STORIES ABOUT JAPAN
ANNIE R BUTLER
Written around 1888, this book by Annie R Butler was published in London by The Religious Tract Society, at 56 Paternoster Row and 65 St. Paul's Churchyard.
After I have finished adding the pictures and some of the text, I will be contacting the Church Missionary Society in London to ask them if they would like to have this copy for their library.
Or if they have a good copy already, if they know of anyone who will benefit it. (At no cost obviously)
I thought I would write out the Preface for the book, that would seem the best way to explain the pictures, along with their captions.
These 'Stories about Japan' are meant for children.
They are a mosaic from many sources; amongst others, from J. J. Rein's learned work on Japan, Sir Edward James Reed's Japan, Miss Bird's Unbeaten Tracks in Japan, Eugene Stock's masterly resume of the history of Japan and the Japan Mission, and Coleridge's Life and Letters of Xavier; also from various American periodicals - Life and Light, Mission Dayspring, Missionary Link, Helping Hands, Little Helpers, and Children's Work for Children.
I am indebted to the Church Missionary Society, the Baptist Missionary Society, and to the Women's Board of Missions, Boston, for the gift of various back numbers of their publications which throw light upon the country, people, and missions of Japan; and to two friends who have been in that land for verbal and written information on the same subjects. I have also to thank one of these friends - a missionary for many years' experience - for her kindness in criticising the greater part of my manuscript!
A. R. B.
And so lets begin with a wonderful picture of
A Kuruma, or Jinriksha
Unless otherwise mentioned, the words are those of Annie R. Butler
'Land of the sun! what foot invades They pagods and thy pillared shades, Thy cavern shrines and idol stones, Thy monarchs and their thousand thrones?'
There were, so runs the story I have just been reading, in the far back ages - "In the beginning," as we should say - three deities dwelling in otherwise uninhabited space. Their names were the Lord of the Centre of Heaven, the Lofty Producer, and the Divine Producer.
By the latter were produced the sun and moon; and then there were five, instead of three "Gods of the Heavens." As time went on, fourteen inferior gods and goddesses were born of the sun and moon, of whom two and only two are necessary to our story. For these two it was determined to create Japan.
I order to have some spot on which to rest while carrying out their purpose, one of them, the husband, threw a spear down from the heavens into the sea. As he drew it up, the drops which fell from it hardened and became an island; and on this the sun - born pair descended. And in due course the eight most important islands of Japan might have been seen rising their heads above the surface of the sea in the far, far east.
other children where born to this god and goddess, one of whom, whose name was From-heaven-shining-great-august-deity, was so bright and beautiful that her parents not only allowed her to help them to govern the earth, which in those days only meant Japan, but they also made her Goddess of the Sun.
But ages passed on, and the sun goddess, finding, perhaps, that the affairs of the heavenly body committed to her charge required all her attention, appointed her grandson as her successor upon earth. Before he started for this world, she placed in his hands three imperial treasures - a stone ball, a sword, and a mirror - saying, as she gave the mirror, -
'Look upon this as my spirit, and worship it as if thou wert worshipping my actual presence, and thy dynasty will endure as long as heaven and earth.'
And now Ninigi left for earth by the floating bridge of heaven, and alighted at the south-west corner of his bow-shaped kingdom. All I know about Ninigi is that he married, and had a son whose name deserves a line to itself, -
and a grandson, whose name I will spare you. But it does not matter, for the real history of Japan begins with his great-grand-son Jimmu Tennô.
Jimmu was a powerful and enlightened prince, as indeed he might well be, with such a distinguished ancestry. He sought the good of the country over which he had been, so strangely placed, and dutifully preserved the gifts of his great-grandmother, as did also the emperors who followed him.
And lo! it came to pass that while other dynasties rose and fell, and passed away, the dynasty of Jimmu Tennô endured, and may for aught I know, endure, as the sun-goddess promised, 'as long as the earth.'
Am I telling you truth and nonsense, do you ask?
Well, dear children, truth and nonsense are so mixed up in all early history of Japan, that it is not very easy to separate them.
'Believe everything you can believe; it is far the most interesting thing to do,' as a dear old friend of mine says to her young friends. And some , at least, of some of this story you may look upon as true. Jimmu Tennô is an historical personage whose reign began 660 years before Christ; and no less than 123 emperors, or Mikados, have followed him in a direct line of succession; whilst our Queen Victoria, of whose descent we think so much, is only the thirtieth from William the Conqueror! Why, 'Old England' is but a child to the nation whose first monarch was a contemporary of Manasseh, King of Judah!
The traditions of Japan are well worth studying, because, whatever may be the amount of truth or fiction in them, they have left their stamp upon the country and the people. To this day, if you were in Japan, you would hear the Mikado called 'Son of Heaven'; while the chrysanthemum, with its sun like rays, is used as the symbol of royalty, just as the lily is in France; and the national flag still bears it as its device a red sun rising out of an empty space.
A stone, sword, and mirror, the reputed gifts of the sun goddess, are still carefully preserved. The Mikado has the stone, or ball; the Sword of the Clustering Clouds of Heaven' has received the adoration of millions at the temple of Atsuta; and the mirror is at a place called Isé, whilst a copy of it is to be found in every Shinto Temple.
The mirrors are looked upon as images of the sun, and as emblem of the purity of heart which all should strive to attain.
Even ordinary looking glasses have their lesson for the Japanese; seeming , as they do, to say to them, -
"Be righteous. Do nothing, speak nothing, think nothing, which you would not like to see reflected in me."
For women who are looked upon in Japan, as in China, as "easily swerved from the right swerved from the right ," a looking glass is considered a most appropriate present.'
A Japanese Mansion - around 1888
The Religions of Japan
I spoke just now of Shinto Temples. Shintoism is the older of the two principal religions of Japan.
It teaches worship of the sun goddess and of her descendants the Emperors, or Mikados, of Japan; and it teaches also obedience to the reigning Mikado, and the need of purity, though on this last point it is anything but clear and helpful.
Brave, learned and benevolent men are worshipped in the Shinto temples, and so also are various natural objects and other gods which have been added from time to time.
Outside each Shinto Temple is a straw rope with tassels, and a bell which must be rung to attract the attention of the gods. And each worshipper, before entering, must rinse his mouth and wash his hands. Once inside, he claps his hands to call the gods again, throws some money on the ground, kneels down several times and mutters a few words, and then his prayers are over.
(I wonder if it is the same 130 years later on.)
what is the meaning of the straw rope? Well once in the olden days of which I was telling you a little while ago, the sun goddess was offended and hid herself in a cavern. This so distressed the other gods, who were now left in darkness and confusion, that when at last they enticed her out, they threw a straw rope round her to hold her tight and prevent her from leaving them again. And ever since then the straw rope has been a symbol of her worship.
The other great religion of Japan is Buddhism. About twelve hundred years ago (Remember this book was written over 120years ago.). some Buddhist priests, statues, prayer-books, etc. were sent to Japan from the neighbouring country of Korea, with a recommendation of the merits of Buddhism. The Mikado gave all the presents away, and said that he wished the Koreans would send him physicians, apothecaries, artists, and learned men, instead of priests.
But time wore on and many of the Japanese, first amongst the rich and then amongst the poor, adopted the faith of Buddha, which became at last the prevailing religion of the country, and so has continued during the last six hundred years.
.About the time Buddhism began it is thought that Jimmu Tenno was reigning over Japan, though the exact date is not known, an Indian prince, called Gautama, became so distressed by the sight of the suffering he saw all round him that he determined to leave his wife and his one little son, and go into the desert and there think and think until he could make out what all the misery meant.
In order to think more clearly, he denied himself for seven years in every possible way. And then light broke upon him, and he felt that he had arrived at 'perfect knowledge.' And this was his conclusion: "Everyone who exists must suffer, because everyone desires something; let man deny his desires, then, till he has none left; and he will be rewarded by losing his existence in nothingness."
Does it not sound dreary? And yet when Gautama, or Buddha (the enlightened), as we must now call him, went back with his 'perfect knowledge' to the world, he taught certainly some very excellent things. A. R. B.
There is an awful lot more to read in this fascinating book from the days of the early missionaries in Asia and I could probably fill a whole chapter of many pages with the same. But as this book is now in print once more, I won't. Instead I will add a few more of the wonderful pictures between the two Japanese special pages here and the Asian art pages at http://diddilydeedot.zoomshare.com/ and there you can look to Japan in 1888 and before, and I shall possible place the same pictures here, at Japan - Dodie's Dream World.
I believe Amazon.co.uk have copies for sale, maybe, even to look through on line should you be interested.