Web and Book design,
Copyright, Kellscraft Studio
(Return to Web Text-ures)
IN THE HOUSE (continued)
Even supposing that a well-to-do Japanese has a good deal of native furniture--such as beautifully painted screens, handsome vases, tables of ebony inlaid with gold or with fancy woods, and so forth--yet he does not keep them in the house. He stores them away in a special building, and a servant runs and fetches whatever may be wanted. When the article has served its purpose, it is taken back again.
This building is called a godown. It is built of cement, is painted black, and bears the owner's monogram in a huge white design. It is considered to be fireproof, though it is not always so, and is meant to preserve the family treasures in case of one of the frequent fires. It may be stored with a great variety of furniture and ornaments, but very few see the light at one time.
The Japanese does not fill his house with all the decorations he may own, and live with them constantly. If he has a number of beautiful porcelain jars and vases, he has one out at one time, another at another. A certain vase goes with a certain screen, and every time a change is made, the daughters of the house receive new lessons in the art of placing the articles and decking them with flowers and boughs of blossom in order to gain the most beautiful effect. If a visitor be present in the house, the guest-chamber will be decorated afresh every day, each design showing some new and unexpected beauty in screen, or flower-decked vase, or painted kakemono. There is one vase which is always carefully supplied with freshly-cut boughs or flowers. This is the vase which stands before the tokonoma. The tokonoma is a very quaint feature of a Japanese house. It means a place in which to lay a bed, and, in theory, is a guest-chamber in which to lodge the Mikado, the Japanese Emperor. So loyal are the Japanese that every house is supposed to contain a room ready for the Emperor in case he should stay at the door and need a night's lodging. The Emperor, of course, never comes, and so the tokonoma is no more than a name.
A JAPANESE HOUSE
Usually it is a recess a few feet long and a few inches wide, and over it hangs the finest kakemono that the house can afford, and in front of it is a vase whose flowers are arranged in a traditional form which has a certain allegorical meaning.
At night a Japanese room is lighted by a candle fixed in a large square paper lantern, the latter placed on a lacquer stand. The light is very dim, and many are now replacing it with ordinary European lamps. Unluckily they buy the very commonest and cheapest of these, and so in consequence accidents and fires are numerous.
Among the coolies of Japan, the people who fill the back streets of the large towns with long rows of tiny houses, the process of "moving house" is absolutely literal. They do not merely carry off their furniture--that would be simple enough--but they swing up the house too, carry it off, set their furniture in it again, and resume their contented family life. It is not at all an uncommon thing to meet a pair thus engaged in shifting their abode. The man is marching along with a building of lath and paper, not much bigger than a bathing-machine, swung on his shoulders, while his wife trudges behind him with two or three big bundles tied up in blue cloth. He carries the house, and she the furniture. Within a few hours they will be comfortably settled in the new street to which their needs or their fancies call them.