The Japanese Reporter
We do not know to this day to what circumstance we owed the honour of
appearing in print in Japan--whether we were mistaken for individuals
of distinction, or whether we were considered remarkable on our own
merits on account of being by ourselves; but we went downstairs fully
believing it to be a custom of the country, a rather flattering custom,
to which we were much pleased to conform; and this is a true chronicle
It was a slender, round-faced youth who made his deprecating bow to us
in the drawing-room. His shoulders sloped, his gray-blue kimono lay in
narrow folds across his chest like what the old-fashioned people at
home used to call a sontag. American boots were visible under the skirt
of the garment, and an American stiff felt hat reposed on the sofa
beside him. His thick, short black hair stood crisply on end, and out
of his dark eyes slanted a look of modest inquiry. He was the most
unaggressive reporter I have ever seen. His boots and his hat were the
only things about him that I could connect with journalism, as I had
previously been acquainted with it.
"How do you do?" I said, seeing that the silence must be broken and the
preliminaries gone through with by somebody.
"Yes!" he responded, with an amiability that induced Orthodocia to get
up hurriedly and look out of the window. "Did the radies arrive to the
Duke of Westminster?" looking from one to the other of us.
"We believe they did!" gasped Orthodocia, and immediately looked out of
the window again. I edged my chair toward the other window. Then the
cloven foot appeared in the shape of a note-book. He produced it with
gentle ostentation, as one would a trump card. The simile is complete
when I add that he took it from his sleeve.
"How old is rady?" calmly, deliberately.
"I--I forget," falsified this historian; "forty-five, I believe."
The reporter put it down.
"Other rady, your friend,--not so old? Older? More old?"
"I am twenty-two years of age," said Orthodocia gravely, with a
reproachful glance at me, "and I weigh ten stone. Height, five feet
eight inches. In shoes, I am in the habit of wearing fives; in gloves,
six and a half."
The reporter scribbled convulsively.
"Radies will study Japanese porryticks--please say."
"I beg pardon?"
"Yes." Fills another page.
Orthodocia, suavely, "Are they produced here to any extent?"
"We have here many porryticks--ribarer, conservative, monarchist."
"Oh!" more recourse to the window.
"Orthodocia," I said severely, "you may not be aware of it, but your
conduct is throwing discredit upon a person hitherto fairly entitled to
the world's good opinion--which is me. Continue to be absorbingly
interested in that brick wall, and allow me to talk to the gentleman."
"We have come," I said distinctly--Orthodocia bears testimony to the
fact that I said it distinctly--"to see Japan as far as Japan will
permit. Her politics, system of education, customs, and arts will be
of--ahem!--interest to us. We cannot truthfully say that we expect to
penetrate more deeply into the national life than other travellers have
done. In repressing this expectation we claim to be original. We
confess that our impressions will naturally be superficial, but we hope
to represent the crust so charmingly that nobody will ask for any of
the--interior--of the--well, of the pie."
"That's equivocal," said Orthodocia, "and ridiculous."
"Notwithstanding the well-known reticence of the Japanese," I
continued, "we hope to meet some of them who will show us something
more of their domesticity than we can see through the windows."
"You will acquire ranguage of Japan?"
"Not all of it, I think. It seems a little difficult, but musical--much
more musical than our ugly English," interposed Orthodocia.
"Yes. Will you the story of your journey please say?"
"Certainly. We came from Montreal to Vancouver by the C.P.R.--that is
the best Western railroad on the continent, because it is built with
English capital," bombastically. "Some people say that you never would
have heard of Canada in Japan but for the C.P.R., but I am told that
they are mostly jealous Republican Americans."
The reporter bowed.
"We travelled three thousand nine hundred miles by this route across
the North-West and through the Rocky Mountains." Here Orthodocia dwelt
upon the remarkable snow-sheds for protection against avalanches. She
went on with vague confidence to speak of the opening up of trade
between Canada and Japan by the new railway and steamship line, and I
added a few remarks about the interest in Japanese art that existed in
Montreal, and the advisability of the Japanese establishing firms of
their own there; while the reporter flattered our eloquence by taking
down notes enough to fill a quarto volume. We had never been
interviewed before--we might never be again--and we were determined to
make the occasion an illustrious one. We were quite pleased with
ourselves as the nice little creature bowed himself out, promising to
send us the fortunate shimbun which would publish the interview, with
a translation of the same, a day or two later.
I suppose it was Orthodocia's effect upon him--the effect I had begun
to find usual--but he didn't send the shimbun; he brought it next
morning with much apology and many bows. I have before me a pencilled
document in the handwriting of three persons. The document contains the
interview as it was set down in the language of the translator, who sat
with an expression of unruffled repose, and spake aloud from the
shimbun which he held in his hand. Sometimes Orthodocia took it down,
sometimes he took it down himself, sometimes I took it down while
Orthodocia left the room. The reason for this will perhaps be
self-evident. Orthodocia and I possess the document in turns, to ward
off low spirits. We have only to look at it to bring on an attack of
the wildest hilarity.
The reporter came entirely in Japanese costume the second time, and
left his wooden sandals outside on the stairs. He left most of his
English there, too, apparently, but he bowed all the way from the door
to the middle of the apartment in a manner that stood for a great deal
of polite conversation. Then he sat down and we sat down, and
Orthodocia prepared to transcribe the interview which had introduced us
to the Japanese nation from his lips. It was a proud, happy moment.
The reporter took the journal with which he was connected out of one of
the long, graceful, flowing sleeves which make life worth living for
masculine Japan. He told us that it was the Hochi-Hochi-Shimbun, and
he carefully pointed out the title, date beginning and end of the
article, which we marked, intending to buy several copies of the paper
and send them home. We were anxious that the people there should be
kept fully enlightened as to our movements, and there seemed to be a
great deal of detail in the article. Its appearance was a little
sensational, Orthodocia thought, but she silently concluded, with her
usual charity, not to blame the reporter for that, since he couldn't
possibly be considered responsible for the exaggerations of the Chinese
"Yesterday," translated the reporter solemnly--I must copy the
document, which does not give his indescribable pronunciation--"by
Canada steamer radies arrived. The correspondent, who is me, went to
Grand Hotel, which the radies is. Radies is of Canada, and
in-the-time-before of Engrand. They have a beautiful countenance."
Here the reporter bowed, and Orthodocia left the room for the first
time. I think she said she must go and get her pencil sharpened. She
left it with me, however, and I took up the thread of the interview.
"Object of radies' rocomotion, to make beautiful their minds. Miss
Elder-Rady answered, 'Our object is to observe habits, makings, and
beings of the Japanese nation, and to examine how civirisation of
Engrand and America prevails among the nation. And other objects is to
examine the art and drawing and education from the exterior of the
confectionery. In order to observe customs of Japan we intend to rearn
a private house.'"
We were getting on swimmingly when Orthodocia reappeared, having
recovered in the interval, and told the reporter that he must think
foreigners very abrupt and rude, and that he really spoke English
extremely well. To both of which remarks he responded, with a polite
suavity that induced me to turn my back upon her in an agony of
suppressed feeling, "Yes."
continue, 'The rai-road between the Montreal and Canada is
"I beg pardon," said the unhappy Orthodocia, with an awful galvanism
about the corners of her mouth, "I didn't quite catch what you said--I
mean what I said."
The reporter translated it over again.
"Perhaps," said I nervously, "it's a misprint."
"No," the reporter replied gravely, "Miss Younger-Rady."
"Gracious!" said Orthodocia.
"And if by the rai-road we emproy the steamer, the commerce of Montreal
and Japan will prevail. Correspondent asked to Miss Younger-Rady may I
heard the story of your caravansery?"
Orthodocia again retired. It was a little trying for me, but when he
continued, "She answered, 'From Montreal to Canada the distance is
three thousand mires,'" I was glad she had gone. I am afraid I choked a
little at this point, for just here he decided to wrestle with the
pencil himself. When he handed the paper back again I read: "While we
are passing the distance between Mount Rocky I had a great danger, for
the snow over the mountain is falling down, and the railroad shall be
cut off. Therefore, by the snowshade, which is made by the tree, its
falling was defend. Speaking finish. The ladies is to took their
caravansery attending among a few days. Ladies has the liability of
"That last item," said Orthodocia, who had come in with the excuse of
some tea, "is frightfully correct."
Having despatched the business of the hour and a half, the reporter
began to enjoy himself, while Orthodocia and I tried to seat ourselves
where we couldn't see each other's faces in the mirror over the
mantelpiece. He drank his tea with his head on a level with the table,
and if suction can express approval it was expressed. He said that
there were fourteen editorial writers on his shimbun, and that its
circulation was one million. Which shows that for the soul of a
newspaper man Shintoism has no obvious advantages. He dwelt upon the
weather for quarters of an hour at a time. The Japanese are such a
leisurely people. He took more tea, by this time stone cold. He said he
would bring a Japanese "gentleman and rady" to see us, and in response
to our inquiry as to whether the lady was the wife or the sister of the
gentleman, he said, with gravity, "I do not know the rady's wife." He
asked us for our photographs, and when Orthodocia retired at this for
the fifth time he thought she had gone to get them, and stayed until I
was compelled to go and pray her to return. It was the ringing of the
two o'clock lunch bell that suggested to him that the day was waning,
and that perhaps he had better wane too.