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Journey from Kanagawa to Yedo Native body-guard The Tokaido Civility of the people Beggars by the wayside Tea-houses Kawasaky River Lop "Mansion of Plum-trees" The ladies' platform Hostess and waiting-maids Japanese and Chinese ladies compared Tea-gardens Sinagawa English Legation Hospitality of Mr. Alcock Large cemetery Garden and trees The Yakoneens.
I GLADLY availed myself of an invitation from his Excellency Mr. Alcock to visit Yedo, and made preparations to start for that city on the 13th of November. On these occasions the stranger is always accompanied by mounted Yakoneens, or Government officers, who are in fact the police of the country. Their rank, however, seems of a much higher grade than that of such persons in Europe, and they are treated with marked respect by all classes of the natives, who appear to stand greatly in awe of them. These officers are armed, each having two swords; and they are supposed to guard the foreigner in case of attack or insult by the way.
As we rode out of the courtyard of Mr. Loureira's house, I could not help smiling at the queer-looking individuals who came on behind me. Each of them wore a round, broad-brimmed straw hat, and as the day was wet they had loose rain-cloaks over their dresses. Their two swords, which were fixed in their belts at an angle of forty-five degrees, made their dresses stick out behind; and as we trotted or galloped along the road, they had a curious flyaway sort of appearance. As a general rule, they are but indifferent horsemen.
Our road the Tokaido, or Imperial highway already mentioned led us to the eastward, along the shores of the Bay of Yedo. Small shops, teahouses, sheds for the accommodation of travellers, and gardens, lined each side of the way. Now and then we came to an open space with trees planted in the form of an avenue. These were chiefly of such species as Cryptomeria japonica, Pinus Massoniana, Celtis Orientalis, and Ulmus keaki. The glimpses which were obtained, from time to time, through these trees and across the gardens behind them, were very beautiful. On the left, at a little distance, the view was bounded by some low hills of irregular form, crowned with trees and brushwood; while on the right the smooth waters of the Bay of Yedo were spread out before us, here and there studded with the white sails of fishing-boats.
The people along the road were perfectly civil and respectful. "Anata Ohio," or "Good morning, sir," was a common salutation. Kζmpfer informs us that in his time "multitudes of beggars crowded the roads in all parts of the empire, but particularly on the so much frequented Tokaido." Some of the members of Lord Elgin's embassy, if I remember right, seem to doubt the truth of this, as they did not meet with any on the occasion of their visit to Kawasaky; but on this occasion beggars were probably kept out of the way by the authorities. Truth compels me to state that at the present day, as in the days of Kζmpfer, the beggars in Japan are numerous and importunate. As I rode along the road, there were many who "sat by the wayside begging." These were "the maimed, the halt, the lame, and the blind," who, as I passed by, prostrated themselves on the ground and asked for alms.
Tea-houses for the refreshment and accommodation of travellers formed the most remarkable feature on the road, and were met with at every few hundred yards. These buildings, like the shops, are perfectly open in front, and have the floors slightly raised and covered with mats, on which customers squatted and took refreshment. The cooking apparatus was always fully exposed to view, with its necessary appendages, such as pots, kettles, teacups, and basins. On approaching one of these tea-houses some pretty young ladies met us in the middle of the road with a tray on which were placed sundry cups of tea of very good quality. This they begged us to partake of to refresh us and help us on our journey. When about six miles from Kanagawa we arrived at one of these tea-houses which was rather larger than usual. Here it seemed to be the duty or privilege of the landlord to provide water for the horses of travellers and Government officials, and consequently we found a man ready with a pail of water for our horses. It is customary to leave a small present in the coin of the country in return for these civilities.
With the exception of a few hundred yards here and there, the whole road from Kanagawa to Yedo is lined on each side with houses. Now and then the single row expands into a village or town of considerable size, teeming with a dense population. One of these, named Kawasaky, stands about seven or eight miles east from Kanagawa. It seemed a busy market-town. The road which formed the main street was lined with shops and tea-houses, and crowded with people passing to and fro, buying and selling, or lolling about looking on. Travellers too were numerous, who were either going to the capital or returning from it on the great highway. Now and then we met a long train of coolies and armed men in the wake of a norimon containing an official or person of rank. The coolies were carrying the luggage, and the retainers were in attendance probably as much for show as for the protection of their master.
When we arrived at the further end of Kawasaky we were again politely stopped by mine host of the "Hotel of Ten Thousand Centuries," a teahouse of the first class, who insisted on our entering his establishment for refreshment to ourselves and our good steeds. His invitation was seconded by three or four Japanese beauties, but we were ungallant enough this time to decline the hospitality, as it was unnecessary, and as these frequent stoppages were rather expensive.
At this place the river Loga intersects the main road. According to treaty, foreigners are not allowed to pass further than this point in the direction of the capital, unless they belong to the Legations of those nations who have treaties with Japan. Special permissions are however granted by the different ministers, with the sanction of the Japanese Government. In all other directions from Kanagawa, except this one, foreigners are allowed to travel to the distance of ten ri, or about twenty-five miles. It will be seen, therefore, that there is a large tract of country available either for recreation or for researches in natural history, geology, and other sciences.
Dismounting from our horses, we crossed the Loga in flat-bottomed boats, the horses being put into one, and the yakoneens and myself going in another. This river is but a small stream of one hundred feet in width, and quite shallow. Our boats were guided and propelled across by long bamboo poles. When we had crossed the river we rode onwards in the direction of the capital. For some distance the road, the houses, and other objects, were just a repetition of what I have already described. After riding about two miles we arrived at a place called Omora, where there is a celebrated tea-house named Mae-yaski, which being interpreted means the "Mansion of Plum-trees." Here we were met by mine host and some pretty damsels, and invited to partake of the usual refreshment.
The "Mansion of Plum-trees" is one of the best of the class to which it belongs. It is arranged in the usual style, that is, it has a number of apartments separated from each other by sliding doors, and raised floors covered with mats kept scrupulously clean, upon which the natives sit down to eat their meals and drink tea or saki. In front of the door there is a matted platform, raised about a foot from the ground and covered overhead. Ladies travelling in norimons or kangos, when about to stop at the tea-house, are brought alongside of this platform, the bearers give the conveyance a tilt on one side, and the fair ones are literally emptied out upon the stage. They seem quite accustomed to this treatment, and immediately gather themselves up in the most coquettish way possible, and assume the squatting posture common in Japan.
Whether we really needed refreshment, or whether we could not resist the laughing-faced damsels above mentioned, is not of much moment to the general reader; one thing is certain, that somehow or other we found ourselves within the "Mansion of Plum-trees," surrounded by pretty, good-humoured girls, and sipping a cup of fragrant tea. One lady, not particularly young, and whom I took for the hostess, had adorned herself by pulling out her eyebrows and blackening her teeth, which certainly in my opinion did not improve her appearance. However, there is no accounting for taste; and certainly our own taste, in many respects, is not so pure as to warrant us in "throwing the first stone" at the Japanese. The young girls who were in attendance upon me had glittering white teeth, and their lips stained with a dark crimson dye. The Japanese innkeeper always secures the prettiest girls for his waiting-maids, reminding me in this respect of our own publicans and their barmaids.
These inns and their waiting-maids seem to have been much the same in the days of Kζmpfer, in the year 1690, as I found them in 1860. "Nor must I forget," he says, "to take notice of the numberless wenches the great and small inns, and the tea-booths and cook-shops, in villages and hamlets, are furnished withal. About noon, when they have done dressing and painting themselves, they make their appearance, standing under the doors of the house, or sitting upon the small gallery around it, whence, with a smiling countenance and good words, they invite the travelling troops that pass by to call in at their inn, preferable to others. In some places, where there are several inns standing near one another, they make, with their chattering and rattling, no inconsiderable noise, and prove not a little troublesome."
The Japanese ladies differ much from those of China in their manners and customs. It is etiquette with the latter to run away the moment they see the face of a foreigner; but the Japanese, on the contrary, do not show the slightest diffidence or fear of us. In these tea-houses they come up with smiling faces, crowd around you, examine your clothes, and have even learnt to shake hands! Although in manners they are much more free than the Chinese, I am not aware they are a whit less moral than their shy sisters on the other side of the water.
In addition to tea, my fair waiting-maids brought a tray containing cakes, sweetmeats of various kinds, and a number of hard-boiled eggs, which one of them kept cracking and peeling, and pressing upon me. As I was seated in the midst of my good-humoured entertainers, the scene must have been highly amusing to a looker-on, and would, I doubt not, have made a capital photograph.
My yakoneens were in a different room, and, apparently, had good appetites, and were making good use of their time. Leaving them to finish their meal, I took the opportunity of having a stroll through the large garden in front of the "Mansion." As its name implied, it contained a large number of flowering plum-trees, planted in groups and in avenues. Little lakes or ponds, of irregular and pleasing forms, were in the centre of the garden, in which gold fish and tortoises were swimming about in perfect harmony. These little lakes were spanned by rustic bridges, and surrounded with artificial rockwork, in which ferns and dwarf shrubs were planted. Altogether the place was pretty and enjoyable, even at this time of the year. In spring or summer; when the trees are in full bloom, or covered with leaves, the "Mansion of Plum-trees" must be a charming place.
Bidding a polite adieu to our fair entertainers, we mounted our horses and continued our journey along the great highway. For the last three or four miles of the journey, the road had taken a direction more inland, and we had lost sight of the bay. Now, however, the bay came again into view, and the road led along its banks as before. Gradually it became more crowded with people, the buildings and shops appeared of a better class, and everything indicated our near approach to the imperial city.
We now entered the suburb of Sinagawa, a place often mentioned in the writings of the Dutch travellers. On our left we observed many fine houses and temples, and some stately trees; while on our right the upper part of the bay lay spread out to our view. Before us lay the great city, encircling the head of the bay in the form of a crescent, and stretching away almost to the distant horizon. Far out in the bay a square-rigged vessel of war was lying at anchor; it proved to be the United States frigate 'Niagara,' which had just brought home the Japanese ambassadors from their visit to America. A crowd of small trading vessels and fishing boats lay in the shallow water near the shore; and a chain of batteries commanded the anchorage.
While I was quietly observing all these objects, one of my yakoneens, who was riding ahead to show the way, suddenly turned in to the left and intimated that we had arrived at the residence of the English Minister. I found his Excellency at home; he received me most kindly, introduced me to the gentlemen of the Embassy, and gave me quarters in the Legation.
The British Legation is located in a large temple, or rather in buildings adjoining, such as are attached to nearly all the large temples in Japan, and which are probably intended to receive visitors, or as seminaries for the Buddhist priesthood. It stands at the head of a little valley, backed behind and on each side by low richly-wooded hills, somewhat in the form of a horse-shoe, and open in front to the Bay of Yedo. The situation is exceedingly picturesque and beautiful. A fine wide avenue, some 200 yards in length, leads up from the bay to the residence of the English Minister. Ornamental gateways stretch over the avenue and give it a pretty appearance, and here and there I observed some large examples of Pinus Massoniana, Cryptomeria japonica, Salisburia adiantifolia, Podocarpus macrophyllus, camellias, &c.
On the west side of the temple there is a large cemetery covered with many thousands of stone tombs, some of them apparently of great age. One of these cemeteries is attached to almost every temple about Yedo, but this is the largest that came under my observation. They seem, in almost all instances, to be placed on the west side of the temples. The Japanese, like their neighbours in China, pay great attention to the graves of their dead. They frequently visit them, and place branches of skimmi anisatum), laurels, and other evergreens, in bamboo tubes in front of the stones. When these branches wither they remove them and replace them by others. The trade of collecting and selling these branches must be one of considerable magnitude in Japan; they are exposed, in large quantities, for sale in all the cities and villages; one is continually meeting with people carrying them in the streets; and they seem always fresh upon the graves, showing that they are frequently replaced.
A garden situated in the rear of the buildings of the Legation, although small in extent, is one of the most charming little spots I ever beheld. The circular hill already noticed rises up behind, and forms a background to the picture: this hill is richly covered with trees of great size and beauty; particularly some fine evergreen oaks, seeds of which Mr. Alcock has sent to Kew. On the lower part of the hill there is some pretty rock-work covered with maples, azaleas, camellias, and other plants, with a species of plum, whose branches hung down like a weeping willow. At the base there is a small lake of irregular and pleasing form, extending the whole width of the garden, and between this and the temple there is a little lawn which gives a quiet and pleasing finish to the whole.
To complete the picture as it appeared to me: it was a bright autumnal day; an old maple-tree, with blood-red leaves, was hanging over the lake at one end an azalea, with leaves of a glowing crimson, was seen in groups at the other; patches of red, purple, and of almost every hue, met the eye in all directions, and produced a striking effect, backed as they were by the deep green of the camellia, evergreen oak, and pine. As the large trees in the background threw a shade over some parts of the garden, while the sun's rays streamed through other parts, or shone full upon the varied colours, the effect produced made one almost fancy oneself in some fairy land. Little walks led through amongst the bushes over the hill-side, where the different plants can be minutely examined, and where shade can be had from the fierce rays of the sun. A fine avenue has been made on the top of the eastern spur, extending down towards the bay, whence a delightful view to seaward can be obtained, and where exercise and the cool morning and evening breezes can be enjoyed, without the nuisance of being followed by the officials of the Japanese Government, an annoyance to which every one has to submit if he moves out of the grounds of the temple.
The garden I have been describing is purely Japanese, Mr. Alcock having found it much in the same state as I saw it. The French Consul-General, and his able secretary the Abbι Gerard, have each a garden, which they found attached to the temples given up to them as their places of residence. These gardens are all remarkable for azaleas of extraordinary size, which have been kept carefully clipped; and if they are covered with flowers in the spring, as I believe they are, they must be indeed charming objects to look upon.
The gardens and grounds of the Legation are surrounded by a high wooden fence, and the gates are guarded by armed yakoneens. If any of the members of the Legation or their visitors pass out of this enclosure, they are immediately followed by some of these men. If the foreigner prefers a walk they walk after him; or if he goes out on horseback they follow in the same style. For some time this proceeding was thought to be quite unnecessary, and it was supposed that these men acted merely as spies, to report all the doings of the foreigners. The Japanese Government have always maintained that the system was necessary for our protection; and although it has no doubt signally failed in some instances, as for example, in the case of poor Mr. Heuskin the American interpreter, yet I have no doubt in my own mind that many lives have been saved by means of it. In so far as the Government is concerned, I believe there is every desire to prevent disturbances with foreigners, and this is one of the means it uses to accomplish that object.
At the time of my visit there were an unusually large number of foreigners living in Yedo. In addition to the members of the English, French, and American Legations, whose countries had already made treaties with Japan, there was a deputation from Prussia engaged in making a treaty for that country, and a number of American officers who had come out in the 'Niagara' with the Japanese ambassadors. Everything was going on quietly; and although a short time before Mr. Alcock's servant a Japanese had been murdered, and an attempt had been made upon the life of a Frenchman in the service of the French Consul-General, the impression was, that these men were probably not altogether blameless, and had brought such punishments upon themselves. Be that as it may, no one seemed to have any hesitation in moving about, and I thus had an opportunity of seeing all the most remarkable parts of the city, as well as many suburban places of great interest. It is true that we were always followed by the guard of yakoneens, but one had only to fancy himself a person of great importance a prince or a noble in the far East and this body-guard was easily endured. I found them always perfectly civil, and often of great use in showing me the right road.