Vandy and I were off early this morning for the shore, and did not return to the ship until late in the afternoon, having walked over the high hills and down into the valleys beyond. We had a real tramp in the country. It is here just as elsewhere, terrace upon terrace, every foot of ground under cultivation; water carried by men in pails, or on the backs of oxen, to the highest peaks, which it is impossible to irrigate, and every single plant, be it rice, millet, turnip, cabbage, or carrot, watered daily. What good Mother Earth can be induced to yield under such attention is a marvel. The bountiful earth has another meaning when you see what she can be made to bring forth. Although we are in December, the sun shines bright, and it is quite warm. I sat down several times under the hedge-rows, and heard the constant hum of insect life around me. Butterflies flitted about, the bees gathered honey, and all looked and felt like a day in June. The houses of the people which we saw were poor, and the total absence of glass causes them to look like deserted hovels; but closer inspection showed fine mats on the floors, and everything scrupulously clean. I counted upon one hillside forty-seven terraces from the bottom to the top. These are divided vertically, so that I think twenty-five feet square would be about the average size of each patch; and as the division of terraces is made to suit the ground, and hence very irregularly, the appearance of a hillside in Japan is something like that of a bed-quilt of irregular pieces. The terrace-walls are overgrown with vines, ferns, etc., so that they appear like low green hedges: and this adds much to the beauty of the landscape. No wonder the cultivators of these lovely spots never dream of leaving them. Animal food is not half as important to the Japanese as the supply of fish - indeed the former is said to be comparatively little used, while fish of some kind or in some form is ever present at meals. The favorite fish is the tai, which is red when taken from streams with sandy bottoms, but black when caught at the mouths of the same streams, where the dark soil of the sea begins. A curious parallel case is seen in the black and red pines of this country: in sandy soils they grow red, while in the softer black soil they are dark. Transplant the two varieties and they change color. The same law, you see, with fish and plant. We are all creatures of our environment. Therefore let us choose our companions and surroundings well. To know the best that has been said and done in the world is no doubt much; to be planted and to grow among those who have done the greatest work and who live up to the best standard in our day and generation is surely equally important.

We had an alarm of fire oft the Belgic in mid-ocean, but this morning we had the real article. I had just parted from the captain at the stern of the ship, intending to go ashore, when, walking forward, I saw dense volumes of smoke issuing from the walking-beam pit, and in a few moments I heard the cry of fire from below. All was in a bustle at once, but the crew got finely to work. Fortunately, although there was no steam in the main boilers, the small donkey boiler was full, and the pumps were put to work. Meanwhile boats from the various men-of-war in the harbor with hand fire-engines came to our assistance. The steamer is an old wooden craft, and I knew her cargo was combustible. Were the smoke ever to give place to flame, panic was sure to ensue, and not one of the small native boats that had until now been clustering around us could then be induced to approach; indeed, they had already all rowed off. There was one lady on board, Mrs. McK., a veritable Princess of Thule from the Island of Lewes, and I decided that she had better be taken off with her sick child at once; so, bribing a greedy native by the immense reward of a whole dollar (a large fee here, small as it seems at home) to come alongside, I grasped the baby and followed the mother down the gangway, and remained at a safe distance until the danger was over. A few minutes more, and the Costa Rica would have followed her sister ship, the America, which some years ago took fire under similar circumstances in the harbor of Yokohama, and was completely destroyed. Fortunately we are about done with wooden steamships; otherwise they should not be permitted to run as passenger vessels.

The post-office department of Japan is of recent origin, having been established in 1871; yet in 1881, after only ten years' growth, it carried ninety-five millions of letters, newspapers, books, etc. Thirty millions of these were post-cards. Three millions of telegrams were also transmitted in that year. Perhaps no statement will give one a clearer idea than this of the rapid progress of this strange country in the ways of the West.

Japan has only two short lines of railway for thirty-six millions of people - a population nearly equal to that of Great Britain: one eighteen miles from Yokohama to Tokio, the other seventy miles from Hiogo to Kioto. This seems a scanty allowance; nevertheless it is not probable that more than a few hundred miles of rail will be built for centuries. The habits and poverty of the people, and in many districts the topography of the country, are such as to render railways unsuitable. The main highways are, however, kept in admirable order. I was amused with the classification of these. Those of the first class are such as lead from the capital to the treaty ports; of the second class those lines leading to the national shrines. Commerce has thus usurped the first place. Both the first and the second class roads are maintained by the General Government as being national affairs. Various grades of roads follow, some being maintained by large districts; others, of local importance, by taxes upon a smaller area; but all under the strict supervision of central officials at Tokio.

Not the least surprising feature in the revolution going forward so peacefully in Japan is the prompt adoption of the newspaper as one of the essentials of life. A few years ago the official Gazette, read only by officials and containing nothing of general interest, was the only publication in the Empire; to-day several hundred newspapers are published, many of them daily. A censorship of the press still exists, however, and leads to the usual mode of evasion. Pungent political articles are conveyed under cover of criticisms ostensibly upon the blunders of lands not so enlightened as Japan. Here is a specimen: "In America during the Civil War paper currency was issued and made legal tender. At every successive issue the premium rose higher and higher till the currency was not worth more than a third of its face. The Southern States followed in the same path, but they kept on till their issues were found to be good for about one purpose only - to line trunks withal - such fools these Americans be. Happy Japan! blessed with rulers of preeminent ability, who keep the finances of our land in such creditable form."

The fact was that Japanese currency was then at 22 per cent, discount and rapidly declining in value under successive issues, just as it had done in America. Such articles are no doubt far more effective than open, undisguised assaults could possibly be, for the cleverness of the evasion gives additional zest to the attack. The Press is a hard dog to muzzle, and, like dogs in general, only vicious when muzzled. The Japanese will soon find it safer to "let Truth and Error grapple" in the full face of day, for they are not slow to learn.

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