Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan

Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan by Lafcadio Hearn

Book: Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan by Lafcadio Hearn Read Free Book Online
Authors: Lafcadio Hearn
Tags: General Fiction
long broad reach of sand, extending to it, from the opposite
village which we are approaching, like a causeway.
    At Katase, the little settlement facing the island, we must leave our
jinricksha and walk; the dunes between the village and the beach are too
deep to pull the vehicle over. Scores of other jinricksha are waiting
here in the little narrow street for pilgrims who have preceded me. But
to-day, I am told, I am the only European who visits the shrine of
Benten.
    Our two men lead the way over the dunes, and we soon descend upon damp
firm sand.
    As we near the island the architectural details of the little town
define delightfully through the faint sea-haze—curved bluish sweeps of
fantastic roofs, angles of airy balconies, high-peaked curious gables,
all above a fluttering of queerly shaped banners covered with mysterious
lettering. We pass the sand-flats; and the ever-open Portal of the Sea-
city, the City of the Dragon-goddess, is before us, a beautiful torii.
All of bronze it is, with shimenawa of bronze above it, and a brazen
tablet inscribed with characters declaring: 'This is the Palace of the
Goddess of Enoshima.' About the bases of the ponderous pillars are
strange designs in relievo, eddyings of waves with tortoises struggling
in the flow. This is really the gate of the city, facing the shrine of
Benten by the land approach; but it is only the third torii of the
imposing series through Katase: we did not see the others, having come
by way of the coast.
    And lo! we are in Enoshima. High before us slopes the single street, a
street of broad steps, a street shadowy, full of multi-coloured flags
and dank blue drapery dashed with white fantasticalities, which are
words, fluttered by the sea wind. It is lined with taverns and miniature
shops. At every one I must pause to look; and to dare to look at
anything in Japan is to want to buy it. So I buy, and buy, and buy!
    For verily 'tis the City of Mother-of-Pearl, this Enoshima. In every
shop, behind the' lettered draperies there are miracles of shell-work
for sale at absurdly small prices. The glazed cases laid flat upon the
matted platforms, the shelved cabinets set against the walls, are all
opalescent with nacreous things—extraordinary surprises, incredible
ingenuities; strings of mother-of-pearl fish, strings of mother-of-pearl
birds, all shimmering with rainbow colours. There are little kittens of
mother-of-pearl, and little foxes of mother-of-pearl, and little puppies
of mother-of-pearl, and girls' hair-combs, and cigarette-holders, and
pipes too beautiful to use. There are little tortoises, not larger than
a shilling, made of shells, that, when you touch them, however lightly,
begin to move head, legs, and tail, all at the same time, alternately
withdrawing or protruding their limbs so much like real tortoises as to
give one a shock of surprise. There are storks and birds, and beetles
and butterflies, and crabs and lobsters, made so cunningly of shells,
that only touch convinces you they are not alive. There are bees of
shell, poised on flowers of the same material—poised on wire in such a
way that they seem to buzz if moved only with the tip of a feather.
There is shell-work jewellery indescribable, things that Japanese girls
love, enchantments in mother-of-pearl, hair-pins carven in a hundred
forms, brooches, necklaces. And there are photographs of Enoshima.
Sec. 16
    This curious street ends at another torii, a wooden torii, with a
steeper flight of stone steps ascending to it. At the foot of the steps
are votive stone lamps and a little well, and a stone tank at which all
pilgrims wash their hands and rinse their mouths before approaching the
temples of the gods. And hanging beside the tank are bright blue towels,
with large white Chinese characters upon them. I ask Akira what these
characters signify:
    'Ho-Keng is the sound of the characters in the Chinese; but in Japanese
the same characters are pronounced Kenjitatetmatsuru, and signify that
those

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