The New York Times, September 10, 1877, p.2:|
THE OLD AND NEW JAPAN.GREAT CHANGES OF RECENT YEARS.
THE RAILWAY OF THE TOKAIDO--
AN AMERICAN'S BOON TO JAPAN--OLD AND NEW TRAVELING--
A NATIONAL EXHIBITION AND WHAT IT WILL DO--
ENGLISH HOSTILITY TO JAPAN--RAILWAY CONTRACTS--
ENTERPRISE IN STEAM NAVIGATION.
From Our Special Correspondent.
TOKIO, Japan, Friday, Aug. 10, 1877.
The railway brings one here from Yokohama in a little less than an hour--distance, 17 miles. This is not fast traveling, but then you must remember that Japan is not a fast country.
It is not so very long ago that it was a difficult matter to come here at all, as many inhabitants of the two cities can testify. Passports were needed, and also a guard, and when these were secured you had the choice of the saddle or the cango. The latter was a sort of basket arrangement slung upon a pole, which rested on the shoulders of two men; they proceeded at a swinging walk which contained suggestions of seasickness, and carried you at a rate a trifle above three miles an hour. You sat in a cramped position, with your legs folded beneath you, and, however comfortable the attitude may be for a Japanese, it is anything but lovely for an Occidental.
The cango is still used in the mountain regions in the interior, and you occasionally find one of them around the cities for the service of gentlemen of the old school. Looking from the car window on my first visit to the capital I saw a cango plodding its slow way along, and forming a marked contrast to the modern way of travel.
The Japanese have always been very prompt to appreciate the advantages of the railway; there are 10 trains each way daily between Tokio and Yokohama, and the third-class carriages are always full, and frequently crowded. They are almost exclusively occupied by the middle and lower class Japanese; sometimes the native officials ride in the second-class wagons, and now and then a high functionary is in the first class.
The foreigners in Japan nearly all ride second-class; the only exceptions are among those who think the dignity of their positions requires them to take the dearest places. But these are not numerous, and consequently the first-class carriage usually has for occupants only the conductor and a brakeman or two.
The railway track in several places passes in sight of the Tokaido, the ancient road which traverses the empire and unites the eastern to the western capital. Long before there were any roads in Europe, with the exception of those of Rome, the Tokaido was completed and in operation, and for hundreds of years it has hardly undergone a change.
For miles and miles the towns and villages are stretched so thickly that they form an almost continuous street, while in places not thus thickly settled the road is shaded by double rows of lofty trees. The width of the Tokaido is somewhat disappointing; as it was completed before the use of wheeled vehicles became general, it was not laid out with the magnificence of our modern avenues, and in many places there is no unneeded space when two vehicles meet.
As a spectacular arena it has lost some of its glory; before the introduction of steam travel it was constantly thronged, and when the Daimios appeared with their processions, in all the pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious peace, the pageant was not one to be lightly regarded. Woe to the native who interfered with the procession in any way or neglected to show the proper sign of respect. His life paid the forfeit, according to the laws of the land, and the immediate guards of the Daimio were judge, jury, and executioners, all in the space of half a minute.
On à changé tout cela; Daimios and processions are no more, and the Tokaido has become to a great degree prosaic. But it is still picturesque, and Occidental eyes can busily employ themselves in contemplating Japanese life along the this great thoroughfare. The old and the new are frequently found in sharp contrast.
Japan is indebted to an American, if I am correctly informed, for one of the curious spectacles it presents to strangers. Down to seven years ago the modes of traveling on land were not numerous. You could walk, you could be carried by men, or you could ride on horseback. There were good roads and streets, but no wheeled vehicles, with the exception of a few clumsy concerns of snail-like velocity.
A sharp-eyed American--I wish I knew his name--invented, in 1869 or 1870, the jin-riki-sha, or man-power carriage. It is, as its name implies, a vehicle drawn by human arms, and very good speed does it make. It is, as its name implies, a vehicle drawn by human arms, and very good speed does it make. It is like a two-wheeled chaise, newly hatched and just from the shell, or a baby cart of more than ordinary proportions.
Ordinarily it is drawn by one man, but if the roads are rough or bad, and the way long, two and sometimes three men are taken. The carriage is built for one person only, but two individuals, if small and compressible, may be crowded into it. The coolies that draw it are generally powerful fellows, and seem to enjoy their occupation. They have astonishing endurance, and are capable of a speed that would wear out a horse.
I have made several excursions with these carriages, and like them very much. Last week I took a trip into the country in company with a friend, and we had three men to propel each vehicle. Going down, we stopped several times and loitered along, sight-seeing, but our return journey of 23 miles was made in four and a half hours, with one halt of 15 minutes and two stoppages of perhaps three minutes each at wayside springs.
Since I arrived here a medical friend of mine at Yokohama was summoned by telegraph to a place 52 miles away. With three men to his jinrikisha he made the journey in twelve and a half hours, including three halts of 10 or fifteen minutes each.
These carriages are found here by hundreds, yes, by thousands, and are quite as numerous in the cities as cabs in London or Paris. The first used here were made in America, and cost from $100 to $150, delivered here. The Japanese make them now for much less; a good one can be bought for $30, while $40 or $50 will secure something grand.
Many individuals and business houses buy their carriages, and then hire coolies at $6 per month to draw them, the coolies boarding themselves. For $8 a month you can have at your call, from morn till midnight, a coolie with his own vehicle, or one that he hires and is responsible for. Cheap carriage hire, isn't it?
I know of no boon conferred upon any foreign country by an American equal to the jinrikisha. It has given employment to thousands of men and greatly facilitated the means of locomotion. It is as popular with natives as with foreigners, and many of the wealthier Japanese already have private ones for their own use.
Up to the present time there has been no attempt to make them elaborate and showy, and the chances are that it will not be made. The Japanese are an eminently practical people and care very little for display; with the overthrow of the feudal system they are less lavish than of yore, and seem to be satisfied with surroundings which the meanest European prince would regard with contempt.
The palaces of the Daimios were very large, as they had many retainers to lodge, but compared to what we find scattered over Europe they were mere barracks, and cost but a trifle. Labor is not dear in Japan, and the warmth of the climate forbids the erection of the dense-walled edifices of colder lands. The entire Government expenses of Japan for a peaceful year could be covered with what the Sultan of Turkey lavishes upon his household in a trio of months.
Just now Japan is undergoing the expense of a civil war, and though the end is generally believed to be near, there will be a good deal of guerilla fighting before peace is thoroughly secured.
The carpenters are putting the finishing touches to a building in which is to be held the first national exhibition of home manufactures. Already some of the goods have arrived, and others are on the way, and it is thought that the affair will be ready for opening early in the coming month. The intention is to show what the country can produce, and I understand that the exhibition will be a permanent one, in order that foreign visitors may readily examine the Japanese handiwork without traveling through miles of shops and going to different parts of the country.
It is also intended as an educator of the Japanese people, and for this purpose the admission on two days of the week has been made as low as three cents. Other days are various in their prices, but none of them are high, and there seems to be no intention of making the affair pay more than current expenses.
Manufacturers from all over the country have been invited to contribute, and with an eye to business they are responding favorably. There will be many fine and curious things on exhibition if a quarter of what I hear is true. Each manufacturer will send his best work, and I hear that some of them have their best laborers busy night and day to produce something out of the ordinary line.
Yesterday I saw in a shop some charming cloisonné work, and on asking the price was told it was not for sale, as it had been especially made for the exhibition. I had no intention of buying, and therefore did not come away sorrowing.
I have not been able to learn definitely about the International Exhibition, but the burden of my information is that it will come off in 1880. There is some opposition to it, as some of the cool heads feel that it will follow too closely upon the Paris Exposition of 1878, and our own centennial of last year. Its opponents fear that all nations will not take active part in it, and that travelers will not come here in overwhelming numbers on account of the affair.
Japan is very anxious to enter the family of nations, and naturally enough those who have the management of affairs thought that an International Fair would help it along in the right direction. She has already gone into the Postal Union when it was not to her advantage to do so, and in spite of the opposition of some of the foreign ambassadors, notably the French and English.
Instead of receiving kind words and friendly commendation for her efforts, Japan seems to be the victim of persistent hostility. Especially is the conduct of the English hostile in the extreme, and an observer might suppose that England and Japan were in open warfare. The English papers at home have contained a great deal of adverse criticism of late, and as for the English papers at Yokohama, they steadfastly abuse the Japanese Government, and tell falsehoods about it in a way that would lead to their suppression if they were owned by natives and printed in the native language. The encourage the rebellion, talk about the prospect of the fall of the Empire, and suggest that the country is on the verge of ruin.
Sir Harry Parkes, the British Minister, after opposing the entrance of Japan into the Postal Union, endeavored to secure from the Government a subsidy for the Peninsular and Oriental steam-ships, carefully concealing the fact that the company is already subsidized by the British Government for every mile its vessels run. Failing in this, he has coaxed and bullied it into buying the fixtures of the British Post Office in Yokohama and elsewhere--a lot of old desks and odds and ends that would bring very little if put up at auction.