There are besides in Japan higher schools, the object of which is to prepare young men for a University education. The expense of these schools is entirely borne by the State. Japan prides herself, and justly, in being unique in the possession of such schools. The course of study in them extends over three years and is split up into three departments. The pupils select the particular department into which they desire to enter, and their selection, of course, depends on the precise course of study they intend to take up on entering the University. The first department is for those who propose to study law or literature, the second for those who mean to go in for engineering, science, or agriculture, and the third for aspirants as medical men. Candidates for admission to these schools must be over 17 years of age and have completed the secondary school course.
A reference to these higher schools naturally leads up to the Imperial University of Tokio, as well as the kindred University at Kyoto. There are six colleges in the former, viz., law, medicine, engineering, literature, science, and agriculture, while Kyoto University possesses four colleges, viz., law, medicine, literature and science, and engineering. When the Imperial University was established almost all the Professors therein were Europeans or Americans, but there has been a material alteration in this respect, and now the foreign Professors are few. Most of the Japanese instructors have, however, been educated abroad. The course of study extends over four years in the case of students of law and medicine, and three years in the case of students of other subjects. There is not the same freedom in regard to study as exists at Oxford, Cambridge, and some other more or less leisurely seats of learning. In the Japanese Universities the students have to enter upon a regular prescribed course of study with some few optional subjects. The Universities confer degrees in law, medicine, engineering, literature, science, and agriculture. The examinations leading up to and for the degrees are much more severe than those in any University in this country, with the possible exception of that of London. It may interest my readers to learn that the largest number of degrees are taken in law, the smallest in science. We have heard a great deal of recent years respecting technical education in Great Britain, which many persons suggest is at a very low ebb. For what is in one sense a new country, Japan seems to have taken steps to provide an excellent system of technical education. There are a small number of State higher technical schools, agricultural, commercial, and industrious. Technical schools of lower grades are maintained by prefectures and urban bodies, and they receive grants in aid from national funds. There are in all about four hundred technical schools in the country. The few facts respecting education in Japan which I have put as tersely as possible before my readers, should, I think, convince them of the fact that in regard to this all-important question Japan has made and is making vigorous efforts—and efforts all of which are in the right direction. It must be remembered that in the education of her youth she has to face difficulties which are altogether unknown in this as in other European countries. One of these difficulties is the fact that Japanese literature is more or less mixed up with Chinese literature, and, accordingly, it is necessary for the Japanese to learn Chinese as well as Japanese characters, and also to study the Chinese classics. Another difficulty is the one I touched on in my remarks on the Japanese language, viz., the difference between the written and spoken languages of Japan. In old times the written and spoken languages were no doubt identical, but Chinese literature influenced the country to so great an extent that the written language in time became more and more Chinese, while the spoken dialect remained Japanese. The consequence is that the written language is more or less a hotch-potch of Chinese characters and the Japanese alphabet. Whether it will be possible to overcome these obvious difficulties remains to be seen. Several remedies have been proposed but none has so far been adopted. One remedy was the use of the Japanese alphabet alone for the written language, another the introduction and adoption of the European alphabet. Manifestly the difficulty of effecting such a change as the adoption of either of these plans would involve would be enormous. Still the retention of the present complicated system is without doubt the great obstacle in the way of educational progress in Japan, and it speaks eloquently for the patience and pertinacity of the youth of that country that they have effected so much in so short a time in view of the difficulties that have had to be encountered.
The strong points of the youth of Japan in the matter of education are, in my opinion, their great powers of concentration and their indomitable application to study and perseverance in whatever they undertake. Of their powers of absorption of any subject there can be no question. It has been urged, as against this, that the Japanese possess the defect not uncommon among people of any race, viz., that the capacity for rapidly assimilating knowledge is to some extent counteracted or rendered abortive by an incapacity to practically apply that knowledge. I may say for myself that though I have often heard this objection urged I have not seen any indications of this lack of ability to practically apply knowledge on the part of the Japanese. I should have thought that the Russo-Japanese war would have afforded ample demonstration of the ability of the Japanese to put to good account the knowledge they had acquired and assimilated in their seminaries.
I certainly think that the system of education, as it exists in Japan to-day, is one not only admirably adapted for the people of that country, but one from which some Western nations might learn a few things. Japan has, in her education system, settled the religious question simply by ignoring it. Her morality as inculcated in every school in the country, is a purely secular morality. I know that there are some persons who will deem secular morality a contradiction in terms. Indeed there are many eminent Japanese who do not approve of the present system. Count Okuma, for example, one of the ablest men in the country, bewails the lack of a moral standard. The upper classes have, he remarks, Chinese philosophy, the great mass of the people have nothing. In the Western world, he points out, Christianity supplies the moral standard, while in Japan some desire to return to old forms, others prefer Christianity; some lean on Kant, others on other philosophers. Christianity may supply the moral standard in the Western world, as Count Okuma asserts, but if he has studied recent politics in a particular part of the Western world, he must have seen that Christianity in that part is by no means in accord as to the teaching of religion in its schools, or what moral code, if any, should be substituted for dogmatic instruction. Perhaps, after all, Japan has not decided amiss in for the present at any rate deciding that secular morality shall be the only ethical instruction given in her schools. That code which she teaches, so far as I have had an opportunity of studying it, is one which contains nothing that could be in the slightest degree objected to by the votaries of any religious system either in the East or in the West.
Although it has no direct connection with morality, secular or otherwise, it may be of interest if I give here a synopsis of the teaching given in Japanese schools in reference to the behaviour of the pupils towards foreigners. These rules have been collected by an English newspaper in Japan, and they certainly serve to show that the youth of Japan are in this matter receiving instruction which, whether regarded from an ethical standpoint or merely that of good manners, cannot be too highly commended.
"Never call after foreigners passing along the streets or roads.
"When foreigners make inquiries, answer them politely. If unable to make them understand, inform the police of the fact.
"Never accept a present from a foreigner when there is no reason for his giving it, and never charge him anything above what is proper.
"Do not crowd around a shop when a foreigner is making purchases, thereby causing him much annoyance. The continuance of this practice disgraces us as a nation.
"Since all human beings are brothers and sisters, there is no reason for fearing foreigners. Treat them as equals and act uprightly in all your dealings with them. Be neither servile nor arrogant.
"Beware of combining against the foreigner and disliking him because he is a foreigner; men are to be judged by their conduct and not by their nationality.
"As intercourse with foreigners becomes closer and extends over a series of years, there is danger that many Japanese may become enamoured of their ways and customs and forsake the good old customs of their forefathers. Against this danger you must be on your guard.
"Taking off your hat is the proper way to salute a foreigner. The bending of the body low is not to be commended.
"When you see a foreigner be sure and cover up naked parts of the body.
"Hold in high regard the worship of ancestors and treat your relations with warm cordiality, but do not regard a person as your enemy because he or she is a Christian.
"In going through the world you will often find a knowledge of a foreign tongue absolutely essential.
"Beware of selling your souls to foreigners and becoming their slaves. Sell them no houses or lands.
"Aim at not being beaten in your competition with foreigners. Remember that loyalty and filial piety are our most precious national treasures and do nothing to violate them."
It seems to me a pity that education on somewhat similar lines to that embodied in these interesting rules cannot be imparted to the youth of this and other European countries. It would certainly tend, I think, in the direction of good manners which are, I fear, sadly lacking in many of the pupils who have undergone a course of School Board instruction in England.
A question that may arise in regard to the details of Japanese education is how far and in what degree do the pertinacity and zeal of the youth of Japan for knowledge affect their physique. We know that mens sana in corpore sano is the ideal at which every one concerned with the education of young people of both sexes ought to strive. There is no doubt whatever that too close an attention to study of any kind, too constant an exercise of the mental faculties, unless it is accompanied by a corresponding exercise of the body, very often has an injurious effect upon the human frame. Count Okuma, in referring to this matter, has pointed out that the great difficulty of the difference between the written and spoken languages is a very serious tax upon the pupils in all the schools, necessitating, as it does, the duplicating of their work. So much time, he considers, has to be spent by them in study on account of this duplicating that it is quite impossible for students to have sufficient physical exercise, while if it were decided to devote more time to exercise, the years allotted to education would have to be lengthened—a fact which must involve a serious loss in regard to the work of the nation. I do not take quite such a pessimistic view of the lack of physical education of the youth of Japan. In the first place, gymnastics form part, an important part, of the course of instruction in all schools throughout the country, and in the next place the young people of Japan, so far as I have been able to arrive at an opinion in the matter, are almost if not quite as enthusiastic in regard to various forms of outdoor sport as are those of this country. The buoyancy and enthusiasm of youth are, indeed, very much the same all over the world. It is only when youth comes to what are very often erroneously described as years of discretion that artificiality begins to assert itself. Base-ball, lawn-tennis, bicycling, and rowing are all extensively patronised by the young men of Japan, and cricket has of recent years come considerably into vogue. The students of the Imperial University have not only shown no disinclination, but, on the contrary, an avidity to combine athletics with their studies, and in base-ball especially they have more than held their own against the foreigner. I confess I have no desire to see the craze for outdoor sports which is so much in evidence in this country extending to Japan. Some of the public schools in England are much more famous for their cricket, football, and other teams than for the education imparted in them. Many a young man leaves those schools an excellent cricketer or football player, but, from an educational point of view, very badly equipped for the battle of life. The happy mean is surely the best in this as in other matters, and I venture to think that the youth of Japan in regarding education as the essential matter and outdoor sport as merely a subsidiary one have shown sound judgment.
In my remarks on education in Japan I have dealt principally with the schools for boys. I may, however, remark that in the arrangements she has made for the education of the other sex she has shown the same thoroughness. In the primary schools the boys and girls are taken in without any distinction, though separate classes are usually formed. There are subsequently higher schools for girls. The percentage of the female sex attending these schools is less than that of the other. There are in all about seventy-five of these schools in Japan with some twenty thousand pupils. The course of instruction in them is moral precepts, Japanese language, a foreign language, history, geography, mathematics, science, drawing, training for domestic affairs, cutting-out and sewing, music and gymnastics. I think in regard to these schools the Japanese authorities have shown sound judgment in decreeing that music shall not necessarily form part of the education of every young girl, but may be omitted for those pupils for whom the art may be deemed difficult. Were a similar rule to be adopted in this country quite a number of people would be saved a large amount of unnecessary torture. There is also a higher normal school for women at Tokio, as likewise an Academy of Music. The Tokio Jiogakkwan is an institution established by some foreign philanthropists for the purpose of educating Japanese girls of a respectable class in Anglo-Saxon attainments. This institution has between two and three hundred pupils, but I am not in a position to state what measure of success, if any, it has achieved, nor indeed do I know what "Anglo-Saxon attainments" are supposed to be. Many of them I should have thought were quite unsuitable for the ordinary Japanese girl, tending, as they must, to destroy her national individuality. There is also a girls' college in Tokio called the Women's University. It does not confer degrees, but it gives a very high education, and it is largely patronised.
I stated at the commencement of this chapter that I was of opinion the provisions and arrangements a nation had made for the education of its youth were an excellent test of the standard to which its civilisation has attained. I hope the slight sketch I have given my readers of the system of education in existence in Japan will enable them to form an estimate as to the place Japan should occupy if judged by the standard referred to. In my opinion, seeing that it is less than forty years since the country passed through a drastic revolution—a revolution which destroyed all these social forces which had been in existence and had exercised a tremendous influence on the life of the people for many centuries—it is, I think, not only extraordinary but highly creditable to her rulers that Japan should have in that short interval organised and perfected such a system of education as exists in the country to-day. Under that system every boy and girl in the land receives an admirable course of instruction, and is afforded facilities for still further extending and enlarging that course, and, if his or her abilities, ambitions, and opportunities incline them that way, to proceed steadily onward in the acquisition of knowledge, until they obtain as a coping stone, that final course, in the capital either at the Imperial University or the Women's University where the sum of all the knowledge of the world is at the disposal of those who have the capacity and the aspiration to acquire it.
THE JAPANESE ARMY AND NAVY
A work on Japan which did not include some reference to the Army and Navy would manifestly be incomplete. It is hardly any exaggeration to assert that nothing in regard to the metamorphosis of Japan has so impressed the Western mind as the extraordinary progress of its naval and military forces. Both in this country and on the Continent it was, of course, known that Japan had been for years evolving both an Army and Navy, but I imagine most persons thought that this action on her part was merely a piece of childish extravagance, and that her land and sea forces would, if they were ever pitted against Europeans, prove as impotent as Orientals nearly always have proved. I am quite aware that naval and military experts of various nationalities who had studied matters on the spot were of a different opinion. They witnessed the high state of efficiency of both the Japanese Army and Navy, the patriotic spirit of the officers and men, their enthusiasm for their work, and that universal feeling of bravery, if it be bravery, which consists in an absolute contempt of life. Still I think, even to the experts, the splendid organisation and overwhelming superiority of Japan in her encounter with China came as somewhat of a surprise. The complete victory of the Island Nation in that struggle was, I know, to a certain extent discounted in some quarters by the stories that were published as to the wretched condition of both the Chinese Army and Navy, their utter unfitness and unpreparedness for war, the incompetence and corruption of the officers, and so on. There were many otherwise well informed persons who felt confident that though Japan had experienced little or no difficulty in mastering China, the case would be different when, if ever, she was involved in war with a European power. I do not think these doubts were prevalent or indeed present at all, in the minds of the naval and military authorities. No responsible statesman or official in Japan desired war. The Japanese are not in any sense a bellicose people. Still, the statesmen of the country were fully alive to the fact that it might be necessary to fight for the national existence. They had had experience in the past of the ambition of Russia to aggrandise herself at the expense of Japan. They saw, or thought they saw, that Russia had designs on Korea, and they were determined to frustrate those designs, and so perhaps obviate in the best manner possible future attempts on the independence of Japan itself. And hence it came about that serious efforts were directed to create an Army and Navy strong and efficient.
The creation, or perhaps it would be more correct to say the reorganisation, of the Army was entrusted, soon after the Revolution of 1868, to a few European officers, and it has proceeded throughout on European lines. The task was not so difficult as might have been expected. In old Japan the terms "soldier" and "Samurai" were synonymous, and the security of the territory of each of the great feudal princes depended on the strength of his army. The Continental system of conscription was adopted and still obtains. All Japanese males between the ages of 17 and 40 are liable to military service. The Service is divided into Active, Landwehr, Depot, and Landsturn services. The Active service is divided into service with the colours and service with the first reserve. The former is obligatory for all who have reached the full age of 20 years, and such service is for a period of three years. Service in the first reserve is compulsory for all who have finished service with the colours, and lasts for a period of four years and four months. The Landwehr reserve is comprised of those who have finished the first reserve term, and it continues for a period of five years. The Depot service is divided into two sections. The first, which lasts seven years and four months, is made up of those who have not been enlisted for Active service, while the second, extending over one year and four months, consists of those who have not been enlisted for first Depot service. The Landsturn is in two divisions—one for those who have completed the term of Landwehr service and the first Depot service, and the second for all who are not on the other services. This system of conscription, of course, lends itself to criticism, and it has been criticised by the military experts of great military nations, but on the whole it has been proved by the experience of the two wars in which Japan has been involved during the last twelve years to have worked well, and it probably answers as well as any system that could be devised, the needs of the country, and the characteristics of the people thereof. The Japanese are, as these recent wars amply demonstrated, patriotic to a degree. They not only have great powers of perseverance, but great capacities for assimilation and adaptation, and are considered by many military authorities probably the very best raw material in the world out of which to make soldiers. Conscription may not be an ideal system for any country. It is, of course, better from one point of view that the armed forces of a nation should voluntarily enlist rather than be pressed men. But conscription in Japan has never been, and is not likely to be, such a burden as is the case among some European nations. The Japanese idea of patriotism is something totally different to that which obtains in the West. The late war afforded ample evidence of that, were any needed.
The war with Russia has been so recently concluded that it is not necessary to enter at any length into a consideration of the Japanese Army. The history of that war gave ocular demonstration to the European nations, however incredulous they may previously have been on the subject, that Japan was in fact a great military Power. In the course of that war she put in the field somewhere about 700,000 men, conveyed them across the sea to a foreign country, and showed throughout the struggle a capacity for the most wonderful military organisation. The smallest details were most carefully attended to; there was an entire absence of that muddle so much in evidence when European nations are engaged in hostilities. Respecting the fighting qualities of the Japanese soldier it is hardly necessary to say anything. On the field of battle or during the long, arduous and monotonous work of a siege he has shown himself alike a model soldier. Perhaps he has shone most in the hour of victory by his moderation. Every foreign officer who saw the work done by the Japanese Army throughout the various incidents of the Russian War was lost in admiration. To me the most pleasing feature of that war was the ease with which the soldier, on coming back to Japan, returned to the peaceful pursuits of civil life. The bumptious braggadocio that European military nations have developed has no counterpart in Japan. The war was, in the estimation of the people, a sacred duty. The burdens which it entailed were cheerfully borne. The Japanese soldier bore his hardships or gave up his life equally cheerfully. At the same time the conclusion of the war came as a relief, and the mass of the soldiery gladly went through the Japanese equivalent of turning their swords into ploughshares. Japan has demonstrated that she is a great military nation, and the organisation of her Army is one that might well be studied by the military authorities of other countries.
The weak point of the Japanese Army is its cavalry. Whether cavalry in the warfare of the future will play the important part that it has played in that of the past is a matter upon which I do not care to dogmatically pronounce, especially as military authorities are by no means in agreement in regard thereto, or indeed as to the precise functions of cavalry in military warfare. The difficulties of Japan in regard to organising an efficient cavalry have been largely, if not altogether, owing to the lack of good horses in the country. The Japanese horses have not been conspicuous for quality, while the number available has not been anything like sufficient to enable the cavalry to be brought up to a proper condition of strength and efficiency. The Japanese military authorities have long been sensible of this fact, and the late war amply demonstrated it. With its usual thoroughness, the Government has, as soon as possible after the close of the war, taken steps to remedy this weak point in its military system, and quite recently two delegates of the Ministry of Agriculture have been despatched to Europe on a horse-purchase mission. Ten million yen have, I understand, been apportioned for the purpose of improving the national breed of horses, and the delegates have been instructed to purchase suitable animals for breeding. The Japanese Government has almost invariably been successful in anything it has undertaken, and I venture to predict—it is scarcely a hazardous prophesy—that the horse supply of the country will ere long be put on a satisfactory footing and the cavalry be rendered as efficient as every other branch of the Japanese Army.
There is no fear of a military autocracy in Japan. The recent war proved not only the bravery of the rank and file of the Army, but the high military talent of the officers. The art of war had evidently been studied from every point of view, and was diligently applied. The Japanese talent, in my opinion, consists not in a mere mechanical copying, but in a practical adaptation of all that is best in Western civilisation. The tactics and strategy displayed during the war with Russia showed originality in conception, brilliancy and daring. If that war did not discover a Napoleon among the Japanese generals, it can at least be said that Japan has no need of a Napoleon. As I have said, there is no fear of the development of a military autocracy in that country or the uprising of a general with Napoleonic ideas and ambition. The generals who justly earned distinction during the recent war are singularly modest men, with no capacity for self-advertising and no desire whatever for self-aggrandisement. They are not only content but anxious, now that the war is over, to sink into obscurity. History will, however, not permit of that. Their achievements in the recent campaign will long afford subject-matter for study and the instruction of the military students of the future. In this book I have as far as possible avoided mentioning names, otherwise I would gladly inscribe on its pages the names of those many generals who earned fame in the Russo-Japanese War. I feel perfectly certain that every endeavour will be made to maintain the Japanese Army in the high state of efficiency it has reached. At the same time I would emphasise the fact that that Army is intended solely for defence. Japan has, in a word, no military ambitions outside her own territory.
And as of the Army, so of the Navy. Perhaps the prowess of Japan's Fleet impressed the English people even more than the victories of her soldiers. Because the Navy, as it is to-day, is largely the outcome of English training and the application of English ideas. In the first instance Japan borrowed from the British Government the services of some of its best naval officers to develop the Japanese Navy. A naval college was established in the capital, modelled on the English system of training. A dockyard was also constructed at Yokosko under French guidance. It is, however, a mistake to suppose that Japan had no Navy or no ambitions in the direction of creating one prior to English naval officers being lent to the Japanese Government to assist in the reorganisation of the Navy. The determination to create a fleet on European lines was entertained by Japanese statesmen as far back as the 'fifties, when the European Powers and the United States of America were bringing pressure to bear on Japan with a view of obtaining trading facilities and the opening up of the country generally. The Japanese statesmen of those days were wise enough to see that unless Japan was to be permanently under the tutelage of the European Powers, it was necessary for her to construct a fleet and army on European lines. Soon afterwards a naval school, under Dutch instructors, was established at Nagasaki, and a certain number of selected officers and men were sent to Europe to undergo a course of instruction, and several war-vessels were ordered from Holland. In 1854 a two-masted ship was built in Japan from an English model, and subsequently two others. During the war between Russia and Great Britain a Russian sloop was wrecked on the Japanese coast, and permission was obtained for Japanese workmen to be employed in the repairs of the vessel, with a view of giving them an opportunity of gaining some practical knowledge of naval architecture. In 1855 the King of Holland presented a steam corvette to the Tycoon. In this year the now familiar Japanese ensign—a red ball on a white ground—was introduced, and has since remained the national flag.
On the arrival of Lord Elgin in Japan on a mission in 1857 a sailing vessel at Nagasaki was flying the flag of an Admiral of the Japanese Navy. In the same year a steam yacht was presented to the Tycoon by the late Queen Victoria, and was formally handed over to the Japanese Government by Lord Elgin. His secretary relates that the yacht got under way, commanded by a Japanese captain and manned by Japanese sailors, while her machinery was worked by Japanese engineers. The secretary, in his account of the incident, relates that "notwithstanding the horizontal cylinders and other latest improvements with which her engines were fitted, the men had learnt their lesson well, and were confident in their powers, and the yacht steamed gallantly through and round the Fleet, returning to her anchorage without a hitch." This authoritative statement ought to dispose of the absurd story which has long been a chestnut among the English community in Japan and the English naval officers on the China station, that when the old Confederate Ram, the Stonewall Jackson, was purchased in America and brought to Yokohama a somewhat ludicrous incident occurred. According to the story, which, I may observe, is one of the ben trovato order, when steam was got up in the vessel for trial purposes it had to steam round and about Yokohama Harbour, to the great danger of the foreign warships and merchant steamers there, until the steam was in due course exhausted and the machinery automatically stopped through the lack of any motive power to drive it, as the Japanese engineer in charge did not know how to shut off steam. The Stonewall Jackson, I may observe, did not take part in the now almost forgotten battle of Hakodate, which took place at the time of the Revolution, and may be regarded as the expiring effort of old Japan to stay the march of events in that country. In the battle of Hakodate the rebel fleet was totally destroyed, and the various clans in the country who possessed war-vessels of one kind or other presented them to the central Government. These vessels, it must be confessed, were not of much, if any, utility in the direction of forming a Navy, and I am not aware how many of them, or indeed whether any of them, were utilised for the purpose of inaugurating that Navy which has now become world-famous.
In 1858 the naval school, which, as I have already stated, had been established at Nagasaki, was transferred to Yeddo, and a few years later the Japanese Government determined to obtain the assistance of some English naval officers with a view of giving instruction in the school. Application was accordingly made to the British Government through the Minister in Yeddo, and the sanction of the Admiralty having been obtained, a number of English naval officers were selected, and despatched to Japan as instructors in the Yeddo Naval College. Amongst these officers, it may be interesting to state, was Admiral Sir A. K. Wilson, V.C., G.C.B., the late Commander-in-Chief of the Channel Fleet. In the year 1873 a number of other naval officers were sent out from England, the previous staff having been withdrawn on the outbreak of the Civil War. This staff was in charge of Admiral Sir A. L. Douglas, till recently Commander-in-Chief at Portsmouth, and for some years subsequently an English naval officer was at the head of the instructing staff of the college. Japan was fortunate in one respect—in the Englishmen she entrusted with the evolution of her Navy. She was fortunate in attracting the men best fitted for the work, and also in inspiring them with a high conception of their task. Some Englishmen are of opinion that Japan has somewhat forgotten her obligations in this matter. Young Japan, they suggest, desires to forget the influences to which the country mainly owes its present magnificent fleet. That fleet is undoubtedly, for the most part, the outcome of English conceptions and English training. There is one man whose name, I think, deserves to be recorded in connection therewith. I refer to the late Lieutenant A. G. S. Hawes, of the Royal Marine Light Infantry, who left the English Service and worked strenuously, enthusiastically, and earnestly to build up the personnel of the Japanese Navy in the early 'seventies. There were others whose efforts in the same direction assisted in that consummation, but Hawes's services were unique and splendid. He believed in Japan, and he threw himself into his work with a zeal and ardour which were beyond praise. His services were dispensed with, as were those of the other English officers and men, when it was felt that Japan had learnt sufficient to work out her own destiny as a naval Power. The labours of these men may not have been adequately recognised at the time, but their work remains, and is in evidence to-day. Hawes received a decoration from the Mikado, and the British Government gave him a consular appointment in some obscure quarter of the globe, where he died a disappointed man, fully sensible of the value of the work he had performed and inspired, a firm believer in the future of Japan as a great naval Power, but disgusted with the non-recognition of his labours.
The Navy of Japan as it is to-day is a triumph of organisation. Discussing a short time ago the question with an ex-officer of the Mercantile Marine who had, by a curious chance, served as a Naval Reserve officer in both the English and Japanese Navies, he explained to me the wonderful progress of the latter by pointing out that it had been, as it were, called instantaneously into existence. The Japanese Navy, he observed, had no past and no traditions to hamper its development; its officers and administrators had only one desire—to get the best of everything in modern naval science from anywhere. There was no cult of seamanship, no dead wall of prejudice to trammel modern naval developments. There was no prejudice at the Japanese Admiralty against anything—save stagnation. Progress was the keynote and watchword of the Japanese Navy. My friend assured me that it was, as regards equipment, organisation, and general efficiency, the finest fighting force the world has ever seen. So far as my own knowledge of the matter goes, and so far as I am competent to express an opinion on the subject, I fully endorse these observations. A visit to a Japanese vessel-of-war, however perfunctory the knowledge of the visitor may be on matters naval, very soon convinces him of the fact that the Japanese naval officers and men are filled not only with ardour but enthusiasm for their profession, that efficiency and proficiency are the watchwords, and that the desire of every one connected with the Navy, from the Admiral downwards, is to maintain the personnel and materiel of the Fleet in the highest possible condition of efficiency.
If, as some Englishmen imagine is the case, there is a tendency on the part of young Japan to be oblivious of the fact that the Navy of the country is greatly indebted for its present state of efficiency to the zeal and efforts of English naval officers in its early days, there is no question that the feeling of the officers and men of the Japanese Navy to their English comrades is of a very hearty nature. The formal alliance with Great Britain was highly popular in the Japanese Fleet, and I have never heard any officer connected therewith speak in any but the highest and most cordial terms of their English confreres.
It is not, I think, necessary for me to refer to the deeds of and the work done by the Japanese Navy in the course of the war with Russia; very much the same remarks that I have made in regard to the Army apply here. Nothing was lost sight of or omitted that could in the slightest degree tend to ensure or secure success. Everything seems to have been foreseen. Nothing was left to chance. The results were precisely what might have been expected, and what indeed were expected, by those who had an intimate knowledge of the manner in which the Japanese Navy was organised for war. I regard it especially in alliance with the English Fleet, as one of the greatest safeguards for the peace of the world. I trust the alliance between this country and Japan may be of a permanent nature. I may remark in respect of the Fleet, as I have of the Army, that Japan has no unworthy ambitions. Her desire is to conserve what she possesses and to render her Island Empire secure from invasion or molestation.
Closely connected with the development of Japan's Navy is that of her Mercantile Marine. A few words in regard to it may therefore not be out of place here. The insular position and the mountainous condition of the country, as well as its extent of seaboard, early impressed on the makers of new Japan the necessity for creating not only a great mercantile fleet but also for developing the shipbuilding industry. Both these ambitions have been largely realised. At first their consummation was attended with many difficulties. The Japanese, as I have already remarked in this book, were many centuries ago enterprising sailors, but when the country was closed voyages of discovery or trade automatically came to an end. With the awakening of Japan a change immediately took place, and steps were taken to create and develop the Mercantile Marine. A Japanese gentleman, Mr. Iwasaki, in 1872 started a line of steamers, subsidised by the Government, the well-known Mitsu Bishi Company. Shortly afterwards another company was formed to compete against it. This line was also subsidised by the Government, but as the rivalry did not prove profitable to either the two lines were amalgamated in 1885 under the title of Nippon Yusen Kaisha. Since then a number of other shipping companies have been formed in Japan, and the Nippon Yusen Kaisha has largely extended its operations, opening up communication with Bombay, England, and the Continent, Melbourne, &c. In fact, the Japanese flag is now seen in many parts of the world, while the Japanese Mercantile Marine has advanced by leaps and bounds, and is still annually increasing. At the end of 1904 there were about 240 steamers flying the Japanese flag, with a gross tonnage of over 790,000. Japan now ranks high among the maritime nations of the world, and her position therein, unless I am very much mistaken, will still further advance in the years to come.
There are, I know, a great number of worthy people, both in this country and Japan, who regard the expenditure on an Army and Navy as entirely unproductive, and look forward to the halcyon days when all such expenditure shall cease and the taxation now devoted to these purposes shall be diverted to more worthy objects. I am afraid, as the world is at present constituted, there is no prospect of such a, in some respects, desirable consummation being effected. Nowadays the most effective means a nation can possess in the direction of the maintenance and enjoyment of peace is to be well prepared for war. That is a fact of which I am sure the men responsible for the government of Japan are firmly convinced; and I believe they are right. I am certain, as I have said before, that the world has nothing to fear from the armed strength of Japan by land or sea.
JAPANESE ART—INTRODUCTORY—LACQUER WARE, POTTERY AND PORCELAIN
Japanese art is a subject which invites exhaustive treatment. To deal with it adequately in two or three chapters of a general work on Japan is obviously impossible. Still it is, I think, possible, within the limits at my disposal, to give my readers some conception of that art to which Japan is so greatly indebted for the extraordinary way in which she has impressed the world. The art of Japan is in a sense unique, and it may be that to some extent the Japanese atmosphere, so to speak, is essential in order to fully appreciate it. Mr. Chamberlain, in his "Things Japanese," has observed that "To show a really fine piece of lacquer to one of the uncultivated natives of Europe or America is, as the Japanese proverb says, like giving guineas to a cat." Much the same remark might, however, be made in reference to the art products of any country. Be that as it may, the Japanese people are now largely dependent on the foreigner for art patronage. It may be that this has resulted in art-artisans abandoning their old standard and devoting themselves to the manufacture of whatever pays best, prostituting the spirit of art to the promptings of gain, and compelling the native to cater for foreign taste rather than to adhere to Japanese canons of art. I am afraid that the commercial spirit is fatal to art of any kind. The true artist, like the poet, in an ideal state of existence would only work under inspiration, but, unfortunately, the artist, like the poet, is daily faced by that necessity which knows no law and demands the subsistence of the body as an essential for work of any kind.
Perhaps some of my readers might desire a definition of art. There are, I know, people in this world who can never approach the consideration of or deal with any subject unless the subject itself and every term in connection therewith is precisely defined. In reference to Japanese art I am inclined to employ the words of Mr. Walter Crane in opening, many years ago, the annual exhibition of the Arts and Crafts Society. He remarked: "The true root and basis of all art lies in the handicrafts. If there is no room or chance of recognition for really artistic power and feeling in design and craftsmanship—if art is not recognised in the humblest object and material, and felt to be as valuable, in its own way, as the more highly rewarded pictorial skill—the art cannot be in a sound condition. And if artists cease to be found among the crafts, there is great danger that they will vanish from the arts also, and become manufacturers and salesmen instead."
Japanese art is unquestionably of that kind which requires a certain educational process. It does not, for instance, at once appeal to that vague entity the "man in the street." There is a grotesqueness about some of it, a lack of perspective in much of it, which is caviare to a large number of persons. This much, however, can be said about Japanese art—that it is original. It is almost altogether the outcome of the artistic instincts of the people. Undoubtedly it has been to a large extent influenced by Buddhism, and, as we have seen, Buddhism is a foreign religion; but at the same time I think it may fairly be asserted that, though the Buddhist religion may have influenced and utilised Japanese art, it has never killed, or indeed affected to any degree, what I may term the individualistic artistic instincts of the nation. Japanese art requires to be closely studied. It is something that grows upon one, and the closer it is studied the greater its influence. To me one of its most pleasing features is what I have termed in the Preface its catholicity. It is not, as art is in so many European countries, the cult of a few, a sort of Eleusynian mystery into which a select number of persons have been initiated. It has, on the contrary, permeated, and exercised an influence upon, the whole nation, and been employed for even the most humble purposes. It is for this reason that, as I have previously observed, I am of opinion the Japanese may be considered and described as the most artistic people in the world.
I have referred to the grotesqueness and lack of perspective incidental to some descriptions of Japanese art. It certainly neglects chiaroscuro and linear perspective, and it displays an entire lack of form knowledge. The human figure and face have apparently never been studied at all. The colouring is frequently splendid, while the figures are for the most part anatomically incorrect. One would think that Japanese artists had never seen their own or any other human bodies. A rigid adherence to conventionality is, in my opinion, a defect of all Japanese art. By conventionality I do not, of course, mean what I may term the individuality of the art itself, but the fact that Japanese artists have felt themselves largely bound by the traditions of their art to treat the human and other figures not in accordance with nature, but altogether in accordance with the conventions of that art, and to entirely ignore perspective. I am quite aware that some enthusiastic lovers of things Japanese admire, or affect to admire, these defects. They have been described as a protest against the too rigid rules exacted in Western art. I suggest, however, that art in its highest form should seek to be true to nature, and in so far as Japanese art fails in this respect it is, I think, defective. At the same time I cordially admit that its defects are more than compensated by its splendid workmanship, its gorgeous colouring, and its striking originality.
It was only about forty or fifty years ago that Japanese art became known to any extent in Europe. Certainly the Portuguese missionaries introduced by Francis Xavier and the traders in the Dutch factory at Nagasaki were in the habit of exporting a few articles to Europe, chiefly porcelain ware made to order. I fear both missionaries and merchants regarded Japanese art, as we now know it, as barbaric, and never in the slightest degree realised either its beauties or its originality. Neither they nor the many millions of art-lovers in Europe dreamt that Japan was a country where art was universal, not esoteric—an art with schools, traditions, masters, and masterpieces. Probably the Paris Exhibition of 1867, to which the Prince of Satsuma sent a collection of Japanese artistic treasures, was the occasion when the true inwardness of Japanese art burst upon the Western world as a whole. It was a veritable revelation. It at once aroused enthusiasm and curiosity, and I fear cupidity, among European artists and art collectors. Europe was awakened to the possibilities of Japan as an art nation, and Japan, failing to realise or properly appreciate the artistic accumulated wealth it possessed, commenced to part with it in a truly reckless manner. The depletion of the art treasures of the country commenced about this time, and though that depletion has been largely arrested, it is nevertheless still, to some extent, going on.
Japanese art, as it has come under the cognisance of a foreigner, may be considered in connection with four or five purposes to which it has been employed or adapted. First amongst these I place lacquer, next pottery and porcelain, then carving in wood and iron, metal-work and painting. The lacquer industry has been in existence in Japan so long as we have any authoritative history of the country. If any credence is to be given to tradition, long before the Christian era there was an official whose sole duty it was to superintend the production of lacquer for the Imperial Court, and specimens over a thousand years old, though rare, still exist. The process of lacquering is a somewhat intricate one, and varies, of course, in accordance with the time and labour spent on the article to be lacquered, and the cost of the same. After the article has been carefully made from specially selected wood—in the case of the choicest specimens of lacquer work this is usually a pine-wood of fine grain—it is first coated with a preparation composed of clay and varnish, which, after being permitted to dry, is smoothed down with a whetstone. When this operation has been concluded, the article proposed to be lacquered is covered with some substance, either silk, cloth, or paper. It is then given from one to five coats of the foregoing mixture, each coat being permitted to dry before the next is applied. After this has been effected, the whetstone is again employed with a view of obtaining a perfectly smooth surface when the lacquering proper commences. This may be a perfunctory or it may be a very complicated operation, according to the value of the article, layer after layer of the varnish—from one to fifty coats—being laid upon the material at intervals. After the final coat has been applied, the smoothing process commences. The whole of these operations are, however, only the preliminaries to the scheme of decoration, which is often very elaborate. The dusts of powders used for this purpose are of various kinds and of varying cost. When the ornamentation which often consists in colouring the groundwork with particles of gold dust has been completed, sometimes as many as a dozen coatings of transparent lacquer are imposed upon the same.
The art of lacquering in Japan dates back at least 1,200 or 1,300 years, and tradition assigns it a period more ancient still. There are, however, few if any articles of lacquer ware now in the country, whose origin can be traced back so many years. At any rate, there is no satisfactory evidence in regard to the antiquity of any specimens of lacquer ware dating back more than seven or eight centuries. In old Japan the manufacturer of lacquer work was intimately associated with the domestic life of the upper classes. Griffis tells us that nearly every Daimio had his Court lacquerer, and that a set of household furniture and toilet utensils was part of the dowry of a noble lady. On the birth of a daughter, he relates, it was common for the lacquer artist to begin the making of a mirror case, a washing bowl, a cabinet, a clothes rack, or a chest of drawers, often occupying from one to five whole years on a single article. An inro, or pill-box, might require several years for perfection, though small enough to go into a fob. By the time the young lady was marriageable, her outfit of lacquer was superb.
The names of many of the great lacquer artists of Japan are still venerated. The masterpieces of Hoyami Koyetsu who flourished in the sixteenth century, are still, though rare, procurable. Japan numbers on her roll of fame twenty-eight great lacquer artists. There have, of course, been many hundreds, and indeed thousands, in the past centuries whose work was superb, but the twenty-eight are deemed to be the immortals of this particular art. One of these great men, Ogawa Ritsuo, is famous for the number and variety of the materials—mother-of-pearl, coral, tortoise-shell, &c. &c., he used in his work. A profuse richness is its chief characteristic. One of his pupils imitated in his work various materials—pottery and wood-carving, and bronzes. The last famous artist in lacquer, Watanobe Tosu, died about thirty years ago. Whether he is destined to have a successor or successors remains to be seen. These lacquer artists, as I have indicated, worked not for lucre, but for love. Attached to some Daimios household, they devoted their lives, their energies, their imagination, their artistic instincts to the devising of splendid work and the making of beautiful, ingenious, absolutely artistic and, at the same time, entirely useful articles.
It is impossible within the space at my disposal to deal in detail with the large variety of lacquer work produced in Japan with the various kinds of lacquer, or with what I may term the artistic idiosyncrasies of Japanese lacquer work. One can now hardly believe that until the opening up of Japan half a century or so ago, few specimens of lacquer found their way to Europe, although Japanese porcelain had been largely imported and was highly prized. Even at the present time I do not think that the artistic beauties of Japanese lacquer work have been appreciated in this country to anything like the extent they deserve to be. I have heard people remark, for example, that they failed to understand the perpetual reproduction of the great snow-covered mountain Fusi-Yama in Japanese designs, while they could see nothing in these storks, bewildering landscapes, and grotesque figures. Perhaps the best explanation of the constant appearance of Fusi-Yama in all Japanese work is that which De Fonblanque gives. He says: "If there is one sentiment universal amongst all Japanese, it is a deep and earnest reverence for their sacred mountain. It is their ideal of the beautiful in nature, and they never tire of admiring, glorifying, and reproducing it. It is painted, embossed, carved, engraved, modelled in all their wares. The mass of the people regard it not only as the shrine of their dearest gods, but the certain panacea for their worst evils, from impending bankruptcy or cutaneous diseases to unrequited love or ill-luck at play. It is annually visited by thousands and thousands of pilgrims." The Japanese artist in constantly reproducing Fusi-Yama has merely voiced national sentiment and feeling.
The substance applied to wood to produce what is called lacquer, is not what is generally known in England as varnish. It is really the sap of the rhus vernicifera which contains, among other ingredients, about 3 per cent. of a gum soluble in water. It has to undergo various refining processes before being mixed with the colouring matter, while the greatest care is exercised throughout with a view of obviating the possibility of dust or any other foreign matter finding its way into the mixture. The fine polish usually seen on lacquer work is not actually the result of the composition applied, but is produced by incessant polishing. The lacquered articles in old Japan were used for various purposes—mirror cases, fans, letter-carriers, the inro, which was at one time a necessary part of every Japanese gentleman's attire; it was secured to the sash, and utilised to hold medicine powders, for perfumes, as a seal-box, &c., seals being at one time, as indeed they are to some extent still, in use in place of a signature. But the amount of ancient lacquer ware now in Japan, or, indeed, of artistic articles made solely for use and not merely to sell, is, as I have said, small. European collectors have denuded the country; the treasures of the Daimios, which were almost recklessly sold when they were disestablished, and to a large extent disendowed, have been distributed all over the globe, and a large quantity, perhaps the largest quantity, of the lacquer work now made in the country is manufactured solely for the purpose of being sold as curios either at home or abroad. That this fact has largely lowered the artistic ideals and debased the artistic taste in Japan appears to be the general opinion. Much of the present-day work of Japan in lacquer, as in other articles, is certainly to my mind artistic and beautiful in the extreme, but obviously, men working almost against time to turn out "curios," for which there is a persistent demand on the part of visitors who are not always by temperament or training fitted to appreciate the artistic or the beautiful, are unlikely to produce such fine or original work as the artisan of old leisurely employed at his craft and pluming himself, not on the amount of his earnings or the extent of his output, but on the quality and artistic merits of his work.
Next to lacquer in importance amongst the Japanese arts, I think, comes ceramic ware, which has long had a great vogue in Europe, and indeed was highly prized here many years before the artistic skill of the Japanese in lacquer was generally known. That decorative art, as expressed in the pottery and porcelain of Japan, has been largely influenced by China and Korea seems to be unquestionable. The Japanese have nevertheless imparted to it a peculiar charm of their own, the outcome of originality in ideas, while the art has, through many centuries, been fortunate enough to have been fostered and encouraged by the great and powerful of the land. As a people the Japanese are entirely free from anything that savours of ostentation, and this fact is emphasised in their art just as it is in their homes. The charm of the ceramic ware of Japan, in my opinion, consists in the beauty of its colouring rather than in its figuring. This ceramic ware, as my readers probably know, differs greatly in appearance, quality, and, I may add, in price according to the particular part of the country in which it is produced. It is not necessary to be an art connoisseur to grasp the fact that, say, the famous Satsuma ware is distinct in almost every respect from that of Imari, Kaga, Ise, Raku, Kyoto, &c. All these different wares have charms peculiar to each. It is really marvellous to think that a country with such a comparatively small area as Japan should have produced so many different kinds of ceramic ware, each possessing distinct and pronounced characteristics, and having indeed little affinity with each other save in regard to the general excellence of the workmanship and the artistic completeness of the whole.
As I have said, both Korea and China have had a marked influence on the manufacture of pottery and porcelain in Japan. Korean potters appear to have settled there prior to the Christian era, and to have imparted to the Japanese the first rudiments of knowledge in regard to working in clay, but the development of the process was greatly due to Chinese influences. During the thirteenth century, one Toshiro paid a visit to China, where he exhaustively studied everything relating to the potter's art. On his return to his own country he introduced great improvements, both in manufacture and decoration, and made, it is believed, for the first time, glazed pottery. Soon afterwards household utensils of lacquer began to go out of use, being replaced by those made of clay, and a great impetus was accordingly given to the trade of the potter. Tea, which is believed to have been introduced into Japan from China in the year 800 does not appear to have come into general use till the sixteenth century. The "tea ceremonies" known as the Cha-no-yu came into vogue about the same time, and undoubtedly had an immense influence on the ceramic art. The articles used in the "tea ceremonies" included an iron kettle resting on a stand; a table or stand of mulberry wood 2 feet high; two tea-jars containing the tea; a vessel containing fresh water; a tea-bowl. It is not my purpose to describe the many interesting details of these "tea ceremonies." Suffice it to observe that they gave a great impetus to the manufacture of costly and elaborate china. The leaders of society, as we should term them, who took part in these ceremonies exercised a judicious and enlightened patronage of the ceramic art. They encouraged rising talent, and welcomed new developments. There can, I think, be no doubt that Japan, in an artistic sense, owes much to the frequenters of these "tea ceremonies." Tea-jars and tea-bowls especially became, under the patronage and guidance of these men, choice works of art, and were bestowed by the great and powerful on their friends, by whom they were greatly cherished and handed down as heirlooms. Some of these treasures still remain in the country, a large number have been purchased by art connoisseurs and taken to various parts of the world, while many, of course, have from various causes perished. Under the conditions of life which obtained in old Japan the ceramic art reached a pitch of excellence, not to say glory, which it is never likely to attain either in Japan or elsewhere. It was emphatically a period of art for art's sake. The patronage, if I may use a word perhaps not strictly accurate, of the great artists of those days was exercised in such a manner as to enable them to employ all their talents, artistic ideals, and enthusiasm in the direction of producing masterpieces of their craft.
The secrets of porcelain manufacture are believed to have been brought to Japan from China about the beginning of the sixteenth century. In the year 1513, Gorodayu, Shonsui, of Ise, returned from China and settled in Arita, in the province of Hizen, which at once became and still remains the headquarters of the famous Imari ware. The porcelain produced here is chiefly, but not altogether, the blue and white combination, but Arita also makes porcelain ware decorated in various colours and exceedingly ornate in appearance. It is, however, stated that this ornate Imari ware was first made for exportation to China to supply the Portuguese market at Macao, and that it was afterwards fostered by the Dutch at Nagasaki, whose exportations of the ware to Europe were on a considerable scale. This peculiar style of decoration is believed to have been due to the demands of the Dutch, whose patrons in Europe would have none other. One remark I may make in this connection, viz., that those enormous vases and other similar articles of Japanese ware which have long been so greatly prized in Europe, and many of which are magnificent specimens of decorative art, are not, in one sense, characteristically Japanese. The Japanese has always, if I may so express it, used art as the handmaiden of utilitarianism. Every article intended for the Japanese home had to be not merely a thing of beauty but a thing for use. It never entered the minds of the Japanese to hang beautiful specimens of their porcelain ware on their walls, or what did duty for walls, to collect dust. They used vases certainly of a moderate size to hold flowers, tea-pots and tea-cups for the purpose of making and drinking tea, water-bottles and various other articles for domestic use; everything in fact was, as I have said, designed not only from an artistic but a utilitarian standpoint, and hence it is, I think, that art, as I have already remarked, has permeated the whole people. Even in the poorest house in Japan it is possible to see, in the ordinary articles in domestic use, some attempt at art, and, I may add, some appreciation of it on the part of the users of those articles. In my opinion when art is not applied to articles of general utility but is confined to articles not intended for use, art becomes, as is largely the case in this country, either the cult of a class or the affectation of a class, and its beauties and inward meaning cease to have any effect upon, just because they are not understood by, the great mass of the people.
Satsuma ware is probably the most widely known, and the most esteemed among foreigners, of Japanese porcelain. Its soft, cream-like colour is now known in every part of the world, while the delicate colour decorations imposed upon the cream-like background, certainly give a most effective appearance. I question however whether, from a purely artistic standpoint, Satsuma is worthy of being compared with many of the other porcelains in Japan. Much of it as seen in Europe was specially made for Europe, and having been so is, I suggest, not in the true sense artistic. As a matter of fact Satsuma ware was introduced from Korea, and was made in the first instance solely for the use of the Prince of Satsuma and his friends. The kilns were originally built on Korean models, and the potters in Satsuma remained a class apart, not being allowed to marry with the outside world.
Kaga ware is well known to all art connoisseurs. This porcelain is rare. The masters of the art of Kaga ware, with its exquisite colouring and elaborate ornamentation in gold and silver, have left no successors, while their output was small. The ware is of course still made, and as the clay of the district is of a dark red colour, the ware has a uniform tint.
Bizen ware reached the apotheosis of its perfection just before the Revolution. It is made in the province of Bizen. The better kind is made of a white or light bluish clay, and well baked in order to receive the red-brown colour, whereas the commoner kind is of a red clay.
The various Kyoto wares are remarkable for their quaint forms, and some of them are highly prized.
It would, of course, be impossible for me to attempt in detail a description of the other very numerous ceramic wares of Japan. Undoubtedly, as I have said, Satsuma is the most popular with Europeans, but it is not, and I do not think it deserves to be, the most highly prized by art connoisseurs. The ceramic wares of Japan may be classified under three headings: (1) Pottery, ornamented by scoring and glazing; (2) A cream-coloured faience with a glaze often crackled and delicately painted; (3) Hard porcelain. Under the first of these classifications may be included Bizen, Seto, Raku, and some other wares. Under the second I place Satsuma and some less important similar products. Among the porcelains the most famous are those of Kutania, Hizen, and Kyoto. In regard to decorations, the Japanese have utilised the seven gods of good fortune, many landscapes, a few of the domestic animals—the dragon, phoenix, an animal with the body and hoofs of a deer, the tail of a bull, and with a horn on its forehead, a monster lion, and the sacred tortoise. Trees, plants, grasses, and flowers of various kinds, and some of the badges in Japanese heraldry are also largely made use of. However grotesque some of these objects may be, or however grotesque the representations of animals and even landscapes may be, no one who has closely studied it can deny the fact that the effect of Japanese decorative art as applied to the ceramic ware of the country is, on the whole, magnificent. The more one studies it the more impressed one is with its marvellous beauty and the originality which has been brought to bear upon it. I defy any man or woman, who possesses the artistic sensibilities, even in a latent degree, to visit a gallery containing the masterpieces of Japanese ceramic art, closely study them in all their details, and minutely examine the attention which the artist has given to even the smallest of those details without being impressed by its power. It is, I consider, a liberal education to any person who has the slightest prepossession for art to wander through such a gallery and admire the masterpieces of these wonderful art-workers of Japan.
The demand for the various art products of Japan in both Europe and America has had its perhaps inevitable result in not only the manufacture of articles simply and solely for the foreign market, but in the what I may term faking of modern to represent ancient art productions. "Old" Satsuma, for example, is a case in point. The genuine old Satsuma ware, by constant use, obtained, like meerschaum, a delightful tint. Modern Satsuma is comparatively white, and so, in order to pander to the taste of the European collector of the ancient article, the modern is stained to the required shade. The article itself is genuine, and indeed beautiful, but this "faking" of it to meet European and American tastes is one of the results, I fear, of Western influences. What the precise effect of European influences may be on the old porcelain art of Japan it is impossible to say. So far as I am concerned, I have no hesitation in expressing my own opinion that it will not be a healthy influence. Art for art's sake is, I admit, difficult when the plutocrats of the West, with a craze or a fad for Eastern art, are pouring out their wealth in order to obtain specimens thereof. Demand usually induces supply, and the Japanese artisan of to-day would be more than human did he not respond to the demand of the West for "Old Satsuma" and other specimens of the artistic treasures in pottery and porcelain of Japan. The spirit of commercialism is, as I have said before, fatal to art. If the artist is forced to work quickly and cheaply he quite evidently cannot bring his individuality into play. He must transform his studio into a workshop, and ponder only, or chiefly, upon the possibility of his output. I have been much struck in this connection with the remarks of a writer in regard to orders for art work sent from New York to Japan. "I can remember," he said, "one of our great New York dealers marking on his samples the colours that pleased most of his buyers, who themselves were to place the goods. All other colours or patterns were tabooed in his instructions to the makers in Japan. This was the rude mechanism of the change, the coming down to the worst public taste, which must be that of the greatest number at any time."
As regards the modern porcelain of Japan I need say but little. Originality is apparently dead, and the makers of to-day are content to copy the past. No doubt the purely mechanical processes of manufacture have been greatly improved, and much, if not most, of the modern ceramic ware of Japan is extremely beautiful. At the same time some of it, especially that which is made solely for the foreign market, is to my mind neither artistic nor beautiful. It is decorated, if I may use such a term, in most of the colours of the rainbow, and rendered more gaudy still by a plethora of very poor gilding.
There is in Japan a certain school of progressive ideas in reference to the art of the country. This school is of opinion that Japanese art should not, so to speak, remain stereotyped, but that it should assimilate and adapt and apply all that is good and beautiful in Western art. The objects that this school has in view are no doubt laudable, but I confess I hope with all my heart that those objects will fail of accomplishment. There has been already far too much Europeanising of Japanese art, and the result, so far as I have been able to judge, is not encouraging in respect of any further advance or development in that direction. Japanese art, and especially the ceramic art, possesses, as I have before said, an individuality which can only be spoiled, even if it be not destroyed, by adding on to or mixing up with it the totally distinct art and art methods of Western civilisation. Were this done it would become a bastard or a mongrel art, and, as history affords abundant evidence, would in due course lapse into a condition of utter decadence.
Quite a volume might be written on the subject of marks on Japanese pottery and porcelain. These have long interested and frequently misled the collector. They are of various kinds. Sometimes there is a mark signifying the reign or part of the reign of an emperor, or the name of a place at which the article was made, or, more frequently still, the name of the particular potter whose handicraft it was. Sometimes Chinese dates are found impressed on the article without any regard to chronological correctness. Indeed, Chinese dates are to be found on Japanese porcelain indicating a period long anterior to that in which the manufacture of porcelain was known in Japan. These spurious dates have proved pitfalls for collectors. The mark is sometimes impressed with a seal or painted; occasionally it is merely scratched. The investigation of these marks is a recondite study assuredly full of interest, but, as I have said, prolific in pitfalls for the unwary or the too-credulous.
JAPANESE ART (continued)—SCULPTURE—METAL WORK—PAINTING
Probably of all the Japanese arts there is none more interesting or instructive than that of sculpture in wood and ivory. The sculpture of Japan undoubtedly had its origin in the service of the Buddhist religion. That religion, as I have attempted to show, has always utilised art in the decoration of its temples and shrines as well as in the perpetuation of the image of Buddha himself. At the beginning of the seventeenth century an edict was promulgated directing that every house should contain a representation of Buddha, and, as the result of this, the sculpture trade received a considerable impetus. Tobacco was introduced into the country in the same century, and the smoking thereof soon came greatly into vogue among the Japanese people. Tobacco necessitated a pouch or bag to contain the same, and this in turn induced or produced the manufacture of something wherewith to attach the bag to the girdle. Hence the evolution of the netsuke, now as famous in Europe as in Japan. The carving of netsukes developed into a very high art; indeed, there is perhaps no branch of Japanese art which has aroused more enthusiasm among foreign collectors and connoisseurs. Quite recently I attended a sale of netsukes in London at which the bidding was both fast and furious, while the prices realised were enormous. The netsuke, strictly speaking, was the toggle attached by a cord to the tobacco pouch, inro, or pipe of the Japanese man, with the object of preventing the article slipping through the girdle or sash, but the word has been more loosely employed by foreigners until, in popular parlance, it has come to embrace all small carvings. Netsukes were nearly always representations of the human figure, and various reasons have been advanced to account for this fact. I need not consider those reasons in these pages, as they, as well as the arguments by which they are attempted to be supported, are almost entirely speculative. The distinguishing characteristic of the true netsuke is two holes admitting of a string being run through them. These holes were often concealed behind the limbs of the figure. The material of which netsukes were made varied, and consisted of ivory, wood horns, fish-bones, and stones of various kinds. Those made of wood are undoubtedly the most ancient, ivory being of comparatively recent importation into Japan. Nevertheless, the netsukes made of ivory now command the highest price. The names of many of the great netsuke-makers are still famous, and much of their work is certainly artistic and beautiful to a degree. I am afraid that in the collecting of netsukes many European lovers of Japanese art have burnt their fingers. The genuine old artistic productions are now extremely rare, but a brisk trade has sprung up in reproductions which are skilfully coloured to give them the appearance of age. The netsuke, I must reiterate, was an almost indispensable adjunct to the costume of every Japanese man, and it was, accordingly, made for use and not for ornament alone. Of late years wood and ivory sculpture in Japan has largely degenerated and deteriorated owing to the output of articles not of utility, but made for the foreign market—"curios," in fact.
No one who has visited Japan can have failed of being impressed by those gigantic statues of Buddha which have been erected in different parts of the country. The largest and best known is the Dai Butsu, at Kamakura, a few miles from Yokohama. The height of this great statue is nearly 50 feet, in circumference it is 97 feet. The length of the face is 8 feet 5 inches, the width of mouth 3 feet 2 inches, and it has been asserted—though I do not guarantee the accuracy of the calculation—that there are 830 curls upon the head, each curl 9 inches long. The statue is composed of layers of bronze brazed together. It is hollow, and persons can ascend by a ladder into the interior. The Dai Butsu at Nara is taller than the one at Kamakura. It is dissimilar to most of the others in the country in having a black face of a somewhat African type. This image is stated to have been erected in the year 750 A.D., and the head has, I believe, been replaced several times. In the Kamakura Dai Butsu both hands rest upon the knees, while in the one at Nara the right arm is extended upward with the palm of the hand placed to the front. The statue at Nara is made of bronze which is stated to be composed of gold 500, mercury 1,950, tin 16,827, and copper 986,080 lbs., the total weight of the statue being about 480 tons. Nearly all the Dai Butsus in the country are of ancient workmanship. There is a modern one constructed of wood erected in the year 1800 at Kyoto, 60 feet high. As a work of art it has, however, no pretensions, which rest entirely upon its size.
Criticisms in regard to the artistic merits of these immense images have been numerous and by no means unanimous. To my mind they are superb specimens of the work of the old metallurgists of Japan, and they are, moreover, deeply interesting as indicative of the ideas of their designers in regard to the expression of placid repose of Nirvana. Mr. Basil Chamberlain has appositely remarked in reference to the great statue at Kamakura: "No other gives such an impression of majesty or so truly symbolises the central idea of Buddhism, the intellectual calm which comes of perfected knowledge and the subjugation of all passion." And Lafcadio Hearn, that learned authority on everything Japanese, who has brought into all his writings a poetical feeling which breathes the very spirit of old Japan, has observed in regard to the same statue: "The gentleness, the dreamy passionlessness of those features—the immense repose of the whole figure—are full of beauty and charm. And, contrary to all expectations, the nearer you approach the giant Buddha the greater the charm becomes. You look up into the solemnly beautiful face—into the half-closed eyes, that seem to watch you through their eyelids of bronze as gently as those of a child; and you feel that the image typifies all that is tender and solemn in the soul of the East. Yet you feel also that only Japanese thought could have created it. Its beauty, its dignity, its perfect repose, reflect the higher life of the race that imagined it, and, though inspired doubtless by some Indian model, as the treatment of his hair and various symbolic marks reveal, the art is Japanese.
"So mighty and beautiful is the work that you will for some time fail to notice the magnificent lotus plants of bronze, fully 15 feet high, planted before the figure on another side of the great tripod in which incense rods are burning."
Kaemfer, writing in the seventeenth century, remarked of the Japanese: "As to all sorts of handicraft, they are wanting neither proper materials nor industry and application, and so far is it that they should have any occasion to send for masters abroad, that they rather exceed all other nations in ingenuity and neatness of workmanship, particularly in brass, gold, silver, and copper." In metal work the Japanese have certainly cultivated art to a high degree. Much of that metal work was, of course, employed in connection with articles which modern conditions of life in Japan have rendered absolutely or almost entirely obsolete. The bronze workers of Japan were and indeed are still famous. Their work as displayed in braziers, incense-holders, flower-vases, lanterns, and various other articles evinces great skill, while the effects often produced by the artists in the inlaying and overlaying of metals with a view of producing a variegated picture has long been the wonder and admiration of the Western world. It is almost safe to assert that the finest specimens of work of this kind can never be reproduced. In casting, too, there was no lack of skill in old Japan. The big bell at Kyoto, which is 14 feet high by over 9 feet in diameter, is a sufficient object-lesson as to the proficiency attained in casting in bygone days. Much of the bronze work of Japan, especially in birds and insects, is to me incomparable. The modern bronze work of the country, though certainly beautiful, does not in any respect or any degree approach that of the masters of two or three hundred years ago. In the manipulation of metals and amalgams these men have reached a higher standard of perfection than had previously or has since been attained. The bronze work of Japan is not, in my opinion, as generally appreciated as it deserves to be. There is, I think, nothing of the same kind in the world to be compared with it when it was at its best. Like much of the other art of Japan modern conditions are, as I have said, not conducive either to its progress or development. Still, there is no lack of skill in this particular branch of art in Japan at the present time, and I have seen some very admirable, not to say magnificent, specimens of modern bronze work.
Armour is now nearly as effete in Japan as in this country, and yet in the decoration of armour the Japanese artist in metal was in the past not only skilful but beautiful. Fine specimens of armour are now extremely rare. That particular kind of work has, of course, gone never to return. Next in importance to armour came the sword. Some of us can remember when the two-sworded men of Japan were still actualities, not, as they have now become, historical entities, the terror of the foreign community there. The sword was an important and, indeed, an essential weapon in the conditions of society that obtained in old Japan, not only for self-defence but for offensive purposes, either in respect of family feuds or individual quarrels, which were almost invariably settled by the arbitrament of the sword. That weapon was also used for those suicides known as hara-kiri, the outcome of wounded honour or self-respect, which were such prominent features in the Japanese life of the past. Some Western writers have attempted to poke a mild kind of fun at this proneness of the Japanese for the "happy despatch" on what seemed to the writers very flimsy or trivial grounds. To me, on the contrary, the practice of hara-kiri, indefensible as it may be in some respects, indicates the existence of a high code of honour, the slightest infringement of which rendered life intolerable. The sword then had innumerable functions, and, like almost every article of utility in Japan, it became the subject of elaborate ornamentation. The blade itself was brought to a high state of perfection, and as regards the tempering of the steel has been the admiration of cutlers in every part of the globe. Indeed the sword-makers of Japan are famous from the tenth century downwards. Many of the sword-blades had mottoes inscribed on them, and most had designs ornate and often elaborate. The accessories of the blade and the ornamentation thereof lent full scope for that artistic adornment which has for ages past, as I have more than once remarked, been characteristic of almost every article used in Japan. The wearing of the sword was confined to persons of a certain rank, and different classes wore different kinds of swords. About the sixteenth century the custom of wearing two swords, one large, the other about the size of a dirk, came into fashion. The two-handed sword was essentially a war sword. The colour of the scabbard was almost invariably black with a tinge of red or green, and it was in most instances beautifully lacquered. The possessor of a sword gave full vent to his tastes in regard to the size and decoration of his weapon. According to Griffis: "Daimios often spent extravagant sums upon a single sword and small fortunes upon a collection. A Samurai, however poor, would have a blade of sure temper and rich mountings, deeming it honourable to suffer for food that he might have a worthy emblem of his rank." On January 1, 1877, the wearing of swords was abolished by an Imperial decree, and foreigners visiting or resident in Japan in that and the following years were able to pick up magnificent swords for a few dollars each.
I have not space to describe in detail the many accessories which went to form the complete sword for the strong man armed in old Japan, or the elaborate and artistic ornamentation of every detail. In many of the small pieces of metal work which adorned the swords gold, silver, platina, copper, iron, steel, zinc, besides numerous alloys were used. The abolition of sword-wearing gave a death-blow to the industry in connection with the making of swords except in so far as it has been continued for the purpose of turning them out for the European market. But during the many centuries the art of metal work, as exemplified in sword manufacture and the ornamentation of the sword and the various accessories of it, existed in Japan it reached a magnificent height of perfection. Dealing only with one period of it a French writer has remarked: "What a galaxy of masters illuminated the close of the eighteenth century! What a multitude of names and works would have to be cited in any attempt to write a monograph upon sword furniture! The humblest artisan, in this universal outburst of art, is superior in his mastery of metal to any one we could name in Europe. How many artists worthy of a place in the rank are only known to us by a single piece, but which is quite sufficient to evidence their power! From 1790 to 1840 art was at fever heat, the creative faculty produced marvels."
Besides the making and ornamentation of swords the metal workers in Japan attained great skill in the design and finish of many other articles which were in constant use by the people—pipes, cases to hold the Indian ink which formed the writing material, the clasps and buttons of tobacco pouches, besides vases, &c. In reference to the making of alloys these metal workers showed considerable ingenuity, the alloys used, amalgams of gold, silver, copper, and other metals in deft proportions, resulting in magnificent effects as regards ornamentation and permanency. Japan has undoubtedly been greatly aided in the height to which the art of the country of various kinds has attained by the plentifulness of minerals therein. Gold, silver, copper, iron, lead, tin, and many other minerals exist. Strange to say, gold at one time was considered no more valuable than silver—a fact which may account for the lavish manner in which it was used for decorative purposes in art of all descriptions.