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Return to Kanagawa Moxa and Acupuncture — Mode of performing these operations — Their supposed value — Prospects of better medical and surgical knowledge in Japan — Roadside altar — Ladies at their prayers — The conclusion of the ceremony — Field crops and spring flowers at the end of May — Commencement of rains — Beautiful rainbow — A violent earthquake — Burning rape-stalks for manure — An English strawberry found — New plants discovered — Vegetables and fruit in the markets — Entomological notices — Land shells — A Buddhist congregation — Their mode of worship — Amusing visit from the congregation — An interval in the service — Its conclusion.
IN due time I arrived at my old quarters in Kanagawa, and the plants which I had purchased in Yedo were delivered in good condition, and added to my other collections. Tunga and myself, with some Japanese whom I had taken into my service, were now daily ransacking the country in all directions in search of new plants and other objects of natural history. One day, as I was returning from my rambles, the last part of my road was along the Tokaido, which forms the main street of Kanagawa. In a tea-house, on the roadside, a most curious operation was being performed, which attracted my attention. A woman was sitting with her back quite naked, while another of her sex was engaged in burning little puffs of a pithy-like combustible substance in four holes which had been made in the skin between the shoulders. To an European the operation would have been a most painful one; but the woman who was undergoing the treatment in the present instance was laughing and joking as if she enjoyed it rather than otherwise. This was the moxa-burning operation, frequently noticed in the works of Kæmpfer and other writers on Japan. Moxa is said, in some books, to be made from the balls of a fungus, and in others to be furnished by the young leaves of wormwood (Artemesia). When used, it is in the form of little cones, which are placed in the holes above mentioned, and set on fire on the top. It burns slowly down, and leaves a blister on the skin, which afterwards breaks and discharges. The operation is considered very efficacious in preventing or curing the fevers of the country, as also in cases of rheumatism, gout, and even toothache. The Chinese irritate the skin for the same disorders by dipping the knuckles in hot tea, and pinching the neck, back, and other parts of the body until the skin becomes painfully tender.
Acupuncture is another famous remedy with the Japanese, although, perhaps, not so common or such an apparent luxury as the moxa-burning. It is used in cases of bowel-complaint or colic, endemic to the country. This disease is supposed by them to be caused by wind, and, in order to let it out, several holes are made with needles in the muscles of the stomach or abdomen, and in other fleshy parts of the body. These needles are exceedingly fine, nearly as thin as hairs, and are generally made of gold or silver, although sometimes of steel by persons who profess to peculiar skill in tempering them. While the needles are passed through the skin and muscle, the nerves and blood-vessels are carefully avoided: a fact which shows that the Japanese practitioners must have some knowledge of anatomy.
It is not unlikely that these two remedies for the common diseases of the country may, in many instances, prove useful; but I have no doubt the time is at hand when the Japanese will be taught to accomplish the objects they have in view in a way much more simple, and probably more efficiently. The medical men of Japan have always been remarkable for two things, when compared with the same class in China — they have always appreciated the higher character of the medical and surgical science of the Western nations, and have been attentive and eager students whenever they have had an opportunity of acquiring knowledge. Kæmpfer, Thunberg, and Siebold all bear witness to this fact, and we have seen it further confirmed by the medical members of the Embassy who lately visited England, and who appear, by their visits to our hospitals and colleges, to have been most eager to acquire this kind of information. The only drawback to their obtaining a knowledge of surgery is, their superstitious ideas; believing, as they do, that they become polluted by contact with dead bodies, — a circumstance which renders dissection impossible. Could this be got over, as it no doubt will be, their progress in the knowledge of surgery will be remarkable.
There are little roadside altars in many of the fields near Kanagawa, on which the natives burn incense, and offer salt, cash, and other things to a little deity rudely carved in stone. On one occasion I came up with three women, rather respectably dressed, and looking as if they belonged to the higher classes of Japan. They were accompanied by a man-servant, who carried in his hands a bundle of joss-sticks and paper as an offering to the god. They looked pleased to see a foreigner, were very polite, and asked me where I was going to, whence I came, and to what nation I belonged. On my returning the compliment by asking them the same questions, they informed me they had come from Kanagawa, and were about to offer incense at a little altar situated in a field some hundred yards ahead of us. Being anxious to witness the ceremony, I walked with them to the altar. When we reached the little stone god, one of the ladies, apparently the highest in rank, took the incense out of the hand of the servant, lighted it, and placed it in a stone basin in front of the image. She then bent low before the altar, all the time rubbing a string of beads which she, held in her hands and muttering some prayers. The second in rank stood behind her in a devout attitude, while behind the second stood the third, who made short work with her devotions, and laughed and talked to me while the others were engaged with their prayers. At the conclusion of the ceremony, which lasted only about two minutes, the three ladies pulled short tobacco-pipes out of their pockets, filled them with tobacco from their pouches, and begged me to give them a light from my cigar. I willingly complied with the request, and, after having a comfortable little smoke together, we parted the best of friends.
It was now the end of May, and a considerable change had taken place in the appearance of the country. In the fields the barley is yellow, and will be ready for the sickle of the husbandman in a few days; the rape-seed is ripe already, and its harvest has commenced. The natives are busily employed in sowing and planting the summer crops between the rows of the standing corn. These consist of soy and other beans, egg-plants, sweet potatoes, cotton, melons and cucumbers, turnips, hill-rice, and oily grain (Sesamum orientate).
The spring flowers have now all disappeared. The gorgeous peach and plum trees, whose falling petals "strewed our path with flowers," are now covered only with leaves; azaleas, camellias, violets, and primroses, and even the glorious glycine itself, have all passed by, and will not be seen again until the opening of another year. But although the spring beauties have gone by, another race, equally beautiful in its way, has come to take their places, to paint the woods and hedgerows and gardens with masses of gay colours, and to perfume the air with the fragrance of its blossoms. Wild roses are now in full flower. The hedges, banks, and uncultivated land are covered with their white blooms. A new species of Weigela is growing wild everywhere, and is also in flower. In the end of May and in June Deutzia scabra and Styrax japonica are very beautiful. They abound on every hill-side, in the hedges, and on the banks of streams. Later in the year the Styrax produces galls, from which a reddish dye is prepared. Honeysuckles, too (Caprifolium japonicum), are abundant, and their flowers, with those of the wild rose, fill the air with delicious perfume.
In gardens, herbaceous peonies are out; several beautiful kinds of pinks, quite different from the spring sorts, are also in bloom, and there is a race of summer chrysanthemums which come in at this time, and which render the gardens extremely gay. In addition to these, I noted two fine new Weigelas, some clematises, irises, Spiræa Reevesiana, and the white Banksian rose. It is a common remark amongst foreigners that flowers are mostly scentless in Japan, and some have gone so far as to attribute this to the nature of the soil of the country. That this is not so will be apparent from the notices of the different fragrant plants above-mentioned. Honeysuckles, roses (particularly the white Banksian), gardenias, peonies, tuberoses, and a hundred other flowers, are just as fragrant in Japan as they are elsewhere. Violets are scentless, but this appears to be the fault of the species, and not of the soil.
Before I left Yedo a change seemed to be about to take place in the weather. Heavy clouds came up and hung over the city, and every one acquainted with the climate of Japan predicted the near approach of the rainy season. The rains commenced on the night of the 26th of May, and continued to come down heavily during the whole of the following day. At 6 P.M. the clouds broke into masses, and the clear blue sky appeared above them. This evening there appeared the most beautiful and perfect rainbow which I had ever seen, and about the same time the clouds which rested on Mount Fusi gradually rose, and showed us the holy mountain basking in the evening sun, and still nearly covered with snow. One can scarcely imagine the beauty of the scene which was now spread out before me, and it was rendered more lovely and enjoyable by the fresh green foliage of the shrubs and trees, from whose leaves hung many thousands of pearly rain-drops glistening in the sun's rays. Heavy rains were now of frequent occurrence, and continued at intervals up to the 15th of June. The rainy season seems much more decided in its character here than in China; indeed it reminded me somewhat of the same season in India, although it did not last so long.
On the 1st of June I was awoke about three o'clock in the morning by an earthquake of a very violent character. Some rings suspended from a canopy in the temple first indicated the motion and began to tingle, then the whole building creaked and groaned, and lastly the bed on which I lay moved under me. It occurred at about three o'clock in the morning, and lasted for a few seconds only. Several other shocks were experienced afterwards during the morning, but these were much less violent, and some of them scarcely perceptible.
June 2nd. — The natives are still busy all over the fields, sowing and planting the summer crops between the rows of the ripening corn. Blazing fires and dense clouds of smoke are now seen all over the country. The rape-harvest is finished, the seed has been trampled out, and the farmers are now engaged in burning the stalks for the sake of the ashes, which are used as manure for the summer crops.
A nursery gardener who brought me a collection of plants to-day for sale, had amongst them a genuine English strawberry covered with ripe fruit. I have already had occasion to notice, in an earlier chapter, several foreign plants which had been introduced from Western countries to Japan, as a proof of the enterprise of the people, but I was not aware until now that the real English strawberry was also here. A species of Fragaria is common, in a wild state, on the banks and hill-sides, both in Japan and in China; but it has nothing to do with the species we cultivate in Europe, and is perfectly tasteless. Here, however, was the real "Simon Pure;" and as many of the foreign residents had gardens round their houses, this discovery would enable them to have their strawberry-beds, and to enjoy the old home luxury of strawberries and cream. I gladly purchased the plant in question, and carried it in triumph to the house of my friend Mr. Ross,1 with whom I was to dine. How we placed it in the centre of the table, how we admired it, and what old scenes and old memories it brought before us, may be imagined by those who have been long resident in such far-off lands as Zipangu or Cathay.
During the remainder of the month of June I discovered and added to my collections several new plants of considerable interest, which I must now notice. One day I was out in the country in search of the seeds of a columbine, which were then ripe. In the grounds of a pretty little temple I came quite unexpectedly upon a new species of Deutzia, having double rose-coloured flowers. It was in full bloom at the time, and was very beautiful. The good priestess of the temple kindly allowed me to gather a few specimens of the flowers for my herbarium, and for a few tempos2 I induced her to part with some of the plants. This shrub will be hardy in England, and its double rose or pink coloured blossoms will render it very ornamental in our gardens. Curiously enough I found at this time the pretty Spiræa callosa, a shrub which I had first seen on the Bohea Mountains in China, and which I had imported thence into Europe. It grows wild on the hill-sides in Japan, and is also cultivated in gardens and much esteemed by the Japanese. Another Spiræa — a herbaceous kind, resembling our own "Queen of the Meadow," but with deep-red flowers — was also met with at this time. Lychnis senno, a plant which I had known from a figure in Siebold's 'Flora Japonica,' was also found in bloom, and added to my collections. It is cultivated in every cottage-garden, and is very showy and handsome when in bloom. Its leaves have a kind of violet hue somewhat resembling a Tradescantia, while its flowers are of a bright fiery red colour. There are three varieties of this — a red, a white, and one with striped flowers. They are all very ornamental, particularly the striped one. Hydrangias were also met with, and a beautiful new honeysuckle, since named Lonicera areo-reticulata. Summer chrysanthemums were now hawked about the streets in great variety, many of them with large flowers, and some belonging to the class called Pompones. Irises too are carried about in the same way; the natives are very fond of these, and have a number of fine kinds.
In the markets of Kanagawa and Yokuhama there were now some good cucumbers and brinjals; two or three kinds of peas were in season, also French beans of first-rate quality. The summer fruits of Japan are few in number and inferior in kind. At this time we had wild raspberries and loquats (Eriobotria japonica). A little later two kinds of plums come in, some poor peaches, apricots, and melons. As a general rule all the summer fruits of Japan are very inferior to those in cultivation in England; but as, by the late treaty, we are now enabled to give the Japanese a sample of our manufactures, the time will, no doubt, come when we shall also improve their fruits and vegetables.
From the beginning to the end of June was the most successful time for our entomological collections. The moist air and warm sun brought out insects innumerable, and some of the common kinds of beetles might be shaken off the flowers or leaves of the trees by the thousand. Tunga and myself, assisted by troops of natives, were daily adding to our stores, and many cases were now crammed full of rare species, destined to instruct and, I hope, to give pleasure to many a western entomologist. I am indebted to Mr. Stevens, of Bloomsbury Street, London, for the names of a few of the more interesting species, in the following letter.
"The best insects you have brought from Japan comprise Damaster (new species), described by Mr. Adams as D. Fortunei, three species of true Carabi apparently undescribed, a new genus of the carabideous group allied to Sphodrus or Nebria, two new species of Lucani or stag-beetles, several new and beautiful Longicorns, a Spondylus allied to a species found in France and Germany, and interesting on that account; also several other coleoptera much resembling species found in England, and two or three species identical with English ones. Besides there is a most beautiful and apparently new butterfly, a species of Apatura or an allied genus, of which the beautiful A. Iris (Purple Emperor) is found in England; some other butterflies almost identical with our own; and others resembling those found in the north and south of China. Many of the insects have a great resemblance to those found in China, and some are identical, including Dynastes dichotoma."
One afternoon about this time I came upon a group of countrymen, sitting under the shade of some trees, busily engaged in taking a kind of silk or gut from a large species of caterpillar. The animal was fully four inches long, its upper side was of a lively green colour, while the under was white and covered with long white hairs. It feeds upon the leaves of a species of chesnut (Castanea japonica) very common on all the hillsides in this part of Japan. In the baskets containing the worms were a quantity of these leaves, which, judging from the rapid manner in which they were being eaten up, must be very palatable. But the curious part of the business remains to be told. These worms are not allowed to come to maturity, and then spin cocoons like the common silkworm, but each individual is disembowelled alive, and two short thread-like substances are taken out of its body. These threads are at first about three inches in length, and are covered thickly with a glutinous fatty substance. When dipped in a solution of some kind — apparently vinegar — this fatty matter comes readily off, and the threads are drawn out to their full length. Those which I measured on the spot were fully five feet long. I believe they are largely used in the manufacture of fishing-lines, for which there is a considerable demand in Japan. The countrymen engaged in collecting them informed me they were also woven into articles of clothing, but if such be the case, which I think doubtful, such cloth must be very expensive.
The land-shells of Japan are of some interest to the conchologist, but the species are few in number, and not remarkable for their beauty. Mr. Cuming informs me that a Helix, with a reversed mouth, which I have brought home, is Il quæsito (Deshayes), another is Helix japonica (Pfieffer), and a third, of which there are three varieties, is a new species, and undescribed. It is rather remarkable that a, country like Japan, which abounds in woods, gardens, and waste lands, should have so few land-shells; such, however, is the case, as, had they been more plentiful, I think Tunga and myself must have met with them in our rambles.
During the last days of June and the first of July a small temple, adjoining that in which I was located was daily crowded with natives who came to worship at its shrines. The wheat and barley had been gathered in, the rice was planted, and I suppose the object of the festival was to praise Buddha for an abundant harvest, and to petition for a continuance of fine weather for the young paddy. Be this as it may, the people assembled in considerable numbers, for several days in succession, to take part in the worship. Here, as in other countries, the female portion of the community seemed to be the most numerous and the most devout, for certainly nine-tenths of this congregation were women. Many had their teeth blackened and their eyebrows pulled out, showing they were married, while others were still rejoicing in white teeth and single blessedness. Jolly-looking farmers' wives with their ruddy-cheeked daughters were there, mingling with the courtesans of the tea-houses in gay dresses and painted faces. In China the priests perform the public services in the Buddhist temples, and, if any of the people should chance to be present, they are there as spectators only. Here, however, the case was entirely different. Each worshipper was furnished with a cushion or hassock on which to kneel during his or, I should rather say, her devotions. A bit of round sounding brass was laid upon the cushion, and was struck by the devotee at certain times as the service went on. The priests led off, and then the whole congregation joined, striking their brass cymbals, and singing "Nam, nam, nam," and some such unmeaning sounds, with their voices — unmeaning to me at least, for I did not understand them. The service lasted, each day, for about an hour, including an interval when the worshippers refreshed themselves with sundry copious draughts of saki.
On the 2nd of July, having heard the tinkling and "nam, nam, nam" going on for some time, I walked into the court in front of the little temple, in order to see something of the ceremonies. After remaining a few minutes I returned to my own quarters, and was soon followed by the whole congregation, who came, I suppose, to return my visit. Some amongst them were old men who could scarcely walk, but the greater part were women and children. I received them politely, and allowed them to examine my clothes, books, and specimens of natural history. One lady took hold of my wristband, another handled the neck of my shirt, and a third examined the texture of my trousers. But the butterflies, beetles, and shells were to them most astonishing and incomprehensible. "Where could I have found such a number of these things?" — many of which they had never seen before. "What was I going to do with them? Was I going to eat them?" Those who were wiser than the rest informed the others that I was collecting these things to make medicine! And then some stated that I had been over all the country gathering these objects; that I had been paying money for them — a statement which made some of them shake their wise heads, and evidently conclude that something was wrong with my "upper story." As all this was going on, the usual questions were put concerning my country, my age, and whether I was single or married. Many a good-humoured joke was, no doubt, passed round amongst them at my expense; but as my knowledge of the language was very limited, it amused them without doing me any harm. Then the good ladies wanted my opinion regarding themselves, and one after another was laughingly brought forward — married and single without distinction — and proposed as a helpmate. I took all this in good part, and eventually my visitors were reminded it was time to go back to their devotions. Then came a long series of "Hé hés" and polite bowings, with many expressions of thanks, and I was left alone in my temple.
After leaving me, the congregation returned to the little temple in which they had been worshipping; and the singing, with the tinkling of bells and cymbals, went on as before. All at once the sounds ceased, and I concluded that the services of the day were over. In this, however, I was mistaken; for shortly afterwards I heard sounds of merriment, very different from those devotional ones which had preceded them. I was therefore induced to visit the congregation a second time, in order to satisfy my curiosity. When I reached the court in front of the temple a curious scene presented itself to my eyes. There was the same congregation in the same room in which they had been so devout a short time before, now engaged drinking saki, and already — judging from the loud laugh which was going round, and the boisterous merriment — somewhat under its influence. When I was perceived in front of the door the intelligence was quickly passed round the room, and I was received by the assembly with a scream of delight. The hospitality, of these people, in so far as saki was concerned, was boundless; and many invitations were given me to join the various groups, and to pledge them in cups of the favourite national stimulant. As saki, however, is not a favourite of mine, I respectfully refused their offers, with many thanks, and considered that the most prudent course for me to pursue, under the circumstances, would be to beat a retreat. But if I had any fears that this little carousal would end unpleasantly, these fears were perfectly groundless. At an appointed time the priests appeared in their robes of office, the saki which remained unconsumed was put away, the countenances of the congregation changed from gay to grave — some of them, it is true, were a little more ruddy than before — and the religious services again commenced. The officiating priest led off, and was followed by his little congregation; and the "Nam-nam-nam-ing," and tinkling of bells and cymbals, were kept up for about another hour. At the end of this time the people left the temple, and returned quietly to their homes.
Girls meeting — an example of Japanese manners
1 J. B. Ross, Esq., a resident in Yokuhama, to whom I was indebted for much kindness and hospitality.
2 An oval copper coin, worth about one penny of our money.