Fine Weather - Cremation in Japan - The Governor of Tokiyo - An Awkward Question - An Insignificant Building - Economy in Funeral Expenses - Simplicity of the Cremation Process - The Last of Japan.

H. B. M.'s LEGATION, YEDO, December 18.

I have spent the last ten days here, in settled fine weather, such as should have begun two months ago if the climate had behaved as it ought. The time has flown by in excursions, shopping, select little dinner-parties, farewell calls, and visits made with Mr. Chamberlain to the famous groves and temples of Ikegami, where the Buddhist bishop and priests entertained us in one of the guest- rooms, and to Enoshima and Kamakura, "vulgar" resorts which nothing can vulgarise so long as Fujisan towers above them.

I will mention but one "sight," which is so far out of the beaten track that it was only after prolonged inquiry that its whereabouts was ascertained. Among Buddhists, specially of the Monto sect, cremation was largely practised till it was forbidden five years ago, as some suppose in deference to European prejudices. Three years ago, however, the prohibition was withdrawn, and in this short space of time the number of bodies burned has reached nearly nine thousand annually. Sir H. Parkes applied for permission for me to visit the Kirigaya ground, one of five, and after a few delays it was granted by the Governor of Tokiyo at Mr. Mori's request, so yesterday, attended by the Legation linguist, I presented myself at the fine yashiki of the Tokiyo Fu, and quite unexpectedly was admitted to an audience of the Governor. Mr. Kusamoto is a well-bred gentleman, and his face expresses the energy and ability which he has given proof of possessing. He wears his European clothes becomingly, and in attitude, as well as manner, is easy and dignified. After asking me a great deal about my northern tour and the Ainos, he expressed a wish for candid criticism; but as this in the East must not be taken literally, I merely ventured to say that the roads lag behind the progress made in other directions, upon which he entered upon explanations which doubtless apply to the past road-history of the country. He spoke of cremation and its "necessity" in large cities, and terminated the interview by requesting me to dismiss my interpreter and kuruma, as he was going to send me to Meguro in his own carriage with one of the Government interpreters, adding very courteously that it gave him pleasure to show this attention to a guest of the British Minister, "for whose character and important services to Japan he has a high value."

An hour's drive, with an extra amount of yelling from the bettos, took us to a suburb of little hills and valleys, where red camellias and feathery bamboo against backgrounds of cryptomeria contrast with the grey monotone of British winters, and, alighting at a farm road too rough for a carriage, we passed through fields and hedgerows to an erection which looks too insignificant for such solemn use. Don't expect any ghastly details. A longish building of "wattle and dab," much like the northern farmhouses, a high roof, and chimneys resembling those of the "oast houses" in Kent, combine with the rural surroundings to suggest "farm buildings" rather than the "funeral pyre," and all that is horrible is left to the imagination.

The end nearest the road is a little temple, much crowded with images, and small, red, earthenware urns and tongs for sale to the relatives of deceased persons, and beyond this are four rooms with earthen floors and mud walls; nothing noticeable about them except the height of the peaked roof and the dark colour of the plaster. In the middle of the largest are several pairs of granite supports at equal distances from each other, and in the smallest there is a solitary pair. This was literally all that was to be seen. In the large room several bodies are burned at one time, and the charge is only one yen, about 3s. 8d., solitary cremation costing five yen. Faggots are used, and 1s. worth ordinarily suffices to reduce a human form to ashes. After the funeral service in the house the body is brought to the cremation ground, and is left in charge of the attendant, a melancholy, smoked-looking man, as well he may be. The richer people sometimes pay priests to be present during the burning, but this is not usual. There were five "quick-tubs" of pine hooped with bamboo in the larger room, containing the remains of coolies, and a few oblong pine chests in the small rooms containing those of middle-class people. At 8 p.m. each "coffin" is placed on the stone trestles, the faggots are lighted underneath, the fires are replenished during the night, and by 6 a.m. that which was a human being is a small heap of ashes, which is placed in an urn by the relatives and is honourably interred. In some cases the priests accompany the relations on this last mournful errand. Thirteen bodies were burned the night before my visit, but there was not the slightest odour in or about the building, and the interpreter told me that, owing to the height of the chimneys, the people of the neighbourhood never experience the least annoyance, even while the process is going on. The simplicity of the arrangement is very remarkable, and there can be no reasonable doubt that it serves the purpose of the innocuous and complete destruction of the corpse as well as any complicated apparatus (if not better), while its cheapness places it within the reach of the class which is most heavily burdened by ordinary funeral expenses. {23} This morning the Governor sent his secretary to present me with a translation of an interesting account of the practice of cremation and its introduction into Japan.

SS. "Volga," Christmas Eve, 1878. - The snowy dome of Fujisan reddening in the sunrise rose above the violet woodlands of Mississippi Bay as we steamed out of Yokohama Harbour on the 19th, and three days later I saw the last of Japan - a rugged coast, lashed by a wintry sea.

I. L. B.


{1} This is an altogether exceptional aspect of Fujisan, under exceptional atmospheric conditions. The mountain usually looks broader and lower, and is often compared to an inverted fan.

{2} I continue hereafter to use the Japanese word kuruma instead of the Chinese word Jin-ri-ki-sha. Kuruma, literally a wheel or vehicle, is the word commonly used by the Jin-ri-ki-sha men and other Japanese for the "man-power-carriage," and is certainly more euphonious. From kuruma naturally comes kurumaya for the kuruma runner.

{3} Often in the later months of my residence in Japan, when I asked educated Japanese questions concerning their history, religions, or ancient customs, I was put off with the answer, "You should ask Mr. Satow, he could tell you."

{4} After several months of travelling in some of the roughest parts of the interior, I should advise a person in average health - and none other should travel in Japan - not to encumber himself with tinned meats, soups, claret, or any eatables or drinkables, except Liebig's extract of meat.

{5} I visited this temple alone many times afterwards, and each visit deepened the interest of my first impressions. There is always enough of change and novelty to prevent the interest from flagging, and the mild, but profoundly superstitious, form of heathenism which prevails in Japan is nowhere better represented.

{6} The list of my equipments is given as a help to future travellers, especially ladies, who desire to travel long distances in the interior of Japan. One wicker basket is enough, as I afterwards found.

{7} My fears, though quite natural for a lady alone, had really no justification. I have since travelled 1200 miles in the interior, and in Yezo, with perfect safety and freedom from alarm, and I believe that there is no country in the world in which a lady can travel with such absolute security from danger and rudeness as in Japan.

{8} In my northern journey I was very frequently obliged to put up with rough and dirty accommodation, because the better sort of houses were of this class. If there are few sights which shock the traveller, there is much even on the surface to indicate vices which degrade and enslave the manhood of Japan.

{9} I advise every traveller in the ruder regions of Japan to take a similar stretcher and a good mosquito net. With these he may defy all ordinary discomforts.

{10} This can only be true of the behaviour of the lowest excursionists from the Treaty Ports.

{11} Many unpleasant details have necessarily been omitted. If the reader requires any apology for those which are given here and elsewhere, it must be found in my desire to give such a faithful picture of peasant life, as I saw it in Northern Japan, as may be a contribution to the general sum of knowledge of the country, and, at the same time, serve to illustrate some of the difficulties which the Government has to encounter in its endeavour to raise masses of people as deficient as these are in some of the first requirements of civilisation.

{12} The excess of males over females in the capital is 36,000, and in the whole Empire nearly half a million.

{13} By one of these, not fitted up for passengers, I have sent one of my baskets to Hakodate, and by doing so have come upon one of the vexatious restrictions by which foreigners are harassed. It would seem natural to allow a foreigner to send his personal luggage from one Treaty Port to another without going through a number of formalities which render it nearly impossible, but it was only managed by Ito sending mine in his own name to a Japanese at Hakodate with whom he is slightly acquainted.

{14} This hospital is large and well ventilated, but has not as yet succeeded in attracting many in-patients; out-patients, specially sufferers from ophthalmia, are very numerous. The Japanese chief physician regards the great prevalence of the malady in this neighbourhood as the result of damp, the reflection of the sun's rays from sand and snow, inadequate ventilation and charcoal fumes.

{15} Kak'ke, by William Anderson, F.R.C.S. Transactions of English Asiatic Society of Japan, January 1878.

{16} I failed to learn what the liquor was which was drunk so freely, but as no unseemly effects followed its use, I think it must either have been light wine, or light sake.

{17} I venture to present this journal letter, with a few omissions, just as it was written, trusting that the interest which attaches to aboriginal races and little-visited regions will carry my readers through the minuteness and multiplicity of its details.

{18} The use of kerosene in matted wooden houses is a new cause of conflagrations. It is not possible to say how it originated, but just before Christmas 1879 a fire broke out in Hakodate, which in a few hours destroyed 20 streets, 2500 houses, the British Consulate, several public buildings, the new native Christian church, and the church Mission House, leaving 11,000 people homeless.

{19} I went over them with the Ainos of a remote village on Volcano Bay, and found the differences in pronunciation very slight, except that the definiteness of the sound which I have represented by Tsch was more strongly marked. I afterwards went over them with Mr. Dening, and with Mr. Von Siebold at Tokiyo, who have made a larger collection of words than I have, and it is satisfactory to find that we have represented the words in the main by the same letters, with the single exception that usually the sound represented by them by the letters ch I have given as Tsch, and I venture to think that is the most correct rendering.

{20} I have not been able to obtain from any botanist the name of the tree from the bark of which the thread is made, but suppose it to be a species of Tiliaceae.

{21} Yoshitsune is the most popular hero of Japanese history, and the special favourite of boys. He was the brother of Yoritomo, who was appointed by the Mikado in 1192 Sei-i Tai Shogun (barbarian- subjugating great general) for his victories, and was the first of that series of great Shoguns whom our European notions distorted into "Temporal Emperors" of Japan. Yoshitsune, to whom the real honour of these victories belonged, became the object of the jealousy and hatred of his brother, and was hunted from province to province, till, according to popular belief, he committed hara- kiri, after killing his wife and children, and his head, preserved in sake, was sent to his brother at Kamakura. Scholars, however, are not agreed as to the manner, period, or scene of his death. Many believe that he escaped to Yezo and lived among the Ainos for many years, dying among them at the close of the twelfth century. None believe this more firmly than the Ainos themselves, who assert that he taught their fathers the arts of civilisation, with letters and numbers, and gave them righteous laws, and he is worshipped by many of them under a name which signifies Master of the Law. I have been told by old men in Biratori, Usu, and Lebunge, that a later Japanese conqueror carried away the books in which the arts were written, and that since his time the arts themselves have been lost, and the Ainos have fallen into their present condition! On asking why the Ainos do not make vessels of iron and clay as well as knives and spears, the invariable answer is, "The Japanese took away the books."

{22} The duty paid by junks is 4s. for each twenty-five tons, by foreign ships of foreign shape and rig 2 pounds for each 100 tons, and by steamers 3 pounds for each 100 tons.

{23} The following very inaccurate but entertaining account of this expedition was given by the Yomi-uri-Shimbun, a daily newspaper with the largest, though not the most aristocratic, circulation in Tokiyo, being taken in by the servants and tradespeople. It is a literal translation made by Mr. Chamberlain. "The person mentioned in our yesterday's issue as 'an English subject of the name of Bird' is a lady from Scotland, a part of England. This lady spends her time in travelling, leaving this year the two American continents for a passing visit to the Sandwich Islands, and landing in Japan early in the month of May. She has toured all over the country, and even made a five months' stay in the Hokkaido, investigating the local customs and productions. Her inspection yesterday of the cremation ground at Kirigaya is believed to have been prompted by a knowledge of the advantages of this method of disposing of the dead, and a desire to introduce the same into England(!) On account of this lady's being so learned as to have published a quantity of books, His Excellency the Governor was pleased to see her yesterday, and to show her great civility, sending her to Kirigaya in his own carriage, a mark of attention which is said to have pleased the lady much(!)"