It needed preparation and insight; and what had he done since he was a child but prepare himself with the best culture of Japan, and acquire in his excursions the power and habit of observing? He was but twenty-two, and already all this was clear in his mind, when news reached Choshu that Commodore Perry was lying near to Yeddo. Here, then, was the patriot's opportunity.
"On this day," says the O-Satsuyô, a Japanese cyclopædia, "at Yeddo, where there are myriads upon myriads of shrines to Inari Sama, there are all sorts of ceremonies.
This was only prevented after a severe struggle by the bravery of the Tycoon's guard, to whose care the palace and its inmates were entrusted. During the conflict a large portion of the sacred city of Miako was burnt. The Tycoon only leaves Yeddo when affairs of state require his presence elsewhere.
And Sákuma was in a position to help Yoshida more practically than by simple countenance; for he could read Dutch, and was eager to communicate what he knew. While the young Ronyin thus lay studying in Yeddo, news came of a Russian ship at Nangasaki. No time was to be lost. Sákuma contributed "a long copy of encouraging verses"; and off set Yoshida on foot for Nangasaki.
Thousands of pilgrims flock to it annually from all parts of the Empire, for it is their sacred mount and the gods reward such as worship at this shrine. It was once an active volcano; but there has been no eruption since about 1700, when ashes were thrown from it into Yeddo, sixty miles away. The crater is nearly five hundred feet deep.
He was instantly informed that if the superior officer did not come for the letter at once the ships would proceed up the Bay of Yeddo and deliver the letter without him. Of course this ultimatum created great excitement and the officer finally asked a stay in the proceedings until the next day. During the night signal fires blazed from the mountain tops and bells sounded the hours.
The scenery appeared to be pretty, and we passed through crowds of picturesque junks. At 4.25 we rounded Tomamgai Smia, and at 9 p.m. anchored off the town of Kobe, or Hiogo. These constant changes of names are very puzzling. Miaco and Yeddo, which we did know something about, are quite cut out, and replaced by Kioto and Tokio.
From the top of the mountain there are visible innumerable valleys, nearly the whole of the Gulf of Yeddo, and the white-throned Foosiyama, called the highest mountain in Japan and the most beautiful in the world. We spent the night previous in Kisaradzu, the capital of the now united provinces, and a neat little city, just beginning to introduce foreign civilization.
Three princes came off to see me yesterday. They were exceedingly civil, but very anxious to get me to go back to Kanagawa, a port about ten miles down the bay, from which they said they would convey me by land to Yeddo. Of course I would not agree to this. I complimented the prince on the beautiful Fusiama, calling it a high mountain.
The old folks call it Yeddo. To the young, "Tokyo" has a pleasant, modern sound, and comes glibly. But whether young or old, those whose home it is know that the great flat city, troubled with green hills, cleft by a shining river, and veined in living canals, is the central spot of all the world. Storms visit Tokyo, with fury often, sometimes with destruction.