Schulers Books Online

books - games - software - wallpaper - everything


Books Menu

Author Catalog
Title Catalog
Sectioned Catalog


- NOTO - 1/21 -

He knew no more about Noto than I, and at times, on the road, he could not make out what the country folk said, for the difference in dialect; which lack of special qualification much increased his charm as a fellow-traveler. He neither spoke nor understood English, of course, and surprised me, after surprising himself, on the last day but one of our trip, by coming out with the words "all right." His surname, appropriately enough, meant mountain-rice-field, and his last name --which we should call his first name--was Yejiro, or lucky-younger-son. Besides cooking excellently well, he made paper plum blossoms beautifully, and once constructed a string telephone out of his own head. I mention these samples of accomplishment to show that he was no mere dabbler in pots and pans.

In addition to his various culinary contrivances we took a large and motley stock of canned food, some of his own home-made bread, and a bottle of whiskey. We laid in but a small supply of beer; not that I purposed to forego that agreeable beverage, but because, in this Europeanized age, it can be got in all the larger towns. Indeed, the beer brewed in Yokohama to-day ranks with the best in the world. It is in great demand in Tokyo, while its imported, or professedly imported, rivals have freely percolated into the interior, so popular with the upper and upper middle classes have malt liquors become. Nowadays, when a Japanese thinks to go in for Capuan dissipation regardless of expense, he treats himself to a bottle of beer.

These larder-like details are not meant to imply that I made a god of my palate, but that otherwise my digestion would have played the devil with me. In Japan, to attempt to live off the country in the country is a piece of amateur acting the average European bitterly regrets after the play, if not during its performance. We are not inwardly contrived to thrive solely on rice and pickles.

It is best, too, for a journey into the interior, to take with you your own bedding; sheets, that is, and blankets. The bed itself Yejiro easily improvised out of innumerable futons, as the quilts used at night by the Japanese are called. A single one is enough for a native, but Yejiro, with praiseworthy zeal, made a practice of asking for half-a-dozen, which he piled one upon the other in the middle of the room. Each had a perceptible thickness and a rounded loglike edge; and when the time came for turning in on top of the lot, I was always reminded of the latter end of a Grecian hero, the structure looked so like a funeral pyre. When to the above indispensables were added clothes, camera, dry plates, books, and sundries, it made a collection of household gods quite appalling to consider on the march. I had no idea I owned half so much in the world from which it would pain me to be parted. As my property lay spread out for packing, I stared at it aghast.

To transport all these belongings, native ingenuity suggested a thing called a yanagigori; several of them, in fact. Now the construction of a kori is elementally ingenious. It consists simply of two wicker baskets, of the same shape, but of slightly different size, fitting into each other upside down. The two are then tied together with cord. The beauty of the idea lies in its extension; for in proportion as the two covers are pulled out or pushed home will the pair hold from a maximum capacity of both to a minimum capacity of one. It is possible even to start with more than a maximum, if the contents be such as are not given to falling out by the way. The contrivance is simply invaluable when it comes to transporting food; for then, as you eat your way down, the obliging covers shrink to meet the vacuum. If more than one kori be necessary, an easy step in devices leads to a series of graded sizes. Then all your baskets eventually collapse into one.

The last but most important article of all was my passport, which carefully described my proposed route, and which Yejiro at once took charge of and carried about with him for immediate service; for a wise paternal government insisted upon knowing my intentions before permitting me to visit the object of my choice.


Off and On.

It was on the day but one before the festival of the fifth moon that we set out, or, in English, the third of May; and those emblems of good luck, the festival fishes, were already swimming in the air above the house eaves, as we scurried through the streets in jinrikisha toward the Uyeno railway station. We had been a little behindhand in starting, but by extra exertions on the part of the runners we succeeded in reaching the station just in time to be shut out by the gatekeeper. Time having been the one thing worthless in old Japan, it was truly sarcastic of fate that we should reach our first goal too late. As if to point chagrin, the train still stood in waiting. Remonstrances with the wicket man about the imported five-minute regulation, or whatever it was, proved of no avail. Not one jot or tittle of the rule would he yield, which perhaps was natural, inasmuch as, however we might have managed alone, our companions the baskets never could have boarded the train without offical help. The intrinsic merits of the baggage failed, alas, to affect its mobility. Then the train slowly drew out.

To be stopped on the road is the common lot of travelers; but to be stopped before one has fairly started is nothing less than to be mocked at. It is best, however, to take such gibes in good part. Viewing the situation in this light, the ludicrousness of the disconnection struck me so forcibly as very nearly to console me for my loss, which was not trifling, since the next train did not leave for above three hours; too late to push on beyond Takasaki that night, a thing I had most firmly purposed to do. Here I was, the miserable victim of a punctuality my own people had foisted on a land only too happy without it! There was poetic justice in the situation, after all. Besides, the course of one's true love should not run too smooth. Judicious difficulty whets desire.

There was nothing to turn to on the spot, and I was ashamed to go home. Then I opportunely remembered something.

I have always thought we limited our pharmacopoeia. We prescribe pills enough for the body, while we leave the mind to look after itself. Why should not the spirit also have its draughts and mixtures, properly labeled and dispensed! For example, angling appears to be a strong mental opiate. I have seen otherwise normal people stupefied beyond expression when at the butt of a rod and line. Happening to recall this effect, I instantly prescribed for my perturbed state of mind a good dose of fishing, to be taken as suited the day. So I betook me down a by-street, where the aerial carp promised the thickest, and, selecting a house well placed for a view, asked permission to mount upon the roof. It chanced to be a cast-off clothing shop, along whose front some fine, if aged, garments were hung to catch the public eye. The camera and I were inducted up the ascent by the owner, while my boots, of course, waited dog-like in the porch below.

The city made a spectacle from above. On all sides superb paper carp floated to the breeze, tugging at the strings that held them to the poles quite after the manner of the real fish. One felt as though, by accident, he had stepped into some mammoth globe of goldfish. The whole sky was alive with them. Eighty square miles of finny folk inside the city, and an untold company without. The counterfeit presentments were from five to ten feet long, and painted to mimic life. The breeze entered at the mouth and passed out somewhat less freely at the tail, thus keeping them well bellied and constantly in motion. The way they rose and dove and turned and wriggled was worthy of free will. Indeed, they had every look of spontaneity, and lacked only the thing itself to turn the sky into an ocean, and Tokyo into a sea bottom with a rockery of roof. Each fish commemorates the birth of a boy during the year. It would thus be possible to take a census of the increase of the male population yearly, at the trifling cost of scaling a housetop,--a set of statistics not without an eventual value.

While we were strolling back, Yejiro and I, we came, in the way, upon another species of fish. The bait, which was well designed to captivate, bade for the moment to exceed even the angler's anticipations. It was a sort of un-Christmas tree with fishing-pole branches, from which dangled articulated figures, bodied like men, but with heads of foxes, tortoises, and other less likelybeasts, --bewitching objects in impossible evolution to a bald-pated urchin who stood gazing at it with all his soul. The peddler sat with his eyes riveted on the boy, visions of a possible catch chasing themselves through his brain. I watched him, while the crowd behind stared at me. We made quite a tail of curiosity. The opiate was having its effect; I began to feel soporifically calm. Then I went up to the restaurant in the park and had lunch as quietly as possible, in fear of friendly discovery.

Sufficiently punctual passengers being now permitted to board the next train, I ensconced myself in a kind of parlor compartment, which, fortunately, I continued to have all to myself, and was soon being rolled westward across the great Musashi plain, ruminating. My chief quarrel with railway rules is, I am inclined to think, that they preach to the public what they fail to practice themselves. After having denied me a paltry five minutes' grace at the station, the officials proceeded to lose half an hour on the road in a most exasperating manner. Of course the delay was quite exceptional. Such a thing had never happened before, and would not happen again--till the next time. But the phenomenal character of the occurrence failed to console me, as it should no doubt have done. My delay, too, was exceptional--on this line. Nor was I properly mollified by repeated offers of hard-boiled eggs, cakes, and oranges, which certain enterprising peddlers hawked up and down the platforms, when we stopped, to a rhythmic chant of their own invention.

The only consolation lay in the memory of what travel over the Musashi plain used to be before trains hurried one, or otherwise, into the heart of the land. In those days the journey was done in jinrikisha, and a question of days, not hours, it was in the doing, --two days' worth of baby carriage, of which the tediousness lay neither in the vehicles nor in the way, but in the amount of both. Or, if one put comparative speed above comparative comfort, he rose before the lark, to be tortured through a summer's day in a basha, or horse vehicle, suitable only for disembodied spirits. My joints ached again at the thought. Clearly, to grumble now was to sin against proportion.

Besides, the weather was perfect: argosies of fleecy cloud sailing slowly across a deep blue sky; a broad plain in all its spring freshness of color, picked out here and there with fruit trees smothered in blossom, and bearing on its bosom the passing shadows of the clouds above; in the distance the gradually growing forms of the mountains, each at first starting into life only as a faint wash of color, barely to be parted from the sky itself, pricking up from out the horizon of field. Then, slowly, timed to our advance, the tint gathered substance, grew into contrasts that, deepening minute by minute, resolved into detail, until at last the whole stood revealed in all its majesty, foothill, shoulder, peak, one grand chromatic rise from green to blue.

NOTO - 1/21

    Next Page

  1    2    3    4    5    6   10   20   21 

Schulers Books Home

 Games Menu

Dice Poker
Tic Tac Toe


Schulers Books Online

books - games - software - wallpaper - everything