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 Aikido Bruxelles / récit de voyage / at a japanese inn



Aikido Bruxelles / En kago [1]


Transport en « Kago » (image extraite du livre)



Highways and homes of Japan

At a japanese inn (extrait)


by Lady Lawson

member of the Japan society and of the red cross society of Japan

with a frontispiece and fifty-nine illustrations from photographs taken by the author


T. Fisher unwin

London: Adelphi terrace

Leipsic: Inselstrasse 20



I wonder if the ordinary globe-trotter, who ambles along the beaten track at the heels of a guide, ever realises the absolute joy of breaking away from conventional hotel routine and studying the real life and atmosphere of the Japanese at home. I can vouch personally for the charm of this, having for several weeks lived in a native inn (yadoya) in the heart of the mountains, away from all English-speaking persons ; and the experience was delightfully characteristic of the country. Arriving on pony-back at such a house, the visitor must first take off her shoes outside the entrance, and either walk stocking-footed across the polished floors, or use the heelless moleskin slippers provided by the inn ; for, as the common saying goes, they  » do not make a street of their houses, » and the spotless tatami (floor- matting) would suffer sadly from contact with muddy shoes.


Then comes the inevitable question :  » When will you have your bath? » this being the beginning and end of everything with the Japanese, who indulge in a bath at 6 a.m. and a bath at 6 p.m., while at eleven o’clock « a sound of revelry by night » indicates that the last splashing and tubbing of the household is in process in the lower storey.


Early in the morning, before five o’clock, I was roused from slumber by the sliding back in their grooves of the wooden shutters (amado) which compose the front and sides of the inn. After that to woo sleep was impossible, for the daily life of the house had begun, and every sound penetrated through the sliding paper-screens which formed the bedroom walls. So I clapped my hands — a bell being an unheard-of luxury — and immediately with a series of  » Hei ! Hei ! Hei’s !  » a rosy-cheeked little creature, in a scanty kimono with voluminous sleeves, shuffled in with an early cup of tea. Her height was just 50 inches measured by my yard tape ; but her elaborate coiffure made her look at least 6 inches taller, and she was all smiles, good humour, and inquisitiveness.


In this Arcadia a daily paper and some Nankin (China) tea were the sole luxuries I allowed myself, for although the pale green tea of the country (Nippon-cha) is occasionally refreshing on a railway journey, it is somewhat unsatisfactory as an everyday article of diet.


There is nothing hidden in the life of a Japanese household. Looking out on the lovely lake in front, I could see the women washing their faces and personal clothing at the end of a small wooden pier, which runs out from the lowest floor of each house. Meanwhile, inside the building, the kettle was boiling over a char- coal fire ; and after a breakfast of rice, pickled fish, and innumerable cups of tea, the inmates settled down like modern Buddhas to enjoy their kiseru (small pipes) before beginning the day’s work.


Futon (quilts) were hung in the sun, fish, rice, and vegetables were washed in the lake, and if the day was suitable the men went a-fishing with their nets.


I found that I could live luxuriously for weeks on masu (salmon trout), tori (chicken), and omelettes worthy of any chef. The natural simplicity of the people in these mountain resorts was unspoilt by foreign influence, so that it was a perfect joy to live among them.


Aikido Bruxelles/ Dormir au Japon [2]


They sleep on the floor with a wooden pillow (makura) under the neck, and & futon (quilt) to cover them. As a special act of grace my landlord always gave me four of these futon, wadded with cotton, which formed a thick mattress. In the night-time, however, it was alarming to listen to the activity of the  » honourable  » rats, who seemed to be under the futon and all round it, although in reality they were careering overhead between the outer and inner roofs. Still, one feels helpless, and an easy prey for any domestic animals, when lying on the floor, instead of being installed in a respectable bedstead. In the daytime my bedroom was a vacuum, for it had neither walls, nor furniture, nor anything ; the room was simply an area of 12 feet square, covered with soft tatami, which are made of rushes, and fitted closely together. These primrose-coloured mats are always of the same size — 6 feet by 3 feet — and the size of a room is calculated by their number, so that one speaks of « a six-mat room  » or  » an eight-mat room. »


At night, thick sliding screens (fusuma) are put up to divide these spaces, and lighter frames covered with rice-paper, which are called shoji, shut them off from the outer verandas. At odd moments — irrespective of the stage to which one’s toilet has advanced — the entire family appear, with many a smile and  » Ohayo  » (Good-morning), the object of the inroad being usually to show the latest baby or babies.


Parties of Japanese come and go all day long, the ladies travelling by kago, a shallow basket or litter carried on the shoulders of two men, in which the Japanese double their knees and sit on their feet quite comfortably, although I always emerged from one with stiff joints and a feeling of cramp all over.


I spent many delightful hours on the lake, in a queer, flat-bottomed Japanese boat much resembling a Thames punt, propelled by one long double-jointed oar (yulo) behind. We used to take tiffin beside some tiny shrine along its shores, and then would glide over the placid waters with the fishing-net spread out behind on two bamboo poles.


Dai Nippon is a curious compoun of shrewdness and childishness, and it is hard to realise that these people have mastered all that modern science can teach, when we see them worshipping a block of wood or stone, and rubbing a sore part of the body against it, in the full belief that they will be cured by doing this. So much has been written about them that one is afraid to plagiarise by adding anything to the record, and yet few writers insist sufficiently upon the excitability which is a very prominent feature in the national character. In this respect they offer a complete contrast to the Chinese, who never lose their heads except by the public executioner. The level-headed Chinese consequently occupy all the responsible financial positions in the Far East, and they act as shroffs in the banks, money-changers in the hotels, and compradores, or cash managers, in business firms.



Aikido Bruxelles / Sakurajima & Kagoshima [3]


Le Sakurajima en 2009 & Kagoshima au premier plan


This excitability is probably the effect of environment, the Japanese being volcanic by nature like their native country ; and they bubble up as freely as their own hot springs when they once let themselves go, their wonderful self-control being entirely an acquired virtue and a thing apart from their real character. As one well-known writer puts it,  » their physical activity is greater than their mental. » The theory of environment as a factor in moulding a nation’s characteristics is exemplified in all parts of the world. The people of mountainous countries are invariably hardy, patriotic, and imaginative — and in this connection we may remember that our best soldiers in the Indian Army come from the hill districts of India ; the inhabitants of low-level countries, like Holland, are phlegmatic and lethargic, with lower ideals ; while in a land with mud-soil and much dust, like Eussia or China, the people are mere clods, mud-headed, and unimagi- native. So also in volcanic regions, the subterranean fires burning beneath the surface seem to influence the dwellers in these lands and make them inflammable and volcanic.