Houses of Sleep
Willow Woman
East West
Decline of Taste
Note on Yeats
Oscar Wilde
Again on Hokku
On Poetry
Again on Poetry
Morning Fancy
Ink Slab 





I THINK that the moon, among the natural phenomena, appears as if perfectly hating even an accidental shaking of hands or all personal contacts, oh what an aloofness in her shrinking from the worldly vulgarity. (The flowers, even the saintly lotus included, on the other hand, look always as if liking human friendship.) And what a feminine sensitiveness and adroitness in evading the others; see how amiably she slips from the trees' salutation. The mountains and hills have no power to keep her with them; the clouds are always baffled by her beautiful elusiveness. I am often mystified in taking my evening walk, by her hide-and-seek play; she frightens me from my back when I thought she should be right before me. And when I sought her amid the leaves, she was found smiling between the ripples of water at my feet! Oh I wish to have her gift for the avoidance of things that I do not want to do; what a personality in her having her own way. [<195]

    Although Hokusai was a great artist (though he may not have been so great an artist as the pedestrian critics, mostly Europeans, think he is) he was at last a victim of the vulgar subject of Fuji Mountain; even his famous (famous in the West) Fuji in Lightning is a failure, because the picture has hardly anything except audacity in colour. When I turn over the pages of "One Hundred Views of Fuji," I always ask myself how much of the real mountain would be left if you took our Hokusai himself; when he entered into true Nature he was indeed great; when he left Nature for art, he was often mere artisan Hokusai. In one word,. he was vulgar; and not only in his art, also in his act and manner he cultivated his vulgarity. Worse still, he is much prized in the West for his vulgarism. I should like to know who among Japanese artists ever succeeded with Fuji Mountain; I am glad that Hiroshige, unlike Hokusai, did not much draw that mountain. I hear one old artist, although I forget his name, who never painted Fuji in his life; what a distinction for that artist. [<196]

    Not only Boston Beans, also the Boston literature, seems developing lately in Japan; the difference is that our Japanese cheap edition of Boston literature has no Emerson.

    Why is there only one way to say Yes and No, while there might be in the West three hundred and sixty five ways of cooking eggs? We have here a hundred ways for bow-making ; but there is only one way to sit.

    I passed one day by a certain country road covered with foliage and grasses where Jizo, the stone deity who, it is said, paternally protects the dead children in Hades, stood sad and lonely. When I passed by a second time, I observed that one arm of that divinity was gone; at the third time, that was one month ago, I discovered that he was most pitifully headless. And when I passed by yesterday, he was seen no more; by asking one little boy playing by the roadside where he, that armless headless god, had gone, I discovered his saddest fate that the father of the boy had moved away the god to use him as a stone [<197]  weight for pickles. Oh what a lot of the beloved deity!

    I once read in an old Chinese book that there was in ancient time a poet who prophesied war when he heard a voice of the cuckoo at a certain bridge at midnight. Who, I like to know, can foretell the future of Western art by the voice of an English thrush ?

    I overheard the other day some young man exclaim: "Friend, you reason too much!" That remark made me think for a while, and then I exclaimed to myself Why! Have Japanese come already to reason too much? Only forty years ago we were said to be barbarous; and now we are too uncomfortable under the burden of knowledge. Growing, whether wiser or foolish, is certainly degeneration: if we could stay too barbarous as in old time! We have lost a personality after all.

    It is not a question how to take you; the most important question is how to arrive at the [<198] goal. Our Japanese saying has it that the ship will go up the hill where there are too many sailors. We have too much talk in present Japan, have we not ? Art has fallen, and poetry has fallen; and then other hundred worthy things have fallen; what we added to our original property was only a high hat marked a certain Chrysty and a frock coat. Oh what a farce!

    How many people really know that it has already dawned when the crows cry ?

    It is not difficult to make a frame; the real issue is the picture itself. The Japanese Government has been making a frame for the country for many years past; and now when the frame fairly done, she finds that there is the night already, too dark to draw the picture.

    Where is a mountain deep enough to hide me? And where is a river big enough to swallow me ? I say it, not because I am great, but because I am 1. I beg you, however, not to mistake me as a so-called individualist. [<199]

    I found only lately how sweet is to sleep. Is there any more sweet word than goodnight ?

    I said to my friend that I must live at any cost till seventy years old, perhaps ninety years old or perhaps one hundred twenty years old. It was only yesterday I used to say I must not live to be more than twenty five, better still, not more than twenty years. How beautiful is Life! How the sun shines, how flowers bloom, how the river runs, how the birds fly, and above all, how grasses keep green !

    I think that the best writing of the English language seems to mean to be read, while the best style of Chinese writing to be looked at. Oh how I wish to write my poetry to be smelled!

    Nobody has told me how it was when I was born. But I have a clear, though faint enough, memory of when my little sister was born; it was the hot summer night when the mist-purple canopy of the sky was studded with [<200] stars; that dreamy sight I remember I saw through the mosquito net which slightly swung like a lantern hung under the eaves when cool breezes flow. I do not know how I had fallen in sleep or dream ; I was awakened at late midnight by a strange voice of a new-born baby who, I was told then by my elder brother, had come as another member of the family only a little while before. I cannot forget even to-day that my new sister's first cry, whether from pain or joy, which still echoes, I do think, on my heart, indeed continually during the last thirty years. It is not necessary to know how babies are born; there is one's existence where his voice is. That is enough. Oh that first fresh voice or cry of my little sister! Let me have my own real voice to prove my own existence; oh my voice like that I uttered at the first moment when I left my mother's body.

People do not deny or approve, strange enough, on seeing the flowers blooming and falling, on seeing the clouds coming and passing. [<201]

    I used to fire my curiosity and desire of boyhood days with reading an old warrior's astonishing tales and legends; one of my favourite heroes was Yoshitsune who in his boy's time was taught mystery and fencing by a certain Tengu, a mountain elf of the Western hill from where, a rainbow flashes and where the bright sun has his nightly bed. Oh how I longed for an acquaintance with that wonderful elf with a long nose and wings, when the setting sun burned the Western sky and hills. It happened one evening that I was severely scolded by my father; my rebellious little soul forced me at once to leave the house and turn my hurried step towards the Western hill, where the sunset fire was burning to make me imagine a strange castle of beauty and romance, and even hear a word or two of that kind elf there. My frightened dear mother pursued me and at last held my arm and took me back and again to be scolded by my stern father. But, oh, the Western hill where the Tengu might live and teach me Life's mystery; even to-day I feel to hear sometimes his tender call from the far-off rainbow and evening glow. [<202]

    And I often imagine what if my mother had not taken me back that evening, well, of almost thirty years ago; I might have found the elf then by the singular virtue and desire which are given only to a boy.

    The heart of Wisdom is a sorrow and pain. It is a mistake if you think it to be a scalp-capped old scholar just stepped out from the library or classroom. Wisdom is a reformed criminal after all penalties paid; it is a wrong or confession turned to a saint.

    It is not true to say that we have become impatient because we are wiser than our fore. fathers. But I know I believe that the realisation of Life's endless change and the possibility of a never-ending rebirth, even in the Buddhistic sense, makes me a wind (what an impatience of the wind's soul) crying in the wilderness.

    The ancient Japanese always held the same attitude towards the world and life, whether with the frost-cold sword at the moment of harakiri, or with the tea-bowl in the chanoyu [<203] rites ; their manner was never abrupt. And how they hated dispute and talk! When they had to dispute, they let their swords settle the point ; and for talk, they used the language of silence. They were quiet and discreet towards Life's object ; they moved around it as if an artist, and again like an excellent artist, they never separated it from its surroundings. Where they were faithful to tradition they well expressed their own eccentricity; and where they were eccentric they were most conventional. How the times made us change! We trust too much in words; how we assert and deny when a question comes forth! And like an amateur, we walk upon to Life's stage most ungracefully, often forget our lines; oh, what poor acting!

    You must not come to see me till I tell you you may come; I must be sure of the hour and day when the right light or proper shadow will be provided. Do you laugh at me over my having too great anxiety in my presentation as if a piece of art rare and old ? But what else am I, do you suppose? When the first [<204] night bell rings out, I will loosen and let fall all my reserves; it is the time when my head will turn towards my interlocutor. I will burn the incense which should rise as the silken folds of the world-wearied courtesy; under them the ego in myself intent but aloof, will put a proper presentation or emphasis on my Life's page. Come, my friend, at such an hour, as my own respect for myself will then be the very respect for my art and song, I will show you my best; if you do not know how to come, my friend, I will tell you that you should ride on the cool breeze, or step on the shadow of the moon.

    Someone exclaimed to me the other day: "You are so awfully Japanese and so awfully English!" That was good indeed. When I am so awfully Japanese, I might be a slave to my emotion; but without my being so awfully English, my record of artistic development would not become visible. I confess, however, that I have a moment sometimes when I feel a secret regret at my being so awfully English; is it not the reason why I, seeing greatness right before myself, cannot get it? [<205]

    If I can be called poet, that would be through the virtue that I carry it into my daily fife; when I am most poetical, I know I believe that poetry will least betray itself. When I am most conventional, I feel I am most eccentric, therefore finer and far truer.

    To express my vehemence I always use the language of silence, that is the best, strongest when crushing rivalry; in silence, when I am best and strong, I can be renaissance itself, and will create a peculiar tone and shade, let me dare say, the beauty of nuance.

    If I look modern, it is because I am human. If I am inarticulate in song, that is because my heart is too full.

    While I admire your brains, let me say that you are a little crude and flat; isn't there any way for you to forget your reaching the same old conclusions? Although I may appear to you alien, exotic, subtle, mysterious, often baffling, I do not mean to become different from you; and I always deny when people say that [<206] my being here is rather a sacrifice and incongruity. My thought is only to become like yourself; if there is anything between you and me, it might be that I hope to grow plainer. Do you call that eccentricity?

    I am in truth a spiritual exile, not because I have no friend, but because I lost somewhere a tradition and environment to which I think I should belong. And I hear the voice calling from a hidden world where more than one moon ever shine; alas, I do not know how to come there.

    The other day my friend told me about his friend who ceased to be a poet when he grew fat. Oh where is a really great fat poet? And again where is a really great fat artist? Here turning over the pages of the catalogue of the Academy Exhibition, I can tell you the physiques of the artists from their pictures many of them are quite fat, are they not?

    If I fail to make me understood by the present Japanese, that might be from the fact [<207] that they are less Japanese, or I am, in truth, more Japanese. How remote they are, being "un-Japanese," from me as I hope to put myself side by side with the old centuries (though I am not sure what century) who better controlled principle and flame for the unity in complexity; I always think it is perfect nonsense to say that the older time was simplicity. The older age well understood how to collect the passion and force, to use another word, to put colour into the time's mind. When I say that the present Japanese are un-Japanese, I like to dwell on their hatred of freedom while professing love for it ; in their anxiety of knowledge I see their cowardice.

    The occasion when people find me a little too difficult always falls on when I myself feel a little too shy. It is strange that they think me delightful when I feel absolutely hating myself.

    How many people understand that pencils were to write their mind. There are people who think that the temples at Nikko were built in one day. [<208]