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Page:Littell's Living Age - Volume 134.djvu/320

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314
JAPANESE CHILDREN.

account of the following games, all of them played by means of cards: —

In one of these, a large square sheet of paper is laid on the floor. On this card are the names and pictures of the fifty-three post stations between Yedo (Tokio) and Kioto. At the place Kioto are put a few coins, or a pile of cakes, or some such prizes, and the game is played with dice. Each throw advances the player towards the goal, and the one arriving first obtains the prize.
The Iroha Garuta are small cards, each containing a proverb. The proverb is printed upon one card, and the picture illustrating it on another. The children range themselves in a circle, and the cards are shuffled and dealt. One is appointed to be the reader. Looking at his cards, he reads the proverb. The player who has the picture corresponding to the proverb calls out, and the match is made. Those who are rid of their cards first win the game. The one holding the last card is the loser. If he be a boy, he has his face marked curiously with ink. If a girl, she has a paper or wisp of straw stuck in her hair.

Other games of the same nature are the Hiaku Nin loshiu Garuta, the Kokiu Garuta, the Genji Garuta, and the Chi Garuta, which all consist of cards, on which are written parts of verses or stanzas. One person reads out the portion on his card, and the one having the card containing the remainder of that stanza must produce it. These games test how far the children have learned their recitations. Some of the cards are written with Japanese characters, others with Chinese, and the reward of being allowed to take part in these games (which are usually played during. the new-year holidays) is held out to backward pupils to induce them to study hard.

Two other games are played which may be said to have an educational value. They are the Chiefé no Ita (wisdom boards) and the Chiefé no Wa (ring of wisdom). The former consists of a number of thin flat pieces of wood, cut in many geometrical shapes. Certain possible figures are printed on paper as models, and the boy tries to form them out of the pieces given him. In some cases much time and trouble are required to form the figure. The Chiefé no Wa is a puzzle-ring, made of rings of bamboo or iron, on a bar. Boys having a talent for mathematics, or those who have a natural capacity to distinguish size and form, succeed very well at these games and enjoy them.

In connection with kite-flying, two points deserve notice, — a most peculiar semi-musical noise is produced, by the vibration of a piece of thin tense ribbon of whalebone at the top of the kite; also, fights with these kites are of frequent occurrence. For this purpose, the string for ten or twenty feet near the kite end is first covered with glue, and then dipped into pounded glass, by which the skin becomes covered with tiny blades, each able to cut quickly and deeply. By getting the kite in proper position and suddingly sawing the string of his antagonist, the severed kite falls, to be reclaimed by the victor.

The concluding words of the interesting paper from which I have quoted deserve to be deeply pondered by teachers and parents. After stating the useful and beneficial effects of the games he has been describing, Mr. Griffis says: "The study of the subject leads one to respect more highly the Japanese people for being such affectionate fathers and mothers, and for having such natural and docile children. The character of the children's plays and their encouragement by the parents has, I think, much to do with that frankness, affection, and obedience on the side of the children, and that kindness and sympathy on that of the parents, which are so noticeable in Japan, and which is one of the good points of Japanese life and character."

But if Japan is the "paradise of babies," I think it may also be justly called the Elysium of teachers who are not "strict disciplinarians." Of course, the fact of being placed over pupils who are entirely supported by the government gives one immense power over these students; but independently of this, I find that Japanese are most easily managed. They seem to have the power of sustained attention largely developed, — their thirst for Western knowledge ensures the co-operation of their will, while the inherent awe of the "powers that be" renders them very tractable. As far as I can make out, corporal punishment is unknown in the country; it is very seldom necessary to resort to detention for imperfectly prepared lessons; punctuality is observed by the students, however much it is neglected by their elders. On the other hand, they are terribly given to coining excuses of the most paltry description; they are untidy in their personal habits, and they certainly have but little regard for truth. But they are very kind to one another, they seem to have a certain code of schoolboy honor among themselves, and there appears to be no such vice as bullying known to them. Adopting a custom of the country, we have the name of each student written on a piece of wood, and these names are