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we put aside our crockery ware and take out from the store-room wooden bowls, japanned red inside and jet black outside with our family crest in gold. The children's are rendered more attractive with the pictures of flying cranes on the covers, and tortoises with wide-fringed tails among the waves on the exterior of the bowls, all in gold. A casual sight of them at other times, in my rummaging for things, was sufficient to awake in me a pleasant train of thoughts relative to the holidays. Oh, and that tremendous big fish, I must tell you about that! -Every family provides itself for New Year with a huge buri-Japanese name of course, I am ignorant of its proper zoological term; I obtained my first idea of the whale from this monstrous fish. It hangs in the kitchen from one of the rafters throughout the holidays; the cook cuts meat from it, and the family feasts upon it until it is reduced to a downright skeleton. My impression is that the fish is caught in some of the provinces bordering on the Pacific Ocean (Imabari looks on the inland sea) and sent to our town: certain it is, the article we procure is always salted. The rush for the buri in the market before New Year is just like the turkey bargaining before Thanksgiving in this country; the difference is that the buri is more expensive, and it is not everybody that can afford to buy one.
Taking advantage of the last evening's ceremony, in the course of the day female beggars appear in the mask of the Goddess Good Luck, and sing and dance for alms. That is tolerable. But a host more of strong male beggars, personating the
devils with rattling bamboo bars and with hideously painted faces, plant themselves before the houses and demand in a strident authoritative voice a propitiation with hard coin. Some of them paint themselves with cheap red paint, representing the "red devils; " others smear themselves with the still more economical scrapings from the sides of the chimney, becoming thereby the "black devils." The idea of the devils of different colors came from the Buddhist's pictorial representation of Hell, wherein the demons are seen serving out punishment to the sinners,-throwing them into a sulphurous flame, a lake of blood, a huge boiling caldron and to dragon-snakes; giving them a free ride on a chariot of fire; driving them up a mountain beset with needles; pulling out the tongues of the liars; mashing the bodies as you do potatoes; and so forth. The pictures, by the bye, with many others of saints and martyrs, are the same in nature as the religious paintings of Rome and equally grand and magnificent. The bean ceremony, to conclude, although it might have banished imaginary devils, after all, has drawn together the very next morning an army of the flesh-and-blood devils that want to eat and drink.
AMONG the recreations most fondly indulged in on the New Year holidays is kite-flying. This is so well known here that I have often been overwhelmed with questions regarding it by little Americans. Our kites are mostly rectangular, with heroes or monsters painted on them in most glaring colors. A wind instrument looking like a bow is sometimes fastened to the kite, and when the kite is in the air the wind strikes the string and makes a humming noise. At a kite fight the combatants bring their flying kites in juxtaposition and strive to cut the string by friction. Now and then an unfortunate, hero or monster, is seen tossed about at the disposal of the wind, finding its fate upon the water, the tree-tops, or I know not where. At the height of kite-flying even those with more discretion enter into the full spirit of the young and build prodigious kites. I have actually seen one so large that, when flown high up on a fair windy day, the combined efforts of several men could scarcely hold it. It was a hard-fought tugof-war; after much ado, with the aid wrestlers and athletes, I remember, the monster was at length secured to the main front oaken pillar of a great building. The string fastened to such a kite is a
strong twine hundreds of yards long, yet it often gives way. And to fly such a kite on the streets of a city is next to an impossibility; it will bump hard at houses and rake down the tiles (our houses are roofed with tiles) over the heads of passers-by; for which reason, it is always taken out to the open country and afterwards brought into town when it has gone well up in the air. What a mass of curious children surge beside the men who hold the kite by the string as they walk home!
I have sat many an afternoon after school whittling the bamboo frame for a modest kite. It was my most interesting employment; my father calls me into another room to run on an errand for him; I hear him plainly, but pretend otherwise and make him call repeatedly-ungrateful son! Upon hearing him approach and perceiving longer delay to be impossible, I break away from the agreeable occupation and emerge as cheerfully as I can, "Yes, sir, father.” He inquires what I was about, reproves me for not answering him quickly and gives me to know that if I do not heed his behest he will surely throw my kite into the fire. After such interruptions, however, the important frame-work is done. Oh, what satisfaction I feel over it! Then I go to the kitchen and wheedle Osan into giving me a bit of boiled rice, which I make into paste on a piece of board with a bamboo spatula. With the paste I put white paper on the frame and leave it to dry. There are many little technical points in kite construction, but those I refrain from entering into in detail. When it is dry, I write on the kite confidentially with my own hand some appropriate
word, say, Zephyr, in lieu of picture. I now tie the string and try its flight; it dashes at the eaves this way, pitches into the latticed windows that way, twirls in mid-air like a tumbler-pigeon, and in general behaves badly. Thereupon I take it down, add weight to the lighter side, attach a tail and do all to insure balance and equilibrium, and, then try it again.
Since coming to this country, the request has been put to me more than once by little friends that I should make them a genuine Japanese kite. But the want of tenacious paper and bamboo has always prevented me from complying with their wish.
As I write on, by the association of ideas I call to mind an event which greatly provoked me. I was fond of poking into and turning over old things up in the garret, as I hinted before, or I had archæological taste, to give it a dignified name. One day, much to my surprise, I came upon an old kite frame perhaps six feet by five, good for further use. I found it hidden behind a wormeaten chest of drawers; it was constructed, I discovered, when my uncle was a boy; everybody in the house had forgotten all about it. I was instantly possessed with the desire to boast of a big kite, now that the frame was ready; and as if to help out my plan, some one recollected that the reel of string that went with the kite was put away in one of the drawers. This immediately sought and found. These relics I guarded with great care until a visit from my uncle, who resided in the same town, when I produced them and got him to