Tokyo, Japan

Monday, September 30, 1929

Was still raining when I got up today so didn’t go out till it stopped at noon. Days like this are why the third soles on my shoes are through—6 in less than 15 months.

I got a tram going south and by good luck it took me where I wanted to go—Asakusa Park—that is, my guess where to get off was only a quarter mile wrong. Asakusa Park is the Coney Island of Japan, the most popular in the city. One wouldn’t have to look twice to see this for in spite of threatening skies, the place was thronged with people.

A narrow way leads two blocks to the large temple gate beside which the two Diva gods are standing. This street is closed to wheeled traffic, and hundreds of people are always passing by, lingering before the almost unbroken line of souvenir shops with their gay displays of all sorts of junk. The large two-storied gate is just as imposing as the temple within is not. An endless stream of people pour through the doors, bow before the altar, mumble their prayers, then throw a copper or two into the large coffer box that is found in every temple or shrine.

The park itself is not much of a park. There is a small lake in one corner and no grass to be found worth mentioning. Amusements are of primary importance here. These are found for the most part in the section of town that crowds in on the park. There is no end of movies and theatres, most of them pretty cheap-looking affairs but a few rather nice from the outside. Here you can see Charlie Chaplin, Ben Turpin, and Doug Fairbanks as well as the two-gun heroes of the West and the feminine stars, Japanese movies and plays. No matter what the theatre or play, the advertising is most flashy—large signs depicting tragic scenes—heroes slaying overwhelming odds with a sword—two-gun men shooting up the great open spaces of the West—Charlie Chaplin being pinched by cops, Jackie Coogan in Buttons—love scenes. The Japanese movies strike me, from their ads, as being full of rather primitive and childish emotions. Everything is done so dramatically—posed, and not at all natural. To start with the popular star wears very prominent eyebrows that slope up on the outside. He has a mouth that can be twisted into many fearful expressions. His haircut is a sensation in itself. Put a sword in his hand and stretch a few dead opponents around on the ground, and no wonder the people flock to see him. He poses, expresses the “show” an imaginative boy of 8 or 9 would when defeating armies single-handed and doing great deeds before thousands. Maybe I’m wrong after all—I haven’t seen him act yet and an only judging from hundreds of his pictures I have seen.

A zoo near at hand seems to be popular, a small merry-go-round, souvenir shops, and what not.

During the great catastrophe of 1923, about 40,000 people were burnt to death on the east bank of the Sumida River near the site of the old Military Clothing Depot. On this spot is being erected a Memorial Hall of the great Earthquake and Fire. The ashes of the victims have been collected and made into a Buddhist image.

Took the tram back to Ginza Street and walked to the Tokyo Station to get the low-down on trains to Nikko. From here half way around the Palace to which visitors are not admitted, following a pretty moat, then to the Akasaka Detached Palace, a superb three-story building in western style, surrounded by a magnificent park. Passing through the pretty grounds of the Peers School for Girls and by the fine Memorial Picture Gallery of the Emperor Meiji, I came out on a very busy wide thoroughfare which soon brought me to the boulevard leading off at right angles to the Meiji Shrine.

This shrine is by far the prettiest in Tokyo. The group of buildings is of pure Shinto style, characterized by simplicity and modesty. Here the people stand before the shrine, heads bowed, praying. Then at the conclusion they clap their hands three times. The shrine is in a lovely big park of woods, green lawns, a pretty lake with picturesque bridges, and many paths and roads leading one to one pretty spot after another.

Just before dark I took the elevated back to town. Tokyo has a good system of these elevateds or interurbans connecting the outlying suburbs of the city, and trams and buses as well. Taxis are plentiful, but rickshaws are rare.

The city extends 8 miles in one direction and 6½ in the other. When you ride from one end to the other as I did today, you have the impression of it being enormous. Not only in the downtown business sections are the streets very wide and well laid out, but in the suburbs as well. In the southern part where the fire raged so furiously, a splendid system of streets is under construction. Everything is new here. The Kwannon Temple in the Asakusa Park is the exception. This temple, dedicated to the Goddess of Mercy, was not damaged by the fire, and people attach great significance to this fact and flow there now as they never did before.

The western half of Tokyo escaped the fire. It is the residential section and is very pretty, having many fine shaded boulevards, some parks, the palaces, moats, etc. Tokyo is really a place.

I am getting quite attached to my girl that waits on me at the hotel. Short, as all Japanese women are, about 25 as near as I can judge, just a little plump, she strikes me as a very comforting, motherly sort of cherub, very sweet, and attentive to my comfort. She sits on her feet beside the table and watches me eat, waiting always to refill the rice bowl and return it to me with a low bow. It always strikes me funny when I see her sitting there peering forth at me from behind her glasses. Makes me want to laugh. She brings me tea before every meal and when I return to the hotel from a walk in the city. Twice she has taken my slippers off and placed them just so outside my door. It seems one is not to wear slippers in his own room, but must go barefooted or in his stocking feet. Every morning when she sees me leave the room to wash, she tears right in, puts the bed in the cupboard, sweeps and dusts out invisible dirt, rearranges the table and cushions, brings me a pot of tea, then bows herself out, to reappear a few minutes later with my breakfast. Some of these dishes are rather puzzling—don’t know what a particular sauce is for or what I am to drink. She always is right on the job and points it all out or does it for me if I do it wrongly. Tonight she hauled out my suit and brushed it off. It looks like I’ve been rolling in the gutter but she courageously tackled it. then put the trousers between two thin mattresses. I shall press them in my dreams it appears.

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