CHINA AND JAPAN
The Empire of Japan -- Its physical and geological formation -- Government -- Religious Orders -- Revenues -- Population -- Manufactures -- Vegetable productions -- Animals -- Manners and Customs of the people -- Speculations on the probable results of the Embassy to the United States, etc.
Having now concluded the narrative of my personal observations in the various places visited by the Powhatan during my service on board that noble ship, in which I have endeavored to be as concise as a proper understanding of the occurrences mentioned would admit, I subjoin a brief description of the Empire of Japan; including an account of the form of government, the religious orders, the supposed origin of the people, manners and customs, mineral resources, etc., etc., for the benefit of those of my readers who happen not to have at hand the works of reference on that interesting country.
My own opportunities of becoming acquainted with these subjects, were too limited to warrant me in attempting to enlighten others; I have, therefore, collected from various reliable sources, such information concerning them, as will furnish a tolerably correct idea of the country and its people; indulging the hope that it may be found as interesting to those who give their attention to its perusal, as my own high appreciation of the subject has made the task of collecting these materials agreeable to myself.
The Empire of Japan consists of a chain of islands lying on the Eastern coast of the continent of Asia, and extending south-east and north-west from the latitude of 31° to 48° N., and including in longitude from the 129th to the 150th meridian.
The sea of Japan is enclosed between this chain of islands, and the opposite coasts of Corea and Manchu Tartary, and communicates by means of straits with the Chinese Sea, on the south, the Pacific Ocean on the east, and the Sea of Ochotsk on the north. To the east Japan has no nearer land than California, which is five thousand miles distant. China is only about 400 miles off. The Empire is divided into Japan proper, consisting of three large islands, Niphon, Kin-sin, and Sitkokf, and the numerous small islands in their immediate vicinity. The former, from which the Empire takes its name, is the largest and most important of the group, its area being estimated at 100,000 square miles. Lying to the southward of Niphon, and separated from it by a narrow channel, is the island of Kin-sin, about two hundred miles in length, and eighty in average breadth, containing about 16,000 square miles. Lying to the eastward of the southern extremity of Niphon is the island of Sitkokf, or Sikoko, which is about one hundred and fifty miles long, and about sixty broad on the average. It is separated from Niphon by a narrow strait, in some parts not more than a mile in width, and from Kin-sin by Bungo channel, which is nearly thirty miles broad. North of Niphon, and separated from it by Sangar Straits, is the large island of Yesso, a conquest and colony of Japan. The small islands which surround these are generally rocky and barren, although some of them are extremely rich and productive. The entire number of islands composing the Empire of Japan is not positively known, but the area of the whole Empire cannot be less than 170,000 square miles.
The coasts of the larger islands are extremely irregular, and deeply indented with bays and gulfs; they are difficult of access, not only from the rocky nature of the passages which separate them, but also on account of the violent gales which appear to agitate these narrow seas more frequently than any other part of the ocean; the water, also is in many places very shallow, and it would appear that nature intended to secure to the people of this favored country a little world of their own, by guarding the approaches with jealous care against foreign invasion; and so liberally endowing the people with all the essentials to luxury and comfort within their own limits, that they have had no inducement to cultivate commercial intercourse with other nations. Perhaps the laws, which have so long existed in this country, to check foreign intercourse, were originally suggested to some prudent sage, by the natural barriers which seemed to have been erected by the Deity himself, to seclude and protect them from the rest of mankind. There are many rivers, but they are generally short, and are too rapid and shallow for navigation, although some of them have been made so by artificial means -- but there are many canals throughout the country connecting the lakes and rivers, and the roads are generally kept in excellent condition. There are seven great roads, the principal one of which is called the Tokaido, being the most frequented, and which Koempfer says, "Is upon some days more crowded than the public streets in the most populous town in Europe." Fir trees are planted on each side of it throughout its whole extent, to give shade to the weary traveller and add to its beauty. The Damios, or hereditary Princes, being required to pass one half of every year in the Capital, make their semi-annual pilgrimages over this fine road, attended by a complete army of retainers, amounting, in some cases, according to Koempfer, to as many as 20,000 men, some of whom go on horseback, some in norimons or cangos, while the larger number are on foot. When one of these feudal lords contemplates a journey to the Capital, his intention is communicated, some weeks in advance, to the authorities of all the cities and towns on his route, to enable them to make provision for the accommodation of the number of men and animals composing his retinue, and to prevent the awkward coincidence of a meeting between two of these peaceful armies in the same town.
The surface of the country is very irregular, and often rises into mountains of great elevation; the highest of which is said to be Fuse-yama, an extinct volcano on the island of Niphon. Its form is so perfectly symmetrical as almost to give the idea of artificial formation; it rises to the height of 12,400 feet above the level of the sea, and its majestic head is crowned with perpetual snow. The natives call it the Sacred Mountain, and, by a peculiar set of worshippers, annual pilgrimages are made to its summit. The hills are picturesque and beautiful, and in many places descend so close to the sea shore that their rocky bases are washed by the waves, or have only a narrow slip of land separating them from the water; in the interior, however, plains of considerable extent exist, which are extensively cultivated. There are many active volcanoes, and the country is frequently visited by destructive earthquakes. On the 23d of December, 1854, an earthquake occurred which was felt throughout the whole coast. In the town of Simoda only a few temples and private edifices, that stood on elevated spots, escaped destruction. The Russian frigate Diana, which happened unfortunately to be anchored in the bay, was whirled round her anchors with such rapidity, that those on board found it difficult to stand upon her decks. The water finally receded so as to leave her aground, by which she was so seriously injured as to become totally unseaworthy. The fine city Osaca, to the southward of Simoda, was completely destroyed, and the capital, Yedo, suffered considerable injury.
There are no less than five active volcanoes in the island of Kin-sin alone, one of which is situated in the province of Satsuma, near Nagasaki, but the most celebrated is that called Wunzen-take, or "High Mountain of warm springs," in Fizen. These springs, and many others of similar character, which bubble up all over the country, are much frequented for the healing properties they are supposed to possess.
The Empire, extending over so large a surface, of course presents great varieties of climate. In the north it is intensely cold, and Golownin, a Russian naval officer, who was for two years a prisoner in the country, states that on the coast of Sagabin the sea is not clear of ice so early as the Gulf of Finland. In the summer the heat is sometimes very great during the day, although the nights are pleasant, and there is generally a refreshing sea breeze, which blows from the south during the day and the east at night. Rain is frequent at all seasons of the year, but especially in the months of July and August. In December and January the ground is occasionally covered with white frost, and occasionally with snow, except in very mild winters. The sudden and distressing changes of temperature common to our sea coasts are very rare in Japan, notwithstanding the violent gales which frequently occur, both in the winter and summer.
In the northern island, Yesso, the climate is thus described by Captain Golownin: "The ponds and lakes freeze,snow lies in the valleys and plains from November till april, and falls in as great abundance as at St. Petersburgh. Severe frosts are, indeed, uncommon, yet the temperature is often two degrees below the freezing point. In summer the rain pours in torrents at least twice a week, the horizon is obscured by dark clouds, violent winds blow, and the fog is scarcely ever dispersed. Apples, pears, and peaches barely obtain ripeness, and the orange and lemon will not bear fruit." Fogs are very prevalent, and thunder storms are frequent.
During the month the Powhatan remained at anchor in Yedo, just previous to sailing for San Francisco, (from January 11th to February 13th), the weather was generally clear, and the thermometer ranged between 30° and 50° Farenheit. Snow fell to the depth of four inches two days before her departure. At Nagasaki, in the months of September and October, the heat was never oppressive during the day, and the nights were always pleasant.
Many of the principal useful and ornamental plants are of foreign origin. Timber is not very abundant, and it is carefully protected, no one being allowed to fell a tree without permission from a magistrate, and then only on condition of planting a young one in its place. The most common forest-trees are the fir and cedar, and the latter sometimes grows to an immense size. In the northern part of the empire, two species of oak are found, which differ from those of Europe; the acorns of one description are boiled and eaten, and are said to be both palatable and nutritious. Camphor and varnish-trees are indigenous to the country; the former lives to a great age, and sometimes attains an immense size. The country-people make the camphor from a decoction of the root and stems cut into small pieces. The mulberry-tree grows wild in great abundance, and, as in China, is used to feed the silk worms. Ginger, pepper, cotton, and tobacco are cultivated in considerable quantities; and there are, also, extensive plantations of the tea-plant, though the quality is said to be inferior to that grown in China, owing greatly to the superior skill of the Chinese in preparing it for use. The soil of Japan is not naturally fertile, but patient and careful culture, favored by a genial climate, has covered every spot, capable of improvement, with vegetation. Sugar-cane is successfully cultivated; and rice, which forms the principal food of the people, yields two harvests yearly, the quality being superior to any other known.
The bamboo-cane, although a tropical plant, is grown in great perfection in the southern islands, and is extensively used in the manufacture of an infinite variety of useful and ornamental articles. Oranges, lemons, figs, plums, apricots, and grapes are found among the fruit-trees of the country; and chestnuts and walnuts are in great abundance all over the empire.
The first and fabulous epoch of the Japanese Government reaches far beyond the time of the creation, as fixed in sacred writ. Japan, they say, was during that period of time governed by a succession, or evolution of seven celestial spirits,or gods, which are called by them the seven great celestial spirits, each of which reigned an immense but undetermined number of years. The history of the Japanese gods is full of strange and wonderful adventures, and great and bloody wars, which are said to have happened in this first age of the Japanese world.
In the course of time, one of these gods became the progenitor of a race of demi-gods, or god-men, who were styled terrestrial gods or monarchs, the first of whom was named Ten-sio-dai-sin, and he is still the supreme object of adoration among the people. He is said to have reigned 250,000 years, and from him the Mikados now claim a lineal descent.
In the second, or doubtful era of Japanese history, China had already become powerful, and the arts and sciences flourished there, which were brought over by the Chinese into Japan, where the people became in time polite and civilized, and in imitation of their neighbors, by whom they were imbued with notions of a monarchial form of government, submitted to the rule of Sin-mu-ten-oo, a Prince descended from the beloved and sacred family of Ten-sio-dai-sin.
The third and last epoch, the Monarchy, which is that of their ecclesiastical hereditary Emperors, begins with the year before Christ, 660. The Princes descended from the great and holy family above named, are regarded as Popes by birth; and in order to preserve this advantageous notion in their subjects, their persons are held in sacred veneration. They are not suffered to touch the ground with their feet, nor to expose themselves to the open air; the sun is not thought worthy to shine on their heads. There is such holiness ascribed to all the parts of their bodies, that neither their nails, beard, nor hair are suffered to be cut.
The throne of the Mikado, or Dairi, as he is sometimes styled, may be occupied by Princes or Princesses under age, and, also, by the relict of a deceased Mikado, with the title of Empress, which is always given to the mother of the hereditary Prince, as a distinction from the eleven other wives whom the Mikado is allowed to keep.
In the year 1585, the reigning ecclesiastical Emperor entrusted the command of his armies to one Taikosama, a subject of mean extraction, who raised himself to this elevated post by his courage and merit, and soon afterward assumed the absolute government of the empire, under the title of Tycoon, or secular monarch, establishing his court at Yedo, while the Mikado was confined within the walls of the city of Miaco, surrounded by a numerous court of effeminate descendants of the sacred family. The Mikado is now consulted nominally on all affairs of state, but is in reality a mere puppet. He reserves the Imperial prerogative of conferring titles of nobility, and this forms his greatest source of revenue, as they have to be paid for by annual presents, of a value corresponding with the wealth and dignity of their possessors. There are two important titles, however, that may be conferred by the Tycoon, with the consent of the Mikado, (and this is never refused), on his Prime Ministers and the Princes of the empire, which are Maquandairo and Kami. The First signifies Duke or Earl; the second denotes a Knight. The title of Kami is, also, applied to deified souls, but the character which expresses this in Japanese is altogether different from that which expresses the title and honor of Knighthood. All the gods of the country have the name and character of Kami.
The Tycoon, after having acquired his power by military prowess and distinction, soon became so exalted in the minds of his superstitious subjects, that it was thought to be too great a condescension on his part to devote more than a mere supervisory attention to the perplexing affairs of state; and the Council of State appointed by him became the real administrative authority of the Government. He is now secluded within the limits of his splendid citadel, except during an occasional ceremonious visit he pays to Miaco. His time is occupied in audiences, receiving reports and other official ceremonies.
This Council of State is composed of five of the hereditary Princes,or Damios, beside which there is a minor Council, consisting of eight titular Princes, each one of both grades, having his public and private actions under the strictest surveillance of spies, who make periodical reports to their respective masters. All public measures are decided upon by the superior Council, but require the Emperor's ratification and signature to give them effect; the final reference being nominally made to the Mikado, who is superstitiously supposed to be guided in his judgment by light from above.
The empire is divided into seven great tracts of land, which are subdivided into 68 provinces, and these again into upwards of 600 smaller districts or counties. Of these provinces, five are appropriated to furnish a revenue for the Imperial family. The others form each the territorial domain of one of the Damios, some of whom are extremely wealthy and powerful, vying even with the Emperor in the magnificence of their courts, and the number of their retainers. The Prince of Satsuma, who died during one of my visits to Nagasaki, was reported to be quite independent of the Emperor, his estates being of immense extent and value. His family is one of the few into which the Emperors are permitted to marry, and the late Tycoon had married one of his daughters. At his capital city of Kagosima, which is said to contain a population of half a million, he employed 800 men in the manufacture of glassware, casting guns, and in other mechanical works. There is an extensive coal-mine in his province, but it has never been properly surveyed or worked, because there has been no demand for the coal until recently; and the Prince had not acquired sufficient confidence in his Dutch friends before his death to employ them for this purpose, although he had frequently invited the Dutch Commissioner to visit him at his residence.
The religious denominations of Japan are so numerous and embrace such extensive and undefinable ramifications, that a life-time would scarcely suffice to form a thorough acquaintance with them; so I shall not presume to enter upon any detailed account of the various forms and ceremonies connected with this prolific subject, but content myself with stating the four principal divisions under which the inhabitants of the country have been groping for ages, in the darkness and inanities of paganism. They are as follows:
1. Sinto, the old religion, or idol-worship of the Japanese.
2. Budsdo, or Buddhist, the worship of foreign idols, which were brought over from the kingdom of Siam, and the Empire of China.
3. Siuto, the doctrine of their moralists and philosophers.
4. Devius, or Kiristando, the way of God and Christ, which implies the Christian religion.
Besides these various sects, there are innumerable worshippers of particular Kamis, of mountains, and other objects of idolatry. They have weekly, monthly, and annual religious festivals, in the observance of which they are extremely zealous; and they are more devoted to making pilgrimages to their favorite shrines or temples, than the Mohammedans are to their beloved Mecca. The greatest of all their shrines is that of the Temple of Isje, so called because of its situation in a province of that name, in which the greatest of all their gods, Ten-sio-dau-sin, was born, lived, and died. This is the Mecca of the Sintoists, and is thus described by Koempfer: "This temple, according to those that have been to see it, is seated in a large plain, and is a sorry, low building of wood, covered with a low, flattish, thatched roof. Particular care is taken to preserve it as it was built originally, that it should be a standing monument of the extreme poverty and indigence of their ancestors and founders of the temple, or the first men, as they call them. In the middle of the temple is nothing else but a looking-glass, cast of metal, and polished according to the fashion of the country; and some cut paper is hung round the walls; the looking-glass is placed there as an emblem of the all-seeing eye of this great God, and the knowledge he hath of what passes in the inmost heart of his worshippers; the cut white papers is to represent the purity of the place, and to put his adorers in mind that they ought not to appear before him but with a pure, unspotted heart and clean body.
It is looked upon as a mark of respect and homage due from every true patriot, to whatever sect he may belong, to pay at least one visit during his lifetime to this temple, as it was erected in honor of the great founder and first parent of the Japanese nation. Every temporal blessing is supposed to accrue to those who visit in pilgrimage such holy places; and if, by any misfortune, it should be found impracticable to make so great a journey, the priests take care not to let their flock want so great a benefit, by selling them what they call an Ofarrai, or great purification; in other words, a certificate of the absolution and remission of their sins: and these precious documents are to be procured in any part of the Empire, for a small consideration.
The extraordinary system of espionage which extends through all ranks of society, completely extinguishes individual freedom, by making every man a spy upon his neighbor's actions, and rendering the detection and punishment of crime almost a certainty in every case. Its results, however, cannot be otherwise than advantageous to the internal peace and tranquility of the country, as vice in every form known to the heathen ideas of the people is kept in check, and crime of any sort is exceedingly rare; and there can be no cupidity or corruption among the officials of a government whose interests are guarded by such ubiquitous protection.
As a relief from the otherwise intolerable thraldom of etiquette, and constant personal espial, the biggest grandees of the country are permitted by general consent to assume an incognito whenever they desire to indulge in any amusement or employment which might be considered derogatory to their dignity. By this happy invention, which they call "nayboen," and which is not altogether unknown, though by a different name, in other countries, the Tycoon himself may occasionally enjoy the rare luxury of doing as he pleases, without sacrificing his personal or official consequence; but the most singular feature of this popular institution is, that it is made to serve the purposes of the dead as well as the living. The Tycoon sometimes dies "nayboen," and the event is kept as a profound secret from the public until his successor has been fairly installed in the possession of his office; thereby obviating any unseemly squabbles among the heirs, and insuring the remains of the defunct a quiet interment.
The Japanese divide the day into twelve hours, reckoning six from sunrise to sunset, and an equal number from sunset to sunrise; consequently, the hours are not always equal; when the day is longer than the night, the day hours are the longest, and vice versâ. They have clocks marked to indicate the twelve divisions of the day, each of which is equal to two hours of our time, but they are not remarkable for accuracy. The day with them begins at mid-night, at which time the clock strikes nine, after having given three strokes to denote its being about to strike the hour. These three strokes precede every hour. One hour after midnight the clock strikes eight, the next hour seven, at sunrise six, then five, and four, and at noon again nine. The same rule applies to the hours of the day, and each hour is designated by the name of some animal, as follows:
1. The Mouse; 2. The Ox, or Cow; 3. The Tiger; 4. The Hare; 5. The Dragon; 6. The Serpent; 7. The Horse; 8. The Sheep; 9. The Monkey; 10. The Chicken; 11. The Dog; 12. The Boar.
The beginning of the Japanese year falls in between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, about the 5th of February. But as they are extremely superstitious about celebrating the day of the new moon, they commonly begin it with the new moon which immediately precedes or follows the 5th of February. Thus in the month of January of this year, the Japanese new year was celebrated on the 23d of that month. The festivities attending this period are kept up during the whole month, by those whose circumstances will admit of their spending so much time away from their ordinary employment; but the majority of the people content themselves with a holiday of less than half that period. During this time they are expected to visit all their acquaintances within reach, and to write to those who are at a distance, congratulating them upon the continuance of their earthly blessings, and the protection of the gods.
The Japanese have considerable skill in certain branches of the fine arts. In the representation of a single object, they exhibit great accuracy of detail, but they have no idea of perspective, and but little of lights and shadows. They have never attempted painting in oil colors, and their water-color paintings are more remarkable for their brilliancy than for artistic skill in copying nature. They are ignorant of anatomy, and, therefore, their attempts to portray the human form or face have nearly always the appearance of caricatures. Their sculpture is decidedly of the barbarous order, and architecture is not known among them as an art -- their temples, palaces, and private dwellings, being all low and temporary structures, generally of wood -- the frequency of earthquakes preventing them from bestowing the care and expense upon their buildings which they would otherwise do.
The laws of the country are brief, clear, and comprehensive, and their practical operations equally simple and concise. There are no professional lawyers, every man being deemed competent to plead his own cause. When a person conceives himself aggrieved, he lays the case before a magistrate, who summons the other party before him; the case is stated by the complainant, after which the accused is heard in his defence -- witnesses on both sides are examined, and the magistrate gives his decision, from which there is no appeal, and which is instantly executed. Difficult or very important cases may be referred to the Emperor in Council, and sometimes in trifling matters the disputants are ordered to settle the affair privately with the aid of their friends; and it is well understood by them that a compromise must be effected, or unpleasant consequences will be the result.
Some of their laws are exceedingly harsh, and all are executed with the most rigid exactness; as, for instance, if a prisoner is permitted to escape, the officer charged with his confinement is immediately put to death; and, frequently, even the governor of a city is made to pay this cruel penalty for the negligent performance of duty on the part of a subordinate. The law against theft is no less rigorous, as it requires that a man must sooner die of hunger than to take a single grain of rice that does not belong to him. No one is allowed to bear the same name with the reigning Emperor.
The alphabet consists of forth-eight characters, and the commonest people can read and write the language. The Chinese hieroglyphics are used, but with a different sound and signification; official papers and records are written in this language. There is an essential difference between the Chinese and Japanese languages -- the latter being polysyllabic, while the former is monosyllabic; and this is regarded as convincing proof of their being no direct connection between the two races. The Japanese consider it a mortal affront to be compared with the Chinese, and Dr. Ainslie states that the only occasion on which he saw a Japanese surprised into a passion, and, forgetting his habitual politeness, lay his hand on his sword, was on a comparison being made between the two nations.
The Mandarin dialect of China is in use among the learned men of Japan, and hence many Chinese words have been introduced into the Japanese, but these only serve to make the structural difference the more striking. The Yomi, or primitive language of Japan, is used in poetry and works of light literature. The Kaye, or Chinese language, slightly varied in pronunciation, is employed by the bonzes, or priests, in their religious books. The vulgar language of the country is a mixture of the two. Close affinities have not been traced between the Yomi of Japan and any other Asiatic language. By some, at least, it is thought to be most analogous to the languages of the Tartar race, to which, in spite of diversity of physical characteristics, it is now most commonly believed that the Japanese belong.
The country is cultivated too extensively to leave much space for the multiplication of wild animals; and but little animal food being eaten, the domestic class are only kept as beasts of burden, and for plowing the ground. The horses are small, but spirited, active, and hardy, though with an incurable propensity to kick, which detracts much from their value in the opinion of western people. They are not used for draught, but the larger class are frequently seen as pack-horses. They are used for riding only by the nobility and their officers. Small bears, hyenas, wild boars, deer, and immense numbers of foxes, are among the principal wild animals. Dogs abound in the streets of the towns, and are considered almost sacred. It is a capital crime to put one of them to death, and there are even persons appointed to protect them, and hospitals where they are nursed in case of sickness. I should judge they were exempt from the curse of the canine race (hydrophobia), otherwise such perfect immunity could not be granted them, save at fearful risk to human life. There is a species of the race resembling very much the King Charles breed, with the exception that their noses are turned up so abruptly as to produce the effect of being broken, and their eyes protrude rather more. They are kept almost entirely as pets, and taught many amusing tricks, being remarkably sagacious and affectionate in disposition.
The feline inhabitants of the country are of a peculiar description, from the fact of their being totally destitute of the appendage which usually provokes the mischievous propensity of children. Some doubts were entertained among the officers of the Powhatan, during our first visit to Japan, as to whether this was a natural or an artificial deprivation; but when one of those brought on board produced a fine litter of tailless kittens, there was nothing left to hang a doubt upon; and it only remained to speculate upon the probable cause of this peculiarity in Japanese cats, and whether they regarded it as a blessing or a curse, concerning which the opinions were various.
In the manufacture of cotton fabrics the Japanese display considerable skill, but do not equal the Hindoos in this respect. Their best silk is said to be superior to that of China; and in the manufacture of porcelain, they are said by some to excel the Chinese. I am not prepared to say, that as a general thing such is the case; but from many specimens of great beauty and delicacy which came under my notice, they are doubtless able to produce very superior articles, though some assert that, owing to the exhaustion of the best clay, such can no longer be produced. There are two descriptions of porcelain made in Japan, one frail and delicate -- almost as transparent as a soap-bubble, and appropriately called "egg-shell china," from its liability to be broken with a touch; and the other apparently of a more durable description, from its extreme thickness, though in reality nearly as brittle as the first.
In the produce of Fizen, near Nagasaki, a coarser quality of porcelain is manufactured on a large scale, and the natives have learned from the Dutch, the patterns of the various articles of their ware most in use among Europeans, which they copy in form, but use their own devices in the way of coloring and ornaments. A finer description is also made in that province, having a peculiar purity and smoothness of surface; but of this only a few specimens were to be attained. At Yokuhama, the European style of dinner and tea service could not be procured, the saki cups of various sizes, and sundry other utensils of purely Japanese invention, being the only articles of this ware which could be purchased. Like the Chinese, the Japanese have long practised the manufacture of paper and glass. Formerly they did not understand making the flat pane of window-glass, and probably what they make now is of inferior quality, as they still purchase thick mirror-glass from the Dutch, to grind into lenses.
The great source of revenue is the rent of land, with an impost on houses, in the manner of a ground-rent. There appears to be no tax on articles of consumption, no capitation tax, and no transit duties. In lands belonging to the crown, the proportion of the crop considered rent is four parts in ten, and in the rest six in ten, most commonly the latter. These proportions apply to every kind of crop -- cotton, corn, and pulses. The land is surveyed by sworn appraisers twice a year, in order to determine the rent, once before the seed is sown, and again immediately before harvest. Those that cultivate untilled ground have the whole crop for two or three years. Among their many excellent laws relating to agriculture, is one which makes every one forfeit his possession who neglects to cultivate his ground for the period of a year. It appears from the proportion of crop taken as rent, that the impost on the land does not differ materially from that assumed as land tax under the Mohammedan government of Hindostan, and this will enable us to make an approximate estimate of the rental of Japan -- that is, the principal source of its public revenue. Of course, this supposes a similar state of society, and rate of population in Japan, and the country with which it is compared. Let us take, therefore, the same Indian territories by which we have attempted to estimate the population. These have in round numbers a population of 46,000,000, a rental of nearly œ8,700,000, to be divided between the Imperial government, feudatory princes, hereditary nobles, and the soldiery.
To the rent of lands must be added the ground-rent of the houses, which is said to be at the rate of 1s. 8d. for each fathom of frontage, without regard to depth, unless it exceeds fifteen fathoms, when the rate is doubled. Whether the impost applies to all houses, wherever situated, or only to those in towns, is not stated; but if the former be the case, estimating each house to have an average of five inhabitants, and also five fathoms of frontage, would give the income from this source at more than œ3,300,000, or adding this to the land rent, would make the annual revenue of the Empire œ12,000,000.
Paper is manufactured in great abundance, not only for writing and printing, but also for tapestry, handkerchiefs, etc. It is made of various qualities, and some of it is as soft and flexible as cotton cloth; indeed, that which is used for handkerchiefs might be mistaken for cloth, so far as toughness and flexibility are concerned, and doubtless could be washed by a very careful laundress, though I have never heard of its being made use of more than once. The paper is made of the bark of the mulberry, by a somewhat tedious process, unnecessary to describe. The lacquer ware produced in Japan, and to which it has given name, has never been equalled in any other country for beauty and durability. The city of Miaco is the principal place for the manufacture of this beautiful ware, and, of late years, the articles brought from there to Nagasaki, have been of a more useful description to Europeans, than any that could be found at Simoda, Yokuhama, or Yedo, during my visits to those places. The Dutch have given them the patterns of centre-tables, ladies' work-tables, writing desks, waiters, toilet cases,etc., which they have imitated to perfection, and produced some of the most beautiful specimens of these articles I have ever seen. In wood work caskets, cabinets, etc., they are unsurpassed; some of which are lacquered with exquisite skill and great beauty of design, and others inlaid with the various woods of the country, in figures representing stars, diamonds, and every variety of design best calculated to display the woods, which are all susceptible of the highest polish. There is an endless assortment of writing-boxes, stands, fire-boxes, etc., etc., to be found in the shops, most of which are intended exclusively for the use of the natives, but they are all so beautifully manufactured that it is difficult to resist the temptation to purchase them. The Japanese are equally expert in the manufacture of articles of iron and steel, and some of their sword blades are said to be equal to the finest made in Damascus. They are beautifully polished, and kept exceedingly sharp. They descend as heirlooms, from one generation to another.
The geological formation of the Japanese islands has never been thoroughly investigated, but they are unquestionably volcanic; not, however to the exclusion of the plutonic and sedimentary formations. The useful mineral products, so far as known, are gold, silver, copper, quicksilver, tin, lead, iron, coal, sulphur, salt, and zinc, which are all abundant, with the exception of tin and iron. Gold is sometimes found as ore, and, in some places, procured from washings of the earth and sand. Silver is equally plentiful, and, until recently, appears to have been regarded as equally valuable with gold. Both these metals were exported by the Dutch and Portuguese, during their exclusive trade with the country, in large quantities. Iron was formerly held in as high esteem as copper, tools made of this metal being sold even dearer than those of copper or brass. The low price of copper when the trade was first opened with foreign nations, caused the export of so large a quantity, that the Government prohibited the sale of it, on the pretext that all there was in the country was required for rebuilding the Emperor's palace, which had recently been destroyed by fire. Sulphur is very abundant, as might be expected in so volcanic a region; in some places it lies in broad, deep beds, and may be removed with as much ease as sand. The Government derives a considerable revenue from this source. Coal of a bituminous character is found in several parts of the country, but the mines are not worked to any extent; charcoal being mostly used for fuel. Agates of immense size, cornelians, jaspers, and crystals are found in abundance, but no diamonds have yet been discovered. Many of the ornaments and trinkets found in the shops are made of white metal, resembling silver so much that the difference can only be discovered by chemical tests. This metal is believed to be a fine quality of tin, and it is used extensively in making cabinets, and other articles.
With regards to the population of the Empire, no statement beyond a mere conjecture can be made. I was informed by persons who have had good opportunity of ascertaining, that it could not be less than 30,000,000, and I am satisfied that this is not an over-estimate. All parts of the country that have been visited by travellers, are described as extremely populous, and towns containing 200,000 or 300,000 people are generally regarded as small villages. These are frequently so close together along the highways that they appear like a continuous line of cities. The bays and straits are covered with boats and junks, on board of which the people swarm like ants on an ant-hill.
The internal traffic of the country is very large, and carried on principally by coasting. The waters of the numerous straits and creeks are too shallow to admit the passage of large ships, but are easily navigated by the small craft of the Japanese, which seldom exceed sixty tons. The inland transport is by porters, horses, and oxen, there being very little river, or canal navigation. For more than two centuries, and until very recently, the foreign intercourse of Japan was exclusively confined to the Dutch and Chinese, and even with these, the Dutch being restricted to a single ship annually, and the Chinese to ten junks. The value of the exports and imports was also limited, and the amount fixed by a tariff imposed by the Government. Now that a more liberal policy seems to be inaugurated in Japan, and the country is again, in some measure, thrown open to foreign intercourse, it may not be amiss to speculate on the nature and advantages of the trade with this long secluded people, on which our farseeing Yankee race are beginning to found such brilliant hopes. In a free trade, or any approach to it with Japan, we may suppose that iron and steel, which are high priced commodities there, will constitute a valuable import, and the cloths and woollen fabrics generally, manufactured in this country, together with plate-glass, mirrors, watches, clocks, jewelry, hardware, saddlery, and various other Yankee productions, will meet with a ready sale in the ports of Japan at the present day; while the artificial wants which must inevitably be created by the constantly increasing intercourse with foreigners, cannot fail to bring about an extensive interchange of the productions of the two countries. The elements of progress have been introduced, and the ambition of the people to acquire knowledge of every description, affords an infallible guarantee that they will develop this uncontrollable principle, with a degree of intelligence and power hitherto unknown among the nations of the East.
Much is, also, to be hoped for from the judicious and zealous efforts that are being made by the able representatives of the Missionary cause, who have already settled at Kangawa; and though ages may elapse before the prejudices against the Christian religion are entirely overcome, their influence will soon be felt, in the improvement of the moral condition of the people among whom they have been thrown; and Japan will, ere long, be acknowledged as a worthy member of the great family of civilized, enlightened, and progressive nations of the earth; and the hope may reasonably be indulged that the blessings of Christianity will not be withheld from a people by whom they will be so highly appreciated, when once comprehended.
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