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 clouds, impossible, sad, had at last broken last night;' thank God, the rainy season is over. I agree with one who says that the true Japanese atmosphere, intensely grey, soft like a tired breath of ageless incense, is to be found in the rainy season; but like anyone who is rebellious (to be rebellious is quite Japanese-like), I always objected to seeing its beauty. This morning the sunlight is so golden, but, I say, not too harsh; I doubted my own eye and even thought if this were not somewhere in Hawaii or the Philippines. It is the fact that I was in Tokyo, taking a street car towards my college at Mita. The car was crowded with people who, as it was already in the hot summer, had decided-all of them —Without any discussion, to act barbarously and wear the thinnest kimono just for an excuse; many of them even exposed their naked legs. But their barbarism did not wound my mind, which had seen enough of Western customs; and it appeared quite striking and romantic, like Hokusai's pictures. I [<74] might be myself a bit of a savage in my heart, the lover of tropical unmorality; to be unmoral is at least comfortable. I found many women in the car, who strangely enough, looked equally young, wild and curious like a pussy; I suddenly thought myself to be a foreigner, to whom the Japanese women ever appear as girls. It may be true that they never grow old and ugly. There sat right before me a really pretty girl, who might not be over seventeen; her ivory-skinned cheeks glowed within like a pearl under the already hot sunlight. She wore a cotton cloth, Of course, of one thickness, with a large design which was a creation of old Japan, when people were gay and free; she looked like one who has just stepped out of an old colour-print, massive in colour, weary in tone. She had such a beautiful eye, clear like a sea, determined, not a bit afraid; on the contrary, even wishing to be loved by a Western-sea man. She might be a Madam Chrysanthemum in Loti's story; like her she was, I fancied, charmingly barbarous. This Madam Chrysanthemum had a little cotton handkerchief under her bosom, which she took [<75] out, fondly looked on, and hid again. It was no other kind than a common handkerchief with which foreigners blow their noses. Why does she take a particular care of it, I wondered. Not only this girl, nearly all the Japanese women, carry a cotton handkerchief, not for blowing their noses, but for many other decent purposes; I thought it was most absurd, even shabby, as I learned in the West it was merely to blow the nose. But this Madam Chrysanthemum did not strike me as laughable at all, even with her cotton handkerchief, which she took out, fondly looked on, and hid again. I thought it was most important to solve why she took such a particular care with it.
    It might be, I fancied, from the hereditary reverence towards cotton; we have a romantic legend of a certain weaving maiden in the sky in connexion with the Milky Way, and we regard her even as a goddess. It may not be possibly that. Then what? I kept up my reverie while the car rolled on unceasingly. I suddenly thought it might be the handkerchief which had been given her (this inexperienced [<76] Madam Chrysanthemum) by her Western lover, who, good God! bought her whole soul and heart with such a trifling gift as that. Yes, it is that. Poor Madam Chrysanthemum, I exclaimed in a dream even to frighten one who sat by me.
    I got off the car at the proper place to hurry to my college; but my mind was still occupied with the handkerchief of the Madam Chrysanthemum whom I saw in the car. She is honest and true, I thought. I arrived at the college some time before my class hour; I sat on the chair in the professors' room; and I suddenly thought if I were not a Madam Chrysanthemum who had not a cotton handkerchief but a stray knowledge of English literature which I take out from my bosom and look upon in the classroom. It is, indeed, the little knowledge, almost valueless, like a handkerchief with which a foreigner, especially an English-speaking one, might blow his nose; but I got it by selling my whole soul and heart. I am honest and true, like that Madam Chrysanthemum in my dream ; do you dare laugh at me ? [<77]

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