These film clips and stills are copyright
Toho Company, Ltd.
They are reproduced here in conjunction with the course website for
ENLT 255: Special Collections
an undergraduate seminar held at the University of Virginia
in the fall semester of 2005.
Their reproduction is made possible by the fair use
17 U.S.C. 107
which limit the exclusive rights of copyright holders.
For more on the fair use of film stills, see Kristin Thompson's
"Report of the Ad Hoc Committee of the Society For Cinema Studies:
'Fair Usage Publication of Film Stills'
32.2 (Winter 1993): 3-20.
. "In a Cup of Tea." Kotto—: Being Japanese Curios, With Sundry Cobwebs.
New York: The Macmillan Company, 1902.
ave you ever attempted to mount some old tower stairway, spiring up through darkness, and in the
heart of that darkness found yourself at the cobwebbed edge of nothing? Or have you followed some
coast path, cut along the face of a cliff, only to discover yourself, at a turn, on the jagged verge
of a break? The emotional worth of such an experience—from a literary point of view—is
proved by the force of sensations aroused, and by the vividness with which they are remembered.
ow there have been curiously preserved, in old Japanese story-books, certain fragments of fiction
that produce an almost similar emotional experience.... Perhaps the writer was lazy; perhaps he had a
quarrel with the publisher; perhaps he was suddenly called away from his little table, and never
came back; perhaps death stopped the writing-brush in the very middle of a sentence. But no mortal
man can ever tell us exactly why these things were left unfinished.... I select a typical example.
• • •
n the fourth day of the first month of the third Tenwa,—that is to say, about two hundred and
twenty years ago,—the lord Nakagawa Sado, while on his way to make a New Year's visit, halted
with his train at a tea-house in Hakusan, in the Hongo district of Yedo. While the party were
resting there, one of the lord's attendants,—a wakato1
named Sekinai,—feeling very thirsty, filled himself a large water-cup with tea. He was raising the cup
to his lips when he suddenly perceived, in the transparent yellow infusion, the image or reflection
of a face that was not his own. Startled, he looked around, but could see no one near him. The face
in the tea appeared, from the coiffure, to be the face of a young samurai: it was strangely
distinct, and very handsome,—delicate as the face of a girl. And it seemed the reflection of a
living face; for the eyes and the lips were moving. Bewildered by this mysterious apparition,
Sekinai threw away the tea, and carefully examined the cup. It proved to be a very cheap water-cup,
with no artistic devices of any sort. He found and filled another cup; and again the face appeared
in the tea. He then ordered fresh tea, and refilled the cup; and once more the strange face
appeared,—this time with a mocking smile. But Sekinai did not allow himself to be frightened.
"Whoever you are," he muttered, "you shall delude me no further!"—then he swallowed the tea, face
and all, and went his way, wondering whether he had swallowed a ghost.
ate in the evening of the same day, while on watch in the palace of the lord Nakagawa, Sekinai
was surprised by the soundless coming of a stranger into the apartment. This stranger, a richly
dressed young samurai, seated himself directly in front of Sekinari, and, saluting the wakato—
with a slight bow, observed:—
am Shikibu Heinai—met you to-day for the first time... You do not seem to recognize me."
e spoke in a very low, but penetrating voice. And Sekinai was astonished to find before him the
same sinister, handsome face of which he had seen, and swallowed, the apparition in a cup of tea.
It was smiling now, as the phantom had smiled; but the steady gaze of the eyes, above the smiling
lips, was at once a challenge and an insult.
o, I do not recognize you," returned Sekinai, angry but cool;—"and perhaps you will now be good
enough to inform me how you obtained admission to this house?"
n feudal times the residence of a lord was strictly guarded at all hours; and no one could enter
unannounced, except through some unpardonable negligence on the part of the armed watch.]
h, you do not recognize me!" exclaimed the visitor, in a tone of irony, drawing a little nearer
as he spoke. "No, you do not recognize me!" Yet you took upon yourself this morning to do me a
ekinari instantly seized the tanto2
at his girdle, and made a fierce thrust at the throat of the man.
But the blade seemed to touch no substance. Simultaneously and soundlessly the intruder leaped
sideward to the chamber-wall, and through it!É The wall showed no trace of his exit. He had
traversed it only as the light of a candle passes through lantern-paper.
hen Sekinai made report of this incident, his recital astonished and puzzled the retainers. No
stranger had been seen either to enter or to leave the palace at the hour of the occurrence; and
no one in the service of the lord Nakagawa had ever heard of the name "Shikibu Henai."
n the following night Sekinai was off duty, and remained at home with his parents. At a rather
late hour he was informed that some strangers had called at the house, and desired to speak with
him for a moment. Taking his sword, he went to the entrance, and there found three armed
men,—apparently retainers,—waiting in front of the doorstep. The three bowed respectfully to
Sekinai; and one of them said:—
ur names are Matsuoka Bungo—, Tsuchibashi Bungo—, and Okamura Heiroku. We are retainers of the
noble Shikubu Henai. When our master last night deigned to pay you a visit, you struck him with a
sword. He was much hurt, and has been obliged to go to the hot springs, where his wound is now
being treated. But on the sixteenth day of the coming month he will return; and he will then fitly
repay you for the injury done him.É"
ithout waiting to hear more, Sekinai leaped out, sword in hand, and slashed right and left, at the
strangers. But the three men sprang to the wall of the adjoining building, and flitted up the wall
like shadows, and...
• • •
ere the old narrative breaks off; the rest of the story existed only in some brain that has been
dust for a century.
am able to imagine several possible endings; but none of them would satisfy an Occidental
imagination. I prefer to let the reader attempt to decide for himself the probable consequence
of swallowing a Soul.