Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/27

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17
JAPANESE HOME LIFE.

peasant, just beyond the outskirts of the field. He knocked again and again, but no one came in answer, and so he had to wait for the day to dawn. Shortly after sunrise the people of the house arose, and, hearing the knocking, took the still breathless wanderer into the guest chamber, where they attended to his pitiable state, and then begged him to relate what had befallen him. This he did, and the peasants at once determined to go to the little hut in the field of Inami, which was well known to them. Upon arriving at the spot they found no signs of a burial or of a grave. Mound and coffin had utterly disappeared; but just in front of the hut lay the body of a huge badger, killed by the one cut of the good steel. At once they saw what had happened. The evil beast had wished to frighten the belated wanderer; and the funeral procession and priest, coffin, and grave had been merely the work of magic.

 

So much for the stories that play such an important rôle in the drama of home life in Japan. It is to be regretted that this subject has not been more extensively dealt with in recent writings of the country, for many of the hidden beauties of the country and people are best portrayed in the stories of bygone heroes, as told to the children around the hibachi, or as sung by some graceful maiden with samisen or koto accompaniment; while the tales of ghosts or ghouls rival those of almost any other land in variety and horror.

Turning to the pastimes common to Japanese homes, a brief mention of the most popular games must not be omitted. Go and shogi are similar to our games of draughts and chess, yet the former is far more scientific than checkers. There are several games of cards, the playing cards being about as long as those used in this country, but scarcely three quarters of an inch wide. Another favorite game is that of "One Hundred Poems." It is somewhat similar to our rather childish game of "Authors," with the exception that the Japanese game is by no means childish, and requires an intimate knowledge of at least one hundred poems of well-known merit. Two hundred cards are used in the game, and half a poem is written on each card. The cards being spread before the players, the half of a poem on any one card is read, and the other half searched for by the contestants. Then the different seasons of the year have typical games. The most picturesque of these is haguita, or "battledoor and shuttlecock," which is exclusively a New-Year's game. Then the time of the cherry blooms brings its games beneath the bloom-laden branches. Music and song find their way into the homes of Japan far more extensively than in this country. To be sure, the music of either koto or samisen is apt to sound strange, and at first perhaps almost unin-