[Translated from the Dutch.]

Extract from Hagenaar's Voyage to and in the East Indies, from 1631 to 1638; with CARON'S Account of Japan.1

[Extracted from Pinkerton's Collection of Voyages, vol. 7 (1796), pp. 607-41. The spelling has been modernised.]


IN 1634 Hagenaar was sent by the Governor-general of Batavia, Brouvar, with the  yachts Grol and Zeeburg, to Tayovan in Formosa, where he arrived in the middle of August. A violent tempest drove him soon after from the road. After being tossed about a considerable time, he cast anchor in the bay of Firando in Japan. There is a good roadsted in the entrance for barks and Japanese vessels, but it is not very fit for the Company's ships.

Formerly there were two hamlets close to each other, near the road, which made together a tolerable village; they now are united, and form a considerable town. The houses are small, and constructed of thin deals rabbited together.

There are hardly any merchants here, but those who reside at the lodge, which is very large, and built of wood. It consists of four large rooms, five bed-rooms, baths, stoves, kitchens, and other conveniences. It is, however, an old and ruinous building, so much so, that the merchandise in it may not be considered as very safe. To have it properly secured against thieves, fire, or other contingencies, a stone house ought to be erected.

The ledge attracts many people to this place to trade with the Dutch. Without this, the place would be what it formerly was, a village of fishermen. The increase of revenue to the Lord of Firando is proportionate to the increase of buildings; and there are now thirty-six streets in the place.

Hagenaar then sailed to the bay of Courchie, in the same neighbourhood, where he found some other Dutch ships. The president of the factory, Koaktbakker, came on board his ship, accompanied by some Japanese chieftains, in order to muster the crew according to custom. The next day he went higher up the bay of Firando, and discharged his cargo.

About this time thirty-seven persons lost their lives at Firando, on account of their being either professed Christians, or born of Christian parents. Some were hung up by the feet; others were beheaded, and cut to pieces; and again, others were tied to stakes and burnt.

On the 1st of November, Hagenaar sailed to Nangasakki with the Company's bark, taking with him 36,000 taels, each worth three gilders, to exchange for silver in bars. Here he saw a venerable old man, Melchior van Santvoort, who had resided there thirty years, having belonged to the fleet of Mahu, one of whose ships had been lost here. After a stay of nine days, Hagenaar returned to Firando.

Nangasakki has a capacious bay, and a good road. The city stands close to the sea, at the end of a valley. It is intersected by several canals, over which there are a number of wooden bridges, which are mostly covered. The houses are large, and in general built of wood. There are many streets, most of them unpaved, and, in rainy weather, scarcely passable. At night they are shut by booms. The place has neither walls nor ditches, but is very populous, and abundant in provisions.


About this time the yacht Venlo was laden with timber, rice, and forty boxes, each containing about 3000 gilders in silver, bound for Taiovau; the Wepen van Delft was sent with specie and the requisite articles of merchandise to China; and the Grol (Hagenaar's vessel,) with a flute-ship, sailed direct for Batavia.



IN August 1635, Hagenaar arrived at Firando, for a second time, coming last from the Piscadores, whence he brought a rich cargo. Disputes having arisen, about this time, between the Japanese and the Dutch, on matters of trade, it was deemed expedient to send an envoy to the Emperor at Jedo, in which city he had his residence. Hagenaar was appointed to this office, and set off on his journey about the middle of December.

Directly after his arrival, which was in the beginning of the year 1636, he apprized the Lord of Firando thereof, and solicited an audience. He made a public entry into Jedo; on which occasion the concourse of people was so great, that they could scarcely move forward. They took up their abode in the house of a bonze, or Japanese priest, which was the usual place of resort of the Dutch who came to Jedo. It was not till the next day that he obtained an audience from the Lord of Firando. The presents were at first refused, but afterwards accepted. The Dutch were obliged to have a petition drawn up, couched in the most respectful terms, dating the object of their embassy, by the private secretary of the Lord of Firando; and nearly a month elapsed in various procrastinated ceremonies and negotiations, before a message was sent to them from one of the chief ministers of the Emperor, saying that no opportunity had yet occurred of laying their petition before the Emperor; that it was not likely that their business could be done before the fandats, that is, the Japanese new year; and that he, therefore, advised the Dutch to set out on their return.

Hagenaar, upon this, took his departure from Jedo, leaving behind him, however, some of the Company's servants, amongst whom was the senior merchant Frans Caron. Having reached the large city of Meaco in eight days, Hagenaar, who had been wounded by his Japanese servant, in a fit of drunkenness, was obliged to take his passage by water to Hosucka, where he arrived the next day. As he had to wait here for the Company's bark, he took a palanquin to view the city. He saw here eight magnificent pagodas, adorned with gilt statues; also the famous castle, which is strongly fortified according to the Japanese mode, being surrounded by handsome stone walls, and deep ditches. The bark soon made its appearance, and Hagenaar returned to Firando. In the beginning of June, our people saw the last Japanese vessels come in from their whale-fishery. This fishery commences in December, and continues till May or June. In this period they had taken two hundred and seventy-four fish of various sizes. They are all caught near the shore.

About this time Caron came back from Jedo, where he had had an audience of the Emperor, who was very well pleased with the presents offered by the Dutch; and gave them in return two hundred pieces of silver, worth about two thousand five hundred gilders. The Lord of Firando gave the chief of the Dutch factory leave to build a ship, and man her with Japanese; and in other points the affairs of the Company seemed to go on very well.

In the beginning of August, Hagenaar sailed for the island of Tabour. A Japanese, who was accused of theft, proved his innocence by the following method: he held in his hand a piece of very thin Chinese paper, upon which were painted three monstrous [p.609] images, folded together. Upon this a large piece of red hot iron was put; the paper instantly caught fire and was consumed, but the iron did not appear to have done the least injury to the man's hand. This was considered as a mark of his innocence, and he was acquitted in consequence.

Hagenaar then returned to Firando, where, soon after, it was determined in council to send the merchant Van Santen to compliment the Emperor, and transmit some presents to him. At the same time, the information given by the junior merchant Verrtegen relative to the existence of an island very productive of gold, in the latitude of thirty-seven degrees north, about four hundred leagues to the eastward, was taken into consideration; but it was determined not to make any attempt at that time to discover it; partly for want of vessels, and partly, because the season was gone by for sending such as could have been dispatched from Japan: besides, the matter was looked upon in a very dubious light, as the Castilians were in the habit of traversing those seas every year. The enterprise was therefore deferred till a more convenient time.

On the 18th of October the Japanese celebrated a festival in honour of archery. At the end of a wide street, in which the principal magistrates resided, a target was erected. Three Japanese appeared on horseback, armed with bows and arrows, and otherwise equipped as for war. They put their horses upon a full gallop, and, upon approaching the target, they shot their arrows at their highest speed, about ten feet off. When the centre was hit, loud acclamations were heard. Each horseman shot three times. Hagenaar now received orders from Batavia, to proceed thither by way of Taiovau; and sailed accordingly in the beginning of November.



THE accounts given by Frans Caron, mentioned m the following narrative, interspersed with additional observations by Hendrik Hagenaar, which latter are distinguished by inverted commas, respecting the interesting empire of Japan, are separated from the narrative part, and here subjoined.

Japan, called Nippon by the inhabitants, is supposed to be an island, or an assemblage of islands, together constituting an empire. This is, however, not quite certain. The Japanese are themselves ignorant on this subject. By the most particular inquiries made by Caron it appears that, from the province of Quanto, whence the Emperor derives the largest portion of his revenue, and in which is situated his capital city Jedo, it is twenty-seven days journey, in a direction north-east-by-east, until the utmost point of the province of Tsunga, which borders upon the ocean. Thence an arm of the sea is passed, which is reckoned to be eleven leagues broad; after which you come to the country of Jesso, or Sesso, which produces large quantities of beautiful furs, but which is very desert, mountainous, and thinly inhabited. It is so extensive that, though the Japanese have penetrated very far into it, they have not yet found its termination, and cannot determine its extent. They have often been obliged to give up the further pursuit of discovery for want of provisions. This obstacle might, however, easily be removed; but the accounts given by the emissaries sent thither have not encouraged the Emperor to make further progress. According to them, the country is wild; and where there are inhabitants, they are represented as being hairy all over the body, with very long hair and beards, more resembling wild beasts than human beings. Whether, therefore, any of the islands which compose the empire of Japan are united to the continent or not, must thus remain unascertained.


The two large islands, called Chikok and Saickok, are governed by Kings and noblemen. The last-mentioned, which is the largest, includes a separate province called Fisen, which is said to be the smallest province of the whole empire. The largest island, Japan Proper, or Nipon, is close to the two just mentioned, and reaches to the country of Jesso, whose extent, as has before been observed, is not exactly known. It is divided into seven provinces, namely, Saickok, Chikok, Jamaifort, Jetsingo, Jetsigen, Quanto, and Ochio. There provinces, together with their cities and fortresses, are under the immediate authority of a number of Kings and noblemen, who govern them, and levy the revenues, out of which they transmit annually to the Emperor, the amount which has been fixed as their quota upon their appointment.

The revenues are appropriated, in the first place, to the maintenance of the Emperor, the King, his son, and of the court, in which objects are expended 4,000,000 cockiens, each cockien worth ten Dutch florins; secondly, 5,000,000 cockiens are devoted to maintain the guards, who are all noblemen, and receive pay each according to his rank. The whole annual expenditure is 28,345,000 cockiens. The lordships, lands, and estates which the Emperor distributes amongst his Kings, Princes, and noblemen, generally bring in 19,185,000 cockiens; but whether they produce more or less, the amount at which they are rated must be brought into the imperial treasury. The monarch has the title of Emperor, and is the lord paramount of the subordinate Kings, who are all dependent upon him; and he is also the absolute proprietor of all their possessions. Caron saw, during his residence in this country, several instances of Kings and noblemen, who, for trifling misdemeanours, were exiled to different islands, and others who were condemned to death; whose estates, revenues, and treasures were bestowed upon others, according to the will of the Emperor.

The imperial city of Jedo is very large. The palace, or castle, is six miles (in the original an hour and a half) in circumference; and is surrounded by three deep moats, and stone walls. These moats are connected with each other, and the bridges and gates of communication are so numerous and intricate, that it is difficult to form a conception of them.

The streets are very broad; some are bordered on both sides by sumptuous palaces. The gates are fortified on each side with iron bands, or gratings, about an inch in thickness, laid crosswise over each other. Over each gate is a large building, capable of containing, in case of necessity, two or three hundred men.

It is in the interior part of the castle that the imperial palace is situated, consisting of many large apartments, surrounded by shady groves, which although planted by art, appear to be the productions of nature. There are likewise fish-ponds, rivulets, open spaces, race-grounds, rides, gardens, and a number of separate apartments for the women.

In the second enclosure stand the palaces of the Princes of the Blood, and of the principal ministers. In the third and outer enclosure are the palaces of the principal Kings and nobles of Japan; all gilt and richly adorned. Without are the dwellings and houses of the inferior nobles, more or less sumptuous, according to their rank. Taken altogether, this astonishingly large palace appears, within and without, like a golden mountain; for all the nobles, from the highest to the lowest, spare no expense to ornament their residences, in order to give a greater lustre to the whole, and to please the Emperor, who takes great delight therein. Here reside the married wives and children of the nobles, in order that, being always under the eye of the court, they may serve as hostages for their fidelity. This exceedingly large palace, which has an extent equal to a great city, is thus at all times filled [p.611] with great men, who never appear in public without a numerous retinue of inferior nobles, pages, horses, and palankeens. The streets, however broad, are yet too narrow for their pompous processions.

The Emperor shows himself to his subjects, sometimes on horseback, and sometimes in an open sedan. He is generally accompanied by a number of lords, who are styled His Majesty's companion-nobles. They are generally some of his richest and most powerful subjects, but do not enjoy any other dignity or employment than that of constantly attending upon the person of the monarch. It is requisite, however, that every one of them should possess some eminent qualification. Some are musicians, others physicians; some singers, others beautiful writers; some painters, others orators. Upon them follows the first division of the bodyguard, consisting of principal lords, Kings, and Princes, the Emperor's sons by his concubines, who are on that account excluded from the succession to the throne, as also his brothers, nephews, and other near relations. These illegitimate Princes are very numerous, as may easily be supposed from the great number of the Emperor's concubines. One of the Emperor's uncles, who is King of Mito, has fifty-four sons, besides daughters, whose number is not publicly known.

In the third place, follows a part of the second division of the bodyguard. As this consists of several thousand men, the colonel, some of the officers, and part of the guard precede the Emperor about the distance of a cannon-shot; and the rest follow him at a similar interval.

How uncommonly large soever the number be of the soldiers kept by this monarch, none are found amongst them but chosen men, well made, of a courageous appearance, expert in the use of arms, and even not ignorant of literature.

The appearance of the Emperor in public thus makes a brilliant display. An astonishing multitude of people are seen, all well made, all dressed in black silk, some on foot, some on horseback, before, aside of and behind the monarch, altogether marching in ranks in the best order, and without any one deviating in the lead from his appointed station.

It is at the same time in the utmost silence that the procession proceeds. No one is heard to speak a word. Neither the spectators in the streets, nor those who form the procession make the lead noise. It can only be perceived by the sound of men's footsteps, and the trampling of horses.

Some time before the Emperor appears in public, his intention is announced; all the streets through which he is to move are cleansed and strewn with sand. The doors of all the houses are open. No one is allowed to appear at them, or at the windows, or in the shops. Everyone is obliged to return to the interior of his house; or, if there be any one that the Emperor desires to see, he must kneel on a mat before his door.

When the Emperor designs to repair to Miaco, which sometimes happens once in seven years, to pay a visit of ceremony to the Dairo, who is the true heir to the throne of Japan, an entire year is previously taken up in making preparations for the journey, and regulating the ceremonies to be observed. In order that the nobles may not crowd each other on the road, the number that shall set out and travel every day is fixed. Jedo is one hundred and twenty-five leagues distant from Miaco. Many cities, and large open villages lie on the road, two, three, or four leagues asunder. There are also twenty-eight palaces, erected at convenient distances to lodge the Emperor and his retinue on their journey. Twenty of these palaces are fortified. All, from the first to the last, are provided with an establishment of an household, soldiers, horses, furni- [p.612] ture, and every necessary for the use of the Emperor. Those who accompany the Emperor when he sets out from Jedo until he reaches the first palace, remain there; the retinue that is in readiness there replaces them, and go on to the second, where they remain; those in the second go on to the third, and so on till the last, regularly relieving each other. The same order is observed in the homeward journey.

In the year 1636, a large building was founded at Nicko, situated four leagues from Jedo, intended as a mausoleum for the then lately deceased Emperor. In front of the pagoda, appertaining to this building, was suspended the large brass chandelier, which had been presented by the Company to His Majesty in that year. Close to it stands a castle, surrounded by a double moat, and handsome bastions, built of stone. It contains a great number of elegant apartments. This castle, which was built for no other purpose than for the accommodation of the Emperor, when he is required to be present at the funeral ceremonies of his father, was completed in five months, an incalculable number of carpenters, masons, stone-cutters, painters, and other workmen, having been employed in its erection, which in the ordinary course of work, might easily have consumed three years.

The treasures of gold and silver of that monarch are kept in chests containing each one thousand taiels. It is said, that there is an incredible number of them; but the real number is known to very few. These chests are distributed in different parts of the chief palace, in one place more, in another fewer. According to the labels upon them, it would appear that some of these chests have remained filled with money for one hundred years. Since the receipts very far exceed both the ordinary and extraordinary expenditure, it follows that immeasurable sums must be kept in these treasuries.

The present Emperor's father was the son of Ongosschio, who put an end to the last state of civil confusion into which the empire had fallen, and gave to it a regular form, of government. He died at the age of fifty; when on his death-bed, he addressed the following words, amongst others, to his son:"The lands and treasures which I possess, belong to you; but there is one thing which I wish to put into your own hands; it is this chest; it contains the ancient laws and annals of the empire; the decisions and proverbs of our sages; and the principal and most precious gems. Keep all these things with care; they belonged to me, and have been religiously kept and respected by all our progenitors."

The present reigning Emperor had not, when he succeeded to the throne, either a lawful wife, or any children, being exceedingly addicted to an unnatural propensity. The Dairo, who had two very beautiful female relations, sent them to him, requesting that he would honour her whom he liked best with the title of Midni, or Empress. The Emperor, unwilling to offend him, retained one of them; but he never had any thing to do with her, continuing to live according to his usual manner. This young Princess fell, in consequence, into a deep melancholy, which, however, she fought to conceal, for fear of exciting the Emperor's displeasure. Her nurse, to whom she was much attached, and who was much respected in the court, having observed this, took the liberty once, when she thought she had found the Emperor in a good humour, to say to him, "How is it possible that your Majesty takes so much delight in the barren pleasures to which you are devoted, whilst you neglect a beautiful Princess, who would not only yield the blossoms of pleasure, but also the useful fruit of an heir to your dominions?" The monarch, though offended at this freedom, made no reply, but rising, retired to his own apartment, whence he immediately sent for his principal architects, and commanded them to collect as many workmen as they could, and instantly to begin the construction of a palace, to be built in the form of a castle, surrounded by high [p.613] walls and deep moats, provided with heavy gates, drawbridges, and a range of apartments. As soon as this palace, was finished he caused the Empress, her nurse, and all the female attendants who had accompanied her from Miaco to be shut up in it, with a strong injunction that they should never see the face of a man.

There occurrences greatly displeased the Emperor's own nurse, who had influence ever him, and who was respected at Court as if she had been his own mother. She regretted much to think that the Emperor would leave no children. To induce him to alter his mode of life, she caused the most beautiful damsels to be sought for in the palaces of the Kings and principal lords, and to be presented to him as occasion might serve. When, however, this did not succeed, she fought for the most beautiful girls throughout every station in the empire. Amongst those whom she brought forward into notice, there was the daughter of a sword-cutter, of whom the Emperor became enamoured, and who became pregnant by him. This circumstance, however, occasioned so much jealousy amongst the other ladies belonging to the Emperor, that they determined to destroy the infant as soon as it was born; and they did commit this horrid deed. How much soever this grieved the Emperor's nurse, and others of the courtiers, yet they gave no information of it to the Emperor, dreading the terrible and sanguinary consequences which it would, doubtless, have produced.

From the earliest times of which the annals of the empire make mention, till about one hundred years ago, Japan was governed by a series of Princes of the same race, who followed each other in uninterrupted succession, and who bore the title of Dairo. Their subjects honoured them, not only as sovereigns, but as saints; insomuch, that they were never disturbed by any internal commotions. Every one imagined, that to offer resistance to the Dairo, or not to pay due reverence to his sanctity, was equivalent to sinning against God himself.

Whenever any one of the Kings of the empire engaged in hostility with another, a general was sent from the court, who, with the imperial army, took the side of the one favoured by the Dairo, or compelled them to adjust their differences, or punished them. The sanctity of the Dairo not only relieved him from intermeddling personally in such affairs, but it was considered as a shameful degradation for him even to touch the ground with his foot. The sun and moon were not even permitted to shine upon his head. None of the superfluities of the body were ever taken from him, neither his hair, his beard, nor his nails were cut. Whatever he eat was dressed in new vessels. He had twelve wives, to whom he was married with much pomp and ceremony. Whenever he appeared in public his wives accompanied him, each in a separate carriage, ornamented with his arms and emblems. In his palaces stood two rows of houses, six on each side, all handsomely built and adorned, appropriated for these twelve wives, besides many other apartments for his concubines.

Every evening a banquet was prepared in every one of these twelve separate houses or palaces. No one was previously acquainted with that which the Dairo honoured with his presences. As soon as this was known, the festive multitude repaired from the other eleven, to the favoured abode; the other eleven wives attended with their ladies in waiting, and musicians, to do honour to the house and to her who dwelt therein. Plays were represented, and dancing and feasting prevailed; all being intent upon affording the greatest pleasure to the Dairo.

When a son and heir to the empire was born to him, eighty of the youngest and handsomest ladies, wives of noblemen, were assembled, in order to choose a nurse from amongst them for the hereditary Prince. They were conduced in great state to the palace, and welcomed with much ceremony by the other eleven wives of the Dairo, or [p.614] Empresses, and by all the ladies of the court, together with nine of the principal lords, and nearest relation of the Dairo, who, in default of male issue, were, respectively, to succeed him.

On the following day they were all examined, and out of the eighty, forty were again selected; upon which occasion a festival was held. The forty who were rejected, were dismissed with much ceremony, demonstrations of respect, and valuable presents. On another day the forty were reduced to ten, these again to three, and out of these three finally one was chosen. At each selection new festivities took place, and presents were distributed.

The nurse thus selected instantly suckled the child, who had in the mean while sucked the breasts of one of the principal ladies belonging to the court. It was not, however, till after she was consecrated, as it were, by repeated ceremonies, that the nurse was reckoned worthy of being intruded with so precious a pledge. Numerous were the marriage and child-bed festivals, and anniversaries, all which were celebrated with great state and ceremony.

All these peculiarities continue to be observed at the court of the Dairo, who has a sufficient revenue to defray the expenses attending them, without having recourse to the funds belonging to the state, which are at present under the control of another Emperor. I shall now, in a few words, relate the occasion of this important revolution. The dignity of commander-in-chief of the army, was formerly one of the highest and  most important in the whole empire. The Dairo's second son often filled it. A certain Dairo, who had a third son, of whose mother he was fervently enamoured, wished, to please her, to advance him to the same dignity as his brother, who, either by law or custom, was entitled to it. For that purpose he ordered that the office of commander in-chief should be divided between them, that is, enjoyed by them by turns every three years. This was accordingly done; but one of the brothers, during the time in which he was in office, so much ingratiated himself with the great men of the land, that they entered into an engagement with him, to maintain him in the possession of the important post he filled. The representations and menaces of his father were, in consequence, unavailing to make him quit his situation at the termination of the appointed three years.

The consequences of this dispute were easily to be foreseen, and that the flames arising from it would soon burst out and spread over the whole empire. The Dairo finding himself compelled, in order to maintain his authority, to have recourse to coercive measures, resolved to bring his son back to his duty by force, or even, if necessary, to deprive him of his life. The last took place. This was the first civil war that the Dairos ever were engaged in, and the first opposition to their authority.

The other commander-in-chief, however, remaining the sole possessor of his important post, acted in the same manner as his brother had done; he pursued his measures with such certainty, and obtained so powerful a party amongst the great men of the empire, that, after the decease of the Dairo, he caused himself to be declared the absolute governor of the empire, leaving to the heir-apparent nothing more than the title and she accustomed forms of respect paid to the imperial dignity.

The consequence of this was a second civil war. The Dairo took his opportunity, and appointed another commander-in-chief, who defeated the first. But the benefits arising from this victory were reaped solely by the general; who, in his turn, following the steps of his two rebellious predecessors, usurped the sovereign power. Hence arose a third civil war, of which the consequences were more pernicious than those of the two former; for each King or lord who felt no inclination to submit to this [p.615] new sovereign, set himself up for an independent Prince. The empire was thus torn to pieces in every corner. There was no city, town, or even village, however small, that was not at enmity with the neighbouring places.

In the midst of these disturbances and commotions, a soldier of fortune arose. At first he had only a band of fifty men; but by means of his courage, and the good fortune that accompanied him, he soon found himself at the head of a numerous body, with which he made himself master of a considerable number of cities and fortresses, and, in the course of three years, made the whole empire submit to his authority. He further acted in the same manner as the other mutinous commanders had done. He left to the Dairo only the title and the revenues attached to it, and took the real sovereignty upon himself. The Dairo, too weak to offer any resistance, was compelled to wear the yoke imposed upon him, and to crown the new Emperor with his own hands, reserving only the title.

The name of this usurper of the empire was Taicko. He was a man of great abilities, and reigned fortunately, by reason of the measures he adopted to consolidate his authority, and to prevent the chief nobles of the empire, who both envied his good fortune, and submitted with reluctance to the dominion of a Sovereign of so ignoble a birth, from stirring up mutiny or rebellion against him. In fact, his plans were wisely and efficiently laid for this purpose. In order to provide employment for those of whom he was most apprehensive, and whom he desired to remove from the court, he declared that, inspired by the desire of fame and of the extension of the frontiers of the empire, he had projected to undertake the conquest of the land of Corea. For that purpose he dispatched thither an army of sixty thousand men, and gave commands in this army to those Kings and nobles of whom he had the greatest suspicion. He afterwards contrived to make this war last seven years, during all which time he kept the great men whom he distrusted, at a distance from court. He wrote to them, from time to time, in an insinuating way, and fed them with fine words and large promises. At the same time, however, he strictly enjoined them not to think of returning till they had completely subjected the country, and had attained the renown of having united it to the crown of Japan.

The army, however, so long detained in those distant parts, began to murmur. Everyone ardently desired to return home, without being able to obtain permission to do so. Not daring, however, to do otherwise, both officers and soldiers began to wreak their discontent upon the conquered inhabitants, and committed every kind of barbarity. Murders, rapes, and conflagrations were incessant throughout the country; and their wanton excesses arose at length to such an height, that the oppressed natives, no longer able to bear or submit to them, sent deputies to the Emperor to present their complaints to their new Sovereign. These not having, in their opinion, been received in a sufficiently friendly or considerate manner, found means to administer poison to the Monarch. The intelligence of his death no sooner reached Corea than the army dispersed. The chiefs hastened home, either to take their chance in a struggle for the imperial dignity, or at least to secure to themselves some lordship or territory. Taicko had an only son named Fideri, who, at the untimely death of his father, was only six years old. The Emperor, upon feeling his approaching distribution, made a will, by which he named as guardian to his son, one of the chief nobles of the empire called Ongosschio. He made Ongosschio sign an instrument with his own blood, by which he promised, that as soon as the Prince attained the age of fifteen years, he would cause him to be crowned Emperor of Japan by the Dairo, would acknowledge him as such, and would rather forfeit his life than depart from this solemn engagement.


Ongosschio, who had been selected by Taicko, because he was acquainted with his abilities, having conduced his affairs with great prudence, caused himself to be appointed regent of the empire. He availed with much cunning, of the jealousy that prevailed amongst the different Kings, which he found means to excite and foment, in order to promote his purposes. No sooner was he firmly settled in the government of the empire, than he forgot the engagement in favour of his princely pupil, which he had entered into, and signed with his own blood. Fideri, having attained the appointed age, was accused by his guardian of not being faithful to himself, and of having entered into engagements and conspiracies with some of the nobles, in order to procure himself to be crowned without his knowledge; and even of having declared himself to be his enemy.

These frivolous or unintelligible accusations were backed by measures of force. Ongosschio had recourse to arms to maintain himself in the imperial government. Having assembled an army in the kingdom of Suraga, he marched to Osacka, where Fideri held his court. He besieged the place, and took it after an investment of three months. Fideri was constrained to beg for mercy, and to offer to resign the empire; requesting further of Ongosschio, that he would give him some lordship, and receive him amongst his vassals in the same manner as the other nobles. For the readier obtaining of these conditions he sent his wife, who was a daughter of Ongosschio, that she might intercede with her father for him. But Ongosschio would not even see her. On the contrary, his ambition and cruelty rose to that pitch, that he caused a large quantity of wood to be collected and piled up round the house into which his son-in-law, with his mother, wives, and most faithful friends had retreated, and setting it on fire, put them all most wretchedly to death.

After this deed of cruelty, he disencumbered himself of all the men of consideration who had taken the part of Fideri, and in that manner subjected the whole empire to his sway. He in some measure made amends for his violence and cruelty, by a wise government, in which he equalled his predecessor Taicko. But he did not long enjoy his high dignity. He was far advanced in years when he attained it, and died soon after his usurpation. His son, Combo, or as some call him, Conbosamma, succeeded him and was crowned as Emperor. He was the father of Chiongon, the Emperor who sat on the throne at the time this narrative was composed.

The revenues of the empire, which are distributed to or farmed by the kings and nobles, amount to 18,400,000 cockiens, each cockien being worth ten gilders. In time of war, or as often as the Emperor requires it, each noble is obliged to furnish a quota of troops equivalent to the extent of his possessions. For example, a nobleman who has an income of one thousand cockiens must provide and maintain in the field twenty foot-soldiers, and two horsemen. The Lord of Firando, who has a revenue of 6,000 cockiens, is obliged to furnish 1200 infantry and 120 horsemen,2 besides the servants, slaves, and other followers of a camp. The number of the troops which the Kings and nobles must furnish upon the first summons of the court, thus amounts to 368,000 infantry and 36,800 cavalry. The Emperor moreover entertains, out of his private purse, 10,000 foot-soldiers, and 20,000 horsemen; who lie in garrison in the cities and fortresses; or serve him as body-guards.


Most of the nobles, at least those of the first rank, generally keep in actual service twice as many troops as they are required to furnish at the first summons. It is by the splendour of this martial retinue that they chiefly demonstrate their princely power. Besides which, they seek by this means to avail of any opportunities that may occur to make themselves more known, and by some martial exploit to acquire renown. This was apparent in the last war of Arimas.

All the cavalry wear armour, but the foot-soldiers only wear a helmet. Some of the horsemen are armed with pistols; some with short lances, and others with bows and arrows; all, however, are provided with scimitars.

The infantry, which is divided into companies, are armed with two sabres, and, according to the size and strength of the men, with heavy or lighter firelocks. Some carry long pikes, or nanganets, which are a sort of bayonet. There is an officer to every five soldiers, who is armed like the men. Five of these smallest subdivisions, or twenty-five men, have again an officer, so that each company, which consists of fifty privates, has ten inferior officers, and two who are placed over them; over which two again there is another, to whom they are subordinate, and who is the effective captain of the company. Five companies have a chief placed over the captains, and fifty companies again another chief over the ten officers, who each command five companies. The cavalry is organized in the same way.

The number of the living inhabitants of the whole empire of Japan is annually exactly known; as well as particularly, the number of soldiers, citizens, and farmers. Over every five houses an inspector is appointed, who must keep a register of all who are born, and of all who die, and render account thereof to his superior. The latter reports the same to the lord of the place; he again to the King; and the King transmits his documents to two ministers, who are appointed for that purpose by the Emperor. The Dutch are in the habit of designating all the counsellors and placemen of the empire by the general appellation of counsellors of state. But they have all their respective titles of honour, except the four first and chiefest ministers of state, who have none, but are always attending the person of the Monarch in his court, and render account to him of all that occurs in the empire. These are both feared and reverenced by all the kings and nobles. The incomes of the chief ministers amount to twenty, those of the inferior placemen to ten; and the fabrics of those who fill the lowest stations may, at last, be reckoned at from two to three tons of gold.3

No one dares to attempt any opposition to the will of the Sovereign; and when he has  positively stated his opinion, no one ever dares to utter any thing by way of persuading him to change it. The least punishment that would await a temerity of this kind would be banishment. The placemen are chosen from amongst the lords and nobles who are educated for the particular service of the Emperor; who selects from amongst them those who please him most. Hence in the hope of favour, in which they all live, each pays his court to the Sovereign, and is ready to fulfil his desires even before his lips are opened to express them. Whatever injustice the Emperor may commit, or unto whatever extravagance or excesses he may plunge, they praise or approve of all. Though the nobles possess very enormous revenues, yet the expenses which they are obliged to incur are still more so. They must appear at court, and at least reside there six months in every year. What they are compelled to expend in that time in the metropolis almost surpasses belief. The lords from the northern and eastern parts of the empire must beat court during one-half year, and those from the south and west during the [p.618] other half. Yet they must send, previously to coming to court, to ask permission to do so; and on their arrival they give pompous entertainments. Such also take place at their departure. On their journeys out and home they are escorted by bodies of from one to six thousand men, each according to his rank and wealth; and it will readily be conceived that so numerous a retinue must be extremely expensive to them. The Lord of Firando, which is the place where the Company have a lodge or factory, though one of the least considerable of the nobles, does not go to court with a less suite than three thousand nobles, soldiers, esquires, and other dependants, requisite to compose a stately pageant. At Jedo there are two palaces, in which he constantly keeps one thousand attendants, both male and female. The other nobles do the same, each in proportion to his income.

This astonishing concourse of people is the cause that every thing is very dear at Jedo, and that housekeeping is consequently very expensive. In addition to the maintenance of their retinue, comes that of their buildings. How sumptuously soever they may be adorned, the proprietors have never done, but are constantly making alterations or additional ornaments. To this is to be added likewise the cost of cloths, in which in the same manner not a little is wasted; for all these numerous dependants must be habited so as to do honour to their chief. The women, especially, spend large sums as well upon their own dress, as upon that of their ladies in waiting, and further female attendants. The grand dinners they are obliged to give, and the presents they are forced to make, also run away with a great deal.

In addition to all this, it must likewise be stated, that whenever the Emperor takes it into his head to erect new castles, or to repair the old ones, to dig canals, or to effect any other similar works, each noble is obliged to furnish workmen according to his rank and revenue. The number of workmen that are forthcoming on such occasions is incredible, as is also the rapidity with which they finish what they are engaged in. The nobles spare no expense to make the Emperor observe their zeal to afford him satisfaction, and at the same time, doubtlessly, to get the sooner rid of the burthen which is laid upon them.

Whenever any of the chief nobles build a new palace, he causes an entrance to be made for common use, and also one which is more elegant, adorned with carvings from top to bottom, varnished and gilt. This is covered over with planks in order not to be damaged either by the sun or by the rain; and it remains thus covered till the Emperor goes to feast in the new-built palace. As soon as he has passed in and out of it, it is again shut and covered up, nor is it either opened, or uncovered again, except upon a like occasion; because no one may enjoy the honour of treading on the  same threshold with the Emperor; whilst at the same time it would be considered as derogatory to His Majesty to pass over one that had been worn.

The Sovereign seldom pays more than one visit to the same house during his life. Whole years are employed in making preparations for his visit. All the articles of furniture are adorned with the arms of the empire, in carved work, in painting, or in embroidery. After the imperial feast, they are put by, and are never again used. They are preserved like precious jewels, in remembrance of the honour done to that house by the Sovereign, in appearing at table in it. He is invited three years before hand; and the interval is not the least too long to issue the necessary orders, and pay due attention, that nothing may be wanting.

Such an entertainment is of considerable importance, and occasions no little to do. It continues for three months for all the nobles and courtiers, for whom, from the day that the Emperor dined there, open table is held for that time, daily. The excesses [p.619] that take place on these occasions are not trifling. The erection of a new castle, and the feast which the Monarch deigns to celebrate there, with the consequences of it, are enough to ruin a King. And in fact, some of them, and many of the great men, ruin themselves by it. To continue in favour with the Sovereign it is necessary, however, for them to resolve upon celebrating these honour-bringing but ruinous festivities. When the Emperor has been out a hunting, and has caught any cranes, a species of bird that is highly venerated in this country, he sometimes sends one of them as a present to some grandee who is most in favour with him. But the honour to receive a bird from the Emperor, caught by his own hand, is so great, that the favoured nobleman, in order to testify his gratitude, is obliged to lay out at least one half of his possessions in presents, feasting, and other expenses, and sometimes to ruin himself entirely. The Lord of Zatsuma lately gave an entertainment to the Emperor in a newly erected palace. So well pleased was the Monarch with the reception he had met with from that nobleman, that he presented him with an addition of six tons of gold to his annual income, to serve for provender for his horses, as His Imperial Majesty expressed himself.

The Emperor frames and concludes all the marriages of the nobles. The wife whom they receive from his hand is always the object of their tendered affection. To receive her, they erect a palace on purpose. They give her a number of women to serve her, sometimes as many as two hundred, according to their income. The money which is dissipated by the sex in dress and ornament may be called exorbitant. Their separate apartments must be sumptuously adorned, gilt, carved, and provided with costly furniture. They only go out once a year to see their nearest relations. On those occasions they sit in palankeens, and are accompanied by from thirty to fifty ladies in waiting, each of whom is attended by a waiting-maid, who follow each other in stately order on each side of the palankeens, which are superbly decorated.

The children of those wives who are given by the Emperor in marriage succeed the father in his lordship and territories. If they are barren, or bring forth no male children, the kingdom, or the lordship, is generally transferred to another noble. The nobles in this country have as many concubines as they choose, or can maintain. The number of their children is consequently often very great, who have nevertheless no share of their paternal inheritance, and sometimes fall into beggary.

Whatever can be imagined as contributing to pleasure and the support of luxury is to be found in the apartments of their women. There are gardens, fish-ponds, arbours, summer-houses half on shore and half over the water, all sorts of land-birds and of waterfowl, musical instruments, and such like. Plays are represented; and feasts and banquets constantly occur. They very seldom admit any men into them, and then only some of their nearest relations. These women's apartments are very carefully guarded. No woman, whether old or young, rich or poor, may have any conversation or connection with any man but the one to whom she belongs. They must pass their whole lives, or at least a great part of them, in the state of servitude to which they are condemned. It is not only a criminal action, but even the bare suspicion of it, that is punished by death. Nevertheless, the women are very amiable, mostly possessed of surpassing beauty and elegance of shape, and gifted with many captivating graces. With the greatest humility and the most ready obedience they serve the King or the nobleman to whom they belong, whilst he is in their dwelling. They anxiously attend to every thing that can afford him satisfaction. They talk, or are silent, laugh, or are grave, according to the humour which they perceive predominates at the moment in their master. Their dress is of different coloured silk. Each, according to the rank they hold, or the post assigned them, wears an appointed colour. Some wear a red dress, with green [p.620] sashes and ribbons; others a white one, with red trimmings; others again appear in yellow, with scarlet girdles and strings. Almost all their dresses are embroidered, or adorned with golden figures, either painted, printed, or sewn. The wives of all the nobles of every rank have their servants or ladies in waiting, mostly daughters of nobles, who have had a cultivated education. They must bind themselves for twenty, or at least for fifteen years; and some do so for their whole lives.

All women, from the highest to the lowed, are taught this lesson, never to interfere in state affairs or in any worldly matters: this lesson is observed by them as an holy law hence they never dare hold any conversation with their husbands on such subjects, or even ask them any questions. They would not only, not receive any answer, but it would be taken in very ill part; and there is nothing they are so fearful of as the displeasure of their husbands.

The men of this country say proverbially, that upon entering the apartments of the women, they leave all worldly cares and the remembrance of them, behind them upon the door-mat, and take them up again, when they go out; adding, that they visit those places for no other purpose than to drink deep from the full cup of the pleasures of this life. In fact, nothing is ever heard there but sounds of delight. New modes of stirring up the fire of love, and of satisfying the passion, are incessantly invented. New festivities are in constant preparation; every kind of musical instruments are heard; singing, dancing, dramatic entertainments, in short every thing which can please the taste of the master is adopted and practised.

The reasons which the Japanese adduce, for having adopted this mode of living with respect to their women, and that they do not allow any male stranger to set foot in their apartments, or to hold any intercourse with them, or that they should interfere in any kind of business, are expressed by them to be, because they maintain that the woman is born to serve the man, to accommodate him in his pleasures, to bear children, and to bring them up; and that having enough to do with those occupations, they must not apply themselves to any thing else. Furthermore they suppose, that by these means they prevent innumerable jealousies, quarrels, wars, massacres, and a thousand other inferior ills, which they maintain are almost the inevitable consequences of a contrary mode of acting; such as their ancestors, to their sore grief, experienced at the period when their women were not kept in such strict bonds. They relate a thousand instances of these, either registered in their ancient histories, or handed down to them by tradition, or commemorated by the drama. They have a long catalogue of wives, who have deceived, ruined, and even murdered their husbands in those times.

Either by education, or in consequence of a fortunate temperament given them by nature, the women in Japan are faithful to their husbands, and very modest. Some examples are given by Mr. Caron as occurring during the time of his residence there. A nobleman of elevated rank in the kingdom of Fingo had a very handsome wife. The King falling in love with her, caused her husband to be privately murdered. A few days afterwards he sent for the widow to court, who, in the mean time, had obtained a knowledge of the King's crime and intentions. The Prince having declared his passion to her, and pressed her to grant the completion of his desires, she answered him in the following terms; "I ought, O King, to account myself fortunate to have be able to please you, or to contribute any thing towards your happiness. Yet I declare to you, that the moment you touch me, I will bite out my tongue with my teeth and cause my own death, unless you grant my previous request. If you grant this request, however, I promise to become your servant. Give me thirty days to mourn for my husband, and to celebrate his funeral; and permit me at the end thereof, to [p.621] hold a feast on the tower of your palace, with all my relations, that I may take leave of them, and assure them of my regard." This request, though it somewhat displeased the King, yet he could not refuse it; nor could he conceive why the desired to hold this feast on the tower of his palace. However it was so; a feast was held there; the King was present, and indulged in eating and drinking, flattering himself that he should shortly satisfy the desires that raged in his bosom; the lady however rose, and pretending to require a little fresh air; proceeded to one of the galleries of the tower at a little distance from the company, whence the suddenly made a spring, and dashed herself to pieces, in the presence of the King and all the guests; preferring thus this violent death to a violation of her chastity.

A young servant-maid kneeling before a nobleman, whose servant she was, and reaching out her hand to pour out some wine for him, had the misfortune to let an unlucky wind escape her. She was hereby so forcibly affected by shame, that she was not only deprived of the power of rising and leaving the apartment, but, drawing back her hand, and letting her face fall upon her bosom, she covered her head with the slip of her dress, and seizing her right breast she drew it up to her mouth, and set her teeth into it with such a delirious force, that they remained clenched in her flesh, until she actually died from the emotion of shame that had seized her.

A certain nobleman having caused a number of handsome and well shaped young girls to be collected from amongst the inhabitants of his territories, in order to put them to service in the habitation of his wives, found amongst them the daughter of a poor soldier's widow, who pleased him so much that he took her for his concubine; some lime after, her mother secretly sent to inform her that her poverty was so great that she even wanted bread. Whilst she was reading her mother's letter the nobleman came into the apartment, and she attempted to conceal the writing from him. But he, most likely entertaining suspicious thoughts, became angry, and insisted upon knowing from whom the letter came, and by whom it had been brought. A feeling of shame on account of the poverty of her mother made her refuse to satisfy him; but at length, seeing he was preparing to take the letter by force, she folded it up, put it into her mouth, and attempting to swallow it, it stuck in her throat and choked her, so that she died incontinently. Anger and jealousy made the nobleman instantly cut open her throat, and get the letter out of it; which was not so much damaged but that it could be read. He soon found that the unfortunate victim was innocent, and that the secret which she had fought to conceal at the expense of her life, was no other than the penurious situation of her mother. He was much affected by her death, and melting into tears, sent for her mother to his palace, where she was amply provided withal that was necessary or agreeable, and was yet alive, when Mr. Caron left the country.

As a further proof of the chastity and natural modestly of the nation, it may be stated that parents never indulge in light or loose conversation in the presence of their children, even not in any allusions to marriage or its purposes, nor in many things of the kind, that would be considered as perfectly harmless by us. If any thing of the kind happens to escape in an unguarded moment from any one in company, the young people directly rise and leave the room. The children love and respect their parents in an uncommon degree. They are firmly persuaded that those who fail in, or neglect, their duty to their parents, will be punished by the gods. During the whole year they appropriate one day in every month to the memory of the decease of their parents. On that day they neither eat flesh, nor any thing that has received life; fruits and vegetables are then the only food.


The revenues of the nobles arise out of the various products which their territories afford. Some lands yield corn; some gold and silver; others copper, iron, tin or lead; others again timber, hemp, cotton or silk. All these revenues are estimated at the real value, and are known to the Emperor, who appoints a chancellor or steward to each of them, upon the pretence, and for the purposes, as appear by the following form of appointment; "To our beloved and faithful; your affairs are extensive and you have many subjects to govern. This has induced me to send to you an understanding and faithful person, who has been brought up under my roof, in order to give him to you for an aid. Make use of him, and demonstrate thereby your gratitude for what I do for you." This emissary or spy from the court, is received with every imaginable demonstration of joy. He is sumptuously entertained; presents are made to him; and in result every means is retorted to to bring him over to the interest of the chief to whom he is sent.

Those who are employed by the Emperor for this purpose, are educated at court from their infancy, and have always served him in one of the three chambers. He is therefore fundamentally acquainted with them, and conceives that he can implicitly rely upon them. He makes them swear, and sign with their blood, to transmit information to the Emperor of whatever they see, be it of much or of little consequence, of whatever they hear, and of whatever in any way comes to their knowledge respecting affairs of state; as likewise to keep a daily register of the measures and acts of the grandees to whom they are dispatched. The Kings and nobles dare do or undertake nothing unknown to the chancellor, who in him is more the real governor of their territories than themselves.

Almost all the nobles entertain a certain number of men of understanding and experience, whose advice, given without any simulation or reserve, they listen to. Every evening they must represent to them any mistakes into which they may have fallen during the day just elapsed; for it is a received maxim amongst this nation, that no human being can know his own faults. They are convinced that those who are called, to the exercise of important dignities, and who have the direction over many things, often fall into error, by precipitation, by anger, by pride, or by too fond an attachment to pleasure; and they prefer to be privately reminded of their faults than to be exposed to the consequences which might ensue from them, or to the observations to which they might give rise in public.

The principal courtiers have their proper names; they are, however, in general, addressed by the name of the territories which they possess, or by the titles of dignity they enjoy: the place or castle at which they usually reside bears the same name as themselves. Besides this, men are mostly distinguished by three different names, at three different periods of their life. Infancy has its proper appellative, which it would be ridiculous, according to their ideas, to apply either to the age of adultness or to that of grey hairs. When they attain the age of manhood they change their name, taking one that is fitting; and the same occurs again in advanced life. The Japanese, however, in general have also family names, which are derived from their ancestors. These they place before their familiar names, saying, that they existed before them in the world, and ought therefore to have precedence. When a nobleman dies, from ten to thirty of his subjects or servants, according to the rank and power of the deceased, rip open their bellies, and accompany him to the grave. Those who do this, have entered into an engagement to do so, and have given their words to that effect; for whenever it happens that their lord shows the many particular favour, or promotes them in his service, they thus address him, to demonstrate their gratitude: "My lord and master! you have so many faithful subjects; what have I [p.623] done more than they, to deserve the honour you have conferred on me? I cannot make you any return in any ether way than by giving you back this body, which is already our own, and by promising you that it shall not exist longer than you do." To confirm the promise, they drink a beaker of wine together, which is a solemn ceremony amongst the Japanese: engagements confirmed in that way cannot be broken.

The ripping open of their bellies is thus performed. They assemble their relations, and go all together to a pagoda. In the middle of it mats and carpets are spread upon which they sit down, and partake of a farewell repast. They eat and drink heartily and gaily, as if nothing was the matter. After the repast, the man who means to die cuts open his belly cross-wise, so that the entrails gush out. Such as possess most courage afterwards cut their own throats, and immediately give up the ghost. There are nevertheless no fewer than fifty different modes of ripping up their bellies, which are customary amongst them. He who performs this operation with the greatest courage and coolness, acquires the most fame, and is most admired and praised.

All the pagodas are constructed of timber, and are elevated three or four feet above the ground. They are mostly of a square form, and from ten to forty feet across. On each side stand steeples, likewise constructed of wood, carved and gilt. These pagodas are in great numbers, but most of them are of a small size. Everywhere are to be seen images, or representations of dragon's heads, giants, and such like, though mostly without any proportion or regularity. The Japanese utter short ejaculatory prayers before the pagodas; after which they throw their offerings, which consist in small pieces of copper money, into a sort of box or chest; when the principal nobles erect any lofty walls, either by the command of the Emperor, or for their own use, it sometimes happens that some of their dependants beg the favour of being permitted to serve as a foundation, and that their bodies may be laid under the wall; for the Japanese have imbibed the idea that a wall erected upon the body of a man, who has offered himself voluntarily for that purpose, is subject to no manner of accident. When the offer is accepted, the victim lays himself down in the trench dug for the foundation, and heavy stones are then lowered down upon him, which crush him to pieces.

"The persons, however, who offer themselves up in this manner, are slaves, who are treated very ill, and lead a wretched and penurious life; so that it is probable, that they, on that account, prefer rather to die in that manner than lead so miserable a life."

The Emperor possesses a good number of large and well fortified castles. Those of Osacka and Jedo are the principal. In the territories of the Kings and nobles there are likewise large castles, and great cities, but the latter are not surrounded by entrenchments or walls.

All the streets in the towns and cities are laid out nearly alike, and of the same length, namely, sixteen ickiens, each ickien being three ells.4 At the end of each street is a gate which is always shut at night, and sometimes also, in case of necessity, by day. A watch is set every night, and the streets are lighted by lanterns. All roads are measured, and at the end of each league there is a stone, showing the distances from the different places.

Both in the cities and in the villages there are two inspectors appointed over each street, who have an eye over all that occurs in it, and are obliged to render an account [p.624] thereof. In order that some persons may not appear before the magistrates in a manner, or upon motives, unbecoming the respect due to them, superiors are appointed in every street to prevent this, who act as fathers, friends, arbitrators, or counsellors, and endeavour to settle disputes in an amicable way. If this may not be, they then appear before the judges. In cases of importance immediate resort is had to their tribunal.

In many cities, wells of water, at small distances from each other, may be observed in most of the streets; which is a very necessary precaution, as the houses being built of wood are very subject to accidents by fire; by which it often happens that entire streets are consumed.

Neither cities nor villages have any municipal rights or income; for each place has its own lord, who possesses there the sovereign authority. Neither citizens, merchants, or nobles, pay any kind of taxes or imposts, excepting alone for the ground upon which their houses are built. This tax amounts to the value of from one to twenty gilders, according to the size of each house, and the extent of ground it occupies. Besides which, every freeholder must furnish for each area a workman or servant, and this occurs twice or thrice every month. The service, however, that is required often does not last for one hour, and continues at most for half a day.

Each King or lord subsists upon the produce which he derives both from land and water. In the same manner the nobles under them, and the soldiers, live upon the produce of that portion of land which is appropriated to them by their lord. The merchant lives upon the profits of his profession. The citizens and mechanics, from their vocations and labour. The peasants, who are little better than slaves, subsist upon an allotted portion of the produce of the lands which they cultivate.

"The revenues, thus arising both from the land, and from the fisheries, are bestowed by the Emperor upon particular lords. He also disposes of the produce of the whale fishery. We may here remark, that the whales, of which in general from two to three hundred are caught by the Japanese, are nothing like so large in these seas as they are in Greenland. Their blubber is generally from four to eight inches in thickness, and is much intermixed with the flesh, which is eaten by the inhabitants."

Every lord, or master, from the Emperor down to the meanest citizen, dispenses justice in his own affairs, territories, house or family. The Emperor has certain regents or magistrates in all his dependences, cities and villages, appointed to take cognizance of affairs regarding him. The nobles and the military enjoy the privilege, when they are condemned to death, of ripping open their bellies. Merchants, citizens, and persons of inferior rank, receive their punishment from the hands of an executioner. Those who follow mercantile pursuits are held in no manner of respect, but are on the contrary despised on account of the deceptions they practice in their trade, in which, only looking to immediate profit, they use all manner of tricks, craft, and lies. Nor are the citizens and mechanics in much estimation; they are despised on account of their inferior station; the citizens, because they are at the service of the public, and mechanics, because they subsist from the labour of their hands. The peasants are very wretched; they labour very hard, and live very poorly.

The punishment of death is inflicted for the slightest crimes, particularly for theft; whoever has stolen even the value of one penny, has no pardon to expect. Whosoever hazards any money in gambling loses his life. Whoever kills another, whether on a sudden, or by treachery, must give life for life. All crimes which are punished by death by us, are equally so there. Every one must bear the punishment of his own crime.


When, however, the offence is committed against the state, punishment is inflicted upon the whole race of the offender. The fathers, the sons, the brothers, all are condemned to death; all their property is confiscated: the mother, the sisters, and the daughters, are sold for slaves.

The property arising from confiscation, whether in the immediate domains of the Emperor, or in the territories of the lords, does not fall either to the monarch or the lords; they have no manner of share in it. Whatever is confiscated comes into the hands of a receiver, who keeps an accurate account of the same; and it is appropriated to the erection or repairs of pagodas and bridges, to the keeping in repair of the high-roads, and to other similar objects of public utility.

"Various modes of capital punishment are practiced. In order to discover a theft the following process is adopted. A small flat and square piece of iron, about a quarter of an ell square, is heated red hot, and afterwards suffered to lie till it begins to look blue. It is then laid upon both the outstretched palms of the accused, upon which have previously been laid one or two sheets of very thin paper, painted with images of demons, which instantly catch fire; the accused then throws off the iron as soon as he can. If his hands are burnt or scorched, he is pronounced guilty; or if they remain unhurt he is acquitted. A man convicted of theft is first fastened to a cross in the following manner. To a bamboo of the thickness of a man's arm two sticks are fastened across; the sufferer is placed upon it, and tied by the neck, with a slip knot, to the bamboo; his hands, arms, and legs are then tied down to the cross sticks. Being thus placed, the cross with the man upon it is set up an end. A man then comes forward provided with a pike, the point of which is armed with a sharp flat piece of iron, a quarter of an ell in length. With this he pierces the body of the criminal, first penetrating on the right side up to the left shoulder, and then from the left side up to the right shoulder. These stabs generally pierce the heart, so that the suffering of the criminal is short. The other kinds of punishment which prevail in this country are all cruel in their sort; and adapted, by the excitement of terror, to serve as examples to deter other malefactors."

In all places, and on all occasions, the execution of justice is very severe. The Lord of Firando, not long ago, caused three young ladies out of his seraglio to be shut up alive in a large chest, the inside of which was provided on all sides with nails, leaving them to die in that most miserable manner. One of them had entered into a too familiar intercourse with a nobleman, but the other two had committed no other crime than that of having been privy to the amour, and not having divulged it. The nobleman ripped up his belly.

A husband who finds his wife with another man in any apartment of which the door is shut, is allowed to kill them both, although no harm may have happened between them, as sometimes, though seldom, is the case. If the husband be not at home, or is in the field, the father of the wife, her son, her brother, or another relation, may exercise the same right, and represent the person of the husband. Even a male servant belonging to the house may do the same. Hence instances of adultery occur very rarely. During the whole time that Mr. Caron resided in that empire, only one instance of that crime came to his knowledge. The affair happened in the following way:

A certain Japanese, pretending to go a journey, returned very shortly after he had left his house, and found a man with his wife, whom he killed in the very act. He tied his wife to a ladder, and left her standing upright the whole night. The next day he invited to dinner all their relations, both his own and those of his wife, as well [p.626] as women. Although this was contrary to the custom of the country, as men and women are never invited to a feast at the same time, but always at different times; he requested that for that once they would depart from the custom; and his desire was complied with. The women being assembled in a separate room, asked several times for the mistress of the house. The husband's answer was always, that she was busy making ready, and would soon make her appearance, desiring that they would in the mean time divert themselves. Both men and women, however, being now met together in the dining-room, sat down to table, often repeating, however, during the meal, the inquiry for the mistress of the house. In the meantime, the husband having left the room for a while, went and cut off the private parts from the corpse of the adulterer, and laid them upon flowers in a box, the lid of which he shut down; then loosening his wife from her hands, he made her put on a winding-sheet, and put the box into her hands, leading her to the company in that dress, and telling her, "Go and offer the company this dainty, and try whether the guests will say a good word for you, and will entreat me to forgive you." The woman, more dead than alive, as may easily be conceived, fulfilled her commission, and fell upon her knees before the company. But no sooner had she opened the box and perceived the contents, than she rose to take flight, but her husband, intercepting her, cut off her head. The guests were not a little disturbed by this scene, and rising from table, left the house and returned to their homes.

"Those who travel to Jedo along the road called the Long Street, which is one hundred and thirty-six leagues long, are served in the houses where they stop for refreshment by women, or slaves, as they call them. An interpreter asks the traveller which of the women, whom he sees, and who are all dressed in silk, he desires to have to sleep with him that night. The woman on whom his choice falls, willingly submits. In Japan it is a regular custom that, as soon as any vessels enter a harbour, the hosts or innkeepers repair to the commanders of the ships, and asks them whether they desire to have a concubine during the time they remain there. If the offer be accepted, the man brings forward a woman, and the conditions are settled as formally as if it were a marriage. These women receive for their support three, four, or six pence every day, and are allowed one or two silk dresses, which cost twenty, twenty-five, or thirty gilders; one or two cotton dresses, doe-skin shoes, and other articles of ornament. To the parents or proprietor of the concubine a payment is made of ten, fifteen, or as high as thirty gilders. The agreement is celebrated by a festival, and the parties live together, during the appointed time, as man and wife."

The following are reckoned to be offences against the state: the breach of any of the Emperor's ordinances and proclamations; the misconduct of the nobles of the empire in the administration of the affairs committed to them by the Emperor; the embezzlement or improper appropriation of the revenues of the empire; the coining of counterfeit money; the ravishment of another's wife or daughter; the forcible carrying away of women from the highlands to the lowlands. Not only the offender in these cases, but his whole family, is liable to punishment. If the wife be an accomplice in the crime she must also suffer death; but if she be innocent of it, she is quit by being sold for a slave; for the women are not allowed to be put to death for the crime of another; it is only their own crimes for which they are liable to capital punishment. The usual punishment on occasions of the kind just mentioned are, according to the nature of the crime, burning alive; crucifixion, with the legs in the air and the head downwards; tearing into four quarters by bulls; and sometimes being cast alive into boiling water or oil.


A certain Japanese, who had contracted with one of the imperial governors to furnish a certain quantity of carpenter's work and masonry, having miscalculated in his bargain, failed to complete it properly, but to hide it he had bribed some of the military and inspectors, in whose department the contract was to have been executed. This having been discovered, the inspectors were condemned to rip open their bellies, and the contractor to be crucified with his head downwards. He was a man of great desert, and one who was much respected by the principal counsellors and courtiers of the Emperor; and although, according to law, no person may or dare be a petitioner in such cases, to excuse those who have committed crimes of that nature, yet the great inclination which was felt for the offender, and the compassion which his case excited, worked so powerfully upon the members of the council, that they ventured to throw themselves at the Emperor's feet, and to solicit mercy for him. Behold the answer:

"I have heard your request with displeasure; but what offends me most is, to perceive by it, that your judgment has been so remarkably weakened. Ought not a man who has been guilty of so enormous a crime to die? And what is the motive which induces you to solicit me in his behalf? Have ye also let yourselves be shamefully bribed by presents or by money? Go, change your sentiments; do not attempt to infringe the laws by disarming justice. If there be any one amongst you who is so much attached to money and riches, let him enter into my treasury and satisfy his desires. Enter, I say, unto ye all: ye have my leave." No one ventured to make a reply, but all retired abashed and confounded.

A peculiarity is observed in the infliction of capital punishments in Japan, which is worthy of notice. It happened, says Caron, in my time, what indeed is not a matter of rare occurrence, that a nobleman who had been appointed by the Emperor to the administration of a certain territory in the neighbourhood of Jedo, extorted from the peasants a larger contribution than that at which the lands they cultivated were legally affected. Scraping in this manner together more than he stood in need of for the support of his establishment, he saved money and became a rich man. The peasants, at length, not being able to endure the oppression under which they laboured any longer, presented a petition and proved the allegations which it contained. Upon this, the nobleman was condemned, together with his whole family, to rip open their bellies. He had a brother in the western territory, at about two hundred and fifty leagues distance, in the service of the King of Tingo; an uncle at Zatsuma, twenty leagues further; a son in the service of the Rajah of Kinocani; a grandson in the eastern territory, one hundred and ten leagues from Jedo, at the court of the King of Massamne; another son in the service of the governor of the castle of Quando; two brothers, who were soldiers in the imperial service; and another son, the youngest of all, who lived near Jedo, and whom he had given to a rich merchant, who, having no other children, but daughters, had, even in his infancy, earnestly begged to have the young man, with the intention of marrying him to one of his daughters; the Dutch were well acquainted with the merchant. All these persons, living at such wide distances from each other, ripped open their bellies, and died on the same day, and at the same hour.

In order to fix the day of execution, a calculation was made, how many days an imperial courier would require to travel from Jedo to Zatsuma, the most distant place where any of the relatives of the culprit resided; and on what day of the month, and at what hour of the day, he could arrive there. It appearing, that that would be on the eighth day of the eighth month, orders were issued, that all the others should execute the sentence upon themselves on that day exactly at noon; which was observed with the greatest precision. [p.628] The merchant, whose daughter had married the youngest son of this noble criminal, died at Osacka of grief at the death of his son-in-law, whom he had educated, and whom he tenderly loved. His daughter desired also to rip open her belly, and die with her husband; but seeing that her parents kept a watchful eye over her to prevent her, she took the resolution of declining to take any food or drink, and by that means put an end to her life, eleven days after the death of her husband.

These instances are sufficient to teach us the dreadful effects of a despotic government, and by contrast, the happiness of those nations whose lives and property do not depend upon the will of a tyrannical sovereign, but are solely under the constraint of laws that do not operate but to the harm of those who are really guilty. Extortionary avarice ought undoubtedly to be restrained and punished, but, at the same time, a line of difference ought to be drawn between those who are guilty of an infraction of the rights of others, and those who have not participated either by act or will in the crime. Tyranny follows one road, and true civil liberty the other.

The Japanese show a great degree of Stoicism in the hour of death, whether it be a natural or a violent one. Even the women appear actuated by an intrepidity, in other countries foreign to their sex. They are sometimes seen to suffer the cruellest tortures with great coolness. The pain of death is likewise denounced against; the utterance of falsehood in particular cases, especially in such, by which the magistrates are sought to be deceived in the exercise of their judicial authority.

It is, however, necessary to observe, that all that has been said on the subject of capital and other punishments is alone applicable to the inferior nobility, the military, the merchants, citizens, and peasants. The punishments that are inflicted upon the Kings and upper order of nobility are different; their lives are not touched.

Forty leagues to the eastward of the coast of Jedo, there lies an island in the main ocean, which is only one league in circumference, and is called Faitsiesina. The coast of it is precipitous; there is no bottom to be found around it, and there is no harbour; vessels can therefore only touch at it in the following manner:

The first persons who went thither were adventurers, who, on a perfectly calm day, by means of straps and ropes fastened round their bodies, found means to climb up the precipice. Those who had ascended the height in this manner, made use of those ropes to haul up to the top timber and tools, which were fastened to them by their companions, who remained in the barks. Provided with these materials and tools, they contrived to fix some beams in such a way, and to secure them so well at one end, that the other jutting out from the rocks, were able to hold by ropes attached to them the barks below, and keep them lifted six or more feet above the water, leaving them in that suspended situation. For the least wind occasions so heavy a swell against the rocks, that any vessel remaining at the foot of them would be dashed to pieces against them. The island is every where barren and craggy, and produces nothing but a few mulberry-trees. It is almost as difficult to approach the island, as it is to land people upon it.

The nobles of the first rank, who have committed any offence against the Emperor, or have drawn upon themselves his displeasure, are sent in exile to this island. There are guard-houses placed at different parts of the island, well provided with soldiers, who are stationed there to prevent any one from having any intercourse with the exiled nobles, or from conveying any assistance to them, as the means of their escape. The garrison is relieved every month, wind and weather permitting, at which times provisions for the soldiers, and for the exiles, are sent thither. These provisions are very bad, and are distributed in a very sparing manner. Exclusive of a little rice, [p.629] the wretches confined there only receive the bark of trees, and other strange food, difficult to eat, and worse to digest. Small huts are their abode, which are scarcely sufficient to shelter them from the heats of summer or the colds of winter. They suffer very severely in consequence of their hard treatment. They are, moreover, obliged to collect the silk produced by the worms, which are bred here in considerable numbers, to prepare and spin it, and to weave as many pieces of silk stuff every year as are imposed upon them for a task.

When the Emperor died in the year 1631, all the prisoners, in every part of the empire, not one excepted, were liberated, on the same day and hour. Each received a small sum of money, according to his necessities, in order to travel to the place to which he belonged. The Japanese are neither very superstitious, nor are they over religious. They do not pray either in the morning or the evening, nor before nor after meat, nor on any fixed hours of the day. The most religious scarcely go to the pagoda more than once a month. They are sometimes heard to utter the word Nammanda; which is the name of one of their principal deities.

The priests generally hold forth three times in a year; those who are members of the sect to which the priest belongs, assemble in the pagoda to hear him. The members of a certain sect, when they are afflicted with serious or protracted diseases, send for a conjuror, who continues with them for twenty-four hours, reading all the time, or rather making an unintelligible noise; for all that relates either to their religious worship or to medicine and other sciences, is written in a learned and secret language, which is only known to those who are initiated.

At the same time the number of pagodas in Japan is incredibly large. The priests reside in them, from two to twenty in a community, according to the size of the buildings.

"The priests have their heads shaved. The usual dress of their order has a great resemblance to the linen frocks which the common people of South Holland wear. Upon festivals, however, they wear silk clothes, the upper part of which they throw over the arm, like the slips of a cloak."

Their occupation consists in reading prayers before the idols, burying the dead, or being present at the burning of the bodies and the interment of the ashes: this takes place with much ceremony.

"The feast of the deceased, called Bom, is celebrated very nearly in the same manner as the festival of All Souls in the Roman Catholic countries. The priests perform the service every year on an appointed day, each in their rank, and in their own pagodas. They go in a row, one after another, in procession, round a covered grave, chanting of litanies and a sort of service for the departed." Tombs are erected round the pagodas, and consist of a stone-wall round the grave of one or two feet in height. Those who visit them from time to time strew them with flowers, or with green branches, and pour a little water into a hole, which is made in one of the stones for that purpose, to which they put unboiled rice, which either the poor people, or the birds soon take away. Upon some graves is erected a stone post or pillar, with an inscription, commemorating the name and rank of the person who lies buried there; but this is only the case with respect to the graves of people of some consideration or wealth."

There are twelve different religious sects amongst the Japanese, out of which there are eleven of whom the priests eat nothing that has received the breath of life, or have any carnal connection with women. If any one of them transgresses this rule, and is [p.630] legally convicted thereof, he is buried with half his body out of the ground in the high road; and every passenger, who is not one of the nobility, is obliged to give him one cut with a saw across his neck. This half-interred sufferer may thus be three or four days before his torments are ended.

"Although the priests are not allowed to have any communication with women, they keep catamites; and this they do openly, without its being considered as wrong." The twelfth sect is the one that is held in the greatest respect, and is the most celebrated by the learning of its members. The priests that belong to it are married. They may eat whatever has had life, whether land or water animals. Jeko is the name by which this sect is distinguished. It abounds more in superstitious practices than the others. The chief priests and heads of the pagodas belonging to this sect receive no less honour than Kings. When the members of the sect meet them, either on foot or in a sedan, they fall down on their knees, and worship them.

"The Great Dairo fills, amongst all these priests, the same station as the Pope of Rome does with respect to the Roman Catholic clergy in the Christian world. It is on this account that the Emperor is obliged to pay a visit to him every three years,5 at Miaco, and to pay homage to him by the offering of costly presents. In this visit the Dairo hands a beaker of wine to the Emperor, who, after drinking the wine, breaks the vessel, and joins the pieces again together; which is considered as a symbol of subjection."

This sect has more sumptuous pagodas and richer priests than any of the others. Some of the clergy derive their incomes from lands appropriated to that purpose, either by the Emperor himself, or by the lords of the places where the pagodas stand. Others are maintained by the people. In the same manner as in Roman Catholic countries, everyone has his own confessor, and a convent to which he directs his alms; so has each Japanese his particular pagoda, and favourite priest, in whom he places especial confidence, and who experiences, above all others, his charity. It is in this, that their religion principally consists; their alms or benevolence flow in no other channel; they are ignorant of any other religious merit.

The opinions and ceremonies of all these twelve religious sects are different. Some believe that man is endowed with an immortal soul; that the body returns to earth, but that the soul at some future time is to return to this world, in order to lead either a happy or a wretched future life, according to its deserts, in having conduced itself well or ill in its pre-existent state. The doctrine of the destruction of the world is unknown to them. Some believe that the world has existed from all eternity, and will continue eternally to exist. Some maintain that man does not possess any soul, that is, not an immortal spirit, and that he has therefore only to fear a worldly judge.

The principal and wealthiest members of these sects make use of their pagodas mostly as places of entertainment and delight. As they are generally erected in the most agreeable situations, on pleasant eminences, and surrounded by refreshing shades, they make choice of them whenever they are desirous of enjoying an excursion or a party of pleasure. They indulge in all manner of excesses in the presence of their idols, and under the eye of their priests, who are not more sparing in eating and drinking than their guests. Debauches of every kind are practised; and a number of courtesans are sent for, whom they make use of in the presence of the priests, who, in their turn, being forbidden the use of women, have recourse to unnatural practices.


The Japanese are never heard to enter into any religious disputes. Nor do the members of one sect ever seek to make converts amongst the others. Each remains in his own persuasion, without troubling others, or being troubled himself on points of faith.

"Hagenaar relates, that he saw men wearing ropes with knots in them, flung over their shoulders, whose eyes turned round in their heads, and who were called jammaboos, signifying as much as conjurors, or exorcists. Any one who has laboured for a long time under a disease sends for one of the most celebrated jammaboos, who, after having spoken in a loud and vehement manner for a considerable time, appears to receive an answer in another voice, which all the persons present hear without perceiving whence it proceeds, saying, 'Why do you torment and vex me so long? I am not he that does it, but such or such a one, your enemy, who sent me to cause this evil to come upon you. Appease him, and I will depart.'

"He further observes that, though he has travelled in many parts, he never saw such magnificent idols as amongst the Chinese, who always put three together, painted most gaudily, and adorned like Kings with crowns; with always a black one amongst them. They also put the images of three beautiful women together, of a fair complexion, and well-shaped limbs, most elegantly sculptured.

"On the outside of the city Ositcha, Hagenaar saw six pagodas, before which were placed three images of gigantic stature, with chests to receive offerings beside them, into which some of the people cast pieces of copper money. Through the middle of the smallest of these pagodas ran a rapid rivulet, which afterwards sank into the earth. A few poor old women were observed throwing into the brook pieces of paper upon which something was written; they muttered some prayers at the same time, in the same manner as the old women do at Rome, when they ascend the consecrated steps.

"At such places, as barks and other vessels must pass close by, in their passage round the coasts and bays, the abode of a priest is erected on the points of land, or close to the water, resembling a peasant's cottage, or rather, perhaps, a pigsty, which is hung round with bits of painted paper, and looks like a little book-flail, or picture-shop in Holland.

"In a cove about half a league from the Dutch lodge at Firando stands a little wooden house, scarcely an ell high and an ell broad. Pregnant women go thither in pilgrimage, and pray in these words: 'Give me a son, and I will make you an offering.' By way of earnest in bespeaking the good offices of the power they worship, they leave a little rice as an offering. These little houses have a great conformity with the niches which the Roman Catholic Christians make in the walls, along the high roads, or at the corners of streets, for the reception of images, to which in like manner they pray and make vows."

All the priests and some of the nobility are strongly attached to unnatural lusts; they do not make any sin of this propensity, and neither feel shame or remorse on account of it.

The Christian religion was formerly very much detested in this country. This is evident from the various very severe persecutions which the professors of it have suffered. At first, the believers in Christ were only beheaded, and afterwards attached to a cross; which was considered as a sufficiently heavy punishment. But when many of them were seen to die with emotions of joy and pleasure, some even to go singing to the place of execution; and when, although thirty, and sometimes one hundred were put to death at a time, it was found that their numbers did not appear to diminish, it was [p.632] then determined to use every exertion to change their joy into grief, and their songs into tears and groans of misery.

To effect this, they were tied to stakes and burnt alive; were broiled on wooden gridirons, and thousands were thus wretchedly destroyed. But as the number of the Christians was not perceptibly lessened by these cruel punishments, they became tired of putting them to death, and attempts were then made to make the Christians abandon their faith, by the infliction of the most dreadful torments which the most diabolical invention could suggest.

The women and girls were stripped naked, and compelled to crawl on all-fours through the streets; after which they were violated in public by ruffians, and at length were thrown into tubs full of snakes, who were taught to insinuate themselves into their bodies. One's heart shrinks to hear of the many other abominable and inhuman cruelties which were committed, and the pen refuses to record them.

The Japanese Christians, however, endured these persecutions with a great degree of steadiness and courage; very few. In comparison with those who remained steadfast in the faith, were the number of those who fainted under their trials, and abjured their religion. It is true, these people possess, on such occasions, a Stoicism and intrepidity of which no examples are to be met with in the bulk of other nations. Neither men or women are afraid of death. Yet an uncommon steadfastness in the faith must, at the same time, be requisite to continue unsubdued in these trying circumstances. Once a year a general and strict search is made throughout all the territories of the empire. All the inhabitants are assembled in the pagodas, where they must sign with their blood, that they are true Japanese, and not Christians; or, if they are Christians, they must abjure their faith. But this measure has not produced the effects which the Emperor expected from it; as not one year elapses, in which several hundred Christians are not put to death.

All these persecutions and massacres have, in fact, considerably reduced the number of Christians; and the court has directed, in order to discover those that remain, that, if any one was found to be a Christian, he should be relieved from the punishment to which he would otherwise be liable, upon making a discovery of a fellow-Christian; or, if he could or would not point out another, that then he should suffer the penalty affixed to the profession of his religion, namely, to be hung up with the head downwards. It is generally supposed, that this measure will be more efficacious for the extirpation of Christianity, than all the punishments that have hitherto been devised.

An accurate register is kept of those Christians who have saved their lives by treachery of this kind; and the strictest measures of precaution are observed that they may not abscond. They are consequently all known; it is known where they are; and they can be forthcoming as often as they may be desired to appear.

Japanese, who were well informed, and experienced in affairs of state, assured Mr. Caron, that there was no doubt, but the court had in view to destroy all the Christians in one day, without sparing one individual, as soon as an assurance could be obtained that none others were to be found in the empire; in the hopes, in that case, of preventing Christianity from ever again rearing its head.

All the houses in Japan are built of wood, and nothing but wood and charcoal is burnt in the fire-places. Hence fires are very frequent, and it is not an uncommon occurrence for entire cities to be consumed by the flames. How large soever the quantity be of timber and wood which is requisite for these various purposes in a country so thickly inhabited, yet no scarcity is ever experienced of the article; a proof that it is a country abounding in forests and in trees.


Each house has a kind of magazine or warehouse belonging to it; which is constructed so as to be proof against fire: articles of the greatest value are stored or kept in them. All the houses are elevated four feet from the ground, and are floored with deals, which are covered by mats closely joined together. The Japanese generally live in the lower apartments; the upper story is principally used as a storehouse for provisions, and for many other articles of inferior value. The parlours or state-rooms, in which they receive their friends, are very neat and handsome.

"Tubs or vessels full of water are placed on the top of most of the houses, in order to serve, in case of need, to extinguish fires. All kinds of variegated woods, such as red, marbled, or flowered, and camphor-wood, abound in this country, and are in common use."

The houses of the nobles and of the military are separated into two divisions. On one side of the entrance are the apartments of the women, who are never seen, and who never make their appearance. On the other, are the apartments of the husband; some of which are rooms in which he receives his friends and others, such as are devoted to the occupations which his profession, or office, require.

The wives of the citizens and merchants appear in public; together with their daughters and female slaves they attend to the domestic duties of the family. They are, however, never addressed but with great respect and politeness; and long or free conversations with them are very carefully avoided. Both the man who addressed and the woman who permitted such would be dishonoured, nay, perhaps, considered guilty of a crime.

Their principal articles of furniture are screens, strongly gilt and handsomely painted with various figures and devices. The walls are often covered with various representations, or are neatly pasted with gilt or marbled paper, so artfully done as to seem as if the whole room was made of paper. All round runs a black varnished border. There are some small rooms or closets, which are only separated from each other by very light sliding-doors, also covered with paper, which may be taken away at pleasure; and then the several small rooms make only one large saloon.

At the upper end of the saloon is a painting, before which stands a vase of flowers; for flowers are in season here almost throughout the whole year. At the lower end is a gallery leading down into a neat garden, adorned with artificial rocks and evergreen trees. The room in which company is usually received looks into the garden. They do not set off their houses with japanned ware, boxes, or chests; these are placed in an interior apartment, to which none but their most familiar friends and relations have access. Tea-equipages, paintings, elegant writing in frames, and scimitars of beautiful workmanship, are the articles of furniture in which they take most delight, and on which they expend most.

Both nobles and citizens receive their visitors with great civility. They offer them seats, and present them with tobacco and tea. People of wealth and consideration are entertained with wine, served out in a varnished beaker. Politeness requires that the visitors should partake of the refreshment set before them.

Banquets are always enlivened by songs, and the found of stringed instruments. It is a fortunate circumstance that, in this country, no quarrels, and much less any fighting, takes place amongst those who have drank too mach. Whenever any one finds himself overcome by excess of drinking, he leaves the company as well as he can, to sleep away the effects of his intoxication.

Drinking parties are never held in the public taverns in Japan; they always take place in private houses. Inns and taverns are indeed numerous, but they are only [p.634] appropriated for travellers and strangers, who take up their temporary residence in them.

"What is called wine amongst the Japanese is a decoction of rice, sweetened with honey or sugar, and fermented. It is very heating, and occasions the head-ache; it has much affinity to mead. Tea is in great estimation here. The great people keep it in vases with narrow necks, and well closed with bladders or other coverings, in order to preserve its strength and fragrancy. The tea-leaves are ground in a little mill into a fine powder; and as much of it as can lie upon the point of a knife is put into a pot with boiling water. The infusion is drank very hot, and is reckoned to be very wholesome. The common people have a proverbial saying, the purport of which is, 'That man cannot but he healthy; he drinks much tea.'"

Courtship between young people before marriage is here unknown. Marriages are concluded between the fathers, or, if there be none alive, between the nearest relations. If, however, a man does not like his wife, he may send her away, upon observing the necessary solemnities, and giving her a bill of divorce. The men are unblushingly permitted to resort to public prostitutes; and they are likewise allowed to take several concubines. But the women, as has been already observed, must expiate the smallest familiarity with a man by death. What has been just said, however, with respect to divorces, only relates to the citizens, the merchants, and the lowest rank of the military, but by no means either to the higher or the inferior orders of nobility. On account of the respect which they bear for the noble parentage of their wives, they are restrained from giving them a bill of divorce; and although they do not please them, they do not therefore cease of maintaining them as their wives. It follows, however, in such cases, of course, that the concubines whom they keep are the objects of their affection, and engross their caresses. It sometimes happens that, when the Japanese husbands are tired of their concubines, they return to their wives; but this is not often the case. The women are thus completely subjected to the will of the men, and can possess no property; whilst the men enjoy perfect liberty in that respect, and do as they please. Hence, the women, in order to prevent the men from taking up any aversion to them, strive by the strictest attention to acquire a knowledge of their humour and temper, to do whatever is pleasing to them, and by that means to obtain their love and affection. Wives and concubines exert their powers of pleasing in emulation of each other, but it too often happens that the latter are victorious in this warfare of female allurement.

Public shows, and public prostitutes are permitted here. The women who derive their subsistence from this shameful source, are considered as the slaves of those in whose service they are. The reason alleged for the allowance of this is, that each may have the means of satisfying his carnal desires, without being led into the temptation of attempting the seduction of the wife or daughter of his neighbour. It is on account of the easy means thus applied to the satisfaction of animal desire, that those who pursue unlawful ways, meet with no mercy, but are killed without remorse.

The children are educated with a great deal of tenderness and indulgence. They are very seldom beat, and some parents never make use of the rod. When they cry, or hurt themselves, or even when their fractiousness continues a whole night, they are always spoken to in a soothing manner, and no one has the heart to beat them, or even to scold them. The Japanese allege, that they do not yet possess sufficient judgment to receive any benefit from chastisement; that the period ought to be waited for, when an increase of years make their understandings open, and that they attain suffi- [p.635] cient experience to profit by such severe remedies; and that, in the mean time, lessons and exhortations ought to be the only means employed.

It is certainly a very pleasing sight to observe the modesty and the sense with which children of twelve years old, and even such as are only seven, conduct themselves. They act, speak, and answer as if they were already full grown, and wholly otherwise than European children do. They are never sent to school before they are six, seven, or eight years of age; and their size and strength are criteria by which their fitness for school is judged. It is alleged, that at an earlier period, they are incapable of being taught; and that schools are then, with respect to them, not places where they assemble to imbibe learning, but to play, to hurt one another, and to impede each other in their learning; to teach each other their evil customs; and to acquire new and bad habits, which they would not otherwise have gained.

When the period arrives when it is customary to send them to school, their instruction is commenced, not so much by force as by friendly advice. They are not taught to write till they show an inclination to learn that art; nothing is done either to compel them to it, or to overcome any repugnance they may show for it. In every respect, it is endeavoured to inspire them with emulation, or a laudable ambition. Examples are laid before them. They are told that such or such a one had, by his improvements in learning, acquired much esteem and celebrity, and had advanced his family in the world.

It is certain, that in children educated in this mode, the instructions given them sink into their very marrow and blood, and that they naturally become virtuous, and attentive to the fulfilment of their duties; much more so than those who are taught by the degrading influence of the rod and the ferula. But it must also be observed, that the Japanese are naturally obstinate; force would have little effect to make them abandon their natural inclination. It is not even uncommon that schoolmasters who have had recourse to castigation to teach their scholars their duty, have been murdered by their pupils.

"Children are never either swathed, or dandled about in Japan; immediately after a child is born, the midwife rubs its hands and feet with a kind of oil, and lays it down on the ground. The children of the country people are often seen stark naked in the coldest weather, crawling about upon their hands and feet." When the father or mother of a family becomes old, and their children have attained years of maturity, the father divorces himself of the management of the family, gives up his occupation, shop, or trade, and commits the whole of his affairs to his eldest son, to whom he at the same time gives up the principal apartment in his house, and conveys to him the greatest part of his property; or if they happen to be wealthy people, he goes to reside in another house. The property which he does not convey to his eldest son is retained for his other children.

Young women do not bring any portions with them in marriage. Rich people generally send, upon the wedding-day of their daughters, a sum of money, according to their rank, to the bridegroom; but he sends the money back again, with many expressions of gratitude. This is ordered so, that the women may not pride themselves upon their dowers, or assume any authority in consequence. Common people, or those who are not very rich, sometimes retain such a present of money. It is a saying in this country, that a woman lives all her life under another's roof; for, in her youth, she resides with her parents; in her married state, with her husband; and in her old age, with her children.


The Japanese nation enjoy the reputation of being extremely honourable. The principle of their fidelity arises from their love of fame, upon which they are set above all things, and to which all their efforts are directed. None but those who are lost to every sense of character, do any thing to prejudice or hurt another. To preserve their honour they willingly lay down their lives. Numerous examples may be produced of this. The following may serve for one.

At the time when the guardian of Fideri, as has been before related, declared against him, the latter Prince had in his power as hostages, a queen, the wife of the King of Cocora, and her children, together with several other queens, and the wives of noblemen. The King of Cocora, who was then with Ongosschio, chose his side. Fideri having learnt this, gave orders that the queen and her children should, for greater security, be conveyed into the castle. The queen sought to prevent this, saying to Fideri in the most respectful manner; "My Lord, I am a woman placed under the power and authority of the King my husband, in the same manner as he is under your power and authority, Transmit your orders unto him, in order that he may send his to me, and thereby enable me to pay obedience to your commands." As she was one of the most eminent ladies in the empire, it was a point of honour for her not to go out of her own house, which would even have reflected disgrace upon the King her husband. Fideri, however, highly offended at her presumption, sent word to her, that she must remove if she did not choose to be forcibly dragged from her home. Upon receiving this menace, and to avoid the disgrace a compliance with the Prince's order would have brought upon her, she came to the determination of rather sacrificing her life than submit to the infamy which etiquette would have attached to her in the contrary case. Perceiving that her opposition did not produce the desired effect, she entered into an apartment, together with her children, her nurse, and her attendant women, who had also resolved to accompany her to death; she caused a great quantity of firewood to be brought into the room, and the floor to be strewed with gunpowder. She then wrote, with her own hand, her will, and some elegiac verses, which she put into the hands of a faithful servant, whom she commanded as soon as he saw the flames burst out of her room to hasten away, and convey the writings she had committed to his care to the King her lord and husband. She then set fire to the apartment, and burnt herself with all her attendants, whilst the servant acquitted himself of the duty laid upon him.

In another point of view they possess great fidelity and honour. When any one commits himself to their protection, soliciting them to defend his life and honour, they do so most honourably, and spend the last drop of their blood in fulfilling this trust, without regarding their personal interest or safety, or that of their wives or children. The point of honour in this respect is so strictly adhered to, and they carry their generosity so far to assist a friend in need upon his solicitations that they never swerve from it, how great soever the danger be that may hang over them, how much soever their lives may be exposed, or how visible soever the imminent peril be which they encounter. When several persons are guilty of a mutual crime, and one of them is discovered and convicted, he willingly suffers himself to be tortured, and will rather die under the most excruciating torments than betray his associates. The tortures that are inflicted are at the same time most cruel; no one is ever spared, and they do not terminate but with the life of the sufferer. All, however, does not prevent him from remaining firm, and from enduring every anguish rather than break the promises he has made, and occasion the death of his friends. The heaviest and most heart-rending evils are considered as nothing, in comparison with a stain upon their honour.


Almost all the trade of Japan is carried on by foreigners. Little can be disposed of to the grandees, for the land yields in abundance, to them, all they want. The foreign nations who carry on trade here, and who bring their merchandize to the annual fairs, are, in the first place, the Chinese, who have, as is well known, from time immemorial, or rather from the period that Japan was still inhabited, traded hither. It is about one hundred years ago, that is, a little before the middle of the fifteenth century, that the Spaniards and Portuguese first traded to these parts. The English have also had a slight commercial intercourse with Japan; but it continued for a very few years. The profits they derived from it were not adequate to their expectations. The natives of Siam and Cambodia likewise made their appearance here with their junks, but of late their trade has been materially reduced. Finally the Dutch got access hither, about forty years ago, that is to say, shortly after the establishment of the Dutch East India Company: their trade has never been interrupted.

All foreign articles of merchandize as well as a great many of those of home production, are sent to the great city of Miaco, which is an emporium for all kinds of goods. Merchants, brokers, sailors, and agents from every quarter of the empire, resort hither to dispose of, or purchase, the various articles in which they deal. Goods are sent thither from distances of two and three hundred leagues; and others again are forwarded thence to those remote places. Horses are employed for the conveyance of them, who must at times travel over mountains of difficult ascent, and through valleys interfered, by rocks and rivers.

"It was earlier than the middle of the fifteenth century that the Portuguese became acquainted with Japan, through the means of the Siamese, Cambodians, and Chinese. They experienced much satisfaction in trading thither, as they found a genial climate, a healthy air, a fertile country, and as much, if not more, money, that in any other known quarter of the East Indies. They likewise found a great degree of conformity in the public celebration of religion, with the ceremonies in use in the Romish Church. They hence laid themselves out, with very fortunate effect, not only to extend their commerce, but likewise to increase the dominion of their religion. They had built very handsome churches in the province of Nangagarne; but the arrogance of the Castilian and Portuguese character soon drew down upon them the aversion of the natives. Their ships were seized and burnt, and their persons were destroyed by the most dreadful massacres. In the year 1636 the Portuguese who had ventured to settle there again, were again expelled with their families, and interdicted from residing in the country in future. The occasion of this was their being in the habit of annually sending over a number of priests from Zemnar."

Trade is carried on in Japan not only in all kinds of articles of necessity, but also in such as are only conducive to luxury and pleasure. The foreign merchants import annually into the country between four and five thousand peculs of raw silk, and an innumerable quantity of silk stuffs; full two hundred thousand deer-skins, and upwards of one hundred thousand other furs; a large quantity of flax, linens, red wool, long dresses, tutenague, quicksilver, medicinal drugs, cloves, pepper, musk, sapanwood, sugar, china, camphor, borax, elephants' teeth, red coral, and a great variety of small articles, chiefly of Chinese manufacture.

It is here believed, that the Japanese were in the habit of travelling to China from the very earliest times that the country became inhabited; that they were in alliance with the sovereign of that empire, and that the Emperors of Japan and China used to send annually ambassadors to each other. But the Japanese, who were familiarly received m China in great numbers, having at one time excited a disturbance, it rose to [p.638] such a pitch that they destroyed an entire city, plundering it, ravishing the women, killing a great part of the men, and committing all manner of excesses. The Chinese, however, recovering from their dismay, took such measures of revenge, and observed their time so well, that they richly retaliated upon the Japanese by putting them all to the sword. The Emperor of China taking into consideration that a comparatively small number of Japanese had been able to commit so bold an outrage, and that in the midst of his dominions, was no less alarmed than astonished. In consequence he came to the determination to expel every Japanese from his empire, and to prohibit their entering it again forever; causing at the same time a stone monument to be erected in commemoration of their wicked conduct, and upon which the sentence of their perpetual interdiction was engraved in letters of gold. Besides this, he caused a proclamation to be issued by which all his subjects were prohibited, upon pain of death, from navigating to Japan. In the commencement this order was more strictly observed that it is at present although, even then, as usually happens in such cases, the Chinese found means to elude the edict, by making false clearances, and pretending that they were bound to some other place. The contravention of this law was not only punishable by the death of the offender, but also by the confiscation of both vessels and cargoes. At this time, however, these things are not narrowly looked into in China.

Notwithstanding this severe measure of the Chinese Emperor, the sovereigns of Japan have never interdicted the Chinese from entering into their territories. They declared, that they would not return evil for evil, and that in fact the Japanese were to blame, and had given occasion to the resolutions that had been entered into in China. "Intelligent Japanese affirmed to Hagenaar that the inhabitants of Japan were in reality descendants of Chinese who had been banished from their country, and had repaired to the islands which they now inhabit. That the occasion hereof was, that many of the nobles of the court of the Emperor of China, having entered into a conspiracy against him, it was discovered, and several of the principal conspirators were seized and put to death; but as an immense number of people had taken part in this combination, the Emperor was satisfied with the banishment of the inferior classes; and that these exiles, together with such of the chiefs as had saved themselves by flight, took refuge and fettled in these fertile and pleasant islands." "It was added that, after they had regulated their society, they considered of the means of obliterating the memory of their origin, and of the occasion of their constrained emigration to their present abode; that they desired not that the world should know that they came from China, and had been expelled thence on account of their misdeeds. With this view, therefore, they changed their dress, language, and mode of writing, and accustomed themselves to almost every thing that was the reverse of what was customary in China. That this is the origin of the distinction that is observable between them and the Chinese, and indeed between them and almost all other people in an innumerable variety of peculiarities; as well as of their deviation from certain customs which are common to all nations excepting the Japanese. It is hence that is said they differ, in particular, from the Chinese in the mode of wearing the hair; which the latter wear very long, never cutting it, and tying it together at the top of the head; whilst the Japanese shave the crown of their head quite bare till a little above the ears, tying the remainder of the hair round the neck, with a strip of white paper." After the Japanese were banished from China, they navigated to Taiovau (Formosa), whither the Chinese brought their goods to trade with them. But a report of this intercourse having been made to the Emperor of China, their admittance at Taiovau was equally prohibited.


About a hundred years after that prohibition, the Japanese began anew to frequent that island. They used to sail with seven passports, from their Emperor permitting them to trade respectively to Taiovau, 'I'unquin, Cambodia, Siam, and other places. These passports likewise included directions, according to which those who visited foreign parts were to regulate themselves, in order to prevent the recurrence of events similar to that which had taken place in China.

New circumstances and other views afterwards induced the Emperor to withdraw these passports, and to prohibit all his subjects from undertaking any foreign voyage. Pride is supposed to have formed the basis of this determination of the court. The honour and reputation of the Emperor are objects of so tender a nature, and he is so strenuously devoted to maintain them, that he cannot bear any thing from foreigners that seems to throw the least appearance of tarnish upon them. From a principle of justice, besides, he would not suffer his subjects to commit any act in a foreign land that might displease the government there; as in fact happened about that time and afterwards, both at Taiovan and in the dominions of the King of Siam, who had taken upon himself to punish the delinquents.

Another reason of this prohibition is, that the Emperor will not allow any arms to be exported out of his dominions, nor that navigators should use them to hurt or annoy the inhabitants of the places where they touch, whilst it is scarcely possible for voyages to to take place without such instances. So very strict is the prohibition against the exportation of arms, that, whilst Mr. Caron was in Japan, two Chinese, father and son, were crucified, because the father had only attempted to infringe this law; and five Japanese who had sold the arms to him, without, however, having any knowledge of the intention, of the Chinese, were beheaded.

But another, and the most powerful, motive for prohibiting sea-voyages, is the jealous apprehension, that those Japanese who resort to foreign countries, may acquire some inclination for the Christian religion, and may cause it to make its appearance again in the empire.

The Japanese have, therefore, no foreign relations; and excepting their former embassies to China, have never sent any ambassadors to other potentates. The King of Spain, the Pope of Rome, and the King of Siam, have, more than once, sent splendid embassies to Japan, which have been received in a very friendly way; but the Emperor of Japan has never yet been able to resolve upon answering these civilities by reciprocal demonstrations of friendship.

Neither the Emperor nor any of the nobles derive any advantage from the operations of commerce, the profits of which belong solely to the merchants who are engaged in it. Their profits are, however, but small, excepting it happens that a sudden rise takes place in the price of any article of which they may happen to be holders. The empire being very extensive, and exceedingly populous, there are great numbers who lie in wait to take every advantage, and when there is therefore a penny to be got, there are at least ten hands stretched out to catch it.

All the necessaries and the luxuries of life are produced in the empire. It yields gold, silver, copper, and lead in abundance; and furnishes also cotton cloth, cotton, goatskins, an annual quantity of full one hundred thousand peculs of silk, and of between three and four hundred thousand peculs of silk-cotton,6 a great many deerskins, timber, and all kinds of provisions in much greater abundance than is requisite for the subsistence of the inhabitants.


"The sea-weed which grows upon the rocks, is a favourite article of food with them. It adheres to them in the manner of oysters; and is collected at low water. The hills abound in a great variety of herbs; and the fields with very beautiful flowers, of which the great people make a good deal of work. They are likewise very fond of birding. There are some very experienced physicians, who can tell the nature of a disease by feeling the pulse. Most medicines are administered in pills. The properties and the use of the bark are very well known. But they have very little knowledge of the treatment of wounds."

Only one language prevails throughout the whole empire of Japan; only one mode of dress; one kind of weight; and one species of coin; of the last, however, it is only the gold and silver coin that are uniform. The Casies, which are current in many different kingdoms throughout the Indies, are of various value. The variation in their currency induced the government to buy up all the casies, and to issue in their stead other pieces of copper coin which are all equal in nominal value. They acted with perfect equity on this occasion, as on many others, as they bought up this base coin above its nominal value, and by that means made every one eager to exchange it. It has already been stated that Japan possesses a great abundance of horses, bulls and cows, for they are never castrated; also deer and swine, together with other quadrupeds, both wild and tame, and all kinds of fowl.

There are very excellent and salubrious mineral springs and baths; impregnated with cupreous, nitrous, sulphurous, ferruginous, and stannary particles; some are brackish and others fresh. Amongst others there is one which rises in a hole upon a high mountain. This cavity is ten feet in diameter at its mouth, and appears very dark on account of its depth. Within, as far as the eye can reach, it appears studded with sharp points jutting out and resembling elephant's teeth.

Another of these springs bursts out at the foot of a mountain, not far from the seashore. The water does not rise in it without intermission, but at intervals, and at regular times, that is to say, generally twice in twenty-four hours, when it continues rising for an hour at a time. Yet when a warm easterly wind blows, it rises three, and sometimes four times in that period, and then likewise flows an hour at a time. When the hour of its rising approaches, a sound is heard as of a strong wind, which appears to force the water upwards with such violence that the heavy stones which lie at the mouth of the spring shake with the force. The water gushes up three or four fathoms into the air with a report as loud as that of a great gun. The heat of this water is very great; it exceeds that of boiling water. The basin into which it falls has been surrounded by a wall. It is conducted through this wall by spouts into the buildings erected for the curing of patients who resort to this spring. Although the language as well as the form of the letters or characters is widely different in China, Japan, Corea, and Tunquin, there is nevertheless a particular language and mode of writing, used by scientific men, which is learnt and understood by many in all these four extensive countries.

The Japanese write with painting-brushes, and do it very expeditiously. A little time suffices to commit to writing whatever they command or desire. They possess a peculiar promptness in expressing a great deal in a few lines. Their petitions, letters, and other writings, especially those which are destined to come into the hands of the magistrates and the nobles, are uncommonly short, but convey the meaning of the writers, accurately and fully.

Though they do not keep accounts in the same manner as we do, yet they are very exact in their statements of receipt and expenditure. They are very ready in calculating, [p.641] which they do upon boards, by means of a little stick, to the end of which a piece of chalk is fastened.

There are likewise libraries in Japan, but they are not so frequently met with as in Europe; for the inferior classes read very little. The chronicles and annals of the empire are preserved in the palace of the Dairo, where they are continued. The Dairo himself, his nobles, and their wives, do not disdain to commit to writing the events that occur in their time.


1 This is chiefly followed in the "Japonia" of Varenius.

2 There must be here a mistake in the numerals, and either the revenue of Firando must be 60,000 cockiens, or its contingent 120 infantry and 12 cavalry; the former is most probable. S. H. W.

3 A ton of gold means one hundred thousand gilders or about 9 sterling. S. H. W.

4 This seems rather applicable to the breadth than the length, A Dutch ell is three-quarters of a yard. S. H. W.

5 In a former place it was said every seven years; this is Hagenaar's account, the other was Caron's. S.H.W.

6 The produce of the Bombax pentandrum.