THE MESSENGER

Japan had been asleep for more than two hundred years. About the time
when the Pilgrim fathers landed in what is now known as the New England
States, the man who ruled over Japan had made up his mind that he would
have nothing more to do with the people of Europe, and he gave orders
that no more foreigners should be admitted. He made one exception in
favor of the people of Holland, but on condition that only a very
small number of them should reside in Japan at a time; and they must
be satisfied with the tiny island of Deshima[1] in the harbor of
Nagasaki,[2] and promise that they would obey the governor of that city.

It was not many years before this time, when the Japanese had been glad
to receive every European, but they had found out that the Portuguese
and Spaniards wished to be masters of their country, and so their
kindness had changed first into dislike and afterwards into hate.
The Portuguese had taught many Japanese about our Lord, and a number
of them had become Christians. But the Shogun[3] ordered that all
Christians must be killed, and thousands of them were put to death.
He gave also orders that all large ships must be destroyed, and that
thereafter only small vessels could be built. Besides, he threatened to
put to death any Japanese who should return to his country after having
been abroad, even if he had been carried away against his will. No
foreigner could come to Japan and no Japanese could leave his country.
They could, therefore, learn nothing from other people. That is why I
said that Japan had been asleep for more than two hundred years.

In all that long time there had been no change. Just as Japan was in
1621, so it was in 1853. The houses were still built in exactly the
same way, the men and boys dressed exactly as their ancestors had done
before, and so did the women and girls, and they lived in the same
manner.

The people worked hard from early in the morning until late at night.
The merchants, mechanics, and farmers, toiled from the beginning of
the year to the end, without any Sundays or holidays, except on New
Year’s day, and perhaps a few days later. They had nothing to say in
the government, and belonged to the Lord on whose estate they were
living. The whole of Japan was divided into about three hundred of such
estates; some of them very large and others again very small. Over each
of these estates was a daimiyo,[4] or lord, who was assisted by as many
samurai,[5] or knights, as the estate could support. These knights
were the civil officers of the estate while there was peace; but as
soon as war broke out they were soldiers, always ready to go into
battle, and to die for their lord.

The greatest of all the daimiyo was the Shogun[3], or
Commander-in-chief, who resided in his large castle at Yedo.[6] It was
he who made the laws for all the Japanese, and he had so many samurai
that not even the greatest daimiyo dared disobey him. But, although he
had as much power as any emperor, still he was not the real Emperor
of Japan. Many, many years before there was any Shogun, the country
had been governed by the ancestors of a man who was living quietly in
Kyoto.[7] His house was shaped like a temple, and stood in the most
beautiful grounds that can be imagined. When the people spoke of him,
they whispered: Tenshi Sama,[8] for he was to them the Child of Heaven,
the descendant, as they thought, of the gods who created Japan.

But Tenshi Sama, they believed, was too mighty and too great to care
about such a small thing as governing the people. All he had to do
was to pray to the gods to take care of Japan, and they would surely
hear his prayers. Since the first Shogun ruled over Japan, there had
been many wars and much bloodshed, because many daimiyo wanted larger
estates than they possessed. All these wars ceased in the year 1600,
when the Daimiyo of Tokugawa,[9] named Iyeyasu,[10] defeated his rivals
at Sekigahara,[11] and caused the Tenshi Sama to make him Shogun.

[Illustration: “PEACE REIGNED OVER THE COUNTRY.”]

Iyeyasu was such a brave general, and besides an able as well as a
generous man, that the country began to enjoy peace. The great daimiyo
tried once more to shake off his rule, but they could not do it. In
1615 the last battle was fought, and the daimiyo were defeated so
badly that they gave in. Iyeyasu punished some of them very severely.
He took a very large part of the estate of Lord Mori,[12] the Daimiyo
of Choshiu,[13] and divided it among two of his sons. Mori henceforth
was the enemy of Tokugawa, and so were all the great daimiyo who had
suffered defeat. But Iyeyasu ordered them to build yashiki,[14] or
mansions, in Yedo, and to live there half of the year. Iyemitsu,[15]
the grandson of Iyeyasu and the third Tokugawa Shogun, commanded them
to leave their wives and children at Yedo, where he held them in his
power. He made laws for the people, the samurai, and the daimiyo, and,
since he had an army of 80,000 samurai on his own estates, he was
strong enough to make the daimiyo obey him.

Thus all war ceased in Japan and peace reigned over the country. The
merchant plied his trade, the mechanic worked at his craft, and the
peasant toiled in his field, as their fathers had done before them, and
they brought up their sons to do as they had been taught. There was,
therefore, no progress; and there was very little liberty.

The only people who really did have something to say, were the samurai
or knights. They did not work, but were paid by the daimiyo whom they
served. They were very proud of being _gentlemen_, and never failed
to speak and act as they believed was right. Thus Japan continued
until the year 1853. Then a number of “fire-ships,” their smoke stacks
belching forth a dense smoke, steamed up Yedo Bay. The cliffs echoed
the throbbing of the engines. In vain did the Shogun’s guard boats
warn them to go back. They did not heed these commands any more than
when the tide turned, and the current tried to stop their progress.[A]
On, on they went toward the capital of the Shogun, until the shoaling
water warned them to cast anchor. Their commander was notified that he
must leave, but he replied that he carried a letter for the Shogun, and
would not go before he had delivered it. The government at Yedo did not
know what to do. The Japanese are very shrewd, and understood quite
well that the samurai, armed with bow and arrow and in old fashioned
lacquered armor, were no match for guns and cannon. The government was
_afraid to refuse_ to receive the letter, and a year later it signed a
treaty, because _it was afraid_ to enter upon war with these strangers.
The officers of the government knew the strength of the foreigners, but
the samurai of the other daimiyo did not; and when they heard that the
Shogun had entered into a treaty, _because he was afraid_, they became
angry and excited. From that time it was certain that the Tokugawa
princes would be Shogun no longer. The anger of the samurai increased
when a new treaty was made, in 1858, between the government of Japan
and that of the United States through Mr. Townsend Harris. For the
following ten years there was trouble in Japan, and the samurai began
to think that Tenshi Sama should drive the foreigners into the ocean.
That was easier said than done, but the samurai did succeed in taking
the government away from the Tokugawa, and Tenshi Sama became emperor
indeed, and he is so still.

Mutsuhito,[16] the Emperor of Japan, was only a boy of fifteen when
he was taken out of his beautiful palace in 1867. He is now (1900)
forty-eight years old, and has seen Japan grow from a poor little
country into a great and strong empire. Our story begins in the year
1858, and will show how a Japanese samurai boy was brought up.

Great preparations for receiving guests were being made in the Kano
Yashiki at Nagato. To-morrow would be the fifth day of the eleventh
month of the fourth year of the oldest son and heir, and the boy would
be invested with the _hakama_[17] of the samurai.

There would be a great gathering of the Choshiu clan, for the Kano
family had been great in the council, and was trusted by daimiyo and
samurai alike. The history of the Mori family was as much the history
of that of Kano, at least ever since Kano Shimpei had tried to keep his
lord from fighting Iyeyasu. The Mori of that time had refused to heed
his knight’s advice, and sent him away in disgrace. But Kano would not
desert his master. He had followed him to Osaka, and when the battle
was lost, had saved his lord by continuing to fight until Mori was
rescued by a small band of devoted samurai. Kano himself died covered
with wounds. The Daimiyo of Choshiu had never forgotten the advice nor
the heroic death of Kano Shimpei. They had honored his descendants, and
every Kano had tried to show his great loyalty to his lord.

The Kano Yashiki stood within the outer moat of Choshiu’s castle. A
massive gateway faced the street. On each side was a high, plastered
wall covered with tiles. This wall surrounded the yashiki and its
grounds, and gave it the shape of a perfect square. The doors of the
gate were of heavy wood, plated with iron and studded with huge iron
bolts. They swung inward on hinges, but were opened only for the
daimiyo, if he should honor his samurai with a visit, or for a knight
of equal rank of the owner. For all other callers there was a little
gate by the side, where the guard could examine all that entered or
left.

A short but broad road, composed of pulverized shells mixed with soft
white sand, led from the gate to the samurai residence. It was a fine
two story building, with verandahs running round the house. It was
built upon posts about two feet high and resting upon stones so that,
if an earthquake should happen, the building could move with the wave
of the earth. The verandahs were made of kayaki[18] wood, and polished
until it shone like a mirror. The building was really a large and
strong shed, with thick posts upholding the roof with its heavy tiles.
There were no walls. Paper sho ji,[19] or sliding doors, set loosely
in grooves, took their place. They could be easily taken out, to allow
fresh air. These grooves were so arranged that the whole floor could
easily be changed into several apartments or rooms. The upper story
had a balcony at the back, overlooking the spacious and beautifully
kept gardens, with ponds, little hills, and copses of trees. At the end
of the balcony as well as on the verandahs were closets, holding the
ame,[20] or rain doors. These were slid into deep grooves along the
outer edges of the verandahs and balcony at night or when a storm arose.

The owner of the house was sitting in one of the rooms at the back of
the house. He was a man of about thirty, of middle size, but strongly
built. His hibachi[21] stood before him, but he was evidently in deep
thought. He did not expect any visitors, for he had taken off his
hakama, and was sitting in his simple cotton kimono,[22] or gown.

Suddenly he clapped his hands three times. The sound of: hai, hai![23]
came from a distance, and presently one of the sho ji was slid aside,
and Mrs. Kano appeared dutifully on hands and knees. She could not be
seen very well, as she bowed her head upon her hands, as a salute to
her master and husband, but when he remained silent, she raised her
head and asked softly:[24]

“Did you call?”

She could be seen now. Mrs. Kano was perhaps eighteen, certainly not
more than nineteen years old. Her jet black hair was done up in a
matronly coil and glistening with patchouli or oil from the cactus
plant. Her forehead was fair, but eye-brows she had none, for a
Japanese wife, before her marriage, was compelled to pull them out.
Her teeth were of a shining jet, another custom of married ladies.
But, disfigured as she was, her soft and gentle voice showed that Mrs.
Kano had been taught the Onna Daigaku,[25] or the Greater Learning for
Women, and that she was willing to try to please her husband.

When he heard his wife’s voice, Kano looked at her, bowed slightly, and
said:

“Have all preparations been made for to-morrow’s reception?”

“Yes,” she replied, “all your orders have been obeyed.”

“Very well,” he said, and she withdrew.

Kano was thinking of his son. He remembered the death of his father,
when he was only eighteen years old. How he had looked up to him! How
gently, and yet how firmly had his father trained him in the manly
exercises of the samurai, hardening his body to despise luxury and
ready to bear cold or heat at any time. How he had taught him the
family history, with its fine record of loyalty and self sacrifice, and
how he had commanded him to follow in the same path. Kano felt that
he had done so. He remembered the illness which had struck the strong
man so suddenly and with fatal ending, and which caused the son such a
deep pain. His father’s last words: “The wise man of China says that
the greatest disrespect to a father is not to have any son,” had caused
him to marry as soon as the time of mourning was over. And now he was a
father himself, and the time had come that he must begin to train the
child.

Had he done his duty, according to the laws and custom of the samurai?
Why, certainly. On the seventy-fifth day after its birth, the child
had left off its baby-linen. On the hundred and twentieth day it had
been weaned. Every ceremony had been observed as it should be by a
gentleman of Kano’s family. Kano’s own brother had fed the child, and
My Lord’s cousin had acted as sponsor. He had taken the child on his
left knee and as weaning father had taken of the sacred rice which had
been offered to the gods. He had dipped his chop-sticks three times
in it, and then placed them in the mouth of the child as if giving it
some of the rice juice. He had followed the honored custom to feed
the child three times from the five cakes made of rice meal. When the
three cups of sake[26] were brought on the tray, the sponsor drank them
and offered one to the child, now restored to his guardian. The boy
pretended to drink two cups, and the sponsor had produced his present.
Every ceremony had been observed, and the feast which followed had
shown that Kano intended to follow in the footsteps of his fathers, in
honoring the customs of Old Japan.

Again on the fifteenth day of the eleventh month, when the boy’s
hair was allowed to grow, not a single ceremony was neglected; and
to-morrow Kano would prove once more that he loved the customs of his
father and was willing to abide by them.

Again a sho ji slid open, but this time it attracted Kano’s attention.
A servant girl kneeling on the door sill was waiting until her master
should speak.

“What is it?” he asked.

With a deep drawn breath, as if overwhelmed at the honor of being
spoken to, she replied:

“Mr. Hattori[27] wishes to speak to your honor.”

Kano rose hastily and, opening a cupboard, seized his hakama and
slipped it on over his kimono. Thus prepared to receive his old-time
friend, he ordered the girl to admit him. A moment later, and the
visitor entered with a shuffling gait, and, falling upon his knees,
three times touched his head to the ground. Kano replied in the same
manner, each in turn repeating the same ceremonious phrases, which
custom demanded of men of their rank.

At last Hattori was seated upon the cushion which the servant had
placed for him, and tea was brought in. When the servant had withdrawn,
the two men smoked in silence, until Hattori knocked the ashes out of
his pipe, and asked:

“Have you seen him?”

Kano raised his brows slightly, and answered:

“I do not understand you. Do you mean the sponsor? Certainly, I have
seen him.”

“Ah! you are thinking of to-morrow! No, I do not mean the sponsor or
any one connected with your family. Bah! I mean the new guest we must
entertain, and who will offer you his congratulations.”

“A new guest!” exclaimed Kano. “Surely, I must be growing dull, for I
fail to catch your meaning.”

“Well, then,” said Hattori, cautiously looking into the garden,
“another metsuké[28] arrived this afternoon from Yedo, and was bold
enough to come to the castle and demand to be admitted. I was ordered
to receive him and find out what he wanted. When I came into the room
where he was waiting, he introduced himself by handing me a letter from
the Go rojiu,[29] to the clan. There were enough councillors present to
open it, so I excused myself and called our friends. It was very brief
and to the point. The Go rojiu desires to mention our clan as a model
for Japan, and has therefore sent this fellow to report.”

“What is his name?”

“Sawa.”[30]

“Sawa, Sawa,” repeated Kano slowly. “I think I know the name. How old
is he, do you think?”

“He must be forty at least, and he seems cut out for his work. His oily
talk is disgusting; and while he flatters you, his eyes are restlessly
peeping in every nook and corner.”

“What have you done with him?”

“The usual thing. We accepted the letter and told him that we would
deliberate carefully about it, and let him have an answer in a couple
of days. He bowed himself out and was carried in his norimono[31] to
the hotel. But I hear he has sent his servants to find out if he can
not rent a vacant yashiki. So, you see, he intends to remain some time,
and send in a full report.”

Kano was silent. He was evidently displeased; suddenly his attention as
well as that of his friend was drawn to a soft footstep on the gravel
walk of the garden, and presently a young man appeared at the steps
leading from the verandah to the path. He faced the room and bowed low.
Both returned the salutation, but Kano muttered between his teeth:
“Ito![32] What on earth brings him here?”

The intruder, if he may be so called, mounted the steps and, entering
the room, saluted in the usual manner. He was invited to approach,
and, clapping his hands, Kano ordered the servant to bring in another
cushion, and fresh tea. When these had been brought, and the visitor
was seated, Kano said:

“When did you leave Yedo?”

“Just a week ago.”

“Is there anything new?”

“Why, I think so. It is said openly by Tokugawa men that the foreign
devils, with whom the Go rojiu have made a treaty, will be permitted to
settle down at Yokohama.”

“Settle down! What do you mean?” exclaimed Hattori.

“Where is Yokohama?” asked Kano.

Ito replied first to the question of his host.

“Yokohama is a little distance from the Tokaido,[33] near Kanagawa, the
last post station at this side of Yedo.” Then, turning toward Hattori,
he continued:–“Yes; the new treaty permits them to buy land and to
build houses.”

“But,” said Hattori, aghast, “that means that Japan is invaded. These
foreign devils have come with their fire ships and guns, and by threats
have accomplished their purpose. What has become of the Tokugawa? Have
they lost their manhood, to submit to such a disgrace!”

“Softly!” said Kano. “There may be reasons why the Go rojiu has
permitted them to come so close to Yedo. It must be so. It must be a
trap to destroy the intruders in such a manner that others like them
will think twice before they come again.”

“I wish I could think so,” said Ito. “No! I believe that the Tokugawa
are afraid of an invasion. Their samurai, with the exception of those
of Mito and Aidzu,[34] are not worth their salt. Have you ever seen,
during your residence in Yedo, a Tokugawa Knight practising at arms.
They are quick enough to draw their swords upon a beggar or a merchant,
but when they meet one of the samurai of the southern clans, they fly
to cover. No! Since Ii Naosuke[35] is regent, he has looked closely
into the forces which the Tokugawa can muster, if a war should break
out, and he thinks that it must be avoided at any cost. Of course, he
expects that the samurai of the great clans will be furious, and he
has sent a large number of spies to report what is said. One of these
gentry was sent here. I heard of it in time to follow him, and I came
on to warn you.”

Both Kano and Hattori expressed their thanks, and Kano said:

“But if the Tokugawa are not able to prevent a handful of foreigners
from landing, how can they expect that the great southern clans will
obey them?”

“Oh!” replied Ito, smiling grimly; “we have been obedient for so many
years, trembling when the Go rojiu frowned, that the regent believes it
will continue forever. He had a meeting of all the daimiyo connected
with his clan, and tried to convince them that we must now receive
these foreigners, and try to learn all that they know. Then, when we
can handle their fire ships and their cannon, we may expect to drive
them into the sea.”

[Illustration: A JAPANESE FAMILY.]

Hattori put his hand upon his dagger, but Kano, with a friendly motion
of his hand, calmed him. “There may be something in that,” he said
thoughtfully. “Mind you!” he continued, “I do not underrate Japanese
courage, but we do not know the strength of these barbarians. We have
been living like frogs in a well. It is easy enough to engage in war,
but it is best to know the number of the enemy, before you engage in
what may prove too heavy odds. Such a thing would be foolish. But we
may come to a settlement with the Tokugawa. If indeed, their samurai
have lost their courage, then my lord of Choshiu may recover the land
from which he was robbed, and I may avenge my ancestor’s death. When
will the councillors of the clan meet?”

“The day after to-morrow,” replied Hattori.

Kano clapped his hands, and ordered the servant to send up dinner for
his guests and himself. Hattori and Ito made some excuses, but were
easily induced to remain.

Small tables were brought in and placed before each man. First sake or
wine made from rice, was served hot, and a small stone bottle placed
near each person; then there was _suimono_, a sort of vegetable soup,
after which rice was ladled out into cups or bowls. A number of side
dishes, such as pickled _daikon_, a sort of giant radish, _tsubo_ or
stewed sea-weed, and soy, a sauce, were enjoyed by the samurai.

The conversation had been interrupted when the servants entered, and
was not resumed. The men spoke of the ceremony to take place the next
day; and Ito was invited. Before leaving, however, Kano told Hattori
that he would ask the councillors of the clan to remain after the
reception was over, so that they might discuss their plans for the
future.

Ito and Hattori bowed good-bye, as they were going in different
directions. Each carried a lantern, for it was dark, and there was no
street lighting in Japan at that time. At the corner of the street, Ito
stopped as if in doubt. Then, after a few moments, he seemed to make up
his mind, for he turned to the left, and went hastily toward the castle
entrance. The heavy gate was closed, but the little side gate stood
ajar. Ito entered, and giving his name to the officer of the guard,
went along the barracks where many of the samurai of lower rank dwelt.
At last he stopped before a small door, and knocked softly. He heard a
shuffling of feet, and a woman’s voice demanded who was there.

“Is Mr. Inouye[36] in?” he asked.

“Yes.”

“Tell him that Ito Saburo wishes to see him.”

The woman seemed satisfied, for the door slid open, and Ito entered.
Without waiting he mounted the steps, and opening a sho ji, stepped
into a room, dimly lit by a rushlight placed in a paper lantern. Ito
fell on his knees, and saluted in the usual manner, which salute was
returned by the owner of the room, a man of Ito’s age, but of more
slender build.

The two men had not met for two years; for Ito had been ordered to
remain at the Choshiu yashiki in Yedo, and Inouye’s duties had kept him
at Nagato. But they had corresponded by every courier carrying letters
to and from the capital, for they had been friends ever since they were
little boys. Yet when they met after such a long absence, there was no
glad “Helloh!” with a hearty clasp of the hand, as we would meet an old
friend. Pleased as they were to see each other again, they had been
taught that good breeding demands that gentlemen should always show
courtesy and respect to others of their own rank. Certain sentences
must be uttered before any ordinary conversation can begin. Therefore
Ito said:

“I was very rude the last time we met, but I hope you have forgiven me.”

“No,” replied Inouye, “it was I who was rude, and I pray you to
overlook it.”

It is needless to say that neither of them had really been rude, but
custom demanded that this should be said, and the same custom prevails
in Japan to-day. We think that it is foolish, and the Japanese think us
very rude, because we do not obey that custom.

After these customs had been observed, the two friends sat down, and
Ito said:

“Has any progress been made in your studies of the barbarian nations?”

“Nothing worth boasting. I have been twice to Nagasaki to try if I
could pick up some of the books of the Hollanders, but the Tokugawa
officers will not permit any stranger to approach the island of
Deshima, unless they are bribed with more money than I possess. Still,
I have learned enough to know that Japan is not in a condition to fight
the barbarians, and I am afraid, I think, that the regent was right in
submitting to their demands.”

“I do not think so,” replied Ito. “Right! What right has the Tokuwaga
to sell an inch of Japan’s soil. It does not belong to them. It is the
property of Tenshi Sama, if it belongs to anybody. It makes me angry to
think that we can no longer boast that

The foot of the invader has never trod our soil.”

“There will be no invasion,” said Inouye. “These men only want to
trade. If they had intended to use force, they would have done so when
they came the second time, with a large fleet. No! I do not believe
that our country is in danger, at least not for some years. But they
may come as spies to find out what opportunity there is to obtain
possession of Japan. The Yedo government should try to discover what
the intentions of the barbarians really are.”

“The Yedo government is only anxious to make money. You do not know,
Inouye, how good it feels to breathe the pure air of Nagato. It is
stifling at Yedo. Spies, spies are everywhere. The Tokugawa samurai
seem to have forgotten that they are gentlemen, and how a samurai
should behave. They are quick enough to draw their swords upon men who
cannot defend themselves, but they are nimble with their feet when hard
blows may be expected. If Japan must go to war, we, the samurai of the
south will do the fighting. The day of the Tokuwaga is past.”

There was a brief silence, when Inouye said:

“I have not yet asked you what brings you here. I had not heard that
you had been relieved from duty at Yedo.”

“I was not relieved. But we were informed that the Go rojiu intended
to send new spies to the southern diamiyo, and I was ordered to inform
the councillors of the clan. It seems that Sawa, the chief spy, arrived
just before me. I suppose I shall be told to return to Yedo, but I hope
not. At any rate I shall see you before I leave.”

After the usual salutations Ito rose and lit his candle. After leaving
the door, he went through the grounds to the opposite barracks, where
his mother lived. Knocking at the little wicket, he was admitted with
many bows and glad exclamations. These he returned with some pleasant
words, and entered the sitting-room. Presently his mother entered, and
both knelt down and saluted in the respectful and courteous manner of
their people. There was no kissing or even handshaking; both were, of
course, very happy, but Japanese law forbade showing joy, even in the
expression of the face. Ito would have obeyed at once any order his
mother might have given him; but she considered him as the head of the
family, and showed that she looked upon him as the master of the house.

[Illustration: “HIS MOTHER, SUFFERING FROM RHEUMATISM, TO RECEIVE
MASSAGE TREATMENT FROM ONE OF THE SERVANTS.”]

They chatted for half an hour about their acquaintances and then
retired. Ito’s mother, suffering from rheumatism, to receive a massage
treatment from one of the servants.

Share