Page images
PDF
EPUB

THE JAPANESE CABINET.

527

count of the earthquakes. We enter a room where all the Ministers are assembled. The Japanese Cabinet is a famous body, and tested by the laws of physiognomy would compare with that of any Cabinet I have seen. The Prime Minister is a striking character. He is small, slender, with an almost girllike figure, delicate, clean-cut, winning features, a face that might be that of a boy of twenty or a man of fifty. The Prime Minister reminded me of Alexander H. Stephens in his frail, slender frame, but it bloomed with health and lacked the

[graphic][merged small]

sad, pathetic lines which tell of the years of suffering which Stephens has endured. The other Ministers looked like strong, able men.

Iwakura has a striking face, with lines showing firmness and decision, and you saw the scar which marked the attempt of the assassin to cut him down and slay him, as Okubo, the greatest of Japanese statesmen, was slain not many

That assassination made as deep an impression in Japan as the killing of Lincoln did in America. We saw the spot where the murder was done on our way to the palace, and my Japanese friend who pointed it out spoke in low tones

months ago.

cesses.

of sorrow and affection, and said the crime there committed had been an irreparable loss to Japan. A lord in waiting, with a heavily-braided uniform, comes softly in, and, making a signal, leads the way. The General and Mrs. Grant, escorted by General Bingham, and followed by the remainder of our party, entered. The General and the Minister were in evening dress. The naval officers were in full uniform, Colonel Grant wearing the uniform of lieutenant-colonel. We walked along a short passage and entered another room, at the farther end of which were standing the Emperor and the Empress. Two ladies in waiting were near them, in a sitting, what appeared to be a crouching, attitude. Two other princesses were standing. These were the only occupants of the room. Our party slowly advanced, the Japanese making a profound obeisance, bending the head almost to a right angle with the body. The royal princes formed in line near the Emperor, along with the prin

The Emperor stood quite motionless, apparently unobservant or unconscious of the homage that was paid him. He is a young man, with a slender figure, taller than the average Japanese, and of about the middle height according to our ideas. He has a striking face, with a mouth and lips that remind you something of the traditional mouth of the Hapsburg family. The forehead is full and narrow, the hair and the light mustache and beard intensely black. The color of the hair darkens what otherwise might pass for a swarthy countenance at home. The face expressed no feeling whatever, and but for the dark, glowing eye, which was bent full upon the General, you might have taken the imperial group for statues.

. The Empress, at his side, wore the Japanese costume, rich and plain. Her face was very white, and her form slender and almost childlike. Her hair was combed plainly and braided with a gold arrow. The Emperor and Empress have agreeable faces, the Emperor especially showing firmness and kindness. The solemn etiquette that pervaded the audience chamber was peculiar, and might appear strange to those familiar with the stately but cordial manners of a European court. But one must remember that the Emperor holds so high and so

RECEIVED BY THE EMPEROR.

529

sacred a place in the traditions, the religion, and the political system of Japan that even the ceremony of to-day is so far in advance of anything of the kind ever known in Japan that it might be called a revolution.

His Imperial Majesty, for instance, as our group was formed, advanced and shook hands with General Grant. This seems

[graphic][merged small]

a trivial thing to write down, but such a thing was never before known in the history of Japanese majesty. Many of these details may appear small, but we are in the presence of an old and romantic civilization, slowly giving way to the fierce, feverish pressure of European ideas, and you can only note the change in those incidents which would be unnoticed in other lands.

VOL. II. —34

The incident of the Emperor of Japan advancing toward General Grant and shaking hands becomes a historic event of consequence, and as such I note it. The manner of the Emperor was constrained, almost awkward, the manner of a man doing a thing for the first time, and trying to do it as well as possible. After he had shaken hands with the General, he returned to his place, and stood with his hand resting on his sword, looking on at the brilliant, embroidered, gilded company as though unconscious of their presence. Mr. Bingham advanced and bowed, and received just the faintest nod in recognition. The other members of the party were each presented by the minister, and each one, standing about a dozen feet from the Emperor, stood and bowed. Then the General and Mrs. Grant were presented to the princesses, each party bowing to the other in silence. The Emperor then made a signal to one of the attendants, Mr. Ishibashi, who advanced. The Emperor spoke to him for a few moments in a low tone, Mr. Ishibashi standing with bowed head. When the Emperor had finished, Mr. Ishibashi advanced to the General, and said he was commanded by his Majesty to read him the following address :

"Your name has been known to us for a long time, and we are highly gratified to see you.

While holding the high office of President of the United States you extended toward our countrymen especial kindness and courtesy. When our ambassador, Iwakura, visited the United States, he received the greatest kindness from you. The kindness thus shown by you has always been remembered by us. In your travels around the world you have reached this country, and our people of all classes feel gratified and happy to receive you. We trust that during your sojourn in our country you may find much to enjoy. It gives me sincere pleasure to receive you, and we are especially gratified that we have been able to do so on the anniversary of American independence. We congratulate you, also, on the occasion.”

This address was read in English. At its close General Grant said :

“Your MAJESTY : I am very grateful for the welcome you accord me here to-day, and for the great kindness with which I have been received, ever since I came to Japan, by your government and your people. I recognize in this a feeling of friendship toward my country. I can assure you that this feeling is

RECEIVED BY THE EMPEROR.

531

reciprocated by the United States ; that our people, without regard to party take the deepest interest in all that concerns Japan, and have the warmest wishes for her welfare. I am happy to be able to express that sentiment. America is your next neighbor, and will always give Japan sympathy and support in her efforts to advance. I again thank your Majesty for your hospitality, and wish you a long and happy reign, and for your people prosperity and independence."

At the conclusion of this address, which was extempore, Mr. Ishibashi translated it to his Majesty. Then the Empress made a sign and said a few words. Mr. Ishibashi came to the side of Mrs. Grant and said the Empress had commanded him to translate the following address :

"I congratulate you upon your safe arrival after your long journey. I presume you have seen very many interesting places. I fear you will find many things uncomfortable here, because the customs of the country are so different from other countries. I hope you will prolong your stay in Japan, and that the present warm days may occasion you no inconvenience."

Mrs. Grant, pausing a moment, said in a low, conversational tone of voice, with animation and feeling :

“I thank you very much. I have visited many countries and have seen many beautiful places, but I have seen none so beautiful or so charming as Japan."

All day, during the Fourth of July, visitors poured in on the General. The reception of so many distinguished statesmen and officials reminded one of state occasions at the White House. Princes of the imperial family, princesses, the members of the cabinet and citizens and high officials, naval officers, ministers and consuls, all came; and carriages were constantly coming and going. In the evening there was a party at one of the summer gardens, given by the American residents in honor of the Fourth of July. The General arrived at half-past eight, and was presented to the American residents by Mr. Bingham, the minister. At the close of the presentation, Mr. Bingham made a brief but singularly eloquent address. Judge Van Buren made a patriotic and ringing speech, after which there were fireworks and feasting, and, after the General and Mrs.

« PreviousContinue »