|Home -> Other California History Books -> The Log of the Empire State - Chapter VI|
We did not know that when we boarded the special train chartered by the Tokyo Chamber of Commerce to take the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce representatives to inspect the silk filatures, that a delightful luncheon, or as it is called there, "Tiffin," was awaiting us under the trees.
Although the heat was oppressive, it was surprising to see how ceaselessly, and apparently without pain, little girls from twelve years up, kept five cocoons unrolling at once, in boiling water, in order to make a single thread of silk. We were told that these girls worked from twelve to fourteen hours a day, for which they receive forty cents a day and food, getting a bonus at the end of the year, which amounts to approximately one months' salary. Sundays are not holidays in Japan, but workers have two days off a month.
We saw the whole process, from the sorting of the yellow and white cocoons to the huge bolts ready for the market, while one of our smiling hosts significantly remarked, "The yellow and white blend very nicely together."
We were interested in learning that the principal owner of this huge plant has adopted his wife's family name in order to follow the custom of not allowing a family name to die out, in case there are no sons and none have been adopted.
As over one-third of Japan's trade is with the United States, and a large portion of that is in silk, our clever hosts had printed on the cover of the booklet presented to us, "Silk is the shining cord that binds United States and Japan."
The San Francisco Chamber of Commerce representatives had been given the year book of Japan, all sorts of pamphlets containing figures and facts concerning various enterprises, and so a day at Nikko, away from statistics, was most welcome.
Nikko's sacred grove of Cryptomerie trees said to be over three hundred years old, never looked more impressive than in the first rain we had had while in Japan. One of the party who had traveled extensively in the Orient previously, advised us to forget our trade commercial mission long enough to see Nikko and then we could afford to overlook all the other temples. Certainly nature and man's art achieved a double triumph here, and this advice must have piqued the curiosity of most of the stolid businessmen of the party; for yellow strips of rubber and paper umbrellas were rented, and in spite of the downpour, the great stairs were mounted. Even comfy shoes were parted with in order to tread upon the cold marble floors of the ancient temples. We now know, shoes have to be checked with umbrellas at the outer doors in Japan.
We were not the only ones seeing Nikko at eight A. M. in the storm. Besides the groups of soldiers and the crowds of pilgrims from all over Japan, there was the ceaseless click-click of the wooden shoes of thousands of children on the stone steps.
When we left the cozy dining-room of the hotel with its charming outlook upon a mossy bank, where quaint shrubs were flourishing, we felt quite proud of ourselves for braving the weather, until we asked our guide why so many children were there that day. He said, "You see, it is such a fine day for an excursion, not too hot or cold, no one notices the rain."
On the way to the train we saw a queer old pawn shop, filled with wonderful antiques. Some of the party claim that the shop was bought out, so some of our San Francisco relatives will get an inkling from this where Santa Claus may have gotten some of their Christmas presents.
Most of us did not mind being scolded for over-paying our sweating rick-shaw coolies, but we all felt rather uncomfortable when we were told that we should never have paid the first price asked in any of the shops, and that our prize purchases could probably have been bought for half the price by a clever bargainer.
In a corner of the car, that was taking the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce party to Kyoto, the heart of Japan, sat a little Japanese girl in true Buddha style with her little toes crossed, filling her pipe from her purse and taking the usual three puffs (that is about all these pipes hold). She looked about fifteen, but must have been nineteen, because, in Japan no one is allowed to smoke until that age has been attained, and no native would think of breaking a rule.
We arrived in time for the Jidai Festival, which is held only once a year. We saw a procession showing all the phantastic costumes worn by the old-time tribal warriors, and it proved so interesting that we decided not to mourn the fact that the cherry blossom celebration was out of season. We felt much better, too, when we were reminded that all the pilgrims, coming to feast their eyes, never get a taste of the luscious fruit, the Japanese cherries being uneatable.
We were told that all prices were raised by the storekeepers when any convention arrived in town. Some of us successfully resisted purchasing cloissone, and satsuma ware, although we saw it being made and were served with tea and coaxed to buy - "Justa leetle souvenir." But the kimonos were too much for Mrs. Carrie Schwabacher and Louis Mooser, who, in spite of the fact that Mrs. Rockefeller was in Kyoto bidding on some of the same garments (which of course raised the prices even higher) carried away the prettiest garments in the shops.
Our party could not help noticing, how much the Japanese people, even of the lowest class, appreciate their temples and statues.
One of the party asked if anyone knew a person in San Francisco, with the possible exception of some scholarly teacher, who could describe even imperfectly the statues in Golden Gate Park. Here the Japanese journey miles to see a statue. The old scholars always preached the potency of something half concealed to stimulate the imagination, but it took a Japanese sage to conceive the idea of building a fine statue of a favorite war hero and then to bury it. And now thousands come to Kyoto to the very spot where the statue is buried, imagining its proportions, and praying for strength and success in their encounters.
We were told that the belief that the Emperor is a God-like being is strengthened by the fact that he is never seen and therefore his people's glorified imagery of him is never shattered. We were told that the Emperor is seen only by a carefully selected group twice a year, once at the Cherry Blossom season and once at the Chrysanthemum Festival, and if it rains on these days the reception is put off for another year.
Why, the mystery of the Orient was even found in our menus, and it did not take long for the Pandoras of our party to find out that "Bubble and Squeak" was good old ham and eggs and "Angels under Cover" were oysters wrapped in bacon.
After official business was over for the day, the party "did" Theatre Street, where our own movie queens reigned beside some poster depicting a Japanese soldier fighting a dragon. Byron Mauzy told us that our jazz music is often called for and that pianos with a specially made case to withstand the dampness, were in demand.
Our party found out why someone said, "There is as much red-tape necessary to go through a Japanese palace as there is to get married," for we faced the grim-armed soldiers at the outer gates, but were not allowed to enter until our credentials had been carefully inspected. Then we were permitted to go into a small outer room where we wrote our names, addresses, etc., in a large book. After a scrutiny of this and a long wait, giving them sufficient time to telephone and see if our passes were authentic, we were formally escorted through beautifully carved portals, past endless, handsomely decorated, empty rooms, over the squeaky door sill (that is supposed to warn the inmates of someone's approach) and finally to the canopied gold-mounted throne itself.
We began to feel a little easier, when we got out in the sun of the garden, but even there we felt formal, for in these sacred gardens no gay flower or dashing stream is permitted. Nature, too, must be subdued, and even the little trickle of water circling the buildings, was there for the sole purpose of suggesting purity, we were informed.
After the reception and investigation tour of Kobe, forty of the party boarded a train for Peking, under the direction of Hoover's representative, F. R. Eldridge.
We had enjoyed Fujiyama by moonlight, but did not know that we were also to glide by the Inland Sea at sunset. Korea's roads, built of course, by the Japanese soldiers, and the guarded stations of Manchuria, were of much interest to the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce investigators.
Every evening impromptu speeches on conditions were held in the dining car. M. A. Gale, Henry S. Bridge, and Louis Mooser also vied with each other telling funny stories, Carl Westerfeld contributing to the entertainment by organizing a group of the party into "The South Manchurian Quartet." Dave and Resse Lewellyn started to sing "Annie Rooney" and "Mother McCree" whenever things were too quiet.
We stopped long enough at Seoul, Korea, to talk to representatives of trade and commerce and to chat with the "Grand Old Man of Korea," before arriving in Peking.