial majesties; but when the feast ends, the dolls and their belongings are packed away in their boxes, and lodged in the fire-proof warehouse for another year.

The Tokugawa collection, of which I have spoken, is remarkably full and costly, for it has been making for hundreds of years in one of the younger branches of a family which for two and a half centuries was possessed of almost imperial power, and lived in more than imperial luxury; but there are few households so poor that they do not from year to year accumulate a little store of toys wherewith to celebrate the feast, and, whether the toys are many or few, the feast is the event of the year in the lives of the little girls of Japan.

Beside the regular feasts at stated seasons, our little girl has a great variety of toys and games, some belonging to particular seasons, some played at any time during the year. At the New Year the popular out-of-door games are battledoor and shuttlecock, and ball. There is no prettier sight, to my mind, than a group of little girls in their many-colored wide-sleeved dresses playing with battledoor or ball. The graceful, rhythmic motion of their bodies, the bright upturned eyes, the laughing faces, are set off to perfection by the coloring of their flowing drapery; and their agility on their high, lacquered clogs is a constant source of wonder and admiration to any one who has ever made an effort to walk upon the clumsy things. There are dolls, too, that are not relegated to the storehouse when the Feast of Dolls is ended, but who are the joy and comfort of their little mothers during the whole year; and at every kwan-ko-ba, or bazaar, an endless variety of games, puzzles, pictures to be cut out and glued together, and amusements of all kinds, may be purchased at extremely low rates. There is no dearth of games for our little girl, and many pleasant hours are spent in the household sitting room with games, or conundrums, or stories, or the simple girlish chatter that elicits constant laughter from sheer youthful merriment.

As for fairy tales, so dear to the hearts of children in every country, the Japanese child has her full share. Often she listens, half asleep, while cuddling under the warm quilted cover of the kotatsu, in the cold winter evenings, to the drowsy voice of the old grandmother or nurse, who carries her away on the wings of imagination to the wonderful palace of the sea gods, or to the haunts of the terrible oni, monsters with red, distorted faces and fearful horns. Momotaro, the Peach Boy, with his wonderful feats in the conquest of the oni, is her hero, until he is supplanted by the more real ones of Japanese history.

There are occasional all-day visits to the theatre, too, where, seated on the floor in a box, railed off from those adjoining, our little girl, in company with her mother and sisters, enjoys, though with paroxysms of horror and fear, the heroic historical plays which are now almost all that is left of the heroic old Japan. Here she catches the spirit of passionate loyalty that belonged to those days, forms her ideals of what a noble Japanese woman should be willing to do for parents or husband, and comes away taught, as she could be by no other teaching, what the spirit was that animated her ancestors,—what spirit must animate her, should she wish to be a worthy descendant of the women of old.

Among these surroundings, with these duties and amusements, our little girl grows to womanhood. The unconscious and beautiful spirit of her childhood is not driven away at the dawn of womanhood by thoughts of beaux, of coming out in society, of a brief career of flirtation and conquest, and at the end as fine a marriage, either for love or money, as her imagination can picture. She takes no thought for these things herself, and her intercourse with young men, though free and unconstrained, has about it no grain of flirtation or romantic interest. When the time comes for her to marry, her father will have her meet some eligible young man, and both she and the young man will know, when they are brought together, what is the end in view, and will make up their minds about the matter. But until that time comes, the modest Japanese maiden carries on no flirtations, thinks little of men except as higher beings to be deferred to and waited on, and preserves the childlike innocence of manner, combined with a serene dignity under all circumstances, that is so noticeable a trait in the Japanese woman from childhood to old age.

The Japanese woman is, under this discipline, a finished product at the age of sixteen or eighteen. She is pure, sweet, and amiable, with great power of self-control, and a knowledge of what to do upon all occasions. The higher part of her nature is little developed; no great religious truths have lifted her soul above the world into a clearer and higher atmosphere; but as far as she goes, in regard to all the little things of daily life, she is bright, industrious, sweet-tempered, and attractive, and prepared to do well her duty, when that duty comes to her, as wife and mother and mistress of a household. The highest principle upon which she is taught to act is obedience, even to the point of violating all her finest feminine instincts, at the command of father or husband; and acting under that principle, she is capable of an entire self-abnegation such as few women of any race can achieve.

With the close of her childhood, the happiest period in the life of a Japanese woman closes. The discipline that she has received so far, repressive and constant as it has often been, has been from kind and loving parents. She has freedom, to a certain degree, such as is unknown to any other country in Asia. In the home she is truly loved, often the pet and plaything of the household, though not receiving the caresses and words of endearment that children in America expect as a right, for love in Japan is undemonstrative. But just at the time when her mind broadens, and the desire for knowledge and self-improvement develops, the restraints and checks upon her become more severe. Her sphere seems to grow narrower, difficulties one by one increase, and the young girl, who sees life before her as something broad and expansive, who looks to the future with expectant joy, may become, in a few years, the weary, disheartened woman.


So far we have spoken only of the domestic training of a Japanese girl. That part of her education that she gains through teachers and schools must be the subject of a separate chapter. Japan differs from most Oriental countries in the fact that her women are considered worthy of a certain amount of the culture that comes from the study of books; and although, until recently, schools for girls were unknown in the empire, nevertheless every woman, except those of the lower classes, received instruction in the ordinary written language, while some were well versed in the Chinese classics and the poetic art. These, with some musical accomplishment, an acquaintance with etiquette and the arts of arranging flowers, of making the ceremonial tea, and in many cases not only of writing a beautiful hand, but of flower-painting as well, in the old days made up the whole of an ordinary woman's education. Among the lower classes, especially the merchant class, instruction was sometimes given in the various pantomimic dances which one sees most frequently presented by professional dancing girls. The art of dancing is not usually practiced by women of the higher classes, but among the daughters of the merchants special dances were learned for exhibition at home, or even at the matsuri or religious festival, and their performance was for the amusement of spectators, and not especially for the pleasure of the dancers themselves. These dances are modest and graceful, but from the fact that they are always learned for entertaining an audience, however small and select, and are most frequently performed by professional dancers of questionable character, the more refined and higher class Japanese do not care especially to have their daughters learn them.

In the old days, little girls were not sent to school, but, going to the house of a private teacher, received the necessary instruction in reading, and writing. The writing and reading at the beginning, are taught simultaneously, the teacher writing a letter upon a sheet of paper and telling the scholar its name, and the scholar writing it over and over until, by the time she has acquired the necessary skill in writing it, both name and form are indelibly imprinted upon her memory. To write, with a brush dipped in India ink, upon soft paper, the hand entirely without support, is an art that seldom can be acquired by a grown person, but when learned in childhood it gives great deftness in whatever other art may be subsequently studied. This is perhaps the reason why the Japanese value a good handwriting more highly than any other accomplishment, for it denotes a manual dexterity that is the secret of success in all the arts, and one who writes the Chinese characters well and rapidly can quickly learn to do anything else with the fingers.

The fault that one finds with the Japanese system—a fault that lies deeper than the mere methods of teaching, and has its root in the ideographic character of the written language—is that, while it cultivates the memory and powers of observation to a remarkable extent, and while it gives great skill in the use of the fingers, it affords little opportunity for the development of the reasoning powers. The years of study that are required for mastering the written language, so as to be able to grasp the thoughts already given to the world, leave comparatively little time for the conducting of any continuous thought on one's own account, and so we find in Japanese scholars—whether boys or girls—quickness of apprehension, retentive memories, industry and method in their study of their lessons, but not much originality of thought. This result comes, I believe, from the nature of the written language and the difficulties that attend the mastery of it; as a consequence of which, an educated man or woman becomes simply a student of other men's thoughts and sayings about things instead of being a student of the things themselves.

Music in Japan is an accomplishment reserved almost entirely for women, for priests, and for blind men. It seems to me quite fortunate that the musical art is not more generally practiced, as Japanese music, as a rule, is far from agreeable to the untrained ear of the outside barbarian. The koto is the pleasantest of the Japanese instruments, but probably on account of its large size, which makes it inconvenient to keep in a small Japanese house, it is used most among the higher classes, from the samurai upwards. The koto is an embryo piano, a horizontal sounding-board, some six feet long, upon which are stretched strings supported by ivory bridges. It is played by means of ivory finger-tips fitted to the thumb, forefinger, and middle finger of the right hand, and gives forth agreeable sounds, not unlike those of the harp. The player sits before the koto on knees and heels, in the ordinary Japanese attitude, and her motions are very graceful and pretty as she touches the strings, often supplementing the strains of the instrument with her voice. The teaching of this instrument and of the samisen, or Japanese guitar, is almost entirely in the hands of blind men, who in Japan support themselves by the two professions of music and massage,—all the blind, who cannot learn the former, becoming adepts in the latter profession.

The arrangement of flowers is taught as a fine art, and much time may be spent in learning how, by clipping, bending, and fixing in its place in the vase, each spray and twig may be made to look as if actually growing, for flower arranging is not merely to show the flower itself, but includes the proper arrangement of the branches, twigs, and leaves of plants. The flower plays only a small part, and is not used in decoration, except on the branch and stem as it is in nature, and the art consists in the preservation of the natural bend and growth when fixed in the vase. In every case, each branch has certain curves, which must be in harmony with the whole. Branches of pine, bamboo, and the flowering plum are much used.

Teachers spend much time in showing proper and improper combinations of different flowers, as well as the arrangement of them. Many different styles have come up, originated by the famous teachers who have founded various schools of the art,—an art which is unique and exceedingly popular, requiring artistic talent and a cultivated eye. One often sees, on going into the guest room of a Japanese house, a vase containing gracefully arranged flowers set in the tokonoma, or raised alcove of the room, under the solitary kakémono that forms the chief ornament of the apartment. As these two things, the vase of flowers and the hanging scroll, are the only adornments, it is more necessary that the flowers should be carefully arranged, than in our crowded rooms, where a vase of flowers may easily escape the eye, perplexed by the multitude of objects which surround it.

The ceremonial tea must not be confounded with the ordinary serving of tea for refreshment. The proper making, and serving, and drinking of the ceremonial tea is the most formal of social observances, each step in which is prescribed by a rigid code of etiquette. The tea, instead of being the whole leaf, such as is used for ordinary occasions, is a fine, green powder. The infusion is made, not in a small pot, from which it is poured out into cups, but in a bowl, into which the hot water is poured from a dipper on to the powdered tea. The mixture is stirred with a bamboo whisk until it foams, then handed with much ceremony to the guest, who takes it with equal ceremony and drinks it from the bowl, emptying the receptacle at three gulps. Should there be a number of guests, tea is made for each in turn, in the order of their rank, in the same bowl. For this ceremonial tea, a special set of utensils is used, all of antique and severely simple style. The charcoal used for heating the water is of a peculiar variety; and the room in which the tea is made and served is built for that special purpose, and kept sacred for that use. This art, which is often part of the education of women of the higher classes, is taught by regular teachers, often by gentlewomen who have fallen into distressed circumstances. I remember with great vividness a visit paid to an old lady living near a provincial city of Japan, who had for years supported herself by giving lessons in this politest of arts. Her little house, of the daintiest and neatest type, seemed filled to overflowing by three foreigners, whom she received with the courtliest of welcomes. At the request of my friend, an American lady engaged in missionary work in that part of the country, she gave us a lesson in the etiquette of the tea ceremony. Every motion, from the bringing in and arranging of the utensils to the final rinsing and wiping of the tea bowl, was according to rules strictly laid down, and the whole ceremony had more the solemnity of a religious ritual than the lightness and gayety of a social occasion.

Etiquette of all kinds is not left in Japan to chance, to be learned by observation and imitation of any model that may present itself, but is taught regularly by teachers who make a specialty of it. Everything in the daily life has its rules, and the etiquette teacher has them all at her fingers' ends. There have been several famous teachers of etiquette, and they have formed systems which differ in minor points, while agreeing in the principal rules. The etiquette of bowing, the position of the body, the arms, and the head while saluting, the methods of shutting and opening the door, rising and sitting down on the floor, the manner of serving a meal, or tea, are all, with the minutest details, taught to the young girls, who, I imagine, find it rather irksome. I know two young girls of new Japan who find nothing so wearisome as their etiquette lesson, and would gladly be excused from it. I have heard them, after their teacher had left, slyly make fun of her stiff and formal manners. Such people as she will, I fear, soon belong only to the past, though it still remains to be seen how much of European manners will be engrafted on the old formalities of Japanese life. It is, perhaps, because of this regular teaching in the ways of polite society, that the Japanese girl seems never at a loss, even under unusual circumstances, but bears herself with self-possession in places where young girls in America would be embarrassed and awkward.

But the Japanese are rapidly finding out that this busy nineteenth century gives little time for learning how to shut and open doors in the politest manner, and indeed such things under the newly established school system are now relegated entirely to the girls' schools, the boys having no lessons in etiquette.

The method of teaching flower-painting is so interesting that I must speak of it before I leave the subject of accomplishments. I have said that the acquisition of skill in writing the Chinese characters was the best possible preparation for skill in all other arts. This is especially true of the art of painting, which is simply the next step, after writing has been learned. The painting master, when he comes to the house, brings no design as a model, but sits down on the floor before the little desk, and on a sheet of paper paints with great rapidity the design that he wishes the pupil to copy. It may be simply two or three blades of grass upon which the pupil makes a beginning, but she is expected to make her picture with exactly the same number of bold strokes that the master puts into his. Again and again she blunders her strokes on to a sheet of paper, until at last, when sheet after sheet has been spoiled, she begins to see some semblance of the master's copy in her own daub. She perseveres, making copy after copy, until she is able from memory to put upon the paper at a moment's notice the three blades of grass to her master's satisfaction. Only then can she go on to a new copy, and only after many such designs have been committed to memory, and the free, dashing stroke necessary for Japanese painting has been acquired, is she allowed to undertake any copying from nature, or original designing.

I have dwelt thus far only upon the entirely Japanese education that was permitted to women under the old régime. That it was an effective and refining system, all can testify who have made the acquaintance of any of the charming Japanese ladies whose schooling was finished before Commodore Perry disturbed the repose of old Japan. As I write, the image comes before me of a sweet-faced, bright-eyed little gentlewoman with whom it was my good fortune to become intimately acquainted during my stay in Tōkyō. A widow, left penniless, with one child to support, she earned the merest pittance by teaching sewing at one of the government schools in Tōkyō; but in all the circumstances of her life, narrow and busy as it needs must be, she proved herself a lady through and through. Polite, cheerful, an intelligent and cultivated reader, a thrifty housekeeper, a loving and careful mother, a true and helpful friend, her memory is associated with many of my pleasantest hours in Japan, and she is but one of the many who bear witness to the culture that might be acquired by women in the old days.

But the Japan of old is not the Japan of to-day, and in the school system now prevalent throughout the empire girls and boys are equally provided for. First the schools established by the various missionary societies, and then the government schools, offered to girls a broader education than the old instruction in Chinese, in etiquette, and in accomplishments. Now, every morning, the streets of the cities and villages are alive with boys and girls clattering along, with their books and lunch boxes in their hands, to the kindergarten, primary, grammar, high, or normal school. Every rank in life, every grade in learning, may find its proper place in the new school system, and the girls eagerly grasp their opportunities, and show themselves apt and willing students of the new learning offered to them.

By the new system, at its present stage of development, too much is expected of the Japanese boy or girl. The work required would be a burden to the quickest mind. The whole of the old education in Japanese and Chinese literature and composition—an education requiring the best years of a boy's life—is given, and grafted upon this, our common-school and high-school studies of mathematics, geography, history, and natural science. In addition to these, at all higher schools, one foreign language is required, and often two, English ranking first in the popular estimation. Many a headache do the poor, hard-working students have over the puzzling English language, in which they have to begin at the wrong end of the book and read across the page from left to right, instead of from top to bottom, and from right to left, as is natural to them. But in spite of its hard work, the new school life is cheerful and healthful, and the children enjoy it. It helps them to be really children, and, while they are young, to be merry and playful, not dignified and formal little ladies at all times. Upon the young girls, the influence of the schools is to make them more independent, self-reliant, and stronger women. In the houses of the higher classes, even now, much of the old-time system of repression is still in force. Children are indeed "seen but not heard," and from the time when they learn to walk they must learn to be polite and dignified. At school, the more progressive feeling of the times predominates among the authorities, and the children are encouraged to unbend and enjoy themselves in games and frolics, as true children should do. Much is done for the pleasure of the little ones, who often enjoy school better than home, and declare that they do not like holidays.

But the young girl, who has finished this pleasant school life, with all its advantages, is not as well fitted as under the old system for the duties and trials of married life, unless under exceptional circumstances, where the husband chosen has advanced ideas. To those teaching the young girls of Japan to-day, the problem of how to educate them aright is a deep one, and with each newly trained girl sent out go many hopes, mingled with anxieties, in regard to the training she has had as a preparation for the new life she is about to enter. The few, the pioneers, will have to suffer for the happiness and good of the many, for the problem of grafting the new on to the old is indeed a difficult one, to be solved only after many experiments.

There are many difficulties which lie in the way of the new schools that must be met, studied, and overcome. One of them is the one already referred to, the problem of how best to combine the new and the old in the school curriculum. That the old learning and literature, the old politeness and sweetness of manner, must not be given up or made little of, is evident to every right-minded student of the matter. That the newer and broader culture, with its higher morality, its greater development of the best powers of the mind, must play a large part in the Japan of the future, there is not a shadow of doubt, and the women must not be left behind in the onward movement of the nation. But how to give to the young minds the best products of the thought of two such distinct civilizations is a question that is as yet unanswered, and cannot be satisfactorily settled until the effect of the new education has begun to show itself in a generation or so of graduates from the new schools. Another difficulty is in the matter of health. Most of the new school-houses are fitted with seats and desks, such as are found in American schools. Many of them are heated by stoves or furnaces. The scholars in most cases wear the Japanese dress, which in winter is made warm enough to be worn in rooms having no artificial heat. Put this warm costume into an artificially heated room and the result is an over-heating of the body, and a subsequent chill when the pupil goes, with no extra covering, into the keen out-of-door air. From this cause alone, arise many colds and lung troubles, which can be prevented when more experience has shown how the costumes of the East and West can be combined to suit the new conditions. Another part of the health problem lies in the fact that in many cases the parents do not understand the proper care of a growing girl, ambitious to excel in her studies. Instead of the regular hours, healthful food, and gentle restraint that a girl needs under those circumstances, our little Japanese maiden is allowed to sit up to any hour of the night, or arise at any hour in the morning, to prepare her lessons, is given food of most indigestible quality at all hours of the day between her regular meals, and is frequently urged to greater mental exertion than her delicate body can endure.

Another difficulty, in fitting the new school system into the customs of the people, lies in the early age at which marriages are contracted. Before the girl has finished her school course, her parents begin to wonder whether there is not danger of her being left on their hands altogether, if they do not hand her over to the first eligible young man who presents himself. Sometimes the girl makes a brave fight, and remains in school until her course is finished; more often she succumbs and is married off, bids a weeping farewell to her teachers and schoolmates, and leaves the school, to become a wife at sixteen, a mother at eighteen, and an old woman at thirty. In some cases, the breaking down of a girl's health may be traced to threats on the part of her parents that, if she does not take a certain rank in her studies, she will be taken from school and married off.

These are difficulties that may be overcome when a generation has been educated who can, as parents, avoid the mistakes that now endanger the health of a Japanese school-girl. In the mean time, boarding schools, that can attend to matters of health and hygiene among the girls, would, if they could be conducted with the proper admixture of Eastern and Western learning and manners, do a great deal toward educating that generation. The missionary schools do much in this direction, but the criticism of the Japanese upon the manners of the girls educated in missionary schools is universally severe. To a foreigner who has lived almost entirely among Japanese ladies of pure Japanese education, the manners of the girls in these schools seem brusque and awkward; and though they are many of them noble women and doing noble work, there is room for hope that in the future of Japan the charm of manner which is the distinguishing feature of the Japanese woman will not be lost by contact with our Western shortness and roughness. A happy mean undoubtedly can be reached; and when it is, the women of new Japan will be able to bear a not unfavorable comparison with the women of the old régime.


When the Japanese maiden arrives at the age of sixteen, or thereabouts, she is expected as a matter of course to marry. She is usually allowed her choice in regard to whether she will or will not marry a certain man, but she is expected to marry some one, and not to take too much time in making up her mind. The alternative of perpetual spinsterhood is never considered, either by herself or her parents. Marriage is as much a matter of course in a woman's life as death, and is no more to be avoided. This being the case, our young woman has only as much liberty of choice accorded to her as is likely to provide against a great amount of unhappiness in her married life. If she positively objects to the man who is proposed to her, she is seldom forced to marry him, but no more cordial feeling than simple toleration is expected of her before marriage.

The courtship is somewhat after the following manner. A young man, who finds himself in a position to marry, speaks to some married friend, and asks him to be on the lookout for a beautiful and accomplished maiden, who would be willing to become his wife. The friend, acting
 rather as advance agent, makes a canvass of all the young maidens of his acquaintance, inquiring among his friends; and finally decides that so-and-so (Miss Flower, let us say) will be a very good match for his friend. Having arrived at this decision, he goes to Miss Flower's parents and lays the case of his friend before them. Should they approve of the suitor, a party is arranged at the house of some common friend, where the young people may have a chance to meet each other and decide each upon the other's merits. Should the young folks find no fault with the match, presents are exchanged, a formal betrothal is entered into, and the marriage is hastened forward. All arrangements between the contracting parties are made by go-betweens, or seconds, who hold themselves responsible for the success of the marriage, and must be concerned in the divorce proceedings, should divorce become desirable or necessary.

The marriage ceremony, which seems to be neither religious nor legal in its nature, takes place at the house of the groom, to which the bride is carried, accompanied by her go-betweens, and, if she be of the higher classes, by her own confidential maid, who will serve her as her personal attendant in the new life in her husband's house. The trousseau and household goods, which the bride is expected to bring with her, are sent before. The household goods required by custom as a part of the outfit of every bride are as follows: A bureau; a low desk or table for writing; a work-box; two of the lacquer trays or tables on which meals are served, together with everything required for furnishing them, even to the chopsticks; and two or more complete sets of handsome bed furnishings. The trousseau will contain, if the bride be of a well-to-do family, dresses for all seasons, and handsome sashes without number; for the unchanging fashions of Japan, together with the durable quality of the dress material, make it possible for a woman, at the time of her marriage, to enter her husband's house with a supply of clothing that may last her through her lifetime. The parents of the bride, in giving up their daughter, as they do when she marries, show the estimation in which they have held her by the beauty and completeness of the trousseau with which they provide her. This is her very own; and in the event of a divorce, she brings back with her to her father's house the clothing and household goods that she carried away as a bride.

With the bride and her trousseau are sent a great number of presents from the family of the bride to the members of the groom's household. Each member of the family, from the aged grandfather to the youngest grandchild, receives some remembrance of the occasion; and even the servants and retainers, down to the jinrikisha men, and the bettō in the stables, are not forgotten by the bride's relatives. Beside this present-giving, the friends and relatives of the bride and groom, as in this country, send gifts to the young couple, often some article for use in the household, or crêpe or silk for dresses.

In old times, the wedding took place in the afternoon, but it is now usually celebrated in the evening. The ceremony consists merely in a formal drinking of the native wine (saké) from a two-spouted cup, which is presented to the mouths of the bride and groom alternately. This drinking from one cup is a symbol of the equal sharing of the joys and sorrows of married life. At the ceremony no one is present but the bride and bridegroom, their go-betweens, and a young girl, whose duty it is to present the cup to the lips of the contracting parties. When this is over, the wedding guests, who have been assembled in the next room during the ceremony, join the wedding party, a grand feast is spread, and much merriment ensues.

On the third day after the wedding, the newly married couple are expected to make a visit to the bride's family, and for this great preparations are made. A large party is usually given by the bride's parents, either in the afternoon or evening, in honor of this occasion, to which the friends of the bride's family are invited. The young couple bring with them presents from the groom's family to the bride's, in return for the presents sent on the wedding day.

The festivities often begin early in the afternoon and keep up until late at night. A fine dinner is served, and music and dancing, by professional performers, or some other entertainment, serve to make the time pass pleasantly. The bride appears as hostess with her mother, entertaining the company, and receiving their congratulations, and must remain to speed the last departing guest, before leaving the paternal roof.

Within the course of two or three months, the newly married couple are expected to give an entertainment, or series of entertainments, to their friends, as an announcement of the marriage. As the wedding ceremony is private, and no notice is given, nor are cards sent out, this is sometimes the first intimation that is received of the marriage by many of the acquaintances, though the news of a wedding usually travels quickly. The entertainment may be a dinner party, given at home, or at some tea-house, similar in many ways to the one given at the bride's home by her parents. Sometimes it is a garden party, and very lately it has become the fashion for officials and people of high rank to give a ball in foreign style.

Besides the entertainment, presents of red rice, or mochi, are sent as a token of thanks to all who have remembered the young couple. These are arranged even more elaborately than the ones sent after the birth of an heir.

The young people are not, as in this country, expected to set up housekeeping by themselves, and establish a new home. Marriages often take place early in life, even before the husband has any means of supporting a family; and as a matter of course, a son with his wife makes his abode with his parents, and forms simply a new branch of the household.

The only act required to make the marriage legal is the withdrawal of the bride's name from the list of her father's family as registered by the government, and its entry upon the register of her husband's family. From that time forward she severs all ties with her father's house, save those of affection, and is more closely related by law and custom to her husband's relatives than to her own. Even this legal recognition of her marriage is a comparatively new thing in Japan, as is any limitation of the right of divorce on the part of the husband, or extension of that right to the wife.

At present in Japan the marriage relation is by no means a permanent one, as it is virtually dissoluble at the will of either party, and the condition of public opinion is such among the lower classes that it is not an unknown occurrence for a man to marry and divorce several wives in succession; and for a woman, who has been divorced once or twice, to be willing and able to marry well a second or even a third time. Among the higher classes, the dread of the scandal and gossip, that must attach themselves to troubles between man and wife, serves as a restraint upon too free use of the power of divorce; but still, divorces among the higher classes are so common now that one meets numerous respectable and respected persons who have at some time in their lives gone through such an experience.

One provision of the law, which serves to make most mothers endure any evil of married life rather than sue for a divorce, is the fact that the children belong to the father; and no matter how unfit a person he may be to have the care of them, the disposal of them in case of a divorce rests absolutely with him. A divorced woman returns childless to her father's house; and many women, in consequence of this law or custom, will do their best to keep the family together, working the more strenuously in this direction, the more brutal and worthless the husband proves himself to be.

The ancestor worship, as found in Japan, the tracing of relationship in the male line only, and the generally accepted belief that children inherit their qualities from their father rather than from the mother, make them his children and not hers. Thus we often see children of noble rank on the father's side, but ignoble on the mother's, inherit the rank of their father, and not permitted even to recognize their mother as in any way their equal. If she is plebeian, the children are not regarded as tainted by it.

In the case of divorce, even if the law allowed the mother to keep her children, it would be almost an impossibility for her to do so. She has no means of earning her bread and theirs, for few occupations are open to women, and she is forced to become a dependent on her father, or some male relative. Whatever they may be willing to do for her, it is quite likely that they would begrudge aid to the children of another family, with whom custom hardly recognizes any tie. The children are the children of the man whose name they bear. If the woman is a favorite daughter, it may happen that her father will take her and her children under his roof, and support them all; but this is a rare exception, and only possible when the husband first gives up all claim to the children.

There comes to my mind now a case illustrating this point, which I think I may cite without betraying confidence. It is that of a most attractive young woman who was married to a worthless husband, but lived faithfully with him for several years, and became the mother of three children. The husband, who seemed at first merely good-for-nothing, became worse as the years went by, drank himself out of situation after situation procured for him by powerful relatives, and at last became so violent that he even beat his wife and threatened his children, a proceeding most unusual on the part of a Japanese husband and father. The poor wife was at last obliged to flee from her husband's house to her mother's, taking her children with her. She sued for a divorce and obtained it, and is now married again; her youth, good looks, and high connections procuring her a very good catch for her second venture in matrimony; but her children are lost to her, and belong wholly to their worthless, drunken father.

Of the lack of permanence in the marriage relation among the lower classes, the domestic changes of one of my servants in Tōkyō afford an amusing illustration. The man, whom I had hired in the double capacity of jinrikisha man and bettō or groom, was a strong, faithful, pleasant-faced fellow, recently come to Tōkyō from the country. I inquired, when I engaged him, whether he had a wife, as I wanted some one who could remain in his room in the stable in care of the horse when he was pulling me about in the jinrikisha. He replied that he had a wife, but she was now at Utsunomiya, the country town from which he had come, but he would send for her at once, and she would be in Tōkyō in the course of a week or two. Two or three weeks passed and no wife appeared, so I inquired of my cook and head servant what had become of Yasaku's wife. He replied, with a twinkle in his eye, that she had found work in Utsunomiya and did not wish to come. A week more passed, and still no wife, and further inquiries elicited from the cook the information that Yasaku had divorced her for disobedience, and was on the lookout for a new and more docile helpmate. His first thought was of the maidservant of the Japanese family who lived in the same house with me, a broad-faced, red-cheeked country girl, of a very low grade of intelligence. He gave this up, however, because he thought it would not be polite to put my friends to inconvenience by taking away their servant. His next effort was by negotiation through a Tōkyō friend; but apparently Yasaku's country manners were not to the taste of the Tōkyō damsels, for he met with no success, and was at last driven to write to his father in Utsunomiya asking him to select him a wife and bring her down to Tōkyō.

The selection took a week or two, and at last my maid told me that Yasaku's wife was coming by the next morning's train. A look into the bettō's quarters in the stable showed great preparations for the bride. The mats, new-covered with nice straw matting, were white and clean; the shoji were mended with new paper; the walls covered with bright-colored pictures; and various new domestic conveniences had nearly bankrupted Yasaku, in spite of his large salary of ten dollars a month. He had ordered a fine feast at a neighboring tea house, had had cards printed with his own name in English and Japanese, and had altogether been to such great expense that he had had to put his winter clothes in pawn to secure the necessary money.

The day chosen for the marriage was rainy, and, though Yasaku spent all his time in going to trains, no bridal party appeared; and he came home at night disconsolate, to smoke his good-night pipe over his solitary hibachi. He was, no doubt, angry as well as disconsolate, for he sat down and penned a severe letter to his father, in which he said that, if the bride did not appear on the next day counted lucky for a wedding (no Japanese would be married on an unlucky day), they could send her back to her father's house, for he would none of her. This letter did its work, for on the next lucky day, about ten days later, the bride appeared, and Yasaku was given two days of holiday on the agreement that he should not be married again while he remained in my service. On the evening of the second day, the bride came in to pay me her respects, and, crouching on her hands and knees before me, literally trembled under the excitement of her first introduction to a foreigner. She was a girl of rather unattractive exterior, fat and heavy, and rather older than Yasaku had bargained for, I imagine; at any rate, from the first, he seemed dissatisfied with his "pig in a poke," and after a couple of months sent her home to her parents, and was all ready to start out again in the hope of better luck next time.

Here is another instance, from the woman's side. Upon one occasion, when I was visiting a Japanese lady of high rank who kept a retinue of servants, the woman who came in with the tea bowed and smiled upon me as if greeting me after a long absence. As I was in and out of the house nearly every day, I was a little surprised at this demonstration, which was quite different from the formal bow that is given by the servant to her mistress's guest upon ordinary occasions. When she went out my friend said, "You see O Kiku has come back." As I did not know that the woman had been away, the news of her return did not affect me greatly until I learned the history of her departure. It seemed that about a month before, she had left her mistress's house to be married; and the day before my visit she had quietly presented herself, and announced that she had come back, if they would take her in. My friend had asked her what had happened,—whether she had found her husband unkind. No, her husband was very nice, very kind and good, but his mother was simply unbearable; she made her work so hard that she actually had no time to rest at all. She had known before her marriage that her proposed mother-in-law was a hard task-mistress, but her husband had promised that his mother should live with his older brother, and they should have their housekeeping quite independent and separate. As the mother was then living with her older son, it seemed unlikely that she would care to move, and O Kiku San had married on that supposition. But it seemed that the wife of the older brother was both lazy and bad-tempered, and the new wife of the younger brother soon proved herself industrious and good-natured. As the mother's main thought was to go where she would get the most comfort and waiting upon, she moved from the elder son's house to that of her younger son, and began leading her new daughter-in-law such a life that she soon gave up the effort to live with her husband, sued for a divorce, obtained it, and was back in her old place, all in a month's time from the date of her marriage.

But our readers must not suppose, from the various incidents given, that few happy marriages take place in Japan, or that, in every rank of life, divorce is of every-day occurrence. On the contrary, there seems cause for wonder, not that there are so many divorces, but that there are so many happy marriages, with wives and husbands devoted and faithful. For a nobleman in the olden times to divorce his wife would have caused such a scandal and talk that it rarely occurred. If the wife were disliked, he need have little or nothing to do with her, their rooms, their meals, and their attendance being entirely separate, but he rarely took away from her the name of wife, empty as it might be. She usually would be from some other noble house, and great trouble would arise between the families if he attempted to divorce her. The samurai also, with the same loyalty which they displayed for their lords, were loyal to their wives, and many a novel has been written, or play acted, showing the devotion of husband and wife. The quiet, undemonstrative love, though very different from the ravings of a lover in the nineteenth century novel, is perhaps truer to life.

Among the merchants and lower classes there has been, and is, a much lower standard of morality, but the few years which have passed since the Revolution of  are not a fair sample of what Japan has been. Noblemen, samurai, and merchants have had much to undergo in the great changes, and, as is the case in all such transition periods, old customs and restraints, and old standards of morality, have been broken down and have not been replaced. There is no doubt that men have run to excesses of all sorts, and divorces have been much more frequent of late years.

Our little Japanese maiden knows, when she blackens her teeth, dons her wedding dress, and starts on her bridal journey to her husband's house, that upon her good behavior alone depend her chances of a happy life. She is to be henceforth the property of a man of whom she probably knows little, and who has the power, at any whim, to send her back to her father's house in disgrace, deprived of her children, with nothing to live for or hope for, except that some man will overlook the disgrace of her divorce, and by marrying her give her the only opportunity that a Japanese woman can have of a home other than that of a servant or dependent. That these evils will be remedied in time, there seems little reason to doubt, but just now the various cooks who are engaged in brewing the broth of the new civilization are disagreed in regard to the condiments required for its proper flavoring. The conservatives wish to flavor strongly with the subjection and dependence of women, believing that only by that means can feminine virtue be preserved. The younger men, of foreign education, would drop into the boiling pot the flavor of culture and broader outlook; for by this means they hope to secure happier homes for all, and better mothers for their children. The missionaries and native Christians believe that, when the whole mixture is well impregnated with practical Christianity, the desired result will be achieved. All are agreed on this point, that a strong public opinion is necessary before improved legislation can produce much effect; and so, for the present, legislation remains in the background, until the time shall come when it can be used in the right way.

Let us examine the two remedies suggested by the reformers, and see what effect has been produced by each so far, and what may be expected of them in the future. Taking education first, what are the effects produced so far by educating women to a point above the old Japanese standard? In many happy homes to-day, we find husbands educated abroad, and knowing something of the home life of foreign lands, who have sought out wives of broad intellectual culture, and who make them friends and confidants, not simply housekeepers and head-servants. In such homes the wife has freedom, not such as is enjoyed by American women, perhaps, but equal to that of most European women. In such homes love and equality rule, and the power of the mother-in-law grows weak. To her is paid due respect, but she seldom has the despotic control which often makes the beginning of married life hard to the Japanese wife. These homes are sending out healthy influences that are daily having their effect, and raising the position of women in Japan.

But for the young girl whose mind has been broadened by the new education, and who marries, as the majority of Japanese girls must, not in accordance with her own wishes, but in obedience to the will of her parents, a hard life is in store. A woman's education, under the old régime, was one that fitted her well for the position that she was to occupy. The higher courses of study only serve to make her kick against the pricks, and render herself miserable where she might before have been happy. With mind and character developed by education, she may be obliged to enter the home of her husband's family, to be perhaps one among many members under the same roof. In the training of her own children, in the care of her own health and theirs, her wishes and judgment must often yield to the prejudices of those above her, under whose authority she is, and it may not be until many years have passed that she will be in a position to influence in any measure the lives of those nearest and dearest to her. Then, too, her life must be passed entirely within the home, with no opportunities to meet or to mingle with the great world of which she has read and studied. Surely her lot is harder than that of the woman of the olden time, whose plain duty always lay in the path of implicit obedience to her superiors, and who never for one moment considered obedience to the dictates of her own reason and conscience as an obligation higher than deference to the wishes of husband and parents. Education, without further amelioration of their lot as wives and mothers, can but result in making the women discontented and unhappy,—in many cases injuring their health by worry over the constant petty disappointments and baffled desires of their lives.

This to superficial observers would seem a step backward rather than forward, and it is to this cause that the present reaction against female education may be traced. The first generation or two of educated women must endure much for the sake of those who come after, and by many this vicarious suffering is misunderstood, and distaste on the part of educated girls for marriage, as it now exists in Japan, is regarded as one of the sure signs that education is a failure. Without some change in the position of wife and mother, this feeling will grow into absolute repugnance, if women continue to be educated after the Western fashion.

The second remedy that is suggested is Christianity, a remedy which is even now at work. Wherever one finds in Japan a Christian home, there one finds the wife and mother occupying the position that she occupies all over Christendom. The Christian man, in choosing his wife, feels that it is not an ordinary contract, which may be dissolved at any time at the will of the contracting parties, but that it is a union for life. Consequently, in making his choice he is more careful, takes more time, and thinks more of the personal qualities of the woman he is about to marry. Thus the chances are better at the beginning for the establishment of a happy home, and such homes form centres of influence throughout the length and breadth of the land to-day. Christianity in the future will do much to mould public sentiment in the right way, and can be trusted as a force that is sure to grow in time to be a mighty power in the councils of the nation.

One more remedy might be suggested, as a preliminary to proper legislation, or a necessary accompaniment of it, and that is, the opening of new avenues of employment for women, and especially for women of the cultivated classes. To-day marriage, no matter how distasteful, is the only opening for a woman; for she can do nothing for her own support, and cannot require her father to support her after she has reached a marriageable age. As new ways of self-support present themselves, and a woman may look forward to making a single life tolerable by her own labor, the intelligent girls of the middle class will no longer accept marriage as inevitable, but will only marry when the suitor can offer a good home, kindness, affection, and security in the tenure of these blessings. So far, there is little employment for women, except as teachers; but even this change in the condition of things is forming a class, as yet small, but increasing yearly, of women who enjoy a life of independence, though accompanied by much hard work, more than the present life of a Japanese married woman. In this class we find some of the most intelligent and respected of the women of new Japan; and the growth of this class is one of the surest signs that the present state of the laws and customs concerning marriage and divorce is so unsatisfactory to the women that it must eventually be remedied, if the educated and intelligent of the men care to take for their wives, and for the mothers of their children, any but the less educated and less intelligent of the women of their own nation.