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 




IT is difficult to take a neutral attitude towards the temples at Nikko, although indifference is said to be the "highest" of Japanese attitudes; I mean there are only two ways — like or dislike — for their barbarous splendour in gold and red lacquer deprived of the inspiration of the imagination and melancholy, definite to the limit. And it altogether depends on one's mood; if a man's large stomach is well filled (also his purse), their despotic wealth would not be too overwhelming, and he might even be disposed to sing their eternal beauty as the ultimate achievement of human endeavour. I believe I have been sometimes in such a state myself. But the pessimistic mind, critical even where criticism is not called for, skipping all the physical expression for the spiritual cornmunication, will find Nikko a sad dilettantism of art, at the best a mere apology of a squandering mind; there is nothing more unhappy than wastefulness in the world of art. It is not the real Japanese mind, I think, to build a house for the dead, as I know that it goes [8] straight towards associating the dead with trees, mountains, water, winds, shadows, deer, ravens, foxes, wolves, and bears, and uses to leave them to the care of the sun and moon; indeed, it was the unlettered samurai mind to build such temples as I see at this Nikko, afraid to return to the gray elements and wishing to find a shelter even after death in materialism. Or it might be more true to say that it originated in the complete surrender to Buddhism; and it may not be too much to say that India begins right here from Nikko, in the same sense that Tokyo of the present age is spiritually a part of London or New York. We have only a few pages in the whole Japanese history where we are perfectly independent.
    Whether it is fortunate or not, my recent evolution of mind is that I have ceased to see the fact itself, and what I am glad to indulge in is the reflection of its psychological relation with other facts; how thankful I am for the gate tower carved with phoenixes and peonies, the large pagoda in red and gold, now loitering round the holy precincts of the Nikko temples, since the very fact of their existence makes, [9] through the virtue of contrast, the cryptomerias and mountains greener, the waters and skies bluer, and besides, the human soul intenser. I am happy in my coming to Nikko in the month of May when the beauty of Nature quickens itself; from the pain of passing Spring, and with the sunlight that overflows from the bosom of hope; your appreciation of Nikko would not be perfect till you see the wealth and grandeur of Nature's greenness; it is the beauty of cryptomerias and waters rather than that of the temples. And you will feel encouraged when you observe the real fact, how even the barbarity of human work can calm down before Nature, and happier still how they can form a good frieendship with one another for creating the one perfect art known as Nikko. I am glad to see the proof of power of a Japanese landscape artist who could use his art on a large scale as I see it here, not merely in a small city garden; my mind, which was slightly upset from the artistic confusion of the temples belonging to Jyeyasu the Great, soon recovered its original serenity in seeing the most beautiful arrangement of temples of Iyemitsu, the Third [10] Shogun of Tokugawa family, with the hills and trees, qrnte apart from his grandfather's; what a gentle feeling of solemnity, as old as that of a star, what a quiet and golden splendour here! The arrangement might be compared with the feminine beauty of gems most carefully set. When I looked upon the temples from the Mitarashiya, or the "House where you wash your Honourable Hands," below, they impressed my mind as if a house of dream built by the Dragon Kings underneath the seas, that I and you often see on the Japanese fan; I looked down, when I stood by the gate tower of the Niwo gods, over that water-fountain below, where the spirits of poesy were soon floating on the sunlight; it was natural to become a passionate adorer of the Nature of May here like Basho, who wrote in his seventeen syllable hokku:

Ah, how sublime—
The green leaves, the young leaves,
In the light of the sun!
I very well understand how Iyeyasu, the Supreme Highness, Lord of the East, that [11] Great Incarnation, escaped the temple of gold and red lacquer, and wished to sleep in a hill behind, in silence, and shadow; now I am climbing up the long and high steps to make him my obeisance where a hundred large cryptomerias stand reverent as sentinels. What peace I What broke the silence was the sudden voice of water and the sutra-reading of priests; a moment ago the crows in threes, twos, and fours flew away and dropped into the unseen just like the human mortals who have only to stay here for a little while. Under my feet I found a small hairy caterpillar also climbing up the stone steps like myself. Oh! tell me who art thou? And what difference is there between us human beings and the caterpillar?  Are we not caterpillar who may live little longer? But I tell you that is a difference of no particular value.  I met with a group of Western tourists in the middle of the steps, who hurried down; they set my mind thinking on the anti-Christian tertonsm of Iyeyasu and other princes, the Japanese Neroes, awful and glorious. It is not strange that they are shaking hands in sleep with [12] the Westerners whom they hated with all their hearts?
    The words of my friend when I bade farewell to him in New York suddenly returned to me when now the weather has changed, and even rain has begun to fall; my friend artist who had stayed and sketched here long ago said to me: "There were many idols of the Jizo god, the guardian deity of children, standing by the Daiyagawa River of Nikko; I loved them, particularly one called the Father or Mother, from its large size, whom I sketched most humbly. You see that Nantai Mountain appears and disappears as if mist or mirage, right behind these idols; the place is poeticaL But they seemed to be having a disagreeable time of it, all overgrown as they were with moss, and even with the dirty pieces of paper stuck by all sorts of pilgrims as a sign of their call. Once when I hurried down from Chuzenji and passed by them, I caught rain and wind; alas! those kind deities were terribly wet, like myself. I pitied them; I cannot forget their sad sight even to-day; however, the Jizo idol under the rain is a good subject of art. [13]  There are few countries where rain falls as in Japan. The dear idols must be wet under the rain even now while you and I talk right here."
    When I reached my hotel and sat myself on the cushion, and after a while began to smoke, my mind roame~ leisurely from the idols under the rains to the man wet through by the rains of failure; and now it reflected on this and that, and then it recalled that and this. Oh, how can I forget the very words of that reporter of one Francisco paper who mystied, startled, and shocked me, well, by his ignorance or wisdom seven Years ago? I said to him on being asked why I returned home that I was going to hunt after th~ Nirvana; he looked up with a half-humorous smile and said, "That's so! But let me ask you with pardon, are you not rather too late in the season for that?"
    It seems that it is too late now even in Japan to get the Nirvana, as that San Francisco reporter said. How can I get it, the capitallettered Nirvana, even at Nikko, when I could not find it in London and New York? I laughed on my silliness of thought that I might [14] be able, if place were changed, to discover it. Oh, my soul, I wonder when it will wiser grow?