Conventions

Whether we or the Japanese be the more conventional, might furnish a nice point for argument; but in any case it is their conventions that strike us. They admire certain flowers,-the plum and cherry-blossom, the wistaria, the chrysanthemum, the insignificant "seven herbs of autumn," and have written poems about these and a few others for centuries; but new flowers, however beautiful, they will not admit at any rate into literature. They rave about the moon; the glories and pathos of sunset touch no chord within them. Their art bristles with conventions. So do their social habits, as when, in greeting a friend, they crave pardon for rudeness of which they were never guilty. The oddest conventional item of daily life, or rather death, is their habit of inventing a fictitious date for decease. Thus, all the world knows that such and such an admiral or general died on Monday morning. Nevertheless, he receives visits on the Tuesday, is promoted on the Wednesday, perhaps makes a railway journey on the Thursday, and at last, maybe, receives official permission to die on the Friday at precisely 7.45 p.m. This make-believe is inspired by the most practical motives. In former days, when a Daimyō died away from home, he was considered a deserter, and his estates were forfeited to the Crown. So, in the event of his being assassinated out-of-doors, the fact was hushed up; he was put into his palanquin, carried home, and proclaimed to have died a natural death there, thus preserving the estate to his heirs. At the present day, higher official rank brings with it a larger pension to the family. It is, therefore, a gracious act on the part of Government to permit the postponement of the date of death till after certain honours shall have been conferred.