CHINA AND JAPAN
Arrival at Nagasaki -- Lovely scenery -- Sham forts -- Singular boats -- Visit from Japanese officials -- Present of fruits, poultry, etc., to Commodore Tattnall from the Governor -- The "Jack of Clubs" -- Visit to the Governor -- Smiling welcome from the natives -- Description of the Governor's resi-dence -- Dress of the high officials -- Happy looking people -- Their courteous manners -- Female dress -- The bazaars -- Tempting goods -- Heathen temples -- The wax-plant -- Japanese riding-school -- Early inter-course with the Dutch -- National traits -- Domestic life -- Visit of the Governor to the Powhatan -- Liberty to the crew -- Extensive purchases by the officers.
After a pleasant passage of nearly four days we reached our destined port, and when I was called on deck at 6 o'clock in the morning to "bring ship to anchor," I looked around in amazement and delight at finding that we were in the act of entering one of the most beautiful bays I had ever beheld. As we progressed toward our anchorage new beauties and scenes, each of which seemed more strange and picturesque than the last, crowded upon our view, until we came within half a mile of the handsome city of Nagasaki, situated at the head of the bay known by the same name.
The island of Iwosima, on the eastern side of the entrance, is elevated some 500 feet above the level of the sea, and on its summit is placed a telegraph station, from which the approach of vessels in the distance is made known to the guard kept in a small fort built on an island on the opposite side of the bay, who immediately fire a gun, the sound of which is repeated from hill-top to hill-top by others stationed at regular intervals, until it reaches the city of Yedo, distant nearly seven hundred miles. Islands of picturesque form rise abruptly from the water, most of them covered with verdure, while others are too rocky and precipitous to admit of vegetation. The most remarkable of these is situated about a mile and a half from the western edge of Iwosima, and is called, in the language of the country, Taka Boko, or the mountain of the Bamboos, but the Dutch gave it the name of Pappenberg more than two centuries ago, and it has since retained its foreign appellation. It was from the precipitous heights of this small island that thousands of Christians were cast headlong into the sea, during the terrible persecution of that sect, which continued almost without intermission from the year 1586 to 1638. Foreign vessels were formerly prohibited from proceeding beyond this point, and we found a guard-boat stationed here with a government official in charge, but he made no show of opposition to our progress, and as we were bound to go on, it was just as well that he saved himself the useless effort, and continued in the quiet enjoyment of his pipe. Embowered amidst the foliage which crowned the rock, could be seen a cosy little dwelling, peeping out like a shy beauty from the dark foliage which surrounded it, and having a road leading from its sheltered nook to the landing below on the eastern side. Clusters of neat looking houses, with high thatched roofs, were seen snugly reposing in the beautiful valleys running up between the hills, which frequently terminated abruptly at the water's edge. Guns of large calibre were discovered on each side of the bay, mounted generally upon low mounds, raised on all the salient points, and covered with sheds to protect them from the weather. A few soldiers keep "watch and ward" near each of these batteries, but they have the appearance of being placed there more for the purpose of presenting a warlike aspect than as any practical means of defence -- an idea even more forcibly suggested by the long lines of cotton-cloth, with black squares painted upon them at regular intervals, to represent gun-ports, which we saw at three different points in the bay. Passing the island of Pappenberg, the ship's head is turned directly up the bay at its narrowest point, being not more than half a mile in width, the gently sloping hills rising on each side in every graceful and picturesque variety of form, up to the anchorage near the city, which is built principally on the level ground of a rich and romantic valley between two of the hills at the head of the bay, running up their sides to a considerable height. Above the habitations of the living, could be discerned the neat and simple gravestones which invariably mark the resting-places of the dead in this civilized but as yet un-christianized country.
Boats of singular construction, and propelled in a somewhat novel manner by athletic men almost in a state of nudity, swarmed around the ship, and could be seen moving slowly over the clear waters of the beautiful harbor in every direction, many of them carrying living cargoes of men and women, all of whom stared at our monster steamer with undisguised amazement. The larger class of boats appeared to have something of an official character; and to distinguish them from the others, they wore a flag on each quarter, suspended from a pole some eight or ten feet in length, with a short rod placed at right angles, to stretch the flag so that the figures thereon could be plainly seen, giving the arrangement somewhat the appearance of a sign for a country tavern. Our anchor had been dropped but a few moments when one of these high-prowed craft was sculled alongside in rapid style, by four jolly looking fellows, while the same number of sober, genteel officials were seated on their haunches in the bottom of the boat, or rather on a low platform raised from the sides. These officials were soon on board with some of their attendants, bearing baskets of poultry, fruits, and vegetables, as a complimentary offering of hospitality from the Governor to our Commander-in-chief. They all gave unmistakable evidence of astonishment at the size of the ship and her equipments -- asked numerous questions relative to the object of our visit, whence we came, etc. -- one of them speaking English quite intelligibly. This rather outré looking gentleman proved to be one of the government interpreters, and from his peculiar costume, was immediately dubbed the "Jack of Clubs" by one of the wags among the crew, which soubriquet adhered to him during all our subsequent visits to Nagasaki. He wore tight fitting breeches, into which his extremities appeared to have been moulded, with straw sandals on his feet, and the ordinary silk tunic worn by all officials and gentlemen, over the upper part of his person, while two formidable looking swords thrust through his girdle, and gently lifting the skirt of his garment behind, gave token of his official dignity, and subject for ridicule to his less elegantly attired beholders. After a short and interesting interview with Commodore Tattnall, our visitors returned on shore, whither they were soon followed by the Flat-Lieutenant, commissioned to call upon the Governor and thank him for his courtesy, and at the same time to request him to appoint a day and hour when it would be agreeable to receive a visit from the American Naval Commander-in-Chief. The day succeeding our arrival was named for this purpose, and at the appointed hour the Commodore, attended by ten commissioned officers from the ship, proceeded on shore to pay this visit of ceremony. I had the honor of forming one of the party, and it was certainly one of the most interesting occasions of the sort within my experience. Being a state affair, the officers, of course, were all dressed in full uniform, with epaulettes, cocked hats, and swords; and as we marched through the streets, a distance of something more than a mile to the Governor's palace, our appearance excited the liveliest curiosity, and seemingly the most agreeable surprise on the part of the native population. We were greeted by smiles of welcome from both sexes, of all ages and conditions, though here and there a chubby urchin would be seen scampering out of our line of march, as if he apprehended instant destruction.
"Ohi-o," and "bouton cassi," signifying "how-d'ye-do," and "give me a button," were the only intelligible sounds in their language which met our ears; and they seemed to come from so many lips at once, that any response on our part would have been equally useless and indecorous, considering the dignified character of the service upon which we were employed. Arriving at the Governor's residence, we were struck by the neatness and simplicity of its exterior, and prepared, in some measure, for the greatest display of these characteristics which we found within. Grave and respectful officials, with smooth-shaven heads, and the inevitable pair of swords in their girdles, received us at the entrance, and conducted us through the large hall, or ante-chamber, to the reception room beyond. All the floors were covered with matting three inches in thickness, and spotlessly clean -- the custom of the country requiring the removal of the sandals worn by the natives, before entering any room covered with it; and but for the respectful consideration for foreign peculiarities, which prevails to a great extent among the Japanese, this rule would have been equally obligatory upon their visitors. The true politeness which always suggests conformity to the regulations of a host's establishment, caused us to feel really reluctant to soil the nice matting with our dusty boots; and our Commander and his suite walked into the presence of the Governor somewhat after the manner of cats on wet ground.
The first symptom of furniture of any description in this extensive building, was here made manifest in the shape of a row of small tables on each side of the room, with arm-chairs placed near them, of primitive construction, but beautifully polished with lacquer. In these chairs we were soon seated, in the order of our respective military rank. The venerable Governor and his Vice were similarly placed immediately opposite, with two or three subordinate officials standing in the rear; while the Japanese Interpreter was stationed, on his knees, in the vacant space between the "high contracting parties," in company with a "jolly" Dutchman from the steam-frigate Mississippi, in whose native tongue sundry complimentary expressions were conveyed from our distinguished Commander-in-Chief to the Japanese linguist, who repeated them to the Governor in his own language, and received his replies.
The Governor appeared to be an intelligent and polished gentleman -- his age not far from sixty -- and it was understood that he was expecting soon to be removed to a more important post at Yedo, when the Vice-Governor present would become his successor. The latter gentleman was evidently a specimen of "young Japan," being only about thirty years of age, and presenting the general appearance of a "jolly good fellow." The costume of these high officials differed from any we had seen before, having, in addition to the silk tunic, an outer garment extending several inches beyond each shoulder, and sloping toward the waist before and behind; the material of which they were made was of delicate texture and light color, stiffly starched, giving them rather an Episcopal aspect. The most cordial good will was expressed on both sides, and numerous questions were asked by the Governor relative to our country, etc., the replies being listened to with great apparent interest. The Japanese were all dressed in exceedingly neat and tasteful costumes, admirably adapted to the climate, and entirely without ornament, -- all, however, wearing two handsome swords in their girdles, the universal appendages to every gentleman's dress. The ordinary people only wear one sword; and there is a law of the land which prohibits the people from disposing of their swords to foreigners, upon any terms whatever. The ostensible part of our visit being accomplished, refreshments were placed before us, consisting of fish, chicken, and vegetables, served up in the minutest particles on small wooden plates, accompanied with sundry condiments to impart a relish to the otherwise insipid dishes; among these was a dark liquid called "soya," extracted from the ordinary white bean, and resembling in flavor the English fish sauce. It having been hinted to us by our Dutch friend from the Mississippi -- which ship had preceded us in our visit to the port -- that etiquette required us to partake of all the viands placed before us, we proceeded to devote ourselves with due zeal to the task at hand, each individual playing his part with more or less energy, according to the state of his appetite, and the confiding disposition which led him to take upon trust the unknown dishes provided for consumption. I rather think, however, we all acquitted ourselves very creditably on the occasion, and that the Governor had no reason to complain of injustice done to his hospitality.
This agreeable part of our ceremonial visit being concluded, we took our departure in the same quiet and stately manner with which we had entered the presence; but fairly in the street again, each was eager to express the surprise and admiration created in every breast by the easy and elegant affability of Japanese gentlemen, as represented by the two distinguished officials whom we had just left -- far exceeding the impressions derived from a perusal of the various books that have been written to describe the country and its people.
Instead of returning immediately to the ship, the majority of our party strolled through the clean and quiet streets thronged though they were with a multitude of happy-looking people, of all ages, who seemed to regard us with intense interest, but without the remotest approach to fear or contempt. Any demonstration on our part of a desire to become acquainted, was received by them with eager cordiality, frequently attended, however, with urgent appeals for our buttons, which could not have been more eagerly coveted by these unsophisticated people had they been made of pure gold, which probably they supposed was the case.
The costume of a large portion of the female inhabitants whom we encountered, could not fail to excite our attention and surprise -- the first because, in many instances, it gratified our admiration of the beauties of nature, and the latter from the perfect unconsciousness manifested by the fair creatures with regard to the sensation they were creating, by what seemed to us too liberal a display of their charms. Females of all ages wear the same description of dress; a gown made just wide and long enough to cover the person down to the ankles; the number of these garments worn at one time, depending upon the temperature of the air, or the fancy of the individual; a belt of stouter material, generally silk, confines this primitive raiment around the waist, and at the same time keeps in position a sort of scarf which is folded into a square form, and rests upon the person behind, in such a position as to answer the purpose of a cushion when they sit down. The upper part of these garments is thrown off in warm weather, and confined to the waist by the girdle alone, without which they would disappear entirely. They do not appear in the slightest degree abashed at this partial exposure of their persons, and make no attempt to conceal themselves from the gaze of strangers. The hair is brushed back from the forehead and temples, and raised on the back of the head in large folds, which are kept in shape by hair-pins of inordinate dimensions, made of horn, bone, or silver, as the circumstances or taste of the wearer may dictate. Married women black their teeth after they become mothers, by applying the strong acid of which the lacquer is made, and which is found in a species of oak indigenous to the country. The unmarried women -- and, indeed, the people generally -- have very fine white teeth; many of the young girls are quite pretty, with rosy cheeks, and an animated, sprightly air, which renders them attractive, notwithstanding their dark color.
One of the officers of the Mississippi being in our company, served as a guide to the Russian and Dutch Bazaars, the former of which is situated within the city, and the latter on the Island of Decima, to which the Dutch residents have long been confined. While passing through the streets, we had given hasty glances toward a variety of curious and beautiful articles peculiar to the country, which were displayed in the shops; but on entering the Russian Bazaar, we were astonished at every step by the specimens of highly finished lacquer ware, bright-colored crockery, delicately woven and tastefully formed basket-work, handsome silks, and an infinite variety of bronze ornaments, at prices which seemed to us ridiculously cheap. Their vendors exhibited somewhat more than Yankee eagerness to "trade," and had already learned to charge a considerable advance upon the prices they were ultimately willing to accept for their goods. Before we could make any purchases, it became necessary to exchange our silver dollars for the paper currency then in use at Nagasaki, but which has since happily vanished on the introduction of the "almighty dollar." To effect this exchange, it was necessary to make the acquaintance of the obliging Treasury Agents, stationed in a neat little office within the same enclosure containing the Bazaar; where our business was dispatched in regular methodical order, without haste or confusion, though I must confess their calm imperturbability had rather an irritating effect upon the more impatient spirits among us, who were anxious to commence their purchases without delay; but we might as well expect to make time pass more quickly by shaking the hour-glass which marks its progress, as hope to expedite our business by any manifestations of being in haste to be gone. The polite officials smile amiably at our impatience, but make not the slightest effort to accelerate their movements in our behalf; evidently regarding us with the same indulgent feeling exhibited by a judicious nurse toward her young and unreasoning charge. Meanwhile, I will take advantage of the interval caused by the delay in receiving our change, to give my reader a brief account of this paper currency, which consisted of small strips of paper, similar to those which we use as candle-lighters, the size of the strip varying with the amount of taels it is intended to represent, and the denomination of the bill, if so respectable an appellation may be so unworthily applied,) being printed in Japanese characters on one side, and in Dutch on the other. The representative value of one tael, was twenty-three and one-third cents of our coin. The smaller change consisted of "mace," also of paper, valued at about two cents, and of "can" and "cash," made of copper and iron, which have an infinitesimal value. This currency has since been superseded by the gold and silver cobangs and itzebus; but the restriction which prohibits merchants from receiving any foreign coin, renders it exceedingly difficult and inconvenient to transact business, even upon the small scale to which naval officers generally are compelled to restrict their operations.
Having at last secured our taels, etc., we scattered around the large square containing the Bazaar, and proceeded to make our respective selections, each one intent upon driving a good bargain with the sharp but eager merchants; and it was amusing to hear the ingenious excuses we all invented for the purchase of perfectly useless, but rare and beautiful articles, which we bought simply on the ground that they were "so very cheap." I purchased first one little thing and then another, until I found myself with quite a collection of boxes, vases, etc., at very little cost. We paid the Dutch Bazaar a visit, also, where we found a greater variety of lacquer-ware of superior description, and when sunset warned us to return to our floating home, two or three boats were required to convey our purchases on board. I had not been so engrossed by admiration of the beautiful works of art presented to our view for the first time in the Bazaars, as entirely to disregard the numberless strange objects that pressed upon my attention in this hitherto secluded spot. The extraordinary harmony and cheerfulness which appeared to prevail among the people, the extreme cleanliness of the streets and houses, the numberless shops, the peculiar dress, or rather undress, of the women, the swarms of pretty children, ugly dogs, and cats without tails, that I encountered in passing through the streets, had all interested and amused me; and I resolved to embrace the earliest opportunity of becoming better acquainted with the past history and present condition of the city, as well as the country in general, which had been so recently introduced as a new member to the great family of nations. For this purpose I consulted the learned and truthful Kempfer on the past, and an intelligent and polite Dutch naval officer, who had been residing two years at Nagasaki, with regard to the present.
Captain Von Kattendyke, the Dutch gentleman alluded to, had been employed by the Japanese Government to instruct a number of the "young bloods" of the country in the mysteries of nautical science; and, for this purpose, had established on shore an excellent school for the theoretical branches, while an occasional cruise in a snug little screw steamer of about 500 tons, built in Holland, served to give them practical knowledge of the delights of a sailor's life, and of the manner of organizing and directing the movements of a man-of-war, according to the modern system. The Captain was assisted in his laudable endeavor to "teach the young idea how to shoot," by two able and accomplished Lieutenants, together with a Purser and Surgeon, all of whom resided on shore in the Dutch quarter of Decima, which, in the Japanese language, signifies Island in front of the town. The residence of the Dutch Commissioner, Donker Curtius, was also fixed on this island, in a neat stone building, with large and handsomely furnished rooms, in which he has spent the greater part of the last six years as Superintendent of the Dutch trade with Nagasaki.
I had the pleasure, on several occasions, of accompanying Capt. Von Kattendyke in an evening walk through the city and the suburbs, where the temples are usually to be found, and he proved a most instructive and agreeable cicerone, in not only bringing to my notice many objects of interest, but also in throwing considerable light on points which I might otherwise have found some difficulty in understanding. The temples are always situated on some beautiful eminence, and are surrounded by splendid trees, and the most luxuriant shrubbery -- affording, from their airy heights, such magnificent views of earth, sea, and sky, that we feel whoever located them must have possessed artistic taste, and a love of the beautified, in no ordinary degree. Passing through the gateway at the foot of the hill, which consists of two granite pillars, spanned at the top by a slab extending beyond them, we commenced the ascent by means of long flights of smooth, wide steps, interrupted occasionally by broad platforms, on each side of which are placed stone pillars, surmounted by carvings intended to represent lanterns. The upper platform is much wider than those below, and being extended greatly beyond the ordinary width of the steps, becomes the location for two small but highly ornamented edifices, one on each side, erected to some particular idols, before which lights are constantly kept burning. The entrance to the main temple is approached from this point by a short flight of steps extending nearly the entire width of the front, and, on entering, the attention is first attracted by an altar, placed in the rear of a large room, behind which are from two to five figures of monstrous proportions, in the human form, painted and gilded in the most elaborate and grotesque manner, and holding in their hands, as they sit in grim and solemn majesty, some emblem of the omnipotence they are supposed to possess. Braziers filled with ashes are placed before the altar, in which votive jos-sticks are kept constantly burning by the penitent or supplicating worshippers, who are coming and going at all hours of the day, and consist generally of the poorest and most ignorant class. There is great similarity in the construction and interior arrangement of all these Buddhist temples, and the difference between them and those dedicated to the worship of the various other sects existing in the country, is too small to be remarked by a casual observer, uninitiated in the mysteries of paganism.
From the temple consecrated to the rites and ceremonies by which the singular people propitiate their fabulous deities, I was conducted by the gallant Captain to the theatre, where we found the performers in full blast, under a roofing of mats covering a space about sixty feet square; the stage being in the centre, and the audience occupying a platform raised about three feet from the ground, and partially covered with soft matting, on which they were seated. There were several actors of both sexes, and varying in age from five to fifty years, who kept up a sort of improvised colloquy, which must have been extremely facetious, and well appreciated by the audience, judging from the shouts of laughter which occasionally made the rafters ring with mirth. The impossibility of comprehending the nature of the representation, or the language of the actors, suggested the propriety of making but a brief visit to this establishment; and taking leave, we walked to the side of a small stream running through the town, where my attention was directed to a mill worked by water power, where the berries which yield the beautiful white wax peculiar to Japan, are crushed and boiled down, and made into large square cakes for shipment. The trees on which the berries grow are about the size of our ordinary peach trees; they are gathered in the fall, and converted by a very simple process into the beautiful wax which has for centuries past formed an important article of commerce from this place. The Dutch formerly bought it at three cents per pound, and sold it in Holland at an immense advance on the original cost, but the increased demand created by the opening of the port to European and American commerce, has caused it to command a much higher price than formerly.
On a subsequent occasion I visited the riding-school for Japanese youths, conducted by the Dutch officers stationed at Nagasaki, where I found forty or fifty active young men, going through with sundry cavalry manoeuvres at the word of command, mounted on small but spirited horses. The equestrian performances were sufficiently ludicrous in themselves, but the extraordinary rig of the riders rendered the scene still more provocative of mirth, and I found great difficulty in maintaining the suitable gravity required by etiquette on the occasion. The legs of these young equestrians were encased in tight fitting drawers of blue cotton, and their bodies enveloped in the ample folds of a loose tunic reaching nearly to the knee, but the hat formed the most remarkable part of the dress; this consisted of a flat circular board brightened with lacquer, and having a concave centre to receive the crown of the head; to keep this singular invention firmly in position, it was necessary to use a complete network of lashings under the chin, and around the neck and face, producing the general effect of a man in a cross-barred helmet, flattened at the top. The style of saddle used by these hardy aspirants for military distinction was admirably calculated to produce indurations on their persons, if not to excite their pugnacious propensities, consisting of nothing more than a roughly made tree, with a thin covering of leather, and the stirrups were the most ingenious arrangement for cramping the feet which could well be devised -- being made of iron half an inch thick, in the form of a Turkish slipper, so that the toes rest against the inner side of the curve, and the heel on the other end, which is also turned upward. The constant attention of the rider is required to keep these unwieldy appendages from coming in contact with the sides of the horse -- an event which is usually followed by the most uncomfortable, not to say unsafe, plunges and kickings on the part of these vicious little brutes.
Until this port was opened to foreign commerce, on the 4th of July, 1858, the advances made by the Japanese in adopting the "go-ahead" principles of Yankee enterprise, were not very great; the Dutch having been content, during the 225 years they had enjoyed the almost exclusive possession of the trade with this remarkable people, to reap the large profits accruing from their commercial intercourse, without caring much to advance the civilization and improvement of the people. Their exportations amounted in the aggregate to between three and four hundred thousand dollars per annum, upon which they made enormous profits, and their importations were, also, a source of immense gain. The restrictions imposed upon them by the Japanese, will account, in great measure, for the apparent lack of commercial energy, as there can be no doubt that the Dutch were fully sensible of the importance of extending their operations, if they could only have secured the privilege from the suspicious and exacting people with whom they had to deal. Koempfer, although a Dutchman himself, is the best authority on this subject. He says:
"The Dutch, allured by the advantageous trade of the Portuguese, resolved, not long after the establishment of their East India Company, and in the very infancy of their navigations into the Indies, about the beginning of the last century, (he writes in 1727,) to make proper settlements in Japan, and to provide for the reception of the ships and goods which they intended to send thither every year. The first factory and habitation was built on a small island, not far from the town of Firando, and made contiguous to the same by a bridge. They were the more welcome and the better received, the greater enemies they were to those whom the supreme power had then already resolved to get rid of, and to expel the country, I mean the Portuguese. This nation, indeed, used their utmost endeavors, and all the interest and credit they had as yet preserved with several great men in the Empire, to crush the Dutch establishments in the very beginning, and to engross the whole trade to themselves; but all was in vain. The then reigning Emperor, Ijejas, who was after his death called Gongen, granted the Dutch, in the year 1601, a free trade to all his dominions, by an express Gosjunim, as they call it, which in the most literal sense implies a great Cinnabar mark, and must be understood of Imperial letters patent, signed by all the Councillors of State, and sealed with the red Imperial seal, whence the whole instrument hath borrowed its name. By virtue of these Imperial letters patents, the Dutch had leave to import and dispose of their goods in all parts of the Emperor's dominions, and this permission was backed with a strong recommendation to all his subjects to forward and to assist them as much as lay in their power, the whole in very significant and favorable terms and characters. After the death of Ijejas, the Dutch applied for a renewal of their privilege. This imprudent step being entirely contrary to the custom of the Japanese nation, which hath a great regard for, and inviolably keeps, the laws and promises made by their ancestors, their demand indeed was granted, and their privilege renewed, much upon the same terms, but in more disadvantageous characters. Meanwhile, the prosperity of the Portuguese nation was daily decreasing and hastening to a fatal period, the Dutch, on their side, left no stone unturned, upon their impending ruin, to build a foundation for their own establishment. No trouble, no expences, were spared to please the Emperor, upon whom alone all the good or bad success of their trade depended. Whatever could be thought of, was done to oblige the Councillors of State, particularly the Prince of Firando, and other great men, who had it in their power to promote or to hinder their credit and interest at court. The most exquisite curiosities of nature and art were purchased and brought over for the annual presents. The oddest and scarcest animals, in particular, were bought up in the remotest kingdoms of Europe, Persia, and the Indies, to have wherewithal to satisfie their demands, ridiculous and fanciful as they generally were, and of animals so strange in their nature, colours, and shape, as perhaps never existed in nature, though they pretended to give us the drawings of them in order to enable us to find them out. In short, the interests of the Dutch, and the great profits which were likely to accrue to their East India company from so advantageous a branch of trade, if they could maintain themselves in credit and favor with this nation, put them under an absolute necessity, blindly and passively to obey what commands were laid upon them, how hard and unreasonable soever. -- Our humble, complaisant and obliging conduct notwithstanding, we were so far from bringing this proud and jealous nation to any greater confidence, or more intimate friendship, that on the contrary, their jealousy and mistrust seem'd to increase in proportion to the many convincing proofs of sincerity and faithfulness we gave them, and that the better we deserved of them, the more they seem'd to hate and despise us, till at last, in the year 1641, soon after the total expulsion of the Portuguese, orders were sent to us to quit our old factory at Firando, to exchange the production of a good and indulgent Prince, for the severe and strict government at Nagasaki, and under a vary narrow inspection, to confine ourselves within that small island, I should rather say prison, which was built for the Portuguese. So great was the covetousness of the Dutch, and so great the alluring power of the Japanese gold, that rather than to quit the prospect of a trade, indeed most advantageous, they willingly underwent an almost perpetual imprisonment, for such in fact is our stay at Desima, and chose to suffer many hardships in a foreign and heathen country, to be remiss in performing Divine service on Sundays and solemn festivals, to leave off praying and singing of psalms in publick, entirely to avoid the sign of the cross, the calling upon Christ in the presence of the natives, and all the outward marks of Christianity, and lastly, patiently and submissively to bear the abusive and injurious behaviour of these proud Infidels towards us, than which nothing can be offered more shocking to a generous and noble mind."
Within the enclosure of this isolated and contracted space, the unhappy Dutchmen were kept under the most rigorous restrictions and the most suspicious system of espionage; there being an official of high responsibility, appointed by the Emperor, especially to supervise all their commercial transactions, and to guard against any infraction of the strict rules established for their government. Even their servants were made to act as spies upon their conduct, under an oath sealed with their own blood, to reveal every thing that came under their observation to the Ottona, or Japanese Governor of the Dutch, who in turn was obliged to communicate every event worthy of notice to the Governor of the city, by whom it was again conveyed to the Emperor himself, in the distant capital of Yedo.
Under these circumstances, it can scarcely excite surprise that the Dutch have not made greater progress toward Christianizing and modernizing this strange and peculiar people, possessing, as they unquestionably do, qualities which, according to our definition of right and wrong, seem totally incompatible with each other. It certainly seems difficult for us to realize that the most scrupulous regard for truth and upright dealing, the most faithful personal attachment, and the most chivalric sense of honor, should exist in the same character with a total disregard for the principles of temperance, chastity, and veneration for the rules of religion and society, as established among Christians. Yet there are instances, and unmistakeable evidences of these contradictory peculiarities among the Japanese, in a more extended and, I may say, universal sense, than among any other people in existence. The same man who would, without hesitation, sacrifice every worldly possession, and devote himself to the ascetic life of a hermit, in token of his overwhelming grief at the loss of a friend, pays not the slightest respect to the sanctity of the marriage vow, and does not hesitate to keep any number of concubines of which his means will permit, under the same roof with his lawful wife. In their conjugal relations, however, the men are said to be kind and indulgent, and it does not appear that any exception is taken by the wife to the number of handmaidens which her wedded lord may think proper to add to their household. The wives are universally chaste, I believe, though whether from principle, or lack of temptation, I am not prepared to say, but certainly the absence of eye-brows, and the blackened and decayed teeth, which invariably mark the wife, must be the reverse of attractive, and I pity the taste, as well as the fate, of the gay deceiver who might be inclined to lure her from the path of duty -- adultery, in Japan, being always punished by the death of both parties. The relation between parent and child appears to be of the most tender and trusting character -- no coercive measures are ever used, and my own experience perfectly agrees with that of Koempfer and other writers, who describe the children as being bound to their parents by the strongest ties of love and reverence. Great attention is paid to the early education of boys in the elementary branches, and it would be difficult to find one ten years of age, in any of the cities or villages, who could not read and write; but there is not so much importance attached to the early training of girls, it being generally considered unnecessary for them to be sent to school before they are old enough to enter one of the Ten Houses, where they are received at the age of eight years, and taught not only the essentials, but various accomplishments, such as music, dancing embroidery, etc. Nothing, in short, is left undone to render them attractive and agreeable as companions, upon the presumption that they are to become the wives and mothers of the succeeding generation, to a great extent, and to make them remunerative stock, they are condemned, at the age of twelve or fourteen, to the life of a courtezan, until their hands are sought in wedlock; the fact of the earliest years of their maturity being devoted to prostitution, forming no obstacle to their contracting the most auspicious matrimonial alliances.
The restrictions imposed upon the Dutch residents at Nagasaki were nothing more nor less than the legitimate and natural fruits of their own duplicity and dishonorable machinations, to deceive a guileless and unwary people, who had, nevertheless, the courage and the sagacity to detect and punish with what seems to us as barbarous cruelty, the crimes and derelictions of those for whose presence in their country they were only indebted to the rich rewards they hoped to reap from their self-imposed exile and expatriation. The Portuguese, who had preceded them in their efforts to acquire spiritual as well as temporal domain over their country, had exasperated the Imperial and hereditary authorities of the government to such a degree, that they apprehended the most serious disasters, not only to themselves, but to their people, unless they made determined and effectual resistance to the bigoted power by which they seemed to be gradually becoming enslaved. Can it, therefore, be a matter of surprise, that a people, susceptible of the most gentle and tender sympathies, having a natural sense of the obligations of religion of some sort, should eagerly have embraced the forms and ceremonies, never unattended by a certain degree of sincere feeling, of the Catholic religion, and that they should cheerfully have resigned themselves to the martyr's fate, when once they had professed the faith? Is it strange that those among them who never came within the reach of this powerful and mysterious influence, should have become alarmed at its probable effects upon their national and personal interests, or that having lived to the age of maturity without ever hearing of the pure and righteous teachings of the great Tutor of the Christian dispensation, they should have resisted, with the mighty hand of Imperial power, the encroachments and usurpations of a band of arrogant and presumptuous representatives of a religious creed, professed, apparently, solely for worldly aggrandizement? Apart from the suspicions created in their minds by the assumptions of the Portuguese and Spanish Jesuits, the frequent attempts of the Dutch navigators to infringe the revenue laws, afford quite sufficient justification of the strict surveillance, and even the offensive examinations, instituted and exercised over their movements and persons. It is my firm conviction, after nearly two years of intimate association and dealing, though in a limited way, with the Japanese, that they are at this moment the most reliable and word-keeping people, as a nation, in the world. Sagacious and intelligent they certainly are, and in no ordinary degree; but the tricks and quibbles of trade, as they exist among ourselves, were comparatively unknown to them until they were brought into contact with the European and American civilization of the present day. In making my little purchases at Nagasaki, consisting of porcelain and lacquered ware, with sundry little articles of bijouterie, intended as presents to my friends at home, I could not fail to perceive the striking change which was produced in the mode of dealing with the native merchants, even during the few days we remained among them. At first their prices seemed extremely low, and they adhered to them with the utmost pertinacity, but finding in a very short time, that no matter how small their charges, their new customers invariably expected them to make a considerable deduction before they could be induced to purchase, they very shrewdly increased their original demands sufficiently to enable them to "come down handsomely," without sustaining loss, thereby gaining not only their legitimate profits, but the reputation of liberal dealers.
Immediately abreast of our anchorage, in a small cove on the western side of the bay, several workshops had been erected under the superintendence of a Dutch engineer of great practical ability, and I had the curiosity to visit them one day, for the purpose of ascertaining the extent of the facilities afforded for repairing steam machinery. I found several substantial and well-finished turning-lathes, punches, and cutters, a small trip-hammer, and various other machines, all in good working order, with extensive preparations going forward for the erection of more important works. The principal machinists were Dutchmen, but there were some fifty Japanese mechanics of various trades employed in the different shops, who, I was informed, evinced great aptitude in learning the mechanical operations. I learned also that there were one or two princes in disguise among them, acquiring practical skill as machinists.
Two days after the visit of Commodore Tattnall and his suite to the Governor of the city, we had the honor of receiving that functionary and his numerous suite on board the Powhatan. They came off in grand style, forty-seven boats of various sizes being required to contain the party, many of which, however, were employed in towing the State barge, which was also propelled by sixteen scullers. This unwieldy specimen of naval architecture, was a large flat-bottomed boat, with a prow reaching five feet beyond the gunwale, from which a long swab-like appendage hung down nearly to the surface of the water. The entire length of the boat was covered with a roof of matting, with the exception of a few feet at each end, and between this roof and the movable deck laid in the bottom of the boat, there was a spacious platform covered with soft matting, and screened from the vulgar gaze by curtains of red and white crape, which hung in graceful folds down to the gunwales. Two immense streamers of red and white crape, in alternate stripes of each color, were displayed from the quarters, being attached at the upper ends to hoops two feet in diameter, to insure their proper display by permitting the air to pass through their folds. In addition to these the Imperial ensign, of white, with a red ball in the centre, was placed in the stern, while the official rank of the distinguished passengers was indicated by two long spears with guards, erected near the centre of the boat. The hull was about fifty feet in length, and at the widest part, near the stern, twelve or fourteen feet in breadth; the planking of the sides was extended two feet beyond the stern, which, according to the universal custom of the country in boat building, was left open amidship for greater facility of shipping and unshipping the rudder. There is a tradition among the foreigners who have visited Japan in earlier times, originating, I believe, with the sagacious Koempfer, that this peculiar construction of the stern, which is remarked in all their boats, is the result of an order from the government, intended to prevent the inhabitants from venturing far from the land, and thus encountering the dangers of ship-wreck or of being blown off the coast -- death being the punishment awarded to any Japanese who, by accident or design, might be thrown upon a foreign shore, and afterward return to his native country. This law has become obsolete, however, since the country has been thrown open to foreign intercourse. The Japanese never paint their boats, but they are so frequently scrubbed inside and out, that the greatest neatness of appearance is preserved. They still adhere to the ancient model.
While I have been describing the State barge, the Governor and Vice-governor, with eight or ten of the officials next in rank, have been making a thorough inspection of the noble proportions of the Powhatan and her equipments, and have been expressing, through the interpreters, their admiration of the neatness and system which they have found prevailing throughout her internal arrangements. They regarded everything with the most eager curiosity and undisguised astonishment, the battery especially -- the guns being of larger calibre and of a different form from any they had ever seen before. The pivot-gun on the forecastle, throwing a shell of eleven inches diameter, and capable of the most rapid training from one side of the ship to the other, excited their especial wonder. Great interest was manifested, also, in the machinery, it being altogether of a superior finish and on a much larger scale than anything of the kind they had ever seen before.
During this tour of inspection preparations had been made in the Commodore's cabin to entertain the party in the style of profuse hospitality, for which our chef is somewhat distinguished; and his guests were by no means slow in evincing their appreciation of the various delicacies placed before them, of which their benighted stomachs had hitherto been kept in a most lamentable state of ignorance. It was, however, a source of no small concern to the humane and sympathizing medicos, who were present, to contemplate the probable consequences of the extraordinary mixtures these novices in the science of gastronomy put under their tunics, as they were seen eating fruit-cake with sardines, and drinking champagne and fruit-punch alternately, from glasses held in each hand; but the results, whatever they were, never came to our knowledge. The party adjourned, with becoming dignity and decorum, about 2 P.M., and as the barge containing the Governor and his immediate suite got well clear of the battery, a salute of seventeen guns closed the ceremonies of the day.
First obtaining the Governor's consent, the crew of the Powhatan were permitted to go on shore at this place "on liberty," the constant employment of the ship on important service, having rendered it impracticable to grant them this indulgence since our sailing from the United States, eight months before. In consequence of the ignorance of the people of Nagasaki, concerning the peculiar habits of the genus "man-of-war's man," and our positive conviction that the crew of the Powhatan formed no exception to the general rule, or rather misrule of drunkenness and fighting, which constitute the chief sources of amusement to a majority of them when "on liberty," it was considered prudent to limit the number on shore to sixty each day, which would secure to them all a holiday in the course of four days, provided always that the number relieved from duty came on board at the expiration of the twenty-four hours for which leave was granted. In the course of five days all hands were again mustered at their quarters on board ship, no serious accident having occurred to any of the number while under the dominion of the rum-god, who, in this locality, assumes the sweet-sounding title of saki -- nor, what was of much more consequence, had they inflicted any injury upon the kind and inoffensive people amongst whom they had been thrown for the first time. The usual number of black eyes and bruised heads, resulting from a settlement of petty quarrels that had been accumulating for the previous eight months, seemed to be the only marked features of the long-deferred indulgence of Jack's desire for the delights of the shore; with the melancholy exception of the death of one of the coal-heavers, who came on board in a beastly state of intoxication, and laid down on the berth-deck to sleep off the effects. -- He was found in the same spot at daylight the next morning, when all hands were called to muster, stone-dead -- having been too far gone even to utter a groan, by which his situation might have been made known to those in his immediate vicinity.
Parties of officers visited the bazaars daily, and invariably returned to the ship at sunset, loaded with boxes and bundles of every shape and size that could possibly find stowage on board, and as the regulations prohibited their appearance in any part of the ship appropriated for general use, it soon became a matter of wondering conjecture when the packages mysteriously disappeared, what disposition could possibly have been made of them. Private store-rooms and state-rooms were filled to repletion, and yet room was made for more by that sort of ingenious contrivance in the economy of space, which forms part of the education of seafaring men.
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