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 gesticulation of Nature and Life emphatically drawn on the little pieces of ivory."
    WOMAN in Japan used to marry because marriage was thought most proper, even natural; but now she marries because it is very expensive. And the man marries from the sense of economy, not only physical but also spiritual ; that is the point where he makes the first misstep in life.

    Woman, at least in Japan, is always decorative in the common use of the word; in that she, as a piece of art, rarely rises into a pure high art, lies her merit. To say she is materialistic does her hardly justice; I see a case when she is spiritual, but it is more or less from the motive that she wishes to conceal her unhappiness and failure.

    It is only sin, let me say, that never grows old; its homogeniety is quite peculiar. Indeed its hatred of respectability is most modern. When virtue changes, evolves, that is sure proof ' that it is never so strong as the sin itself. [<183]

    There is a little thing which I picked up just because I was only afraid somebody else might pick it up; again there is another thing which I threw away just because I liked to hear it whispered how foolish I was. The both cases I experienced in the matter of women and love.

    My romance died away when I ceased to deceive myself or play a trick on myself; I cannot see myself to-day as if another person. I feel envy in over-hearing some young man who exclaims: "Why, she is most sacred!" I confess that when I spoke such words fourteen or fifteen years ago even for my fancy's sake, I felt at least at the moment that I was speaking the nearest possible truth of the words myself.

    Nearly all things can be bought, even cheaply. Really we are struggling how to buy them dear. That is one of the charms of us human beings.

    It is a dying art in Japan how to compliment, especially to the fair sex; the Western [<184] countries are, in truth, far better off than we in it. The fact that our Japanese women are not so simple and optimistic as supposed to be, has had a great deal to do in bringing about its sudden unexpected decline.

    It is a custom to change your own name at first, when you become an actor or geisha or even wrestler, because art in Japan begins with masquerading; you will get art when you lose your own self. But suppose, when you want to return to your original self again, you have to part with all the art you got by the sacrifice of your own self! Art and Life are quite different things in Japan.

    I put nearly everything good and true in my poetry; when my poetry is done, I hasten to the stupidity and plainness of Life. I am indeed amused to be told then: "How tired you look from having too much poetry! What a prosaic life you are now having!"

    Failure is more true, more real, more sane, than success; to get the real failure is a great [<185] triumph itself. I am a worshipper of failure ; by the true power of failure I wish to reach the success.

    People say that they get experiences from life; but that is hardly truth. When your dream turns to experiences by strange magic, it is there where your life begins. Experiences are not the fact, but imagination.

    We are often optimistic because we are, in our heart of hearts, dreadfully pessimistic.

    When a man marries again, that is from the reason, more than any other reason, that he likes to emphasise his life's failure, that is to mean, he wishes to keep up the atmosphere he created at the cost of failure. To say men risk their luck is wrong; there are only few men who understand what luck means.

    Japan is not so prosaic as the Western countries where one's defects or originality are too exaggerated. The real Japanese originality is in our love of the commonplace. [<186]

    Japan is the only one unique country where is such a difference yet between the married men and the bachelors.

    It is only in Japan where the ages of young women are told in broad daylight.

    Japanese are always happy, at least seem to be happy, because they rarely understand what love means.

    One of the Japanese charms is in the fact that nothing, in Japan, from the matter of clothes to the matter of food, is ever enough.

    Japanese women are turning nowadays from soft delicate pottery to cold hard porcelain. Although even in the former case they had to go through some fire, it is in the latter that a big fire is required and the painting on, the surface will never appear so artistic as in the former case. The day for their indefinite charm of femininity or weakness as in pottery is already past. [<187]

    Japanese women are simply glad to appear overdressed for the occasion as they never dress enough in their daily life.

    There is no other way to cure the soul's illness except by the senses ; again there is no other way to cure the senses except by the power of spirit. But what shall happen when you attempt to cure the spirit with the spirit, the senses with the senses; there will be only ruin for the result.

    Indeed the Japanese monotony is unbearable. But wisdom will soon teach us it would be only the just proper way to escape from monotony that we bind or assimilate ourselves with it.

    Ugliness is still supposed in Japan to be the virtue, the greatest virtue in the world.

    It is poor Japanese art when it begins with climax and ends with exclamation as in some work of Hokusai or many later Ukiyoye artists. But when the art is high and noble [<188] as in that of Sesshu and Sotatsu and a few others, the artists never speak in pictures except by the words of silence.

    There are many people who think that modern personality is more or less a creation of audacity ; I have a reason or two to think it a burden. Permit me to say that to have no personality at all in the present age is really to have a great personality.

    Truth is that we Japanese lack in curiosity therefore we are not inventive, creative, but merely imitative.

    Present Japan is a sad mixture of bad action and good intention as if we say bad painting and good purpose for art. We are fooling ourselves when we say that we are having the best age of long history to-day.

    Trouble is that we have Japan, true to say, but no Japanese, in the sense that there are Russians but not Russia. Indeed we lost our own individuality in thinking much of the nation. [<189]

    There is in our Japanese life no period called youth; we arrive at manhood at once from boyhood; and those boy-hood days are frightfully short.

    Don't spoil your poetry by questioning, denying or renunciation. Only you have to adore it, praise it; that is the only way such an unreasonable thing as poetry will develop. The question of poetry is a question of nerve in which thought and passion have their sweet dreams.

    I am like a cobweb hung upon the tree, a prey to every wind and sunlight. Who will ever say that we are safe and strong ?

    How sad Japan began her life with moralising. No, we shall not thank Confucius. If we had begun it with dance or song, our temperament might have been more natural.

    Nearly all the nations, it seems to me, began, just like us human beings, their own lives wrongly in spite of themselves.

    What I am terrified about with success is [<190] the way she comes. I hate anything accidental. It is, I think, a great test of my strength that I greatly fear to meet her on my road of life.

    If there is anything admirable in Japan, that is no other but the Japanese woman's kimono quite formless, even fantastic. And it is the woman's love or personality when she makes it turn to a shape. How I used to hate to see the Western women apologetic under the tailor-made dress.

    The vulgarisation of General Nogi has been going on for some time now almost recklessly ; I see that a new book on him is sent out from the printer every day. (It is not far from truth to say that quite many books on Nogi go, not to the people, but straight to the waste-basket.) In old Japan, when a really great personality passed away, we built a temple or shrine upon his grave and, saying nothing, let our silent prayer tell our hearts. It was from the American journalism if we have made, as In fact, a third-rate gossip and tittle-tattle of a [<191] shallow age out of our country; is it too much to say that it is America also who encourages our spiritual corruption ? Gen. Nogi's personality is too sacred, therefore unfortunate as a choice of a subject for popular treatment; his final act made a class apart its greatness is in its rainbow-sudden prophecy, not in the performance itself. Surely Reason would pass him by, but Poetry will take note of him. I deem him great, because he alone in the modern history of Japan made Life obey his will and Death's gold-armoured dignity shine in old splendour.

    I always notice that when the Japanese expand and even impose ideas on others, it is the time when they have none of them; and they keep quiet and content like the fully-ripe chestnut snug in its burr when they have ideas. It is a half-filled wagon that makes a noise; the fully flowing sky has only the words. of silence.

    Pray see how the tea loses its real taste when against the sunlight, and again see how [<192] the Chinese ink turns to ashen gray under the same condition. That is because they have denied the protection of Solitude and betrayed it. Oh, the great blessing of Solitude be upon me; let me rise and fall, live and die with it. I am a singer of silence, the ever-blossoming beauty of Solitude.

    I think it is the most true way (let me say the most heroic way) to go through the pain of ugliness when you want to see and I f eel the real beauty. To see the world as it is and love it is common enough. Let me see the world first as it is not and hate it with the possible great hatred. And when I grow to see the world afterward as it is and feel to love it, it is the time when I am turning natural and true. To fall means to rise, or falling is just the beginning of rising.

    I often thought before that the great enemy was doubt, but now I should like to say that to truly doubt is to truly believe. (So the enemy was my real friend.) And I should say that doubt is more human and far more living [<193] than belief. Indeed, pain is more real and true than joy. Let me say, though paradoxical, Believe in Doubt, and doubt in Belief.

    Is there anything new under the sun? Certainly there is. For instance, see how a bird flies. And how flowers smile.