People

Appearance

A very curious-looking people they are. I do not as yet like their appearance so much as that of the Chinese. The married women, having their teeth blackened, look hideous; and I should think the object in view must be thoroughly attained thereby—viz., that of preventing all admiration from flirting cavaliers.

Almost all the men have spoilt their national dress by wearing some piece of European attire, such as a wide-awake hat, or large boots. One boy evidently thinks himself very smart. He has on tight-fitting white flannel trousers, over which he has put on boots, and a short cut-away coat gives him altogether a very “horsey” appearance.

Letters from China & Japan (1875)

They certainly are not a handsome race, for though we have occasionally seen a few tall, good-looking specimens of the nation, they are as a rule short and ill-made, and if the Darwinian theory be correct, I should say they must be several generations nearer the parent monkey than we are, or even than their Chinese neighbours.

Letters from China & Japan (1875)

We noticed in Sakai, as we had already done in Osaka, that the notion of the Japanese being almost universally a small race of men and women is altogether an erroneous one, the majority being of fair average height, and many of them men of a size and height which were much above the average European standard. I think the women were, however, on the whole, smaller in proportion to the size of the men than would be usual among ourselves.

Japan: Its History, Traditions, and Religions (1880)

The men of Japan are not in the main, I found, the small race which might be inferred from the frequency with which Japanese of low stature and slight structure are seen in this country [Britain]. How to account for so many of the student class who have been sent to Europe being so remarkably small I know not; but in travelling through the interior of the country one may pass through village after village, and town after town, in which large men are the rule, and small the exception. The jinriki-sha coolies, fishermen, and other outdoor labourers appear to range above the average height and size, the jinriki-sha men in particular giving evidences of great speed and endurance.

Japan: Its History, Traditions, and Religions (1880)

It is impossible to realise that the Japanese are real men and women. What with the smallness of the people, their incessant laughing chatter, and their funny gestures, one feels one’s self in elf-land. On a fine day, the men appear as grinning demons in black tights, streaked all over with blue heraldry. On wet days, the long rush coats and long-sided straw hats equally remove all vestige of humanity. ... All who love children must love the Japanese, the most gracious, the most courteous, and the most smiling of all peoples.

English Influence in Japan (1876)

The teeth are an object of much attention; the young girls and the men have them white and even; the married women still even, but glossy black. Brushes made of soft wood, and a fine powder are used to keep them white; but the picture of an old woman, with her kani-box before her, blacking her teeth, is one of the most disgusting sights which a stranger can look on. Many girls also blacken their teeth, but the substance with which they do it is not very durable, as I have seen a brush and a little powder make them white and glistening again in a few minutes.

Japan, the Amoor, and the Pacific (1861)

If we except the 12,000 Ainos of Yezo, a hairy race supposed to be a remnant of the aborigines of the country, the population of Japan proper consists of a thoroughly homogeneous people. In appearance, language, mode of life, and national traditions, the Japanese are one. There are, of course, very considerable variations of dialect, but not greater than may even yet be found in England; and it is true that the semi-independence enjoyed under the feudal system by the different provinces has developed in each clan traditions more or less distinctive, while the inhabitants of widely separate districts may differ somewhat in physique; still, in all essential points the race is one. Everywhere there is prevalent the same Mongolian cast of countenance: the face oval, the cheek-bones prominent, the eyes dark, often oblique, and always narrow; the nose flattish; the lips usually somewhat heavy; the hair dark, and generally straight; the complexion sallow. The eyes very often look as if their owner had been born blind, and two narrow slits had afterwards been cut to admit the light,—an impression caused by their narrowness, and by the disappearance of the eyelash within the folds of the eyelid. Oblique eyes are most prevalent among the aristocracy, and are by the Japanese considered a mark of beauty; they are often accompanied by clearer-cut features than prevail among the masses, the bridge of the nose being narrow and well elevated. Sometimes, indeed, there are seen faces of almost a Jewish type. Among the masses, however, heavy flattish features prevail. The forehead is usually of good height. The complexion varies from the almost Caucasian fairness of some of the more beautiful ladies, to the brown with which the sun has tanned the skins of out-door labourers. The average stature is considerably below that of our own race, although occasionally, especially among the labouring class, one may see men approaching, or, more rarely, even reaching six feet. The men of certain provinces, particularly Satsuma in Kiushiu, excel in height and strength. As a rule, it is among the peasantry that we see the best physical development; the middle and upper classes are too often slight, narrow-chested, and pale. Many of the younger women are strikingly pretty, their features not seldom sharp and well-formed, and their complexion almost, if not quite, comparable to that of their European sisters; while the sparkling black eyes, even of those whose noses are a little too flat and lips somewhat heavy, are always attractive. Their beauty seems soon to leave them, however, for the older matrons have generally a more or less shrivelled appearance, which is certainly not improved by the hideous custom, not yet universally discarded, of shaving off the eyebrows and blackening the teeth. Their practice of deferring the weaning of their children often until these have reached the age of seven or eight, is no doubt the principal cause of this deterioration.

The Land of the Morning (1882)

One of the first problems the traveller will find himself pondering is, Who are these people? To what race do they belong? They are not Mongols, neither are they Malays. The complexion does not correspond with the one nor the general expression with the other. They are sui generis, a mixture probably of several Asiatic races,—Chinese, Malays, Coreans, and Siberians, producing, in process of ages, a race peculiar to itself.

From Japan to Granada (1889)