13th January to 19th January 1872
Jan. 13th. Evening
A quiet day. This evening we all were up at Jondons to one of the ordinary entertainments of dancing and singing girls. I say ordinary, but it was better than ordinary, for the girls seemed possessed of the very spirit of mischief and made more fun than I ever knew them to get up to before. They fairly made us sore with laughter. They burlesqued all sorts of things and gave travesties of the actors at the theatre.
Jan. 14th. Evening
Sunday today, so did not work. Read Shakespeare (for want of anything else) all morning, and in the afternoon went with (Page 170) on page 170 in his journal Eldridge has pasted a cutting from "The Japan Herald" dated Thursday 11th January, 1872. The cutting is of an article entitled "The Daily Life of the Mikado". (Page 171) Jondon to call on the English Chargé DAffairs, Mr Adams. Did not find him in, or rather, found him just going out. So I went home to dinner with Jondon who has just recd an extra nice leg of mutton from Yokohama. I have just (10 p.m.) returned.
A little incident occurred during our walk, which is worth mentioning as illustrative of the people: We met two drunken soldiers, one of whom behaved in a manner which, although probably not intended as an insult, was decidedly unpleasant and we showed by our manner that we were angry. We walked on and pretty soon were overtaken by the same fellow who, with many friendly manifestations, insisted on our accepting a handful each of fine Japanese sweetmeats, and there left us. We had no guard or attendant with us, and this sugary apology must have been dictated by pure good feeling.
Jan. 15th. Evening
This afternoon, feeling as though a little hard exercise would do me good, I started for a long and rapid walk. All the children in Yedo seem suddenly to have been seized with a mania for shuttlecock and battledore, at least they are all playing it most energetically (Page 172). This first struck me. I do like the Japanese children. They are obedient, sweet tempered and happy. Every now and then you would see a mother or father instructing their children in the game. On the tokaido I saw one of the funniest things I have ever seen in Japan. Two burly fellows were riding along in a jinriksha drawn by a man much lighter than either of them. Suddenly the occupants of the vehicle threw themselves back a little farther when suddenly the first jinriksha man was jerked from his feet and, manfully holding on, was carried into the air as the concern was tipped over backward, leaving the occupants still on their seats but with their feet in the air and their heads resting on the ground, while the poor jinriksha proprietor kicked between the shafts above. How the jolly Japanese who saw it laughed! Pretty soon the concern was righted and proceeded on its way, the riders sitting well forward and the "horse" keeping the shafts well down.
Jan. 16th. Evening
A quiet day of work and study.
Jan. 17th. Evening
Another quiet day. Feeling lonely this evening I rode down to Heerens for dinner and found quite a little party assembled. (Page 173) It is amusing to see how, in even the smallest party assembled in Yedo there will be as many languages talked as there are people present, though fortunately for me nearly all European gentlemen know English. I was struck tonight at the dinner table: there were present, 1st our host Heeren, a native of Hamburg, 2nd a Portuguese, 3rd an Austrian, 4th a Spaniard, 5th a Frenchman, 6th a Prussian doctor, 7th a Japanese gentleman, 8th and American - the only one of all having no colloquial knowledge of any language but his own, which fortunately for him, all the rest understood. 9th an Italian. With all his guests our host conversed fluently and without effort in their several languages!
Jan. 18th. 1872. Evening.
Have been quietly writing and studying all day in framing my wifes photograph in a carved frame that I found in a shop today, close by our house. Wrote to Gordon ?Adam congratulating him (Page 174) on his marriage.
Jan. 19th. 1872. Evening.
Went today to see some of the celebrated Japanese wrestling, which hitherto I had not witnessed. I was richly paid for my trouble. The exhibition took place about six miles from here, near the bridge of Riongoku. We started at ten oclock and rode over on horseback. Just before reaching the wrestling place I was struck by a singular sort of meat shop, in front of which hung a row of huge dressed baboons, which are brought from the southern part of the Island, and hanging there by the neck, their melancholy half human faces and tail less bodies were shockingly like the remains of a wholesale execution of the lords of creation. Then there were other animals, not usually seen in market: bears, wolves, foxes otters, mink, and several huge wild boars. I stepped into the shop to ascertain whether I could purchase specimens of the skulls, but they asked such an astonishingly high price for (Page 175) all except the boar skull I saw that these animals had some value outside of that they possessed as food, and this by questioning, I learned to be the case. From various parts of these wild animals, but especially from the skulls, are prepared medicines according to the old Chinese pharmacopeia, which are supposed to have wonderful virtues, and, with the exception of the bear and wild boar, they are little used as food. I purchased some skulls, and ordering them sent home, I pursued my course to the amphitheatre where the wrestling was going on. This was a huge but insubstantial building made entirely of poles and mats. The poles, which formed the framework, being tied together with rope, and not a nail or other piece of iron used in the structure. The amphitheatre was large, would easily have held 6000 people, and there were about 3000 present, and its outer walls, covered by mats, presented towards the centre three tiers of boxes which would hold a half dozen persons each, while the centre was occupied by a small shed (Page 176) like building under which the wrestling took place, and this was surrounded on all sides by low square boxes on the ground, extending from the wrestling stand to the more aristocratic boxes against the outer wall, and these were occupied by the "oi polloi". We took our places in one of the upper tier of boxes, protected from the sun by mats which covered the whole building over, and soon distinguished among the small boxes on the ground two larger pens or boxes upon opposite sides of the central stand. In these were squatted a large number of burly fellows who were the performers of the day. The central stand upon which the wrestling took place was a platform of earth elevated perhaps two feet above the main surface, and twenty feet square. From the corners of this platform rose pillars supporting, at a height of twenty feet, a square roof which, as well as the supporting pillars, was festooned with embroidered scarlet cloth. Upon the platform was a rudely designed ring, about fifteen feet in diameter, and this was the official field of battle. (Page 177) Against opposite columns of this central pavilion sat two venerable old Japs upon piles of mats. These were arbitrators. We had not long occupied out seats when a young Japanese, elegantly dressed and carrying a spectacular lacquered fan as an indication of his rank as Master of Ceremonies, stepped into the centre of the ring and in a singsong voice made some announcement. Then the whole party of wrestlers from one side came forward and formed in a circle around the ring, facing inwards. Here they went through certain motions, much like callisthenics exercises and then retired to their pens. During this ceremony, which was often repeated during the days amusement, they were stark naked save a girdle and long apron. These girdles and aprons were of the most striking colors and richest materials, well adorned with heavy gold bullion fringe and embroidery. No sooner had the first party retired, and while they were donning their clothing in full sight of the audience, then the wrestlers from the other side made their (Page 178) appearance in a similar manner and costume, and went through precisely the same experience. No sooner had they left the ring than from opposite sides two muscular fellows, wearing nothing whatever but a slender girdle and breech clout, stepped into the ring, not seeming to feel the cold though a thick ice formed last night, and we, the warmly clad foreign spectators, were muffled in overcoats and blankets, and cold at that. Well, these wide Hercules, having taken their places in the ring, instead of clinching at once, as we expected, turned their backs to each other and began a most absurd performance, apparently a show of testing their muscle. They spread their legs far apart, squatting low and resting a hand on each knee, raised each leg alternately, bringing them down with a resounding slap both of the foot of the ground and the hand on the knee. This half dance continued for some minutes when the wrestlers faced about and squatted low upon the ground opposite each other in the position of toads, regarding each other fixedly. Suddenly one made a spring and pushed the (Page 179) other clear over on to his back. Both then stepped down from the platform, took a drink of water, wiped their mouths with a piece of paper, and returned to the ring to repeat the squatting and sudden pushing, followed by another drink of water and a wipe with another piece of paper. At length they clinched in good earnest, and wrestled vigorously for several minutes, when one was heavily thrown. The first pair of wrestlers then retired, and were succeeded by a second, who went through the same performances, the only variety in the combats which followed the first being in the manner of the fall and the physique of the wrestlers. Sometimes one fellow would throw another clear over his head and ten feet away among the audience. Sometimes one or both fell on the rug so heavily that it seemed as if it must be fatal. Sometimes a contest was terminated by one wrestler succeeding in pushing another from the platform. So far as we could make out, no one was injured. The first who wrestled were the poorest, and as the day wore on better and more celebrated wrestlers came forward, and the reputation of each was pretty well indicated by his fatness. The (Page 180) most celebrated men, who wrestled last, were perfect mountains of flesh, the fat hanging on them in rolls. Nevertheless, they were both active and powerful. As the excitement became intense among the audience, shouts of encouragement would be heard in all directions, and occasionally some enthusiastic spectator would spring to his feet, rapidly divest himself of every rag of clothing, and throw them upon the platform as a reward to the victor. Somebody would then lend the excited applauder a coat to wrap around him, and pretty soon his clothes were brought to him when he redeemed them in money and straight away invested himself again. Major Warfield, who was with me, caused a tremendous excitement by throwing his hat to the conqueror after a particularly exciting contest, and it cost him a dollar to redeem it. I believe I did not mention that the audience was exclusively masculine. Many children were there, and among them I saw for the first time a singular device for ensuring the safe return of the little fellows to their homes. Upon their foreheads was stamped in Indian ink the address of their parents, this stamp being applied by the mother before they left home.
(Page 181) Tonight Consul Shepard came up from Yokohama, and as I had before invited Heeren, Jondon and the Sec. of the Spanish Legation, Mr Oheido, to dine with me, we had quite a dinner party. By dinner time another friend dropped in too, a Mr House, long a magazinist and newspaper man in the US and now a teacher in the Kaisajoor Gool University here. Apropos of house, there is an article by him in the Dec. Atlantic "A Japanese Doctor and his Works", which really gives a better idea of Japanese progress than anything I have seen in print.
Return to Home Page