Travel Letters: Myanosnita, Japan (1889)

DEAR WILLIAM, — I will put into this letter a photograph of this pretty place, where we are spending a delightful Sunday. It is far up among the hills, and is Swiss-looking in its general mountain aspect. Thursday we left Nikko, after five days among its marvels, only made less perfect than they might have been by rather too much rain. But they were full of interest. Then we came back over a horrible road to Utsonomiya and by rail to Yokohama. Friday we took rail to Odza, then carriage and jinrikisha to this place. Yesterday we went to Hakoni lake and saw most finely Fujiyama, the great mountain of Japan.

The whole way was full of interest, through villages, past temples, and by one mighty Buddha carved out of solid rock, sitting by the roadside. Tomorrow we go to Nagaia, then to Kioto, Nara, Osaka, Kobe, and by the Inland Sea to Nagasaki, whence we return to Yokohama to take the City of Rio home the 21st of August. She brought to us this week your letters of the 2d of July. All this list of places can give you no idea of the perpetual interest of this strange land. The Kodak keeps snapping all the time, and I hope is getting some pictures which will be interesting. Every person in the street, every group upon the country road, every shop, and house, and tea house, and temple is as queer or beautiful as possible, and the people are delighted when you tell them to stand out in the sunshine to have their portraits taken.

Hakodate proves a jewel of a guide, and while he looks out ludicrously for his own comfort, is very careful also for ours, and orders the good native Japanese about as if he were a prince. We have not suffered from the heat more than we should have done on an ordinary White Mountain journey, and though the hottest part is yet to come, I have no fear that it will be excessive. The rains have bothered us a little, but on the other hand have kept the country very fresh and green, and the luxuriance is something wonderful. Rice fields are sheets of emerald and the bamboo groves are like fairy temples. The lotus is breaking into flower, and the low swamps are gorgeous with its great leaves and splendid flowers. Just now the talk is of the new Constitution of Japan, which goes into operation next winter, and will make the country as modern in its government as the United States itself. What will become of the Buddhist temples and the picturesque dresses, nobody can tell. Already young Japan affects skepticism and trousers, but the missionaries will have to set all that right. They are doing good work and have the respect of all true men here.

So much for Japan, though one might write about it forever. My thoughts run all the time to North Andover. You are about going to bed as we sit here writing and waiting for tiffin, which is served about one o’clock. I hope there is as cool a breeze blowing across the piazza as that which blows through this open hall, but I am sure that no such little Japanese waiting-maid, in kimono and obi, sits squatting on her bare heels in the corner. North Andover is best in the long run. My loveliest love to all.

Affectionately, P.