THE COUNCIL OF THE CLAN

The day broke calm and smiling. Japan, especially those parts around
the Inland Sea, has a lovely climate. It is seldom that the sky is not
of a deep blue color, and the days are few when children cannot play or
walk in the streets. They are rarely kept in the house. Young babies
are securely fastened upon the backs of children six or seven years
old, and sent into the streets. There are no noisy games. Girls play
sometimes battledore and shuttlecock, but the boys are too dignified.
American boys would be surprised if they saw two Japanese school
friends meet in the street. They do not approach with a hop, skip and
jump, or clap each other on the shoulder. Oh no! They stop as soon as
they meet, take off their caps, for all Japanese schoolboys wear now a
sort of soldier cap, and then bow almost to the ground. Then they draw
a deep breath, and each continues on his way.

The great difference between Japanese and American boys of the same
age, is that all our boys are fond of fun, and we are glad to see them
have a good time, while a Japanese boy would not be able to understand
what we call fun. Our boys would soon grow sick if there were not some
time in the day when they could make all the noise they wished. If a
Japanese boy should make even the slightest unnecessary noise at home,
his parents would think that the world had turned topsy-turvy. From his
earliest youth, the boy is trained not to show his feelings. In all the
years of my life in Japan, I have never seen a boy of over six years
old with tears in his eyes.

It is eleven o’clock, and the guests begin to arrive. They come mostly
on foot, for they all live in the neighborhood; but there are a few
who hold such a high rank that they can only leave their yashiki
in a sedan chair, or on horseback. A servant brings a large bundle,
carefully wrapped. It is taken to the back room which has been made
much larger by the removal of several sho ji. Here Mr. Kano sits in
hakama and _haori_,[37] receiving each guest as he enters according to
his rank in the clan. To some his bows are deeper and more prolonged,
with others they are more simple, although at the entrance of every
guest, his forehead touches his hands, spread out upon the floor before
him. The visitors take their places about the room in the order of
their rank, each saluting the host as he enters and thereafter the
guests. Waitresses in a kneeling posture serve tea. At last a man of
dignified bearing, clothed in rich silk, enters, and after saluting,
sits down upon a cushion prepared for him near the master of the house.
Kano is about to clap his hands, as a signal for his son to be brought
in, when a man-servant opens a sho ji, and kneeling with his head
almost touching the mats, crawls toward his master. He whispers:

“Mr. Sawa of Yedo desires to present his respects.”

Kano slightly raises his eyebrows, but by a slight bending forward
indicates that the new-comer shall be admitted. After a few moments the
latest guest enters and prostrates himself before his host, who returns
the compliment. Kano with a slight motion of the arm indicates the
place which he intends him to occupy, and Sawa, crouching and bowing to
the guests proceeds in that direction. It is between the seats of the
councillors and those of the chief samurai, and, as it happens, next to
that of Ito.

Not a single glance showed that the visitor was unwelcome. No
expression of approval had escaped their lips upon the entrance of
a popular member of the clan, and not a sign showed that Sawa’s
appearance at this time was resented. They sat unmoved, like the North
American Indian chiefs. Kano clapped his hands, and the servant brought
in a board, resembling one of our checkerboards; it was placed upon the
mat near the father, facing the point of the compass which had been
declared lucky by a fortune teller. The gentleman at Kano’s side then
clapped his hands, and another servant brought in the package which
had been delivered before. It was unwrapped, and contained a Kimono of
fine silk, with beautifully embroidered storks and tortoises, fir trees
and bamboos. This was as it should be. Storks and tortoises promised
long life to the boy; for the Japanese believed that the stork lives
a thousand years, and the tortoise ten thousand. The fir tree never
changes its color, therefore the child will possess an unchanging
virtuous heart, and the bamboo, as it shoots up straight, will give him
an upright mind.

The servant holds up the dress for the inspection of the guests, who,
after looking at it, express their approval by bowing low, and a deep
drawn sigh. Presently Mrs. Kano, who has been watching the ceremony
from a near apartment through a convenient slit in the sho ji, enters
leading the boy. Both kneel at the entrance and after touching the
ground three times with the forehead, the child is brought to his
father, who places him upon the checkerboard facing the east, because
that is the lucky point. The mother dresses him in the Kimono presented
by the sponsor, and puts on the hakama; then the child receives an
imitation sword and dirk, which are placed in his sash. Then sake is
brought in and the sponsor and child exchange cups. This ends the
ceremony which admits the three-year-old boy among the samurai of the
clan.

Mother and son, after repeating their salutations, leave the room and
refreshments are served. Gradually the sense of ceremony disappears,
and conversation becomes more general. Kano, apparently deeply engaged
in talking with the sponsor, keeps a watchful eye over his guests,
and frequently casts a glance toward the spot occupied by Sawa. The
sponsor, an elderly gentleman of dignified bearing, at last notices
his host’s looks, and says:

“Who is that gentleman? He is a stranger to me, and I cannot
distinguish his coat of arms.”

“He bears the Tokugawa crest, your lordship,” replies Kano, “and is the
new O Metsuke, whom the Council at Yedo have kindly sent to report upon
our model clan.”

The old gentleman did not notice the sarcasm. “When did he arrive, and
why was his arrival not made known to me?” he inquired in a slightly
offended tone. Kano bowed, and replied:

“Mr. Sawa arrived yesterday afternoon, and presented his letter at
the castle, where Councillor Hattori was ordered to receive him. As
we had not been notified by the Go rojiu of their intention to send
us a metsuké, Mr. Hattori thought that the letter should be submitted
to the council of the clan. I have noticed that he has spoken to the
councillors, who will wait here until the other guests have withdrawn.
If it please your lordship, we shall be glad to have the benefit of
your advice.”

“No, I cannot spare the time, and the matter is of no great
importance,” declared his lordship, continuing his repast. Presently
they were joined by Hattori, for whom a cushion was brought, and who,
after the prescribed bows of respect, took no further notice of Mori’s
cousin.

“I think, friend Kano,” he said, “that you may as well keep an eye
upon your honored guest, Mr. Sawa. The fellow seems to think that he
is at Yedo, instead of in a gentleman’s yashiki and that he can do
as he pleases. He has filled his sake cup quite often, and has been
offensive, to judge by the looks of Ito.”

“I have perceived it,” replied Kano, “but Ito will, I am sure, keep his
temper, and settle with the intruder upon a more favorable occasion.
I am more afraid of the young fellows who seem to have heard some
insulting remarks. Pray, entertain his lordship, while I dismiss the
guests.” Without waiting for a reply, Kano rose and, bowing before
each guest, advanced toward Sawa. There he knelt down and performed the
usual salutations somewhat stiffly. Sawa returned them as well as he
could.

When they had regained their upright positions, Kano addressed his
self-invited guest, and said in a tone loud enough for some young
samurai close by to hear:

“I am deeply grateful to the Go rojiu for remembering me on this
occasion. I do not know how I deserved this honor.”

Sawa had some difficulty to hide a grin. Did this country bumpkin
really fancy that the great Council of the Tokugawa cared anything
about him or his family. Amused at the thought, he bowed, and said:

“The Go rojiu no doubt, if it had only known of the event, would have
been glad to honor his host upon this occasion. It was known,” he
added more soberly and looking sharply at Kano, “that the Choshiu
clan was directed almost entirely by the wisdom of his entertainer,
and the question had been discussed to secure his services for the
Council. Unfortunately the law of Iyeyasu forbade it. Only members
of the Tokugawa clan were permitted to serve the Shogun. But this
did not prevent the Council from profiting by the wisdom of Kano the
Councillor, and it was to secure this benefit that he, Sawa, had been
directed to reside in the clan.”

Kano bowed, and replied. “It is a very great honor, indeed, and, no
doubt, well deserved by such an able man as my guest. Pray, make
yourself at home in the clan. You will find every Choshiu gentleman
glad to receive a samurai from the capital, where he has advantages to
learn manners which we in the country do not possess. But every samurai
is glad to excel in chivalry, and we of Choshiu no less than those of
other clans.”

Again they bowed, and Sawa resumed:

“I understand that this joyful event will be followed by a meeting of
the Honorable Council?”

“The regular meeting is to-morrow,” replied Kano. “I have received no
notice of any extra meeting, nor have I sent out any. It seems to me
that you are misinformed.”

“Forgive me, my host. Who is that young man, who happened to be my
neighbor during the most interesting ceremony? I fancy that I have seen
him at Yedo.”

“That is probably so. Indeed, it may have been very recently, for he
arrived yesterday. Choshiu’s yashiki seems to have suffered severely
from the last earthquake, and expensive repairs are necessary. Our
officer in charge thought it necessary to send a special messenger, but
why he did not commission an older man, is beyond my comprehension.”

Sawa began to perceive that this country bumpkin was quite able to
parry his thrusts; he did not want to give offense, and besides began
to feel sleepy. He therefore informed his host of his intention to
return to his inn. Kano raised no objection, and after the usual leave
taking, escorted his guest to the door, and saw him leave the gate.
Calling a young samurai, he bade him see that Sawa did not return to
the yashiki, whereupon he re-entered the room. The other guests, seeing
that the councillors lingered, withdrew all except Ito, who was asked
to wait as he might be wanted.

Before he seated himself, Kano called his chief samurai, and told him
to have the sho ji put in so as to make the apartment of the usual
size. He also ordered him to have several men patrol the garden, and
to see that no one could approach the house, while he himself was to
move noiselessly through the adjoining rooms, and answer for it that
there should be no listener. Knowing that his orders would be obeyed,
he sat down, ordered tea and hibachi to be brought, and without further
ceremony opened the meeting.

“Honorable Councillors,” he said, “two messengers have come from
Yedo. You have, no doubt, noticed them, for both were here during the
ceremony in my humble house. The first one is the new metsuke, Sawa,
whom it has pleased the Go rojiu to appoint to our clan. When Mr.
Hattori informed me of his arrival, I could not understand the cause of
his appointment. Our clan has had no trouble with the Tokugawa for many
years; and, although there can be no friendship between the house of
Iyeyasu and that of Mori, there has been no open hostility.

“The arrival of the second messenger explains the situation. The Go
rojiu has entered into a new treaty with the barbarians, and permitted
them to dwell at Yokohama, near Kanagawa on the Tokaido. This fine
piece of news is discussed openly at Yedo, and there is no doubt of its
truth. The Regent, naturally I think, feels somewhat anxious as to how
the great clans will receive it, and has probably sent metsuke to other
model clans besides Choshiu. The news is so important that our friend
Hattori agreed with me to ask you to discuss it here privately, so that
we may decide upon the policy of our clan. Honorable Mr. OKubo, what is
your opinion?”

The person thus addressed was the oldest of the councillors, a man
grown gray in the service of his clan. He was silent for some moments,
gravely sipping his tea. Then he said:

“These questions are not for me to answer. I am only acquainted with
Old Japan, as it has existed for hundreds of years, and I am afraid
the arrival of these barbarians is a menace to our country. I don’t
know them, and do not wish to know them; but I do know that, before the
Tokugawa were thought of, the barbarians came, and were received kindly
by the children of the gods. What was their gratitude? They began to
teach a cult which destroyed the relations between parent and child,
master and servant, lord and retainer. They were finally expelled, but
it cost years of strife, and myriads of lives before their teaching was
rooted out of the country. Since then order has been restored, and we
have had peace. Now the barbarians will be admitted again, and fresh
troubles will commence. Younger and stronger heads than mine will be
needed to save our clan and the house of Mori, although, if it comes to
war, I shall claim the honor of dying fighting for our lord.”

All bowed but protested that OKubo was strong and able enough to lead
the councils of the clan; but he replied that his time of usefulness
was past, and Kano, out of respect for his wish, addressed the
councillor next in years. That gentleman did not see any danger to the
clan. Yokohama was a long distance from Nagato, and if there was to be
trouble with the barbarians, the Tokugawa would be the first sufferers,
for it was within the territory belonging to the Shogun. As to the
metsuke, why, they must do as they had done before with such fellows,
surround him with spies of their own.

Thus every councillor spoke in turn, the opinion of each being received
with grave courtesy. A little more interest was shown when Hattori
began to speak. It was known that he was in Kano’s confidence, and it
was a standing joke that Kano’s advice was always adopted.

“Honorable Councillors,” said Hattori, bowing deeply, “it ill becomes a
man of my age to dispute the opinions of the leaders who for many years
have guided the policy of our clan with brilliant success. If I venture
to differ with them, it may be from lack of wisdom and experience, but
I shall be glad if I am corrected. It is only by the kind teaching
of such men as the honorable councillors, that men of my age can be
prepared to follow in their footsteps.

“I am afraid that the coming of the barbarians promises evil days, not
only for the Tokugawa, but for all the clans. You, gentlemen, remember,
how the arrival of the fireships and the signing of the first treaty
was followed by incessant earthquakes,[B] how the ocean rose in its
fury, and overwhelmed the barbarian ship, supposed to be safely at
anchor at Shimoda.[C] Surely, gentlemen, the gods of Japan themselves
fought for our country. But the Go rojiu was blind. Was not the Shogun
Iyeyoshi himself killed for not defying the barbarians by expelling
them? ‘We are not strong enough,’ says the Regent. There was a time
when the countless hosts of Kublai Khan, the conqueror of the world,
were hurled upon our shores. What became of them? Tenshi Sama prayed to
his ancestors and they, the gods of our country, destroyed the invader.
We have nothing to fear, except our own faint-heartedness. Are we, the
samurai of Japan, unworthy of our ancestors? Have our muscles grown
weak that we can no longer wield the sword? Out upon us, then, for
cowards! If the Tokugawa be a coward, out upon the Tokugawa. Choshiu,
Kaga, Satsuma, and Tosa, ought to be able to dispose of the foreigners
and at the same time of the Tokugawa brood. Let us send confidential
messengers to those clans, and, after we have arranged with them, send
Mr. Sawa back to Yedo, securely packed in a box labelled: This side up;
handle with care!”

A smile of approbation passed through the assembly; only Kano’s face
showed no sign. It was now his turn to speak, and, after toying with
his fan, as if collecting his thoughts, he began:

“Honorable Councillors, I agree with the last speaker that the arrival
of the foreigners bodes evil for our country. I do not believe that
they will try to make war upon us, unless indeed, we provoke it
ourselves. At the present time, at any rate, we are not in a condition
to provoke a quarrel. For the past two hundred years the world has
moved, and we have stood still; that is why we are helpless. We have
found out something. These barbarians possess ships which go wherever
they want them, without regard to tide and wind. We must have such
ships and learn how to handle them. We, sons of Japan, are not
naturally brainless; we can learn what the barbarians have learned, and
by hard work, we may be able to surpass them. There may be some trouble
with the Tokugawa, but I do not think so, unless they send us another
metsuke besides Mr. Sawa. I have taken the measure of that gentleman,
and do not think that it would take much gold to make him deaf and
blind. But we need not take him into our confidence. We should send
a trusty messenger to Nagasaki, and at whatever cost buy some of the
books of the Hollanders. Surely, some merchants will be found there
who understand that language and teach us. Besides, we must repair
our forts, and buy new cannon. Our samurai must practice with their
arms during every moment of leisure. Then, gentlemen, when the time
comes, we shall be prepared, be it to avenge Sekigahara and the Castle
of Osaka, or to drive the barbarian into the sea. My honored ancestor
gave the same advice to our illustrious lord’s forefather. Oh! that it
had been accepted. Mori looks now upon Kii and Owari,[38] and grinds
his teeth at the thought that their people, once his property, are now
arraigned among his foes. Kano’s arm and muscle are as ready for the
fray, as those of the youngest warrior, and he will not be the last
to unsheath his sword, nor the first to return it to its scabbard.
Self-restraint is often much more difficult than exposure to danger.

“The advice of Mr. Hattori supposes that the councillors of Kaga,
Satsuma, and Tosa are of our opinion. But we have a feud with Satsuma,
who might seize such an opportunity to bring all the power of the
Tokugawa down upon us. It is said, and I believe it from what I have
seen at Yedo, that the samurai of the Shogun have lost their courage.
But what of Mito, Aidzu, Kii, Owari, and the host of other daimiyo
ready to march at the Go rojiu’s bidding. Gentlemen, an excuse for
the Tokugawa to fall upon us _at this time_, would mean ruin for our
clan. We cannot even entertain the thought. But we must watch for
our opportunity, and when it comes we must be prepared to strike. At
present, let it be understood that Mr. Sawa must be perfectly safe in
whatever part of Choshiu’s domain, but let him be followed, and let
his every step be dogged. Every word he utters, even in his sleep, and
every syllable he writes must be known to us. Mr. Hattori, will you
please, see to it that this is done.”

The council agreed with Kano, as it had always done; and it was decided
that a sum of money should be placed at Kano’s disposal to procure the
necessary books and a teacher at Nagasaki. These resolutions were drawn
up, and sent to the adviser of the daimiyo to be sealed, after which
they became a law.

And the daimiyo? Oh! he was a _Great Name_ only. He never interfered
with the affairs of the clan, and did not know anything about them. It
was the same with the Shogun at Yedo. His seal was used, and laws were
made of which he had never heard; and so it was with Tenshi Sama at
Kyoto. All these men, Daimiyo, Shogun, and Tenshi Sama were considered
as gods, and nobody but their highest servants were ever allowed to
look upon them. If any of them was compelled to travel, they were
placed in a norimono, with close blinds, and men ran ahead crying:
Shita ni iru![39] Down on your knees. Very few people knew the names of
the councillors who did rule in Japan, but the names of those who did
not rule, were generally known.

While the Choshiu clan as well as the other clans of Japan, were
anxiously watching the opening of Japan and the events which follow,
Young Kano or Kano Ekichi[40] was taken gradually out of his mother’s
hands and given to a faithful attendant of his father to be educated as
a true samurai should be. Japanese boys are not baptized for there are
few Japanese Christians, and in those days there were none; they have,
therefore, no baptismal name. They have, however, given names, which
are placed behind the family name instead of before it as we do. They
would say, for instance, instead of Henry Jones, Jones Henry; they do
the same with the words Mister, Master, Mistress or Miss, for all of
which they have only one expression: San. If we should speak to master
Ekichi Kano, we should say Kano Ekichi San. These given names can be
changed without any difficulty. Sometimes the parents change them, at
other times the owner of the name changes it himself, and again the
Emperor or Tenshi Sama gives an officer a new name. But in that case,
it is sure that the owner will keep it so long as he lives.

I can’t say that Ekichi had a very pleasant time of it, although, of
course, his father and mother loved him. Only they did not show it, as
our parents do. As a little baby he was made to rest upon his knees,
so that they might grow flexible, for the Japanese do not sit upon
chairs, but squat upon their mats. When he rose in the morning from
his futon[41] or comforter which served him as a bed, there was no
running to his father or mother, shouting good morning, and giving them
a hug or a hearty kiss. When he did meet them, the first thing was to
fall on his knees, spread his hands flat before him, and bow until his
head rested upon the back of his hands. His father and mother gravely
returned the salutation in the same manner. When he took his meals,
he was not permitted to say a word. He ate what was put before him,
and it was every day the same. Asa meshi, hiru meshi, and ban meshi,
or in English, morning rice, noon rice, and evening rice, there was
no difference between breakfast, dinner, and supper. Until he was six
years old, Ekichi spent most of his time with his attendant in the
garden. They strolled around, and he asked questions which the man
answered as well as he could. He was taught how to speak to a superior,
to an equal, and to an inferior; how long he must remain prostrate
before a daimiyo, before a councillor, and before a simple samurai.
He was also taken to the grave of his grandfather, and told to kneel
down and say his prayers. That was something he could not understand,
and which his attendant could not explain; when he asked him, and he
did often, the man would say: “It is so, but you should not ask why,
because the gods only know.” So, when Ekichi was tired and sat down
on the sward, he would often think: What is the use of praying at the
grave of a dead man. But he was careful not to express his thoughts to
anybody.

He was trained not to show pain, distress, or grief. Whatever happened
to him, his face must not betray it. Being constantly in the open air,
he grew up healthy and strong, and when he was six years old, he was
taken to a school for samurai boys.

Ekichi had been with his attendant beyond the gates of his yashiki,
but after the first day, he was told to go and return by himself.
He met his schoolfellows with the courtesy which he had been taught
so carefully, and was treated by them in the same way. There was no
playground. Indeed, I do not believe that any of those boys knew what
the word “play” means. Many times, thirty years ago, I have seen
samurai boys from eight to sixteen years old, during recess or after
schooltime retire to their rooms to smoke their tiny pipes and carry
on a quiet conversation; but I never saw them play. The government of
Japan has found out that baseball, football, and cricket, are healthy
games, and is encouraging these boys to indulge in them. But at that
time, a samurai lad would have felt hurt at the thought that he could
do such a thing as play.

[Illustration: “IT IS REALLY A DAY DEVOTED TO HACHIMAN, THE GOD OF
WAR.”]

All Japanese boys are very quiet; they are brought up that way; but for
the children of the people certain holidays are set apart. The fifth of
May, or the fifth day of the fifth month is the boys’ festival. It is
really a day devoted to Hachiman, the god of war, but it is also called
the Feast of Flags. A tall bamboo is erected near every house where a
boy was born; for every son a fish, properly shaped and a very good
imitation made of air-tight sacks is fastened, with its mouth wide open
by means of bamboo hoops. The air enters and, besides inflating the
body, causes it to squirm, flap, and dart, about the bamboo. They have
other days, but the samurai boys do not observe them. There is still a
wide distance between them and the children of the people.

At the time when Ekichi Kano went to school, the children squatted upon
the mats, and learned the Japanese syllabary,–for there is no alphabet
in Japan,–each vowel is connected with a consonant, and thus forms a
syllable. The vowels are the same as with us:

a, i, u, e, o,
pron. ah, ee, oo, ay, oh,
and combined with the consonants
ka, ki, ku, ke, ko,
na, ni, nu, ne, no, etc.

Ekichi, like almost all Japanese boys of his class, learned very
quickly, nor did the very difficult Chinese characters frighten him.
Long before a Chinese boy could have mastered one-half of them, Ekichi
could read and understand a book without much difficulty.

He was now growing used to the restraint which was imposed upon him.
He began to understand that the word _pleasure_ can have no meaning
for a Japanese boy, and then he was made to learn that a boy is better
without comforts than with them, except when he is sick. He was taught
that there can be and must be but one motive for every action, and that
motive must be: duty. Ekichi was but a child, and small for his age;
but no boy twice as old in America or Europe, could have shown an equal
degree of self-control, and contempt of pain and death with this child.

Japan’s laws were cruel, at this time, and most offenses were punished
with death. The criminal was made to kneel down, a flash of the sharp
sword, a blow, and the head lay severed from the body. Young as he was,
Ekichi was often taken to these executions, to accustom him to the
sight of blood. His face was closely watched to see if he showed any
emotion, and when he came home from these disagreeable sights, he found
his rice of the color of blood, for it had been colored on purpose
with the juice of salted plums. He was expected to eat heartily of
this dish, and, like other samurai boys, did so without the nauseous
feelings which our boys would experience under the circumstances.
Sometimes, at midnight, he was roused from a sound slumber, and ordered
to go to the execution ground, and bring a head. There was no refusal
possible. Whatever he might think privately of such an errand, there
was but one answer possible, a responsive hai! “yes,” and immediate
obedience. Thus Ekichi, as all other Japanese boys of his class, was
indifferent to heat or cold, and forgot that there was such a thing as
“fear.” He was not quite twelve, when he was given two real swords,
sharp, keen blades, made for use and not for show. He was taught that
“the sword is the soul of the samurai,” or, in the words of the law as
it then prevailed in Japan[42]: “The girded sword is the living soul
of the samurai. In the case of a samurai forgetting his sword, act as
is appointed: it may not be forgiven.”

The child never considered his swords as toys; to him they were objects
of reverence; that little dirk, eight inches long, might at some time
be used to end his own life. He learned how he should behave and act,
if ever such a moment should come. There is an instance in Japanese
history, when a samurai boy only seven years old, committed suicide
that he might save his father. Such stories were told him constantly,
and roused his enthusiasm. At no time, after he was twelve years old,
would Ekichi have hesitated to take his own life, if he had thought it
his duty.

At this age he divided his time between shooting with bow and arrow,
riding, fencing and wrestling, and the study of Chinese. He learned
to swim and to handle a boat, and as he grew stronger, all dainties
and comforts were taken away. If, in winter, his hands became numb,
he was told to rub them in snow or water to make them warm; but he
was not allowed the use of a fire. The duty of implicit obedience had
been planted in him. No Japanese boy would think of asking why? when
ordered to do something. Last of all he became master of that exceeding
courtesy, peculiar to Japanese gentlemen, and which we foreigners
cannot appreciate.