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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

A vessel the Karano one hundred feet in length

people were large enough to traverse fifty miles, or more, of open sea."* Only one distinct reference to sailing occurs, however, in the ancient annals. On the occasion of the alleged expedition to Korea (A.D. 200) under the Empress Jingo, the Chronicles say, "Sail was set from the harbour of Wani." At a date nearly three centuries earlier, there appears to have been a marked deficiency of coasting vessels, for the Chronicles quote an Imperial decree issued B.C. 81, which says: "Ships are of cardinal importance to the Empire. At present the people of the coast, not having ships, suffer grievously by land transport. Therefore let every province be caused to have ships built;"* and it is related that, a few months later, the building of ships was begun. Again, in A.D. 274, a vessel (the Karano) one hundred feet in length, was constructed in the province of Izu, and twenty-six years later, according to the Chronicles, the Emperor issued this order: "The Government ship named Karano was sent as tribute by the Lord of Izu. It is rotten and unfit for use. It has, however, been in the Government use for a long time, and its services should not be forgotten. Shall we not keep the name of that ship from being lost and hand it down to after ages?" The Karano was then broken and her timbers being employed as firewood for roasting salt, the latter was given to the various provinces, which, in return, were caused to build ships for the State, the result being a fleet of five hundred vessels.

*Aston's Nihongi.

It would seem that there was always an abundance of fishing-boats, for fishing by traps, hooks, and nets was industriously carried on. A passage in the Records speaks of a thousand-fathom rope of paper-mulberry which was used to draw the net in perch fishing. Spearing was also practised by fishermen, and in the rivers cormorants were used just as they are to-day.


It does not appear that the marriage tie possessed any grave significance in ancient Japan, or that any wedding ceremony was performed; unless, indeed, the three circuits made by Izanagi and Izanami prior to cohabitation round a "heavenly august pillar" be interpreted as the circumambulatory rite observed in certain primitive societies. Pouring water over a bride seems, however, to have been practised and is still customary in some provinces, though as to its antiquity nothing can be said. An exchange of presents is the only fact made clear by the annals. There did not exist in Japan, as in China, a veto on marriages between people of the same tribe, but this difference does not signify any reproach to Japan: the interdict was purely political in China's case, and corresponding conditions did not exist in Japan.

On the other hand, the Japanese system permitted a degree of licence which in the Occident is called incest: brothers and sisters might intermarry provided that they had not been brought up together. To understand this condition it is necessary to observe that a bride generally continued to live in her family dwelling where she received her husband's visits, and since there was nothing to prevent a husband from contracting many such alliances, it was possible for him to have several groups of children, the members of each group being altogether unknown to the members of all the rest. In a later, but not definitely ascertained era, it became customary for a husband to take his wife to his own home, and thereafter the veto upon such unions soon became imperative, so that a Prince Imperial in the fifth century who cohabited with his sister forfeited the succession and had to commit suicide, his conduct being described in the Chronicles as "a barbarous outrage."

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