CHINA AND JAPAN
Sail for Simoda -- Magnificent Scenery -- Fusi-yama -- A Native Pilot -- Description of the place -- Visit from Consul-General Harris -- Attention of the Imperial family to Mr. Harris during his Illness -- Lacquer Ware -- Proceed to Yedo with Mr. Harris -- Attempt of Japanese officials to head us off -- Commissioners visit the Ship -- The Treaty signed -- English Jealousy at the consummation of this event -- Return to Simoda -- Public Bathing-houses -- Christian Worship in a heathen temple -- Return to the coast of China.
We passed through Van Diemen's Straits in moderate weather and with a fair wind, the smoke from the Japanese coal we had taken on board at Nagasaki, curling up in dense black clouds between the fore and main-topsails, and sending a shudder of disgust and wrath through the nervous system of the Executive officer. On either side, volcanic islands raised their peaked cones to the height of several hundred feet above our deck, as we steamed lustily against the opposing current, and through strong overfalling tide-rips, along the beautiful coast of Kin-siu, Volcano Island on the right, Cape Tschitscha-goff on the left, and the island of Tanegasima to the eastward, all covered with shrubbery and verdure, reaching down to the wave-worn surface of their bases. The novelties we had met at every turn since our first discovery of the land near Nagasaki, had created an unusual interest in the navigation of the ship, so that even the "Idlers" as the "civil officers" of a man-of-war are technically, but not opprobriously styled, were constantly on deck during the day and great part of the night, gazing at the picturesque coast, only some five or six miles distant at several points, and seeming in momentary expectation of witnessing some extraordinary phenomenon of Nature, or a new development of her charms in the way of romantic scenery; and even the crew were not easily restrained from indulging their love of the beautiful in a similar way, to the neglect of their plodding routine of duties. The sight of the land was soon lost, however, after passing through the strait, and we saw nothing but the clear blue waves around us, and the bright sun-lit clouds floating serenely above us, all nature seeming to smile in approbation of our efforts to cultivate friendly intercourse with the inhabitants of the highly-favored land, with which we had so recently become acquainted. After a passage of two days and a half, we discovered the range of islands lying off to the southward and eastward of Cape Idzu, the most prominent object being the beautiful mountain of Fusi-yami, which rises 12,400 feet above the ocean, and is visible at the distance of a hundred miles from the coast; the weather continued remarkably clear and pleasant; and steaming boldly and rapidly toward this magnificent landmark, which lay in the direction of our port, we entered the harbor of Simoda in the afternoon of the 25th of July, and anchored near the Mississippi.
As we approached the anchorage, a large boat was seen coming toward us with the American flag at her stern, and six stalwart Japanese sculling away as if sent in hot haste by the Tycoon himself, to warn us off; the wheels stopped for a moment, and the boat was whirled alongside in the most seamanlike manner -- a native jumped from her on to the side-ladder, a rope was thrown to the boat's crew, who made it fast to the stern, and again the plunge of the ponderous wheels was heard as we steamed directly into the bay, there being no obstacle in our path except a sunken rock on the right, as indicated by a flag at the end of an iron rod stuck upon it. Our prompt and active visitor was soon ascertained to be a pilot, sent by our Consul-General, Townsend Harris, Esq., to point out to us the best anchoring ground -- an attention by no means unwelcome, though certainly unnecessary, all the dangers of the harbor being clearly visible. As the ship swung slowly around, with her head pointing toward the entrance of the snug little bay, into which we seemed to have glided so suddenly, that it was difficult to realize our exact whereabouts, I looked to the right, or on the starboard beam, and discovered for the first time the village of Simoda, lying behind a substantial sea wall, on a narrow level space between two steep hills, whose summits were crowned with stunted pines. On the bow, Centre Island rose like a huge bouquet planted in the water, so completely was it covered with dark green shrubbery, and many-hued flowers -- while on the port bow, "Vandalia Bluff" frowned grim defiance at old ocean's eternal surgings, and formed one bank of a sweet little streamlet, which emptied its pure mountain water into the bay from behind a low rocky point, which rose higher and higher, toward the village of Kasi-saki, situated at the base of a hill directly astern of the ship. Some two hundred yards from the starboard quarter, a small barren rock close to the sandy beach, cast a shade of sterility over the otherwise richly verdant landscape. The hills in the background had rather a rugged and wild appearance; their sides being too precipitous generally to admit of the growth of trees, but their summits were crowned with heavy timber, making due allowance for the distant view we had of it.
The customary offer of a boat to convey the Consul-General on board having been made, we soon had the pleasure of welcoming Mr. Harris, who evinced more than equal satisfaction at the arrival of the flag-ship, having important business to transact with the Japanese Government, which the presence of the Commander-in-Chief of the squadron would greatly facilitate. More than a year had elapsed since the last visit of a man-of-war of any nation to this secluded spot, during which time our Consul-General had been compelled to incur numerous obligations at the hands of the authorities of the country, even in a pecuniary war, and he was naturally anxious to have the opportunity of liquidating them. He had recently returned from a prolonged sojourn in the capital of Yedo, during which he had been attacked with serious illness, and had received the most humane and delicate attentions from the imperial family; the Empress herself preparing and sending to him daily such tempting delicacies as would be likely to gratify the capricious taste of an invalid, and which only a feminine hand has the skill to compound.
Anxiety to have a look at the various ingenious and beautiful works of art, of which we received glowing accounts from the officers of the Mississippi, seemed to pervade the whole ship; and, as it was Saturday afternoon, no delay on the score of ceremony was permitted to interfere with the gratification of that desire, respect for the coming Sabbath interposing to prevent many of us from making purchases on that day. Accordingly, two large boats were soon observed pulling toward the landing at Simoda, containing large deputations from each of the officer's messes, and I found myself among the number of impatient novelty-seekers. Passing Centre Island on the left, and the sea-wall referred to on the right, we entered the mouth of the creek running through the valley above, and past the town, and landed under the shade of large trees, at the foot of a flight of stone steps, ten or twelve feet in height, where our attention was first attracted by a small wooden building appropriated to the custom-house officer, who keeps constant watch over the proceedings of the free-and-easy strangers so busily coming and going past his domicile. But little notice is taken of this worthy official as we hurry on to the Bazaar, situated within an enclosure of about one hundred feet square, with a shed extending inward fifteen or twenty feet from the outer wall, beneath which there was a brilliant display of lacquered ware, porcelain, basket-work, bronzes, etc., etc. On one side there was a small room appropriated to the use of the government officials, and as we made our selections from among the many really exquisite things we saw spread in tempting profusion around us, they were sent to this officer with the name of the purchaser and the price marked upon them -- the result of this arrangement being a great state of excitement when a general distribution came to be made at sunset, and each person's silver dollars weighed in the scale with a corresponding weight of silver itzebus (value about 33 cents), to determine the amount due. Time was precious, and every one was anxious to get possession of his boxes, and have them speedily conveyed to the landing, where the boats were in waiting at sunset, as usual, to transport both the purchasers and their treasures to the ship. There was much more difficulty in conjuring up excuses for our extravagance in buying the articles found at Simoda than at Nagasaki; for in the former there had been no Dutchman to instruct the native mechanics in regard to the shape and style of European furniture, such as centre and work-tables, waiters, and a variety of smaller articles of utility, and yet the superior excellence of the workmanship on almost every thing we saw, made it exceedingly difficult to resist the temptation to purchase what was acknowledged to be valuable on that account alone. Indeed, the effort was not made by a majority of the party, and sunset witnessed another cargo of boxes coming alongside, to be stowed away in unimaginable recesses. A neatly made box was furnished for the transportation and safe keeping of every separate article, no matter how small or insignificant in value.
Upon returning on board, I learned that on the following Monday morning the ship was to proceed up Yedo Bay to Kanagawa, with Mr. Harris on board, for the purpose of meeting the Japanese Commissioners, who were expecting to come down from the capital, and sign the treaty which had been negotiated during his recent visit to Yedo. During Sunday I remained on board in the quiet enjoyment of Mr. Harris's entertaining accounts of the country and the people, in whose midst he had been residing during the preceding two years, as the principal of the only two foreign residents on the Island of Niphon, the other being Mr. Hueskin, his Clerk and Dutch Interpreter.
On the morning of the 27th of July, at daylight, we got under way, leaving the Mississippi and the Russian frigate "Askold," in which Count Poutiatine had arrived the day previous, at anchor in Simoda harbor, and having on board the Consul-General and his interpreter -- with the Vice-Governor of the place and suite. After rounding Cape Diamond, which is a low point projecting considerably beyond the line of coast immediately to the eastward of Vandalia Bluff, we left the volcanic and ever-burning island of Ohosima on the right, and steamed directly toward Cape Sagami, between which and Cape Sirofama, the Bay of Yedo finds its outlet. Passing through the narrow strait of Uraga, just within these two bold projections, the splendid sheet of water lay smooth and bright before us, with numerous white-sailed boats in the distance, and, on either side, the green and well-cultivated hills rising in ever-varying forms of picturesque beauty, giving us a succession of panoramic views as we passed rapidly within two miles of the inner shore. Several neat-looking villages, with thatched-roof houses, were observed on this shore, and as we passed the considerable town of Uraga, some thirty miles below Yedo, two large boats sculled by ten or twelve men, made desperate efforts to head us off -- the two-sworded officials they conveyed using frantic gestures to indicate their desire that we should proceed no further. But as soon as they caught a glimpse of our passengers, they evidently came to the conclusion that we had got the start of them in more ways than one, and left us to go on our way rejoicing, while they gazed in silent wonder at the speed with which we did so. As we passed quite near Uraga we discovered a large number of junks and boats of all sizes anchored within a well-protected harbor; and had a fine view of the town itself, as well as the neat and substantial water battery on the eastern side of the entrance; but at the rate we were going it was not practicable to form a very clear idea of its strength. After clearing "Treaty Point" the town of Kanagawa soon opened upon our view, situated on the northern shore of the spacious bay making into the land on the western side of the bay of Yedo, sixteen miles below that city, and at 2 P.M. we anchored about three miles from the shore, toward which our eyes were turned with longing glances, and an intense desire to land upon its hitherto unexplored soil. For reasons of a diplomatic nature, and therefore, I suppose, of paramount importance, Mr. Harris declined to ask permission of the authorities to enable our commanding officer to grant us this indulgence; so we had to content ourselves with gazing at the inviting prospect around us, and admiring especially the extremely symmetrical formation of the "Sacred Mountain," as Fusi-Yama is called in the vernacular. Nearly west of our anchorage, this object of universal admiration, and even worship, among a certain religious sect in Japan, rose in majestic grandeur from the surrounding hills, its snow-crowned summit glistening in the setting sun like molten gold, and its sides descending with such a gradual slope as to give them in the distance almost an artificial appearance. Swarms of fishing-boats surrounded the ship -- some lying quietly at anchor, while others were using their large square sails to drift them broadside to leeward, and thereby drag the small seine attached to the extremities of the boat -- a mode of fishing I have never seen practised elsewhere.
Immediately after our arrival a messenger was despatched to Yedo by Mr. Harris, to inform the Emperor of our near approach to his mysterious capital, and to request that the Commissioners, with whom he had negotiated his Treaty, might be commanded to meet him for the purpose of affixing to the document their official signatures. A reply to this message was scarcely expected in less than three days, but Mr. Harris had underrated the influence of his own personal popularity, as an adjunct to his diplomatic acumen; for previous to his retiring for the night, he had the unexpected satisfaction of learning that a small Japanese steamer was approaching the anchorage from Yedo, whose only object in coming, as was justly surmised, was to bring the Commissioners -- who were received on board the Powhatan, attended by a large suite, on the following morning. The marine guard, with all the officers of the ship in full uniform, made quite a brilliant display, while our guns gave nineteen distinct announcements of the reception to the Tycoon in his palace, at the distance of sixteen miles. As the princes left their boat to come on board, the crew were all observed to drop upon their knees in the most convenient spot they could find, and as these august personages subsequently walked around the ship, inspecting everything with the intense curiosity and inquisitiveness which forms one of their most striking national traits, all the officials who had accompanied them bent their heads in the most reverential manner, and drew in their breath with the peculiar hissing sound which only a Japanese can achieve, while the lower attendants knelt upon the deck, bowing until their foreheads touched the planks. I ascertained the names and titles of the princes to be Ino-oo-ye, Prince of Siano, and Iwasay, Prince of Hego, who were both men of fine appearance; and I learned from Mr. Harris that the former was a man of highly cultivated mind and liberal views, according to Japanese estimation.
After making a thorough examination of the general conditions and appointments of the ship, the princes and a large number of their attendant officials were invited into the Commodore's cabin to partake of a handsome collation which had been prepared for them. They seemed highly gratified by the attention, and gave unmistakeable evidence of their enjoyment of the good things placed before them, using their knives and forks quite as dexterously as if they had been accustomed to something else besides chop-sticks. When this repast was concluded, the Consul-General and the Commodore had a short private conference with the princes, relative to the main object of their visit, during which it was arranged that they should return to their own vessel for a few hours' consultation upon some points involved in the Treaty, upon the settlement of which they would again come on board with a copy prepared for signatures. Accordingly, they took their departure at meridian, with the same forms of etiquette which attended their reception, and at the expiration of four hours they returned on board with a fair copy, to which the official signatures and seals of the "high contracting parties" were soon affixed -- concluding thus unceremoniously and peaceably, one of the most remarkable State papers now in the diplomatic archives of the country.
The princes returned immediately afterward to their pretty little steamer, and as our two largest and most comfortable boats were employed to convey them alongside, they seemed to enjoy the contrast which they presented to the little dinghy in which they had come. As they left the Powhatan, all the officers, the guard of marines, and the band were present on the quarter-deck in full uniform, to witness their departure, the band playing martial music as they went over the side; meanwhile, the American and Japanese flags had been run up to the maintopgallant mast-head, and as the boat containing the princes got beyond the concussion of the guns, a salute of twenty-one guns was fired in honor of the occasion, the two national flags being displayed side by side at the first explosion, and hauled down at the last -- the men in the boats lying on their oars during the interval, and the high functionaries displaying as much gratification as their dignity would permit. The ceremonies being thus concluded, they hastened on board their own steamer, and the "Candimar" -- the name of their tiny craft -- was soon under steam and sail, gliding swiftly over the smooth waters of the glorious bay, toward the great invisible capital -- Yedo.
When the news of this event reached Europe, the London journals attributed success in procuring the signing of this treaty, for which our Consul-General had been struggling so long against the exclusive policy, and deep-rooted prejudices of the Japanese people, entirely to the cowardly apprehensions of the princes composing the Council of State, lest their refusal to comply with the repeated solicitations of Mr. Harris on the subject, should draw down upon them the vengeance of the European and American governments, as exhibited by England and France in the recent operations at the Taku forts and Tientsin; but it only requires a small addition to the amount of information usually possessed by the sapient foreign correspondents of newspapers generally, relative to such matters, to expose the arrogant fallacy of the statement. If Commodore Tattnall was in such haste to avail himself of the distant "roar of the British lion" to frighten the innocent and ignorant exclusives into terms, why should he have remained twelve days at anchor in the harbor of Nagasaki while on his way to Simoda, where the only medium through whom he could hold and communication with the Japanese government resided -- and if "Mr. Harris lost not a moment in himself carrying the news to Yedo," why did he not embark in the Mississippi, (this vessel having been present at the demolition of the Taku forts,) on the day of her arrival at Simoda, and proceed thither at once, instead of waiting a week longer for the Powhatan, by which time it may reasonably be supposed that scarcely the faintest echo of the "Lion's roar" remained in the terror-stricken islands? In which of the harbors of Japan had the ensign of an English man-of-war been displayed previous to the Powhatan's arrival at Simoda, and subsequent to the destruction of the Taku forts? or when has it been established as an axiom that because one nation thinks proper to trample upon the right of every people under the sun to be the judges of their own best policy, even those who have hitherto manifested friendly regard for them, must necessarily become their enemies, or resort to the more dastardly expedient of following in the train of the successful bully, with the hope of sharing in the spoils of his audacity? I can assert, without fear of successful contradiction, that neither Commodore Tattnall, nor Consul-General Harris, ever entertained the idea for one instant, of taking advantage of any suppositious influence that might have grown out of the events in question, to forward the plans so long and so ardently cherished by the latter; and, moreover, that if the existence of the British nation had been totally unknown to the Japanese people, there would, in my humble opinion, have been much less difficulty in inducing them to enter into friendly relations with the United States, as they were by no means ignorant of the history of India, and the evils which China was at that moment enduring because she had not strength to resist.
The truth, though, must be patent to every foreigner who visits the Eastern world, that the commerce of the United States has grown up almost entirely under the protection of English guns kept afloat by English capital, and that the vast commercial advantages accruing to this country through her trade with India and China, never would have been developed, in all human probability, by any other policy than precisely that which has been pursued in England, either under the direction of the East India Company or the British Company, harsh and oppressive as it has been. But the conviction of these rather humiliating facts, to the national pride of America, cannot induce them to acquiesce in the arrogant assumption of credit for every advance that is made by our country in the march of commercial enterprise and Christian civilization; and it is undeniable, that the policy pursued by our government toward Japan, at least, has proved eminently successful, giving us the vantage-ground in diplomatic, commercial, and social intercourse with her intelligent and high-spirited people. However, as I am neither a diplomatist nor a Japanese, I will leave the further discussion of this knotty question to the subtle profession, and proceed to get the Powhatan under way to return to Simo-da, for the purpose of conveying Mr. Harris back to his quiet temple, wherein he had attracted more attention from the natives during the past two years, than ever did the Buddhist idol it formerly contained. I believe that I have previously omitted to mention that Mr. Harris had converted one of the native temples into a very commodious and romantic-looking residence, making the shrine of the divinity serve as his nightly couch. Whether he was ever visited in dreams by the deity whom he had so unceremoniously ousted, we were not informed; but I presume his slumbers were undisturbed, as he evinced no disposition to seek other quarters.
We anchored in Simoda harbor again, about 2 P.M., on the 30th day of July, having made the run of seventy miles from Kanagawa in eight hours. On the day succeeding our return, one of the marines belonging to the Mississippi died, and was buried on shore, in a cemetery set apart for foreigners at the request of our Consul-General, near Kaki-saki. The Japanese exhibited the greatest interest in the solemn funeral rites, it being the first occasion of the kind that had ever come under their observation.
In the course of one of our afternoon walks through the streets of Simoda during this visit, my attention was directed by a companion to one of the public bath-houses peculiar to the country; and, stopping to look in for a few moments at one of the windows, my nerves were terribly shocked to see the perfect unconcern with which men, women, and children, of all ages, were mingled together in the Adam and Eve style -- minus the fig-leaves -- and splashing away in the warm water poured over their heads from small pails in each others' hands, with an energy and a disregard of the lookers-on, which could not have been surpassed, in nonchalance, by our first parents, before they became aware of the propriety of donning their original slender apparel. There were about a dozen persons in the room, most of whom were females -- some standing and others sitting on the bare stone floor, which descended from all sides towards the centre, where there was a small gutter to lead off the waste water. The room was not more than fifteen feet square, and there were large wooden troughs on two sides, containing the warm water supplied by a large boiler in the rear of the building. Among the bathers were discerned, by the keen eye for the beauties of nature which usually belongs to nautical men, several finely-formed and really handsome young women, from whom some show of feminine modesty might reasonably have been expected, but they appeared to be as utterly unconscious of any thought of impropriety in this indecent exposure of their persons, as the infants who were being washed beside them by their nude and tender mothers. Strange people! thought I, and not so ugly either as some I have seen in my travels; but such a shock to all my preconceived ideas on the subject of female delicacy, was not easily overcome; and I walked away from this extraordinary scene, a wiser, but a much disgusted man.
On the 2d of August, the Sabbath was celebrated by the performance of Divine service in the heathen temple occupied by Mr. Harris as a residence, being the first occasion on which such a privilege had been permitted to Christians since they were expelled from Japan 225 years before. The attendance of officers and men from the two American men-of-war lying in the harbor, was as large as the extraordinary even justly demanded, and their professional duties would permit. The chaplain of the Powhatan, Rev. Henry Wood, read the Episcopal Church service, and preached a highly appropriate and eloquent sermon, the completeness and solemnity of the service being much enhanced by an admirable impromptu choir, organized for the occasion among the junior officers of the two vessels. The natives were evidently much astonished, and greatly interested in the performance of our religious rites, gazing in silent wonder through every aperture affording a view, and not ceasing to stare at the members of the congregation as long as they remained in sight, regarding them apparently as worshippers of "the unknown God," the reality of whose existence, we may trust, the recent events will soon cause to dawn on their own benighted minds.
There are several handsome Buddhist temples within the environs of Simoda, but the great similarity in external appearance, between them and those which I had visited in Nagasaki, induced the belief that I should derive but little amusement, and no additional information, from an inspection of their interior arrangements. My nautical sympathies, however, caused me to regard one of the Sintoo temples with more than ordinary interest; accordingly, an hour was devoted to roaming through the spacious halls, and viewing the adjoining shrines, wherein were placed representations of the kamis, or human-gods, whose favor was to be propitiated, models of native vessels, and a variety of votive offerings to the imaginary deities, most of whom were supposed to have control over the destinies of those "who go down to the sea in ships," seeming, in fact, to exercise the peculiar functions ascribed by the Grecian mythologists to Neptune.
On the morning of the 5th of August we bade adieu to Simoda, presuming that our immediate destination was Shanghai, where all were extremely anxious to go at that time, with the confident hope of receiving letters from home, a pleasure which had now been denied to us nearly five months; but it was soon ascertained, after getting fairly out to sea, that the Commodore had given directions to the Consul at Shanghai to forward all letters for the flag-ship to Nagasaki, by the Minnesota,which vessel it was expected would bring the Hon. Mr. Reed to that place early in August. The second night out from Simoda found us near the eastern entrance of Van Dieman's Strait, through which we had passed on our northern voyage in such delightful weather, but from whence we had now to turn the good ship's head for a-while, lest the sharp gale that was blowing, and the short chopping sea that was tumbling her about in a manner hitherto unknown to those on board, should bring her into unsafe proximity with some of the islands or rocks thereabouts. The gale, our first during the cruise up to this time, continued for three days, and turned things topsy-turvy generally on board the Powhatan, greatly prolonging her passage to Simoda; but the inexpressible satisfaction of seeing the noble form of the Minnesota glide gracefully round the island of Pappenberg within a few hours after our anchoring off the town of Nagasaki, made us oblivious of all the sea-sick reminiscences of the passage, and sent our thoughts back to the peaceful homes where dwelt our hearts' best treasures. After lying quietly at rest for four days, and digesting thoroughly all the good news received from our friends on the other side of the globe, our anchor was again a-weigh, and the busy old craft ploughing the clear green waters toward the coast of China, whither we now went with great reluctance; the object which had a few days previously reconciled us to leaving Japan at an earlier period than we had anticipated, having been accomplished by the opportune arrival of the "Minnesota," while the news she had brought of the prevalence of the cholera at Shanghai, threw a considerable damper upon the pleasant anticipations with which a return to that place had been originally contemplated.
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