Japan: Beauty and History
Japan is an island-empire, lying in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, which rose in less than a century from almost complete obscurity to a powerful word position. It is called by its own people Nippon, or “the origin of the sun,” because the continent of Asia to the west sees the sun emerge from the myriad of islands of Japan. Myriad is quite accurate and not a mere poetic term, because there are thousands of islands in the empire. Most of the islands are tiny—shrubbery-grown rocks which rise steeply out of the ocean.
Like China, its neighbor to the west, Japan spent much of its existence shut up within itself—somewhat a mystery to the Western world. Like other countries in the Orient, Japan found a place in the hazy geography of the Middle Ages, and the heart of Europe coveted this land of rare beauty and the countless riches that were believed to exist within its borders. It was called Cipango by Europeans, and explorers sought desperatley for its shores. To the day of his death, Christopher Columbus thought that he had reached not a new world with undeveloped wealth, but the long-sought-for Cipango.
Today, Oriental mystery and splendor constitute the charm of India and Egypt for the average reader. The magic of Japan is in its beauty. Legend, stories and truths speak of and show Japan’s dainty women and Geishas, cherry blossoms, wisteria, chrysanthemums, picturesque temples, artistically bridged streams, the sacred mountain Fujiyama and Torii Gates. Mount Fujiyama rises more than 12,000 feet above the sea and is located 60 miles west of Tokyo. Each summer, thousands of pigrlams climb one of the paths to the summit, or worship at the shrines and temples along the way. The Torii Gate, a beautiful structure, is usually placed before the entrance to some sacred place, as well as harbors and waterways. It is a superstition of Japanese sailors that fair weather and success will attend them on a voyage if their craft is sailed beneath the lintels of the torii.