September 11th and 12th 1871
Sept 11th, 12th 1871
This morning I went before breakfast to the top of the hill visited yesterday in the hope that (Page 46) I might catch a view of Fuji Yama before the mists of the day rose to obscure it. I was rewarded richly and made the enclosed little sketch on the spot (This sketch is included in the journal - HT).
After breakfast I busied myself in putting together a mowing machine with which the Genl. intends to astonish the Japanese. This job consumed the morning. After tiffin we took a drive to the suburbs to see a flower garden. On the way we passed along the valley of a little stream bordered with small fields of rice, and among temples and Daimios residences embowered in magnificent trees and surrounded by gardens. The garden which we went to visit was, when reached, chiefly remarkable for its studied rusticity. It is late for sunflowers, but a few were in bloom. After the inevitable tea we passed further on to visit a water mill for stamping rice and so cleaning it from the husks. This mill runs by an undershot wheel, about 15 feet diameter, works forty four stamps consisting of heavy beams of wood which are raised by cams and drop vertically into stone mortars of rice. Back of the mill was the millers house, and few millers in our own land could boast as much taste in their surroundings. (Page 47) His house opened towards the stream on which stands the mill, but intervening is a little garden, miniature in size but of great beauty, containing mounts, valleys, rocks, dwarf trees and even a little lake with fish and a waterfall. Through this little pleasure-ground runs the mill race crossed by a rustic bridge. I enclose a sketch of the mill and the house with their high and heavily thatched roofs.
Returning from our ride I questioned Isudah Senya, our interpreter, as to the cause of the universal neglect into which the temples seem to have fallen. He ascribes it to a change in the feelings of the people who are disgusted with the grossness of their old idolatry, and the idle voracity of the priests. Certain it is that Japan is now going through a quiet revolution of an extent unparalleled in history. After the war of three years ago in which the usurped power of the Tycoon was wrested from him and the Mikado transferred from a position of merely nominal sovereignty to the full power of his ancestors, the Govt. was exhausted (Page 48) of means to a very embarrassing extent. Certain leading Daimios, or hereditary feudal princes, heretofore almost independent of the throne, moved by pure patriotism, as it would appear, gave up their revenues (often immense and derived from land to which they, at the same time, surrendered the title) for the use of the Govt., placing their retainers at its disposal. Within two weeks, at an assembly of the leading nobles, a law has been passed, sanctioned by the Tenno, converting all the lands and troops of the Daimios to the service of the Govt., and placing the Daimios upon a fixed salary instead. This law also deprives them of the government of their provinces in which they were formerly absolute. The marvellous thing is, that men should, as most of them have done, voluntarily give up practically unlimited power and revenues for the good of their country and the strengthening of the central government. Some will undoubtedly object, and perhaps altogether refuse but they will, by the (Page 49) force of public opinion be compelled to acquiesce sooner or later.
The religion of the present government is Sintoo (sic) which differs much from Buddhism, for many centuries the established religion of Japan. Much effort has been made to establish a prevalence of Sintooism, but apparently only with the effect of doing away with any religion. The Buddhist temples are deserted and falling to decay, and nothing has as yet taken its place. I should not be surprised in view of the already thoroughly educated condition of the people and the avidity with which they grasp anything new, if 20 years saw Japan a Republic and if not Christian, at least not idolatrous.
This morning Koruda and the Gov. of Yezo were here and the plan of affairs in that island began to develop itself more fully. It contemplates a Dept. of Agriculture, and agricultural college and (Page 50) experimental farm. They are even anxious for plans of the building to be prepared at once. The morning was consumed in discussing the matter. Cottages for the college faculty are included in the proposed scheme, so my wife need not feel surprised if she occupies one of them by next winter. The site of the building is about ten miles north east, inland from Hakodate.
After Tiffin, on the invitation of Mr Kuroda (which is the way I should have spelled it on the preceding page) we, that is Prof., Genl., and I, went with him for a ride. After going about five miles north through the city we reached a beautiful river where we took a Japanese pleasure boat (see sketch) and sailed about three miles up the stream to visit a large garden. I am struck much with the close resemblance of the plants here to those of our own land.
After drinking some delicious tea in the spot where it was grown, and this season at that, we left the garden and were sculled back beyond where we took the boat and politely invited to enter a large tea house on the (Page 51) bank, the handsomest house of the kind we have seen. Doffing our shoes at the entrance, a thing one should always do at a first class Japanese house, for our coarse affairs utterly ruin their beautiful mats, we entered in our stocking feet. The entertainment was much the same as the one mentioned before, but was on a much grander scale. I am the only one of our party that takes kindly to Japanese cookery, so I did full justice to my dinner, including several dishes of raw fish. Kuroda had brought half a dozen bottles of champagne in the boat and Antisell amused himself in getting a buxom, laughing, fat little dancing girl tight with it. As neither could understand a word the other said it was a comical performance. Two pretty little things seated themselves on the Generals knees, disconcerting him considerably at first, but he soon resigned himself to it. He seemed rather to like it than otherwise. As for myself, I had my fun like the rest. About 10 oclock we came home (Page 52) through the canals by boat, save the last half mile which we made in our carriage, which was waiting.
As we landed from our boat, our kind entertainer, Kuroda, was met by a messenger who announced that his wife had presented him with a fine boy. As it is his first and he had been quite uneasy about the matter he was evidently delighted. Of course we heartily congratulated him. Borrowing a horse from one of the guards, he went at once home. When we reached Caprons Luck, we found that Mr Verbeck, the American principal of the university here, had called; also some of my naval friends from the Colorado.
End of this section.
Part 7 Sept 13th, 14th and 15th 1871
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