Popular Science Monthly/Volume 65/July 1904/A Visit to the Japanese Zoological Station at Misaki
|A VISIT TO THE JAPANESE ZOOLOGICAL STATION AT MISAKI.|
JAPAN is not at its best in the rainy season. For the rain comes down in floods. And my first impression was that Misaki was a larger aquarium than even a zealous naturalist needed. We had left Tokyo at six—I was about to say, early one morning, but I recall that six is not early in Japan—on a small bay steamer which plies daily to Misaki. And a few hours later we had about reached a climax in our rolling, when, turning suddenly, we ran under the lee of an island and came to anchor. I confess that I was not cheered by the glimpse of Misaki; the town was a flat, sodden mass of thatched houses, its background an abrupt knoll, with a ragged skyline of dripping and irregular pines, and the drooping eaves of a temple. And to add to the dismalness of the picture, even the sampan men appeared tearful as they streams of rain from the points of their porcupine-like coats. Our fellow passengers, on the other hand, showed not a symptom of discomfort, and they clambered smilingly into the sampans, standing or crouching under a mass of oil-paper umbrellas, men often tucking up their kimonos and standing bare-legged like storm-bound birds—their wide wooden clogs giving them the appropriate webbed feet. Ashore was waiting for us an assistant of the station, Mr. Tsuchida, and together we waded through the narrow and fishy streets of the town (which I found, to my surprise, had a population of five thousand, and was of no little commercial importance in furnishing fish for the Tokyo market) to the Inn Kinokuniya. This inn I recall vividly, for its host, in spite of the drenching rain, thought it necessary to hunt the town for a knife and fork for the foreigner, and while about it borrowed a chair and table, probably from the station house and its solitary policeman, and provided 'beefu teki' and 'pan' (bread), in order to make things homelike, as he said. And while he busied us with these incidentals, he engaged a sampan to carry us to the station. I might mention that in real Japan the traveler can, or should, do little without the aid of his innkeeper—if one wishes to go to the railroad, a theater, a shop, or to hire a boat, a coolie, a
jinrick-shaw—it is de rigeur to go first to the ever-present inn. I soon discovered that our host was on excellent terms with the zoological people, for the station had formerly been located near by in the town. But the town was found to be not the best of locations; there was too much noise, and—fish market, for example—so the building was moved bodily around the point to a small rugged peninsula which forms the harbor of Aburatsubo, about a mile away. Presently our host shelled us in rain coats and deposited us in our sampan, and our ferryman, sculling with a heavy balanced oar, shot us beyond the island, whose lighthouse guides the steamers into the mouth of the bay of Tokyo, and then, turning sharply, he skirted the coast, around the edge of the sea of Sagami. At this point of the trip I recall that some confusion was created, as we rounded a swell-swept rock, by our sailor falling overboard, his oar becoming suddenly unshipped, an incident remembered mainly on account of the poor fellow's embarrassment. We pulled him into the boat and reinstated him; and he shook off his dripping kimono and stood naked in the drenching rain; bronze body, white loin cloth, white band knotted around his forehead, pressing down a fringe of bristling black hair, his muscles showing splendidly as he swayed at his oar, hissing viciously as he pushed and pulled. In a few minutes more we rounded a little pine-covered point, and the two white buildings of the laboratory came into view.
The taller of these, two-storied, is the one which was removed from the town of Misaki in 1897, the other was built a couple of years later. Together they stand close to the water, but are sheltered from typhoons by an abrupt hill which forms the end of the point. The surroundings are beautiful. A number of inlets cut deeply and irregularly into pine-covered hills, and in nearly every direction one obtains vistas of bluffs, pines and rocks very much as at famous Matsushima. Altogether I believe that the student here enjoys more picturesque natural surroundings than at any other laboratory in the world. And we may add to this the unzoological item that the headland has a romantic background. For here was the castle of Arai, famed in Japanese history as having withstood for several years the siege of the Hojo regents during the fourteenth century: and on every hand are memories of its past glory.
If I digress a bit, I might point out that the student dormitory, amid the old pines on the hilltop above the laboratory, and next to Professor Mitsukuri's villa, is built on the exact site of the ancient castle, and here interesting relics have been found; such, for example, was a fragment of a splendid gold-crested helmet dug up during my stay. Near by are traces of fortifications, and a store-room excavated in the rocky bluff during the ancient days of the castle. The bay, at the side of the laboratory, is still called the 'Red Harbor,' because at its very edge the defenders were beheaded after the sack of the castle. And just opposite is the 'Buried Treasure-Beach,' when the most valuable plunder of the castle is supposed to have been stored. And more interesting still are the monuments marking the spots where died by hara-kiri the lord of the castle, Dōsun Miura, and his son, after word had been brought them that all hope was lost. The local story is that Dōsun Miura retired to this point after witnessing the death of his son, and fearful lest his own head should be carried across the bay to Odawara by the conquerors, he would trust no one to act as his second in the death ceremony. Seizing his short cue with one hand, he is said to have cut off his own head with the other, and to have thrown it far out in the deep water before his body fell, a physiological possibility, by the way, which students of the laboratory do not question—in the presence of townspeople. So the greatness of the Miura is unimpaired, and every year memorial services are celebrated on the laboratory grounds. At this time portrait-images of Dōsun and his son are brought from a neighboring temple and placed on the altar in a prayer-tent near the beach, and wrestling bouts commemorate the siege and the fall of the castle. Perhaps I might end my digression with the note that the present property came into the hands of the imperial family and has remained unoccupied since the fifteenth century. The major reason for this is said to have been that the point was haunted and many curious stories are told of the reappearance of Dōsun Miura and his men on the hilltops among the ancient pines. One recognizes them readily, since, like all Japanese specters, they have no feet. Indeed, I learned through Mr. Alan Owston, of Yokohama, that even a few years ago, when his yacht anchored overnight at Aburatsubo, the point was still so ghost-ridden that the sailors were unwilling to go ashore!
As for the zoological station itself: The one-story building is used by the graduate students, and is divided off in alcoves in the usual way. Work places for eight investigators are provided on the north side of the main room. On the south side of the building is the office of the director, and forming the fourth corner of the building is a concreted room containing aquaria and giving ample space for the preparation of larger material. By a covered way one passes from the door of the advanced laboratory into the two-story building, the ground floor of which is used at the present time for general class work. The upper story contains two living rooms fitted in European style, which were generously placed at the writer's disposal by the authorities of the Zoological Institute.The general class work consists of a summer course of about six weeks' duration, which gives its members an opportunity of becoming familiar with the structure of the prominent animal types. The students,
about thirty in number, are usually teachers of zoology in various high schools throughout Japan. Some of them live in the dormitory on the hilltop, others find lodgings at the neighboring fishing village of Aburatsubo, often hiring quarters in the little temple on the top of
the hill. The investigators include Professor Mitsukuri, one of the founders of the station and its director, and usually the greater number of the staff of the zoological department of the Science College. Professor Ijima frequently comes down to visit his reefs of glassy sponges, Professor Watasé, Professor Goto, Dr. Izuka, Dr. Miyajima, Mr. Namiyé, some of the younger assistants, and three or four of the graduate students of the institute at Tokyo make up the remaining corps of investigators. During the writer's visit, a Russian ichthyologist,
Professor P. Schmidt, became a guest of the station, and an American zoologist, Mr. J. F. Abbott.
The work-quarters, it may be mentioned, are simple, but all necessary appliances and books are promptly forwarded from the institute at Tokyo. It is the collecting facilities which the visitor does not forget, for not only is the locality a rich one, but the ways and means are at hand to secure material even from great depths. And in this lies the value of neighboring Misaki, for during many months of the year the fisher people set out at sunrise in their large boats, proceed off shore to well-known fishing reefs, which, by the way, are often in very deep water, and return during the afternoon with a varied haul. If successful, their home-coming is spectacular—they chant in chorus and push their heavy boat through the water, sometimes skulled by as many as a dozen oars, at the rate of a young steam launch, the boat garnished at the prow, and the crew wearing fillets and loin cloths of scarlet. It happens, fortunately, that the fishery is carried on principally by hand trawls, for it is clear that when such a line, which is sometimes a mile in length and with thousands of dependent hooks, is pulled up again, even if fish are not taken, there will surely be entangled a varied collection of objects—sponges, echinoderms and rock fragments, the last often richly stocked with brachiopods, worm tubes, corals, bryozoa. Happily, too, the collector of the station, Kuma Aoki, is an ex-fisherman, for, knowing the townspeople, he serves as a diplomat, suggesting regions which should be fished, and often accompanying the expeditions. To be mentioned in this connection is the skill with which the fisher people are able to locate accurately fishing grounds. By the use of a system of cross ranges, a master of the craft like Kuma can return to a spot where he has lost a valuable fishing line, and can secure it on a following day—a result which seems the more remarkable to the novice when he reflects that the line may have been lost in 400 fathoms of water.
While the trawl line is the customary apparatus of the fishermen, numerous devices are also employed in special fisheries, an account of which has been given recently by a Russian ichthyologist (ef. Dr. P. Schmidt, MT. d. Deutschen Seefischerei-Vereins, No. 2, p. 31, 1903). I might mention particularly the use of earthenware urns which are fastened together by straw rope, and sunken in the coves in the neighborhood of the station. These are constantly used by octopus as places of retreat during bright daylight, and to secure them the urns have merely to be overhauled from time to time. Shell fish are often taken in the usual eastern way by the use of a water glass and a dart-pointed bamboo pole, or, without a water glass, the fisherman may simply thrust his head below the surface of the water. Especially useful to the collector are the numerous divers of Misaki, who are, I may add, so skilful that they use no apparatus, not even weights for rapid descent, but will swim down duck fashion, to a depth of twenty or thirty feet. They hunt especially Haliotis, examining the rocks deliberately, and often remaining below several minutes. I may mention that one of the familiar sounds which one hears when rowing in the neighborhood of the station is the diver's peculiar whistle, by which he expands his lungs before descending.One need hardly review the fauna in the region of Misaki. It is enough, perhaps, f<> say Hint bore focus many Favorable conditions for
marine collecting. There is a rich shallow water fauna which yields, among other delectable things, Amphioxus, sea-pens, a giant Balanoglossus, Onchidium and a Phoronis four inches in length. In the immediate neighborhood of the station can be obtained at low tide Antedon, very abundant, Lingula, the spawning of which Mr. Yatsu has observed in the laboratory, and Cœloplana, the latter discovered by Mr. Abbott. Pelagic forms can also be collected favorably. Pyrosoma, Appendicularia and Salpa are abundant. Various ctenophores, including Cestus, are not uncommon, and near the station, sometimes sweeping close to the shore, is the Black Current, bringing many southern forms. I may mention that the dead shells of Nautilus have been
picked up near the station. The richness of the neighborhood in deep-water forms has been well known since the studies of the Challenger. Glass sponges of many species are frequent prizes of the fishermen. And stalked crinoids (Metacrinus rotundus) are often taken off the reef Okinosé. Among the fishes Bathythrissa, a primitive deep-water teleost, of which the Challenger was able to obtain but few examples, is now taken off Misaki so abundantly that it is regularly shipped to the fish-market in Tokyo. Hag-fishes are common, even more than common, and there have been collected within a relatively small area three genera and four species. Among the sharks Heptanchus is common; Mitsukurina, which is perhaps the Cretaceous broad-nosed Scaphanorhynchus, is taken occasionally. A Port Jackson shark is abundant, and in the course of a year the neighborhood yields about a dozen specimens of the frilled shark, Chlamydoselachus. Of chimseroids, Chimæra phantasma is common, and C. mitsukurii and C. purpurescens also occur; rare, however, is the long-nosed chimæra, Rhinochimæra pacifica.
One need hardly remark that the possibilities of Misaki are not exhausted in producing new and extraordinary forms. To cite merely an instance of this, during the writer's visit two hag-fishes were obtained, one of which, Paramyxine atami, was transitional between Myxine and Bdellostoma—its outer gill openings being drawn together within the length of about a centimeter; another (B. okinoseana) was transitional between the hag-fishes of many and of few gills, a large form with eight gill-openings on either side. In fact, it is coming to be expected that each year is to bring to the Zoological Institute at Tokyo prizes from Misaki—one year new forms of sponges; another, a gigantic tubularian hydroid, Branchiocerianthus, as a 'gift from the sea goddess Otohimé'; and another, specimens of umbrella-shaped octopods, Amphitretus. Under such circumstances it is not unnatural that the visitor should bring away from Misaki a stronger impression of his individual work in collecting—and this implies a clearer picture of the local fauna—than from many an older and better known zoological station. And he might justly add that the friendship of his colleagues of Japan is not the least enduring memory of his stay.