Frank thought it was pretty nearly time to be thinking about the purchases he was to make for Mary. So he looked up the paper she gave him before his departure, and sat down to examine it. The list was not by any means a short one, and on consulting with the Doctor he learned that it would make a heavy inroad upon his stock of cash if he bought everything that was mentioned. He was rather disconcerted at the situation, but the good Doctor came to his relief.
Frank's Purchase

"It is nothing unusual," said he, "for persons going abroad to be loaded down with commissions that they are unable to execute. A great many people, with the best intentions in the world, ask their friends who are going to Europe to bring back a quantity of things, without stopping to think that the purchase of those things will involve a heavy outlay that cannot be easily borne by the traveler. The majority of people who go abroad have only a certain amount of money to expend on their journeys, and they cannot afford to lock up a considerable part of that money in purchases that will only be paid for on their return, or quite as often are never paid for at all. There is a good little story on this subject, and it may be of use to you to hear it.

"A gentleman was once leaving New York for a trip to Europe, and many of his friends gave him commissions to execute for them. Some were thoughtful enough to give him the money for the articles they wanted, but the majority only said, 'I'll pay you when you get back, and I know how much it comes to.' When he returned, he told them that a singular circumstance had happened in regard to the commissions. 'The day after I sailed,' said he, 'I was in my room arranging the lists of things I was to get for my friends, and I placed the papers in two piles. Those that had the money with them I put in one pile, and the money on top, and those that had no money with them I put in another pile. The wind came in and set things flying all around the room. The papers that had the money on them were held down by it, but those that had no money to keep them in place were carried out of the window and lost in the sea. And so you see how it is that the commissions that my friends gave me the money for are the only ones I have been able to execute.'

"But in the present case," said Doctor Bronson, "it is all right, as your father privately gave me the money to buy the articles your sister wants. So you can go ahead and get them without any fear that you will trench on the amount you have for your personal expenses."
Fan-Makers at Work

The boys went on a round of shopping, and kept it up, at irregular intervals, during their stay in Japan. And in their shopping excursions they learned much about the country and people that they would not have been likely to know of in any other way.

One of the first things on the list was a silk wrapper with nice embroidery. This gave rather a wide latitude in the way of selection, and Frank was somewhat puzzled what to get. He went to the store of one of the greatest silk merchants of Yokohama and stated his wants. He was bewildered by the variety of things placed before him, and by their great beauty in color and workmanship. There were so many pretty things for sale there that he did not know when to stop buying, and he privately admitted to Fred that it was fortunate he was restricted in the amount he was to expend, or he would be in danger of buying out the whole of the establishment. He found the goods were admirably adapted to the foreign taste, and, at the same time, they preserved the national characteristics that gave them value as the products of Japan.

He selected a robe of a delicate blue, and finely embroidered with silk of various colors. The embroideries represented flowers and leaves in curious combinations, and when the robe was placed on a frame where the light could fall full upon it, Frank thought he had never seen anything half so pretty. And it is proper to add that he bought two of these robes. Why he should buy two, when he had only one sister, and she would not be likely to want two wrappers of the same kind, I leave the reader to guess.
Chinese Cloisonné on Metal

Then there were fans on the list, and he went in pursuit of fans. He found them, and he thus had the opportunity of seeing the fan-makers at work. He found that there is a great variety in the fans which the Japanese make, and that the articles vary from prices which are astonishingly low to some which are dear in proportion. There is such a large trade in fans that he expected to find an extensive factory, employing hundreds of hands. He found, instead, that the fan-makers work on a very small scale, and that one person generally does only a small portion of the work, then turns it over to another, who does a little more, and so on. Certain low-priced fans are all finished in one shop, but with the high grades this is not the case, and, from first to last, a fan must pass through a good many hands. The fan-makers include women as well as men in their guild, and Frank thought it was by no means an unpleasant sight to see the women seated on the floor in front of low benches and gracefully handling the parts of the fan that was approaching completion in consequence of their manipulations.

Mary had been seized with the prevailing mania for Japanese porcelain, and among the things in her list she had noted especially and underscored the words "some good things in Japanese cloisonné." Frank had seen a good many nice things in this kind of work, and he set about selecting, with the help of the Doctor and Fred, the articles he was to send home. He bought some in Yokohama, some in Tokyo, and later on he made some purchases in Kobe and Kyoto. We will look at what he bought and see if his sister had reason to be pleased when the consignment reached her and was unpacked from its carefully arranged wrappings.
Chinese Cloisonné on Metal

For hundreds of years Japan has been famous for its productions of porcelain of various kinds, from the tiny cup no larger than a lady's thimble to the elaborately decorated vase with a capacity of many gallons. Each province of Japan has its peculiar product, and sometimes one is in fashion, and sometimes another. For the last few years the favor has turned in the direction of Satsuma ware, which has commanded enormous figures, especially for the antique pieces. So great was the demand for old Satsuma that a good many manufacturers turned their attention to its production. They offer to make it to any amount, just as the wine-dealers in New York can accommodate a customer with wine of any vintage he requires, if he will only give them time enough to put on the proper labels. It is proper to say, on behalf of the Japanese, that they learned this trick from the foreigners, and their natural shrewdness has taught them to improve upon the lesson, so that in some instances they have actually sold to their instructors new ware for old, and convinced the purchasers of its genuineness.

We have not space enough to go into a full account of art in Japan, as a whole volume could be written on the subject without exhausting it. Frank followed the directions in Mary's note to find some good things in cloisonné, and, as he did not pay much attention to other matters, we will, for the present at least, follow his example and take a look at this branch of art in Japan.
Japanese Bowl

Frank thought it would be proper to have his sister understand the process by which the articles she desired were prepared, and, with the assistance of Doctor Bronson, he was able to write her an account of it that she could study, and, if she chose, could read or tell to her friends. Here is what he produced on the subject:

"The term cloisonné comes from the French word cloison, which means a field or enclosure, and you will see as you go on how appropriate it is to this kind of work. If you examine the bowl which you will find in the box, you will see that it has a groundwork of light blue, and that on this groundwork there are fine threads of brass enclosing little squares and other figures in colors quite different from the body of the bowl. If you look at the cover, you will find that these squares and figures are repeated, and also that there are three circles, like plates with serrated edges, that seem to be lying on the top of the cover. These plates, or circles, have pictures of flowers on them, and the designs of the flowers on each one are different from those of the other two. Every leaf and petal is distinct from the others by means of the brass wires, and the colors do not at any time run together.

"In the first place, the bowl of plain porcelain is ground, so that the enamel will stick closely, which it would not do if the surface were glazed. Then the artist makes a design, on paper, of the pattern he intends putting on the bowl. When his design is finished, he lays it on a flat surface, and takes little pieces of brass wire which has been passed between rollers so that it becomes flattened. These he bends with pincers, so that they take the shape of the figure he wants to represent. Thus he goes over his whole design until every part of the outline, every leaf, flower, and stem, in fact, every line of his drawing, is represented by a piece of wire bent to the exact shape. The wire then forms a series of partitions. Each fragment of it is a cell, or cloison, intended to retain the enamel in place and keep the colors from spreading or mingling. That is the first step in the work.
Cover of Japanese Bowl

"The second step is to attach these flattened threads of wire by their edges to the bowl. This is done by means of a fusible glass, which is spread over the surface of the bowl in the form of paste. The bits of wire are carefully laid in their places in the paste, and the bowl is then baked just enough to harden the surface and make it retain the threads where they belong. Now comes the third step.

"This consists of filling the little cells or enclosures with the proper enamel, and, to do this correctly, the original design must be carefully followed. The design is drawn in colors, and as the artist proceeds with his work he has the colors ready mixed in little cups that are ranged before him. These colors are like thick pastes of powdered glass mixed with the proper pigments, and one by one the cells of the surface are filled up. Then the groundwork is filled in the same way, and when all this is done, the bowl is put into the oven and submitted to a strong heat.
Chinese Metal Vase

"The baking serves to fix the colors firmly in their cells, as the fire is hot enough to melt the glass slightly and fuse it to a perfect union with the body of the bowl. For common work, a single coating of enamel and a single baking are sufficient, but for the finer grades this will not answer. Another coating of colors is laid on, and perhaps a third or a fourth, and after each application the bowl is baked again. When this process is finished, the surface is rough, and the bowl is not anything like what we see it now. It must be polished smooth, and, with this object, it is ground and rubbed, first with coarse stones, then with finer ones, then with emery, and finally with powdered charcoal. In this way the bowl was brought to the condition in which you will find it, if it comes all right and uninjured from the box. A good many pieces of this ware are broken in the handling, and consequently they add to the price of those that come out unharmed.

"The fine threads of brass that run through the surface give a very pretty appearance to the work, as they look like gold, and are perfectly even with the rest of what has been laid on to the original bowl. In some of the most expensive of the enamel-work the threads are of fine gold instead of brass, but there is no particular advantage in having them of gold, as the brass answers all purposes and the gold serves as a temptation to robbers. There is an endless variety of designs in cloisonné work, and you see so many pretty things in porcelain that you are at a loss what to choose.
Modern Chinese Cloisonné on Metal

"But the artists do not confine themselves to porcelain. They do a great deal of enameling on metal, and some of their productions in this way are quite as interesting as their enameling on porcelain. They did not invent the art, so it is said, but borrowed it from the Chinese, who had in their turn borrowed it from Persia or some other of the Central Asian countries. Some of the Japanese artists claim that the art was borrowed from their country, but the most of those who have studied the subject say that this claim is incorrect. But no matter who invented the process, it is very beautiful and is of great antiquity. It is capable of a great many variations, and, although it has been in use for centuries, hardly a year passes without some improvements in it. In making the metal enamels the strips of brass are soldered to the surface and the cavities are filled up with the liquid coloring. The whole is then baked as in the porcelain process, and the surface of the work is carefully polished until all the lines are fully developed and the completed article shines like glass.

"I shall send you," Frank added, "several specimens of this kind of work, and I am sure that all of you will be delighted with them. In addition to the Japanese enamel, I have been able to pick up a few from China by the help of a gentleman who has been a long time in the country, and knows where to get the best things. And as I can't get all I want, I shall send you some pictures of very rare specimens, and you can judge by them of the quality of what you have. It is very difficult to find some of the varieties, as there have been a good many men out here making purchases for the New York and London markets, and they gather up everything that is curious. The demand is so great that the Japanese makers have all they can do to supply it, but I suppose that in a few years the taste of the public will change, and then you can buy all you want. But you can't get tired all at once of the pretty things that I have found, and I think that the more you look at the pictures on the bowls and plates, the more you will admire them. You are fond of birds and flowers, and you will find them on the porcelain, and there is one piece that has a river and some mountains on it, as well defined as if it were a painting on a sheet of paper. Look at the bridge over the river, and the trees on the side of the mountain, and then say if you ever saw anything nicer. I am in love with the Japanese art work, and sorry I can't buy more of it. And I think that is the case with most people who come to Japan, and take the trouble to look at the nice things it contains."
Chinese Porcelain Cloisonné

Mary's list included some carvings in ivory and some lacquered boxes to keep her gloves in. These were not at all difficult to find, as they were everywhere in the shops, and it would have been much harder to avoid them if he had wanted to do so. There were chessmen of ivory, and representations of the divinities of the country, and then there were little statues of the kings and high dignitaries from ancient times down to the present. As it was a matter of some perplexity, Frank sought the advice of Doctor Bronson. The latter told him it would be just as well to restrain himself in the purchase of ivory carvings, as there was better work of the kind in China, and a few samples of the products of Japan would be sufficient. Frank acted upon this hint, and did not make any extensive investments in Japanese ivory. He found a great variety of what the Japanese call "nitschkis," which are small pieces of ivory carved in various shapes more or less fanciful. They were pretty, and had the merit of not being at all dear, and as they would make nice little souvenirs of Japan, he bought a good many of them. They are intended as ornaments to be worn at a gentleman's girdle, and in the olden times no gentleman considered his dress complete without one or more of these at his waist, just as most of the fashionable youths of America think that a scarf-pin is necessary to make life endurable. A large number of carvers made a living by working in ivory, and they displayed a wonderful amount of patience in completing their designs. One of these little carvings with which Frank was fascinated was a representation of a man mounting a horse with the assistance of a groom, who was holding the animal. The piece was less than two inches in length, and yet the carver had managed to put in this contracted space the figures of two men and a horse, with the dress of the men and the trappings of the horse as carefully shown as in a painting. There was a hole in the pedestal on which the group stood, and Frank found, on inquiry, that this hole was intended for the passage of a cord to attach the ornament to the waist of the wearer. And then he observed that all the carvings had a similar provision for rendering them useful.
Group Carved in Ivory

Frank also ascertained that another ornament of the Japanese waist-belt was a pipe and a tobacco-pouch, the two being so inseparable that they formed a single article. The pipe was a tiny affair which only held a pinch of tobacco the size of a pea, and he learned that the smoker, in using it, took but a single whiff and then found the bowl exhausted. When not in use, the pipe was carried in a little case, which was made, like the pouch, of leather, and was generally embroidered with considerable care. Many of the pipe-cases were made of shark-skin, which has the double merit of being very durable and also quite pretty. It is polished to a condition of perfect smoothness, and the natural spots of the skin appear to be as regular as though drawn by an artist. Frank tried a few whiffs of the tobacco and found it very weak. He was thus informed of the reason why a Japanese can smoke so much as he does without being seriously affected by it. He can get through with a hundred of these little pipes in a day without the least trouble, and more if the time allows.
Japanese Pipe, Case, and Pouch

Of lacquer-ware, of all kinds and prices, there was literally no end. There were trays and little boxes which could be had for a shilling or two, and there were cabinets and work-stands with numerous drawers and sliding panels curiously contrived, that a hundred dollars, or even five hundred, would not buy. Between these two figures there was a wide range, so that the most modest purse could be gratified as well as the most plethoric one. Frank found that the dealers did not put their best goods where they could be most readily seen. The front of a shop contained only the most ordinary things, and if you wanted to look at the better articles, it was necessary to say so. When the merchant knew what his customer wanted, he led the way to the rear store, or perhaps to an upper floor, where the best goods were kept. It was necessary to walk very carefully in these shops, as they were very densely crowded with goods, and the least incaution might result in overthrowing some of the brittle articles. A clumsy visitor in one of these establishments a few days before Frank called there had broken a vase valued at fifty dollars, and while stooping to pick up the fragments he knocked down another worth nearly half that amount. He paid for the damage, and in future declined to go around loosely in a Japanese store.

The Japanese lacquer of the present time is not so highly prized as that of the last or the previous century. It is not so well made, partly for the reason that the workmen have lost their skill in the art, and partly because labor is much more expensive now than formerly. The prices obtained for some of the specimens of this kind of work have been very high, but they are not enough to meet the advance that has been made in wages in the past few years. The manufacturers are anxious to turn their money as rapidly as possible, and consequently they do not allow their productions to dry thoroughly. To be properly prepared, a piece of lacquer should dry very slowly, and it used to be said that the best lacquer was dried under water, so that the process should not be too rapid. The article, whatever it may be, is first shaped from wood or papier-mâché, and then covered with successive coatings of varnish or lacquer. This is made from the gum of a tree, or, rather, from the juice, and it is said to have the peculiar property of turning black from exposure to the air, though it is of a milky whiteness when it exudes from the tree. It can be made to assume various colors by the addition of pigments. While it is in a fresh condition, coatings of gold leaf are laid on to form the figures that the artist has designed. Every coating must be dried before the next is laid on, and the more elaborate and costlier the work, the more numerous are the coatings. Sometimes there may be a dozen or more of them, and pieces are in existence that are said to have received no less than fifty applications of lacquer. A box may thus require several years for its completion, as the drying process should never be hastened, lest the lacquer crack and peel when exposed to the air, and especially to heat. Good lacquer can be put into hot water without the least injury, but this is not the case with the ordinary article.
Japanese Artist Chasing on Copper

In 1874 a steamer was lost on the coast of Japan. She had as a part of her cargo the Japanese goods from the Vienna Exhibition, and none of them were recovered for nearly a year. There they lay under the saltwater, and it was supposed that nearly everything would be ruined. But it was found that the lacquered ware had suffered very little, and some of these very articles were shown at Philadelphia in 1876. A few of the pieces required to be freshly polished, but there were many of them that did not need even this slight attention.

The boys were greatly interested in their shopping excursions, and learned a good deal about Japanese art and industry before they had ended their purchases. By the time they were through they had an excellent collection of porcelain and other ware, of ivory carvings, lacquered boxes, and similar things. Silk robes, wrappers, and handkerchiefs, and quite enough fans to set up a small museum. They tried at first to get a sample of each kind of fan that they could find, but the variety proved so great that they were forced to give up the attempt.
A Japanese Village - Bamboo Poles Ready for Market

They bought some curious articles of bamboo, and were surprised to find to how many uses this vegetable production is put. Frank thought it was a pity the bamboo did not grow in America, and Fred was inclined to agree with him. They changed their minds, however, when the Doctor told them how far the bamboo entered into the life of the people of the East, and on the whole they concluded that the American couldn't improve upon it.

"The bamboo," said the Doctor, "is of use from a very early age. The young shoots are boiled and eaten, or soaked in sugar, and preserved as confectionery. The roots of the plant are carved so as to resemble animals or men, and in this shape are used as ornaments, and when the bamboo is matured, and of full size, it is turned to purposes almost without number. The hollow stalks are used as water-pipes. Rafts are made of them. The walls and roofs of houses are constructed from them, and they serve for the masts of smaller boats and the yards of larger ones. The light and strong poles which the servants place over their shoulders for bearing burdens are almost invariably of bamboo, and where it grows abundantly it is used for making fences and sheds, and for the construction of nearly every implement of agriculture. Its fibers are twisted into rope, or softened into pulp for paper. Every article of furniture is made of bamboo, and so are hats, umbrellas, fans, cups, and a thousand other things. In fact, it would be easier to say what is not made of it in these Eastern countries than to say what is, and an attempt at a mere enumeration of its uses and the articles made from it would be tedious. Take away the bamboo from the people of Japan and China, and you would deprive them of their principal means of support, or, at any rate, would make life a much greater burden than it now is."


Study the chapter for one week.

Over the week:

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


Commission: A sending or mission to do or accomplish something.
Wrapper: A loose robe or dressing gown.
Embroidery: The ornamentation of fabric using needlework.
Cloisonné: A decorative technique for metalwork, especially brass, whereby colored enamel is baked between raised ridges of the metal.
Porcelain: A hard, white, translucent ceramic that is made by firing kaolin and other materials.
Ivory: The hard white form of dentin which forms the tusks of elephants, walruses, and other animals.
Bamboo: A grass characterized by its woody, hollow, round, straight, jointed stem.


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: Shopping in the city of Tokyo, Japan.

Activity 4: Map the Chapter

  • Find the country of Japan on the map of the world.
  • Find the cities where the boys shopped - Yokohama, Tokyo, Kobe, and Kyoto - on the map of Japan.

Activity 5: Map the Chapter on a Globe

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