From Egypt to Japan Part 23

One cannot go anywhere in j.a.pan without receiving a visit from the people, who, being of a thrifty turn, seize the occasion of a stranger's presence to drive a little trade. The skill of the j.a.panese is quite marvellous in certain directions: They make everything _in petto_, in miniature--the smallest earthenware; the tiniest cups and saucers. In these mountain villages they work, like the Swiss, in wooden-ware, and make exquisite and dainty little boxes and bureaus, as if for dolls, yet with complete sets of drawers, which could not but take the fancy of one who had little people at home waiting for presents. Besides the temptation of such trinkets, who could resist the insinuating manner of the women who brought them? The j.a.panese women are not pretty. They might be, were it not for their odious fashions. We have seen faces that would be quite handsome if left in their native, unadorned beauty. But fashion rules the world in j.a.pan as in Paris. As soon as a woman is married her eyebrows are shaved off, and her teeth blackened, so that she cannot open her mouth without showing a row of ebony instead of ivory, which disfigures faces that would be otherwise quite winning. It says a good deal for their address, that with such a feature to repel, they can still be attractive. This is owing wholly to their manners. The j.a.panese men and women are a light-hearted race, and captivate by their gayety and friendliness. The women were always in a merry mood. As soon as they entered the room, before even a word was spoken, they began to giggle, as if our appearance were very funny, or as if this were the quickest way to be on good terms with us. The effect was irresistible. I defy the soberest man to resist it, for as soon as your visitor laughs, you begin to laugh from sympathy; and when you have got into a hearty laugh together, you are already acquainted, and in friendly relations, and the work of buying and selling goes on easily. They took us captive in a few minutes. We purchased sparingly, thinking of our long journey; but our English friends bought right and left, till the next day they had to load two pack-horses with boxes to be carried over the mountains to Yokohama.

The next day was to bring the consummation of our journey, for then we were to go up into a mountain and see the glory of the Lord. A few miles distant is the summit of Otometoge, from which one obtains a view of Fusiyama, looking full in his awful face. We started with misgivings, for it had been raining, and the clouds still hung low upon the mountains. Our way led through hamlets cl.u.s.tered together in a narrow pa.s.s, like Alpine villages. As we wound up the ascent, we often stopped to look back at the valley below, from which rose the murmur of rushing waters, while the sides of the mountains were clothed with forests. These rich landscapes gave such enchantment to the scene as repaid us for all our weariness. At two o'clock we reached the top, and rushed to the brow to catch the vision of Fusiyama, but only to be disappointed. The mountain was there, but clouds covered his h.o.a.ry head. In vain we watched and waited; still the monarch hid his face. Clouds were round about the throne. The lower ranges stood in full outline, but the heaven-piercing dome, or pyramid of snow, was wrapped in its misty shroud. That for which we had travelled seventy miles, we could not see at last.

Is it not often so in life? The moments that we have looked forward to with highest expectations, are disappointing when they come. We cross the seas, and journey far, to reach some mount of vision, when lo! the sight that was to reward us is hidden from our eyes; while our highest raptures come to us unsought, perhaps in visions of the night.

But our toilsome climb was not unrewarded. Below us lay a broad, deep valley, to which the rice fields gave a vivid green, dotted with houses and villages, which were scattered over the middle distance, and even around the base of Fusiyama himself. Drinking in the full loveliness of the scene, we turned to descend, and after a three hours' march, footsore and weary, entered our Alpine village of Miya-no-s.h.i.ta.

The next morning we set out to return. Had the day shone bright and clear, we should have been tempted to renew our ascent of the day before. But as the clouds were still over the sky, we reluctantly turned away. Taking another route from that by which we came, we descended a deep valley, and winding around the heights which we had crossed before, at eleven o'clock reentered Odawara.

And now we had done with our marching and our kagos, and once more took to our chariots, which drew up to the door--the men not exactly saddled and bridled, but stripped for the race, with no burden added to the burden of the flesh which they had to carry. A crowd collected to see us depart, and looked on admiringly as we went dashing through the long street of Odawara, and out upon the Tokaido. Our way, as before, led by the sea, which was in no tempestuous mood, but calm and tranquil, as if conscious that the summer was born. The day was not too warm, for the clouds that were flying over the sky shielded us from the direct rays of the sun; yet as we looked out now and then, the giant trees cast their shadows across our path. An American poet sings:

"What is so rare as a day in June?"

Surely nothing could be _more_ rare or fair; but even the sky and the soft Summer air seemed more full of exquisite sensations to the strangers who were that day rolling along the of the Pacific, under the mighty cedars of the Tokaido.

Once more I was surprised and delighted at the agility and swiftness of the men who drew our _jin-riki-shas_. As we had but twenty-three miles to go in the afternoon, we took it easily, and gave them first only a gentle trot of five miles to get their limbs a little supple, and then stopped for tiffin. Some of the men had on a loose jacket when we started, besides the girdle about the loins. This they took off and wrung out, for they were dripping with sweat, and wiped their brawny chests and limbs, and then took their chopsticks and applied themselves to their rice, while we went upstairs in the tea-house, and had our soup and other dishes served to us, sitting on the floor like Turks, and then stretched ourselves on the mats, weary with our morning's walk, and even with the motion of riding. While we were trying to get a little rest our men talked and laughed in the court below as if it were child's play to take us over the road. As we resumed our places and turned out of the yard, I had the curiosity to "time" their speed. I had a couple of athletic fellows, who thought me a mere feather in weight, and made me spin like a top as they bowled along. They started off at an easy trot, which they kept up, without breaking, mile after mile. I did not need to crack the whip, but at the word, away they flew through villages and over the open country, never stopping, but when they came to slightly rising ground, rushing up like mettlesome horses, and down at full speed. Thus they kept on, and never drew rein till they came to the bank of a river, which had to be crossed in a boat. I took out my watch. It was an hour and a quarter, and they had come seven miles and a half! This was doing pretty well. Of course they could not keep this up all day; yet they will go thirty miles from sunrise to sunset, and even forty, if spurred to it by a little extra pay. Sometimes, indeed, they go even at a still greater speed for a short distance. The first evening, as we came into Fujisawa, I do not doubt that the last fifteen minutes they were going at a speed of ten miles an hour, for they came in on a run. This is magnificent, but I cannot think it very healthful exercise. As gymnasts and prize-fighters grow old and die before their time, so with these human racehorses. Dr. Hepburn says it exhausts them very early; that they break down with disease of the heart or lungs. They are very liable to rheumatism. This is partly owing to their carelessness. They get heated, and then expose their naked bodies to drafts of cold air, which of course stiffens their limbs, so that an old runner becomes like a foundered horse. But even with all care, the fatigue is very exhausting, and often brings on diseases which take them off in their prime. Yet you cannot restrain their speed, any more than that of colts that have never been broken. I often tried to check them, but they "champed at the bit," and after a few vain remonstrances I had to give it up, and "let them slide."

We did not stop at Fujisawa, where we had slept before, for it is a large and noisy town, but pushed on three miles farther, across a sandy beach to Enoshima, a little fishing village, which stands on a point of land jutting out into the sea, so that at high tide it is an island, and at low tide a peninsula. Indeed, it is not much more than a projecting rock of a few hundred acres, rising high out of the waters, and covered thickly with groves of trees, among which are several Buddhist temples. As we strolled along the top of the cliffs at sunset, there were a dozen points of view where we could sit under the shade of trees a hundred feet above the waves, as on the cliffs of the Isle of Wight, saying with Tennyson:

"Break, break, break, At the foot of thy crags, O Sea!"

The next morning we rambled over the hills again, for it was a spot where one could but linger. The bay was alive with boats, as

"The fishers went sailing out into the West."

On the sh.o.r.e were divers, who plunged from the rocks into deep water, to bring up and coral for us, and a sort of sponge peculiar to this country, with spicules like threads of spun gla.s.s. Under the cliff is a long cave, hollowed out by the waves, with an arch overhead like a vaulted roof. Thus under ground or above ground we wandered hour after hour.

But all things pleasant must have an end. The week was gone; it was noon: and so reluctantly leaving both the mountains and the sea, and taking to our chariots once more, we struck into the Tokaido, and in four hours were rolling along the Bund at Yokohama.

Three days after we made a second visit to Yedo, to visit an American gentleman who held a position in the Foreign Office, and spent a night at his pretty j.a.panese house in the Government grounds. Here being, as it were, in the interior of the State Department, we got some European news; among which was the startling intelligence of a revolution in Turkey, and that Abdul Aziz had been deposed!

In our second excursion about the city, as we had long distances to traverse, we took two prancing bucks to each jinrikisha, who ran us such a rig through the streets of Yedo as made us think of John Gilpin when he rode to London town. The fellows were like wild colts, so full of life that they had to kick it off at the heels. Sometimes one pulled in front while the other pushed behind, but more often they went tandem, the one in advance drawing by a cord over his shoulder.

The leader was so full of spring that he fairly bounded over the ground, and if we came to a little elevation, or arched bridge, he sprang into the air like a catamount, while his fellow behind, though a little more stiff, as a "wheel horse" ought to be, bore himself proudly, tossing up his head, and throwing out his chest, and never lagged for an instant. C---- was delighted, nothing could go too fast for her; but whether it was fear for my character or for my head, I had serious apprehension that I should be "smashed" like Chinese crockery, and poked my steeds in the rear with my umbrella to signify that I was entirely satisfied with their performances, and that they need not go any faster!

While in Yedo we attended a meeting of missionaries, English, Scotch, and American, in a distant part of the city, and in the evening paid a visit to Prof. Verbeck, who has been here so long that he is an authority on all j.a.panese matters. It was eight o'clock when we set out to return to our friends in the Foreign Office, and we bade our men take us through the main streets, that we might have a view of Yedo by night. The distance was some three miles, the greater part through the street. It was near the time of the full moon, but fortunately she was hidden to-night by clouds, for even her soft radiance could not give such animation and picturesqueness to the scene as the lights of the city itself. The broad street for two miles was in a flare of gas-light, like one of the great streets of Paris.

The shops were open and lighted; added to which were hundreds (perhaps thousands) of _jin-riki-shas_, each with its Chinese lantern, glancing two and fro, like so many fireflies on a summer night, making a scene such as one reads of in the Arabian Nights, but as I had never witnessed before.

But that which is of most interest to a stranger in j.a.pan, is not Yedo or Fusiyama, but the sudden revolution which has taken place in its relations with other countries, and in its internal condition. This is one of the most remarkable events in history, which, in a few years, has changed a whole nation, so that from being the most isolated, the most exclusive, and the most rigidly conservative, even in Asia, it has become the most active and enterprising; the most open to foreign influences; the most hospitable to foreign ideas, and the most ready to introduce foreign improvements. This change has taken j.a.pan out of the ranks of the non-progressive nations, to place it, if not in the van of modern improvement, at least not very far in the rear. It has taken it out of the stagnant life of Asia, to infuse into its veins the life of Europe and America. In a word, it has, as it were, unmoored j.a.pan from the coast of Asia, and towed it across the Pacific, to place it alongside of the New World, to have the same course of life and progress.

It is a singular fact, which, as it has united our two nations in the past, ought to unite us in the future, that the opening of j.a.pan came from America. It would have come in time from the natural growth of the commerce of the world, but the immediate occasion was the settlement of California. The first emigration, consequent on the discovery of gold, was in 1849; the treaty with j.a.pan in 1854. As soon as there sprang up an American Empire on our Western coast, there sprang up also an American commerce on the Pacific. Up to that time, except the whalers from New Bedford that went round Cape Horn, to cast their harpoons in the North Pacific, or an occasional vessel to the Sandwich Islands, or that brought a cargo of tea from China, there were few American ships in the Pacific. But now it was ploughed by fleets of ships, and by great lines of steamers. The Western coast of America faced the Eastern coast of Asia, and there must be commerce between them. j.a.pan lay in the path to China, and it was inevitable that there must be peaceful intercourse, or there would be armed collision. The time had come when the policy of rigid exclusion could not be permitted any longer. Of course j.a.pan had the right which belongs to any independent power, to regulate its commerce with foreign nations. But there were certain rights which belonged to all nations, and which might be claimed in the interest of humanity. If an American ship, in crossing the Pacific on its way to China, were shipwrecked on the of j.a.pan, the sailors who escaped the perils of the sea had the right to food and shelter--not to be regarded as trespa.s.sers or held as prisoners. Yet there had been instances in which such crews had been treated as captives, and shut up in prison.

In one instance they were exhibited in cages. If they had fallen among Barbary pirates, they could not have been treated with greater severity. This state of things must come to an end; and in gently forcing the issue, our government led the way. As English ships had broken down the wall of China, so did an American fleet open the door of j.a.pan, simply by an att.i.tude of firmness and justice; by demanding nothing but what was right, and supporting it by an imposing display of force. Thus j.a.pan was opened to the commerce of America, and through it of the world, without shedding a drop of blood.

The result has been almost beyond belief. A quarter of a century ago no foreign ship could anchor in these waters. And now here, in sight of the spot where lay the fleet of Commodore Perry, I see a harbor full of foreign ships. It struck me strangely, as I sat at our windows in the Grand Hotel, and looked out upon the tranquil bay. There lay the Tennessee, not with guns run out and matches lighted, but in her peaceful dress, with flags flying, not only from her mast-head, but from all her yards and rigging. There were also several English ships of war, with Admiral Ryder in command, from whose flag-ship, as from the Tennessee, we heard the morning and evening gun, and the bands playing. The scene was most beautiful by moonlight, when the ships lay motionless, and the tall masts cast their shadows on the water, and all was silent, as in so many sleeping camps, save the bells which struck the hours, and marked the successive watches all night long. It seemed as if the angel of peace rested on the moonlit waters, and that nations would not learn war any more.

The barrier once broken down, foreign commerce began to enter the waters of j.a.pan. American ships appeared at the open ports. As if to give them welcome, lighthouses were built at exposed points on the coast, so that they might approach without danger. A foreign settlement sprung up at Yokohama. By and by young men went abroad to see the world, or to be educated in Europe or America, and came back with reports of the wealth and power of foreign nations. Soon a spirit of imitation took possession of Young j.a.pan. These students affected even the fashions of foreign countries, and appeared in the streets of Yedo in coat and pantaloons, instead of the old j.a.panese dress; and ate no longer with chopsticks, but with knives and forks. Thus manners and customs changed, to be followed by a change in laws and in the government itself. Till now j.a.pan had had a double-headed government, with two sovereigns and two capitals. But now there was a revolution in the country, the Tyc.o.o.n was overthrown, and the Mikado, laying aside his seclusion and his invisibility, came from Kioto to Yedo, and a.s.sumed the temporal power, and showed himself to his people. The feudal system was abolished, and the proud daimios--who, with their clans of armed retainers, the _samourai_, or two-sworded men, were independent princes--were stripped of their estates, which sometimes were as large as German princ.i.p.alities, and forced to disband their retainers, and reduced to the place of pensioners of the government.

The army and navy were reconstructed on European models. Instead of the old j.a.panese war-junks, well-armed frigates were seen in the Bay of Yedo--a force which has enabled j.a.pan to take a very decided tone in dealing with China, in the matter of the island of Formosa; and made its power respected along the coast of Eastern Asia. We saw an from Corea pa.s.sing through the streets of Yokohama, on its way to Yedo, to pay homage to the Mikado, and enter into peaceful relations with j.a.pan. A new postal system has been introduced, modelled on our own. In Yokohama one sees over a large building the sign "The j.a.panese Imperial Post-Office," and the postman goes his rounds, delivering his letters and papers as in England and America.

There is no opposition to the construction of railroads, as in China.

Steamers ply around the coast and through the Inland Sea; and telegraphs extend from one end of the Empire to the other; and crossing the sea, connect j.a.pan with the coast of Asia, and with all parts of the world. Better than all, the government has adopted a general system of national education, at the head of which is our own Prof. Murray; it has established schools and colleges, and introduced teachers from Europe and America. In Yedo I was taken by Prof.

McCartee to see a large and n.o.ble inst.i.tution for the education of girls, established under the patronage of the Empress. These are signs of progress that cannot be paralleled in any other nation in the world.

With such an advance in less than one generation, what may we not hope in the generation to come? In her efforts at progress, j.a.pan deserves the sympathy and support of the whole civilized world. Having responded to the demand for commercial intercourse, she has a just claim to be placed on the footing of the most favored nations.

Especially is she ent.i.tled to expect friendship from our country. As it fell to America to be the instrument of opening j.a.pan, it ought to be our pride to show her that the new path into which we led her, is a path of peace and prosperity. j.a.pan is our nearest neighbor on the west, as Ireland is on the east; and among nations, as among individuals, neighbors ought to be friends. It seemed a good token that the American Union Church in Yokohama should stand on the very spot where Commodore Perry made his treaty with j.a.pan--the beginning, let us hope, of immeasurable good to both nations. As India is a part of the British Empire, and may look to England to secure for her the benefits of modern civilization, so the duty of stretching out a hand across the seas to j.a.pan, may fairly be laid on the American church and the American people.

Our visit was coming to an end. A day or two we spent in the shops, buying photographs and bronzes, and in paying farewell visits to the missionaries, who had shown us so much kindness. The "parting cup" of tea we took at Dr. Hepburn's, and from his windows had a full view of Fusiyama, that looked out upon us once more in all his glory. We were to embark that evening, to sail at daylight. Mr. John Ballagh and several ladies of "The Home," who had made us welcome in their pleasant circle, "accompanied us to the ship." We had a long row across the bay just as the moon was rising, covering the waters with silver, and making the great ships look like mighty shadows as they stood up against the sky. "On such a night" we took our farewell of Asia.

The next morning very early we were sailing down the bay of Yedo, and were soon out on the Pacific. But the coast remained long in sight, and we sat on deck watching the receding of a country which in three weeks had become so familiar and so dear; and when at last it sunk beneath the waters, we left our "benediction" on that beautiful island set in the Northern Seas.

We did not steer straight for San Francisco, although it is in nearly the same lat.i.tude as Yokohama, but turned north, following what navigators call a Great Circle, on the principle that as they get high up on the globe, the degrees of longitude are shorter, and thus they can "cut across" at the high lat.i.tudes. "It is nearer to go around the hill than to go over it." We took a prodigious sweep, following the _Kuroshiwo_, or Black Current, the Gulf Stream of the Pacific, which flows up the coast of Asia, and down the coast of America. We bore away to the north till we were off the coast of Kamschatka, and within a day's sail of Petropaulovski, before we turned East. Our ship was "The Oceanic," of the famous White Star line, which, if not so magnificent as "The City of Peking," was quite as swift a sailer, cleaving the waters like a sea-bird. In truth, the albatrosses that came about the ship for days from the Aleutian Islands, now soaring in air, and now skimming the waters, did not float along more easily or more gracefully.

As we crossed the 180th degree of longitude, just half the way around the world from the Royal Observatory at Greenwich, we "gained a day,"

or rather, recovered one that we had lost. As we had started eastward, we lost a few minutes each day, and had to set our watches every noon.

We were constantly changing our meridian, so that no day ended where it began, and we never had a day of full twenty-four hours, but always a few minutes, like sands, had crumbled away. By the time we reached England, five hours had thus dropped into the sea; and when we had compa.s.sed the globe, we had parted, inch by inch, moment by moment, with a whole day. It seemed as if this were so much blotted out from the sum of our being--gone in the vast and wandering air--lost in the eternities, from which nothing is ever recovered. But these lost moments and hours were all gathered up in the chambers of the East, and now in mid-ocean, one morning brought us a day not in the calendar, to be added to the full year. Two days bore the same date, the 18th of June, and as this fell on a Sunday, two holy days came together--one the Sabbath of Asia, the other of America. It seemed fit that this added day should be a sacred one, for it was something taken, as it were, from another portion of time to be added to our lives--a day which came to us fresh from its ocean baptism, with not a tear of sorrow or a thought of sin to stain its purity; and we kept a double Sabbath in the midst of the sea.

Seventeen days on the Pacific, with nothing to break the boundless monotony! In all that breadth of ocean which separates Asia and America, we saw not a single sail on the horizon; and no land, not even an island, till we came in sight of those which are dearer to us than any other in all the round world.

Here, in sight of land, this story ends. There is no need to tell of crossing the continent, which completed our circuit of the globe, but only to add in a word the lesson and the moral of this long journey.

Going around the world is an education. It is not a mere pastime; it is often a great fatigue; but it is a means of gaining knowledge which can only be obtained by observation. Charles V. used to say that "the more languages a man knew, he was so many more times a man." Each new form of human speech introduced him into a new world of thought and life. So in some degree is it in traversing other continents, and mingling with other races. However great America may be, it is "something" to add to it a knowledge of Europe and Asia. Unless one be encased in pride, or given over to "invincible ignorance," it will teach him modesty. He will boast less of his own country, though perhaps he will love it more. He will see the greatness of other nations, and the virtues of other people. Even the turbaned Orientals may teach us a lesson in dignity and courtesy--a lesson of repose, the want of which is a defect in our national character. In every race there is something good--some touch of gentleness that makes the whole world kin. Those that are most strange and far from us, as we approach them, show qualities that win our love and command our respect.

In all these wanderings, I have met no rudeness in word or act from Turks or Arabs, Hindoos or Malays, Chinese or j.a.panese; but have often received kindness from strangers. The one law that obtains in all nations is the law of kindness. Have I not a right to say that to know men is to love them, not to hate them nor despise them?

He who hath made of one blood all nations of men to dwell on the earth, hath not forgotten any of His children. There is a beauty in every country and in every clime. Each zone of the earth is belted with its peculiar vegetation; and there is a beauty alike in the pines on Norwegian hills, and the palms on African deserts. So with the diversities of the human race. Man inhabits all climes, and though he changes color with the sun, and has many varieties of form and feature, yet the race is the same; all have the same attributes of humanity, and under a white or black skin beats the same human heart.

In writing of peoples far remote, my wish has been to bring them nearer, and to bind them to us by closer bonds of sympathy. If these pictures of Asia make it a little more real, and inspire the feeling of a common nature with the dusky races that live on the other side of the globe, and so infuse a larger knowledge and a gentler charity, then a traveller's tale may serve as a kind of lay sermon, teaching peace and good will to men.

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