III. IN TŌKIŌ, THE EASTERN CAPITAL.
I was a stranger in a wilderness of a million souls. In half an hour I had left the yard of the huge caravansary, which the Japanese who had built it fondly believed to be a comfortable hotel, and was on my way to the distant quarter of the city in which was situated the Imperial College. I walked by preference, as I had studied the map of Tōkiō, and some rude native pictures of certain landmarks while in America, and I now determined to test the soundness of my knowledge. I had that proficiency in speaking the language which five words badly pronounced could give. Every foreigner who sojourns in Japan for a week learns "Sŭkoshi matté" (wait a little), "Ikura?" (how much?), "Doko?" (where?), "Yoroshiu" (all right), and "Hayakŭ" (hurry). With these off my tongue, and my map in my hand, I started. I passed through the foreign quarter, which is part of the old district called Tsŭkiji (filled-up land). It faces the river, and is moated in on all sides by canals. It is well paved, cleaned, and lighted, contrasting favorably with the streets of the native city. The opening of Yedo as a foreign port cost a great outlay of money, but as a settlement was a failure, partly on account of high ground - rent, but mainly because the harbor is too shallow. Almost the only persons who live in Tsŭkiji are the foreign officials at the consulates, missionaries, and a few merchants. I walked on, interested at seeing novel sights at every step, and at the limits passed a guard-house full of soldiers of Maëda, the daimiō of Kaga. These kept watch and ward at a black gate, flanked by a high black paling fence. For years it was absolutely necessary to guard all the approaches to the foreign quarter, and keep out all suspicious two-sworded men. Incendiarism and the murder of the hated foreigners were favorite amusements of the young blades of Japan, who wished both to get the shōgun in trouble and to rid their beautiful land of the devilish foreigners. Every approach to Yokohama was thus guarded at this time. From the foreign quarter into the Yoshiwara is but a step. Handsome two-storied wooden buildings, open to the street, were filled with pretty young girls, playing upon the samisen (banjō), having their hair dressed, sitting idle, or engaged at their toilet mirrors. Japanese male cynics say that a looking-glass is the mind of a woman. Handsome streets of neat houses extended to a distance of half a mile on each side, from which the same sound proceeded. Why were these houses so fing? Why so many young girls gathered? Here were beauty, tender years, soft smiles, and luxurious houses. Here were little girls trained to do, when grown, as the older girls. For what purpose?
In every port open to foreigners in Japan, in a few of the other large cities, but not in daimiōs' capitals, there is the same institution. It is Japan's own. Before they opened any port to foreign trade, the Japanese built two places for the foreigners - a custom-house and a brothel. The Yoshiwara is such a place. For the foreigners they supposed it to be a necessary good: for themselves, a protection to their people against ships' crews suddenly set free on land: they counted it a necessary evil. They believed the foreigners to be far worse than. themselves. How far were they wrong?
We proceed through the quarter into streets lined with open shops. Privacy is not at a premium in Japan. One might live at home for years without understanding the mysteries of a lady's toilet. In Japan one learns it in a few days. Here is the human form divine bare to the waist, while its possesor laves her long black hair in warm water. She is about eighteen years old, evidently. Her mirror, powder-box, etc., lie about her. There is a mother shaving her baby's head. The chief occupation of the shop-keepers seems to be that of toasting their digits. I halt at a shop full of ivory carvings. Some of them are elegant works of art. Some are puns in ivory. Some are historical tableaux, which I recognize at once. These trophies of the geological cemeteries, or refrigerators, of Siberia are metamorphosed into whatever form of beauty and grotesque humor the lively fancy of the carver has elected. The ivory in Japan was anciently brought, from India, but in later times, through Corea, from the shores of the Aretic Ocean, where it is said modern dogs feed on the prehistoric meat of mammoths and mastodons frozen hard ages ago. Nearly all the ivory thus imported is put to a single use. It is carved into nétsŭkés, or large buttons perforated with two holes, in which a silken cord is riven, and which holds the smoking apparatus, the vade memm, of the native. Flint, tinder, and steel in one bag; tobacco in another; tiny-bowled, brass-tipped bamboo pipe, in a case, are all suspended by the nétsŭké, thrust up through the girdle. The one represented in the accompanying cut shows how a Japanese rider, evidently somebody, from his hempen toque, mounts a horse, i. e., on the right (or wrong) side, while his bettō holds the steed.
I pass through one street devoted to bureaus and cabinets, through another full of folding screens, through another full of dyers' shops, with their odors and vats. In one small but neat shop sits an old man, with horn - rimmed spectacles, with the mordant liquid beside him, preparing a roll of material for its next bath. In another street there is nothing on sale but bamboopoles, but enough of these to make a forest. A man is sawing one, and I notice he pulls the saw with his two hands toward him. Its teeth are set contrary to ours. Another man is planing. He pulls the plane toward him. I notice a blacksmith at work: he pulls the bellows with his foot, while he is holding and hammering with both hands. He has several irons in the fire, and keeps his dinner-pot boiling with the waste flame. His whole family, like the generations before him, seem to "all get theirliving in the hardware line." The cooper holds his tub with his toes. All of them sit down while they work. How strange! Perhaps that is an important difference between a European and an Asiatic. One sits down to his work, the other stands tip to it. Why is it that we do things contrariwise to the Japanese? Are we upside down, or they? The Japanese say that we are reversed. They call our penmanship "crab-writing," because, say they, "it goes backward." The lines in our books cross the page like a craw-fish, instead of going downward "properly." In a Japanese stable we find the horse's flank where we look for his head. Japanese screws screw the other way. Their locks thrust to the left, ours to the right. The baby-toys of the Aryan race squeak when squeezed; the Turanian gimcracks emit noise when pulled apart. A Caucasian, to injure his enemy, kills him; a Japanese kills himself to spite his foe. Which race is left-handed? Which has the negative, which the positive of truth? What is truth? What is down, what is up?
I emerge from the bamboo street to the Tŏri, the main street, the Broadway of the Japanese capital. I recognize it. The shops are and richer; the street is wider; it is crowded with people. Now, for the first time, comes the intense and vivid realization that this is Japan. Here is a kagō, with a woman and baby inside. Two half-naked coolies bear the pole on their shoulders, and hurry along, grunting in Japanese. They bear sticks in their hands, and stop at every few yards, rest the beam on their sticks, and change shoulders. Here comes an officer on horseback, with a lacquered helmet on his head, and bound with white pads over his chin. His two swords protrude from his girdle, his feet rest flat in wide iron stirrups, curved up like a skate-runner, and have room to spare. His saddle has enormous flaps of gilt leather. He grasps the reins, one in each hand, at about six inches from the bit, holding his horse's head so that his lower lip is higher than the space between his ears. This is torture and grace combined. It is the stylish thing in Japan. The horse's mane is tied up in a row of stiff pompoons; his tail is incased in a long bag of silk. Enormous tassels hang from the horse's shoulders. There is a method in riding," is a Japanese saying. I believe it.
Here are soldiers, so I judge. They are dressed in every style of hybrid costume. One, in a broadcloth suit, finishes with bare head and clogs on the feet. Another has a foreign cap, but a Japanese suit. This man has on a pair of cowhide boots, against which his kilt flaps ungracefully, reminding one of an American tycoon to the well to draw water. This one has a zouave jacket and native kilt. The soldiers look as if they had just sacked New York, and begun on Chatham Street. The braves have a brace of stabbing tools stuck in their belt. They are the two-sworded men, and insolent, swaggering bullies many of them are. As they pass the foreigner, they give him black scowls for a welcome. They are chiefly the retainers of the daimiōs of Tosa, Satsuma Chōshin, and Hizen, and are pride-swollen with victory over the rebels at Wakamatsu and Hakodaté. It is ticklish to walk among so many armed follows who seem to be spoiling for foreign blood. Japanese swords are quickly drawn, and are sharp. No true man is really afraid when his enemy attacks in front; but to be cut down by a coward from behind! The thought makes my marrow curdle. With these foolish thoughts, I pass along for about a mile unscathed, for I have not yet learned the Japanese, and have read Alcock. I arrive at the place renowned in all Japan. The Romans had their golden mile-stone, whence all distances throughout the empire were measured. Here, in the heart of Tōkiō, is Nihon Bashi (Bridge of Japan), whence, so it is said, all the great roads of the empire are measured. I had heard of it in America. All rural Japanese know of it. All expect, without warrant, to see a splendid bridge, and all are disappointed. It is a hump-backed wooden structure, a crazy mass of old fire-wood. It is lined on either side with loathsome beggars, asleep, gambling, playing, or begging. Mendicant priests in rags chant doleful prayers, pound stiff drums shaped like battledores. The venders of all kinds of trash cluster around it. On the left, as we approach from the south, stands the great Kosatsŭ. On the bridge, glorious Fuji is seen in the distance, and near by the towers, moats, and walls of the castle. Up and down the canal cluster hundreds of boats, and a range of fire-proof store-houses line the banks. To the east is seen Yedo Bashi, or Bridge of Yedo. Turning up Surunga Chō, with Fuji's glorious form before me, I pass the great silk shop and fire-proof ware-houses of Mitsui, the millionaire; I reach the castle moat and wall, and pass by the former mansion of Kéiki, the last shōgun. At noon, precisely, I arrive at, the house of the American Superintendent of the Imperial College, to whom I bear letters and credentials.
Behind black fences, high and hideous, I found the bungalows of the dozen foreign teachers of the college. At the table of the superintendent I sat down to take "tiffin," as the noon meal in the East is called. Congratulations and the news were exchanged. At one o'clock the superintendent returned promptly to his work, and the newcomer remained to revel among the books, curiosities, and pictures of his genial host. When school is over, we are to walk out to Uyéno, to see the ruins of the battle of July 4th, 1868. Two hours of waiting pass quickly, and at little after three o'clock, hearing a strange, noisy clatter, I run out by the gate to see what is going on. The school is being dismissed. What a sight for a school-master! Hundreds of boys, young men, and men of older growth, all on high wooden clogs, are shuffling and scraping homeward. The noise of their clogs on the rough pebbles of the street makes a strange clatter. They are all dressed in the native costume of loose coats, with long and bag-like sleeves; kilts, like petticoats, open at the upper side; with shaven mid-scalps, and top-knots like gun-hammers. Men and boys carry slates and copy-boks in their hands, and common cheap glass ink-bottles slung by pieces of twine to their girdles. Hands and faces are smeared with the black fluid; but, strangest of all, each has two of the murderous-looking, swords, one long and the other short, stuck in his belt. Symbols of the soldier rather than the scholar are these; but the samurai are both. They compose the "military-literary" class of Japan. A "scholar and a grentlem." is our pet compliment; but in Japan, to be "a scholar, a soldier, and a gentleman," is the aspiration of every samurai. A wild-looking set they seem, but the heart kindles to think of the young life of this Asiatic empire being fed at the streams of the science and languages of Christian nations. In spite of the smeared clothes and faces, the topsy-turvy top-knots, and average slovenliness, quite natural after six hours school-boy's work, and quite differeiit from the morning's spruceness, there were so many earnest faces that the school-master abroad was delighted, and felt eager to in the work of helping on the rising generation and grand purpose of New Japan.
Education is the basis of all progress." The Japanese found it out. The Home Department of the new imperial government in 1870 reorganized the school, originally founded by the bakufu, and engaged an English and a French teacher to give instruction. Years before, at Nagasaki, an American missionary, whose name I omit only in deference to his sensitive modesty had taught Japanese young men, sending forth scores who afterward held high place in government counsel. They called him to take charge of their chief school in Tōkiō. In January, 1869, there were three French, three German, and five English teachers, and about eight or nine hundred scholars. It was called a "university;" its proper name was a school of languages.
The Japanese had very primitive ideas concerning the fitness of men to teach. The seclusion of Japan for nearly three hundred years had its effect in producing generations of male adults who, compared to men trained in the life of modern civilization, were children. Any one who could speak English could evidently teach it. The idea of a trained professional foreign teacher was never entertained by them. They picked up men from Tōkiō and Yokohama. The "professors" at first obtained were often ex-bar-tenders, soldiers, sailors, clerks, etc. When teaching, with pipe in month, and punctuating their instructions with oaths, or appearing in the class-room top-heavy, the Japanese concluded that such eccentricities were merely national peculiarities. As for "Japanese wives," they were in many houses, and this the native authorities never suspected was wrong, or different from the foreign custom. In America there was read to me a paper on the subject, and I innocently marveled at the high tone of Japanese morality. I found out afterward that the clause meant that the foreign teachers must not change mistresses too often. One American in Tōkiō enjoyed a harem of ten native beauties. Yet there were some faithful found among the faithless, and real, earnest teachers. Yet even these were not altogether comprehensible to their employers. One man, a Christian gentleman, but not painfully neat, especially in his foot-gear, having the habit peculiar to a certain great man of never lacing up his shoes, the Japanese director of the school solemnly inquired whether the gentleman was angry at the officers. They supposed that he had some cause of complaint against them, and was showing it professionally by not lacing up his shoes. They were quite relieved on being informed that the unlaced boots neither foreboded nor expressed dissatisfaction.
It was a Herculean, nay, rather a seemingly impracticable, task to reduce that wild chaos of humanity to order and system. Here were gathered together a thousand male Japanese, of every age, and from every quarter of the empire. The middle-aged and old men, who wished to learn merely to read and translate, and not to speak, a foreign language, were mostly in the "meaning-school." The younger, though some were over thirty, learned the alphabet, spelling, conversations, writing, and, in the higher classes, geography, arithmetic, and simple history. The buildings were rows of sheds with glass windows, deal desks and seats, and unpainted wood partitions.
A thousand top-knots, two thousand swords; is many clogs, as many suits of cotton dress; a thousand pairs of oblique eyes that saw not as the eyes of the Teuton, the Frank, the Briton, or the American saw; a thousand rice-filled stomachs; a thousand brains filled with the ideas instilled by the old education of Japan; a thousand pairs of arms trained to the sword, spear, and bow; a thousand restless bodies that chafed under foreign school discipline - all these together made what seemed chaos to the teacher fresh from the order and neatness of an American school. In the rickety rooms were fire-pots and bamboo tubes doing duty as ash-boxes; for at each recess, even during recitation, native scholar and teacher were wont to pull out their pipes and fill the tiny bowls to smoke.
An old daimiō's yashiki had been transformed by rows of sheds into the "University." According to Japanese etiquette, the officers entered at one door, the teachers at another, the scholars at a third. As the school began somewhere about 9, A.M., the scholars thronged along the stone walk. The scraping clatter of their wooden clogs and pattens was deafening. Each came to school wearing his two swords. Entering a large square room, each delivered his clogs to one of the half-dozen attendant servants, who, hanging them up, gave the owner a wooden check branded with a number. In another room, which looked like an arsenal, he took out his long sword, which was laid on one of the hundred or more racks, and checked as before. Hats they never wore, and so were never troubled to hang them up. There was not a hat in Japan a decade ago, at least in the cylindrical sense of the term. When the Westernized native does begin to wear one, he never knows at first where to put it when off his head, or remembers it when he goes away from where he laid it.
In rainy weather, their paper umbrellas were stowed away and ticketed in the same manner as their clogs. Thus despoiled, in bare feet, or in mitten - stockings, with short sword in belt, from which wooden checks depended, the scholars entered their rooms. The teacher, not always early, began with his top-knots, and right grandly did the young eyes snap and the young ideas shoot. With such material the superintendent went on. With officers utterly unacquainted with their duties; teachers of all sorts, and no sort at all; undisciplined pupils, having to combat suspicion, ignorance, and, worse than all, Japanese vanity and conceit, he toiled on for years, the final result being morally magnificent. In this school the scholars attended but one session, being divided into morning and afternoon scholars. Half of them messed or boarded in barracks built by the school; but where they went at night, or how they spent their spare time, was no one's business.
The mikado's government had been in operation in Tōkiō two years, but it was on any thing but a stable foundation. Conspiracies and rumors we had for breakfast, dinner, and supper. To-day, Satsuma was going to carry off the mikado. To-morrow, the "tycoon" was to be restored. The next day, the foreigners were to be driven out of Tōkiō, and then out of Japan. The city was not only full of the turbulent troops of the jealous daimiōs, but of hundreds of the Jo-i (or foreigner-haters), the patriot assassins, who thought they were doing the gods service, and their country a good, in cleaving a foreigner in the street.
Before I left America, my students had told me by all means to take a revolver with me, as I might very likely meet rōnins. I had one of Smith & Wesson's best. Few foreign residents ever went far from their houses without one, and many wisely kept indoors at night, except upon urgent duty. About fifty foreigners had been killed in Japan since 1859. For the safety of the teachers, about fifty armed men, called betté, were kept in pay. These knights were dubbed Brown Betties" - a vile pun, evidently by an American, through whose sad memory visions of that appetizing pudding flittered, as he mourned its absence, with that of buckwheat-cakes, pumpkin-pies, turkeys, and other home delicacies. Horses were kept ready saddled, and the betté were always ready to accompany man or horse. It was impossible to slip out without them. By a curious system of Japanese arithmetical progression, one betté accompanied one foreigner, four of them went with two, and eight with three. One would suppose that a sin gle foreigner was in greater danger than when with a companion. The first afternoon I walked to see the ruins of Uyéno, once the glory of the city, with my host. I noticed one guard kept always with us. Not being counted a protégé, I often went on my rambles alone. I was never harmed, though I got in occasional scowl, and was often obliged to pass along narrow and lonely streets, in which villainouslooking men, with two murderous-looking swords in their belts, were numerous.
Among the many sites in the city from which one can get a view of Fuji from base to summit, are Atago, yama, the top of Kudan zaka, and Suruga Dai, or elevation, so named from the fact that you behold the lordly mountain is though you were in Suruga itself.
One afternoon I had been out walking to Asakusa and Uyéno with the only American teacher in the school at that time, and, after a long tramp, returned to recount what I had seen, and to consult my host. We agreed, the morrow being a holiday, to make an excursion to the lovely suburbab retreat Ōji, just outside, to the north of Tōkiō. After an evening among maps, note-books, and letters, as usual, I retired to rest. I was a sound sleeper, and noticed nothing during the night. About 4 A.M. my host appeared at my door, and, in a rather sepulchral tone, informed me that we could not go, to Ōji that day. There had been great changes during the night, and two teachers of the school had been cut down in the streets.
I dressed hurriedly, and at our hasty breakfast by the lamp I learned the story of the night. It was a simple one, but bloody enough. The two men had gone to Tsŭkiji, and there dismissed their guards. Presuming upon their supposed safety, and being wholly unarmed, they started to another part of the city, not far from the school. From their own story, they were quietly walking along one of the streets. The tallest of them suddenly received such a blow from be hind that he fell, supposing that some one had knocked him down with a bamboo or club. Almost before he fell, his companion received a frightful cut on the opposite, shoulder. Both then knew they had received sword-wounds, and they both started to run. The first one attacked ran up the street into an open paper-shop, begging the people to bind up his wounds, and send word to the college. The second, being the last on his feet, was overtaken by his pursuer, who dealt him a second sweeping two-handed blow, which cut a canal across his back from right shoulder to left hip, nearly eleven inches long. He gained the paper-shop, however, and begged the people to stanch his wounds with the thick, soft Japanese paper. After giving their address, and bidding the people send for a doctor and a school officer, they fainted away from loss of blood. They were, when I saw them, lying asleep at the paper-shop, native doctors having reached them and skillfully bound up their wounds.
We left the college at half-past four, well armed, and accompanied by a servant carrying a lantern. We passed down the street skirting the castle moat to the Tōrri. It was very dark, and the city was in unbroken slumber. The only sight was the night roundsman pacing his beat, lantern in his left hand, and jingling an iron staff, surmounted by bunches of rings on the top, which he thumped on the ground at every few steps, crying out, "Hi no yojin" (look out for fire). Here and there, in nooks and corners, we saw a begar curled up under his mats. We finally reached the house in Nabé Chō (Rice-pot Street). We entered by a side door, and found in the back-room, sitting and smoking round the hibachi, six or eight interpreters and Japanese teachers from the college. Sliding aside the paper partitions, we looked into the front room, and, by the light of our lanterns, saw the two wounded men, one with head bandaged and face upward, the other lying prone, with back tightly swathed, asleep, and breathing heavily. We waited till daylight, when they woke up and told us their story. The skillful surgeon of the English legation arrived shortly after, commending highly the skill displayed by the native surgeons in binding up the wounds.
I spent several days and nights in the house, attending the patients. The wounds of one were of a frightful character; that of the other was upon the head and shoulder - blade. The blow had grazed the skull, and cut deeply into the fleshy part of the back. It was not dangerous: in a few days he sat up, and the wound rapidly healed. For several days the weakness arising from the loss of blood and the wound-fever threatened to end the life of his companion. One of his ribs was nearly severed, and both gashes were long and deep. He had to be handled very tenderly. After seven days, however, they were able to be removed to their own house, and, as they had provided other nurses, my services were no longer required.
I took the early stage on the morning of the attack, and carried the news to Yokohama. The mikado's Government, with astonishing energy, immediately took steps to discover the assassins, using the most strenuous exertions. Every one leaving the city or passing the gates was searched. Every samurai in Tōkiō was obliged to give an account of his whereabouts from sunset to sunrise of that evening. Every sword worn in Tōkiō was examined to discover blood-stains, which can not be removed except by grinding. Every sword-maker and grinder was questioned. I know of several small boys who felt highly elated at the and rare honor of having a posse of pornpous grovernment officials gravely examine their swords, according to orders. Nothing gave one so real an idea of the sincerity and ability of the Government, and its determination to reform barbarous customs, as their energy on this occasion. The stage which carried me to Yokohama was stopped at the Shinagawa guard-house by a man armed with a barbed hook, to examine any Japanese that might be within.
The excitement among the foreigners in Tōkiō next morning was intense. Prophets went round prophesying that in a week Tōkiō would be deserted of foreigners. A certain consul posted up a notice in a public place - in a bar-room, I believe - authorizing any citizen of his nationality, should any Japanese be seen laying his hand on his sword, "to shoot him on the spot." The most violent and inflammatory language appeared in the newspapers. Some hot-headed folks at Yokohama held a meeting, and resolved that the Japanese Grovernment should disarm the samurai, by ordering, the immediate abolition of the custom of wearing sword. Yokohama residents whose business brought them to Tōkiō though belted and with two revolvers, saw in every Japanese boy or coolie, an assassin. A nightmare of samurai, swords, blood, bleeding heads and arms, grave-stones, and grim death brooded over the foreigners. "The beaten soldier fears the tops of the tall grass."
Amidst this panic of fear, two mild and gentle countrymen of mine - one a missionary who had lived in Japan and among the people seven years, and another who for months had gone among them day and night unarmed - opened my eyes. Even the sworded samurai became in my vision as harmless as trees walking. I saw that the affair, which had frightened some men out of their wits, concerned a gentleman about as much as a murder in Water Street, or the Five Points, concerns a law-loving citizen of New York, who attends quietly to his business. I soon put away my revolver, and began the study of facts relating to the many cases of "assassination" of foreigners in Japan. In every instance, since the restoration of peace after the troubles of the civil war, it was a story of overbearing insolence, cruelty, insult, the jealousy of paramours, native women, or avarice, or the effect of causes which neither fair play nor honor could justify.
During my stay of nearly four years in Japan, several Europeans were attacked or killed; but in no case was there a genuine assassination, or unprovoked assault. I was led to see the horrible injustice of the so-called indemnities, the bombardments of cities, the slaughter of Japanese people, and the savage vengeance wreaked for fancied injuries against foreigners. There is no blacker page in history than the exactions and cruelties practiced against Japan by the diplomatic representatives of the nations called Christian - in the sense of having the heaviest artillery. In their financial and warlike operations in Japan, the foreign ministers seem to have acted as though there was no day of judgment. Of the Japanese servants kicked and beaten, or frightened to death, by foreign masters; of peaceable citizens knocked down by foreign fists, or ridden over by horses; of Japanese homes desolated, and innocent men and women, as well as soldiers, torn by shells, and murdered by unjust bombardments, what reparation has been made? What indemnity paid? What measures of amelioration taken for terrible excess of bloody revenge at Kagoshima and Shimonoséki? What apology rendered? For a land impoverished and torn, for the miseries of a people compelled by foreigners, for the sake of their cursed dollars, to open their country, what sympathy? For their cholera and vile diseases, their defiling immorality, their brutal violence, their rum, what benefits in return? Of real encouragement, of cheer to Japan in her mighty struggle to regenerate her national life, what word? Only the answer of the horse-leech - for blood, blood; and at all times, gold, gold, gold. They ask all, and give next to nothing. For their murders and oppressions they make no reparation. Is Heaven always on the side of the heaviest artillery?