MRS. LAFCADIO HEARN'S REMINISCENCES
TO-DAY or rather this evening, as the gate lamp stamped "Koizumi" with Japanese characters was already lighted when I entered, I found that the Hearn house had been slightly changed. The house had been divided into two parts, the front part of it now being occupied by Captain Fujisaki, one of Hearn's Izumo students, and to-day a sort of more than friend to the Koizumi family which needs, of course, somebody who will stand to it in the relation of a guardian god "Niwo" to a Buddhist temple.
I was conducted into the guest room by a servant girl who answered my "Gomen nasai" (an entering word used as you would touch a button in a foreign house); and few minutes had scarcely passed before Mrs. Koizumi appeared. I was glad to see that she was better composed than at the time of my first meeting, more than [<31] four years ago, as, doubtless, she has conquered now over her grief, and that her beauty—a delightfully beautiful woman she is—was ennobled by a mother's dignity which gracefully bears the no small responsibility of her four children. (By the way, the youngest one is a girl of six years.) It is not a daily occurence [sic] even in Japan to see such a woman whose sweetness of old samurai heart still burns beautifully as a precious incense rising from a holy shrine; Mrs. Koizumi's loveliness in heart and speech, and her nobility in appearance and manner must have soothed Lafcadio Hearn first—we know that his extremely delicate mind would have been stirred terribly even by a small break of harmony; —and I believe that they worked a magic of distillation with his character and temperament which finally soared almost divinely.
He wrote in one of his letters: "The women are certainly the sweetest beings I have ever seen, as a general rule: all the good things of the race have have been put into them. They are just loving, joyous, simple-hearted children with infinite surprises of pretty ways." There is, in fact, no other writer who has sung the beauty of Japanese women, or who was so loyal in faith. Mrs. Hearn [<32] gave him a strange key which he found fitted to open the door of the inner beauty of Japanese life; it was no other key but the key of love. He wrote somewhere in his Horai: "For the spell wrought by the dead is only the charm of an ideal, the glamour of an ancient hope; —and something of that hope has found fulfillment in many hearts, —in the simple beauty of unselfish lives,—in the sweetness of woman. . . ." And that is but his appreciation and devotion for his wife. I felt a reverence sitting before Mrs. Hearn at the thought that her "quiet gray-and-blue way" emancipated him to be as we saw him in his later years of Japanese life; and I thought that at least half the admiration given to Hearn should be given to his noble wife. Indeed, he ended his life as a lover of woman.
I was much pleased to see that the house, especially Hearn's study, was kept as in his living days. It is Mrs. Koizumi's devotion to serve his spirit as in the old days; in truth, we consider that a woman's faithfulness after her husband's death is much more important. Here in the study I observe a strangely high table in one corner, on which Hearn used to write; I am sure that corner must have been his favorite place. The [<33] room is almost surrounded with not very high book-cases; there are some six or seven hundred volumes, and among them I found the complete works of De Quincey. Somebody remarked that Hearn resembled De Quincey in many ways. We Japanese know that he was a writer who passionately loved books and art; I am told by Professor Otani, one of Hearn's beloved students and for some time his secretary, that he did not mind buying books with all the money he received from his literary work. If you read his lectures in the class-room, another phase of his character will be discovered that has not yet been brought to public notice,—the logical side which is healthy and studied. He grasped two extremities, one of which kissed the star of idealism, while the other stamped the solid ground of science.
The light was burning in the household shrine which was also placed in Hearn's beloved study; in it, I observed his picture honored at the center, and before the picture, an large piece of bread was offered on a little sanbo table. It is most beautiful to keep his memory fresh, and serve him like that; I felt that this house was Mr. Hearn's, perhaps, more than in his living days. Captain Fujisaki told me that none of the children [<34] [picture by Genjiro Kataoka: shrine][<35] would go to bed without saying to his bas-relief in the study: "Papa San, good night,—happy dreams!" He is regarded as if he were living; the incense which he loved to smell burns day and night; the people of the house wear the kimono with the designs which he was glad to see. Here in the tokonoma of the guest room I observed one of Hearn's beloved kakemono pictures, which is a priest dreaming over a scroll spread on a table, behind the priest the flaming god "Fudo" revealing his presence from amid the fire. I believe that Hearn, too, was dreaming throughout his life of a god of fire and ideal as this sleeping priest.—Y.N., August 10, 1909.
BESIDE the buying of books (Hearn's fastidious taste in books was expensive) his other doraku, or life hobby, was to collect Japanese tobacco pipes. Like any other Japanese doraku, it needs not much money, but plenty of time and patience. I believe that he began to collect them soon after his arrival in Japan; now those he has left behind are counted more than two hundred pipes. He never bought any pipe of silver or [<36] gold, but chose a common brass pipe of a unique shape or with carved characters or picture whose sentiment appealed to him at once. All of his pipes in the collection are of the kind we call "long pipes," a bamboo stem longer than twelve inches connecting the bowl part, or "wild goose's neck," as we call it, with the mouth-piece. However, he used to carry to his school a little metal pipe, four or five inches long, commonly called "Natamame." I see in his collection pipes with the picture of "a demon muttering Buddha's holy name," of "a badger beating his belly like a drum," of "a crow perched on a withered twig," of "a country scene," and others. And he loved best the one with a picture of a woman tapping with a mallet (for fulling cloth) on its mouth-piece and a cuckoo on the bowl part; and he did not dislike the pipe of "a monkey-show man," although he hated monkeys. He asked a carpenter to make a sort of box for his beloved pipes, which he carried everywhere about the house with amazing attachment; it was not a box in the proper sense, but rather two lidless boxes, one foot by one foot five inches, which were joined up and down at the four corners by some five-inch-long pieces of wood. All the clean [<37] pipes he put in the upper box; and when any one of them got dirty and needed cleaning he immediately moved it into the lower box. And also, he kept a tobacco pot of china-ware in the lower part. It was the task of one of the servant girls to clean the soiled pipes every night, to be ready for his use the next day.
I always wondered, when I saw him smoking, what heavenly delight he felt with his pipe. He looked so happy already even to touch the pipe; he would pull out one pipe from the hundred pipes, and look on its gankuby (wild goose neck) and mouth-piece with the quick glance of a connoisseur, and begin to smoke with a [<38] shadow-like smile. And he would try another pipe, and again another pipe. He used to sit as a Japanese; and when he smoked, he put his left hand mannerly upon his knee, and swayed his body back and forth. And I heard him occasionally murmuring "No" while he was smoking. He was, doubtless, always in the depth of meditation; smoking opened a magic door of dreams of his innermost heart.
He rose early on the morning of this last day (the 26th of September, 1904) as usual; he used to leave his bed always before six. He was smoking in his library when I went in there to say my morning greeting, "Ohayo gozaimasu"; he appeared to be fallen in deep thought, and then he said: "It's verily strange." I asked him what was so strange; and he said: I dreamed an extraordinary dream last night." "What dream was it?" I asked again. He said: "I made a long, long journey last night. But it is true that I am smoking now in the library of our house at this Nishi Okubo. I cannot help thinking and wondering about the strangeness of the dream. Indeed, life and the world are strange. Is it a fact that I made a journey last [<39] night? Or is it a dream that I am smoking here?"
"Were you alone in that journey?" I asked.
"You were also with me," he said."
"Was it in the Western country?" I asked again.
"Oh, no, it was neither the Western country nor Japan, but the strangest land," he said.
It was the nightly custom of my children to go to his library to bid him goodnight, before they went to their beds. "Have a good dream," he would say to them, and the children also said to him: "You, too, have a good dream, Papa San!" This morning of the saddest day, as it proved to be afterward, my eldest boy, Kazuo, went into his library to say good morning after making ready to start to school. As poor "Papa San" was still wondering about the dream he had last night, and knew not exactly whether it was morning or evening at that moment, he answered Kazuo: "Have a good dream, sweet boy!" Kazuo also, in spite of himself, spoke back: "You, too, Papa San!" Both of them laughed a moment later when they found themselves.
He used to walk slowly in his library or [<40] along the corridor facing the garden when he got tired somehow from writing or wished to collect his dreams. He walked that morning, too, and in the course of his walk, he stopped his step, and peeped into my room next to his library, and saw the tokonoma where I had put a new Japanese painting of "a moon night," extremely suggestive and lyrical in tone, painted by an artist of the Bijutsu In school. He exclaimed: "Oh, what a lovely picture! I wish I could go to such a place as that in the picture." And sad to think, in fact, he had gone into the coutnry of dream and "moon night" before the next twelve hours had scarcely passed.
Two or three days before his death, one of the servant girls, called Saki, found one cherry-blossom which made a kaerizaki, or "a bloom returned out of season," strangely pointing toward Hearn's library from the garden, and told about it to her fellow-servant, Hana, who in turn, reported it to me. I made it a custom for many years to tell Hearn every happening, small or large, of his beloved garden; the banana had a new leaf, a yellow butterfly flew out of a garden, the bamboo by his library had [<41] a new shoot, a bullfrog crawled out from under the veranda floor, the ants began to dig a new hole. . . . Such small things which would appear ridiculous to others were very important and serious for our Koizumi family, at least, to Hearn's mind. I never saw such a person as Hearn whose heart was disturbed terribly even by a single shiver of a roadside weed, whose sympathy made him cry even with the falling of a flower. The time is autumn, and here we have a cherry-blossom opening suggestively and pointing toward him meaningly; and that cherry-tree, not much to look at, was, however, one of his beloved trees in the garden; certainly it was a matter worthy to tell him immediately. However, I thought that the Kaerizaki was regarded in Japan as a bad omen; and without attaching any particular meaning to it, I felt my heart somewhat disturbed. But I could not withhold from telling about it to him as the bloom appeared so interesting. "Indeed," he said, delightedly, and came out from the library and gazed at it for some moments, and said: "It is so strange and beautiful. The flower must have been thinking that spring had come already as the weather is so warm and lovely. [<42] But it will soon be frightened and dead under the approaching cold." You may call it superstition, if you will. But I cannot help thinking that it made its presence to bid farewell to Hearn, as it was his beloved tree.
Nobody seemed to know when the blossom withered away. We were all upset soon after on seeing his sudden ending which, of course, we had no thought to expect. It was the night of Hearn's shonanuka (the first seventh day) when we gathered in the library, which was turned into his Butsuma or Buddha's Room, and repeated the holy name in our hearts, and then we happened to talk about the cherry-blossom of kaerizaki. We found out that Kazuo alone knew about it, and he said: "It was open all the next day after Papa's death; and it was dead at evening."
He loved every tree and flower in the garden with equal passion and sympathy; but things like the banana or the ryusetsu ran (Dragon-tongued Orchid) which we brought home from a temple at Yaidzu, which suggested a tropic touch of color and beauty, called his ready attention and enthusiasm. He planted them where he could see them from his library; and he never [<43] failed to call on them every day. He felt an unspeakably sad pain in his heart to see a dying flower or tree. He almost cried when he saw that the pomegranate tree of the garden was in doubtful condition one year; and how glad he was to see it having new leaves the following year! he thought it his own work and even responsibility to bring life back to any flower when it was going to die; I saw him for many days moving the little pot of a manryo in feeble state into his library, and again bringing it out under the Southern sunlight, and giving water to it; and he often said to me that he felt, on seeing its miserable condition, as if he were going to die himself.
We used to plant the morning-glories in summer; and he looked upon them, at the beginning, with such a wonderful anticipation and delight; but when their height of beauty was over with the passing season, and their leaves turned yellow, and the flowers grew small and scarce, I noticed his wretchedness, which he could not hide. It was one morning of early winter when he noticed one tiny cup of the morning-glory which had courage to bloom under the already bitter sting of air; he was [<44] overwhelmed with delightful surprise, and exclaimed: "Utsukushii yuki, anata, nanbo shojiki!" (What lovely courage, what a serious intention!) We Japanese, as you know, never use the personification to speak to a flower; and we rarely speak to it. I am sure that our servants must have thought, as I did at first myself, Hearn was crazy to address it "Anata, anata" (you, you) as if it were a living person. And to return to the morning-glory he praised. The next morning, the old man of seventy years old, who lived with us, picket it, thinking it was rather a nuisance, as the plant had ceased a long time ago to bloom beautifully; and soon after that, Hearn wanted to see the flower of "lovely courage and serious intention," only to find, to his great disappointment, that it had disappeared. When he was told what had happened to it, he exclaimed: "That old man is good and innocent, but he was brutal to my flower." He was sad all that day. I remember that he was extremely angry one day, even changing color, when a gardener, whom we engaged, cut off two or three medake or "women bamboos" in the course of his work in the garden. He used to walk with a delightful [<45] deliberation, two or three times at least in one day, round the new bamboo shoots when, to his great surprise, they sprouted out suddenly in one night.
He forbade the children to tease or kill any insect. He was found sitting sometimes the whole afternoon on a piece of newspaper which he had spread on the ground, and patiently watching the ants at their work. He used to say to Kazuo: "The bullfrog is a lovely thing. My servant, whom I engaged in the West Indies, was glad to sleep with one. What an innocent look it had! You must not tease it under any circumstances." His love for a small frog was great. I have not a few letters he wrote me from Yaidzu, that seaside place where he was mightily pleased to go in summer, which have a picture of a frog; he never wrote me a letter which was not illustrated by his own pictures. He was happy to sing Issa's famous seventeen-syllable hokku on the frog:
Uta moshi agero
(Putting his hands so politely, Oh, look, the frog is offering his own songs.)[<46]
And he even imitated the manner of the frog, to the delight of his children who, in their turn, began to imitate it and laugh with mighty glee. He often said to Kazuo: "See the nest of wasps. You must understand what patience and time are needed to make it complete. And it would be a very wicked thing of you, if you try, without any necessity, to destroy it. Do you not think they are industrious? So you think. Well, it would be the same thing as if you were to tease or kill a studying person to tease or kill the industrious wasps." He did not allow us to kill even the flies. His library, on account of the Western sunshine, was unbearably warm to Japanese, and naturally the flies were found swarming. "Hai desu, hai desu," (only flies, flies), he used to call out to us just to drive them out; he said that he would not much mind them if only they would not come round to his pen and bother his work. He never complained about the mosquitoes which are do dense here in summer nights, though none the less he suffered from them as we did. And it seemed to me that he did not know of their existence, at least while he worked. He was such an intense nature; he was perfectly absorbed in his work of writing; and his complete [48>]
[48>] absorption of mind which was, in truth, the one way to turn out a wonderful art in writing, gradually and surely, I believe, made him in his manner of everyday life also appear strange and even outlandish. It was not seldom he looked a madman, as even he acknowledged. I confess I was afraid he might have gone crazy already in our Matsue day, when I asked Mr. Nishida, who acted for us as a nakodo, or middleman, of his opinion upon the matter. However, I found soon afterward that it was only the time of enthusiasm in thought and writing; and I began to admire him more on that account. He used to read and write at night; he would open wide the glass doors of his library on a summer night, no matter how thickly the mosquitoes might set their siege around him. As I said before, he did not even notice them. And when I silently entered from his back into the library, I noticed that more than one dozen mosquitoes were only crawling on the tatami (mats), being unable to fly from drinking too much blood, and even spilling it when they crawled. Yet he had no thought of them, but only of his dream of art and writing.
We lived here simply; he hated outside company, and I tried also to escape from social inter- [49>] course; we had a guest very rarely. To attend to the university, to read, to think, to write, to hear a story from me when I had any to tell, to teach Kazuo English, and to take a short walk, was his daily course of work. He never went in a crowded street of the city in his walk, which was about two hours every day, but, in fact, he explored every corner of the neighboring country of the Ushigome and Yotsuya districts, especially of Zoshigaya, Ochiai, and their neighborhood. He used to take Kazuo with him; and I also was with them quite often. He spoke to us very seldom in his walk; and we kept silence only following after him as we thought that his mind might be busy in thought and dream. But he would stop and look round at the scenery, even commenting on this and that, on this stone Jizo idol and on that stream, when he was in a talkative mood. And as far as I know, he never failed to drop into any Buddhist temple which he came by; in truth, there was no temple unknown to him in Zoshigaya, Ochiai, and their neighbouring places. He used to carry .a little note-book in his pocket; and I saw him frequently bring it out, and write something down when he caught some beautiful fancy or phrases. He often told me that [50>] those he got unexpectedly were always the best. I believe that his thought never left, even a minute, his writing; his mind was an extraordinarily busy one. He could not rest in mind even in his sick bed; and fortunately, he was never sick to my knowledge till his later years.
Even I cannot properly measure his tremendous love with his first boy, Kazuo. His anxiety and anticipation grew higher and higher when the month of his birth approached; he was afraid that he might be near-sighted as his Papa San. He was so restless; and, nevertheless, he was so happy on the other hand. How often he begged niy forgiveness for my suffering. "How sorry I am! I will atone with my writing," he used to say, and retired to his room to write. And he repeated, afterward, to me his feeling when he heard Kazuo's first cry, which he could not explain of course with his poor Japanese, nor even in English. "It is the most strange sensation I ever felt in my life," he used to say. And whenever he thought of it in his later years, and was somehow reminiscent, he said: "I will never see such a sight again. That sight was so angelic. Ah, that sight of Kazuo! He stretched [51>] his hands, and laid them down. And his eyes looking downward! His shapely head covered with long hair, and a whirl of hair in the middle of his head! He was so innocent. Ah, that sight of Kazuo! He was an angel."
He was so proud of him, and carried him out on his arm whenever any guest, a student or a fellow-professor, might happen to call on us, and started at once to praise him without waiting a word of his guest. I thought that his manner was uncommon, at least in Japan, and I, being young then, could not help feeling uncomfortable, and I used to blush terribly. He was a natural lover of children; before Kazuo was born, we used to keep a boy of our friend with us as he wished a boy to be around him. It was the year after Kazuo's birth that he went to Kobe (then we lived in Kumamoto), and he perfectly frightened me with a hundred toys he brought home when he returned.
He did not like to send Kazuo to school even when he grew old enough; I suspect one of his reasons, among others, was that he could not see him enough every day. He begged me to trust him in his hand to educate him; and he used to give him a daily lesson in English every morning [52>] when, as he said, his head was clear, and he could put more force in his teaching I daresay that he thought it was more important than to attend his university.
He was growing old, as he often said, when our last girl, Suzu Ko, was born; and he worried, thinking that he could not see her future. "Nanbo watashi mune itai," (how my heart pains to think of her), he often said to me. However, he paid rather little of his attention, I think, to our second boy, Iwawo, saying that he was bright and wild enough so that he could make his own way in the world quite easily even if he were left alone. And he used to say that Iwawo was a miniature of his own boyhood, at least in spirit; and after supper, he frequently told of his boyhood days:
"How naughty I was when I was a boy! Iwawo's naughtiness often reminds me of my boyhood days; but I was far more naughty than Iwawo. A lady caller, one day, came to see my grandmother. That lady was such an osejimono (flatterer) and I did not like her very well. She tapped my head gently, and said: 'Oh, sweet boy, nambo kawaii musuko san!' I was angry, and slapped her face with my hand, and exclaimed: [53>] 'Osejimono, osejimono!' and I ran away and hid myself.
"When I was told of a lady who would come, I often pushed in many needles from the back of a chair. And I also devised to put a little bottle of ink upon the door. The guest, having no knowledge of such mischief set for her, opened the door, only to make the ink bottle fall down; and her kimono was soiled with the spilled ink. She sat down on the chair; and immediately she found a needle pricking her flesh. She could not help being annoyed; however, to see it was so amusing for me. Then everybody stopped calling me by my pet name; and I passed as 'Onikko.' People would say when they saw me: 'There goes the Devil's boy!'
"My grandmother used to take me out with her to call on her friends. They were not pleased to welcome us as I was with grandmother. They used to watch us through the door when I was coming.
"I liked cake more than any other boy, I think; and how I hated meat! My grandmother said that I should have the cake if I would eat the meat. I said: 'Of course, grandma, I will eat it.' But it was the biggest lie in the world. [54>] I hid the meat on the innermost shelf when she was not looking; and I was glad to eat only the cake. One week passed, and ten days passed, when the people began to smell something bad from the shelf. They wondered about the smell, and searched in the corner of the shelf, where they found many a piece of rotten meat. And they said: 'It's the work of the Devil's boy.' I was an Onikko, surely.
"I rushed out from the house whenever a pretty girl might pass by, and kissed her. I never failed to do it when I saw any beautiful girl. Then all the mothers of the girls were mad with me; and my poor grandmother made it her work to go round saying 'Gomen gomen' (beg your pardon, beg your pardon). How naughty I. was!
"I thought it a jolly thing to cut off all the cabbages which our cook prized so much, just to see her mad face. My grandmother hid my knife, one day; and then, I made a new knife my—self, and tried to cut off even a neighbor's cabbages.
"I did a hundred other bad things which it would be hard to tell you about in Japanese. The people used to say, I was told, that 'this [55>] Devil's boy' would only be fit for a prison when he grew older."
Hearn insisted on eating Japanese food all the time during a little more than one year of his first Japanese life when he lived at Matsue; I believe that it was not necessarily from his preference, but because he thought it essential to get perfectly assimilated with the Japanese life. However, he gave it up by a doctor's advice, and he thought, after all, that the Western food suited him better. Except in his country travels and in the summer vacations, which he spent in a fisherman's zashiki (guest apartment) of Otokichi at Yaidzu, he had always a seiyo ryori, or "Western-sea food," at home. He was a small eater himself, but he was simply glad to see the children eating plenty, and sat with them till they had finished. Even to me, he looked a perfectly different man at the family dinner table from a Hearn at some other time. He was the happiest man I ever saw. He talked and even laughed boisterously, and sang. He had two kinds of laughter, one being a womanish sort of laughter, soft, but deep, which seemed to melt a listener's mind away, and the other laughter .a noisy kind, in which he was only too glad to forget life and everything. When he had the latter [56>] kind of laughter, all the household burst at once into the merriest mood; it was not seldom that even the girl could not help joining from the kitchen. And he was a joker, too, of a strange originality. I always thought that it was a queer contrast when I considered his tremendous love of every sort of ghost stories. As you know, his ghost stories, however, had always a no small humorous touch; he hated a story which was only told for the horror's sake.
He often played "Onigokko" (Devil-catching Play) with the children in the garden; and he was delighted to sing with them the children's song, Urashima Taro, which is about Taro who returned as our old story tells, from Ryugu, the palace under the seas, after spending many hundred years there. Though he was poor in Japanese language, be remembered every word of the song. He was so pleased to see a picture of Taro, imaginary, of course, one day, at one of those picture exhibitions always held at Uyeno; and at once he wanted to buy it, not waiting to be told of its price. He was almost childish in his joy when he bought it, and took it home.
"Hokku," the seventeen-syllable poem, delighted him, too, as it is such a short poem and [57>] easy to remember. And he never failed to sing aloud "Yuyake Koyake" with the children whenever he saw the fire of the sunset in the sky; his color-loving passion, I believe, did make him happy at once. When the Russia-Japan Warbegan, we soon heard every boy and girl singing the song of "Hirose Chusa" (Japan's national hero at that time, who was killed on the Port Arthur blockade expedition), the music as well as the spirit of which gave him great joy. I found him almost every day for some time singing with the children: "Commander Hirose, is he really dead?" A week or so ago I dropped in the Mitsukoshi dry-goods store where, accidentally, I found a tabacco pouch with a design of the Hirose blockade expedition; I bought it, and returned home. And it was an accident, too, that I found the first draft of Hearn's translation of the Hirose song at home; I put it in the pouch I had bought, and placed them on the family shrine where Hearn's spirit is consecrated.
He grew more childish every year. When he sang such a children's song, he looked as if he never knew the existence of the worries of the world and the anxieties of life; and when he felt happy, he used to shake his little body (little for [58>] a foreigner) up and down, and hop around the corridor and veranda of the house on tiptoe. And on the contrary, once he felt sad; I believe that with him, he thought the whole world was going to disappear. I could never tell him anything as a mere story; he took everything too seriously; indeed, he was ridiculously too honest I thought sometimes that it was really sad. Even a ghost story, he could not listen to it as only a story; but to him it sounded to be true and real. And he thought always he was in the story himself; and he was its actual character who was acting in it. When he began to exclaim, "Nanbo omoshiroi!" (how interesting), I always observed that his face turned deadly pale, and his one eye set almost motionless.
He was almost unbearable under the oppression of loneliness for a year or two before his death. I always found him trying hard to hide his somewhat sulky feeling which rose at once even in parting from me not more than half a day; he longed, pined and even cried, quite often, after me when I had gone out for some time. He returned to his babyhood after his fiftieth year. "Is it Mama San? How glad!" He used to rush out to meet me at the genkan (entrance room), on [59>] hearing the sound of my geta. And he would tell me how he worried thinking that some mishap might have come to me.
Thursday was his longest day at the university; and I made it my "day out." "Mama San, today is Thursday. Will you go to the theatre? Danjuro (then he was still living) at the Kabuki Za is said to be great. You must see him," he would say at the breakfast table; but a moment later, he continued, with the saddest touch in his face: "If you go to the play, you will not return home before ten o'clock at the earliest. Home without you is not home at all. Tsumaran desu! (Not worth having!) But I cannot help it. So I wish you will go to see Danjuro, and bring home plenty of stories as your omiyage (return gift). Your stories are the best." He used to insist on my seeing the play; but he went to the theatre only twice in his whole Japanese life, if I am not mistaken. He could not stand the crowd of a Japanese theatre, and the hours, too, were too long for him altogether. And again he had no heart to leave the play unfinished. Then he thought it best to stay at home and when I returned, to hear the story of the play which I had enjoyed. On my part the telling of it was a very [6o>] difficult thing, as I must tell him to give such a feeling as if he were looking at it.
And he saw only once the Japanese wrestling match at Matsue, where, a long time ago, Tani no Oto, as the champion, visited the city. We treated him with plenty of saké and money; and the first impression he received from this champion wrestler seemed to be always fresh in his mind. What he oncc thought wonderful and beautiful he could never forget; his mind was extraordinarily sensitive and sharp. He frequently happened to exclaim suddenly, when he saw a large man: "There goes Tani no Oto!" Once we passed by the place called Yura in one of our journeys, where we had eaten a delicious tsukemono (large daikon radish pickled in brine); and he never could forget its taste in after-years. He often said that he would be happy if he could taste "Yura" again.
There is a big horagai or "bluffer's horn" (a kind of conch) in the
drawer of a bookcase in his library, which I bought at Enoshima, the island of
the Benten goddess and shell-work, and brought back. Hearn found to his mighty
delight a big billowy sound when he blew in it; and he begged me to allow him to
blow it when he needed a fire [61>] in his tabakobon or smoking box. "Oh,
hear the bluffer's horn," the servant girl would first laugh at its funny sound,
and hurry with a fire. He was extremely happy when he blew it, expecting
secretly, I am sure, some laughter in a listener's mind. Our house had been the
house of silence, especially when he was engaged in writing; but
what an amusing contrast when the horagai began to snore! I, as a Japanese woman, was afraid our neighbors, which were not so many, however, at that time, might think that Hearn had gone crazy as was already suspected; and I tried to keep up the fire of his smoking-box and not let it die easily. But from the mere love of blowing it he could not help, once in a while, without any [62>] thought; and finding fire still in his tabakobon when a girl appeared with fire, he was found making a profound bow even to the girl, meaning to apologize for his "baka" or foolishness. And none the less, he was happy, too.
He loved travel passionately, but always chose a lonely spot where no foreigner ever stepped in. Nikko, whither every foreigner turns his head, he never saw, and he even hated the thought of seeing it. And, he loved Oki, the island of solitude in the Japan Sea, instead, where he visited during the summer of 1892. He frequently said that he wished to live and write as a light-house keeper of that sad ishand. He spent his first summer in Japan at Kizuki, in 1891, with his beloved Mr. Nishida, and later in that summer, at Hi no Misaki and Yatsuliashi of Hoki. Hearn's faith in Mr. Nishida was something wonderful; even after his death his thought was always with him. When he heard of his illness in 1897, he exclaimed, "I would not mind losing everything that belongs to me, if it could make him well." His chief delight in Mr. Takada, Dean of Waseda University was that be looked somewhat like his early friend. And he often frightened me, saying that he had seen his ghost in his street; [63>] it was that he saw somebody who reminded him of Mr. Nishida. He believed in him with such a faith only possible to a child.
I cannot forget the journey we had in the mountain of the Higo province once when he was still at Kumamoto; it was already dark when we were told by our rikisha men that we had some nine miles to travel before we should have a sight of any house. It was soon after a terrible flood; and the season was the height of autumn. The hundred different noises of insects under the grasses and bamboo, only increased the almost unbearable desolation of night; in my heart, I bitterly cried. When we reached the town which our rikisha men spoke of, I counted only seven or eight houses there; one of which was supposed to be an inn. It goes without saying that it was inexpressibly filthy; that much I could see even under the darkness, The two shabby andon lights were burning; and two or three kumosuke (coolies who frequent the great highway) were whispering something which my little heart suspected to be anything wicked and murderous. We were silently ushered up-stairs by an old woman, whom I fancied to be a Devil woman of whom I had read in some old story. After leaving a "bean [64>] lamp" with us, she never came up for a long time; and I overheard now and then an indistinguishable sound of those coolies' voices which crawled up to us. As I said, it was right after the flood; the mountain stream rushed down in a tremendous torrent And a thousand fireflies like ghosts appeared and disappeared in the depth of the darkness; and many of them passed through the room gesticulating, as I imagined, to suggest to us something bad. And what a density of night insects! They flew against our faces like hail-stones; and even many bell-insects sang sadly underneath our mats. When there was a noise of footsteps on the stairs, I felt at once that those wicked coolies were coming up for some bloody work; but it was the same old woman carrying up our supper tables.
"What are those insects?" I asked her.
"They are only 'summer-insects,' okusan," she replied undisturbed.
Those "only summer-insects" were perfectly ghastly. During the whole night, I was shivering; however, Hearn seemed pleased to no small degree. I thought at that time that he was the strangest man ever lived.
It was the summer of 1897 that we went to [65>] Maizaka on his friend's recommendation, to spend a few weeks; but he, finding the place not to his taste, insisted on starting back home at once; however, he was persuaded to stay over night, at my solicitation, And we decided to stop at every station eastward, and try to find some summer place of his preference, and it was his good fortune to find the Fisherman Otokichi's guest apartment at Yaidzu to please his fancy. Kazuo and I, we confess, did not like it at all, as, in the first place, the mats were dirty, having many fleas, and the ceiling was low, and I am sure even a student would not be pleased with such a place. "It's not necessary to look at the worst side, Mama San, but only to look and admire such a great sea which we can see to our heart's content," he used to say when he saw my dissatisfied face. He was a great swimmer; and he begged me to come with him and see, even at night, how he could swim. He had such poor eyesight; but I was amazed on seeing such a feat as even a man with splendid eyesight might be unable to accomplish.
Yaidzu, or Otokichi's place, became his summer place ever after; he never failed, not one year, to go there before he died. Once he [65>] wrote me from there, when I had not joined him yet, that he had accidentally discovered a certain Jizo idol, which had pitifully lost its arms and head, and that somebody ought to replace it with a new idol, and that he was thinking of offering himself to do such a little benevolent act. And I wrote him that his charity, which sounded poetical at the outset, would cause a hundred unbearable troubles; for instance, he would have to give a considerable donation to the temple to which the idol belonged, and very likely to invite the whole village at the unveiling day; and that the idol, however armless or headless, would be perfectly happy as it was. Then he wrote me the following letter:
Gomen, gomen! (Forgive me!) I thought only to give a little joy as I hoped. The Jizo I wrote you about is not the thing you will find in the graveyards; but it is the Jizo who shall guard and pacify the seas. It is not a sad kind; but you do not like my idea.
It was only Papa's foolish thought. However, Jizo Sama cried terribly when
it heard of your answer to me. I said to it: 'I cannot help it, [67>] as Mama
San doubted your real nature, and thinks that you are a graveyard keeper. I know
that you are the savior of seas and sailors.' The Jizo is crying even now.
The Jizo idol is shedding stone tears."
The letter, as usual, was illustrated with his own picture; this time the picture was a broken idol shedding beanlike "stone tears." As I found afterward, the Jizo he took such an interest in was not a graveyard keeper, but it stood on the shore as the calmer of the wild sea, as the Yaidzu sea is always.
The Jizo idol, that charming divinity with a shadowy smile that makes the slumber of a Japanese child beautiful, was especially his favorite, as it appealed to his love of children or his own childish heart. I saw him often at the billow-washed sand of Yaidzu mingling and even singing aloud with the fishermen's unkept children. He always invited them to his apartment at Otokichi's, and was simply glad to hear their stories. One evening, one of them called and told a story to us, Kazuo included in the [68>] company; whether the boy's story was less interesting, or our Kazuo grew sleepy, I do not know, but at any rate, Kazuo opened his own book while the story was still going on, and began to look at it. It seems to me that such a thing for a boy should not necessarily be regarded as an impropriety; and the boy, on the other hand, was only a fisherman's son. Hearn had no single thought of class distinction like a Japanese who was bred under it. He began to give a piece of his mind to Kazuo after the boy left us, and said: "Anata burei shimashita!" (You were rude!) And he insisted on his going to the boy's house immediately, and apologizing for his burei; and Kazuo, a moment later, did good-naturedly as he was told.
He had no patience even with an animal when it acted improperly, and his mind of love might be wounded. There was no one who loved cats more than he; in fact, we kept one or two of them with us all the time since our Matsue days. It happened when we were living temporarily on Tomihisa Cho of Ichigaya, that our cat bore many kittens; and it was awful, doubtless, that she ate up one of them one evening. However, it is not unusual for a cat. Hearn, on being told [69>] about it, grew angry, changing color as he might on such an occasion, and had a girl bring the cat before him. And he gave her a long talk, and said: "You are bad; and you inherited such a wicked thought from countless generations which went before you. I cannot keep you here with us." He was seriously honest in his speech. And be sent our rikisha man away with the cat, telling him to make no delay to throw her out somewhere. I suspected afterward in that night, however, he was crying, thinking of the cat he was obliged to cast off unexpectedly.
He was very happy at Yaidzu where he wandered by the water; and in the street narrow and shabby as it was, wearing zori (sandals) on his naked feet, and a summer garment of one thickness called yukata or bath-robe. How he admired the naked feet of Japanese working people; and when he must wear foreign shoes, he chose those which soldiers wore, broad at their toes, without any style. He used to say that a frock-coat and a silk hat were savage things of the world; and he always wore a sack-coat of mouse color or light tea color. And he rarely used a collar and cuffs, preferring a soft shirt over which he placed a black tie only for an excuse. [70>] But strangely enough, he was extremely fastidious about his hat and under garments, for which he paid the very best price; and for many years he used to order them, especially his hat, from somewhere in America. He had his own idea, I believe, even in the matter of dress, to which be paid the least attention. "I like this color. Don't you, Mama San? This design is superb," he was always ready to offer the words of his own choice, and even to force on me, whenever he happened to accompany me to a dry goods store to buy clothes at the changing of the seasons. It was not seldom I felt rather uncomfortable seeing picked out for me some too showy things for my age, for instance the yukata, with a large design of sea waves or spider nets. I often suspected an unmistakable streak of passion for gay things; however, his quiet conscience held him back from submitting to it. The Japanese boys here wear black tabi, or socks; but he wished his boys to have white ones, saying that the flashing of white from under some dark kimono was so bewitching. He looked upon dress, simply from the point of view of beauty and harmony of color.
He protected with his utmost effort the perfec [71>] tion of beauty of any kind, as it was his only god; and he had no patience even with his own children, when they rebelled or seemed to rebel against it. When Kazuo was yet merely a child, he spoild, one day, the paper of a newly-made fusuma (sliding screen) with his wet fingers. Hearn said to me, with the saddest face, "Kazuo has ruined such a beautiful thing. Nanbo shinpai! How sad!" I believe that he thought that even a child should be as reverent toward beauty as himself; he could never compromise under any circumstances. I even believe he suspected at once an impossibility of Kazuo in the way of beauty; and he was, indeed, sad, thinking that the boy could not inherit his father's emotional worship of beauty and art.
As I said, he was happy at Yaidzu with the fishermen and country folk. "You have come again this year. We are glad to have you here with us," he would be addressed, even by a stranger, when he stepped out of the train at Yaidzu, It goes without saying that his responsive heart would jump high in joy. Tokyo for him, as he always said, was the saddest hole of the world, where you could never know even the names of your neighbors. He was greeted [72>] by the Yaidzu people wherever he went; and he was highly pleased to become one of them, even for the short time of his summer vacation. In truth, he prized the friendship of country barbers and priests more than that of college professors. He found to his delight a good barber at Yaidzu, whom he always paid five times more for his work; once he asked him to sharpen his knife and it was returned to him in first-class order; and he sent .a man immediately to remunerate the barber, giving him fifty sen. The fellow thought even twenty sen would be too much for such work, for which less than ten sen is usually paid; and he returned to Hearn after giving the barber twenty sen, which was accepted with the greatest thanks. Hearn, not pleased with the fellow's ill-advised action and growing angry, started at once, grasping the thirty sen he had brought back, and gave it to his barber friend. The barber wrote him, after Hearn returned home to Tokyo, thanking him for the kindness he received when he stopped at Yaidzu; and Hearn read his letter over and over, and remarked that it was more precious than one from a Japanese premier's pen. He always thought that real ability was not properly prized, [73>] and it was his greatest delight to discover it in any calling.
It was a long time ago that he found a stone Jizo in the graveyard of the Ryushoji temple at Matsue, which was not much to look at, as the work was a rough sort, but it appealed to his sense of artistic appreciation. As he found out afterward, it was the work of Junosuke Arakawa, a sculptor famous over Western Japan, and he called upon him to pay his respects; and he sent him frequently a big barrel of saké and some money, and commissioned him to make many things, one of which, the statue of the Emperor Tenchi of the seventh century, is adorning even to-day our tokonoma of this Nichi Okubo home.
He was an ikkokumono, to use a Japanese phrase. ("Ik" means single-minded, "koku," severely, and "mono," person.) He was far too honest, almost to the point of a fault; and he had that peculiar audacity which belongs only to a child, such as a man of the world hardly would dare to risk. Such a temperament made him speak, and act disagreeably to others when he never meant it; and Hearn was, from that, the more miserable, making himself the greater sufferer. He had no strength of self-restraint except in his art of [74>] writing. Once a friend sent him a picture of his newly-married wife, and even asked him what he thought about her. He showed me the picture, and said that he did not like it at all. However, I told him it was not proper for him or anybody to go too far in the matter of criticising another's wife; and I told him that he should say something good about her picture. "That's terribly difficult when I do not like her face. How I wish I could deceive myself," he said. And I soon found out that, after all, he sent a letter to his friend saying that he did not think his wife beautiful.
We left the Inn of Zaimoku Cho in Matsue in his first year of Japanese life, as he began, with many reasons on his part, to dislike the inn-keeper; and moved to a certain person's hanare zashiki (separated guest apartment) in the Sueji quarter of the city. It happened at that time that a man named Hirose, a clerk of some rich merchant's, who used to stop at the same inn, moved also into one of our neighboring houses. And he called on us with plenty of nara-zuké (cucumbers pickled in brine) to offer his good wishes and future friendship; and he said: "I hope you still remember me, as I am a friend of the Zaimoku Cho innkeeper."
[75>] "You a friend of the inn-keeper?" Hearn exclaimed, certainly irritated. "He is not my friend, and-you are not, either. He is a bad man. You go away! Sayonara I" It was not the guest, but Hearn, who rushed out into the street; I cannot forget in what an embarrassing situation I was left. I was young in those days, having little worldly tact or clever speech; I do not remember how I came out of the difficulty. It was not seldom that he quite abruptly put me in the most uncomfortable place.
One of Hearn's students once got off the train at Yaidzu to see him on his way home. Hearn was very happy to see him, and happier still at the prospect of hearing the home news of Nishi Okubo, as he thought no doubt the student had seen me before leaving Tokyo. "Did you not bring me any message of my home? Are all of my folks at home well?" he asked, without losing a moment. The student did not answer him at once, as, in fact, he did not call on me at his departure. I was still in Tokyo, not yet having joined Hearn at Yaidzu; and I was told afterward by one young boy who was staying there with him what he said. "You are not my guest. Good-bye, good-bye," were the exact words be [76>] used to the poor student, for whom I felt sorry indeed.
However, I have a most beautiful memory of Hearn in his understanding and attitude toward women. He always wished that the Japanese would pay more reverence to them; I remember that he wrote one of his friends a severely reprimanding letter when he was going to divorce his wife. And he was so worried that another of his friends did not say a kind word or show even a smile to his wife. "Do you love your wife?" was the first question he used to ask the rikisha man before he went further to engage him for his service. And he was never disappointed even when he found his man too slow in pulling his carriage, thinking and feeling happy that he loved his own wife. He would say to me, when I complained of the man's slowness: "I like the man who loves his wife. Don't think about his slowness! However slow he be, I think still it is quicker than to walk."
Ever after he first saw the Bon Odori (Ghost-Festival Dance) at Shimoichi, in the summer of 1890, its weird, dashing movement and nocturnal lyrical beauty haunted his memory; wherever he went afterward, his first question was to ask after [77>] it, usually only to be disappointed. It had been stopped by order of the government in every city, and more or less even in the remotest corners of the country. "Keisatsu damedesu! (Japanese police is foolish.) It only works ruin to the old and lovely customs of Japan; it is the saddest result we see from Japan's learning of Christianity;" he was always irritated whenever he thought of it. But it seemed to me that he was trying, at least, to believe there were still, in some unspoiled spot of old Japan, the rustic folks dancing under the blessing of the summer moon. And he never failed to ask anybody from a country town who dropped into our house to see our servant girls or on other business, his eternal question about the Bon Odori. It was some years ago that we stopped over night at Sakai of the Izumi Province where we saw the last and best Bon Odori. "Oh, my old dream returned at last," Hearn exclaimed. We had gone to bed without any expectation of it that night; at midnight, a wind suddenly brought to our ears the sound of "chan, chan," which we thought at once to be hand-clapping. And immediately even the sound of "Shu, shu" of people's foot-movement followed. We got up, exclaiming: "Bon Odori, Ban Odori!" [78>] Then we opened the doors, and found ourselves outside. The rain had stopped some time ago, and the moon shone brightly. We felt deliciously fresh after a short hour's sleep, and hearing the old familiar sound which came back as a dream or ghost. We followed the sound to the place where the Ban Odori was being held; it was the Chinzu no Yashiro (village shrine) where we found many a man and woman, not boys and girls, singing in a voice clear like the sky, and dancing in magnificent style. What a night revel in that "chan, chan, chan!" And what audacity in the "shu, shu" of the dancers' feet!
"Oh, what a wonder! How great! It is the first time to see such a dashing and beautiful dance. I wish I could dance with them. And I feel myself as if my body and bones grew big suddenly as those dancers'!" he exclaimed, in delirium of joy.
As I said before, he grew extremely sensitive just before his death, always sad, quick to cry. He cried when I told him first the story of the Milky Way; and I found him quite often crying when he was writing that story. "Papa San, are you crying?" I said to him one evening. "Just touch your eyes!"
[79>] "Oh, yes, you know the story is so sad and interesting," he replied.
I found him frequently in the library almost jumping in joy; and he exclaimed: "You should be glad, Mama San! I have a wonderful idea for my writing." Of course I felt happy no less than he at such a time.
"Did you finish your last story?" suppose I asked him. He often answered:
"That story has to wait for some time yet. Perhaps one month—perhaps one year—perhaps five years! I kept one story in my drawer for seven long years before it was finished."
I believe that many stories of his were left unfinished in his drawer, or at least, in the drawer of his mind, when he passed away.