Travel Letters: Tokyo, Japan (1889)

ARTHUR DEAR, — Shall I tell you what Japan looks like to one on the sixth day after his arrival? I could not begin to do it if I tried, but of all bright, merry, pretty places, it is the prettiest and brightest, and if ever life anywhere is a frolic and a joke, it must be here. I do not think there can be a grim spot in all the happy islands. It is all so different from India. If India is a perpetual dream, sometimes deepening into a nightmare, Japan is a perpetual spectacle, now and then blazing into a mild orgie. I do not think there can be a place anywhere in the world more suitable for pure relaxation. It is just the country for a summer vacation, and the getting here is delightful.

After we left you that morning in New York, five weeks ago next Tuesday, we had a prosperous journey across the continent ; and after two days in San Francisco, sailed across the Pacific, a long, wet, placid voyage of eighteen days, and landed at Yokohama with minds well emptied, rested, and ready for whatever might be poured in. The people looked so glad to see us. The jinrikisha men did not quarrel with our bulk ; the foreign residents were kind and hospitable. In Yokohama I dined with a classmate of yours, John Lindsley by name, who is the agent of the Canadian Pacific, and has a beautiful house and pretty wife. Yesterday we came on hither, where today, in addition to thousands of heathen, I have seen Bishop Williams and many of the missionary people and arrangements of our church. It all looks very well, and the best of the foreigners tell good stories about missionary life and influence.

So Japan is a true success as the field for a summer journey. The weather so far is delightful, and the great Buddha at Kamakura is wonderful indeed.

I hope your summer is going delightfully. I am sure it is. My best love to Lizzie.

Affectionately, P.

TOKYO, July 14, 1889.

DEAR WILLIAM, — This is the sixth day in Japan, and all goes wonderfully well. In a few days the steamer starts for San Francisco, and a word of greeting shall go in her to tell you that we landed safely from the City of Sidney last Tuesday morning, and since then have lived in Yokohama until yesterday.

We came here, and are now in the very heart of Japanese history and life. It is very fascinating. The brightest, merriest, kindest, and most graceful people, who seem as glad to see you as if they had been waiting for you all these years, smile upon you in the streets, and make you feel as if their houses were yours the moment you cross the threshold. They drag you round in their absurd jinrikishas as if it were a jolly joke, and are sitting now by the score along the road outside the window in all degrees of undress and all the colors of the rainbow, chattering away, making pretty gestures, as if good manners and civility were the only ends of life. I never saw anything like it, and the fascination grows with every new street picture that one sees.

The weather is delightful : mornings and evenings are very cool and pleasant ; the noonday is hot, but not too hot to go about ; and every now and then tremendous downfalls of rain. Wednesday it rained as I hardly ever saw it rain before, and you would have laughed to see our experiences on Thursday, when we went into the country to see the great bronze Buddha, sixty feet high, who has sat for six hundred years in great grove of pine-trees twenty miles from Yokohama. The railroad had been swept away by the rain, and we had to take to jinrikishas. The road was overflowed, and we had to get into boats and be ferried over the submerged rice-fields. Finally, I found myself on a coolie’s back, being carried over a little torrent, which the jinrikisha could not cross. The coolie never will forget it any more than I shall ; but we saw the Daibatzu, which is the gigantic Buddha’s name. And I snapped the Kodak into his very face.

We have had most hospitable welcome from American and English people ; almost every night in Yokohama we dined out, and here we have been given rooms at the club, which is a Government affair and most comfortable. Tomorrow night we are to dine with the English Bishop of Japan, and there is more of courtesy and kindness than we can accept.

We shall have warmer weather, for everybody says the summer has not fairly begun. It will not be excessive. Indeed, the whole climate is not unlike the summer climate of New York.

Today we have been looking a little at our foreign missionary work, and find it a very real thing, full of interest and promise.

Five weeks ago to-night I spent the evening in Marl-borough Street. If you meet Dr. George Ellis, as we did that evening on Commonwealth Avenue, tell him Japan is a great success ; and with all love to M. and the children, be sure that I am Affectionately, P.