Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/360

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both the Empress Dowager and the present Empress being childless. Then, besides this, the Emperor's household includes several mekakés chosen from noble families.

Regarding divorces, up to the present time the husband has always had the privilege of divorcing his wife at will, and sending her back to her parents' home for apparently trivial reasons. But, as easy as it is to sever the nuptial bonds, this privilege is rarely taken advantage of, except in extreme cases, for divorces are looked upon with anything but tolerance by the Japanese. On the other hand, the only thing which warrants a wife in leaving her husband is cruel treatment, in which case she may return to her father's house, and the marriage may be annulled.

There are two other classes of Japanese women that I would make mention of: geisha, or professional entertainers, and jōro, or prostitutes. The geisha is a time-honored institution, and may be seen at almost any public dinner or entertainment. They are professional musicians, dancers, and entertainers in general, and are licensed as such. Frequently the geisha will take out a prostitute's license as well. From this it will be understood that what has been said concerning the reserved nature of social and domestic relationships in Japanese society is entirely absent with geisha. The women of the Japanese household rarely if ever take part in the public social life of their husbands, and therefore all social or official dinners among men are held at some restaurant or tea-house, and geishas employed to furnish music and entertainment. They frequently are accompanied by two or three dancers (oshakku), girls between twelve and fifteen years of age, who dance while the geishas furnish music and song. The moral instincts of the geisha are crude, to say the least, and many progressive Japanese look eagerly forward to the day when the geisha will not be an inevitable feature of entertainments.

Prostitution is under strict government control and supervision, and all houses of ill fame relegated to certain portions of the town known as the yoshiwara. A prostitute's license is only for three years, for which period of time she sells herself to the keeper of one of these houses for a lump sum. Not infrequently among the poorer families, one of the daughters of the home is thus practically sold to a life of dishonor by her parents, in order to keep the wolf from the door. I know of many sad cases of this kind; and while this heartless procedure is legal, yet it is regarded with equal repugnance and abhorrence by the Japanese public as it would be with us, and is as loudly condemned. After the three years' service is over, the daughter may again return to the parental roof.

Regarding the moral life of women of the poorer classes, it is in the main similar to that of the higher. The maids employed