The party was shown to a large room at the rear of the house. Frank suggested that a front room would be preferable, but the Doctor told him that in a Japanese hotel the rear of the establishment was the place of honor, and that in a hundred hotels of the true national type he would probably not be located half a dozen times in a front apartment. The room where they were was very speedily divided into three smaller ones by means of paper screens, such as we find in every Japanese house, and which are known to most Americans in consequence of the large number that have been imported in the last few years. They can be shifted with the rapidity of scenes in a theater, and the promptness with which the whole appearance of a house can be changed in a few minutes is an approach to the marvelous.
A Japanese Kitchen

There is very little of what we call privacy in a Japanese house, as the paper screens are no obstructers of sound, and a conversation in an ordinary tone can be heard throughout the entire establishment. It is said that this form of building was adopted at a time when the government was very fearful of conspiracies, and wished to keep everybody under its supervision. Down to quite recent times there was a very complete system of espionage all over the country, and it used to be said that when three persons were together, one of them was certain to be a spy, and the other two were pretty sure to be spies as well. At the time Commodore Perry went to Japan, it was the custom to set a spy over every official to observe what he did and report accordingly. The system has been gradually dropped, but it is said to exist yet in some quarters.

It was rather late, and our party were hungry. Consequently, the Doctor ordered dinner to be served as soon as possible, and they sat down to wait for it. The kitchen was near the entrance of the hotel, and in full view of the strangers as they came in. Fred could not help contrasting this arrangement with that of an American hotel, where the kitchen is quite out of sight, and not one visitor in a thousand ever gets the faintest glimpse of it. He thought the plan was well calculated to insure cleanliness in the management of the house, since the kitchen, being so prominently placed, would ruin the prosperity of the house if it were not properly kept. As there seemed to be no objection to their doing so, the boys went there and watched the preparation of the meal for which their appetites were waiting.

They found a large and well-lighted room in the center of the house, and, as before stated, near the entrance. In the middle of this room there was a raised platform, with some little furnaces set in the floor. On this floor the cooking of some fish was going on under the supervision of a woman, who was watching to see that everything progressed satisfactorily. A few pots and pans were visible, but not a tenth of the number that would be found in the kitchen of a hotel of similar capacity in America. The Japanese cookery is not elaborate, and therefore only a few articles are required for it. A small fire in a brazier that could be carried in the hand is all that is needed to offset the enormous ranges with which we are familiar. From the roof two or three safes are hung for the preservation of such things as the dogs and cats might take a fancy to. At first glance they are frequently taken for bird cages, and this mistake was made by Fred, who innocently remarked that he wondered what kind of birds they kept there.
Boiling the Pot

At one side of the kitchen there was a long table, where the food was prepared previous to its introduction to the cooking pot, and near this table there was a series of shelves where the plates, cups, saucers, and other articles of the dinner service were kept. The kitchen could be shut off at night, like the other rooms, by means of paper screens, and it was here that the cook and her assistants slept when the labors of the day were over. The bedding, what little there was of it, was brought from a cupboard in one side of the room, and was altogether out of sight in the day. When not wanted, it was speedily put away, and a few minutes sufficed to convert the kitchen into a sleeping room, or the sleeping room into a kitchen.

In due time the dinner or supper, whichever it was called, was brought to our travelers, and they lost no time in sitting down to eat it. Or, rather, they squatted to it, as the hotel contained no chairs, or any substitute for them. The floor was covered with clean mats, in fact, it is very difficult to find dirty mats in Japan, and our travelers had followed the universal custom of removing their boots as they entered the front door. One of the complaints that the Japanese make against foreigners is that the latter often enter their houses without removing their boots, no matter if those boots are covered with mud and bring ruin to the neat mattings. It is always polite to offer to remove your foot-covering on going inside a Japanese dwelling, and a rudeness to neglect the offer. If the weather is dry and your shoes are clean, the host will tell you to remain as you are, and then you will be quite right to do so.

There was a laugh all around at the oddity of the situation in which the boys found themselves. They tried various positions in front of the little table that had been spread for them, but no attitude they could assume was thoroughly comfortable. They squatted, they knelt, and then they sat flat on the floor, but all to no purpose. They were uncomfortable, and no mistake. But they had a merry time of it, and both Fred and Frank declared they would not have missed this dinner in Japan for a great deal. It was a novelty, and they thought their schoolmates would envy them if they knew where they were.

The dinner consisted of stewed fish for the first course, and it was so thoroughly stewed that it resembled a thick soup. Then they had cold fish with grated radishes, and, finally, a composite dish of hard-boiled eggs, cut in two, and mixed with shrimps and seaweed. The table was cleared after each course before the next was brought, and the food was served in shallow bowls, which were covered to retain the heat. At the side of each person at table there were two cups. One of these contained soy, a sort of vinegar flavored with spices of different kinds, and in which each mouthful of food was dipped before it was swallowed. It is said that our word "sauce" comes from the Japanese (or Chinese) word which has just been quoted. The other cup was for sake, a beverage which has been already mentioned in the pages of this book. They were not inclined to sake, but the soy was to their taste, and Frank was especially warm in its praise.
Frank's Inventory

Not liking sake, they called for tea, and in a moment the servant appeared with a steaming teapot. The flavor of the herb was delicious, and the boys partook liberally of the preparation. While they were engaged in tea drinking, Frank made an inventory of the furniture of the room for the benefit of his sister and Miss Effie, in case they should wish to fit up a room in Japanese style to welcome him home. Here is what he found:

No chairs, no sofas, no benches, nothing but the rush matting to sit upon.

No clocks, no pictures on the walls, no mirrors. In fact, the room was quite bare of ornament.

Two small tables, about twelve inches high and fifteen inches square. These tables held the dinner and tea service, and were removed when the meal was over.

A little low stool, on which was a broad and very flat pot for holding hot water to put in the tea.

Another stool for holding anything that was not wanted at the moment.

A lamp stand with three lamps. One was octagonal, and on the top of an upright stick. The others were oval, and hung at the ends of a horizontal bar of metal. Each lantern bore an inscription in Japanese. It was painted on the paper of which all the lanterns were composed, and as the light shone through, the letters were plainly to be seen. They were more visible than readable to our friends, as may be readily inferred.

This completed the furniture of the room. When it was removed after dinner, Frank remarked that the only furniture remaining was Doctor Bronson, Fred, and himself. And, as they were quite weary after their ride, they were disposed to be as quiet as well-regulated furniture usually is.
How the Japanese Sleep

When it was time to go to sleep, the servant was called and the beds were made up. A thickly wadded quilt was spread on the floor for each person, and another was used for the covering. The quilt was not quite thick enough to take away all suggestion of hardness from the floor, and the covering was not the most convenient one in the world. Frank said that when the quilt was over him, he was altogether too warm, and when it was off he was too cold. Fred declared that his experience was exactly like that of Frank, except that it was more so. He had been bitten by fleas during the night, and, as he couldn't speak Japanese, he could not tell them to go away, at least, not in any language they would understand. Then the walls of the room were thin, or, rather, there were no walls at all. They had heard all the noises that the house afforded, and, as pilgrims were coming and going all night, and some of those in the building were engaged in a noisy game of an unknown character, sleep was not easy. The boys were wearier after their night's rest than before they took it, and they agreed that they could not recommend a Japanese inn as the quietest spot in the world. They rose very early, and would have been up much sooner if there had been any way of getting up.

They went down to the waterside to try the effects of a bath in the surf as it rolled in from the Pacific Ocean. They found it refreshing, and were tempted to linger long in the foam-crested waves. Nearby there was a fishing place, where several Japanese were amusing themselves with rod and line, just as American boys and men take pleasure in the same way. Fish seemed to be abundant, as they were biting freely, and it took but a short time to fill a basket. In the little harbor formed between the island and the shore several junks and boats were at anchor, and in the foreground some smaller boats were moving about. There was not an American feature to the scene, and the boys were thoroughly delighted at this perfect picture of Japanese life. It was sea life, too, and they had island and main, water and mountain, boats and houses, all in a single glance.
A Japanese Fishing Scene

The Japanese are great lovers of fish, and, fortunately for them, the coasts and bays which indent the country are well provided with finny life. The markets of Yokohama, Tokyo, Osaka, and all the other great cities of Japan are well supplied with fish, and the business of catching them gives occupation to thousands of men. Many of the Japanese are fond of raw fish which has been killed at the table, and is to be eaten immediately.

In the interior of Japan, a traveler on the great roads, and on the smaller ones too, will sometimes see a runner carrying a couple of open pans, slung at the ends of a pole over his shoulder. He will observe that these pans contain water, and that there is a single fish in each pan. The man goes at a rapid pace, and keeps his eyes on his burden, to make sure that the water is not spilled.

These runners are in the employ of the men who supply live fish for the tables of those who live at a distance from the sea or from the lakes, and are willing to pay for the luxury. A runner stands waiting, and the instant the fish is in his charge he is off. If the distance is great, there are relays of men stationed along the route, and so the precious merchandise goes forward from one to the other without a moment's delay. Only the wealthy can afford this mode of transporting fish, as the cost is often very heavy. Some of the princes, in the olden time, were in the habit of eating fresh fish at their tables every day that had been brought in this way for a hundred and fifty miles. Great quantities of fish are still carried in this manner, but not for such long distances as formerly. Many fish are transported on horseback, in barrels of water, but the most delicate and valuable are borne only on the shoulders of men, as the jolting of a horse will soon kill them.
Breakfast is Ready

After their bath, the boys returned with the Doctor to their breakfast in the hotel. The breakfast was almost identical with the dinner of the previous evening, and as their appetites were not set so sharply, the consumption of food was not so great. After breakfast they went on a stroll through the streets of the town and up the sharp hill where it is built. The shops along the streets were filled with curiosities, made principally from shells and other marine products, and the Doctor said he was forcibly reminded of Naples, Genoa, and other seaport places along the Mediterranean. There were numerous conch shells, and Fred was desirous of blowing them, until told by the Doctor that they had probably been blown by many of the Japanese pilgrims, and he would run the risk of contracting some troublesome disease which had been left from the sores on their lips. So the boys were cautious, and politely rejected the invitation of the dealers to make a trial of the sonorous qualities of their wares. They bought a few small shells and some pieces of shell jewelry, which would be sure to please the girls at home.

There are several small temples and shrines on the island, and the most of them are in picturesque spots in the forest, or on crags that overlook the sea. As they walked about they met parties of pilgrims on their way to these shrines, and on the summit they found a shaded resting place, where some chairs had been set out on a cliff overlooking the broad waters of the Pacific. Two or three servants were in attendance, and our party thought they could not do better than stop awhile and sip some of the fragrant tea of Japan. So they sat down, and in a few moments the tea was before them. The teahouse was not a large one, and, as Frank expressed it, the most of the house was out of doors and under the shade of the trees.

As everyone knows who has read about the country, Japan contains a great many teahouses, or places of rest and refreshment. They are to Japan what the beer hall is to Germany, the wine shop to France, or the whiskey saloon to America, with the difference in their favor that they are much more numerous, and patronized by all types of people. The first visitors to Japan came away with erroneous notions about the character of the teahouse, and these errors have found their way into books on the country and been repeated many times, to the great scandal of the people of the empire of the Mikado. The truth is that the teahouse is a perfectly reputable and correct place in nineteen cases out of twenty. It may have a bad character in the twentieth instance, just as there is now and then a hotel in New York or other city that is the resort of thieves and various bad persons. Most people in Japan, who can afford to do so, resort to the teahouses, either in the hot hours of the day or in the evening. One can purchase, in addition to tea, a variety of light refreshments, and the building is almost invariably well ventilated and prettily situated. A person may sit in public if he wishes, or he may have one of the rooms partitioned off for himself and be quite secluded. The rooms are made, as in the hotels and other houses, by means of paper partitions, and can be formed with great rapidity.
Interior of a Teahouse

At Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, and other large and wealthy cities many of the teahouses are so extensive that they take the name of gardens, and cover large areas of ground. The attendants are invariably girls, and the number is by no means stingy. They are selected for their intelligence and good looks, as the business of the house depends considerably upon the attractiveness of the servants. Their movements are graceful, and a Japanese teahouse, with its bevy of attendants, is no unpleasant sight. Foreigners in Japan are liberal patrons of the teahouses, and many a stranger has found a cordial welcome within the walls of one of these popular establishments.

From the teahouse at the top of the hill, Doctor Bronson led the way down a steep path to the sea. At the end of the path, and opening upon the sea, there is a cavern which the Japanese consider sacred. Formerly they would not allow a stranger to enter the cavern for fear of polluting it, but at present they make no opposition, for the double reason that they have found the cave remains as if nothing had happened, and, moreover, the stranger is so willing to pay for the privilege of exploration that a considerable sum is annually obtained from him. When the tide is in, the cave can only be entered by means of a boat, but at low water one can creep along a narrow ledge of rock where a pathway has been cut, which he can follow to the terminus. Our party engaged a guide with torches, and were taken to the end of the cave, where they found a scary-looking idol that was the presiding divinity of the place. A shrine had been erected here, and when it was lighted up the appearance was fairly imposing. The pilgrims consider it a pious duty to visit this shrine whenever they come to the island, and it has become quite famous throughout Japan.

The boys were not inclined to stay long in the cave, as the sound of the waters beating in at the entrance was almost deafening. They very soon sought the open air, where a new entertainment awaited them. There was a group of men and boys on the rocks at the entrance of the cavern, and they called to the strangers to throw coins into the water and see how soon they could be recovered by diving. Frank threw a small piece of silver into the clear water of the Pacific, and in an instant half a dozen boys sprang for it. One of them caught it before it reached the bottom, and came up with the piece in his mouth. Several coins were thrown, with a similar result, and finally it was proposed to let the money reach the bottom before the divers started. This was done, and, as the depth was about twelve feet, the work of finding the bit of silver was not very easy. But it was found and brought to the surface, and after the divers had been complimented on their skill, our friends moved on. It is hardly necessary to add that the money thrown into the water became the property of the youth who secured it. Though it was rumored that the divers were associated, and everything obtained went into a common purse. The Asian people are famous for their guilds, or labor and trade associations, and nearly every occupation in life is under the control of a guild, which has very arbitrary rules. It is not at all impossible that the boys who dive for small coins at Enoshima are under the control of an association, and that its rules and regulations may have been in force for hundreds of years.

As the walk through the woods would have been fatiguing, and it was near the middle of the day, when the sun was high and the heat severe, Doctor Bronson engaged a boat to take the party back to the hotel. They returned safely, and, after resting awhile, went on another walk, in a direction slightly different from the first.
A Group of Japanese Women

They soon found themselves among the huts of the fishermen, and the quantity of fish that lay around in various stages of preparation told that the business was not without prosperity. In a secluded part of the island they came upon a pretty summer house, where a wealthy citizen of Tokyo spent the hot months of the year. Through the gateway of the garden they had a glimpse of a group of three ladies that were evidently out for an airing. Frank thought he had never seen a prettier group in all his life, and while he looked at them he whispered his opinion to Fred.

Fred agreed with him, and then added, "I tell you what, Frank, we'll get three dresses just like those, if they don't cost too much, and when we get home, we'll have Miss Effie and your sister and my sister put them on. Then we'll arrange the garden to look like that one as much as possible, with a little furnace and teapot in front of the girls, and the pedestal of a statue near them. Won't that be nice?"

Frank agreed that it would, and, lest he should forget the arrangement of the group, he made a rough sketch of the scene, and said they could rely upon photographs for the costumes and their colors. If they got the dresses, the girls could easily arrange them with the aid of the pictures.

When the sketch was finished, they returned to the hotel. The tide was now out, and so the Doctor settled their account and they started for Yokohama, following the most direct route, and making no halts for sightseeing. They arrived late in the evening, well pleased with their excursion to Daibutsu and Enoshima, and determined to give their friends at home a full and faithful account of what they had seen and learned.


Study the chapter for one week.

Over the week:

  • Read and/or listen to the chapter.
  • Review the vocabulary terms.
  • Complete the enrichment activities.


Paper Screen: A physical divider made of paper and intended to block an area from view.
Espionage: The act or process of learning secret information through undercover or clandestine means.
Quilt: A covering consisting of two layers of fabric stitched together, with insulation between, often having a decorative design.
Runner: Those that carry fish, running over the land to transport fresh fish from the sea to the homes of the wealthy.
Marine: Of or pertaining to the sea.
Conch: A marine mollusk of the family Strombidae which lives in its own spiral shell.
Teahouse: A cafe or restaurant that serves tea, usually with light food.


Activity 1: Narrate the Chapter

  • Narrate the events aloud in your own words.

Activity 2: Study the Chapter Pictures

  • Study the chapter pictures and describe how each relates to the story.

Activity 3: Observe the Modern Equivalent

  • Examine the chapter setting in modern times: A view of a building on Enoshima island, Japan.

Activity 4: Map the Chapter

  • Find the country of Japan on the map of the world.
  • Find the cities of Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto.
  • Find the island of Enoshima (lower left-hand side).

Activity 5: Map the Chapter on a Globe

  • Repeat the mapwork from Activity 4 on a three-dimensional globe.