Whole Earth Review

Japan Through American Eyes: The Journal of Francis Hall, Kanagawa and Yokohama, 1859-1866.

Japan Through American Eyes: The Journal of Francis Hall, Kanagawa and Yokohama, 1859-1866. – book reviews

Hasci Horvath

Francis Hall was a New York bookseller who traveled to Japan in 185 9. He became a tea-and-silk merchant as well as correspondent for the New York Herald-Tribune. The period in which he visited Japan, the late Tokugawa, was extremely turbulent as Western economic powers fell all over each other forcing access to the markets and resources of an officially xenophobic Japan. Francis Hall’s journal gives an American’s view of these political and economic tensions, but also touches on everyday life: housing education, health, children, theater, sports, flowers, animals, and much else come into his view. Interesting observations – and not seen in a century.

Sunday, March 24, 1861

The spring weather this season is peerless. It is almost impossible to remain in the house a moment, the beauty of earth, air, and skies so calls and demands one to go abroad. Just now, too, soft moonlit nights add their charm to the pleasure of this Japanese spring. The spring does not burst out with the suddenness and over warmth of intertropical regions, neither does it linger with the heavy tardiness of our northern climes. But it comes gently tripping along like a bride to her long-expected lover’s arms, neither too formal nor yet too easy, still with a shy confidence, wreathing herself that she may be welcome in her beauty with wreaths of orange and camellia blossoms and the double sweet scented blossoms of peach, plum, and apricot. It is one long beautiful glorious May morning and so abundant are the evergreen leaves that we have already forgotten there has been any winter.

Fresh rumors of Mito and his men are again rife. The old man is said to be indeed alive and to have been living during all the time of his reported death with shaven head and disguised as a priest. His followers are reported as making forced loans at Yedo with the view of a descent on Yokohama. We have had so much of this wolf cry that we pay little heed to it any longer.

COPYRIGHT 1994 Point Foundation

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