Travellers' Tales of Old Japan by Michael Wise

Travellers' Tales of Old Japan by Michael Wise

Author:Michael Wise
Language: eng
Format: epub
ISBN: 9789814677325
Publisher: Marshall Cavendish International

c. 1889

Terrible Nights

The traveller in Japan often had to stay the night at a traditional native inn, usually picturesque to look at but which in fact presented all kinds of problems. The Hon. Lewis Wingfield, a globe-trotting Briton, appears to have suffered acutely.

Upon arriving at a yadoya, or inn, after a rough ride of a dozen hours, you find nothing to lean your weary back against, since the walls are made of paper. Your only chance of rest is to lie flat upon the floor. If the evening is chilly, a hibachi is introduced.... Even in the bitter winter of the hills there is no other way of warming yourself. Swathed in many garments, you cower on the floor over the tureen, you and it covered in with a wadded quilt, until, like to be asphyxiated, you fling off the covering and court an attack of influenza. Unless supplied by yourself, there are no lights save evil-smelling dip-candles provided with a paper wick, which constantly needs snuffing, and, when snuffed, glimmers like a glow-worm. For this reason, native arrivals at an inn rarely read, but instead play a species of tric-trac with draughts on a wooden board, whose constant clicking wears the patience and wrings the nerves with agony. When they do read, the result is worse, for a Japanese, of whatever station, elects to read aloud in a high nasal monotone which is soul-harrowing. In a hostelry of importance – say the chief inn of Nagoya, an opulent and interesting city of vast size – there are fifteen or twenty small chambers on a floor, separated one from the other by movable partitions covered with tissue-paper. Thus there is no deadening of sound. All the occupants of the twenty pigeon-holes are gabbling at once, and continue to gabble far into the night, with the confused hubbub of a Bedlam. In the early watches it was, I mind me, as the pale dawn was filtering through the paper at this very Nagoya inn, that I finally made up my mind that Japan was absolutely unendurable. For some reason the town was very full. I was considered lucky to have obtained for myself at all a private pigeon-hole. People were constantly arriving and clamouring for accommodation; and to show that there was none, the various partitions were slammed open and banged to by the attendant maidens with the sharp click of dry wood. Partitions being merely screens, there is no possibility of locking yourself in, or of privacy. Casual strollers in the passage slide back a screen and peep in search of friends, or merely out of idle curiosity. The method of summoning a servant is by hand-clapping, as in Egypt and elsewhere. Everyone was wanting something, and the salvo with palms was incessant. Hours went by.... Belated wayfarers clattered by on wooden clogs. Wandering vendors cried their wares, and one marvelled who could wish to buy in the middle of the night. Each arrival required in the first instance a bath, and here, as everywhere else, there was an inner yard reserved for the purpose of ablution.



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