Japan As They Saw It

Crossdressing hilarity in 1859

    In one of these tea-houses [in Nagasaki] of which the Russian officers of the squadron took almost exclusive possession, several mornings were passed in photographing Japanese of both sexes decked out in full costume, dancing and singing girls, with now and then some curious beauty from the neighbourhood; also musical instruments, swords, gongs, teapots, &c.—in fact, everything that was characteristic of the country and scene, or could help to fill up the picture. Group after group was taken of figures sitting, dancing, attitudinizing, eating, drinking, or smoking, and glass after glass spoiled, owing to the laughing and frolicsome behaviour of the highly amused moosoome.* After several well-portrayed scenes were taken, though not without great trouble in keeping the subjects in a state of repose for a few seconds, the hilarity of the whole party was increased by the changing of costume. Moosoome came out in uniform, with pantaloons and swords girded on; officers in Keremon and Obee,† their hair dressed out à la Japonaise with colored crape, and flowers. Each played the part of his or her assumed character, the moosoome strutting up and down, and the men prostrating themselves like the Japanese women, till the scene became so ridiculous that the most serious could not hold out. The people around roared with laughter; tears were running down the cheeks of a fat old bonze, as his ponderous sides shook, while two caustic-looking, two-sworded gentlemen, putting their noses in at the garden gate, shook their heads, and, no doubt, vowed to themselves that the barbarians were spoiling the people.

*Moosoome—Anglicé, girls.
†Keremon. Japanese gown; Obee, a silk scarf worn round the waist, and tied into a huge knot.

Henry Arthur Tilley, Japan, the Amoor, and the Pacific, 1861

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