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 




MY mind which, as she felt more natural even sublime in the greyness of silence and general passivity of Winter, experienced a sudden disturbance in the tempest-like falling of the cherry-blossoms of April, and wondered like Ki no Tomonori in his famous uta poem:
"'Tis the Spring day
With lovely far-away light!—
Why must the flowers fall
With heart unquiet?
now seems to be returning most gladly to her original state of serenity, to resume the world-old dream at the place she left off some little while ago, now in this month of May, my best-beloved season as some old hokku poet well-said
"What to see? Why, green leaves,
There's mountain cuckoos,—
And then—new bonitos."
I thank God (whoever he be), as thanked I him in many previous Mays, for the fact that, [<58] without being troubled with any restlessness of mind, but with all Browning's content in his little song, I can face, as a man should, Nature who has changed her red dress of Spring for this greenness of early Summer, and do thrice exclaim, " Oh, green life," as Fiona McLeod exclaimed, although I may mean that quite differently ; if I thank God for the trees as I do, it is not for their flowers or fruits but for their green leaves under whose magical spell I revive my own youthfulness and am glad again to start life anew making, so to say, an eighth rise after seven falls. I confess I had not heard before our mountain cuckoos; my imagination would be glad to think of them, like Wordsworth, as an invisible thing, a voice, a mystery, never seen but eternally longed for ; are they not like the English cuckoos, a winged ghost of the hope or love of the golden time we wish to command ? Although the bonitos have lost their dignity lately, I dare say, among modern Japanese,' the above 'seventeen syllables,' a voice of not only the poet but the populace, must have been written at the time of the height of the old Japanese civilization that is [<59]  during the Tokugawa feudalism, when the people's taste of tongue grew most delicate and specialized, and their heart at once responded to the call of the first bonitos which, as Basho wrote, would have been left living at Kamakura ; I am told a story perhaps true that the Yedo people (present Tokyoans) were pleased to buy them even when they had to raise the price by pawning. Oh, dear, rotten, foolish, romantic old Tokugawa civilization! It may not have been their taste itself ; what they craved was, doubtless, just the feeling that they had eaten the first bonitos of the year ; indeed, for that feeling, not only in food but in any other thing, they lived and died. Oh, most unpractical old Tokyoans, what slavishness to the senses!
    The other day I opened the books written by Shamba, and came across a little thing called "The Face and the Back of a Man Proud in Cooking," somewhere, with the following lines
    "I presume that your cook has been changed. No, he has not been changed ? Oh, yes, he must have been changed. This honourable [<60] tongue of mine is a cloudless looking-glass you cannot deceive."
    Although such words as the above were written, of course, by the author to laugh over a hankatsu or a fellow half-learned, they cast a light on the time when cooking was studied, like- flower-arrangement or tea-drinking, even by the populace; it was the civilization of the Tokugawa feudalism that found first the development of house-building as it was natural for the samurais, those uncultured builders of the city, to think of the house to satisfy their wild vanity; and when the time was on the speedy way to advancement, we -saw, as a natural development, the sudden demonstration of dresses with new designs and coloux schemes. It was at the Bunkwa and Bunsei (1804-1830) that the art or, let me say, poetry of cooking had been creating its own cult, and as a matter natural, the establishment of the famous restaurants or, so-called tea-houses, for instance, Hirasei, Kasai Taro, Momokawa, the most of all, Yaozen under the patronage of Hoitsu and other known artists and poets, originated in those days ; it is not too much to [<61] say that those periods, I mean the time of Bunkwa and Bunsei, are the zenith of our feudal civilization in which we heard already the voice of the approaching fall.
    I have been interested lately in the life of Hoitsu Sakai, one of the most distinguished decedents of the early nineteenth century, who, being born the second son of the fifteenth Lord Sakai, escaped from the formality or pretence attached to his birth into art and poetry by whose kind restraint his soul freedom-loving and even dissipated (it was the good old time when dissipation was thought quite natural) was distilled and ennobled; we always attribute it to the times that the high-minded exultation and decorative composure of Korin of the former age became a delicacy and refinement in Hoitsu's art, and the care-unknown masculinity of Kikaku's poetry turned to more frivolity and witticism at the best in his hokkus ; but there is no denying the fact that his senses poetical or otherwise had become most sensitive. And it was indeed wonderful to know what delicacy (that artistic delicacy might be compared with that of Utamaro's women who would appear [<62] disturbed, even by one touch of your fingertip) not only Hoitsu but nearly all the artists and poets of that age had in all life's questions, from the dress to the food. Now to return to their, delicate taste of tongue. It was those people who could distinguish the place of origin of water from its taste, could tell where the tea was produced, by what sunlight it was fed, from the drinking of it ; I was told that once Hoitsu ate a sashimi (slices of raw fish) of bonito at Yaozen and called the cook and asked him if he had not used a knife freshly whetted. The cook surprised by his words begged him to tell him how he knew it. Hoitsu said that he smelled a faint odour of whetstone on the fish, and then told him that he should dip the knife, when newly whetted, into-a well for-several hours before using.
    T'he Tokugawa feudalism fell after long three hundred years of power, and the new regime has not arisen yet; the people were suddenly thrown into tumult and suspicion fifty or sixty years ago; how could they admire the green leaves of early summer, as I do to-day, in peace and content, and wish to hear mountain cuckoos [<63] and taste the first bonitos ? It was a pity that their taste of tongue which, as the last development of civilization, had highly advanced, now lost its own place; and when the time began to return to prosperity quite altered from the former age, after finishing the so-called civil war of the tenth year, the cult or art of old Japanese cooking found the situation unfavourable under the invasion of Western food; it was since 1880 that the restaurants of Western way of cooking, here with the name of Western Sea house, like the American Hall or London Restaurant, began to flock into the city. Here they met an immediate reception, because the food was served quickly, unlike the regular old Japanese tea-house, and above all the charge was small. There is no better supporter for a restaurant than economy ; with that backing the foreign restaurants became successful. I myself always drop in one of those, whether it be London Restaurant (Oh, what does that mean anyhow ?) or American Hall (again what does that mean ?) to take a little lunch when I am in town, because, as I said before, the charge is small (in fact it is extraordinarily high for what [<64] I shall get) and the service quick. Pray, gentleman at the other side of the table, eat your soup without making such a noise. Oh, again, do not use toothpicks so often while eating; pray, do not open your mouth so wide, at least to yawn. Who dropped a knife ? Whose napkin is that I see here? Oh, what mannerlessness! Is that all the table manners for a people who claim to, have learned etiquette and rites in the olden days? And on the other hand, what cooking! How tasteless, how watery! It always sets my mind to thinking what use to introduce the superficial Western civilization here; what do you say, one hundred years we must have before we can digest it completely. What concerns me here chiefly is how the people's taste in cooking has declined; is it unrecoverable ? Yes, it is unrecoverable indeed. "We are returning to the barbarous states of the Middle Age; oh, how meaningless, when facing the Western dishes; and the cook is no better than the eater himself," I exclaimed. [<65]

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