I fear that an inevitable result of Western influences and the great, indeed drastic, changes which have been effected thereby in the ideas, manners, and customs of the Japanese people has been the decay, if not the destruction, of the art connected with metal work. Sword manufacture and everything relating thereto is, of course, gone; other metal industries are following suit. The result, as I have said, was inevitable, but it is none the less deplorable. Although it requires an expert to deal with and describe in all its infinite detail the metal work of Japan, it does not need an expert's knowledge to profoundly admire it and be lost in admiration at the skill displayed and the pains taken in respect of every part of it. The workers in this, as indeed in all the other art industries of Japan in the past, were quite evidently not men in a hurry or much exercised concerning their output, and scamping their work in order to establish a record. Their hearts must have been in everything they undertook, and their sole aim, whatever they did, to put into their work all their skill and knowledge and love of the beautiful. They, in fact, worked not for pelf but for sheer love of art, and so long as the work of these artists of various kinds endures the world will assuredly never cease to admire it.
Painting has, in Japan, long been greatly cultivated, and in some respects highly developed. There are various recognised schools of painting, but I shall not weary my readers with any attempt, necessarily imperfect as it would be, to describe them in detail. China and the Buddhist religion have profoundly influenced painting as the other arts of Japan. Indeed, the early painters of Japan devoted themselves almost entirely to religious subjects. Most of their work was executed on the walls, ceilings, and sliding screens of the Buddhist temples, but some of it still exists in kakemonos, or wall pictures, and makimonos, or scroll pictures. In the ninth century painting, as well as the arts of architecture and carving, flourished exceedingly. Kyoto appears to have been the great artistic centre. The construction of temples throughout the country proceeded apace, and it is related that no less than 13,000 images were carved and painted during the reign of one emperor. Kyoto was, in fact, the centre of religious art. We are told that the entire city was in a constant artistic ferment, that whole streets were converted into studios and workshops, and that the population of idols and images was as numerous as the human habitation. Nearly all the temples then constructed and adorned have vanished, but that at Shiba still remains to convey to us some idea of the artistic glories of this period of intense religious belief, which gave expression to its fervour and its faith in architecture, carving, and painting. About the thirteenth century flower and still-life painting came into vogue. Almost simultaneously religious fervour, as expressed in art, began to grow cold. The artist became the hanger-on of the Daimio, who was too often employed in burning temples and destroying their artistic treasures. The painter then painted as his fancy led him, and if he treated of religious subjects did not invariably do so in a reverential spirit. From time to time new schools of painting arose, culminating, in the eighteenth century, in the Shijo school, which made a feature of painting animals, birds, fishes, flowers, &c., from nature, instead of adhering to the conventional style which had previously prevailed. The colouring of some of the work of this school is superb and is greatly in request among art collectors.
Of late years painting in Japan seems, to some extent, to have come under Western influences. There is, indeed, a progressive party in painting which not only does not resist these Western influences but actually advocates the utilisation of Western materials and methods in painting and the discarding of all that had made Japanese painting essentially what it is. I confess to a hope that this progressive school will not make quite so much progress as its disciples desire. To introduce European pigments, canvas, brushes, &c., and discard the materials formerly in use, to get rid of the Japanese method of treating subjects, whether landscapes, country scenes, the life of the people, representations of animals, and so on, and replace that method by imitations of European schools of painting, must simply involve the destruction of all that is essentially and characteristically Japanese and the replacing of it by something that is not Japanese or indeed Oriental. The essence of art is originality. I admit that art may come under foreign influences and be improved, just as it may be degraded, by them. If the influences of foreign art are to be advantageous that art must, I suggest, be in some measure akin to the style of the art which is affected by it. For example, the influence in the past of China or Korea upon an analogous style of art in Japan. But for Japanese painters to remodel their peculiar style upon that of Europe must prove as fatal to Japanese painting as an art as any similar endeavour of European painters to remodel their style upon that of Japan would be fatal to the distinctive art of Europe. I make this statement with full knowledge of the fact that some art critics in this country declare that Mr. Whistler and other artists have been largely affected or influenced in their style by a study of Japanese art in painting and its methods.
I have referred to kakemonos, those wall pictures which are such a pleasing feature of the simple decoration of Japanese houses. Many of these are superb specimens of art, and the same remark may be made in reference to the makimonos, or scroll pictures. It may be that not every Western eye can appreciate these Japanese paintings fully at a first glance, but they certainly grow upon one, and I hope the time is far distant when kakemonos will be replaced in Japanese homes by those mural decorations, if I may so term them, to be seen in so many English houses, which are a positive eyesore to any person with even the faintest conception of art. The work of the old painters of Japan, as it appears on kakemonos and makimonos, is now rare. Much of it, as is the case with the other art treasures of the country, has gone abroad. I am, however, of opinion that painting has not deteriorated to anything like the same extent as some of the other Japanese arts. The subjects depicted by the artists have during the centuries from time to time changed, but the technique has altered but little. It does not, I know, appeal to everybody, but it is the kind of art, I reiterate, that grows upon one. No person who has interested himself in painting in modern Japan, especially on kakemonos, can, I think, have failed to be impressed by the exquisite and beautiful work which the Japanese artists in colour to-day produce.
Silk and satin embroidery as an industry and an art at one time attained considerable importance in Japan, but of recent years has greatly declined. The craze among the upper classes for European dress has, of course, seriously affected the demand for elaborately embroidered silk and satin garments, and is bound to affect it to an even greater extent in the future as the custom of wearing European garb spreads among the people. No one with any artistic sensibilities can help regretting the fact that Japan is gradually but surely discarding the distinctive costume of her people. That costume was in every respect appropriate to their physique and facial characteristics. The same certainly cannot be said of European attire. However, it is now, I suppose, hopeless to arrest the movement in this direction, and in a comparatively few years, no doubt, the ancient and historic dress of the Japanese people will be as obsolete as the silks, satins, ruffles, &c., of our forefathers.
And what remark shall I make of Japanese curios, the trade in which has assumed such very large dimensions? Have they no claim, some of my readers may ask, to be included in a chapter on art? There is no doubt that many purchasers of them would be shocked were they to be told that there was nothing artistic in many, if not most, of these articles, that they were made simply and solely for the European market, and that the manufacture of curios for this purpose was now just as much a trade as is the making of screws in Birmingham. I am quite prepared to admit that some of the articles included in the generic term "curios," which can now be purchased in every large town in Great Britain, are pretty and effective, but as regards many of them there is certainly nothing artistic or indeed particularly or peculiarly Japanese. This making of curios for the foreign market has, as I have said, assumed considerable dimensions in Japan of recent years, and in connection therewith the Japanese has certainly assimilated many Western ideas in reference to pushing his wares. As an example in point of this I will quote here an anecdote told me by a friend who had a considerable knowledge of Japan in the 'seventies. During one of his journeyings inland, when staying at a Japanese tea-house, he was initiated into the use of Japanese tooth-powder, which is in pretty general use among the lower classes. On leaving Japan he purchased and brought to England a considerable quantity of this tooth-powder, and on settling down in London he discovered a Japanese shop where it was on sale. For some seventeen or eighteen years he purchased the tooth-powder at the shop, sold in the little boxes in which it was vended in Japan, not only using it himself but introducing it to a large number of his acquaintances. One day last year, on going into the shop referred to to make a further purchase, he was informed that they were run out of tooth-powder and did not quite know if they would have any more. My friend returned a month or two later to the same shop on the same errand bent, and asked if they had received a fresh supply. He was told that a further supply had come to hand of very much the same description, but at double the price. He purchased a box, the outside of which bore the following inscription in English: "Japanese Sanitary Dentifrice; Superior Quality. Apply the powder to the teeth by means of a brush, using moderate friction over the whole surface." On opening the box my friend found the powder was perfumed—perfumed for the European market! Now tooth-powder is, of course, not a curio, nor is the expression "moderate friction over the whole surface," I may remark, characteristically Japanese. The little anecdote is, I think, typical of the change that has come over and is still actively in progress in Japan—a change which, however inevitable, and beneficial though in many respects I believe it to be, is most assuredly not beneficial to the interests of art of any kind.
The fact of the matter is that the hurry-scurry of modern civilisation is not conducive to artistic work of any description. The man in a hurry is unlikely to accomplish anything of permanent value. Working against time is utterly subversive of the realisation of artistic ideals. The past, whether in the West or the East, when railways, telegraphs, telephones, newspapers, and all the adjuncts of modern progress were unknown, was the period when men did good and enduring work. They could then concentrate their minds upon their art free from those hundred-and-one discomposing and disconcerting influences which are the concomitants of modern civilisation. The true artist thinks only of his art; for him it is not merely a predominant, but his sole interest. He brings to it all his mind, his ideas and ideals, his energy, enthusiasm, pertinacity; in it is concentrated all his ambition. Extraneous matters can only distract his mind from his art, and accordingly are to be abjured. I fear this exclusiveness, this aloofness, is rare nowadays in the West; it is perhaps less rare in the East, but it is becoming rarer there as Western influences, Western ideas, and Western modes of life and method of regarding life make progress. The poet, the painter, the sculptor, the novelist, the dramatist, if their work is to be other than ephemeral, need an atmosphere of repose and quietude wherein the mind can work and fashion those ideas which are to be given material expression free from all distracting and disturbing influences. Where can the aspiring artist, under modern conditions of life, find such a haven of rest? And even if he find it I fear he too often has no desire to cast anchor there. The distractions of life are frequently alluring, and the embryonic artists of to-day assure us that they must, in modern jargon, keep "in touch" with modern thought with a view of, in modern slang, being "up-to-date." Ideas such as these—and they seem to me to be not only largely prevalent but almost universal—are in my opinion fatal, not only to the development but to the very existence of art. We see in this country the effect upon every department thereof. Poetry, painting, sculpture, literature, the drama, are by almost general consent in a state of utter decadence. The great poet or painter, the great artist in words, on canvas, in marble, or in wood—where is he? Are there any signs or portents of his advent? None. Modern conditions of life have killed the artist, and replaced him by artistic mediocrities or mechanicians who labour not for love but for lucre, and are more concerned about the amount of their output than the quality thereof. And as of England and Europe so I fear is it, and will it be to a greater extent, in the near future in Japan. The artist in lacquer, porcelain, metal, painting, embroidery, cannot exist under the conditions of modern progress. He may still produce good and beautiful work, but it will be no longer artistic in the higher sense of that word, just because those ideas and ideals which make the artist and connote art cannot exist in their fulness and purity amidst the hurry and bustle and turmoil and desire for wealth which are the essential characteristics of the civilisation of Europe and America to-day—a civilisation which Japan has imported, and to a large degree assimilated, and which she must accept with its defects as well as its advantages. We may, and must, regret the effect of this civilisation upon the art of old Japan, but there is no good shutting one's eyes to obvious facts or affecting to believe that in due course we shall witness a renaissance in Japan, a new birth of all that is great and grand and magnificent in her past history.
There has for some years been a movement to prevent, as far as possible, the passing out of Japan of its art treasures. The Government has diligently catalogued all that remain in the temples and public buildings to obviate their being sold, and museums have been built for the purpose of collecting and exhibiting all that is best and representative of Japanese art There has also been a movement among the noblemen and the upper classes in the direction of forming private collections. It was time that steps such as these should be taken. It is a thousand pities they were not taken earlier. The drain of Japan's art treasures went on unchecked year after year, and it is probable that the private and public collections of Europe and America contain more Japanese art treasures than are now to be found in Japan itself. I am aware that in these collections are also to be found no little of the spurious, and many articles with no claim to be considered artistic in any sense of the word, but at the same time there is no doubt that, as I have said, for years, there was a constant export of artistic wealth from Japan. The Revolution of 1868, with its consequent cataclysms, caused the treasures of many of the great families to come on the market, with the result that they were bought up at prices often greatly below their intrinsic value and shipped from the country. They are of course gone for ever, and the only thing that now remains to Japan is to prevent as far as possible any of the treasures which she possesses meeting with a similar fate. I know perfectly well that art, like music, knows nothing of nationality, and that there is no reason why the resident of London or New York should not enjoy the beauties of Japanese art, and feast his eyes on the work of some great Japanese artist of three or four hundred years back just as much as the citizen of Tokio. This is in one sense true, but at the same time one cannot help sympathising with the patriotic desire of a people to retain in their midst specimens of the artistic conceptions and the artistic work of those famous men who are now ashes, but whose work remains as a symbol and an incentive to their countrymen to maintain a high standard, and to practise art simply and solely for the love of it.
There are, perhaps, some superior persons who may consider that Japanese architecture has no claim to be regarded as art. These persons have no conception of art in architecture unless it be Doric, Gothic, Byzantine, Early English, or something of the kind, and unless it be expressed in bricks and mortar. Now Japanese architecture is only wood, but though only wood, as regards its majestic beauty, seemliness, and adaptability to the purposes for which it is intended, it stands unique. Moreover, it is the only timber architecture in the world that has attained in any degree artistic importance. Almost every building in Japan is, or, to speak more accurately, was, constructed of wood—a fact possibly due to the interminable earthquakes to which the country was long, and is still occasionally, subjected. In Japanese architecture no brick or stone is used unless it be for foundations; nevertheless, this restriction to wood material has not prevented the Japanese architects of the past raising stupendous structures which in beauty of adornment and durability have long been the admiration of the Western world. The Temple of Nara, for example, was constructed three hundred years before the foundations of Westminster Abbey were laid. As Dr. Dresser has pertinently remarked in this connection: "What buildings can we show in England which have existed since the eighth century and are yet almost as perfect as when first built? and yet our buildings rest on a solid foundation, and not on earth which is constantly rocked by natural convulsions." The porch of the temple of Todaji is erected upon pillars 100 feet high by 12 feet in circumference, and yet this porch is merely the entrance to another porch equally large, which again is itself the approach to the temple containing an image of Buddha 53 feet high with a halo 83 feet in diameter. The sanctuary of the ancient temple at Nara, already referred to, has columns quite 100 feet high consisting of a single stem. These ancient fanes are not bald architectural ruins. Their decoration, as ancient as the building itself, is quite as permanent. They are ablaze in every part with majestic decorations in gold and all the colours of the rainbow, as gorgeous and impressive now as they were when first applied by the hands of the decorators more than a thousand years ago. As a recent writer on this subject has appositely remarked: "It is in detail the Japanese architect most excels, for if he conceives like a giant he invariably finishes like a jeweller. Every detail to the very nails, which are not dull surfaces but rendered exquisite ornaments, is a work of art. Everywhere we encounter friezes and carvings in relief, representing in quaint colour harmonies flowers and birds, or heavenly spirits playing upon flutes and stringed instruments."
It must often strike the thinking man as a curious fact that these old religious edifices, whether in Europe or the Far East, seem to have a permanence about them such as is not characteristic of modern buildings of the same kind. The reason, I think, must have been that the men who were employed in the designing and construction of these ancient buildings, whether in the East or West, were not mere mercenaries employed for a particular purpose, but men full of faith in their religion, a building in whose honour and for whose services they were employed to erect, and who threw into their work their whole souls, so to speak—gave, in fact, the best of what they had, and employed all their zeal, energy, and enthusiasm with a view of perpetuating, whether in stone, brick, or wood, the faith they so firmly held and so dearly loved.
Some of the problems that the Japanese builders of the past had to face in the erection of a few of the great temples which still adorn the country have proved insoluble to many European engineers and architects. The erection and support of the magnificent pagoda at Nikko is an example in point. Dr. Dresser has referred to this and pointed out what he deemed a great waste of material in connection therewith. He failed to understand for what reason an enormous log of wood ascended in the centre of a structure from its base to the apex—a log of wood about 2 feet in diameter—while near the lower end one equally large was bolted to each of the four sides of the central mass. When Dr. Dresser expressed surprise on the subject he was told that the walls must be strong enough to support the central block; and on his pointing out that the central block was not supported by the sides, he was taken up to the top of the building and the fact demonstrated to him that the huge central mass was suspended like the clapper of a bell. On descending again, while lying on the ground, he saw that there was quite an inch of space between the soil and the great pendulum—a safeguard against damage by earthquake. For many hundreds of years the centre of gravity of this building has, by its swinging, been kept within the base, and the fact shows, were evidence needed, that the Japanese architects who designed this great Nikko Pagoda and similar structures were men of scientific capacities who had thought out every problem connected with the safety and permanence of the building they were employed to design.
The domestic dwellings of the great mass of the Japanese people are of the simplest possible type. They are no doubt evolved from the hut of the Ainos, probably the aborigines of the islands, still to be found in the island of Yesso. There are no walls as we understand the term, the sides being composed, in winter, of amado, or sliding screens made of wood, and in summer of shoji, or oil-paper slides. This enables, in hot weather, the whole of the side of the house to be moved, and the air to be given free ingress and egress. Nor are these habitations divided off into permanent rooms, as in this and other European countries. Paper screens which slide into grooves divide the space according to requirements. The wood-work of these dwellings, which are largely composed of camphor-wood, is both within and without left unpainted, and they generally present a neat and alluring appearance. When one compares the dwelling-places of the poorest inhabitants of Japan with the hovels in this country, and more especially in Ireland, occupied by the peasants, one is really lost in wonder at the ignorance of those persons who call Japan, and no doubt still believe it to have been, an uncivilised country until it was brought intimately into association with Occidental nations.
As we ascend in the social scale in Japan we find, of course, a difference in architecture. The principle remains very much the same, but, as might be expected, the buildings are more elaborate and there is a wealth of ornamentation which is absent from those of the lower classes. I am inclined to think that what I may call ecclesiastical art has largely influenced the decoration of the houses of the nobles and upper classes in Japan. Many of the old feudal castles, which were gems of Japanese architecture, no longer exist, but some of those which still remain are exceedingly beautiful specimens of wooden architecture. The castle of Nagoya, built in the early part of the seventeenth century, is supposed to be the finest specimen of the kind in Japan.
But the Japanese never seems to have been overmuch concerned respecting his dwelling. To comprehend the beauty of Japanese architecture, to see it in its purity and to realise all the grandeur that can be crowded into it, it is necessary to study it in the religious edifices of the country. Plainness is the characteristic of the Shinto temple; built as a rule of pine, it has a thatched roof. The fact of its being an edifice of the Shinto religion is self-evident from the torii which stand before every Shinto temple. There are no idols or exterior ornamentation of any kind. The walls are left untouched by either the painter or the lacquerer. In the Buddhist temples, on the contrary, the Japanese artist has had afforded him full scope for the exercise of his ornamental ingenuity. Numerous courtyards have to be traversed before reaching the temple itself. These courtyards contain many small buildings, bronze or stone lanterns, belfries, pavilions, pagodas, &c., &c., all elaborately decorated. Amongst the supplementary buildings connected with, but occasionally independent of, Buddhist temples, none is more interesting than the pagoda so intimately associated with Buddhism in every part of the Far East and so typically Oriental in its architecture. What may have been the precise origin of these five- or seven-storied erections, for what purpose they were intended, or what symbolism, if any, they were the expression of, is now largely a matter of conjecture. No one who has visited the East can at any rate have failed to be impressed by them. In Japan where, save the lower storey, the whole is lacquered red, they are a striking feature of the country. The lower storey, by the way, is decorated with numerous painted carvings. Topping the whole building is the twisted spire of bronze.
Like most other things in Japan, the origin and development of the architecture of the country is lost in the twilight of obscurity. Korea appears to have influenced Japanese architecture, just as it has Japanese art of various kinds. It is an extraordinary fact that this portion of Asia contiguous to the Japanese islands, which has for so many hundreds of years past exercised such a subtle influence on the art and industries of Japan, should at the commencement of the twentieth century have passed under the suzerainty of that country. When one fully comprehends the connection in various ways of Korea with Japan in all the past centuries, one begins to understand the sentimental feeling which has influenced the whole nation in regard to the possibility of Korea passing under the domination of any other Power. At the beginning of the third century Korea was invaded by Japan and, although the country was then conquered, it, as has not infrequently under similar circumstances happened in history, exercised a potent effect on both the art and architecture of Japan. Korean architecture, of course, was not original; it was based on that of China, which in its turn came from Burmah, and that again probably from India. In the course of the seventh century, however, the imported architecture more or less assumed the general style which has since remained distinctly Japanese and although it undoubtedly embodies everything that was best in the architecture of the countries from which it derived its essential features, appears to me to have an originality of its own. No man who has not visited the great temples at Shiba and Nikko can understand to what heights of sublimity wooden architecture can rise, what a gorgeous tout ensemble can be accomplished by harmonious colour schemes deftly blended by artists who had made a study of colour and all the details connected therewith, and knew how to render a picturesque effect which should be imposing without being either gaudy or glaring.
I am afraid that the results of Western civilisation have been, and will continue to be, fatal to Japanese architects. Judging by the buildings which have been erected in the country since Western influences have reigned supreme Japanese architecture is not only dead but buried. These edifices—hotels, Government buildings, railway stations and so on, are an attempt to combine Western and Japanese styles. The result is an incongruity, to express it mildly, sufficient to cause the artistic mind to shudder. The men who built the temples at Shiba, at Nikko, and in various other parts of the country, and the pagodas which dot the land, are dead, and have left no successors. There is nothing, in my opinion, that is more likely to be influenced, and more injuriously influenced, by Western ideas than the architecture of Japan. There is a tendency in the country to erect European buildings, and I suppose it is one that it is impossible to complain of. The Japanese houses, although they have advantages in the summer-time, are undoubtedly not well fitted to withstand the rigours of winter; and I have no doubt that, from the standpoint of material comfort, a replacement of them by buildings erected on European lines might be an advantage. But from the artistic point of view such a change is one impossible to contemplate without a feeling of regret.
There is, of course, no human possibility of temples such as those at Shiba and Nikko ever again being erected in Japan. As I have previously remarked, buildings such as these are something more than mere material constructions; they are the embodiment in material form of a living faith which the designers and builders attempted to set forth in their work. An age of disbelief, of indifference, of agnosticism, is not conducive to the construction of such edifices. We need not go to Japan for evidence of that obvious fact. The hideous monstrosities in the shape of cathedrals, churches, and chapels that have been built in this country during the past century or two are abundant proof, were any needed, that the faith and piety whose outward and visible manifestation is to be seen in Westminster Abbey, Canterbury Cathedral, York Minster, and various other noble architectural fanes is no longer with us; it has gone, and, apparently, inspiration with it. We can now only construct walls, and put roofs on them—admirable edifices, no doubt, to keep out the rain, but signifying nothing from an artistic or idealistic point of view. And so it is in regard to Japan. Architecture there, considered as an art, is dead. It may be imitated or reproduced, but the reproduction will impose on no person of artistic sensibilities or knowledge, any more than a Sheraton reproduction hailing from the Tottenham Court Road would impose on a connoisseur as the genuine work of that great artist in furniture.
The art of Japan has, especially since the opening up of the country, been closely studied and investigated, and many learned tomes have been written concerning it. I do not, however, think that the art of the country as expressed in its architecture has received anything like the attention it deserves. This may possibly arise from the fact, to which I have already referred, that many people have what I may term a restricted definition or conception of art. Others there are, again, who consider wooden architecture to be almost a contradiction in terms. Words or definitions in a matter of this kind seem to me to be childish. The lover of the beautiful, the admirer of the historic, the investigator of the ebb and flow of religious systems and of the sentiments and spirit that have influenced and moulded them at different periods of their existence, can in the ancient wooden temples of Japan find abundant material for enjoyment, instruction, reflection. I have no hesitation in including these buildings in that surely expansive and comprehensive term, Art.
POSTAL AND OTHER MEANS OF COMMUNICATION
The advancement of a nation, may, I think, be accurately gauged by the facilities it possesses or has developed for the communication of its inhabitants, either by personal intercourse or those other means which science has of late years discovered or evolved for the transmission of thought, whether on business or otherwise—the letter post, the telegraph, and the telephone. I accordingly purpose briefly describing the extent to which, in these respects, Japan has assimilated and utilised Western ideas.
I have already touched on the matter of railway communication, so I will not again refer to it in any detail. I may, however, remark that although railways in Japan have done much to open up the country and provide for more frequent and rapid intercourse between man and man, they still lack much in the matter of European ideas of comfort. There are three classes of carriages, and the fares of each are extremely low. The gauge is narrow; the carriages are open, as in America, with one long seat running down each side and a shorter one at the end. In the first-class carriages tea is provided, a kettle and tea-pot wherein to make the beverage being placed on the floor between the seats for the use of passengers. No doubt ere long the Japanese will be more impressed than they appear to be at present as to the necessity for express trains, high speeds, Pullman and restaurant cars, as well as for other now indispensable characteristics of English and American railways. The initial railway line in Japan was that between Yokohama and the capital. It was popular and well patronised from the first, in contradistinction to the record of railways in China, where the initial line—that between Shanghai and Wusung—had to be bought up and pulled up by the Chinese authorities, in view of the number of Chinamen who persisted in committing suicide by placing themselves in front of the train as a protest—and a most effective protest, it must be admitted—against the introduction into their country of this contrivance of the "foreign devils." The contrast in the manner in which the introduction of railways was received in China and Japan respectively is, I think, characteristic of the difference in the disposition and mental attitude of the people of the two countries.
A postal service modelled on that of Europe was inaugurated in Japan in 1871 by the introduction of a Government letter post between Tokio, Kyoto, Osaka, and Yokohama. Arrangements had, of course, long previously existed for the transmission of official correspondence throughout the country, but private letters were conveyed by private carriers. The following year the official postal service was extended to the whole of Japan, but not till twelve months later were private carriers abolished and the post-office, with all its various ramifications, constituted a State monopoly. Postcards, embossed envelopes, newspaper wrappers, and all the paraphernalia—so far as they had then been developed—of European post-offices were adopted by the Japanese postal authorities, and caught on with the people with surprising rapidity. In 1875 mail steamers were established between Japan and the Chinese ports, and the next year Japan, which at that time had, as I have elsewhere mentioned, to view post-offices established in the treaty ports, herself planted Japanese post-offices in both China and Korea. The Postal Union was joined in 1877, and from that time the Japanese post-office has developed, pari passu with the post-offices of European countries until at the present time it is in some respects ahead of them in the matter of enterprise and the facilities it affords. The Inland Parcel Post was established in 1892, and it has had a marked effect in the opening up of the country and the familiarising of the people with many commodities, principally European, of which they had previously no knowledge. At the present time there are considerably over 6,000 post-offices. About a thousand millions of letters and postcards—a favourite means of communication—are handled yearly. The number of parcels at present sent through the post amounts to about eleven millions annually.
Every description of post-office business as known in Europe is not only transacted in Japan, but, so far as results go to show, each new phase seems to fill a distinct want on the part of the people. Take the matter of postal orders for example, the introduction of which in this country was so vigorously opposed by the banking community, but a facility which has proved of incalculable utility and convenience to the mass of the public. Postal orders, when introduced into Japan, quickly came into favour. In the first year only a certain number of offices were authorised to issue and to pay these orders. This number has now been largely increased, and many millions of postal orders are at present annually sold in Japan. The International Postal Order Service has also assumed considerable dimensions, and has largely aided, I think, in the industrial and commercial development of the country.
Post Office Savings Banks were established in Japan as far back as 1875. The object, as in this country, was to encourage thrift among the mass of the people. The maximum deposit in one year of any depositor is limited to 500 yen (about L50). The Post Office Savings Bank has been largely utilised, and both the number of depositors and the sums deposited continue to grow on a scale which shows that the utility and benefit of this institution are greatly appreciated by the Japanese people. At first the Savings Bank was worked at a loss; it took time to develop, while in its infancy banking methods were probably not as well understood by the Japanese authorities as they now are. At the present time the Post Office Savings Bank in Japan is so worked that it not only pays all its expenses but returns a profit to the national exchequer. In this respect it very favourably compares with the Post Office Savings Bank as administered in this country, which is not only worked at a loss, but, owing to various causes, has entailed a liability, nominal though it be, on the British taxpayer.
Telegraphs were first introduced into Japan in 1869, and, as was the custom at that time in almost all countries, the telegraph followed the railway. The first line was between the capital and Yokohama. As time progressed some steps were taken in the direction of developing the system, but it was not until 1878 that the telegraph service in Japan was placed on a proper footing. In 1879 the International Telegraph Union was entered. At the present time Japan is covered by a network of telegraph wires, and every important island is in communication with the capital. Telegrams may be sent either in the Japanese or European languages. Like every other means of communication, the telegraph has been rapidly adopted by the Japanese people, and it now forms such a part of the national life that it is almost impossible to imagine the country without a telegraph system. There are about 2,600 telegraph offices in Japan, and over twenty million messages are annually despatched therefrom. I think it will be admitted that—especially in view of the difficulties occasioned by the necessity of the operators in the telegraph offices being conversant to some extent with the characteristics of two absolutely different descriptions of languages—the progress made by Japan, and the development and extension of the telegraph service of the country, have been really remarkable.
When the question of introducing telephones into Japan came up for consideration it was treated somewhat more practically than was the case with reference to a similar matter in this country. There was there as here a difference of opinion as to whether telephonic communication should be left to private enterprise or be constituted a Government monopoly. After somewhat prolonged investigation it was decided that the telephone service should be set up and worked by the Government, and in the year 1890 the first telephone, that between Tokio and Yokohama, was opened. At first, strange to say, this new device of Western civilisation appears somewhat to have hung fire, and no general demand sprung up for the fitting of the telephone to private houses. It required, as indeed was the case in this country, some education of the people in regard to the paramount advantages of always having this means of communication at hand. The process of education in this respect was not prolonged. Before the telephone had been many years in the country the demand for its installation in houses and offices became so great that the Government had to obtain a special grant of money in order to carry out the necessary work. According to the latest returns there are somewhere about 350 telephone offices open to the public, while the approximate number of messages transmitted is about 150,000,000. The time is not far distant when, as I think will also be the case in this country, the telephone will be deemed to be an indispensable adjunct of almost every house in the towns of Japan.
In connection with the means of communication one or two remarks in reference to tramways may not be out of place. These are entirely, or almost entirely, electric, and have certainly, if we are to judge by the patronage accorded to them, been very favourably received by the Japanese people. According to the latest returns I have available there were twenty-two tramway companies in Japan, which between them, in the year 1904, carried the very respectable total of over 73,000,000 passengers. All of these lines save one are electric. The first electric tramway, that in Kyoto, was opened in 1895, so that the development of the country in this direction has proceeded rapidly. The Tokio Electric Tramway Company pays a dividend of 11 per cent., and although this is a record which some of the other lines have not yet attained, and may not possibly attain, nevertheless these matters must not be altogether looked at from the point of view of dividends. The shareholder very probably regards them from that standpoint, but I suggest that the facilities given to a town may be as great or even greater by a tramway paying 2, or 3, or 5 per cent. as by one paying double that figure. Indeed, large dividends are often earned by cutting down expenditure or abstaining from expenditure designed to increase the facilities of passengers. There is every prospect of electric tramways being extended to every town of any importance in Japan, and I am confident they will greatly aid in the industrial development of the land.
I cannot leave a consideration of the means of communication in Japan without making some reference to that somewhat peculiar vehicle which is by so many persons deemed to be essentially characteristic of the country, although, as a matter of fact, I believe it is of comparatively recent introduction, having been introduced either by a European or an American; I refer, of course, to the jinricksha. Before Japan became to so great an extent the objective point of the globe-trotter, and Europe, through the medium of numerous books, was rendered conversant with everything relating to the country, nothing more struck the imagination of the new arrival in Japan than the sight of this extraordinary vehicle—a kind of armchair on wheels with two shafts, pulled by a man scantily clad and with extremely muscular legs. Whoever was the individual responsible for the invention of the jinricksha, he certainly conferred a great boon on all foreigners resident in Japan before railways and tramways and other means of communication became as prevalent as they now are. The long distances traversed by the man between the shafts of a jinricksha and the speed he attained and maintained were almost a marvel to the foreign visitor. It was possible to get about the country in one of these vehicles quite as fast as any horse-drawn vehicle could convey one, and quite as comfortably. I have heard it stated that the men who pull these vehicles unduly develop their legs at the expense of other portions of their body, and that the speed at which they run and which they certainly keep up for extraordinarily long periods has extremely injurious effects on their constitution, so that they are, as a rule, not long-lived. I am not aware, nor have I been able to ascertain, whether such statements are mere theories or have any foundation in fact. This much I will say, that the Japanese jinricksha-runners are an extraordinary class in reference to the speed which they attain dragging a goodly weight for a very long distance. It does not seem likely that the jinricksha, acclimatised as it has been in Japan, will be ousted by other modern contrivances for getting about the country. It is still very much in evidence, and it is universally admitted by those who have had experience of it to be a most comfortable means of locomotion. Why it has never come into favour, at least to any extent, elsewhere than in Japan I have never been able to understand. Certainly jinrickshas can be hired at Shanghai, and they are to be seen at one or two other places in the Far East, but it may be regarded as a distinctly Japanese vehicle, although, as I have said, there is nothing Japanese about it excepting its adaptation in the country.
I remarked at the commencement of this chapter that we may properly gauge the progress of a nation by the facilities it possesses or has developed for inter-communication personally and otherwise. I hope the few remarks I have made on this head may enable my readers to form some idea as to the position of Japan in this matter. I have not wearied them with statistics, but I have, I think, said enough to show that in everything relating to communication, whether it be the locomotion of the individual or the facilities given to him to communicate his wishes, desires, aspirations, sentiments, Japan is now well in line with all the other great civilised Powers, and has reason to be proud of the progress she has made and the manner in which she has adapted to the requirements of her people the ideas and inventions she has obtained from Europe and America.
LAW AND ORDER
In every nation which aspires to be regarded as civilised the supremacy of the law and the maintenance of order are matters of supreme importance. The most perfect code of law ever devised is quite evidently of no importance unless adequate means exist for enforcing its provisions, and although justice may be lauded as a most admirable object of attainment, yet, unless the courts of the country are independent, hold the scales evenly and use the sword with impartiality, justice will remain merely a sentiment, and there will be no practical exemplification of it. I have considered in this book as tersely as possible most of the factors of civilisation in Japan. Let me briefly deal with this matter of law and order.
When the Revolution was effected in 1868 the whole legal procedure of the country was thrown more or less into a condition of disorganisation. Prior to 1868, as my readers will have seen, feudal principles prevailed in Japan. The feudal lords, or Daimios, administered justice, or what passed for it, within their own territories, and they were answerable to the central authority. In theory the feudal lords were commissioners of the ruling sovereign from whom they derived their authority; in practice they were very largely a law unto themselves, and their subjects had little or no practical chance of redress in the event of their suffering any injustice. It is very difficult to ascertain whether there was in reality a legal code of any kind in existence and under the ken of these feudal lords. The legal system then in vogue appears to have been based for the most part on custom and usage. A writer on the subject has remarked that the few written laws were of a thoroughly practical character. Unfortunately I have not had an opportunity of acquainting myself with the nature of these laws. They were probably, like everything else in the country, imported from China, and indeed the Chinese legal system has been supreme in Japan until recently, and even now I am not quite certain that much of its influence does not remain. I have read that the fundamental principle underlying the written laws referred to was that: "The people should obey the law, but should not know the law." The code was accordingly a secret one. I have not space, nor indeed have I any inclination, to deal with what is, after all, an academical question as to the law prevalent in Japan prior to the Revolution. It was probably for the most part, just as in other countries when feudalism existed, a kind of rough-and-ready justice, which perhaps served its purpose well at the time, and depended more as regards the matter of justice upon the administrator of it than upon the code itself. Though the Revolution took place in 1868, it was not until 1871 that the Daimios were deprived of all their administrative authority. The whole of the country was then divided into districts under the control of the central Government, and all relics of feudalism and class privileges, which had been numerous, were ruthlessly swept away. In due course a civil code, commercial code, code of civil procedure, and code of criminal procedure were issued. One or two of these codes were found not to work well in practice, and they have been submitted to and revised by committees specially appointed for that purpose.
As I stated in the chapter on the Constitution the independence of the judges is recognised and provided for. The legal system of Japan at the present time is eclectic. As I have said, the Chinese system of legal procedure long obtained, and its influences may perhaps to some extent still remain. Nevertheless Japan has gone to various countries and selected what she deemed good in each for her present legal system. The jurisprudence of both France and England have been largely drawn on. In reference to the civil law custom is, as might have been expected in view of the circumstances of the country, still strongly relied on. There has often been a difficulty in ascertaining custom owing to the changed and changing conditions of the nation, and in reference thereto very much the same procedure has followed as in this country where the question of custom is so frequently pleaded in the courts of law. Some of the German system of jurisprudence has also been included in the Japanese legal system. As I have elsewhere observed, the suggestion to abolish extra-territoriality, and with it the foreign courts in Japan, met with a considerable amount of opposition from the foreign community there who believed that they would not be able to obtain justice in the Japanese courts. These fears have been shown to be groundless, and it is now generally recognised that the foreigner in Japan need have no fear of going into a Japanese court where he is, whether it be a civil or criminal matter, certain to obtain a perfectly fair trial.
Closely connected with law is the matter of police. In Japan the police of the country are entirely under the control of the State, just as are the constabulary in Ireland. The police are under the orders of the Minister of the Interior, who has a special office for dealing with the matter. The cost of the force is, however, paid by each prefecture, the State granting a small subsidy. According to the latest statistics, the police force of Japan amounted to something under 35,000 officers and men. When we consider that this body of men is responsible for the enforcement of the law and the preservation of order among some 47,000,000 people, it will, I think, be admitted that the number is not excessive. The social condition of the Japanese police, if I may use such a term, is higher than that of the police in this and other countries. In Japan the police force had its genesis after the abolition of feudalism, and, as a matter of fact, a large proportion of the first members thereof belonged to the Samurai class. The social position and intellectual attainment of these young men gave what I may term a standing to the police force in Japan which it has not yet lost. Of course, nothing like the same class of men is now attracted to it, the salaries are comparatively small and the work is not over-congenial for people whose ideas are such as those of the Japanese.
I may mention, as an interesting feature in this connection, that the Government have established a police and prison college in Tokio, where both police and prison officials are effectively trained for the discharge of their duties. This college was established when extra-territoriality was abolished, with the view of ensuring a higher training in view of the additional responsibilities that would devolve upon the police and prison officials.
From police I naturally come to some consideration of prisons. There are a large number of people in this country who have the idea in their mind that prisons are a weak point in all foreign countries, and that it is only in England that these regrettable institutions are properly managed. In fact the idea now seems to be prevalent here that we have gone too far in the direction of making prisons comfortable, and that excellent alliteration "Coddled Criminals" has more than once done duty in print in this connection. I consider that the present prison system in Japan is regulated and administered on sounder principles than those that obtain in this country. There are in all about 140 prisons in Japan. All the old prisons in the country were constructed of wood and arranged on the associate system. A separate cell system is, however, specially provided for foreign criminals, who are given clothes, bedding, and other articles to which they are used. The Government, a few years ago, commenced the construction of a number of new prisons, for the most part built of brick, in which a mixed system of separation and association, according to the offences of the prisoners, will be employed. The windows of these prisons were directed to be made especially large, so that the prisoners might have plenty of light and air. This is a matter in which some foreign Governments, that of this country included, might well take a lesson from Japan.
It is pleasing to be able to state that since 1899 the inmates of the prisons have been decreasing in number. There is nothing quite analogous to the ticket-of-leave system in this country. Parole is suggested by a prison governor to the Minister of Justice in reference to any prisoner whom he may deem worthy of the privilege, provided that prisoner has completed three-fourths of the sentence imposed upon him and has shown a disposition to live more worthily. I do not quite know how this latter fact is made plain in gaol, but at any rate the prison governor has to be convinced of it. A prisoner thus released remains under police supervision during the remainder of his sentence.
In Japan the death penalty is not confined to murder. It may be inflicted for robbery with violence, homicide, wounds inflicted by children upon their fathers, mothers, and grand-parents, as well as for arson. This sounds a somewhat drastic blood code, but when I state that the average number of persons executed in Japan does not exceed thirty a year, it will be seen that either the crimes mentioned are infrequent or that the punishment of death is only inflicted in extreme cases.
One interesting feature of the Japanese prison system is the granting of medals to criminals who have shown an amendment of their lives by good conduct and diligence at their work. The privileges enjoyed by persons possessing these medals are so interesting that I will transcribe them here:—
1. All medallists are supplied with superior kinds of garments and other articles.
2. Each medallist is allowed to send out two letters per month.
3. Medallists enjoy the privilege of bathing prior to other prisoners, hot water being used in accordance with the general custom of the Japanese people.
4. The supply of accessories is increased in quantity every week for medallists, according to the number of medals granted, to the extent of an increased expense of two sen or less for one meal per person. This increase is granted once a week to the possessor of two medals, and three times a week for each possessor of three medals.
5. The allotment of earnings is made in the following proportion, the remainder being applied to prison expenses:—
Three-tenths to each felon to whom one medal has been granted.
Four-tenths to each misdemeanant to whom one medal has been awarded.
Four-tenths to each felon having been granted two medals.
Five-tenths to each felon possessing three medals.
Six-tenths to each misdemeanant granted three medals.
There is no need for me to deal with the question of punishment of criminals in Japanese prisons. I may, however, remark that in respect of foreign criminals every effort is made to treat them in accordance with their conditions of national life in regard to bathing, food, &c. In reference to the question of prison labour, which has become somewhat of a vexed economic problem in this country, the Japanese authorities do not appear to experience much difficulty. The object of the prison system of labour is to give the prisoners a careful training, and to encourage diligence, so that on their return to the world they may not experience difficulty in obtaining employment. The labour is of two kinds—Government, and for private individuals. In the latter case the necessary labour is obtained from the prisons direct, the employers supplying the material. I think this part of the system is perhaps open to question, as it has been found in other countries productive of grave abuses.
The discharged prisoner in Japan, as in other countries, finds a difficulty in obtaining employment, and several societies similar to those in existence here have been established with a view of assisting discharged prisoners. I have not sufficient information to enable me to say what measure of success these societies have achieved. In a country like Japan, which is endeavouring to perfect all her institutions, I hope that the discharged prisoner problem will be solved otherwise than by philanthropic societies. The criminal who has completed his sentence ought to be deemed to have purged his offence, and has a right to return to the community and obtain work until, if ever, he again misconducts himself.
I hope my few remarks on the subject of the means taken in Japan to maintain law and order will tend to convince my readers that in every detail of her administration Japan has shown a capacity for adapting what is good in foreign nations and moulding it for her own purposes. The foreign community in Japan has long since got over its state of panic in regard to the danger of suing and being sued in Japanese courts, and the possibility of being an inmate of a Japanese gaol. The years that have elapsed since the treaties were revised have demonstrated clearly that, if anything, extra consideration is shown to the foreigner in all the details of the administration of the law in Japan. I remarked at the beginning of this chapter that the supremacy of the law and the maintenance of order are matters of supreme importance in every civilised country. Japan has recognised this fact, and she has acted upon the recognition thereof with most admirable results.
LITERATURE AND THE DRAMA
The literature of Japan is a somewhat recondite subject, while the Japanese drama is at present, like many other things in the country, to a great extent in a state of transition. Still, some remarks on these two matters are, I consider, absolutely essential in order that my readers may form some idea of two important phases of Japanese life. The literature of Japan is indeed largely mixed up with the national life through many centuries—a reflection, in fact, of it. The late Sir Edwin Arnold, whose great authority on everything connected with Japan is generally admitted, has observed in reference to the literature of that country: "The time will come when Japan, safe, famous, and glad with the promise of peaceful years to follow and to reward this present period of life and death conflict, will engage once again the attraction of the Western nations on the side of her artistic and intellectual gifts. Already in this part of the globe persons of culture have become well aware how high and subtle is her artistic genius; and by and by it will be discovered that there are real treasures to be found in her literature. Moreover, England, beyond any other European country, is likely to be attracted to this branch, at present naturally neglected, of what may be called the spiritual side of Japanese life."
The drawback to the fulfilment of the somewhat optimistic forecast of Sir Edwin Arnold is the great difficulty experienced by the Western nations in acquiring a sufficient knowledge of the language in which the treasures of Japanese literature are embedded if not entombed. No man can ever grasp the beauties of a literature, and especially an Oriental literature, through the medium of a translation, however well done. A translation is like a diamond with the brilliancy removed, if we can imagine such a thing. It may be faultlessly correct in its rendering, and yet absolutely misleading in its interpretation of the original.
Japanese literature embraces poetry, history, fiction, books of ceremony and travel, as well as many works of an ethical nature. Poetry is supposed to have reached its most brilliant period in Japan a long way back—long even before Geoffrey Chaucer took up his pen to write those immortal lines which I fear but comparatively few Englishmen now read. In reference to this poetry of twelve hundred years ago, Mr. Aston—perhaps the greatest authority on the subject—remarks: "While the eighth century has left us little or no prose literature of importance, it was emphatically the golden age of poetry. Japan has now outgrown the artless effusions described in the preceding chapter, and during this period produced a body of verse of an excellence which has never since been surpassed. The reader who expects to find this poetry of a nation just emerging from the barbaric stage of culture characterised by rude, untutored vigour, will be surprised to learn that, on the contrary, it is distinguished by polish rather than power. It is delicate in sentiment and refined in language, and displays exquisite skill of phrase with a careful adherence to certain canons of composition of its own."
I confess my knowledge of the language is insufficient to enable me to read Japan's literary treasures in the original, and as I have remarked, no man through the medium of a translation can adequately form a correct opinion respecting any description of foreign literature. I fear, however, that modern Japan is as little concerned with its eighth-century poetry as the modern Englishman is with that of Chaucer, not to speak of those great poets, most of whom are now forgotten, who lived long before Chaucer and whose verses were not only read but sung throughout the length and breadth of the land.
In a much later period of the history of the country, literature was undoubtedly greatly in vogue. There was evolved what I may term a distinct literary class, the language and literature of China were diligently studied, and very much of the literature of this time is written in Chinese. That language, indeed, seems to have been at one period regarded in Japan very much as Latin was, and in some quarters is even still, regarded in Europe as the appropriate medium for expressing the most sublime thoughts of the brightest intellects. The fiction of this period, usually termed the Heian—and there is plenty of it still in existence—was for the most part written by women, so that it will be seen the female novelist is not, as some persons appear to imagine, a comparatively modern development. After the twelfth century—and most of the literature I have referred to is anterior to that—petty wars between the feudal princes appear to have been incessant, and the whole country was for a great number of years more concerned with fighting than with literature. History or historical romance seems to have been the favourite literary exercitation during this period. A good deal of the literature thereof is still, I understand, read in Japan, especially by its youth, for whom the stirring episodes embodied in the history and historical romances of these bellicose times seem to have an especial fascination.
The Tokugawa period, covering the 270 years during which the Government of the Tycoon was installed in Yeddo, was one during which literature made great progress in Japan. Those years were a time of profound peace; the country was cut off from the rest of the world, thrown in upon itself, and accordingly had ample leisure, and possibly much inclination, to develop its artistic side, especially in literature. The study of books was prevalent everywhere, and quite a band of teachers arose in the land whose mission it was to expound its ancient literature, and exhume for public edification and delectation many of the buried literary treasures of the past. These teachers were not content with mere oral description; they wrote what would now be termed treatises or commentaries, many of which show great depth of learning, by way of expounding and explaining the classics of Japan with a view of bringing them within the ken of the great mass of the people. This period (the Tokugawa) also had its works of fiction; it produced many dramas and, I believe, some, if not much, poetry. The romances of this time are, I am told, written principally for or down to the level of the common people. The classics of Japan were, and probably still are, like the classics of Greece and Rome in respect of the mass of the people of this country, not understood, and most likely were they, would not be appreciated. And hence in the Tokugawa period what I may term the popular writer was evolved, and he turned out, under a nom-de-plume for the most part, books for the lower orders. These works are now regarded as somewhat vulgar, but they are in many respects a mirror of the age in which they were written, and it is doubtful if they are much coarser in style than some of the novels published in England in the eighteenth century. Vulgarity, it must be remembered, is largely a matter of opinion, and because either the Japanese of to-day or the foreigner who has perused, perhaps in a translation, this fiction of a couple of centuries back, dubs it according to the opinion of to-day vulgar, it by no means follows that it was so considered in Japan two hundred years back.
Since the Revolution of 1868 it is doubtful if Japan has produced any distinctive literature. The whole country and all the national modes of thought have been in a state of transition, a condition of unrest—circumstances not conducive to the production of classical literature; moreover, literary ideas and conceptions have changed and are still changing—changing rapidly. The development of a powerful newspaper press must have a marked and far-reaching effect on Japanese literature. So also must the study of Western literature by the educated classes—a study which is both extensive and increasing. Japanese literature is now undoubtedly in the melting-pot, so to speak, and what will be the precise result it is impossible to determine. It must be confessed that the modern Japanese who has been educated according to Western methods, and is adequately acquainted with the languages and literature of Europe, is infrequently an admirer of the peculiar literature of his own country. Possibly it suffers by comparison. Japan has produced no Dante, or Shakespeare, or Milton. The moods of her people, and probably the limitations and peculiarities of the language, have prevented the possibility of the appearance of such divine geniuses. There is, its critics declare, an absence of sustained power and sublimity in Japanese literature generally, while the didactic and philosophical, if not altogether lacking, is extremely rare therein. But it seems to me the height of absurdity to compare the literature of a country like Japan with the literature of some other land where everything is, and always has been, essentially different. To properly comprehend, and probably to be able to appreciate Japanese literature, it would be necessary to get, so to speak, into the atmosphere in which it was produced. To judge it by twentieth-century standards and canons of criticism and from European standpoints is not only unfair but must create a totally false impression.
In every country which has attained any degree of civilisation, and even in some countries whose civilisation is still imperfect, the drama has played an important part, and Japan has been no exception to the rule. Its dramatic literature is, I believe, of considerable extent, and to understand, much less appreciate it properly would require very profound study. Many of the more or less ancient dramas are works not only containing the dialogue of the play but much descriptive matter. They were, as a matter of fact, written for theatres in which there were to be not actors but marionettes, singers being engaged to sing the lines out of sight while the puppets depicted the characters. Some of these dramas have, since they were written, been adapted for the ordinary stage and the characters portrayed by Japan's most famous actors. The theatre was long looked down upon and it is only of comparatively recent years that it has been looking up. A large number of persons in this country still appear to be under the impression that there are no actresses on the Japanese stage. This is, of course, a mistake, caused no doubt by the fact that in Japanese theatres the female characters in a play are so often impersonated by men. Some two or three centuries back actors and actresses used, as in Europe, to play in the same piece, but this was for some reason or other interdicted, and ever since there have been companies composed of men and women respectively. In the male companies some of the female parts naturally fell to men and in the female companies the male parts were of necessity depicted by women. Of recent years the tendency is to revert to the ancient practice and to come into line with the custom of European countries in this matter, and ere long, no doubt in Japanese theatres the female characters will be taken by women and the male characters by men.
The theatre has always been a popular institution in Japan, and the pieces usually played have very much the same motif as the dramas formerly so popular in this country—the discomfiture of the villain and the triumph of virtue. The Japanese theatre does not appeal to the ordinary European visitor, or indeed to many Europeans living in the country. In the first place, the performance is too long for the European taste, and in the next, most Japanese plays are of one kind, and concerned with one period—the feudal. There is, moreover, a plethora of by-play—sword exercise and acrobatic performances—which have nothing whatever to do with the plot of the piece. In fact, irrelevancy appears to the European the chief characteristic of what he sees on the stage of a Japanese theatre. Nor does the play, as is usual in serious dramas in this country, revolve round one character, the hero or heroine. Indeed it is not always easy to earmark, so to speak, the leading character, and it is occasionally doubtful in many Japanese plays whether there is any hero or heroine. But the same remark may be made here as in reference to the literature of the country. It is probably essential to get into the Japanese atmosphere in order to properly appreciate a Japanese play. The drama in Japan at any rate serves, and so far as I have had an opportunity of forming an opinion in the matter, serves well, its purpose to interest and amuse the frequenters of the theatres, besides which the lessons it inculcates are for the most part of a moral nature.
The high art of the Japanese theatre is represented by the "Noh," which I suppose fills much the same position as does the Italian opera in this country. The "Noh" is, I believe, very ancient. The written text is sung; there is a principal and a secondary character and a chorus. The dialogue is as ancient, some critics say as archaic, as the time in which the play was written, and I understand it requires being educated up to it in order to fully appreciate the "Noh." The ordinary Japanese would probably just as much fail to comprehend or like it as would the Englishman from Mile End, were he taken to Covent Garden, and invited to go into raptures over one of Mozart's or Meyerbeer's masterpieces. A performance of the "Noh" would probably interest those who find excitement in a representation of "Oedipus Tyrannus," or some Greek play. Still, the "Noh" is appreciated by a large number of the intellectual classes in Japan, who find an interest in the representation of this Japanese opera, as I suppose it may be termed.
As I have already said, very much the same remarks made in reference to the literature of Japan apply to its drama. That country is still in the transition stage, and both its drama and its literature will undoubtedly be profoundly modified in future years. Western literature and Western dramatic art have already exercised considerable influence, and there are movements on foot whose object is to replace the old ideas and methods, especially in the matter of the representation of dramatic works by those which obtain in Europe and America. Whether these movements will be successful or not remains to be seen. There is certainly a large body of public opinion not only opposed but antagonistic to them. In spite of the rapid development of Japan in recent years, there is a very strong conservative party in the country—a party which, though it recognises or acquiesces in the desirability of change in many directions, is not prepared to throw overboard everything because it is old. I sincerely hope that the distinctive literature and dramatic art of the country will not be allowed to die out. Japan cannot afford to forget the past with its influences on the national life and character, influences at work for many ages which have assuredly had a material effect in elevating her to the position she at present occupies.
NEWSPAPERS IN JAPAN
Japan having taken on most of the characteristics and some of the idiosyncracies of Western civilisation, has naturally developed a newspaper press of its own. Of course newspapers in Japan are no new thing. Mr. Kumoto, editor of the Japan Times, claims for Japanese journalism an origin as far back as the early part of the seventeenth century. "Long before," he remarks, "our doors of seclusion were forced open by the impatient nations of the West, our ancestors had found a device by which they kept themselves in touch with current events and news. The news-sheets of those days were roughly got up, being printed from wooden blocks hastily purchased for each issue. They were meagre in news, uncouth in form, and quite irregular in appearance, there being no fixed date for publication. Neither were they issued by any particular and fixed publisher. Anybody could issue them, and at any time they pleased. These sheets were called Yomuri, which, being translated, means 'sold by hawking.'" These ancient newspapers had, however, palpably nothing in common with modern journalism, and anything in the shape of criticism or comment, or any attempt to guide or mould public opinion was, of course, not to be found therein. He would have been a bold man at the beginning of the seventeenth century, or indeed very much later, who would have ventured to print and publish anything tending to influence public opinion, or having the appearance of being a criticism on those in authority.
We may take it that for all practical purposes the rise of the native newspaper press of Japan did not take place till some time after the Revolution of 1868. If its rise has been recent its progress has certainly been rapid. There can be no question that both the rise and development of the vernacular press has been largely influenced by English journalism. There have always, since the opening of the country, been English newspapers in Japan, and very admirable newspapers too. One or more Englishmen have started papers printed in Japanese, and although these ventures were not commercially successful, they, at any rate, showed the way for Japanese journalism. Mr. Kumoto in his very interesting remarks published in Stead's "Japan and the Japanese," gives an amusing illustration of the somewhat amateur business lines on which the native Japanese newspapers were at first produced. He quotes the following notice which appeared in one of them: "The editors note with satisfaction the growing prosperity of their venture, and notify their subscribers that in view of the increased labour and trouble entailed on them by their increasing circulation, the gracious subscribers will kindly spare them the trouble by sending for their copies instead of having them delivered to them as before." There has certainly been a remarkable development in the Japanese newspaper press since this somewhat jejune announcement was published. Tokio at the present time possesses about forty daily newspapers, and there is hardly a town in the country of any importance that has not one or two papers of its own. There are now more than a thousand magazines and newspapers of various kinds published in the country—a number which yearly increases, and is certain to increase in the near future to a very much greater extent.
But besides newspapers, Japan possesses news agencies on somewhat similar lines to those that exist in this country, whose function it is to supply the press with the latest news on every matter of public and, I am afraid, sometimes of merely private importance. Whether these news agencies perform useful functions either in this country or in Japan, is a matter upon which I shall express no opinion. News acquired in a hurry in competition with other agencies which exist for a similar purpose, and purveyed to journals printed in a hurry and read in a hurry, does not often allow of discrimination being exercised in regard to its circulation. The sensational element in the native press in Japan is quite as much in evidence as in that of this country. In regard to this kind of literary fare, the appetite increases with feeding, if I may vary an old French proverb, and the sensational journals of the Japanese capital are increasing in demand from every part of the country.
As to the part which the press of Japan exercises in moulding public opinion, I confess I have not formed any clear idea; indeed, it is one upon which it is difficult to come to any conclusion. How far the press there moulds, and how far it follows public opinion is somewhat problematical. Be that as it may, many of the native papers are vigorously and effectively written, and indeed many eminent men in Japan have been either directly or indirectly connected with the press. The newspapers of Japan differ in this respect from those of this country—that there is a press law there, and newspapers are in theory, at any rate, somewhat more hampered in their criticisms and the publication of news than is the case here. This press law seems to have irritated the English more than the vernacular press of Japan, especially during the late war. Under the provisions of the law, a warning is always given to an offending newspaper before any official action is taken. The English journals in Japan have, perhaps not unnaturally, not so far been able to divest themselves of the idea that they have still extra-territorial rights, and are consequently justified in publishing any criticisms or news irrespective of the provisions of the press law.
Newspapers in Japan do not of course attain such large circulations as some of those in England. I do not think there is any paper in the country with a circulation exceeding 100,000, and there are only one or two which reach anything like that figure. Advertising in Japan in papers has not attained the same importance as in this country. Of course all the journals, whether daily or weekly, have a large number of advertisements, but the non-advertisement portion of the paper forms a greater portion of the whole than is the case here. It may interest some of my readers to know that poetry which has long been tabooed by the press of this country is still a feature in that of Japan, and that the novel "to be continued in our next," is also served up for the delectation of Japanese readers.
A free press in a free country is no doubt an admirable institution, but it has its disadvantages. I need not enumerate them, as my readers probably know them as well as I do myself. Indeed, both in England and America of late years we have had plenty of object-lessons, were any needed, in regard to these disadvantages. "The yellow press" is a phrase which has now come into general use to denote the certain kind of journalism which lives and thrives by pandering to the desire that so many persons in this world have for morbid sensationalism and the publication of nauseating and shocking details. People who have appetites of this kind are in need of having them perennially gratified, and accordingly it naturally comes about that the conductors of journals such as I have referred to, if they cannot provide a sufficient quantity of sensationalism true or partly true, have either to invent it or exaggerate some perhaps innocent or innocuous incident. I am sorry to say that yellow journalism is not only not unknown in Japan, but is apparently in a very flourishing condition there. I regret the fact all the more because the people of Japan are not yet sufficiently educated or enlightened to receive what they read in the newspaper in a sceptical spirit. That educational and enlightening process is only effected by a long course of newspaper reading. Even in this country we can remember the time when any statement was implicitly believed because it was "in the papers." Now some other and better evidence of the truth of any report is needed than the publication thereof in a newspaper. Young Japan will no doubt ere long assimilate this fact, and when it does the yellow press of Japan will probably find its clientele a diminishing quantity. I hope my readers will not deduce from these remarks that I entertain, on the whole, a poor opinion of the native press of Japan. Considering the difficulties it has had to contend with, I consider that the progress it has made during the comparatively few years it has been in existence is as wonderful as anything in the country. And I am furthermore of opinion that the influence it exercises is, on the whole, a healthy one. It has done a great work in the education of the mass of the Japanese people in the direction of taking a broader view of life and teaching them that there is a world outside their own particular locality and beyond their own country. And while referring to the newspaper press I may also give a meed of praise to the large number of journals and magazines of a literary, scientific, and religious nature. The effect of these ably conducted periodicals as an educational influence must be immense. The number of them is gradually growing, and the support rendered to them serves to show, were any proof needed, how profoundly interested the Japan of to-day is in all those questions, whether political, scientific, religious, or literary, which are not the possession of or the subject of discussion among any particular nation but are exercising the minds and consciences of the civilised world.
One pleasing feature of the native press of Japan I cannot help referring to, and that is the friendly sentiments which it almost invariably expresses in regard to Great Britain. As I have before remarked, it was this country which in some degree influenced at first the Japanese press. I am pleased that of late at any rate, since the somewhat heated agitation in reference to the revision of the treaties has come to an end, its tone has been almost universally friendly to this country, and its approval of the alliance between Japan and Great Britain was not only unanimous but enthusiastic.
The English newspapers in Japan are still, as they have always been, ably conducted journals. Captain Brinkley, the editor of one of them, is a great authority on everything connected with Japan, and the paper he edits is worthy of all that is best in English journalism. At the same time it is hardly necessary to remark that the English press in Japan exercises little or no influence outside the immediate circle it represents. It very naturally looks at everything, or almost everything, not from the point of view of the Japanese but from that of the foreigner in Japan. It may be truthfully averred of the foreign press that, considered as a whole, it has never done anything or attempted to do anything to break down the barriers caused by racial differences. The European press in Japan has in tone always been distinctly anti-Japanese, and the sentiments which it has expressed and the vigorous, not to say violent, language in which those sentiments have been expressed has undoubtedly in the past occasioned much bitterness of feeling among the Japanese people or that portion of it which either read or heard of those sentiments. The characteristics or idiosyncracies of the people of Japan were either exaggerated or misrepresented, and there were not unnaturally reprisals quite as vigorous in the native newspapers. During the war with China, for example, the attitude of the European press was exasperating to a degree—that is, exasperating to the Japanese people. There were journals which avowedly took the part of China and expressed a desire for China's success. The victories of Japan in the course of the war were sneered at and at first belittled. Subsequently, when the success of Japan was self-evident, it was suggested by some of these newspapers that she was suffering from swelled head and was in need of being put in her place and kept there. And, accordingly, when certain of the European Powers stepped in and deprived Japan of the fruits of her victories, the action of those Powers was applauded, and the undoubted sympathy of the English people in England with Japan in the matter was derided by English editors in Japan as mere maudlin sentimentality. Language of this kind occasioned deep resentment among the people of the country. The foreign press is now, I am glad to say, saner, inasmuch as it to some extent recognises facts and the trend of events, but I fear it even still is for the most part representative of a community which regards the Japanese from the standpoint that most Europeans in the Far East regard the Eastern races with whom they are brought in contact. The position of the English papers in Japan has, I should say, been considerably affected of recent years by the development of the vernacular press. Twenty-five years or so ago they were practically the only organs that voiced public opinion of any kind in the country. Now they only voice the opinion of a section of the foreign community. A reference to a quarter of a century ago brings up memories of a gentleman connected to some extent with the newspaper press in Japan of those days. I refer to the late Mr. Wergman, who owned and edited and filled—I am not quite certain he did not print—that somewhat extraordinary journal, the Yokohama Punch. It appeared at uncertain intervals, and it dealt both in print and illustration with various members of the foreign community in Yokohama and its neighbourhood with a vigour and freedom, not to say licence, which would now hardly be tolerated. Its proprietor is long since dead, and so I believe is the journal which he owned and whose fitful appearances used to create such a mild excitement among the foreign community in Yokohama.