1st March to 12th March 1872
1st. March. Evening
Nothing of mark so I will note some incidents illustrative of the chivalry which forms so prominent a part of the Japanese character, although its manifestations are sometimes so mingled with barbarous cruelties that it is hard to realise the existence of each sentiments. At the close of the last war between the Mikado and the Shiogun (sic) (Tycoon) the last stand in behalf of the latter was made in the neighbourhood of Hakodate by an officer of high rank by an officer named Yenamoto. He was surrounded and besieged in a fort which he held bravely against overwhelming odds. At length the besieged had consumed all their food and water and of course all the foreigners predicted a speedy surrender. Then began an exhibition of generous chivalry that reads like a story of knight errantry (Page 10). The Mikados troops fought the besieged heartily all day and at night sent in flags of truce with plentiful supplies of food and water! To the foreign officers engaged on the side of the Mikado, who remonstrated against such a method of war, the Japs replied "Those inside are brave soldiers and gentlemen. We are most ambitious to conquer them save by fighting. We will not starve them like rats in a hole". At length the little garrison was exhausted and surrendered to our friend Kuroda, the latter pledging himself for the life of the leader Yenamoto. When Yenamoto, however, was delivered to the Govt. in Yedo as a prisoner, the council was anxious to put him to death as an example, in fact, insisted on it. Kuroda rushed before the Mikado: "Your Majesty, I have been your faithful servant. I pledged myself that after his brave resistance at Hakodate, if he surrendered, I would ensure his safety. I believed I could do so. But now, Your Majesty, if he is put to death my honour is forfeited, and you will see Kuroda no more". In other words, Kuroda would have committed the Hara Kiri had his prayer not been granted. In fact he had made all the arrangements to do so. (Page 11) At length, in deference to Kuroda, Yenamoto was reprieved and has lain in close confinement ever since, or at least to within a few days. The sword always hanging over him and so over Kuroda, for the latter feels that should his old enemy die, honour demands his suicide. Within a few days, however, Yenamoto has been released on parole. During his confinement, which was vigorous, he was allowed no books or writing materials. So to amuse himself and keep his mind from giving way, he collected all the scraps of paper and little bits of wood which on windy days were plentifully blown into his prison, and from these rude materials, assisted by paste made from the boiled rice of his prison fare, he constructed a large number of models of elaborate foreign machinery and manufacturing apparatus. I have seen some of them, and considering that they were made entirely from the memory of what he had seen and read in books, they are simply wonderful.
March 2nd. Evening
My friend better today. The usual round of professional duty in the morning and miscellaneous work in the afternoon. I have been compiling a vocabulary of medical terms for my own use and that of my interpreter, existing dictionaries being very faulty.
March 3rd. Evening
The steamer should certainly have been in today, but no news of her yet. Today Sunday, so no work. (Page 12) Walked with Jondon to visit the site of the old castle of the Tycoon, which was destroyed by fore some 15 years ago. I must visit the place again before undertaking to describe it. Dropped in at Heerens late in the afternoon, as he has been slightly ailing. I believe I have before mentioned the little Prince and Princess of Toza, who with their mother and several attendants are installed in a part of Heerens house. The little Prince is a patient of mine. The Princess and her mother dined with us today at Heerens table, the first European meal they had ever regularly eaten, though from their exquisite table manners no-one would ever have suspected it. They are both really lovely women, although the Princess hardly entitled to be called a woman as she is only 13. After dinner I had a long talk with the mother with the help of my pocket dictionary.
Monday 4th. March. Evening
Heavy snow storm last night and today. No news of steamer yet. Routine duties all day.
Tuesday 5th. March
I have hardly pluck enough to write a word. The steamer has arrived bringing no (Page 13) mails from east of San Francisco owing to the unprecedented trouble with snow. It does seem pretty rough to have our mail stopped when it comes so seldom. I can only comfort myself with the old adage "No news, good news". Not much of a comfort either, when I reflect that it was just as impossible for bad news to reach us as for good. I did get one letter which must have lain over in San Francisco from the previous mail. It was from Uncle Stuart Mitchell.
Wed. March 6th. Evening
An irruption (sic) of company today. Genl. Williams and his brother, late of Washington, and Capt. Phelps, Vice President of the P.M.S.S. Co. Williams was Deputy Commissioner of Int. Rev. in Washington and has been engaged by the Japs to organise a revenue system for them. He appears to be a rather favourable specimen of an active Western business man.
Mon. 8th. Morning
In order to make what I have to write this morning intelligible, I must go back to the Toza family mentioned some days ago. The Princes of Japan have a queer habit of retiring from their dignity at a comparatively (Page 14) youthful age, 40 to 55, when the actual title and dignities pass to the heir, the father assuming a regency. The Prince of Toza, one of the great Dainios of Japan, retired in this way in favour or the little prince I have before mentioned, and has recently placed his son and daughter in the household of my friend Heeren for education preparatory to going to America or Europe, Heeren, being a warm personal friend of the old prince. So much by way of introduction. Perhaps I ought also to say that although Toza is one of the voluntarily reduced Daimios he is still immensely wealthy. Well, last evening I was dining at the house of the Consul Genl. of Portugal with my friend Shepard, Chargé dAffairs U.S., when about ten oclock Heeren rode up saying that he had just come from my house and that old Toza was reported very ill and that the family would be very grateful if I would condescend to go out and see him (fancy me, condescending to visit one of the great Daimios) Well, we returned to Heerens house, got into his carriage, and after dispatching a messenger to Antisell for my pocket medicine case (Page 15) started for Tozas yashiki (palace). It is in the very farthest extremity of Yedo, and we arrived about 1 oclock. I found two Jap physicians in attendance (illegible word) great pleasure at my coming. As in courtesy bound before seeing the patient I enquired their diagnoses and treatment. The first was apoplexy, the second had at least the merit that they had done no harm, not having bled him. When I saw the Prince, I found him already reacting from the shock, although paralysed. I could do but little, but before I left was able to say with considerable assurance that he would probably recover almost entirely in course of time. The family and retainers (retainers no longer in the strict sense of the term, but gathering round from affection) overwhelmed me with thanks, especially one magnificent fellow, formerly Tozas 1st Officer, now president of the Jap Parliament. We got back to Heerens at ˝ past 4, and turned in. I am to go out regularly to see the Prince. I wish it were not as far. But then in all probability a very handsome present will be my fee, for no doctor among the Japs charges regular fees.
(Page 16)March 8th. Evening
March 9th. Evening
Today being the 1st of the Japanese month, and a holiday, I went with two or three friends to see the grave of the "forty seven Ronins", one of the historic places of Japan whose story, shortly told, is as follows: Takumi no Kami, about 220 years ago, was a prominent Daimio if Japan. He was to be presented at Court with some peculiar ceremonies, to learn which he was placed, as the custom was, under the tuition of another lord named Kotsuke no Suke, a grasping, ill tempered and supercilious man. Kotsuke, dissatisfied with the presents made him by Takumi, insulted and degraded his pupil till Takumi, irritated beyond endurance, attacked Kotsuke even in the precincts of the palace, and slightly wounded him, a crime for which he was compelled to commit Hara Kiri. Now, among the retainers of Takumi were forty seven men of all ages, who, led by one Oisha, formed a league for the purpose of avenging their masters death. Kotsuke, however, kept such a force of guards on duty that it was impossible for several years for them to accomplish their purpose. In order to divert suspicion, Oisha, the leader of the conspirators, heretofore a remarkably steady and virtuous man, affected to plaunge and did plunge into the wildest debauchery, even going so far as to send away his wife (Page 17) and children. When Kotsuke heard of this he concluded that all projects of revenge were given up and neglected his former precautions. And now let me explain the meaning of the term "Ronins". The term literally means "Wave men who are masterless, tossed about by circumstances like the waves of the sea". Men who have either lost the prince to whom they were retainers or desired to release him from any responsibility for their acts became "Ronins", carrying a certificate of the fact upon their persons. Well, at length the devoted forty seven forced their way into Kotsukes presence and in deference to his rank invited him to commit Hara Kiri, which he refused to do. They cut of his head and taking it with them repaires to Senkakufi or Spring Hill Temple, in one of the suburbs of Yedo, where, having washed Kotsukes head in a well and deposited it upon the grave of their master, they calmly awaited the sentence of their crime, meanwhile arranging with the priests of the temple that they should be buried together with their master. The sentence was that they all commit Hara Kiri, which they did, and now rest in a small enclosure near the grave of Takumi. After they were buried a man from the province of Satsuma, who had grossly insulted the chief of the Ronins, Oisha, when he was drunk, came and struck with remorse killed himself upon the grave of Oisha, and was buried with the rest by the priests (Page 18) who still exhibit the armour worn by the Ronins which was made by themselves to avert suspicion, and also some handsome carved bas reliefs of the 47. The tombs themselves are in one of the loveliest spots in Yedo, and like most Japanese graves are marked by simple upright stones unaccompanied by a mound.
I dined at the Kaisafo or University tonight and while we were sitting with our cigars after dinner we were startled by an earthquake which was quite violent and lasted about a minute and a half, an unusually long time. I forgot to mention that on the morning of the 6th we had a slight shock.
March 10th. Evening
Sunday. No events today.
March 11th. Evening
Saw today a wonderful specimen of manufacture natural history, much more remarkable than the now well known Japanese mermaids. It was brought to me by a man who valued it at $50.00. At first glance it much resembled one of the smaller of the Peruvian mummies which are found buried in pots. In fact I was inclined to think that some curiosity loving Jap had brought it from America. A closer inspection, however, showed (Page 19) that the whole figure, about the size of a child of six years old, had been covered with coarse reddish hair now worn off in many places. The skull was that of an intellectual child but had been dented deeply upon the crown The teeth and hands were those of a monkey, and the feet those of a child. The skeleton as seen through the dried integuments was perfectly human. Convinced that it was an imposture I examined with the utmost care, at last taking a magnifying glass and soon found traces of the joining of the false skin used in the structure. I am quite positive that it was made by taking the body of a child, probably prepared for the purpose, inserting the teeth and affixing the hands of a large monkey, and covering the whole with calf skin. The deception was admirably done, however, and had I not used a magnifying glass I should not have detected it. Several gentlemen who had examined it were inclined to accept it as a veritable specimen of Darwins missing ling. I would have bought the thing had the price been less exorbitant. I shall endeavour to have it photographed.
(Page 20)March 12th. 72
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