JAPAN AND ITS FIRE SERVICE.
UCH foreigners as are here in Tokio, who get their incomes from America are rich through the fall of silver, and they now get two dollars for every one that is sent out to them from home. I made out a draft of one hundred dollars on my New York letter of credit at the bank this morning, and got two hundred and eight dollars for it and the money I have brought with me has doubled in value. This makes traveling comparatively cheap, and though I had been paying four dollars a day at the Grand Hotel in Yokohama, it really cost me only two.
All sorts of luxuries are cheap. You can buy Mumm’s extra dry champagne for less than a dollar and a half a quart, and good Manilla cigars cost from one to three cents each. Cigarettes, which are now being imported by the million from the United States, and which are being introduced in large quantities among both the men and women of Japan, are far cheaper than at home, and what we pay five cents and ten cents a package for sells here for from one to three cents a package. Servants are very cheap and very good. The foreign housewife has nothing to do and she lives like a queen. The Japanese cooks are far better than ours, and twenty dollars a month will pay the board and salaries of the help of an eight-room house. 1 hive a friend who lives as well here as many a millionaire does in the United States, and he does not expend more than this amount. lie pays his cook five dollars a month. His butler gets two dollars and a half, and his gardener and second girl get about the same. These servants all board themselves and the cook does the marketing. His rent costs him less than twenty dollars a month, though he lives in one of the best ports of Japan, and he could have a coachman at five dollars more. He has no trouble about getting good servants, and he tells me they watch after his interests and see that he is not cheated by anyone else but themselves. It is far easier to live well here than in America, and I predict that the time will come when many American families with fixed but comparatively limited incomes will come to Japan instead of going to Europe as they are now doing.
Every Japanese takes a hot bath from two to six times a week, and when the family is too poor to own a bath-room they go to the public bath houses. The richer people have more servants, and a well-to-do family will generally have a man in addition to the women. They pay their men twice as much as the women. Out in the country the wages are even lower, and there are parts of Japan where the women do not get more than ten cents in silver a day, or about a nickel of our money. All members of a poor family work, and a man and his wife will often labor side by side in the same field. Women dig up the ground with long spade-like mattocks, and I visited a tea firing establishment yesterday where I saw about too girls bending over hot, oven-like pans and rubbing the green leaves of the tea around in them, while the perspiration rolled down their cheeks and now and then dropped into the dainty mixture, which was being prepared for American breakfast tables. I asked as to the hours and their wages, and I was told that they worked from daybreak to sunset, and that they got the enormous wages of from thirty to forty cents a day in silver. I see men everywhere 1 go, carrying loads that the ordinary American could not lift, and they do the work of both horses and men. There are few horses used, and many of the carts are pushed and pulled by women and men. I saw a women breaking stones for the roaas this afternoon, and I was told that she got about ten of our cents for twelve hours’ work. As I watched her, two Japanese men in blue cotton gowns passed by, carrying a stone weighing about 400 pounds, which was tied by a rope to a pole, which rested on their shoulders, and a third man pushed passed them with a load of long boards on his back.
A lumber yard consists of a lot of boards tied up into bundles and containing about five or six boards six inches wide and half an inch thick, and usuallyabout twelve feet in length, and it is of such lumber that the most of the Japanese houses are made. The heaviest of the rafters of the temples are sawed out by hand, and it is by men that they are carried up and put in place. There are many queer things here in the Way of building, and I understand there are people who make a business of manufacturing roofs for buildings. The roof of a Japanese house is put on before the walls are fitted in, and there is a big scaffolding made of the height of the proposed structure and running all around it before the work of putting up the house begins. This scaffolding is made of bamboo poles tied together with ropes of straw, and the men who put it up have nothin to do with erecting the ouilding itself. There is a company in Yokohama which does nothing else but make scaffolding, and it rents it to the builders at so much per house. Almost all of the Japanese houses are of wood. They are built close together in the towns and cjties and a fire sometimes sweeps them away by thousands.
It is said that Tokio burns down every seven years, and fires which destroy a thousand houses are not uncommon.
There are now steam fire engines in the large cities and all of the smaller places have fire departments and hand engines. The Japanese go wild whenever there is a fire in their neighborhood. They turn out en masse, each carrying a paper lantern, upon which is painted the name of his house or his business place, and rush toward it. They have lanterns hung up in their houses ready to run out with them to fires, and it is a matter of etiquette if you have a friend in the neighborhood of the conflagration* to call and leave your card, and tell him that you came to help him, thinking the house which was burning was his, and to leave your card with congratulations that he escaped. The firemen themselves carry lanterns and they yell as they run. Each fire company has a leader who carris a lantern fastened to the top of a long pole and ornamented with streame.s of paper, fie climbs with this to the roof of the building which is on fire, and directs the men, and he is expected to stay at his post until these streamers catch fire. The firemen of Yokohama have blue hats , like butter-bowls, and on their back are the characters which mean Yokohama firebrigade. The country firemen tie handkerchiefs upon their heads and are more often barefooted than otherwise.
Until lately there was no such thing as a fire insurance company in Japan. Now there arc several, ami they are doing well. There are no fire companies, and the insurance companies of otherjcountrics confine their risks heie to life. I chatted last night with the manager of a well-kntwn life insurance company for Japan and China. He tells me that this American institution is doing a good business here, and that the people are insuring more every day. The highest amount the company insures for in Japan is $100,000, It has taken out two such policies lately and has written a number of 50,ooo and $25,000 policies. The most of its business, however, is in $5,000 risks, and it insures here at the same rates as in America. It does not try to push its business among the Chinese, as there is more danger of fraud from them.
In Japan it is impossible for one to defraud as to a matter of life and death. The system of registration of births and deaths is perfect, and the Czar of Russia has not a better method of keeping track of his subjects than that of the mikado. There are 30,000 policemen in the empire and no need of detectives. The secret service of Japan is said to be the most perfect in the world, and though this land has the shrewdest of criminals, there is little wickedness that is allowed to go unpunished. Every man and woman in Japan must have a passport, and this is the case with foreigners as well as with the Japanese. In changing his residence the police call upon a man as soon as he has settled and demand to know all about him. They do not take his own statement, but write to the city from which he says he came, and if his story is not a true one he is arrested. He dare not leave Japan without the permission of the govern, ment, and it is almost impossible now for a Japanese woman to get away from Japan unless she can prove that she is going into some employment abroad, and that her associations there are to be good.—Buffalo Express.