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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

And mourning habiliments were called fuji koromo


Not yet, however, does the custom of erecting monuments with inscriptions seem to have come into vogue. The Empress Gemmyo (d. 721) appears to have inaugurated that feature, for she willed not only that evergreens should be planted at her grave but also that a tablet should be set up there. Some historians hold that the donning of special garments by way of mourning had its origin at that time, and that it was borrowed from the Tang code of etiquette. But the Chronicles state that in the year A.D. 312, when the Prince Imperial committed suicide rather than occupy the throne, his brother, Osasagi, "put on plain unbleached garments and began mourning for him." White ultimately became the mourning colour, but in the eighth century it was dark,* and mourning habiliments were called fuji-koromo, because they were made from the bark of the wisteria (fuji). Among the Daiho statutes was one providing that periods of mourning should be of five grades, the longest being one year and the shortest seven days.

*"On the death of the Emperor Inkyo (A.D. 453), the Korean Court sent eighty musicians robed in black, who marched in procession to the Yamato palace, playing and singing a dirge as they went."

PASTIMES

Foremost among the pastimes of the Japanese people in all epochs was dancing. We hear of it in the prehistoric age when the "monkey female" (Sarume) performed a pantominic dance before the rock cave of the Sun goddess; we hear of it in protohistoric times when Inkyo's consort was betrayed into an offer that wrecked her happiness, and we hear of it in the historic epoch when the future Emperor Kenso danced in the disguise of a horse-boy. But as the discussion of this subject belongs more intelligently to the era following the Nara, we confine ourselves here to noting that even the religious fanatic Shomu is recorded as having repaired to the Shujaku gate of the palace to witness a performance of song and dance (utagaki) in which 240 persons, men and women, took part; and that, in the same year (734), 230 members of six great uji performed similarly, all robed in blue garments fastened in front with long red cords and tassels.

The tendency of the Japanese has always been to accompany their feasting and merry-making with music, versifying, and dancing. At the time now under consideration there was the "winding-water fete" (kyoku-sui no en), when princes, high officials, courtiers, and noble ladies seated themselves by the banks of a rivulet meandering gently through some fair park, and launched tiny cups of mulled wine upon the current, each composing a stanza as the little messenger reached him, or drinking its contents by way of penalty for lack of poetic inspiration. There were also the flower festivals--that for the plum blossoms, that for the iris, and that for the lotus, all of which were instituted in this same Nara epoch--when the composition of couplets was quite as important as the viewing of the flowers. There was, further, the grand New Year's banquet in the Hall of Tranquillity at the Court, when all officials from the sixth grade downwards sang a stanza of loyal gratitude, accompanying themselves on the lute (koto). It was an era of refined effeminate amusements. Wrestling had now become the pursuit of professionals. Aristocrats engaged in no rougher pastime than equestrian archery, a species of football, hawking, and hunting. Everybody gambled. It was in vain that edicts were issued against dicing (chobo and sugoroku). The vice defied official restraint.


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