Nagasaki, 3 August 1893

Dense fog down to the sea level prevented any views and furthermore the rain was pouring down without a break. Jupiter Pluvius who had now been chasing me some time during my voyage did not want to step out of character here too. That the cranky weather god would open up the sluices of heaven just today, I took all the more personally as during the last six weeks not a drop had fallen on the landscape here, so that the inhabitants had already started processions to implore the gods for plenty of rain for the highly endangered rice harvest. If this demand could not have been satisfied earlier I would have preferred a slight postponement.

At least the bad weather did not prevent me to visit Nagasaki in the morning even if a pouring rain of audiences and official visits had to be endured.

Just after the standard had been hoisted with a flag salute, the harbor was filled with the echoes of the guns of the anchoring warships. Each of which offered its salute of 21 shots, a honorable salute that always creates a very lofty feeling in me as it performed in honor of our standard.

Right after these salutes our gangway was besieged by a fleet of barges and boats out of which emerged a nearly endless row of dignitaries: admirals and ship commanders, the governor of the Ken (department) Nagasaki, Takeaki Nakano; the bishop and apostolic vicar J. A. Cousin; the mayor of Nagasaki; the members of the consular corps and the Japanese entourage assigned to me. It consisted of the vice grand master of the Imperial department for ceremonies (Shikibu Shiki), Yoshitane Sannomiya who in general was in charge of such voyages as I was undertaking. Then the master of the Imperial kitchen (Daisen Shiki) K. Jamanouji; finally the captain of the line Kurvaka and the privy secretary of the war minister, Major M. Muraki. The gentlemen present were able to speak partly German partly French. Three of them had visited Europe and especially also Vienna in order to study the administration and the ceremonies of our court.

After the crowding of dignitaries came to an end during the afternoon, I drove on land to visit Nagasaki. For the first time I set foot on Japanese ground and found myself surrounded by all those delicate colorful scenes come to life,  even though the city no longer has a pure Japanese character but shows many effects of European influence, that constitute the content of our imagination of Japanese life that we form out of books and the images from their artistic and industrial products.

Walking along the narrow and still airy clear streets because the small houses are seldom more than a story high, we practised applied ethnography by „peeping into the windows“ („fensterlnd„). The houses made out of wood and paper offered views not only into the living rooms of the Japanese but also into life going on there. As every cover of the houses towards the street is made only out of movable walls that are often removed during the day so that the full interior is exposed to the glances of those passing by. The division of the interior rooms is formed by wooden walls covered with paper and often artfully painted. These walls can on demand be taken out and moved.

A small Japanese house thus is capable of being adapted to the space requirements of its inhabitants in a way that astonishes us used to the fixed immovable walls of our buildings.  A Japanese house thus is not an „immovable property“ in our native sense. What we saw of furniture is of the most modest kind. With the exception of a few appliances for the most necessary use, this is formed mostly by beautiful light yellow straw mats that cover the ground of all living rooms. All the more diverse are the genial productive craft activities that are done in workshops and shops and confirm the industriousness and artistry of the Japanese.

Continuing to walk in the streets we witnessed domestic activities common to the daily life of the Japanese people but also some charming family scene played itself out in front of us and not a few sons and daughters of Nippon we could observed in all kinds of phase of intimate life. While in our customs and manners at home there is a sharp division between domestic and public life, where the door is noisily locked, here a similar separation does not exist. Life within the house that is open to us passes indiscernibly into life on the street and vice versa the life on the street seems to sweep unimpeded into the homes.

Wherever we were looking we encountered cleanliness and neatness in a pleasant contrast to the dirtiness characteristic of the Chinese.

The European civilization which has established itself in Nippon in a surprisingly quick period is already expressed by the clothing, not particularly favorable to the Japanese whose figures and forms are not really suitable for European clothing. The upper classes of the Japanese society use nearly exclusively European clothing which are almost mandatory at court and for the officials while the mass of the people continues to hold on to the ancient way of clothing, inherited for generations, even though the lower classes too have made concessions to the new fashion and thus the local customs are breached more and more. As a dedicated friend of all national dresses I deplore the replacement of the very becoming Japanese costumes by our equalizing soulless clothing. So many Japanese who would make a good appearance in their local dress look strange, that is not to say hilarious if they are wearing a frock coat and ornamented with a top hat, walking majestically or bowing incessantly.

Men and women rush past us and namely, if they have remained faithful to the local tradition, always fanning, scuttling and rattling on sandals and wooden high heeled shoes (Getas). The men seemed to me, except for some individual sympathetic and even well-shaped ones, on average rather unattractive. In their faces, the features of the Mongolian race are to be found very pronounced, their size is small and their legs are conspicuously often bow-legged.

In comparison to the men, the female part of the population has to be called almost pretty. or more precisely, extremely delicate. All the Japanese women who we saw were of the same type and gave the impression of a charming porcelain figure come alive while they smiling and joking scuttled along the streets.

Now and then we met a girl with a noticeably regular and beautiful physiognomy that would have been fully appreciated if compared to the features of European beauties. The stroll through Nagasaki, however, already allowed me to form my opinion that the travel descriptions I have read and so many messages that I received that excessively praised Japanese women if they described the girls of this location as the most beautiful daughters of Eve. Such praise can only be upheld on account of truly individual tastes and special motives. The charming effect of the always cheerful girlish figures lies in their harmonic neatness and delicateness of their appearances that are however too doll-like for European beauty standards in order to claim to represent an ideal female type. Unfortunately the youthful freshness of the Japanese woman withers very fast so that only rarely one can spot a beautiful woman which is also increased by the for us incomprehensible custom of the women blackening their teeth and shaving their eye brows — disfiguring customs that are said, however, to be only rarely still practised among the upper classes of society but still common among the lower classes.

Even though Japanese women still are forced in popular opinion even today to sacrifice their exterior to their husband, the ladies here go even further than seems absolutely necessary as every Japanese woman, both adult and girl, devotes special care for her clothing and hairdo. We had the opportunity to collect experiences as we witnesses how so many a beauty prepared her styling. And we could appreciate this spectacle not only in a covert manner but frank and open, looking from the street into the boudoirs we became acquainted with the most intimate secrets of the arts that the Japanese women use to entrap. Our curiosity, by the way, was not in the least resented and none of the delicate paper walls were moved to provide cover from the unbidden glances, quite to the contrary the watched ladies waved friendly at us or burst into a bright laughter if they became aware about our astonishment about the unexpected liberal customs.

The most complicated part of the daily styling is the hairdo that is given the most attention and only redone every third or fourth day because the construction of such a miracle, similar to those of the Chinese women, requires enormous care and about two hours of time. I understandably did not have the patience to witness the creation of such an artful build-up from the beginning to the end but felt satisfied with the revelation that countless inlays made out of papier mâché provided the interior support for the audaciously rising arrangements that extend to the rear in coquettish lines as well as lavishly used hair grease and oils supplied the exterior smoothness and gloss. Pins, combs, flowers, feathers, bands and all kinds of gewgaw were attached to the hair and make a major contribution to the overall presentation.

Apparently there exist up to 60 different kinds of hairdos that even have special connotations for the insiders by revealing the status and the intentions of the wearer, so that Japan’s women can speak by using a „hair code“ while in our home countries the beauties only know how to speak with flowers and fans. A widow who was not disinclined to find new luck in a new marriage is said to wear her hair in a certain kind of way while a widow that had ceased to adhere to Hymen may express this by a simple hairdo, apparently a sign of resignation. This meaningful practical use of hairdos can not be denied which will be readily admitted at least by suitors. A single glance on the head of the desired one will instruct the wildly beating heart if there is hope of having a chance or not.

A really charming effect is produced by the national dress of the Japanese women. This consists of a Kimono, a dress that reaches down to the ankles and is somewhat open in front with wide baggy sleeves, that is held together by a broad sash called Obi that is knotted together on the back into a bow. The Kimono hugs the forms softly and effortlessly and provides it with an extreme graciousness and presents its in a most favorable way. I believe, however, that only the delicate, discretely shaped forms of the Japanese women are suitable for the Kimono. That is by the way also a piece of clothing for male Japanese if they are not yet wearing European clothes. It is just cut shorter and simpler than those worn by the women. The men’s Obi is a piece of linen repeatedly wound around the loins into which the samurai — the vassals of the shogun, the de facto ruler of the country who exercises the Imperial right to rule as well as the daimyo, the large feudal lords — pushed two swords during earlier times, while the belt now only has a peaceful purpose since the prohibition of bearing arms of the year 1876 and serves to hold besides the dress itself also the fan and the smoking tools.

At first it makes a strange impression on a European to see children dressed like adults but one soon gets accustomed to this sight and enjoys seeing these cute small humans who in their clothes seemed to be more than they actually are. As the physical and mental development of  the youth under Japan’s sky happens apparently very quickly we saw not a few children who, despite their tender age, made very precocious faces and acted so controlled that they often enough caused great hilarity among us.

Nagasaki, whose streets we were strolling through in constantly refreshed curiosity, is of the greatest historical interest for Europeans and especially for Christians. Still one of the most  important trading ports of Japan, Nagasaki rose quickly from a poor fishermen’s  village after the daimyo of Omura permitted the Portuguese in the middle of the 16th century to settle there. Christendom developed its deepest roots on Kyushu amidst the native population. Here the apostle of Japan, a disciple of Ignatius of Loyola, Saint Franz Xaver, set foot on Japanese soil in 1549 at Kagoshima. Within a relatively short time Christendom expanded to a surprising extent, favored by various circumstances; but probably this great success was the cause for a reaction that turned to ever more bloody persecutions that were happening in the whole country based on a proclamation of the shogun Ieyasu in the year 1614. The persecution of Christians might have dwarfed that of the Roman Empire as thousands upon thousands went to their most cruel death in admirable steadfastness to their beliefs. Glorious witnesses of the bloody acts arose for the church in that far away part of the world. While the newly created religion emerged strengthened from the blood baths in the Roman Empire, in Japan the creed of the salvation was successfully eradicated by the cruel actions against the believers.

In 1636, after two decades of continuous atrocities, 30.000 to 40.000 Christians of the principality of Arima and other areas on the island of Kyushu took up arms, set up a defense in the old castle on Shimbara and neighboring islands and put up a heroic resistance under the leadership of Nirada Shiro for three months in 1637 against Itakura Shigemasa sent to suppress them. Finally the castle was conquered and its brave defenders were butchered. Streams of blood flew, thousands of captured Catholics were carried to the island of Taka-boko rising more than 60 m out of the sea offshore to the Western entrance of Nagasaki’s harbor and there pushed into the sea from the dizzy heights. The Dutch called this island in memory of these horrible scenes „Hill of the Papists“ but did not themselves act honorably if the historical record is correct. Blinded by their hatred against Catholicism and their trading envy the Dutch are said to have supported with arms the shogun in his fight against the rebellious Catholics.

The blood bath of Shimbara was followed by the banishment of the Portuguese, the nearly complete suppression of Christendom, that survived only in parts and namely close to Nagasaki in the large community of Urakami up to the present day, and the start of the era of the most complete seclusion with which Japan isolated itself completely up to the present time. The Chinese and the Dutch kept up an nearly exclusive trade with the West and that only in a very limited fashion. The Dutch had to give up their factory in Hirado in 1641 and settle on Deshima (offshore island), an artificial mound of soil that was surrounded by a wall and a moat as well as only connected to Nagasaki by a stone bridge whose gate was under the protection of a Japanese guard. Thus under very severe lock, if not to say imprisonment, about twenty Dutch at a time kept up trade between Japan and the mother country from which at first only one ship was allowed annually to enter and later eight of them.

The advantages of this trade must have been in fact remarkable in order to compensate for all the truly not inconsiderable humiliations the Dutch had to endure for more than two hundred years. Thus the resident of Deshima had to undertake an annual voyage to Edo (Tokyo) at great cost and under most severe supervision according to a very precisely fixed ceremonial protocol in order to offer presents to the shogun and display their deference in a festive ceremony by crawling on all fours towards the shogun hidden behind a curtain, place the head on the floor and crawl back like a crab.

At a subsequent less festive presentation it was the duty of the Dutch companions of the resident to serve as entertainment for the women and the other members of the court by having to sing, dance and play drunk and other foolish things on the shogun’s order. What Homo sapiens is willing to do for filthy lucre! The old Deshima,  the eternally memorable place of commercial spirit and deep humiliation became a victim of a fire and has been replaced by a new settlement — as if the huge changes in the the relations of the present time had an effect on the past and wanted to spare the Europeans from coming to face with the inglorious warning about ancient Japan by reforming that place!

During the stroll through Nagasaki we often stopped to enjoy the scenery, as far as the somewhat better weather permitted. The view the harbor offers in its surrounding had already enchanted us during the entrance. The bay of Nagasaki is, as previously noted, delimited in the West by Taka-boko while the other sides are surrounded by gently inclining hills and mountains rising to up to 400 m, so that the harbor has a character of a snugly hidden mountain lake. These heights are filled with cultures of all kinds in their lower parts and now and then are small groves, villages, temples and tiny houses. The upper parts are in some places very picturesquely covered with pine trees, Japanese cedars and camphor trees. All shades of the color scale were lighting down from the mountain tops to the cultured, flower-covered regions and the blueish glittering sea. There on the sea smooth as a mirror lay moored mighty warships and large vehicles with a peaceful purpose. Numerous fishing boats were on the move and all kinds of barges were intermingled.

Even though Nagasaki, which counts 58.000 inhabitants, does not have a productive back country like the cities of Yokohama and Kobe it is still an important trading place thanks to its harbor which can be entered by ships of all sizes which exports tortoiseshell products, lacquer and earthenware as well as stone coal, rice, tea etc.

That they expect preferably to sell to foreigners is shown by the numerous shops filling the streets that offer Japanese products of all kinds, namely those that we are familiar with as curiosities. These shops marked by their English signs as the most advanced seemed to me to offer the most tasteful and solid articles. But the exorbitant prices are similar. The owner expresses them with a smile, only to offer a rebate at the right moment to incited the shopping mad foreigner to further acquisitions. The place of Kyushu, combining the island of the same name and its territory, is the seat of a very famous ancient porcelain and ceramic industry. Thus we saw everywhere Arita or Hisen porcelain, furthermore Amakusa porcelain with porcelain stones from the group of islands of Amakusa and Satsuma earthenware with its colorful and splendid paint on a yellowish foundation that might be highly esteemed in Europe but  is not especially to my taste.

We had already strolled past a considerable number of shops and turned our steps now to one of the numerous tea houses which here serve as a replacement for restaurants. The tea houses are very delicately built and contain a number of rooms that can be made larger or smaller thanks to the movability of the walls according to the demands as well as open verandas. Here the guests come not only to sip the usual refreshments such as tea, sake that is rice wine that has a similar taste like sherry etc. but to eat a full dinner. As the local custom requires that such symposia are animated by productions by female singers and dancers we had given orders to ask for such female artists, Geishas, who are never staying in the tea house but are living nearby and have to be asked  to come.

We had just taken a seat in an open veranda on the soft mats when the hostess appeared with a flock of waitresses, — they are usually called with the word „Nesan“ — girls aged from 10 to 18 years, to serve the dinner in a myriad of small lacquered bowls, dishes, small cups and small plates. Even though the cooking was understandably to fully to our taste, I found the dishes nevertheless much more appetising than the Chinese cooking. Fish and rice constitute the main components of the menu to which we at first drank rice wine until I discovered the existence of bear whereas we refreshed ourselves with the noble  amber nectar („Gerstensaft“).

During the dinner the female singers performed first. They were young girls all clothed and coiffed in the same manner and strongly made up who took their seats at our side with numerous bows and started to sing accompanied by the sounds of a mandolin-like instruments, Gekin and Biwa, that were played with clappers. The singing spanned only a few notes and produced a very monotonous effect. The attempt to incited the ladies to a much funnier song or at least to an increase in speed of their presentation by the infusion of sake failed completely.

Very delicate and charming was the production of the female dancers whose choreographic movements were performed in a way that we could only admire their skill and flexibility, but in the main their successful pursuit of performing every figure in the most perfect form possible. Even though these female artists were educated in a school of dancing masters, their natural grace in the character of the Japanese people is still unmistakable in the way it makes the dancers stand out.  The manner in which they stepped forward and backward, turn, bow and rise, hold their fan and move, creating folds in their clothing and play with their long sleeves — all this breathes the perfect grace. Hour upon hour the Japanese manage to enjoy this spectacle sitting quietly on the mats and sipping tea. In all admiration for the artists I would not have the patience to enjoy myself during such long-winded productions that might be very interesting but especially for a foreigner who is not completely familiar with the matter becomes monotonous in time. The dances were meant to illustrate particular actions that naturally remained totally incomprehensible to us.

At the end of the show a prodigy was presented, a girl of 13 years, the prima ballerina of the quarter and the pride of her dancing instructor. This artist showed a number of difficult dances and evolutions with the help of masks, flowers etc. in a truly excellent manner. A Japanese in our company was truly enchanted and smiled blissfully in view of such a perfect display of art. I however could not desist, perhaps not taking the Japanese situation fully into account, from a home-grown feeling of opposition to putting children on display for whatever purposes.

From the veranda of the tea house we enjoyed the rewarding view on Nagasaki’s surroundings and the city itself. Like colorful bands the small house gardens extend from one part to the other, some real miniature installations that had in very narrow delimited space all kinds of decorations, furthermore blooming flowers in large numbers and small trees cut in a baroque style.

In the narrow streets the fleeting djinn rickshaws are rolling up and down. I entrusted myself, having well enough tasted the different culinary and artistic delights offered in the tea house, into the care of one of these vehicles and so took a drive through the city and then return in the late evening on board where I was necessary to make preparations for my disembarkation and the voyage on land.

While I was in the city, the governor had sent on board a number of photographs that showed both parts of Nagasaki and its surroundings and all kinds of scenes and types, as well as a pair of lovely bantams — a consideration for which I thank the kind donor.


  • Location: Nagasaki, Japan
  • ANNO – on 03.08.1893 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“.
The Wiener Salonblatt No. 32 notes the safe arrival of Franz Ferdinand in Nagasaki.

The Wiener Salonblatt No. 32 notes the safe arrival of Franz Ferdinand in Nagasaki.

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