August 4, 1907


Yokohama Letter.


Yokohama, Japan, August 4.--


A quick and pleasant trip from Honolulu has brought me to the threshold of the Flowery Kingdom. I am still at the threshold for I write this letter on board the steamer as we wait in Tokyo bay, where we are anchored two miles from land. One of the typhoons, those terrible revolving windstorms for which this coast is famous, has been blowing, and we have been waiting for the heavy swell to subside so we can land. There are no wharves at Yokohama, and we have to go ashore in small boats. A swarm of sampans, clumsy native boats, is around the ship and the men in them are clamoring lustily for passengers. But the captain says to wait, and we do not care to risk our lives to get on land.

I was going to tell how these Japanese boatmen are dressed, but the better word to use is "undressed." They wear a wide-sleeved, scanty garment which reaches to the knees, and in addition to this some of them have a cloth bound around their heads. The boys are not so well dressed for all they have on is the maro or loin cloth, which the law compels them to wear. Most of them are hideously tattooed. They keep up a continuous chatter, interspersed with shouts of "hai," "hai," whic is a warning for the other boatmen to get out of the way. These sampans are so tightly packed about the ship that one could walk over them as upon a surfing floor.

Our trip from Honolulu was broken by a stop at Midway island, a most desolate spot in a desolate ocean, where cable operators and thousand of sea birds are the only inhabitants. The monotony of the lives of those men must be terrible, and were it not for their communication with the world over their cables they surely would go insane. The poor fellows are glad to talk with the passengers of the ship, and said they got so lonesome at times that it was only by greatest effort of mind they stood the awful isolation. Two of the operators who were on the island went insane, and now they are charged [?] every three months so they can stand the strain.

At Guam, where we also stopped, conditions are somewhat better, for in addition to the Americans there are natives, and the island is covered with trees. The natives of Guam are similar to those of the Philippines, and they have learned the value of international commerce, for they brought many curios to the vessel to sell to the passengers. They have learned that people on ships are easy victims and they demand extraordinary prices for their wares. I am told that when whites first came to the island they could buy beautiful tapas, shields and clubs for whatever they choose to give, but now you have to pay more than is asked in San Francisco for the same articles. It does not take long for the savage to learn that the tourist and his money are easily parted.

I have been much impressed by this trip across the Pacific. In all the days at sea since we left San Francisco we have not seen a single vessel of any description until we entered the harbors of Honolulu and Yokohama. I wondered what would happen if an accident should compel us to take to the small boats while away out in the ocean. Our chance of rescue would have been small, indeed. Fortunately the weather was beautiful until we ran into the outer edge of the typhoon on the coast of Japan. I am glad it was not the inner circle for the edge was bad enough to send half of the passengers to their beds with sea sickness. These typhoons are disastrous to shipping and many wrecks can now be seen as a result of the storm which is holding us off shore. It is warm and sultry, and light garments have replaced the heavy ones we had worn since leaving Guam.

One satisfaction we derive from our present position is that we vary the monotony of our sea food, for now we have all kinds of fresh vegetables, fruits and fish. Fish are especially abundant for nearly every one of these boatmen is a fisherman as well, and all have fish to sell in addition to their offering their boats to carry passengers ashore. Several steam launches are plying between ship and shore, and when I go it will be in something better than a clumsy sampan.

C. E. E.


Source:  Crittenden Record-Press. (Marion, Ky.) 1907-1918, December 12, 1907, Image 6 - Chronicling America - The Library of Congress.


[My comments are in brackets.]