1st April to 27th April 1872
April 1st 1872
Another day of quiet.
Todays excitement has more than made up for the (Page 28) quiet of yesterday and day before. This afternoon I went with some friends to attend a meeting (annual) of the Association of Artists of Yedo, which was held at a tea house near the Riongoku Bushi. We arrived there about half past 3 and found about 500 knights of the pencil, a large proportion of whom were hilariously tight. At these meetings of the Japanese Academy des Beaux Arts the members and their friends exchange specimens of their off hand sketches and of ?chirography, all of which must be executed on the spot. It is the style to have white fans, perfectly blank, upon which these sketches and so forth are made. We had to write our names and specimens of our hand writing on several hundred of these fans. I found among the non professional attendants on the festivities a gay little gaisha or dancer whom I have frequently seen since I have been in Yedo. She had a fan on which she insisted I should make a sketch, so I made a caricature of one of our ballet girls at the rudest, telling my little friend that that was an American Gaisha (Page 29) Poor little (illegible word) was rather shocked at the style of our "gaishas" and innocently wanted to know if they wore that costume all the time. The inebriated artists were oppressively friendly, and one of them falling in love with me at first sight nearly drove me from the house by his attentions. I could not avoid him. Dodge where I chose in the innumerable rooms of the great tea house, I was sure to stumble on him somewhere and to be embraced and teased till by diverting his attention I could again escape for a few minutes. At length some grave "old masters" took pity on me and rather unceremoniously hustled my bore out and I saw him no more. About the (˝ p 3) time at which we started for the artists meeting an alarm of fire was given and we saw smoke arising from a point near the inner wall of the castle enclosure. The wind began to blow a gale and by the time (5 p.m.) at which we left the artists meeting it seemed as thought the fire was gaining ground alarmingly, for we could see it from the upper storey rolling all across the city. We returned to near the point where the (Page 30) fire originated whence we could see along the direction it had taken. The wind was still blowing tremendously, and I found no difficulty in believing the stories of the Chicago fire, for the flames would leap a mile and the conflagration break out in dozens of places simultaneously. While we stood watching it at least a dozen dead and thirty or forty injured were carried by. As the direction of the flames was directly toward the foreign concession, we soon grew alarmed about our friends there, and with reason for many of them were burned out (Heerens beautiful place, however, escaped). After hurrying home and swallowing a few mouthfuls of dinner I mounted my horse and riding eight miles in order to get around the burned district, which it was impossible to cross, I reached Heerens at the time when he was in the greatest danger, and found his place full of homeless friends, both Jap and foreign. I stayed until the danger was over, and the great conflagration apparently (Page 31) spent, and returned home tired and excited.
April 7th. Evening
Sunday, so no work. Rode out to Ogee with Mr. and Mrs. Wilson, and spent the day charmingly. Nothing new since last entry.
The official report of the late fire gives about 30,000 people as rendered homeless and reports one dozen deaths. I think the latter an understatement. Of the extent of the fire, which was in the heart of the city, some idea may be formed from the accompanying map of Yedo, in which I have shaded the burned dist., and also from the rough map sold on the streets which is also attached. (Both of these maps are still fixed within the pages of the journal - HT)
Visited a porcelain factory today but saw nothing remarkable save the dexterity of the artists engaged in ornamenting the crude ware.
A quiet day. Spent evening at Wilsons. (Page 32) My journal has not been very regularly kept this month, the result of two causes. 1st and chiefly that I am in such a state of fidget waiting for the steamer to arrive that I can not sit down to coolly write, the other is that I have seen little particularly new and startling, and not having the pen of Dickens I can not write the little incidents of every day which nevertheless strike me in all their pathos or comicality. Speaking of Dickens, I am taking a course of him again. Have just finished Nicholas Nickleby and am on Bleak House. I love Dickens better every time I read a book of his.
Matters in Yedo have much quietened down. The soldiers are now behaving with perfect propriety and although ridiculous rumours occasionally circulate yet as the authorities are relaxing their vigilant care for our safety I believe any reason for anticipating trouble exists no longer.
Yesterday I attended an exhibition of the natural and artificial productions of Japan. (Page 33) This was held at the Membusho or former residence of the Chinese Embassy, and it is really a beautiful exhibition. Many of the articles are unique, being loaned by the Imperial court, and by different nobles. Among the most interesting things to me was a collection of the botany and natural history of the Empire, the botanical specimens being better preserved than any others I ever saw. The thing which attracts most general attention is a huge fish of the shape of the heraldic dolphin, which is about ten feet long and six or seven in circumference, and is covered all over by huge scales of pure gold! This is a relic of the lavish magnificence of the old Daimios, for it was one of two which crowned the gables of the house of Owarri, being is such situations generally made of bronze or earthen. Among the articles on exhibition was exquisitely preserved lacquer, 1000 years old and bronzes even more antique.
Coming back we stopped at a little side show and were rewarded (Page 34) by witnessing a most disgusting display. The show consisted of a brutal looking girl with long artificial canine teeth of bone or ivory projecting over her lower lip, who devoured bits of raw and writhing snake, and of another girl to whom was affixed a dried snake so as to represent a tail.
I have just been to Yokohama where I learned that the outward bound steamer left on the 4th instead of 1st, bringing her here the 30th instead of the 27th. The mail goes down today. When Frank arrives, by the invitation of the Chargé dAffairs, we are to take up our quarters while in Yokohama, at the Legation, and as Shepard gives a grand entertainment while we are there I suppose we shall be quite gay.
(Page 35)April 23rd. Evening
April 24th. Evening
Called on Antisell and Wilson this evening. Antisell has temporary employment under the Treasury Dept.
Was today waited on by a young man Mr R Honda (Japanese) who in tolerable (Page 36) English that he was the first of several medical students who, in compliance with my long ago made, and often repeated request, are at length to be assigned to me to instruct. With Honda, who is likely to appear quite often in this record, came three Japanese doctors who reported to me for duty. They are men who, as far as they know it, practise modern medicine and are anxious to learn. I have now got somewhat at the ideas they are entertaining of the work in my Dept. at Sappro. I am now preparing estimates and requisitions for the full outfit of a hospital of 200 beds.
Since the 24th we have had steady and tremendous rain. Last night the storm was fearful. I felt glad in the thought that, thanks to the delay in the departure of the steamer, Frank was 600 miles from this iron-bound coast instead of being close to it as she would otherwise have been. Learned today per telegraph the cause of the delay, which is stated to be that the China, shortly after leaving port, had a collision and had to be put back when passengers and freight were exchanged into the Great Republic.
Dined with Jondon tonight. Longfellow, a Capt. Clarke from China, and Heeren were there.
Return to Home Page