Theft Of The Purse In Japan
( Originally Published 1915 )
They were glad to know that the newly-made friend was an American traveling through Japan for the third time, and from him the boys gained much information. As he was familiar with the language Winfield was thoughtful enough to ask him about some terms they constantly heard during their travels.
They related some of their experiences, among them the tale of the maniac, who said no when he meant yes. The man laughed and said: "Mrs. Wardlaw must hear this; it is quite amusing."
His wife came up and Mr. Wardlaw continued: "Our friends here have just related a laughable episode. Do you remember our acquaintances on the ship told us about their experiences in Saga?" And the boys repeated the story.
In the western part of Japan, in the province of Saga, the word no means yes, and many amusing, and some not so very pleasant, experiences have grown out of that. Here, as everywhere, are different dialects, and sometimes the word in one section means just the opposite of the word in an-other province."
"Yes," added Mrs. Wardlaw, "Japan is a land of contradictions. The written language of the country is entirely different from the spoken tongue. They do not seem to have a plural for a word. For instance, the word for chair is kago, and whether you wished one or five of them, it would be simply kago. So with sen, or yen. It is one sen, or twenty sen."
"Quite true," said Mr. Wardlaw. "No doubt you have often smiled at the quaint way in which some writers imitated the Japanese talk. If you knew the language you would not consider it at all inapt. I have frequently heard the host or hostess inquire whether the Honorable meal was well served, and this term in Japanese is simply a form of complimentary adjective, which is applied on all occasions and to all sorts of objects."
Air. Wardlaw directed them to the inn where she and Mr. Wardlaw were stopping, and the travelers had a most entertaining evening with those charming people. They left the nest morning with many regrets.
They were now over half way to Nagoya, and most of the distance would be along the ocean. Passing through the streets of the town they neared the wharf, where the most curious boats were lined along the shore, and beneath a long open shed saw crowds of people surging to and fro.
"I wonder what is going on over there," said Winfield.
Crossing the street and entering the shed, they found it to be a fish market. The Japanese are lovers of fish, and around Japan are found the greatest varieties of sea food to be found any-where in the world. The sight naturally amazed the boys.
Here and there were noticed the queerest ogling monsters, some of them weighing many hundreds of pounds, and some so peculiarly shaped as to give the boys the qualms. Many of them were in the form of serpents with gaping jaws and blearing eyes, and others with brilliant scales and in-tense odors.
The people, however, seemed to enjoy them. At one place which they passed the vender was en-gaged in dissecting one of these curious sea animals, and the people were crowding around eagerly to make purchases. The object of their attention was a great bulbous body with a slimy coat, and spider-like arms, from which the fishmonger was slicing steaks that were quickly taken by the customers.
The boys learned afterwards that it was the devil-fish, which tastes better than it looks. After seeing that market, and what the sea furnished the people, they did not at all wonder that in Japan a meal is not a meal without fish, and that with them the greatest delicacy is the uncooked article.
It had been the custom of the boys to divide their funds into two parts, each carrying his share.
They were advised to do this by Mr. Redfield, who urged that it would always leave one of them safe and provided with funds in case of an accident to either.
Late that day, while plodding along the road-way, they were joined by atypical Japanese, who understood English. He was most profuse in his explanations, and initiated them into many of the mysteries of the people.
"We shall come to the rice fields presently," he said. Ahead they could see a level plain, be-hind which was a steep hill, or low mountain ridge. All over that section could be seen a carpet of vivid green, and innumerable people at work in every portion of the wide expanse.
"You can see the rice now. All those places are covered with it."
"But what are they pumping the water for?" asked Stanwood.
"Rice needs a lot of water. It is first sowed in a bed that is filled with water, and the seed sinks down and sprouts. In about six weeks the water is run off, and then these sprouted seed are taken out singly and planted in rows in the mud. The mud is then covered with water, and plenty of it must be kept on it until it grows its full height and is about ready to head out."
They found their companion very entertaining, and were delighted to learn that he intended to put up at their inn for the night. At the meal that evening they learned the names of new dishes and also found how they tasted.
Rice is one of the articles ever present on a Japanese table. It is served at each meal in some form. On this occasion their friend told them that the dish before them, called Unagi-meshi, was fried eels with rice. They found it most appetizing, and also the pickled radish called Daikon.
They noticed that nearly all of the houses were single storied, and that sometimes a dozen rooms were clustered together to form one building.
Many of the inns are made up of these separate rooms, but there are no connecting doors, the only means of providing security against intrusion being by portiers, or some form of screens, which may be moved from place to place.
The day's tramp was very tiring, and the boys had their tatansi's or lower padded mattress spread out early, preparatory to retiring. Their Japanese friend was quick to offer many little suggestions, and Winfield said:
"Don't the people here ever have any springs to sleep on? The boards under these things are pretty hard."
He smiled suavely as he replied: "You Americans complain about the hard beds, and I can see no reason for it. You have large hips, whereas all Japanese are very narrow across the thighs. This may account for the complaint you make about the hard and unyielding surface."
"Well, I don't think I'll ever get used to the tatansi way of sleeping," commented Stanwood.
They were a little late in arising the next morning, and before they had time to dress fully there was a minute tap at the door, which they knew must be the breakfast sign. While passing through the connecting hall Stanwood stopped and muttered :
"Wait a moment. I have forgotten my purse." Returning he glanced about, and examined the knapsack, but it was nowhere to be found.
Winfield came back, impatient, and together they rummaged every part without success. "I had it in this pocket," said Stanwood. "I always keep it there."
Its disappearance was a mystery. It contained about thirty dollars, one-half of their store. They did not wait on ceremony, but ran into the dining room and announced the loss of the money.
In Japan the loss of money in a hotel or inn is a great reflection on the owner, and the proprietor in this case was very much shocked.
"Who was your friend, the one who came with you?" lie asked. And the boys related the accidental meeting. On going to his room they found it vacant, and from the appearance of his bedding it was evident that he had departed the evening before.
"He was the thief," said the host. "I am so sorry; the man has desecrated my honorable house and I will never recover from it."
Nothwithstanding the great loss the boys could not help but smile at the extravagant expressions of grief. "But can we not report the loss to the authorities, so they can take up the matter?" asked Winfield.
"I have already sent for the chief, to whom you will give your statement," he said, and as they were returning to the dining room a trimly-dressed official, with a smart-looking cap, and a portfolio, arrived and through the host the questions were interpreted.
The questions asked were the names, addresses and ages of the complainants, where traveling from, and the destination, full particulars of the articles stolen, description of the purse, and of the contents, and whether or not any one was suspected.
"But what good will it do?" said Winfield. We can't stay here to see whether they will find it or not; we must go on."
"Ah, but they will forward the stolen property to you when it is recovered," said the host.
The boys left the place in disgust. Of the ultimate recovery of the money they did not entertain the least hope, and they were so disturbed in mind when they passed along the shaded roadway that the beauty of the place did not appeal to them as before.
"Well, I don't suppose this country is any worse than America. The tramps did the same thing there; but that fellow was certainly a wonder. I never thought he would turn out that way," said Stanwood.
"I'm not going to trust any one hereafter. The hotels ought to make up the loss or else provide doors and locks," said Winfield.
"Well, we'll have to make the best of it now, but I'd like to catch that fellow on the road."
There's no danger of that, for the officer told the hotel man that there would be no likelihood of the fellow going this way," remarked Win-field.
"Yes, I know that," said Stanwood, almost with a snarl.
But the bright sun and the joyful-looking people along the way soon restored their spirits. Passing through a little village they noticed a specially fine display of dolls, and everywhere saw men and women at work turning out the different parts.
They were passing through a section where the making of dolls is a great industry. The Japanese excel in the making of these articles. Of course they are not provided with finely modeled heads, and attractive faces, according to our standard of beauty, but the bodies, the gowns, the workman-ship on the articulated joints are superior to similar articles made anywhere in the world, and be-sides they are remarkably cheap.
I wonder what they charge for dolls like that ?" said Stanwood.
The keeper of a doll stall took one of the dolls to which Stanwood pointed, and held up a single finger to indicate the cost, one yen, or fifty cents. A doll of that description in New York could not be purchased for less than two or three dollars.
"There is one thing about the women I have noticed right along," said Winfield, "and that is the, quiet way in which they talk. Did you ever hear one of them yell out or talk above an ordinary tone of voice?"
"Well, that may be so," answered Stanwood. But did you ever see one of them try to handle a squalling kid ?"
At noon that day, as they reached one of the numerous villages which are to be found every-where along the main roads, they went into a little tea house and sat down. Within the open door-way of the next room was a child on the floor in a tantrum, rolling about and emitting shrieks.
Winfield nudged Stanwood and said: "That kid'll catch it; see the paddle in her hand?"
'The mother evidently came in from the next room, holding a round flat object by its handle. She approached the child, brought it gently to a siding posture, and held the "paddle" before the child's face.
The child tried to bide its face for a moment, and in the struggle the boys noticed that the instrument of punishment was a mirror.
The child stopped abashed. The mother had not uttered a single word which was above the ordinary tone of voice, and even then the words did not indicate that she was chiding the infant.
That's a new way to stop that business. I wonder if an American kid would be ashamed of his face if he was really mad?" queried Stanwood.
The following day they witnessed an unusually lively scene along the highway leading to the next town, Toyahashi. People were dressed in brilliant colors, and some had on the most laughable costumes.
I wonder if they are going to have a circus in town?" mused Winfield.
At several places they stopped and ventured to inquire the meaning of the display, as many of the cottages were also decorated.
They could get no intelligible answer to the questions until the town was reached and one of the tea shops was entered. They learned that at these places of public entertainment some one could be found usually who would be able to answer simple questions at least.
The serving woman, who could readily under-stand, answered the questions with quiet ease. "This is the rice festival, which is held each year, and it will repay you to stay until the procession passes."
"May we stay here while it passes?" asked Stanwood.
"You may take a place at one of the tables on the plada," and she indicated a sort of low veranda, which was covered with vines and overlooked the roadway.
"How soon will the procession come along?" asked Winfield.
"It is now forming beyond the bend; do you hear the drums,—those beating time? That is at the head," she remarked, as her eyes were eagerly peering through the leaves, while with her hands she gently stroked the beautifui long flowers that were pendant everywhere.
"I wonder what flower that is? I have often seen it, but I never saw such wonderfully large flowers," said Stanwood.
"This is the Wistaria,"
"So it is," broke in Stanwood. "Thank you for telling me, but I forget names of that kind so easily."
"Yes the plant is a native of Japan,—that is, this particular kind. But you also have a native plant something like this called after an American naturalist, He Wistar. But there it comes," and she stepped back as the head of the procession rounded the bend.
The leading figures were fifty or more children, all dressed in white, who marched' ahead, each bearing. a whisp of rice, and these were waved rhythmically above their heads as they kept step with each other.
Behind were a dozen men with the most curious d rums the boys had ever seen, and they turned to the woman for an explanation.
"We have many kinds of drums here, all curious to you and your people. The one at this end, which looks like a shell, is really made of that article, and has a dried skin stretched over it. That is called the Uta-Daiko, or Song-Drum. The next is the Kakko, a shell of wood with two heads, and a softball like knob, by means of which the head is. struck."
"But what is it that fellow has in the middle?" inquired Stanwood.
"That is the drum which is called the Temple instrument. Sometimes they are three feet in height. Notice how beautifully it is decorated, and see, it has real jewels on it."
Following these drummers was a curious vehicle, garnished with all sorts of limbs and ever-green, and everywhere the inevitable rice sheaf decorated with flowers. On this carriage was an enormous man,—that is enormous as judged from the measurement of the ordinary Japanese. But he was round and jolly, and his smile contagious. When he appeared the people laughed aloud without stint, and Winfield declared that was the only time he ever heard a Japanese laugh above a whisper.
Who is that fellow?" asked Stanwood, as he was passing.
"Oh, that is Inari, the Rice God. He has had a good harvest."
"Well, if lie doesn't have a good harvest, is he just as fat?" inquired Winfield with an amused look.
She slyly arched her brows and made the prettiest kind of a pout to hide a smile as she replied : "Oh, no; the feast of Tsukigi does not permit a lean God. He must be fat, or there can be no feast."
After the Rice God came a single man with two square blocks of wood, and these were clicked together now and then and used as signals. Behind came the fantastically-garbed people, some of whom the boys had seen earlier in the day.
Men with long noses, reaching almost to the ground; some with huge ears that had the tips slitted and provided with little streamers; many with tall black hats, eight or ten feet high, and all painted with queer characters; while twenty or more carried sacks from which they took out little squares of tissue, or rice paper, formed into exquisite little butterflies, and these when liberated darted about among the marchers.
Following came lines of children in four rows, carrying two ropes of white, red and black twisted stripes, which drew a large wagon profusely deco-rated. On the wagon were men with drums and pipes, all sounding them without regard for harmony - or rhythm, while the flags and streamers fluttered about and made the whole picture a maze.