Up to the year 1868 Japan was divided into numerous provinces governed by Daimios, or territorial lords, each of whom maintained large standing armies. They were all subject to the Shogun, while retaining the right to rule their particular provinces in ordinary matters. In 1868 the Shogun fell, and there can be little doubt his fall was to some extent brought about by the concessions which had been made to foreign Powers in regard to the opening of the country to foreign trade. In 1868 the Shogun repaired to Kyoto, the first time for 250 years, and paid homage to the Mikado. Feudalism was then, as I have said, abolished, the Emperor took the reins of authority into his own hands, formed a central Government at Tokio and reigned supreme as an absolute monarch.
"The sacred throne was established at the time when the heavens and earth became separated." This has long been an axiom of Japanese belief, but it has been somewhat modified of late years, even the assertion of it by the Sovereign himself. A leading Japanese statesman who has written an article on the subject of the Emperor and his place in the Constitution has asserted that he is "Heaven descended, sacred and divine." I do not think that the modern Japanese entertains this transcendental opinion nor, indeed, do I find that the Emperor himself has of late years put forward any such pretensions. For example, in the Imperial proclamation on the Constitution of the Empire on February 11, 1889, the Emperor declared that he had "by virtue of the glories of our ancestors ascended the Throne of a lineal succession unbroken for ages eternal." Whereas in the Imperial Rescript declaring war against China on August 1, 1894, he contented himself with asserting that he was "seated on a Throne occupied by the same dynasty from time immemorial." The italics are mine, and the difference in the pretensions which I desire to emphasise is certainly remarkable.
When granting a Constitution the Emperor, as has been and probably will be the custom of all monarchs so acting, declared that the legislative power belonged to him but that he intended to exercise it with the consent of the Imperial Diet. The convocation of the Diet belongs exclusively to the Emperor. It has no power to meet without his authority, and if it did so meet its acts and its actions would be null and void. In this respect the Diet is on precisely the same basis as the English Parliament. According to the Constitution the Emperor, when the Diet is not sitting, can issue Imperial ordinances which shall have the effect of law so long as they do not contravene any existing law. The article authorising these ordinances defines that they shall only be promulgated in consequence of an urgent necessity to maintain public safety or to avert public calamities, and all such ordinances must be laid before the Diet at its next sitting, and in the event of the same not being approved they become null and void.
To my mind, one of the most interesting portions of the Constitution is that which lays down succinctly and tersely the rights and duties of Japanese subjects. In this section there are contained within about fifty lines the declaration of innumerable rights for which mankind in various parts of the world during many hundreds of years fought and bled and endured much suffering. Just let me mention a few of them. No Japanese subject shall be arrested, detained, tried or punished unless according to law. Except as provided by law the house of no Japanese subject shall be entered or searched without his consent. Except in the cases provided by law, the secrecy of the letters of every Japanese subject shall remain inviolate. The right of property of every Japanese subject shall remain inviolate. Japanese subjects shall enjoy freedom of religious belief. Japanese subjects shall enjoy liberty of speech, writing, publication, public meetings and associations. Japanese subjects may present petitions. We have in these few brief provisoes the sum total of everything that, in effect, constitutes the liberty of the subject.
The Diet of Japan, like the Parliament of Great Britain, consists of two Houses—a House of Peers and a House of Representatives. The House of Peers is composed of (1) the members of the Imperial family, (2) Princes and Marquises, (3) Counts, Viscounts and Barons who are elected thereto by the members of their respective orders, (4) persons who have been specially nominated by the Emperor on account of meritorious service or by reason of their erudition, (5) persons who have been elected, one member for each city and prefecture of the Empire, by and from among the taxpayers of the highest amount of direct national taxes on land, industry, or trade, and who had subsequently received the approval of the Emperor. It will be seen that the members of the Imperial family, the Princes and Marquises, have an inalienable right to sit in the House of Peers, the latter rank on attaining the age of 25 years. In regard to Counts, Viscounts, and Barons there is no such right. Those ranks, like the Peers of Scotland and Ireland, meet together and select one-fifth of their number to represent them in the House of Peers for a term of seven years. Any subject over thirty years of age nominated by the Emperor for meritorious service or erudition remains a life member. Those returned by the cities and prefectures remain members for a period of seven years. It is provided by the Constitution that the number of members of the House of Peers who are not nobles shall not exceed the number of the members bearing a title of nobility.
The question of the necessity for the existence of a second chamber and the composition thereof has been keenly debated in this and other countries of recent years. It seems to me that in this matter Japan has hit upon the happy mean. She has combined in her House of Peers the aristocratic or hereditary element in a modified degree with the principle of life membership by which she secures the services and counsel of the great intellects of the land, and such as have done the State good service in any capacity. At the same time she has not excluded the representative element from her second chamber—a fact which must largely obviate any possibility of the House of Peers becoming a purely class body. A second chamber so constituted must obviously serve an extremely useful purpose in preserving an equilibrium between political parties, in preventing the rushing through and passing into law of hastily considered measures. For the composition of her second chamber, Japan has taken all human means possible to obtain whatever is representative of the stability, the intellect, the enterprise and the patriotism of the country.
The composition of the House of Representatives, which answers to our House of Commons, is as interesting as that of the Upper Chamber. When the Constitution was first promulgated the principle of small electoral districts obtained, one member being elected for each district. This system was found or believed to be faulty, and hence, after some years' experience, large electoral districts combined with a single vote have been instituted. It may be interesting to relate that both systems, the large and the small districts, were drafted by an Englishman, Mr. Thomas Hair. Cities whose population exceeds 30,000 are formed into separate electoral districts while a city with less than 30,000 inhabitants is, with its suburbs, constituted a district. The number of members allowed to each district depends on the population. For a population of 130,000 or under one member is allowed, and for every additional 65,000 persons above the former number an additional member is allotted. The number of members in the House of Representatives is 381, or little over half that of which our House of Commons consists. The population of the two countries is almost identical, and experience serves to show that the number of Members of Parliament in Japan is sufficiently numerous for all practical purposes and that any material addition thereto would be more likely to impede than to accelerate the wheels of legislative progress. Neither the Japanese Constitution nor the Electoral Law makes any provision for the representation of minorities, that aim of so many well-meaning persons in different countries. In Japan the majority rules as everywhere, and minorities must submit.
Manhood suffrage is not yet a fait accompli in Japan. Under the present law to qualify a Japanese subject to exercise the franchise he must pay 15 yen (about 30s.) or more, indirect taxation. Only a Japanese subject can vote at elections. No foreigner has any electoral rights, but if he becomes a naturalised Japanese subject he obtains all the privileges appertaining to that position.
Each House of Parliament in Japan possesses a president and vice-president, who are elected by the members. The president of each House receives an annual allowance of 4,000 yen (about L400) and the vice-president 2,000 yen (about L200). The payment of Members of Parliament is in vogue in Japan. The elected and nominated, but not the hereditary, members of the House of Peers, and each member of the House of Representatives, receives an annual allowance of 800 yen (about L80). They are also paid travelling expenses in accordance with the regulations on the subject. It may be interesting to state that there is a clause in the Constitution which enacts that the president, vice-president, and members of the two Houses who are entitled to annual allowances shall not be permitted to decline the same! It says much for the estimate of patriotism entertained in Japan when the Constitution was promulgated that such a clause as this should have been considered necessary.
Debate in both the Japanese Houses of Parliament is free and the proceedings public. There will be no occasion for the uprising of a Wilkes in Japan to obtain permission to publish Parliamentary Debates. The Constitution, however, contains a proviso for the sitting of either House with closed doors upon the wish of the president or of not less than ten members, the same being agreed to by the House, or upon the demand of the Government with or without the consent of the House. When in the former event a motion for a secret sitting is made, strangers have to withdraw from the House and the motion is voted on without debate. The proceedings of a secret meeting of either Chamber are not allowed to be published.
The Japanese Constitution, which is certainly a document containing not only provisions of an epoch-making nature but most elaborate details in regard to even minor matters, includes in seven or eight lines one or two excellent rules in regard to what is termed "The Passing of the Budget." Under these rules, when the Budget is introduced into the House of Representatives the Committee thereon must finish the examination of it within fifteen days and report thereon to the House, while no motion for any amendment in the Budget can be made the subject of debate unless it is supported by at least thirty members.
The Constitution of Japan, as I have remarked, contains a vast amount of detail. The framers of that Constitution seem to have been endowed with an abnormal amount of prevision. In fact they foresaw the possibility of occurrences and made provision for those occurrences that nations which are, or which consider themselves to be, more highly civilised have not yet taken any adequate steps to deal with. For example, Article 92 of the Constitution enacts that in neither House of Parliament shall the use of coarse language or personalities be allowed, while Article 93 declares that when any member has been vilified or insulted either in the House or in a meeting of a Committee he shall appeal to the House and demand that proper measures shall be taken. There shall, it is decreed, be no retaliation among members. The Constitution also contains several salutary regulations in reference to the disciplinary punishment of members.
The establishment of a Parliament in Japan has produced parties and a party system. I suppose that was inevitable. In every country there is, and as human nature is constituted there always will be, two parties representative of two phases of the human mind: the party in a hurry to effect progress because it deems progress desirable, and the party that desires to cling as long as possible to the ancient ways because it knows them and has had experience of them and looks askance at experiments—experiments for which that somewhat hackneyed phrase a "leap in the dark" has long done service. I have no intention, as I said in the Preface, of dealing at all with Japanese politics. There is no doubt a good deal of heat, and the resultant friction, evoked in connection with politics in Japan as elsewhere. Perhaps this young nation—that is, young from a parliamentary point of view—takes politics too seriously. Time will remedy that defect, if it be a defect. At the same time, I may express the opinion that, however severe party strife may be in Japan, and though the knocks given and received in the course thereof are hard and some of the language not only vigorous but violent, the members of all parties have at heart and as their objective point the advancement of Japan and the good of the country generally.
The Japanese Constitution, though not a very lengthy, is such an all-embracing document that in a hurried survey of it, it is possible to overlook many important features. It provides for the establishment of a Privy Council to deliberate upon important matters of State, but only when consulted by the Emperor. It enforces the responsibility of the Ministers of State for all advice given to the Emperor and decrees that all laws, Imperial ordinances and Imperial rescripts of any kind relating to affairs of State, must be countersigned by a Minister of State. The Constitution also defines the position, authority, and independence of the judges. That Constitution contains a proviso all-important in reference to the upright administration of the law, a proviso which it took years of agitation to obtain in this country, that no judge shall be deprived of his position unless by way of criminal sentence or disciplinary punishment. All trials and judgments of the court of law are to be conducted publicly. Provision is made, when there exists any fear of a trial in open court being prejudicial to peace and order or to the maintenance of public morality, for the same to be held in camera. I may add, before I take leave of the Constitution, with a view of showing how all-embracing as I have said are the various matters dealt with therein, that it defines and declares that the style of address for the Emperor and Empress shall be His, Her, or Your Majesty, while that for the Imperial Princes and Princesses shall be His, Her, Their, or Your Highness or Highnesses.
In regard to no matter connected with Japan have I found so large an amount of misconception prevalent as in reference to the position of the Emperor of that country. The divine descent which is still sometimes claimed for the sovereigns of Japan and which has never, so far as I know, been officially repudiated, has caused some persons to regard the Emperor from a somewhat ludicrous standpoint. In this very prosaic and materialistic age, when very few persons have profound beliefs on any subject, the spectacle of one of the sovereigns of the earth still claiming a divine origin is one that appeals to the ludicrous susceptibilities of that vague entity "the man in the street." It is not well, however, that people should criticise statements in royal proclamations or in royal assertions too seriously. Even in this country there are documents issued from time to time bearing the royal sign manual which every one regards as interesting but meaningless formalities—interesting because they are a survival of mediaeval documents which meant something some hundreds of years ago and still remain though their meanings have long since lapsed. And yet there are persons in this country who peruse such documents and know that they are simply words signifying practically nothing, who severely criticise the assertion of a long-used title by the Japanese Emperor upon issuing a royal proclamation. I am not aware whether his Imperial Majesty or his Ministers of State implicitly accept his divine descent, but this I do know—that those persons who regard the present Emperor of Japan as a State puppet, arrogating more or less divine attributes, are labouring under a profound delusion. There is no abler man in Japan at the present moment. There is no abler man among the sovereigns of the world. In fact, I should be inclined to place the Emperor of Japan at the head of the world's great statesmen. He is no monarch content to reign but not to govern, concerned simply about ceremonial and the fripperies and gew-gaws of royalty. He is a constitutional sovereign certainly. He has always shown the deepest respect for the Constitution ever since its promulgation, and never in the slightest degree attempted to infringe or override any portion of it. At the same time he is an effective force in the Government of Japan. There is nothing too great or too little in the Empire or in the relations of the Empire with foreign Powers for his ken. He, in a word, has the whole reins of government in his hands, and he exercises over every department and detail of it a minute and rigid supervision which is, in my opinion, largely responsible for the efficiency of the internal administration of the country as also for the place that Japan holds among the Great Powers of the world.
I cannot leave a consideration of this subject without referring to the assistance rendered to the Emperor by, as also to the debt Japan owes to, some six or seven great men in that country whose names I shall not inscribe here because to do so would be to some extent invidious, several of whom do not, as a matter of fact, hold any formal position in the Government of the country. The wisdom of these men has been a great boon for such a country as Japan, and if she is not now as sensible of it as she ought to be future ages will, I feel sure, recognise the debt that Japan owes to them. Some persons with an intimate knowledge of Japan have told me that it is not, after all, a constitutional State but in effect, though not in name, an oligarchy. This word has in the past often had unpleasant associations, and one does not like to apply it in reference to the Government of a progressive and enlightened country. Still the word strictly means government by a small body of men, and if in those men is included the larger part of the wisdom of the country, and they exercise their power solely and exclusively for the benefit of the country, I am not certain that such a form of government is not the best that could be devised. Of course, humanity being as it is, an oligarchy, has its dangers and its temptations. I will say, however, of the wise men of Japan, the men to whom I have been referring and who whether in office or out of office have exercised, and must continue to exercise, a marked and predominant influence on the government of the country, that their patriotism has never been called in question, and no one has at any time suggested that they were influenced by self-seeking or other unworthy motives, or had any aspirations save the material and moral advancement of Japan and her elevation to a prominent position among the Great Powers of the world.
THE PEOPLE—THEIR LIFE AND HABITS
After all, the life of the people is the most interesting, as I think it is the most instructive, matter connected with any country. It is assuredly impossible to form a clear or indeed any correct idea in regard to a nation unless we know something of the manners and customs, the daily life, the amusements, the vices of its people. Unless we can, as it were, take a bird's-eye view of the people at work and at play, at their daily avocations in their homes, see them as they come into the world, as they go through life's pilgrimage, and, finally, as they pay the debt of nature and are carried to their last resting-place in accordance with the national customs, with the respect or the indifference the nation shows for its dead.
If one is to arrive at a correct idea regarding the life and habits of the Japanese people it is, I think, essential to get away from the ports and large towns where they have been influenced by or brought much into contact with Europeans, and see them as they really are, free from conventionalities, artificialities, and the effects of Western habits and customs which have undoubtedly been pronounced in those centres where Europeans congregate.
The house in Japan does not play the important part it does in this country. When a man in England, whatever his station in life may be, contemplates taking a wife and settling down, as the phrase goes, the home and the contents thereof become an all-important matter and one needing much thought and discussion. In Japan there is no such necessity. A Japanese house is easily run up—and taken down. The "walls" are constructed of paper and slide in grooves between the beams of the floor which is raised slightly above the ground. The partitions between the rooms can easily be taken down and an additional room as easily run up. The house is, as a rule, only one storey high. The carpets consist of matting only, and practically no furniture is necessary. A witty writer on Japan has aptly and wittily remarked that "an Englishman's house may be his castle, a Japanese's house is his bedroom and his bedroom is a passage." The occupant of this house sits on the floor, sleeps on the floor, and has his meals on the floor. The floor is kept clean by the simple process of the inhabitants removing their boots, or what do duty for boots, and leaving them at the entrance, so as to avoid soiling the matting with which the floor of each room is covered. This is a habit which has much to commend it, and is, I suggest, worthy of imitation by other countries. After all, the Japanese mode of life has a great deal to be said in its favour. It seems strange at first, but after the visitor to the country has got over his initial fit of surprise at the difference between the Japanese domestic economy and his own, he will, if he be a man of unprejudiced mind, admit that it certainly has its "points."
The bulk of the population is poor, very poor, but that poverty is not emphasised in their homes to the same extent as in European countries. The house—a doll's house some irreverent people term it—with paper partitions doing duty for walls, white matting, a few cooking utensils costs only a few shillings. It can, as I have said, be taken down and run up easily, and enlarged almost indefinitely. The inhabitants sleep on the floor, and the bedding consists not as with us of mattresses, palliasses, and other more or less insanitary articles, but of a number, great or small, and elaborate or otherwise, in accordance with the means of the owner, of what I will term quilts. The Japanese pillow is a fearful and wonderful article. I can never imagine how it was evolved and why it has remained so long unimproved. It is made of wood and there is a receptacle for the head. The European who uses it finds that it effectually banishes sleep, while the ordinary Japanese is apparently unable to sleep without it. In most houses, however poor, a kakemono, or wall picture, is to be seen. It is usually the only decoration save an occasional vase containing flowers, and of course flowers themselves, which are in evidence everywhere. Light is, or used to be, given by a "lamp," a kind of Chinese lantern on a lacquer stand, the light being given by a rush candle. I am sorry, however, to say that these in some respects artistic lanterns are being generally replaced by hideous petroleum or kerosene lamps, not only ugly but a constant source of danger in these flimsy houses.
The most important accessory of nearly all Japanese houses is the bath-room, or wash-house, to use a more appropriate term. The hot bath is a universal institution in the country, and nearly every Japanese man and woman, whatever his or her station in life, washes the body thoroughly in extremely hot water more than once daily. The Japanese, as regards the washing of their persons, are the cleanest race in the world, but many hygienic laws are set at defiance possibly because they are not understood. A gradual improvement is, however, taking place in these matters, and the cleanliness as regards the body and their houses, which is such a pleasing feature of the people, will no doubt extend in other directions also.
Japanese houses are habitable enough in warm weather, but in winter-time they are, as might be expected, exceedingly cold, especially as the arrangements for warming them are of an extremely primitive nature. Those complaints which are induced or produced by cold are prevalent in the country.
The food of the people is as simple as their houses, and as inexpensive. A Japanese family it has been calculated can live on about L10 a year. A little fish, rice, and vegetables, with incessant tea, is the national dietary. The people living on this meagre fare are, on the whole, a strong and sturdy race, but it is questionable if the national physique would not be vastly improved were the national diet also. I have touched on this matter elsewhere, so I need not refer to it further here. Tobacco is the constant consoler of the Japanese in all his troubles. Why he smokes such diminutive pipes I have never been able to understand. They only hold sufficient tobacco for a few whiffs, and when staying in a Japanese house the constant tap, tap, tap of the owner's pipe as he empties the ashes out prior to refilling it reminds one of the woodpecker.
There are doubtless some persons, especially those persons who consider that to enjoy life a superabundance or even a plethora of material comforts are necessary, who, after reading a description of the home and fare of the Japanese peasant, will assume that his life is a burden and that he derives no enjoyment whatever from it. Nothing could be more erroneous. There is probably not a more joyous being on the face of the globe than the Japanese. His wants are few, and in that fact probably lies his happiness. He does not find his enjoyment in material things, but he has his enjoyment all the same, and I think on the whole that he probably gets more out of life and has more fitting ideas regarding it than the Englishman who considers an abundance of beef and beer its objective point.
To me one of the most pleasing features of Japan is the fondness and tenderness of the Japanese of all ranks and classes for children. The Japanese infant is the tyrant of Japan, and nothing is good enough for it. The women, as most people know, carry their babies on their backs instead of in their arms. A baby is, however, not so for very long in Japan. Very young Japanese girls may be seen carrying their little baby brothers and sisters behind their backs, and thus learning their maternal duties in advance. The position of women in Japan, married women, is not so satisfactory as it ought to be. The laws in regard to divorce are, I think, too easy, and a Japanese possesses facilities for getting rid of his wife which does not tend to the conservation of home-life. The custom, which was at one time universal, of women blackening their teeth, has largely diminished, and will no doubt in due course become obsolete. The idea which underlay it was that the woman should render herself unattractive to other men. There was no object in having such an adventitious attraction as pearly teeth for her husband, who might be presumed to know what her attractions really were. The Japanese woman in her education has inculcated three obediences, viz., obedience to parents, obedience to husband, and after the death of the latter obedience to son. Although the Japanese girl comes of age at 14 she cannot marry without her father's consent until she is 25.
The dress of the Japanese people is so well known that it is not necessary for me to describe it. The kimono is, I think, a graceful costume, and I am very sorry that so many women in the upper classes have discarded the national dress for European garments. Japanese women who wear the national costume do not don gloves. If their hands are cold they place them in their sleeves, which are long and have receptacles containing many and various things, including a pocket-handkerchief, which is usually made of paper, and sometimes a pot of lip-salve to colour the lips to the orthodox tint. The poorer classes, of course, do not go in for such frivolities. Talking of paper handkerchiefs reminds me of the innumerable uses to which paper is put in Japan; it serves for umbrellas and even for coats, and is altogether a necessity of existence almost for the great mass of the people.
I have referred to the lack of what may be deemed material comforts in Japan, as also to the fact that the Japanese are a joyous race but that their enjoyment is not of a material nature. They are, in fact, easily amused, and their enjoyment takes forms which would hardly appeal to a less emotional people. In the large towns the theatre is a perennial source of amusement. I have referred to the theatre in the chapter dealing with the drama, and remarked therein that the excess of by-play, irrelevant by-play, in a Japanese drama was rather wearisome to the European spectator. Not so to the Japanese. He positively revels in it. The theatre is for him something real and moving. He has, whatever his age, all the zest of a youth for plays and spectacles. How far the Europeanising of the country, which is having, and is bound still further to have, an effect on dramatic art, will affect the amusements of the people and their proneness for the theatre remains to be seen. There is so far nothing approaching the English music-hall in Japan. Let me express a hope that there never will be. It is a long cry from the graceful Geisha to the inanities and banalities which appear to be the stock-in-trade of music-hall performances in this country. These appear to meet a home want, but I sincerely trust they will be reserved for home delectation and not be inflicted in any guise upon Japan. The matter of music-halls suggests some reference to the ideas of the Japanese in respect of music. The educated classes appear to have an appreciation of European music, but Japanese music requires, I should say, an educational process. Some superficial European writers declare that the Japanese have not the least conception of either harmony or melody, and that what passes for music in the country is simply discord. It might have struck these writers that criticism of this kind in reference to a most artistic people could hardly be correct. Any one who has listened to the Geisha or heard the singing of trained Japanese would certainly not agree in such statements as I have referred to. Japanese music is like Japanese art—it has its own characteristics and will, I am sure, repay being carefully studied.
Festivals and feasts, religious and otherwise, which are many and varied, afford some relaxation for the people. There are, according to a list compiled, some 28 religious festivals, 16 national holidays, and 14 popular feast-days. New Year's Day is termed Shihohai, and on it the Emperor prays to all his ancestors for a peaceful reign. Two days subsequently, on Genjisai, he makes offerings to him and all his Imperial ancestors, while two days later still all Government officers make official calls. These are legal holidays. The 11th of February (Kigen Setsu) and the 3rd of April (Jimmu-Tenno-sai) are observed as the anniversaries respectively of the accession to the throne and the death of Jimmu-Tenno, the first Emperor. The 17th of October (Shinsho-sai) is the national harvest festival. On this day the Emperor offers the first crop of the year to his divine ancestor, Tenshoko Daijin. It may be interesting to record that the 25th of December (Christmas Day), is observed as a holiday by the Custom-house department "for the accommodation of foreign employees."
The popular festivals are equally interesting and curious. The 3rd of March (Oshinasama), is the girls' or dolls' festival, while the 5th of May (Osekku), is the boys' festival, or Feast of Flags. A three days' festival, 13th-15th of July (Bon Matsuri), is the All Souls' Day of Japan in honour of the sacred dead. The 9th of September (Kikku No Sekku), is the festival of chrysanthemums, the national flower, and the 20th of November, appropriately near the Lord Mayor of London's day, is the festival held by the merchants in honour of Ebisuko, the God of Wealth. The Feast of Flags—the boys' festival—is one much esteemed by the Japanese people. On the occasion of it every house the owner of which has been blessed with sons displays a paper carp floating from a flagstaff. If a male child has come to the establishment during the year the carp is extra large. It is considered a reproach to any married woman not to have this symbol flying outside the house on the occasion of this feast. Why the carp has been selected as a symbol is a matter upon which there is much difference of opinion. The carp, it is said, is emblematic of the youth who overcomes all the difficulties that lie in his path during life, but I confess I rather fail to see what connection there is between this fish and such an energetic youth. On this day the boys have dolls representative of Japanese heroes and personages of the past as well as toy swords and toy armour. On the girls' festival—the Feast of Dolls—there is no outward and visible display. The fact of a girl having been born in the family is not considered a matter to be boasted of. On this feast there is a great display indoors of dolls. As a matter of fact dolls form a very important part of the heirlooms of every Japanese family of any importance. When a girl is born a pair of dolls are procured for her. Dolls are much more seriously treated than they are in European countries, where they are bought with the full knowledge that they will quickly be destroyed. In Japan the dolls are packed away for nearly the whole of the year in the go-down, and are only produced at this particular festival. I may add that not only the dolls themselves but furniture for them are largely in request in Japan, and that this dolls' festival is really a very important function in the national life.
New Year's festival is the great day of the year in Japan. In this respect it approximates to our Christmas. Not only the houses but the streets are decorated, and every town in the land has at this particular season an unusually festive appearance. At this period visits are exchanged, and New Year's presents are the correct thing.
On the Bon Matsuri, or All Souls' Day, the Japanese have a custom somewhat similar to that which obtains in Roman Catholic countries on the 2nd of November. On the first night of the feast the tombs of the dead during the past year are adorned with Japanese lanterns. On the second night the remaining tombs are likewise decorated, while on the third night it is the custom, although it is now somewhat falling into desuetude, for the relatives of the dead to launch toy vessels made of straw laden with fruit and coins as well as a lantern. These toy ships have toy sails, and the dead are supposed to sail in them to oblivion until next year's festival. These toy ships, of course, catch fire from the lanterns. Not so very many years ago the spectacle of these little vessels catching fire on some large bay was a very pretty one. I am afraid this feast has a tendency to die out—a fact which is greatly to be regretted, as there is behind it much that is poetical and beautiful.
Wrestling, as most people know, is a favourite amusement of the Japanese, and wrestling matches excite quite as much interest as boxing used to do in this country. Of late years English people have taken much interest in Ju Jitsu. The Japanese style of wrestling is certainly peculiar, and training does not apparently enter so much into it as is considered essential in reference to displays of strength or skill in this country. One sometimes sees very expert Japanese wrestlers who are not only fat but bloated.
The Japanese have long been celebrated archers, and archery, though it is largely on the wane, is much more in evidence than is the case in this country. It is an art in which a great many of the people excel, and archery grounds still exist in many of the towns.
Marriages and christenings have important parts in the social life of the people. These ceremonies, however, are not quite so obtrusive as they are in Western lands. As regards christenings, if I may use such a term in reference to a non-Christian people, the first, or almost the first, ceremony in reference to the infant in Japan is, or used to be, the shaving of its head thirty days after birth, after which it was taken to the temple to make its first offering, a pecuniary one, to the gods. This shaving of babies is no doubt diminishing, at any rate in the large towns. Indeed, everything in regard to the dressing of and dealing with the hair in Japan is, if I may use the term, in a state of transition.
Some writers on Japan have been impressed by the fact that the Japanese appear to be more concerned about the dead than the living. Ancestor worship plays an important part in the religious economy of Japanese life, and, as I have shown, the All Souls' Day in Japan is an important national festival. But the respect that these people have for their dead is not shown only on one or two or three days of the year; it may be deduced from a visit to any of their cemeteries. These are nearly always picturesquely situated, adorned with beautiful trees, and exquisitely kept in order. Indeed, the cemeteries are in striking contrast to those of European countries. The hideous and inartistic tombstones and monuments, the urns and angels, and the stereotyped conventionalities of graveyards in this country are all absent. There is usually only a simple tablet over each grave bearing the name of the deceased and the date of his death, and occasionally some simple word or two summing up succinctly those qualities he had, or was supposed to have, possessed. Near each grave is usually a flower-vase, and it is nearly always filled with fresh flowers. As I have remarked, flowers play an important part in the lives of the Japanese people, and with them no part is more important than the decoration of the graves of their dead. In England flowers also play an important part in connection with the dead—on the day of the funeral. It is then considered the correct thing for every one who knew the deceased to send a wreath to be placed upon his coffin. These wreaths, frequently exceedingly numerous, are conveyed to the cemetery, where they are allowed to rot on top of the grave. To me there is no more mournful sight than a visit to a great London cemetery, where one sees these rotting emblems, which quite palpably meant nothing save the practice of a conventionality. The Japanese, however poor his worldly circumstances may be, is not content with flowers, costly flowers on the day of the funeral; he places his vase alongside the grave of the departed, and by keeping that vase filled with fresh and beautiful flowers he sets forth as far as he possibly can his feeling of respect for the dead and the fact that the dead one still lives in his memory.
One cannot study, however cursorily, the lives of the Japanese people on the whole without being convinced of the fact that there is among them not only a total absence of but no desire whatever for luxury. The whole conception of life among these people seems to me to be a healthy and a simple one. It is not in any way, or at any rate to any great extent, a material conception. The ordinary Japanese—the peasant, for example—does not hanker after a time when he will have more to eat and more to drink. He finds himself placed in a certain position in life, and he attempts to get the best out of life that he can. I do not suggest, of course, that the Japanese peasant has ever philosophically discussed this matter with himself or perhaps thought deeply, if at all, about it. I am merely recording what his view of life is judging by his actions. He, I feel confident, enjoys life. In some respects his life no doubt is a hard one, but it has its alleviations, and if I judge him aright the ordinary Japanese does not let his mind dwell overmuch on his hardships, but is content to get what pleasure he can out of his surrounding conditions.
One very pleasing characteristic of the Japanese men and women to which I have already referred is the habit of personal cleanliness. In every town in the country public baths are numerous, and every house of any pretensions has a bath-room. The Japanese use extremely hot water to wash in. The women do not enter the bath immediately upon undressing, but in the first instance, throwing some pailsful of water over the body, they sit on the floor and scrub themselves with bran prior to entering the bath, performing this operation two or three times. Men do not indulge in a similar practice, and I have never been able to understand why this different mode of bathing should obtain in reference to the two sexes. In houses possessing a bath-room the bath consists merely of a wooden tub with a stove to heat the water. The bath is used by the whole family in succession—father, mother, children, servants. Shampooing also forms an important part of the Japanese system of cleanliness. It is not, as in this country, confined to the head, but approximates to what we term massage, and consists in a rubbing of the muscles of the body—a fact which not only has a beneficial effect physically, but is also efficacious in the direction of cleanliness.
Nearly every house in Japan possesses a garden, and the garden is a source of perpetual delight to every Japanese. He is enabled to give full vent therein to his love of flowers. Some critics have found fault with Japanese gardens on account of their monotony. Miniature lakes, grass plots, dwarfed trees, and trees clipped and trained into representations of objects animate and inanimate are the prevailing characteristics. A similar remark might, however, be made in regard to the gardens of, say, London suburban houses, with this exception—that the Japanese gardens show infinitely more good taste on the part of the cultivators of them. These little gardens throw a brightness into the life of the people which it is impossible to estimate.
In the chapter which I have devoted to the religions of the Japanese people, I have remarked that religion appears to be losing its influence upon the educated classes of the country, who are quickly developing into agnostics. No such remark can, however, be made in reference to the great mass of the Japanese people. For them religion is an actuality. Take it out of their lives and you will take much that makes their lives not only enjoyable but endurable. As a writer on Japan has somewhat irreverently observed, the Japanese "is very chummy with heaven. He just as readily invokes the aid of his household gods in the pursuit of his amours as in less illegitimate aspirations. He regards them as kind friends who will help, rather than as severe censors who have to be propitiated." The spiritual aspect of the Deity has not, I think, entered at all into the conceptions of the ordinary Japanese. His ideas in regard to God or the gods—his pantheon is a large and a comprehensive one—are altogether anthropomorphic. Every action of his life, however small, is in some way or other connected with an unseen world. In this matter, Buddhism and Shintoism have got rather mixed, and, as I have elsewhere said, if the founder of Buddhism were reincarnated in Japan to-day, he would find it difficult to recognise his religion in some of the developments of Buddhism as it exists in Japan. Nevertheless, this anthropomorphic idea of God, however it may fit the Japanese for the next world, undoubtedly comforts him in this. The religious festivals, which are numerous, are gala days in his life, and the services of religion bring him undoubtedly much consolation. But he does not of necessity go to a temple to conduct that uplifting of the heart which is, after all, the best service of man to the Creator. Every house has its little shrine, and although some superior persons may laugh at the act of burning a joss-stick, or some other trivial act of worship, as merely ignorant superstition, I think the unprejudiced man would look rather at the motive which inspired the act. If this poor ignorant native burns his joss-stick, makes his offering of a cake, lights a lamp in front of an image, or takes part in any other act which in effect means the lifting up of his soul to something higher and greater than himself that he can now only see through a glass darkly, surely he ought not to be condemned. At any rate I will pass no condemnation on him. Outside the accretions which have undoubtedly come upon Buddhism and Shintoism in the many centuries they have existed in Japan, I desire once more to emphasise the fact, to which I have previously made reference, that both these religions have had, and I believe still have, a beneficial effect, from a moral point of view, on the Japanese people. There is nothing in their ethical code to which the most censorious person can raise the slightest objection. They have inculcated on the Japanese people through all the ages, not only the necessity, but the advisability of doing good. Buddhism, in particular, has preached the doctrine of doing good, not only to one's fellow-creatures but to the whole of animate nature. These two religions have, in my opinion, placed the ethical conceptions of the Japanese people on a high plane.
In my remarks on the people of Japan I do not think I can more effectually sum up their salient characteristics than has been done by the writer of a guide to that country. "The courtly demeanour of the people," he says, "is a matter of remark with all who visit Japan, and so universal is the studied politeness of all classes that the casual observer would conclude that it was innate and born of the nature of the people; and probably the quality has become somewhat of a national characteristic, having been held in such high esteem, and so universally taught for so many centuries—at least, it seems to be as natural for them to be polite and formal as it is for them to breathe. Their religion teaches the fundamental tenets of true politeness, in that it inculcates the reverence to parents as one of the highest virtues. The family circle fosters the germs of the great national trait of ceremonious politeness. Deference to age is universal with the young. The respect paid to parents does not cease when the children are mature men and women. It is considered a privilege as well as an evidence of filial duty to study the wants and wishes of the parents, even before the necessities of the progeny of those who have households of their own."
I do not think that it is necessary for me to add much to these wise and pregnant remarks. The more one studies the Japanese people, the more I think one's admiration of them increases. They have, in my opinion, in many respects arrived, probably as the result of the accumulated experience of many ages, at a right perception and conception of the philosophy of life. Judged from the highest, and as I think only true, standpoint, that is the standpoint of happiness not in a merely material but in a spiritual form, they have reached a condition that but few nations have yet attained. They may provoke the pity of the man who believes in full diet and plenty of it, and who fails to comprehend how a people living on a meagre fare of fish and rice can be contented, much less happy, but the Japanese in his philosophy has realised a fact that happiness is something other than material, and that a man or woman can be largely independent of the accidentals of life and can attain a realisation of true happiness by keeping under the, too often, supremacy of matter over mind in the average human being.
Nothing is perhaps so strongly indicative of the progress that Japan has made as the record of her trade and commerce. I have no intention of inflicting on my readers a mass of figures, but I shall have to give a few in order to convey some idea as to the country's material development of recent years. Japan, it must be recollected, is in her youth in respect of everything connected with commerce and industry. When the country was isolated it exported and imported practically nothing, and its productions were simply such as were necessary for the inhabitants, then far less numerous than at present. When the Revolution took place trade and commerce were still at a very low ebb, and the Japanese connected with trade was looked upon with more or less of contempt, the soldier's and the politician's being the only careers held much in esteem. For innumerable centuries the chief industry of Japan was agriculture, and even to-day more than half of the population is engaged thereon. Partly owing to religious influences, and partly from other causes, the mass of the people have been, and still are in effect, vegetarians.
The present trade of Japan is in startling contrast with that of her near neighbour China, which, with an area about twenty-three times greater, and a population nearly nine times as large, has actually a smaller volume of exports. All the statistics available in reference to Japan's trade, commerce, and industries point to the enormous and annually increasing development of the country. Indeed, the trade has marvellously increased of recent years. Since 1890 the annual value of Japan's exports has risen from L5,000,000 to L35,000,000, the imports from L8,000,000 to L44,000,000. That the imports will continue in similar progression, or indeed to anything like the same amount, I do not believe. Japan of recent years has imported machinery, largely from Europe and America, and used it as patterns to be copied or improved upon by her own workmen. Out of 25 cotton-mills, for example, in Osaka, the machinery for one had been imported from the United States. The rest the Japanese have made themselves from the imported pattern. There were also in Osaka recently 30 flour-mills ready for shipment to the wheat regions of Manchuria. One of these mills had been imported from America, while the remaining 29 have been constructed in Osaka at a cost for each of not more than one-fifth that paid for the imported mill.
Shortly after peace had been declared between Russia and Japan, the Marquis Ito is reported to have said to Mr. McKinley: "You need not be afraid that we will allow Japanese labourers to come to the United States. We need them at home. In a couple of months we will bring home a million men from Manchuria. We are going to teach them all how to manufacture everything in the world with the best labour-saving machinery to be found. Instead of sending you cheap labour we will sell you American goods cheaper than you can manufacture them yourselves." The Japanese Government seems to some extent to be going in for a policy of State Socialism. The tobacco trade in the Empire is now entirely controlled by the Government. The Tobacco Law extinguished private tobacco dealers and makers, the Government took over whatever factories it deemed suitable for the purpose, built others, and now makes a profit of about L3,000,000 sterling annually, while the tobacco is said to be of a superior quality and the workmen better paid than was the case under private enterprise. How far Japan intends to go in the direction of State Socialism I am not in a position to say. Many modern Japanese statesmen are quite convinced of the fact that the private exploitation of industry is a great evil and one that ought to be put a stop to. On the other hand, there are Japanese statesmen who are firmly convinced that the State control of industries can only result in the destruction of individual initiative and genius, with the inevitable result of reducing everybody to a dead level of incompetence. In this matter Japan will have, as other nations have had, to work out her own salvation. In the process of experiment many mistakes will no doubt be made, but Japan starts with this advantage in respect of State Socialism, precisely as in regard to her Army and Navy—that her statesmen, her leading public men, her great thinkers, have no prejudices or preconceived ideas. All they desire is that the nation as a whole shall boldly advance on that path of progress by the lines which shall best serve to place the country in a commanding position among the Great Powers of the world, and at the same time to promote the happiness, comfort, and prosperity of the people.
The Japanese are great in imitation, but they are greater perhaps in their powers of adaptation. They have so far shown a peculiar faculty for fitting to Japanese requirements and conditions the machinery, science, industry, &c., necessary to their proper development. Japan is without doubt now keenly alive, marshalling all her industrial forces in the direction of seeking to become supreme in the trade and commerce of the Far East. The aim of Japanese statesmen is to make their country self-productive and self-sustaining. We may, I think, accordingly look forward to the time, not very far distant, when Japan will cease to import machinery and other foreign products for which there has hitherto been a brisk demand, when she will build her own warships and merchant steamers, as she now partially does, and generally be largely independent of those Western Powers of which she has heretofore been such a good customer.
At the present time the chief manufactures of the country are silk, cotton, cotton yarn, paper, glass, porcelain, and Japan ware, matches and bronzes, while shipbuilding has greatly developed of recent years. The principal imports are raw cotton, metals, wool, drugs, rails and machinery generally, as well as sugar and, strange to say, rice. Japan exports silk, cotton, tea, coal, camphor and, let me add, matches and curios. The trade in the latter has assumed considerable proportions, and I fear I must add that much of what is exported is made exclusively for the European market. According to the latest figures, the country's annual exports amounted to about L35,000,000, and its imports to about L44,000,000. I venture to prophesy that these figures will ere long be largely inverted.
Silk is the most important item of Japan's foreign trade. The rearing of silkworms has been assiduously undertaken from time immemorial, or "the ages eternal" according to some Japanese historians. Like so many other arts and industries of the country, silkworms are believed to have been introduced from China. For some time prior to the opening of Japan to European trade and influences the silk industry had rather languished owing to the enforcement of certain sumptuary laws confining the wearing of silk garments to a select class of the community, but so soon as Japan discarded her policy of isolation from the rest of the world the production of and demand for silk rapidly increased, and the trade in it has now assumed considerable dimensions. Strange to say, silk is still in Japan what linen was at one time in the North of Ireland—a by-industry of the farmer, a room in his house being kept as a rearing chamber for the silkworms, which are carefully looked after by his family. According to official returns, there are rather more than two and a half million families so engaged, and nearly half a million silk manufacturers. The largest part of the silk exported goes to the United States of America. Closely allied with the production of silk is the mulberry-tree, the leaves of which form the staple food of the silkworm. This plant is cultivated with great care throughout the country, and indeed there are many mulberry farms entirely devoted to the culture of the tree and the conservation of its leaves.
Rice, as I have elsewhere stated, forms the principal article of food of the Japanese people. Japan at present does not produce quite sufficient rice for the consumption of her population, and a large quantity has, accordingly, to be imported. The danger of this for an island country has been quite as often emphasised by Japanese statesmen as the similar danger in respect of the wheat supply of Great Britain has been by English economists. Many practical steps have been taken on the initiative of the Japanese Government in the direction of improving the cultivation of rice, the irrigation of the fields, &c. As time goes on no doubt the food of the people will become more varied. Indeed, there has been a movement in that direction, especially in the large towns. A nation which largely lives on one article of diet, the production of which is subject to the vicissitudes of good and bad harvests, is, it must be admitted, not in a satisfactory position in reference to the food of its people.
If rice is the national food, tea is emphatically the national beverage, despite the large consumption of sake and the increasing consumption of the really excellent beer now brewed in Japan. Like most other things, the tea-shrub is said to have been imported into Japan from China. Almost since the opening of the country, the United States has been Japan's best customer in respect of tea, and she has from time to time fallen into line with the requirements of the United States Government in regard to the quality of tea permitted to be imported into that country. For instance, when, in 1897, the United States Legislature passed a law forbidding the importation of tea of inferior quality and providing for the inspection of all imported tea by a fixed standard sample, the Tea Traders Association of Japan established tea inspection offices in Yokohama and other ports, and all the tea exported from the country was and still is passed through these offices. The tea is rigidly tested, and if it comes up to the required standard is shipped in bond to the United States. The quality of the tea is thus amply guaranteed, and it, accordingly, commands a high price in the American Continent. The value of the tea exported to the United States amounts to something like L1,200,000, and there are no signs of any falling off in the demand for it. Canada is also a good customer of Japan for the same article, but Great Britain and the other European countries at present take no Japanese tea. I do not know why this is the case as the tea is really excellent, and it has, as regards what is exported, the decided advantage of being inspected by experts and the quality guaranteed. The tea industry is undoubtedly one of great national importance, the total annual production amounting to about 65,000,000 pounds, the greater portion of which is, of course, consumed in the country.
I have already referred to the importance of Japanese arboriculture, and to the steps taken by the Japanese Government in reference to the administration of forests and the planting with trees of various parts of the country not suitable for agriculture. The State at the present time owns about 54,000,000 acres of forests, which are palpably a very great national asset. I may mention that the petroleum industry is growing in Japan. The quantity of petroleum in the country is believed to be very great, and every year new fields are being developed. The consumption of oil by the people is considerable, and it is hoped that ere long Japan will be able to produce all that she requires. The petroleum is somewhat crude, providing about 50 per cent. of burning oil.
Tobacco, as I have elsewhere remarked, is now a State monopoly, and forms a considerable item in the State revenue. The quality has much improved since the manufacture of it has ceased to be a private industry. The Japanese are inveterate smokers, and the intervention of the State in this matter, although it has been criticised by political economists in the country and out of it, and is undoubtedly open to criticism from some points of view, has, I think, been justified by results. The making of sugar from beetroot has been attempted in Japan, but the results have not been over-successful. The efforts in this direction are, however, being persisted in, and it is hoped that, especially in Formosa, the beet—sugar industry may develop in importance.
The manufacture of paper in Japan has long been an important national industry. Paper has been and still is used there for many purposes for which it has never been utilised in European countries. Originally it was largely made from rice, and the mulberry shrub has also been used for paper manufacture. The rise and development of a newspaper press in Japan and the impetus given to printing has, of course, largely increased the demand for paper. This is being met by the adaptation of other vegetable products for the purpose of making paper, and it seems quite certain that Japan will be totally independent of any importation of foreign paper to meet the great and greatly increasing demand for that article in the country.
Salt is, I may remark, a Government monopoly in Japan. No one except the Government, or some person licensed by the Government, is allowed to import salt from abroad, while no one can manufacture salt without Government permission. Salt made by salt manufacturers is purchased by the Government, which sells it at a fixed price. This particular monopoly has only recently been established, and the reason put forward for it is a desire to improve and develop the salt industry and at the same time to add to the national revenue. Whether a monopoly in what is a necessary of life is economically defensible is a question, to my mind, hardly open to argument. That the revenue of the country will benefit by the salt monopoly is unquestionable.
As might have been expected, the opening up of Japan to Western influences has induced or produced, inter alia, some Western forms of political and social and, indeed, socialistic associations. The antagonism between capital and labour and the many vexed and intricate questions involved in the quarrel are already beginning to make themselves felt in Japan. It was, I suppose, inevitable. Labour is an important factor in an industrial nation like Japan, and there is already heard the cry—call it fact or fallacy as you choose—with which we are now so familiar in this country and on the Continent, that labour is the source of all wealth. Japan will no doubt, like other countries, sooner or later have to face a solution of the problems involved in these recurring disputes and this apparently deep-rooted antagonism between the possessors of wealth and the possessors of muscle. Already many associations have been established whose aim and object is to voice the sentiments of labour and assert its rights. Indeed, there is a newspaper, the Labour World, the champion of the rights of the Japanese workmen. So far the law in Japan does not regard with as tolerant an eye as is the case in this country labour demonstrations and the occasionally reckless oratory of labour champions. The police regulations forbid the working classes embarking in collective movements and demonstrating against their employers in the matter of wages and working hours. A suggestion of a strike of workmen is officially regarded with an unfriendly eye, and strikes themselves, picketing, and various other Western methods of coercing employers to come round to the views of the employed, would not at present be tolerated in Japan. No doubt these Western devices will assert themselves in time. The attempt to keep down the effective outcome of labour organisation in a country with an enormous labour population is not likely to be successful for long. Socialism is making great progress in Japan, and the State has, whether consciously or not, given it a certain amount of countenance by the steps it has taken in reference to the tobacco and salt industries, &c. The extent to which newspapers are now read in Japan—a matter I refer to more fully in another chapter—will undoubtedly tend to mould public opinion to such a degree that no Government could afford to resist it.
The trade, commerce, and industries of Japan appear to me to be, on the whole, in a healthy and flourishing condition. In them, and of course in her industrious population, Japan possesses a magnificent asset. The country is rich in undeveloped resources of various kinds, the people are patriotic to a degree, and I feel sure that the additional burdens which the recent war with Russia has for the time entailed will be cheerfully borne. I am confident, moreover, that under the wise guidance of the Emperor and her present statesmen Japan will make successful efforts to liquidate her public debt, to relieve herself of her foreign liabilities, and generally to proceed untrammelled and unshackled on that path of progress and material development that, I believe, lies before her, and which will, I am sure, at no far-distant date place her securely and permanently in the position of one of the Great World Powers.
JAPAN'S FINANCIAL BURDENS AND RESOURCES
There are a good many people, some so-called financial experts among the number, who are of opinion, and have expressed themselves to that effect, that the financial position of Japan is an unsound one. They depict that country as weighed down with a load of debt, mostly incurred for her warlike operations against Russia, and the revenue as largely mortgaged for the payment of the interest on that debt. Some of these experts have told us that the facility with which Japan was able to raise loans on comparatively moderate terms in the European money-markets, and the rush that was made by investors to subscribe to her loans, are matters which must have a baneful effect on the rulers of Japan. These latter, we are assured, found themselves in the position not only of being able to raise money easily, but of positively having to refuse money which was forced upon them by eager investors when the Japanese loans were put upon the market. The result was, so it has been said, to encourage extravagance in expenditure and to lead Japan to suppose that whenever she wanted money for any purpose she had only to come to Europe and ask for it. The financial experts who so argue, if such puerile assertions can be dignified by the name of argument, talk as if Japan were like a child with a new toy. The Japanese statesmen—in which term I of course include the Mikado, one of the world's greatest statesmen—are by no means so simple as some of these financial experts would have us believe. Indeed, I will go further, and venture to assert that the statesmen are far more astute than the experts. The former emphatically know what they are about, financially and otherwise, and they are assuredly in no need of any Occidental giving them a lead in the matter. If I desired to adduce any evidence on that head I need only point to the Financial and Economical Annual of Japan, published every year at the Government printing office in Tokio. This exhaustive work deals with the different departments of Government. The section I have before me, which is for the year 1905, treats of the Department of Finance and it certainly serves, and very effectively serves, to show that the Japanese are not, as they so often have been depicted, children in matters of this kind. This Government handbook is not only exhaustive but illuminative. Published in English, everything of which it treats is explained in simple and concise language. There is an entire absence of that official jargon which tends, even if it is not intended, to render Government publications in this country unintelligible to the ordinary reader. The plain man who peruses this Japanese year-book can at least understand it, and he will, among other things, grasp the fact that the Japanese have got the whole question of finance in all its ramifications at their fingers' ends.
The total National Debt of Japan in 1905 amounted to 994,437,340 yen, or, roughly, L100,000,000 sterling—a sum which the publication I have referred to works out to be at the rate of 19.548 yen, or about 39s. per head of the population. Of the debt some L43,000,000 was incurred to defray a part of the cost of the war with Russia. As an indication of the estimate of the credit of Japan within her own territory as well as abroad, I may record the fact that the Exchequer Bonds which were issued in the country in 1904 and 1905 for the purpose of defraying the extraordinary expenses of the war were largely over-subscribed, the first issue to the extent of 452 per cent., the second 322 per cent., the third 246 per cent., and the fourth 490 per cent.—a record surely! Abroad Japan's loans were no less successful. The three issues made in Europe during the war were literally rushed for by the investing public, with the result that whereas in May, 1904, Japan offered for subscription a loan of L10,000,000, the issue price being L93 10s. and the rate of interest 6 per cent., in March, 1905, despite the fact of two previous loans and the exhaustion of the country incidental to a long and expensive war, she was able to place on the market a loan of thirty millions at 4-1/2 per cent. interest, the issue price being L90.
A National Debt which amounts to less than L2 per head of the population compares very favourably with that of Great Britain, which totals up to something like L19 per head, leaving out of account the immense and yearly growing indebtedness of our great cities and towns. Furthermore, almost the whole of the National Debt of this country, as of the European Powers generally, has been incurred not only for unproductive, but as a matter of fact for destructive purposes. The vast loans of Europe have been raised for the purpose of waging bloody wars, some at least of which history has pronounced to have been gigantic, not to say wicked, blunders. Much of the National Debt of Japan, on the contrary, has been incurred for useful, productive, and even remunerative purposes—improving the means of transport, constructing railways, &c. The various loans outstanding up to the year 1887, on which Japan was paying very high rates of interest, as much as 9 per cent. on one foreign loan, were in that year converted and consolidated by the issue of a loan bearing interest at the rate of 5 per cent. per annum—a proceeding which materially improved Japan's financial position and demonstrated that her credit stood high.
The war with China in 1894-5 necessitated fresh borrowing to the amount of over L12,000,000. Subsequent loans were issued in order to extend the railway system of the country and so develop its trade, for such public works as the establishment of a steel foundry, the extension of the telephone system, the introduction of the leaf tobacco monopoly, for the development of Formosa and, another most important matter, the redemption of paper-money. In the early days of her expansion Japan suffered greatly from the evils of inconvertible paper-money and strenuous efforts had for a long time been made by the Government for the redemption of the paper-money and the improvement of the general financial condition. In 1890 it was found that the reserve fund kept in the Treasury for the exchange of paper-money of 1 yen and upwards was insufficient to meet the demand. To meet this emergency, the maximum amount of convertible bank-notes issued by the Bank of Japan against securities was increased from 70,000,000 yen (L7,169,927) to 85,000,000 yen (L8,706,340), of which sum 22,000,000 yen were advanced to the Government without interest. This sum added to the original reserve fund of 10,000,000 yen (L1,024,275) was employed for completing the redemption of paper-money of 1 yen and upward. Subsequent loans for the purposes of the war with Russia I have already referred to. Besides funded Japan has also, like this country, had experience of unfunded debt in the shape of Treasury Bills, temporary loans from the Bank of Japan, &c. Financial operations of this kind are, however, I imagine, necessary for all Governments to meet current expenses. To briefly recapitulate Japan's indebtedness and borrowings generally up to the end of March, 1905, these amounted to, in all, L140,045,030, of which sum L38,187,369 has from time to time been paid off, leaving a balance of L101,857,661 owing by the nation.
When we consider that for this large, but not unduly large, sum Japan has waged two considerable wars, and raised herself to the position of a great naval and military Power, that she has developed and organised a magnificent Army, provided herself with a strong, efficient, and thoroughly up-to-date Navy, has constructed railways and public works, and generally has placed herself in a capital position to work out her own destiny free from the fear of foreign interference, I altogether fail to see how she can be accused of financial extravagance. There is certainly no extravagance in the administration of her finances. London might, I suggest, learn much from Tokio in this matter. The system of financial check and thorough and rapid audit of public accounts is in Japan as near perfection as anything of the kind can be. Though the late war did produce, as I suppose all wars do, peculation, most of it was discovered and the punishment of the culprits was sharp and decisive. There was no opportunity for financial scandals in the campaign with Russia such as occurred during the South African War. Every country, of course, produces rogues, and war seems, inter alia, to breed roguery on a large scale, but in the Japanese methods of finance the checks are so effective that roguery in the public services has a bad time of it in war as well as in peace.
As I have already remarked, I am of opinion the debt of Japan is by no means excessive, especially in view of the fact that a large part of it has been devoted to purposes which are profitable. The debt works out, as I have shown, at something under L2 per head of the population, and that population is steadily increasing. That Japan is well able to pay the interest on her debt there can be no question whatever, and that when the present debt becomes due for redemption she will be able to raise the necessary funds for that purpose on terms even more favourable than those at which she has hitherto placed her loans I am confident. I must emphasise the fact, since so many persons seem to be oblivious of it, that this is no mushroom South American Republic borrowing money merely for the purpose of spending it on very unproductive and occasionally very doubtful objects, but a Great World Power sensible of its obligations, sensible likewise of the policy and necessity of maintaining the national credit, and confident that the national resources and the patriotism of its people will enable it not only to bear the present financial burdens but even greater, should these be found necessary for the defence of the country or for its development.
The ability of a nation as of an individual to discharge its debts depends of course upon its resources. No man possessing even a perfunctory knowledge of the resources of Japan would surely venture to express alarm at the increase in her debt and scepticism as to her being able to meet the annual interest on that debt as well as the constantly increasing expenses of administration. The resources of the country have, in my opinion, as yet scarcely been realised, and certainly have not been anything like fully developed. And when I use the word resources I do not employ it as it is so often employed in respect of minerals, although the mineral wealth of Japan is considerable. Her resources, as I estimate them, are to be found in her large and rapidly increasing population—a population perhaps the most industrious in the world, persevering, enterprising, methodical, and performing, whatever be its appointed task, that task with all its might as a labour of love, in fact, not as the irksome toil of the worker who is a worker simply because he can be nothing else. It is this great industrial hive which in the near future will supply China and other Eastern countries with all, or nearly all, those articles they now obtain elsewhere. What I may term the European industries of Japan have of recent years been largely developed or evolved. Take, for example, an item, insignificant in one way—that of matches. In 1904 matches to the value of 9,763,860 yen, or, roughly, one million sterling, were exported, and, strange to relate, European clothing to the value of 287,464 yen.
The glib people who talk about Japan biting off more than she can chew, and with a light heart borrowing money she will find a difficulty in repaying, have apparently not grasped the fact that Japan possesses many very eminent financiers who have quite as much, if not more, claim to be considered financial experts than some of those gentlemen who pose in that capacity here in England. The Japanese financiers have, moreover, the advantage of an intimate knowledge of their own country and its potentialities. The Japanese Government has always had the benefit of the advice of these singularly able men, and the result has been that its financial operations of recent years at any rate have invariably been well organised and skilfully and economically effected. I cannot speak too highly of the capacity shown by the Japanese in everything relating to banking. The Banks—of course I refer to the National Banks and not to the European Banks having branches in the country—have very quickly attained a high status in the International Banking world, and are undoubtedly on a very firm financial basis. And there are many great houses in Japan which, although not ostensibly bankers, cannot be left out of consideration in any remarks on this head. They occupy a position somewhat analogous to that of the Rothschilds in this country. Let me take for example the house of Mitsui, the name of which constantly crops up in Japanese finance.
The history of this ancient house has much that is picturesque about it, reminding one of the old merchant princes of Venice. The family originally belonged to the Jujiwara clan, and its origin is traced back to a certain Mitsui who lived as a feudal lord in the fifteenth century. At the time of the fall of the Ashikaja Shogun he lived in a state of perpetual war, and the god of war was not propitious to him. He retired to a neighbouring village and became the overlord of the district. He was succeeded by his son, who removed to Matsusuzaka, where he settled down as a private citizen and man of business, and laid the foundations of the present Mitsui house. In the middle of the sixteenth century his descendant became a merchant. His son moved to Kyoto, where he started a large goods store, which is represented in Tokio to-day by the Mitsui Hofukuten. Subsequently, at the beginning of the seventeenth century, a member of the same house invented and introduced the system of retailing for cash, which was an absolute revolution of business methods at that time in Japan. In addition to that he organised an excellent system for the remittance of money from one part of the country to the other, as also a carrier's business—two very remarkable facts when one remembers in what a primitive and elementary condition of development the monetary business of Japan was at that period. In the year 1687 the Mitsuis were appointed by the Government purveyors and controllers of the public exchange, and in recognition of the excellent manner in which the duties were performed, they were given the grant of a large estate in Yeddo.
In 1723 the head of the family, carrying out the verbal wishes of his father, assembled his brothers and sisters and then and there drew up in writing a set of family rules which have ever since been practically the articles of association of the house of Mitsui. These rules embodied on business-like lines and in business-like language the principle that the family and not the individual forms the ultimate union in Eastern life. It was not one or the other of the six brothers of which the family consisted when these rules were drawn up that was to trade, but the whole family as one unit. There was to be unlimited liability as far as the property of each one was concerned, and the profits of all were to be divided. This agreement is the identical one under which the great house of Mitsui is run to-day. Under it the family prospered exceedingly, so that when Japan decided to take on some portion of Western civilisation, the Mitsuis acted as the principal financial agents of the Government, and it was mainly owing to the enormous financial resources of the house placed by them at the disposal of the Government that the country was enabled at the period of the revolution to pass successfully through what might have been a most disastrous crisis. As some reward for the great services rendered at the time, the present head of the house was created a peer. Since the opening of Japan to Western influence the business of the Mitsuis has enormously increased, and has been extended in various directions. In 1876 their money exchange business was converted into a Bank on the joint stock system, but with unlimited liability as far as the Mitsui family was concerned. In the same year, for the purpose of engaging in general foreign trade, the Mitsui Bussan Kwiasha was formed, better known in Europe and America as Mitsui & Co. In 1899 the family acquired from the Government the concession of the Meike coal-mines, and there was then formed the Mitsui Kaishan, or Mining Department, which has the management of this mining concession together with many others which have since been acquired.
To-day the house of Mitsui consists of eleven families under a system of joint liability bound together by the old rules drawn up close upon two centuries back. The wealth of the collective families is unquestionably great, and the confidence of the people of Japan in this great financial firm is shown by the immense amount of money it holds on deposit. In one or other branches of their varied businesses they give employment to a very large number of persons. They have initiated an exceedingly interesting system of insurance for their employees. Each is allowed 10 per cent. interest on his wages up to three years on condition of its being deposited in the Mitsui Bank, with the proviso that the sum shall be forfeited in case of the embezzlement of any of the Company's money. During the late war, as well as in that with China, the Mitsui house had immense transactions with the Government in providing war material, steamers for transport, supplies, &c., and their magnificent organisation enabled them to carry out their various undertakings without the slightest hitch. I may also add that the name of Mitsui headed the various charitable funds which were started in the country in connection with the war. I am sure that this necessarily imperfect sketch of this famous Japanese house will convince my readers of the fact that in finance, as in other respects, Japan has already shown a capacity for holding her own with Western nations.
I have headed this chapter "Japan's Financial Burdens and Resources," but I am not quite sure that the word "burdens" is not a misnomer. Japan appears to me—and I may claim to have studied the matter with some little attention—to have no financial burdens, if burdens be taken to mean something that is inconveniently felt, that is difficult to carry. There is here no people weighed down under the crushing incubus of debt. There is a springiness and alertness, a go-ahead energy about the nation—symptoms not usually connected with the carrying of burdens. Japan seems to me to be in somewhat the same position in regard to finance as France was after the close of the war with Germany when the former nation found itself saddled with a tremendous debt incurred for war expenditure and the indemnity which had to be paid to the conquering nation. The fact, however, as we all know, instead of depressing the French people seems to have put the whole country on its mettle, with the result that the heavy interest of the enormous debt was easily met and effective steps taken to reduce the principal. The borrowings of Japan in Europe in the future are likely to be small, because she will be able to obtain what she needs at home, and provided she is not drawn into any war she will find her expanding revenue sufficient not only for the current expenses of administration as well as for the interest on her debt, but over and above all this enabling her year by year to provide a sinking fund which will in due course materially reduce even if it does not entirely extinguish the national indebtedness. In my opinion Japan can look forward to its financial future with equanimity. In regard to its financial past it has the satisfaction of thinking that heavy in one sense though its financial obligations be they have not at any rate been squandered for unworthy purposes.
In England a vast amount was last year heard respecting education. Speakers on platforms and writers in newspapers and other periodical literature day by day and week by week for many months kept pouring forth words, words, words on this matter. It is not my intention to refer at all beyond what I have said to the somewhat lively education controversy in England which even as I write is by no means ended. Any such reference would be out of place in a book of this kind, and even were it not I confess I have no inclination whatever to rush into this particular fray. But it seems to me a curious fact that other countries, Japan amongst the number, have long since settled, and apparently settled satisfactorily, a problem which here in England is still under discussion, acrid discussion, and is yet quite evidently far from being permanently solved. The provisions and arrangements a nation has made for the education of its youth are, to my mind, an excellent test of the precise standard to which its civilisation has attained; because the future of a nation is with its youth, and that future must largely depend on the extent to and the manner in which its youth have been taught not only all those subjects which are commonly classified as knowledge but their duties and responsibilities as citizens. Judged by this test, Japan has every right to rank high among the nations of the world. And it can also be said of her in this matter that the education of her people is no new thing. It is not one among the many things she has learned from the West. Education was in vogue in Japan when that country was isolated from the rest of the world. Certainly Japan's contact with Europe and America has vastly improved her educational system, enabling her, as it has done, to utilise to the full the great advance there has been in scientific knowledge of every description during the last half-century or so. But, as far back as the seventh century, if history or tradition be correct, an educational code was promulgated in Japan. Certainly this code was limited in its application to certain classes, but education was gradually extended throughout the country, and even in days somewhat remote from the present time every member of the Samurai class was expected to include the three R's, or the Japanese equivalent of them, in his curriculum. The ordinary Samurai was, in fact, as regards reading and writing an educated man at a time when British Generals and even British Sovereigns were somewhat hazy in regard to their orthography and caligraphy.
Soon after the Revolution of 1868 a Board of Education was instituted in Japan, and the whole educational system of the country—because one had existed under the rule of a Tycoon—was taken in hand and reorganised. Three years later a separate Department of Education was formed at a time almost synonymous with the setting up of School Boards in England. As soon as it got itself into working order the Education Department despatched a number of specially selected Japanese to various European countries as well as to the United States of America to inquire into and report upon the system of education in existence and its suitability for adaptation or adoption in Japan. When these representatives returned from their mission and sent in their reports a code was compiled and the Mikado, in promulgating it, declared the aims of his Government to be that education should be so diffused throughout the country that eventually there might not be a village with an ignorant family nor a family with an ignorant member. It was a noble ideal, and I may remark that, though of course it has not been realised in all its fulness and probably will not be for very many years to come, it has been to a larger extent attained than a somewhat similar ideal which the late Mr. Forster is supposed to have entertained in reference to the effect of the Education Act which established a system of compulsory education for England and Wales.
In succeeding years various changes were made in the system of national education, and in 1883 that which now exists was brought into force. This is in effect compulsory education. Since education was first organised on any plan in Japan the number under instruction has steadily risen, and at present more than 90 per cent. of the children regularly attend school. In 1873 the number was 1,180,000; it is now over 5,000,000. There are about 29,000 primary schools, of which about 6,500 are higher primary schools with a million pupils. The total cost of the primary schools is somewhere about L3,000,000.
The question will no doubt be asked, What kind of education do these 5,000,000 pupils receive, and to what extent is it adapted to make them good citizens of a great Empire? The subjects taught in the ordinary primary schools embrace morals, the Japanese language, arithmetic and gymnastics. One or more subjects, such as drawing, singing, or manual work may be added, and, in schools for females, sewing. In the higher primary schools the subjects of instruction include morals, the Japanese language, arithmetic, Japanese history, geography, science, drawing, singing, and gymnastics, and, in schools for females, sewing. Besides these agriculture, commerce, and manual work, as well as the English language, are optional subjects. The moral lessons taught in these schools, I may remark, are not based upon any particular religious doctrines or dogmas, but are entirely and absolutely secular.
Children have to be 6 years of age before commencing their scholastic education, and have to remain at school until they have attained 14 years. The parents or guardians of children are compelled to send them to school to complete, as a minimum of education, the ordinary primary school course. Education in the higher primary schools is not compulsory, and it is, accordingly, a pleasing fact that 60 per cent. of those children who have passed through the ordinary schools voluntarily go to the higher primary schools.
Every municipal or rural community is compelled to maintain one or more primary schools sufficient, as regards size and the number of the staff, to educate all the children in the district. The establishment of higher primary schools is voluntary, and that so many of them are in existence is ample proof that the benefit of higher education is fully appreciated in Japan. Instruction in all the schools is practically free. No fee may be charged save with the consent of the local governor, and when one is imposed it must not exceed the equivalent of 5d. per month in a town school and half that sum in a rural school.
As regards secondary education, it is compulsory for one school to be established in each of the forty-seven prefectures into which Japan is divided. The course of study at the secondary schools extends over five years, with an optional supplementary course limited to twelve months. The curriculum of the secondary school embraces morals, the Japanese and Chinese languages, one foreign language, history and geography, mathematics, natural history, physics and chemistry, the elements of law and political economy, drawing, singing, gymnastics, and drills. The course of study is uniform in all Japanese schools. Candidates for admission to the secondary schools must be over 12 years of age, and have completed the second year's course of the higher primary school. There are about three hundred of the secondary schools in existence—a number, as will be seen, six times as large as that obliged to be established by law. The pupils number over a hundred thousand and the cost approximates L500,000.
There are also 170 high schools for girls besides normal schools in each prefecture designed to train teachers for the primary and secondary schools. The course of study in these schools is for men four years, for women three years. The whole of the pupils' expenses, including the cost of their board and lodging, is paid out of local funds. There are also higher normal schools designed to train teachers for the ordinary normal schools. It will thus be seen that there is a systematic course of education for what I may term the common people in Japan, extending from the higher normal to the ordinary primary school.