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Japanese kiosk -

Japanese kiosk at the Exhibition Expo Paris 1867

The Japanese kiosk erected in the work gallery is pleasing for the originality of its details and the sense of elegance and harmony which governed its design. It is a happy pastiche of the elegant rest pavilions that the Daïmios have built in their immense gardens on the banks of the Okava.

The portico that precedes the kiosk is reminiscent of the one in the temple of Juannon, one of the most revered sanctuaries in Japan. It is in this temple that the sacred horse, with its spotless robe, is housed, and every day at the same time is led in great ceremony before the idol of Juannon-Sama. One of the priests asks the goddess if she wishes to leave her home and, after waiting for an answer which is still awaited, orders the animal to be taken back to the stable.

The kiosk is raised a few feet above the ground; in the centre is installed the showcase which contains the magnificent porcelains sent by the Taïcoun; the corners are occupied by admirable bronze objects; impossible for the most practised eye to discover the smallest trace of suture; the sculptures are of an unheard-of delicacy.

Outside the kiosk are the nommons (litters) of the all-powerful Tachiou of Tazouma. Cars are not known in Japan; one can hardly see a few heavy carts pulled by oxen. Travel is on foot or in narrow, awkward chairs called kangas. Only the nobles have the right to use the norimon, whose shape and size vary according to the rank of the owner.

Around the norimon are the bodyguards of the Tachiou. The warrior attire of the Japanese has not changed for several centuries; their armour is strikingly reminiscent of that of our ancient knights: helmets, cuirass, armbands, and thighs are all present. The whole is of a rather hard composition, sometimes lined with metal, covered with lacquer, good for knife fights, but unable to resist rifle bullets. The ornaments are very rich and varied; the chiefs wear over their cuirass a sort of braided silk cotte of different colours. On their helmets stand singular figures in terrible forms: the heads of monsters, the horns of deer or oxen of great height; gold or silver aigrettes of all shapes; behind their backs floats a standard in brilliant colours; some even wear a black iron mask, trimmed with a white moustache which gives them a hideous physiognomy. All this apparatus is intended to spread a salutary terror in the soul of the enemy and to force him to flee, before fighting, which is the best way to wage war.

These strange warriors are loaded with a real arsenal: behind their backs, the bow and quiver. On their belts, the two swords which are the distinctive sign of the nobility in Japan; finally, in their hands, they carry the long spear with a shaft trimmed with mother-of-pearl. The iron of the spears is wrapped in strong leather sheaths; this is by virtue of a very wise law, enacted throughout Japan. If a large part of the population has the right to bear arms, no one can draw his sword in the street, except in the case of legitimate defence, without incurring the most serious penalties: the guilty party is liable to be condemned to death after having been declared stripped of his nobility. In the province of Tazouma, where the inhabitants are known to be fiery and quarrelsome, the law is even more severe. If in public, a man has drawn his sword against someone

he is no longer allowed to put it back in its sheath without having finished a fight to the death; he must fight until he falls or kills his opponent. If he wins this duel, he is not protected, if he was the aggressor, from the merciless law which condemns him to the harsh alternative of cutting open his stomach or suffering capital punishment. If, on the contrary, he has only defended his life, he is neither punished nor blamed; but, even in the latter case, if he had fled, he would not be deemed worthy of surviving this shame, and would still have to choose between a voluntary death and the scaffold. In short, one is almost certain to lose one's life in some way. This explains why spear and pike irons are so carefully wrapped; the sheaths are only removed in the case of military expeditions or when one is in a foreign and hostile country, which is not the case at the World Fair.

©L'Exposition Universelle de 1867 Illustrée