contemplation © 2016 . All rights reserved.

Brobdingnagian

At the last station one of the Japanese ministers got into our carriage in the costume of a perfect English gentleman, chimney-pot hat included. He invited me to come and see his wife at his country-house, and at Yedo packed Miss C. and myself into two jinrickshas, a kind of grown-up perambulator, the outside painted all over with marvellous histories and dragons (like scenes out of the Revelation). They had men to drag them with all sorts of devices stamped on their backs, and long hanging sleeves. They went at a trot, far faster than English cabs, and answered to the hansoms of London, but were cheaper. So we trotted off to the tombs of the Hogans, most picturesque temples, highly coloured and gilded, half buried in noble trees, under a long low ridge or cliff. We left our cabs, and wandered about amongst them attended by a priest, a wretched mortal who would have sold even Buddha himself for a few cents if he dared run the risk of being found out. We then mounted the ridge above, and went to a famous tea-garden on the site of an old temple, with grand views over the city and sea, where we had tiny cups (without handles) full of yellow sugarless tea, ate all sorts of delicate cakes made out of rice and bean flour, finishing up with cherry-flower tea, which is made by pouring boiling water on dried blossoms and buds of the cherry-tree. The smell was delicious, the taste only fit for fairies, and very hard for big mortal tongues to discover. The tiny girls who served us were very pretty, and merry over our gigantic and clumsy ways. I felt quite Brobdingnagian in Japan.

Recollections of a Happy Life, Marianne North

Shiba Park and Zozoji Temple, Tokyo, in search of Marianne, March 2016.