IV

LAFCADIO HEARN AT YAIDZU

The  thumb-nail  sketches accompanying this article were drawn by Hearn during his stay at Yaidzu, the most of them in his letters to Mrs. Hearn.


"HÉ, HÉ, HÉ" the good man of Hearn’s "Otokichi’s Daruma" in A Japanese Miscellany, bowed and began sadly,- he who kept a fish-shop at Yaidzu, and fed Hearn with fishes cooked in a wonderful variety of ways.

"Indeed, Koizumi San was not a person whom you might expect at a fishing village like this where there is nothing to see but the wild sea. But it was for the sea he came here and spent his summer vacation, where he could take a long swim. Five times a day in the water! How he loved swimming. I never saw a person like  him to stay in the water ; he used to stay, not seldom, more than two hours, and never less than one hour. He did not swim all the time, but laid [81>] himself on the water, and most comfortably floated. That was the feat which amazed us. At such a time, his head, his toes, and even his belly—" Hearn San’s  taiko  no  hara­­ " ( Mr. Hearn’s drum-belly ), as he often said amusingly—could be seen from the shore. His way of swimming was different from ours; he swam with his head up, and he used his arms and also his legs like oars. We Japanese swim with our heads down, and rake the water with the sole force of our arms, and soon we grow tired. But Sensei Sama ( Lord Master) appeared easy as if he were taking a rest. One thousand five hundred fishermen that we have here , all of them, looked at his swimming with perfect wonder, and said:  ‘Sensei was born from the water.’  In fact, no one of them could beat him in the water. The soles of his feet, like any other foreigner’s, were so tender that he could not walk down the slope of little stones to the water barefooted; I used to go with him to help him into the water; and once he was in it, he was almost a fish. He walked slowly, doubtless with much pain in the soles of his feet, leaning on my shoulder. I made for him, afterward, a pair of cotton sandals with which he could walk better  [ 82 ] on the stones, and without taking them off, he rushed into the water. He smoked incessantly, day and night, and he could not leave his cigar behind even while swimming. I used to stand on the shore in the darkness of night, wondering how far Sensei Sama had gone, when his cigar in his fingers began to flash like a firefly at an unexpected distance. I would leave a paper lantern on the shore to mark a landing spot; and when he returned from the water, he was the happiest man in the world."

(I read in his At Yaidzu:  "But the primitive fancy may be roused even more strongly in darkness than by daylight. How living seem the smoulderings and the flashings of the tide on nights of phosphorescence!—How reptilian the subtle shifting of the tints of its chilly flame !  Dive into such a night— sea ; —open your eyes in the black-blue gloom, and watch the weird gush of lights that follow your every motion : each luminous point, as seen through the flood, like the opening and closing of an eye !  At such a moment, one feels, indeed, as if enveloped within some vital substance that feels and sees and wills alike in every part, —an infinite, soft, cold ghost.)

"It might be said," the good man Otokichi [ 83>] continued, "to be a zense  no  yakusoku ( destiny of last life appointed ) that such a great Sensei Sama took a fancy to my house, shabby as you see. The mats of the rooms are not clean ; the house is beaten and washed by salt water and wind. However, when he came back here with the returning summer he said each time : ‘Otokichi San, I feel as if I had returned home ! ‘ Those words were a world of happiness to me. He was so kind, and perfectly free of money. He used to pay me two or three times more than I asked usually ; that I became better off may be said to be his gift to me. Every member of my family thinks of him highly,  regards him even as a  Hotoke  Sama,  a  Lord Buddha, who came to save Otokichi Yamaguchi. That is my full name. Yaidzu is not the only fishing port, even on the Tokaido coast ; there are a hundred others, in fact. But Sensei Sama used to say that Yaidzu was the best in the world. ‘Kami Sama no mura desu ‘( This is a god’s town), he remarked. I can say even with authority that any unhappy man or woman who once wanders into this town will never leave it again. Hé, isson  ikke  desu. ( The whole village is one family.)  You will be helped by your neighbor at any time, and you [84>] must treat his children as yours. Cry and laugh with everybody. Be industrious, and be happy. Above all, you must not tell a lie !  It is said here from the olden age that that any one who practices wickedness will soon be punished by the Goddess of Fuji, and drowned in the sea. The fisherman here prays and claps his hands morning and evening toward the Honorable Fuji Yama for her great protection, and pledges himself, in case of a good catch, to perform the rites in honor of the divinity. We are the Fuji Mountain worshippers."

 Hearn said somewhere : "And the life of Yaidzu is certainly the life of many centuries ago. The people, too, are the people of Old Japan : frank and kindly as children—good children—honest to a fault, innocent of the further world, loyal to the ancient traditions and ancient gods."  And , indeed, it is perfectly natural, as I found it myself, to become at once a worshipper of Fuji Mountain as a Yaidzu fisherman living here. The charm of the town changes marvelously under the different shades of sky and sun ; the charm of fresher color is particularly distinguished at early morning when the sun just begins to ascend.  At these moments the lizard curving along a little bay, the dear old fishing [85>] town seems more active in breathing.  And it is the proper time for you to come out to the seaside, and turn your head to the left, and meet Fuji Mountain, the wonderful ghost of the clouds and sky.  Not only Japanese, but the people of any nationality, to be sure, would grow silent and simple suddenly in heart, and begin to pray.  Here we have the most extraordinary rampart of boulders for protection from the heavy seas ; the rampart is built in the form of terrace steps.  If you stand on the top of the structure, you have the whole town at your back,—with here and there a pine grove, beyond the flat space of grey and world- wearied Japanese roofs, marking the place of some sort of sacred court like  Enju In  or Chinju no Mori (the village shrine), where Hearn took his almost daily walk ; and before you, the grandest view of the sea. For the last two or three days as the time is still in Baiu, or the rainy season, it has been very rough and high. (By the way, I came here to spend a few days, and associate myself with Hearn’s landmark.) I can imagine him anxiously watching over the rolling seas, massive and formidable, in company with many fishermen, standing by the rampart with their eyes set on faraway. [86>] And again  I  imagine him sitting in a great wind by this sea-wall with old Jinsuko Amano, and hearing his wonderful experience of the seas ; Hearn silent and slightly afraid to hear the awful story of sea-drifting, and the latter smiling even in triumph. ("Drifting" in  A  Japanese  Miscellany.)  I feel disappointed in coming here a bit early for Yaidzu’s  Segaki  service, which Hearn discrived minutely in "Beside the Sea" in  A  Japanese  Miscellany.  I should like to squat down, even as Hearn did, by the sea whose rolls and crashing of mighty tide make me return to sublimity of heart, forgetting the wicked world, and under a blazing sun whose fires are like slag raked out from a furnace,—that sun I love passionately.  And a greater disappointment I have that even the day of the Bon or Festival of the Dead is still a few weeks off yet.  As I cannot swim like Hearn, and overtake the lantern-fleet as he did when he found them already in the distance on his appearance on the spot of ceremony (Hearn’s  "At  Yaidzu" in  In Ghostly Japan), I thought that I would not take a nap after supper as he did, but wait patiently by the sea for the  time of the ghost –lanterns to depart toward the Jizo Sama of the Izu Province. I can [87>] hear the sound of hammering here,  a  curious melancholy chant by the people who are engaged in building a boat ;  Hearn used to hurry toward the spot for the sight.  It was half an hour ago that a little boy went round the town shaking a bell and shouting that a thousand Katsuo ( bonito ) were in port and ready for people to bid.  This experience of a fishing town is for me the first and newest surprise.

 "It was not only I, "the good man Otokichi took up his talk again, "who took Sensei Sama’s death to heart, but all the people of this town were sincerely sorry.  He was   the friend of them that worked hard and were simple, as in fact they are.  ‘Sensei Sama, good morning, how do you feel? ‘ they addressed him every morning whenever they saw him in the street or on the shore.  He was, indeed, pleased to be treated here as one of them ; and he even took part in their pleasures.  We have here an annual festival in honor of the village shrine ; on that day, all  the young men of the seven districts of the town pull an ornamental car for theatrical performance, dancing and music.  Sensei Sama used to contribute seven or ten yen  on the occasion as money for saké ; and when the car ( dashi as it is called) passed by this house, he [88>] used to come out to see the performance, and  again treat the young men with additional bottles of saké .  He was so good and kind to us.  The most pitiful of us over Sensei Sama’s death is a little dumb boy, called Ko, who used to accompany him like a loyal-hearted poodle, wherever he went.  And he always gave the boy some money ; and above all, his great sympathy delighted his little mind.  The boy used to wait by the door every morning for Sensei Sama’s appearance.  But as he is no more, and another Sensei Sama may not come at all, the boy is sad and solitary.  Sensei Sama’s sympathy with any weak thing was something wonderful.

"He used to walk, when the sea was high here, to the place called Wada,  some two miles, where the waves are always calm."  One day, he saw a black cat wandering by the shore, that had been cast away by a bitter— hearted man who could be seen hurriedly walking away.  He thought it was perfectly pitiable ; and he picked it up, and put it in his hat, and brought it home. The cat was [ 89 ]  named Hinoko ( spark ) by him, because its burning eyes impressed him as a fire.  I noticed two or three times, afterward, he did not mind even when Hinoko’s muddy feet soiled his hat or his kimono ; it grew soon after to be one of Kazuo San’s pets.  He forbade Kazuo San to kill the crabs which for amusement’s sake he used to bring to his boy when he returned from Wada ; and he begged him, after a little while, to get them back to the water again.  I believe his kind heart was that of Hotoke Sama.

"He took once a tremendous fancy with the Naminare Jizo ( the sea-pacifying divinity ), who lost his arms and even his head.  He wished to replace it with a new idol, and presently called an ishiya ( stone – cutter ) to design it.  The stone- cutter brought him more than five times a picture of Jizo Sama’s face which was not quite satisfactory ; and afterward he noticed the face of a neighbor’s boy called Zensaku which appeared to him to be a just model.  He invited the boy into his room, and let the stone-cutter sketch his face, when he received a letter from Oku San ( Mrs. Hearn ) saying  that such a project was not desirable.  He gave it up at once obediently.  ‘Mama San’s word is law,’ he said.  I never saw a [ 90>] man like Sensei Sama who listened gently to his wife. "

( To-day I passed by the Naminare Jizo who had a new head added, although his arms were still lacking.  I thought it must be the kindness of another Hearn who had an equally good heart, but was not an artist like Hearn.  The new head is really shabby art, but the idol, I thought, should be pleased with any sort of of head.)

 "Sensei Sama used to devote one hour every morning to teaching Kazuo San English ; and I often thought that he was rather too severe in his teaching to a boy like that. ‘Don’t you see it? ‘  I frequently overheard Sensei Sama exclaiming in impatience.  But at other times he was kindness and love itself ; no father could be more sweet than he.  Beside teaching, his morning work was only to write to Mrs. Koizumi, when she had not yet joined him.  And his greatest delight,  I suspected, was to see his face growing brown from the sea and sun.  ‘Otokichi San, is my face not brown yet, like your fishermen’s? ‘ he often asked me.  And he used to squat on the shore when he came out of the water and I wiped his naked back.  His skin was perfectly beautiful, becoming crimson [91>]  or peach-colored under the blaze of summer heat.  How white is a foreigner’s  skin !

"He was such a considerate man who made me frequently rather uncomfortable. He thanked me for any little service I did for him.  ‘Arigato, arigato, ‘ he always repeated.  And he never complained of our poor table, which must have been astonishingly poor to him.  He tried to eat up even the things which he might not like at all, simply from fear to hurt my feelings ; when Kazuo San left something on the table, he insisted on his finishing up to please Otokichi’s heart, as he said.  After supper, he used to walk up and down his rooms for exercise.  He was a wonderful man about that.  Even on the hottest day he never failed to take his walk ; and I never heard him complain of the heat.  In one word, he was the only perfect man whom I ever came across.  But he is no more now.  I feel almost like crying when I think of him.  I am extremely lonesome for him, when, as now, the summer is approaching speedily.  My heart is sad. "

Hearn in these three rooms of twelve, ten and four mats, the upper part of this fisherman Otokichi’s house, Hearn spent many happy summers.  The rooms are bare as any other fisherman’s [92>]  with no kakemono or picture-hanging on the tokonoma to mention At one corner I noticed a common sort of table which, as Otokichi said, was used by Hearn and Kazuo ; and I thought it looked as if it were waiting for their return. I believe it was the table on whichh he wrote a daily letter to Mrs. Hearn, informing her of his simple life and pleasures which, with Kazuo and sometimes Iwao, he enjoyed to his heart's content. He entirely forgot while here his books, writing, and of course, his university ; with his boys, he was almost a boy himself. His summer letters in Japanese to Mrs. Hearn, though they are childish, partly because his Japanese  [93] vocabulary was pitifully limited, show his naive and simple temperament. 

I think Mrs. Hearn who gave me the right to transcribe some of these letters into English, and to share with you the pleasure of reading them. 

 

"Little Mama : To-day we have not much sunlight, but Kazuo and I swam as usual. Kazuo played a torpedo in the water. (Hearn means a play of his boy who pulled his legs from under the water while swimming.) He is growing clever in swimming to my delight. We had a long walk yesterday. We bought a little ball and a bell for the cat whose life I saved and brought home. The stone-cutter showed me a picture of a face which is supposed to be for the Jizo Idol. Shall I let him carve the name of Kazuo Koizumi somewhere on the idol? I can see how glad the Yaidzu people would be to see the new idol. 

"We have too many fleas here. Please bring some flea powder when you come. But this delightful little cat makes us forget the fleas. She is really funny. We call her Hinoko. Plenty of kisses to Suzuko and Kiyoshi, from papa. July 12th." [94>] 

"Little Mama: Your sweet letter at hand. I am glad of it. So, Ume San (Professor Ume of the Imperial University) has built his own new house. We shall go together to see him at his home. Kazuo swam into a deeper sea first yesterday ; he swam five times toward a boat at quite a distance. He is growing more strong and clever in swimming every day. He is terribly black now. The weather is lovely and cool. We gave a name to Kazuo’s boat, ‘Hinko Maru.’ Osaki san (Otokichi’s daughter made a little flag for the boat. As I informed you already, the cat is called `Spark,’ and her little eyes burn like sparks. Sweet word to everybody at home from Papa. July 25th." 

"Little Mama: Yesterday we had a real big wave of the height of summer season. Otokichi swam with Kazuo, as he was afraid for Kazuo to go alone. The sea began to groan terribly since noon; and at evening the billows grew bigger, and almost reached the stone wall. It is difficult to swim this morning also, but I expect that the sea will be calmer in the afternoon.

"The little baby sparrow which I already wrote you about had been pretty strong for the [95] last three days; but under the sudden change of weather it was taken ill. 

"Last evening Otokichi bought two sharks. Kazuo studied their shapes carefully; and it was the first experience for him. Otokichi cooked nicely for our supper shark’s meat, which was white and excellent. I take some milk in the morning. August 1st." 

"Little Mama Sama: The weather is good always. The other guest at Otokichi’s has gone; I am glad of it. Otokichi’s wife is ill, and moved to Tetsu’s house. I believe she is getting better. Otoyo called on us. Her husband, I am told, was called to the front, and also the tobacco- shop keeper whom you know. Now Yaidzu has sent her seventeen soldiers out to Manchuria. 

"To-day the sea is high, but rather calm. Kazuo and Iwao swam with their Papa. Iwao is improving in swimming; he has learned how to float well. I am sure he will soon master the art thoroughly. I felt so hot and lazy; but Papa’s belly like Hotei Sama ( the big-bellied god of comfort )is growing rather small. 

"The festival is held to-day. ‘Yaren, yare, Haya, ‘we hear the musical voice. The sacred car of the [96>] festival I expect to pass by the house this after- noon. Sweet word to Kiyoshi, and kisses to ‘Aba, Aba’ ( so he called Suzuko, his last girl, as she muttered ‘Aba, Aba’). From their Papa. August 13th."

 

"Little Mama: we had an extra last night. Great victory. We had our own celebration here, drinking lemonade, and eating ice. But we had no other extra after that. To-day we had a little wave, but plenty of jelly-fishes. We, Kazuo, Niimi and I, were bitten by them. Last night we took a short walk, and went to the shrine of the Yamatodake god. Kazuo caught a black dragon-fly. We have too many fleas here, but not many mosquitoes. The boys are happy. Otokichi always goes with them into the water. Iwao is learning how to swim, but it is rather difficult as the waves are pretty big. The road toward Wada has been ruined by the rush of waves. Osemi (big cicada) is singing. I think Kiyoshi must be lonesome at home. Kisses to ‘Aba, Aba’ from Papa. August 15th.

 

"Little Mama: The weather is fine lately, but there are large waves. Kazuo is always happy. [97>] Otetsu’s baby grows big and strong. It tumbles down, and often tries to fly. ‘Osemi’ sings only at morning, and not when the sun is very hot. It is not like the cicada at Okubo Mura. Papa and his boy grow perfectly brown. 

"I fancy that Okubo Mura must be fine with the new leaves of the banana tree, and also with the new bamboo leaves. "Tsukutsukuboshi " ( a kind of cicada), I think, must be singing in the home garden. Sweet words to everybody at home. August 16th." 

 

"Little Mama: Your welcome letter at hand. It reached me this morning to my delight, and I can not explain my joy with it in my Japanese. You must never think of danger which might occur to your boy ; I hope you do not worry about him. I haven’t yet gone to sea at night this year. Otokichi and Niimi take good care of Kazuo. He is perfectly safe although he often swims in deep water. He is so afraid of the jelly-fishes this summer, but he swims and plays all the same. It was such a lovely thing, his charm of the Narita temple. I feel lonely sometimes. I wish I could see your sweet face. It is difficult to sleep on account of the many fleas. But as I have [98] a delightful swim in the morning, I usually forget the misery of the night. I have taken a little hand bath in a ridiculously little tub the last two or three evenings. Good words to everybody at home, from Papa. August 17th." 

 

"Little Mama: Yesterday we went to Wada, where we had our lunch; and there I taught Iwao is beginning to learn how to swim. The House at Wada has been mended a little. The tea we have there is always good; and I am told that the tea is home-made, which night be the reason for its excellence. Fuji was seen clearly last evening. We cannot swim this morning as the sea is son high. It was so hot, last might, we could not shut the doors. But the weather is always good. Iwao let his crabs walk on the roofs of Otokichi’s house ; and they walked and walked. During the night those crabs tried to bite into our box of soap, but it was beyond their power to open the tin cover. How sorry! From Papa. August 20th." 

 

"Little Mama: Otokichi gave us plenty of pears in a tray yesterday as it was the day of Bon. I [99>] believe it was to thank you for your gift of the charm the other day. We went to Wada to-day and had lunch there. Iwao learns well how to swim; and he has no fear whatever, and takes delight in the deeper water. He will soon be a fine swimmer. Otokichi is very kind to us. We have no big wave, the sea being calm ; the colors of the sky and Fuji mountain as perfectly lovely. And there is no speck of cloud. Otokichi has a bright little boy as helper, and he calls him Kumakichi. The boy is lovely. Iwao is really black now, hard to explain ; and you will not know him when you see him. The boys catch dragon-flies and grasshoppers, they laugh, they gather stones, they play cards, they eat much and sleep well. Papa is splendid, too. But he cannnot walk on the stones of the shore barefooted. I wear straw sandals when I go to Wada, and Strange shoes Otokichi made when I swim. Sweet words to the old woman and children at home, from Papa. August21st." 

"Little Mama Sama : Your sweet letter and magazines at hand. I thank you for them. Last night I finished my reading of proofs of my American book, and also of that of Mr. Takada’s [100] article. And I sent them out by mail this morning. Last night we had a little walk, and dropped into the shooting gallery together. The target is called ‘Port Arthur’ ; and there stands a figure of a Russian soldier. 

"Iwao hit it, and made ‘Port Arthur’ fall. ‘I have taken it,’ Iwao exclaimed in a big voice. 

"Then we went to the ice-shop which you know. Otoyo San is helping in the shop as a waitress. There in the street right before the shop, are chairs and one table put out. Hurried to catch the mail-hour.Gomen, gomen ! Yakumo Koizumi. August 22d.

 

"Little Mama : Last night we had a great katsuo-fishing. The boat belonging to Tetsu’s hus- band, with the other five boats, returned at evening. And all the people helped Them. There in the Tetsu’s boat were one thousand seven hundred katsuo fishes. One fish is sold for twenty sen. Under the torch-light the people are landing the fishes from the boats. It is so interesting to see them. " The jelly-fishes are perfectly terrible this morning. Papa was bitten by hem. The sea is [101] as a Hell on their account. I do not like them at all. However , the weather is fine. We went to take a walk with the boys last night, and we heard the frogs singing. The boys are so sweet. Niimi is kind and good to them. In one word, everything is first-rate, except those jelly-fishes. Good-bye, Mama Sama. Sweet words to every- body at home. From Papa. August 23rd." 

 

"Little Mama : Yesterday it was so hot ; thermometer rose to 91 degrees. However, the winds blew from the sea at night. And this morning the waves are so high. I only took a walk. Otoyo gave the boys plenty of pears. Last evening Kazuo and Iwao went to a shooting gallery for fun. We drank soda and ginger ale, and also ate ice. 

"Iwao has finished his first reader ; it seems that learning is not hard for his little head at all. He studied a great deal here. And he is learning from Mr. Niimi how to write Japanese characters. 

"Just this moment I received your big letter. I am very glad to hear how you [102] treated the snake you mentioned. You were right not allowing the girls to kill it. They only fear as they don’t understand that it never does any harm. I believe it must be a friend of Kami Sama in our bamboo bush. Mr.Papa and others wish to see Mama’s sweet face. Good words to everybody at home. Yakumo. August 24th." 

 

Anybody who has read "Otokichi’s Daruma" in A Japanese Miscellany will know that the good man Otokichi set a red image of Daruma on the Kamidana or the Shelf of the God’s in his shop. Hearn observed : 

"But I was rather startled by the peculiar aspect of Otokichi’s Daruma, which had only one eye, -a large and formidable eye that seemed to glare through the dusk of the shop like the eye of a great owl. It was the right eye, and was made of glazed paper. The socket of the left eye was a white void," 

And the following conversation between Hearn and Otokichi ensued:

"`Otokichi San!-did the children knock out the left eye of Daruma Sama!’ 

"`He, he !’ sympathetically chuckled Otokichi, -`he never had a left eye.’ [103>] 

"`Was the made that way?’ I asked. 

"`He!’ responded Otokichi, -as he swept this long knife soundlessly through the argent body, `the folk here make only blind Daruma, he had no eyes at all. I made the right eye for him last year, -after a day of great fishing.’ 

"`But why not have given him both eyes?’ I queried, `he looks so unhappy with only one eye!’" 

And Hearn was happy to conclude the tale of Otokichi’s Daruma as follows : 

"I was up and dressed by half past three the next morning, in order to take an early express train ; but even at that ghostly hour I found a warm breakfast awaiting me down-stairs, and Otokichi’s little brown daughter ready to serve me. . . . As I swallowed the final bowls of warm tea, my gaze involuntarily wandered in the direction of the household gods whose tiny lamps were still glowing. Then, I noticed that a light was burning also in front of Daruma ; and almost in the same instant I perceived that Daruma was looking straight at me-WITH TWO EYES!" 

Mrs. Hearn told me that it was one of the greatest delights of his life at Otokichi’s every year to create the left eye of Daruma with his [104>] generous payment on the evening of his departure. 

To-day I observed a Daruma with the left eye void on the shelf of Otokichi’s household shrine. And I wondered when another Lafcadio Hearn would come here to fill up its left eye. Indeed, Daruma San must be unhappy with only one eye. 

And to be sure, the good man Otokichi, too, would like to see both of its eyes opened wide.


Mr. Otani as Hearn's Literary Assistant