1st to 17th February 1872

Feb. 1st. Evening
As yesterday, save that I took my walk alone. I find that my Japanese is rapidly becoming sufficient for purposes of shopping etc. Steamer not in yet.

Feb. 2nd. Evening
A fair at Ahtago Yama today, quite near our house. this fair is peripatetic during the few days immediately preceding the Japanese New Year, and is apparently devoted to the sale of toys and trifles suitable for presents, and of green branches, chiefly ferns, for the decoration of the houses. Beside these, various ornamental articles of straw are sold, chiefly a kind apparently representing a boat laden sacks of new rice. At night the street was illuminated by torches and lanterns, and filled with a jolly, good natured crowd. I went out and purchased a set of battledore and shuttlecock, with reference to beating you at it.
Mail not yet in. A severe earthquake shock this afternoon at 1.50 (Page 192) the most severe one we have had. It lasted six seconds, although the time seemed much longer. It made both Prof. Antisell and myself slightly sick at the stomach, and for the first time I felt a little frightened. The shake was preceded and accompanied by a loud rumbling noise.

Feb. 3rd. Evening.
Nothing new today. Work in the morning and a long ramble with Jondon in the afternoon. Steamer not yet in. Wish she was.

Feb. 4th. Evening.
Came down to Yokohama this afternoon in jinrikshas with Jondon and a Mr Allmand, whose wife was a fellow passenger on the America. Am at Dr Doves. St. not in yet.

Feb. 5th. Evening
Have been attending to various business today. Wandered with Jondon down into the curio street, where we found the Japs eager to sell at low prices. I bought a few things such as a tortoise shell card tray and an enamelled box. St. not yet in.

Feb. 6th. Evening
Rose this morning, blue and worried about the dilatory steamer, but just as we had (Page 193) all seated ourselves at the breakfast table, expressing our disappointment at not seeing the "Great Republic" at her anchorage, we heard the gun announcing that she was in sight, and by 12 m. I had my mail and a good large one too, with nothing but pleasant news in it. Sent the mail up to the Genl. and retreated to Dr Dove’s to read my letters.

Feb. 7th. Evening (It is curious that for the entries for the 7th, 8th, and 9th February, Eldridge has written "Jan" - HT)
Expected to have returned to Yedo this morning, but it is snowing heavily, so do not go till tomorrow. Learned the Great Republic had a fearfully rough passage. At one time the Capt. conveyed his chronometers and charts below, expecting that the upper works were going to be swept away.

Feb. 8th. Evening
Back again in my own den at Yedo after a tiresome four hours ride in the stage through the slush and mud. Dined and slept last night at Mr Allmand’s, where Jondon was staying. found among my newspapers a Frank Leslie purporting to give the likenesses of the members of our commission. It is taken from a very good photo, made in San Francisco on our way out (Page 194) but is a ridiculous caricature of us all. Beside which, they have labelled Antisell "Warfield" and vice versa. I think I would prefer not to be so advertised as the possessor of a cut throat phiz.

Feb. 9th. Evening
Today is the Japanese New Year, and I will briefly note what has happened to me as pertaining to the season. Well, for several days past the streets and houses have been decorated by green bamboos and evergreen bushes. These are generally planted in bunches, one bunch on each side of the entrance to the houses, a few feet from the wall, and the base of these groups of trees is frequently surrounded by a faggot of nicely cut and split firewood tied together with straw rope. The fronts of the houses, in most cases, are ornamented by a line of heavy straw fringe, very neatly made and hanging down about two feet. Often there are other straw ornaments to be seen, perhaps the most remarkable being one that seems to represent a boat made with straw and loaded with straw packages like miniatures of those use for transportation of rice. These ornaments are about a foot long, and look something like the sketch. Today all acquaintances (Page 195) meeting greet each other with "Singnen O medito" which, translated literally is "Happy New Year", and many little presents of fruit etc. are exchanged as evidence of good will. One of my students sent me a large hamper of oranges, (and we have delicious seedless oranges here) and wild ducks, mixed. Acquaintances call at the houses of each other today, and altogether many of the observances of the season closely correspond to those among us. Speaking of this, I remember when I was a boy that when the bats began to fly in the twilight, that we used to throw our hats up towards them, and address them the following invocation:

            Bat, bat, come in my hat
            And I’ll give you a piece of pork fat.

The other day I saw a little fellow tossing up his head cloth toward a hawk sailing overhead, and addressing him in a Japanese distich which se repeated so often that it was evident that it is an established form which, as nearly as I could catch it, ran:

            Toombi, toombi, yuko nareba
            Watakshi yaro uburra

"Hawk, hawk, if you will come down I will give you a piece of fat". Isn’t that more than a coincidence?

(Page 196) Feb. 10th. Evening
Called, with Jondon, on several Japanese gentlemen today, the calls of the season here not being restricted to the New Year’s day proper, but extending through the holiday. Here I had a chance to observe some more of the peculiar customs of the festive time. At each house we were presented with nearly the same repast: very small fish, dried and then fried, a kind of salt pickle, and a large black bean served in some sweet sauce, the last thing being the indispensable New Year’s dish. Sweetmeats and oranges were also served, and for drink a very pleasant cordial or sweet saki which I have never before tasted. At one house the young and pretty sister of our host entertained us, this being the first time that I have met face to face one of the ladies of the upper class.
Today the Mikado rec’d in person the congratulations of all the foreign diplomats, in short, gave them a social reception. This, I believe, is an entirely new thing.
With the New Year begins the kite flying season, and today the air is full of them, while you hear a loud humming noise as you pass along, pitched on different keys, and varying from the sound of an angry bumble bee to that of a church organ. (Page 197) This sound is produced by the kites, many of which have a slip of strong paper stretched across the top forming a rude aeolian harp. Most of the kites are oblong, but many are in the shape of birds and even of men. As the two latter varieties are flown without tails you may be startled by seeing, hundreds of feet above your head, suspended in mid air the gigantic figure of a man gesticulating violently as the extremities flap in the wind, and uttering a hoarse cry at intervals as though angry at the cords that bound him to earth. The kite flying here seems mainly confined to children, though in China it is the amusement and almost the (illegible word) of the elders of the land.

Feb. 12th. Evening
Called this morning to see Kuroda’s child, apparently hereditary disease unfortunately but too common here. Mrs Kuroda would be exquisitely pretty of her teeth had not been blacked. Studied and read the rest of the day.

Feb. 13th. Evening
Slight earthquake today, about past 12 m. Went this evening with Jondon and Kinzo to visit one of the peculiar institutions of Japan. I shall set down what I saw plainly, and my readers may either skip or peruse. (Page 198) The peculiar institution to which I allude is the joshiwara, or quarter of prostitutes of Yedo and as Mitford, tales of old Japan Vol 1 P 63 has described it far better than I can hope to do, I will quote him here:

"At the end of the 16th century the courtesans of Yedo lived in three special places. This appears to have scandalised a certain reformer named Shofi Jinyemon, who in the year 1612 petitioned the Govt. that the women who lived in different parts of the town should be gathered in to the "flower quarter". His petition was granted, and they were removed to a place known, from the many rushes growing there, as "Yoshiwara" or "Rush Moor", a title since become generic. The official guide to the Yoshiwara for 1869 gives a return of 153 brothels containing 3289 courtesans of all classes, from the "Oirau" or proud beauty who dresses up in gorgeous brocade of gold and silver, with painted face and gilded lips, has all the young bloods of Yedo at her feet, down to the humble Shinzo, or white toothed woman, who rots away her life in the common stews. These figures do not, however, represent the whole of the prostitution of Yedo. The Yoshiwara is the chief but not the only abiding place of the public women. (Page 199) There are also women called "Jigoku-inma" or "Hell women", who live in their own houses and ply their trade in secret. On the whole I believe the amount of prostitution in Yedo to be singularly small, considering the vast size of the city. There are (1869) 394 tea houses in Yoshiwara, which are largely used as places of assignation. It is also the fashion to give dinners and drinking parties at these houses for which the services of "Laikimochi" or jesters and of singing and dancing girls, are retained. The guide to the Yoshiwara gives a list of fifty five famous singing girls, beside a host of minor stars. These women are not to be confounded with the courtesans. Their conduct is very closely watched by their masters, and they always go out to parties in couples or bands so as to be a check on each other. Courtesans, singing women and dancers are bought by contractors, either as children, when they are educated for their calling, or at a more advanced age, when their accomplishments or charms render them a desirable investment. The engagement is never life long, for past the flower of their youth the poor creatures would (Page 200) be mere burdens upon their masters. Children destined to be trained as singers are usually bought when they are five or six years old, a likely child fetching 35 to 50 shillings (English); the purchaser undertakes the education of his charge and brings the little thing up as his own child. The parents sign a paper absolving him form all responsibility in case of sickness or accident, but they know that their child will be well treated and cared for. The interests of the buyer are their natural guarantee.
Little children bought for the purposes of prostitution at the age of about five or six years fetch about the same price as those that are employed as singers. During their noviciate they are employed to wait upon the "Giran", or fashionable prostitutes, in the capacity of female pages, "Kamuro". They are mostly the children of distressed persons, or orphans, whom their relatives cruelly sell rather than be at the expense and trouble of bringing them up. Of the girls who enter the profession later in life, some are orphans who have no other means of earning a livelihood, (Page 201) others sell their bodies out of filial pity that they may succour their sick or needy parents. Others are married women who enter the Yoshiwara that they may supply the needs of their husbands, and a very small proportion is recruited from girls who have been seduced and abandoned, perhaps sold, by faithless lovers.
The time to see the Yoshiwara to the best advantage is just after nightfall when the lamps are lighted. Then it is that the women, who for the last two hours have been engaged in gilding their lips and painting their eyebrows black and their throats and bosoms snowy white, leave the back rooms and take their places side by side in a room separated from the street only by large, widely separated wooden bars, and which is often indeed generally beautifully decorated in the riches style of Japanese art. Here they sit for hours, gorgeous in dresses of silk and gold and silver embroidery, speechless and motionless as wax figures, only moving to light occasionally their tiny pipes at the little pot of lighted charcoal which stands in front of each, until they shall have attracted the attention of the passers by who begin to throng the place"

So for Mitford. Now for my own impression. (Page 202) I went, not merely out of a prurient curiosity, but as a member of a profession which, dealing with the most ghastly results of the social evil, must, to do its duty, investigate even repellent objects to secure a full understanding of its work. Mitford’s description is capital, though he had never seen the lower deeps. The thing that strikes one who has seen the haunts of prostitution in the cities of Christian countries most forcibly, is the perfect decorum that prevails. This is partly, of course, the result of the fact that prostitution here is a recognised and legitimate profession, and it is easy to understand that when a public sentiment exists allowing a girl to prostitute herself from the holiest of motives, she does not necessarily become the utter reprobate that she does with us. This decorum is lost by contact with foreigners. The Yoshiwara at Yokohama is, as Mitford remarks, "as leprous as the London Haymarket". The houses of the highest class are enormous structures, built 3, 4 or even 5 stories high, in the form of a hollow square surrounding a beautiful courtyard with flowers, rock work and fountains. The rooms are decorated beautifully, and everything cleansed and pure looking as their use is filthy. Those of the lowest class are long (Page 203) passages on the level of the ground, and opening into little stalls not larger than a horse stall, each of which is occupied by a single courtesan. In some of these long passages there are 100 girls. I shall make no moral reflections upon the Yoshiwara. Its existence is an attempt to grapple with the social evil, that hideous problem which is puzzling our best and wisest legislators in Europe and America. Certainly the separation and distinct costume of the unfortunates who people the Yoshiwara has its advantages, especially that they are under strict surveillance both civil and medical.

Feb. 14th. Evening
A slight earthquake this morning at 8. Heavy snow storm all day. Shepard here, having arrived about noon.

Feb. 15th. Evening
Read and rode this morning. Called at Kuroda after tiffin this afternoon and then took a long ride with Jondon. Noticed many people carrying home to their children little trees loaded with toys, a curious correspondence with our Christmas tree, and probably of common origin with it. The C. tree long antedating (Page 204) the Christmas era. Saw also many people wearing in their hair a small cleft stick holding a folded written paper. This they had obtained from the priests at Asaksa, but any details in reference to the custom I was unable to obtain.

Feb. 16th. Evening
A quiet day of work and study, varied only by a constitutional ride in the evening.

Feb. 17th. Evening
Another quiet day of work. Warfield is endeavouring to arrange a new contract at somewhat advanced terms. I believe they have agreed to pay him for two years $5000.00 and $6,500.00. Antisell demands $8000.00, but I fear they will not give it and that we shall lose him. He is absent at present, visiting some friends at Kobe, in the southern part of the island of Nippon.
Last night Chesai, my little dog, disappeared. I fear he is stolen. It would have been very easy to have carried him off. He was only a pocketful. I was much attached to the handsome, affectionate little fellow.

Just so:
                "I never loved a little pup
                To glad me with his fun and frolic
                But what the dog was gobbled up
                And I left lone and melancholic."

This is the end of the first of the two volumes of the Stuart Eldridge Journals

Part 28

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