Nothing recommends itself more to the traveler as a national trait among . the Japanese than their gentleness and kindness to children and animals. It is in consequence of this that not only the domesticated, but the so-called wild, animals and birds of this country are far bolder and easier of approach than in other parts of the world. There is here a species of swallow, much resembling the chimney swallow of Europe, which actually frequents the houses. and twitters and circles about the heads of the people in the different apartments, as we have seen tame canaries when set free from their cages in the house where they are kept. Only in this case the swallow is free to come and go through the open window or door, and gets his own living in the open air. Even in Europe and America this beautiful little bird is a favorite. Humphry Davy says of it: “ swallow is one of my favorite birds, and a rival of the nightingale, for he cheers my sense of seeing as much as the other does my sense of hearing. He is the glad prophet of the year, the harbinger of the best season. He lives a life of enjoyment among the loveliest forms of nature. Winter is unknown to him, and he leaves the green meadows and forests of England in autumn for the myrtle and orange groves of Italy andpalms of Africa. He has always objects of pursuit, and his success is sure. Even the beings selected for his prey are poetical, beautiful, and . transient. The ephemeral are saved by his means from a slow and lingering death in the evening, and killed in a moment when they have known nothing but pleasure. He is a constant destroyer of insects, the friend of man, and a sacred bird. His instinct, which gives him his appointed season, and teaches him when and where to move, may be regarded as flowing from a divine source, and he belongs to the oracles of nature, which speak the awful and intelligible fiats of a present Deity." Of course, this character of symbolic grace and modesty goes far to recommend the bird to so artistic a people as the Japanese, and it is, in consequence, almost a national emblem, being a favorite subject with their decorators, and finding a place with the crane and the lotus as a religious type. It is, however, in the building. of its nest and rearing of its young that the Japanese swallow pays the highest compliment to, and exhibits the greatest amount of confidence in, its protectors ; for, however incredible it may seem, its habitation is built, and its little family brought up, in the living rooms of Japanese families, and this not only in unfrequented parts of the country/but, as Professor Morse as- sdores. us, in the ' midst of their largest cities. The Proressor, than whom no more interesting andacute observer of Japanese life exists, in speaking of these nests, says that they are not built in any remote part of the house, but in the principal and oftenest visited rooms, where the inmates are the busiest about the household affairs. He adds that the children take great delight in watching the nests in process of construction, and in the rearing and education of the young birds afterward. As soon as a nest is fairly begun, some member of the household puts up a neat little shelf beneath it to prevent litter on the floor, and the bird, accepting this as a “locus in quo,” returns, year after year, to rebuild or repair and reoccupy the old nest in the same place. JAPAN. Illuminating Water by Electricity. At the new Cirque Nautique in Paris there is an aquatic performance of a very novel character. After the conclusion of the ordinary gymnastic and riding entertainment, the carpet is removed from the floor of the ring, and the latter entirely submerged. A circular pond is thereby produced, and an electric arc lamp illuminates the water from below. The swimming performers appear like mermen and mermaids in the translucent depths of the sea. The general installation throughout the building is a very fine one, and includes both arc and incandescent lamps; the lamps soleil producing a beautiful effect.
This article was originally published with the title "Birds' Nests in Japanese Houses" in Scientific American 54, 25, 393 (June 1886)