We have thus reached the explanation of one of the most astonishing changes in national attitude that history has to record, and the new attitude seems such a contradiction of the old as to be inexplicable, and almost incredible. But a better knowledge of the facts and a deeper understanding of their significance will serve to remove this first impression.
What, then, did the new government do? It simply said, "For us to drive out these foreigners is impossible; but neither is it desirable. We need to know the secrets of their power. We must study their language, their science, their machinery, their steamboats, their battle-ships. We must learn all their secrets, and then we shall be able to turn them out without difficulty. Let us therefore restrict them carefully to the treaty ports, but let us make all the use of them we can."
This has virtually been the national policy of Japan ever since. And this policy gained the acceptance of the people as a whole with marvelous readiness, for a reason which few foreigners can appreciate. Had this policy been formulated and urged by the Tokugawa rulers, there is no probability that it would have been accepted. But because it was, ostensibly at least, the declared will of the Emperor, loyalty to him, which in Japan is both religion and patriotism, led to a hearty and complete acceptance which could hardly have been realized in any other land. During the first year of his "enlightened" rule (1868), the Emperor gave his sanction to an Edict, the last two clauses of which read as follows:
"The old, uncivilized way shall be replaced by the eternal principles of the universe.
"The best knowledge shall be sought throughout the world, so as to promote the Imperial welfare."
It is the wide acceptance of this policy, which, however, is in accord with the real genius of the people, that has transformed Japan. It has sent hundreds of its young men to foreign lands to learn and bring back to Japan the secrets of Western power and wealth; it has established roads and railways, postal and telegraphic facilities, a public common-school system, colleges and a university in which Western science, history, and languages have been taught by foreign and foreign-trained instructors; daily, weekly, and monthly papers and magazines; factories, docks, drydocks; local and foreign commerce; representative government—in a word, all the characteristic features of New Japan. The whole of New Japan is only the practical carrying out of the policy adopted at the beginning of the new era, when it was found impossible to cast out the foreigners by force. Brute force being found to be out of the question, resort was thus made to intellectual force, and with real success.
The practice since then has not been so much to retain the foreigner as to learn of him and then to eliminate him. Every branch of learning and industry has proved this to be the consistent Japanese policy. No foreigner may hope to obtain a permanent position in Japanese employ, either in private firms or in the government. A foreigner is useful not for what he can do, but for what he can teach. When any Japanese can do his work tolerably well, the foreigner is sure to be dropped.
The purpose of this volume does not require of us a minute statistical statement of the present attainments of New Japan. Such information may be procured from Henry Norman's "Real Japan," Ransome's "Japan in Transition," and Newton's "Japan: Country, Court, and People." It is enough for us to realize that Japan has wholly abandoned or profoundly modified all the external features of her old, her distinctively Oriental civilization and has replaced them by Occidental features. In government, she is no longer arbitrary, autocratic, and hereditary, but constitutional and representative. Town, provincial, and national legislative assemblies are established, and in fairly good working order, all over the land. The old feudal customs have been replaced by well codified laws, which are on the whole faithfully administered according to Occidental methods. Examination by torture has been abolished. The perfect Occidentalization of the army, and the creation of an efficient navy, are facts fully demonstrated to the world. The limited education of the few—- and in exclusively Chinese classics—has given place to popular education. Common schools number over 30,000, taught by about 100,000 teachers (4278 being women), having over 4,500,000 pupils (over 1,500,000 being girls). The school accommodation is insufficient; it is said that 30,000 additional teachers are needed at once. Middle and high schools throughout the land are rejecting nearly one-half of the student applicants for lack of accommodation.
Feudal isolation, repression, and seclusion have given way to free travel, free speech, and a free press. Newspapers, magazines, and books pour forth from the universal printing press in great profusion. Twenty dailies issue in the course of a year over a million copies each, while two of them circulate 24,000,000 and 21,000,000 copies, respectively.
Personal, political, and religious liberty has been practically secure now for over two decades, guaranteed by the constitution, and enforced by the courts.
Chinese medical practice has largely been replaced by that from the West, although many of the ignorant classes still prefer the old methods. The government enforces Western hygienic principles in all public matters, with the result that the national health has improved and the population is growing at an alarming rate. While in 1872 the people numbered 33,000,000, in 1898 they numbered 45,000,000. The general scale of living for the common people has also advanced conspicuously. Meat shops are now common throughout the land—a thing unknown in pre-Meiji times—and rice, which used to be the luxury of the wealthy few, has become the staple necessity of the many.
Postal and telegraph facilities are quite complete. Macadamized roads and well-built railroads have replaced the old footpaths, except in the most mountainous districts. Factories of many kinds are appearing in every town and city. Business corporations, banks, etc., which numbered only thirty-four so late as 1864 are now numbered by the thousand, and trade flourishes as in no previous period of Japanese history. Instead of being a country of farmers and soldiers, Japan is to-day a land of farmers and merchants. Wealth is growing apace. International commerce, too, has sprung up and expanded phenomenally. Japanese merchant steamers may now be seen in every part of the world.
All these changes have taken place within about three decades, and so radical have they been,—so productive of new life in Japan,—that some have urged the re-writing of Japanese history, making the first year of Meiji (1868) the year one of Japan, instead of reckoning from the year in which Jimmu Tenno is said to have ascended the throne, 2560 years ago (B.C. 660).
The way in which Japanese regard the transformations produced by the "restoration" of the present Emperor, upon the overthrow of the "Bakufu," or "Curtain Government," may be judged from the following graphic paragraph from The Far East:
"The Restoration of Meiji was indeed the greatest of revolutions that this island empire ever underwent. Its magic wand left nothing untouched and unchanged. It was the Restoration that overthrew the Tokugawa Shogunate, which reigned supreme for over two centuries and a half. It was the Restoration that brought us face to face with the Occidentals. It was the Restoration that pulled the demigods of the Feudal lords down to the level of the commoners. It was the Restoration that deprived the samurai of their fiefs and reduced them to penury. It was the Restoration that taught the people to build their houses of bricks and stones and to construct ships and bridges of iron instead of wood. It was the Restoration that informed us that eclipses and comets are not to be feared, and that earthquakes are not caused by a huge cat-fish in the bottom of the earth. It was the Restoration that taught the people to use the "drum-backing" thunder as their messenger, and to make use of the railroad instead of the palanquin. It was the Restoration that set the earth in motion, and proved that there is no rabbit in the moon. It was the Restoration that bestowed on Socrates and Aristotle the chairs left vacant by Confucius and Mencius. It was the Restoration that let Shakspere and Goethe take the place of Bakin and Chikamatsu. It was the Restoration that deprived the people of the swords and topnots. In short, after the Restoration a great change took place in administration, in art, in science, in literature, in language spoken and written, in taste, in custom, in the mode of living, nay in everything" (p. 541).
A natural outcome of the Restoration is the exuberant patriotism that is so characteristic a feature of New Japan. The very term "ai-koku-shin" is a new creation, almost as new as the thing. This word is an incidental proof of the general correctness of the contention of this chapter that true nationality is a recent product in Japan. The term, literally translated, is "love-country heart"; but the point for us to notice particularly is the term for country, "koku"; this word has never before meant the country as a whole, but only the territory of a clan. If I wish to ask a Japanese what part of Japan is his native home, I must use this word. And if a Japanese wishes to ask me which of the foreign lands I am a native of, he must use the same word. The truth is that Old Japan did not have any common word corresponding to the English term, "My country." In ancient times, this could only mean, "My clan-territory." But with the passing away of the clans the old word has taken on a new significance. The new word, "ai-koku-shin," refers not to love of clan, but to love of the whole nation. The conception of national unity has at last seized upon the national mind and heart, and is giving the people an enthusiasm for the nation, regardless of the parts, which they never before knew. Japanese patriotism has only in this generation come to self-consciousness. This leads it to many a strange freak. It is vociferous and imperious, and often very impractical and Chauvinistic. It frequently takes the form of uncompromising disdain for the foreigner, and the most absolute loyalty to the Emperor of Japan; it demands the utmost respect of expression in regard to him and the form of government he has graciously granted the nation. The slightest hint or indirect suggestion of defect or ignorance, or even of limitation, is most vehemently resented.
A few illustrations of the above statements from recent experience will not be out of place. In August, 1891, the Minister of Education, Mr. Y. Osaki, criticising the tendency in Japan to pay undue respect to moneyed men, said, in the course of a long speech, "You Japanese worship money even more reverently than the Americans do. If you had a republic as they have, I believe you would nominate an Iwazaki or a Mitsui to be president, whereas they don't think of nominating a Vanderbilt or a Gould." It was not long before a storm was raging around his head because of this reference to a republican form of government as a possibility in Japan. The storm became so fierce that he was finally compelled to resign his post and retire, temporarily, from political life.
In October, 1898, the High Council of Education was required to consider various questions regarding the conduct of the educational department after the New Treaties should come into force. The most important question was whether foreigners should be allowed to have a part in the education of Japanese youth. The general argument, and that which prevailed, was that this should not be allowed lest the patriotism of the children be weakened. So far as appears but one voice was raised for a more liberal policy. Mr. Y. Kamada maintained that "patriotism in Japan was the outcome of foreign intercourse. Patriotism, that is to say, love of country—not merely of fief—and readiness to sacrifice everything for its sake, was a product of the Meiji era."
In 1891 a teacher in the Kumamoto Boys' School gave expression to the thought in a public address that, as all mankind are brothers, the school should stand for the principle of universal brotherhood and universal goodwill to men. This expression of universalism was so obnoxious to the patriotic spirit of so large a number of the people of Kumamoto Ken, or Province, that the governor required the school to dismiss that teacher. There is to-day a strong party in Japan which makes "Japanism" their cry; they denounce all expressions of universal good-will as proofs of deficiency of patriotism. There are not wanting those who see through the shallowness of such views and who vigorously oppose and condemn such narrow patriotism. Yet the fact that it exists to-day with such force must be noted and its natural explanation, too, must not be forgotten. It is an indication of self-conscious nationality.
That this love of country, even this conception of country, is a modern thing will appear from two further facts. Until modern times there was no such thing as a national flag. The flaming Sun on a field of white came into existence as a national flag only in 1859. The use of the Sun as the symbol for the Emperor has been in vogue since 700 A.D., the custom having been adopted from China. "When in 1859 a national flag corresponding to those of Europe became necessary, the Sun Banner naturally stepped into the vacant place."[A]
The second fact is the recent origin of the festival known as "Kigensetsu." It occurs on February 11 and celebrates the alleged accession of Jimmu Tenno, the first Emperor of Japan, to the throne 2560 years ago (660 B.C.). The festival itself, however, was instituted by Imperial decree ten years ago (1890).
The transformation which has come over Japan in a single generation requires interpretation. Is the change real or superficial? Is the new social order "a borrowed trumpery garment, which will soon be rent by violent revolutions," according to the eminent student of racial psychology, Professor Le Bon, or is it of "a solid nature" according to the firm belief of Mr. Stanford Ransome, one of the latest writers on Japan?
This is the problem that will engage our attention more or less directly throughout this work. We shall give our chief thought to the nature and development of Japanese racial characteristics, believing that this alone gives the light needed for the solution of the problem.[B]
THE PROBLEM OF PROGRESS
What constitutes progress? And what is the true criterion for its measurement? In adopting Western methods of life and thought, is Japan advancing or receding? The simplicity of the life of the common people, their freedom from fashions that fetter the Occidental, their independence of furniture in their homes, their few wants and fewer necessities—these, when contrasted with the endless needs and demands of an Occidental, are accepted by some as evidences of a higher stage of civilization than prevails in the West.
The hedonistic criterion of progress is the one most commonly adopted in considering the question as to whether Japan is the gainer or the loser by her rapid abandonment of old ways and ideas and by her equally rapid adoption of Western ones in their place. Yet this appeal to happiness seems to me a misleading because vague, if not altogether false, standard of progress. Those who use it insist that the people of Japan are losing their former happiness under the stress of new conditions. Now there can be no doubt that during the "Kyu-han jidai," the times before the coming in of Western waves of life, the farmers were a simple, unsophisticated people; living from month to month with little thought or anxiety. They may be said to have been happy. The samurai who lived wholly on the bounty of the daimyo led of course a tranquil life, at least so far as anxiety or toil for daily rice and fish was concerned. As the fathers had lived and fought and died, so did the sons. To a large extent the community had all things in common; for although the lord lived in relative luxury, yet in such small communities there never was the great difference between classes that we find in modern Europe and America. As a rule the people were fed, if there was food. The socialistic principle was practically universal. Especially was emphasis laid on kinship. As a result, save among the outcast classes, the extremes of poverty did not exist.
Were we to rest our inquiries at this point, we might say that in truth the Japanese had attained the summit of progress; that nothing further could be asked. But pushing our way further, we find that the peace and quiet of the ordinary classes of society were accompanied by many undesirable features.
Prominent among them was the domineering spirit of the military class. They alone laid claim to personal rights, and popular stories are full of the free and furious ways in which they used their swords. The slightest offense by one of the swordless men would be paid for by a summary act of the two-sworded swashbucklers, while beggars and farmers were cut down without compunction, sometimes simply to test a sword. In describing those times one man said to me, "They used to cut off the heads of the common people as farmers cut off the head of the daikon" (a variety of giant radish). I have frequently asked my Japanese friends and acquaintances, whether, in view of the increasing difficulties of life under the new conditions, the country would not like to return to ancient times and customs. But none have been ready to give me an affirmative reply. On detailed questioning I have always found that the surly, domineering methods, the absolutism of the rulers, and the defenselessness of the people against unjust arbitrary superiors would not be submitted to by a people that has once tasted the joy arising from individual rights and freedom and the manhood that comes from just laws for all.
A striking feature of those Japanese who are unchanged by foreign ways is their obsequious manner toward superiors and officials. The lordly and oftentimes ruthless manner of the rulers has naturally cowed the subject. Whenever the higher nobility traveled, the common people were commanded to fall on the ground in obeisance and homage. Failure to do so was punishable with instant death at the hands of the retainers who accompanied the lord. During my first stay in Kumamoto I was surprised that farmers, coming in from the country on horseback, meeting me as I walked, invariably got down from their horses, unfastened the handkerchiefs from their heads, and even took off their spectacles if there were nothing else removable. These were signs of respect given to all in authority. Where my real status began to be generally known, these signs of politeness gave place to rude staring. It is difficult for the foreigner to appreciate the extremes of the high-handed and the obsequious spirit which were developed by the ancient form of government. Yet it is comparatively easy to distinguish between the evidently genuine humility of the non-military classes and the studied deference of the dominant samurai.
Another feature of the old order of things was the emptiness of the lives of the people. Education was rare. Limited to the samurai, who composed but a fraction of the population, it was by no means universal even among them. And such education as they had was confined to the Chinese classics. Although there were schools in connection with some of the temples, the people as a whole did not learn to read or write. These were accomplishments for the nobility and men of leisure. The thoughts of the people were circumscribed by the narrow world in which they lived, and this allowed but an occasional glimpse of other clans through war or a chance traveler. For, in those times, freedom of travel was not generally allowed. Each man, as a rule, lived and labored and died where he was born. The military classes had more freedom. But when we contrast the breadth of thought and outlook enjoyed by the nation to-day, through newspapers and magazines, with the outlook and knowledge of even the most progressive and learned of those of ancient times, how contracted do their lives appear!
A third feature of former times is the condition of women during those ages. Eulogizers of Old Japan not only seem to forget that working classes existed then, but also that women, constituting half the population, were essential to the existence of the nation. Though allowing more freedom than was given to women in other Oriental nations, Japan did not grant such liberty as is essential to the full development of her powers. "Woman is a man's plaything" expresses a view still held in Japan. "Woman's sole duty is the bearing and rearing of children for her husband" is the dominant idea that has determined her place in the family and in the state for hundreds of years. That she has any independent interest or value as a human being has not entered into national conception. "The way in which they are treated by the men has hitherto been such as might cause a pang to any generous European heart.... A woman's lot is summed up in what is termed 'the three obediences,' obedience, while yet unmarried, to a father; obedience, when married, to a husband; obedience, when widowed, to a son. At the present moment the greatest duchess or marchioness in the land is still her husband's drudge. She fetches and carries for him, bows down humbly in the hall when my lord sallies forth on his good pleasure."[C] "The Greater Learning for Women," by Ekken Kaibara (1630-1714), an eminent Japanese moralist, is the name of a treatise on woman's duties which sums up the ideas common in Japan upon this subject. For two hundred years or more it has been used as a text-book in the training of girls. It enjoins such abject submission of the wife to her husband, to her parents-in-law, and to her other kindred by marriage, as no self-respecting woman of Western lands could for a moment endure. Let me prove this through a few quotations.
"A woman should look on her husband as if he were Heaven itself and never weary of thinking how she may yield to her husband, and thus escape celestial castigation." "Woman must form no friendships and no intimacy, except when ordered to do so by her parents or by the middleman. Even at the peril of her life, must she harden her heart like a rock or metal, and observe the rules of propriety." "A woman has no particular lord. She must look to her husband as her lord and must serve him with all reverence and worship, not despising or thinking lightly of him. The great life-long duty of a woman is obedience.... When the husband issues his instructions, the wife must never disobey them.... Should her husband be roused to anger at any time, she must obey him, with fear and trembling." Not one word in all these many and specific instructions hints at love and affection. That which to Western ears is the sweetest word in the English language, the foundation of happiness in the home, the only true bond between husband and wife, parents and children—LOVE—does not once appear in this the ideal instruction for Japanese women.
Even to this day divorce is the common occurrence in Japan. According to Confucius there are seven grounds of divorce: disobedience, barrenness, lewd conduct, jealousy, leprosy or any other foul or incurable disease, too much talking, and thievishness. "In plain English, a man may send away his wife whenever he gets tired of her."
Were the man's duties to the wife and to her parents as minutely described and insisted on as are those of the wife to the husband and to his parents, this "Greater Learning for Women" would not seem so deficient; but such is not the case. The woman's rights are few, yet she bears her lot with marvelous patience. Indeed, she has acquired a most attractive and patient and modest behavior despite, or is it because of, centuries of well-nigh tyrannical treatment from the male sex. In some important respects the women of Japan are not to be excelled by those of any other land. But that this lot has been a happy one I cannot conceive it possible for a European, who knows the meaning of love or home, to contend. The single item of one divorce for every three marriages tells a tale of sorrow and heartache that is sad to contemplate. Nor does this include those separations where tentative marriage takes place with a view to learning whether the parties can endure living together. I have known several such cases. Neither does this take account of the great number of concubines that may be found in the homes of the higher classes. A concubine often makes formal divorce quite superfluous.
I by no means contend that the women of Old Japan were all and always miserable. There was doubtless much happiness and even family joy; affection between husband and wife could assuredly have been found in numberless cases. But the hardness of life as a whole, the low position held by woman in her relations to man, her lack of legal rights,[D] and her menial position, justify the assertion that there was much room for improvement.
These three conspicuous features of the older life in Japan help us to reach a clear conception as to what constitutes progress. We may say that true progress consists in that continuous, though slow, transformation of the structure of society which, while securing its more thorough organization, brings to each individual the opportunity of a larger, richer, and fuller life, a life which increasingly calls forth his latent powers and capacities. In other words, progress is a growing organization of society, accompanied by a growing liberty of the individual resulting in richness and fullness of life. It is not primarily a question of unreflecting happiness, but a question of the wide development of manhood and womanhood. Both men and women have as yet unmeasured latent capacities, which demand a certain liberty, accompanied by responsibilities and cares, in order for their development. Intellectual education and a wide horizon are likewise essential to the production of such manhood and womanhood. In the long run this is seen to bring a deeper and a more lasting happiness than was possible to the undeveloped man or woman.
The question of progress is confused and put on a wrong footing when the consciousness of happiness or unhappiness, is made the primary test. The happiness of the child is quite apart from that of the adult. Regardless of distressing circumstances, the child is able to laugh and play, and this because he is a child; a child in his ignorance of actual life, and in his inability to perceive the true conditions in which he lives. Not otherwise, I take it, was the happiness of the vast majority in Old Japan. Theirs was the happiness of ignorance and simple, undeveloped lives. Accustomed to tyranny, they did not think of rebellion against it. Familiar with brutality and suffering, they felt nothing of its shame and inhumanity. The sight of decapitated bodies, the torture of criminals, the despotism of husbands, the cringing obedience of the ruled, the haughtiness of the rulers, the life of hard toil and narrow outlook, were all so usual that no thought of escape from such an order of society ever suggested itself to those who endured it.
From time to time wise and just rulers did indeed strive to introduce principles of righteousness into their methods of government; but these men formed the exception, not the rule. They were individuals and not the system under which the people lived. It was always a matter of chance whether or not such men were at the head of affairs, for the people did not dream of the possibility of having any voice in their selection. The structure of society was and always had been absolute militarism. Even under the most benevolent rulers the use of cruel torture, not only on convicted criminals, but on all suspected of crime, was customary. Those in authority might personally set a good example, but they did not modify the system. They owned not only the soil but practically the laborers also, for these could not leave their homes in search of others that were better. They were serfs, if not slaves, and the system did not tend to raise the standard of life or education, of manhood or womanhood among the people. The happiness of the people in such times was due in part to their essential inhumanity of heart and lack of sympathy with suffering and sorrow. Each individual bore his own sorrow and pain alone. The community, as such, did not distress itself over individuals who suffered. Sympathy, in its full meaning, was unknown in Old Japan. The barbarous custom of casting out the leper from the home, to wander a lonely exile, living on the charity of strangers, is not unknown even to this day. We are told that in past times the "people were governed by such strong aversion to the sight of sickness that travelers were often left to die by the roadside from thirst, hunger, or disease; and householders even went the length of thrusting out of doors and abandoning to utter destitution servants who suffered from chronic maladies." So universal was this heartlessness that the government at one time issued proclamations against the practices it allowed. "Whenever an epidemic occurred the number of deaths was enormous." Seven men of the outcast, "the Eta," class were authoritatively declared equal in value to one common man. Beggars were technically called "hi-nin," "not men."
Those who descant on the happiness of Old Japan commit the great error of overlooking all these sad features of life, and of fixing their attention exclusively on the one feature of the childlike, not to say childish, lightness of heart of the common people. Such writers are thus led to pronounce the past better than the present time. They also overlook the profound happiness and widespread prosperity of the present era. Trade, commerce, manufactures, travel, the freest of intercommunication, newspapers, and international relations, have brought into life a richness and a fullness that were then unknown. But in addition, the people now enjoy a security of personal interests, a possession of personal rights and property, and a personal liberty, that make life far more worthy and profoundly enjoyable, even while they bring responsibilities and duties and not a few anxieties. This explains the fact that no Japanese has expressed to me the slightest desire to abandon the present and return to the life and conditions of Old Japan.
Let me repeat, therefore, with all possible emphasis, that the problem of progress is not primarily one of increasing light-heartedness, pure and simple, nor yet a problem of racial unification or of political centralization; it is rather a problem of so developing the structure of society that the individual may have the fullest opportunity for development.
The measure of progress is not the degree of racial unification, of political centralization, or of unreflective happiness, but rather the degree and the extent of individual personality. Racial unification, political centralization, and increasing happiness are in the attainment of progress, but they are not to be viewed as sufficient ends. Personality, can alone be that end. The wide development of personality, therefore, is at once the goal and the criterion of progress.
THE METHOD OF PROGRESS
Progress as an ideal is quite modern in its origin. For although the ancients were progressing, they did it unconsciously, blindly, stumbling on it by chance, forced to it, as we have seen, by the struggle for existence. True of the ancient civilizations of Europe and Western Asia and Africa, this is emphatically true of the Orient. Here, so far from seeking to progress, the avowed aim has been not to progress; the set purpose has been to do as the fathers did; to follow their example even in customs and rites whose meaning has been lost in the obscurity of the past. This blind adherence was the boast of those who called themselves religious. They strove to fulfill their duties to their ancestors.
Under such conditions how was progress possible? And how has it come to pass that, ruled by this ideal until less than fifty years ago, Japan is now facing quite the other way? The passion of the nation to-day is to make the greatest possible progress in every direction. Here is an anomaly, a paradox; progress made in spite of its rejection; and, recently, a total volte-face. How shall we explain this paradox?
In our chapter on the Principles of National Evolution,[E] we see that the first step in progress was made through the development of enlarging communities by means of extending boundaries and hardening customs. We see that, on reaching this stage, the great problem was so to break the "cake of custom" as to give liberty to individuals whereby to secure the needful variations. We do not consider how this was to be accomplished. We merely show that, if further progress was to be made, it could only be through the development of the individualistic principle to which we give the more exact name communo-individualism. This problem as to how the "cake of custom" is successfully broken must now engage our attention.
Mr. Bagehot contends that this process consisted, as a matter of history, in the establishment of government by discussion. Matters of principle came to be talked over; the desirability of this or that measure was submitted to the people for their approval or disapproval. This method served to stimulate definite and practical thought on a wide scale; it substituted the thinking of the many for the thinking of the few; it stimulated independent thinking and consequently independent action. This is, however, but another way of saying that it stimulated variation. A government whose action was determined after wide discussion would be peculiarly fitted to take advantage of all useful variations of ideas and practice. Experience shows, he continues, that the difficulty of developing a "cake of custom" is far more easily surmounted than that of developing government by discussion; i.e., that it is far less difficult to develop communalism than communo-individualism. The family of arrested civilizations, of which China and India and Japan, until recent times, are examples, were caught in the net of what had once been the source of their progress. The tyranny of their laws and customs was such that all individual variations were nipped in the bud. They failed to progress because they failed to develop variations. And they failed in this because they did not have government by discussion.
No one will dispute the importance of Mr. Bagehot's, contribution to this subject. But it may be doubted whether he has pointed out the full reason for the difficulty of breaking the "cake of custom" or manifested the real root of progress. To attain progress in the full sense, not merely of an oligarchy or a caste, but of the whole people, there must not only be government by discussion, but the responsibilities of the government must be snared more or less fully by all the governed.
History, however, shows that this cannot take place until a conception of intrinsic manhood and womanhood has arisen, a conception which emphasizes their infinite and inherent worth. This conception is not produced by government by discussion, while government by discussion is the necessary consequence of the wide acceptance of this conception. It is therefore the real root of progress.
As I look over the history of the Orient, I find no tendency to discover the inherent worth of man or to introduce the principle of government by discussion. Left to themselves, I see no probability that any of these nations would ever have been able to break the thrall of their customs, and to reach that stage of development in which common individuals could be trusted with a large measure of individual liberty. Though I can conceive that Japan might have secured a thorough-going political centralization under the old regime, I cannot see that that centralization would have been accompanied by growing liberty for the individual or by such constitutional rights for the common man as he enjoys to-day. Whatever progress she might have made in the direction of nationality it would still have been a despotism. The common man would have remained a helpless and hopeless slave. Art might have prospered; the people might have remained simple-minded and relatively contented. But they could not have attained that freedom and richness of life, that personality, which we saw in our last chapter to be the criterion and goal of true progress.
If the reader judges the above contention correct and agrees with the writer that the conception of the inherent value of a human being could not arise spontaneously in Japan, he will conclude that the progress of Japan depended on securing this important conception from without. Exactly this has taken place. By her thorough-going abandonment of the feudal social order and adoption of the constitutional and representative government of Christendom, whether she recognizes it or not, she has accepted the principles of the inherent worth of manhood and womanhood, as well as government by discussion. Japan has thus, by imitation rather than by origination, entered on the path of endless progress.
So important, however, is the step recently taken that further analysis of this method of progress is desirable for its full comprehension. We have already noted quite briefly[F] how Japan was supplied by the West with the ideal of national unity and the material instruments essential to its attainment. In connection with the high development of the nation as a whole, these two elements of progress, the ideal and the material, need further consideration.
We note in the first place that both begin with imitation, but if progress is to be real and lasting, both must grow to independence.
The first and by far the most important is the psychical, the introduction of new ideas. So long as the old, familiar ideas hold sway over the mind of a nation, there is little or no stimulus to comparison and discussion. Stagnation is well-nigh complete. But let new ideas be so introduced as to compel attention and comprehension, and the mind spontaneously awakes to wonderful activity. The old stagnation is no longer possible. Discussion is started; and in the end something must take place, even if the new ideas are not accepted wholly or even in part. But they will not gain attention if presented simply in the abstract, unconnected with real life. They must bring evidence that, if accepted and lived, they will be of practical use, that they will give added power to the nation.
Exactly this took place in 1854 when Admiral Perry demanded entrance to Japan. The people suddenly awoke from their sleep of two and a half centuries to find that new nations had arisen since they closed their eyes, nations among which new sets of ideas had been at work, giving them a power wholly unknown to the Orient and even mysterious to it. Those ideas were concerned, not alone with the making of guns, the building of ships, the invention of machinery, the taming and using of the forces of nature, but also with methods of government and law, with strange notions, too, about religion and duty, about the family and the individual, which the foreigners said were of inestimable value and importance. It needed but a few years of intercourse with Western peoples to convince the most conservative that unless the Japanese themselves could gain the secret of their power, either by adopting their weapons or their civilization, they themselves must fade away before the stronger nations. The need of self-preservation was the first great stimulus that drove new thoughts into unwilling brains.
There can be no doubt that the Japanese were right in this analysis of the situation. Had they insisted on maintaining their old methods of national life and social order and ancient customs, there can be no doubt as to the result. Africa and India in recent decades and China and Korea in the most recent years tell the story all too clearly. Those who know the course of treaty conferences and armed collisions, as at Shimonoseki and Kagoshima between Japan and the foreign nations, have no doubt that Japan, divided into clans and persisting in her love of feudalism, would long since have become the territory of some European Power. She was saved by the possession of a remarkable combination of national characteristics,—the powers of observation, of appreciation, and of imitation. In a word, her sensitiveness to her environment and her readiness to respond to it proved to be her salvation.
But the point on which I wish to lay special emphasis is that the prime element of the form in which the deliverance came was through the acquisition of numerous new ideas. These were presented by persons who thoroughly believed in them and who admittedly had a power not possessed by the Japanese themselves. Though unable to originate these ideas, the Japanese yet proved themselves capable of understanding and appreciating them—in a measure at least. They were at first attracted to that which related chiefly to the externals of civilization, to that which would contribute immediately to the complete political centralization of the nation. With great rapidity they adopted Western ideas about warfare and weapons. They sent their young men abroad to study the civilization of the foreign nations. At great expense they also employed many foreigners to teach them in their own land the things they wished to learn. Thus have the Japanese mastered so rapidly the details of those ideas which, less than fifty years ago, were not only strange but odious to them.
Under their influence, the conditions which history shows to be the most conducive to the continuous growth of civilization have been definitely accepted and adopted by the people, namely, popular rights, the liberty of individuals to differ from the past so far as this does not interfere with national unity, and the direct responsibility and relation of each individual to the nation without any mediating group. These rights and liberties are secured to the individual by a constitution and by laws enacted by representative legislatures. Government by discussion has been fairly inaugurated.
During these years of change the effort has been to leave the old social order as undisturbed as possible. For example, it was hoped that the reorganization of the military and naval forces of the Empire would be sufficient without disturbing the feudal order and without abolishing the feudal states. But this was soon found ineffectual. For a time it was likewise thought that the adoption of Western methods of government might be made without disturbing the old religious ideas and without removing the edicts against Christianity. But experience soon showed that the old civilization was a unit. No part could be vitally modified without affecting the whole structure. Having knocked over one block in the long row that made up their feudal social order, it was found that each successive block was touched and fell, until nothing was left standing as before. It was found also that the old ideas of education, of travel, of jurisprudence, of torture and punishment, of social ranks, of the relation of the individual to the state, of the state to the family, and of religion to the family, were more or less defective and unsuited to the new civilization. Before this new movement all obstructive ideas, however, sanctioned by antiquity, have had to give way. The Japanese of to-day look, as it were, upon a new earth and a new heaven. Those of forty years ago would be amazed, not only at the enormous changes in the externals, life and government, but also at the transformation which has overtaken every element of the older civilization. Putting it rather strongly, it is now not the son who obeys the father, but the father the son. The rulers no longer command the people, but the people command the rulers. The people do not now toil to support the state; but the state toils to protect the people.
Whether the incoming of these new ideas and practices be thought to constitute progress or not will depend on one's view of the aim of life. If this be as maintained in the previous chapter, then surely the transformation of Japan must be counted progress. That, however, to which I call attention is the fact that the essential requisite of progress is the attainment of new ideas, whatever be their source. Japan has not only taken up a great host of these, but in doing so she has adopted a social structure to stimulate the continuous production of new ideas, through the development of individuality. She is thus in the true line of continuously progressive evolution. Imitating the stronger nations, she has introduced into her system the life-giving blood of free discussion, popular education, and universal individual rights and liberty. In a word, she has begun to be an individualistic nation. She has introduced a social order fitted to a wide development of personality.
The importance of the second line of progress, the physical, would seem to be too obvious to call for any detailed consideration. But so much has been said by both graceful and able writers on Japan as to the advantages she enjoys from her simple non-mechanical civilization, and the mistake she is making in adopting the mechanical civilization of the West, that it may not be amiss to dwell for a few moments upon it. I wish to show that the second element of progress consists in the increasing use of mechanisms.
The enthusiastic admirer of Japan hardly finds words wherewith sufficiently to praise the simplicity of her pre-Meiji civilization. No furniture brings confusion to the room; no machinery distresses the ear with its groanings or the eye with its unsightliness. No factories blacken the sky with smoke. No trains screeching through the towns and cities disturb sleepers and frighten babies. The simple bed on the floor, the straw sandal on the foot, wooden chopsticks in place of knives and forks, the small variety of foods and of cooking utensils, the simple, homespun cotton clothing, the fascinating homes, so small and neat and clean—in truth all that pertains to Old Japan finds favor in the eyes of the enthusiastic admirer from the Occident. One such writer, in an elaborate paper intended to set forth the superiority of the original Japanese to the Occidental civilization, uses the following language: "Ability to live without furniture, without impedimenta, with the least possible amount of neat clothing, shows more than the advantage held by the Japanese race in the struggle of life; it shows also the real character of some of the weaknesses in our own civilization. It forces reflection upon the useless multiplicity of our daily wants. We must have meat and bread and butter; glass windows and fire; hats, white shirts, and woolen underwear; boots and shoes; trunks, bags, and boxes; bedsteads, mattresses, sheets, and blankets; all of which a Japanese can do without, and is really better off without."[G] Surely one finds much of truth in this, and there is no denying the charm of the simpler civilization, but the closing phrase of the quotation is the assumption without discussion of the disputed point. Are the Japanese really better off without these implements of Western civilization? Evidently they themselves do not think so. For, in glancing through the list as given by the writer quoted, one realizes the extent of Japanese adoption of these Western devices. Hardly an article but is used in Japan, and certainly with the supposition of the purchaser that it adds either to his health or his comfort. In witness are the hundreds of thousands of straw hats, the glass windows everywhere, and the meat-shops in each town and city of the Empire. The charm of a foreign fashion is not sufficient explanation for the rapidly spreading use of foreign inventions.
That there are no useless or even evil features in our Western civilization is not for a moment contended. The stiff starched shirt may certainly be asked to give an account of itself and justify its continued existence, if it can. But I think the proposition is capable of defense that the vast majority of the implements of our Occidental civilization have their definite place and value, either in contributing directly to the comfort and happiness of their possessor, or in increasing his health and strength and general mental and physical power. What is it that makes the Occidental longer-lived than the Japanese? Why is he healthier? Why is he more intelligent? Why is he a more developed personality? Why are his children more energetic? Or, reversing the questions, why has the population of Japan been increasing with leaps and bounds since the introduction of Western civilization and medical science? Why is the rising generation so free from pockmarks? Why is the number of the blind steadily diminishing? Why are mechanisms multiplying so rapidly—the jinrikisha, the railroads, the roads, the waterworks and sewers, the chairs, the tables, the hats and umbrellas, lamps, clocks, glass windows and shoes? A hundred similar questions might be asked, to which no definite answers are needful.
Further discussion of details seems unnecessary. Yet the full significance of this point can hardly be appreciated without a perception of the great principle that underlies it. The only way in which man has become and continues to be increasingly superior to animals is in his use of mechanisms. The animal does by brute force what man accomplishes by various devices. The inventiveness of different races differs vastly. But everywhere, the most advanced are the most powerful. Take the individual man of the more developed race and separate him from his tools and machines, and it is doubtless true that he cannot in some selected points compete with an individual of a less developed race. But let ten thousand men of the higher development compete with ten thousand of the lower, each using the mechanisms under his control, and can there be any doubt as to which is the superior?
In other words, the method of human progress consists, in no small degree, in the progressive mastery of nature, first through understanding her and then through the use of her immense forces by means of suitable mechanisms. All the machines and furniture, and tools and clothing, and houses and canned foods, and shoes and boots, and railroads and telegraph lines, and typewriters and watches, and the ten thousand other so-called "impedimenta" of the Occidental civilization are but devices whereby Western man has sought to increase his health, his wealth, his knowledge, his comfort, his independence, his capacity of travel—in a word, his well-being. Through these mechanisms he masters nature. He extracts a rich living from nature; he annihilates time and space; he defies the storms; he tunnels the mountains; he extracts precious ores and metals from the rock-ribbed hills; with a magic touch he loosens the grip of the elements and makes them surrender their gold, their silver, and, more precious still, their iron; with these he builds his spacious cities and parks, his railroads and ocean steamers; he travels the whole world around, fearing neither beast nor alien man; all are subject to his command and will. He investigates and knows the constitution of stellar worlds no less than that of the world in which he lives. By his instruments he explores the infinite depths of heaven and the no less infinite depths of the microscopic world. All these reviled "impedimenta" thus bring to the race that has them a wealth of life both physical and psychical, practical and ideal, that is otherwise unattainable. By them he gains and gives external expression to the reality of his inner nature, his freedom, his personality. True, instead of bringing health and long life, knowledge and deep enjoyment, they may become the means of bitterest curses. But the lesson to learn from this fact is how to use these powers aright, not how to forbid their use altogether. They are not to be branded as hindrances to progress.
The defect of Occidental civilization to-day is hot its multiplicity of machinery, but the defective view that still blinds the eyes of the multitude as to the true nature and the legitimate goal of progress. Individual, selfish happiness is still the ideal of too many men and women to permit of the ideal which carries the Golden Rule into the markets and factories, into the politics of parties and nations, which is essential to the attainment of the highest progress. But no one who casts his eyes over the centuries of struggle and effort through which man has been slowly working his way upward from the rank of a beast to that of a man, can doubt that progress has been made. The worth of character has been increasingly seen and its possession desired. The true end of effort and development was never more clear than it is at the close of the nineteenth century. Never before were the conditions of progress so bright, not only for the favored few in one or two lands, but for the multitudes the world over. Isolation and separation have passed from this world forever. Free social intercourse between the nations permits wide dissemination of ideas and their application to practical life in the form of social organization and mechanical invention. This makes it possible for nations more or less backward in social and civilizational development to gain in a relatively short time the advantages won by advanced nations through ages of toil and under favoring circumstances. Nation thus stimulates nation, each furnishing the other with important variations in ideas, customs, institutions, and mechanisms resulting from long-continued divergent evolution. The advantages slowly gained by advanced peoples speedily accrues through social heredity to any backward race really desiring to enter the social heritage.
Thus does the paradox of Japan's recent progress become thoroughly intelligible.
JAPANESE SENSITIVENESS TO ENVIRONMENT
With this chapter we begin a more detailed study of Japanese social and psychic evolution. We shall take up the various characteristics of the race and seek to account for them, showing their origin in the peculiar nature of the social order which so long prevailed in Japan. This is a study of Japanese psychogenesis. The question to which we shall continually return is whether or not the characteristic under consideration is inherent and congenital and therefore inevitable. Not only our interpretation of Japanese evolution, past, present, and future, but also our understanding of the essential nature of social evolution in general, depends upon the answer to this question.
We naturally begin with that characteristic of Japanese nature which would seem to be more truly congenital than any other to be mentioned later. I refer to their sensitiveness to environment. More quickly than most races do the Japanese seem to perceive and adapt themselves to changed conditions.
The history of the past thirty years is a prolonged illustration of this characteristic. The desire to imitate foreign nations was not a real reason for the overthrow of feudalism, but there was, rather, a more or less conscious feeling, rapidly pervading the whole people, that the feudal system would be unable to maintain the national integrity. As intimated, the matter was not so much reasoned out as felt. But such a vast illustration is more difficult to appreciate than some individual instances, of which I have noted several.
During a conversation with Drs. Forsythe and Dale, of Cambridge, England, I asked particularly as to their experience with the Japanese students who had been there to study. They both remarked on the fact that all Japanese students were easily influenced by those with whom they customarily associated; so much so that, within a short time, they acquired not only the cut of coats and trousers, but also the manner and accent, of those with whom they lived. It was amusing, they said, to see what transformations were wrought in those who went to the Continent for their long vacations. From France they returned with marked French manners and tones and clothes, while from Germany they brought the distinctive marks of German stiffness in manner and general bearing. It was noted as still more curious that the same student would illustrate both variations, provided he spent one summer in Germany and another in France.
Japanese sensitiveness is manifested in many unexpected ways. An observant missionary lady once remarked that she had often wondered how such unruly, self-willed children as grow up under Japanese training, or its lack, finally become such respectable members of society. She concluded that instead of being punished out of their misbehaviors they were laughed out of them. The children are constantly told that if they do so and so they will be laughed at—a terrible thing.
The fear of ridicule has thus an important sociological function in maintaining ethical standards. Its power may be judged by the fact that in ancient times when a samurai gave his note to return a borrowed sum, the only guarantee affixed was the permission to be laughed at in public in case of failure. The Japanese young man who is making a typewritten copy of these pages for me says that, when still young, he heard an address to children which he still remembers. The speaker asked what the most fearful thing in the world was. Many replies were given by the children—"snakes," "wild beasts," "fathers," "gods," "ghosts," "demons," "Satan," "hell," etc. These were admitted to be fearful, but the speaker told the children that one other thing was to be more feared than all else, namely, "to be laughed at." This speech, with its vivid illustrations, made a lasting impression on the mind of the boy, and on reading what I had written he realized how powerful a motive fear of ridicule had been in his own life; also how large a part it plays in the moral education of the young in Japan.
Naturally enough this fear of being laughed at leads to careful and minute observation of the clothing, manners, and speech of one's associates, and prompt conformity to them, through imitation. The sensitiveness of Japanese students to each new environment is thus easily understood. And this sensitiveness to environment has its advantages as well as its disadvantages. I have already referred to the help it gives to the establishment of individual conformity to ethical standards. The phenomenal success of many reforms in Japan may easily be traced to the national sensitiveness to foreign criticism. Many instances of this will be given in the course of this work, but two may well be mentioned at this point. According to the older customs there was great, if not perfect, freedom as to the use of clothing by the people. The apparent indifference shown by them in the matter of nudity led foreigners to call the nation uncivilized. This criticism has always been a galling one, and not without reason. In many respects their civilization has been fully the equal of that of any other nation; yet in this respect it is true that they resembled and still do resemble semi-civilized peoples. In response to this foreign criticism, however, a law was passed, early in the Meiji era, prohibiting nudity in cities. The requirement that public bathing houses be divided into two separate compartments, one for men and one for women, was likewise due to foreign opinion. That this is the case may be fairly inferred from the fact that the enforcement of these laws has largely taken places where foreigners abound, whereas, in the interior towns and villages they receive much less attention. It must be acknowledged, however, that now at last, twenty-five years after their passage, they are almost everywhere beginning to be enforced by the authorities.
My other illustration of sensitiveness to foreign opinion is the present state of Japanese thought about the management of Formosa. The government has been severely criticised by many leading papers for its blunders there. But the curious feature is the constant reference to the contempt into which such mismanagement will bring Japan in the sight of the world—as if the opinion of other nations were the most important issue involved, and not the righteousness and probity of the government itself. It is interesting to notice how frequently the opinion of other nations with regard to Japan is a leading thought in the mind of the people.
In this connection the following extract finds its natural place:
In a very large number of schools throughout the country special instructions have been given to the pupils as to their behavior towards foreigners. From various sources we have culled the following orders bearing on special points, which we state as briefly as possible.
(1) Never call after foreigners passing along the streets or roads.
(2) When foreigners make inquiries, answer them politely. If unable to make them understand, inform the police of the fact.
(3) Never accept a present from a foreigner when there is no reason for his giving it, and never charge him anything above what is proper.
(4) Do not crowd around a shop when a foreigner is making purchases, thereby causing him much annoyance. The continuance of this practice disgraces us as a nation.
(5) Since all human beings are brothers and sisters, there is no reason for fearing foreigners. Treat them as equals and act uprightly in all your dealings with them. Be neither servile nor arrogant.
(6) Beware of combining against the foreigner and disliking him because he is a foreigner; men are to be judged by their conduct and not by their nationality.
(7) As intercourse with foreigners becomes closer and extends over a series of years, there is danger that many Japanese may become enamored of their ways and customs and forsake the good old customs of their forefathers. Against this danger you must be on your guard.
(8) Taking off your hat is the proper way to salute a foreigner. The bending of the body low is not be commended.
(9) When you see a foreigner be sure and cover up naked parts of the body.
(10) Hold in high regard the worship of ancestors and treat your relations with warm cordiality, but do not regard a person as your enemy because he or she is a Christian.
(11) In going through the world you will often find a knowledge of a foreign tongue absolutely essential.
(12) Beware of selling your souls to foreigners and becoming their slaves. Sell them no houses or lands.
(13) Aim at not being beaten in your competition with foreigners. Remember that loyalty and filial piety are our most precious national treasures and do nothing to violate them.
Many of the above rules are excellent in tone. Number 7, however, which hails from Osaka, is somewhat narrow and prejudiced. The injunction not to sell houses to foreigners is, as the Jiji Shimpo points out, absurd and mischievous.[H]
The sensitiveness of the people also works to the advantage of the nation in the social unity which it helps to secure. Indeed I cannot escape the conviction that the striking unity of the Japanese is largely due to this characteristic. It tends to make their mental and emotional activities synchronous. It retards reform for a season, to be sure, but later it accelerates it. It makes it difficult for individuals to break away from their surroundings and start out on new lines. It leads to a general progress while it tends to hinder individual progress. It tends to draw back into the general current of national life those individuals who, under exceptional conditions, may have succeeded in breaking away from it for a season. This, I think, is one of the factors of no little power at work among the Christian churches in Japan. It is one, too, that the Japanese themselves little perceive; so far as I have observed, foreigners likewise fail to realize its force.
Closely connected with this sensitiveness to environment are other qualities which make it effective. They are: great flexibility, adjustability, agility (both mental and physical), and the powers of keen attention to details and of exact imitation.
As opposed to all this is the Chinese lack of flexibility. Contrast a Chinaman and a Japanese after each has been in America a year. The one to all appearances is an American; his hat, his clothing, his manner, seem so like those of an American that were it not for his small size, Mongolian type of face, and defective English, he could easily be mistaken for one. How different is it with the Chinaman! He retains his curious cue with a tenacity that is as intense as it is characteristic. His hat is the conventional one adopted by all Chinese immigrants. His clothing likewise, though far from Chinese, is nevertheless entirely un-American. He makes no effort to conform to his surroundings. He seems to glory in his separateness.
The Japanese desire to conform to the customs and appearances of those about him is due to what I have called sensitiveness; his success is due to the flexibility of his mental constitution.
But this characteristic is seen in multitudes of little ways. The new fashion of wearing the hair according to the Western styles; of wearing Western hats, and Western clothing, now universal in the army, among policemen, and common among officials and educated men; the use of chairs and tables, lamps, windows, and other Western things is due in no small measure to that flexibility of mind which readily adopts new ideas and new ways; is ready to try new things and new words, and after trial, if it finds them convenient or useful or even amusing, to retain them permanently, and this flexibility is, in part, the reason why the Japanese are accounted a fickle people. They accept new ways so easily that those who do not have this faculty have no explanation for it but that of fickleness. A frequent surprise to a missionary in Japan is that of meeting a fine-looking, accomplished gentleman whom he knew a few years before as a crude, ungainly youth. I am convinced that it is the possession of this set of characteristics that has enabled Japan so quickly to assimilate many elements of an alien civilization.
Yet this flexibility of mind and sensitiveness to changed conditions find some apparently striking exceptions. Notable among these are the many customs and appliances of foreign nations which, though adopted by the people, have not been completely modified to suit their own needs. In illustration is the Chinese ideograph, for the learning of which even in the modern common-school reader, there is no arrangement of the characters in the order of their complexity. The possibility of simplifying the colossal task of memorizing these uncorrelated ideographs does not seem to have occurred to the Japanese; though it is now being attempted by the foreigner. Perhaps a partial explanation of this apparent exception to the usual flexibility of the people in meeting conditions may be found in their relative lack of originality. Still I am inclined to refer it to a greater sensitiveness of the Japanese to the personal and human, than to the impersonal and physical environment.
The customary explanation of the group of characteristics considered in this chapter is that they are innate, due to brain and nerve structure, and acquired by each generation through biological heredity. If closely examined, however, this is seen to be no explanation at all. Accepting the characteristics as empirical inexplicable facts, the real problem is evaded, pushed into prehistoric times, that convenient dumping ground of biological, anthropological, and sociological difficulties.
Japanese flexibility, imitativeness, and sensitiveness to environment are to be accounted for by a careful consideration of the national environment and social order. Modern psychology has called attention to the astonishing part played by imitation, conscious and unconscious, in the evolution of the human race, and in the unification of the social group. Prof. Le Tarde goes so far as to make this the fundamental principle of human evolution. He has shown that it is ever at work in the life of every human being, modifying all his thoughts, acts, and feelings. In the evolution of civilization the rare man thinks, the millions imitate.
A slight consideration of the way in which Occidental lands have developed their civilization will convince anyone that imitation has taken the leading part. Japan, therefore, is not unique in this respect. Her periods of wholesale imitation have indeed called special notice to the trait. But the rapidity of the movement has been due to the peculiarities of her environment. For long periods she has been in complete isolation, and when brought into contact with foreign nations, she has found them so far in advance of herself in many important respects that rapid imitation was the only course left her by the inexorable laws of nature. Had she not imitated China in ancient times and the Occident in modern times, her independence, if not her existence, could hardly have been maintained.
Imitation of admittedly superior civilizations has therefore been an integral, conscious element of Japan's social order, and to a degree perhaps not equaled by the social order of any other race.
The difference between Japanese imitation and that of other nations lies in the fact that whereas the latter, as a rule, despise foreign races, and do not admit the superiority of alien civilizations as a whole, imitating only a detail here and there, often without acknowledgment and sometimes even without knowledge, the Japanese, on the other hand, have repeatedly been placed in such circumstances as to see the superiority of foreign civilizations as a whole, and to desire their general adoption. This has produced a spirit of imitation among all the individuals of the race. It has become a part of their social inheritance. This explanation largely accounts for the striking difference between Japanese and Chinese in the Occident. The Japanese go to the West in order to acquire all the West can give. The Chinaman goes steeled against its influences. The spirit of the Japanese renders him quickly susceptible to every change in his surroundings. He is ever noting details and adapting himself to his circumstances. The spirit of the Chinaman, on the contrary, renders him quite oblivious to his environment. His mind is closed. Under special circumstances, when a Chinaman has been liberated from the prepossession of his social inheritance, he has shown himself as capable of Occidentalization in clothing, speech, manner, and thought as a Japanese. Such cases, however, are rare.
But a still more effective factor in the development of the characteristics under consideration is the nature of Japanese feudalism. Its emphasis on the complete subordination of the inferior to the superior was one of its conspicuous features. This was a factor always and everywhere at work in Japan. No individual was beyond its potent influence. Attention to details, absolute obedience, constant, conscious imitation, secretiveness, suspiciousness, were all highly developed by this social system. Each of these traits is a special form of sensitiveness to environment. From the most ancient times the initiative of superiors was essential to the wide adoption by the people of any new idea or custom. Christianity found ready acceptance in the sixteenth century and Buddhism in the eighth, because they had been espoused by exalted persons. The superiority of the civilization of China in early times, and of the West in modern times, was first acknowledged and adopted by a few nobles and the Emperor. Having gained this prestige they promptly became acceptable to the rank and file of people who vied with each other in their adoption. A peculiarity of the Japanese is the readiness with which the ideas and aims of the rulers are accepted by the people. This is due to the nature of Japanese feudalism. It has made the body of the nation conspicuously subject to the ruling brain and has conferred on Japan her unique sensitiveness to environment.
Susceptibility to slight changes in the feelings of lords and masters and corresponding flexibility were important social traits, necessary products of the old social order. Those deficient in these regards would inevitably lose in the struggle for social precedence, if not in the actual struggle for existence. These characteristics would, accordingly, be highly developed.
Bearing in mind, therefore, the character of the factors that have ever been acting on the Japanese psychic nature, we see clearly that the characteristics under consideration are not to be attributed to her inherent race nature, but may be sufficiently accounted for by reference to the social order and social environment.
WAVES OF FEELING—ABDICATION
It has long been recognized that the Japanese are emotional, but the full significance of this element of their nature is far from realized. It underlies their entire life; it determines the mental activities in a way and to a degree that Occidentals can hardly appreciate. Waves of feeling have swept through the country, carrying everything before them in a manner that has oftentimes amazed us of foreign lands. An illustration from the recent political life of the nation comes to mind in this connection. For months previous to the outbreak of the recent war with China, there had been a prolonged struggle between the Cabinet and the political parties who were united in their opposition to the government, though in little else. The parties insisted that the Cabinet should be responsible to the party in power in the Lower House, as is the case in England, that thus they might stand and fall together. The Cabinet, on the other hand, contended that, according to the constitution, it was responsible to the Emperor alone, and that consequently there was no need of a change in the Cabinet with every change of party leadership. The nation waxed hot over the discussion. Successive Diets were dissolved and new Diets elected, in none of which, however, could the supporters of the Cabinet secure a majority; the Cabinet was, therefore, incapable of carrying out any of its distinctive measures. Several times the opposition went so far as to decline to pass the budget proposed by the Cabinet, unless so reduced as to cripple the government, the reason constantly urged being that the Cabinet was not competent to administer the expenditure of such large sums of money. There were no direct charges of fraud, but simply of incompetence. More than once the Cabinet was compelled to carry on the government during the year under the budget of the previous year, as provided by the constitution. So intense was the feeling that the capital was full of "soshi,"—political ruffians,—and fear was entertained as to the personal safety of the members of the Cabinet. The whole country was intensely excited over the matter. The newspapers were not loath to charge the government with extravagance, and a great explosion seemed inevitable, when, suddenly, a breeze from a new quarter arose and absolutely changed the face of the nation.
War with China was whispered, and then noised around. Events moved rapidly. One or two successful encounters with the Chinese stirred the warlike passion that lurked in every breast. At once the feud with the Cabinet was forgotten. When, on short notice, an extra session of the Diet was called to vote funds for a war, not a word was breathed about lack of confidence in the Cabinet or its incompetence to manage the ordinary expenditures of the government; on the contrary, within five minutes from the introduction of the government bill asking a war appropriation of 150,000,000 yen, the bill was unanimously passed.
Such an absolute change could hardly have taken place in England or America, or any land less subject to waves of emotion. So far as I could learn, the nation was a unit in regard to the war. There was not the slightest sign of a "peace party." Of all the Japanese with whom I talked only one ever expressed the slightest opposition to the war, and he on religious grounds, being a Quaker.
The strength of the emotional element tends to make the Japanese extremists. If liberals, they are extremely liberal; if conservative, they are extremely conservative. The craze for foreign goods and customs which prevailed for several years in the early eighties was replaced by an almost equally strong aversion to anything foreign.
This tendency to swing to extremes has cropped out not infrequently in the theological thinking of Japanese Christians. Men who for years had done effective work in upbuilding the Church, men who had lifted hundreds of their fellow-countrymen out of moral and religious darkness into light and life, have suddenly, as it has appeared, lost all appreciation of the truths they had been teaching and have swung off to the limits of a radical rationalism, losing with their evangelical faith their power of helping their fellow-men, and in some few cases, going over into lives of open sin. The intellectual reasons given by them to account for their changes have seemed insufficient; it will be found that the real explanation of these changes is to be sought not in their intellectual, but in their emotional natures.
Care must be taken, however, not to over-emphasize this extremist tendency. In some respects, I am convinced that it is more apparent than real. The appearance is due to the silent passivity even of those who are really opposed to the new departure. It is natural that the advocates of some new policy should be enthusiastic and noisy. To give the impression to an outsider that the new enthusiasm is universal, those who do not share it have simply to keep quiet. This takes place to some degree in every land, but particularly so in Japan. The silence of their dissent is one of the striking characteristics of the Japanese. It seems to be connected with an abdication of personal responsibility. How often in the experience of the missionary it has happened that his first knowledge of friction in a church, wholly independent and self-supporting and having its own native pastor, is the silent withdrawal of certain members from their customary places of worship. On inquiry it is learned that certain things are being done or said which do not suit them and, instead of seeking to have these matters righted, they simply wash their hands of the whole affair by silent withdrawal.
The Kumi-ai church, in Kumamoto, from being large and prosperous, fell to an actual active membership of less than a dozen, solely because, as each member became dissatisfied with the high-handed and radical pastor, he simply withdrew. Had each one stood by the church, realizing that he had a responsibility toward it which duty forbade him to shirk, the conservative and substantial members of the church would soon have been united in their opposition to the radical pastor and, being in the majority, could have set matters right. In the case of perversion of trust funds by the trustees of the Kumamoto School, many Japanese felt that injustice was being done to the American Board and a stain was being inflicted on Japan's fair name, but they did nothing either to express their opinions or to modify the results. So silent were they that we were tempted to think them either ignorant of what was taking place, or else indifferent to it. We now know, however, that many felt deeply on the matter, but were simply silent according to the Japanese custom.
But silent dissent does not necessarily last indefinitely, though it may continue for years. As soon as some check has been put upon the rising tide of feeling, and a reaction is evident, those who before had been silent begin to voice their reactionary feeling, while those who shortly before had been in the ascendant begin to take their turn of silent dissent. Thus the waves are accentuated, both in their rise and in their relapse, by the abdicating proclivity of the people.
Yet, in spite of the tendency of the nation to be swept from one extreme to another by alternate waves of feeling, there are many well-balanced men who are not carried with the tide. The steady progress made by the nation during the past generation, in spite of emotional actions and reactions, must be largely attributed to the presence in its midst of these more stable natures. These are the men who have borne the responsibilities of government. So far as we are able to see, they have not been led by their feelings, but rather by their judgments. When the nation was wild with indignation over Europe's interference with the treaty which brought the China-Japanese war to a close, the men at the helm saw too clearly the futility of an attempt to fight Russia to allow themselves to be carried away by sentimental notions of patriotism. Theirs was a deeper and truer patriotism than that of the great mass of the nation, who, flushed with recent victories by land and by sea, were eager to give Russia the thrashing which they felt quite able to administer.
Abdication is such an important element in Japanese life, serving to throw responsibility on the young, and thus helping to emphasize the emotional characteristics of the people, that we may well give it further attention at this point. In describing it, I can do no better than quote from J.H. Gubbins' valuable introduction to his translation of the New Civil Code of Japan.[I]
"Japanese scholars who have investigated the subject agree in tracing the origin of the present custom to the abdication of Japanese sovereigns, instances of which occur at an early period of Japanese history. These earlier abdications were independent of religious influences, but with the advent of Buddhism abdication entered upon a new phase. In imitation, it would seem, of the retirement for the purpose of religious contemplation of the Head Priests of Buddhist monasteries, abdicating sovereigns shaved their heads and entered the priesthood, and when subsequently the custom came to be employed for political purposes, the cloak of religion was retained. From the throne the custom spread to Regents and high officers of state, and so universal had its observance amongst officials of the high ranks become in the twelfth century that, as Professor Shigeno states, it was almost the rule for such persons to retire from the world at the age of forty or fifty, and nominally enter the priesthood, both the act and the person performing it being termed 'niu do.' In the course of time, the custom of abdication ceased to be confined to officials, and extended to feudal nobility and the military class generally, whence it spread through the nation, and at this stage of its transition its connection with the phase it finally assumed becomes clear. But with its extension beyond the circle of official dignitaries, and its consequent severance from tradition and religious associations, whether real or nominal abdication changed its name. It was no longer termed 'niu do,' but 'in kio,' the old word being retained only in its strict religious meaning, and 'inkyo' is the term in use to-day.
"In spite of the religious origin of abdication, its connection with religion has long since vanished, and it may be said without fear of contradiction that the Japanese of to-day, when he or she abdicates, is in no way actuated by the feeling which impelled European monarchs in past times to end their days in the seclusion of the cloister, and which finds expression to-day in the Irish phrase, 'To make one's soul.' Apart from the influence of traditional convention, which counts for something and also explains the great hold on the nation which the custom has acquired, the motive seems to be somewhat akin to that which leads people in some Western countries to retire from active life at an age when bodily infirmity cannot be adduced as the reason. But with this great difference, that in the one case, that of Western countries, it is the business or profession, the active work of life, which is relinquished, the position of the individual vis-a-vis the family being unaffected; in the other case, it is the position of head of the family which is relinquished, with the result of the complete effacement of the individual so far as the family is concerned. Moreover, although abdication usually implies the abandonment of the business, or profession, of the person who abdicates, this does not necessarily follow, abdication being in no way incompatible with the continuation of the active pursuits in which the person-in question is engaged. And if an excuse be needed in either case, there would seem to be more for the Japanese head of family, who, in addition to the duties and responsibilities incumbent upon his position, has to bear the brunt of the tedious ceremonies and observances which characterize family life in Japan, and are a severe tax upon time and energies, while at the same time he is fettered by the restrictions upon individual freedom of action imposed by the family system. That in many cases the reason for abdication lies in the wish to escape from the tyrannical calls of family life, rather than in mere desire for idleness and ease, is shown by the fact that just as in past times the abdication of an Emperor, a Regent, or a state dignitary, was often the signal for renewed activity on his part, so in modern Japanese life the period of a person's greatest activity not infrequently dates from the time of his withdrawal from the headship of his family."
The abdicating proclivities of the nation in pre-Meiji times are well shown by the official list of daimyos published by the Shogunate in 1862. To a list of 268 ruling daimyos is added a list of 104 "inkyo."
In addition to what we may call political and family abdication, described above, is personal abdication, referred to on a previous page.
Are the traits of Japanese character considered in this chapter inherent and necessary? Already our description has conclusively shown them to be due to the nature of the social order. This was manifestly the case in regard to political and family abdication. The like origin of personal abdication is manifest to him who learns how little there was in the ancient training tending to give each man a "feeling of independent responsibility to his own conscience in the sight of Heaven." He was taught devotion to a person rather than to a principle. The duty of a retainer was not to think and decide, but to do. He might in silence disapprove and as far as possible he should then keep out of his lord's way; should he venture to think and to act contrary to his lord's commands, he must expect and plan to commit "harakiri" in the near future. Personal abdication and silent disapproval, therefore, were direct results of the social order.
HEROES AND HERO-WORSHIP
If a clew to the character of a nation is gained by a study of the nature of the gods it worships, no less valuable an insight is gained by a study of its heroes. Such a study confirms the impression that the emotional life is fundamental in the Japanese temperament. Japan is a nation of hero-worshipers. This is no exaggeration. Not only is the primitive religion, Shintoism, systematic hero-worship, but every hero known to history is deified, and has a shrine or temple. These heroes, too, are all men of conspicuous valor or strength, famed for mighty deeds of daring. They are men of passion. The most popular story in Japanese literature is that of "The Forty-seven Ronin," who avenged the death of their liege-lord after years of waiting and plotting. This revenge administered, they committed harakiri in accordance with the etiquette of the ethical code of feudal Japan. Their tombs are to this day among the most frequented shrines in the capital of the land, and one of the most popular dramas presented in the theaters is based on this same heroic tragedy.
The prominence of the emotional element may be seen in the popular description of national heroes. The picture of an ideal Japanese hero is to our eyes a caricature. His face is distorted by a fierce frenzy of passion, his eyeballs glaring, his hair flying, and his hands hold with a mighty grip the two-handed sword wherewith he is hewing to pieces an enemy. I am often amazed at the difference between the pictures of Japanese heroes and the living Japanese I see. This difference is manifestly due to the idealizing process; for they love to see their heroes in their passionate moods and tenses.
The craving for heroes, even on the part of those who are familiar with Western thought and customs, is a feature of great interest. Well do I remember the enthusiasm with which educated, Christian young men awaited the coming to Japan of an eminent American scholar, from whose lectures impossible things were expected. So long as he was in America and only his books were known, he was a hero. But when he appeared in person, carrying himself like any courteous gentleman, he lost his exalted position.
Townsend Harris showed his insight into Oriental thought never more clearly than by maintaining his dignity according to Japanese standards and methods. On his first entry into Tokyo he states, in his journal, that although he would have preferred to ride on horseback, in order that he might see the city and the people, yet as the highest dignitaries never did so, but always rode in entirely closed "norimono" (a species of sedan chair carried by twenty or thirty bearers), he too would do the same; to have ridden into the limits of the city on horseback would have been construed by the Japanese as an admission that he held a far lower official rank than that of a plenipotentiary of a great nation.
It is not difficult to understand how these ideals of heroes arose. They are the same in every land where militarism, and especially feudalism, is the foundation on which the social order rests.
Some of the difficulties met by foreign missionaries in trying to do their work arise from the fact that they are not easily regarded as heroes by their followers. The people are accustomed to commit their guidance to officials or to teachers or advisers whom they can regard as heroes. Since missionaries are not officials and do not have the manners of heroes, it is not to be expected that the Japanese will accept their leadership.
A few foreigners have, however, become heroes in Japanese eyes. President Clark and Rev. S.R. Brown had great influence on groups of young men in the early years of Meiji, while giving them secular education combined with Christian instruction. The conditions, however, were then extraordinarily exceptional, and it is a noticeable fact that neither man remained long in Japan at that time. Another foreigner who was exalted to the skies by a devoted band of students was a man well suited to be a hero—for he had the samurai spirit to the full. Indeed, in absolute fearlessness and assumption of superiority, he out-samuraied the samurai. He was a man of impressive and imperious personality. Yet it is a significant fact that when he was brought back to Japan by his former pupils, after an absence of about eighteen years, during which they had continued to extol his merits and revere his memory, it was not long before they discovered that he was not the man their imagination had created. Not many months were needed to remove him from his pedestal. It would hardly be a fair statement of the whole case to leave the matter here. So far as I know, President Clark and Rev. S.R. Brown have always retained their hold on the imagination of the Japanese. The foreigner who of all others has perhaps done the most for Japan, and whose services have been most heartily acknowledged by the nation and government, was Dr. Guido F. Verbeck, who began his missionary work in 1859; he was the teacher of large numbers of the young men who became leaders in the transformation of Japan; he alone of foreigners was made a citizen and was given a free and general pass for travel; and his funeral in 1898 was attended by the nobility of the land, and the Emperor himself made a contribution toward the expenses. Dr. Verbeck is destined to be one of Japan's few foreign heroes.
Among the signs of Japanese craving for heroes may be mentioned the constant experience of missionaries when search is being made for a man to fill a particular place. The descriptions of the kind of man desired are such that no one can expect to meet him. The Christian boys' school in Kumamoto, and the church with it, went for a whole year without principal and pastor because they could not secure a man of national reputation. They wanted a hero-principal, who would cut a great figure in local politics and also be a hero-leader for the Christian work in the whole island of Kyushu, causing the school to shine not only in Kumamoto, but to send forth its light and its fame throughout the Empire and even to foreign lands. The unpretentious, unprepossessing-looking man who was chosen temporarily, though endowed with common sense and rather unusual ability to harmonize the various elements in the school, was not deemed satisfactory. He was too much like Socrates. At last they found a man after their own heart. He had traveled and studied long abroad; was a dashing, brilliant fellow; would surely make things hum; so at least said those who recommended him (and he did). But he was still a poor student in Scotland; his passage money must be raised by the school if he was to be secured. And raised it was. Four hundred and seventy-five dollars those one hundred and fifty poor boys and girls, who lived on two dollars a month, scantily clothed and insufficiently warmed, secured from their parents and sent across the seas to bring back him who was to be their hero-principal and pastor. The rest of the story I need not tell in detail, but I may whisper that he was more of a slashing hero than they planned for; in three months the boys' school was split in twain and in less than three years both fragments of the school had not only lost all their Christian character, but were dead and gone forever. And the grounds on which the buildings stood were turned into mulberry fields.
Talking not long since to a native friend, concerning the hero-worshiping tendency of the Japanese, I had my attention called to the fact that, while what has been said above is substantially correct as concerns a large proportion of the people, especially the young men, there is nevertheless a class whose ideal heroes are not military, but moral. Their power arises not through self-assertion, but rather through humility; their influence is due entirely to learning coupled with insight into the great moral issues of life. Such has been the character of not a few of the "moral" teachers. I have recently read a Japanese novel based upon the life of one such hero. Omi Seijin, or the "Sage of Omi," is a name well known among the people of Japan; and his fame rests rather on his character than on his learning. If tradition is correct, his influence on the people of his region was powerful enough to transform the character of the place, producing a paradise on earth whence lust and crime were banished. Whatever the actual facts of his life may have been, this is certainly the representation of his character now held up for honor and imitation. There are also indications that the ideal military hero is not, for all the people, the self-assertive type that I have described above, though this is doubtless the prevalent one. Not long since I heard the following couplet as to the nature of a true hero:
"Makoto no Ei-yu; Sono yo, aizen to shite shumpu no gotoshi; Sono shin, kizen to shite kinseki no gotoshi.
"The true Hero; In appearance, charming like the spring breeze. In heart, firm as a rock."
Another phrase that I have run across relating to the ideal man is, "I atte takakarazu," which means in plain English, "having authority, but not puffed up." In the presence of these facts, it will not do to think that the ideal hero of all the Japanese is, or even in olden times was, only a military hero full of swagger and bluster; in a military age such would, of necessity, be a popular ideal; but just in proportion as men rose to higher forms of learning, and character, so would their ideals be raised.
It is not to be lightly assumed that the spirit of hero-worship is wholly an evil or a necessarily harmful thing. It has its advantages and rewards as well as its dangers and evils. The existence of hero-worship in any land reveals a nature in the people that is capable of heroic actions. Men appreciate and admire that which in a measure at least they are, and more that which they aspire to become. The recent war revealed how the capacity for heroism of a warlike nature lies latent in every Japanese breast and not in the descendants of the old military class alone. But it is more encouraging to note that popular appreciation of moral heroes is growing.
Education and religion are bringing forth modern moral heroes. The late Dr. Neesima, the founder of the Doshisha, is a hero to many even outside the Church. Mr. Ishii, the father of Orphan Asylums in Japan, promises to be another. A people that can rear and admire men of this character has in it the material of a truly great nation.
The hero-worshiping characteristic of the Japanese depends on two other traits of their nature. The first is the reality of strong personalities among them capable of becoming heroes; the second is the possession of a strong idealizing tendency. Prof. G.T. Ladd has called them a "sentimental" people, in the sense that they are powerfully moved by sentiment. This is a conspicuous trait of their character appearing in numberless ways in their daily life. The passion for group-photographs is largely due to this. Sentimentalism, in the sense given it by Prof. Ladd, is the emotional aspect of idealism.