Mitford continued his autobiography by stating that after the delegation returned to Edo, he and others engaged in their everyday duties for a few weeks while cursing the heat and mosquitos. At the end of July both he and Ambassador Parkes then decided that they would journey to Ezo (Hokkaido). Mitford says that he travelled on board the HMS Salamis under the command of Sir Henry Keppel, while Ambassador Parkes travelled on the Basilisk under the command of a Captain Hewett. He said that the trip itself was pleasant, but what fascinated him the most was the opportunity to see members of the Ainu people for the first time. The purpose of the trip to Ezo was to scout for commercial operations along Japan’s western seaboard, in particular any ports or harbours that would be able to support foreign trade. He says that on the 7th of August Ernest Satow joined the Basilisk, and they were also met by the survey ship Serpent under the command of Captain Brock. The three ships later dropped anchor in Nanao Bay on the Noto peninsula. He notes that the province of Kaga, in which Nanao Bay was located, was said to be controlled by the wealthiest aristocrats in all of Japan, the family of the Lord of Kaga.
Mitford noted that Nanao Bay had a small island in it that covered part of the bay. He wrote that Ambassador Parkes said it was more preferable to coastal ports opened up in Niigata with its treacherous sandbanks and thus had value as a potential port for foreign trade. In order to initiate talks with Kaga province, two senior officials from the provincial capital of Kanazawa came to Nanao Bay for discussions. He said that this occurred a little later than planned, and that the meeting itself didn’t happen until the 9th of August (a Friday). He wrote that Ambassador Parkes endeavoured to impress on the representative of Lord Kaga that it would create a very favourable impression if, like Satsuma, Tosa, and Uwajima, Kaga chose to engage in friendly relations with foreign nations. However this discussion did little to shift the representatives’ position.
The representatives explained that the reason for not opening up Nanao Bay to foreign trade was that if they did this, then the Shogun’s government would seize it and territory which had belonged to Kaga province since time immemorial would be lost. Both representatives repeated their objections many times over, and the more they resisted, the more resolved Ambassador Parkes became to try and win them over. His speech became ever more heated, demanding that if the representatives were going to be so unfriendly, then he would send two of his underlings, in other words Mitford and Satow, to Kanazawa to negotiate directly with the Lord of Kaga. And so a decision was made whereby Mitford and Satow would travel overland and meet up with Ambassador Parkes in Osaka. This proposal was reluctantly accepted by Mitford and Satow, and the meeting with the Kaga representatives thus (on the surface) concluded with the proper decorum.
When news of this meeting reached representatives of the Shogun who had accompanied Captain Brock in order to assist him on his surveying expedition, they flew into an agitated state, saying that such a thing (travelling overland) was completely out of the question. The excuses they gave for this was that they could not guarantee Mitford and Satow’s safety if they went by land, and moreover they had responsibility for the British diplomats’ safety as representatives of the Shogun. They also made it clear that the edict that they had received from the Shogun would not guarantee their passage through Kaga and Echizen. However these arguments did nothing to change Ambassador Parkes’ mind.
Mitford wrote that Ambassador Parkes wanted to gain some knowledge of the western Japanese coastal region, a region into which no foreigner had ever stepped. To that end he urged Satow and Mitford to try and maintain relations with the provincial officials, although it was clear that Satow and Mitford were somewhat nervous about the whole enterprise. The reason for this is when Mitford and Satow went to give their farewells, Captains Keppel and Hewett told them that they were very worried about the dangers facing the two diplomats, and insisted that the reason the plan had been approved was because the British diplomats were unarmed. In response Mitford and Satow said that it was a question of duty, and while they would rather not obey Ambassador Parkes’ directive, they were not embarking on the journey on a whim.
Both Mitford and Satow made landfall in the afternoon, whereupon the Salamis departed in a haze of smoke followed by the Basilisk. Only the Serpent remained in port at anchor. Mitford says that he spent an evening on shore preparing for departure the next day. He says that the officials sent from the shogunate tried to get Mitford and Satow to abandon their trip, but they steadfastly refused to do so. He wrote that these officials were not only useless, they were an impediment. He writes that they were no more than the most junior officials, and they were no help at all in protecting Mitford and Satow. He said they functioned more like spies, intent on ensuring that Mitford and Satow were not able to form any bonds of friendship with the local people.
Mitford said that he and Satow pointed out that these officials had a duty to remain on board the Serpent under the command of Captain Brock. Mitford also said that he and Satow agreed with the officials that if something bad were to happen to Satow and Mitford, then the officials would not be held responsible for this. He also said that the British delegation received a formal exchange agreement from officials of Kaga province, which stated that when Mitford and Satow were exchanged that they would be returned in the condition that they departed in, namely in one piece and unharmed. After receiving this agreement, Mitford and Satow returned to the Serpent.
Mitford and Satow set out on the 10th of August, and said that the officials from Kaga province still hadn’t gotten over the shellacking they had received at the hands of Ambassador Parkes the next before, and so were in a bad mood which showed on their faces. Mitford wrote that ‘needless to say’, this meant that he and Satow did not depart lightheartedly. Mitford then wrote that it was not a characteristic of the Japanese to always have a dour look on their faces, and that Ernest Satow’s jovial nature meant the officials weren’t able to maintain their hostility for very long. Very soon these officials formed good relations with Mitford and Satow as their guides.
Mitford writes that he and Satow prepared a gorgeous palanquin, while Satow’s Japanese servant, a person by the name of Noguchi, and Mitford’s Chinese servant Lin Fu, travelled in a more ordinary palanquin. He writes that around twenty retainers of the Maeda household, carrying dual swords and spears and with the clan flag, acted as security for the trip. He admits that he was not sure whether the escort was just for show or whether it was genuinely meant to protect the delegation. He does admit that it came in useful in clearing the roads of towns and villages and preventing any ruffians from attempting anything. He writes that the days were hot, and that after heading out of town the palanquin he was travelling in began to show its age. As he couldn’t take the discomfort anymore he decided to exit the palanquin and continue on towards the south west on foot.
He says the scenery he experienced was beautiful, particularly the view of the mountains of Etchū, some of which rose up to around 10,000 feet in height. He described being surrounded by the uniquely ‘deep green’ forests and woods of Japan, and asks whether any other country possesses such picturesque forests. He describes walking along a sandy beach, whose waters were as blue as the sky itself, and a scene reminiscent of those described in Japan’s ancient tales. Mitford then proceeds to regale readers with a few stories set on the coastal regions of Japan, including the origins of the Suma ‘lute’ (Biwa).
Mitford writes that the heat was oppressive at that time of year, and so he and his fellow travelers would rest at some small tea houses along the way, where they would satisfy their appetites on watermelon and apples. He writes that many of the taverns they visited were very comfortable and the people were kind and friendly. He notes that the delegation had nothing to complain about from the reception they received from the people of Kaga.
Mitford also writes that the samurai of Kaga were not impetuous like those of Satsuma or Tosa, but neither were they astute strategists like the leaders of Chōshū. The Kaga samurai that Mitford met appeared to be quiet and reserved, and slightly oafish, but wealthy. The Lord of Kaga, on the other hand, inclined towards being opportunistic, and not only possessed enormous wealth but ruled over some of the most important territory in the land. Mitford writes that the second day of travelling was blessed with tremendous weather, and after passing Takamatsu, the delegation arrived at Tsubata, a picturesque small fishing village on the coast featuring many lodging houses. There they spent a night in an upper class ryokan, where they were treated to an excellent Japanese meal. At around 7:45 in the morning on Monday, the 12th of August, the delegation departed on the third day of their journey, this time heading for the capital of Kaga province, the town of Kanazawa. Mitford writes that as they got closer to the capital their retinue continued to grow in size, while their guides became more and more concerned about whether they would be allowed to enter Kanazawa.
Mitford writes that he could make out the white walls of a castle hidden among a thicket of pine trees about a mile in front of the delegation. He explains that because the party had grown sick of being stared at in places such as Osaka, and because they were wearing rough-hewn travelling clothes, they were in no state to maintain the dignity of their status and so took to their travelling palanquins like reluctant brides. Mitford writes that once again many spectators lined the roads, and at a beautiful rest station that had been prepared for them, plenty of people rushed to look at them. He writes that the spectators were all of different ages and from every social class. He saw many young women among the spectators, and remarked that the women of Kaga were renowned for their ‘fine proportions’. After arriving at their lodgings by following along a series of winding roads, they were met with some traditional Japanese hospitality, although on this occasion the reception was more splendid and carried out with great decorum.
Mitford writes that the main living room featured a velvet rug and some brilliantly lacquered red chairs that had been brought in for their use from a nearby temple. Of course, Mitford does admit that the hosts could not have known that Mitford and his travelling companions, having lived in Japan for some time, had gotten used to sitting on the floor. Soon after a messenger arrived from the Lord of Kaga, with word that the Lord of Kaga was worried about the health of the delegation as they had travelled through some oppressive heat, and explained that as the Lord of Kaga himself was feeling unwell he regretted not being able to meet the delegation in person but wanted to send his greetings. As representatives of Ambassador Parkes, the delegates responded by pledging eternal friendship with Japan, and Kaga province in particular.
The messenger then took on the role of host and brought in some delicious looking food, however because the seats that were brought in were very difficult to sit in, they were taken away and the messenger exchanged sake cups with the delegates in a more Japanese manner. Not long after, in case the delegates needed medical attention, a number of medical practitioners from the province were sent for to attend to the delegates. Mitford explains that in those days, traditional Chinese medicines were the norm, with moxibustion and acupuncture considered to be highly effective (although painful). However Mitford writes that neither he nor his companions were prepared for this kind of treatment. They apologised, and offered the explanation that none of them were in ill health. Discussions then turned to politics. Despite the substance of the talks being of the utmost secrecy, given that they were conducted in a manner in which anybody could listen in on them, there was no expectation that any secrets divulged would remain that way.
Mitford writes, however, that he and his companions were mistaken in their preconceptions. It seems that the shogunal government knew that the delegation was there to demand the opening of Nanao Bay to foreign trade and so the officials had no reason to keep anything hidden. What the officials of Kaga told the delegation were arguments that had been repeated since time immemorial. They were certainly well prepared to allow foreign trade, but could not agree to their bay becoming anything more than a place for offloading cargo. They knew that things would not end there, and so they endlessly repeated their major concern that should this come to pass, then the Shogun would seek to control it.
By the time the officials departed, they had developed a close affinity with the delegation, and Satow promised that he would do all he could to establish contact between Edo and Kanazawa. Kaga province was, as previously mentioned, one of the more receptive regions in Japan (to foreign contact), and so the visit was deemed a great success. Satow even considered bringing two retainers from Kaga province back to Edo with him to work as apprentices. Mitford then says that he had heard that two retainers from the province had already been sent as exchange students to England.
After the meeting ended, the delegation headed out for some sightseeing. However Kanazawa was a large town with many hills, punctuated by beautiful trees whose size was no exaggeration. There were around 50,000 residents in the town, which featured many fine shops selling spun silk, lacquerware, and fans. However these goods were not cheap. Mitford writes that he finally found two or three pieces of lacquerware of great age, and was able to purchase them. Those pieces were still in Mitford’s possession at the time he wrote his memoirs.
Mitford continues by writing that Kutani was located close to Kanazawa, and so the delegates made it a matter of course to buy two or three of the famous, unusual red coloured pottery. While in Kutani, they found a number of fabulous bookstores. He says the provincial officials that he and the others met were extremely polite and cordial in their demeanour. When evening came, the head official of Kutani requested that the delegation extend its stay and journey to nearby territories. Mitford writes that it was very hard to refuse such an invitation, and so they decided to acquiesce. The following morning, after engaging in some expensive shopping, a result of being unable to resist the temptation to spend a few more of their shillings, the delegation set out on horseback to their next lodgings, a small town called Kanaiwa located 4 miles from Kutani. The saddles that were strapped to the horses were of a Western style, consisting of a fake leather made from paper, while the bridle was a shabby substitute that had to be seen to be believed. Since the smaller (Japanese) horses had not been shod they were, as per usual, very uncomfortable to ride on. However given (in Mitford’s opinion) that Japan was not a country that was particularly fond of horses, this was unavoidable.
For a journey of five miles, two rest spots had been established for the delegation, the first of which was at Kanaiwa. After arriving at their destination, Mitford writes that there wasn’t much to look at, with no more than a beach that opened out onto the sea and a small river that flowed through the sand dunes. Mitford admits that he and his traveling companions were hard pressed to figure out why the affable Lord of Kaga had vigorously insisted on bringing them to such a place. The delegation then returned to Kanazawa before dark. In the evening, two provincial officials visited the delegation where they engaged in general chit chat. When discussions once again turned to the possibility of Nanao Bay being opened up to foreign trade, the tone of discussions became serious, with the officials explaining that acts which would make it appear as though the province was engaging in secret trade was not ideal, and if the Bay was opened up to trade and anticipations were that large volumes of cargo would be exchanged then it would be best to first discuss this with the Bakufu. The delegation then requested that the Lord of Kaga send a document to Edo with such a proposal.
Mitford writes that the conversation then turned to politics in general. In the opinion of the officials, at present they (in principle) had to support the Bakufu but the Bakufu’s authority was extremely limited. The delegation and the officials discussed this topic late into the night, but what they were able to discern was that Kaga province at that time was not bound to follow any fixed policy. It was also obvious that Kaga did not possess any acquaintances with leadership qualities of the sort found in other provinces. Mitford writes that Satow translated into Japanese a letter of appreciation for the reception the delegation had received, and passed this along to the officials. The officials then gave their very polite farewells and departed.
In the morning of the following day, the 14th of August, the delegation departed from Kanazawa, with people asking when they would visit again and bidding them farewell. The delegation then went on their way. They dropped by the medicinal store run by the father in law of the owner of their lodgings in Kanazawa, who recommended that they buy an excellent medicine known as Shisetsu made from saltpeter and musk and considered a cure-all. As per usual there were many onlookers, however amid these were appeared to be a number of refined young couples. Mitford writes that when the delegation arrived at their first rest stop and gazed back on the town that had so warmly welcomed them, the castle, that symbol of the last vestiges of feudalism, and its brilliant white keep were visible, as were the many residences of the townspeople that spread out from below the castle, punctuated by pine trees every now and then. It was a moving scene almost picturesque in its quality, and provided a fond memory of that time in history. Indeed, Mitford writes that with the passage of time, that memory’s value has only grown, for time eventually makes everything beautiful.
Mitford writes that the way back from Kaga was marked by many different events. In much the same manner as the time pleasantly spent in Kanazawa, the delegation was met with kindness and cordiality greater than they could have expected. Mitford says that he was not able to disguise his astonishment at how wealthy (or abundant) this region of Japan was. He writes that the delegation passed through Matsutō, a town of 2,000 residents, and Komatsu, a town with 2,500 residents, but no matter where they went they were blessed to receive the same sort of hospitality they had experienced elsewhere in Kaga province. He also writes that he never saw people so happy as those he met in Kaga province.
Mitford writes that on the 15th, the delegation arrived at the border with Echizen province, where they were met by some minor officials from that province (a point which angered the officials that had accompanied them from Kaga). The Kaga officials then had the Echizen officials complete a “letter of guarantee” to receive the delegation into their care. Mitford himself says that he would have liked to have seen this document, as he had suspicions as to what was actually written in it, probably something along the lines of “I hereby receive, without injury to their person, two officials from the Kingdom of Great Britain”. He writes that the Echizen officials made preparations to meet the delegation and had expended quite a bit of their finances in order to do so. However Mitford writes that it soon became evident that the delegates shouldn’t expect any real friendship from such officials.
Mitford writes that the Echizen officials wore smart clothing, of a sort that reminded Mitford of some of the youths depicted in the fable of the Jackdaw (i.e., infant crow) of Rheims (a poem by Richard Harris Barham, i.e Thomas Ingoldsby, a late eighteenth century – early nineteenth century English poet, concerning a crow that steals a ring from the cardinal of Rheims). The officials certainly did their best to help cool the delegation down using fans to ward of the midday heat, but did not show the delegation any further deference. Mitford writes that the capital of Echizen province, Fukui, featured excellent lodgings belonging to the Honganji sect. However Mitford writes that rather than gathering together people of good upbringing to meet them, the halls of the lodgings were filled with gawking spectators who looked upon the delegation as if they were gorillas.
At the time the Lord of Echizen was well known for having a strong aversion to interacting with foreigners, and it appears that such an attitude was reflected in the behavior of the commoners of Echizen province. On the 17th the delegation crossed the Echizen border, and were glad to be able to farewell the hostile, curmudgeonly people of that province. Very soon they were met by an official send as a representative of Ii Kamon no Kami (Ii Naonori), who received the delegations official letter of guarantee. On the following day the delegation arrived at Nagahama, a location that Ambassador Parkes had visited in May. The effect of that earlier visit meant that the delegates were not looked upon as some sort of curiosity, and there were virtually no restrictions placed on their interaction with residents, something for which Mitford was particularly glad.
18 members of the Betsu-te-gumi had arrived to meet the delegation in order to provide their security detail, the sum effect of which was to rob the journey of most of its enjoyments. The reason for this was that any friendly interaction that the delegates might have with the local people would be monitored by these Bakufu officials, thus making such interaction out of the question. At a ‘toll gate’ established at a place called Yanagi-ga-se, which was a fenced-off area on the border, the delegates learned of the odd system that oversaw these toll gates. Apparently any women who did not hold an access pass would not be able to pass through the toll gate. It was as if these women had no rights at all.
On the 20th of August the delegation arrived at the town of Kusazu, and it was decided that the delegation would rest during the afternoon so that they could compile a report of their journey so far. Mitford writes that he and Satow had managed to accumulate a large amount of information concerning politics and commerce. This might seem antiquated after the passage of half a century in which so many incidents had taken place, but at the time compiling reports was considered to be fascinating work and so a fair bit of time would be dedicated to putting them together. Mitford writes that he met a few samurai acquaintances of Satow, and after dinner and late into the night, they engaged in the usual discussion of politics.
However the discussions with the Bakufu officials proved dull, and so there was a tendency to discuss more frivolous things. What was of particular interest, and which later proved to be fortuitous, was the discussion on the road the delegation would take the next day. The delegation had decided that they would go via a small village on the edge of Lake Biwa, pass through the town of Ōtsu, and then head in the direction of Osaka. However the Japanese officials, after pointing out the difficulties that such a route would encompass, were resolved to prevent the delegation from heading to Ōtsu. It was plainly evident that the reason for this was because that road lay too close to the ‘sacred capital’ of Kyoto. Instead the officials offered to show the delegates the famous temple of Ishiyama-dera, which had previously been excluded even to Ambassador Parkes.
Mitford says that he and Satow insisted on their plan, with Satow holding many reservations about the enthusiasm the officials displayed for partaking in sight-seeing and sought to discover their true intentions. The owner of the lodging house (another official) that the delegation were in then took them aside and said the following. “If you two are really interested in obtaining trade information, then you should go and look at the famous tea plantations at Uji. I can assure you that you will be more interested in that, for there is nothing to see in Ōtsu”. However neither Mitford nor Satow would be dissuaded in their plan, and told the officials accompanying them that they would take the shortest route to Osaka via Ōtsu. They said that they knew what the officials were trying to do, and said that they knew that these officials had been sent to try and fool them. They then said that if the officials spoke honestly then Mitford and Satow might understand their reasoning, but as it was they had no choice but to refuse the officials’ advice. After hearing this the officials appeared to be somewhat downhearted, but soon changed tactics and continued their assault.
Mitford was not to be outdone and changed tactics himself. He suggested to the officials that if they would clearly put down in writing their reasons for wanting to change the route, then he and Satow would go via Uji. However if they didn’t, then they would proceed via Ōtsu despite the dangers it might present. The officials voiced some objections to this, but in the end agreed to do this and withdrew to a separate room to write the document. The document itself, which was over three pages in length, stated that the delegation's journey had not received permission from the Bakufu. In response Satow and Mitford claimed special privileges as diplomats, and they wanted to avoid the situation where any denial of this would lead to confusion. The letter that eventuated in response to this said that when Ambassador Parkes had travelled through Ōtsu in May this had been done at significant risk, and so this time around the Bakufu wanted the diplomats to consider going via Uji. It was a hard fought battle, but the delegation was eventually persuaded to change their route.
Mitford writes that in relation to these late night negotiations in Kusazu, when one looks at the conclusion, he would like the reader to understand that although lengthy, he wrote no more than what was necessary to relay the details of the negotiations.
Two days later, after arriving in Osaka, Satow’s servant Noguchi headed out on the town. After entering a tea house, he overheard a conversation by a group of samurai from Tosa province in the next booth over, who expressed their disappointment that they had missed an opportunity to kill two foreigners who had ‘defiled’ the land close to the ‘sacred capital’ the day before. Apparently samurai from the provinces of Tosa, Satsuma, and Chōshū had gathered together and formed a gang of around 400 in number and had been lying in wait for the delegation. If the delegation had insisted on following their original plan and taken the road through Ōtsu, then they would most certainly have been assassinated. As such they had “managed to escape a certain fate by a hair’s breadth”. Mitford writes that the funny thing about all this was that the Bakufu officials, by convincing the delegation to change their route through their tortuous objections, had saved the delegation’s lives but remained completely ignorant of this fact.
A few weeks’ later Mitford writes that he heard a conversation from Goto Zōjirō who backed up Noguchi’s story in full. Goto said that at the time he had been the officer on watch of the Lord of Tosa’s residence in Kyoto and got wind of the plan. He then did everything in his power to prevent it from happening. However the samurai who were planning to attack the delegation burned with a fierce hatred of foreigners and so had left the residence (to carry out their attack). Mitford writes that Goto’s name would hereafter appear more frequently in his memoirs, as he was one of Mitford’s good friends in Japan. In the following year, when a delegation of British diplomats was on its way to an audience with the Emperor, some of the diplomats had come under attack, and it was Goto who risked life and limb to rescue them.
On the 21st of August, Mitford writes that the delegation departed from Kusazu at around 5:45 in the morning after enduring an oppressively hot night. Mitford writes that either because of the mosquitos or the negotiations that carried on late into the night, he had hardly slept a wink. He also says that for a day or two he had not eaten anything other than O-chazuke (a type of rice soup infused with tea), and so had not been able to eat his full. He goes on to explain that when the Japanese eat rice, they use a type of medicine said to encourage appetite which has a sharp, salty flavour much like brine but which the delegates found totally inedible. Mitford further explained that during the journey he and Satow sometimes used boats to cross rivers, and walked certain sections, and from time to time stopped to admire the spectacular views of the vast plains area – the area where Kyoto and Fushimi were located, and which held special significance as the scene of civil war - and eventually arrived in Uji at about 4 in the afternoon. He writes that it was an exhausting day made worse by the oppressive heat.
Mitford then writes that in the evening of the previous day, the delegates had been led astray by the words of the Bakufu officials. They found that the famed Ishiyama-dera’s doors (the temple the Bakufu officials had promised was worth detouring from Ōtsu to see) were shut tight and no amount of knocking could prompt a response from those within. Mitford writes that seven years later while journeying on a steam ship across the Pacific, he met a Japanese citizen who, by complete coincidence, had been in the area at the time and seen the delegation repeat over and over their futile knocking on the temple door.
Mitford writes that as expected, he bought some of the famous Uji tea. The delegation then boarded a smartly decked out house boat at around 6 in the evening, and proceeded to watch the beautiful scenery drift by while resting on board. Soon afterwards Mitford fell asleep.
When he awoke at around 5:30 in the morning of the 22nd of August, he could see the magnificent keep of Osaka Castle, and made landfall at about 6am. The delegation then made their way to an old temple in Nakadera-machi, which would serve as their lodging house. It was here that the delegation’s 11 day adventure tour came to an end. It had certainly been extraordinarily interesting and suspenseful journey, with Mitford admitting that he had no idea what would happen during it. When going to sleep at night he gave thanks that he had not met any misfortune, and upon waking up in the morning checked that he was in fact still alive. Throughout the nation there were fanatical bands of rōnin that despised foreigners, and Mitford writes that the good friends that they had made while in Kaga province would not have been able to protect them should they come under attack. However the journey ended without incident, and the Ambassador successfully received all of information that he desired.
Unfortunately a tragedy preceded the delegation's arrived in Osaka. News that two sailors from the HMS Icarus had been butchered reached Ambassador Parkes at around 5pm (presumably on the same day). Apparently they had the misfortune to encounter a gang of hotheaded young samurai, and had been literally cut to pieces. The terrible fate that befell these two unfortunate fellows served as a vivid reminder of the very danger that could have befallen Mitford and Satow.
Mitford writes that as a result of repeated dialogue and conversations in relation to this incident, they realized that they had erred and the situation surrounding the assassination was more complicated than first thought. At first, suspicion fell on samurai from Tosa province. This particular suspicion stemmed from the fact that the day after the assassination, a small sailing boat and steamer registered to Tosa province had departed from Nagasaki before daylight. Yet it was later determined that the perpetrators were from a completely different province and that thereafter they would receive punishment. By this time the main perpetrator had, however, already committed seppuku and died.
It was through discussions held at the time that Mitford became well acquainted with Goto Zōjirō, and that his respect for Goto only grew in stature. As a representative of his province, he already possessed first-class capabilities, for which proof was in abundance. In discussions he had shown great forbearance in defending his position while explaining matters to Britain’s difficult and short-tempered ambassador. Goto was certainly one of three, possibly four people of ability who would go on to provide the impetus for the Meiji Restoration. Like the famous Saigo Takamori of Satsuma and leaders from other provinces, he would play a pivotal role in advocating for the formation of a parliamentary system, particularly the upper house, although this process would not take place for another 18 months.
Mitford writes that one of the fortunate things about Japan was that the role of speaking in public was different to that of other countries. The role of members within the constitutional parliament was not, in fact, detailed in the constitution. As such, rather than being a solemn gathering, meetings of the parliament were more like debating society events at one of England’s private schools. While members could voice their opinions, they could not propose legislation. Mitford continues by saying that on the 31st of August (1867), he and Satow were invited by the Lord of Awa to visit his castle in Shikoku. Shikoku at the time was divided up into the four provinces of Awa, Tosa, Sanuki, and Iyo, which is why the Lord of Awa bore that name. If the journey had originally gone as planned, then Mitford and Satow would have been able to learn about the nature of the other three provinces while exchanging cups of sake with the Lord of Awa while also gathering more details on other leaders within Shikoku. However luck was not with them. Ambassador Parkes, together with other members of the executive, decided that they would go to Awa themselves on board the Salamis and Basilisk, and so any plans of an expedition to Awa went out the window, to be replaced by no more than a form of courtesy visit.
Mitford writes that such visits were replete with old political clichés, with both sides refraining from telling the truth about their situation. As a consequence, discussions would be held for no purpose, which would produce a despondent mood occasionally alleviated by talking about the weather. Mitford writes, however, that the Lord of Awa was an extremely kind and proper gentleman, who prepared quite a spectacular performance for the visiting delegates which was performed to great effect by his retainers. The Lord of Awa himself spent his time in his private residence dressed in his elaborate pleated trousers (hakama), but contrary to the times did not wear an eboshi hat.
The first theatre performance was put on by a troupe of 3 people consisting of a lord, his messenger, and a member of the audience, and was particularly amusing. The lord orders his messenger to copy his every action, which the messenger dutifully obeys by delivering his lines to the audience member in the same manner as the lord. When the lord grows angry at the messenger for doing this and lightly slaps him on the head, the messenger then directs this anger at the audience member and slaps him on the head. This pantomime then escalates in ever increasing levels of horseplay, until the finale when the lord, fed up with the whole matter, kicks the messenger off stage.
The next act could be described as an Oriental version of the comic Offenbach opera “The Two Blind Men”. A certain wealthy man makes it clear that he wants to hire someone who from birth has been blind, deaf, and disabled. In response to this, he receives a visit from a man whose legs are disabled, another man who cannot speak, and a blind man. Mitford writes that these roles were particularly well performed by the Lord of Awa’s retainers. These three men are in fact inveterate gamblers, down on their luck, and so have disguised themselves as beggars. The wealthier man hires all three beggars, and assigns to each one to look after a warehouse each while he is away. The three beggars, knowing each other’s true identity, then discuss going to the warehouse where the sake is stored to drink their fill, and then going to the warehouse where mountains of gold can be divided up between them.
As expected, once they go to the first warehouse they get absolutely plastered, so much so that when their employer returns they forget which disabilities they were supposed to have. Hence the man who supposedly cannot see suddenly can’t talk, the man who can’t walk suddenly can’t see, and the man who can’t speak suddenly can’t hear. Mitford found the point in the act where their true identity as fraudsters was revealed to be very amusing.
After the plays finished everyone moved on to dinner, and the more Sake that was passed around the more lively everyone became. Mitford writes that the Lord of Awa said that he was the son of the previous governor of the province and an ‘elder brother’ (in terms of social relationships in a hierarchical society) to Ambassador Parkes. He also claimed that his eldest son, Awaji no Kami, was good friends with Ernest Satow. Mitford writes that on the following morning, he and the other delegates conducted an inspection of the provincial guard, who numbered around 500 but dressed in what could only be described as somewhat shabby Western clothes. Some of the guard wore boots, while others didn’t. Those wearing boots were terribly proud of themselves, like dandies walking about with wisteria canes while puffing away on amber leaf tobacco.
That evening Mitford together with the Lord of Awa boarded the Salamis in order to head back to Edo. However in order to investigate the circumstances surrounding the assassination of the two sailors from the Icarus, it had been decided that Ambassador Parkes and Satow would head for Susaki in Tosa province. Mitford writes that as explained earlier, the people of Tosa had been proven innocent of any complicity in the deaths of the sailors, but were uncompromising in their attitudes. Satow paid a visit to Yamauchi Yōdō (Toyoshige), who despite being retired in name by that time was still very much the ruler of the province. Yamauchi told Satow that if he knew of any Tosa samurai that had been involved in the assassination then he would swiftly punish them, but if they were innocent, then he would not change his mind regarding them no matter what the circumstances were. Goto (Zōjirō) then cautioned Ambassador Parkes that if he threw a tantrum at this point then he (Zōjirō) might take leave of reason (implying he might have to physically restrain Parkes). As a consequence, Parkes was apparently much more subdued.
Mitford writes that the Japanese take it as a matter of course to maintain one’s dignity, and while they might have a number of other faults, they were in essence gentlemen. Making threats would not, by themselves, result in success. A person of the caliber of Ambassador Parkes had not learned this lesson, and so it proved a weak point at times like this.
Satow thereafter made his way to Nagasaki where he remained until the 7th of November, and so Mitford make his way back to Edo, to a small temple known as Monryōin (門良院), where he spent time living by himself. In order to take precautions, Mitford writes that he scattered cockle shells on the paths leading through the garden so that if any uninvited guests suddenly turned up in the dead of night, their footsteps would serve as an alarm system. One evening at around 12 midnight, Mitford’s ‘fail-safe’ alarm system proved its worth, and he awoke to the sound of crunching footsteps. Mitford flew out of bed, and after lighting a lamp and candle, woke up his trusted servant Lin Fu and handed him a sword and pistol while Mitford himself grabbed his Spencer pistol. The two of them then made their way to the front entrance and waited. Whomever these rogues were, they soon caught sight of Mitford and Lin Fu’s armed figures and quickly fled. Mitford writes that he later found out that around 5 or 6 persons had made their way into the garden. The reason he knew this is because it had been raining hard the night before and the following morning he was able to discern tracks left by the culprits, some of whom had slipped on the grass on the small hill the temple was located on. They had thus left imprints of their backsides or left deep footprints after skidding to a halt. Mitford found the whole experience unnerving.
Mitford then writes that the house he was living in was located in an area that was well known for fighting among rival families (or gangs), and just like some of the laneways of old Edinburgh, it was located too close to the drinking houses of the ‘notorious’ Shinagawa district. These establishments sometimes served as ‘hideouts’ for gangs made up of violent xenophobes.
Mitford then proceeds to detail an incident that took place near his lodgings. One morning, after exiting his house in order to make his way to the British Embassy, the body of a slain samurai lay in a pool of blood in front of the entrance gate to his residence. A straw mat had been placed over the body, however it was obvious that it was missing its head. Apparently in the course of following some sort of strict precepts on revenge, an acquaintance of someone killed in an earlier fight by the victim now lying in front of Mitford’s gate had dragged the victim’s body there to display it in front of his friend’s grave (noting that Mitford was living in the grounds of a temple at the time).
The Japanese of Edo, just before the Meiji Restoration and a mere 48 years before Mitford wrote his memoirs, looked upon such events as an everyday occurrence.
While on the surface there didn’t appear to be any sort of major shift in politics occurring, underneath a silent revolution had begun and was growing in strength. The Shogun would ultimately resign from his position, although the truth was that his position had been abolished. Nevertheless Yoshinobu continued to exercise his authority with all of its in-built contradictions and would go on to head the Tokugawa household. Rumour had it that the daimyo of Satsuma, Chōshū, and Tosa, after appointing themselves leaders, were preparing for armed insurrection. It was said that they had even established an anti-Bakufu camp in Osaka.
Retainers from Tosa province said that when the Shogun resigned his authority in October (of 1867), they were doing no more than acting in accordance with a white paper produced by their province. They later showed this paper to Satow. Mitford writes that some of the more outstanding features of this paper was its outline of a bicameral system of government based on upper and lower houses, the creation of schools in major cities to teach science and more general knowledge, and the negotiation of new treaties with foreign countries. Messengers from the daimyo of the above provinces had then been sent to the British Embassy to entreat the diplomats on the process of forming a national parliament (or Diet). They were, in Mitford’s view, clearly prepared to do everything they could to be considered equal to the British.