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.
Both the railway lines in Japan were built by Englishmen and are under English management, and their cost was enough to put a great deal of money into foreign pockets. The grasping tendencies of the English, and their open hostility to everything out of which they cannot make money, has made them unpopular, and the ill-feeling against them is steadily increasing.
The Americans now have the Japanese ear much more than have the English, and are generally regarded as friendly, both nationally and individually. We have had all sorts of Americans out here, and some of them have been a suspicious lot, but, compared with the English, we have reason to be proud of them. Perhaps they may have been just as ready to fill their pockets from Japanese coffers; it may have been only opportunity that lacked, but, nevertheless, the fact remains that they haven't done it.
The Japanese are striking out boldly as a maritime nation, so far as ownership and management of steam-ships is concerned. The Mitsu Bishi (Three Diamonds) Steam-ship Company is of recent origin, but already it has lines to all the Japanese seaports and to Formosa and the Loochoo and Bonin Islands. It has a weekly line to Shanghai, touching at Kabe and Nagasaki, its service having taken the place of the Pacific Mail on that particular route.
Some of its steamers are of American and some of English build; within the past month it has bought four or five ships and is said to be negotiating for more. It has paid high figures in a few instances, but on the whole its purchases have been no more injudicious than those of new companies generally. Just now many of its steamers are engaged as transports by the government, and the service is somewhat deranged; it is heavily subsidized by the Government, and the terms of the contract and charter require its ships to be turned over to the Mikado whenever they are wanted.
As soon as the war is over they intend running a line to Australia via Hong Kong, Singapore and Batavia, and the rumor is afloat that they will establish a monthly line to London via the Suez Canal. I am inclined to regard this last statement as a trifle piscatorial, but then it is not at all impossible. Should it be true, it will cause wailing among the owners of steamers now plying here, and may possibly lead to the withdrawal of some of them.
Rice is the chief article of export from Japan, and as the Government is a heavy dealer in the article (the taxes being largely paid in rice) it could throw the business into the hands of the Mitsu Bishi managers to the manifest grief of its competitors.
At present the trade is rather light from Japan to England and France, and the prospects for the future are not brilliant. The rush of the tea season is over, and even in the best times the London and Marseilles steamers do not obtain full cargoes, as the most of the Japan teas are sold in America. The trans-Pacific steamers have been carrying very heavy freights of tea this season; on her last trip from Yokohama to San Francisco the Oceanic had every available foot of space occupied, her spare staterooms, her smoking-room, and half her saloon filled with tea-chests.
"And yet," says her Captain, "the passengers all agreed that the voyage was not tedious."
T. W. K.