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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Tsurugi to pierce and tachi to cut


term for "brew" being kamu or kamosu, the former of which is homonymous with the equivalent for "to chew," some commentators have supposed that sake was manufactured in early times by grinding rice with the teeth. This is at once disproved by the term for "yeast," namely, kabi-tachi (fermenting).


From time immemorial there were among the officials at the Imperial Court men called kashiwa-de, or oak-leaf hands. They had charge of the food and drink, and their appellation was derived from the fact that rice and other edibles were usually served on oak leaves. Earthenware utensils were used, but their surface, not being glazed, was not allowed to come into direct contact with the viands placed on them. In this practice another example is seen of the love of cleanliness that has always characterized and distinguished the Japanese nation. Edibles having been thus served, the vessels containing them were ranged on a table, one for each person, and chop-sticks were used. Everything was cooked, with the exception of certain vegetables and a few varieties of fish. Friction of wood upon wood provided fire, a fact attested by the name of the tree chiefly used for the purpose, hi-no-ki, or fire-tree. To this day the same method of obtaining a spark is practised at the principal religious ceremonials. Striking metal upon stone was another device for the same purpose, and there is no record in Japan,

as there is in China, of any age when food was not cooked. Various vessels of unglazed pottery are mentioned in the Records, as bowls, plates, jars, and wine-holders, the last being often made of metal. These were all included in the term suemono, which may be translated "table-utensils."


It has already been stated that archaeological research shows the Yamato race to have been in possession of iron swords and spears, as well as metal armour and shields, from a very early period, probably the date of these colonists' first coming to Japan. They also used saddles, stirrups, bridles, and bits for horses, so that a Yamato warrior in full mail and with complete equipment was perhaps as formidable a fighting man as any contemporary nation could produce. Bows and arrows were also in use. The latter, tipped with iron or stone and feathered, were carried in a quiver. The swords employed by men were originally double-edged. Their names* show that they were used alike for cutting and thrusting, and that they varied in length from ten "hands" to five. There was also a small single-edged sword** carried by women and fastened inside the robe. The value attached to the sword is attested by numerous appellations given to blades of special quality. In later times the two-edged sword virtually fell out of use, being replaced by the single-edged.

*Tsurugi (to pierce) and tachi (to cut).

**This was originally called himo-kala-ha, which literally means "cord single edge." subsequently kala-ha became katana, by which term all Japanese swords are now known.

Sometimes a spear was decorated with gems. It is curious that gems should have been profusely used for personal adornment in ancient times by people who subsequently eschewed the custom well-nigh altogether, as the Japanese did. The subject has already been referred to in the archaeological section, but it may be added here that there were guilds of gem-makers (Tama-tsukuri-be) in several provinces, and that, apart from imported minerals, the materials with which they worked were coral, quartz, amber, gold, silver, and certain pebbles found in Izumo.

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