Historic Tales, Vol. 12 (of 15) - The Romance of Reality
by Charles Morris
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The army of Japan, which lay encamped on the hills back of the fortified city of Daizaifu, in the island of Kiushiu, and gathered in ranks along the adjoining coast, gazed with curiosity and dread on this mighty fleet, far the largest they had ever seen. Many of the vessels were of enormous size, as it seemed to their unaccustomed eyes, and were armed with engines of war such as they had never before beheld. The light boats of the Japanese had little hope of success against these huge junks, and many of those that ventured from shelter were sunk by the darts and stones flung from the Mongol catapults. The enemy could not be matched upon the sea; it remained to prevent him from setting foot upon shore.

Yet the courage and daring of the island warriors could not be restrained. A party of thirty swam out and boarded a junk, where their keen-edged swords proved more than a match for the Tartar bows and spears, so that they returned with the heads of the crew. A second party tried to repeat a like adventure, but the Tartars were now on the alert and killed them all. One captain, with a picked crew, steered out in broad daylight to a Chinese junk, heedless of a shower of darts, one of which took off his arm. In a minute more he and his men were on the deck and were driving back the crew in a fierce hand-to-hand encounter. Before other vessels of the fleet could come up, they had fired the captured junk and were off again, bearing with them twenty-one heads of the foe.

To prevent such attacks all advanced boats were withdrawn and the fleet was linked together with iron chains, while with catapults and great bows heavy darts and stones were showered on approaching Japanese boats, sinking many of them and destroying their crews. But all efforts of the Tartars to land were bravely repulsed, and such detachments as reached the shore were driven into the sea before they could prepare for defence, over two thousand of the enemy falling in these preliminary attempts. With the utmost haste a long line of fortifications, consisting of earthworks and palisades, had been thrown up for miles along the shore, and behind these defences the island soldiers defied their foes.

Among the defenders was a captain, Michiari by name, whose hatred of the Mongols led him to a deed of the most desperate daring. Springing over the breastworks, he defied the barbarians to mortal combat. Then, filling two boats with others as daring as himself, he pushed out to the fleet.

Both sides looked on in amazement. "Is the man mad?" said the Japanese. "Are those two little boats coming to attack our whole fleet?" asked the Mongols. "They must be deserters, who are coming to surrender."

Under this supposition the boats were permitted to approach unharmed, their course being directed towards a large Tartar junk. A near approach being thus made, grappling-irons were flung out, and in a minute more the daring assailants were leaping on board the junk.

Taken by surprise, the Tartars were driven back, the two-handed keen-edged swords of the assailants making havoc in their ranks. The crew made what defence they could, but the sudden and unlooked-for assault had put them at disadvantage, and before the adjoining ships could come to their aid the junk was in flames and the boats of the victors had put off for land. With them as prisoner they carried one of the highest officers in the invading fleet.

Yet these skirmishes did little in reducing the strength of the foe, and had not the elements come to the aid of Japan the issue of the affair might have been serious for the island empire. While the soldiers were fighting the priests were praying, and the mikado sent a priestly messenger to the shrines at Ise, bearing his petition to the gods. It was noonday, and the sky perfectly clear, when he offered the prayer, but immediately afterwards a broad streak of cloud rose on the horizon, and soon the sky was overcast with dense and rolling masses, portending a frightful storm.

It was one of the typhoons that annually visit that coast and against whose appalling fury none but the strongest ships can stand. It fell with all its force on the Chinese fleet, lifting the junks like straws on the great waves which suddenly arose, tossing them together, hurling some upon the shore, and forcing others bodily beneath the sea. Hundreds of the light craft were sunk, and corpses were heaped on the shore in multitudes. Many of the vessels were driven to sea, few or none of which ever reached land. Many others were wrecked upon Taka Island. Here the survivors, after the storm subsided, began cutting down trees and building boats, in the hope of reaching Corea. But they were attacked by the Japanese with such fury that all were slain but three, whose lives were spared that they might bear back the news to their emperor and tell him how the gods had fought for Japan.

The lesson was an effective one. The Chinese have never since attempted the conquest of Japan, and it is the boast of the people of that country that no invading army has ever set foot upon their shores. Six centuries afterwards the case was to be reversed and a Japanese army to land on Chinese soil.

Great praise was given to the Hojo then in control at Kamakura for his energy and valor in repelling the invaders. But the chief honor was paid to the gods enshrined at Ise, who were thenceforward adored as the guardians of the winds and the seas. To this day the invasion of the Mongols is vividly remembered in Kiushiu, and the mother there hushes her fretful babe with the question, "Little one, why do you cry? Do you think the Mogu are coming?"

It may be well here to say that the story of this invasion is told by Marco Polo, who was at the court of Kublai Khan, the Mongol conqueror of China, at the time it took place, and that his tale differs in many respects from that of the Japanese historians. Each party is apparently making the best of its side of the affair.

According to Marco Polo's account, the failure of the expedition was due to jealousy between the two officers in command. He states that one Japanese fortification was taken and all within put to the sword, except two, whose flesh was charmed against the sword and who could be killed only by being beaten to death with great clubs. As for those who reached Taka Island, they contrived by strategy to gain possession of the boats of the assailing Japanese, by whose aid, and that of the flags which the boats flew, they captured the chief city of Japan. Here for six months they were closely besieged, and finally surrendered on condition that their lives should be spared.


For more than two centuries the Ashikaga lorded it over Japan, as the Hojo had done before them, and the mikados were tools in their strong hands. Then arose a man who overthrew this powerful clan. This man, Nobunaga by name, was a descendant of Kiyomori, the great leader of the Taira clan, his direct ancestor being one of the few who escaped from the great Minamoto massacre.

The father of this Taira chief was a soldier whose valor had won him a large estate. Nobunaga added to it, built himself a strong castle, and became the friend and patron of the last of the Ashikaga, whom he made shogun. (The Ashikaga were descendants of the Minamoto, who alone had hereditary claim to this high office.) But Nobunaga remained the power behind the throne, and, a quarrel arising between him and the shogun, he deposed the latter, and became himself the ruler of Japan. After two hundred and thirty-eight years of dominion the lordship of the Ashikaga thus came to an end.

Of this great Japanese leader we are told, "He was a prince of large stature, but of weak and delicate complexion, with a heart and soul that supplied all other wants; ambitious above all mankind; brave, generous, and bold, and not without many excellent moral virtues; inclined to justice, and an enemy to treason. With a quick and penetrating wit, he seemed cut out for business. Excelling in military discipline, he was esteemed the fittest to command an army, manage a siege, fortify a town, or mark out a camp of any general in Japan, never using any head but his own. If he asked advice, it was more to know their hearts than to profit by their advice. He sought to see into others and to conceal his own counsel, being very secret in his designs. He laughed at the worship of the gods, being convinced that the bonzes were impostors abusing the simplicity of the people and screening their own debauches under the name of religion."

Such was the man who by genius and strength of will now rose to the head of affairs. Not being of the Minamoto family, he did not seek to make himself shogun, and for forty years this office ceased to exist. He ruled in the name of the mikado, but held all the power of the realm.

The good fortune of Nobunaga lay largely in his wise choice of men. Under him were four generals, so admirable yet so diverse in military ability that the people gave them the distinctive nicknames of "Cotton," "Rice," "Attack," and "Retreat." Cotton, which can be put to a multitude of uses, indicated the fertility in resources of the first; while the second made himself as necessary as rice, which people cannot live a day without. The strength of the third lay in the boldness of his attacks; of the fourth, in the skill of his retreats. Of these four, the first, named Hideyoshi, rose to great fame. A fifth was afterwards added, Tokugawa Iyeyasu, also a famous name in Japan.

It was through his dealings with the Buddhists that Nobunaga made himself best known in history. He had lived among them in his early years, and had learned to hate and despise them. Having been educated in the Shinto faith, the ancient religion of Japan, he looked on the priests of Buddhism as enemies to the true faith. The destruction of these powerful sectaries was, therefore, one of the great purposes of his life.

Nobunaga had other reasons than these for destroying the power of the bonzes. During the long period of the Ashikagas these cunning ecclesiastics had risen to great power. Their monasteries had become fortresses, with moats and strong stone walls. Internally these were like arsenals, and an army could readily be equipped from them with weapons, while many of the priests were daring leaders. During the civil wars they served the side that promised them the most spoil or power. Rivals among them often fought battles of their own, in which hundreds were killed and towns and temples burned. So great were their authority, their insolence, and their licentiousness that their existence had become an evil in the land, and Nobunaga determined to teach them a lesson they would not soon forget.

Of the monasteries, the most extensive was that of Hiyeizan, on Lake Biwa. Within its territory lay thirteen valleys and more than five hundred temples, shrines, and dwellings, the grounds of which were adorned in the highest style of landscape art. The monks here were numbered by thousands, with whom religious service was a gorgeous ceremonial mockery, and who revelled in luxury, feasted on forbidden viands, drank to inebriety, and indulged in every form of licentiousness. They used their influence in rousing the clans to war, from which they hoped to draw new spoils for their unrighteous enjoyments, while screening themselves from danger behind the cloak of the priesthood.

It was against this monastery that the wrath of Nobunaga was most strongly aroused. Marching against it in 1571, he bade his generals set it on fire. The officers stood aghast at the order, which seemed to them likely to call down the vengeance of Heaven upon their heads. With earnest protests they begged him not to do so unholy an act.

"Since this monastery was built, now nearly a thousand years ago," they said, "it has been vigilant against the power of the spirits of evil. No one has dared in all that time to lift a hand against these holy buildings. Can you design to do so?"

"Yes," answered Nobunaga, sternly. "I have put down the villains that distracted the country, and I intend to bring peace upon the land and restore the power of the mikado. The bonzes have opposed my efforts and aided my enemies. I sent them a messenger and gave them the chance to act with loyalty, but they failed to listen to my words, and resisted the army of the emperor, aiding the wicked robbers. Does not this make them thieves and villains? If I let them now escape, this trouble will continue forever, and I have allowed them to remain on this mountain only that I might destroy them. That is not all. I have heard that these priests fail to keep their own rules. They eat fish and the strong-smelling vegetables which Buddha prohibited. They keep concubines, and do not even read the sacred books of their faith. How can such as these put down evil and preserve holiness? It is my command that you surround and burn their dwellings and see that none of them escape alive."

Thus bidden, the generals obeyed. The grounds of the monastery were surrounded, and on the next day the temples and shrines were set on fire and the soldiers remorselessly cut down all they met. The scene of massacre and conflagration that ensued was awful to behold. None were spared, neither young nor old, man, woman, nor child. The sword and spear were wielded without mercy, and when the butchery ended not a soul of the multitude of inmates was left alive.

One more great centre of Buddhism remained to be dealt with, that of the monastery and temple of Houguanji, whose inmates had for years hated Nobunaga and sided with his foes, while they made their stronghold the hiding-place of his enemies. Finally, when some of his favorite captains had been killed by lurking foes, who fled from pursuit into the monastery, he determined to deal with this haunt of evil as he had dealt with Hiyeizan.

But this place was not to be so easily taken. It was strongly fortified, and could be captured only by siege. Within the five fortresses of which it was composed were many thousands of priests and warriors, women and children, and a still more frightful massacre than that of Hiyeizan was threatened. The place was so closely surrounded that all escape seemed cut off, but under cover of the darkness of night and amid a fierce storm several thousand of the people made their way from one of the forts. They failed, however, in their attempt, being pursued, overtaken, and slaughtered. Soon after a junk laden with human ears and noses came close under the walls of the castle, that the inmates might learn the fate of their late friends.

Vigorously the siege went on. A sortie of the garrison was repelled, but a number of Nobunaga's best officers were killed. After some two months of effort, three of the five fortresses were in the assailants' hands, and many thousands of the garrison had fallen or perished in the flames, the odor of decaying bodies threatening to spread pestilence through camp and castle alike.

In this perilous condition of affairs the mikado sent a number of his high officials to persuade the garrison to yield. A conference was held and a surrender agreed upon. The survivors were permitted to make their way to other monasteries of their sect, and Nobunaga occupied the castle, which is still held by the government. These two great blows brought the power of the bonzes, for that age, to an end. In later years some trouble was made by them, but Nobunaga had done his work so thoroughly that there was little difficulty in keeping them under control.

There remains only to tell the story of this great captain's end. He died at Kioto, the victim of treason. Among his captains was one named Akechi, a brave man, but proud. One day, in a moment of merriment, Nobunaga put the head of the captain under his arm and played on it with his fan, saying that he would make a drum of it. This pleasantry was not to the taste of the haughty captain, who nursed a desire for revenge,—behind which perhaps lay a wish to seize the power of the chief.

The traitor did not have long to wait. Nobunaga had sent most of his forces away to quell a rebellion, keeping but a small garrison. With part of this Akechi was ordered to Kiushiu, and left the city with seeming intention to obey. But he had not gone far when he called his officers together, told them of his purpose to kill Nobunaga, and promised them rich booty for their assistance in the plot. The officers may have had reasons of their own for mutiny, for they readily consented, and marched back to the city they had just left.

Nobunaga resided in the temple of Hounoji, apparently without a guard, and to his surprise heard the tread of many feet and the clash of armor without. Opening a window to learn what this portended, he was struck by an arrow fired from the outer darkness. He saw at once what had occurred, and that escape was impossible. There was but one way for a hero to die. Setting fire to the temple, he killed himself, and before many minutes the body of the great warrior was a charred corpse in the ashes of his funeral pile.


In the history of nations there have been many instances of a man descended from the lowest class of the populace reaching the highest rank. Kings, conquerors, emperors, have thus risen from the ranks of peasants and laborers, and the crown has been worn by men born to the beggar's lot. In the history of Japan only one instance of this kind appears, that of one born a peasant who supplanted the noble families and became lord of the people and the emperor alike. Such a man was Hideyoshi, the one of Nobunaga's generals who bore the popular nickname of "Cotton," from his fertility of resources and his varied utility to his chief.

Born in 1536, the son of a peasant named Yasuke, as a baby he had almost the face of a monkey, while as a boy he displayed a monkey-like cunning, restlessness, and activity. The usual occupations of the sons of Japanese peasants, such as grass-cutting and rice-weeding, were not to the taste of young Monkey-pine, as the villagers called him, and he spent his time in the streets, a keen-witted and reckless young truant, who feared and cared for no one, and lived by his wits.

Fortune favored the little vagrant by bringing him under the eyes of the great soldier Nobunaga, who was attracted by his wizened, monkeyish face and restless eyes and gave him occupation among his grooms. As he grew older his love of war became pronounced, he took part in the numerous civil turmoils in which his patron was engaged, and manifested such courage and daring that Nobunaga rapidly advanced him in rank, finally making him one of his most trusted generals. No man was more admired in the army for soldierly qualities than the peasant leader, and the boldest warriors sought service under his banner, which at first bore for emblem a single gourd, but gained a new one after each battle, until it displayed a thick cluster of gourds. At the head of the army a golden model of the original banner was borne, and wherever it moved victory followed.

Such was the man who, after the murder of Nobunaga, marched in furious haste upon his assassin and quenched the ambition of the latter in death. The brief career of the murderer has given rise to a Japanese proverb, "Akechi ruled three days." The avenger of the slain regent was now at the head of affairs. The mikado himself dared not oppose him, for the military power of the empire lay within his grasp. There was only one man who ventured to resist his authority, and he for no long time.

This was a general named Shibata, who took the field in defence of the claim of Nobutaka, a son of the slain regent. He did not realize with whom he had to deal. The peasant general was quickly in the field at the head of his veteran army, defeated Shibata at every encounter, and pursued him so hotly that he fled for refuge to a fortified place now known as Fukui. This stronghold Hideyoshi besieged, establishing his camp on the slope of a neighboring mountain, from which he pushed his siege operations so vigorously that the fugitive gave up all hope of escape.

In this dilemma Shibata took a resolution like that of the Epicurean monarch of Assyria, the famed Sardanapalus. He gave a grand feast in the palace, to which all the captains and notables of his party were invited, and at which all present danced and made merry as though victory hung over their banners. Yet it was their funeral feast, to be followed by a carnival of death.

In the midst of the banquet, Shibata, rising cup in hand, said to his wife,—

"We are men, and will die. You are a woman, and have the right to live. You may gain safety by leaving the castle, and are at liberty to marry again."

The brave woman, the sister of Nobunaga, was too high in spirit to accept this offer. Her eyes filled with tears, she thanked her lord for his kindness, but declared that the world held no other husband for her, and that it was her sole wish to die with him. Then, reciting a farewell stanza of poetry, she calmly stood while her husband thrust his dirk into her heart.

All the women and children present, nerved by this brave example, welcomed the same fate, and then the men committed hara-kiri, the Japanese method of suicide, Shibata having first set fire to the castle. Soon the flames curled upward round the dead and the dying, and the conqueror found nothing but the ashes of a funeral pile upon which to lay hand.

Hideyoshi, all resistance to his rule being now at an end, set himself to tranquillize and develop Japan. Iyeyasu, one of Nobunaga's favorite generals, became his friend and married his sister; Mori, lord of the West, came to the capital and became his vassal, and no man in the empire dared question his power. His enemies, proud nobles who were furious at having to bend their haughty heads before a peasant, privately called him Sava Kuan ja ("crowned monkey"), but were wise enough not to be too open in their satire. Their anger was especially aroused by the fact that the mikado had conferred upon this parvenu the lofty office of kuambaku, or prime minister of the empire, a title which had never before been borne by any one not a noble of the Fujiwara clan, for whom it had been expressly reserved. He was also ennobled under the family name of Toyotomi Hideyoshi.

The new premier showed as great an activity in the works of peace as he had shown in those of war, putting his soldiers to work to keep their minds employed. Kioto was improved by his orders, splendid palaces being built, and the bed of the river Kamo paved with flat stones. Ozaka was greatly developed, an immense fortress being built, the river widened and deepened, and canals dug in great profusion, over which were thrown more than a thousand bridges. Various other cities were improved, great towers and pagodas built, and public works erected in many parts of the realm. In addition Hideyoshi won popularity by his justice and mercy, pardoning his opponents, though the rule had hitherto been to put the adherents of opposite parties to death, and showing no regard for rank, title, or service to himself in his official duty as judge.

He had married a peasant girl while a peasant himself, but as he rose in rank he espoused new wives of increasingly high station, his last being of princely descent. In the end he had as many wives as the much-married Henry VIII., but not in the same fashion, as he kept them all at once, instead of cutting off the head of one to make room for the next.

Hideyoshi had one great ambition, born in him when a boy, and haunting him as a man. This was to conquer Corea, and perhaps China as well. He had begged Nobunaga to aid him in this great design, but had only been laughed at for his pains. Now that he was at the head of affairs, this plan loomed up in large proportions in his mind. Corea had long ceased to pay tribute, and Corean pirates ravaged the coast. Here was an excuse for action. As for China, he knew that anarchy ruled there, and hoped to take advantage of this state of affairs.

Patting the back of a statue of Yoritomo in a patronizing fashion, he humorously said, "You are my friend. You took all the power in Japan, a thing which only you and I have been able to do. But you came from a noble family, and were not, like me, the son of a peasant. I propose to outdo you, and conquer all the earth, and even China. What say you to that?"

To test the feeling of the gods about his proposed expedition, he threw into the air before a shrine a hundred "cash," or Japanese small coin, saying, to translate his words into the American vernacular, "If I am to conquer China, let these come up head."

They all came up "head," or what in Japan answers to that word, and soldiers and ruler were alike delighted, for this omen seemed surely to promise success.

Nearly fourteen hundred years had elapsed since the previous conquest of Corea by the famous empress Jingu. Now an army said to have been five hundred thousand strong was sent across the ocean channel between Kiushiu and the Corean coast. Hideyoshi was at this time sixty years of age and had grown infirm of body, so that he felt unable to command the expedition himself, which was therefore intrusted to two of his ablest leaders, Kato, of noble birth, and Konishi, the son of a druggist, who disgusted his proud associate by representing on his banner a paper medicine-bag, the sign of his father's shop.

Notwithstanding the ill feeling between the leaders, the armies were everywhere victorious, Corea was overrun and the king driven from his capital, and the victors had entered into serious conflict with the armies of China, when word came from Japan (in 1598) that Hideyoshi was dead. A truce was at once concluded and the army ordered home.

Thus ended the second invasion of Corea, the second of the events which gave rise to the claim in Japan that Corea is a vassal state of the island empire and were used as warrants to the nineteenth century invasion.


The death of the peasant premier left Iyeyasu, the second in ability of Nobunaga's great generals, as the rising power in Japan. Hideyoshi, in the hope of preserving the rule in his own family, had married his son, a child of six, to Iyeyasu's granddaughter, and appointed six ministers to act as his guardians. He did not count, in cherishing this illusory hope, on the strength of human ambition. Nor did he give thought to the bitter disgust with which the haughty lords and nobles had yielded to the authority of one whom they regarded as an upstart. The chances of the child's coming to power were immeasurably small.

In truth, the death of the strong-willed premier had thrown Japan open to anarchy. The leaders who had returned from the Corean war, flushed with victory, were ambitious for power, and the thousands of soldiers under their command were eager for war and spoils. Hidenobu, a nephew of Nobunaga, claimed the succession to his uncle's position. The five military governors who had been appointed by the late premier were suspicious of Iyeyasu, and took steps to prevent him from seizing the vacated place. The elements of anarchy indeed were everywhere abroad, there was more than one aspirant to the ruling power, and armies began to be raised.

Iyeyasu keenly watched the movements of his enemies. When he saw that troops were being recruited, he did the same. Crimination and recrimination went on, skirmishes took place in the field, the citadel of Ozaka was successively taken and retaken by the opposing parties, the splendid palace of Hideyoshi at Fushimi was given to the flames, and at length the two armies came together to settle in one great battle the fate of Japan.

The army of the league against Iyeyasu had many leaders, including the five governors, most of the generals of the Corean war, and the lords and vassals of Hideyoshi. Strong as it was, one hundred and eighty thousand in all, it was moved by contrary purposes, and unity of counsel was lacking among the chiefs. The army of Iyeyasu, while far weaker, had but one leader, and was inspired by a single purpose.

On the 1st of October, 1600, the march began, over the great highway known as the Tokaido. The white banner of Iyeyasu was embroidered with hollyhocks, his standard a golden fan. "The road to the west is shut," prophesied the diviners. "Then I shall knock till it opens," the bold leader replied.

As they marched onward, a persimmon (ogaki in Japanese) was offered him. He opened his hand to receive it, saying, as it fell into his palm, "Ogaki has fallen into my hand." (The significance of this remark lies in the fact that the camp of the league lay around the castle of Ogaki).

Learning of the near approach of Iyeyasu's force, the opposing army broke camp and marched to meet him through a sharp rain that wet them to the skin. Their chosen field of battle, Sekigahara ("plain of the barrier") by name, is in Omi, near Lake Biwa. It is an expanse of open, rolling ground, bisected by one of the main roads between Tokio and Kioto and crossed by a road from Echizen. On this spot was to be fought one of the greatest battles Japan had ever known, whose result was destined to settle the fate of the empire for two hundred and fifty years.

In the early morning of the eventful day one of the pickets of Iyeyasu's host brought word that the army of the league was in full march from the castle of Ogaki. This important news was soon confirmed by others, and the general joyfully cried, "The enemy has indeed fallen into my hand." Throwing aside his helmet, he knotted a handkerchief over his forehead, saying that this was all the protection he should need in the coming battle.

His army was seventy-five thousand strong. That opposed to him exceeded his in strength by more than fifty thousand men. But neither as yet knew what they had to encounter, for a fog lay heavy on the plain, and the two armies, drawn up in battle array, were invisible to each other. To prevent surprise, Iyeyasu sent in front of his army a body of guards bearing white flags, to give quick warning of an advance.

At length, at eight o'clock, the fog rose and drifted away, revealing the embattled hosts. Hardly had it vanished before the drums beat their battle peal and the martial conchs sounded defiance, while a shower of arrows from each army hurtled through the opposing ranks. In a short time the impatient warriors met in mid field, and sword and spear began their deadly work.

The great weight of the army of the league at first gave it the advantage, and for hours the result was in doubt, though a corps of the league forces deserted to the ranks of Iyeyasu. At length unity and discipline began to prevail, the intrepidity of Iyeyasu and his skill in taking advantage of every error of his enemy giving confidence to his men. By noon they were bearing back the foe. Ordering up the reserves, and bidding the drummers and conch-blowers to sound their most inspiriting appeal, Iyeyasu gave order for the whole army to charge.

Before the impetuous onset that followed, the enemy wavered, broke, and fled, followed in hot pursuit by the victorious host. And now a frightful scene began. Thousands of heads of the flying were cut off by the keen-edged blades of their pursuers. Most of the wounded and many of the unhurt killed themselves upon the field, in obedience to the exaggerated Japanese sense of honor. The defeat became a butchery. In Japanese battles of the past quarter was a mercy rarely craved or granted, and decapitation the usual mode of death when the sword could be brought into play, so that the triumph of the victors was usually indicated by the dimensions of the ghastly heap of heads. In this frightful conflict the claim was made by the victors (doubtless an exaggeration) that they had taken forty thousand heads of the foe, while their own loss was only four thousand. However that be, a great mound of heads was made, one of many such evidences of slaughter which may still be seen in Japan.

Throughout the battle a knotted handkerchief was the only defence of Iyeyasu's head. The victory won, he called for his helmet, which he put on, carefully tying the strings. As all looked on with surprise at this strange action, he, with a smile, repeated to them an old Japanese proverb, "After victory, knot the cords of your helmet."

It was a suggestion of vigilance wisely given and alertly acted upon. The strongholds of the league were invested without delay, and one by one fell into the victors' hands. The fragments of the beaten army were followed and dispersed. Soon all opposition was at an end, and Iyeyasu was lord and master of Japan.

The story of the victor in the most decisive victory Japan had ever known, one that was followed by two and a half centuries of peace, needs to complete it a recital of two important events, one being the founding of Yedo, the great eastern capital, the other the organization of the system of feudalism.

For ages the country around the Bay of Yedo, now the chief centre of activity and civilization in Japan, was wild and thinly peopled. The first mention of it in history is in the famous march of Yamato-Dake, whose wife leaped here into the waves as a sacrifice to the maritime gods. In the fifteenth century a small castle was built on the site of the present city, while near it on the Tokaida, the great highway between the two ancient capitals, stood a small village, whose chief use was for the refreshment and assistance of travellers.

Ota Dagnan, the lord of the castle, was a warrior of fame, whose deeds have gained him a place in the song and story of Japan. Of the tales told of him there is one whose poetic significance has given it a fixed place in the legendary lore of the land. One day, when the commandant was amusing himself in the sport of hawking, a shower of rain fell suddenly and heavily, forcing him to stop at a house near by and request the loan of a grass rain-coat,—a mino, to give it its Japanese name.

A young and very pretty girl came to the door at his summons, listened to his polite request, and stood for a moment blushing and confused. Then, running into the garden, she plucked a flower, handed it with a mischievous air to the warrior, and disappeared within the house. Ota, angrily flinging down the flower, turned away, after an impulse to force his way into the house and help himself to the coat. He returned to the castle wet and fuming at the slight to his rank and dignity.

Soon after he related the incident to some court nobles from Kioto, who had stopped at the castle, and who, to his surprise, did not share his indignation at the act.

"Why, the incident was delightful," said one among them who was specially versed in poetic lore; "who would have looked for such wit and such knowledge of our classic poetry in a young girl in this uncultivated spot? The trouble is, friend Ota, that you are not learned enough to take the maiden's meaning."

"I take it that she meant to laugh at a soaked fowler," growled the warrior.

"Not so. It was only a graceful way of telling you that she had no mino to loan. She was too shy to say no to your request, and so handed you a mountain camellia. Centuries ago one of our poets sang of this flower, 'Although it has seven or eight petals, yet, I grieve to say, it has no seed' (mino). The cunning little witch has managed to say 'no' to you in the most graceful way imaginable."

Here, where the castle stood, Iyeyasu started to build a city, at the suggestion of his superior Hideyoshi. Thus began the great city of Yedo,—now Tokio, the eastern capital of Japan. In 1600, Iyeyasu, then at the head of affairs, pushed the work on his new city with energy, employing no less than three hundred thousand men. The castle was enlarged, canals were excavated, streets laid out and graded, marshes filled, and numerous buildings erected, fleets of junks bringing granite for the citadel, while the neighboring forests furnished the timber for the dwellings.

An outer ditch was dug on a grand scale, and gates and towers were built with no walls to join them and no dwellings within many furlongs of their site. But to those who laughed at the magnificent plan on which the young city had been laid out, the founder declared that the coming time would see his walls built and the dwellings of the city stretching far beyond them. Before a century his words were verified, and Yedo had a population of half a million souls. To-day it is the home of more than a million people.

It is for his political genius that Iyeyasu particularly deserves fame. Once more, in 1615, he was forced to fight for his supremacy, against the son of the late premier. A bloody battle followed, ending in victory for Iyeyasu and the burning of the castle of Ozaka, in whose flames the aspirant for power probably met his doom. No other battle was fought on the soil of Japan for two hundred and fifty-three years.

Iyeyasu had the blood of the Minamoto clan in his veins. He had therefore an hereditary claim to the shogunate, as successor to the great Yoritomo, the founder of the family and the first to bear the title of Great Shogun. This title, Sei-i Tai Shogun, was now conferred by the mikado on the new military chief, and was borne by his descendants, the Tokugawa family, until the great revolution of 1868, when the mikado again seized his long-lost authority.

Before this period, civil war had for centuries desolated Japan. After 1615 war ceased in that long distracted land and peace and prosperity prevailed. What were the steps taken by the new shogun to insure this happy result? It arose through the establishment of a well-defined system of feudalism, and the bringing of the feudal lords under the immediate control of the shogun.

Japan was already organized on a semi-feudal system. The land was divided between the great lords or daimios, who possessed strong castles and large landed estates, with a powerful armed following, and into whose treasuries much of the revenue of the kingdom flowed. These powerful princes of the realm were conciliated by the conqueror. Under them were daimios of smaller estate, many of whom had joined him in his career; and lower still a large number of minor military holders, whose grants of land enabled them to bring small bodies of followers into the field.

Iyeyasu's plan was one of conciliation and the prevention of hostile union. He laid his plans and left it to time to do his work. Some of the richest fiefs of the empire were conferred upon his sons, who founded several of its most powerful families. The possessions of the other lords were redistributed, the land being divided up among them in a way to prevent rebellious concentration, vassals and adherents of his own being placed between any two neighboring lords whose loyalty was in doubt. To prevent ambitious lords from seizing Kioto and making prisoner the mikado, as had frequently been done in the past, he surrounded it on all sides with strong domains ruled by his sons or friends. When his work of redistribution was finished, his friends and vassals everywhere lay between the realms of doubtful daimios. A hostile movement in force had been rendered nearly impossible.

Below the daimios came the hatamoto, or supporters of the flag, direct vassals of the shogun, of whom there were eighty thousand in Japan, mostly descendants of proved warriors and with a train of from three to thirty retainers each. These were scattered throughout the empire, but the majority of them lived in Yedo. They formed the direct military dependence of the shogun, and held most of the military and civil positions. Under them again were the gokenin, the humbler members of the Togukawa clan, and hereditary followers of the shogun. All these formed the samurai, the men privileged to wear two swords and exempted from taxes. Their number and readiness gave the shogun complete military control of the empire, and made him master of all it held, from mikado to peasant.

Such was the method adopted by the great statesman to insure peace to the empire and to keep the power within the grasp of his own family. In both respects it proved successful. A second important step was taken by Iyemitsu, his grandson, and after him the ablest of the family. By this time many of the noted warriors among the daimios were dead, and their sons, enervated by peace and luxury, could be dealt with more vigorously than would have been safe to do with their fathers.

Iyemitsu suggested that all the daimios should make Yedo their place of residence for half the year. At first they were treated as guests, the shogun meeting them in the suburbs and dealing with them with great consideration. But as the years went on the daimios became more and more like prisoners on parole. They were obliged to pay tribute of respect to the shogun in a manner equivalent to doing homage. Though they could return at intervals to their estates, their wives and children were kept in Yedo as hostages for their good behavior. When Iyemitsu died, the shoguns had cemented their power beyond dispute. The mikados, nominal emperors, were at their beck and call; the daimios were virtual prisoners of state; the whole military power and revenues of the empire were under their control; conspiracy and attempted rebellion could be crushed by a wave of their hands; peace ruled in Japan.

Iyemitsu was the first to whom the title of Tai Kun (Tycoon), or Great King, was ever applied. It was in a letter written to Corea, intended to influence foreigners. It was employed in a larger sense for the same purpose at a later date, as we shall hereafter see. Suffice it here to say that the Tokugawas remained the rulers of Japan until 1868, when a new move in the game of empire was made.


The fact that such a realm as that of Japan existed remained unknown in Europe until about six centuries ago, when Marco Polo, in his famous record of travel and adventure, first spoke of it. He knew of it, however, only by Chinese hearsay, and the story he told contained far more of fable than of fact. The Chinese at that time seem to have had little knowledge of their nearest civilized neighbor.

"Zipangu"—the name he gives it—is, he says, "an island in the Eastern Ocean, about fifteen hundred miles [Chinese miles] from the mainland. Its people are well made, of fair complexion, and civilized in manner, but idolaters in religion." He continues, "They have gold in the greatest abundance, its sources being inexhaustible. To this circumstance we are to attribute the extraordinary richness of the sovereign's palace according to what we are told by those who have access to the place. The entire roof is covered with a plating of gold, in the same manner as we cover houses, or more properly churches, with lead. The ceilings of the halls are of the same precious metal; many of the apartments have small tables of pure gold, of considerable thickness; and the windows have also golden ornaments. So vast, indeed, are the riches of the palace that it is impossible to convey an idea of them. In this island there are pearls also, in large quantities, of a pink color, round in shape and of great size, equal in value to, or even exceeding, that of the white pearls. There are also found there a number of precious stones."

This story is as remote from truth as some of those told by Sindbad the Sailor. Polo, no doubt, thought he was telling the truth, and knew that this cascade of gold and pearls would be to the taste of his readers, but anything more unlike the plainness and simplicity of the actual palace of the mikado it would be hard to find.

For the next European knowledge of Japan we must step forward to the year 1542. Columbus had discovered America, and Portugal had found an ocean highway to the spice islands of the East. A Portuguese adventurer, Mendez Pinto by name, ventured as far as China, then almost unknown, and, with two companions, found himself on board a Chinese junk, half trader, half pirate.

In a sea-fight with another corsair their pilot was killed, and soon after a fierce storm blew them far off shore. Seeking to make the Loochoo Islands, they lost them through lack of a pilot, and were tossed about at the ocean's will for twenty-three days, when they made harbor on Tane, a small island of Japan lying south of Kiushiu. Pinto, after his return to Europe, told so many marvellous stories about Japan that people doubted him as much as they had doubted Marco Polo. His very name, Mendez, was extended into "mendacious." Yet time has done justice to both these old travellers, who either told, or tried to tell, the truth.

The Portuguese travellers were well received by the islanders,—who knew not yet what firebrands they were welcoming. It took a century for Europeans to disgust the Japanese so thoroughly as to force the islanders to drive them from the land and put up the bars against their return. What interested the Japanese even more than their visitors were the new and strange weapons they bore. Pinto and his two comrades were armed with arquebuses, warlike implements such as they had never before seen, and whose powers filled them with astonishment and delight. It was the era of civil war in Japan, and the possession of a new and deadly weapon was eagerly welcomed by that martial people, who saw in it visions of speedy success over their enemies.

Pinto was invited to the castle of the daimio of Bungo, whom he taught the arts of making guns and gunpowder. The Japanese, alert at taking advantage of the discoveries of other people, were quick to manufacture powder and guns for themselves, and in the wars told of in our last few tales native cannon were brought into use, though the razor-edged sword continued the most death-dealing of their weapons.

As for the piratical trader which conveyed Pinto to Japan, it sold its cargo at an immense profit, while the three Portuguese reached China again rich in presents. This was not Pinto's only visit to Japan. He made three other voyages thither, the last in 1556, as ambassador from the Portuguese viceroy in the East. On this occasion he learned that the islanders had made rapid progress in their new art of gun-making, they claiming to have thirty thousand guns in Fucheo, the capital of Bungo, and ten times that number in the whole land of Japan.

The new market for European wares, opened by the visit of Pinto, was quickly taken advantage of by his countrymen, and Portuguese traders made their way by hundreds to Japan, where they met with the best of treatment. Guns and powder were especially welcome, as at that time the power of the Ashikaga clan was at an end, anarchy everywhere prevailed, and every local chief was in arms to win all he could from the ruins of the state. Such was the first visit of Europeans to Japan, and such the gift they brought, the fatal one of gunpowder.

The next gift of Europe to Japan was that of the Christian faith. On Pinto's return to Malacca he met there the celebrated Francis Xavier, the father superior of the order of the Jesuits in India, where he had gained the highest reputation for sanctity and the power of working miracles. With the traveller was a Japanese named Anjiro, whom he had rescued from enemies that sought his death, and converted to Christianity. Xavier asked him whether the Japanese would be likely to accept the religion of the Christians.

"My people will not be ready to accept at once what may be told them," said Anjiro, "but will ask you a multitude of questions, and, above all, will see whether your conduct agrees with your words. If they are satisfied, the king, the nobles, and the people will flock to Christ, since they constitute a nation that always accepts reason as a guide."

Thus encouraged, Xavier, whose enthusiasm in spreading the gospel was deterred by no obstacle, set sail in 1549 for Japan, accompanied by two priests and Anjiro, the latter with a companion who had escaped with him in his flight from Japan.

The missionary party landed at Kagoshima, in Satsuma. Here they had little success, only the family and relatives of Anjiro accepting the new faith, and Xavier set out on a tour through the land, his goal being Kioto, the mikado's capital. Landing at Amanguchi, he presented himself before the people barefooted and meanly dressed, the result of his confessed poverty being that, instead of listening to his words, the populace hooted and stoned him and his followers. At Kioto he was little better received.

Finding that a display of poverty was not the way to impress the Japanese, the missionary returned to the city of Kioto richly clothed and bearing presents and letters from the Portuguese viceroy to the emperor. He was now well received and given permission to preach, and in less than a year had won over three thousand converts to the Christian faith.

Naturally, on reaching Kioto, he had looked for the splendor spoken of by Marco Polo, the roof and ceilings of gold and the golden tables of the emperor's palace. He was sadly disenchanted on entering a city so desolated by fire and war that it was little more than a camp, and on beholding the plainest and least showy of all the palaces of the earth.

Returning to the port of Fucheo for the purpose of embarking for India, whence he designed to bring new laborers to the virgin field, Xavier preached with such success as to alarm the Buddhist bonzes, who made futile efforts to excite the populace against him as a vagabond and an enchanter. From there he set out for China, but died on the way thither. He had, however, planted the seed of what was destined to yield a great and noble harvest.

In fact, the progress of Christianity in Japan was of the most encouraging kind. Other missionaries quickly followed the great Jesuit pioneer, and preached the gospel with surprising success. In less than five years after the visit of Xavier to Kioto that city possessed seven Christian churches, while there were many others in the southwest section of the empire. In 1581, thirty years after Xavier's death, there were in Japan two hundred churches, while the number of converts is given at one hundred and fifty thousand. Several of the daimios were converted to the new faith, and Nobunaga, who hated and strove to exterminate the Buddhists, received the Christians with the greatest favor, gave them desirable sites for their churches, and sought to set them up as a foil to the arrogance of the bonzes.

The Christian daimios went so far as to send a delegation to the pope at Rome, which returned eight years afterwards with seventeen Jesuit missionaries, while a multitude of mendicant friars from the Philippine Islands and elsewhere sought the new field of labor, preaching with the greatest zeal and success. It is claimed that at the culminating point of proselytism in Japan the native Christians numbered no less than six hundred thousand, among them being several princes, and many lords, high officials, generals, and other military and naval officers, with numerous women of noble blood. In some provinces the Christian shrines and crosses were as numerous as the Buddhist shrines had been before, while there were thousands of churches, chapels, and ecclesiastical edifices.

This remarkable success, unprecedented in the history of Christian missionary work, was due in great measure to certain conditions then existing in Japan. When Xavier and his successors reached Japan, it was to find the people of that country in a state of the greatest misery, the result of a long era of anarchy and misrule. Of the native religions, Shintoism had in great measure vanished, while Buddhism, though affecting the imaginations of the people by the gorgeousness of its service, had little with which to reach their hearts.

Christianity came with a ceremonial more splendid than that of Buddhism, and an eloquence that captivated the imaginations of the Japanese. Instead of the long series of miseries of Buddhist transmigration, it offered admission to the glories of heaven after death, a doctrine sure to be highly attractive to those who had little to hope for but misery during life. The story of the life and death of Christ strongly impressed the minds of the people, as compared with the colder story of Buddha's career, while a certain similarity between the modes of worship of the two religions proved of the greatest assistance to the advocates of the new creed. The native temples were made to serve as Christian churches; the images of Buddha and his saints were converted into those of Christ and the apostles; and, aside from the more attractive doctrines of Christianity, there were points of resemblance between the organization and ceremonial of the two religions that aided the missionaries in inducing the people to change from their old to the new faith.

One of the methods pursued in the propagation of Christianity had never been adopted by the Buddhists, that of persecution of alien faiths. The spirit of the Inquisition, then active in Europe, was brought to Japan. The missionaries instigated their converts to destroy the idols and desert the old shrines. Gold was used freely as an agent in conversion, and the Christian daimios compelled their subjects to follow them in accepting the new faith. In whole districts the people were ordered to accept Christianity or to exile themselves from their homes. Exile or death was the fate of many of the bonzes, and fire and the sword lent effect to preaching in the propagation of the doctrine of Christianity.

To quote a single instance, from Charlevoix's "History of the Christianizing of Japan," "In 1577 the lord of the island of Amacusa issued his proclamation, by which his subjects—whether bonzes or gentlemen, merchants or traders—were required either to turn Christians, or to leave the country the very next day. They almost all submitted, and received baptism, so that in a short time there were more than twenty churches in the kingdom. God wrought miracles to confirm the faithful in their belief."

Miracles of the kind here indicated and others that might be quoted were not of the character of those performed by Christ, and such methods of making proselytes were very likely to recoil upon those that indulged in them. How the result of the introduction of European methods manifested itself in Japan will be indicated in our next tale.


We have described in the preceding tale the rise of Christianity in Japan, and the remarkable rapidity of its development in that remote land. We have now to describe its equally rapid decline and fall, and the exclusion of Europeans from Japanese soil. It must be said here that this was in no sense due to the precepts of Christianity, but wholly to the hostility between its advocates of different sects, their jealousy and abuse of one another, and to the quarrels between nations in the contest to gain a lion's share of the trade with Japan.

At the time when the Portuguese came to Japan all Europe was torn with wars, civil, political, and religious. These quarrels were transferred to the soil of Japan, and in the end so disgusted the people of that empire that Europeans were forbidden to set foot on its shores and the native Christians were massacred. Traders, pirates, slave-dealers, and others made their way thither, with such a hodge-podge of interests, and such a medley of lies and backbitings, that the Japanese became incensed against the whole of them, and in the end decided that their room was far better than their company.

The Portuguese were followed to Japan by the Spaniards, and these by the Dutch, each trying to blacken the character of the others. The Catholics abused the Protestants, and were as vigorously abused in return. Each trading nation lied with the most liberal freedom about its rivals. To the seaports of Hirado and Nagasaki came a horde of the outcasts of Europe, inveterately hostile to one another, and indulging in quarrels, riots, and murders to an extent which the native authorities found difficult to control. In addition, the slave-trade was eagerly prosecuted, slaves being so cheap, in consequence of the poverty and misery arising from the civil wars, that even the negro and Malay servants of the Portuguese indulged in this profitable trade, which was continued in spite of decrees threatening all slave-dealers with death.

This state of affairs, and the recriminations of the religious sects, gave very natural disgust to the authorities of Japan, who felt little respect for a civilization that showed itself in such uncivilized shapes, and the disputing and fighting foreigners were rapidly digging their own graves in Japan. During the life of Nobunaga all went on well. In his hatred to the Buddhist bonzes he favored the Jesuits, and Christianity found a clear field. With the advent of Hideyoshi there came a change. His early favor to the missionaries was followed by disgust, and in 1587 he issued a decree banishing them from the land. The churches and chapels were closed, public preaching ceased, but privately the work of conversion went actively on, as many as ten thousand converts being made each year.

The Spanish mendicant friars from the Philippines were bolder in their work. Defying the decree, they preached openly in the dress of their orders, not hesitating to denounce in violent language the obnoxious law. As a result the decree was renewed, and a number of the priests and their converts were crucified. But still the secret work of the Jesuits continued and the number of converts increased, among them being some of the generals in the Corean war.

With the accession of Iyeyasu began a rapid downfall of Christianity in Japan. In the great battle which raised him to the head of affairs some of the Christian leaders were killed. Konishi, a Christian general, who had commanded one division of the army in Corea, was executed. On every side there was evidence of a change in the tide of affairs, and the Christians of Japan began to despair.

The daimios no longer bade their followers to become Christians. On the contrary, they ordered them to renounce the new faith, under threat of punishment. Their harshness resulted in rebellion, so new a thing among the peasantry of Japan that the authorities felt sure that they had been secretly instigated to it by the missionaries. The wrath of the shogun aroused, he sent soldiers against the rebels, putting down each outbreak with bloodshed, and in 1606 issued a decree abolishing the Christian faith. This the Spanish friars defied, as they had that of his predecessor.

In 1611, Iyeyasu was roused to more active measures by the discovery of a plot between the foreigners and the native converts for the overthrow of the government. Sado, whose mines were worked by thousands of Christian exiles, was to be the centre of the outbreak, its governor, Okubo, being chosen as the leader and the proposed new ruler of the land.

Iyeyasu, awakened to the danger, now took active steps to crush out the foreign faith. A large number of friars and Jesuits, with native priests, were forcibly sent from the country, while the siege and capture of the castle of Ozaka in 1615 ended the career of all the native friends of the Jesuits, and brought final ruin upon the Christian cause in Japan.

During the reigns of the succeeding shoguns a violent persecution began. The Dutch traders, who showed no disposition to interfere in religious affairs, succeeded in ousting their Portuguese rivals, all foreigners except Dutch and Chinese being banished from Japan, while foreign trade was confined to the two ports of Hirado and Nagasaki. This was followed by a cruel effort to extirpate what was now looked on as a pestilent foreign faith. Orders were issued that the people should trample on the cross or on a copper plate engraved with the image of Christ. Those who refused were exposed to horrible persecutions, being wrapped in sacks of straw and burnt to death in heaps of fuel, while terrible tortures were employed to make them renounce their faith. Some were flung alive into open graves, many burned with the wood of the crosses before which they had prayed, others flung from the edge of precipices. Yet they bore tortures and endured death with a fortitude not surpassed by that of the martyrs of old, clinging with the highest Christian ardor to their new faith.

In 1637 these excesses of persecution led to an insurrection, the native Christians rising in thousands, seizing an old castle at Shimabara, and openly defying their persecutors. Composed as they were of farmers and peasants, the commanders who marched against them at the head of veteran armies looked for an easy conquest, but with all their efforts the insurgents held out against them for two months. The fortress was at length reduced by the aid of cannon taken from the Dutch traders, and after the slaughter of great numbers of the garrison. The bloody work was consummated by the massacre of thirty-seven thousand Christian prisoners, and the flinging of thousands more from a precipice into the sea below. Many were banished, and numbers escaped to Formosa, whither others had formerly made their way. The "evil sect" was formally prohibited, while edicts were issued declaring that as long as the sun should shine no foreigner should enter Japan and no native should leave it. A slight exception was made in favor of the Dutch, of whom a small number were permitted to reside on the little island of Deshima, in the harbor of Nagasaki, one trading ship being allowed to come there each year.

Thus ended the career of foreign trade and European residence in Japan. It had continued for nearly a century, yet left no mark of its presence except the use of gunpowder and fire-arms, the culture of tobacco and the habit of smoking, the naturalization of a few foreign words and of several strange diseases, and, as an odd addition, the introduction of sponge-cake, still everywhere used as a favorite viand. As for Christianity, the very name of Christ became execrated, and was employed as the most abhorrent word that could be spoken in Japan. The Christian faith was believed to be absolutely extirpated, and yet it seems to have smouldered unseen during the centuries. As late as 1829 seven persons suspected of being Christians were crucified in Ozaka. Yet in 1860, when the French missionaries were admitted to Nagasaki, they found in the surrounding villages no fewer than ten thousand people who still clung in secret to the despised and persecuted faith.

The French and English had little intercourse with Japan, but the career of one Englishman there is worthy of mention. This was a pilot named Will Adams, who arrived there in 1607 and lived in or near Yedo until his death in 1620. He seems to have been a manly and honest fellow, who won the esteem of the people and the favor of the shogun, by whom he was made an officer and given for support the revenue of a village. His skill in ship-building and familiarity with foreign affairs made him highly useful, and he was treated with great respect and kindness, though not allowed to leave Japan. He had left a wife and daughter in England, but married again in Japan, his children there being a son and daughter, whose descendants may still be found in that country. Anjin Cho (Pilot Street) in Yedo was named from him, and the inmates of that street honor his memory with an annual celebration on the 15th of June. His tomb may still be seen on one of the hills overlooking the Bay of Yedo, where two neat stone shafts, set on a pediment of stone, mark the burial-place of the only foreigner who in past times ever attained to honor in Japan.


Japan was persistent in its policy of isolation. To its people their group of islands was the world, and they knew little of and cared less for what was going on in all the continents outside. The Dutch vessel that visited their shores once a year served as an annual newspaper, and satisfied their curiosity as to the doings of mankind. The goods it brought were little cared for, Japan being sufficient unto itself, so that it served merely as a window to the world. Once a year a delegation from the Dutch settlement visited the capital, but the visitors travelled almost like prisoners, and were forced to crawl in to the mikado on their hands and knees and to back out again in the same crab-like fashion. Some of these envoys wrote accounts of what they had seen, and that was all that was known of Japan for two centuries.

This state of affairs could not continue. With the opening of the nineteenth century the ships of Europe began to make their way in large numbers to the North Pacific, and efforts were made to force open the locked gates of Japan. Some sought for food and water. These could be had at Nagasaki, but nowhere else, and were given with a warning to move on. In some cases shipwrecked Japanese were brought back in foreign vessels, but according to law such persons were looked upon as no longer Japanese, and no welcome was given to those who brought them. In other cases wrecked whalers and other mariners sought safety on Japanese soil, but they were held strict prisoners, and rescued only with great difficulty. The law was that foreigners landing anywhere on the coast, except at Nagasaki, should be seized and condemned to perpetual imprisonment, and that those landing at Nagasaki must strictly abstain from Christian worship.

Meanwhile the Russians had become, through their Siberian ports, near neighbors of Japan, and sought to open trade with that country. In 1793 Lieutenant Laxman landed at Hakodate and travelled overland to Matsumai, bringing with him some shipwrecked Japanese and seeking for commercial relations with Japan. He was treated with courtesy, but dismissed without an answer to his demand, and told that he could take his Japanese back with him or leave them as he pleased.

In 1804 the Russians came again, this time to Nagasaki. This vessel also brought back some shipwrecked Japanese, and had on board a Russian count, sent as ambassador from the czar. But the shogun refused to receive the ambassador or to accept his presents, and sent him word that Japan had little need of foreign productions, and got all it wanted from the Dutch and Chinese. All this was said with great politeness, but the ambassador thought that he had been shabbily treated, and went away angry, reproaching the Dutch for his failure. His anger against the Japanese was shown in a hostile fashion. In 1805 he sent out two small vessels, whose crews landed on the island of Saghalien, plundered a Japanese settlement there, carried off some prisoners, and left behind a written statement that this had been done to revenge the slights put upon the Russian ambassador.

This violence was amply repaid by the Japanese. How they did so we have now to tell. In 1811 Captain Golownin, an intelligent and educated officer of the Russian navy, was sent in command of the sloop-of-war Diana to explore the Kurile Islands. These belonged to Japan, and were partly settled. At the south end of Kunashir, one of these islands, was a Japanese settlement, with a garrison. Here Golownin, having landed with two officers, four men, and an interpreter, was invited into the fort. He entered unsuspectingly, but suddenly found himself detained as a prisoner, and held as such despite all the efforts of the Diana to obtain his release.

The prisoners were at once bound with small cords in a most painful way, their elbows being drawn behind their backs until they almost touched, and their hands firmly tied together, the cords being also brought in loops around their breasts and necks. A long cord proceeded from these fastenings and was held by a Japanese, who, if an attempt were made to escape, had only to pull it to bring the elbows together with great pain and to tighten the loop around the neck so as nearly to strangle the prisoner. Their ankles and knees were also firmly bound.

In this condition they were conveyed to Hakodate, in the island of Yeso, a distance of six or seven hundred miles, being carried, on the land part of the route, in a sort of palanquin made of planks, unless they preferred to walk, in which case the cords were loosened about their legs. At night they were trussed up more closely still, and the ends of their ropes tied to iron hooks in the wall. The cords were drawn so tight as in time to cut into the flesh, yet for six or seven days their guards refused to loosen them, despite their piteous appeals, being fearful that their prisoners might commit suicide, this being the favorite Japanese method in extremity.

The escort consisted of nearly two hundred men. Two Japanese guides, changed at each new district, led the way, carrying handsomely carved staves. Three soldiers followed. Then came Captain Golownin, with a soldier on one side, and on the other an attendant with a twig to drive off the gnats, from whose troublesome attacks he was unable to defend himself. Next came an officer holding the end of the rope that bound him, followed by a party carrying his litter or palanquin. Each of the prisoners was escorted in the same manner. In the rear came three soldiers, and a number of servants carrying provisions and baggage.

Aside from their bonds, the captives were well treated, being supplied with three meals a day, consisting of rice gruel, soup made of radishes or other roots, a kind of macaroni, and a piece of fish. Mushrooms or hard-boiled eggs were sometimes supplied.

Golownin's bitter complaints at length had the effect of a loosening of their bonds, which enabled them to get along more comfortably. Their guards took great care of their health, making frequent halts to rest, and carrying them across all the streams, so that they should not wet their feet. In case of rain they furnished them with Japanese quilted gowns for protection. In all the villages the inhabitants viewed them with great curiosity, and at Hakodate the street was crowded with spectators, some with silk dresses and mounted on richly caparisoned horses. None of the people showed any sign of malice or any disposition to insult the prisoners, while in their journey they were cheered by many displays of sympathy and piety.

At Hakodate they were imprisoned in a long, barn-like building, divided into apartments hardly six feet square, each formed of thick spars and resembling a cage. Outside were a high fence and an earthen wall. Here their food was much worse than that on the journey. While here they were several times examined, being conducted through the streets to a castle-like building, where they were brought into the presence of the governor and several other officials, who put to them a great variety of questions, some of them of the most trivial character. A letter was also brought them, which had been sent on shore from the Diana along with their baggage, and which said that the ship would return to Siberia for reinforcements, and then would never leave Japan till the prisoners were released.

Some time afterwards the captives were removed to Matsumai, being supplied with horses on the journey, but still to some extent fettered with ropes. Here they were received by a greater crowd than before, Matsumai being a more important town than Hakodate. Their prison was similar to the preceding one, but their food was much better, and after a time they were released from their cage-like cells and permitted to dwell together in a large room. They were, as before, frequently examined, their captors being so inquisitive and asking such trifling and absurd questions that at times they grew so annoyed as to refuse to answer. But no display of passion affected the politeness of the Japanese, whose coolness and courtesy seemed unlimited.

Thus the first winter of their captivity was passed. In the spring they were given more liberty, being allowed to take walks in the vicinity of the town. Soon after they were removed from their prison to a dwelling of three apartments, though they were still closely watched.

This strict confinement, of which they could see no end, at length became so irksome that the prisoners determined to escape. Their walks had made them familiar with the character of the surrounding country, and enabled them also to gain possession of a few tools, with which they managed to make a tunnel to the outer air. Leaving their cells at night, they succeeded in reaching the mountains back of the town, whence they hoped to find some means of escaping by sea.

But in the flight Golownin had hurt his leg severely, the pain being so great that he was scarcely able to walk. This prevented the fugitives from getting far from the town, while their wanderings through the mountains were attended with many difficulties and dangers. After a week thus spent, they were forced to seek the coast, where they were seen and recaptured.

The captives were now confined in the common jail of the town, though they were not treated any more harshly than before, and no ill will was shown them by the officials. Even the soldier who was most blamed for their escape treated them with his former kindness. They were soon sent back to their old prison, where they passed a second winter, receiving while there visits from a Japanese astronomer and others in search of information. One old officer, who was very civil to them, at one time brought them portraits of three richly dressed Japanese ladies, telling them to keep them, as they might enjoy looking at them when time hung heavy on their hands.

Meanwhile their countrymen were making earnest efforts to obtain their release. Some months after their capture the Diana, now under Captain Rikord, returned to Kunashir, bringing one of the Japanese who had been taken prisoner in the descent on Saghalien. The other had died. Six other Japanese, who had been lately shipwrecked, were brought, in the hope of exchanging these seven for the seven prisoners. Efforts were made to communicate with the Japanese, but they refused to receive the Russian message, and sent back word that the prisoners were all dead. Two of the Japanese sent ashore failed to return.

Rikord, weary of the delay and discourtesy shown, now resolved to take more vigorous action, and seized upon a large Japanese ship that entered the bay, taking prisoner the captain, who seemed to be a person of distinction, and who told them that six of the Russians were in the town of Matsumai. Not fully crediting this, Rikord resolved to carry his captive to Kamchatka, hoping to obtain from him some useful information concerning the purposes of the Japanese government. At Rikord's request the merchant wrote a letter to the commander of the fort at Kunashir, telling him what was proposed. No answer was returned, and when the boats tried to land for water they were fired upon. The guns were also turned upon the Diana whenever she approached the shore, but with such wretched aim that the Russians only laughed at it.

In the following summer the Diana returned to Kunashir, bringing Kachi, the merchant, who had been seriously ill from homesickness, and two of his attendants, the others having died. The two attendants were sent on shore, Kachi bidding them to tell that he had been very well treated, and that the ship had made an early return on account of his health. On the next day Rikord unconditionally set free his captive, trusting to his honor for his doing all he could to procure the release of the prisoners.

Kachi kept his word, and soon was able to obtain a letter in the handwriting of Golownin, stating that he and his companions were all alive and well at Matsumai. Afterwards one of the Russian sailors was brought to Kunashir and sent on board the Diana, with the understanding that he would return to the fort every night. Despite the watchfulness of the Japanese, he succeeded in bringing a letter from Golownin, which he had sewed into his jacket. This advised Rikord to be prudent, civil, and patient, and not to send him any letters or papers which would cause him to be tormented with questions or translations. In truth, he had been fairly tortured by the refinements of Japanese curiosity. Finally an ultimatum was obtained from the Japanese, who refused to deliver up their prisoners until they received from the authorities at Okhotsk a formal written statement that they had not ordered the hostile proceedings at Saghalien. The Diana returned for this, and in October made her appearance at Hakodate, bearing the letter required and another from the governor of Irkutsk.

The ship had no sooner entered the harbor than it was surrounded by a multitude of boats, of all kinds and sizes, filled with the curious of both sexes, many of whom had never before set eyes on a European vessel. They were in such numbers that the watch-boats, filled with soldiers, had great ado to keep them back.

Kachi came on board the next morning, and was given the letter from the governor of Okhotsk. The other Rikord would not deliver except in person, and after much delay an interview with the governor was arranged, at which Rikord was received with much state and ceremony. The letter of the governor of Irkutsk was now formally delivered, in a box covered with purple cloth, its reception being followed by an entertainment composed of tea and sweetmeats.

Meanwhile Golownin and his companions, from the time the Diana set out for Okhotsk, had been treated rather as guests than as prisoners. They were now brought to Hakodate and delivered to Rikord, after an imprisonment of more than two years. With them was sent a paper reiterating the Japanese policy of isolation, and declaring that any ships that should thereafter present themselves would be received with cannon-balls instead of compliments.

In all this business Kachi had worked with tireless energy. At first he was received with reserve as having come from a foreign country. He was placed under guard, and for a long time was not permitted to see Golownin, but by dint of persistence had done much in favor of the release of the prisoners.

His abduction had thrown his family into the greatest distress, and his wife had made a pilgrimage through all Japan, as a sort of penitential offering to the favoring gods. During his absence his business had prospered, and before the departure of the Diana he presented the crew with dresses of silk and cotton wadding, the best to his favorites, the cook being especially remembered. He then begged permission to treat the crew.

"Sailors are all alike," he said, "whether Russian or Japanese. They are all fond of a glass; and there is no danger in the harbor of Hakodate."

So that night the crew of the Diana enjoyed a genuine sailors' holiday, with a plentiful supply of saki and Japanese tobacco.


On the 8th of July, 1853, the Japanese were treated to a genuine surprise. Off Cape Idsu, the outer extremity of the Bay of Yedo, appeared a squadron of war-vessels bound inward under full sail, in bold disregard of the lines of prohibition which Japan had drawn across the entrance of all her ports. Rounding the high mountains of the promontory of Idsu, by noon the fleet reached Cape Sagami, which forms the dividing line between the outer and inner sections of the Bay of Yedo. Here the shores rose in abrupt bluffs, furrowed by green dells, while in the distance could be seen groves and cultivated fields. From the cape a number of vessels put out to intercept the squadron, but, heedless of these, it kept on through the narrow part of the bay—from five to eight miles wide—and entered the inner bay, which expands to a width of more than fifteen miles. Here the ships dropped anchor within full view of the town of Uragawa, having broken through the invisible bonds which Japan had so long drawn around her coasts.

During the period between the release of the Russian captives and the date of this visit various foreign vessels had appeared on the coast of Japan, each with some special excuse for its presence, yet each arbitrarily ordered to leave. One of these, an American trading vessel, the Morrison, had been driven off with musketry and artillery, although she had come to return a number of shipwrecked Japanese. Some naval vessels had entered the Bay of Yedo, but had been met with such vigorous opposition that they made their visits very short, and as late as 1850 the Japanese notified foreign nations that they proposed to maintain their rigorous system of exclusion. No dream came to them of the remarkable change in their policy which a few decades were to bring forth.

They did not know that they were seeking to maintain an impossible situation. China had adopted a similar policy, but already the cannon-balls of foreign powers had produced a change of view. If Japan had not peaceably yielded, the hard hand of war must soon have broken down her bars. For in addition to Russia there was now another civilized power with ports on the Pacific, the United States. And the fleets of the European powers were making their way in growing numbers to those waters. In a period when all the earth was being opened to commercial intercourse, Japan could not hope long to remain a little world in herself, like a separate planet in space.

It was the settlement of California, and the increase of American interests on the Pacific, that induced the United States to make a vigorous effort to open the ports of Japan. Hitherto all nations had yielded to the resolute policy of the islanders; now it was determined to send an expedition with instructions not to take no for an answer, but to insist on the Japanese adopting the policy of civilized nations in general. It was with this purpose that the fleet in question had entered the Bay of Yedo. It was under command of Commodore Matthew C. Perry, who bore a letter from the President of the United States to the Emperor of Japan, suggesting the desirability of commercial relations between the two countries, requesting the supply of American vessels with coal and provisions, and demanding the kind treatment and prompt return of shipwrecked mariners. This letter, splendidly engrossed, was enclosed in a golden box of a thousand dollars in value, and was accompanied by numerous presents. The fleet consisted of the steam-frigates Susquehanna and Mississippi and the sloops-of-war Plymouth and Saratoga, being the most imposing armament that had ever entered a Japanese port. Perry was determined to maintain his dignity as a representative of the United States, and to demand as a right, instead of soliciting as a favor, the courtesies due from one civilized nation to another.

The ships had no sooner dropped anchor in the bay than several guns were fired from a neighboring point and a number of boats put off from the shore. In the stern of each were a small flag and several men wearing two swords, evidently persons in authority. These boats were stopped at the ships' sides, and their inmates told that no person could be admitted on board except the principal official of the town, the high rank of the commodore forbidding him to meet any lesser dignitary. As one of the visitors represented that he was second in rank in the town, he was finally received on board the flag-ship, but the commodore declined to see him, turning him over to Mr. Contee, the flag lieutenant.

A long interview followed, in which the official was made to understand that the expedition bore a letter from the President of the United States to the emperor, a message of such importance that it could be delivered only to an officer of high rank. He was also told, through the interpreters, that the squadron would not submit to be placed under guard, and that all the guard-boats must withdraw. The official displayed much of the inquisitive curiosity for which the Japanese had made themselves notable on former occasions, and asked a variety of unimportant questions which the lieutenant refused to answer, saying that they were impertinent.

The Japanese officer had brought with him the ordinary notifications, warning all ships against entering their ports, but these the lieutenant refused to receive. Returning to the shore, in about an hour the officer came back, saying that his superior could not receive the letter addressed to the emperor, and stating that Nagasaki was the proper place for foreign ships to stop. As for the letter, he doubted if it would be received and answered. He was at once given to understand that if the governor of the town did not send for the letter, the ships would proceed up the bay to Yedo and deliver it themselves. At this he withdrew in a state of great agitation, asking permission to return in the morning.

During the night watch-fires blazed at points along the coast, and bells sounded the hours. The watch-boats remained around the fleet, but kept at a respectful distance from the perilous intruders. The next morning the highest official of the town came on board, but did his utmost to avoid receiving the letter. In the end he offered to send to Yedo for permission, and was granted three days for this purpose.

While awaiting an answer the ships were not idle. Surveying parties were sent four miles up the bay, sounding, and finding everywhere a depth of from thirty to forty fathoms. As they approached the forts armed soldiers came out, but retired again when the boats drew nearer. The forts, five in number, were very feeble, their total armament consisting of fourteen guns, none larger than nine-pounders. Many of the soldiers were armed with spears. Canvas screens were stretched from tree to tree, as if with the idea that these would keep back cannon-balls. In truth, the means of defence were so slight that Yedo lay at the mercy of the American fleet.

Villages seemed to line the shores in an unbroken series, and numerous small craft lay in the harbor, while trading vessels came in and out with little regard to the presence of the foreign ships. Every day there passed up and down the bay nearly a hundred large junks and a great number of fishing and other boats.

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