The First Day In Japan
( Originally Published 1915 )
Late in the afternoon of the next day, the boys had their first view of Japan, which stretched out far to the right. The weather was beautiful, and while ordinarily very hot in midsummer in this region, the temperature is greatly modified by the breezes from the China and the Eastern seas.
There was no work for Winfield, as the passengers were too much interested to catch every view. The coast line is very precipitous, and the sea has a depth of ten thousand feet up to within fifteen miles of the shore line.
In order to enter the harbor the vessel must sail around a headland called No Shima, and rounding the point they could see ahead the highest pinnacle in Japan, the peak of Fujiyama, an extinct volcano, over twelve thousand feet in height, a sacred mountain, and the resort of many pilgrims.
The narrow straits through which vessels must pass reminded the boys of the Narrows through which ships must go in order to reach the harbor of New York. The quaint buildings on the shores attracted their attention, and every moment of the time new objects of interest would be pointed out.
Sinclair was determined to be with the boys, and Mrs. Sinclair was glad to see the attachment that was mutually shown. "Yes; we are going to a hotel," he said, "and Mother insists that you shall accompany us."
The boys were profuse in their apologies, and tried to explain the situation in which they were placed, but she would not have it otherwise, and Sinclair insisted that they should bring their be-longings, and be her guests.
The scene at the dock was most striking. Al-though they had seen the jinrickishas at Honolulu, here they- made a striking exhibition, as the men moved about in their highly-colored garb.
After passing the customs inspection, which passengers must submit to, they filed down the passage way, and found themselves on a broad and spacious dock, and ranged along one side were hundreds of the little two-wheeled vehicles.
"We must take the `rickshaws,' that's what they call them," said Sinclair, and calling one for him-self and his mother, and another for the two boys, they hurried away to the Oriental Palace. There the two boys were installed in a beautiful room, furnished not unlike the regular American hotel, excepting that the furniture was in most dainty colorings, and largely composed of slender wicker-work.
This was, indeed, more than they had bargained for. To have refused would have been ungracious, and the boys had learned to accept the kind offerings with some philosophy.
Yokohama has a population of 360,000, a small city compared with Tokio, twenty miles away, which has upwards of 2,000,000. But this is a city of homes. The social life at this place is much more pleasant than in the capital city.
The boys were up early in the morning. They had only twelve hours in which to take in the two places and the surrounding country. They possessed the real American spirit, the determination to do in one day what the foreigner usually takes a week to accomplish.
Sinclair was at the door within ten minutes after they arose, and then began the planning for seeing the sights. "Mother wants me after two this afternoon, so we can be together until that time," he said, and he danced about at the thought of the outing.
"We must be at the dock at five in the evening," said Winfield, by way of a reminder.
"I move that we go to Tokio the first thing," said Sinclair.
"How far is it?" asked Stanwood.
"About twenty miles," responded Sinclair. "Yes, I see it will take only about three quarters of an hour to get there, and as it is now just a little past seven we can get there and commence our touring at eight o'clock," said Winfield.
They found that the trains ran very frequently, and were soon on the way, happy as boys could be, and the capital was reached in due time. The first place of interest, which they had marked out, was the Imperial Palace, a magnificent pile of buildings.
A guide, for the sum of a yen, showed them the principal places connected with the royal residence, and related many stories about the Emperor and the manner of living within the great enclosure.
From the Palace they passed over to the Imperial Museum, but the immense number of exhibits there made them feel that it would be a waste of time to give much time to its wonderful store. They could not agree on what would be the most interesting and instructive.
They passed along the great street, called Naka-Dori, where the great theaters and stores are located, and then took a 'rickshaw for a drive through the chief pleasure grounds of the city, Uyeno Park.
Here they had an opportunity to see the tombs and the temples of the Shoguns, and a mile further on, at Asakusa, they visited the wonderful Temple of Kwannon. The guide who conducted them through the temple was frequently questioned, and Winfield asked:
"What was the Shogun'?"
"Ah, that was the great man commander-in-chief of the army before the father of the present emperor took the throne. Before and at that time we had emperors called the. Mikado, but the power was divided, and it was on account of the divided power that foreign nations were never able to come to Japan or trade with our people. You look like American boys, and it may interest you to know how we threw aside our old prejudices."
"Yes; tell us," said Stanwood.
"For many, many years, and up until 1853, Japan would not permit foreigners to land on our shores. At various times the nations in Europe tried to make treaties with us, but our rulers op-posed them."
"I don't see why they wanted to trade with Japan if your people objected," remarked Sinclair.
"It was not the question of trade. Different ships of the various countries were frequently shipwrecked on our shores, and as a result, the sailors were imprisoned. It was felt that there should be some way to get back those men, and your own `Commodore Perry' showed my people a way that we could become friends."
"Was it the same Perry that fought the battle of Lake Erie?" asked Winfield.
"Yes; I believe it was the same one."
"What did he do?" asked Stanwood.
"The Commodore was not invited, but he came with four ships, the Susquehanna, Mississippi, Plymouth and Saratoga. I suppose you recognize; all of these names," he said, smiling.
Indeed, we do," said Winfield.
"He sailed up the great Bay of Yeddo, exactly the way you came in on your ship, and in those days the greatest speed the ships could make was ten miles an hour. On both sides of the narrows there were thousands of people lining the shores, for there were as many people living there at the time as at the present.
"That was the first time a foreign ship had ever entered Japanese waters, and the speed of the vessels was so great at that time, that the people marveled, and wondered how they could go so fast when they had no sails to help them."
"But if I remember correctly," said Sinclair, "two of the ships were sailing vessels; that is, the Plymouth and the Saratoga."
"I see you are posted. That is true, but the Susquehanna and Mississippi towed the two sloops, and that is what made the mystery still greater for the people.
"When the fleet approached the landing place a gun on shore was fired, and the Commodore ordered the anchors dropped. A fleet of boats, all manned by rowers, went from the shore, and the Commodore sent a message to the Emperor. But he was put off from time to time, and finally he sent word that he wished to deliver a letter from the President of the United States, and that he was on a mission of peace."
"Did they have a fight?" asked Stanwood. "No; many of the rowers in the boats tried to board the vessels, but they soon saw that you Americans meant business, and they had no further trouble; but on the day, when it was finally arranged that the Commodore should land, he drew up his vessels, with their broadsides to the landing, and boldly went ashore. He was received by the Shogun, and a treaty entered into, for which Japan has ever been thankful."
From Asakusa the boys returned to the city and made a flying visit to the Zoological Garden, which in itself would require a full half day to explore properly.
Near the river Sumida is the Temple of Ekoin, where are held the great and historical wrestling matches or jui jitsu so famous in Japan. This is the national form of sport, somewhat the same, in importance here, as base ball is in the States," he replied.
Before Yokohama was reached they had the best view of the great sacred mountain Fuji Yama to the north.
It rises, as it seems, from a sheer plain, the conical top being only slightly cut off to form a sort of table, and white branches seemed to flow down the mountain sides.
"I suppose that is snow," said Winfield. "How peculiar the streaks are."
"Do you know what the top of the mountain looks like, and what it represents?" he asked.
"No, I haven't the least idea," responded Winfield.
"It looks like the petals of a lotus flower. You know the lotus is famed in mythology and tradition, not only in Japan, but also in Egypt, India and China. It is always associated with divinity. From this you can understand why that is regarded as a sacred mountain."
Yokohama was reached shortly before two o'clock, and when they arrived at the hotel Mrs. Sinclair was ready for the outing with, her son. ' The boys politely refused to accompany her, feeling that it would have been an imposition, although she strongly insisted on it. If they had done so, much of this history would not have been writ-ten.
But there was one thing for which the boys longed. It was to see the country portions of Japan. The cities were always at hand, and could be seen at all times; but it was different from the great open, and they longed to see the people in their homes, and the manner in which they lived.
They still had three hours before it would be necessary to be at the dock, and, hiring a rickshaw, they directed the runner to take them to the north toward the great mountain. It seemed to have an attraction for them, now that they learned its history.
After leaving the environs of the city, the runner, or 'rickshaw man, inquired whether they did not want to see the great Diabutsi statue at Kamakura. They readily assented to this, and the route was diverted to the left.
By rail it is less than thirty minutes' ride from the city, but they were anxious to get away from the trains and go through the real country itself ; besides, this mode of conveyance had charms, owing to its novelty.
In less than an hour, after passing through an exquisite roadway, lined with palms and bordered by all sorts of flowering shrubs and trees, of which they could not guess the names, they saw the pro-file of the giant statue.
As they rounded the last stretch of road, the form of Buddha appeared in full view, and the boys started up in wonder and surprise. They had recognized a model of the statue at the en-trance gate at the Japanese garden at the Panama Exposition grounds, and this delighted them beyond measure.
The statue is. fifty feet in height, representing Buddha in a sitting posture, and it is made of bronze, with eyes of gold. The decorations in and about it, and within the temple adjoining, are of priceless value, and the boys plied their human "horse" with all sorts of questions, for he was remarkably intelligent, and understood English perfectly.
An hour was consumed in visiting the various places connected with this work of art, and to the astonishment of the boys they saw that it was past four o'clock when they were aroused from their investigations, and started for the city.
Ashino, for that was the name of their man, started back with a vim. It is remarkable how easily they will pull these vehicles along the road and seem to do it without tiring. The boys felt ashamed of themselves for putting such a task before him, and told him so, but he smiled and assured them that it was easy work.
They were traversing the most primitive part of the route; dense foliage and vegetation appeared on all sides; the road was a series of curving paths, winding in and out, but every-where beautiful and attractive.
Sometimes they would pass over little trellised bridges, and in many places the road seemed to be mere tracks through the parks, with never-ending mazes of by-paths. Ashino was speeding around one of these curves when suddenly the little vehicle lurched to one side, and the boys were rolled out to find themselves sprawling on the ground.
They jumped up and burst into laughter, but the rueful face of Ashino suddenly stopped the mirth. They glanced at the broken wheel, and that told the story. An investigation satisfied them that it would be impossible to repair it.
Ashino held up a hand. "You must make a train, or you will lose the boat." This recalled them to their senses. Their hearts beat wildly now. What if the boat left without them? They were almost paralyzed.
"What shall we do?" asked Winfield, frantically glancing about.
"It is nearly two miles to the nearest station. I may get another rickshaw, but probably not. You had better run."
"But where?" asked Stanwood.
"Go down this way," and he pointed to the southeast.
"But how can we ever keep to the road?" asked Winfield, as he remembered the turns and twists.
"Not far from here you will come to the open, and then you can see the ocean; then go on in that direction. I will come after you if I can."
They needed no more. Stanwood started ,to run, and Winfield followed. Beyond they could see the open, after passing one intricate series of paths after the other. But it was excessively hot, and they perspired, more, it may be said, from the excitement at the thought of the boat, than at the real exertion itself.
Over a mile ahead they saw a railway train. It was going to the east. "That is our train sure," said Winfield. "But we are too late for it."
"Never mind," said Stanwood. "We must get the next one; keep it up."
The train had gone by, of course, and when they reached the station panting, Winfield slipped up to the wicket and between the panting breaths asked when the next train would pass for the city..
"In perfect intonation the station keeper replied: "In twenty-five minutes."
"And what is the time now, please?"
"It is exactly four thirty-five," he responded.
Stanwood sank down as he heard the words, and looked up at Winfield helplessly. "Blame that old Diabutsu !" was all he could say.
"Well, I suppose we shall have to wait," said Winfield, impatiently; and the keeper eyed them for a few moments.
"Is it important?" he asked, as he glanced first at one and then at the other.
"Yes; our steamer sails at five o'clock," said Winfield.
"That is too bad," was the answer. "We are sometimes caught in that way. I had a like experience once traveling from New York to Chicago. But we never know how to appreciate and value these experiences until after they happen."
The boys glanced at him quickly, as they saw him smile. "Do you think they are of any value?" asked Stanwood.
"Yes we have an axiom here, that `Great disappointments are always safe.' "
"Do you think that is so?" asked Stanwood, somewhat timidly.
"I know that was so in my case, for the train I should have taken was in an awful accident," he answered.
"So you have been in America?" asked Winfield.
"I was educated there, and came back less than six months ago. I like America very much; it is a wonderful country."
"But this is beautiful here, too," said Stanwood.
"Yes; who could help loving this country? I was born in that little house yonder, and my father and grandfather always lived here, and I had to come back to this place because it is sacred to me;" and he had a smile that haunted the boys for many days. His words about disappointments had a wonderfully soothing effect on them and reconciled their feeling, for they now felt that the Shinyo Maru would sail without them.
When the train came, they boarded it, not with-out thanking the kindly little native, who had put a phrase into their hearts that they thought of many a time thereafter, and on several occasions it acted like a tonic when things did not turn out as they wished.
From the station in the city to the dock was a ride of less than ten minutes, but the place at the dock was vacant, and far down the bay, with streaming pennants the vessel was heading for Nagasaki, on its way to Hong Kong.
They walked off the dock with the quietest tread, and slowly crossed the street. Without a word they headed for their hotel, the Imperial Palace. Entering, they walked to the office, and inquired about Sinclair.
"They left on the vessel for Hong Kong," was the reply. "Do you also wish to give up your room?" he inquired.
Yes," said Winfield. "What is due you?"
"Mr. Sinclair attended to that before he left."
They went to their room and sat down. "Well, somehow, I don't feel badly about it, after all," said Winfield.
"We are safe, anyhow," remarked Stanwood, with a sort of grin, and Winfield knew what he meant.
"But here we are out of a job."
"And twenty dollars owing us by the Toyo Kisen Kaisha," broke in Stanwood.
"Who is he?" asked Winfield.
"That's Japanese for Oriental Steamship Company, I suppose."