Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 74.djvu/169

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165
SOUTHERNMOST JAPAN

After the tea-drinking that morning at Tanegashima, I opened a panel at one side of our room and stepped out on the porch under the low roof. Just before me was the white beach and the water's edge, where two junks that looked for all the world like ancient Spanish galleons were moored; and I looked off beyond to the little rock-hemmed bay banded with green and purple water under the changing cloud shadows, and still farther to the distant pine-crowned sand dunes and headlands fringing the blue of the open sea. To a stranger, such a scene is overpowering with a sense of isolation in which there are mingled elements of loneliness and charm.

Upon the announcement that "go-hang," the meal, or literally, the "rice," was ready, we squatted on the floor and the maid laid before each of us a square tray of viands, and herself kneeled to serve the rice from the wooden firkin. Each tray bore four main dishes, one in each corner, and a cup in the center. There were three bowls, an empty one of porcelain for the main food—rice, another of lacquered wood containing a very thin soup, and the third a mingling of dried fish and seaweed, while the fourth corner was occupied by a plate holding a small baked fish entire. The central cup contained two square pieces of pickled turnip. The maid remained throughout the meal and filled the bowls with rice when they were passed. And, of course, we ate with chop-sticks, drinking the soup. This was a typical hotel meal, purely Japanese, even more elaborate than what one would expect at a private home of people of the middle class, and far better than anything one is served with when traveling in country places away from the seashore.

The island of Tane is not very thickly inhabited and the people are fairly well-to-do. They are half fisher-folk, and the rest farmers or peasants. The low hills that rise from the coast leaving no bordering flat-land are wide and level on the summit, and, in contrast to most of the hills in other parts of Japan, are wooded on their flanks and cultivated on the top. Rice, wheat, yellow mustard for oil, and sweet potatoes are the principal crops. The little fields and patches are usually hemmed in by shrubbery and trees, or often by rows of banana palms. The people live in homesteads that come nearer to being homes as we know them than most of the habitations in other parts of Japan. The low houses with steep thatched roofs are bosomed in gardens of luxuriantly growing vegetables, vines, shrubbery, palms and flowers, with a deep, rich background of old cryptomeria, pine, oak, camphor and banyan trees. It was a pleasure to walk through the rank forest away from the coast on a hot summery day, and there to come upon old settlements framed in the abundant greenery and other coloring of the woods.

One of these old homes situated on the hills above Nishi-no-omote,