As the officials no longer interfered with the Japanese, there was a good opportunity of observing them, though hurriedly, as the Commodore and his party were forced to return early to the ships. Every where a scene of busy activity met the eye, in the towns, the villages, the fields, and the farm-yards. Some laborers, up to their knees in water, were hoeing the lands, artificially overflowed for the culture of the rice ; some were pounding the grain into flour with their heavy mallets ; and others were busy lading their pack-horses with baskets and bags of meal for the market. The only idlers were the mothers, and the babes they bore in their arms or carried upon their backs. The inferior people, almost without exception, seemed thriving and contented, though hard at work. There were signs of poverty, but no evidence of public beggary.
The women, in common with many in various parts of over-populated Europe, were frequently seen engaged in field-labor, showing the general industry and the necessity of keeping every hand busy in the populous empire. The lowest classes even were comfortably clad, being dressed in coarse cotton garments of the same form, though shorter, than those of their superiors, being a loose robe just covering the hips. They were, for the most part, bareheaded and barefooted — the women being dressed very much like the men, although their heads were not shaved like those of the males, and their long hair was drawn up and fastened upon the top in a knot or under a pad. In rainy weather the Japanese wear a covering made of straw, which being fastened together at the top, is suspended from the neck, and falls over the shoulders and person like a thatched roof. Some of the higher classes cover their robes with an oil-paper cloak, which is impermeable to the wet. The umbrella, like that of the Chinese, is almost a constant companion, and serves both to shade from the rays of the sun and keep off the effects of a shower.