Popular Science Monthly/Volume 74/February 1909/Account of a Trip in Southernmost Japan, with Early Records of its Discovery

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1579167Popular Science Monthly Volume 74 February 1909 — Account of a Trip in Southernmost Japan, with Early Records of its Discovery1909Robert Van Vleck Anderson




ON one of the early days of May, 1905, three of us—a Japanese friend, my brother and I—were trudging through long avenues of pine trees and crossing the upland border line between the provinces of Hiuga and Osumi in southern Kiushiu and southern Japan. Kiushiu, the farthest south of the four main islands of Japan, is an exceptionally interesting and picturesque country, and perhaps the finest member of the archipelago. At this time we were traversing it diagonally from the open shore of the Pacific Ocean on the east to the bay and city of Kagoshima that mark the island's southern extremity. This is far from the center of the empire and the region of foreign traffic, and as yet there was no railway leading thither. The country paths are seldom trodden by foreigners, and the towns and villages are rarely afforded the amusement of a stranger's advent.

The rain was continuous, at times bringing such a downpour that it seemed to bid fair to flatten every object in the landscape. One who lives much out-of-doors in Japan must be reconciled to the coming of rain at all times, so we walked on gayly through it all, until the end of each day brought us to some inn where the night could be spent. As we neared our destination, the way followed torrents muddy with a burden of silt derived from the hills of volcanic ash and other volcanic rocks around about, and among green unterraced hills that reminded us of the limitless smooth slopes of home in America, so unlike were they to the usual terraced, stone-walled and rice-grown hills with forested tops that one knows throughout Japan. Finally we crossed over the axis of the island, the main divide, whence precipitous volcanic slopes led down through the rain-mist to the bay and islands that we could not see. Neither could we see the great smoking volcano Kirishima-yama, of which days before we had caught a glimpse from far in the north in the vicinity of Aso-san, and which we were later to view from southward on finer days.

After descending from the mountains and skirting the bay through extended ill-smelling fishing villages populous with staring people, we reached Kagoshima, the city of gardens and rich semi-tropical growth, the great port of the south. Here one looks down from one's balcony upon whole streets of shipping agencies, where hang great black and white placards of Chinese characters advertising dates of departure that are never kept. Here there is a beauty in the landscape and a spirit of liveliness in the people that invites one to stay, and an invitation in the bay and boats to go adventuring southward to the little known Liu Kill Islands and Formosa, from relations with which this most charming of Japanese cities acquires much of its character. And here one is in the heart of the old province of Satsuma, famed for its porcelain of centuries, and its heroes, and its influence on the history of the empire from the earliest day to the very present.

During most of our stay a warm rain was flooding down over the city, interfering with the manufacture of "ancient" Satsuma ware, and hindering the departure of all steamers, which seldom go when it rains and thus give their crews and passengers the enjoyment of furloughs much of the time. It was entertaining to sit in kimono on the balcony outside of the paper windows and look down on the scene in the streets, at the constant flow of people walking with bare feet and bare legs along the muddy ways under brown oil-paper umbrellas; at the shoulder-borne baskets heaped with yellow "biwa," or loquats, with chrysanthemums and lilies; at the wide bamboo rain hats from under which rang out the musical cries and songs of men and women, basket carriers, venders of fish just out of the water, turnips just out of the ground, young bamboo sprouts that have grown over night and will be eaten for dinner, fruits, cakes and flowers to decorate the shrines.

A few days more brought out the sun and the full plant life of the height of spring, and all the clearness of outline and symmetry of the island-volcano Sakura-jima, which springs from a bay rivaling that of Naples in the loveliness of its water and surroundings. And it was rather to my disappointment that, with the coming of good weather, the little boat which we had been waiting to take to the islands farther south finally made up its mind to leave for Tanegashima.

This island lies south of Japan in latitude 30° 30′, and is separated from Kiushiu by the Van Diemen Strait. It is long and low and narrow, trending northeast, its length being thirty-six miles and greatest width seven. It is composed of highly tilted strata of Tertiary age. Its people are Japanese, and as far as known it has always belonged to Japan, being in every way more closely related to that country than to the more southern or Liu Kiu islands that form a long curving chain down to Formosa.

Tanegashima was the first portion of Japan to be discovered by Europeans centuries ago, and it was here that the Japanese first became acquainted with members of that other race. With the foreigners came a knowledge of firearms, which spread from this island to the rest of the empire. For this reason Tanegashima was the name formerly applied to all firearms, and to the present day some pistols are still so called. 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 institutions of Japan. The traveler will find it wherever he may go, now pretentious and from the Japanese standpoint luxurious, now very humble or even dirty. As camping out is next to impossible in that country, we made great use of the yadoya throughout our journeying.

As one steps before the wide open doors of the reception room, or into the court, or the kitchen as the case may be, the host approaches and greets with a low bow, followed by the hostess and usually one or more of the maids, who, kneeling, bend to the floor. The salutations are returned, a word is exchanged perhaps about the rooms or the meal that is to be prepared, and the guest seats himself on the low porch or platform that surrounds the entrances, and removes his shoes or sandals, leaving them on the ground. If one wears the Japanese cloth shoe and straw sandal, as I did some of the time, the feet are always washed in a wooden basin of water brought by a maid, who comes clattering around the outside of the house on wooden clogs, to bring it, and sets it down before one on the ground. A little towel is brought too, unless one, as usual, has this most useful of articles about his person. Then the guest steps in, in stocking feet or barefoot, and, preceded by a servant passes through the open rooms, often between a double line of all the people of the household who are bowing to the floor. He enters the room allotted to him and there seats himself cross-legged on a cushion on the matted floor before a tiny charcoal fire in a brazier, and rests—at least pretends to rest if he is a foreigner—until disregard for ceremony gets the better of him and he adopts an easier position. Presently comes a demure or smiling little maid, with rosy cheeks and fancifully colored silk kimono, who kneels outside and slides open the paper door, enters, kneels and closes it, brings tea things to the center of the room, and kneeling pours out a wee cup of tea to the guest or each of the guests. This done she bends her forehead to the floor and patters out, opening and closing the door as before. If the guest is an honored one some dainty, such as bean jelly or cakes, or raw dough rolled in pink and green powder is brought with the tea. Then the guest steps out to the porch to wash, and as he dries his face he looks at the little cultured garden, or off to distant valley, or forest or mountain, or sea. Returning to his room, he is most of the time alone until the coming of the meal; or if it chances to be afternoon or evening, until the announcement comes that "the bath is ready." One is never entirely alone; access to the room is always free on several sides and host, or visitor, or servant, may come in at any time. One becomes used to this and learns to like it in most ways. There is nothing hidden. It makes life simple and informal and more natural. We found it a disadvantage sometimes when we had too many visitors whose curiosity got the better of them, but we always took it in good part, finding it amusing rather than annoying.

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, was a wide rambling bungalow of wood and paper, roofed with tile and surrounded by a garden of trees trimmed with fantastic artificiality, of flowers and wild growth. Here lived the present member of the ancient noble Tanegashima family that previously ruled the island. My brother called on him one day, and was cordially received, and from him we obtained accounts of the first coming of Europeans to Japan and of the introduction of firearms. It was the custom to keep a family record, and the contemporary account of this episode of the history of the island is most interesting. In addition to the account set down at the time in the family records a complete narrative of the events was written by a priest of the island named Monshi about 1606, or sixty-three years after they occurred, when, as he says, there were still living some old men, with hair as white as the Japanese crane, who remembered the arrival of the foreigners. This narrative he called "Teppoki," or "gun-record." In recent years a history of the Tanegashima family has been written in Japanese by Tokihito Nishimura, and these original accounts are included in it. During some long rainy days on the island our friend Kiyoshi Kanai translated the family records and the "Teppoki," and we studied out their meaning and interpreted them in English as well and as closely as we could. They were written in old-fashioned Japanese and many passages are obscure in meaning and difficult to render.

As the "Teppoki" tells the whole story well and as it incorporates the account given in the family records, I shall give our translation of it, leaving out the other, which would be largely duplication.

There is an island called Tane, 44 miles from Gushu.[1] Our ancestors always lived there. People say that the reason why they call it Tane is that, though it is small, it is full of people and they are all well-to-do. As a seed planted grows and brings forth fruit without end, so multiplied and prospered the dwellers on this island.[2]

On the 25th day of August, 1544, a large ship was found on the beach of Nishi-no-mura, and they did not know from what country it came. The whole crew numbered more than a hundred, the shape of their bodies was not like ours and they could not talk with us. The people that saw them thought them very curious. Among them there was a Chinese student named Goho; we had no way now of knowing his last name. The head officer of Nishi-no-mura was Oribenosho Tokitsura, and he knew a good deal. He met Goho and with his cane he wrote on the sand as follows:[3] "We do not know whence the crew of the ship comes. How different their figure is!" Then Goho wrote: "They are merchants of the southwest barbarians. Though they know about the principle of emperor and subjects they are ignorant about ceremony. So that when they drink they use a large dish, not the cup.[4] When they eat they use their hands and not the hasu[5] They know only to do what their desire tells them, and have no knowledge of literature.[6] They are so-called merchants who travel to places and stay there. They only exchange what they have for what they want and are not men to be suspected."

Then Oribenosho wrote again: "Thirty miles from here there is a port called Akaogi[7] where the owner of the island always stays, where there are several thousand houses and every house is rich and the streets are crowded. If we lay anchor there, there will be no danger, for the harbor is deep and the water smooth." And he sent word to Etoki and Tokiaki.[8]

Now the ship was conveyed by several tens of small fishing boats, and it entered Akaogi on the 27th.

At that time there was a priest named Chushuza, who had come from the Riugen temple of Hiuga and was staying at the port to learn about the Hokke sect, and who finally changed over to be a priest of the Hokke sect from that of Zen, and was called Diuzoin. He knew the sacred books and could write skilfully, and he could speak with Goho. Thus Goho found a friend in this foreign country and felt, as it is said, that there was "one voice, one heart" between them.

There were three head merchants; one was Murashusha and another was Kirishita Demoto.

They had an article in their hands that was about two or three feet long. There was a hole inside of it, and outside it was straight. It was made of very heavy materials. Though there was an empty passage on the inside, this was tightly closed at the end. There was a hole in one side to pass fire through. We could find nothing to compare with its shape. When a man used it, he would put a wonderful medicine[9] into it, add a leaden ball and set up a white mark on the coast; and then he would hold it up, keeping one eye closed and the body straight, put fire through the hole and always hit. When it fires it looks like lightning and the sound is like the rolling of thunder. Every one who heard covered both ears. After marking a white spot on a rock a man could shoot at it very accurately. With the firing off of this thing silver mountains could be destroyed and iron walls dug through. Enemies who do harm to a man's country would be very much frightened on meeting this, and still better would it be for hunting the deer or boar that do injury to young plants. There were many ways of using this article. When Tokiaki saw it he thought it was the most wonderful thing in the world. At first he did not know any name for it or how it was used, but it finally acquired the name "teppo." I do not know whether it was so named by the Chinese or by our island-people.

One day Tokiaki said to the barbarians through the interpreter: "I can not shoot this very well, I wish to learn." The barbarians answered, also by means of the interpreter: "If you wish to learn this we will go to the very bottom of it with you." Tokiaki said: "I would like to go to the deepest principle." The barbarian said: "All that is necessary is to quiet the mind and keep one eye closed." Tokiaki answered: "To adjust one's mind was taught by the old sacred teachers, and that is what I have learned. In general throughout the world if the mind is not under control all conduct will be false. What you say in regard to controlling the mind must mean just this. But about closing one eye—if it is not bright enough without both to put a candle at a distance,[10] is it necessary to close one eye?" The barbarian replied: "Well, everything must be done in a simple way."[11] Tokiaki said gladly: "That may be as Roshi said, 'To say clear, looking small thing.'"[12]

On a certain ceremonial day Tokiaki put a white spot at one hundred steps away, and with the wonderful medicine and a small lead ball he shot pretty closely. People were surprised, and when it hit they were frightened. He said solemnly: "I wish to learn." Tokiaki did not complain about the fearfully high price, but bought two teppo from the barbarians and added them to the house curios. He had the small vassal Sasagawa Koshiro learn the method of making the medicine. Tokiaki studied very earnestly; the first time he shot pretty closely; but later if he shot a hundred times he hit a hundred times, and never failed even once.

At that time a priest named Sugibo of Negoro temple in Kii[13] came to get a teppo, not caring for the distance. Tokiaki was affected by that strong desire for searching, and thought to himself: "In the olden time Jiokun coveted Kisatsu's sword, though he never let it be known by words. Kisatsu found it out and gave him his honorable sword. Our island is small and we can spare one teppo. I came by them unexpectedly and I was so overjoyed that I did not sleep, and had a strong desire to hand them down to my descendants. How much more delighted would a person be to get one after having searched for it. What I like, others will like. Why should I conceal them in boxes? "So he sent Tsuda Kanmotsunojo to Sugibo with one of them and let him know how to make the medicine and how to set it off.

As Tokiaki prized the firearms very highly he had several blacksmiths examine them, and desired them to make new ones. Though they got the shape almost the same they could not discover the way to close the end.[14]

The next year the foreign merchants came back to Kumano. . . . Fortunately there was a blacksmith among them. Tokiaki thought that to be a gift from heaven and ordered Kimbioe Kiyosada to learn the way to close the end. After awhile he learned how to do it by means of a screw. Thus in the course of a year they were able to make several tens, and after that they made the wooden parts and the other decorations.

This completes the main portion of the "Teppoki," but the family record of the smith Kimbioe Kiyosada which is also preserved forms an interesting addition. Here is a translation of part of this contemporaneous account:

Kiyosada brought about the relation of teacher and pupil between one of the strangers and himself with the purpose of learning the way to make the teppo. He thought that the barbarian would never tell the truth and that it would be better to give his daughter to him and let him marry her. Though he learned how to shape the teppo he did not understand how to close the end. After several months the ship went away, with the daughter, and many presents were left.

The record goes on in more detail and tells us the outcome. The daughter was seventeen years old and her name was Wakasa. After a year's time the ship returned, as the other records tell also, and Kiyosada found out how to complete the making of the firearms. Wakasa returned to her parents, and the family in order to keep her pretended to the strangers that she was dead and that the burial ceremony had taken place. The family of Kiyosada still lives on Tanegashima and is in possession of some porcelain ware presented at the time by the merchants.

The foregoing narrative is a history of the discovery of Japan by Europeans from the standpoint of the Japanese themselves. It is interesting to compare with this the story as written by one of the discoverers. The Portuguese navigator, Ferdinand Mendez Pinto, after returning home, described his many experiences in his book "Peregrinaçaō," and among them, his arrival at the island Tanegashima, or, as he called it, Tanixumaa.

He set out from Cochin China for a journey in the China seas, and after various wanderings through the Liu Kiu islands and elsewhere came by chance upon Tanegashima. This was the first time that any portion of Japan had been seen by Europeans. He was accompanied at this time by two other Portuguese, Diego Zeimoto and Christovano Borralho.[15] Later he went to other parts of Japan farther north. The whole story is most interesting, but there is place for only a few extracts here. Their junk hove to first at the southern end of the island and was then conducted by native boats to "a great town, named Miaygimaa"[16] where the chief nobleman of the island soon came on board. The account reads:[17]

He no sooner perceived us three Portugals, but he demanded what people we were, saying, that by our beards and faces we could not be Chineses.. . . Thereupon having called a woman of Lequia[18] whom he had brought to serve as an interpreter between him and the Chinese, captain[19] of the junck; "Ask the Necoda, said he unto her, where he met with these men, and upon what occasion he had brought them hither with him into our country of Jappan?" The captain thereunto replied, that we were honest men and merchants. . . . After he had seen all the commodities in the junck, he sate him down in a chair upon the deck, and began to question us about certain things which he desired to know, to the which we answered him in such sort, as we thought would be most agreeable to his humour, so that he seemed exceedingly satisfied therewith; in this manner he entertained us a good while together, making it apparent by his demands that he was a man very curious, and much inclined to hear novelties and rare things.

On leaving the vessel the lord of the island asked the strangers to come ashore and visit him, and they did so, being royally entertained and answering many questions regarding the world from which they had come, which was entirely unknown to the Japanese. Within three days all the goods on the ship were disposed of at great profit, but Pinto and his companions remained on the island after that more than five months. Again the narrative reads:

Now as for us three Portugals, having nothing to sell, we imployed our time either in fishing, hunting or seeing the temples of these Gentiles, which were very sumptuous and rich, whereinto the Bonzes, who are their priests, received us very courteously, for indeed it is the custom of those of Jappan to be exceedingly kind and courteous. . . . Diego Zeimoto went many times a shooting for his pleasure in an harquebuse that he had, wherein he was very expert, so that going one day by chance to a certain marsh, where there was a great store of fowl, he killed at that time about six and twenty wild ducks. In the mean time these people beholding this manner of shooting, which they had never seen before, were much amazed at it. . . . The lord of the island sent presently for Zeimoto, just as he was shooting in the marsh, but when he saw him come with his harquebuse on his shoulder, and two Chineses with him carrying the fowl, he was so mightily taken with the matter, as he could not sufficiently admire it; for whereas they had never seen any gun before in that country, they could not comprehend what it might be, so that for want of understanding the secret of the powder, they all concluded that of necessity it must be some sorcery.

The story goes on to tell how the nobleman took Zeimoto up behind him on his horse and had criers declare through the town that thereafter he considered him as his kinsman, and that he should be treated accordingly on pain of death. The lord treated Zeimoto very kindly, and the latter, according to Pinto, presented his harquebuse to the lord, who gave him in return 1,000 tæls silver.[20] The lord took more pleasure in shooting the gun than in anything else, and many of his subjects set to work to learn to make firearms. Pinto says that when he returned to Japan another time, which was in 1556, he was amazed to find how the art of making guns had spread, and he says that on expressing his amazement:

"Certain merchants of good credit assured me that in the whole island of Jappan there were above 300,000 harquebuses. . . . So that by means of that one, which Zeimoto presented to the Nautaquim in acknowledgment of the honour and good offices that he had done him. . . the country was filled with such abundance of them, . . . whereby one may perceive what the inclination of this people is, and how much they are naturally addicted to the wars, wherein they take more delight than any other nation that we know.

The first finding of Japan by Europeans opened the way to the coming of more merchants, and missionaries. It was not long after that St. Francis Xavier came and converted large numbers of the Japanese to Christianity and started this new religion, which in later years gained such a firm rooting and developed among the Japanese some of the bravest Christian martyrs known to history. During following centuries a very important trade continued between Japan and the Portuguese, Spanish and Dutch until the country was opened to the world by America in 1854.

We found the people in many of the out-of-the-way parts of Japan not much altered, it would seem, from what they were centuries ago, and just as much filled with curiosity as they were then at the coming of "red-haired barbarians with green eyes." To cite just one instance—one day an old man who had never seen a foreigner before sat for half an hour outside our door, which happened to be a little open, and watched us while we were eating. I heard later that his comment was—"they have beautiful complexions but I do not like their hair," A light complexion is always considered an element of beauty, and for this reason a large proportion of the girls use powder, although their faces are in general whiter and rosier naturally than the men's. Black hair is, of course, an element of beauty, and sandy hair such as ours is not, since black is practically the only color known among themselves; and as for blue eyes—if a Japanese, having never seen them, could imagine them at all it would only be with horror.

The people of Tanegashima are rather easy-going, and along the coast are often poor and dirty, rather from indolence than lack of opportunity. When not lounging idly they are at their fishing or seaweed gathering, or the women in their sweet-potato patches. All down the rocky coast one sees ragged children playing, and naked men with well-formed bodies of the color of bronze, working at their boats and nets or swimming in the sea with baskets gathering edible sea-weed. In the fields, too, the peasants work almost naked during the warm days. The coast is one of rocks and pools and waves, of fish-nets spread out to dry, of dirty fishing shanties, of coral walls surrounding the yards, of salt-making paddies, and long reaches where nothing grows but grass and shrubs and pines.

Our wanderings took us along the coasts, across the island and down its center, and afforded us many experiences and views that are memorable. Toward the southern end we stayed one night at Kumano Bay on the eastern coast, the place to which the foreign ship of Mendez Pinto came first, and where lived the blacksmith Kiyosada who first learned to manufacture firearms. Here there is a large inlet among the hills that is filled with water only when the tide is in, where one sees "now horseback riders and now the white sails of boats" as one Japanese writer quaintly puts it. We walked across the dry, flat floor of the bay one evening on our way out to the seacoast to examine some caves. Returning after dark we started across it and found it full of water up to our waists. At every step we took, the disturbed bay gleamed with phosphorescence in a circle all about us and made a fine picture here in the valley of water between pine-crowned hills that stood out even blacker than the night. Here where the landscape changes with the tide is the holiest place in the island, and we had the pleasure of spending the night with the priest of the Shinto shrine in an exquisitely beautiful Japanese house that had just been built for him. He lived alone, but called in a charming lady and her perfect little daughter from the neighboring hamlet to prepare our food. The meals were very simple, but neatly and daintily served, after the general plan of the meal before described. The priest did not eat with us, but we sat with him and talked for some time by the open fire that was burning in a basin in the floor. The custom of having fires differs among the Japanese. Usually in the hotels and private houses there is a wood fire on the dirt floor or in a rough stove in the kitchen, and nothing but braziers in the living rooms. But often also, in the country homes especially, open fires burn in a round hearth in the center of the house. There is never a chimney, and in the present case the rich new woodwork of panel and ceiling was fast becoming blackened with smoke from the tarry pine wood.

We went to sleep on short mattresses on the floor, under covers of silk, and so passed one of the last of our nights in Tanegashima. Before leaving this southern end of the island the next day I climbed a high hill and saw the great blue mass of the island Yakushima that rises under a dense cover of old forests over six thousand feet out of the sea not far away. To this island I sailed a few days later, while my brother left me to go back to the north.

It was just at the time when the long expected Russian fleet was gradually crawling toward Japan, and the whole country, ignorant of the fleet's whereabouts and of the route that it might take, and not knowing at what moment it might strike, was calmly and confidently awaiting its arrival. On several different days we had heard occasional distant rumblings that did not sound at all like thunder and did not approach nearer. We thought to ourselves, could that be distant cannonading? But although the noise was probably due to distant thunder storms it added something of awe and doubt to the suspense. Finally the news came, and the intoxicating, unbelievable story of wholesale success was quietly received and at once believed by the people as if it were only what had been expected. A couple of days after the great victory, as I was sailing across the straits to Yaku Island, I saw a Japanese war vessel swooping down the coast of southern Kiushiu, probably in search of any Russian ship that might possibly have escaped. The war, now almost ended, which had been carried on with such assured skill by the Japanese, gave an added significance to the first introduction of firearms and a prophetic truth to the words of Mendez Pinto at the end of the passage quoted above, and to the follow-words with which the priest Monshi summed up his "Teppoki":

After this, throughout the eight provinces, and even in the country districts, every one obtained guns and practised. . . . In the first place Tokiaki got two guns from the foreigners and learned their use. One shot shook all Japan.
  1. The southern province of Kiushiu, now called Osumi.
  2. Tanegashima means literally "Island of seed," from Tane—seed, ga—of, shima—island.
  3. The meaning of the written characters in Chinese and Japanese is much the same whereas the spoken languages are mutually incomprehensible.
  4. To the oriental, drinking tea or liquor is a significant ceremony and the little porcelain cup is a part of the form. The departure from this way and the use of a large coarse bowl or mug, such as from their standpoint should be used only to eat from, doubtless seemed an indication of barbaric crudity.
  5. What we call, with insufficient reverence, chop-sticks.
  6. "Literature" here connotes learning, culture, ceremonial. These commentaries are interesting; they illustrate another point of view. The bases of judgment are exactly similar to those applied to-day by many Europeans and Americans in passing judgment on the orientals.
  7. This is the chief port and town of the island, now most frequently called Nishi-no-omote. It is the port to which we came, as before stated.
  8. Etoki and Tokiaki were father and son in the ruling house of Tanegashima. The latter was at about this time succeeding his father in the position of responsibility.
  9. The present word for powder in Japanese means "fire medicine."
  10. This probably means, "If with only one eye I can not see any better than by candle light."
  11. Probably means, "It requires concentration."
  12. This probably means that clearness of statement is aided by considering one point at a time. There is a suggestion of similarity here to the passage in Matthew VI., 22, "if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light."
  13. The Kii peninsula in central Japan, several hundred miles away.
  14. The difficulty that they encountered was probably in finding a way to lose the stock end of the barrel, when once they had molded a barrel tube, open at both ends, around a smooth rod. They learned to do this later, probably by screwing in a breech plug and welding the end.
  15. The names in the Japanese account were Murashusha and Kirishita Demoto. As one Japanese writer says, foreign names are to their people "like cold water to the sleeping ear." The names must have been ill understood and imperfectly represented in the Japanese syllables and there may have been a still further departure from the original in the present retranslation. The former may stand for Mendez Pinto. The first name of the second doubtless stands for Christovano (Bolero), (the Japanese now say Kirish for Christ), and the last name for Zeimoto, especially as the Japanese account says distinctly that there were three men.
  16. The name of the chief town which was then as now the chief one of the island, and to which Pinto came according to the Japanese account, is Akaogi or Nishi-no-omote. He evidently confused with it the name of the small island Mage-shima that lies a few miles out to sea in front of the town.
  17. From the translation by H. C. Gent published in London in 1663.
  18. Pinto's version of Liu Kiu, the name of the island chain to the south.
  19. The three Portuguese were then traveling in the vessel of a Chinese pirate.
  20. Compare this with the Japanese account of the transaction.