Comes this tidbit. Since it is buried on Page 17… and the publishing date is 1895, we can assume that while Japan still presents some allure for western readers, the bloom on the chrysanthemum appears to have faded a little…
Thanks to Vinnie for the heads up - and please note that the newspaper was in the collection of Early American Newspapers via www.readex.com. Check'em out!
A Curious Japanese Ceremony Which Occurs Every Year
The Japanese have a curious ceremony once every year which surly must tend to fan the glow of patriotism, and may partially account for the magnificent enthusiasm they have fought for their Emperor in this war against China. At Tokio, for instance, on the sixth of every November, they hold the service in the temple of Kendan. The masses of troops and spectators form a dense crowd through the gardens and broad avenues of the temple and the neighboring streets and squares.
Little by little the officers fill the stairway of the temple, all in full dress, with the long coat held in by a silver belt like the German soldiers, and stiff little cap with a great white aigrette like the French. All the while the throb of funeral music beats its sad rhythm in our very pulses.
On a central platform raised one step above the other is the great mirror in its black frame of black wood, which is the emblem of Shintoism or ancestor worship, which is the true religion of Japan. To one side are great bags of rice and a barrel of cake or rice brandy for the repast of the dead. Large benches are run lengthwise up to the altar, which is inclosed by a curtain of clothe silver. The priests clad entirely in white with caps of woven black horse hair pass slowly to and fro. Only after three days of fasting and purification are they allowed to perform the service, and even then they must wear a triangular piece of cloth over their mouths lest their unholy breath should profane the viands sent by the Emperor and reserved for the dead alone.
A priest goes reverently to some little stools of white wood, on which lie the offerings of the Emperor, and gives the platters with a profound obeisance to another officiating priest, who raises them respectively the height of his forehead. The cloth covering them is then taken off, and one sees arranged with that art which the Japanese understand so well, fish lying on beds of oranges, fruits and vegetables of all kinds surrounded by leaves and twigs of bamboo. Then a third priest takes them to the inner platform and a fourth arranges them on the benches before the altar. The table of the dead is spread. Then the generals descend to meet a chamberlain, who brings the homage which the Emperor prays and those who died in his defense. The high priest, clad in a long red toga, draws the roll reverently from its case. As it appears, all heads are bowed, for the young Mikado is a god and his message is divine. The high priest advances to the sacred mirror, claps his hands three times to attract the attention of the souls of the dead, first standing, then kneeling. Three times he bows his head to the ground; then unrolling the message he reads it in a sing-song voice which runs through the entire gamut, and half the sounds are swallowed in his throat. Again he claps his hands and lays the sacred parchment on a tripod before the silver curtain. The music, which has been playing continuously, here sounds like a muffled groan. Then taking a branch of leaves, ties with the national colors, the high priest sets it up before the mystic mirror. The Secretaries of War and Marine each do the same, and the three branches symbolize the national grief. The music grows more marked, the bugles sound and all the troops present arms to the souls of their comrades dead for their duty.
Interesting… I can't find a modern reference to this ceremony - or even an old reference… so I am unsure if such a thing still exists anymore in Japan… or was it merely a rare event that occurred during the battles Japan used to have with China… and is this ceremony we might see taken up yet again.
I hope not.
Still... if anyone out there has information on this Shinto ceremony and can tell me what it is called - please drop me a line.