LITTLE Good Boy had just finished eating the last of five rice cakes called "dango," that had been strung
on a skewer of bamboo and dipped in soy sauce, when he said to his little sister, called
"O-Kiku, it is soon the great festival of the New Year."
"What shall we do then?" asked little O-Kiku, not clearly remembering the festival of the previous
Thus questioned, Yoshi-san
had his desired opening to hold forth on the coming delights, and he replied: —
"Men will come the evening before the great feast-day and help Plum-blossom, our maid, to clean all
the house with brush and broom. Others will set up the decoration in front of our honored gateway.
They will dig two small holes and plant a gnarled, black-barked father-pine branch on the left, and
the slighter reddish mother-pine branch on the right. They will then put with these the tall knotted
stem of a bamboo, with its smooth, hard green leaves that chatter
 when the wind blows. Next they will take a grass rope, about as long as a tall man, fringed with
grass, and decorated with zigzag strips of white paper. These, our noble father says, are meant for
rude images of men offering themselves in homage to the august gods."
"Oh, yes! I have not forgotten," interrupts Chrysanthemum, "this cord is stretched from bamboo to
bamboo; and Plum-blossom says the rope is to bar out the nasty two-toed, red, gray, and black
demons, the badgers, the foxes, and other evil spirits from crossing our threshold. But I think it
is the next part of the arch which is the prettiest, the whole bunch of things they tie in the
middle of the rope. There is the crooked-back lobster, like a bowed old man, with all around the
camellia branches, whose young leaves bud before the old leaves fall. There are pretty fern leaves
shooting forth in pairs, and deep down between them the little baby fern-leaf. There is the bitter
yellow orange, whose name, you know, means 'many parents and children.' The name of the black piece
of charcoal is a pun on our homestead."
PRESENTING THE TIDE-JEWELS TO HACHIMAN.
"But best of all," says Yoshi-san, "I like the seaweed hontawara, for it tells me of our brave Queen
Jingu Kogo, who, lest the troops should be discouraged, concealed from the army that her husband the
king had died, put on armor, and
 led the great campaign against Korea.
Her troops, stationed at the margin of the sea, were in danger of defeat on account of the lack of
fodder for their horses; when she ordered this hontawara to be plucked from the shore, and the
horses, freshened by their meal of seaweed, rushed victoriously to battle. On the bronzed clasp of
our worthy father's tobacco-pouch is, our noble father says, the Queen with her sword and the dear
little baby prince, Hachiman, who was born after the campaign, and who is now our Warrior God,
guiding our troops to victory, and that spirit on whose head squats a dragon has risen partly from
the deep, to present an offering to the Queen and the Prince.
 "Then there is another seaweed, whose name is a pun on 'rejoicing.' There is the lucky bag that I
made, for last year, of a square piece of paper into which we put chestnuts and the roe of a herring
and dried persimmon fruit. Then I tied up the paper with red and white paper-string, that the
sainted gods might know it was an offering."
BRONZE FISHES SITTING ON THEIR THROATS.
Yoshi-san and his little sister had now reached the great gate ornamented with huge bronze fishes
sitting on their throats and twisting aloft their forked tails, that was near their home.
He told his sister she must wait to know more about the great festival till the time arrived. They
shuffled off their shoes, bowed, till their foreheads touched the ground, to their parents, ate
their evening bowl of rice and salt fish, said a prayer and burnt a stick of incense to many-armed
 family altar. They spread their cotton-wadded quilts, rested their dear little shaved heads, with
quaint circlet of hair, on the roll of cotton covered with white paper that formed the cushion of
their hard wooden pillows. Soon they fell asleep to their mother's monotonously chanted lullaby of
"Sleep, my child, sleep, my child,
Where is thy nurse gone?
She is gone to the mountains
To buy thee sweetmeats.
What shall she buy thee?
The thundering drum, the bamboo pipe,
The trundling man, or the paper kite."
The great festival drew still nearer, to the children's delight, as they watched the previously
described graceful bamboo arch rise before their gateposts. Then came a party of three with an oven,
a bottomless tub, and some matting to replace the bottom. They shifted the pole that carried these
utensils from their shoulders, and commenced to make the Japanese cake that may be viewed as the
equivalent of a Christmas pudding. They mixed a paste of rice and put the sticky mass, to prevent
rebounding, on the soft mat in the tub. The third man then beat for a long time the rice cake with a
heavy mallet. Yoshi-san liked to watch the strong man swing down his mallet with dull resounding
 The well-beaten dough was then made up into flattish rounds of varying size on a pastry board one of
the men had brought. Three cakes of graduated size formed a pyramid that was placed conspicuously on
a lacquered stand, and the cakes were only to be eaten on the 11th of January.
The mother told Plum-blossom and the children to get their clogs and overcoats and hoods, for she
was going to get the New Year's decorations. The party shuffled off till they came to a stall where
were big grass ropes and fringes and quaint grass boats filled with supposed bales of merchandise in
straw coverings, a sun in red paper, and at bow and stern sprigs of fir. The whole was brightened by
bits of gold leaf, lightly stuck on, that quivered here and there. When the children had chosen the
harvest ship that seemed most besprinkled with gold, Plum-blossom bargained about the price. The
mother, as a matter of form and rank, had pretended to take no interest in the purchase. She took
her purse out of her sash, handed it to her servant, who opened it, paid the shopman, and then
returned the purse to her mistress. This she did with the usual civility of first raising it to her
forehead. The decorations they hung up in their sitting-room. Then they sent presents, such as large
dried carp, tea, eggs, shoes, kerchiefs, fruits, sweets, or toys to various friends and dependents.
 On the 1st of January
all were early astir, for the father, dressed at dawn in full European evening dress, as is
customary on such occasions, had to pay his respects at the levee of the Emperor. When this duty was
over, he returned home and received visitors of rank inferior to himself. Later in the day and on
the following day he paid visits of New Year greeting to all his friends. He took a present to those
to whom he had sent no gift. Sometimes he had his little boy with him. For these visits Yoshi-san,
in place of his usual flowing robe, loose trousers, and sash, wore a funny little knickerbocker
suit, felt hat, and boots. These latter, though he thought them grand, felt very uncomfortable after
his straw sandals. They were more troublesome to take off before stepping on the straw mats, that,
being used as chairs as well as carpets, it would be a rudeness to soil. The maids, always kneeling,
presented them with tiny cups of tea on oval saucers, which, remaining in the maid's hand, served
rather as waiters. Sweetmeats, too, usually of a soft, sticky nature, but sometimes hard like
sugar-plums, and called "fire-sweets," were offered on carved lotus-leaf or lacquered trays.
For the 2nd of January Plum-blossom bought
 some pictures of the treasure-ship or ship of riches, in which were seated the seven Gods of Wealth.
It has been sung thus about this Ship of Luck:
THE TREASURE-SHIP AND THE SEVEN GODS OF HAPPINESS.
|"Nagaki yo no, ||It is a long night. |
|To no numuri no. ||The gods of luck sleep. |
|Mina mé samé. ||They all open their eyes. |
|Nami nori fungi no. ||They ride in a boat on the waves. |
|Oto no yoki kana." ||The sound is pleasing! |
These pictures they each tied on their pillow to bring lucky dreams. Great was the laughter
 in the morning when they related their dreams. Yoshi-san said he had dreamt he had a beautiful
portmanteau full of nice foreign things, such as comforters, note-books, pencils, india-rubber,
condensed milk, lama, wide-awakes, boots, and brass jewelry. Just as he opened it, everything
vanished and he found only a torn fan, an odd chop-stick, a horse's cast straw shoe, and a live
When at home, the children, for the first few days of the New Year, dressed in their best crepe,
made up in three silken-wadded layers. Their crest was embroidered on the centre of the back and on
the sleeves of the quaintly flowered long upper skirt. Beneath its wadded hem peeped the scarlet
rolls of the hems of their under-dresses, and then the white-stockinged feet, with, passing between
the toes, the scarlet thong of the black-lacquered clog. The little girl's sash was of many-flowered
brocade, with scarlet broidered pouch hanging at her right side. A scarlet over-sash kept the large
sash-knot in its place. Her hair was gay with knot of scarlet crinkled crepe, lacquered comb, and
hairpin of tiny golden battledore. Resting thereon were a shuttlecock of coral, another pin of a
tiny red lobster and a green pine sprig made of silk. In her belt was coquettishly stuck the
butterfly-broidered case that held her quire of paper pocket-handkerchiefs. The brother's dress was
of a simpler style and soberer
 coloring. His pouch of purple had a dragon worked on it, and the hair of his partly shaven head was
tied into a little gummed tail with white paper-string. They spent most of the day playing with
their pretty new battledores, striking with its plain side the airy little shuttlecock whose head is
made of a black seed. All the while they sang a rhyme on the numbers up to ten:
"Hitogo ni futa-go mi-watashi yo me-go,
Itsu yoni musashi nan no yakushi,
Kokono-ya ja — to yo."
When tired of this fun, they would play with a ball made of paper and wadding evenly wound about
with thread or silk of various colors. They sang to the throws a song which seems abrupt because
some portions have probably fallen into disuse; it runs thus: —
"See opposite — see Shin-kawa! A very beautiful lady who is one of the daughters of a chief
magistrate of Odawara-cho. She was married to a salt merchant. He was a man fond of display, and he
thought how he would dress her this year. He said to the dyer, 'Please dye this brocade and the
brocade for the middle dress into seven- or eight-fold dresses;' and the dyer said, 'I am a dyer,
and therefore I will dye and stretch it. What pattern do you wish?' The merchant replied, 'The
pattern of falling snow and broken twigs, and in the centre the curved bridge of Gojo.'"
 Then to fill up the rhyme come the words, "Chokin, chokera, kokin, kokera," and the tale goes on:
"Crossing this bridge the girl was struck here and there, and the tea-house girls laughed. Put out
of countenance by this ridicule, she drowned herself in the river Karas, the body sunk, the hair
floated. How full of grief the husband's heart — now the ball counts a hundred."
GIRL'S BALL AND COUNTING GAME.
This they varied with another song: —
"One, two, three, four,
Grate hard charcoal, shave kiri wood;
Put in the pocket, the pocket is wet,
Kiyomadzu, on three yenoki trees
Were three sparrows, chased by a pigeon.
The sparrows said, 'Chiu, chiu,'
The pigeon said, 'po, po,' — now the
Ball counts a hundred."
The pocket referred to means the bottom of the long sleeve, which is apt to trail and get wet when a
child stoops at play. Kiyomadzu may mean a famous temple that bears that name. Sometimes they would
simply count the turns and make a sort of game of forfeiting and returning the number of rebounds
kept up by each.
Yoshi-san had begun to think battledore and
 balls too girlish an amusement. He preferred flying his eagle or mask-like kite, or playing at
cards, verses, or lotteries. Sometimes he played a lively game with his father, in which the board
is divided into squares and diagonals. On these move sixteen men held by one player and one large
piece held by the second player. The point of the game is either that the holder of the sixteen
pieces hedges the large piece so that it can make no move, or that the big piece takes all its
adversaries. A take can only be made by the large piece when it finds a piece immediately on each
side of it and a blank point beyond. Or he watched a party of several, with the pictured sheet of
Japanese backgammon before them, write their names on slips of paper or wood, and throw in turn a
die. The slips are placed on the pictures whose numbers correspond with the throw. At the next
round, if the number thrown by the particular player is written on the picture, he finds directions
as to which picture to move his slip backward or forward to. He may, however, find his throw a blank
and have to remain at his place. The winning consists in reaching a certain picture. When tired of
these quieter games, the strolling woman player on a guitar-like instrument, would be called in. Or,
a party of Kangura boy performers afforded pastime by the quaint animal-like movements of the draped
figure. He wears a huge
 grotesque scarlet mask on his head, and at times makes this monster appear to stretch out and draw
in its neck by an unseen change in position of the mask from the head to the gradually extended and
draped hand of the actor. The beat of a drum and the whistle of a bamboo flute formed the
accompaniment to the dumb-show acting.
FIREMEN GYMNASTICS AT NEW YEAR'S TIME
Yoshi-san thought the 4th and 5th days of January great fun, because loud shoutings were heard.
Running in the direction of the sound, he found
 the men of a fire-brigade who had formed a procession to carry their new paper standard, bamboo
ladders, paper lanterns, etc. This procession paused at intervals. Then the men steadied the ladder
with their long fire-hooks, whilst an agile member of the band mounted the erect ladder and
performed gymnastics at the top. His performance concluded, he dismounted, and the march continued,
the men as before yelling joyously, at the highest pitch of their voices.
STREET TUMBLERS PLAYING KANGURA IN TOKIO.
After about a week of fun, life at the villa gradually resumed its usual course, the father returned
to his office, the mother to her domestic employments, and the children to school, all having said
for that new year their last joy-wishing greeting — omedeto (congratulations).
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