Tokyo, Japan

Saturday, September 28, 1929

Took a long walk this morning before leaving Yokohama. Among other things I went out on the customs pier to imbibe a little sea air and atmosphere. Four large vessels were tied up there and two score more in the harbor. Where Japan hides her navy I don’t know. Haven’t seen any of it around Japan yet.

Before I left I had another 15-sen feed—then the interurban train to Tokyo. They run a rather fast schedule—less than an hour to Tokyo with several stops. The whole distance is through a huge center of manufacturing—just like one gigantic manufacturing city 18 miles long. The interurban runs beside the railway—electrified—all the way—sometimes beside three railways. Power stations and wire poles are all over. Seems as though this district is the workshop of the nation, 60 or 65,000,000 souls. But then from Kyoto to Kobe is much of the same.

Tokyo is the capital of the Japanese Empire and it situated at the head of Tokyo Bay. It used to be called Yedo in olden times when it was a fishing village. A castle was erected in Yedo in 1456. The place grew to a feudal stronghold, becoming in 1590 the center of the Bakafu Government, and the capital de facto for about 250 years with no competition.

In 1868, after the Meiji Restoration, the Emperor moved the capital from Kyoto (Western Capital) to Yedo, renaming it Tokyo (Eastern Capital), and proclaimed the Yedo Castle as the Imperial Palace. This latter was burnt down in 1873 and has been replaced.

Tokyo now has 2,218,400 inhabitants, and the so-called Greater Tokyo has 4,567,900. In 1878 the population was 813,400. [Greater Tokyo is the world’s most populous metropolitan area with 35 to 39 million people.] The business section occupies the flat western part of the city, while residences claim the hilly western section.

At 11:58 AM, September 1, 1923, Tokyo and vicinity were wrecked by the Great Earthquake, and in the conflagration that followed almost one half of the city was destroyed and 75,000 lives lost. The new Tokyo has been splendidly planned, laid out on a grand scale—wide streets and boulevards, plenty of parks and open spaces, canal improvements, etc. Today it is a fine city and a pretty one. The Imperial Palace with its moats and parks form the center about which the city is built. The business section is a revelation—fine new modern buildings spread out over a very large area. It is amazing the changes that have taken place in the last six years. Of the disaster little remains to be seen. In the vacant lots are the old foundations. New big buildings are going up everywhere—but the limit seems to be about eight stories in height. And the total result is a mixture of a first class western metropolis and a Japanese city—East and West—old and new.

Checking the suitcase in the dandy big station, I set out on the dreaded hotel hunt—all of which led me miles through the city till at last I succeeded—two hours later.

The Hotel Imashiro is a first-class Japanese one. It took me over a half hour to get a room and a price. Ordinarily the 4 yen for room and food would have sent me elsewhere, but I am curious to see just what a Japanese first-rate hotel is like—and what higher class food is like. The result is gratifying.

Instead of getting my stuff at the station, I took another long walk—this time along the Palace moats, and through the Hibiya Park—called famous by the gentleman at the Japanese Tourist Bureau. I haven’t found out why yet. It is an attractive place, laid out in Western style, 45 acres, but retaining enough of Japan in it to have a pretty lake. The most popular part is the recreation section where everybody is playing baseball.

Returned at four after 6 hours of walking—and I felt like it too. The proprietor’s son speaks some English and is more than anxious to speak some more. He spent an hour in my room talking—under pretext of helping me to locate Phil Adams’ uncle, Dr. Reishauer. This took two sittings, the second after dinner when he gave me instructions how to get there—miles from here too, 50 minutes by interurban.

The hotel is new and very nice—more than clean. My room is all that could be desired—the low table with incense in the center, a low stand with a telephone, writing set, etc.—in one corner a low stand on which the fat God of Luck grins at me, in another a clothes rack and a tray on the floor containing a towel and Japanese robe. The matted floor, two closets and some cupboards, and finally the attractive paper-glass bamboo-designed windows. The door is sliding and has no such thing as a lock. Also, when you remove your shoes at the door and put on slippers, you expect to find them in the rack when you want them next—and well-polished. Would hate to try this in America with shoes I wanted to see again. There is also a neat tea set in the room, most always kept full of tea—which by the way is called Cho tea and has a most striking flavor.

The dinner was a surprise. The girl—geisha I suppose—brought it to the room on a tray—some sort of white fish meat floating in a bowl of hot water, a sauce, meat balls and peas—cold—a ham salad, a dish of relishes, and a bowl for rice. To my surprise the girl, after serving me, bowed to the floor—she was on her knees—and remained sitting on her legs during the time I ate dinner, refilling the rice bowl four times from a small bucket, and finally serving tea. The only English word she knows evidently is sauce and all I know are the words of rice, good-bye, hello, and thank you, so our conversation wasn’t of great duration.

It has been raining some outside. Must write no less than 749,633 letters.

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