Tokyo — Nikko, 20 August 1893

In front of the small Catholic mission church where I attended mass the pupils of its nuns assembled for me. The nuns provide excellent service for the education of the children but reasonably keep the Japanese costumes, the usual Japanese greetings and other external traditions. The small musumes are all dressed alike and look very cute. The mother superior, Mater Domitilla, a dignified old lady has been staying for a long time in Japan doing her pious and useful job.

At the visit I paid to the archbishop of Tokyo, a kind Frenchman, I learned from him and a missionary also present many interesting details about the country and its people, but unfortunately also that the propagation of the Christian religion was not showing the desired progress in Japan as the Japanese did not possess much religious sense and are mostly very apathetic in terms of matters of believing.

Until now the number of festivities was so compact that I had not yet found the opportunity to visit the shops of Tokyo. This was to be made up today, the first free day. During my stroll I saw a good part of the city whose enormous extent only now became clear to me but the first impression did not change that the city is behind the other visited Japanese cities as far as originality is concerned. Everywhere pieces of Europe pushed out in a not very stylistic and inharmonious way. The streets one of which measures more than 7 km are too long and have a tiring effect.

Tokyo`s shops, namely the Curio Shops, offer a great variety of objects and thus a rich selection. One believes that all original treasures have already been discovered and bought and still finds new forms and totally unknown objects once more.

In bronze, lacquer, porcelain, wood and paper all the holy animals appeared and especially frequently the dragon that is predominant in Japanese myth, symbolism and art. We also frequently encountered the country`s coat of arms too, namely the schematic flower of the Chrysanthemum, Kiku, and the coast of arms of the house of the Mikado that is formed by the leaves and flowers of Paulownia imperialis, Kiri.

In one of the shops I noticed a wavelike moment of the floor, the walls trembled and the water in the aquariums splashed upwards high into the sky — apparently I lived through one of those earthquakes that strike Tokyo so often and I thought that the underground forces did not want me to leave before they had shown their terrible powers but only at a moderate level thus causing interest but not having a devastating effect. In a distant part of the city one of my gentlemen also noticed the movement of the earth.

Unfortunately I did not have time to buy silk of which it was said that Tokyo was especially rich, as I wanted to pay a visit to our ambassador Baron Biegeleben in the Tokyo Hotel before my departure. It is a first class hotel that is owned by a Japanese and managed by Japanese but still was worthy to be placed in a line with any hotel in England or Switzerland.

The short time that I still had left in Tokyo I used to visit a Japanese theater that is laid out somewhat like our great singing halls. Opposite the entrance is the great stage. The space for the audience is divided into boxes, floor and galleries whereas the first two are divided by half-a-meter high boards in square fields each of which offers space for four to six persons. Banks and chairs don`t exist, everyone is sitting on the floor. The occupants of the boxes, whole families or groups install themselves comfortably in view of the length of the performances —  they last from noon to 10 o’clock in the evening — and bring food and drink.

The theater offers room for ca. 3000 people, and all of them smoke, without any distinction among the sexes. Everywhere there are fireboxes with glowing coals and the matches are only thrown on the ground. The orders of the fire police did not seem to be very demanding which should be the case given that the buildings are made only out of wood, straw and paper. Instead of almond milk, lemonade or similar refreshments that are common at home, here they sell rice, fruit and sake. The continuous rustle of the fans, crying children and the beating of the pipes creates ongoing and varied noise that has quite a negative impact on the art enjoyment.

The quite spacious state is very primitive in matters of changing the scene as it only involves the turning of a disc that has various decorations. The orchestra consisting of only a few musicians sits at the height of the first floor next to the stage in a cage-like space out of which now and then unmelodious sounds reach our ears. To the right and left of the floor and along the full length of it are two board runways called flower paths that lead to the stage. These are used for the entrance and exit of armed groups but also serve for the movements of the actors who act and speak from these runways. During the long breaks, the elegant part of the audience moves to the surrounding tea houses and only return when the play continues to the theater.

The themes of the pieces played in the Japanese theater are mostly taken from the national history which offers inexhaustible themes in the continuous wars among the daimyos. Heated fights, murder, killings and harakiri, that has now gone out of practice, are the climax of most dramatic development. But the presentation of popular life and moral plays are not missing if one may call them thus. Is a piece too long or too tragic in its conclusion, then arbitrary cuts are made and individual acts from other plays inserted. Only men perform as actors but are very good at playing the female parts in voice, posture, gestures and dress. It is not necessary to highlight that we did not understand much about the plot of the piece that was played. It was a piece of the category of a jealousy drama and resulted in an intense fall-out of the lovers according to the gestures and the looks of the actors. Apparently the action was very sad as the audience was visibly moved. Namely the female part of the audience was drenched in tears and at times loud sobbing was heard. But soon we had to tear ourselves away from the play in order to drive to the distant station of Uyeno where the Imperial princes and the ministers had assembled to say good-bye to me.

The railway forms an arc in a Northern direction crossing well tended land until Utsunomiya, where it turns towards the Northwest to reach the for Japanese holy grounds of Nikko. From the shores of the Tone-gawa to just up to Nikko there was an alley of Japanese cedars that was in a class of its own and made a great impression in the darkness of the night, covered in shadows. A pious man who was to poor to pay for a bronze lantern at the sanctuaries of Nikko is said to have planted the alley. Where we today quickly rolled on railtracks, under the Tokugawa shoguns the Reiheishi moved on the road named after him, the envoy of the Mikado who had to present offerings in the mausoleum of Ieyasu at Nikko.

At 11 o’clock in the night we arrived in Nikko where despite the advanced hour there were curious people in great numbers who watched the nearly endless line of djinn rickshaws that winded liked a snake from the station to the Nikko hotel more than 2 km away which is situated in the gully outside of the temple city, close to a temple grove and provided a fitting place to rest for us.

Links

  • Location: Nikko, Japan
  • ANNO – on 20.08.1893 in Austria’s newspapers.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is closed for summer until 15 September. The k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater is performing a ballet and Viennese waltzes.

Tokyo, 19 August 1893

Before I drove to the parade set for today on the great exercise ground in the West of the city, I was photographed with my Japanese entourage in various poses.

In a gala carriage accompanied by a cavalry escort I covered a quite long distance to the parade ground where I was expected by the Emperor in a richly decorated tent with gold brocade and first the usual cigarettes were smoked. The troops, 7530 men, were not formed into units but a square whose one side was kept open for the Imperial tent and the diplomatic corps, the court servants and the off-duty officers.

The Emperor and I mounted the horses held ready and rode at a walk, followed by the princes, the war minister, the military attaches and multiple higher officers, to the reception flank and then along the front. The infantry stood in battalion masses with developed companies, the cavalry, artillery and the train in developed line. The higher commanders reported the status of the formed troops and then rode along with the entourage.

As at Kumamoto, I had the opportunity here too of being astonished about the performance achieved by the Japanese army administration in a short time. This is in part due to the fruitful studies that the government had had made abroad by military agents who in their quiet, modest and not as impertinent manner as that of some other power know to recognize the positive and learn it. With a rare skill the army administration has managed to adapt foreign practices to the local situation without thoughtless imitation and thus knew to create something truly genuine. It is characteristic that one can recognize without difficulties from the posture of the officers educated abroad where they have been educated as a tautly marching officer must have been the product of German training while others revealed a lighter touch and thus of being a pupil of France.

Riding alongside the front was followed by a march that was performed exceedingly well but made me suspicious about a mistake in the exercise regulations as in my view the order for turning the front was given too late so that those in charge of the wings were involuntarily forced in advance which resulted in an ugly crescent form of the developed companies. The marching, alternating to the sounds of a Japanese march and the Austrian Radetzky march, was executed freely and filling the space. Remarkable is the excellent material which the higher infantry officers are riding even if they are not quite as skilled in the art of riding. Artillery and cavalry — one squadron led by a very small prince on a very tall horse — marched past in a short trot. The batteries were very well aligned, the cavalry however became a bit disordered which can be accounted for by the large number of stallions among the troopers`horses. When the horse of the Emperor became disturbed during the parade, the chief equerry jumped out of the saddle, grabbed a handful of earth and rubbed it into the mouth and nostrils of the horse — a equine calming method that was totally new to me.

As soon as the last battalion of the train had marched past, we dismounted. The Emperor took his leave and I drove in the gala carriage back to our palace where I, after a short rest, set out to attend breakfast at Prince Komatsu Akihito’s.

The princes and their families among the the very pretty daughter in law of the prince apart there were about 15 guests present. My host asked vividly about the health of my father with whom he had dined occasionally during his stay in Vienna and overall, spoke many words about our Imperial city. The whole family was very kind to me so that the breakfast took place in a very casual joyous mood.

In the afternoon I was surprised by Sannomiya in the palace`s garden with a production of the pupils of the Imperial fencing school which offered me an insight into the way of the ancient Japanese art of fencing to my satisfaction. The demonstration showed fights between sword against sword, sword against two swords, lance against sword, finally lance against lance. The swords and lances had been cut out of strong bamboo. Wire head masks, black and red lacquered plastrons as well as greaves protected the fencers. Arms and knees remained uncovered and showed many wounds from heavy hits. Allowed hits were to the head, body, lower arm and neck. The fencers performed quite well and one noticed that they were schooled and exercised in it. Feints and parades seemed unknown as the hits were evaded only by moving the body to the side, forward and backward. What is not missing is the inciting shouts common to al Oriental peoples. An entertaining intermezzo occurred when my Japanese lifeguard put on the mask and started bravely fencing. After the end of each attack whose points were noted by a judge, the fencers greeted each other by kneeling down and bowing their upper body towards the earth.

This production was followed by fishing in the pond of the palace garden. The pond is connected with the sea. The result was however mediocre as only a single fish was caught. As I heard,  the Empress is said to fish with a fishing rod at times but in such cases, the catch would not be splendid too, given today`s results.

In the mean time the hour of the gala dinner had arrived that had been set at 4 o`clock at Their Majesties. The dinner took place according to the same protocol as during the breakfast. Fortunately the temperature in the great festive hall was not as elevated as the day before thanks to the advanced hour of the afternoon. As guests attended the same personalities as those at the breakfast. Emperor Mutsu Hito proposed a toast, translated by the interpreter, then our anthem was played and I replied with a toast to the health of Their Majesties as well as the Imperial house. Naturally then the Japanese anthem was heard. After the dinner I said good-bye to the Empress, the princes and princesses. The Emperor paid me a visit in the Hama palace, in contrast to his customs, and spoke at this occasion about his satisfaction about the favorable impressions I had received in Japan. As a souvenir he gave me a model of a repeating rifle, the invention of a Japanese, that was soon to be introduced in the Japanese army.

The last meal of the day, the supper in our pleasure castle, was flavored with the display of a gorgeous garden illumination and a firework. The garden, by far the greatest ornament of the Hama palaces, already due to its view upon the sea with its myriad of sailing boats, was very favorable put on display by the bright light of the countless lampions that were reflected multiple times in the pond and by the fire of the rockets.

During the supper a fast modeller performed who could form only with his fingers incredibly quickly any imaginable object out of sticky multi-colored rice that looked like wax. First we had the artist model all kinds of animals, then a Japanese woman and finally a gentleman out of the audience — tasks that were perfectly completed.

Links

  • Location: Tokyo, Japan
  • ANNO – on 19.08.1893 in Austria’s newspapers.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is closed for summer until 15 September. The k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater is performing the ballet „Die goldene Märchenwelt“.

Tokyo, 18 August 1893

A day of great joy for every loyal subject — the birthday of our much beloved most gracious Emperor and Lord! The heart of everyone was beating higher today, as even though we are separated by many thousand miles from our dear home, we still enjoyed the good fortune to spend this day of festivity on home ground. The first time in my life I was outside Austria on the birthday of His Majesty — all the more moved I thought about our all venerated ruler and with me all subject of His Majesty united on „Elisabeth“ whose deeply felt sentiment of  devotion to the beloved lord which is moving every son of the fatherland wherever he may be and results in the intense wish of „God preserve, God protect Our Emperor, our country!“

In the morning at 8 o’clock we hoisted the grand flag gala and on the grand topmast the standard while firing 21 shots, which was answered by all Japanese, English, American and German warships in the harbor with a salute to the standard. The festive mass, in which our naval chaplain gave a warm speech appropriate for the day`s festivities, was attended, besides me and my entourage, also by our appointed minister with the embassy personel, the consul general, ship staff and the whole crew. When the Te Deum was sung, another 21 shots were fired.

After the holy mass a reception of all present as well as the commanders of the foreign warships was given. They presented their felicitations about the birthday of Our Majesty. The landing of the dinghies of the commanders proved quite difficult as a very tough wind made the sea turbulent even in the harbor.

Just after the noon signal had been given, cannon thunder was heard again with which the warships and land batteries greeted our day of festivity.

At 2 o`clock in the afternoon there should have taken place a festive dinner on the iron deck that had been transformed into a garden with flags, flowers and garlands to which I had invited not only the ship staff but also the gentlemen of the embassy. Unfortunately just before the dinner an intense stormy rainstorm poured down that partially destroyed the decoration within minutes and inundated the set table and the iron deck. Overall there was bad weather during the day caused by a strong typhoon passing in the North of Yokohama that had caused quite some damage. When I wanted to send my most devoted telegraphic greetings to His Majesty, I was informed that the telegraph line had been destroyed by the typhoon. While the sea in the harbor was quite turbulent, the storm raged with full might on the open sea, piling up mountains of waves.

Finally the dinner could take place after the table had been set up as well as possible in the narrow but storm-safe rooms of the officer carré. With a one hour delay the dinner started. When I proposed a toast for His Majesty Our Emperor and three roaring Hurrahs were reverberating through the rooms of the ship and the guns joined in to the sounds of the anthem, there was nobody among us who was not deeply moved. We spent two comfortable hours together until it was time to go to Tokyo where I was to attend a dinner hosted by our ambassador and afterwards a soiree.

The wind`s strength had grown to a 6 and 7 and an intense rainstorm was pouring down when we set out from „Elisabeth“. Our barge was the last to still land, then the traffic in the harbor was closed down, so that the officers of the other ships could not arrive to the soiree later in the evening. Completely wet, as the water entered also into the barge, we landed at the mole and an hour later we were in Tokyo.

The dinner taking place in the large rooms of a club was attended, besides members of the court, also by foreign diplomats and high dignitaries. Prince Arisugawa gave a speech after the champaign had been tasted in honor of Our Majesty the Emperor in Japanese and offered a toast which war translated for us. In reply, I offered a toast to the health of the Mikado which was translated into Japanese by Coudenhove.

Right after the dinner followed a grand soiree to which the guests assembled on the first floor of the club building. On this occasion I was introduced to numerous personalities among the agents and attaches. Understandably I concentrated my interest on the Korean embassy party whose members had come in a very original national costume. It consisted of a kind of priest dress in colorful brocade and a headdress reminding me of one of our Tyrolean hats, made out of fine white horse hair, that the Koreans did not remove from their heads.

Despite the August heat a dance was organized during the feast to which the music invited the dancers. I however was unable to join this entertainment, being dressed in full gala dress and decorated with all grand crosses, and made do with a honor quadrille in which the princesses and some ladies of the diplomatic circle joined in. Especially worth a view was Sannomiya who with a tricornered hat in hand was constantly in motion and performed some kind of solo minuet  by his incessant bowing to all sides. The dance called for supper and thus the feast continued until late into the night.

Links

  • Location: Yokohama, Japan
  • ANNO – on 18.08.1893 in Austria’s newspapers.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is closed for summer until 15 September. The k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater is performing the opera „Das goldene Kreuz“.

Miyanoshita — Tokyo — Yokohama, 17 August 1893

In the pouring rain that continued all day except for short breaks we had to leave Miyanoshita already at 5 o`clock in the morning, in order to be in Kosu right on time, led by our frock coated driver on the same path we had arrived, to get on the train to Yokohama departing at 7 o’clock. There our ambassador Baron Biegeleben, Coudenhove, consul general Kreitner and our commander Becker joined us in the train. From the station I could see, beyond the houses, „Elisabeth“ in the harbor that was conspicuous among the many other ships by her mighty and elegant forms — a view to rejoice my heart.

During the drive from Yokohama to Tokyo I had to put on my dress uniform which was difficult in the not really spacious compartments and endangering the white coat due to the coal dust. But the task was successfully completed within the 40 minute travel time duration. A glance out the window educated me to my great hilarity that the government spared nothing in assuring my security so that they even placed police in the sea. I could see at a spot where the railway runs close to the coast guards placed in boards spaced at intervals of a few hundred meters. As the train passed them, they saluted. During the arrival in Tokyo, a 7 cm mountain artillery battery offered the salute on a meadow.

At Shimbashi Station, which was completely locked down so that only official persons had access, I was greeted by the Imperial prince Arisugawa by the order of the Emperor. He is the uncle of the Mikado and author of the mentioned motto in the officer casino in Otsu and had been the victorious commander-in-chief of the Imperial troops in the civil war of 1868 and the Satsuma rebellion in 1877 and is currently the army commander-in-chief. All ministers and court dignitaries were present too at the reception. Baroness Biegeleben, the sister of our ambassador, and Mrs. von Kreitner handed me fragrant bouquets of flowers in the name of the Austro-Hungarian colony. After the usual introduction of both entourages and the highest dignitaries I entered a court gala carriage together with the prince while an honor company presented arms to the sound of the Japanese general march. We drove through a cordon of soldiers to the Imperial pleasure palace Ohama goten, escorted by a squadron of guard lancers. The palace is situated quite far from the city at the sea shore.

The first impression we received of Tokyo during our drive to the palace was not a very friendly one as the view only showed small not very tidy houses, long canals, factories and unadorned wall fronts. Our destination, where also an honor company had marched and presented arms to the sounds of its band, is wrongly labeled as a pleasure palace as it is actually a small villa. It had been built in European style and is in its interior decoration an attempt to blend European comforts with Japanese ones. I have to mention, however, that the objects of native origin were exceptional in their tasteful finish.

Soon after Prince Arisugawa had taken his leave, I returned his visit and left my cards at the Imperial prince`s Komatsu Akihito, also an uncle of the Mikado and commander of the guard division, and Kan-in Kotohito`s, the adopted brother of the Emperor and an officer in charge of a squadron.

The route we had to drive for these visits led me into the heart of Tokyo which offered me in combination with the considerable distances covered — it required two hours even though I did not meet any of the princes at home — the possibility to survey the city. Tokyo, or Edo as the city was called in earlier times,  was founded in the place where a small fortress stood in the middle of the 15th century, surrounded by scattered individual villages. The fortress came into possession of Hojo Ujitsuna in 1524 who resided in Odawara.

After the destruction of the power base of this Hojo and the investiture of Ieyasu with the eight provinces of the Kwanto that had been owned by that family, Ieyasu declared Edo in 1598 to be his residence. The city grew quickly and prospered as all princes of the country were required to build palaces here and spend part of the year there. The high period of Edo however is closely connected with that of the shoguns of the house of Tokugawa whose residence the city remained until the abolition of the shogunate. Edo has received the new name of Tokyo, that is Eastern capital, in 1869 and has entered into a new era since the Mikado has taken it as his seat of residence.

The city stands on an area of about 260 km2 North of the shallow bay of Edo and West as well as East of the Sumida-gawa, on whose right bank Tokyo rises towards the North and West to shallow hills of a height of about 30 m. The number of inhabitants is given as 1.628.000 which includes also Tokyo-Fu, that is the total urban area, or about Greater Tokyo. Of the 15 districts called Ku into which the city is divided, the core of the community is constituted by those within the exterior wall of O-Shiro with its moats in Edo bay ending in  the Sumida river, the ancient castle of the shoguns that had been protected by fortified works, circular walls and moats but consumed by the flames after the civil war.

Kojimachi, one of these districts, is the seat of government of modern Japan as here are besides the Imperial palaces all buildings in which the ministries and other administrative services are located as well as the palaces of the ambassadors. These buildings rose there where once the houses called Yashiki of the daimyos stood surrounding the castle.

Since 1872 the new European architecture has arrived here so that the public buildings and many others look like modern buildings of an English or Central European city. In the palaces and villas situated in gardens one can observe all possible styles and style variations and I could resist smiling when I saw the pure Gothic facade of one of the prince`s palace. In the immediate surrounding still there are houses of Japanese design so that an architectural contradiction occurs in this part of Tokyo that could not be worse if a Japanese quarter would be built, say, in the center of Linz, which the brave Upper Austrians would be no less astonished than the European viewing the strange contrast in modern Tokyo.

That the city of the xenophobic Tokugawa shoguns had been connected by railway with Yokohama 20 years ago, that it has a tramway, a society for electric light, the telephone and an electric railway, that it even already has seen two large industrial exhibitions can be called cultural progress but the denationalization of its architecture the Japanese go further than can be tolerated. They have such a characteristic building style that blends into the landscape harmonically and is very closely linked with the highly developed art and industry and the people themselves and their lives! It seems as if one wanted to dress the roads in another cloth since the time the two swords men have disappeared from the streets, since the gorgeous procession of the daimyos with the fan-carrying herald in advance shouting „Shita-ni-oru!“ (Throw yourselves down to the ground!) is no longer heard. A point in favor of European architecture and the use of stone is truly the diminished risk of fire about which Tokyo had to suffer. A part of its history has been written in flames. The city was repeatedly turned into ashes and a Japanese saying goes like this: „Fire is Edo`s flower“.

Fortunately I did not come face-to-face with that flower but only with those children of Florens that illuminated the friendly garden. These are appropriately cared for. Here ancient Japan lives on — in the area of gardening the Japanese are apparently conservative.

Our drive crossed multiple times over water moats of the old castle walls where thousands of wild ducks are living in the winter that are protected there but hunted in nets in other canals of the city.

At noon the visit to the Majesties was set to happen and I drove for this purpose in full gala dress in a crimson carriage in the pouring rain, „escorted, saluted, trumpeted and complimented“ to the Imperial palace.

The route led across an open space within the exterior palace wall where in earlier times probably also stood Yashikis and where now rises, in a stark contrast to the former spot of feudal splendor, the building of the Japanese parliament. The latter opened already in 1890 but two months later the flower of Edo rose out of the building so that it turned to ashes only to be rebuilt in the following year. At least the parliamentarism seems not to enjoy the full sympathies. At any rate there were complaints as I was told that in Japanese circles that no sessions were taking place during the times of catastrophe. Close to the parliament building a palace intended for the naval minstery is taking shape that has already reached an alarming height given the numerous earthquakes.  Passing the fortifications of the old O-Shiro we entered the garden of the Imperial palace and after driving through multiple gates and had ascended a steep gravel-filled road  — the palace is located on a dominating hill — we were in front of the Imperial residence. This looks like, built in 1889 in the spot of the former shogun’s castle, a colossal wooden building in the Japanese style — but will it take long to see this piece of Ancient Japan destroyed too and replaced with a modern building?

At the stairs I was received by the Emperor Mutsu Hito in the uniform of a Japanese marshal that closely resembles the French one and decorated with the band of the Stephen’s order. The dignitaries in the Emperor`s entourage were all in part in gold laced frock coats, in part military dress uniforms. In the line of Mikados, the Emperor is number 121 or 123 according to another listing. The Emperor was born in 1852 and rules since 1868. With his strong body, the Emperor displays in his traits the type of the Japanese of the Northern regions as it is said. The conversation was held with the assistance of an interpreter as the Emperor does not speak any European language which naturally hindered the exchange and was all the more deplorable as the Mikado showed a keen interest for various questions of the day.

Starting his reign under the most difficult circumstances the Emperor has not only introduced reforms, even though his education was governed fully by the old system, he has also placed the country on a new foundation. By these changes it was necessary to recapture the full power as until then the emperors had lived a sheltered life of a revered godly being while the Imperial power lay in the hands of the shoguns. Also the feudal lords and samurai had to be stripped off their prerogatives and dismantle the legal dividing lines among the people and break with the system of isolation from abroad. The skill and determination with which Japan was led towards these set goals through difficult interior times deserve full acknowledgement and to have wanted to accomplish important things alone will assign an exceptional place in Japanese history to Emperor Mutsu Hito. A final judgment how far the modern accomplishments have set roots and entered into the permanent stock of the population is too difficult to make today as the huge process of changing the inherited governing institutions and thus its internal connections of a nation of many million people has not come to an end yet and setbacks and the necessity of partial changes of the things achieved up to now are not improbable.

But it looks already certain that Japan has finally left the Asiatic theocracies and despotic rulers and entered into the concert of civilized states. Thus Japan can become a player given the diversity of interests of the European states in Asia. In questions of foreign politics, its opinions have to be considered differently than in earlier times and it can not be completely ruled out that Japan will influence European affairs at least in an indirect way. Whether this a desirable success of the efforts to open up Japan or an admonition not to transfer too much civilization to the East?

The Mikado escorted me through long corridors to the audience hall where I was expected by the Empress Haru-ko, an exceptionally small bu delicate pretty woman in immaculate Parisian dress and surrounded by court ladies also in European dress, while the entourages were led to the great dining hall.

The Empress whose fame is preceding her of performing the duties of the new situations admirably and namely devoting interest about the education of the female sex. She is the daughter of Ijicho Tadaka of the Fujiwara family, a Kugen family of the highest rank. Kugen form the court nobility and trace back their lineages to the Mikados. Some of these lineages trace back their origins as far as the Mikado, among them the Fujiwara. The Mikado may select the equal wife only out of the five premier Kugen families while twelve concubines (Go-tenshi) may be taken from lower kugen families. Originally the most influential class, the Kugen lost their power to the feudal lords but always precede them in rank and had the right to be pulled by oxen on journeys like members of the Imperial family. The Empress Haru-ko is the Kogo of the Mikado who still has five concubines whose third, Madame Yanagiwara Aiko, has given him a son called Yoshihito in 1879 who had been declared the heir to the empire in 1889 — the Empress is without issue.

The Imperial couple and I sat down in the middle of the hall and talked for a long time. he Majesties showed to be very well informed namely about Vienna. After some time the princes and princesses of the Imperial family staying Tokyo arrived. I kissed the delicate hands of the latter ones which did not yet seem to have entered into Japanese etiquette but nevertheless was well received by the ladies.

Apart from Prince Arisugawa the princes Komatsu Akihito and Kan-in Kotohito came. The latter had been educated in France and speaks excellent French thanks to the skills learned at a French cavalry regiment. Furthermore the princesses Tadako, Arisugawa’s wife; Yasuko, the daughter-in-law of the latter; Yoriko, Komatsu Akihito and Kan-in and Kan-in Kotohito’s wife; finally that of prince Komatsu Akihito. The last named is an exceptionally beautiful and charming lady who had a sad fate as her husband had left her after only 8 days to go on a one year trip to Chicago and Europe. Unfortunately I could not express my compassion to the princess as she speaks only Japanese.

After friend Sannomiya, who acted as a master of ceremonies today, had announced the dinner, I offered my arm to the Empress which caused as great problems in keeping aligned due to our very different body sizes. The Emperor escorted Princess Arisugawa, and thus we walked through long corridors of the palace to the dining hall which we entered to the sound of our anthem. The dinner was attended by forty persons, among them too the gentlemen of our embassy and the consulate, commander Becker with multiple staff members from. I sat next to the Empress who made a very vivid conservation with me to which the Emperor also contributed by asking me about details of my journey.  The Empress seems to combine a very sympathetic mean with a not so sanguine gay disposition of her related sisters. This may be connected that her position has been quite tenuous at times.

The dinner derived out of French cooking was excellent, the drinks joined the products of the cooking artists in merit while the dinner music was not yet on the full height of the situation. In contrast the servants performed their duties quickly and skilfully in richly decorated dress coats — scuttling musumes in Japanese dress would without doubt have been more interesting. Quite at home I did feel because the Japanese court had introduced the ceremony of our court at their court. The dinner pleasures were made a bit bitter as I had to endure high temperatures whose effects were still increased by excellent wines and my gala dress uniform not adapted to the climate. After the dinner there was a circle and a presentation of the gentlemen of my entourage as well as the Japanese dignitaries.

Escorted by Prince Komatsu Akihito and Sannomiya, I then visited the palace that also combines European and Japanese furniture and is incredibly richly but also tastefully decorated. The walls of the corridors and the rooms are covered with wallpapers made out of silk and gold brocade, most true masterworks of the silk weaveries of Kyoto while the ceiling was divided into small rectangles decorated with paint and gilded and the smooth as the sea floors were covered with splendid rugs of European origin. The furniture in the audience hall, the dining hall and the anterooms is almost completely European, the decorative objects however are products of Japanese art and industry. In all rooms electric light has been introduced that however has been turned off since the parliament building burned down due to a defect in one of the installations, so that currently only candlelight is used, to which purpose colossal splendidly executed and richly gilded bronze candelabras are arranged on the walls.

In our palace where all princes had announced themselves and many dignitaries had left their cards, I then received the visit of His Majesty and returned to Yokohama where I arrived in the evening and immediately embarked on „Elisabeth“ that was moored quite at a distance from the land. For a long time I sat together with the gentlemen of the staff on the iron deck, talking about the events of the last days and exchanging the impressions received.

Links

  • Location: Yokohama, Japan
  • ANNO – on 17.08.1893 in Austria’s newspapers.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is closed for summer until 15 September. The k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater is performing the opera „Don Juan“.

Miyanoshita, 16 August 1893

This day was completely dedicated to rest, to the dolce far niente, as there were no temples to visit nor was the weather suitable for excursions. The morning I filled with shopping where I bought countless quite useless and valueless objects of various kind, feeding the goldfishes and watching the creation of a Japanese hairdo of a Japanese lady who despite wearing a negligee was not inconvenienced by our presence. Then we all put on kimonos and had ourselves photographed in the local dress which caused hilarity many American ladies especially our chief doctor who is blessed with a bit heavier body.

Especially well did one photograph turn out that showed me in the midst of my entourage who were all kneeling in the Japanese manner and covering the ground with their heads. As we were already enjoying the local customs, I undertook the quite painful procedure of getting a tattoo that required in a four hour session no fewer than 52.000 pinpricks and resulted in a resplendent dragon on my left arm — a joke I will probably come to regret due to its inextinguishable marks. A stroll and an excellent dinner completed this no very useful but quiet day of rest.

Links

  • Location: Miyanoshita, Japan
  • ANNO – on 16.08.1893 in Austria’s newspapers.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is closed for summer until 15 September. The k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater is performing the opera „Die Königin von Saba“.

Nagoya to Kosu, 15 August 1893

Nagoya had only been selected to spend the night there but we made a detour on the way to the railway to cast a furtive glance at the castle and get a very general impression of the surrounding of the city. It lies on the right bank of the small river Shonai close to Owari Bay, and presents itself as a booming provincial city and once had been the seat of the prince of Owari whose house had been founded by one of Ieyasu`s sons.

With 179.000 inhabitants Nagoya is the fourth largest city of the country and the capital of the department of Aiji as well as the province of Owari, which is part of the landscape of the Tokaido, the famous Eastern seaboard road between Tokyo and Kyoto. Situated in the plain the city lacks a beautiful surrounding scenery but makes a pleasant impression, not in the least due to the numerous well supplied shops that display the products of the busy industriousness of the local people.

The castle O Schiro had been built in 1610 as the residence of Ieyasu`s son and resembles in its structure the fortresses of Kumamoto and Osaka despite the artistic decoration of its interior rooms. After the huge change of rule in Japan the castle was turned over to the military only to be later given into the more careful hands of the department of the Imperial household. The space between the inner and outer wall, once the quarter for princely samurai contains now army barracks and exercising spaces. At the top of the five story high donjon gleam two golden dolphins that can be seen from far away in the city and which are 2,6 m tall and valued at 462.800 fl. in our currency that had been commissioned by the famous general Kato Kijomasa, the builder of the donjon, in 1610. One of the dolphins has a strange fate with a surprising connection to Vienna. It had been sent to the Vienna world exhibition and sank on the return journey on the steamer „Nil“ but was recovered by overcoming great difficulties and has now returned to its old place.

From Nagoya the railway line turns in a grand arc first in a South-eastern direction to Hamamatsu, then turns North-east by Shisuoka to Iwabuji, to continue East until Numasu. The line more or less follows the coast of the Pacific Ocean along the route of the Tokaido- Japanese cedars with tall trunks and cypress trees line this ancient traffic road that often comes very close to the railway line. During the whole journey, the railway line often crosses numerous elegant bridges that cover a number of smaller and larger rivers, standing water swamps, lagoons and bays. Just in front of Maisaka station we crossed a near endless system of bridges and embankments over the sea or more precisely the bay of Hamano to then cross the mighty bridge over the Tenriu-gawa which is counted among the exemplary structures of Japan.

During the first part of the journey the unavoidable rice paddies, interrupted by bamboo groves, formed the mainstay of the region that for certain areas resembles a garden but offers no scenic attractions. Where the railway gets close to the coast, the image turned into vivid colors due to the views upon the sea. Later the scenery changes as mountain ranges extend further out of the interior of the country as if the railway line wanted to rush more towards the sea. Soon we were in the area of the Japanese high mountains. The railway line touches the foot of the mighty Fuji and makes a detour around Hakone mountain.

Who does not know Fuji-san or Fuji-no-jama, in Europe often called Fusiyama, this Japanese landmark that one encounters as one of the most popular subjects of Japanese art on lacquer works. on porcelain, on paper, on wood and metal? As a holy mountain to whose top every year thousands of pilgrim walk, as an old volcano who has been peaceful since  1707 Fuji rises, said to be the highest mountain of Japan, to a height of 3760 m, isolated rising cone-shaped on a broad base. Unfortunately the peak of the original which we had seen in hundreds of illustrations was covered by a light fog layer. At least it formed an effective contrast to look up to a huge mountain mass on the left and see the shore of the Pacific Ocean on the right and the sea with numerous vehicles whose sails were filled due to the fresh wind.

Like a wall the Hakone mountains close off the entrance to the Kwanto, that is the East of the gate, to the plains of the capital city to which the Tokaido leads over the Hakone pass and a number of other passes. Here on the Hakone pass there was under the Tokugawa reign a large guard called the Kwan (gate) that secured the entry to the plains. Everywhere friendly valleys and deeply cut gorges opened up out of which flowed rushing rivers and streams. If these really respectable mountains, including the impressive Fuji, don`t make the impression of high mountains on us, the reason lies probably in its rounded, delicate forms while we are used to see steep, ragged, angular, jagged rocky formations.

Unfortunately our enjoyment about the images of the passing landscape was negatively impacted by the bad quality of the coal used for heat whose dust covered everything. In other aspects too the level of European comfort expected by a traveler was not yet provided.

In Kosu, a popular spa we left the train to enjoy the air in Miyanoshita in the Hakone mountains rich in thermal sources before we entered in the maelstrom of official festivities in Tokyo. A tea house that had a view on the moving sea provided us a temporary shelter and hospitality until we could set out by tramway to Miyanoshita which took us in a Western direction parallel to the Tokaido first to Odawara after crossing the Sakawa-gawa and a small stream. Odawara is the capital of the province Sagami and once connected to the famouse house of Hojo that had been destroyed here by the mighty Taiko-sama in 1590.

Opposite the ruins of Odawara castle the horses were switched while the local people and those from other places came out to watch us with curiosity as our appearance seemed to be somewhat comical to them. The driver who conducted my carriage performed his duty in a frock coat and a white tie, wore a high top hat and always applied the brakes in a mistaken sense of the importance of his duty so that the poor horses pulled the carriage forward only by snorting and panting. The lifeguard played the conductor sitting in the rear of the carriage in full dress uniform equipped with battle helmet and sword.

We crossed the Haya-gawa and arrived shortly afterwards at Yumoto where we exchanged the tramway for djinn rickshaws pulled by three runners each. Soon we started towards Miyanoshita following the mountain road that tracks closely the curvy valley of the roaring river. Yumoto, known for its curative sulfur thermal waters, is a health resort with numerous delicate small houses that are built on the ledge of a mountain range that offer a cool agreeable stay in the summer.

Our path led us in serpentines on the right river bank steeply upwards while deep down below us the Hayagawa flowed nearly hidden by the trees. The ledge on which the brave carriers were dragging us up had some tree cover while the one on the opposite side, the sunny side as we would call it at home, was without trees and only covered with tall grass as it had been ruthlessly deforested but not sensibly reforested. In a pleasant way the scene is made more lively by the presence of sources pouring out of the rocks, a small tea house for the tired walkers who is offered tea as a refreshment by the friendly looking musumes.

At Tonosawa, situated about a third of the journey and also possessing hot sources my eye caught sight of a white building on the opposite hill which proved to be a Greek-Orthodox chapel endowed by a Russian countess who had lived for many years in Japan. But the mission of that creed can offer little of success here.

We ascended more than 400 m when we arrived in Miyanoshita towards 7 o`clock in the evening, the spa whose sources and clean air as well as the agreeable strolls were often praised and which, as far as I could distinguish, consisted actually only out of hotels and houses connected to them besides a few shops. My expectations were set much too high from the descriptions so that I was quite disappointed. The area can not claim to possess captivating sights and nor characteristic mountain formations.

The site, at least as far as the grand hotel was concerned where we were staying was completely furnished in European style and targeted towards the English and Americans. Only the service by female servants reminds of Japan otherwise I could as well believe to be in a Swiss establishment. I had arrived with the desire to discover the original Japan both in scenery and the settlement — high mountains with Japanese alp huts — and find a cosy still life as in the unforgettable Mijajima while I now found a non-descript scenery with a fashionable hotel where a gong called the guests to breakfast, lunch and dinner and English voices were heard. In contrast the absence of bowing dignitaries and the fresh, rejuvenating mountain air were pleasant.

I continued to stroll for some time in the extensive valley gorge with the secondary intention to see some of the fauna, namely game, of this area and at least listen to some birds sing — but in vain. Only the common crow was sighted frequently even though that species had been sworn complete destruction for one of these birds had acted unkindly toward the strolling Mikado in one of the gardens of his palace and therefore all these animals bereft of reverence and etiquette were condemned to be outlaws by edict. Although there are interesting carnivores as well as deer and an antilope species native to Japan which I wanted to hunt just as I wanted to hunt the ever present pheasant. But we were not in the right season nor did the travel program allow it to go hunting so that the rifle had to rest in Japan.

The sulfur sources that are said to provide lasting cures for all kinds of illnesses are collected in a large health and bath resort of Japanese character.

Links

  • Location: Miyanoshita, Japan
  • ANNO – on 15.08.1893 in Austria’s newspapers.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is closed for summer until 15 September. The k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater is performing the ballet „Cavalleria Rusticana“.

Kyoto, 14 August 1893

As I had expressed the vivid desire to see the much praised Lake Biwa, we moved with the Tokaido railway there. After a short drive through the inevitable rice paddies when — we had just passed through a tunnel and made a sharp turn to the North-east — the lovely lake lay in front of us shined upon by the rays of the morning sun. At Baba Station Baba the railway car was exchanged for a court carriage that took us to the city of Otsu at the lake shore, the capital of the prefecture of Shiga and the province of Omi, which was already part of the landscape of Tosando, that is the East mountain road. This city has become notorious quite to its own dislike for the wicked assassination attempt in 1891 that was made in one of the streets we were passing through, on the Tsesarevich. This circumstance accounted for the fact that here there were even more police guide lines and instructions to follow. The place was teaming with policemen everywhere.

Lake Biwa is said to owe its name to its form that resembles the instrument named „biwa“. Numerous myths are connected to this lake that plays an important role in Japanese tales and is said to owe its existence like Fuji mountain to an earthquake. With its blueish glittering surface the lake is lovely embedded between green hills and groves. Small villages enclose the shores as the pleasure-seeking Japanese knew how to appreciate the scenic magic of this jewel. An idyll lies in front of us and in the spectator the desire grows to stay and dream here for some time. If one discounts the style of the houses, one might think to be transferred to the shore of Lake Starnberg. Numerous steamers and sailing boats drive to and fro, exchanging the traffic between the different points on the lake shore.

We embarked on a small steamboat that split the blue waves puffing and groaning — it perhaps had never been driven so fast —  but the enjoyment of the trip was unfortunately lessened by incessant use of the steam whistle which seemed to be a bad quality of our vehicle or more precisely that of our commander who by the way was only following the ruling custom: Every encounter, every greeting, every signal is accompanied by the shrill whistle.

At Karasaki, not quite 6 km West of Otsu, at the lake shore we stopped.  The point of attraction here is the famous pine that is said to have already been planted before the birth of Christ. In any case, it dates back to ancient times and justly has become over centuries if not millennia a venerated holy tree. The height of the trunk however is only 27 m, as the tree has been pruned probably in its youth, an early victim of the ideas of Japanese gardening. The circumference of the trunk however is more than 22 m and the diameter of the ends of the branches extends to about 300 m. The branches extend partly far like a fan and are turned down so that one can in some spots only pass under them in a crouching posture, partly they are wound in snake-like coils supported by formal wooden scaffolding and stone bases. Below the branches of the impressive giant and dignified tree is hidden a complete Shinto temple. Where there are holes in the trunk they have been carefully glued closed. Also at the top there is a small roof to protect the tree against the rain as it is said to be very sensitive to it. Still despite all this care, the tree seems to be a bit ill surmised by its look and this year too, caterpillars have inflicted quite some damage on the old man.

Hiroshige - The evening rain at Karasaki (Source: Wikimedia commons)

Hiroshige – The evening rain at Karasaki (Source: Wikimedia commons)

Near the giant pine we witnessed the local fishing: In the lake are namely installed labyrinth-like paths made out of bamboo latices in conjunction with fish traps so that the entering fish find themselves finally confined to a relatively small space of a few meters in diameter out of which there is no escape. In front of our eyes such a space was emptied which resulted in a catch of multiple hundred kilograms of fish, among them especially carp of respectable sizes. Apparently the fishing is quite profitable here as the lake like all Japanese inland waters is very rich in fish. The steamboats driven without taking the slightest regard over the bamboo lattices extending out of the water so that one thinks that they would be crushed and torn. Far from it  — the elastic material bends below the fore and body of the ships and rises again unharmed behind the aft of the steamer.

Back in Otsu I climbed the numerous steps of a stone stairs to the heights covered with conifers and crowned by a Buddha sanctuary called Mii-dera, which is said to have been built already in the 7th century but has been adapted numerous times. From here one has a gorgeous panoramic view on the lake and the landscape surrounding it. Less charming were the sight of the public buildings constructed in European style that self-confidently if not pretentiously stand out in their brazen white painted exteriors from the surrounding areas.

With great appreciation one has to mention a masterwork of modern technology, namely the canal that connects by the Kamo-gawa canal, Kamo-gawa and Jodo-gawa to Lake Biwa and the Japanese inland sea. The highly remarkable installation built from 1885 to 1890 consists of a 11 km long shipping canal that enters into Kamo-gawa to the West of Kyoto and a  8 km long secondary canal that serves irrigation purposes and supplies water power for the various industrial establishments.

The difficulties of this structure were to route the canal through the hard rock of the ridge between the lake and Kamo-gawa and then cover the level difference of 44 m. The former obstacle was removed by building three tunnels, the latter by introducing a system of skewed plains on which the vehicles are moved up and down with strong steel cables powered by the hydraulic energy of the secondary canal. The design of this installation was created by Tanabe Sakuro, a student of Tokyo’s school of engineering who has executed the plans and drafts — by the way — with his left hand. While I enjoyed the sight and had myself informed about the canal, a gorgeous daylight firework was ignited so that around us colorful balloons, ribbons and bands  were flying through the air.

Above a newly built clean barracks occupied by an infantry regiment, an officers‘ casino has been situated on a height. Its location and surrounding makes this the probably most advantageous casino that I have known. It is built out of wood and equipped in the local manner. On the walls hang photographs showing war scenes from the Satsuma uprising as well as dedication tablets with memorial inscriptions and signatures of princely personalities, generals and other dignitaries. I had some of the inscriptions translated to me, some of which apparently are connected to certain events and relations or can not truly be understood by a third party, while others have a roguish air such as for instance the words of Prince Arisugawa: „We will entertain the peasant girls.“ A dinner we ate here tasted very well thanks to the agreeable coolness supplied by mighty blocks of ice and the charming landscape.

The departure from Otsu took place at half past 2 o’clock. At Maibara the train turned East towards Gifu. A place that will be commemorated forever in Japan’s history as today one of its railway stations is Sekigahara, where Ieyasu in 1600 at the head of 75.000 men won a decisive victory over the 130.000 men army of the league against him and thus brought the shogunate into the Tokugawa family. After a three hour journey we arrived in Gifu, not without me enjoying a little rest, as I was overwhelmed by the heat on the journey and tired,  to which purpose I had dressed as a Japanese wearing only my Kimono which caused much hilarity to the cabin attendants.

At the station I was greeted by captain Yamaguchi upon the order of the Emperor. He was the director of the Imperial hunting office called Shurio Kyoku and a chamberlain, both clad in neat green uniforms. Then followed the customary festive entrance into the city. As the people had formed huge crowds, the policemen formed an advance in djinn rickshaws to create space for us. The curious harmless bystanders were hit and run down in a rather rough manner without however any swear words by the victims whose calm found my admiration. The Japanese remain polite in all situations. Notable were the great number of attractive faces that the female part of the population contributed to the embellishment of the entrance.

Gifu, the capital of the prefecture of the same name and the province of Mino, has been completely rebuilt as an earthquake in 1891 and the resulting fire had fully destroyed it. It therefore makes a new, very clean and tidy impression.

A hill in the East of the city the great Nobunaga had in his time selected as a suitable spot for a fortified castle. The province of Mino is known for its fertility and the industry of its people that reveals itself in the production of silk, silk weaving, crepe, pottery and the paper industry.  Mino paper is especially popular for windows. Lampions, sun and rain umbrellas as well as paper napkins are desired articles. In a club house all the mentioned goods were offered for sale and also various honor presents for me by the city  were put on display.

The purpose of our visit to Gifu was to see fishing by the trained cormorants. Thus we went soon in djinn rickshaws to the fishing location about one hour of journey outside the city near Nagara-gawa. The journey followed the main road of Gifu, crossed a pretty bridge over the Nagara and continued on the right shore upstream past charming small houses surrounded by tiny gardens as well as bamboo bushes. The lampions for the evening activity were already visible and increased the expectations of a splendid illumination. At the place where we were asked to embark a covered and richly decorated and illuminated boat was already waiting. In it an excellent dinner was served when we had reached the middle of the river as the fishing would only start at dusk. The Japanese court cookinng merits special appreciation as they did everything but let us die from hunger. All the time there was something readily prepared for us, a constant  „Tischlein deck‘ dich“ (Grimm’s fairy tale „The wishing table“).

Both river shores were densely packed with people who had come to watch the spectacle and numerous boats filled with Gifu’s dignitaries and multiple reporters some of which were always accompanying us were dancing on the waves of the river. It is here 30 to 40 m wide, with a strong current, and forms rapids in the upper part where granite blocks constrain its path similar to those at Katsura-gawa. It reveals its character as a mountain river especially by the extended inundated areas that points to devastating activities of the river in spring.

When it had turned completely dark our vehicle was pushed a few hundred meters upstream until at a rocket signal 12 boats of 6 m length each emerged out of the turn of the river. A mighty chip of pinewood fire was burning in a iron basket at the fore of each ship in order to attract fish. There too stood a fisherman who held eight cormorants on strings ready while on both sides a fisherman each held two cormorants on two strings and a fourth man steered the boat, I was told that the cormorant is captured young and only tamed so far that he is tame to the hand that is eat out of the hand and allows to be touched. As soon as this achieved, it is used to catch fish and namely in the manner that a sling around its neck prevents its flight when it is sent into the water to catch fish and store them in its craw. The bird does this eagerly out of his instinct. To prevent the fish from going from the craw to the stomach the string is tightly wound around the neck. If the cormorant has caught a number of fish and stored in its craw, the bird is lifted back on board and deprived of its catch by the owner applying pressure to its neck.

Thus it happened here too. When the shine of the flames had attracted a sufficient number of fishes, the fleet started moving. At the same time the strings holding the cormorant were eased and the prey-seeking birds started diving without interruption and incited by our beats on the boat’s walls or our shouts in their murderous hunt.

A night time view of a strange charm developed in front of us. The boats drifting towards us, the up and down diving cormorants in front of the boats of which soon one or another was lifted into the boat in order to get its catch and release it back into the water. The exciting shouts  and noises of the fishermen and the crackle of the fire illuminating the darkness of the night over a wide area. The numerous vehicles mingling on the river and the crowds pushing on the shore in the red shine of the flames.

When the boats arrived near us, taking our vehicle into the middle and drifting further downstream we could closely observe the cormorants at their work. The fires illuminated the water to the ground of the river bed. Terrified schools of fish hurried around always pursued by the cormorants. There was especially vivid action under water if two cormorants started to chase the same fish so that a true competition began until one of the birds emerged victorious. We too started to get excited and took sides in the fishing so that we encouraged the cormorants by shouting what actually was not necessary at all as the brave animals caught in the hunting fever rushed back head first into the water having barely been lifted on board. Captain Yamaguchi was very happy about our interest which was not lessened when I standing up and due to the pitch of the boat poured a cup of black coffee into the lap of this brave man.

Recognition is due to the skill of the fishermen in performing their job in steering their boats in the strong current and how they manage the cormorants so that they can dive in all directions without messing up the long strings. With a one hour time period the 144 cormorants had caught 3000 fishes some of which were so large that the diving birds were unable to get them without a struggle. Under our own eyes one cormorant had no fewer than 16 fishes in his craw — a number that stands out of all proportion to the size of the bird.

The caught fish were all salmonidae that are all treasured and a favorite dish of the Mikado on whose table they apparently were never missing. At the dinner in the boat I had the opportunity to taste fishes of this species. We found them tasty but not as exquisite as our trout. The fishing grounds where we had fished is owned by the Emperor while other places are owned by the city or private persons. For the nearly fantastic wealth of this river and probably other waters in fish speaks the circumstance that this fishing method we witnessed today is used during five months every night with the exception of clear moon nights and the average daily catch is 5000 to 10.000 pieces of fish that are immediately put on ice and then sent into all parts of the country. Despite this robbery — the cormorant is one of the most ruthless predators that catches everything that comes near it without distinction — the fish stock always replenishes itself again. This can only be due to the very favorable circumstances for the fish fauna in Japan as there are neither close seasons nor other measures to improve the fishing. One clear explanation is that the pollution of the fishing waters by industrial establishments has not yet happened or not in the same amount as at home.

Both river shores were packed with humans near the bridge. The people even ran into the water to be able to see us, the water reaching up to their chests. The crowd there was buzzing and humming like a bee hive, soon there and soon here, clear laughter was heard and vivid shouts of approval reached our ears — all these sounds and noises combined with the gushing and roaring of the river to form a strange harmony.

The city of lampions seemed to want to surpass its fame. They said good-bye with an illumination that surpassed all expectations. Alongside the river shore as well as on the bridge thousands of red lampions had been lighted. Above the roads audacious arches were formed from which hung garlands of lampions gleaming in light red. The bizarre forms of the temple roofs as well as the fronts of the houses fiery lines made out of white lampions were formed. In the streets everywhere there were illuminated banners. Red and white glittering and gleaming out of all directions made the quarter up to the station appear to be bathed in light forming a stark contrast to the dark night sky.

Led by the mayor and followed by a huge crowd, the long caravan of djinn rickshaw moved to the station where the mayor of the city thanked me for visiting Gifu. After I had replied with a few words, the train took us on the Tokaido railway in a South-eastern direction to Nagoya. Here I was greeted by division general Katsura in fluent German that he had learned during his stay of many years in Vienna which he holds most dear in his memory.

During the entrance into the city a firework was ignited, this time a night time one that has to be counted among the most beautiful that I have seen. In spite of the advanced hour the inhabitants of Nagoya had assembled in huge crowds in front of the hotel where we would stay the night and applauded vividly when I accidentally appeared on the veranda as if I were a famous opera diva. I then bowed to thank them.

Links

  • Location: Nagoya, Japan
  • ANNO – on 14.08.1893 in Austria’s newspapers.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is closed for summer until 15 September. The k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater is performing the ballet „Excelsior“.

Kyoto, 12 August 1893

Through the still empty streets the path went in a Western direction out of the city to reach the Katsura falls or, more precisely, the rapids of the Katsura river which we intended to tackle with boats.

Some minutes outside the city we made a stop at Ginkakuji, a country house built by Ashikaga Yoshimasa in 1479, after he had stepped down from the office of shogun. There is now a garden in which the Mikado also tends to walk when he is visiting Kyoto. This garden is strictly following the rules of Japanese gardening so that one meets here too dwarfish trees, cut bushes, grotesque rock groups, winding paths, small ponds and streams criss-crossing the garden.

Whereas elsewhere everything is done to support the free natural development and large trees with wide-ranging branches are desired, Japanese gardening seeks quality in smallness and is intent to contain nature in the smallest space possible, to restrict growth and force it into strange forms. Thus I have seen spruces and pines that were, though I was assured that the trees were fifty and even eighty years old, only half a meter high. It can not be denied that Japanese gardening expresses their great love for nature but it seems to me as if this love fails to understand the size of nature and that the son of Japan would not want to rise up to it but only wants to reduce it to his own size. In order to bring nature closer to the humans, they aim to create everything in a cute, small, dwarfish way and impose the mark of the garden artist’s mood. Everything we see in Japanese gardens is „cute“ — hardly another word fits to well to its qualities. A strangely formed heap of white sand in the garden of the country house, once the location for the aesthetic swoons and feasts of Yoshimasa, is called „silver sand platform“; the turning small water wheel in the site is called „source in which the moon takes a bath“, a stone in a small pond is the „rock of observation“ etc.

In fifty djinn rickshaws each drawn by three runners we drove across a plain covered at first by villages where the just harvested tea leaves had been laid out to dry on cloths. Numerous transport vehicles drawn by beautiful black bulls or with stallion ponies advanced towards us, whirling up dust which inconvenienced us not to a small degree. Alongside the road there are plenty of small tea houses that offer food to the tired wanderer and also now and then a refreshing drink of water to the runners whose endurance in this heat and dust is doubly astonishing. Our path, a very well maintained mountain road, led us to the heights in the Northwest of Kyoto through a gorge-like valley and up in serpentine roads. Here we enjoyed the charms of splendid vegetation as on both sides of the romantic path rose Japanese cedars, thujas, pines, bamboo  and all kinds of trees covering the steep ledges. Finally after having passed through a very long tunnel  we reached the peak and then descended into the valley of Hiroma-ji in which the Katsura-gawa, that is here called Hosu-gawa, and arrived an hour later on a bumpy road Yumamoto and thus the rapids of the Katsura river.

Three boats awaited us there, really strange vehicles, 6 m long and 2 m wide made out of thin boards only held together by wooden studs. It did not give an appearance of being very resistant and already while boarding the boards were buckling at each step at an alarming level. The crew consisted of four strong guys, one of which sat at the rudder while two rowed and the fourth with a long bamboo pole was tasked to keep the vehicle away from rocks at the shore and in the river bed.

As soon as we were assigned to the boats, the awesome journey started and after just a few moments we had already reached the first rapid which we crossed swift as an arrow. Depending on the slop, the boats glide calmly or rushed swiftly down the valley through the spray of the turbulent water at a dizzying speed. The course could not be in a straight direction as suddenly when the boats are at high speed running straight, a granite block stands in their way and one already thinks that the slim vehicle would crash but one wiggle of the rudder, a slight touch with the bamboo pole and the vehicle shoots past the dangerous spot a hand’s width away. Often the vehicle enters into thunderous waves and whirls and pitches mightily, the bottom boards move up and down as if under the influence of an earthquake. At times one feels how the vehicle glides over stones and rocks — but the elastic material of the boat resists in the same manner both the water and the rocks.

The trip which in a few places makes one think of being in one of our wild streams at home is exciting to the highest degree but undeniably also dangerous so that it is only due to the skill and the force of the boatmen that accidents rarely happen.

To increase the charms that we could admire at higher or lower speed or just get a glimpse of it when the boat flies past. Here the green waves of the river sparkle calmly downstream, there they rush whooshing, roaring, whizzing and thundering above and against the high rising blocking rocks, Now the valley gets wider, lovelier, then it closes again and we fly through the romantic narrow passages. At each turn of the river, a new image develops in our sights, soon a steep green ledge, soon woods covering the slopes, soon ragged rocks. Now and then a side valley opens in which a hidden mill peeks out. Now and then a curious tea house looks at us out of the light green space.

One and a half hours whiled away in a most agreeable manner until the valley widened and the Katsura river that is called Oi-gawa there runs in a very calm current and soon our fleet landed at Arashiyama. Here the inhabitants of Kyoto flock to preferentially in the spring when the cherry trees are in full bloom and enjoy the charms of the scenery of this lovely place on Earth surrounded by green hills and served by a couple of tea houses. Utile cum dulci! We too went there and did the same as the brave court cooks had produced a tasteful meal in one of these tea houses.

In a court carriage that followed the djinn rickshaws at their speed, I returned from the successful excursion to Kyoto and used the afternoon to go shopping and plunder the stores.

In the evening artists put on a show in the palace by performing a wild daring dance with fantastic masks and strange costumes as if they had been stung by a tarantula until they were out of breath and took their leave. I too quickly retired then and went to my quarter.

Links

  • Location: Kyoto, Japan
  • ANNO – on 12.08.1893 in Austria’s newspapers.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is closed for summer until 15 September. The k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater is performing the opera „Freund Fritz“.

Nara, 11 August 1893

Today we started with a visit to the Imperial treasury which strangely is not located in Tokyo but here instead. The Mikado is said to usually keep the key to it in his own hands. What one might usually consider a treasure room, namely a fire and theft resistant room in which valuables, especially jewels and gems, are kept, nothing like this can be found here. We just see a wooden barn-like building standing on poles, that totally reminds me of the „hay barns“ in the wet meadows of Pinzgau and Pongau. Within this building whose purpose is more characteristic of a museum are objects of sometimes important historic and artistic value in closets. Here there are masks, brocade and silk dresses that were once used for ceremonies, furthermore swords, arrows, bows and gorgeous saddlery, then objects of daily life such as mirrors, spoons, full cutlery sets, finally jewels made out of nephrite, bringer of luck, and besides many other things, incredibly valuable Kakemonos.

Not far from the treasury is the greatest peculiarity of Nara, that is the colossal statue of Amitabha (Nara-no-daibutsu, that is the great Buddha) in the Todai-ji, zu sehen. This temple was built by Shomu-Tenno, the 46th Mikado, and completed in 750 but has a newer different form now after repeated destructions by fire. The exterior relations of the building we could not fully see as they were just making repairs for which they had erected scaffolds at the facade. The temple hall into which the visitor enters without having to remove the shoes contains the colossal statue of Buddha that surprises by its giant dimensions, an imposing proof of the Japanese skill in terms of metallurgy. The statue is the largest Buddha representation in the country at a height of 162 m and shows Buddha sitting on an open lotus flower that has been produced out of 500 t of copper-rich bronze at a width of about 2 cm. On the leaves one can still recognize the signs of engraved figures of gods. Behind the head that seems to be darker colored than the rest rises a glittering gilded wooden halo whose rays branch out far in all directions and on which six statues of Buddhist saints are balancing. To the right of the Buddha statue is one of a holy being, Kokuso Bosatsu, to the left one of the almighty Kwan-on, both 5,5 m high and nevertheless tiny in comparison to the huge Buddha. The latter had been strongly gilded too at the beginning but this decoration has been lost during its turbulent existence.

Lke the temple the Daibutsu itself owes its existence to Shomu-Tenno, who had the creation of the statue under his personal direction only undertaken after an oracle of the consulted sun goddess Amaterasu and a dream about this had calmed him that the other gods would not be jealous about the planned honoring of Buddha. In the year 749 the work was completed which is more remarkable for its height than its artistic value. About  a bit more than 100 years later the poor Buddha lost its head but received a new one a short time afterwards. A fire in 1180 melted the head and it was replaced again 15 years later only to perish once more in the fire of 1567. A private person then helped Buddha to replace his head again so that the god has since been in complete command of his more than 1100 year old body. The more than 300 year old head looks out into the world with a happy smile without having lost his good mood that he had been exposed to the full rigors of the weather for more than one and a half centuries after the last fire.

A thick dust layer covered the image which we pointed out to the senior priest who replied that this was due to the pilgrims that carried in the dust but at least declared that the god would be better kept clean in the future. This would improve all of the temple space in my view as the room was really completely deprived of its religious character.

In the temple there is a formal exhibition of the interesting objects that are presented in closets and constitute, in part, the treasure. All kinds of wooden images of the gods, valuable reliquaries, music instruments, weapons and armor, masks, ancient manuscripts and maps in scrolls etc. can be seen in a colorful variety. Merchants from Nara had assembled here in the safe presumption that I would be willing to buy various objects, so that under Buddha’s eyes a vivid trade soon developed that was continued on the exterior of the temple at the nearby shops that contained many artistic objects.

We did not miss to pay a visit to the huge bell that had been cast in 732 out of 36 t of metal that hangs in a massive tower and is a part of Todai-ji. The mammoth that is similar to the one in the Chion temple in Kyoto was beat in our honor with the bobbin and is distinguished by the purity of the deep clanging sound.

In the holy grove that has made Nara in part famous rises in the shadow of ancient Japanese cedars and cypresses one temple after the next with extended associated buildings. A pleasing silence reigns in the area of the dignified tree giants but that is not due to the earnestness of the matching style in the grove but instead it exudes an air of friendliness and hilarity.  As everywhere the light colors of the temples pierces the leaves. The temples are the opposite of dark houses of prayer. The rare understanding of the building artists for the correct location of their works is proved by the charming views upon the lovely landscape.

Shedding many drops of sweat we climbed countless steps of a long stone star to a temple situated at the highest level called Ni-gwatsu-do or temple of the second month that seems to stick to the hill on which it had been built as it seems to rise out on its poles from the hill. Built already in 751, the current building dates only back 200 years and contains an image of wonder of the goddess Kwan-on, which is said to have exuded warmth like a living body when it was found. A confusing number of metal votive lanterns hang in front of the temple and produces a strange attraction to the building.

Now we wandered in the avenues of the varied small votive temples that border the path under high dark trees and arrived at the Shinto sanctuary in red and white color called San-gwatsu-do or temple of the third month whose priests always clad in white greeted us. Currently quite desolate, this temple is remarkable by a row of original small side temples dedicated to Inari. As a quality that deserves to be mentioned is that in this holy grove priests of various cults act peacefully side by side sot that they imitate the very good understanding in which numerous gods live together in harmony.

We quickly used a break during the visit of the temple to buy sword guards whose fabrications once was very famous and had produced many master pieces of invaluable quality.

Thousands of votive pillars encase the path that the djinn rickshaws took to the other temples. The pillars resemble one another almost completely Due to their age they are mostly covered in moss and hold the name of the donor on the base and contain space in the upper part under a stone roof for the placement of a lantern. Often these marks of faith are grouped in four to five rows one behind the other and only rarely alternate with a beautiful bronze figure one of which especially caught my eye as it showed a water-spewing deer at natural size and in a very elegantly formed lines.

At a Shinto sanctuary called Kasuga-no-mija we stopped. This building rises in noble proportions and produces a very vivid effect by its gleaming red bizarrely formed metal votive lanterns whose numbers nobody has yet counted and that are in a captivating contrast to the calm green of the majestic Japanese cedars. Impressive is the rich temple treasure assembled over centuries as this Kami hall reaches back to the distant past as it is said to have been built already in 767. It is dedicated to the ancestor of the house of Fujiwara, the Shinto god Ama-no-kojane and his wife as well as two mythical creatures.

At the end of an avenue bordered by more than 3000 stone and bronze lanterns lies the Waka temple dedicated to the son of Ama-no-kojane in which an ancient dance called Kagura was performed in our honor by three priests with flutes and drums, supported by a matron who played a Koto while lying down, who produced the orchestral music. The youthful female dancers who had been especially educated for these ritual performances wore wide red pants, white overcoats and gaze-like coats. The black hair hung freely down the back , only loosely held together by a golden thread, a crest of artificial flowers decorated the front, the face was defaced by thick paint in white, the lips were glittering in a flashy red. The dance consisted of  rhythmic steps forwards and backwards. The girls accompanied this graceful swaying soon with tree twigs soon by small bells or fans but still made an impression of mechanically moving figures.

During the dinner in the clubhouse a highly skilled juggler put on a performance which ended with some clown sketches enacted in conjunction with some companions in which the Japanese version of the „dumb Auguste“ was not missing.

In the afternoon we started our return trip to Kyoto. In Osaka the nearly one hour journey from the station at Minatoku to that of Umeda offered plenty of opportunities for the huge crowds that were intent of seeing the Western strangers.

At 8 o’clock in the evening we returned to Kyoto and found our long path to our journey blocked by a densely packed crowd and festively illuminated by lampions as during our first arrival in the city.

Links

  • Location: Kyoto, Japan
  • ANNO – on 11.08.1893 in Austria’s newspapers.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is closed for summer until 15 September. The k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater is performing the opera „Die Hugenotten“.

Kyoto to Osaka, 10 August 1893

Today’s program included an excursion first to Osaka and then to Nara. The train therefore took us towards that city on the same line that we had already used on our journey to Kyoto although at night. We rushed through a lovely green landscape where numerous sweep wells and treadwheels to irrigate the area rise as a strange accessories. Small bamboo forests interrupt in an agreeable way the monotony of the rice paddies extending very far. Repeatedly the train dashes over the nearly dry trickles of streams and small rivers an finally the bed of Kanzaki-gawa and also Jodo-gawa.

From the far distance Osaka, a city of more than 473.000 inhabitants, announces its character as an industry and trade center by the in no way picturesque view of numerous factories with smocking stacks. The first building that we passed was a brewery operated by steam that satisfied both the thirst and the industrial pride of the inhabitants of Osaka.

My strong request to keep my excursion Incognito as much as possible was granted but it only consisted that the police no longer saluted in front of me while everything else stayed the same. Thus we found here again a festive reception at the station, the presentation of high dignitaries, a triumphal entrance into the city through a cordon of curious spectators. I had declined with thanks to see the originally planned revue of the toal garrison troops of Osaka, quite to the disappointment of the commanding general, an old lieutenant general to whom I confirmed a visit to the castle and the arsenal instead.

Four court carriages brought us quickly first to the castle that is on the left bank of the Jodo-gawa in the East of the city that is not rarely called the Venice of Japan. This comparison is only valid in terms that in the Southern part of Osaka re numerous canals of filthy water that branch off from Jodo-gawa.

At the entrance to the fort the lieutenant general received me at the head of the officer corps and accompanied me into a service building where he presented me with photographs and sketches of the fortress after a long speech and offered refreshments. The castle resembles in its construction and fortification those of Kumamoto and represents a huge installation, although of smaller dimension, of an enclosing wall made out of colossal granite blocks that was 5 to 7 m wide and up to 12 m long and had a deep water-filled double moat. How they managed to move and pile up the giant granite blocks with the technical means available during the time of construction of the castle seems nearly unthinkable. It is remarkable that the walls of the escarpe and that of the contre-escarpe are not straight or at an angle but laid out in a curve. On top of the walls rise the peculiar towers of Japanese fortifications with their curved pagoda roofs. But their number is very small as most had in time become victim of the fires. Overall, the castle has turned into a ruin and also the palace within the second enclosed wall, apparently once the most splendid building of Japan, was consumed by flames in 1868. The ruins still look impressive today and tell the proud history of this fortress in a silent but haunting language. The castle was the key to the capital of Kyoto during those turbulent times and played an important role at decisive events in the history of Japan and is associated with the most illustrious names of the country.

Where today rise the debris of Osaka castle once there stood a very famous Buddhist monastery of the Shin sect that was destroyed in 1571 by the order of Nobunaga who had become one of the most powerful feudal lords thanks to the fortune of war and his bravery so that he was tasked by the Mikado to pacify the land and could dare to chase away shoguns or appoint them. Church history glorifies him as he protected Christians while he persecuted the depraved Buddhist priests who opposed his audacious plans. The order to destroy the monastery of Osaka is reinforced by Nobunaga’s words: „These bonzes never obeyed my orders but always supported the bad guys an resisted the Imperial army. If I do not remove it now, this misery will go on forever. Furthermore I have heard that these priests have ignored their own rules: They eat fish and bad herbs, have concubines and roll up the holy scripts instead of reading them and pray. How could they be the guardians against the bad and the keepers of justice?“ Then fire and sword performed their duties. A short time later the Taiko-sama had Osaka castle built in the spot of the destroyed monastery and had it reinforced a few years later. For that purpose apparently 17.000 houses were leveled.

In connection with the persecution of the Christians, Osaka became a place of refuge for Christianity and other malcontents and was besieged and conquered already in 1615 by Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate, and his son Hidetada. During the downfall of the feudal system in Japan and the restitution of the rule of the Mikado it was left to Osaka to witness the decline of the Tokugawa shogunate as it had seen the foundation and rise of its reign. Here the last shogun from this family took up his position in 1868 but could not hold neither castle nor city and had to flee on an American ship. In the flames that consumed the castle the shogunate and with it the old feudal system perished too.

At the place of great historical memories there is now a peaceful work being built, a large reservoir that is to supply the city with fresh water. The view from the heights of the castle upon the city and its surrounding is gorgeous. In the far distance one could see the large steamers move across the inland sea.

Even though the visit to the arsenal was a bit arduous due to the oppressive heat, I still did not regret it as it offered me an opportunity to verify personally the high state of the Japanese arms industry. The short time during which Japan has managed to gain the knowledge about all the respective European installation is almost a miracle. In the arsenal they were just working on a number of guns, namely 7 cm mountain artillery to up to 40 cm fortress guns intended for newly constructed forts. As the government is diligently prepared to protect every suitable point at the coast, each passage, every ledge and every peninsula with forts and then arm them soundly. The arsenal is equipped with machines of the most modern construction so that gun barrels that arrive in a raw state from the foundry are within a short time completed and adjusted. In multiple extensive halls the gun production is active in a grand style. Naturally the associated secondary installations are not missing, thus a shop to repair rifles, a carpenter’s, a wainwright’s and a saddler’s shop for the production of carriages, ammunition wagons and the tacks for the artillery. In the saddler’s shop I examined all the types of leather used as well as the production of saddles as well as saddle blankets. Here too I found the latter to be much too thin and the saddles not built as robust as required for the permanent wear and tear they are exposed to at home. The arsenal currently already produces goods for export. Thus just a few mountain artillery pieces were produced for the Portuguese government.

After the visit to the arsenal followed an opulent breakfast in the officer’s club which was also attended by the generals and the governor. The building of the club is in its exterior of European but in the interior of  Japanese character which is enhanced by a small but interesting collection of art-industrial objects. Large ice blocks in bronze vases apparently from the heights of Fujiyama  provided agreeable coolness. At the breakfast the governor produced vivid hilarity. He assured me that his doctor had forbidden him to drink sake given his unsound state of health, but saw no objection to the consumption of cognac and consumed it with vehemence.

Finally it was time to go and take the railway from Minato-cho Station to Nara. The railway line crosses a plain cultivated everywhere with rice paddies and rich in streams, later hilly terrain. First in a South-eastern direction across the province of Kawachi, which like the province of Yamato whose capital Nara is are also part of the five core provinces. Then it continues in front of Uji Station over the mountain range which forms the border between the mentioned provinces and reaches in a North-eastern arc the city of Nara. Before we arrived there we made a stop at Horyuji to visit a temple at a distance of half an hour from there.

Moving in djinn rickshaws we soon saw the temple or more precisely the houses of a conglomerate of temple buildings that looked like a small city and were united in picturesque groups in a lovely grove and connected by paths and stairs that are decorated with small chapels and bronze vessels.

During our tour we walked past gates everywhere  that are protected by threatening grotesque guards in black and in red colors. The temple had been founded by Shotoku-daishi and completed in 607. It is thus the oldest surviving Buddhist temple whose rich art treasures are supported not only by the government but also a dedicated society to support the maintenance and conservation of the temple with notable contributions.

The hall of dreams, Yume-dono, an octogonal building, is dedicated to the goddess Kwan-on whose 600 year old image hangs beside an image of the 1100 year old face of Shotoku-daishi. In the right wing of a large building behind it that is ornamented by wall paintings that in part date from 1069 a reliquary is kept of the iris of the pupil od Buddha’s left eye whose view believers can look at always at noon. In the left wing there is an image of the goddess Kwan-on who is asked for assistance against evil dreams. The main temple, surrounded by a rectangular wall, contains a number of paintings, of Buddha and other gods of which three had been installed in 1231 as a replacement of three stolen statues.

A bronze statue of Yakushi Nyorai, that is the healing Buddha, and a wooden figure of Fugen, the especially divine patron of those who devote themselves to ecstatic views, are said to have been brought by a priest called Zemui from India. Two other images, among them one of the goddess Kwan-on is said to be of Indian origin. As treasures of the highest value appear the wall paintings that show all kinds of Buddhist reproaches and are assigned to the artist Tori Busshi as well as a Korean priest and have a great importance in Japanese art history. The old age of these works is beyond doubt and the style as well as the perfect execution that was not matched by any known Japanese artist point to a Korean origin.

In the temple building dedicated to Yakushi Njorai, a view of the strangest and surprising kind is presented as the walls are covered by thousands and thousands of swords, knives, arrows, bows, in one word with weapons of all kind that men have offered while mirrors and hair has been sacrificed by women as devotionals. But also other objects of all kinds have been given to the god out of gratitude for the mercy shown. Not missing are drills as a symbol for a restored sense of hearing. What would our ear specialists think about these instruments and the unmade deafness?

Colossal god statues distinguish the temple of Kami-no-do; in this temple we view the images of Shakyamuni (Buddha), of Monchu, a personification of supernatural knowledge, of Fugen and Shi-Tenno, one of the four kings in heaven who defend the world against demons. Furthermore a group is displayed that symbolises the death of Buddha and images of the eight scenes from Buddha’s life, beginning with his birth in heaven and ending with his entrance into nirvana. One of the colossal statues shows a notable close similarity to our common representation of the Archangel Michael who defends himself with a lance against the evil enemy.

A dark long winded hall that at first gave the impression of a prop storage room of a theater contains the temple treasure that is said, in my opinion justly, to be of exceptionally high value. Here there are splendid truly invaluable tapestry-like embroideries, figures and all kinds of other objects made out of wood and bronze, masks, swords, giant drums, gongs etc. In a row of closets that are locked off there must be further valuables that are kept out of sight from  profane viewers. At the end of the tour the bonzes offered us refreshments that we gladly accepted and then drove quickly to the station where the train took us to Nara.

This city built at the foot of a well wooded mountain range can claim the glory of being one of the oldest settlements in the country but is but a shadow of its former self. Once Nara had even been the center of the empire until the Emperor Kwammu moved his residence to Kyoto. After a half hour drive in rickshaws through the main avenue of Nara and a long avenue bordered by hundred year old Japanese cedars and cypresses we arrived at a club house in the middle of a temple grove called Kosugano-yashiroe which would serve as our residence.

The loveliness of the view of the scenery is enlivened in a graceful way by the numerous holy deer that are tamely mingling between the rickshaws and pedestrians and graze without fear. These deer (Cervus schika), that are said to be cared for a thousand years, are stronger and stockier than the spotted deer but otherwise quite similar. It seems to me that the number of deer with antlers but not more than eight points were outnumbering the other animals. The big game is under special protection so that earlier the death penalty was enforced for killing a piece. Feeding always takes place close to the temple with the consequence that the game is so tame that it accepts to be fed out of the hands of everybody.

Our quarter was a very charming residence. From my room on the first floor I had a view on the dark temple grove out of whose sea of leaves now here and then one could see the top of a pagoda or the roof of a temple and in the background the green hill slopes so that one imagines to be far from a urban community. The magic of the landscape and the absolute quietness of this piece on Earth is said to have pleased the Empress of Japan who enjoyed her visits to Nara and also stayed and held court in the comfortable club house in the same rooms that I was occupying as Nara lacks an Imperial palace.

As the advanced hour prevented a visit of Nara’s sights I wandered around in the temple grove to feed the deer so that I was soon surrounded by about 60 pieces. The tame animals pestered me formally, sniffed my pockets and would not relent until I had handed out some treats whereas one especially brash stag tried to advance his demands by the use of its antlers.

After the dinner in the club house there was arranged an original production of dancers, mimes and actors in a meadow in front of the veranda illuminated by mighty flickering  pinewood flames. The spectacle was opened by a warrior in a rich costume who performed an ancient Chinese dance, Gwan-so-raku, that means Joy of the Ancestors where the artists with a horrible face mask turned around a coiled snake in front of him, threatening it with weapons and finally strangling it. While it is already difficult in our ballets at home to add a choreographic plot that made some sort of sense, this was completely impossible here until it was explained that in the far West there lived barbarians who ate snakes and that the dance under the image of the dead snake was a symbolic illustration of the victory of the Emperor over his enemies and the joy about the victorious return of their master. More interest than the performance attracted the old brocade cloths in which the warrior was clad.

The first performed dance called Kaden was more like a clown art number than a choreographic work as two artists wearing hideous lion masks imitated the movements of two lions in which, by the way, they were quite skilled. This dance is said to have been composed more than 1000 years ago upon the order of the 54th Mikado, Ninmyo Tenno, by Fujiwara Sadotoshi.

The now following presentation accompanied by singing was based on a legend that was similar to the temptation of St. Anthony. The goddess Miwa transformed herself into a woman to seduce a god-fearing Buddhist priest called Gwanpin who is said to have lived 1100 years ago. Miwa creates delicate and difficult situations for him but after a long struggle the priest emerges victorious. At first the performance starts out very funny due to the strange plot and the art of presentation but then it becomes quite monotonous as the spurned pseudo goddess cries and wails without end and the steadfast servant of Buddha keeps swearing while squatting in one corner of the improvised stage.

At the end the actors played a farce with the idea that a magic cap that turned its wearer invisible. A boy who was beaten too much by his boss flees into a Buddhist temple in Kyoto and asks for help which is given in a very practical manner in regard to the circumstances by handing him the magic cap. The boss is now no longer able to find the boy and asks a bonze to track him down which naturally does not happen. To the joy of the boy, the farce ends with the boss and the bonze hitting each other.

Noh dances are the name of productions where monotonous music that is not conforming to our ours made by a harmonica, Sho, a mortar-like instrument beat with a hammer, Kokin, that replaces the bass and a bamboo clarinet, Fudsche, as well as a zither played laying down, Koto.

Links

  • Location: Nara, Japan
  • ANNO – on 10.08.1893 in Austria’s newspapers.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is closed for summer until 15 September. The k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater is performing the ballet „Ein Tanzmärchen“.