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the ancient samurai (soldier) class, is acted in connection with certain plays. It is an impressive, solemn scene. The valiant unfortunate stabs himself with a poniard, measuring exactly nine inches and a half, struggles with agony, shows manifold changes of expression, makes his will in a faltering voice, and leaves injunctions to the weeping relatives and faithful servants gathered round him; writhing in distress, yet undaunted in presence of cool, examining deputies, he ends his mortal life by the final act of driving the blood-stained iron into the throat.
One strange fact respecting the theatrical profession in our country is the anomaly that men act women's parts. We have few or no actresses. The taste of the people took a curious turn in its development; they consider those actors perfect who can deceive them most dexterously in female outfits. Acting has been from ages past regarded as a profession exclusively for men; their wives travel with them as a sort of slave in assisting their masters and husbands in painting and dressing behind the scene. Therefore, once when a company of women went about giving entertainments there was a considerable stir over the novelty; they soon became known as the “female theatre.” In this party there were few or no men, the women assuming male characters. These actresses established fame on their wonderfully natural delineations of masculine traits.
We have known a young actor, whose boyhood was spent in Imabari, make a mark in representing female characters. He copied the grace and de
portment of the fair sex archly. We took great interest in him, for he was a good, quiet, sensible fellow, and his parents had formerly dwelt near and befriended us. But my friends were wont to comment that his neck was a jot too full for that of a female. He could not help that; the corpulency of that member was a freak of nature; he was not at all responsible for it. Discreetly he tried none of your fooleries with dieting to reduce it; some females, you know, are not very slender-necked either; he might have taken comfort in that. At any rate, his manners were thoroughly feminine, and his womanly way of speaking a woman herself could not imitate. Our friend is now gone to a metropolis, where he is winning his way into the hearts of the millions. Prosperity and success to his name?
When the “female theatre” troupe was in Imabari, through somebody's introduction we got acquainted with certain of their number. We asked them to call at our house. They did so. We observed no trace of forwardness in them; instead, they, all of them, seemed quite reticent. I remember a dear little creature, Kosei (Little Purity) by name, among them. She was perfectly at ease in playing a rollicking little rogue before the crowd, but now hung her head timidly and lifted stealthily her big round eyes to us. She had a sweet, pretty little mouth. Where can that poor, mischievous, pretty waif be knocking about in the wide world now-a-days? Perhaps she is grown up and uninteresting, if yet living.
I can recall even what we gave them that ovening with which to refresh themselves. We ordered the zenzai or its ally, the shiruko, at the establishment round the corner. The shiruko seems like hot, thick chocolate, with bits of toast in it. The chocolate part is prepared of red beans, and the toast is the browned mochi (rice-cake). To provide for any among them that did not love sweet things we had the soba or the udon brought to us by their vender. The soba is a sort of vermicelli made of buckwheat, and the udon a kind of macaroni, solid and not in tubes. The warm katsuwo sauce is plentifully poured over them, and they are eaten with chopsticks. The katsuwo sauce is prepared of the katsuwobushi and the shoyu. The first named article is a hard substance shaped somewhat like the horn of an ox, and manufactured of the flesh of certain fish, whose vernacular name is katsuwo. A family cannot get along without it. In preparing the sauce, the katsuwobushi is simply chipped and simmered in a mixture of water and the shoyu. The shoyu is a sauce by itself and brewed of wheat, beans and salt. As its use in domestic cookery is very wide, the demand for it is correspondingly great; and the shoyu brewing is as big a business as the saké manufacturing
Our family cared but little for the wrestling exhibition; some people have a great liking for it. It takes place on an extensive open lot. In the middle of the field is raised a large, square mound, from the corners of which rise four posts decorated with red and white cloths, looking like a barber's sign. They support an awning. The spectators, too, are shielded from the sun with cheap mats strapped together. On the mound is described a circle, within which the matches take place. The two opposite parties are called East and West respectively. The umpire in kamishimo (ceremonial garb) calls out a champion from each side by his professional name so loudly as to be heard all over the place. The names are derived from the mighty objects in nature, such as mountain, river, ocean, storm, wind, thunder, lightning, forest, crag, etc. The two naked, gigantic, muscular fellows slowly ascend the arena, drink a little water from ladles, take pinches of common salt from small baskets hanging on two of the posts and, looking up reverently to a paper god fastened to the awning, throw the salt around. It is an act of purification, and while doing it each prays secretly for his own
Then they stamp heavily on the ground, with their hands on their bent knees and their hips lowered, in order to get the muscles ready for action. Now they face each other in a low sitting posture like that of a frog; at the word of signal from the umpire they instantly spring up, and each tries to throw the other or push him out of the circular arena. There are many professional tricks that they deal out in the struggle for supremacy. As soon as the point is decided the umpire indicates the victor's side with his Chinese fan. Then follows the demonstration of joy among the patrons of the successful almost as boisterous and enthusiastic as that of the young American collegians at their grand athletic contests. The thousands sitting hitherto well behaved on the matted ground rise up at once and make endless tumult; cups, bottles, empty lacquered boxes fly into the arena from every direction. Not infrequently a spirited controversy follows a questionable decision of the umpire. Between the matches gifts from the patrons are publicly announced and sometimes displayed
The people sit on the ground, spread with mats, in the open air, and eat and drink, while they watch the collision of the two mountains of flesh and its momentous issue. The exhibition cannot very well take place on rainy days. At the end of a day's performance, all the wrestlers in gorgeous aprons march to the arena as the umpire claps two blocks of hard wood, and go rough a simple ceremony of stretching the arms in various directions formally. I never inquired what it was for, my childish fancy having been turned toward the