THE HOME STRETCH.
During the afternoon the narrow kuruma road merges into a broad, newly made macadam, as fine a piece of road as I have seen the whole world round. Wonderful work has been done in grading it from the low-lying rice-fields, up, up, up, by the most gentle and even gradient, to where it seemingly terminates, far ahead between high rocky cliffs. The picture of charming houses and beautiful terraced gardens climbing to the very upper stories of the mountains here beggars description; one no longer marvels at what he has seen in the way of terraced mountains in China.
New sensations of astonishment await me as the upper portion of the smooth boulevard is reached, and I find myself at the entrance to a tunnel about five hundred yards long and thirty feet wide. The tunnel is lit up by means of big reflectors in the middle, shining through the gloom as one enters, like locomotive headlights. It is difficult to imagine the Japs going to all this trouble and expense for mere jinrikisha and pedestrian travel; yet such is the case, for no other vehicular traffic exists in the country. It is the only country in which I have found a tunnel constructed for the ordinary roadway, although there may be similar improvements that have not happened to come to my notice or ear. One would at least expect to find a toll-keeper in such a place, especially as a person has to be employed to maintain the lights, but there is nothing of the kind.
A few miles beyond the tunnel the broad road terminates in a good-sized seaport, whence I encounter some little difficulty in finding my way along zigzag field-paths to my proper road for the north. The rain has fallen at intervals throughout the day, but the roads have averaged good. Fifty miles, or thereabout, must have been reeled off when, at early eventide, I pull up at a village ya-doya. Before settling myself down, for rest and supper, I take a stroll through the village in quest of possible interesting things. Not far from the yadoya my attention is arrested by a prominent sign, in italics, "uropean eating, Kameya hous." Entertaining happy visions of beefsteak and Bass's ale for supper, I enter the establishment and ask the young man in charge whether the place is an hotel. He smiles, bows, and intimates his woeful ignorance of what I am saying.
The following morning is frosty, and low, scudding clouds denote unsettled weather, as I resume my journey. Much of the time my road practically follows the shore, and sometimes simply follows the windings and curvatures of the gravelly beach. Most of the low land near the shore appears to be reclaimed from the sea--low, flat-looking mud-fields, protected from overflow by miles and miles of stout dikes and rock-ribbed walls. Fishing villages abound along the shore, and for long distances a recent typhoon has driven the sea inland and washed away the road. Thousands of men and women are engaged in repairing the damages with the abundance of material ready to hand on the sloping granite-shale hills around the foot of which the roadway winds.
Fish are cheaper and more plentiful here than anything else, and the old dame at the yadoya of a fishing village cooks me a big skate for supper, which makes first-rate eating, in spite of the black, malodorous sauce she uses so liberally in the cooking.
In this room is a wonderful brass-bound cabinet, suggestive of soul-satisfying household idols and comfortable private worship. During the evening I venture to open and take a peep in this cabinet to satisfy a pardonable curiosity as to its contents. My trespass reveals a little wax idol seated amid a wealth of cheap tinsel ornaments, and bits of inscribed paper. Before him sets an offering of rice, sake, and dried fish in tiny porcelain bowls.
Clear and frosty opens the following morning; the road is good, the country gradually improves, and by nine o'clock I am engaged in looking at the military exercises of troops quartered in the populous city of Hiroshima. The exercises are conducted within a large square, enclosed with a low bank of earth and a ditch. Crowds of curious civilians are watching the efforts of raw cavalry recruits to ride stout little horses, that buck, kick, bite, and paw the air. Every time a soldier gets thrown the on-lookers chuckle with delight. Both men and horses are undersized, but look stocky and serviceable withal. The uniform of the cavalry is blue, with yellow trimmings. The artillery looks trim and efficient, and the horses, although rather small, are powerful and wiry, just the horses one would select for the rough work of a campaign.
North of Hiroshima the country assumes a hilly character, the road following up one mountain-stream and down another. In this mountainous region one meets mail-carriers, the counterpart almost of the fleet-footed postmen of Bengal. The Japanese postman improves upon nature by the addition of a waist-cloth and a scant shirt of white and blue cotton check; his letter-pouch is fastened to a bamboo-staff; as he bounds along with springy stride he warns people to clear the way by shouting in a musical voice, "Honk, honk." This cry resembles in a very striking degree the utterances of an old veteran brant, or wild-goose, when speeding northward in the spring to escape a warm wave from the south.
Among these mountains one is filled with amazement at the tremendous work the industrious Japs have done to secure a few acres of cultivable land. Dikes have been thrown up to narrow the channels of the streams, so that the remaining width of the bed may be converted into fields and gardens. The streams have been literally turned out of their beds for the sake of a few acres of alluvial soil. Among the mountains, chiefly between the mountains and the shore, are level areas of a few square miles, supporting a population that seems largely out of proportion to the size of the land. Many of these sea-shore people however, get their livelihood from the blue waters of the Inland Sea; fish sharing the honors with rice in being the staple food of provincial Japan.
The weather changes to quite a disagreeable degree of cold by the time I reach the end of to-day's ride. This introduces me promptly into the mysteries of how the Japanese manage to keep themselves warm in their flimsy houses of wooden ribs and semi-transparent paper in cold weather. An opening in the floor accommodates a brazier of coals; over this stands an open wood-work frame; quilts covered over the frame retain the heat. The modus operandi of keeping warm is to insert the body beneath this frame, wrapping the covering about the shoulders, snugly, to prevent the escape of the warm air within. The advantage of this unique arrangement is that the head can be kept cool, while, if desirable, the body can be subjected to a regular hot-air bath.
The following day is chilly and raw, with occasional skits of snow. People are humped up and blue-nosed, and seemingly miserable. Yet, withal, they seem to be only humorously miserable, and not by any means seriously displeased with the rawness and the snow. Straw wind-breaks are set up on the windward side of the tea-houses, and there is much stopping among pedestrians to gather around the tea-house braziers and gossip and smoke.
Everybody in Japan smokes, both men and women. The universal pipe of the country is a small brass tube about six inches long, with the end turned up and widened to form the bowl. This bowl holds the merest pinch of tobacco; a couple of whiffs, a smart rap on the edge of the brazier to knock out the residue, and the pipe is filled again and again, until the smoker feels satisfied. The girls that wait on one at the yadoyas and tea-houses carry their tobacco in the capacious sleeve-pockets of their dress, and their pipes sometimes thrust in the sash or girdle, and sometimes stuck in the back of the hair.
Many of the Buddhas presiding over the cross-roads and village entrances along my route to-day are provided with calico bibs, the object of which it is impossible for me to determine, owing to my ignorance of the vernacular. The bibs are, no doubt, significant of some particular season of religious observance.
The important city of Okoyama provides abundant food for observation--the clean, smooth streets, the wealth of European goods in the shops, and the swarms of ever-interesting people, as I wheel leisurely through it on Saturday, December 4th. No human being save Japs has so far crossed my path since leaving Nagasaki, nor am I expecting to meet anybody here. An agreeable surprise, however, awaits me, for at the corner of one of the principal business thoroughfares a couple of American missionaries appear upon the scene. Introducing themselves as Mr. Carey and Mr. Kowland, they inform me that three families of missionaries reside together here, and extend a cordial invitation to remain over Sunday. I am very glad indeed to accept their hospitality for to-morrow, as well as to avail myself of an opportunity to get my proper bearings. Nothing in the way of a reliable map or itinerary of the road I have been traversing from Shimonoseki was to be obtained at Nagasaki, and I have travelled with but the vaguest idea of my whereabouts from day to day. Only from them do I learn that the city we meet in is Okoyama, and that I am now within a hundred miles of Kobe, north of which place "Murray's Handbook" will prove of material assistance in guiding me aright.
The little missionary colony is charmingly situated on a pine-clad hill overlooking the city from the east. Several lady missionaries are visiting from other points, all Americans, making a pleasant party for one to meet in such an unexpected manner.
On Sunday morning I accompany Mr. Carey to see his native congregation in the nice new church which he says they have erected from their own means at a cost of two thousand yen. This latter is a very gratifying statement, not to say surprisingly so, for it savors of something like sincerity on the part of the converts. In most countries the converts seem to be brought to a knowledge of their evil ways, and to perceive the beauties of the Christian religion through the medium of material assistance provided from the mission. Instead of spending money themselves for the cause they profess to embrace, they expect to receive something from it of a tangible earthly nature. Here, however, we find the converts themselves building their own meeting-house, and bidding fair ere long to support the mission without outside aid. This is encouraging from the stand-point of those who believe in converting "the heathen" from their own religion to ours, and gratifying to the student of Japanese character.
About five hundred people congregate in the church, seating themselves quietly and orderly on the mat-covered floor. They embrace all classes, from the samurai lawyer or gentleman to the humblest citizen, and from gray-haired old men and women to shock-headed youngsters, who merely come with their mothers. Many of these same mothers have been persuaded by the missionaries to cease the heathenish practice of blackening their teeth, and so appear at the meeting in even rows of becoming white ivories like their unmarried sisters. Numbers of curious outsiders congregate about the open doors and peep in and stand and listen to the sermon of Mr. Carey, and the singing. The hymns are sung to the same tunes as in America, the words being translated into Japanese. Everybody seems to enjoy the singing, and they listen intently to the sermon.
After the sermon, several prominent members of the congregation stand up and address their countrymen and women in convincing words and gestures. Mr. Carey tells me that any ordinary Jap seems capable of delivering a fluent, off-hand exposition of his views in public without special effort or embarrassment. Altogether the Japanese Christian congregation, gathered here in ita own church, sitting on the floor, singing, sermonizing, and looking happy, is a novel and interesting sight to see. One can imagine missionary life among the genial Japs as being very pleasant.
Saturday and Sunday pass pleasantly away, and, with happy memories of the little missionary colony, I wheel away from Oko-yama on Monday morning, passing through a country of rich rice-fields and numerous villages for some miles. The scene then changes into a beautiful country of small lakes and pine-covered hills, reminding me very much of portions of the Berkshire Hills, Mass. The weather is cool and clear, and the road splendid, although in places somewhat hilly.
Fifty-three miles are duly scored when, at three o'clock in the afternoon, I arrive at the city of Himeji. The yadoya here is a superior sort of a place, and Himeji numbers among its productions European pan (bread), steak, and bottled beer. The Japs are themselves rapidly coming to an appreciation of this latter article, and even to manufacture it, a big brewery being already established somewhere near Tokio. A couple of young dandies of "New Japan" drop in during the evening, send out for bottles of beer, and seem to take particular delight in showing off their appreciation of the newly introduced beverage before their countrymen of the "ancient regime."
Beyond Himeji one leaves behind the mountains, emerging upon a broad, level, rice-producing plain, which extends eastward to Kobe and the sea-shore. The fine level road traversing the plain passes through numerous towns and villages, and for the latter half of the distance skirts the shore. Old dismantled stone forts, tea-houses, eating-stalls, fishermen's huts, house-boats, and swarms of jinrikishas and pedestrians make their sea-shore road lively and interesting. The single artery through which the life of all the southern tributary country ebbs and flows to trade at the busiest treaty port in Japan, this road is constantly swarming with people. Over the Minato-gawa Kiver by an elevated bridge, and one finds himself in a broad street leading through Hiogo to Kobe. These two cities are practically joined together, although bearing different names. Like many of the rivers of Japan, the bed of the Minato-gawa is elevated considerably above the surrounding plain. Confined between artificial banks to prevent the flooding of the adjacent fields in spring, the debris brought down from year to year has gradually raised the bed, and necessitated continued raising also of the levees. These operations have very naturally ended in raising the whole affair to an elevation that leaves even the bottom of the stream several feet higher than the fields around.
Kobe is one of the treaty ports of Japan, and nowadays is reputed to do more foreign trade than any of the others. One can imagine Kobe being a very pleasant and desirable place to live; the foreign settlement is quite extensive, the surroundings attractive, and the climate mild and healthful.
Pleasant days are spent at Kobe and Ozaka. Twenty-seven miles of level road from the latter city, following the course of the Yodo-gawa, a broad shallow stream that flows from Lake Biwa to the sea, brings me to Kioto. From the eighth century until 1868 Kioto was the capital of the Japanese empire, and is generally referred to as the old capital of the country. The present population is about a quarter of a million, about half of what it was supposed to be in the heyday of its ancient glory as the seat of empire.
Living at Kioto is Mr. B, an American ex-naval officer, who several years ago forsook old Neptune's service to embark in the more peaceful pursuit of teaching the ideas of youthful Japs to shoot. The occasion was auspicious, for the whole country was fired with enthusiasm for learning English. English was introduced into the public schools as a regular study. Mr. B is settled at Kioto, and now instructs a large and interesting class of boys in the mysteries of his mother tongue. Taking a letter of introduction he makes me comfortable for the afternoon and night at his pleasant residence on the banks of the Yodo-gawa. Under the pilotage of his private jinrikisha-man, I spend a portion of the afternoon in making a flying visit to various places of interest. A party of American tourists are unexpectedly met in the first temple we visit, that of Nishi Hon-gwan-ji. The paintings and decorations of this temple, one of the ladies says with something akin to enthusiasm, are quite equal to those of the great temple at Nikko. This lady appears to be a missionary resident, or, at all events, a person well versed in Japanese temples and things. Her companions are fleeting tourists, who listen to her explanations with respect, but, like myself, know nothing more when they leave the temple than when they entered. Japanese mythology, religion, temples, politics, history, and titles, seem to me to be the worst mixed up and the most difficult for off-hand comprehension of anything I have yet undertaken to peep into. The multitudinous gods of the Hindoos, with their no less multitudinous functions, seem to me to be easily understood in comparison with the weird legends and mazy mythology of the Flowery Kingdom.
Near this temple is a lovely little garden that gives much more satisfaction to the casual visitor than the temples. It is always a pleasure to visit a Japanese garden, and, in addition to its landscape attractions, historical interest lends to this one additional charm. The artificial lake is stocked with tame carp, which come crowding to the side when visitors clap their hands, in the expectation of being fed. A pair of unhappy-looking geese are imprisoned beneath an iron grating within the garden. They are kept there in commemoration of some historical incident; what the incident is, however, even the well-informed lady of the party doesn't seem to know; neither does Murray's voluminous guide-book condescend to explain. A small palace, with interior decorations of the usual conventional subjects--storks, flying geese, rising moons, bamboo-shoots, etc.--together with a small, round, thatched summer-house, where, five hundred years ago, Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, the Shogun monk, was wont to pass the time in meditation, form the remaining sole attractions of the garden.
The one place I have been anticipating some real pleasure in visiting is the Shu-gaku-In gardens, one of the most famous gardens in this country where, above all others, gardening is pursued as a fine art. This, however, is not accessible to-day, and wearied already of temples, gods, and shaven-pated priests, I give the jin-rikisha-coolie orders to return home. A mile or two through the smooth and level streets and the hopeful and sanguine "riksha" man dumps me out at another temple. Fancying that, perchance, he might have brought me to something extraordinary, I follow him wearily in. A graduate in the Shinto religion would no doubt find something different about these temples, but to the ordinary, every-day human, to see one is to see them all. My man, however, seems determined to give me a surfeit of temples, and hurries me off to yet another one, ere awakening to the fact that I am trying to get him to return to Mr. B 's. The third one I positively refuse to have anything to do with.
At Mr. B 's I find awaiting my coming an interesting deputation, consisting of the assistant superintendent of the young ladies' seminary, together with three of his most interesting pupils. They have been reading about my tour in the native papers, and, in the assistant superintendent's own words, "are very curious at seeing so famous a traveller." The three young ladies stand in a row, like the veritable "three little maids from school" in "The Mikado," and giggle their approval of the teacher's explanation. They are three very pretty girls, and two of them have their hair banged after the most approved American style.
Sweetcakes and tea are indulged in by the visitors, and before they leave an agreement is entered into by which I am to visit their school in the morning before leaving and hear them sing "Bonny Boon" and "The fire-fly's light," in return for riding the bicycle in the school-house grounds. "The fire-fly's light" is sung to the tune of "Auld lang syne," the Japanese words of which commemorate a legend of the tea-district of Uji near Lake Biwa. The legend states that certain learned men repaired to a secluded spot near Uji to pursue their studies. On one occasion, being out of oil and unable to procure the means of lighting their apartment, myriads of fire-flies came and illumined the place with their tiny lamps sufficient for their purpose.
My compact with the "three little maids from school" takes me down into the city on something of a detour from my nearest road out next morning. The detour is well repaid, however; besides the singing and organ-playing promised, the many departments of industrial study into which the school is divided are very interesting. Laces and embroidery for the Tokio market, dresses for themselves and to sell, are made by the girls, the proceeds going toward the maintenance of the institution. One of the most curious scholarships of the place is the teaching of what is known as the "Japanese ceremony." It seems to be a perpetuation of some old court ceremony of making tea for the Mikado. Expressing a wish to see the ceremony, I am conducted to a small room divided off by the usual sliding paper panels. A class of girls are kneeling in a row, confronting a very neat-looking old lady who sits beside a small brazier of coals. The old lady is the teacher; when she claps her hands, one of the paper screens slides gently aside and one of the scholars enters, bearing a small lacquer tray with tiny teapot and cups, a canister of tea, and various other paraphernalia. There is really very little to the "ceremony," the graceful motions of the tea-maker being by far the more interesting part of the performance. The tea used is finely powdered and comes from Uji, where it is grown especially for the use of the Mikado's household. The tea-dust is mixed with hot water by means of a curiously splintered bamboo mixer that looks very much like a shaving-brush. The result is a very aromatic cup of tea, delicious to the nostrils, but hardly acceptable to the European palate.
My jinrikisha-man of yesterday precedes me through the streets, shouting the "honk, honk, honk." of the mail-runners, to clear the way. To see him cleave a way through the multitudes for me to follow, keeping up a six-mile pace the while, swinging his arms like a windmill, one might well imagine me a real dai-mio on wheels with faithful samurai-runner ahead, warning away the common herd from my path.
At Kioto begins the Tokaido, the most famous highway of Japan, a road that is said to have been the same great highway of travel, that it is to-day, for many centuries. It extends from Kioto to Tokio, a distance of three hundred and twenty-five miles.
Another road, called the Nakasendo, the "Road of the Central Mountains," in contradistinction to the Tokaido, the "Road of the Eastern Sea," also connects the old capital with the new; but, besides being somewhat longer, the Nakasendo is a hillier road, and less interesting than the Tokaido. After leaving the city the Tokaido leads over a low pass through the hills to Otsu, on the lovely sheet of water known as Biwa Lake.
This lake is of about the same dimensions as Lake Geneva, and fairly rivals that Switzer gem in transcendental beauty. The Japs, with all their keen appreciation of the beauties of nature, go into raptures over Biwa Lake. Much talk is made of the "eight beauties of Biwa." These eight beauties are: The Autumn Moon from Ishi-yama, the Evening Snow on Hira-yama, the Blaze of Evening at Seta, the Evening Bell of Mii-dera, the Boats sailing back from Yabase, a Bright Sky with a Breeze at Awadzu, Bain by Night at Karasaki, and the Wild Geese alighting at Katada. All the places mentioned are points about the lake. All sorts of legends and romantic stories are associated with the waters of Lake Biwa. Its origin is said to be due to an earthquake that took place several centuries before the Christian era; the legend states that Fuji rose to its majestic height from the plain of Suruga at the same moment the lake was formed. Temples and shrines abound, and pilgrims galore come from far-off places to worship and see its beauties.
One object of special curiosity to tourists is a remarkable pine-tree, whose branches have been trained in horizontal courses over upright posts, until it forms a broad shelter over several hundred square yards. A smaller imitation of the large tree is also spreading to ambitious proportions on the Tokaido side.
Snow has fallen and rests on the upper slopes of the mountains overlooking the lake, little steamers and numerous sailing-craft are plying on the smooth waters, and wild geese are flying about. With these beauties on the left and tea-gardens on the right, the Tokaido leads through rows of stately pines, and past numerous villages along the lake shore.
The Nakasendo branches off to the left at the village of Kusa-tsu, celebrated for the manufacture of riding-whips. Through Ishibe and beyond, to where it crosses the Yokota-gawa, the Tokaido continues level and good. Near the crossing of this stream is a curious stone monument, displaying the carved figures of three monkeys covering up their eyes, mouth, and ears, to indicate that they will "neither see, hear, nor say any evil thing." All through here the country is devoted chiefly to growing tea; very pretty the undulating ridges and rolling slopes of the broken foot-hills look, set out in thick, bushy, well-defined rows and clumps of dark, shiny tea-plants.
Down a very steep declivity, by sharp zigzags, the Tokaido suddenly dips into the little valley of the Yasose-gawa. At the foot of the hill is a curious shrine cave, containing several rude idols, a trough with tame goldfish, and one of the crudest Buddhas I ever saw. The aim of the ambitious sculptor of Buddhas is to produce a personification of "great tranquillity." The figure in the Valley of Yasose-gawa is certainly something of a masterpiece in this direction; nothing could well be more tranquil than an oblong bowlder with the faintest chiselling of a mouth and nose, poised on the top of an upright slab of stone rudely chipped into a dim semblance of the human form.
A mile or two farther and my day's ride of forty-six miles terminates at the village of Saka-no-shita. A comfortable yadoya awaits me here, no better nor worse, however, than almost every Jap village affords; but on the Tokaido the innkeepers are more accustomed to European guests than they are south of Kobe. Every summer many European and American tourists journey between Yokohama and Kobe by jinrikisha.
At this yadoya I first become acquainted with that peculiar institution of Japan, the blind shampooer. Seated in my little room, my attention is attracted by a man who approaches on hands and knees, and butts his shaven pate accidentally against the corner of the open panel that forms my door. He halts at the entrance and indulges in the pantomime of pinching and kneading his person; his mission is to find out whether I desire his services. For a small gratuity the blind shampooer of Japan will rub, knead, and press one into a pleasant sensation from head to foot. This office is relegated to sightless individuals or ugly old women; many Japs indulge in their services after a warm bath, finding the treatment very pleasant and beneficial, so they say.
One of the most amusing illustrations of Jap imitativeness is displayed in the number of American clocks one sees adorning the walls of the yadoyas in nearly every village. The amusing feature of the thing is that the owners of these time-pieces seem to have the vaguest ideas of what they are for. One clock on the wall of my yadoya indicates eleven o'clock, another half-past nine, and a third seven-fifteen as I pull out in the morning. Other clocks through the village street vary in similar degree. Watching out for these widely varying clocks as I wheel through the villages has come to be one of the diversions of the day's ride.
The road averages good, although somewhat hilly in places, from Saka-no through lovely valleys and pine-clad mountains to Yokka-ichi. Yokka-ichi is a small seaport, whence most travellers along the Tokaido take passage to Miya in the steam passenger launches plying between these points. The kuruma road, however, continues good to the Ku-wana, ten miles farther, whence, to Miya, one has to traverse narrower paths through a flat section of rice-fields, dikes, canals, and sloughs.
A ri beyond Okabe and the pass of Utsunoya necessitates a mile or two of trundling. Here occurs a tunnel some six hundred feet in length and twelve wide; a glimmer of sunshine or daylight is cast into the tunnel by a system of simple reflectors at either entrance. These are merely glass mirrors, set at an angle to reflect the rays of light into the tunnel.
Descending this little pass the Tokaido traverses a level rice-field plain, crosses the Abe-kawa, and approaches the sea-coast at Shidzuoka, a city of thirty thousand inhabitants. The view of Fuji, now but a short distance ahead, is extremely beautiful; the smooth road sweeps around the gravelly beach, almost licked by the waves. The breakers approach and recede, keeping time to the inimitable music of the surf; vessels are dotting the blue expanse; villages and tea-houses are seen resting along the crescent-sweep of the shore for many a mile ahead, where Fuji slopes so gracefully down from its majestic snow-crowned summit to the sea.
It is indeed a glorious ride around the crescent bay, through the sea-shore villages of Okitsu, Yui, Kambara, and Iwabuchi to Yoshiwara, a little town on the footstool of the big, gracefully sweeping cone. The stretch of shore hereabout is celebrated in Japanese poetry as Taga-no-ura, from the peculiarly beautiful view of Fuji obtained from it.
This remarkable mountain is the highest in Japan, and is probably the finest specimen of a conical mountain in existence. Native legends surround it with a halo of romance. Its origin is reputed to be simultaneous with the formation of Biwa Lake, near Kioto, both mountain and lake being formed in a single night--one rising from the plain twelve thousand eight hundred feet, the other sinking till its bed reached the level of the sea.
The summit of Fuji is a place of pilgrimage for Japanese ascetics who are desirous of attaining "perfect peace" by imitating Shitta-Tai-shi, the Japanese Buddha, who climbed to the summit of a mountain in search of nirvana (calm). Orthodox Japs believe that the grains of sand brought down on the sandals of the pilgrims ascend to the summit again of their own accord during the night.
Tradition is furthermore responsible for the belief that snow disappears entirely from the mountain for a few hours on the fifteenth day of the sixth moon, and begins to fall again during the following night. Formerly an active volcano, Fuji even now emits steam from sundry crevices near the summit, and will some day probably fill the good people at Yoshiwara and adjacent villages with a lively sense of its power. Fuji is the special pride of the Japs, its loveliness appealing strongly to the national sense of landscape beauty. Of it their poet sings:
"Great Fusiyama, tow'ring to the sky. A treasure art thou, giv'n to mortal man, A god-protector watching o'er Japan: On thee forever let me feast mine eye."
Fuji is passed and left behind, and sixteen miles reeled off from Yoshiwara, when Mishima, my destination for the night, is reached. A festival in honor of Oyama-tsumi-no-Kami, the god of "mountains in general," is being held here; for, behold, to-day is November 15th, the "middle day of the bird," one of the several festivals held in his honor every year. The big temple grounds are swarming with people, and pedlers, stalls, jugglers, and all sorts of attractions give the place the appearance of a country fair.
Leaving the bicycle outside, I wander in and stroll about among the crowds. Sacred ponds on either side of the footway are swarming with sacred fish. An ancient dame is doing a roaring trade, in a small way, in feathery bread-puffs, which the people buy and throw to the fish, for the fun of seeing them swarm around and eat.
Interested groups are gathered around veritable fac-similes of the Yankee "street-men," selling to credulous villagers little boxes of powder for "coating things with silver." Others are selling song-books, attracting customers by the novel and interesting performances of a quartette of pretty girls, who sing song after song in succession. Here also are little travelling peep-shows, containing photographic scenes of famous temples and places in distant parts of the country.
Among the various shrines in this temple is one dedicated to an ancient wood-cutter, who used to work and spend his wages on drink for his aged father, who was now too old to earn money for the purpose himself. At his father's demise the son was rewarded for his filial devotion by the discovery of a "cascade of pure sake."
A gayly decorated car and a closed tumbril, that looks very much like an old ammunition-wagon, have been wheeled out of their enclosures for the occasion. Strings of little bells are suspended on these; mothers hold their little ones up and allow them to strike these bells, toss a coin into the contribution-box, and pass on. The vehicles probably contain relics of the gods.
A wooden horse, painted red, stands in solemn and lonely state behind the wooden bars of his stall--but I have almost registered a vow against temples and their belongings, in Japan, so inexplicable are most of the things to be seen. A person who has delved into the mysteries of Japanese mythology would no doubt derive much satisfaction from a visit to the Oyama-tsumi-uo-Kami temple, but the average reader would weary of it all after seeing others. What to ordinary mortals signify such hideous mythological monsters as saru-tora-hebi (monkey-tiger-serpent), or the "Twenty-four Paragons of Filial Piety" on the architrave. Yet, of such as these is the ornamentation of all Japanese temples. Some few there are that are admirable as works of art, but most of them are hideous daubs and representations more than passing rude.
Down the street near my yadoya, within a boarded enclosure, a dozen wrestlers are giving an entertainment for a crowd of people who have paid two sen apiece entrance-fee. The wrestlers of Japan form a distinct class or caste, separated from the ordinary society of the country by long custom, that prejudices them against marrying other than the daughter of one of their own profession. As the biggest and more muscular men have always been numbered in the ranks of the wrestlers, the result of this exclusiveness and non-admixture with physical inferiors is a class of people as distinct from their fellows as if of another race. The Japanese wrestler stands head and shoulders above the average of his countrymen, and weighs half as much more. As a class they form an interesting illustration of what might be accomplished in the physical improvement of mankind by certain Malthusian schemes that have been at times advocated.
Within a twelve-foot arena the sturdy athletes struggle for the mastery, bringing to bear all their strength and skill. No "hippodroming" here: stripped to the skin, the muscles on their brown bodies standing out in irregular knots, they fling one another about in the liveliest manner. The master of ceremonies, stiff and important, in a faultless gray garment bearing a samurai crest, stands by and wields the fiddle-shaped lacquered insignia of his high office, and utter his orders and decisions in an authoritative voice.
The wrestlers squat around the ring and shiver, for the evening is cold, until called out by the master of ceremonies. The two selected take a small handful of salt from baskets of that ingredient suspended on posts, and fling toward each other. They then advance into the arena, and furthermore challenge and defy their opponent by stamping their bare feet on the ground, in a manner to display their superior muscularity. Another order from the gentleman wielding the fiddle-shaped insignia, and they rush violently together, engage in a "catch-as-catch-can" scuffle, which, in less than half a minute usually, results in a decisive victory for one or the other. The master of ceremonies waves them out of the ring, straightens himself up, assumes a very haughty expression, until he looks like the very important personage he feels himself to be, and announces the name of the victor to the spectators.
The one portion of the Tokaido impassable with a wheel commences at Mishima, the famous Hakone Pass, which for sixteen miles offers a steep surface of rough bowlder-paved paths. Coolies at Mishima make their livelihood by carrying goods and passengers over the pass on kagoa (the Japanese palanquin). Obtaining a couple of men to carry the bicycle, the chilly weather proves an inducement for following them afoot, rather than occupy a kago myself. The block road is broad enough for a wagon, being constructed, no doubt, with a view to military transport service. The long steep slopes are literally carpeted in places with the worn-out straw shoes of men and horses.
The country observed from the elevation of the Hakone Pass is extremely beautiful, the white-tipped cone of the magnificent Fuji towering over all, like a presiding genius. Near the hamlet of Yamanaka is a famous point, called Fuji-mi-taira (terrace for looking at Fuji). Big cryptomerias shade the broad stony path along much of its southern slope to Hakone village and lake.
Hakone is a very lovely and interesting region, nowadays a favorite summer resort of the European residents of Tokio and Yokohama. From the latter place Hakone Lake is but about fifty miles distant, and by jinrikisha and kago may be reached in one day. The lake is a most charming little body of water, a regular mountain-gem, reflecting in its clear, crystal depths the pine-clad slopes that encompass it round about, as though its surface were a mirror. Japanese mythology peopled the region round with supernatural beings in the early days of the country's history, when all about were impenetrable thickets and pathless woods. Until the revolution of 1868, when all these old feudal customs were ruthlessly swept away, the Tokaido here was obstructed with one of the "barriers," past which nobody might go without a passport. These barriers were established on the boundaries of feudal territories, usually at points where the traveller had no alternate route to choose.
A magnificent avenue of cryptomeria shades the Tokaido for a short distance out of Hakone village; on the left is passed a large government sanitarium, one of those splendid modern-looking structures that speak so eloquently of the present Mikado's progressive and enlightened policy. The road then turns up the steep mountain-slopes, fringed with impenetrable thickets of bamboo. Fuji, from here, presents a grand and curious sight. The wind has risen, and the summit of the cone is almost hidden behind clouds of drifting snow, which at a distance might almost be mistaken for a steamy eruption of the volcano. Close by, too, the spirit of the wind moves through the bamboo-brakes, rubbing the myriad frost-dried flags together and causing a peculiar rustling noise--the whispering of the spirits of the mountains.
The summit reached, the Tokaido now leads through glorious pine-woods, descending toward the valley of the Sakawagawa by a series of breakneck zigzags. The region is picturesque in the extreme; a small mountain-stream tumbles along through a deep ravine on the left, mountains tower aloft on the other side, and here and there give birth to a cataract that tumbles and splashes down from a height of several hundred feet.
By 1 p.m. Yomoto and the recommencement of the jinrikisha road is reached; a broiled fish and a bottle of native beer are consumed for lunch, and the kago coolies dismissed. The road from Yomoto is a gradual descent, for four miles, to Odawara, a town of some thirteen thousand inhabitants, on the coast. The road now becomes level and broader than heretofore; vehicles drawn by horses mingle with the swarms of jinrikishas and pedestrians. Both horses and drivers of the former seem sleepy, woe-begone and careless, as though overcome with a consciousness of being out of place.
Gangs of men are dragging stout hand-carts, loaded with material for the construction of the Tokaido railway, now rapidly being pushed forward. Every mile of the road is swarming with life--the strangely interesting life of Japan. Thirty miles from Yomoto, and Totsuka provides me a comfortable yadoya, where the people quickly show their knowledge of the foreigner's requirements by cooking a beefsteak with onions, also in the morning by charging the first really exorbitant price I have been confronted with along the Tokaido. Totsuka is within the treaty limits of Yokohama. A mile or so toward Yokohama I pass, in the morning, the "White Horse Tavern," kept in European style as a sort of road-house for foreigners driving out from that city or Tokio.
A fierce wind, blowing from the south, fairly wafts me along the last eleven miles of the Tokaido, from Totsuka to Yokohama. The wind, indeed, has been generally favorable since the rain-storm at Okabe, but it fairly whistles this morning. It calls to mind the Kansas wheelman, who claimed to have once spread his coat-tails to the breeze and coasted from Lawrence to Kansas City in three hours. Unfortunately I am wearing a coat the pattern of which does not admit of using the tails for sails otherwise the homestretch of the tour around the world might have provided one of the most unique incidents of the many I have encountered on the journey.
A battery of field-artillery, the smartest seen since leaving Germany, is encountered in the streets of Kanagawa, at which point the road to Yokohama branches off from the Tokaido. The great Imperial highway, along which I have travelled from the old capital almost to the new, continues on to the latter, seventeen miles farther. Since the completion of the railway between Tokio and Kanagawa, travellers journeying from the capital down the Tokaido usually ride on the train to Kanagawa, so that the jinrikisha journey proper nowadays commences at the latter city.
Kanagawa is practically a suburban part of Yokohama: one Japanese-owned clock observed here points to the hour of eight, another to eleven, and a third to half past-nine, but the clock at the Club Hotel, on the Yokohama bund, is owned by an Englishman, and is just about striking ten, when the last vault from the saddle of the bicycle that has carried me through so many countries is made. And so the bicycle part of the tour around the world, which was begun April 22, 1884, at San Francisco, California, ends December 17, 1886, at Yokohama.
At this port I board the Pacific mail steamer City of Peking, which in seventeen days lands me in San Francisco. Of the enthusiastic reception accorded me by the San Francisco Bicycle Club, the Bay City Wheelmen, and by various clubs throughout the United States, the daily press of the time contains ample record. Here, I beg leave to hope that the courtesies then so warmly extended may find an echoing response in this long record of the adventures that had their beginning and ending at the Golden Gate.
Text, code and images © Ray Schumacher 2005