Japan – The Chrysanthemum Kingdom

FROM Canton I returned to Hong-Kong, and after two days in that city I sailed for Nagasaki, the western port of Japan, and one of the principal commercial cities of the Orient. The harbor of Nagasaki is approached through a narrow inlet, which is so concealed from view by small islands that mariners unacquainted with the coast are sometimes puzzled to find it. Not till we were close inshore could I see any opening among the hills, and then, as we steamed through the narrow passage, I saw before me one of the most beautiful bays to be found in a journey round the world.

Before me was the island of Pappenberg, a conical hill barely a mile in circumference, with a perpendicular precipice a hundred feet high upon the southern side. When Christianity was suppressed, more than three hundred years ago, it was the scene of a terrible slaughter. Twenty thousand men, women, and children were driven up the slope, upon the northern side, and pitched headlong down the declivity upon the rocks below. No Christian is allowed to visit this place, but our ship passed within a cable’s length of the rocks on which the martyrs to the faith gave up their lives. Fishermen were casting their nets along the shore, where the mangled bodies were tumbled into the deep. The tall, gray cliff, with its emerald crown, is an everlasting memorial to the martyred dead:

Like sheep to slaughter led, Unmurmuring they met their cruel fate; For conscious innocence their souls upheld, In patient virtue great.

The harbor is formed by a deep indentation of the coast, two miles in length, about a mile wide, and surrounded by high hills. At the right hand, as a ship enters, are the residences of the foreigners on the hillside, and beyond them is the city, with its suburbs rising upon the slopes of the lofty hills. It has a population estimated at about a hundred and fifty thousand. The streets are wider than those of Chinese cities, cross at right angles, and are well paved. Everything that I saw in this first city of Japan created an excellent impression upon me, after my visit to China. The people are hardier than the Chinese, have a more manly physique, and are less mild-tempered. The only way in which I could see that they were inferior to the Chinese was in their moral nature. Young women go about the streets clad in a single garment, and it is no unusual sight to see a family bathing in their own house, without taking the trouble to place a screen between themselves and the open door. In the public bath-houses, men, women and children lay aside their clothing and bathe together with as much freedom as a flock of ducks. The handsomest buildings in the native quarter of Nagasaki, as in many other Japanese cities, are devoted to immoral uses. The keepers of the establishments purchase girls of their parents, lodge them in good apartments, teach them to dance, sing, play, or write, and instruct them in domestic economy. It is said that a girl in such an establishment has a far better chance of obtaining a husband than those who are not thus educated. Such are morals in Japan.

First Views of Japan

Conditions, however, are improving every year. The Japanese are becoming more sensitive to the opinion of Western nations, and are beginning to realize that truly civilized nations have a greater sense of modesty. One meets with strange contrasts in going around the world. In Egypt and India modesty consists in covering the face, even though the body may be exposed; but in Japan it has not been thought immodest to expose face and body alike.

Girls belonging to the upper classes practice music, painting, and the composition of poetry. Their music is not so thunderous and ear-splitting as that of the Chinese, but it is equally wanting in rhythm and harmony. Their voices are invariably pitched in a high-key when they sing, and their songs are nothing more than wailings. They are more accomplished in painting than in music, though their mistakes in perspective are often amusing to Western eyes. It is nothing unusual to see a picture with a boat in the foreground, in which are several gayly dressed ladies, one of them holding an umbrella which shelters several vessels in a distant harbor, as well as a large town surrounded by groves and gardens. In brilliant coloring the Japanese are unsurpassed. Boxes, screens, tea-trays and other articles are seen displayed in the bazaars, highly ornamented. Usually the designs are rude attempts at landscape, with Fujiyma, the ” matchless mountain ” of the -empire, as a prominent feature. The stork, the guardian bird of Japan, is another frequent figure.

In Nagasaki, as in Canton, I longed to purchase some of the beautiful things I saw in the shops, but I knew that if I was to reach New York safely, and accomplish my plan of working my way around the world, I would have to be very careful about my expenditures. There were several places I wanted to visit in Japan, and I must take care to have sufficient money for railroad fare when I reached San Francisco.

The Beautiful Inland Sea

From Nagasaki I sailed through the Inland Sea to visit Osaka, one of the chief commercial cities of Japan. It is one of the most interesting voyages in the world. The beautiful scenery begins as soon as one leaves the harbor and continues until another port is reached. Ten miles north of the entrance to Nagasaki harbor is seen a wonderful specimen of natural architecture—two granite columns, one hundred and fifty feet high, at a guess, and fifty feet apart, rugged, sharpened at the top, with a great boulder of a thousand tons, chucked like a wedge between the pillars, forming a stupendous gateway through which an entire squadron of ships might sail in grand procession. One wonders how it ever came there. By what volcanic upheaval was it tossed high in the air, to fall like a wedge into its position? Or did it tumble from a mountain cliff which had been worn away by the waves. Certainly there is nothing so wonderful as the handiwork of God, which brings into existence such marvels.

The course for a hundred and fifty miles was along the western shore of Kiusiu. The climate of this region is said to be variable, but far more healthy than the corresponding coast of China. The country is all well-wooded, owing to the care taken by the government to preserve the forests. People are not allowed to cut down a tree until they have planted one to take its place. The bamboo, pine, and oak grow side by side, and their great contrast is a pleasing feature of the Japanese landscape. The Straits of Si-mo-na-sa-ki, through which the Inland Sea is reached, is the great waterway of the Japanese Empire, the passage between Niphon and Kiusiu. After passing through, one of the officers pointed out the island of Siro-sima, distinguished by rocks, which rise perpendicularly three hundred feet from the sea, seamed, scarred, worn by the waves, crumbled by storms and shaken by earthquakes. The passengers look into deep caverns, and hear the surf thundering in the grottoes of the rocks.

The southern mainland is a panorama of beauty. The hillsides are beautifully terraced, set off with shrubbery, groves, orchards, houses in sunny nooks, and a cemetery with white headstones. People from the town are strolling along a sandy beach, and hundreds of boats are dancing on the waves in a sheltered cove. The steamer sweeps past numerous islands, green gems on the glassy deep, and we catch glimpses of pleasant homes—snug cottages, almost hid from sight by the dense foliage of overhanging trees.

“Loveliest Scenery in the World”

Early the following morning the passengers were roused from sleep by the stewards. “If you want to gaze upon the loveliest scenery in the world,” said the mate, as we reached the deck, ” now is your time.”

He had not exaggerated, for before us we beheld the glories of the Inland Sea in the light of the approaching dawn. Our course was towards the rising sun. About us were the beauties of a thousand isles. Some of them were but specks on the water—emerald gems in settings of polished silver. On the larger ones there were fields, forests, wooded hills, shaded ravines, and mountain cliffs—beautiful beyond description. The passengers stood entranced and speechless before the ever-changing loveliness, and we all gazed until our eyes grew weary. How I wished that all my friends could behold the indescribable glories of this Inland Sea.

When we finally reached Osaka, I remained there only one day. It is one of the great cities of the empire, and is known as the Venice of Japan, being traversed by a river and numerous canals. It is said that there are more than five hundred bridges across the streams, all of them of stone, and of fine architectual beauty. The inhabitants are thrifty, and engage principally in the manufacture of cotton goods, silk, sugar, paper and the products of flax. I was interested, of course, in all that I saw of the people and their manner of living. Japan was a country which differed in almost every respect from every other place I had visited, and practically everything I saw was new.

From Osaka I made an excursion to Kioto, one of the wealthiest cities of the empire, and for a long time the capital of the Mikado. There was much there to see, and I would have remained a longer time if I had been less anxious to reach Yokohama and Tokio. Already I was wishing that I had planned to spend several weeks in this delightful country, but it was too late now to change my plans. The transport would doubtless be at Nagasaki at the appointed time, and I would-have to be there, too, if I wanted to reach San Francisco. The First Day In JapanJapan – Trip To The Sacred MountainJapan Today