Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB
[blocks in formation]

On the 10th of April, 1898, Tokio celebrated the anniversary of its elevation to the rank of a capital. Thirty years had elapsed since the Emperor, under persuasion of his Ministers, but amid tears of his subjects, had quitted his ancient residence at Kioto, and after a provisional sojourn at Osaka, which by no means answered the expectations of his advisers, had installed himself definitely in the city of the vanquished shoguns. Yeddo, as it had been called aforetime;—the haughty city where, for two centuries and a half, the Japanese mayors of the palace had respectfully dictated their inflexible orders to the fallen but still venerated monarch, then assumed the name of Tokio, and became the Saint Petersburg of Japan; while Kioto, dismantled and disaffected, but enchanting still, amid its garland of gardens, forests, hills and Buddhist temples, relapsed into the silence of a lethargic city; and, of all the wonders of the past, retained only the polish of beautiful manners, the love of loving and the joy of dancing, empty palaces, deities embowered in foliage, and that fragrance of departed souls which always lingers about deserted sanctuaries.

It had been resolved to commemorate by famous doings the thirtieth anniver

sary of the new era. A committee was organized, with the approbation of the Court; the Emperor and Empress consented to show themselves, and for a full fortnight the city in all its quarters had been busy as a bee-hive. The Japanese, great lovers of masques and merry-makings, excel in the organization of those high festivals which, at one time, afforded the only opportunity for a display of their talent. But this was an occasion not merely to gratify their love of pleasure, but keenly to stimulate their national pride. The journals and reviews prepared extra numbers, in which politicians, economists, writers and teachers undertook to strike the balance of the last thirty years. The Japanese people paused for a moment in its onward course, and turned back to measure the distance already traversed. And by way of emphasizing as strongly as possible the incredible advance which the nation had made-or the appalling distance which it had drifted!-it was resolved to represent in the streets of the city one of those long processions of char. iots and horsemen, wherein the dai. mios of the olden time used to make public display of their extravagant pomp. This resurrection of the past created

immense sensation among the

an

.Translated for The Living Age.

masses in Japan. The geishas had if time has faded her complexion and their hair cut in order to assume the slightly sharpened the features once beautiful old-fashioned head-dress of so charmingly indefinite, she has kept their class, and their lovers presented her delicate grace, and her oblique eyes them with purple robes, which they wear a look of soft and sweet astonishtried on for the first time, under the ment, which contrasts curiously with awnings in the narrow streets where the almost rigid gravity of her bearing. they abide. During the week which Standing upright before their armpreceded the fêtewhen it rained in tor- chairs, the Emperor, and the Empress, rents most of the time-old Japan whose topmost plume barely came up picked its way singly, or in groups, to his shoulder, listened to the paneabout the marsh into which the city gyrics read them by the Governor of had been transformed. And since it Tokio, and the President of the Comwas impossible to reconstruct recent mittee, made their acknowledgments history, without introducing the Euro- by three slight inclinations of the head pean element, there trotted along be- and bust, and then returned to their side fantastic warriors with iron fans, carriages. The Empress, who seemed little fellows in white breeches and red rather incommoded by her magnificent jackets, who had borrowed from us robe, came down more slowly than her this groom's costume as appropriate to husband, and her slender person vi. the guild of tailors!

brated slightly with every step she The great day of all began with rain, took. but about eight o'clock the sun blazed The august equipage disappeared forth in an orange-colored sky. At the amid the cheers of the school-children; base of the invisible palace of the em- -happy children, whose parents had perors, a temporary erection covered never known the delight of giving noisy with thatch, adorned with verdant utterance to their love for their soverboughs and flanked by two long gal- eign! They had fallen flat on their leries, arose with a sort of rustic, old- faces at the passage of a mere daimio, fashioned elegance. Two arm-chairs or turned away as though unworthy covered with white velvet were set to look him in the face. It was only before a screen of gold lacquer, for the after the Chinese war that the monarch accommodation of the Emperor and heard for the first time his subjects Empress. Facing them were

the

clap their hands. But he who applauds school-children in a compact mass, pro- also passes judgment, and if he does tected by awnings, and the populace of not take to hissing some fine day, he Tokio filled all the vast remaining space will, at least know how to make his of the ancient Court of the Shoguns. At silence eloquent. The young men who 10 o'clock the cannon boomed, and,

encouraged by their leaders preceded by an escort of horsemen to lavish such marks of favor waving the Japanese flag, the car

the Grandson of the Sun, riages of the Emperor and Empress can hardly have realized that they thus and their chamberlains emerged from set the seal on the most antecedently the mysterious park that surrounds the improbable victory ever won by any palace, and drew up before the thatched Asiatic nation over its absolutist rulers. pavilion. The sovereigns mounted its "Do not cheer me, young people," the steps in silence, he wearing a general's Emperor might have said, "for 'tis uniform, and she a robe of dull rose- my divinity that is crumbling to the color shot with gold, and feathers in accompaniment of your applause!" her hair. The Empress has aged, but When the sovereigns had once more

were

on

a

ranished into their impenetrable isola- introduce any vulgar representative. tion, the real fête began, and we beheld The vehicle was all the more impressive approaching that famous reproduction for that reason, followed as it was by of a daimio's escort, which we had all a splendidly caparisoned horse, which been so impatient to see. I do not sup- a groom led by the bridle. Imagination pose there was ever before so fantastic supplied the figure of rigid and a public parade. First came heralds speechless prince with glassy eyes, imwho advanced with slow, supple, meas- prisoned in the awe which he inspired, ured strides, archers with their bows venerable by all that his priestly attiresting on their shoulders, and infantry tude suggested of long tradition and with their guns wrapped up in scarlet immemorial constraint. cloth followed slowly, executing as Assuredly the cortège had its comic they passed a singular sort of ballet. side; those imperturbable mountebanks They kicked up one foot, until it reminded the spectator irresistibly of touched the middle of the back, and certain sections in the parade of a flung out the opposite arm, brandishing travelling circus. Still, I could not fortheir weapons with gestures like those get that less than thirty years had of swimmers. The halberdiers were elapsed since the last of those lordly equally frisky; only they flung into the processions had come dancing into a air and dexterously caught again their Japanese city. What was to-day only long halberds, bristling with tufts of a masquerade had then represented an horse-hair. The cooks, the quartermas. indisputable authority. Every fore ter-sergeants, the clerks and the por- head bowed before it, and Japan gloried ters—all the long procession of army in offering to its princes this fantastic servants-swayed regularly from side sort of homage. to side as they walked. The officer In the private gallery whence we who carried the Prince's umbrella,

thus beheld the passage of history, used it and his own tall cane like a

there was an old daimio in a frock coat, drum-major, and he who bore the royal named Nabeshina, who wagged his shade-hat performed at intervals a sol. head and murmured: “Yes, that's the emn caper. Men carrying big boxes way in which I used to travel!” And danced under their carefully balanced a nephew of the last of the shoguns, burdens and the enormous coffers cov- a plump, affable little man, much less ered with black and adorned with ar- like a shogun than a notary, remarked: morial bearings in white, which were “I used to see my father going about in hung along a flexible bamboo pole, just such a vehicle when I was ten or rolled like boats in obedience

to a

twelve years old." definite rhythm. Amid these mechani. There was also among the illustrious cally moving figures, graver even than Japanese by whom we were surroundthey and progressing at a funereal pace,

ed, a naval officer of timid aspect, advanced the samurai, wearing a par

whose fat, good-natured face flushed ticularly awkward kind of surplice every time he spoke, and who contemwith stiffened sleeves and fastening at

plated the spectacle with evident curithe shoulder, and having their hair all osity. He was a brother of the Emdrawn up into one little knot on the press-an Ichijo-but he had no suite top of an otherwise shaven poll. They or attendants of any kind, and nobody wore two sabres in the belt, and escort- took any notice of his presence. There ed the closed litter of the daimio-an were other princes and heirs of princes empty litter, by the way, for the mana- mingling freely with the diplomatic gers of the show had not ventured to world, and creating no more sensation than the most obscure of the invited or untaught, humane or bloodthirsty, guests. The light which for ages had like the gardens of seaweed and bathed them in a sort of supernatural coral which blossom alike under radiance had been withdrawn from glassy and agitated seas. They their phantasmal persons. Plunged were no mere pastime of a pleasurefrom the topmost heights of feudallty loving society. I saw in them the poto the rank of officials in a modern etry of a race, the living expression of state, their position as bureaucratic an art at once popular and subtle, or underlings or government employés the thousands of spectators, whose constituted their sole claims to distinc- eyes were fastened upon their slow tion. The rosette of the Rising Sun in evolution, there was, perhaps, not one their buttonholes marked them as capa- that did not keenly appreciate their ble servants; and these men, already rhythmic refinement. Peasants, artibroken into our usages, and mixed up sans, merchants, officers, students, solwith the mass of common humanity, diers, nobles and princes, all the looked on laughingly at the burlesque immense concourse experienced the reproduction of their ancient pomp. same emotion, took the same delight

The procession halted. After old in the time-honored caprices wherein feudal Japan came old feminine Japan. the genius of their ancestors had found The Japan of florid dances and har- expression. monious attitudes appeared to spring It was a most attractive crowd. I anew from the soil. It was really a watched them curiously as the tradewonderful vision-a bit of fairyland guilds, mythological cars and the miliseen in broad sunshine, surrounded by tary cavalcades defiled along. All the a sombre multitude. The best danseuses big chariots and legendary tableaux of Tokio, clad in robes of every were hugely admired, for there the soft yet vivid hue imaginable— populace beheld those heroes and fables the long lines of their costume with which the theatre and the profesbarred by broad sashes or obi sional story-teller had made them fa-in white, purple or gold, waved their miliar from their infancy. They quite fans like so many butterflies, fluttered understood the monstrosities and the their broad, rainbow-hued sleeves and splendid extravagances of the show, twirled the gilded frames of their para- What they did not understand-thougb sols, of which the radiating sticks all it was a picture out of so recent a past bound with flowers and ribbon, ran like -was a nobleman surrounding himself wheels through a blossoming meadow. with such pomp whenever he went This parti-colored elegance, this beau- abroad, the order to fall flat before his tiful harmony of gesture, the thin music footsteps loudly proclaimed in his van which trembled through space like the by outriders and lackeys, the terrible resonance of a single wire, the virginal respect exacted by the samurai, the modesty of the poses taken under those hereditary veneration which lifted the dazzling veils, the very childishness of daimio above the level of humanity. their grace, revealed in the people, Among the aged spectators there were whose dreams of beauty had taken some, indeed, who threw up their heads this visible form, a singular simplicity and said, as proudly as though they in alliance with a most delicate fancy. had been testifying to a miracle, “I've For hundreds of years the self-same seen that myself!" Others appeared dances had delighted Japanese eyes; staggered as by the sudden revival of their image remained engraven upon an image long effaced; and others again every soul, gentle or simple, cultured retired into their recollections and al

lowed nothing to escape of the confused landscape on a foggy morning? I find memories which agitated their souls. that I can distinguish only the highest The more ingenuous youth stared, peaks of Japanese, history, and I am laughed and jeered. “What fools there not quite sure that I am not misled by must have been in those days!" At the the light which illumines these. Neverpassage of a herald, commanding bows theless, I have continually to refer to to the ground according to the ancient them in order to ascertain my bearings formula, I heard one voice exclaim: in the present. "Shut up, you old idiot! We don't do What I see is a people of keen but that sort of thing nowadays." The dis- rather short-lived energy, which develplay of the princely cortège was less ops only under impulses received from offensive to them than the notion of without, whose very originality reveals obeying a prince. Across the archaic itself chiefly in imitation, whose genius forms, whose buffoonery was far less appears to me complicated, rather than shocking to them than to us, the people complex. It is the most singular mixmocked at the loyalty they had out- ture of crude ideas and abnormal sengrown and the ancient principle of au- timents. I suspect the simplicity and thority.

hesitate amid the confusion. Up to the What more striking illustration could seventeenth century I grope amid leghave been offered of a complete rup

ends, with no sure lights except those ture with the past? For myself, I

of custom and tradition. From the moturned back towards that past so little ment the European sets foot in Japan, known, so difficult to know, of which I trudge along more confidently by the the long shadow overlay and submerged light of his lantern till I come to the the significance of all that I beheld. I great blaze of the Restoration. There have always felt the inconvenience in I still hesitate a little before novelties remote and rather baffling countries of which seem to me, after all, to be only not knowing the background of their logical metamorphoses. But I would history-that which enfolds the secret fain fortify myself against my own of their present conditions. In Japan timidity; and since I am neither an I longed to take my seat on the school- historian nor a philosopher, I shall make benches and learn beside the little Japs

a bold attempt to treat the history of that history with which the teachers Japan philosophically. It is a travelthemselves are, as yet, but imperfectly

ler's privilege. acquainted-but so that at least I might have impressed upon my own mind the image, whether real or illusory,

The origin of the Japanese is myswhich is present in theirs. For after terious, and mysterious their language. perusing their chronicles, talking with The difficulty they themselves experitheir pundits, going all through their ence about identifying their ancestors ancient provinces, I have come to the was what long persuaded them that conclusion that nobody, whether Euro- their origin was divine. They are not pean or Japanese, can now form quite yet convinced of the contrary, clear idea of the country's past. The and the manuals of history put into the former does not know how to coHate hands of school-children still postulate the archives; the latter is wholly with- the fact that the Goddess of the Sun out critical sense, and has not our love was the first Empress of Japan. Their of truth. We are reduced to chronolo language naturally seems to them the gies, anecdotes, intuitions and hypoth. finest in the world because they know eses. Did you ever see a mountain no other. It was formerly supposed

a

« ZurückWeiter »