This Japan Guidebook Should Prove Useful (assuming nothing has changed in the last 111½ years)
NOTE: Images with an icon next to them have been artificially shrunk to better fit your screen; click the icon to restore them, in place, to their regular size.
Take the railway wherever available. On those plans which no railway yet traverses, take a jinrikisha (rickshaw). Avoid the native basha (carriage), if you have either nerves to shatter or bones to shake; and be chary of burdening yourself with a horse and saddle of your own in the interior, as all sorts of troubles are apt to arise with regard to shoeing, run-away grooms (bettō) (stableman), etc. Such, in a few words, is our advice, founded on long personal experience.
— from “Means of Locomotion”, Murray's Hand-Book, Japan, 1901

My folks just sent me the most wonderful Japan travel guide, “Murray's Hand-Book, Japan”, published December 24th, 1900, and offered for sale as of January 1, 1901. It's a printed-in-Japan sixth edition of what, as far as I can tell, started out as the printed-in-London “A Handbook for Travelers in Central & Northern Japan”, circa 1881 (available as a PDF via that link from Google). Some of the introduction prose is identical, so if my sixth edition is not descended from it, at least some of its material is.

I'm happy to have the later sixth edition because, according to “Treaty Limits” on page xiii of the first edition, which talks about where foreigners are allowed to go in Japan, it's noted that Kyoto is off limits:

Kiôto... which city is not to be approached nearer than 10 ri (25 miles)

However, in the cloth-bound sixth-edition I have from 20 years later, there's plenty about Kyoto and its temples and shrines and palaces and attractions that I look forward to diving into. The book's 600 pages covers “the whole empire from Yezo to Formosa”, and then there's an additional 100-page section of advertisements.

It all looks much more modern than my image of “1900 Japan”, especially the advertisements. The facing page of the inside back cover is an advertisement for Kirin Beer, “the purest beer sold in Japan”.

There's even a smattering of phone numbers. Page 72 of the advertising section is an advertisement for a new hotel in Kyoto opened by an “N. Nishimura”, what is now the Westin Miyako. The ad gives its telephone number as “421”.

Yet, even though the first power generator in Japan had been in operation for a dozen years right across the street from that hotel (the original generator building making an appearance on my blog in this post from last December), I've so far found no mention in the book of that new, exciting convenience for the modern man: electrical lighting.

One comment so far...

When I had more money to spare, I would make a point of looking for English-language books on Japan, pre-WWII and would find gems in them, such as what you found. Gave most of these as a donation to son’s university, Ohio Northern, where I hope they are being used.

— comment by Bob Barlow on May 29th, 2012 at 9:15pm JST (11 years, 9 months ago) comment permalink
Leave a comment...

All comments are invisible to others until Jeffrey approves them.

Please mention what part of the world you're writing from, if you don't mind. It's always interesting to see where people are visiting from.

IMPORTANT:I'm mostly retired, so I don't check comments often anymore, sorry.

You can use basic HTML; be sure to close tags properly.

Subscribe without commenting