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 





THE noisy time has slipped away even gracefully at Kyoto.  (I see that it—the barbarian of modern type—has still a certain amount of etiquette in Japan.)  Content is so natural and even becoming here (at other places it is almost outlandish and at the same time the most expensive thing to acquire), when one passes through the dustless streets of Kyoto, where the little houses with moss-eaten dark tiles humbly beg for their temporary existence on promise not to disturb the natural harmony with the green mountains and the temples that the holy spirits built.  How different from the foreign houses, red or white, seeming even to push away the old-fashioned Nature with vain [splendour] of scorn.  The Kyoto people, the moth-spirits or butterfly-ghosts, are born for pleasure-making, but not in the modern meaning; the modern pleasure-making is rather a forced production of criticsm, therefore often oppressive and always explanatory in attitude.  I say they sip the tea; I do not mean the black [1] tea or the red tea which the Western people drink, calling it Oriental tea; but I mean that pale green tea, so mild that it does not kill the taste of boiled water.  It is the high art of the tea-master to make you really taste the water beside the taste of the tea; he is very particular about he water when he is going to make the tea; I am told that his keen tongue at once differentiates the waters from a well or a stream, and he can distinguish even the season from the taste of the water, whether it be spring or autumn.  He always laughs at the attempt to make tea with the ready water from a screw in the kitchen, which most unpoetically comes through the tube from a certain reservoir.  We do not call you a real tea-drinker when you think you only drink the tea; you must really taste the fragrance and spirits of tender leaves of a living tea-tree, which grew by accident and fortune under a particular sunlight and rain.  And, of course, more than that, you must learn how to sip the tea philosophically; I mean that you must taste, through the medium of a teacup, the general atmosphere, grey and silent.  And there is no better place than Kyoto, the capital of the mediaeval, to drink tea as a real tea-sipper.
    A few days ago I enjoyed a little play (comedy, but poetry), "Sakura Shigure," or "The Cherry-blossom Shower," by my friend Gekko Takayasu—the play is the love between Yoshino and Saburobei.  Yoshino was a courtesan of four or five hundred years ago—of course, not in the modern sense, but a type which the Tosa school artists were happy to paint, the most famous beauty of that age whose name was known even to China, although it was the age of isolation.  It is said than Li Shozan, the Chinese poet, sent her a poem written on his meeting with her in a dream,  It is written in Okagami: "Her temperament was sprightly; she was wise.  Her charming spirit was impressive; she was at once free in disposition, and again sympathetic in feeling."  Yoshino was a rare personality; and it was the age when dignity and freedom were wll protected even for a courtesan; in truth, she was in no way different from the maiden at a palace of the Heian period.  Yoshino was a character which only the [3] Kyoto atmosphere and culture could create, and I congratulate the dramatist Takayasu, whose perfect assimilation with Kyoto made him able to produce this play.  The play opens with a scene where Yoshino is leaving the house of pleasure with her lover, Saburobei, who has been disinherited by his wealthy family on her account, only to find the real meaning of life and love.  The story is interesting; but I am not going to tell it, as it is not the very point for my purpose.
    The second scene is a cottage, wretched but artistic, as the inmates are Yoshino and her husband.  I see in the background the mountains of Higashi Yama, Kiyomizu, and Toribe, to whose protection Kyoto, whom I love, clings with an almost human passion.  The house is wretched, but the presence of Yoshino—now housewifely, but having an unforgotten glimmer of gaiety of her past life, makes the whole atmosphere perfectly tantalising.  The season is autumn (Kyoto's autumn sweet and sad); the leaves fall.  And again, as the season is autumn, we have at Kyoto a frequent shower, as we see it on the stage presently; [4] and that shower, light but very lonesome, is necessary, as it made Shoyu, father of Saburobei, of course a stranger, find his shelter under Yoshino's roof.  Yoshino welcomed him in, and offered him a cup of tea.  He was taken to admiration while he looked on her way to make tea, as he was no mean tea-master.  He became on the spot an unconditional admirer of his forgotten son's wife, whom he had cursed and despised without any acquintance.  I said already that you should come to Kyoto to drink tea; I say again that even at Kyoto you must drink it while listening to the voice of rain; better than that, of the autumnal shower, sad but musical, which is spiritual, therefore Oriental.  It is the keystroke of the tea, of the old capital of Japan, and again my friend's play.  What happens next when Shoyu finds in Yoshino a tea-drinker, and an admirable woman, too, would be, I believe, the next question you will ask me.  It is prosaic to answer it, and it will end as any other comedy always ends.  And it would be better to make it end as you please; that is not the real point.  The main thing is the tea [5] and the autumnal shower, the soul of poetry that is Kyoto.
    You are bound to be sad sooner or later in Tokyo or any other city of modern type, where you will find yourself as a straying ghost in a human desert; ther ethe dream would die at once as a morning glory under the sunlight.  While I admit that the weariness is, in fact, the hightest poetry of the Eastern nature, I will say that Tokyo's weariness is a kind that has lost beauty and art; and the weariness at Kyoto is a kind that has soared out of them.  That is the difference; but it is a great difference.  As there is the poetry of weariness at Kyoto—the highest sort of Oriental poetry—it is your responsive mind that makes you at once join with great eternity and space; it is most easy there to forget time and hours.  It seems to me that nothing is more out of place at Kyoto than a newspaper.  When you used to know the time of day or night you have only to wait for a temple bell to ring out; you would be more happy not to be stung by the tick-tack of clock.  Sanyo Rai, the eminent scholar of some sixty years ago, wrote an [6] invitation to his friend saying that he would expect him to come "at the time when the mountain grows purple and the water clear."  Indeed, it is the very hour of autumn evening at Kyoto where Nature presents the varied aspect by which you can judge the exact time.  By the mountain, Rai means Higashi Yama; by the water, of course, Kamo Gawa.  It is the happy old city, this Kyoto, whose poetical heart exchanges beauty and faith with Nature.  It is only here, even in Japan, that Nature is almost human, like you and me. [7]