Transcribed by unknown author unknown author
Edition: February 16, 1877 February 16, 1877
"THE TRAVELLER'S PARADISE." -- Whatever may be our doubts as to the extent of the foreign influence, we can have none as to the loveliness of Japan, and the delight of travelling in the interior. When I left the country I had seen seven out of the eight largest towns; but it is not the weeks in the cities that live in my recollection, but the few days spent in the country districts. Japan is the traveller's paradise. Through a strange medley of pines and palms, of rice and buckwheat, of bamboos and elms, of tea and cotton; through azalea thickets and camellia groves, across tobacco fields and past rocks covered with evergreen ferns of a hundred kinds, and crowned with grotesque remains; through tussac grass and forests of scarlet maple, and over mountains clad in rich greenery, you many journey in perfect peace, safe from robbery, safe from violence, safe even from beggars, never troubled, never asked for anything, except by a civil policeman for your passport, and that with the lowest of low bows. The maidens say "Ohio" sweetly to you in the villages as you pass, where eight years ago you might have been sliced up by the sharp swords of the Samurai. "Ohio," too, call the labourers in the fields, leaving their work to come and bow at the roadside; not as the Javanese bow to the Dutch, but with the bow of equal to equal, the bow of infinite politeness. Without servant or interpreter, a European can travel in safety throughout the land. The people and their houses have been described too often. One cannot but love their fun, their cleanliness, their inborn sense of art. It is impossible to realise that the Japanese are real men and women. What with the smallness of the people, their incessant laughing chatter, and their funny gestures, one feels one's self in elf-land. On a fine day, the men appear as grinning demons in black tights, streaked all over with blue heraldry. On wet days, the long rush coats and long-sided straw hats equally remove all vestige of humanity. When we turn over Japanese pictures in our English homes we fancy that both the faces and the dress must be unlike real life. On the contrary, they are very like the old fashions of the wealthy class, with whom faces are as much made up and are as much a matter of fashion as are clothes. It is the country people of Japan who are my elves -- the tiny, jovial, copper-coloured poor. Were I describing rural Japan at length, I would try to show that it may be looked at from a point of view from which it has not as yet been much considered. Japan is the last refuge of the Joyous Life. See the Thames on a fine Saturday in July, or the fair of St. Cloud on the last Sunday evening of its reign, and you may for a moment believe that even in Europe the Joyous Life is not extinct; but the fun of the Thames is vulgar, and the loose morals of St. Cloud are venal. The Joyous Life of the Middle Ages may have been bad or good -- in Europe it is gone, and let us speak well of the dead -- but it was neither venal nor vulgar; that life lives still in Japan, where no paganism of antique grandeur dwells, but rollicking, unthinking fun. All who love children must love the Japanese, the most gracious, the most courteous, and the most smiling of all peoples. -- Sir Charles Dilke.