Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/23

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13
JAPANESE HOME LIFE.

greatest interest among the children, and which are, for the most part, believed in even by the elders. In fact, among the more illiterate classes to be possessed with the spirit of a fox (kitsuné-tsuki) is a form of zoanthropy not infrequently met with, although the disorder is more likely to be assumed than real, and the epithet kitsuné-tsuki, or "fox-hearted," is more apt to be figuratively applied than otherwise. Undoubtedly the popular belief in the magical powers of foxes and badgers in Japan is as extensive as the frequently unexpressed belief in the supernatural found in this country. The educated classes will decry any such superstitious belief, and yet will tell you of alleged experiences of their friends or relatives with foxes or badgers, which are "very strange and not to be accounted for." Fox and badger stories are therefore highly appreciated by the juvenile members of any Japanese family, principally on account of their "authenticity," and because of that fascinating condition of fear and "the creeps" that their recital occasions. Here is a good badger story, the truth of which I can vouch for, insomuch as there is a field of Inami near Kyōtō, and that it is a grewsome spot well suited for a trysting place for ghouls and ghosts.

 
THE BURIAL AT MIDNIGHT.[1]

Not far from Kyōtō, in the smiling hill-land of Harima, there is a broad, open plain known as the "Field of Inami." Although surrounded by verdant hillsides, this plain is bleak and barren; great gusts of wind sweep over the long, dry grasses, and no farmer or peasant has ever found a home in this desolate spot. Yet the great highway to Kyōtō runs just to one side of the plain, and on this road a postman used to carry his load of letters once or twice every week. A little bypath leads across one corner of the plain, lessening the distance to the city, and this path was a great favorite with the postman, as it made his journey so much the shorter.

Going one day as usual to Kyōtō, he reached the field a little later than was his wont, and night came on before he had advanced very far. Without a light or the means of procuring one, he wandered aimlessly on for a while, but finally seeing that he had missed the path in the darkness, resolved to pass the night where he was, with the sky for a coverlet. Without giving a second thought to all the ugly stories told of the field, the ghosts and malicious fox-sprites said to hold their nightly revels in that spot, the postman bravely determined to make the best of it, and


  1. This tale was first translated from the Japanese into German, and read, among others, before the Gesellsehaft für Völkerkunde in Ost-Asien, in Yokohama, by F. Warrington Eastlake, Ph. D.