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thick, soft mats of straw, each usually six by three feet in size. Thus the accommodations of rooms are indicated by the terms, "six-mat room," “eight-mat room,” etc. Inasmuch as on these mats the Japanese walk, sit, eat, work, sleep, it is necessary to keep them very clean. They are carpet, chair, sofa, bed, table, all in one, and must not be soiled by dirty sandals, clogs, shoes, or boots, all of which are, therefore, to be removed before entering a house. It may readily be seen that this is quite an inconvenient custom for foreigners !
Schools, churches, offices, stores, and other places for large and frequent public gatherings are being constructed in Occidental style, with doors on hinges, glass windows, chairs, benches, tables, stoves, grates, and other“modern conveniences.”
A room in a Japanese house seems to an American to be comparatively bare and plain, as it is devoid of furniture and bric-à-brac. There is no stove, for only a small box or brazier, containing a few pieces of charcoal in a bed of ashes, is used for heating purposes. There are no chairs or sofas, for the Japanese sit on their feet on the floor. There are no huge bed sets, for they sleep on thick padded quilts spread on the floor at night, and kept in a closet when not needed. There is no large diningtable, for each person, eats sitting before a small, low lacquer tray, or table, about a foot high. There is no dazzling array of pictures and other ornaments on the wall -- only a kakemono (wall banner) or two; and there are no miscellaneous ornaments set around here and there - only a vase of flowers.
But more and more are the Japanese coming to build at least parts of the house in Occidental style, so that it is now quite common to find, in houses of well-to-do people, a foreign room with carpet, table, chairs, pictures, etc. Stoves and grates, too, for either wood or coal, are being largely used. Mattresses, springs, and bedsteads are also coming into use, because sleeping on the floor, where one is subject to draughts, has been found to be unhealthy. In the case of foreign rooms, moreover, it is generally unnecessary to take off the shoes; and thus another frequent cause of colds is removed. A prevailing style of architecture at present is the hybrid !
The best rooms of a Japanese house are not in the front, but in the rear, and have an outlook upon the garden, which likewise, from its plainness and simplicity, is unique. “Its artistic purpose is to copy faithfully the attractions of a veritable landscape, and to carry the real impressions that a real landscape communicates. It is, therefore, at once a picture and a poem; perhaps even more a poem than a picture.” It is in Japan, moreover, that it is possible to have a “garden” without flowers or grass with, perhaps, only “rocks and pebbles and sand.” For the Japanese truly and literally find “sermons in stones," and give them not only “character” but also " tones and values.” More than all that, “they held it possible to express moral lessons in the design of a garden, and abstract ideas, such as charity, faith, piety, content, calm, and connubial bliss.” In Japan, therefore, landscape-gardening is and always has been a fine art.
The Japanese may be called vegetarians, for it is only within a recent period that meat has come to play any part in their diet. Fish, flesh, and fowl were once strictly forbidden as articles of food by the tenets of Buddhism, but gradually, one after another, came to be allowed as eatables. Even now meat, though becoming more and more popular as an article of diet, is not used in large quantities at one meal. Chicken, game, beef, ham, and pork may be found on sale in most large towns and cities. But beef is cut up into mouthfuls, and sold to Japanese by the ounce; chickens are carefully and minutely dissected, and sold by parts, as the wing, the leg, or an ounce or two of the breast. It was a matter of great amazement to the Japanese of Mito that the foreigners living there bought a whole chicken or two, or five or six pounds of beef, at one time, and devoured them all in two or three meals!
Rice is, of course, the staple article of diet, “ the staff of life” of the Japanese; and yet, in povertystricken country districts, this may be a luxury, with
1 Besides Morse's “Japanese Homes,” Conder's “ LandscapeGardening in Japan” (Transactions Asiatic Society of Japan, vol. xiv., and in book form, illustrated), is very valuable. An instructive short description of this subject may be found in chap. xvi., vol. ii., of Hearn's “Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan.”