On this day in July, 1853, there had been an
execution early in the afternoon, as the shallow
pit shining red in the sun, the fresh clay crimsoned
with bloody ooze, and the single head exposed, which
was that of a man of about fifty-five, too plainly
There were several little children playing
FROM KAMAKURA TO YEDO.
near by, apparently oblivious of anything horrible.
A group of four or five passers stood reading the
inscription on a board tacked on the pillory.
" Who is he ? " asked Honda of a by-stander.
"A joker," answered the man addressed, with a
" A joker ! " replied Honda testily, for he imagined
that he was being taken for a countryman and
that the fellow was making game of him.
" Why, yes ; every easterner, as I suppose, has
heard how the rich merchant, Mr. Middlefield, made
money by secretly trading with the American barba-
rians, and how at a dinner to celebrate his gains he
boasted that the American fleet had been his ship
of good fortune."
" Is it possible ? " asked Honda. " When was he
found out ? "
" Well, he was arrested and thrown into prison as
soon as the eye-appliers [spies] heard of his joke.
He was tried yesterday, sentenced this morning, and
had his head laid on a clay pillow about Horse time
(1 P. M.) this afternoon."
" Trade with the hairy foreigners will not become
popular at this rate," laughed Honda.
"Served the old coin-counter right," said Ban.
" These men of the ink-pot and ledger need to be
taught such lessons. But come, let us get into Yedo
before the gates close."
Through the long, rambling suburbs of Shina-
gawa they made their way, and passing through
the densely crowded streets of Yedo, moved on till
near the foot of the Kudan, or Hill of Nine Steps.
208 HONDA THE SAMURAI.
" We '11 put up at the inn of the Big Gold-fish,"
" Good name, that ! Did the proprietor select it
from the title of Bakin's famous novel ? I read his
' Biography of a Gold-fish ' last summer."
" No ; the name is more matter-of-fact than the
heroine of our novelist, who, you remember, was a
pretty girl whose filial piety made her a paragon.
You will see when you look into the water of the
castle moat to-morrow gold-fishes larger than else-
where in Japan. The tea-house is named after an
actual fish with fins and scales."
" Very good ; but are you not afraid to go under
the very knee of the lord of Yedo ? The inn is near
the very gate of his castle."
" Not at all," answered his comrade ; " I shall act
on the principle of the proverbs, ' It is dark at the
lantern's base,' and * While the hunter looks afar,
the bird starts up at his feet.' Here in the crowded
city I shall be unknown, and as hard to find as ' one
hair of nine oxen.' '
There was a strange sound in Honda's ears as he
lay early down to sleep, tired after his long walk. It
was the hum and stir of the great city of a million
souls. It being a moonlight night, thousands of
people crowded the larger streets where all sorts of
venders displayed their wares, and the total effect
of the countless voices and noises was that of a pro-
longed hum. Fortunately " the flower of Yedo " did
not bloom that night ; or, in plain prose, there was
no conflagration to disturb their sleep, though the
watchman's hourly cry was, "Look out for fire!"
AT THE SIGN OF THE BIG GOLD-FISH.
THE quarter of great Yedo in which Honda Jiro
was lodging was at the base of the highland
at the north of the castle enclosure. This plateau is
called Suruga Dai, or the table of Suruga, because
one seemed to be in that province while looking at
Mount Fuji, as if it were set on a table near by. A
few steps from the inn took one up to the highland,
where the glorious mountain stood revealed from
base to crown. The moats, walls, ramparts, draw-
bridges, and towers of the castle extended to this
quarter of the city, forming the extreme north-west-
ern angle of the circuit. Two great double gate-
ways with their ponderous iron-banded, rivet-studded
gates, copper-clad towers, and named respectively the
Pheasant and Pure Water gates, were within sight.
The high, grassy counterscarp, the parapet of gray
stone masonry, and the white rampart of plaster
and tiling were mirrored in threefold richness of
color in the deep moat of fresh running water.
Here in the crystal depths swam, unharmed, hun-
dreds of huge silver and golden carp, many of them
two feet long. Farther round to the west, where the
water was shallower, millions of wild fowl of various
species enjoyed summer sunshine in the lotus-beds or
210 HONDA THE SAMURAI.
on the tree-roosts, and in the winter over-populated
the region, fearing neither gun of fowler nor the
stone of the small boy. The municipal law, en-
forced with a death penalty, forbade the firing of a
gun in the open air within ten miles of the center
of the great castle, whose citadel and intricate lines
of wall and moat covered a space several leagues
square. With arrow, bird-lime, snare, or falcon the
fowler must go beyond city limits for his game.
Our travelers were awakened on their first morn-
ing by sounds that showed how strong were the
probabilities of war with the Americans. On a lot
only a few streets away a cannon foundry had been
erected, and the heavy reports during the day
showed that the bronze field-pieces and siege-guns
were being tested. Even before they had their
breakfast the sound of matchlock and musket-firing
showed that in nearly every clan head-quarters tar-
get-shooting was going on. Every one of the few
learned men who could read Dutch was busy in
translating military books on gunnery and fortifica-
tion. In scores of places groups of men were busy
with mud and trowels, making mimic forts, field-
works, or rifle-pits, and mounting them with toy
cannon or bamboo tubes. This was the work of the
progressive or modern men under a few teachers.
The majority of clansmen, reared in old-fashioned
ideas, still believed in the divine sword, the soul of
the samurai, and in wearing armor. These exer-
cised themselves in helmet and cuirass, on horseback
or on foot. They practiced with wooden swords or
AT THE BIG GOLD- FISH. 211
bamboospears, or shot arrows at targets until they
felt themselves invincible.
There were some who clearly foresaw that the
" barbarians " must be fought with their own weap-
ons ; but how to get the weapons was the question.
They were clearly of the opinion that in folly it was
a painful illustration of the old proverb, " On seeing
the enemy, to sharpen arrows." Since, however,
they could not at once buy ships, guns, and arms
equal to those of the Americans, and instantly train
men to use them, their next best thing was to study
European books. Influence was brought upon the
government to release from prison Egawa, a man who
had been arrested for learning of the Dutch at Na-
gasaki how to make and use firearms. By a decree
which allowed further concessions to the advocates
of progress, an office was opened "for the examina-
tion of barbarian books." This was the tiny germ
of the present magnificent Imperial University of
"How my uncle Rai Goro will rejoice when he
hears of this patronage of the Dutch language by
the curtain government ! He imagines also that
the counterfeit dynasty of Tokugawa can save the
country, but I don't," said Honda.
"Nor I," said Ban. "Tokugawa is a nest of rob-
bers like that of the Buddhist priests that used to
kill and rob their dupes in the name of salvation on
this very ground."
" What ! how ? " asked Honda.
" Why ! my Echizen friend, have you never heard
212 HONDA THE SAMURAI.
the story of the golden lotus into which a man went
after paying a fat fee to the priests ? He came out
a common corpse to the ordinary eye, but a hotoke
(saint in paradise) according to the certificate of the
" Why, what a good story ! Pray, tell it to your
"Well," said Ban, "I used to go to school here
in Yedo, and many a time I have heard the legend
from old men who lived near by. You see right
across the moat, west of the mansion of the Hitotsu-
bashi family, there was long ago a great meadow
called Go-ji, which the bonzes bought and on it
erected a gorgeous temple. In the main hall a cun-
ning workman built for them a golden lotus six feet
high. The petals were of great bent plates of gilded
copper, as heavy and powerful in their closing as
the scales of a dragon. The flower, which is the
symbol of deity and eternal peace of Nirvana, was
worked by ingenious machinery so as to open and
shut. The bonzes wished to get money enough to
buy a vast estate, and by enriching themselves and
the temple make it the most famous in Yedo. They
hit upon the plan of persuading pious old people who
were wealthy that this lotus was the gateway to
Nirvana. By sitting in a praying position inside
the lotus and calling continually on holy Buddha,
the lotus-flower would by* divine power close its
petals upon them, and, instead of pain and death,
sleep and translation into paradise would be theirs.
Amid the chantings of the holy writings by the
AT THE JBIG GOLD-FISH. 213
bonzes robed in their full canonicals, clouds of incense,
bursts of music, and enthusiasm of the spectators,
many an old man and woman went to glory in this
way. The money and the possessions of the victims
accrued to the priests, so that their purchased land
soon made a large red spot on the map of Yedo."
" True enough," interrupted Honda, who had the
day before bought an old map which he was now
comparing with a new one he had borrowed from the
landlord. " The red spaces which show the ground
belonging to the Buddhist temples even yet take up
a large part of Yedo ; but what became of the bonzes
and temple, for I see no red on the spot you name ? "
"The thing was overdone, and the government,
listening to those having suspicions, ordered an inves-
tigation. It was found that the victim on the calyx
of the lotus, as soon as the flower was closed, was
lowered into a copper air-tight cylinder full of car-
bonic-acid gas. After quick death not only were his
limbs, but even his face was smoothed out and given
a hotok look. The lotus-flower was then opened,
the saint restored to his friends, or carried at once
to his barrel-coffin. The bonzes wrote his posthu-
mous saintly name, and the funeral was usually very
gorgeous. Of course no poor man could thus be
sent to glory. 'Even the tortures are graded ac-
cording to the amount of money one can pay,' as
the proverb has it, when priests have charge of the
hereafter. The government made short work of the
fraud, beheaded most of the priests, and destroyed
the temple. For a generation or two the land has
been given up to foxes an4 badgers,"
214 HONDA THE SAMURAI.
" So you think the Tokugawas, like the priests of
Go-ji-ga-hara, invite our nation to settle into peace,
when in reality they would destroy it."
"Yes, that is it; but listen Some one down-
stairs is inquiring for us."
In a moment more a maid announced two visitors,
who, being introduced, forthwith all present fell on
all fours, with palms and knees and foreheads on
the matting. Mutual announcement of names, inqui-
ries after health, compliments, and polite sucking in
of the breath followed. In brief, the elder of the
visitors was a learned scholar, Okuma Ei, versed in
Chinese, Dutch, and French, and the younger his
sometime pupil, Nog Toro.
Polite commonplaces over, Ban inquired of Okuma
" Consider us genuine boors who have not even
learned to tuck up our coat-tails in our girdles, after
the manner of Adzuma men ; for my friend here has
never been in Yedo, and I not for two years. What
good thing have you last done for the honorable
" The government has voted to buy a modern man-
of-war built in European style."
" Wonderful ! A steamer, and will purchase it of
"Yes; but I have petitioned to have some of our
countrymen go out to Europe to negotiate for it,
learn how to work the machinery, get experience
in navigation and engineering, and find out a good
deal of the world in coming and going."
AT THE BIG GOLD-FISH. 215
" Noble thought, wise teacher ; do you think your
ideas will be officially approved ? "
" I fear not. It is not much encouragement to a
patriot to know that, if he suggest anything novel
that is not accepted, he must commit suicide by
cutting himself open."
This was indeed the general law. All innovation
was stoutly discouraged by a policy that had be-
numbed the Japanese intellect and kept the country
in the stupor of unprogressive routine for over two
centuries. Many a Japanese thinker who saw the
weakness and danger besetting his country had first
to write out his opinions and then commit hara-kiri.
Only then, as a rule, were the reforms suggested
"Honored teacher," said Ban solemnly, "if your
proposal is rejected, you have to die in thus attempt-
ing to benefit the divine country; then will the
blood of the one who condemns you to death be as
the tea in this tea-cup " at that moment emptying
the vessel and turning it upside down.
" Hush ! you know the walls have ears," said
" I say it again, Honda Jiro if my honored
teacher must die, there will be two graves instead
Nor was the threat of the young man an empty
boast born of hasty impulse. Though they were far
from agreeing as to the exact course to pursue, the
four samurai here gathered together were at heart
one in intense love of country, even though the
216 ffONDA THE SAMUBA1.
patriotism of Honda was of rather a narrow sort.
They were a few of the not numerous, but devoted,
patriots in Yedo who felt that the only way to meet
the foreigner was to equal him in character, weapons,
and determination. None was more truly unselfish
and courageous than Ban. He hated the bakufu
with a righteous hatred because it had again and
again suppressed the truth which his relative dared to
publish. It had imprisoned upright men for no
other crime than for writing good books and making
maps. It was equal again to beheading noble
patriots who counted their life less than nothing for
love of truth. The philosophy of life to an edu-
cated Japanese is as noble as was that of the Stoic.
Show him his place in the line of duty, and he
holds himself and his life as but dirt in compari-
son to his ambition to fulfill his obligation.
An hour or more was spent in conversation, and
the party broke up, believing it to be best, under the
circumstances, to separate. Let us see how they
spent the following six months.
Ban, besides being present at every secret gather-
ing of patriots opposed to the bakufu, and eager at
every hazard to destroy it and restore the Mikado to
ancient monarchy, entered a fencing-school under
one of the first masters of the art in Yedo. His
faith lay in the sword. He practiced every possible
sweep, cut and thrust, front and back, up and down,
forward and backward. In those days, of the nearly
two million people of the privileged classes, the men
that is, all the samurai habitually wore two
AT THE SIG GOLD-PISS. 217
swords. Thousands of the common people at night,
or on journeys, also carried one sword. It is no
wonder, then, that many of these swordsmen itched
to flesh their weapons and stain them with real blood.
The dogs that ran ownerless, numerous in every town
and city, furnished tempting objects, and these were
well utilized. To see them minus one ear, or a tail,
or gashed in face, flank, or limb, was no uncommon
sight to say nothing of those cloven asunder in
skull or severed in twain by single blows of the keen
blades. Until taxed and owned, the dogs led a life
level with the proverbs about them. One favorite
game was the " dog-chasing affair," it being archery
on horseback, in which the riders, dressed in pictur-
esque costume of leopard-skin aprons and gay silk
tunics, chased a dog around an enclosure. They
made a target of the animal, which limping, con-
fused, or killed with blunt arrows furnished them
with sport. In too many cases, when dogs were
lacking, the gentlemanly ruffians took human life,
and the unburied carcass that for hours defiled
the streets was that of a man.
As for Honda Jiro, he too attended fencing-school
and practiced spear exercise, adding the accomplish-
ments of rushing suddenly and drawing sword on the
full run, and cutting an orange set on a post, or by
backward sweep smiting off a flower from a bush.
He had been told that Americans were tall, and so
he trained himself to lunge and sweep at objects
above his head. He went down frequently to see
the crowds of laborers building forts in the bay near
218 BOND A THE UAMUSAl.
the city. In spite of himself, being an eager student,
he became interested in the study of Dutch, with
the desire of learning how it came to pass that the
European was so far ahead of the Japanese in mili-
tary science. Okuma, the learned teacher, gave him
a start by teaching him the alphabet and a few
pages of a little school geography, and the privilege
of transcribing a small Dutch dictionary. With a
perseverance worthy of a samurai Honda actually
copied out with pen and ink every one of the four
hundred pages of the fat duodecimo and committed
to memory hundreds of the most important words.
He thus gained in six months considerable knowl-
edge of the Holland language, though his pronuncia-
tion would have shocked even an African Dutchman.
He took his amusement, not in the tea-houses,
drinking-places, or theaters, but in studying the end-
less variety of street characters, the country folk,
the parades, festival celebrations and processions
at the daimi5s', as they came into the city from all
quarters of the empire. Etiquette and pride re-
quired each of these noblemen, according to his
rank, to make his full show of horses, palanquins,
state umbrellas, baggage -boxes, and all the para-
phernalia of feudal display. On the road, while
traveling, a daimio might, for economy's sake, get
along with only a few followers, since paying the
hotel bills of so many retainers was an onerous
burden; but once in Yedo, the full quota was a
necessity, with disgrace or punishment as an alter-
native. Hence as Honda Jiro soon found there
AT THE BIG GOLD-FISH. 219
were dealers whose stock-in-trade was empty trunks,
parade ornaments, ceremonial uniforms, and men to
be hired. He soon learned to recognize the same
faces, the same bare legs and top-knots, the same
clothes, and the identical trumpery turning up, day
after day, in different processions entering Yedo
from various points of the compass. The daimio
might be from Yezo or Kiushiu, but the same faces
and legs and top-knots reappeared under the differ-
ent coats marked with the varying coat-of-arms.
Having bought a book on heraldry, a pocket dic-
tionary of the feudal nobility, he was able at once
to recognize the train of any one of the three hun-
dred or more province rulers or petty vassals of the
lord of Yedo, the Tycoon.
Of the other two friends, teacher and pupil, the
former kept busy at books, waiting to see whether
his proposition to the government to send Japanese
to Europe to buy a man-of-war ship and to learn
western civilization should be approved. He had not
long to wait ; for although the authorities vetoed
his suggestion, yet it was in the form of substantial
victory for him. The law of lye'yasu, passed in
1609, forbidding the building of seaworthy ships or
any craft holding over twenty-five hundred bushels,
thus allowing only small coasting-junks to be con-
structed, was repealed. The daimios were given per-
mission to build war-ships, which were to fly the
feudal flag or pennant of the clan at the foremast,
and the national flag of Japan, a red sun on a white
ground, at the peak or mainmast. This was really
220 HONDA THE SAMURAI.
the origin of the sun-flag as a national emblem,
though it had long been in use in an irregular way.
The military scholar, Egawa, who had learned gun-
nery from the Dutch at Nagasaki, was released from
prison and made instructor in musketry.
All this was so different from the treatment which
other proposers of new things had received im-
prisonment, hara-kiri, exile, and decapitation that
the teacher, being a man of sanguine temperament,
began to hope that the Yedo government had come
into new light, and that a new era was about to
dawn at once on Japan. Alas ! no. " The rat-catch-
ing cat hides its claws." The poor scholar was as a
mouse under the playful strokes of the cat's velvet
paws. As for his pupil, Noge* Toro, he heard early
in the opening of autumn that a ship flying the
double-eagle flag of Russia was at Nagasaki. There-
upon, without saying a word to a soul, he dropped
his books, and packing his traveling-basket, called
on his teacher to say good-by. His home was in
Choshiu, not many scores of miles from Nagasaki.
" So you are going to visit Nagasaki also, are
you ? " asked the teacher, who knew that night and.
day for months his pupil had pondered and dreamed
of voyaging to the great world of Europe.
"Yes; but do not let any one know it. I shall
visit my home."
" Ah ! yes ; here is a little shinjo [gift] and here is
a farewell stanza," said his teacher, as he thrust a
package of oval gold coins and a piece of poetry
into his pupil's sleeve.
AT THE BIG GOLD-FISH. 221
Sayonara (farewell) being said, Noge* Toro was
off. After seventeen days' journey, partly by land
and partly by water, the tired pilgrim reached Na-
gasaki to find the Russian vessel gone. Nothing
daunted, the pedestrian tramped back to Yedo in
order to be present when the American ships should
return. In Yedo he learned that a shipwrecked
fellow - countryman, brought from the Sandwich
Islands by an American sea-captain, had been at his
own request put into a whale-boat off the coast of
Japan and had reached his native province. The
government ordered him to Yedo to serve as in-
terpreter. To see this man and find out about
America was now Nogd Toro's aim. To get at him,
however, was impossible, as the spies were inces-
santly vigilant, day and night, in keeping isolated
this rare specimen of the Japanese who had seen
the outside world.
AN OBJECT LESSON IN WESTERN CIVILIZATION.
A VICTORY of peace celebrated with the splen-
-L\. dors of war ! Many a time in Japan's history
has this happened. The pageantry of arms has been
summoned to celebrate the return of peace after
long battle and bloodshed. The glory of costume,
the long procession of warriors with weapons and
armor, and the massing of fleets have mingled with
the imagery and symbolism of peace. Such festi-
vals have been celebrated at famous places and in
great cities, by Yoritomo and Taiko and lye'yasii;
but the spectacle of the ninth day of the third moon
of Ansel (March 8, 1854) was at a place almost un-
known to the Japanese, except to the farmers and
fishermen whose thatched cottages stood there. In
this tableau the old and the new mingled their
glories. The obscure place, now made the scene
of splendor and destined to become a mighty city
and the school of a new civilization, was Yokohama.
Land and water were combined to make the thea-
ter. Out in the bay, yet but a few hundred yards
from the strand, were ranged broadside to the shore
the ten war-vessels flying "the flag of the flowery
field." The steam frigates, three of the squadron,
the Susquehanna, Powhatan, and Mississippi, were
AN OBJECT LESSON. 223
the finest war-vessels then in the world. The Van-
dalia, Macedonian, and Lexington were stately frig-
ates. The Lexington, Southampton, and Supply
were store-ships. They were ranged in crescent
form, the flag-ship in the center. They had their
port-holes open and guns run out. How clear their
decks, shining their equipment, firm their spars,
stately their forms, and graceful their lines ! " Could
the men who built such ships be barbarians ? " asked
many a thoughtful Japanese.
Out beyond, towards the blue mountain-lined
shore of Kadzusa, was a longer crescent of Japanese
spy and guard boats, all flying gay flags, pennants,
and streamers, and with long bushy tassels like
horse-tails pendent from their prows. These were
intended to keep off the inquisitive hermits of a her-
mit nation from communicating with the American
" barbarians." Coming into and through the line of
boats was a long, stately, and double-decked barge
towed by a half-dozen boats full of stalwart scullers.
Carved and lacquered, gay with silken awnings and