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Saturday, September 21, 2013

A Look At Japan In 1898 - Revised

Where else are you going to get a look at an 1898 newspaper written, edited, published and printed by American sailors docked in the port of Yokohama? Just here.

Let's take a look at the January 31, 1898, Vol.1, No. 3 edition of The Bounding Billow newspaper… an eight-page broadsheet that was "published in the interests of American men-o'-warsmen" at intervals aboard the U.S.F.S. Olympia ship.

Let's take a look at page 6 of the paper (punctuation and spelling is reprinted by myself as it appears)…  it's entitled:

The "Billow's" Chat, With Our Friends at home.—Yokohama, Japan. 

We left Nagasaki, at 11 o'clock, Saturday morning January 15, for Yokohama, by watt of the Inland Sea. The weather during the passage was fair, though rather cold the last day and night. At about past ten the night the anchored in Simonoseki Straits, off the town of Simonoseki, at the entrance of the Inland Sea.
We got under weigh again at 6.55 next morning and proceeded up the Sea. At 10.35 the night of the 16th, we hove to, five miles from Kobe or (Hiogo) at the end of the Inland Sea and signalled for a boat to take our pilot. No boat coming we lowered a whale boat and sent him ashore. At 12.30 we went ahead again. At 2.30 the morning of the 18th, we anchored in the Gulf of Tokio until daylight, when we went into Yokohama Bay.
Yokohama is the largest treaty port in Japan. It is also practically the seaport for Tokio, the capital. It is situated on the eastern coast of the Island of Houdo, the largest Island of the Japanese Empire. The city has a population of about 140,000 about 2,000 of whom are European residents and 4,000 Chinese.
The climate is temperate and healthy but smallpox or typhoid occasionally break out. The principle summer resorts are Hommoku, about five miles from the city, and Kamakura, a very pretty and interesting town. Here can be seen the Buddhist Temple where sits the great "Diabutsu" the famous "God of Peace". This idol is one of the largest in the world. The following is a brief history of this colossal work:—In the year 737, A.D. the Emperor or "Mikado" Shonu, being a sincere devotee to Buddhism, caused numerous temples to be erected throughout Japan, a few of which are standing at the present day. Chief among these is the "Ko-to-ku-in" at Kamakura. In the grounds of this ancient fane stands the huge, bronze image of the great "Dai-butsu" (Buddha) which was cast in the year 1252, A.D. by the celebrated glyphic artist Ono Go-ro-yemon. The image was much injured by a tidal wave which swept over Kamakura in 1495. It is still in an excellent state of preservation despite the ravages of the elements.
It is about 50 ft. in height and 98 ft. in circumference; the length of the face is 8 and a half feet, the eyes, which are of pure gold, 4 ft., the ears 6 and a half feet and of the nose 3 ft 8 inches. The image sits in a squatting position. The distance from knee to knee is 36 feet, the breadth of the mouth is 3 feet 2 inches and the circumference of the thumb is over 3 feet.
In the centre of the forehead is a silver boss symbolizing the light flowing from the great Buddha, an idea somewhat similar to that expressed in our Scriptures—"I am the light of the World. This boss is 1 foot 3 inches in diameter and weighs 30 lbs.
There are a great many other places on interest too numerous to mention; but a visit to Yokohama or for that matter to Japan, would not be complete without trip to Fuji-yama the "Pride of Japan." This majestic mountain is 12,365* feet above the sea level. It is about sixty miles from the coast and on a clear day can be seen almost a hundred miles at sea. Fuji-yama is a volcano but has not been in eruption for many years. It is certainly a beautiful sight to see this grand mountain from the sea, the sun turning the snow-capped peak to silver, its rays reflected and multiplied seeming to send a shower of quivering radiance over the entire scene. Fuji-yama is a sight that once seen can never be forgotten.
The Pilgrims, a sect somewhat similar to our Evangelists, deem it their duty to climb to the crater once a year where they claim that they become purified. It is also said that the afflicted visit the peak of this stately mountain where they are cured of all their ills. But this of course is all superstition, and as we have never witnessed any such miracle we cannot vouch for its truth.
Yokohama was originally surrounded by canals which formed the bounds of the city, but it has grown so that it expands far beyond these limits. The European Settlement is in the eastern part of the town. The Missionaries and wealthier class of foreigners reside on Mandarin Bluff, a large hill overlooking the Gulf of Tokio and forming the eastern arm of the bay.
The harbor is protected by immense breakwaters enclosing a space of about 1,000 acres. The eastern breakwater extends from Honmoku Point for a distance of 5,389 ft. The northern one extends from Kanagawa Flats (just above the fort of that name) for a distance of 6,702 ft. toward the end of the eastern breakwater. The entrance is between these two ends and is 800 ft. wide. A lighthouse marks out each side of this entrance.
There are quite a number of theaters, and while Japanese drama would appear rather dry to us, the native audience is spellbound until the villain is beheaded by the hero. The only features wherein the Japanese theatre resembles ours are the "lemonade and peanuts" boy and ye inevitable "Gallery God." The galleries here however, are covered with wire nettings which prevent the "gods" from throwing peanut shells at the bald heads below.
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*A curious thing about the height of Fuji-yama, is the fact that the thousands of feet correspond numerically with the months, and the hundreds with the days of the calendar year.


Okay… what an awesome description of some of the sites about Japan.
Some help: Houdo is Honshu, the main island of Japan.
'Fane'? Temple... but did the average sailor in 1898 know the word 'fane'? How stupid have we become in 115 years?
'Hove' = heaved
"Got under weigh again"... I assume it's the same as the word 'way'... but on the sea, a ship must weigh anchor to move... it seems grammatically correct to me.

However, Jeremy, a reader of this blog points out with much certainty the true origin of that phrase: "Got under weigh":

 "Got under weigh again". The spelling "weigh" is a mistake dating from the 17th or 18th century and has nothing to do with weighing anchor on a ship.
"Weigh" originally referred to finding how heavy something is but it also meant "to lift up".
But it was assumed by the seafarers and others of earlier times that there was a connection between "under way" and "under weigh" and this caused the error.
The expression came from the Dutch who were the top-notch European nautical traders of those days. [Digression: did you know that the word "dollar" was originally the Dutch word "thaler" which meant "valley". It referred to a valley in S Africa where a particularly high-quality silver ore was mined. The silver bullion from the valley became a preferred medium for international trade in the good old seafaring days. So when a trapper in the New World sold a load of pelts to a merchant captain from Europe, he was probably paid in thalers. Owing to the oddities of the Dutch language, " thaler" and "dollar" had approximately the same pronunciation. End of digression]
So why "under weigh"? The original Dutch sailor-talk was "Aan der weg". This meant "On the way" it had nothing to do with under nor did it refer to weighing or lifting an anchor. I think the mistake was partly caused by the oddities of the Dutch language. A 'g' in Dutch has a guttural pronunciation similar to the 'ch' in the Scots "loch" or the German "Ach!" In standard English this guttural sound does not exist in speech but remains in the written form. "Night" used to be pronounced "niCHt". In Scotland the guttural 'ch' was always used in some dialects and the Scots saying "It's a braw briCHt moonlit niCHt the niCHt" still lives on as a well-worn(out) joke.
So it was assumed than since "under way" started out as "Aan der weg" the guttural which disappeared in English was the same one as in "weigh". It wasn't, so "under way" is the only correct spelling.
HOWEVER . . . Since so many writers made this mistake, "under weigh" gained authority from usage and as with any linguistic criterion, usage usually wins in the end.


Thanks, Jeremy!

The best part of the whole article - for me, is the description of the Peanut Gallery tossing nuts down onto the people below. How very human.

I also like how you can see that the American writer was spelling using British and Canadian-style spellings... which is, of course "French". Shhh. "Centre" and "Theatre." Do you prefer Tokyo or Tokio? The three-syllable pronunciation of To-ki-o has always confused me.

I love the population breakdowns, the description of the Buddha statue in Kamakura (which I have seen up close and personal)... but I am confused about this whole Fuji-yama thing... it must have been some mountain that existed long before I got to Japan, because in three years there, I never saw it once.

The newspaper offers a great outsiders view of life in Japan... and I have a few more articles from this wonderful ship's paper to share with you. I actually have to re-type the articles out word-for-word... so I try and space these self-made assignments out so that I don't go insane in the membrane (insane in the brain).

Lastly but not leastly, this article was sent to me by my friend Vinnie... or Vinnie... or maybe it's just Vince. Vincent? Thanks, brother.

Cheers
Andrew Joseph
PS: The photo above was taken by me in 1992 or so. NOT 1898.

3 comments:

  1. Hi Andrew,
    An interesting post. Knowing of your thirst for knowledge, I offer a nugget which you might find interesting (or not ).
    "Got under weigh again". The spelling "weigh" is a mistake dating from the 17th or 18th century and has nothing to do with weighing anchor on a ship.
    "Weigh" originally referred to finding how heavy something is but it also meant "to lift up".
    But it was assumer by the seafarers and others of earlier times that there was a connection between "under way" and "under weigh" and this caused the error.
    The expression came from the Dutch who were the top-notch European nautical traders of those days. [Digression: did you know that the word "dollar" was originally the Dutch word "thaler" which meant "valley". It referred to a valley in S Africa where a particularly high-quality silver ore was mined. The silver bullion from the valley became a preferred medium for international trade in the good old seafaring days. So when a trapper in the New World sold a load of pelts to a merchant captain from Europe, he was probably paid in thalers. Owing to the oddities of the Dutch language, " thaler" and "dollar" had approximately the same pronunciation. End of digression]
    So why "under weigh"? The original Dutch sailor-talk was "Aan der weg". This meant "On the way" it had nothing to do with under nor did it refer to weighing or lifting an anchor. I think the mistake was partly caused by the oddities of the Dutch language. A 'g' in Dutch has a guttural pronunciation similar to the 'ch' in the Scots "loch" or the German "Ach!" In standard English this guttural sound does not exist in speech but remains in the written form. "Night" used to be pronounced "niCHt". In Scotland the guttural 'ch' was always used in some dialects and the Scots saying "It's a braw briCHt moonlit niCHt the niCHt" still lives on as a well-worn(out) joke.
    So it was assumed than since "under way" started out as "Aan der weg" the guttural which disappeared in English was the same one as in "weigh". It wasn't, so "under way" is the only correct spelling.
    HOWEVER . . . Since so many writers made this mistake, "under weigh" gained authority from usage and as with any linguistic criterion, usage usually wins in the end.
    Sorry for the length of this. Hope you are not shedding tears of boredom.

    Jeremy

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jeremy... you should create a blog on linguistic history. I would be the first to sign-up.
      Thanks... I'm adding the addendum to MY writing... and will copy and paste your stuff there. Beautiful stuff.

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    2. And... I did know about the thaler and dollar link. My buddy Vince taught me that one a year ago.
      I love learning - keep'em coming!

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