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KOBÉ AND OSACA.
KOB , or, as it is sometimes called, Hiogo—that being, however, the name of an adjoining town—was opened to foreign trade for the first time in the end of the year 1867. Though it is thus scarcely more than two years old, as far as foreigners are concerned, there are already more than a score of houses in it occupied by commercial pioneers from the western nations, and there are still more in course of erection.
The export tea and silk trade of Kobé promises to rank second only to that of Yokohama, and the import trade of foreign goods, of which one of the most lucrative branches has been that of guns and rifles, is steadily progressing. The guns and rifles were sold in large numbers to the neighbouring princes during the struggle which took place between the party of the now reigning Emperorthe Mikado—and that of the late Shogun, or Tycoon, as his name is often, though wrongly, written.
The native town of Kobé is very similar to Nagasaki, except that it is much smaller, and is not surrounded with such exquisite views: we will therefore spend our time in an excursion into the hills behind the town, to the well-known village of Arima, thirteen or fourteen miles away.
The first four miles lead us up a winding gorge to the summit of the ridge of hills which runs parallel to this western side of the Osaca Bay throughout its entire length.
Another four miles-partly over a portion of the summit of the ridge, composed of hills of decomposed granite, so bare and sandy-looking that it has earned the name of • Aden' among the foreigners at Kobé, and partly down a well-wooded ravine-bring us to a picturesque village lying in the middle of a broad valley. The remaining five or six miles of our journey take us up this valley and over a low ridge into another valley, in which lies Arima.
Few countries could afford such views of rich and varied vegetation, combined with beautiful outlines of hill-side and mountain-top, as we enjoy throughout this latter part of the route. From each side of the broad valley slope upwards, to a height of 1,500 or 2,000 feet, mountains covered withfoliage of every shade of green and every degree of density. Darkest and densest of all are the clumps of Cryptomerias, with their perfect symmetry of growth, and their close cypress-like foliage; scattered about in more straggling groups are the lightercoloured firs of which Japan boasts a great variety, and of which one or two kinds can with difficulty be distinguished from our own Scotch fir; almost as numerous are the maple-trees, with their light and delicate foliage, showing a paler green than any other tree in the landscape ; in striking contrast to the dark Cryptomerias are the groups of feathery bamboos, with their graceful stems and light and slender leaves ; here and there among the underwood are masses of lilac, purple, or white colour, betraying where one or more azalea-bushes are in full bloom ; more rarely a camellia-tree, with single dark-red flowers, raises its head above the lower bushes; while from the spreading branches of some larger forest tree, such as the camphor-laurel, or the evergreen oak, droop the lilac blossoms of the Westeria ; and just springing up from the ground are the green stems, which, by the end of next month (June) will be supporting the gorgeous lilia aurata,' so much prized in European gardens.
Arrived at Arima, we take up our quarters at a 'teahouse,' one of that numerous class of houses which in Japan correspond to our inns. This tea-house is, like the other houses of the village, of wood, and is built in two storeys; our rooms are on the upper floor. Before we enter we take off our boots and walk in stockingfeet. For in Japan the floor of every room is covered with very neat reed-mats, and on these mats the natives sit, eat, work and sleep. Chairs and tables are unknown in the country, and a Japanese Gillows can found his fame only as excelling in mats, sword-stands, small cabinets, or lamp-frames. The mats are all of one size (six feet by three), and are rather more than an inch in thickness. From their uniform size they have become a standard for measuring rooms, and consequently a room is described as 'so many mats' in size, instead of so many feet in length and so many in breadth; and rooms are always constructed so as to have space on the floor for a certain number of mats exactly.
The want of chairs is at first distressing to a European frame; but practice soon shows that we can be as comfortable on the floor as above it, and if one began the practice young, no doubt one could spend many easy hours à la Japonaise, kneeling on a mat and sitting back upon one's heels with one's toes stretched out behind !
We are scarcely settled on the floor before our landlady glides in, and kneeling down and making a low obeisance, enquires what our lordships will be pleased to have; while a couple of waiting-maids, or 'moosmés,' bring in trays of tea as a matter of course. Presently our coolies come in with some provisions brought from Kobé; and these, with rice and tea, fish and eggs, form our evening meal. When
the hour comes for sleep, the 'moosmés' bring in two large quilts for each of us, one of which, stretched on the mats, serves for bed and mattress, while the other takes the place of sheets and blankets.
Pillows we extemporise, for a Japanese pillow has by no means a soporific look. It consists of a box of wood, about the size and shape of a small stereoscope, the eye-pieces of the latter giving way to a cylindrical pillow, five or six inches in length and two in diameter. With the part of the head immediately behind the ear resting on this, the native of Niphon seems to woo the sleepy god as easily as the least-troubled English head that lies buried in luxurious down; and we can testify to having spent a pleasantly oblivious half-hour after a long morning's ride on one of these same pillows. How many hours of hair-dressing they must save to the fair sex of Japan ! A chignon, after a night on such a pillow, rises composed and unruffled; even the feat of sleeping with tortoise-shell comb and hair-pins adjusted might here be successfully accomplished.
Arima is a quiet village, but has some reputation for two things-its medicinal waters and its manufacture of baskets. The waters seem to be of a chalybeate nature : they are hot, and are made to flow from the natural springs into two wooden bath-houses in the main street of the village.
Here may often be seen two or three Japanese seeking relief from some of the ills which seem prevalent even in their beautiful country. Europeans, also, sometimes use and derive benefit from the baths, though the latter look as if they had but a yearly changing of the waters, and hardly inviting to anyone who has seen a Western Spa.
As to the basket-work, it seems to be the occupation pursued in every two out of three houses in the village. At any hour of the day the cottagers may be seen, seated tailor fashion in their front rooms, splitting, scraping, plaiting, and fitting the all-useful bamboo. Most of the baskets are perfect models of taste and neatness; and the variety of their patterns, and the lightness, firmness and cheapness of the work, speak volumes for the patient industry, natty fingers, and native taste of these rustic artisans. We pass two nights in Arima, and on the morning of the third day make our way back to Kobé.
Before going up to Osaca we must make a short excursion up to that temple whose white sides and gabled roof we can distinguish among the trees at the edge of the ridge which we crossed on the way to Arima. A ride of four miles brings us to the front of the ridge immediately below the temple, and then comes a steep zig-zag path leading up through rich woods, and ending at the foot of a flight of 220 steps. At the top of these is the temple, 1,800 feet above the bay, over which, and over Kobé, with the shipping dotting the waters in front of it, it commands a fine view.
On the way up to the temple we may notice pegs of wood, with inscribed papers attached, inserted in the bank at the side of the path ; these find a climax in an evergreen shrub, half-way up the flight of steps, which has slips of paper attached to every twig, and looks like a gigantic head in curl-papers. The papers are the prayers of the various pilgrims who on certain festivals come up in considerable numbers to make their devotions to the Sosano-wÔ-no-mikoto.
A small and cranky steamer traverses daily the eighteen miles between Kobé and Osaca ; and though her boilers are pronounced unsafe and her sides leaky, we venture on
1 This deity is the God of the Moon ; the moon in Japan being, from our point of view, unsexed.