Schulers Books Online

books - games - software - wallpaper - everything


Books Menu

Author Catalog
Title Catalog
Sectioned Catalog


- Round the World - 6/46 -

between the shafts of his "ginrikshaw" like a cab-horse, and invite us to enter, just as cabmen do elsewhere. But look at their costume, or shall I rather say want of costume? No shoes, unless a mat of straw secured with straw strings twisted around and between the big toe and the next one may be called a shoe; legs and body bare, except a narrow strip of rag around the loins; and such a hat! it is either of some dark material, as big as the head of a barrel (I do not exaggerate), to shelter them from sun and rain, or a light straw flat of equal size. These are the Bettoes, who will run and draw you eighteen miles in three hours and a quarter, this being the distance and time by "ginrikshaw" to Tokio. We decline their proffers and walk on. What is this? A man on stilts! His shoes are composed of a flat wooden sole about a quarter of an inch thick, on which the foot rests, elevated upon two similar pieces of board, about four inches high, placed crosswise. about three inches apart. On the edges of these cross-pieces he struts along. A second has solid wooden pieces of equal height, a third has flat straw shoes, a fourth has none. Look out behind! What is this noise? "Hulda, hulda, hulda!" shouted in our ears. We look around, and four coolies, as naked as Adam, one at each corner of a four-wheel truck, pushing a load of iron and relieving themselves at every step by those unearthly groans. Never have we seen that indispensable commodity transported in that fashion before. But look there! A fishmonger comes with a basket swinging on each end of a bamboo pole carried over the shoulder--all single loads are so carried--and yonder goes a water-carrier, carrying his stoups in the same manner, while over his shoulders he has flung a coat that would make the reputation of a clown in the circus. The dress of the women is not so varied, but their painted lips and whitened necks, and, in the case of the married women, their blackened teeth, afford us much cause for staring, although I cannot bear to look upon these hideous-looking wretches when they smile; I have to turn my eyes away. How women can be induced to make such disgusting frights of themselves I cannot conceive, but Fashion--Fashion does anything. The appearance of the children is comical in the extreme. They are so thickly padded with dress upon dress as to give them the look of little fat Esquimaux. The women invariably carry them on their backs, Indian fashion. Here are two Japs meeting in the middle of the street. They bow three times, each inclination lower and more profound than the preceding one, infinite care being taken to drop the proper number of inches befitting their respective ranks, and then shake their own hands in token of their joy. We soon reach the region of the shops. These are small booths, and squat on the floor sit four or five men and women around a brazier, warming their hands while they smoke. All the shops are of wood, but a small part is constructed of mud, and is said to be fire-proof. In this the valuables are instantly thrown when one of the very frequent fires occurs. The floors are matted, and kept scrupulously clean. No one thinks of entering without first taking his shoes off. The shop floors are raised about eighteen inches above the street, and on the edges purchasers sit sidewise and make their bargains. The entire street is a pavement, as no horses are to be provided for. We visited the tea factories at Yokohama. Japan has become of late years an exporter of tea to America, no less than five thousand tons being shipped last year. Tea when first gathered is tasteless, but after being exposed to the sun it ferments like hay. It is then curled, twisted, baked, and brought to the dealers, who again pick it over carefully and roll it into the form in which it reaches us. We saw many hundreds of women and girls in the establishment of Messrs. Walsh, Hall & Co. rolling rapidly about with their hands a quantity of the leaves in large round pots under which a small charcoal fire was burning. And now, for the benefit of my lady friends, let me explain that the difference between black and green tea is simply this: the former is allowed to cure or ferment in the sun about fifty minutes longer than the latter, and during this extra fifty minutes certain elements pass off which are thought to affect the nervous system; hence green tea has a greater effect upon weak nerves than the black, but you see the same leaf makes either kind, as the owner elects. But here comes in a strange prejudice. Green tea of the natural color could not be sold in the American market. No, we insist upon having a "prettier green," and we are accommodated, of course. What can a dealer do but meet the imperious demands of his patrons? The required color is obtained by adulterating the pure tea with a mixture of indigo and gypsum, which the most conscientious dealers are compelled to do. But we saw used in one case Prussian blue, which is poisonous--this, however, was not in Messrs. Walsh, Hall & Co.'s--and I was told that ultramarine is sometimes resorted to. These more pernicious substances produce even a "prettier green" than the indigo and gypsum, and secure the preference of ignorant people. Moral--Stick to black tea and escape poison. For all of which information, and many kind attentions, I have to thank Mr. Walsh, our banker.

One hears very often in Japan during the night a long, plaintive kind of whistle, which, upon inquiry, I found proceeded from blind men or women, called shampooers, who are employed to rub or pinch those suffering from pain, and who cure restlessness by the same means. It is a favorite cure of the Japanese, and some foreigners tell us they have employed it with success. I suppose, this climate being productive of rheumatism and kindred pains, the people are prone to fly to anything that secures temporary relief; but it is a new idea, this, of being pinched to sleep.

We live well at the hotels here. Japan abounds in fish and game in great variety. Woodcock, snipe, hares, and venison are cheap, and all of excellent quality. The beef and mutton are also good, as are the vegetables. Turnips, radishes and carrots are enormous, owing, I suppose to the depth and fineness of the soil. Vandy measured some of each, and reports: "Radishes, eighteen inches, and beautifully white; carrots, twenty inches, and splendid."

* * * * *

WEDNESDAY, November 20.

We started this morning from Yokohama for Tokio, the great city of the Empire, which contains 1,030,000 inhabitants, according to a census taken last year. Until within a few years past Japan had two rulers--the Mikado, or spiritual, and the Tycoon, or secular ruler, although, strictly speaking, the former was theoretically the supreme ruler, the latter obtaining his power through marriage with the family of the former. The seat of the Mikado was at Kioto, a fine city near the centre of the island, while the Tycoon resided at Tokio, or Yeddo, as it was then called. The Mikado was invisible, being the veritable veiled prophet, none but a privileged few being ever permitted to gaze upon his divine person. A few years ago it was decided to combine the two powers, and make Yeddo the only capital. The Mikado was carried to Yeddo closely veiled, in triumphal procession, and the vast crowds, assembled at every point to see the cavalcade, prostrated themselves, and remained with eyes bent upon the ground as the sacred car approached. An eye-witness describing the entry into Tokio says that few dared to look up as the Presence passed. Lately, the same Mikado has made a royal progress through the country, meeting the principal men in each district, and travelling in view of the entire population, so rapidly have manners changed in Japan. When the Mikado was elevated to supreme power, the feudal system, which had existed up to that time, was abolished, and we now see no more of the Samuri, or two-sworded men, or of the Daimios, the petty princes who formerly promenaded the streets in gorgeous dresses, accompanied by their military retainers. The soldiers, sailors, policemen, and all the official classes are dressed in European style. It is the reigning fashion to be European, and even furniture after our patterns is coming into use. It is the same with food. The hotel where we are rejoices in a French cook, expressly imported, and every night we have parties of wealthy Japanese dining at this Tokio Delmonico's. Last night we had a party of the most celebrated actors enjoying a dinner to commemorate the successful completion of a new piece which had enjoyed a great run. I amused myself trying to select the Montagu, Gilbert, Becket, and Booth of the party, and succeeded well, as I afterward heard. Actors are held in estimation in Tokio, and these attracted great attention as they dined. Matters are much as with us, I fancy. Our interpreter, in his broken English, told us in regard to the two young lovers, "Very high thought by much high ladies--oh, very high!" I do not think European dress improves the appearance of the Japanese gentlemen; they are very short, and--I regret to report it--generally quite crooked in the legs, and their own flowing costumes render them dignified and graceful. Indeed, after a residence in the East for a while one agrees with the opinion he hears often expressed there that our costume is the most unpicturesque dress in the world.

We were fortunate in having as shipmates Captain Totaki, of the navy, and a young lady, Mlle. Rio, who had been in America several years, and had acquired an English education. They were excessively kind to us during our entire stay, and much of the pleasure derived is due to them. The captain gave us one evening an entertainment at a fashionable tea-house, and introduced us to the celebrated singing and dancing girls of Japan, of whom all have heard. We were shown into a large room, the floor of which was covered with bamboo matting laid upon some soft substance. Of course our shoes were laid aside at the door of the house. There were neither chairs nor furniture of any kind, but subsequently chairs were found for us. The salutations on the part of the numerous women servants were most profound, each prostrating herself to the floor, and touching the mat with her forehead every time she entered or left the apartment. Velvet mats were carried into the room by a servant and placed around a brazier of charcoal. In a few minutes servant after servant entered, prostrating herself to the ground, and placing before us some Japanese delicacy. One served soup in small lacquer bowls, another fish, a third cakes, a fourth tea in very tiny cups, and others various things, and finally saki, the wine of the country, was produced, served in small cups like the tea. Then came the girls. Seven approached, each carrying a musical instrument of queer construction. They bowed profoundly, but I noticed did not touch the mat with their foreheads, their rank being much superior to that of the servants, and began to play and sing.

No entertainment is complete without a troop of these Gahazi girls, and such entertainments form about the only social amusement of the Japanese. And now for the music. Please understand that the Japanese scale is not like ours, and nothing like melody to our ears can be produced by it. They have a full tone between each first and second note, and a semitone between each third and fourth, and yet the same feelings are awakened in them by their music as in us by ours, so that harmony itself is simply a matter of education after all, and the glorious Fifth Symphony itself, "Lohengrin," or "Scots wha hae," played or sung as I have heard them, would convey no more meaning to these people than so much rattling of cross-bones; but imagine the Fifth Symphony on any scale but ours! I cannot reconcile myself to the idea that we have not the only scale for such a theme; but one has to learn that there are different ways for every thing, and no one who knows much will assume that he has the best. Owing to the change of the scale, I suppose I missed the sentiment of every

Round the World - 6/46

Previous Page     Next Page

  1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9   10   11   20   30   40   46 

Schulers Books Home

 Games Menu

Dice Poker
Tic Tac Toe


Schulers Books Online

books - games - software - wallpaper - everything