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Page:Littell's Living Age - Volume 134.djvu/319

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JAPANESE CHILDREN.

grows strong, constitute the very beauideal of an infant's playground. 4. Children are much petted, without being capriciously thwarted. A child is not cuffed one moment and indulged the next, as is too frequently the case at home. To these four most suggestive reasons I would add a fifth, which is that Japanese character is so constituted as to bring their elders into much stronger sympathy with the little ones than is the case in busy, bustling, money-making England. It has been well said that "Japan is a paradise of babies," for you may see old and young together playing at battledore-and-shuttlecock in the streets; while on holidays the national amusement of men, women, and children is flying huge paper kites; puppet-shows and masquerades also have their votaries in thousands, from amongst both sexes and all ages. It occurred to me, therefore, that it might be profitable to me as an educator, whose lines are cast amongst this strange people, to investigate the nature and value of the amusements and sports in vogue here, and I think that the results of these investigations may not be uninteresting or devoid of suggestions to my fellow-teachers at home.

Not without some misgivings as to the manner in which they would be received, I had brought out all the apparatus necessary for football and cricket. The latter game has, of course, not yet been introduced to my pupils' notice, but the football they took to as naturally as a duck does to water. They can now play a really good game. There is no want of pluck, while they show great quickness of eye and judgment. One national characteristic, however, soon showed itself in the form of "goal-sneaking;" indeed, I verily believe that a boy who sneaked in his opponents' ground and so kicked a goal, would be looked upon as a far greater hero than one who obtained a game in a fair and open manner. This game of football is not entirely unknown in the country, but it has been hitherto restricted to those immediately connected with the emperor's palace. The authorities have set apart a capital field for us, and football is all the fashion among our students now. Leapfrog, jumping, and running all seem quite naturalized here, as also skipping with ropes, as practised by girls at home. Walking, running, and wrestling on stilts also appear to be national sports amongst boys. There was also until quite lately a custom amongst schoolboys of forming themselves into companies under regularly appointed leaders, and of fighting with bamboo sticks. These companies called themselves respectively Genji and Heiki (names of two famous faction leaders in olden times); each boy carried a flag behind his back, and a kind of earthenware cap on his head. The objects of the fight were to break these earthenware caps and to capture the flags. This sport, however, has been lately prohibited by the government. The game of snowballing is, however, carried on with great spirit, and in all these athletic games the boys appear to keep their temper admirably. We have instituted regular drills for all our students, and the results are, so far, very satisfactory. Thus much for games bearing more immediately on physical education. They seem to indicate a naturally manly and self-reliant disposition, on the part of the rising generation, which I am unable to discover in the adult population; but there is an evident want of endurance. Thirty or forty minutes at a game of football will quite fatigue a boy of fifteen years old. This want of physique also appears in the frequent absence from studies of pupils on the score of "a bad cold," "a bilious attack," "a severe headache," etc. These ailments I should attribute respectively to the draughty state of their houses, the nature of their food, and the poisonous fumes of the hibache (charcoal-boxes), which do duty instead of fireplaces.

The young Japanese are also well provided with games and amusements of an intellectual nature, and for the account of these I am much indebted to a paper by Professor Griffis, read before the Asiatic Society of Japan in 1874. I found that some dissected maps which I brought out here excited much interest and attention, and some experiments with Butter's arithmetical cubes showed that there was great aptitude for notions of form. Some success has also attended a class match which we have held, from which it would appear that the boys have the power of retentiveness largely developed, but that they have little or no idea of generalization or abstraction. They seem quick at grasping some part of a truth, but impatient of learning anything (except words) thoroughly, and yet to recognize their deficiencies when pushed into a corner by cross-examination; but this dependence on words is easily accounted for, when one knows their system of national education, an outline of which I hope to send home before long; in the mean time some idea of it may be gained by reading between the lines in Professor Griffis's