Unbeaten Tracks in Japan, by Isabella L. Bird

Letter 43

Pleasant Prospects — A Miserable Disappointment — Caught in a Typhoon — A Dense Fog — Alarmist Rumours — A Welcome at Tokiyo — The Last of the Mutineers.

H. B. M.‘s LEGATION, YEDO, September 21.

A placid sea, which after much disturbance had sighed itself to rest, and a high, steady barometer promised a fifty hours’ passage to Yokohama, and when Dr. and Mrs. Hepburn and I left Hakodate, by moonlight, on the night of the 14th, as the only passengers in the Hiogo Maru, Captain Moore, her genial, pleasant master, congratulated us on the rapid and delightful passage before us, and we separated at midnight with many projects for pleasant intercourse and occupation.

But a more miserable voyage I never made, and it was not until the afternoon of the 17th that we crawled forth from our cabins to speak to each other. On the second day out, great heat came on with suffocating closeness, the mercury rose to 85 degrees, and in lat. 38 degrees 0’ N. and long. 141 degrees 30’ E. we encountered a “typhoon,” otherwise a “cyclone,” otherwise a “revolving hurricane,” which lasted for twenty-five hours, and “jettisoned” the cargo. Captain Moor has given me a very interesting diagram of it, showing the attempts which he made to avoid its vortex, through which our course would have taken us, and to keep as much outside it as possible. The typhoon was succeeded by a dense fog, so that our fifty-hour passage became seventy-two hours, and we landed at Yokohama near upon midnight of the 17th, to find traces of much disaster, the whole low-lying country flooded, the railway between Yokohama and the capital impassable, great anxiety about the rice crop, the air full of alarmist rumours, and paper money, which was about par when I arrived in May, at a discount of 13 per cent! In the early part of this year (1880) it has touched 42 per cent.

Late in the afternoon the railroad was re-opened, and I came here with Mr. Wilkinson, glad to settle down to a period of rest and ease under this hospitable roof. The afternoon was bright and sunny, and Tokiyo was looking its best. The long lines of yashikis looked handsome, the castle moat was so full of the gigantic leaves of the lotus, that the water was hardly visible, the grass embankments of the upper moat were a brilliant green, the pines on their summits stood out boldly against the clear sky, the hill on which the Legation stands looked dry and cheerful, and, better than all, I had a most kindly welcome from those who have made this house my home in a strange land.

Tokiyo is tranquil, that is, it is disturbed only by fears for the rice crop, and by the fall in satsu. The military mutineers have been tried, popular rumour says tortured, and fifty-two have been shot. The summer has been the worst for some years, and now dark heat, moist heat, and nearly ceasless rain prevail. People have been “rained up” in their summer quarters. “Surely it will change soon,” people say, and they have said the same thing for three months.

I. L. B.

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