Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 74.djvu/167

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163
SOUTHERNMOST JAPAN

To-day the island is not greatly changed from its condition at the time when the first Europeans came to its coast. Few foreigners have been there since, and on going there one in a measure reexperiences the impressions that must have come to those early navigators, and presents a somewhat similar appearance to the present inhabitants as did those first foreigners to the earlier generation. The people live in a world of their own, and are connected with the mainland—a mainland that is itself an island—merely by a little one-hundred-ton steamer that runs with a reliable lack of regularity.

The sixty-mile ride out to sea from Kagoshima on this steamer was to be an all-night one. We purchased the best accommodations to be had and were off down the bay in the evening. The process on boarding a boat in Japan, after taking a sampan or scow out from the landing to where the boat is moored, is first to see to the safe storage of one's heavy baggage, and then, taking off one's shoes, and bowing the head, to enter the little door of the cabin that serves as sitting-room, dining and bedroom for those of the class to which one's ticket entitles him. Bowing the head is in this case not an act of politeness but merely of practical utility in preserving one's cranium and temper, and a practise that a foreigner in Japan learns to remember after many daily lessons. After one has entered, the act of kneeling and bowing to the floor as a greeting to those already present is an act of politeness which though dispensable is always appreciated by the Japanese. In the present case the cabin measured twelve feet by seven, and five feet in height, and already five men were squatting on the floor with their personal baggage, preparing to make a night of it. Presently four more came in and that made us twelve, a good-size company for such a cubby hole. Each spread his blanket down in the little crevice that was left for him, and as he tired of the talk and of the smoking—one can imagine how much the volume of smoke poured forth by each of the Japanese, with the exception of our friend, added to the general comfort—each cuddled down, sardined himself in, and was lulled to sleep by the chunk, chunk of the machinery, the occasional tapping of some lingering smoker's pipe on the bronze brazier, and the cradling of the boat as it stood out into the rough, splashing waters of the strait.

Early morning brought us in view of the low, forested sky line of Tane gashima, and we were soon rowed ashore across the little bay of Akaogi, or Nishi-no-omote, where the port and largest village is marked by a group of huts along the coral-strewn beach. We left our belongings on the beach, and threading our way through the gathering crowd of men and boys, and women and girls with babies on their backs, who were flocking to see us, we went to a little inn to make arrangements for a stay.

The yadoya, or inn, is one of the most typical and interesting insti-