Travel Letters: In Kobe, Japan (1889)

DEAR WILLIAM, —We are here at Kobe after a most delightful journey from Myanoshita, from which place I wrote you last. The prettiest thing about it was the visit to Nara, the old, old capital of Japan, and the seat of its most venerable worship. We left Kioto after dinner and traveled at night to avoid the heat, which was pretty terrible that day. We had three jinrikishas, one for each of us, and one for Hakodate, also one which went ahead with the luggage. Each of our jinrikishas had three men, one in the shafts and two pulling ahead. We left at seven o’clock, and reached Nara at one in the morning, thirty-three miles in six hours. The cheerful little men went on a steady trot most all the way, and seemed as merry as crickets when we arrived. Three times we stopped at teahouses and stuffed them full of rice, and then trotted off again into the night. It was bright moonlight the first half of the way, and the stars were splendid when the moon went down. We ambled along through rice fields and tea plantations, with villages strung along the road and people coming out to look at us all night.

At Nara, the hospitable people of the Japanese hotel were looking for us, and soon after our arrival we were sound asleep. Here we spent two days, in a perfect wilderness of splendid scenery, historical association, temple architecture, and curious life. There are tame sacred deer in the groves, and tame sacred fishes in the lakes. The trees are hundreds of years old, and the temples are older. And the beauty of the landscape is a perpetual delight. Here we spent Sunday. We went to a little missionary chapel of our church and heard our service in Japanese, and an excellent sermon in the same language by a native layman.

The white missionary in charge was off on his summer vacation, like the Rector of Trinity Church, Boston. After service, we sat in a tea house over-looking the lake, where it was cool. In the afternoon we strayed in the great temple groves and saw the priests at their curious worship ; all night the drums were beating and picturesque heathenism going on in its remarkable way. Next morning early we left for Osaka, stopping to visit a most remarkable Buddhist monastery on the way. After one brilliant day at Osaka, we came here, and to-morrow leave by steamer for Nagasaki, which will take us through the beautiful inland sea, one of the chief glories of Japan. That will be the extreme limit of our traveling.

From Nagasaki we come back to Kobe ; then by sea to Yokohama, and after a few excursions from that familiar place, we shall be ready for the City of Rio two weeks from to-day. After that you know what will become of me until I present myself at the side door in North Andover. The Kodak is full. I cannot find anybody wise enough to change the old plates for the new, I cannot make the back come out to do it for myself, so I shall bring it home as it is ; perhaps some of the hundred snaps which I have made may have caught something interesting, which the man in Bromfield Street can bring out.

It is hot, beautiful weather, no hotter, I should say, than we often have in Boston, and only slightly, for the most part, letting up at night. We are quite well, and the weather does not hinder our doing all we wish to do ; the country is in beautiful condition, and the half-naked folks are brown as berries. And you are all well, I most devoutly hope. Letters will come today, but they will not bring advices very late. My love of loves to all of you.

Affectionately, P.

KIOGO HOTEL, KOBE, August 9, 1889.

DEAR TOOD, — The mail came this morning, and brought me beautiful letters from your father, mother, and you. Before we start for Nagasaki, in the beautiful steamer Tokyo-Maru, there is just time to write a beautiful line to you, and send these beautiful pictures which have just come in from a beautiful photographer’s shop at the corner of the street. Mr. McVickar sends his love to you with this, and so does Hakodate, who sits in his native fashion on the floor at Dr. McVickar’s feet. He is a good, wise man, and when you come to Japan you must have him for your guide.

I am glad you are having such a good time at North Andover. Look out for me there soon after you get this. My loveliest love to all.

Your loving uncle, P.