At Tokio I was present for an hour or so at a performance in a national theatre. It had been in progress for a long time when I entered and would continue long after I left, for that is the Japanese custom. In London people with too little to do are on occasion prepared to spend the whole day outside theatres waiting for the doors to open. They will then witness a two and a half hours' performance. But in Japan the plays go on from eleven a.m. to eleven p.m. and the audience bring their sustenance and tobacco with them. The seats are mats on the ground, and the actors reach the stage by a passage through the auditorium as well as from the wings. The scenery is very elementary, and there is always a gate which has to be opened when the characters pass through and closed after them, although it is isolated and has no contiguous wall or fence.

None of our Western morbid desire for novelty, I am told, troubles the Japanese play-goer, who is prepared to witness the same drama, usually based on an historical event or national legend thoroughly familiar to him, for ever and ever. It is as though the theatres in England were given up exclusively to, say, Shakespeare's Henry IV, V and VI sequence. On the occasion of my visit there was little of what we call acting, but endless elocution. During the performance the attendants walk about, with the persistence of constables during a London police-court hearing, carrying refreshments and little charcoal stoves. The signal for the next act is a deafening clicking noise made by one of the stage hands on two sticks, which gradually rises to a shattering crescendo as the curtain is drawn aside. It must be understood that the theatre that I am describing was set apart for national drama. In others there are topical farces and laughter is continuous; but I did not visit any. On board ship, however, we had a series of performances of such pieces by the Japanese cabin attendants and waiters, many of whom were professional actors. The Japanese passengers enjoyed them immensely.