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“.

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