The road [from Tokyo to Kyoto] led us through a number of large towns. They are very similar to each other and to Tokio, and the houses in Japan are so much alike that every evening, in going into our new hotel, it seemed as if we were entering the very one we had been in the night before; the rooms and the gardens, the servants, the candlesticks, dishes and washbasins,—all seemed the very same.
The Sunrise Kingdom (1879)
The beds [at an inn in Utsunomiya] took up half our room; the screens were drawn all round, and though we could probably all own to a strong sensation of being shut up in an old fashioned paper-lined trunk, we were left to get what sleep we could in the extremely lively quarters of a Japanese hotel. But it was not easy work. The blind shampooers were blowing their whistles in the street below; the guests in the hotel opposite and the passers-by chattered gaily; the dogs barked; a train arrived at the station, and the owners of each hotel shouted out the merits of their various houses; and then, just as I was dozing a little, the wooden shutters were drawn all round the hotel, and in every other house of Utsunomiya, to judge from the astounding clatter. Then, at last, comparative quiet fell on the city, but I was awaked now and then by the wooden clappers of the watchman on guard, and could hear him walking softly outside my paper walls. A night in a Japanese inn—it was more entertaining than solidly comfortable, but we would not have missed the experience on any consideration.
Japan As We Saw It (Bickersteth) (1893)
Though I had read much about life in Japan, it was an embarrassing experience to be set down for the first time with my baggage in a Japanese room, and to try and adapt myself mentally to the possibilities of living under such conditions. In a bare hut or tent the problem is comparatively simple; there is always one way by which you must enter; but in a Japanese room there is too much liberty; three of the walls are opaque sliding screens, the fourth is a transparent, or rather translucent, one; you can come in or go out where you like; there is no table on which things must be put, no chair on which you must sit, no fireplace to stand with your back to—just a clean, matted floor and perfect freedom of choice. European trunks look hopelessly ugly and unsympathetic in such surroundings, nor are matters much improved when the host, in deference to the habits of a foreigner, sends in a rough deal table, with a cloth of unhemmed cotton, intended to be white, and an uncompromising, straight-backed deal chair. These hideous articles make a man feel ashamed, for though they are only a burlesque of our civilization, they are produced with an air of pride which shows that the owner is convinced they are the right thing, and one cannot but be humiliated by their ugliness and want of comfort.
Notes in Japan (1896)
There is one peculiarity in the Japanese hotels which struck us as very curious—namely, the custom of inscribing, on the door-post outside, the name of every visitor; in order, I concluded, to inform inquirers for parties supposed to be lodging there.
A Lady’s Visit to Manilla and Japan (1863)
At the Tatsumi-ya [in Yoshino, Nara], just by the remains of the huge bronze torii, which, until it was blown down by a hurricane, formed the entrance to the main street, I found a little suite of rooms built in the garden away from the rest of the house, and at once engaged them, in happy anticipation of quiet nights. These isolated rooms have some disadvantages, such as having to get to the bath and back on wet nights, but a very short acquaintance with life in a tea-house makes the traveller disregard such trifling inconveniences for the certainty of peaceful sleep. The Japanese wanderers usually finish their day’s journey about five in the afternoon, and, after the preliminary cup of tea, discard their travel-stained clothes for the clean kimono which every well-regulated tea house supplies to its guests, then bathe in water as near the boiling point as possible, eat their dinner, sit talking and smoking till midnight, snore till five o’clock in the morning, when the clatter of taking down shutters begins, and the elaborate business of tooth-cleaning and tongue-scraping, with an accompaniment of complex noises suggesting sea sickness in its worst stages, so it is not till they have departed at six or seven o’clock that a light sleeper gets much chance. In the daytime the tea-house is deserted, except by the proprietor, who sits in the front room and does his accounts, and by the little servant-girls, who, with their heads tied up in towels, kimono tucked into their obi, and sleeves fastened back, showing a good deal of round brown leg and arm, busily sweep and dust the rooms in preparation for the new set of visitors who will arrive in the evening. The thin sliding partitions would be little bar to sound even if they reached to the top of the room, and above them there is generally a foot or so of open wood-work, which allows free ventilation and conversation between the different apartments. Privacy, as we understand it, is no part of the scheme of a Japanese tea-house.
Notes in Japan (1896)
Toward evening we reached Hachiogi, a large town, and stopped at the best looking inn, where we were shown to a large room on the second floor. As foreigners generally insist on wearing their boots on the delicate Japanese mats, it is difficult for them to gain admission to any house where the proprietor has once had his floors disfigured, and when admitted they usually receive the poorest rooms. While we were eating, and till late in the evening, we were surrounded by more people than we could have wished for. As I was about to pass my first night in a Japanese house, I watched anxiously the preparations for sleeping. These were simple enough: a mattress in the form of a very thick quilt, about seven feet long by four wide, was spread on the floor; and over it was laid an ample robe, very long, and heavily padded, and provided with large sleeves. Having put on this night-dress, the sleeper covers himself with another quilt, and sleeps, i.e., if he has had some years’ practice in the use of this bed.
But the most remarkable feature about a Japanese bed is the pillow. This is a wooden box about four inches high, eight inches long, and two inches wide at the top. It has a cushion of folded papers on the upper side to rest the neck on, for the elaborate manner of dressing the hair does not permit the Japanese, especially the women, to press the head on a pillow. Every morning the uppermost paper is taken off from the cushion, exposing a clean surface without the expense of washing a pillowcase.
I passed the greater part of the night in learning how to poise my head in this novel manner; and when I finally closed my eyes, it was to dream that I was being slowly beheaded, and to awake at the crisis to find the pillow bottom-side up, and my neck resting on the sharp lower edge of the box.
Across America and Asia (1870)◀ Tea housesGeisha ▶