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MANNERS AND CUSTOMS
OUTLINE OF Topics: Birth and birthdays; marriage; death and funeral; mourning. - Holidays (national, local, class, and religious); the “five festivals ”; New Year's holidays; the other four festivals; floral festivals ; religious festivals. – Games; wrestling. — Theatre; scenery and wardrobes; chorus and pantomime; the No. — Music; dancing-girls. — Occidentalization. — Folk-lore; superstitions about lucky and unlucky days, hours, ages, years, etc. - Bibliography,
THE three great events in the career of a
Japanese are, of course, birth, marriage,
and death, each of which is, therefore celebrated with much formality. When a child is born, he or she is the recipient of many presents, which, however, create an obligation that must eventually be cleared off.
A very common but honorable present on such an occasion consists of eggs in small or large quantities, according to circumstances. When the first American baby was born in Mito, she was favored with a total of 456 eggs, besides dried fish, toys, Japanese robes, and other articles of clothing, etc., and her parents were favored with universal congratulations, diluted with condolences because the new baby was a girl instead of a boy! Japanese babyhood is blithesome.
1 “The Wee Ones of Japan," by Mae St. John Bramhall, can be recommended.
The birthday of an individual, however, is not especially observed upon its recurring anniversary; for New Year's Day is a kind of national, or universal, birthday, from which age is reckoned. And this loss of an individual birthday is also made up to the boys and girls by the two special festivals, hereafter described, of Dolls and of Flags.
The wedding ceremony' is quite simple but very formal.
The principal feature thereof is the sansan-ku-do (three-three-nine-times); that is, both the bride and the bridegroom drink three times out of each of three cups of different sizes. This ceremony, however, does not affect at all the validity of the marriage; it is purely a social affair, of practically no more importance than the wedding reception in America or England. In Christian circles this convivial ceremony is omitted, and a rite performed by a Christian minister is substituted. As marriage is only a civil contract, its legality rests upon the official registration of the couple as husband and wife; and this formality is often neglected, so that divorce is easy and frequent. And
“ matches' are generally made by parents, guardians, relatives, or friends, the mariage de convenance prevails in Japan. But the new Civil Code throws safeguards around the institution of wedlock; and the teachings of Christianity have already caused considerable improvement in the
1 See Transactions Asiatic Society of Japan, vol. xiii. pp. 114-137; and " A Japanese Bride,” by Rev. N. Tamura, is admirable.
way of elevating marriage from its low standard to a holy rite.
To the fatalistic Japanese death has no terrors, especially as they are a people who seem to take about as much care of the dead as of the living. Funeral ceremonies 1 are very elaborate, expensive, solemn, and yet somewhat boisterous affairs. The Shintő rites are much plainer than Buddhist ceremonies. In the former, the coffin is long and low, as in the West, but in the latter it is small and square, so that the corpse “is fitted into it in a squatting posture with the head bent to the knees.” There are other distinguishing features of the two funerals: the bare shaven heads of Buddhist priests in contrast with the non-shaven heads of Shinto priests; the dark blue coats of the Buddhist pall-bearers in contrast with the plain white garb of the Shinto pall-bearers.
The mourning code of Japan is rather strict, and contains two features: the wearing of mourning garments (which are white), and the abstinence from animal food. The regular dates for visits to the grave are the seventh, fourteenth, twenty-first, thirtyfifth, forty-ninth, and one-hundredth days, and the first, third, seventh, thirteenth, twenty-third, twentyseventh, thirty-third, thirty-seventh, fiftieth, and one-hundredth years.
As is shown in another chapter (“ Japanese Traits”), the Japanese are a merry, vivacious, pleasure-loving
1 See Transactions Asiatic Society of Japan, vol. xix. pp. 507–544,
people, who are satisfied with a simple life. They give and take frequent holidays, which they enjoy to the fullest extent. The national holidays are numerous, and come as follows every year:
Four Sides' Worship, January 1.
Some of the national holidays need a few words of explanation. Kigen-setsu, for instance, was originally a festival in honor of the ascension of Jimmu, the first Emperor, to the throne, and was thus the anniversary of the establishment of the Old Empire; but it is now observed also as the celebration of the promulgation of the constitution (Feb. 11, 1889), and is thus the anniversary of the establishment of the New Empire. The Jimmu Tenno Festival of April 3 is the so-called anniversary of the death of that Emperor. The Kanname Festival in October celebrates the offering of first-fruits to the ancestral deities, and the Niiname Festival in November celebrates the tasting of those first-fruits by the Emperor. The Spring and Autumn Festivals in March and September are adaptations of the Buddhist equinoctial festivals of the dead, and are especially observed for the worship of the Imperial ancestors. The Emperor Kōmei was the father of the present Emperor, and reigned from 1847 to 1867. “Four Sides' Worship” naturally suggests worship from the four principal directions. This and the “First Beginning Festival” make the special New Year's holidays.
Besides these, there are a great many local, class, and religious holidays, including Sunday, so that comparatively few persons in Japan are kept under high pressure, but almost every one has frequent opportunities to relax from the tension of his occupation or profession. Even the poorest, who have to be content with a hand-to-mouth existence, take their occasional holidays.
The five great festivals of the year fall on the first day of the first month (New Year's Day), the third day of the third month (Dolls' Festival), the fifth day of the fifth month (Feast of the Flags), the seventh day of the seventh month (Festival of the Star Vega), and the ninth day of the ninth month (Chrysanthemum Festival). These are now officially observed according to the Gregorian calendar, but may also be popularly celebrated according to the old lunar calendar, and would then fall from three to seven weeks later. And there are not a few people who are perfectly willing to observe both calendars and thus double their number of holidays!
The greatest of these is the New Year's holiday