The Trip On The Inland Sea Of Japan
( Originally Published 1915 )
Early in the morning they were ready for the start to the city of Okoyama twenty miles distant. It is remarkable how the interests of the boys grew with the things they saw. The power of observation is one which can be cultivated, as the boys themselves discovered.
This manifested itself by their curiosity in making investigations about everything that was at all mysterious. Before they had gone from the town a half dozen miles two things seemed to demand an explanation.
The first was the peculiar odor, not unlike paint, or varnish, that seemed to permeate the atmosphere at various places. This was observed usually, in the open country, and Winfield was the first to notice that the smell was perceptible when they were close to certain trees.
Going up to one of them, he tore off a leaf, and smelt it, but this did not reveal the secret. Nearby were some men and boys, the latter climbing the trees and throwing down small objects.
"I wonder what that can be?" said Winfield.
"It looks as though they are gathering fruit," replied Stanwood. "But the trees are just like this one."
Together they went across the field, and approaching the tree, saw that the boys were detaching little knobs, or spurs from the limbs.
Winfield had noticed those on the tree they examined. The boys stood there watching the proceeding, and one of the men approached them, bowing and smiling. Stanwood addressed him:
"Excuse us, sir, but we are anxious to know what you are gathering?"
The man was mute for a moment, as though trying to focus his mind, and then slowly replied: "The-e honorable man must be American, eh?"
Winfield stepped forward while he was saying this, and replied:
"Indeed we are."
Stanwood smiled and looked up into the tree, the man following his gaze, as he tried to explain. "It eeze ze lac tree; ze tree for coating," and he looked at the boys helplessly.
Seeing that his words were not understood, he took one of the objects, which they were gathering, and with a knife cut it lengthwise. The material itself was like a gum, but within was a tiny object, and when this was crushed and moistened, it turned water to a beautiful red shade.
The man, with a sudden inspiration, held up a hand, and motioned the boys to follow. He led them to a cluster of cottages in the midst of a grove of the same trees, and beckoned to a man. The latter came up and their guide said: "He speakee."
The newcomer had a receptacle of the objects in his hand as he approached. "Do you under-stand English?" Stanwood asked.
The man smiled as he replied : "Very well; I am at your service; we welcome you here, as we do all Americans. I have been in your country."
Winfield held out his hand while depositing his receptacle and he and Stanwood shook hands with both of the men. After a few interchanges, Stan-wood asked: "We have been curious to know what these things are?"
"This is the gum called lac, from which varnish is made. From the name lac is derived the word lacquering, and I believe it originated in Japan,—that is, the method of covering articles, like brass, or copper with a coating of lacquer. From that is also derived the word Japanning, which all Americans are familiar with."
"Why, I thought Japanning meant to cover over things with a kind of black paint," said Winfield.
"I believe that is the term used in that case; but we detest the word, whatever it may be used for," he said, with a grin.
"Why? may I ask?" said Winfield.
"Because we think it is as a term of derision;—merely to show that anything covered over is like the Jananese, merely for show on the outside."
"But what is that red thing on the inside?" asked Stanwood.
That is a bug, which bores a hole in the little limb, you see here, so the gum comes out and runs all around it and forms this stick, which we cut off. Then we remove the bug to use the rosin; and save the bugs to make a dye of them."
The other object which they came across later in the day, was the camphor tree, a beautiful plant, for it is but little more. They recognized it by the odor which in the living tree is much more pleasing than the gum or the extract.
It might also be said here, that all trees in Japan are small, measured by our standard. There are no great forests anywhere in that country. Timber is really scarce. Bamboo, on the other hand, is found in all localities, and it grows with amazing rapidity.
Later on they had an opportunity to observe its remarkable growing properties where they observed a shoot, which was only three inches high in the morning, but measured fourteen inches in height at night.
There are two reasons why almost all houses, in the city as well as in the country, are made of this wonderful reed; first, the scarity of timber, and, second, the volcanic character of the islands.
The whole country is the result of upheavals, many of which have been most disastrous. As the islands were formed by the actions of volcanoes, it is exceedingly rough and uneven. There are no great plains, or even surfaces anywhere; but on the other hand a constant succession of ridges and ravines, many of which have been embellished and beautified, and it is for this reason that the artist, the painter and the poet rave over picturesque Japan.
One of the things noticed by the boys every-where, was the universal use of umbrellas, or sun-shades, and fans. The former articles are large, and all in the most brilliant colors, and decorated with fanciful designs.
The rainfall throughout the islands is much above the average in other countries, some months being very wet, notably from August to October. It was fortunate that the boys did not experience many rainy days, but there was a shower every other day, and sometimes they would be held up for an hour or more.
It was past six o'clock when the vicinity of Okoyama was reached, and they moderated their speed. The inevitable temple came into view, and then a second one, neither of them very noticeable.
They made arrangements for the night at a small inn, and sauntered out along the streets, entering an attractive pathway that led to one of the typical restaurants that they enjoyed everywhere.
Before there was an opportunity to seat them-selves they were hailed by a party at a table, and to the astonishment of the boys found themselves with a party of tourists who had been on board the Shinyo Maru.
They were simply overwhelmed, and just like Americans, they aroused the whole vicinity with their greetings, so that the proprietor, who came up smiling, rubbed his hands with gusto, imagining he had been honored with the arrival of two notables.
An additional table was brought up, and the boys became the guests of the enthusiasts. They were compelled to relate their stories, and tell them over and over, and it is a wonder that their heads were not turned by the compliments lavished on them, particularly by the young women of the party.
"Now bring your things over to our hotel and stay with us tomorrow," said the leader of the party.
They protested but their efforts were unavailing and, when the party broke up, they entered the large motor car, and were driven to the modest inn. The effects of the boys were then gathered together and transported to the Imperial, where the tourists were stopping.
The next morning Mr. Cameron said: "You are due for a trip on the Inland Sea today."
How long will it take I" asked Stanwood.
"A whole day, if we don't have an accident," he answered.
"And if we have an accident, how long?" inquired Winfield with a smile.
"Two days; possibly more."
Winfield shook his head, but Mr. Cameron never noticed it. There was no use in trying to get out of it, and really they didn't try very hard.
"Put your things in the car," instructed Mr. Cameron.
This was a strange request, but they obeyed without a word, and the merry party, boarding the machine, were whirled to the south along the most magnificent drive they ever traveled.
On arriving at the little wharf, or landing place, they noticed a motor launch, which was being loaded up with boxes and crates, and to this the party proceeded, while Mr. Cameron busied him-self with the details of the articles assembled there.
Within a half hour the boat glided out into the bay, and in a half hour more passed through the tiniest of little straits that opened into the great Inland Sea. It would be impossible for pen to describe the beauty of the islands, as one after the other was passed.
In many places the passage ways between the islands were not fifty feet wide, and yet, they were told by the native guide, that the largest vessels passed through them.
It is estimated that there are fully three thou-sand islands within this sea, and few have been seen by other than the natives. But all islands are not covered with green foliage; some of them are forbidding, and exhibit rugged and jagged rocks that showed the convulsions of nature while they were being formed.
As they rounded a point and swept into a sort of bay they were surprised to notice numerous flat-bottomed boats, a half dozen natives being in each. Frequently divers sprang from the sides of the boats, and the guide said:
"Here you will see the pearl divers at work. We will anchor between two of their sampans."
Each diver was provided with a sort of wide girdle, containing flaps, or pockets. The sea was as clear as crystal, and when the surface was still there was no difficulty in seeing the men at work on the bottom, the water at this place being about thirty feet deep.
The man, without any other apparatus than the girdle, would dive down, and quickly gather up a quantity of the shells, and, after depositing them about his person, would quickly paddle himself to the top, the exertion of rising to the surface being necessary because of the shells, which are heavier than water.
The mussels were then broken open, and the interior searched for the valuable gem. They noticed that the mussels were almost semi-circular and the color a dark green with vari-colored rings.
The diver is not able clearly to distinguish the true pearl oyster, while under water, but these will show the kind he is after."
Does each oyster have a pearl?"
"Oh, no sometimes they are entirely barren, and it is often the case that the gems found are of such a shape or of such material, even, that they are useless."
After leaving the pearl fishers they steered directly west, the course being directed to the open part of the sea, when a very peculiar thing occurred. Mrs. Cameron and one of the ladies were standing by the port rail with their marine glasses, when without warning the opposite side of the boat struck a hidden rock a glancing blow, and the little vessel seemed to turn over on its side, but quickly recovered itself.
A scream startled the boys. Winfield was on one side, near the stern, while Stanwood was on the other side holding a trailing fishline.
Stanwood was the first to see a body shoot into the water and quickly recognized it as that of a woman. Without a moment's hesitation he leaped overboard, and being a good swimmer, started for Mrs. Cameron, who had been pitched out.
When Winfield heard the scream of her companion he sprang across the deck, saw Miss Field's frantic gestures and saw Mrs. Cameron struggling for help. He, too, leaped overboard and succeeded in reaching Mrs. Cameron after a few strokes. Together with Stanwood he held her afloat until the launch was stopped and swung around.
It was certainly fortunate for her that the rescuers were on band so promptly, as she could not swim, and the accident might have been a serious thing for the party. As it was the boys came in for a vote of thanks and an expression of appreciation that amply repaid them for their part in the episode.
After the excitement was over Stanwood re-turned to his neglected line, and was surprised to find that he had hooked an immense pickerel, which served the party well at luncheon, and enabled their chef to show his skill in serving it.
"Well, boys, I must congratulate you on your skill as fishermen; but you do catch some mighty queer fish sometimes," he added, looking at Mrs. Cameron.
The trip through this portion of the Inland Sea occupied the entire day, and late in the afternoon the boys noticed that the little vessel was heading directly north. Before six o'clock they observed the presence of hundreds of small steamers and launches, and innumerable fishing boats.
"Where are we'?" asked Winfield.
"About a hundred miles west of Okoyama. We thought it would be a good idea to help you along in the journey. After a look around in the city tonight, and tomorrow forenoon, we'll give you another lift as far down as Kuga on the west coast of the Bay," answered Mr. Cameron, to the astonishment of the boys.
They stopped at the hotel with the Camerons that night, and, after reaching their room, sat down and looked at each other with self-satisfied grins.
"This beats walking all hollow," said Winfield. "Yes, and these hotels are an improvement on the inns," replied Stanwood.
After an entertainment at the theatre that night they proceeded to one of the fashionable resorts, where they partook of another meal, and here for the first time had an opportunity to see the genuine Geisha girls, those specially trained in dancing.
"All the time we have been in Japan we have never heard any singing by the people here," observed Stanwood to Mr. Cameron. "Why is it?"
"The Japs are not singers, and, so far as that goes, they are not a particularly musical people. They have quite a number of musical instruments, but none that require particular skill in playing. Some of the Geisha girls, however, are trained to sing, as you may presently hear," was Mr. Cameron's reply.
But the nest morning it was necessary to proceed on their way, and when they entered the launch and examined the maps with Mr. Cameron, he advised them to proceed on foot from Kuga to Shimonosek, or to avail themselves of the railway line at any point. This course was suggested be-cause the region through which they would have to go would be more interesting than any part thus far visited.
"Why do you think so?" asked Stanwood.
"Because there you will find the most primitive conditions, and some of the things will greatly entertain you."
It was quite a wrench to leave their friends, and they stood on the little dock, which was built of bamboo poles, and waited until the launch was miles away. There was no one in sight, and the only sign of civilization anywhere was a hay-topped pyramid about a quarter of a mile beyond.
They knew that must be a human habitation, because the most common type of dwelling is made in the form of a low square structure, the roof of which sheds water on four sides. The material of the roof in the present instance was a sort of grass that was plaited, and in time tends to become colored to a dark brown tint.
The appearance of the house was a relief, for they recalled what Mr. Cameron had said. As they neared the building it did not look inviting, but they marched on. Without a word of warning they heard a roar, and a massive dog sprang before them and with several bounds flew at Win-field, who was in the lead.
The force of the impact was so great that the boy was thrown back, upon which the animal immediately turned and pounced upon Stanwood. The latter, at the instant the dog appeared, had stepped back, and in doing so his foot struck a jagged boulder. He instantly seized this and held it above his head. When the dog sprang toward him the stone was brought down with all the power at his command. Fortunately the stone struck the beast in the head, and stunned it so it lay on its side almost motionless.
All this was done with such startling rapidity that when Winfield arose and went over to Stanwood, who had also been thrown back by the impact, the former was dazed and trembling.
The dog gave a few convulsive twitches and lay still. While they were looking about they heard a cry behind them, a sort of a shriek; "lie! he! hi! hi!" and they saw an old man with a peculiar stare and waving hands spring toward them.
"What shall we do?" said Stanwood, who had in the meantime again picked up the stone.
"I suppose we shall have to stick it out now," answered Winfield, and then Stanwood noticed blood coursing down his companion's cheek.
"Are yon hurt?" he asked in alarm.
"Oh, no; not a bit," was the reply, but the flowing blood told a different story. The excited native, who was now nearing them, held their attention.
He stopped within ten feet of them and pointed at the animal, then suddenly his countenance changed to one of horror as he turned and fled.
"Say, let's get out of this as quick as we can," said Winfield, as he hurriedly wiped away the blood and followed Stanwood, who was running toward a wooded section to the right.