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Algernon Freeman-Mitford, 1st Baron Redesdale
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 405 pages of information about Tales of Old Japan.

The second farce was shorter than the first, and was called The Theft of the Sword.  A certain gentleman calls his servant Tarokaja, and tells him that he is going out for a little diversion.  Bidding Tarokaja follow him, he sets out.  On their way they meet another gentleman, carrying a handsome sword in his hand, and going to worship at the Kitano shrine at Kioto.  Tarokaja points out the beauty of the sword to his master, and says what a fine thing it would be if they could manage to obtain possession of it.  Tarokaja borrows his master’s sword, and goes up to the stranger, whose attention is taken up by looking at the wares set out for sale in a shop.  Tarokaja lays his hand on the guard of the stranger’s sword; and the latter, drawing it, turns round, and tries to cut the thief down.  Tarokaja takes to his heels, praying hard that his life may be spared.  The stranger takes away the sword which Tarokaja has borrowed from his master, and goes on his way to the shrine, carrying the two swords.  Tarokaja draws a long breath of relief when he sees that his life is not forfeited; but what account is he to give of his master’s sword which he has lost.  There is no help for it, he must go back and make a clean breast of it.  His master is very angry; and the two, after consulting together, await the stranger’s return from the shrine.  The latter makes his appearance and announces that he is going home.  Tarokaja’s master falls upon the stranger from behind, and pinions him, ordering Tarokaja to fetch a rope and bind him.  The knave brings the cord; but, while he is getting it ready, the stranger knocks him over with his sword.  His master calls out to him to get up quickly and bind the gentleman from behind, and not from before.  Tarokaja runs behind the struggling pair, but is so clumsy that he slips the noose over his master’s head by mistake, and drags him down.  The stranger, seeing this, runs away laughing with the two swords.  Tarokaja, frightened at his blunder, runs off too, his master pursuing him off the stage.  A general run off, be it observed, something like the “spill-and-pelt” scene in an English pantomime, is the legitimate and invariable termination of the Kiyogen.

NOTE ON THE GAME OF FOOTBALL.

The game of football is in great favour at the Japanese Court.  The days on which it takes place are carefully noted in the “Daijokwan Nishi,” or Government Gazette.  On the 25th of February, 1869, for instance, we find two entries:  “The Emperor wrote characters of good omen,” and “The game of football was played at the palace.”  The game was first introduced from China in the year of the Empress Kokiyoku, in the middle of the seventh century.  The Emperor Mommu, who reigned at the end of the same century, was the first emperor who took part in the sport.  His Majesty Toba the Second became very expert at it, as also did the noble Asukai Chiujo, and from that time a sort of football club was formed at the palace.  During the days of the extreme poverty of the Mikado and his Court, the Asukai family, notwithstanding their high rank, were wont to eke out their scanty income by giving lessons in the art of playing football.

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