« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
PROF. HENRY W. FARNAM:
Dear Sir:-My motives in writing this jejune little volume are, as you are aware, two:
1st. There seems to be no story told in this country of the Japanese boy's life by a Japanese boy himself. The following rambling sketches are incoherent and extremely meagre, I own; but you must remember that they are a boy's talks. Give him encouragement, and he will tell you more.
2d. The most important of my reasons is my desire to obtain the means to prosecute the studies I have taken up in America. Circumstances have obliged me to make my own way in this hard world. If I knew of a better step I should not have resorted to an indiscreet juvenile publication -a publication, moreover, of my own idle experiences, and in a language the alphabet of which I learned but a few years ago.
To you my sincere acknowledgments are due for encouraging me to write these pages. This kindness is but one of many, of which the public has no knowledge.
I am, sir,
Yours very truly,
NEW HAVEN, CT., September, 1889.
A JAPANESE BOY.
I WAS born in a small seaport town called Imabari, which is situated on the western coast of the island of Shikoku, the eastern of the two islands lying south of Hondo. The Imabari harbor is a miserable ditch; at low tide the mouth shows its shallow bottom, and one can wade across. People go there for clam-digging. Two or three little streams empty their waters into the harbor. A few junks and a number of boats are always seen standing in this pool of saltwater. In the houses surrounding it, mostly very old and ramshackle, are sold eatables and provisions, fishes are bought from the boats, or shelter is given to sailors.
When a junk comes in laden with rice, commission merchants get on board and strike for bargains. The capacity of the vessel is measured by the amount of rice it can carry. The grain merchant carries about him a good-sized bamboo a few inches long, one end of which is sharpened and the other closed, being cut just at a joint. He thrusts
the pointed end into bags of the rice. The bags are rice-straw, knitted together roughly into the shape of barrels. Having taken out samples in the hollow inside of the bamboo stick, the merchant first examines critically the physical qualities of the grains on the palm of his hand, and then proceeds to chew them in order to see how they taste. Years of practice enable him to state, after such simple tests, precisely what section of the country the article in question came from, although the captain of the vessel may claim to have shipped it from a famous rice-producing province.
About the harbor are coolies waiting for work. They are strong, muscular men, thinly clad, with easy straw sandals on. Putting a little cushion on the left shoulder, a coolie rests the rice-bag upon it and walks away from the ship to a store-house; his left hand passed around the burden and his right holding a short, stout, beak-like, iron hook fastened in the bag. In idle moments the coolies get together and indulge in tests of strength, lifting heavy weights, etc.
At a short distance to the right from the entrance of the harbor is a sanitarium. It is a huge, artificial cave, built of stone and mortar and heated by burning wood-fires in the inside. After it is sufficiently warmed the fire is extinguished, the smoke-escape shut, and the oven is ready for use. Invalids flock in with wet mats, which they use în sitting on the scalding rocky floor of the oven. Lifting the mat that hangs like a curtain at the entrance, they plunge into the suffocating hot air and remain there some time and emerge