Fashionable Crazes

Japan stood still so long that she has now to move quickly and often, to make up for lost time. Every few years there is a new craze, over which the nation, or at least that part of the nation which resides in Tōkyō, goes wild for a season. 1873 was the rabbit year. There had been none of these little rodents in Japan. Hence, when imported as curiosities, they fetched incredible prices, as much as $1,000 being sometimes paid for a single specimen. Speculations in $400 and $500 rabbits were of daily occurrence. In the following year, 1874, the government put a capitation tax on rabbits, the price fell in consequence from dollars to cents, and the luckless rabbit-gamblers were ruined in a moment. 1874-5 were the cock-fighting years. In 1882-3, printing dictionaries and other works by subscription was the order of the day. Many of these literary enterprises turned out to be fraudulent, and had to be dealt with by the courts. About 1883 was also the great time for founding societies, learned and otherwise. Next came athletics in 1884-5. A rage for waltzing and for gigantic funerals marked 1886-7. During these years there was also, in official circles, an epidemic of what was locally known as "the German measles,"-a mania for imitating all things German, doubtless because "safer," more genuinely monarchical, than free Anglo-Saxondom. The following year took quite a new departure, setting mesmerism, table-turning, and planchette in fashion; and 1888 lifted wrestling from a vulgar pastime to a fashionable craze, in which the then prime minister, Count Kuroda, led the way. 1889 saw the sudden rise of joint-stock companies, together with a general revival of all native Japanese amusements, Japanese costume, anti-foreign agitation, etc. This was the great year of reaction. 1890 and following years,-railway speculation. 1893, the whole nation went mad over Colonel Fukushima's successful ride across Siberia; a perusal of the newspapers of the time can alone give any idea of the popular frenzy. 1896, stampcollecting. 1898-1900, garden-parties. One of them lasted five days; others were held even in the snow, with bonfires lit in the vain hope of warming the shivering guests. Certain merchants of Yokohama, failing a real garden, went so far as to hold their garden-party (so-called) on board some lighters moored together and covered with an awning! Another craze of the closing years of the century was for busts and statues,-even silver statues of oneself. This last form of this particular craze reminds one of early mediæval times, when prominent princes and Buddhist saints (despite their assent to the doctrine that all phenomena are a mirage, and personality itself a delusion and a snare) seem to have devoted no inconsiderable portion of their leisure to painting and carving their own image. Sometimes, it is averred, the painting was the handiwork of a disciple, but the saint himself would then dot in the eyes. 1901, monster outings for children and workmen. One of the leading newspapers organised an excursion to Tōkyō for 120,000 operatives. But when this vast multitude neared the spot, only 5,000 were allowed by the police to proceed, and rioting ensued. A picnic of more manageable proportions was attended by 380 blind shampooers, who went out to see (?) the plum-blossoms at Sugita, and were made safe by means of a long rope, after the fashion of Alpine climbers. 1903, youths nourished on Schopenhauer and Nietsche took to practising "the denial of the will to live" by jumping into the great waterfall of Kegon at Nikkō. 1904, lantern processions to celebrate military successes.