Nagasaki to Kumamoto, 4 August 1893

Conforming to the program that had been fixed by the Japanese I transferred to the torpedo cruiser „Yaeyama„. Saying good-bye to „Elisabeth“ was quite difficult, even it was just for a short time for now, and was a prelude to the upcoming complete separation in Yokohama. My heart hurt when I had to depart from our ship. The gun and board salute was performed and the „Hurrahs“ of our brave sailors followed me and reverberated for a long time in my soul.

On board of „Yaeyama“ a large reception took place as I was received by the governor, the Japanese admiral and all ship commanders, the Japanese entourage and a large number of dignitaries, while the navy music band in flashy red uniforms played our anthem. The hoisting of the standard on the main ma. st was greeted by all ships with a grand flag gala and 21 shots so that the harbor of Nagasaki soon was engulfed in dense smoke. As soon as we had hoisted the anchor, the gun and board salute was repeated but the „Hurrahs“ of the smaller Japanese sailors sounded not as loud as the roaring from the mighty lungs of our sailors. We exited under a clear sky through the winding entrance in s form, past the island of the Popists‘ Mountain, to Misumi.

A torpedo boat escorted us. It was joined just after we had left the bay by a suddenly appearing splendid cruiser that was roaring under the thunder of its guns. Being of a similar type as „Elisabeth“ but at a smaller scale it followed us in our wake. Outside of the bay we found a high rough sea which kicked around „Yaeyama“ so much that it began to pitch up to 32° in both directions. This cruiser constructed in Japan is very long and relatively narrow which causes the heavy pitching movements. High and rough sea could prove quite disagreeable for the ships of this construction. A consequence of the heavy pitching was that by and by the Japanese entourage and all court officials disappeared below deck, stricken by sea sickness, and tables, chairs and lounges on the afterdeck started to dance around and finally turned over and were pushed from side to side.

Overtaken by the desire to sleep I went to my cabin in front of which a lifeguard in full gala uniform assigned to me by the Emperor was keeping watch to my no little surprise that made me happy. One hand was on the grip of his sword with which he could immediately execute a deadly strike. This lifeguard proved to be in time a very splendid fellow who gained my full sympathy during the journey even though we were unable to speak a single word with each other.

Small, rather stout and distinguished by his crooked legs he wore a light-green uniform with canary yellow lapels while a tall assault helmet completed the theatric appearance. A wide sash made out of black lacquered leather that my lifeguard had audaciously slung over his body had decorations of considerable size of arrows and bows in front and back which probably acted as symbols for his service but for us gave more an impression of Amor as one is used to see Japan as a country of freer love.

Our journey went in a Southern direction, then turning East around the Southern promontory of Nomozaki of the Hizen peninsula, between the peninsula of Shimbara on port and the islands of Amakusa and Kami on starboard towards Misumi, a small port. For three hours we had endured a very ungentle pitch until we arrived between the green islands where the water was much calmer. In front of Misumi a gun salute again reverberated as the cruiser „Takachiho“ who had escorted us was returning to Nagasaki, while the gunboat „Chokai“ appeared out of a side bay.

On a barge that was filled with a large number of persons who had come to greet me — among them the adjutant of Prince Joshihisa from the princely house of Kita Shirakawa related to the Imperial family — we went on land where a huge crowd awaited our arrival, energetically kept in check  by the police. All of Misumi carried flags. In front of every house flew the characteristic white flag with the red circle of Japan that represented the sun in a white field.

Totally new for me were the „daylight fireworks“ ignited to my honor. They consisted of rockets that were slung into the air by a mortar and there exploded in a strong detonation and then scattered a large number of colorful balloons, pennants, parachutes and long bands. All these objects of which some showed our black-yellow or the Japanese colors sank slowly down to earth or were carried away by the wind or were fluttering in the air which produced a very charming impression.

The journey of about 42 km to Kumamoto was to be covered in court djinn rickshaws whose runners were all dressed in the same way. They wore wide blue blouses and white pants that ended above the knee so that the knees and the calves remained bare, while the feet were protected by short stockings. The headdress was formed by white straw hats. My vehicle had three runners assigned. One was running in the fork while the other two in front drew  thin tows. The performance of the rickshaw runners is phenomenal. Despite the oppressing heat and the fact that the journey went soon uphill and soon downhill and at times was freshly metaled, our runners covered the journey to Kumamoto at the double quick in only 5,5 hours with just two short breaks. One of the gentlemen of my entourage who had recently made a trip into the interior of the country told me that he had covered a distance of about 120 km in 18 hours with only a single djinn rickshaw runner!

Right beyond Misumi the journey ascends mightily leading alongside the sea shore on a mountain ledge. Later the landscape opens up and the road enters an area, after we had crossed a small stream,  that is full of charming sights. The whole area is most industriously cultivated. Not even the smallest spot remains bare and unused. The plain is very well irrigated and mostly assigned to rice cultivation but also on the ledges of the hills and mountains one can see the characteristic lines of the stepped terraces one above the other for cultivating rice. The eye looks pleasingly only upon green in many hues in all directions from the dark of the earnest cypress groves to the light colors of the fair bamboo bushes.

The impressions I made during the journey to Kumamoto already demonstrate the density of the settlements in Japan. Wherever we went, we saw houses, villages and small cities everywhere. The houses in the countryside and the towns show only small differences. They are one or two story high, very light and simple, not to say poor, mostly made out of wood whose interior is distinguished by its great cleanliness and order. The roof is either made out of strangely curvy bricks, so called „pockets?“ („Taschen“), or out of wood, and even often out of straw but always very carefully constructed.

When we approached the people rushed out of their houses and mingled in the road whereas especially the female element distinguished itself by curiosity, which is, by the way, also said to be the case in our home country.  Among the Japanese women who were smiling friendly towards us and greeted us gaily we could observe many who had a very delicately cut very attractive small face. Also from the fields men and women ran to the road we were passing and gesticulated vividly towards me or more probably at my native lifeguard who received the acknowledgements of the people with a stoic calm under his great plume of feathers.

In front of the cavalcade drove two police officials, then I followed in my djinn rickshaw flanked by the lifeguard on one side and a court servant on the other — whose usual profession must be that of a doorman. The latter had covered his physiognomy with earnest frowns and held a mighty sword in his hands, carrying it in front of him to be ready to strike at any moment. During the five hour drive the man kept a straight face for the complete drive. Behind me followed the Japanese entourage, followed by the gentlemen from my home country. The tail was formed by an army of officials, domestic officers and servants.

Our drive had a distinctive police character as the government had taken great security arrangements as if we had to be protected from the worst attacks. The road was secured by policemen, each bridge was under guard and wherever a group of humans had formed there was a policeman too — to say nothing about the numerous detectives who were placed among the crowds in the places that we passed through.  Used to fortunately move freely in my home country, without any precautions for my personal safety, I found the police apparatus quite strange and not really agreeable but it can be explained by the heinous assassination attempt of the Tsesarevich made by — a special twist of fate — a guard. In part, the police force might also have been put on display in such a formidable way to allow me to form an opinion about the excellently organized Japanese police that was modelled on the European pattern. The police only has to act a bit less conspicuous and calmer to be fully equal to their European model. Given the eagerness of the police I realized that I would be constantly observed like a prisoner by a hundred eyes and could never go anywhere incognito!

After a long time the runners were refreshed by a supply of fresh water which was held ready in a row of buckets at the side of the road. Quickly the runners took a few long gulps and then they continued without any stop until we reached a charming village in a very picturesque place where we made a break for a quarter of an hour. In front of a small Shinto temple, in the shadow of gorgeous trees, servants offered refreshments, sent here by the care of the mikado, while the rickshaw runners rested for a short time. Unfortunately the place was closed off with some sort of net and dark cloth soo that the people were unable to approach more closely and only a few dignitaries in European dress were allowed in. Apparently the enclosure of the space was intended to prevent assassinations but this was not entertaining.

Soon we continued our rickshaw drive across a very lovely landscape and numerous villages at whose entrance the dignitaries and not rarely the fire brigade were greeting us. The latter can be identified by their blue blouses with a white sign. The girls working in the field wore a dress that reminded me of those used in the region of Hermagor in Carinthia. The industrious workers wore a short skirt that reached only to above the knee and  short calf stockings made from blue wool. The knees and the feet were bare and a white headcloth was intended to protect from the glowing rays of the sun.

Between the rice fields there are numerous ponds and pools that are used for irrigation but are in no way as dirty and neglected as similar water containers in India but kept in good condition and mostly overgrown with the most beautiful blooming lotus plants. Already here one can see the importance of the cultivation of rice in Japan, the main agricultural production activity.  The preponderance of this cultivation is as characteristic for the Japanese landscape as the heavy splitting of the ground which has given rise to tiny parcels and garden-like field productions. As the cultivation of rice excludes the use of draft animals and the smaller fields dedicated to other cultivations can easily be worked by humans alone, it explains why Japanese agriculture does mostly not use cattle. In fact horses and cattle are used mostly as beasts of burden. The former mostly for riding and only rarely for drawing plows or carriages. Cows are rarely used for dairy production.

After a further two hours drive there was again a short rest, namely at a hut which was equipped with gold decorated moving walls and contained a pompuous chair below lotus flowers on which I sat down and sitting like Buddha, sipped an icy lemonade, while the Japanese courtiers grouped themselves around me in a semi circle bowing incessantly.

Towards 6 o’clock in the evening we were approaching, already feeling a bit „run over“ but still enchanted by the scenery of the area we had passed through, the city of Kumamoto, at whose entrance we could detect from afar a huge crowd and a squadron of husars which presented their arms to the sounds of the Japanese general march. The number of policemen organized for our protection had been increased considerably. I drove to the unimposing small palace in which prince Yoshihisa is living and commands the sixth army division here. I entered into the palace led by Sannomiya and greeted by the owner at its gate.

The prince himself is stocky and has a dark skin color. The sharply hooked nose of an eagle, the pitch-black flashing eyes, the bushy eyebrows and the thick mustache give his physiognomy an energetic appearance. Joshihisa speaks German and French rather well. He learned these languages during his stay in Europe during the years between 1870 and 1877. In 1868 prince Joshihisa had to play a political role against his will during the struggle for the restoration of the worldly power of the mikado. According to an old law the prince of the Imperial house occupies the position of the dignity of a high priest of a temple, namely that of Toyeisan at Ujeno in the North of Edo but was captured by the rebels and proclaimed by them as their mikado in that function he was at the mercy of the rebels without power and will. After the crushing of the rebellion he had been pardoned and sent to Europe.

After the presentation of both entourages we drank lemonade and exchanged the usual salutations. I then together with the prince mounted on an especially high phaethon that Yoshihisa himself led to our residence, while three men ran alongside and guided the horses. Half a squadron cantered in front of our wagon, followed by the caravan of the djinn rickshaws. The other half squadron formed the tail of the formation.

In the streets the complete garrison of Kumamoto was standing in formation on both sides. On the reception wing the unassigned officers had taken up their position followed by the soldiers, first the 13th and 23rd infantry regiments. The Japanese army is completely dressed according to the French pattern. The infantry that had been turned out for parade wore blue coats with red lapes and badges on which one could identify the regimental number and red baggy pants. The headdress was a leather shako of a rather displeasing form. The soldiers are armed with a breech-loading rifle produced in Japan, System Murata, 11 mm caliber, that was intended to be soon replaced by a repeating rifle with a caliber of 8 mm. Saber bayonets and knapsacks, the latter reminded me of our old model, completed the equipment. As an exercise uniform, used for practice especially during the summer, a white linen dress and a flat cap in Prussian style are used. The officers salute by lowering and extending the saber sideways while the soldiers present arms — a rifle grip that unfortunately is no longer in favor in our army because of inexplicable reasons.

The cavalry whose appearance and horses were not displeasing to me is too colorfully almost flashy dressed as it combined dark blue attilas with yellow lace and red pants with wide green pants stripes. They are armed with carbines of the system Murata and carry sabers. The artillery whose uniforms are predominately blue and yellow carries breech-loading guns cast in Japan made out of bronze with a caliber of  7,5 cm. The horse teams looked quite well as far as I could notice and was quite even, consisting mostly of stallions.

Also a mounted train detachment had taken up position. The blue lapels on the coats of the soldiers reminded me vividly of the those introduced at home. They were a stark contrast to the light green horse blankets. A detachment of engineers that was noticed by its equipment attached to their knapsacks and their amaranth red lapels completed the formation. Overall the troops of all arms made a very good impression on me.

Prince Yoshihisa paid a short visit to our residence and invited me to dinner which was to take place at 8 o’clock in the evening in the festive halls of the Kumamoto club.

The government had equipped a charming tea house for our stay. During the entrance I had to comply with the local custom of taking off the shoes — a custom that is at times quite annoying but understandable in view to the cleanliness of the interior in every Japanese house and the fine mats that cover the ground in all rooms. The residence was completely built in the original Japanese style and equipped in the manner we had already seen in Nagasaki from the street and in the tea house. We could now repeat and intensify these studies at a much closer distance. To honor our customs and as a sign of special luxury the rooms formed by the movable walls were equipped with various pieces of furniture of European style as well as with beds. But we decided to sleep on mats in the local manner. In order to achieve a refreshing temperature in the rooms, the government had arranged ice blocks carried from the Northern provinces of Japan. These ice blocks lay in beautifully formed vases and bronze buckets in the corners of the rooms. A veranda lead around the residence and offered a pretty view upon the small garden as well as the moat that had been planted with blooming flowers.

The Japanese are masters in decorating their homes with verandas and paths the latter forming real mazes and provide a very strange attraction unfamiliar to us. Thus the house made a very idyllic impression which however was negatively affected in the evening by one of the modern cultural achievements, namely electric lights that did not fit to its surrounding area at all and in the least to the veranda with its arranged numerous ancient Japanese lampions.

Fearing that the cooking whose products we would have to taste during the dinner would not be much to our liking, I ate a complete dinner as a precaution and refreshed myself in an ice-water bath, then drove  through the clearly illuminated streets by lampions to the Kumamoto club, where I was received by prince Yoshihisa at the head of the generals and unit commanders and then led into the garden basked in the blinding light of countless lampions.

The Japanese are true masters in the art of illumination as they produce marvelous effects with the most simple means. Here they used only small red lampions that followed the contours of the trees, bushes and rocks so that a fiery line was formed in apparently completely natural turns and twists that however were still based on the artificial distribution and grouping of illumination tools. These were mirrored a hundred times in small ponds and streams which made the dark garden extremely lively as it was criss-crossed by a fiery web.

The dinner took place in a spacious open hall on the first floor of the club house that had been laid out with white mats. Opposite the entrance hung splendid Kakemonos, scroll paintings, below which the prince and I had been set up in the seats of honor while the other guests were seated in long rows on both sides. On small leather cushions, nearly squatting on our heels we sat down. Then the chief lord steward and the adjutant of the prince threw themselves down on the floor in front of him and me, touched the floor with their front and asked whether the dinner might start. This way of starting a dinner was completely new to me and involuntarily made me smile, as this extraordinary ceremony was not without drastic comic effects caused by the stockiness of the lord steward and the visible effort that produced a groan. The dignitaries stood up again, the chief lord steward clapped his hands and soon appeared pairs of pretty girls in the entrance of the doors. They were wearing valuable kimonos with gorgeously stitched obi and carried in front of them Tabako-bons with the Hi-rei, a vessel for glowing coals, as well as Hai-fuki, a bamboo ash tray.

Walking up to the middle of the hall in small steps, the girls squatted and touched the ground with their heads and then slid on their knees towards the individual guests to offer them the Tabako-bon. Our servants were the youthful daughters of the richest and most honorable families of Kumamoto. They served in these roles today in order to honor us deeply. Unfortunately I could not talk to these attentive and diligent Musumes, so that our interaction was limited to sign language. In any case I caused much hilarity among the young ladies as I was forced by the muggy heat and the numerous very hot fish dishes to ask for and empty one glass after another of cool champaign time and again. Here I knew to be thankful to our dear host who was familiar with European thirsts and kept a large stock of the refreshing liquid.

After the Tabako-bon we were handed small closed wooden boxes by the girls in a similar ceremony as before. Inside they had each a large gelatin bar surrounded by artificial flowers made out of sugar and tragacanth and flags in both the Austrian and Japanese colors. This was one of the usual presentation spectacles during Japanese dinners. Usually these dishes were given by the host to the guests to carry home after the end of the dinner.

Now started the actual dinner with a cup of tea. The industrious Musumes placed small lacquered tables in front of us on which were countless dishes, mostly seafood, namely fish, crabs and shrimps, then vegetables, rice, mushrooms, fruits etc. in various preparation and arranged in an appetizing way on small lacquered and porcelain plates. Naturally the chopsticks made out of ivory and colorful paper napkins were not missing on any small table.

Even though the Japanese cooking has many similarities with the Chinese one I found here as well as earlier in Nagasaki that the dishes were more tasteful and in any case prepared in a way that one could recognize the origin and the  ingredients of the individual dishes whereas the Chinese artists fully kept me guessing about this. While some Musumes were occupied with carrying the small tables, others of these cute servants filled sake out of small porcelain flasks into the tiny bowls of the guests. Drunken in small quantities we quite liked it.

The pièce de résistance of the dinner were dishes, namely fish, roast, fruits and vegetables that had been arranged in a most artistic and fantastic way on three small tables that were place in front of me and the prince by two girls each. There were rocks and grottoes made out potato and bean paste between which fish stretched their heads out, furthermore cranes and storks made out of red and white beets and onions and equipped with lights made out of raisins. Among the animals threatened a dragon made out of plums, next to it a tortoise emerged out of a melon. Alive dwarf trees that seemed to be rooted in these works of art were bowing under the weight of attached fruits.

The most luxurious ideas the figment of the cooks produced in creating their cakes and pastries was in the form of fantastic animals and the most strange magical flowers. After we had sufficiently admired this orgy of culinary forms —  actually a gimmick but very interesting due to the difficulty and effort required and thus revealing the joy of the Japanese for figural creations —, some of the girls sat down on their knees at the small tables and started to divide the masterworks and place them on small plates which were carried to us by other girls so that each received some part of the dragon, of the crane, of the tortoise etc. If the table of each guest did not offer enough space to hold all those plates and bowls, the dishes were placed on the mats next to the guest.

Thanks to the practice we had had in Canton and in Nagasaki we were already familiar with the use of chopsticks even though there were still many funny intermezzi which caused much merriment and offered a topic for conversation. Thanks to the fact that the host and part of his companions could even speak German, the conversation was very lively.

Towards the end of the dinner the sound of singing and music was heard in a next-door hall where to those sounds young girls, hardly grown out of childhood, performed a dance of the four seasons and flowers and executed remarkable moves by their elegant draping of their kimonos and their gracious playing with their fans. I offered much praise to the skill of the teacher of the small artists.

Only late in the evening we returned to our friendly accommodation on whose veranda we enjoyed the refreshing cool air dressed in Japanese kimonos and the effects of the garden illumination as well as a firework that looked magically thanks to the sea of lights and flames. One might think that the pyrotechnics had run out of new effects and could only repeat acts shown already. In Japan, however, one has the opportunity to be convinced about the contrary given the surprises the fireworkers manage to conjure up.

Links

  • Location: Kumamoto, Japan
  • ANNO – on 04.08.1893 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 „Aida“.

 

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