the operation, in case of need, with gracefulness and dexterity ; and they
take as much pains to acquire this accomplishment as youth among us to
become elegant dancers or skilful horsemen ; hence the profound con-
tempt of death which they imbibe in early years.
Curious custom, isn't
it, according to our notions ?"
Both the boys thought it was, and said they were glad that they were
not born in a country where such ideas of honor prevailed.
The Doctor told them that an old story, which he had no doubt was
true, since it accorded with the Japanese ideas of honor, would be a very
good illustration of the subject. It was concerning two high officers of
the court who met one day on a staircase, and accidentally jostled each
other. One was a very quick-tempered man, and demanded satisfaction ;
the other was of a more peaceable disposition, and said the circumstance
was accidental, and could be amply covered by an apology, which he was
ready to make. The other tried to provoke him to a conflict, and when
lie found he could not do so he drew his short-sword and slashed himself
open according to the prescribed mode. The other was compelled, as a
point of honor, to follow his example. It often happened that where one
man had offended another the court required that they should both per-
form hari-kari, and they always did so without the least hesitation. And
when a man went to another's house, sat down and disembowelled him-
self, the owner of the house was obliged by law to do the same thing.
There was no escaping it, and it is but fair to the Japanese to say that
they did not try to escape it.
"If you are deeply interested in the subject of hari-kari," said the
Doctor, " I advise you to read Mitford's book entitled ' Tales of Old
Japan.' Mr. Mitford lived some time in Japan in an official capacity, and
on one occasion he was called upon to be present at the hari-kari of an
officer who had given orders for firing on some foreigners. He gives
an account of this affair, including a list of the ceremonies to be ob-
served on such an occasion, which he translated from a Japanese work
on the subject. Nothing could be more precise than the regulations, and
some of them are exceedingly curious, particularly the one that requires
the nearest friend of the victim to act as his second. The duty of the
second is to cut off the principal's head at the moment he plunges the
knife into his body. It is a post of honor, and a gentleman who should
refuse thus to act for his friend would be considered no friend at all.
Again I say it is a curious custom all through.
" The term hari-kari means ' happy despatch,' and for the Japanese it
was a happy form of going out of the world. It is still in use, the custom
as well as the expression, but not so much so as formerly. The Japanese
ideas of honor have not changed, but they have found that some of their
ways of illustrating them are not in accordance with the customs of
Europe. There are cases of hari-kari now and then at the present time,
but they are very private, and generally the result of the sentence of a
court. At the termination of the rebellion of 1877, several of the officers
concerned in it committed hari-kari voluntarily just before the surrender,
and others in consequence of their capture and sentence.
2 THE BOY TRAVELLERS.
"In the administration of justice," Doctor Bronson continued, "Japan
has made great progress in the past few years. Formerly nearly all trials
were conducted with torture, and sometimes the witnesses were tortured
as well as the accused. The instruments in use were the refinement of
cruelty : heavy weights were piled on the body of a prisoner ; he was
placed in a caldron of water, and a fire was lighted beneath which slowly
brought the water to the boiling-point ; he was cut with knives in a variety
of ways that indicated great ingenuity on the part of the torturers ; in fact,
he was put to a great deal of pain such as we know nothing about. Under
the old system the only persons at a trial were the prisoner, the torturer,
the secretary, and the judge ; at present the trials are generally open, and
the accused has the benefit of counsel to defend him, as in our own courts.
JAPANESE COURT IN THE OLD STTLE.
Torture has been formally abolished, though it is asserted that it is some-
times employed in cases of treason or other high crimes. Law-schools
have been established, reform codes of law have been made, and certainly
there is a manifest disposition on the part of the government to give the
best system of justice to the people that can be found. Japan is endeav-
oring to take a place among the nations of the world, and show that she is
no longer a barbarian land. The United States have been the foremost to
acknowledge her right to such a place, but their action has not been sec-
onded by England and other European countries. It will doubtless corne
in time, and every year sees some additional step gained in the proper di-
IMPROVEMENTS IN NAVIGATION.
" As I have before stated," the Doctor con-
tinued, " the Japanese have made great progress in
military and naval matters. They have ship-yards
at several places, and have built ships of their own
after the European models; in addition to these,
they have ships that they bought from foreigners,
but they are entirely commanded and managed by
their own officers, and equipped with crews entirely
Japanese. The old war-junks of the country have
been discarded for the modern ships, and the young
Japanese are trained in the Western mode of war-
fare ; their schools for naval instruction have made JAPANESE NAVAL OFFICKR .
remarkable advancement, and the teachers who were
brought from other countries repeatedly declared that they never had
seen anywhere a more intelligent assemblage of pupils than they found
here. The Japanese naval officer of to-day is uniformed very much like
his fellow-officer in Europe
or America, and his manners
are as polished as the most
fastidious among us could
wish. The Japanese ships
have made long cruises, and
visited the principal ports
of Europe and America,
and their commanders have
shown that they understand
the theory and practice of
JAPANESE STEAM CORVETTE. navigation, and are able to
take their ships wherever
they may be ordered to go. The picture of a Japanese war-junk of the
olden time, and that of the war-steamer of to-day do not show many points
of resemblance. They illustrate the difference between the old and the
new, very much as do the cango and the railway car when placed side by
The Doctor thought he had given the boys quite as much information
as they would be likely to remember in his dissertation, and suggested
that they should endeavor to recapitulate what he had said. Frank
thought the discussion had taken a wide range, as it had included the sta-
tus of the four classes of Japanese society, had embraced the Samurai and
their peculiarities, some of the changes that were wrought by the revolti-
THE BOY TRAVELLERS.
tion, and had told them how executions were conducted in former times.
Then they had learned something about hari-kari and what it was for;
and they had learned, at the same time, the difference between the old
courts of justice and the new ones. What with these things and the naval
progress of the empire of the Mikado, he thought they had quite enough
to go around, and would be lucky if they remembered the whole of it.
Fred thought so too, and therefore the discussion was suspended, with
the understanding that it should be renewed on the first convenient oc-
A JAPANESE WAR-JUNK. OF THE OLDEN TIME.
AMUSEMENTS IN JAPAN. 227
AMUSEMENTS. WRESTLERS AND THEATRICAL ENTERTAINMENTS.
AFTER the party had recovered from the fatigues of the journey to
Fusiyama, the boys were on the lookout for something new. Various
suggestions were made, and finally Frank proposed that they should go to
a theatre. This was quite to Fred's liking, and so it did not take a long
time to come to a determination on the subject. The Doctor agreed that
the theatre was an interesting study, and so the matter was settled.
" What time in the evening must we go," said Fred, " so as to be there
in season for the beginning of the performance?"
" If you want to be there in season for the beginning," the Doctor
answered, " you should go in the morning, or, at all events, very early in
" Wouldn't it be well to go the day before ?" Frank ventured to ask.
" Certainly you could do so," Fred responded, " or you might go next
week or last summer."
" The Japanese performances," Doctor Bronson continued, " do not all
begin in the morning, but the most of them do, and they last the entire
day. In China they have historic plays that require a week or more for
their complete representation ; but in Japan they are briefer in their
ways, and a performance is not continued from one day to the next. They
have greater variety here than in China, and the plays are less tedious
both to one who understands the language and to one who does not. The
Japanese are a gayer people than the Chinese, and consequently their plays
are less serious in character."
It was agreed that a day should be given to amusements, and these
should include anything that the boys and their tutor could find. Frank
went in pursuit of the landlord of the hotel, and soon returned with the
information that there was a theatrical performance that very day in the
native theatre, and also a wrestling match which was sure to be interest-
ing, as the Japanese wrestlers are different from those of any other
country. After a little discussion it was determined that they would first
THE BOY TRAVELLERS.
go to the wrestling match, and Frank should write a description of the
wrestlers and what they did. After the wrestling match was disposed of,
they would take up the theatre, and of this Fred should be the historian.
Here is Frank's account of the wrestling as it appeared in the next
letter he sent home :
A JAPANESE WRESTLER.
WRESTLERS IN THE RING. 229
" I thought we were going to a hall, but it was nothing of the sort, as
we understand a hall. We went into a large tent, which was made by
stretching matting over a space enclosed by a high fence; the fence
formed the walls of the building, and the matting made the roof. We
had the ground to sit on or stand on, but soon after we went in a man
brought us some chairs, and we sat down. In the centre of the tent there
was a circular mound something like a circus ring ; it was perhaps two
feet high and ten feet across, and there was a flat place outside of it
where the master of ceremonies was to stand and see that everything was
fair. We paid twenty-five cents to go in, and then we paid about five
cents more for each chair ; of course we were in the best places, and only
a few others were in that part. I don't know how much the Japanese
paid in the poor places, but I don't believe it was more than five cents.
"In a little while after we went in, the performance began. A boy
came into the ring from a room at one side of the tent, and he walked as
if he were playing the king, or some other great personage. When he got
to the middle of the ring, he opened a fan he carried in his right hand.
He opened it with a quick jerk, as though he were going to shake it to
pieces; and after he had opened it he announced the names of the wres-
tlers who were to come into the first act. If I hadn't been told what he
was doing, I should have thought he was playing something from Shak-
speare, he made such a fuss about it. Then he went out and the wrestlers
came in, with a big fellow that Fred said must be the boss wrestler. He
looked like an elephant, he was so big.
" The wrestlers were the largest men I have seen in Japan ; and the
fact is I didn't suppose the country contained any men so large.. As near
as I could see, they had more fat than muscle on them ; but there must
have been a good deal of muscle, too, for they were strong as oxen. Doc-
tor Bronson says he has seen some of these wrestlers carry two sacks of
rice weighing a hundred and twenty-five pounds each, and that one man
carried a sack with his teeth, while another took one under his arm and
turned somersets with it, and did not once lose his hold. The Doctor
says these men are- a particular race of Japanese, and it used to be the
custom for each prince to have a dozen or more of these wrestlers in his
suite to furnish amusement for himself and his friends. Sometimes two
princes would get up a match with their wrestlers, just as men in New
York get up matches between dogs and chickens. Then there were
troupes of wrestlers, who went around giving exhibitions, just as they some-
times do in America. But you never saw such fat men in all your life as
they were ; not fat in one place, like the man that keeps the grocery on
THE BOY TRAVELLERS.
A PAIR OF WBB8TLKB8 AND THEIR MANAGER.
the corner of the public square in our town, but fat all over. I felt
the back and arms of one of them, and his muscles were as hard as iron.
The flesh on his breast was soft, and seemed like a thick cushion of fat.
I think you might have hit him there with a mallet without hurting him
"Some of them could hardly see out of their eyes on account of the
fat around them ; and when their arms were doubled up, they looked like
the hams of a hog. I was told that the Japanese idea of a wrestler is to
have a man as fat as possible, which is just the reverse of what we think
is right. They train their men all their lives to have them get up all the
fat they can ; and if a man doesn't get it fast enough, they put him to
work, and tell him he can never be a wrestler. It is odd that a people so
Jhin as the Japanese should think so much about having men fat ; but I
suppose it is because we all like the things that are our oppositefe. But
this isn't telling about the wrestling match.
"After the herald had given the names of the wrestlers who were to
make the first round, the fellows came in. They were dressed without
any clothes to speak of, or rather they were quite undressed, with the
exception of a cloth around their loins. They came in on opposite sides
of the ring, and stood there about five feet apart, each man resting his
hands on his knees, and glaring at the other like a wild beast. They
THE JAPANESE IDEA OF WRESTLING.
looked more like a pair of tigers than human beings, and for a moment I
thought it was not at all unlike what a bull-fight in Spain might be.
" There they stood glaring, as I told yon, and making a noise like
animals about to fight. They stamped on the ground and made two or
three rushes at each other, and then fell back to watch for a better chance.
They kept this up a minute or so, and then darted in and clinched ; and
then you could see their great
muscles swell, and realize that
they were as strong as they were
" They did not try to throw
each other, as we do when we
wrestle, but they tried to push
from one side of fhe ring to the
other. I couldn't understand this
until the Doctor told me that it is
not necessary for one of the men
to be thrown. All that is to be
done is for one of them to push
the other outside the ring; and even if he only gets one foot out, the game
is up. Only once during all we saw of the match did anybody get thrown
down, as we should expect to see him in a wrestling match in America.
And when he did get fairly on the ground, it was not very easy for him
to rise, which is probably the reason why the rules of the Japanese ring
are so different from ours.
" They had several matches of this kind with the two men standing
up facing each other before they clinched ; and then they tried another
plan. One man took his place in the ring, and braced himself as though
he were trying to stop a locomotive* When he was ready a signal was
given, and another man came out full tilt against him. They butted their
heads together like two rams, and tried to hit each other in the breast.
In a short time they were covered with blood, and looked very badly ; but
the Doctor says they were not hurt so much as they seemed to be. They
kept this up for nearly a quarter of an hour, and took turns at the busi-
ness one of them being bull for the other to play railway train against.
It was as bad for one as for the other; and if I had my choice which char-
acter to play, I wouldn't play either.
" After the wrestling was over they had some fencing, which I liked
much better, as there was more skill to it and less brutality. The fencers
were announced in the same way as the other performers had been. They
232 THE BOY TRAVELLERS.
wore large masks that protected their heads, and their fencing was with
wooden swords or sticks, so that no harm was done. The game was for
each to hit his adversary's head, and when this was done a point was
scored for the man who made the hit. They did a good deal of shouting
and snarling at each other, and sometimes their noise sounded more as if
made by cats than by human beings. In other respects their fencing
was very much like ours, and was very creditable to the parties engaged
in it. One of the best fencers in the lot was a young girl. She wasn't
more than sixteen years old, and she had arms strong enough for a man
of thirty. The performance ended with the fencing, and then we went
back to the hotel.
It was determined that the evening would be quite early enough to go
to the theatre, and so the party did not start until after seven o'clock.
They secured a box at one side of the auditorium, where they could see
the stage and the audience at the same time. When you go to the play
in a strange land, the audience is frequently quite as interesting a study as
the performance, and sometimes more so. In no country is this more
truly the case than in Japan. But it was agreed that Fred should give
the account of the play, and so we will listen to him. Here is his story :
" The theatre was a small one, according to our notions, but it was well
ventilated, which is not always the case in America. The man that sold
the tickets was very polite, and so was the one who took them at the door.
The latter called an usher, who showed us to our box, and brought the
chairs for us ; and then he brought a programme, but we couldn't read a
word of it, as it was all in Japanese. We cared more about looking at the
people than trying to read something that we couldn't read at all ; and so
I folded up the programme and put it into my pocket.
" The house had a floor and galleries like one of our theatres, but there
were only two galleries, and one of them was on a level with the parquet.
The parquet, or floor, was divided into boxes, and they were literally
boxes, and no mistake. They were square, and the partitions between them
were little more than a foot high, with a flat board on the top for a rail.
This was about five inches wide, and I soon saw what it was used for, as
the people walked on it in going to and from their boxes. The boxes
had no chairs in them, but they were carpeted with clean matting ; and
anybody could get cushions from the ushers by asking for them. Each
box was intended to hold four persons ; but it required that the four
should not be very large, and that each should stick to his own corner.
One box in front of us had six women in it, and there were two or three
boxes crowded with children. They had tea and sweetmeats in many of
JAPANESE ACTOK DRESSED AS A DOCTOR.
234 THE BOY TRAVELLERS.
the boxes, and I noticed that men and boys were going around selling
these things. I asked if we had come to the right place, as it occurred to
me that it was only at the Bowery and that kind of theatre in New York
that they sold peanuts and such things ; but the Doctor said it was all
right, and they did this in all the best theatres in Japan.
" Of course, if they come and stay all day, they must have something
to eat, and so I saw the reason of their having tea and other refreshments
peddled about the house. Then there were men who sold books which
gave an account of the play, and had portraits of some of the principal
players. I suppose these books were really the bills of the play ; and if we
could have read them, we should have known something about the per-
formance more than we do now.
" While we were looking at the audience there came half a doztfn raps
behind the curtain, as if two pieces of wood had been knocked together;
and a moment after the rapping had stopped, the curtain was drawn aside.
It was a common sort of curtain, and did not open in the middle like
some of ours, or roll up like others ; it was pulled aside as if it ran on a
1 wire, and when it was out of sight we saw the stage set to represent a
garden with lots of flower-pots and bushes. The stage was very small
compared with an American one, and not more than ten or twelve feet
deep ; but ,it was set quite well, though not so elaborately as we would
arrange it. The orchestra was in a couple of little boxes over the stage,
one on each side, and each box contained six persons, three singers and
three guitar-players. This is the regulation orchestra and chorus, so they
say, in all the Japanese theatres, but it is sometimes differently made up.
If a theatre is small and poor, it may have only two performers in each
box, and sometimes one box may be empty, but this is not often.
" The orchestra furnishes music by means of the guitar, or ' samisen.'
It is played something like our guitar, except that a piece of ivory is used
for striking the strings, and is always used in a concert that has any pre-
tence to being properly arranged.
There are two or three other instru-
ments, one of them a small drum,
which they play upon with the fingers ;
but it is not so common as the samisen,
and I don't think it is so well liked.
Then they have flutes, and some of
them are very sweet, and harmonize
well with the samisen ; but the singers
THE 8AMI8EK. do not like them for an accompaniment
THE CHORUS AND SCENERY.
PLAYING THE SAMISEN.
unless they have powerful voices. The sami sen-players generally sing,
and in the theatres the musicians form a part of the chorus. A good deal
of the play is explained by the chorus ; and if there are any obscure points,
the audience is told what they are. I remember seeing the same thing al-
most exactly, or, at
any rate, the same
thing in principle,
in the performance
of "Henry V." at a
theatre in New York
several years ago, so
that this idea of hav-
ing the play explain-
ed by the chorus
cannot be claimed
as a Japanese inven-
"In the theatre
the singing goes on sometimes while the actors are on the stage, and we
got tired of it in a little while. I don't suppose the Japanese get so tired
of it, or they would stop having it. Some of them admit that it would
be better to have the orchestra in front of the stage, as we do; but others
say that so long as the chorus must do so much towards explaining the
play, they had better remain where they are. The Japanese seem to like
their theatre as it is, and therefore they will not be apt to change in a
" Just after the curtain was pulled away, they opened a door in the
middle of the garden, and the actors who were to be in the play came in.
They sat down on the stage and began a song, which they kept up for ten
or fifteen minutes, each of them singing a part that was evidently prepared
for himself alone. The music in the little boxes joined them, and it made
me think of the negro minstrels in a concert hall at home, where they all
come on together. After they finished this part of the performance, there
was a pantomime by a woman, or rather by a man disguised as a woman,
as all the acting is done by men. They get themselves up perfectly, as
they have very little beards, and they can imitate the voice and move-
ments of a woman, so that nobody can tell the difference. I couldn't
tell what the pantomime was all about, and it was so long that I got tired
of it before they were through, and wondered when they would come on
with something else.
THE BOY TRAVELLERS.
SCENE FROM A JAPANESE COMEDY. WRITING A LETTER OF DIVORCE.
"Then the real acting of the piece began, and I wished ever so much
that it had been in English, so that I could understand it. The story was
a supernatural one, and there were badgers and foxes in it, and they had
a woman changed to a badger, and the badger to a woman again. Gentle-