Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/18

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8
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

times the story of the utai is told in prose to the eager group of children gathered around the glowing brazier, or hibachi. The latter, it must be confessed, in spite of its cheery appearance, radiates but a scant amount of heat in comparison with the open grates of the Occident. Such a family group may be seen in thousands of homes in Tōkyō alone, on a winter's afternoon; the boys, if back from school, resting contentedly on the white tatami, or studying the morrow's lessons in some quiet nook; the little maidens, demurely grouped about the hibachi, busily plying their needles, while listening to some story told by the old aunt or nurse, that may be acting as instructress. The contented hum of

PSM V43 D018 Singing girls playing on the koto and samisen.jpg
Singing Girls playing on the Koto and Samisen.

the quaint old iron kettle, resting over the glowing coals, supported by an iron tripod thrust into the ashes of the hibachi, suggests its entire readiness to assist in the preparation of tiny cups of fragrant tea for any chance guest that arrives, or for any member of the family that wants a steaming cup of this delicate beverage—which is so much more dainty and delicious as prepared and drunk by the Japanese than by us.

It is then that the telling of stories finds its place in Japanese. The deeds of heroes, the romances of ancient dynasties, mystical lore, stories of ghosts and ghouls, and of the wicked and revengeful deeds of fox or badger sprites—this folk lore, historical or mythical, as it may be, has become so blended with the home life