It will be long before those who were present at the newly
opened port of Kôbé on the 4th of February, 1868,
will forget that day. The civil war was raging, and the foreign
Legations, warned by the flames of burning villages, no less
than by the flight of the Shogun and his ministers, had left
Osaka, to take shelter at Kôbé, where they were
not, as at the former place, separated from their ships by more
than twenty miles of road, occupied by armed troops in a high
state of excitement, with the alternative of crossing in
tempestuous weather a dangerous bar, which had already taken
much valuable life. It was a fine winter's day, and the place
was full of bustle, and of the going and coming of men busy
with the care of housing themselves and their goods and
chattels. All of a sudden, a procession of armed men, belonging
to the Bizen clan, was seen to leave the town, and to advance
along the high road leading to Osaka; and without apparent
reason—it was said afterwards that two Frenchmen had
crossed the line of march—there was a halt, a stir, and a
word of command given. Then the little clouds of white smoke
puffed up, and the sharp "ping" of the rifle bullets came
whizzing over the open space, destined for a foreign
settlement, as fast as the repeating breech-loaders could be
discharged. Happily, the practice was very bad; for had the men
of Bizen been good shots, almost all the principal foreign
officials in the country, besides many merchants and private
gentlemen, must have been killed: as it was, only two or three
men were wounded. If they were bad marksmen, however, they were
mighty runners; for they soon found that they had attacked a
hornets' nest. In an incredibly short space of time, the guards
of the different Legations and the sailors and marines from the
ships of war were in hot chase after the enemy, who were
scampering away over the hills as fast as their legs could
carry them, leaving their baggage ingloriously scattered over
the road, as many a cheap lacquered hat and flimsy paper
cartridge-box, preserved by our Blue Jackets as trophies, will
testify. So good was the stampede, that the enemy's loss
amounted only to one aged coolie, who, being too decrepit to
run, was taken prisoner, after having had seventeen revolver
shots fired at him without effect; and the only injury that our
men inflicted was upon a solitary old woman, who was accidently
shot through the leg.
If it had not been for the serious nature of the offence
given, which was an attack upon the flags of all the treaty
Powers, and for the terrible retribution which was of necessity
exacted, the whole affair would have
been recollected chiefly for the ludicrous events which it
gave rise to. The mounted escort of the British Legation
executed a brilliant charge of cavalry down an empty road; a
very pretty line of skirmishers along the fields fired away
a great deal of ammunition with no result; earthworks were
raised, and Kôbé was held in military
occupation for three days, during which there were alarms,
cutting-out expeditions with armed boats, steamers seized,
and all kinds of martial effervescence. In fact, it was like
fox-hunting: it had "all the excitement of war, with only
ten per cent. of the danger."
The first thought of the kind-hearted doctor of the British
Legation was for the poor old woman who had been wounded, and
was bemoaning herself piteously. When she was carried in, a
great difficulty arose, which, I need hardly say, was overcome;
for the poor old creature belonged to the Etas, the Pariah
race, whose presence pollutes the house even of the poorest and
humblest Japanese; and the native servants strongly objected to
her being treated as a human being, saying that the Legation
would be for ever defiled if she were admitted within its
sacred precincts. No account of Japanese society would be
complete without a notice of the Etas; and the following story
shows well, I think, the position which they hold.
Their occupation is to slay beasts, work leather, attend
upon criminals, and do other degrading work. Several accounts
are given of their origin; the most probable of which is, that
when Buddhism, the tenets of which forbid the taking of life,
was introduced, those who lived by the infliction of death
became accursed in the land, their trade being made hereditary,
as was the office of executioner in some European countries.
Another story is, that they are the descendants of the Tartar
invaders left behind by Kublai Khan. Some further facts
connected with the Etas are given in a note at the end of the
Once upon a time, some two hundred years ago, there lived at
a place called Honjô, in Yedo, a Hatamoto named Takoji
Genzaburô; his age was about twenty-four or twenty-five,
and he was of extraordinary personal beauty. His official
duties made it incumbent on him to go to the Castle by way of
the Adzuma Bridge, and here it was that a strange adventure
befel him. There was a certain Eta, who used to earn his living
by going out every day to the Adzuma Bridge, and mending the
sandals of the passers-by. Whenever Genzaburô crossed the
bridge, the Eta used always to bow to him. This struck him as
rather strange; but one day when Genzaburô was out alone,
without any retainers following him, and was passing the Adzuma
Bridge, the thong of his sandal suddenly broke: this annoyed
him very much; however, he recollected the Eta cobbler who
always used to bow to him so regularly, so he went to the place
where he usually sat, and ordered him to mend his sandal,
saying to him:
"Tell me why it is that
every time that I pass by this bridge, you salute me so
GENZABURÔ'S MEETING WITH THE ETA MAIDEN.
When the Eta heard this, he was put out of countenance, and
for a while he remained silent; but at last taking courage, he
said to Genzaburô, "Sir, having been honoured with your
commands, I am quite put to shame. I was originally a gardener,
and used to go to your honour's house and lend a hand in
trimming up the garden. In those days your honour was very
young, and I myself little better than a child; and so I used
to play with your honour, and received many kindnesses at your
hands. My name, sir, is Chokichi. Since those days I have
fallen by degrees info dissolute habits, and little by little
have sunk to be the vile thing that you now see me."
When Genzaburô heard this he was very much surprised,
and, recollecting his old friendship for his playmate, was
filled with pity, and said, "Surely, surely, you have fallen
very low. Now all you have to do is to presevere and use your
utmost endeavours to find a means of escape from the class into
which you have fallen, and become a wardsman again. Take this
sum: small as it is, let it be a foundation for more to you."
And with these words he took ten riyos out of his pouch and
handed them to Chokichi, who at first refused to accept the
present, but, when it was pressed upon him, received it with
thanks. Genzaburô was leaving him to go home, when two
wandering singing-girls came up and spoke to Chokichi; so
Genzaburô looked to see what the two women were like. One
was a woman of some twenty years of age, and the other was a
peerlessly beautiful girl of sixteen; she was neither too fat
nor too thin, neither too tall nor too short; her face was
oval, like a melon-seed, and her complexion fair and white; her
eyes were narrow and bright, her teeth small and even; her nose
was aquiline, and her mouth delicately formed, with lovely red
lips; her eyebrows were long and fine; she had a profusion of
long black hair; she spoke modestly, with a soft sweet voice;
and when she smiled, two lovely dimples appeared in her cheeks;
in all her movements she was gentle and refined.
Genzaburô fell in love with her at first sight; and she,
seeing what a handsome man he was, equally fell in love with
him; so that the woman that was with her, perceiving that they
were struck with one another, led her away as fast as
Genzaburô remained as one stupefied, and, turning to
Chokichi, said, "Are you acquainted with those two women who
came up just now?"
"Sir," replied Chokichi, "those are two women of our people.
The elder woman is called O Kuma, and the girl, who is only
sixteen years old, is named O Koyo. She is the daughter of one
Kihachi, a chief of the Etas. She is a very gentle girl,
besides being so exceedingly pretty; and all our people are
loud in her praise."
When he heard this, Genzaburô remained lost in thought
for a while, and then said to Chokichi, "I want you to do
something for me. Are you prepared to
serve me in whatever respect I may require you?"
Chokichi answered that he was prepared to do anything in his
power to oblige his honour. Upon this Genzaburô smiled
and said, "Well, then, I am willing to employ you in a certain
matter; but as there are a great number of passers-by here, I
will go and wait for you in a tea-house at Hanakawado; and when
you have finished your business here, you can join me, and I
will speak to you." With these words Genzaburô left him,
and went off to the tea-house.
When Chokichi had finished his work, he changed his clothes,
and, hurrying to the tea-house, inquired for Genzaburô,
who was waiting for him upstairs. Chokichi went up to him, and
began to thank him for the money which he had bestowed upon
him. Genzaburô smiled, and handed him a wine-cup,
inviting him to drink, and said—
"I will tell you the service upon which I wish to employ
you. I have set my heart upon that girl O Koyo, whom I met
to-day upon the Adzuma Bridge, and you must arrange a meeting
When Chokichi heard these words, he was amazed and
frightened, and for a while he made no answer. At last he
"Sir, there is nothing that I would not do for you after the
favours that I have received from you. If this girl were the
daughter of any ordinary man, I would move heaven and earth to
comply with your wishes; but for your honour, a handsome and
noble Hatamoto, to take for his concubine the daughter of an
Eta is a great mistake. By giving a little money you can get
the handsomest woman in the town. Pray, sir, abandon the
Upon this Genzaburô was offended, and said—
"This is no matter for you to give advice in. I have told
you to get me the girl, and you must obey."
Chokichi, seeing that all that he could say would be of no
avail, thought over in his mind how to bring about a meeting
between Genzaburô and O Koyo, and replied—
"Sir, I am afraid when I think of the liberty that I have
taken. I will go to Kihachi's house, and will use my best
endeavours with him that I may bring the girl to you. But for
to-day, it is getting late, and night is coming on; so I will
go and speak to her father to-morrow."
Genzaburô was delighted to find Chokichi willing to
"Well," said he, "the day after to-morrow I will await you
at the tea-house at Oji, and you can bring O Koyo there. Take
this present, small as it is, and do your best for me."
With this he pulled out three riyos from his pocket and
handed them to Chokichi. who declined the money with thanks,
saying that he had already received too much, and could accept
no more; but Genzaburô pressed him, adding, that if the
wish of his heart were accomplished he
would do still more for him. So Chokichi, in great glee at
the good luck which had befallen him, began to revolve all
sorts of schemes in his mind; and the two parted.
But O Koyo, who had fallen in love at first sight with
Genzaburô on the Adzuma Bridge, went home and could think
of nothing but him. Sad and melancholy she sat, and her friend
O Kuma tried to comfort her in various ways; but O Koyo
yearned, with all her heart, for Genzaburô; and the more
she thought over the matter, the better she perceived that she,
as the daughter of an Eta, was no match for a noble Hatamoto.
And yet, in spite of this, she pined for him, and bewailed her
own vile condition.
Now it happened that her friend O Kuma was in love with
Chokichi, and only cared for thinking and speaking of him; one
day, when Chokichi went to pay a visit at the house of Kihachi
the Eta chief, O Kuma, seeing him come, was highly delighted,
and received him very politely; and Chokichi, interrupting her,
"O Kuma, I want you to answer me a question: where has O
Koyo gone to amuse herself to-day?"
"Oh, you know the gentleman who was talking with you the
other day, at the Adzuma Bridge? Well, O Koyo has fallen
desperately in love with him, and she says that she is too
low-spirited and out of sorts to get up yet."
Chokichi was greatly pleased to hear this, and said to O
"How delightful! Why, O Koyo has fallen in love with the
very gentleman who is burning with passion for her, and who has
employed me to help him in the matter. However, as he is a
noble Hatamoto, and his whole family would be ruined if the
affair became known to the world, we must endeavour to keep it
as secret as possible."
"Dear me!" replied O Kuma; "when O Koyo hears this, how
happy she will be, to be sure! I must go and tell her at
"Stop!" said Chokichi, detaining her; "if her father, Master
Kihachi, is willing, we will tell O Koyo directly. You had
better wait here a little until I have consulted him;" and with
this he went into an inner chamber to see Kihachi; and, after
talking over the news of the day, told him how Genzaburô
had fallen passionately in love with O Koyo, and had employed
him as a go-between. Then he described how he had received
kindness at the hands of Genzaburô when he was in better
circumstances, dwelt on the wonderful personal beauty of his
lordship, and upon the lucky chance by which he and O Koyo had
come to meet each other.
When Kihachi heard this story, he was greatly flattered, and
"I am sure I am very much obliged to you. For one of our
daughters, whom even the
common people despise and shun as a pollution, to be chosen
as the concubine of a noble Hatamoto—what could be a
greater matter for congratulation!"
So he prepared a feast for Chokichi, and went off at once to
tell O Koyo the news. As for the maiden, who had fallen over
head and ears in love, there was no difficulty in obtaining her
consent to all that was asked of her.
Accordingly Chokichi, having arranged to bring the lovers
together on the following day at Oji, was preparing to go and
report the glad tidings to Genzaburô; but O Koyo, who
knew that her friend O Kuma was in love with Chokichi, and
thought that if she could throw them into one another's arms,
they, on their side, would tell no tales about herself and
Genzaburô, worked to such good purpose that she gained
her point. At last Chokichi, tearing himself from the embraces
of O Kuma, returned to Genzaburô, and told him how he had
laid his plans so as, without fail, to bring O Koyo to him, the
following day, at Oji, and Genzaburô, beside himself with
impatience, waited for the morrow.
The next day Genzaburô, having made his preparations,
and taking Chokichi with him, went to the tea-house at Oji, and
sat drinking wine, waiting for his sweetheart to come.
As for O Koyo, who was half in ecstasies, and half shy at
the idea of meeting on this day the man of her heart's desire,
she put on her holiday clothes, and went with O Kuma to Oji;
and as they went out together, her natural beauty being
enhanced by her smart dress, all the people turned round to
look at her, and praise her pretty face. And so after a while,
they arrived at Oji, and went into the tea-house that had been
agreed upon; and Chokichi, going out to meet them,
"Dear me, Miss O Koyo, his lordship has been all impatience
waiting for you: pray make haste and come in."
But, in spite of what he said, O Koyo, on account of her
virgin modesty, would not go in. O Kuma, however, who was not
quite so particular, cried out—
"Why, what is the meaning of this? As you've come here, O
Koyo, it's a little late for you to be making a fuss about
being shy. Don't be a little fool, but come in with me at
once." And with these words she caught fast hold of O Koyo's
hand, and, pulling her by force into the room, made her sit
down by Genzaburô.
When Genzaburô saw how modest she was, he reassured
"Come, what is there to be so shy about? Come a little
nearer to me, pray."
"Thank you, sir. How could I, who am such a vile thing,
pollute your nobility by sitting by your side?" And, as she
spoke, the blushes mantled over her face; and the more
Genzaburô looked at her, the more beautiful she appeared
in his eyes, and the more deeply he became enamoured of her
charms. In the meanwhile he called for wine and fish, and all
four together made a feast of it. When
Chokichi and O Kuma saw how the land lay, they retired
discreetly into another chamber, and Genzaburô and O
Koyo were left alone together, looking at one another.
"Come," said Genzaburô, smiling, "hadn't you better
sit a little closer to me?"
"Thank you, sir; really I'm afraid."
But Genzaburô, laughing at her for her idle fears,
"Don't behave as if you hated me."
"Oh, dear! I'm sure I don't hate you, sir. That would be
very rude; and, indeed, it's not the case. I loved you when I
first saw you at the Adzuma Bridge, and longed for you with all
my heart; but I knew what a despised race I belonged to, and
that I was no fitting match for you, and so I tried to be
resigned. But I am very young and inexperienced, and so I could
not help thinking of you, and you alone; and then Chokichi
came, and when I heard what you had said about me, I thought,
in the joy of my heart, that it must be a dream of
And as she spoke these words, blushing timidly,
Genzaburô was dazzled with her beauty, and
"Well, you're a clever child. I'm sure, now, you must have
some handsome young lover of your own, and that is why you
don't care to come and drink wine and sit by me. Am I not
"Ah, sir, a nobleman like you is sure to have a beautiful
wife at home; and then you are so handsome that, of course, all
the pretty young ladies are in love with you."
"Nonsense! Why, how clever you are at flattering and paying
compliments! A pretty little creature like you was just made to
turn all the men's heads—a little witch."
"Ah! those are hard things to say of a poor girl! Who could
think of falling in love with such a wretch as I am? Now, pray
tell me all about your own sweetheart: I do so long to hear
"Silly child! I'm not the sort of man to put thoughts into
the heads of fair ladies. However, it is quite true that there
is some one whom I want to marry."
At this O Koyo began to feel jealous.
"Ah!" said she, "how happy that some one must be! Do, pray,
tell me the whole story." And a feeling of jealous spite came
over her, and made her quite unhappy.
Genzaburô laughed as he answered—
"Well, that some one is yourself, and nobody else. There!"
and as he spoke, he gently tapped the dimple on her cheek with
his finger; and O Koyo's heart beat so, for very joy, that, for
a little while, she remained speechless. At last she turned her
face towards Genzaburô, and said—
"Alas! your lordship is only trifling with me, when you know
that what you have just been pleased to propose is the darling
wish of my heart. Would that I could only go into your house
as a maid-servant, in any
capacity, however mean, that I might daily feast my eyes on
your handsome face!"
"Ah! I see that you think yourself very clever at hoaxing
men, and so you must needs tease me a little;" and, as he
spoke, he took her hand, and drew her close up to him, and she,
blushing again, cried—
"Oh! pray wait a moment, while I shut the
"Listen to me, O Koyo! I am not going to forget the promise
which I made you just now; nor need you be afraid of my harming
you; but take care that you do not deceive me."
"Indeed, sir, the fear is rather that you should set your
heart on others; but, although I am no fashionable lady, take
pity on me, and love me well and long."
"Of course! I shall never care for another woman but
"Pray, pray, never forget those words that you have just
"And now," replied Genzaburô, "the night is advancing,
and, for to-day, we must part; but we will arrange matters, so
as to meet again in this tea-house. But, as people would make
remarks if we left the tea-house together, I will go out
And so, much against their will, they tore themselves from
one another, Genzaburô returning to his house, and O Koyo
going home, her heart filled with joy at having found the man
for whom she had pined; and from that day forth they used
constantly to meet in secret at the tea-house; and
Genzaburô, in his infatuation, never thought that the
matter must surely become notorious after a while, and that he
himself would be banished, and his family ruined: he only took
care for the pleasure of the moment.
Now Chokichi, who had brought about the meeting between
Genzaburô and his love, used to go every day to the
tea-house at Oji, taking with him O Koyo; and Genzaburô
neglected all his duties for the pleasure of these secret
meetings. Chokichi saw this with great regret, and thought to
himself that if Genzaburô gave himself up entirely to
pleasure, and laid aside his duties, the secret would certainly
be made public, and Genzaburô would bring ruin on himself
and his family; so he began to devise some plan by which he
might separate them, and plotted as eagerly to estrange them as
he had formerly done to introduce them to one another.
At last he hit upon a device which satisfied him.
Accordingly one day he went to O Koyo's house, and, meeting her
father Kihachi, said to him—
"I've got a sad piece of news to tell you. The family of my
lord Genzaburô have been complaining bitterly of his
conduct in carrying on his relationship with your daughter, and
of the ruin which exposure would bring upon the whole house; so
they have been using their influence to persuade him to hear
reason, and give up the connection. Now his lordship feels
deeply for the damsel, and yet he cannot sacrifice his family
for her sake. For the first time, he has become alive to the
folly of which he has been guilty, and, full of
remorse, he has commissioned me to devise some stratagem to
break off the affair. Of course, this has taken me by
surprise; but as there is no gainsaying the right of the
case, I have had no option but to promise obedience: this
promise I have come to redeem; and now, pray, advise your
daughter to think no more of his lordship."
When Kihachi heard this he was surprised and distressed, and
told O Koyo immediately; and she, grieving over the sad news,
took no thought either of eating or drinking, but remained
gloomy and desolate.
In the meanwhile, Chokichi went off to Genzaburô's
house, and told him that O Koyo had been taken suddenly ill,
and could not go to meet him, and begged him to wait patiently
until she should send to tell him of her recovery.
Genzaburô, never suspecting the story to be false, waited
for thirty days, and still Chokichi brought him no tidings of O
Koyo. At last he met Chokichi, and besought him to arrange a
meeting for him with O Koyo.
"Sir," replied Chokichi, "she is not yet recovered; so it
would be difficult to bring her to see your honour. But I have
been thinking much about this affair, sir. If it becomes
public, your honour's family will be plunged in ruin. I pray
you, sir, to forget all about O Koyo."
"It's all very well for you to give me advice," answered
Genzaburô, surprised; "but, having once bound myself to O
Koyo, it would be a pitiful thing to desert her; I therefore
implore you once more to arrange that I may meet her."
However, he would not consent upon any account; so
Genzaburô returned home, and, from that time forth, daily
entreated Chokichi to bring O Koyo to him, and, receiving
nothing but advice from him in return, was very sad and