Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 28.djvu/661

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JAPANESE HOUSE-BUILDING.

It may be rash to say that meteorological science can gain nothing from scientific observation of animal life; but the character of the weather-lore that has been handed down from father to son for the past two centuries plainly indicates that the observations which gave rise to them were anything but scientific in character. Mankind now, as formerly, may be close observers of Nature, but this does not imply that they are accurate observers. They assume as correct the appearance, but it is no unusual circumstance for an animal to be doing the very opposite of what might naturally be supposed was the case. The simple and sad fact derived from a study of local animal weather-lore is that, in the days of our grandfathers, painstaking naturalists were few and far between.

 

JAPANESE HOUSE-BUILDING.[1]
By Professor EDWARD S. MORSE.

THE first sight of a Japanese house—that is, a house of the people—is certainly disappointing. From the infinite variety and charming character of their various works of art, as we had seen them at home, we were anticipating new delights and surprises in the character of the house; nor were we on more intimate acquaintance to be disappointed. As an American, familiar with houses of certain types, with conditions among them signifying poverty and shiftlessness, and other conditions signifying refinement and wealth, we were not competent to judge the relative merits of a Japanese house.

The first sight, then, of a Japanese house is disappointing; it is unsubstantial in appearance, and there is a meagerness of color. Being unpainted, it suggests poverty; and this absence of paint, with the gray and often rain-stained color of the boards, leads one to compare it with similar unpainted buildings at home—and these are usually barns and sheds in the country, and the houses of the poorer people in the city. With one's eye accustomed to the bright contrasts of American houses, with their white, or light, painted surfaces; rectangular windows, black from the shadows within, with glints of light reflected from the glass; front door with its pretentious steps and portico; warm red chimneys surmounting all, and a general trimness of appearance outside, which is by no means always correlated with like conditions within—one is too apt at the outset to form a low estimate of a Japanese house. An American finds it difficult indeed to

  1. From "Japanese Homes and their Surroundings." By Edward S. Morse, Director of the Peabody Academy of Science; late Professor of Zoölogy, University of Tokio Japan; Member of the National Academy of Science; Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, etc. With Illustrations by the Author. Boston: Ticknor k Co. 1886.