"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
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
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
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
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
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.
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