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on the fans were written the names of the members. My big brother was busily engaged in painting scenes and constructing apparatus, my sisters were diligently selecting stage dresses for Mitsu. And then the young ladies met in our place to rehearse the dances, songs and instrumental music, that made us still more agreeably busy. Weeks were spent in preparation; and when it came off at last, the entertainment was a grand affair continuing for several days; the town turned out in a body. was more like successful theatricals than anything, and was repeated once or twice afterwards, with the substitution for the former dances of many equally classical pieces.
All the dances are accompanied by songs and instruments. The instrument most commonly used is the samisen; it looks somewhat like a banjo, but is much larger and has a square body instead of a round one; the wood-work is of mahogany. In playing it the touching is not done with the fingers, but with a plectrum of ivory. The samisen is capable of giving out both the mellow notes of the guitar and the sharp tone-sprays of the banjo. You hear it played in Japanese homes to the same extent as the piano is in this country. We had in our family two or three samisens, and every day my sisters practised on them.
Other instruments of music are the koto, the tsuzumi and the drum.. The koto is a heavy, thirteen-stringed instrument, of which by mere description I can hardly give an idea. sits before it, and with claws fitted
The player to the fin
gers of both hands plays at the two ends. The tsuzumi is an hour-glass-shaped drum which is tapped with the right hand. Two tsuzumis are frequently played by a single person; a light tsuzumi is laid on the right shoulder and held by the left hand, and a heavy tsuzumi is rested on the left knee slightly elevated and pressed down with the left elbow; the right hand is free to move between the two tsuzumis which it beats. The light tsuzumi emits a soft tone, the heavy one a deep sound. The stroke, unless skillfully performed, often inflicts a violent injury to the fingers. The vellum of the tsuzumi is of fox skin and yellow in color, that of the samisen is of cat skin and white as snow. The drum is not the sort drubbed in a military band; it is smaller and more moderate in its intonation.
These instruments, the koto, samisen, taiko (drum) and tsuzumi are frequently played in concert; the samisen players-two of them, at any rate, to one of the others-sing in high pitch while their supple fingers twinkle across the chords; the taiko and tsuzumi beaters shriek now and then as they thrum and whack. Do I like it? Isn't it hideous? Well, I can't say how it would strike me now; yet I used to think it all very fine.
There is another stringed instrument, a ridiculously simple one that I liked best. It is named ichigecckin. A plain board, a few feet in length, and a few inches in width, with no other ornament than half a dozen Chinese characters written on it to indicate the various keys; only a single string along the whole length; a bamboo ring for
the middle finger of the left hand to touch on the keys; and a small flat piece of horn to pick the string with these make up an ichigecckin. The origin of this unpretentious instrument is said to be as follows: a high court noble of amiable disposition and poetic temperament on his way southward from the ancient palace in Kioto, years ago, was obliged to moor near the beautiful shores of Akashi on account of a heavy storm. The sea tossed about his boat; the sky stretched gray; the thatch overhead became soaked in the rain; the wind sighed among the pines on the deserted shore. A sense of loneliness weighed on his gentle nature. The fading landscape in the dusk, the mournful cry of a sea-gull, the sight of a boat miles away laboring in the waves, peradventure laden with lives-all conspired to produce in him a sadness more than human. In order to beguile his ennui, he constructed himself a rude musical instrument with a board and string, and poured out the feelings of the hour in many a celebrated tune. The ichigecckin music is low and simple and sweet. On rainy nights, when the candle burns dim and all is quiet, I feel most in the mood to listen.
Japanese music is in a crude state of development; there are no written notes to go by in playing, nor in singing is there any system like your "Do, Re, Mi, etc," to depend upon. As yet it is strictly an art and not a science; one is obliged to get it by observation, imitation and practice. Music is taught by lady teachers; but a set of blind men, who perform massage for a livelihood, take scholars, likewise. They have their heads
shaved, walk abroad alone, feeling their way with sticks; some of them have been to Osaka and Kioto for a musical degree, conferred on them in certain schools. In Japan music is not divided into the vocal and the instrumental; the two are always taught together by the same instructor.
Vocal cultivation is conducted in a singular way. During the winter the girl in training clothes herself comfortably, takes a samisen and ascends every cold night the scaffold erected on the roof
of the house for drying purposes. There she sits for hours together amid the howling blasts, singing defiantly and banging away courageously at the samisen. Upon her coming down, she is found worse than hoarse; she can hardly utter a word. The training is observed persistently until her former voice has entirely left her and gradually a clear new voice, as it were, breaks out in the harshness. This voice can stand a storm. The discipline is now over, a little care needs only to be exercised in the maintenance of the acquired voice. The practice, I am well aware, will hardly commend itself to the gentlewomen of this republic, who are wrapped all winter long in furs and sealskins and would not think for a moment of leaving the chimney corner. In my fancy I hear them repel it with their passionate "What an idea!" Therefore, I conclude it prudent to say nothing in praise of the barbarous measure, and simply state the plain fact that it has produced many an Apollo in Japan. In the other seasons of the year, after having screamed out her worthless voice, the girl
takes a dose of pulverized ginger and sugar to tone up the vocal chords.
I digressed from dancing to music; now I wish to return to dancing again for a few moments. In parlor gatherings and sociables light pieces are presented; and such small things as fans, towels, masks, umbrellas, bells, tambourines only are used in dancing. Fans are most commonly used, many astonishing tricks being played with them. The guests sit in a body off the arena, where the dancer steps out; the samisen player tunes the instrument on one side. The preliminary chords ring; then come the words in song, and in accordance with them the actions of the dancer. The dances intended for the stage are much more elaborate. Scenes are to be fitted up; varieties of gew-gaws,— artificial flowers, falling paper snow, fallen woollycotton snow, painted waves, the outline of a boat, a lantern moon, a gilded paper crown, baskets, shells, a wooden scythe, a toy tub, high clogs, yards of white silk, etc., etc.,—are to be procured. These vain, empty articles rise up in my mind, for I used to see them stowed away in the dusty garret. They were jostled about by other things, lay in everybody's way, became mutilated, and fully repaid the glory they had received one night behind the foot-lights. We have spent time and money in getting them up, however; certain things we have even sent for to Osaka or Kioto. I remember seeing my sister practise day after day dancing with the aforementioned long white silk scarfs. The dance was to represent the process of bleaching by a famous maiden (named Okané) who