VOYAGES ROUND THE WORLD, AND POLAR EXPEDITIONS

"This part of Satsuma," says Kruzenstern, "is particularly beautiful: and as we sailed along at a very trifling distance from the land, we had a distinct and perfect view of the various picturesque situations that rapidly succeed each other. The whole country consists of high pointed hills, at one time appearing in the form of pyramids, at others of a globular or conical form, and seeming as it were under the protection of some neighbouring mountain, such as Peak Homer, or another lying north-by-west of it, and even a third farther inland. Liberal as nature has been in the adornment of these parts, the industry of the Japanese seems not a little to have contributed to their beauty; for nothing indeed can equal the extraordinary degree of cultivation everywhere apparent. That all the valleys upon this coast should be most carefully cultivated would not so much have surprised us, as in the countries of Europe, where agriculture is not despised, it is seldom that any piece of land is left neglected; but we here saw not only the mountains even to their summits, but the very tops of the rocks which skirted the edge of the coast, adorned with the most beautiful fields and plantations, forming a striking as well as singular contrast, by the opposition of their dark grey and blue colour to that of the most lively verdure. Another object that excited our astonishment was an alley of high trees, stretching over hill and dale along the coast, as far as the eye could reach, with arbours at certain distances, probably for the weary traveller—for whom these alleys must have been constructed,—to rest himself in, an attention which cannot well be exceeded. These alleys are not uncommon in Japan, for we saw a similar one in the vicinity of Nangasaky, and another in the island of Meac-Sima."

Coast of Japan
Coast of Japan.

The Nadiejeda had hardly anchored at the entrance to Nagasaki harbour before Kruzenstern saw several daïmios climb on board, who had come to forbid him to advance further.

Now, although the Russians were aware of the policy of isolation practised by the Japanese government, they had hoped that their reception would have been less forbidding, as they had on board an ambassador from the powerful neighbouring state of Russia. They had relied on enjoying comparative liberty, of which they would have availed themselves to collect information on a country hitherto so little known and about which the only people admitted to it had taken a vow of silence.

They were, however, disappointed in their expectations. Instead of enjoying the same latitude as the Dutch, they were throughout their stay harassed by a perpetual surveillance, as unceasing as it was annoying. In a word, they were little better than prisoners.

Although the ambassador did obtain permission to land with his escort "under arms," a favour never before accorded to any one, the sailors were not allowed to get out of their boat, or when they did land the restricted place where they were permitted to walk was surrounded by a lofty palisading, and guarded by two companies of soldiers.

It was forbidden to write to Europe by way of Batavia, it was forbidden to talk to the Dutch captains, the ambassador was forbidden to leave his house—the word forbidden may be said to sum up the anything but cordial reception given to their visitors by the Japanese.

Kruzenstern turned his long stay here to account by completely overhauling and repairing his vessel. He had nearly finished this operation when the approach was announced of an envoy from the Emperor, of dignity so exalted that, in the words of the interpreter, "he dared to look at the feet of his Imperial Majesty."

This personage began by refusing the Czar's presents, under pretence that if they were accepted the Emperor would have to send back others with an embassy, which would be contrary to the customs of the country; and he then went on to speak of the law against the entry of any vessels into the ports of Japan, and absolutely forbade the Russians to buy anything, adding, however, at the same time, that the materials already supplied for the refitting and revictualling the vessel would be paid for out of the treasury of the Emperor of Japan. He further inquired whether the repairs of the Nadiejeda would soon be finished. Kruzenstern understood what was meant as soon as his visitor began to speak, and hurried on the preparations for his own departure.

Truly he had not much reason to congratulate himself on having waited from October to April for such an answer as this. So little were the chief results hoped for by his government achieved, that no Russian vessel could ever again enter a Japanese port. A short-sighted, jealous policy, resulting in the putting back for half a century the progress of Japan.

On the 17th April the Nadiejeda weighed anchor, and began a hydrographic survey, which had the best results. La Pérouse had been the only navigator to traverse before Kruzenstern the seas between Japan and the continent. The Russian explorer was therefore anxious to connect his work with that of his predecessor, and to fill up the gaps the latter had been compelled for want of time to leave in his charts of these parts.