August 1871. Arrival in Japan and early experiences.
Vol. 1. Page 1.... But to return to the typhoon
business. The morning of the 23rd the waves were as I said before perfectly immense.
Toward noon the ship's officers began to look a little anxious and to peer wistfully
through the thick fogs that he hid the ragged coast of Japan, meanwhile the storm
increased. Many of the passengers were much alarmed but for myself I must say that,
probably from ignorance, I felt no alarm whatever but mounted my waterproofs and took
station on deck where I enjoyed the grandest sight I ever witnessed. I never even dreamed
of the wondrous aspect of the ocean in a storm.
Well, about 2:00 p.m. the land was sighted but owing to the fog it was some time before it
was recognised and it was even then no doubtful whether it we could make the entrance to
the bay of Yedo and so on run into safe anchorage. At last last however the captain
descride a well known headland and we, after passing up the bay about 20 miles reached
Yokohama and cast anchor about six o'clock. There is no wharfage and all ships lie (Page 2) at anchor some distance from
shore, their cargo and passengers being discharged by small boats.
The bay was so rough on our arrival and only one or two boats containing the agent of the
Steamboat company and one or two a Japanese officials came off. We were advised not to
land till morning. About nine o'clock that evening I noticed my barometer falling very
rapidly and as I suspected then, what I afterward learned was the case, that the ruffled
water outside was the premonition of something worse coming. I looked out for trouble.
Sure enough it came, about five o'clock. I was awakened by the roaring of the wind and
rose to find that a typhoon was upon us. Now you may think at anchor, in a harbour, 20
miles inland our ship was safe from any storm, but not a bit was she safe from a typhoon.
The storm increased, of the many vessels around us at least one half were dragging their
anchors. Several seemed about to drift against us and crush us. The US store ship Idaho,
although an immense vessel, formerly one of finest in the Navy, rolled and pitched (Page 3) so that we thought, she must
fill and go to the bottom, as it was she lost all her boats and spars. The waves were
tremendous and broke over many of the largest ships. Our noble vessel rode it out bravely
however, her anchor holding firmly and had it not been for the danger of collision we
should have thought ourselves safer than on shore.
The storm lasted violently for four hours when the wind suddenly shifted to a comparative
calm although the waves still rolled wickedly and the wind was a reasonable gale. Warfield
and the General declining to go ashore for fear of a wetting but Antisell and I about dark
hailed a native boat and by the help of our waterproofs got ashore in good preservation.
We found that Yokohama had suffered severely, and that the "International", the
best hotel, had lost a portion of the roof. We managed, however, to secure a room, four in
number prospectively in presento, one with four beds and after a good supper in French
style I started out with our West Point friends, who had meanwhile come ashore to see the
We called for a conveyance and on being notified that it was already found at the door a
number of vehicles (Page 4) equal
to that of party, viz. eight. These carriages were of a most singular construction and
propelled by manpower. They are known as "jinrikshas" and are the most luxurious
conveyance known here, save a a very few clumsy wagons of English build or born in Japan
of English parentage. Even these appear to be a late introduction, the old conveyance of
the Japanese having been the "Cango". I enclose sketches of both. Well our party
got into the jinrikshas and away we went for the Japanese quarter of the town, a jolly
lot. We went into the shops, houses and finally to the yoshivarra which an almost afraid
to describe the for the fear of having bad motives imputed to me as a cause of my visit.
Suffice it to say that it is the quarter of the city devoted by the government to the
women of pleasure. The dresses were exquisite, some of the faces would have been beautiful
anywhere, but the behaviour of the young ladies would hardly pass muster in an American
After seeing a dance, drinking many cups of tea, eating sweetmeats by the quantity and
learning (Page 5) several naughty
words we returned to the hotel. A second day in Yokohama was spent in calls on the
American minister and Consul to whom I had letters of introduction, and who received me
with the utmost courtesy, and in fussing about the large amount of freight which was being
delivered from the vessel for us. In the evening we were waited on by a Mr Horé, an
official from Yedo well informed us through the medium of a very bad interpreter that he
was sent to take charge of us and that he would take charge of the freight.
The next day was entirely wasted in the awkward mismanagement of our business by Horé and
his satellites owing to their deficient knowledge of language. The following morning was
spent in a walk through "Curio Street" of the Japanese town and was an
examination of the many tempting objects disposed for sale in its shops, at high prices
compared with the interior of Japan but at what seemed to be absurdly low as compared with
our ours. For instance, a desk such as Preston sent to Maggie Warren can be bought for
$250 or $300. I bought nothing but the crepe scarf although sorely tempted at the silk (Page 6) shop by dress patterns and
dressing gowns. The latter for ladies is perfectly beautiful in material and graceful cut.
We looked around Yokohama til the 28th when we started in two carriages for this place and
then began the system of guards over us which I suppose will last till we leave Japan. We
were escorted by a squad of cavalry through the whole journey which is along the
"Tokaido" or great national highway of the empire. The road is lined with houses
on both sides for its whole length, most of them being shops and the distance 24 miles. We
stopped by direction of our accompanying official, at several tea houses or taverns for
refreshment and were waited on by pretty girls, with their faces painted and powdered and
pleased to death at our evident appreciation of their tea. For tea here is good
though I never thought it could be fit to drink anywhere.
One thing would strike you singularly anywhere in Japan viz. the total absence of any
sense of shame connected with the exposure of the person. All the labourers or work stark
naked with the exception of a narrow breech clout (Page 7), and the women in the shops and houses, all of which are
open to the street. exposing the whole upper half of their body whenever engaged in any
domestic operation involving perspiration or demanding freedom of movement. Still there is
always some reason for their strippingboth male and female and that is not the sort of
gratuitous exhibition of unadorned nature that most authors speak of. It is either for
coolness in the sultry climate or to secure liberty of limb. The sexes bathe
indiscriminately, however, although it is probable that long custom has entirely done away
with any sense of impropriety and as with any harmful results in the least from at least
the last is to be devoutly hoped. Of the lower-classes, of the men who are engaged in
transportation either of goods or men, are tattooed elaborately in a blue and red
sometimes presenting the entire figure of a Japanese lady on their back together with
arabesques and ornamental designs innumerable. One chap that hauled me around a good deal
had a female face on each shoulder, the figures extending down his flanks and the trains
of their dresses (Page 8) wrapping
around the thighs. In addition to this he had a dragon, coiled up on the broadest part of
him. In short he exhibited such a collection of drawings that the rider could employ
himself quite profitably in his jinriksha in studying the fine art of the country. But I
have digressed from our trip to Yedo. About half way we were met by Mr Kuroda, the
official who visited America for the purpose of organising our commission, he having come
to meet us as a testimony of respect. He is large for a Japanese, of fine presence and
most exquisite manners, the last however is characteristic of the entire nation. Having
cordially greeted us he turned back and joined our party. About 3 p.m. we arrived in Yedo.
There the first thing that struck us passing through the streets was the immense number of
natives to have adopted European costume. Many of these are undoubtedly soldiers, for the
army of the Mikado is uniformed in costume much like that of ours, but many civilians have
also adopted the new dress.
(Page 9) The streets of Yedo are
lined with shops of all kinds, Division of trade being carried out here to the uttermost.
I shall send you some photographs before long that will speak better of the appearances of
the streets than I can. Suffice it to say that the crowd is like Broadway and that it is
orderly neat looking with few exceptions and clean as can be. After riding for a couple of
miles through shops and barrack like buildings of some architectural pretension we were
suddenly plunged into a grove of trees by passing rapidly through a huge gate in a high
wall and now began the Arabian nights. The grove while having all the beauty of nature was
exquisitely kept and traversed by beautiful broad macadamised roads.
After riding for a short distance through this shady and really lovely spot we discovered
our location or rather suspected it from seeing a temple and not far ahead. This was the
temple of Dzo Jorge usually known as a Shiba, the burial place of the Tycoons and the
grove surrounds it for miles. The culture of (Page 10) the place is wonderful and this was what struck us first
as we drove through the beautifully kept roads and avenues of the temple grounds. The
roads are depressed, and the trees, some of them enormous, are upon high plateaus sloping
to the road in terraces. While all stiffness of appearance is avoided yet the care with
which the trees are trained is apparent when some limb has threatened to take a direction
either inconvenient or of bad appearance. Then the straggling bough is supported or drawn
to one side or the other by bamboos lashed to them.
Well, after driving for some little time through the grove, each moment discovering some
new beauty, we drew up in front of a high wall at a large gate which, opening with a
clang, admitted us to our quarters. Alighting, we were shown into our palace in the most
polite manner by Mr Kuroda (whom you will remember is in immediate charge of us and whom I
shall often mention) and felt as if we were suddenly alighted in the palace of the Mikado
himself, as indeed in one sense we were. For (Page 11) the house has heretofore been occupied by his Imperial
Majesty on occasions when he visited the great temple, and was sacred to his use alone,
not even the highest prince daring to intrude.
Of the house itself I despair of being able to give you any adequate idea. It is in purely
Japanese style, but that style is perfect in its adaptability to the climate, while there
is no excess of ornament, and everything is in perfect taste. Yet the exquisite finish,
immaculate neatness and convenience of the establishment exceed anything I ever saw. We
have oceans of room, and the peculiar construction has enabled us to arrange it to suit
ourselves. You know that in Japanese houses all the inner partitions are sliding screens,
not simply of paper, as is often said, but, in our case, at least of board covered with
paper on both sides, but so neatly that one would imagine the panel to be one very tightly
stretched sheet. All the beams of our house are so beautifully framed together that you
can hardly see a joint, and at every intersection there is a handsome ornament of gilt
bronze, which the people make (Page 12) of the finest quality. Our reception
room is twice as large as our big front room, our dining room of the same size, our
bedrooms more than sufficient, while our office room and the one for exhibition of our
American articles are big as a church. In fact, this room does contain a shrine of Buddha,
beautifully finished in gold and laquer but from which the poor god has been removed to
make room for the intruding foreigner. I will try to make a sketch of the house with
ground plan to enclose in this.
In deference to our supposed taste the beautiful mats which properly cover all the floors
of Japanese houses and serve both for beds and floor coverings, had been replaced by a
neat carpet, and at one end of the reception room on a raised dais was an elegant parlour
set of crimson rep.
We took our seats on the dais among demonstrations of welcome and many apologies for the
poorness of our accommodation (!). Then tea and sweetmeats were served round. (I wish I
could send you a box of Japanese confectionery. You would borrow money and join me by the
next steamer. The French cant equal it (Page 13), especially the numerous preparations of jelly).
After the tea and the sweetmeats we were shown to our bedrooms where, although we had
brought furniture for a house from the U.S., we found each man provided with a neat iron
bed-stead with mosquito bar, a wash stand provided with every necessity of the toilet of
the finest material, the toilet sets being beautiful enough to excite the covetousness of
a New York belle. Then in addition to the china there was, for each, two pearl handled
hair brushes, two tortoise shell combs, two tooth brushes, bathing sponges, and unlimited
turkish towels. At the side of each bed stood a pair of handsome slippers, and by some
unknown means they had managed to fit each mans size to a nicety.
After making our toilets we were informed, through our interpreter, that dinner was
served. Adjourning to the dining room we partook of a dinner in 8 courses, French style
and cookery which Welcher (sic) would find it hard to rival. The meal was washed down with
the best of sherry, claret and champagne, and had we chosen we might have had any number
more of the choicest wines which stood ready on (page 14) the side table. But not being used to such high living
drew it mild (sic).
This first meal was but a sample of all that followed. We are living better than I have
ever lived in all my life. Our only regret is that you are not with us - by
"you" I mean our families in general. On every table in the house stands an
elegant cigar holder stacked with manillas that in the U.S. would be worth 25c each.
Warfield is as great a smoker as I am and these require frequent replenishing.
After dining and smoking our household were presented to us. This consists of Horé,
officer of the guard with 12 mounted men, all of them of the better class of society,
Hariki, a sort of Major Domo, in charge of our comfort and general boss of the household
except the guards. Hariki talks English very well and is a pleasant faced boy of about 18,
a gentleman by birth and education, and as our official interpreter, Ishawawa, is rather a
poor one, he is in constant demand to help us express ourselves, in addition to his proper
duties. Hariki is a splendid little fellow and has attached himself especially to me. (Page 15) He says he is anxious to learn
to be a good doctor and hopes he can stay with me and do so. He gives me a letter or two
in the Katakana alphabet every night by way of a lesson, and I reciprocate in English to
the best of my ability.
I have hope of being able to talk Japanese pretty well before my return to the U.S. as I
am picking it up rapidly. You know, there are three alphabets in use in Japan: the
Chinese, used in literature, which has about 40,000 characters, and the acquisitionof
which is to a foreigner a matter of years; the Katakana, of 28 characters, used in
business and in the correspondence of gentlemen; and the Hirakana, whcih is the language
of novels and love letters, being that used by the women who are all educated except the
lowest classes. The Katakana is likely soon to take the place of the Chinese in
literature, being so much simpler, and this is the one I am learning. Below is a specimen
(there follows in S Es faint writing a single column of Katakana script - I shall
endeavour to copy this at some time - H T). But you must read it down from the left of
the page to the right of it (Page 16). In English this reads "Watakshino coishiki
Sai" and the meaning of it is, "My dear handsome wife". One of the funniest
things about it is, that such an expression being proper to a love letter should be
written in the Hirakana, though I have written it in the Katakana, not yet having learned
Part 2 September 4th 1871
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