EXPLAINS IN WHAT MANNER I WAS TAKEN TO VENICE IN THE RAIN, AND CLIMBED
INTO A DEVIL FORT; A TIN-POT EXHIBITION, AND A BATH. OF THE MAIDEN AND
THE BOLTLESS DOOR, THE CULTIVATOR AND HIS FIELDS, AND THE MANUFACTURE OF
ETHNOLOGICAL THEORIES AT RAILROAD SPEED. ENDS WITH KIOTO.
“There’s a deal
o’ fine confused feedin’ about sheep’s
“Come along to Osaka,” said the Professor.
“Why? I’m quite comfy
here, and we shall have lobster cutlets for tiffin;
and, anyhow, it is raining heavily, and we shall get
Sorely against my will for
it was in my mind to fudge Japan from a guide-book
while I enjoyed the cookery of the Oriental at Kobe I
was dragged into a ’rickshaw and the rain, and
conveyed to a railway station. Even the Japanese
cannot make their railway stations lovely, though
they do their best. Their system of baggage-booking
is borrowed from the Americans; their narrow-gauge
lines, locos, and rolling stock are English; their
passenger-traffic is regulated with the precision of
the Gaul, and the uniforms of their officials come
from the nearest ragbag. The passengers themselves
were altogether delightful. A large number of
them were modified Europeans, and resembled nothing
more than Tenniel’s picture of the White Rabbit
on the first page of Alice in Wonderland.
They were dressed in neat little tweed suits with
fawn-coloured overcoats, and they carried ladies’
reticules of black leather and nickel platings.
They wore paper and celluloid stuck-up collars which
must have been quite thirteen inches round the neck,
and their boots were number fours. On their hands their
wee-wee hands they had white cotton gloves,
and they smoked cigarettes from fairy little cigarette
cases. That was young Japan the Japan
of the present day.
“Wah, wah, God is great,”
said the Professor. “But it isn’t
in human nature for a man who sprawls about on soft
mats by instinct to wear Europe clothes as though
they belonged to him. If you notice, the last
thing that they take to is shoes.”
A lapis-lazuli coloured locomotive
which, by accident, had a mixed train attached to
it happened to loaf up to the platform just then, and
we entered a first-class English compartment.
There was no stupid double roof, window shade, or
abortive thermantidote. It was a London and South-Western
carriage. Osaka is about eighteen miles from Kobe,
and stands at the head of the bay of Osaka. The
train is allowed to go as fast as fifteen miles an
hour and to play at the stations all along the line.
You must know that the line runs between the hills
and the shore, and the drainage-fall is a great deal
steeper than anything we have between Saharunpur and
Umballa. The rivers and the hill torrents come
down straight from the hills on raised beds of their
own formation, which beds again have to be bunded
and spanned with girder bridges or here,
perhaps, I may be wrong tunnelled.
The stations are black-tiled, red-walled,
and concrete-floored, and all the plant from signal
levers to goods-truck is English. The official
colour of the bridges is a yellow-brown most like unto
a faded chrysanthemum. The uniform of the ticket-collectors
is a peaked forage cap with gold lines, black frock-coat
with brass buttons, very long in the skirt, trousers
with black mohair braid, and buttoned kid boots.
You cannot be rude to a man in such raiment.
But the countryside was the thing
that made us open our eyes. Imagine a land of
rich black soil, very heavily manured, and worked by
the spade and hoe almost exclusively, and if you split
your field (of vision) into half-acre plots, you will
get a notion of the raw material the cultivator works
on. But all I can write will give you no notion
of the wantonness of neatness visible in the fields,
of the elaborate system of irrigation, and the mathematical
precision of the planting. There was no mixing
of crops, no waste of boundary in footpath, and no
difference of value in the land. The water stood
everywhere within ten feet of the surface, as the
well-sweeps attested. On the slopes of the foot-hills
each drop between the levels was neatly riveted with
unmortared stones, and the edges of the watercuts
were faced in like manner. The young rice was
transplanted very much as draughts are laid on the
board; the tea might have been cropped garden box;
and between the lines of the mustard the water lay
in the drills as in a wooden trough, while the purple
of the beans ran up to the mustard and stopped as
though cut with a rule.
On the seaboard we saw an almost continuous
line of towns variegated with factory chimneys; inland,
the crazy-quilt of green, dark-green and gold.
Even in the rain the view was lovely, and exactly as
Japanese pictures had led me to hope for. Only
one drawback occurred to the Professor and myself
at the same time. Crops don’t grow to the
full limit of the seed on heavily worked ground dotted
with villages except at a price.
“Cholera?” said I, watching a stretch
“Cholera,” said the Professor.
“Must be, y’know. It’s all sewage
I felt that I was friends with the
cultivators at once. These broad-hatted, blue-clad
gentlemen who tilled their fields by hand except
when they borrowed the village buffalo to drive the
share through the rice-slough knew what
the scourge meant.
“How much do you think the Government
takes in revenue from vegetable gardens of that kind?”
“Bosh,” said he, quietly,
“you aren’t going to describe the land-tenure
of Japan. Look at the yellow of the mustard!”
It lay in sheets round the line.
It ran up the hills to the dark pines. It rioted
over the brown sandbars of the swollen rivers, and
faded away by mile after mile to the shores of the
leaden sea. The high-peaked houses of brown thatch
stood knee-deep in it, and it surged up to the factory
chimneys of Osaka.
“Great place, Osaka,”
said the guide. “All sorts of manufactures
Osaka is built into and over and among
one thousand eight hundred and ninety-four canals,
rivers, dams, and watercuts. What the multitudinous
chimneys mean I cannot tell. They have something
to do with rice and cotton; but it is not good that
the Japs should indulge in trade, and I will not call
Osaka a “great commercial entrepôt.”
“People who live in paper houses should never
sell goods,” as the proverb says.
Because of his many wants there is
but one hotel for the Englishman in Osaka, and they
call it Juter’s. Here the views of two civilisations
collide and the result is awful. The building
is altogether Japanese; wood and tile and sliding
screen from top to bottom; but the fitments are mixed.
My room, for instance, held a tokonoma, made
of the polished black stem of a palm and delicate
woodwork, framing a scroll picture representing storks.
But on the floor over the white mats lay a Brussels
carpet that made the indignant toes tingle. From
the back verandah one overhung the river which ran
straight as an arrow between two lines of houses.
They have cabinet-makers in Japan to fit the rivers
to the towns. From my verandah I could see three
bridges one a hideous lattice-girder arrangement and
part of a fourth. We were on an island and owned
a watergate if we wanted to take a boat.
Apropos of water, be pleased
to listen to a Shocking Story. It is written
in all the books that the Japanese though cleanly are
somewhat casual in their customs. They bathe
often with nothing on and together. This notion
my experience of the country, gathered in the seclusion
of the Oriental at Kobe, made me scoff at. I
demanded a tub at Juter’s. The infinitesimal
man led me down verandahs and upstairs to a beautiful
bath-house full of hot and cold water and fitted with
cabinet-work, somewhere in a lonely out-gallery.
There was naturally no bolt to the door any more than
there would be a bolt to a dining-room. Had I
been sheltered by the walls of a big Europe bath,
I should not have cared, but I was preparing to wash
when a pretty maiden opened the door, and indicated
that she also would tub in the deep, sunken Japanese
bath at my side. When one is dressed only in
one’s virtue and a pair of spectacles it is
difficult to shut the door in the face of a girl.
She gathered that I was not happy, and withdrew giggling,
while I thanked heaven, blushing profusely the while,
that I had been brought up in a society which unfits
a man to bathe a deux. Even an experience
of the Paddington Swimming Baths would have helped
me; but coming straight from India Lady Godiva was
a ballet-girl in sentiment compared to this Actaeon.
It rained monsoonishly, and the Professor
discovered a castle which he needs must see.
“It’s Osaka Castle,” he said, “and
it has been fought over for hundreds of years.
“I’ve seen castles in
India. Raighur, Jodhpur all sorts of
places. Let’s have some more boiled salmon.
It’s good in this station.”
“Pig,” said the Professor.
We threaded our way over the four
thousand and fifty-two canals, etc., where the
little children played with the swiftly running water,
and never a mother said “don’t,”
till our ’rickshaw stopped outside a fort ditch
thirty feet deep, and faced with gigantic granite slabs.
On the far side uprose the walls of a fort. But
such a fort! Fifty feet was the height of the
wall, and never a pinch of mortar in the whole.
Nor was the face perpendicular, but curved like the
ram of a man-of-war. They know the curve in China,
and I have seen French artists, introduce it into
books describing a devil-besieged city of Tartary.
Possibly everybody else knows it too, but that is
not my affair; life as I have said being altogether
new to me. The stone was granite, and the men
of old time had used it like mud. The dressed
blocks that made the profile of the angles were from
twenty feet long, ten or twelve feet high, and as
many in thickness. There was no attempt at binding,
but there was no fault in the jointing.
“And the little Japs built this!”
I cried, awe-stricken at the quarries that rose round
“Cyclopean masonry,” grunted
the Professor, punching with a stick a monolith of
seventeen feet cube. “Not only did they
build it, but they took it. Look at this.
The stones had been split and bronzed
in places, and the cleavage was the cleavage of fire.
Evil must it have been for the armies that led the
assault on these monstrous walls. Castles in India
I know, and the forts of great Emperors I had seen,
but neither Akbar in the north, nor Scindia in the
south, had built after this fashion without
ornament, without colour, but with a single eye to
savage strength and the utmost purity of line.
Perhaps the fort would have looked less forbidding
in sunlight. The grey, rain-laden atmosphere
through which I saw it suited its spirit. The
barracks of the garrison, the commandant’s very
dainty house, a peach-garden, and two deer were foreign
to the place. They should have peopled it with
giants from the mountains, instead of Gurkhas!
A Jap infantryman is not a Gurkha, though he might
be mistaken for one as long as he stood still.
The sentry at the quarter-guard belonged, I fancy,
to the 4th Regiment. His uniform was black or
blue, with red facings, and shoulder-straps carrying
the number of the regiment in cloth. The rain
necessitated an overcoat, but why he should have carried
knapsack, blanket, boots, and binoculars I could
not fathom. The knapsack was of cowskin with the
hair on, the boots were strapped soles, cut on each
side, while a heavy country blanket was rolled U-shape
over the head of the knapsack, fitting close to the
back. In the place usually occupied by the mess-tin
was a black leather case shaped like a field-glass.
This must be a mistake of mine, but I can only record
as I see. The rifle was a side-bolt weapon of
some kind, and the bayonet an uncommonly good sword
one, locked to the muzzle, English fashion. The
ammunition pouches, as far as I could see under the
greatcoat, ran on the belt in front, and were double-strapped
down. White spatterdashes very dirty and
peaked cap completed the outfit. I surveyed the
man with interest, and would have made further examination
of him but for fear of the big bayonet. His arms
were well kept, not speckless by any means, but
his uniform would have made an English colonel swear.
There was no portion of his body except the neck that
it pretended to fit. I peeped into the quarter-guard.
Fans and dainty tea-sets do not go with one’s
notions of a barrack. One drunken defaulter of
certain far-away regiments that I could name would
not only have cleared out that quarter-guard, but
brought away all its fittings except the rifle-racks.
Yet the little men, who were always gentle, and never
got drunk, were mounting guard over a pile that, with
a blue fire on the bastions, might have served for
the guard-gates of Hell.
I climbed to the top of the fort and
was rewarded by a view of thirty miles of country,
chiefly pale yellow mustard and blue-green pine, and
the sight of the very large city of Osaka fading away
into mist. The guide took most pleasure in the
factory chimneys. “There is an exposition
here an exposition of industrialities.
Come and see,” said he. He took us down
from that high place and showed us the glory of the
land in the shape of corkscrews, tin mugs, egg-whisks,
dippers, silks, buttons, and all the trumpery that
can be stitched on a card and sold for five-pence
three farthings. The Japanese unfortunately make
all these things for themselves, and are proud of
it. They have nothing to learn from the West
as far as finish is concerned, and by intuition know
how to case and mount wares tastefully. The exposition
was in four large sheds running round a central building
which held only screens, pottery, and cabinet-ware
loaned for the occasion. I rejoiced to see that
the common people did not care for the penknives,
and the pencils, and the mock jewellery. They
left those sheds alone and discussed the screens,
first taking off their clogs that the inlaid floor
of the room might not suffer. Of all the gracious
things I beheld, two only remain in my memory, one
a screen in grey representing the heads of six devils
instinct with malice and hate; the other, a bold sketch
in monochrome of an old woodcutter wrestling with
the down-bent branch of a tree. Two hundred years
have passed since the artist dropped his pencil, but
you may almost hear the tough wood jar under the stroke
of the chopper, as the old man puts his back into
the task and draws in the labouring breath. There
is a picture by Legros of a beggar dying in a ditch,
which might have been suggested by that screen.
Next morning, after a night’s
rain, which sent the river racing under the frail
balconies at eight miles an hour, the sun broke through
the clouds. Is this a little matter to you who
can count upon him daily? I had not seen him
since March, and was beginning to feel anxious.
Then the land of peach blossom spread its draggled
wings abroad and rejoiced. All the pretty maidens
put on their loveliest crepe sashes, fawn
colour, pink, blue, orange, and lilac, all
the little children picked up a baby each, and went
out to be happy. In a temple garden full of blossom
I performed the miracle of Deucalion with two cents’
worth of sweets. The babies swarmed on the instant,
till, for fear of raising all the mothers too, I forbore
to give them any more. They smiled and nodded
prettily, and trotted after me, forty strong, the big
ones helping the little, and the little ones skipping
in the puddles. A Jap child never cries, never
scuffles, never fights, and never makes mud pies except
when it lives on the banks of a canal. Yet, lest
it should spread its sash-bow and become a bald-headed
angel ere its time, Providence has decreed that it
should never, never blow its little nose. Notwithstanding
the defect, I love it.
There was no business in Osaka that
day because of the sunshine and the budding of the
trees. Everybody went to a tea-house with his
friends. I went also, but first ran along a boulevard
by the side of the river, pretending to look at the
Mint. This was only a common place of solid granite
where they turn out dollars and rubbish of that kind.
All along the boulevard the cherry, peach, and plum
trees, pink, white, and red, touched branches and
made a belt of velvety soft colour as far as the eye
could reach. Weeping willows were the normal ornaments
of the waterside, this revel of bloom being only part
of the prodigality of Spring. The Mint may make
a hundred thousand dollars a day, but all the silver
in its keeping will not bring again the three weeks
of the peach blossom which, even beyond the chrysanthemum,
is the crown and glory of Japan. For some act
of surpassing merit performed in a past life I have
been enabled to hit those three weeks in the middle.
“Now is the Japanese festival
of the cherry blossom,” said the guide.
“All the people will be festive. They will
pray too and go to the tea-gardens.”
Now you might wall an Englishman about
with cherry trees in bloom from head to heel, and
after the first day he would begin to complain of the
smell. As you know, the Japanese arrange a good
many of their festivals in honour of flowers, and
this is surely commendable, for blossoms are the most
tolerant of gods.
The tea-house system of the Japanese
filled me with pleasure at a pleasure that I could
not fully comprehend. It pays a company in Osaka
to build on the outskirts of the town a nine-storied
pagoda of wood and iron, to lay out elaborate gardens
round it, and to hang the whole with strings of blood-red
lanterns, because the Japanese will come wherever
there is a good view to sit on a mat and discuss tea
and sweetmeats and saki. This Eiffel Tower
is, to tell the truth, anything but pretty, yet the
surroundings redeem it. Although it was not quite
completed, the lower storeys were full of tea-stalls
and tea-drinkers. The men and women were obviously
admiring the view. It is an astounding thing to
see an Oriental so engaged; it is as though he had
stolen something from a sahib.
From Osaka canal-cut, muddy,
and fascinating Osaka the Professor, Mister
Yamagutchi, the guide, and I
took train to Kioto, an hour from Osaka. On the
road I saw four buffaloes at as many rice-ploughs which
was noticeable as well as wasteful. A buffalo
at rest must cover the half of a Japanese field; but
perhaps they are kept on the mountain ledges and only
pulled down when wanted. The Professor says that
what I call buffalo is really bullock. The worst
of travelling with an accurate man is his accuracy.
We argued about the Japanese in the train, about his
present and his future, and the manner in which he
has ranged himself on the side of the grosser nations
of the earth.
“Did it hurt his feelings very
much to wear our clothes? Didn’t he rebel
when he put on a pair of trousers for the first time?
Won’t he grow sensible some day and drop foreign
habits?” These were some of the questions I
put to the landscape and the Professor.
“He was a baby,” said
the latter, “a big baby. I think his sense
of humour was at the bottom of the change, but he
didn’t know that a nation which once wears trousers
never takes ’em off. You see ‘enlightened’
Japan is only one-and-twenty years old, and people
are not very wise at one-and-twenty. Read Reed’s
Japan and learn how the change came about.
There was a Mikado and a Shogun who was Sir
Frederick Roberts, but he tried to be the Viceroy
“Bother the Shogun!
I’ve seen something like the Babu class, and
something like the farmer class. What I want to
see is the Rajput class the man who used
to wear the thousands and thousands of swords in the
curio-shops. Those swords were as much made for
use as a Rajputana sabre. Where are the men who
used ’em? Show me a Samurai.”
The Professor answered not a word,
but scrutinised heads on the wayside platforms.
“I take it that the high-arched forehead, club
nose, and eyes close together the Spanish
type are from Rajput stock, while the German-faced
Jap is the Khattri the lower class.”
Thus we talked of the natures and
dispositions of men we knew nothing about till we
had decided (1) that the painful politeness of the
Japanese nation rose from the habit, dropped only twenty
years ago, of extended and emphatic sword-wearing,
even as the Rajput is the pink of courtesy because
his friend goes armed; (2) that this politeness will
disappear in another generation, or will at least be
seriously impaired; (3) that the cultured Japanese
of the English pattern will corrupt and defile the
tastes of his neighbours till (4) Japan altogether
ceases to exist as a separate nation and becomes a
button-hook manufacturing appanage of America; (5)
that these things being so, and sure to happen in
two or three hundred years, the Professor and I were
lucky to reach Japan betimes; and (6) that it was
foolish to form theories about the country until we
had seen a little of it.
So we came to the city of Kioto in
regal sunshine, tempered by a breeze that drove the
cherry blossoms in drifts about the streets. One
Japanese town, in the southern provinces at least,
is very like another to look at a grey-black
sea of house roofs, speckled with the white walls
of the fire-proof godowns where merchants and rich
men keep their chief treasures. The general level
is broken by the temple roofs, which are turned up
at the edges, and remotely resemble so many terai-hats.
Kioto fills a plain almost entirely surrounded by wooded
hills, very familiar in their aspect to those who
have seen the Siwaliks. Once upon a time it was
the capital of Japan, and to-day numbers two hundred
and fifty thousand people. It is laid out like
an American town. All the streets run at right
angles to each other. That, by the way, is exactly
what the Professor and I are doing. We are elaborating
the theory of the Japanese people, and we can’t