"Dwarf Trees in Japan" from the Personal Narrative of a Voyage to Japan

       John M. Tronson (? - ?)  "During the late commission of Her Majesty's steamsloop Barracouta, on the East India and China station, she was employed upon various interesting expeditions; her light draught of water and great steam power rendering her peculiarly applicable for such purposes.
        "[The author] had the good fortune of visiting in her, in the years 1854, '55, and '56, various parts of the coast of China, the Japanese Islands, Kamtschatka, the coasts of Siberia and Tartary, and the island of Seghalien.  [He] noted down, from time to time, whatever appeared to [him] to possess novelty or interest; only regretting that [he] could not do justice to the scenery: and [he has] arranged [his] notes in a Narrative form.
        "Written on board H.M.S. Hogue, The Clyde, July, 1859." 1

       Personal Narrative of a Voyage to Japan, Kamtschatka, Siberia, Tartary, and various parts of the Coast of China, in H.M.S. Barracouta by John M. Tronson (1859):

        We landed [in Nagasaki during September 1856] daily to visit the bazaar and make purchases; many of the vendors could speak English pretty well, but, as in Hakodadi, they dare not receive payment for their goods: this was handed over to some two-sworded individuals.  A great variety of bronzes, some very old, were exposed to view; soldiers, horsemen, and storks; gods and candlesticks; junks and houses.  They were expensive, and purchasers few.  In another place handsome plants and dwarf trees were arranged; camellias, cypresses, cedars, roses, and azaleas; dwarf pines, and dwarf oranges.  There was an abundance of lacquered ware, unlike that of the north, inlaid with mother of pearl: cabinets; work-boxes; glove-boxes; cigar-cases, and work-tables; cups and bowls; the [402] workmanship exquisite, and the varnish so hard and perfect, that it can resist the action of boiling water: the juice of which the varnish is composed, as it comes from the tree is at first colourless, and gradually acquires a dark colour.  Some of the porcelain ware is very delicate : it is known as egg-shell china, being as thin as egg-shells, and semi-transparent.  There were also silks and crapes; umbrellas and slippers; straw pictures and straw picture-frames; fruits and vegetables; peas, and beans; tobacco, and tobacco pouches; saki and soy in jars.  Soy is produced from a species of bean which grows wild in the neighbourhood: the beans are partially boiled, then bruised, and mixed with an equal quantity of ground wheat; a little water is added, and the mixture placed in a warm temperature till fermentation is excited, when some salt and water are added; it is then put in earthenware jars, and being well covered, is placed aside for some months; at the expiration of that time it is subjected to pressure, and the expressed juice is then ready for use.  It is stored in small casks, shaped like buckets, and bound round with wooden hoops.
        "There was a brisk demand at the bazaar for various articles, though the prices were exorbitant.  Each day brought an improved change in the quality of the supplies: such as handsome tables of lacquered ware, beautifully inlaid in pearl, and shaped after European models.  Then, again, there were small models of Japanese houses, with the inmates dressed after the latest Japanese [403] fashion.  The interpreters were very civil, and when disengaged from their occupations, amused themselves by translating Dutch into English, and English into Dutch.  They frequently applied to me to correct their pronunciation, a request I always gladly complied with."

        [411] "The residences of the magistrates are neatly built of wood, straw and mud, whitewashed externally; they are seldom higher than one storey, with upper storeroom or attic; but they are neatly furnished, and have ornamental grounds tastefully laid out around them.  A taste for flower-gardens prevails with the lower as with the higher classes, and in the rear of [412] every shop a small spot of ground is laid out in miniature shrubberies, with dwarf pine, cedar and orange, small piles of rock-work, a miniature lake, and winding paths adapted for Liliputians." 1


1      Tronson, John M., R.N.  Personal Narrative of a Voyage to Japan, Kamtschatka, Siberia, Tartary, and various parts of the Coast of China, in H.M.S. Barracouta (London: Smith, Elder & Co.; 1859), pp. v-vi.

2     Tronson, pp. 401-403, 411-412.

This material is also included in a review in Titan, A Monthly Magazine (London: James Hogg & Sons), Vol. XXIX, October 1859, Vol. 3, pg. 496.

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