CHAPTER XXI. THE INLAND SEA.
Dipped in the lines of sunset, wreathed in zones,
The clouds are resting on their mountain thrones;
One peak alone exalts its glacier crest,
A golden paradise above the rest.
Thither the day with lingering steps retires,
And in its own blue element expires.
Monday, February 12th. - Fires were lighted at 4 a.m., and by six we were steaming slowly out of the beautiful bay of Kobe. It was a cold bright morning, with a strong head wind, increasing every moment as we proceeded, until, in the straits of Akashi, it became almost impossible to make any way against it. There was not much sea, but the wind impeded our progress so much, that it was at last reduced to one mile instead of nine an hour. The straits are very fine, and the old castle presents an admirable specimen of the architecture of a Daimio's residence.
We proceeded across the Harima Nada, where we were more or less exposed to the open sea, and where we took more water on board than we had done in the gale before arriving at Yokohama. There were no big waves, but we rolled tremendously, and the spray came over us, though the mere force of the wind seemed to keep the sea down.
After struggling until twelve o'clock, and having done but little good for the last three hours, Tom determined to run back, and in a short time we found ourselves once more at anchor in the harbour of Kobe. It was a work of considerable difficulty, owing to the strong wind and tide, to steer safely among the numerous vessels, and for a few minutes we thought we were aground, as we did not make the slightest progress, though the engines were working ahead full speed. The proveedor's boat came out to us as soon as we were perceived, and we landed in her; but it was as much as the six stout oarsmen could do to make way against the wind.
We went for a walk, or rather a scramble, to the waterfall, half-way up to the Temple of the Moon. Much of the ground was covered with snow, the streams were frozen at the sides, and there were hanging icicles to be seen, six feet in length; and yet on either side were camellias and tea-trees covered with red and white blossoms, orange-trees, laden with fruit; gold-fish swimming about in ponds, overhung with maidenhair fern, besides pteris and hothouse ferns, shaded by bamboos, palms, and castor-oil plants. The order of vegetation seems to be as much reversed as everything else in this strange country. In England all those plants would require conservatories, or at least sheltered spots, and the greatest care, instead of being exposed to frost and snow.
Getting on board again was even a more difficult business than landing had been; but we arrived at last without mishap.
Tuesday, February 13th. - The wind dropped at sunset, and as it continued calm all night, Tom ordered fires to be lighted at 4 a.m. By six o'clock, however, it was blowing harder than ever, and we therefore decided to make an excursion to Arrima instead of attempting another start.
We went ashore to make the necessary arrangements, and it was settled that we should start at ten o'clock, which we did, with the Consulate constable as our guide.
We had three men to each jinrikisha, and went along at a merry pace through the long straggling towns of Kobe and Hiogo. The cold was intense, and before we started our poor jinrikisha men were shivering until they nearly shook us out of the vehicles. Soon they were streaming with perspiration, and at our first halting-place they took off almost all their garments, though it was as much as we could do to keep warm in our furs and wraps. We waited while they partook copiously of hot tea and bowls of rice, and bought new straw shoes, or rather sandals, for less than a farthing a pair.
To-day being the Japanese New Year's Day, all the little shrines in the houses and along the road were prettily decorated, and had offerings of rice, saki, and fruit deposited upon them. The spirits of the departed are supposed to come down and partake, not of the things themselves, but of the subtle invisible essence that rises from them. The road now became very pretty, winding through the valleys, climbing up and dipping down the various hills, and passing through picturesque villages, where all the people, leaving their meals or their games, came out to look at us, while some of the children scampered on to secure a good view of the foreigners, and others ran away frightened and screaming. They were all dressed in dark blue clothes, turned up with red, with bright embroidered obis and flowers in their elaborately dressed hair. I have managed to get some dolls' wigs, which give a good idea of the various styles of hair-dressing.