The Sacred Scriptures of the Japanese

The Sacred Scriptures of the Japanese

The Sacred Scriptures of the Japanese

The Sacred Scriptures of the Japanese

Excerpt

The better part of a century has flown since Matthew Perry, commodore of the American Navy, nosed his flagship Mississippi into Edo (present- day Tok'yo) Bay and by his unwelcome midwifery brought to birth the enfant prodige of the modern nations, the Japan of Prince Ito and the Imperial Constitution, of Admiral Togo and Tsushima Strait, of General Araki and Manchukuo, of Premier Tojo and Pearl Harbor.

The miracle of its reorganization along the lines of modern government began to dawn on the Western world even before the China War of the '90s, and with the Russo-Japanese conflict a decade later the portent of its stark militarism struck deep into Occidental consciousness. Since then an army of books, in a dozen languages, have been written of Japan and its people, whose readers today know little of the Japanese mind. The West, in peace and in war, has concerned itself with the surface of its civilization, with its borrowed Western overlay rather than the subsoil beneath. That subsoil is the myth-mass which the race, from its remotest beginnings, has made its own, it is to that one must look to find the Japanese formula.

This body of legend, folklore to us but credible history to the people of the archipelago, is tangled in the roots of everything Japanese. Behind its painting, its music, the symbolism of the gorgeous mimes called the No, behind temple ceremonial and festival, or strange demoniac "curtain-raiser" at the theatre, or children's game, or folk-superstition -- always this mass of myth is there, at the back of the beyond, the subsoil of modern Japanese thought. From it spring the inspirations of the national art, the national poetry, the national dance and religious drama of the empire.

In no other land do we find a people's sacred legend so interknit with the individual's daily thought and life. Its episodes peer at one from every nook and byway. The primal myth of the slaughter of the Eight-Forked- Serpent by the deity Brave-Swift-Impetuous-Male, brother of Bright-Sky-Shiner . . .

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