The functions of the press as a mirror of the times, as a censor of men and things, and as a guide and a leader of public opinion are of considerable importance. As I have before remarked the press of Japan is at present if not in its infancy at any rate in its youth. It is accordingly ebullient, energetic, optimistic. Time will no doubt correct many of its failings. Be that as it may, I certainly am of opinion that, considering everything, it has attained a wonderful degree of development, that it has reached a position of great importance in the country as an educational and enlightening influence, and that all who wish well to Japan may look upon its future with hope. It will no doubt play an important part as the years roll by in the development of the country and in the holding up before the people of worthy ideals in reference to economic conditions, material progress, and the conservation of the prestige and security of the Japanese Empire.
In the Preface I remarked that Japanese morality was a thorny subject. I use the word morality in its now generally accepted rather than in its absolutely correct meaning. Morality, strictly speaking, is the practice of moral duties apart from religion or doctrine; it treats of actions as being right or wrong—is, in brief, ethics. The old "morality" play, for example, was not, as some people seem to suppose, especially concerned with the relations of the sexes; it was a drama in which allegorical representations of all the virtues and vices were introduced as dramatis personae. However, words, like everything else in this world, change their meaning, and, though the dictionary interpretation of morality is, as I have stated it, colloquially at any rate, the word has now come for the most part to signify sexual conduct, and it is in that sense, as I have said, I use it.
The subject of the morality of the Japanese is one that has been much discussed for many years past, and accordingly is one in regard to which it may be urged that there is little or nothing more to be said. I am not of that opinion. In the first place, much of the discussion has been simply the mere assertions of men, or sometimes of women, who either did not have the opportunity, or else had not the inclination, to investigate matters for themselves, and were therefore largely dependent on the hearsay evidence of not always unprejudiced persons. Or they sometimes jumped to very pronounced and erroneous conclusions from extremely imperfect observation or information. Let me take as an example in point, a lady, now dead, who wrote many charming books of travel—the late Mrs. Bishop, better known as Miss Bird. In her journeyings through the country Miss Bird relates in "Unbeaten Tracks in Japan," that she passed through a wide street in which the houses were large and handsome and open in front. Their highly polished floors and passages, she remarks, looked like still water, the kakemonos, or wall pictures, on their side-walls were extremely beautiful, and their mats were very fine and white. There were large gardens at the back with fountains and flowers, and streams, crossed by light stone bridges, sometimes flowed through the houses. The lady, who was on the look-out for a resting-place, not unnaturally expressed a desire to put up at one of these delightful sylvan retreats, but her native attendant informed her that was impossible, as they were kashitsukeyas, or tea-houses of a disreputable character. Miss Bird, on the strength of this information, thought it incumbent upon herself to pronounce the somewhat sweeping judgment that "there is much even on the surface to indicate vices which degrade and enslave the manhood of Japan." Such a statement is, of course, the merest clap-trap, but even were it true, it might be permissible to remark that if vice exists it is surely better for it to be on than beneath the surface. Such vice as does exist in Japan is, in my opinion, distinctly on the surface, and I have no hesitation in describing the morals of the Japanese people to be, on the whole, greatly superior to those of Western nations.
There can, I think, be no question that a large number of European people have formed their estimate of Japanese women either from a visit to a comic opera such as "The Geisha," or from a perusal of a book like Pierre Loti's fascinating work, "Madame Chrysantheme." This is in effect the story of a liaison between a man and a Japanese girl of the lower classes, with, of course, a large amount of local colouring, and rendered generally charming by the writer's brilliant literary style. Unfortunately, that large number of Europeans who have never visited Japan have taken the French academician's study of a girl of a certain class as a life picture of the typical Japanese woman who is, accordingly, deemed to be more or less, to use an accepted euphemism, a person of easy virtue. Nothing could, of course, be more erroneous, no conclusion further from the truth. The remarks of Mr. Arthur Diosy in his book, "The New Far East," on this head are so much to the point in reference to the utter misconception of even many visitors to Japan in the matter of the chastity of the average Japanese women that I venture to transcribe them: "Has it not been repeated to him (the globe-trotter) that these people have no conception of virtue or of modesty? So he frequently treats the maids at the inn, the charming human humming-birds who wait upon him at the tea-house, and the Geisha summoned to entertain him, with a cavalier familiarity that would infallibly lead to his summary expulsion from any well-regulated hotel or public-house, or other places of public entertainment at home, did he dare to show such want of respect to a chambermaid or to one of the haughty fair ones serving at a bar. He means no harm in nine cases out of ten; he has been told that Japanese girls don't mind what you say to them, and as to the tea-house girls, well, they are no better than they should be ... but they are good little women, as capable of guarding their virtue as any in the world, and it saddens one to think how often they endure, from a feeling of consideration for the foreigner who does not know any better, they pityingly think, cavalier treatment they would not submit to from a Japanese."
Having said so much I feel I am free to admit that a somewhat different standard of morality does obtain in Japan to that which exists, or is supposed to exist, among Occidental nations. After all, morality is to some extent a matter of convention, and a people must, I suggest, be judged rather by the way in which it lives up to its standard than by the standard itself, which among some Western nations is not always strictly observed. The whole subject of morality between the sexes is one upon which a portly volume might be written. The sexual relations have been affected by many circumstances, some of them entirely conventional and having little or nothing to do with morality as such, while poetry and romance and sentiment have been allowed to complicate, and still render difficult a dispassionate consideration of the whole matter. Macaulay in one of his essays has observed that "the moral principle of a woman is frequently more impaired by a single lapse from virtue than that of a man by twenty years of intrigue." He explains this seeming paradox by asserting that "a vice sanctioned by the general opinion is merely a vice, while a vice condemned by the general opinion produces a pernicious effect on the whole character." "One," says Macaulay, "is a local malady, the other is a constitutional taint." I have quoted the famous historian in this connection because his observations are, I think, illustrative of my contention, viz., that morality is largely a matter of convention, sanctioned or condemned by what Macaulay terms "the general opinion."
I frankly admit that prostitution has never been regarded in Japan as it is, or is affected to be, in this and other European countries. In ancient days the public women of the capital and the large towns were as famous as in Athens of old, and were regarded as amongst the best educated and best mannered of their sex. The Japanese have ever looked upon prostitution as what is termed a necessary evil, and they have always sought to regulate and supervise it with a view of obviating those evils, terrible in their consequences, which are frequently the result of permitting it to go unchecked. And accordingly the Yoshiwara has long been a recognised institution in every considerable town in the country, the Yoshiwara being that particular portion of the town in which prostitutes are alone permitted to reside. There is, so far as I know, no prostitution outside the Yoshiwara, and the inmates thereof are subject to a rigorous supervision and inspection, medical and otherwise, which has produced excellent results. The inmates of the Yoshiwara are not recruited as are the similar class in the West. Here the "unfortunate" usually plies her trade as a dernier ressort. In a moment of temptation she has "gone wrong," as the phrase goes, the fact becomes public, she is too often cold-shouldered and hustled even by her immediate relations, and her downward progress is swift and certain. Nor is there for her, except in rare cases, any chance of rehabilitation. She is too hopeless to exclaim "Resurgam!" and if in an optimistic frame of mind she did so purpose she would find the consummation difficult if not impossible. She is, in a word, on the way to irretrievable ruin and a shameful end, and she knows it.
Such is, as I have said, not the case in Japan. The lot of the prostitute there has never been regarded with the loathing which it excites in this country. Houses of ill-fame were, and are still, recruited not from those whose previous lapse from virtue has rendered no other mode of livelihood possible than that from immorality, but by those whom stern necessity has driven to the step as a means either of supporting themselves or of assisting parents or their near relatives. Such a sacrifice—a terrible sacrifice, I admit—has in Japan never been regarded with horror, but as in a sense laudable. The finger of scorn must not be pointed at a woman who has voluntarily sacrificed what women hold most dear, not from lust or from the desire of leading a gay life or pampering or adorning the body, but perhaps to save father or kin from ruin or starvation. The Yoshiwara has, of course, other recruits, but in the main its inmates are not the victims of lust but of self-sacrifice. There is too often a whole tragedy in the story of a Japanese girl of this kind, and it is deplorable when the self-righteous European comes along and points the finger of scorn at her. I am aware that though not despised, as in this country, the lot of the inmate of the Yoshiwara is often, if not always, a horrible one. She is, as a rule, sold, or sells herself, for a lump sum of money to which amount is added the cost of her outfit, usually as much as the price paid to the woman or her relatives. Until this amount was worked off—and the accounts were, of course, not over accurately kept—the woman was to all intents the chattel of her master. This has, undoubtedly, for many centuries been the custom of the country. I am glad, however, to be able to state that quite recently the highest court in Japan has decided that, whatever custom may have decreed, the law gives, and will give, no sanction to any such custom. A girl confined in the Yoshiwara was forcibly taken away therefrom. The owner of the house in which she resided, as her debt had not been liquidated, considered he had a lien upon her, and he invoked the aid of the law to assist him to assert what he considered to be his rights and retake possession of the girl. The case was strenuously fought and taken to several courts, with the result I have stated. This decision will probably have far-reaching effects and declaring, as it does, that the inmates of the Yoshiwara are not slaves or chattels, it is to be cordially welcomed.
The assertion of Miss Bird, already referred to, that the manhood of Japan is enslaved and degraded by vice is one which I have no hesitation in describing as gross exaggeration. Vice, of course, there is in Japan, vice of various kinds and degrees, but the ordinary Japanese man is not, in my opinion, nearly so immoral as the average European. The chastity of the Japanese woman I place still higher. The fact, already stated, that the inmates of the Yoshiwara are not generally recruited from those who have lapsed from virtue might be urged in proof of this. Nor is the fact that prostitution is not in Japan regarded with the same loathing as in this country, in my opinion, to be taken as any evidence of an immoral tone. The ideas that obtain on the matter, in Japan at any rate, hold out the possibility of moral redemption for the inmates of the Yoshiwara, and as a matter of fact many women in Japan who, through the force of compulsion, have entered this place, frequently marry, and marry well, and subsequently live absolutely chaste lives. The standard of morality among the married women of Japan is, I may remark, high, and is rarely lowered.
I hope I shall not shock my readers if I remark that I consider the stringent regulations that exist in Japan as to the supervision of the Yoshiwara in many respects admirable. It will probably surprise many persons to learn that the high state of organisation in regard to everything connected with the superintendence of these places, as also the development of lock hospitals, is largely due to the zeal and exertions of the late Dr. G. Birnie Hill, of the Royal Navy, who was for many years lent by the Admiralty to the Japanese Government for that purpose. Under his auspices a stringent system of medical supervision was organised, which has been attended with excellent results in the direction of stamping out and obviating diseases which, I may observe, are of foreign importation. I know that the existence of any system of medical inspection will, in the estimate of a large number of estimable men and women in this country, be regarded as proof positive of the immorality of the Japanese. "We mustn't recognise vice," is their contention. I am of opinion, on the contrary, that we should either recognise vice and restrict, restrain, and regulate it, or else make vice illegal, as the Puritans did, and fine or imprison both men and women addicted to it. I could understand either of these two courses, but I must confess that I altogether fail to fathom the state of mind of those persons who adopt neither opinion, but either assert or infer that in the name of religion, morality, modesty, and many other commendable things, we should permit our streets and thoroughfares to be infested by women plying their immoral trade with all the resultant consequences.
As I stated at the commencement of this chapter, a nation should be judged not only by its standard of morality but by the degree in which it lives up to or falls short of that standard. Judged by this, surely the fairest, the only fair, rule, Japan has every reason to be considered a moral country. Those shocking crimes which appear to be the outcome of either the aberration or the inversion of the sexual instincts are almost unknown there. Nor do I consider that the public estimate of prostitution on the whole makes for immorality. If an evil exist, and prostitution is undoubtedly an evil, it is surely better to regulate it than to affect to be oblivious of it. The Japanese attitude towards prostitution at any rate leaves a door open for the woman who has, from whatever the reason, lapsed from the paths of virtue to return thereto. This appears to my mind to be a more satisfactory state of things than the continual harrying and worrying of prostitutes in the name of indignant virtue and the driving of them on the streets. The aspect of the great thoroughfares of London, especially by night, does not give the Oriental visitor thereto a high idea of English morality. It is, nevertheless, an extraordinary fact that the Englishman or the Englishwoman who has mayhap lived in London most of his or her life, when he or she visits Japan in the course of, perhaps, "a round the world trip" in ninety days, and learns that there is in each Japanese town a Yoshiwara, the inmates of which are subject to supervision and regulation, lifts up his or her hands in holy horror, returns home with a virtuous indignation, and has no hesitation in henceforth declaring, whether in speech or writing, that the Japanese are a grossly immoral people.
The average Japanese is, very rightly in my opinion, indignant at the constant assertions of writers, well or ill-informed, that his country is essentially immoral. He is not only indignant but astounded. He has, if he has been to this country, seen here much that has not tended to impress him with the belief that the English people are themselves in a position to dogmatise on this vexed question of morality. He is, if he has visited the great cities and towns of Great Britain, by no means convinced that the action of Japan in establishing a Yoshiwara whose inmates are under proper supervision, medical and otherwise, is not better from every point of view, that of morality included, than turning loose women into the streets to accost every passer-by and place temptations in the way of youth. On the other hand, the Japanese who has not left his own country, but is of an observant nature and of a logical disposition, fails to comprehend why the European in Europe should dogmatise upon and affect to be disgusted with what he terms the immorality of the Japanese. The Japanese who has lived all his life in his own country has had ample opportunities for studying the Europeans resident there, and I fear he has not always been impressed by their high moral tone or their ultra-moral conduct. I might say much more upon that head, but I shall refrain.
I conclude this chapter by reiterating the expression of my belief that the Japanese are, when rightly considered, a moral people. They have their own code of morals, and they act up to it. There are few nations of whom as much could be said.
JAPAN AND CHINA
The results of the war between Russia and Japan seem to have caused a large number of persons to work themselves into a state of incipient panic regarding what has been graphically, if not quite correctly, termed "the yellow peril." Japan, a nation of some 47,000,000 people, had thrown down the gauntlet and totally defeated, both by land and sea, one of the great military Powers of the world. Japan had done all this as a result of some quarter of a century spent in modelling and training her Army and Navy on European lines, and adopting European arms of destruction. Of course, so argued the panic-mongers, China must be impressed by such an object-lesson—China, which has for so many years past been, and is still being, squeezed by the European Powers. The result of Japan's triumph would inevitably be, so we were asked to believe, that China would invite the former to organise the Chinese Army and Navy on Japanese lines. As the outcome thereof, a nation, not of forty, but of four hundred millions, would be trained to arms, and, if the Chinese raw material proved as good as the Japanese, a nation so powerful, if it proceeded West on conquest bent, would carry everything before it, and, unlike the last Eastern invaders of Europe, the Turks, would be unlikely to be stopped on its onward course at Vienna. The German Emperor was amongst those who have voiced the cry of "the yellow peril." He does not, however, appear to have cast himself for the part of John Sobieski, with Berlin instead of Vienna as the decisive battle-ground. The persons who have so argued and have attempted to raise this silly cry of "the yellow peril," with a view of alarming Europe were, I think, merely the victims of an exuberant imagination. Their facts have no existence save in the realms of fancy, and as they reasoned from faulty premises on imperfect or erroneous information, their conclusions were, as might have been expected, not only inaccurate, but absurdly ludicrous. There is no "yellow peril," no prospect whatever of it, either present or remote.
The attitude of China, that vast though heterogeneous nation, is, since the close of the Russo-Japanese War, I admit, one of the most intense interest. Some persons may consider that in a book about Japan any other than a passing reference to China is out of place, and that, moreover, for me to deal with the attitude of China is to wander into political regions—a peripatetic proceeding I deprecated in the Preface. I am of opinion, however, that it is impossible to thoroughly understand Japan and to appreciate the attitude of that country to the Western Powers without some remarks respecting the present and prospective relations of China and Japan. I also think that some consideration of this bogey of "the yellow peril" is not only out of place but indispensable in order to form a correct idea of the precise effect of recent events in the Far East and the possible outcome of them.
To any person who has closely studied Far Eastern problems the attitude of China since the close of the war between Japan and Russia is in no way surprising; the forces that have long been steadily at work in that ancient Empire are now only attaining any degree of development. There is nothing, in my opinion, in the history of the world more dramatic than the way in which China has waited. That country is now, I believe, about to show that the waiting policy has been a sound one, and I am confident it will eventually prove triumphant. In 1900 I expressed in print the opinion that not a single acre of Japanese soil would ever be permitted to be annexed by a foreign country; I spoke of the policy of China for the Chinese, and remarked that that principle and policy had been repeated throughout the length and breadth of that vast Empire, and had been absorbed, as it were, into the very marrow of its people. It is in many respects interesting and curious, indeed almost comical, the manner in which that lesson has been driven home upon the Chinese. Russia has always been to them a powerful, persistent, and aggressive neighbour, a more formidable aggressor, indeed, because perhaps nearer, than any of the other Powers of Europe, whom I am sorry to say China has always looked upon very much as the substantial householder regards the burglar. Now that Japan has tried conclusions with Russia and has soundly thrashed the latter, great, slumbering China, proud, conservative, but supremely conscious of its latent resources, has been waking up. The Chinese, as a matter of fact, have very little veneration, respect, or esteem, for their Japanese neighbours. The former plume themselves on being the aristocrats of the East, and they reason, with some show of plausibility, that if the upstart Japanese have been able to so thoroughly rout the Russian forces the potential possibilities of China on the warpath are enormous. Every thoughtful student of the East has looked forward to what I may term the Japanisation of China as one of the inevitable results of the recent conflict in the Far East. To a certain extent the Japanisation of China has commenced, but at the same time one cannot be oblivious of the fact that the Chinese, with their traditions and sense of self-importance, have not the slightest intention of slavishly following in the lead of those islanders whom they have always contemned, but mean to strike out a line for themselves. If what we believe to be civilisation is to be developed in China, it will be developed by the Chinese themselves. If they are going to possess railways, telegraphs, telephones, and all the machinery of that material advancement which we call progress, and sometimes civilisation, the Chinese themselves will be the importers and adapters and, in due course, the manufacturers thereof.
Now that the great fight in the Far East is over, it certainly looks as if the Chinese at last realised the fact that development is an inevitable necessity. The master-spirits in the country have assuredly come to the conclusion, possibly with regret, that China can no longer remain in that delightful state of isolation which permitted every man in the Empire to spend the arc of his life, from his cradle to his grave, in a state of restful security. China is, in spite of herself, and certainly against the inclinations of the mass of the populace, being swept into the maelstrom of struggle now that the people, or rather their leaders, realise the position. Their attitude seems to me to be magnificent. If railways have to be made they will be made by the Chinese; the concessions already granted must—this is the universal feeling—be bought back, even at a profit, from those who have acquired them, by the Chinese themselves. Not one new concession must, on any pretence whatever, ever again be granted to a foreigner. And if this Western civilisation is to be forced upon the Chinese, they intend to take it with all its attendant precautions. They are naturally a peaceful and unaggressive people, but they have grasped the fact that, as a strong man armed is in the best position to safeguard his house, however peaceful his individual proclivities may be, so too, if a nation is to defend its territory and its territorial wealth against spoliation, it must be armed for that purpose.
For many years past Great Britain and France and other countries have been sending missionaries to China to expound to the Chinese people those sublime doctrines enunciated in the Sermon on the Mount. The Chinese have diagnosed, from the acts of the European Powers generally as well as from the actions of individual Europeans resident in China, the precise value to be attached to Christianity. For purely defensive purposes China will have almost immediately an Army which has been effectively described by the Times correspondent as being able to relieve the European Powers of any anxiety respecting the integrity of the Chinese Empire. People who have not visited the Far East, and who entirely derive their opinions and information in regard thereto from the newspapers, cannot possibly realise what effect the policy of the European Powers has had upon nations like China and Japan. A professedly Christian country like Great Britain going to war to force the sale of opium on a people who did not want to be debauched; a power like Germany annexing Kiaochao as a golgotha for two murdered priests—proceedings such as these, and there have been many such during the last forty or fifty years, have been taken seriously to heart by the Far Eastern races, whether in China or Japan. All the time the Occidental Powers, with a total lack of any sense of humour, have persisted in sending missionaries to these people to inculcate doctrines which are the very antitheses of the practices of European nations to these people whom it is sought to convert. It would be, in my opinion, nothing more than the outcome of eternal justice if this great big, old, sleepy China, which has been for so many years pricked and prodded and despoiled, were at length to take up arms for a great revenge. But China, if my prevision be correct, is going to do nothing of the kind. What she does mean to do is simply to keep China for the Chinese. She is not, as so many persons imagined and still imagine would be the case, going to be led as a powerful ox with a Japanese driver. Chinese students are in hundreds in Japan, learning from that country all that the Japanese have acquired from Europe. Young, alert, capable men I found them without exception, sucking the brains of all that is best in Japan precisely as the Japanese have sucked the brains of all that is best in Europe for their own objects and to their own advantage. The immediate danger in China seems, so far as I can judge, to be that the anti-foreign feeling, which is undoubtedly intense especially in the south of the Empire, may come to a head any day and prematurely explode. The nincompoops and quidnuncs and newspaper men ravenous for copy who prate about a "yellow peril" may, in this latter fact, find some slight excuse for their blatant lucubrations. There is no real "yellow peril." Poor old China, which has been so long slumbering, is just rousing herself and making arrangements for defence against the "white peril," materialistic civilisation, and misrepresented Christianity.
The only "yellow peril" that I have been able to diagnose is the peril to the trade of Europe and the United States of America with China—a peril that appears to me to be imminent. That Japan intends to capture a large, indeed the largest, proportion of that trade I am firmly convinced. That she will succeed in effecting her object I have not the slightest doubt. At the present moment only about 5 per cent. of the imports into China are from Japan, the remainder being either from India, Europe, or America. Situated in close contiguity to China, having assimilated everything of importance not only in regard to the employment but the manufacture of machinery from Europe and the United States, possessing an industrious and intelligent population, Japan is quite obviously in a magnificent position to supply China, and supply her on much better terms, with the greater number of those commodities which China now has to import either from Europe or America. Japan, as I have said, intends to lay herself out to capture the major portion of this trade; she is quite justified in doing so, and there is every reason to suppose that she will attain her object.
That the Chinese students who have come to Japan and are flocking there month by month in increasing numbers, with a thirst for knowledge and a desire to assimilate all those Western influences and ideas and aids that have placed Japan in her present prominent position among the nations, when they, in due course, return to their own country, will of a certainty exercise a considerable influence therein, there can be no doubt. I also feel sure that Japan will render considerable assistance to China in regard to the remodelling and reorganisation of the Chinese Army and Navy. It is as certain as anything in this uncertain world that before very many years have elapsed the naval and military forces of China will undergo as great a transformation as those of Japan have undergone. I believe, and I may say that this belief is shared by a number of naval and military men who have had practical opportunities for forming an opinion in the matter, that the raw material existing in China for the making of an effective and efficient Army and Navy is as good as that in Japan. We know that the late General Gordon, who had excellent opportunities for arriving at a sound conclusion in the matter, expressed himself in glowing terms in regard to the capabilities of the Chinaman as a soldier were he properly trained, organised, and officered. But that China, any more than Japan, entertains ambitious military projects I utterly disbelieve. The only aspiration of China as regards Europe is—to be let alone. She fears, as she has every reason to fear, European aggression. She has had ample experience in the past that the flimsiest pretexts have been utilised for the purpose of filching her territory and exacting from her pecuniary fines under the name of indemnities. We know by a recent incident that the indemnity exacted from China by this country in respect of the Boxer rebellion was not really required for the ostensible purposes for which it was imposed. A large proportion of it lay at the Bank of England unappropriated, and eventually was attached by a rapacious Chancellor of the Exchequer for the purpose of alleviating the burdens of the British taxpayer. China is determined to have no more incidents such as this in the future, and the Russo-Japanese War has given her occasion for serious thought in the matter as well as pointed an obvious moral. As a result of her cogitations, she has concluded that the most effective means she can take in the direction of preserving the inviolability of her territory and preventing the exaction of periodical monetary tributes on the part of foreign Powers, is to establish a strong and efficient Army and Navy. As a matter of fact, I consider that in so determining China is acting not only in her own interests, but in the interests of the Great Powers of Europe.
Not very many years ago that excellent sailor, Lord Charles Beresford, wrote a book entitled, somewhat too previously, "The Break-up of China." In selecting a title for his work Lord Charles without doubt voiced the opinion prevalent, not only in this country but in Europe, at the time he wrote it. The statesmen of nearly all the foreign Powers then seemed to have arrived at the conclusion that the scramble for China was imminent and, utilising their experience from what took place when the scramble for Africa was effected twenty years ago, they began apportioning in advance the territory that ought to fall to their lot. In this matter, however, they were wofully mistaken; the diplomatic physicians of the world may have diagnosed the symptoms quite accurately, but the patient surprised them all in regard to the course of the disease and her recuperative powers. There will be no "break-up" of China, and consequently we are not likely to witness any scramble for China. There has undoubtedly been an awakening of China, an awakening to her danger, to a sense of the extent to which her interests were imperilled. She wants, as I have said, to be severely left alone, and she is determined as far as possible to effect that consummation. The men of light and leading in China know perfectly well that they cannot now, even if they would, shut their country against European trade, European residents, European visitors. They are prepared to accept all these, but they will not have European interference. China is determined to work out her own destiny or salvation, call it which you will, and Japan is both willing and anxious to give her all possible assistance in that direction. The "yellow peril" bogey is, in my opinion, the silliest and most absurd cry that has ever been put forward by responsible persons.
EUROPEANS IN JAPAN
Like everything else in Japan, the status and position of the foreigner have been materially changed, in fact revolutionised, of recent years. When the country was, in the first instance, opened after its long period of isolation from the rest of the world, treaties were signed with Great Britain, the United States, France, and nearly all the other European Powers, whereby Japan agreed to open seven ports, subsequently known as "treaty ports," to foreign trade in which ports foreigners were to be permitted to reside and to carry on their business. Foreigners were at the same time—not by the wish of the Japanese Government, but as the outcome of the pressure put upon Japan by the various Powers—granted extra-territorial rights, that is to say they were exempt from the jurisdiction of the Japanese courts of law. This being the case foreign courts were constituted in Japan with jurisdiction over the subjects of the nation which set up the court. In these courts foreigners sued and were sued, and crimes committed by and against foreigners were tried. As regards Great Britain a Supreme Court for China and Japan was constituted whose headquarters were at Shanghai. There were Consular Courts and a very involved kind of legal procedure generally established, mostly by Order in Council, which I need not consider in detail as it is now effete. There was, moreover, as regards Great Britain at any rate, a Bar practising in these courts, one member of which, Mr. F. V. Dickins, is justly remembered not for his forensic but for his literary efforts in the direction of depicting the inner life of the Japanese people. Into these foreign courts all the jargon, the quips and quibbles of English law were imported. These courts were, not unnaturally, an eyesore to the Japanese people. I may observe in passing that these extra-territorial courts still exist in China, and though the Supreme Court of China and Japan has been shorn of that part of its title which refers to Japan it remains, and is likely for some time longer to remain, the supreme legal tribunal of the English residents in the Chinese Empire. But besides extra-territorial courts there were extra-territorial post-offices. The English, the American, and, I think, the French Governments had post-offices in Japan which transacted postal duties of all kinds just as if they had been in London, New York, and Paris instead of in a foreign country. There may have been some excuse for this in the early days; but these foreign post-offices remained until quite recently, depriving Japan of a portion of her revenue at a time when she had developed a magnificent postal service of her own. Over and above foreign courts and post-offices there were actually foreign municipal bodies. A certain amount of ground at the treaty ports was constituted a foreign settlement wherein the foreigners resided. Within these settlements a municipal council was formed, which regulated everything therein. In these settlements the Japanese Government had no more power or authority than they had in Battersea. These settlements were in effect foreign territory on the Japanese soil, to use what seems to be a paradox.
In exchange for the privilege of extra-territoriality granted to foreign residents in Japan, they were placed under restrictions. These included not being able to travel in the country outside a radius of 25 miles from the treaty ports unless provided with passports, which, I may remark, there was never any difficulty in obtaining, and not being permitted to live beyond the same radius. Foreigners engaged in trade in Japan had a great advantage in regard to a very low scale of customs duties, not more than 5 per cent. ad valorem, but they were strictly prohibited from owning land. This system of extra-territoriality was extremely unpopular with the whole of the Japanese people, and a constant movement was in force in the country for the abrogation of what the Japanese considered an invidious distinction and in the direction of making every person who voluntarily took up residence in Japan answerable to the law of the land and under the jurisdiction of the Japanese courts. The revenue of the country was also, of course, injuriously effected by the post-office privileges already referred to as well as by the differential treatment of foreigners in regard to import duties. As was to be expected, any proposal for the abolition of extra-territorial rights and the revision of the regulations in regard to import duties met with a strenuous opposition from the foreign residents in Japan. On the other hand, it must be confessed that the Japanese people opposed any compromise in the direction of granting foreigners facilities in return for the privileges that were asked to be waived. The proposal to allow foreigners to own land was vigorously inveighed against. So was a suggestion to establish mixed courts—the kind of compromise, by the way, which would probably have equally irritated foreigners and natives. It is, I think, satisfactory to be able to relate that in the end and after many years of agitation it was the British Government which took the initiative in the matter, and some ten or twelve years ago concluded a treaty with Japan wherein the privileges of English courts, European municipalities, and differential import duties were abandoned, while in return proprietary rights, except in regard to land, were granted to foreigners.
There are, mayhap, some persons at the present day who are not aware of the fact that for a good many years after Japan was to a limited extent opened to foreigners several of the Powers retained an armed force in that country for the protection of foreign residents. Great Britain, for instance, had a large number of marines at Yokohama. The presence of these troops was extremely unpalatable to the Japanese authorities, but of course pleasing to the foreign residents, who opposed their withdrawal just as they opposed the abrogation of extra-territoriality. I am afraid the reason for the removal of this armed force as far as Great Britain was concerned was economic rather than founded on any particular principle. Be that as it may, in 1873 Japan was successful in assuring the British Government that she was able and prepared to protect all foreigners residing in the country, and in that year the last foreign soldier was withdrawn from Japanese territory.
Those who remember the agitation—and a very fierce and noisy and provocative agitation it was—in opposition to the revision of Japan's treaties with the foreign Powers with a view of getting rid of extra-territoriality will have a lively recollection of the pessimistic forebodings of the speakers and writers in reference to the future of the foreign community in that country were the exclusive privileges they then enjoyed taken away from them. The gentlemen who uttered these sentiments were no doubt sincerely convinced of their truth, but I am glad to be able to relate that time has shown them to have been false prophets. There may be, and no doubt are, foreigners in Japan who bemoan the good old days, but I am confident that the great mass of the foreign community now recognises the fact that the revision of the treaties and the withdrawal of extra-territorial privileges were inevitable and that no evil results have ensued in consequence. The Japanese courts of law have neither terrorised nor oppressed foreigners. They have, on the contrary, sought to hold the scales of justice evenly, and I believe that these courts now enjoy, as I am sure they deserve, the fullest confidence in their integrity and justice of every foreigner residing in the country.
I have noticed a tendency on the part of writers on Japan to refer to the foreign community in that Empire as if it were a community bound together by some particular principle and working in unison for some definite object. Of course such a view is nonsensical. The foreign community in Japan, in which for the purpose of my remarks I do not include the Chinese, is one composed of a large number of nationalities which have very little in common, and amongst whom a good deal of rivalry prevails. It may have been that when the question of revising the treaties was being keenly agitated, self-interest, or what was deemed to be self-interest, occasioned a sort of fictitious unity among foreigners, but at the present time, so far as my observation has gone, there is very little real unity among the foreigners in Japan. The English, of course, predominate in numbers, and they have also the major portion of the trade in their hands. Whether such a condition of things will much longer obtain is a moot question. I am of opinion, as I have elsewhere indicated, that the trade of Japan will very largely pass into the hands of the Japanese themselves, and that the foreign element in Japan is accordingly not only unlikely to increase in number but is almost certain to diminish.
In the early days when Japan was first opened to the Western world and English traders went there to push their commodities, we heard a good deal about the peculiar ethics of Japanese commercial morality. The European merchant either was, or affected to be, shocked at the loose commercial code of honour of those with whom he was brought into contact in Japan, and he expressed himself accordingly. However much or little ground there may have been for these accusations many years ago I am not in a position to judge. In forming any opinion in this matter, if that opinion is to be correct, it is, I think, essential to remember the conditions of society in Japan when it was first opened to European trade. In old Japan there were four recognised classes of society—the Samurai, the farmers, the artisans, and the merchants. The last two were somewhat looked down upon by the others. It is, accordingly, hardly to be wondered at that the condition of industry and commerce was the least satisfactory feature in the initial stages of national development. Despised alike by the gentry and the peasantry, the traders were in a somewhat sorry plight when Japan was thrown open. The low social status of the trading class in Japan was due to the feudal ideas which prevailed for so many centuries. The people were impressed with the productive power of the soil, and jumped at the conclusion that the merchant class must necessarily be immoral, since it purchased the produce of the soil at a low price and sold it at a profit. Very similar ideas have prevailed in countries other than Japan. It is not so very many years ago that in England a man of good family, much less a member of the aristocracy, going into trade was looked upon with no very favourable eyes. We know that the ideas that not so very many years ago obtained in this country in reference to this matter have entirely altered. Trade is now considered to furnish most excellent scope and opportunities for the energy and capital of all classes of the community. And the same ideas have been working in Japan. The merchant there is no longer a member of a despised class. The scions of the most ancient families in Japan, as in England, have embarked in trade and brought to their business those high ideals which they have derived from their ancestors. The criticisms of commercial morality in Japan which were so prevalent not very many years ago are now entirely obsolete. I fear, however, that the effect of them still to some extent remains, and that there are a large number of people in this country who even now believe that the Japanese, from a commercial point of view, are what is termed "tricky." I hope my remarks on this head may serve to disabuse the minds of some of those persons who still entertain these extremely erroneous ideas.
I do not think that there is a very large amount of social intercourse between the Europeans in Japan and the Japanese themselves. The European in the East, or at any rate the Englishman in the East, so far as I have been able to judge, always appears to me to assume an air—it may be an unconscious air—of superiority to the inhabitants of the country in which he resides. That this is frequently extremely galling to them there can be no question. Any one who has conversed with the intelligent native of India must be aware of that fact. Whether the greatness of the Anglo-Saxon race be in some degree or in a large measure due to the belief that the Anglo-Saxon has in himself is a question I need not consider. But I think there can be no doubt of the fact that this sense of superiority, however much or little justification there may be for it, is a characteristic not likely to be appreciated by foreigners, and especially Orientals, and I think I am justified in remarking that the Japanese do not at all appreciate it.
The European may impress the Oriental in one of several ways; he has for the most part done so by his great military or naval prowess. That is the way in which Great Britain has impressed the natives of India. The English are in that country as a conquering race. They have practically never been defeated, and the respect which they have obtained is the respect that the weak have for the strong. In Japan such a state of things is no longer possible. The results of the Russian War have rendered it impossible for all time. An Oriental nation has met a European Power on the field and on the high seas, and soundly thrashed it. There is, however, another way in which the European might impress the Oriental. The former professes to have a purer religion and a higher code of morals. He has sought to impose his religion upon every race with which he has been brought into contact, and if he has not sought to impose his moral system, he has, at any rate, severely criticised that of the people with whom he has been brought into contact, and compared it with his own to their disadvantage. In Japan, where there is a large foreign community, the thinking, logical Japanese has had abundant opportunities for studying not only the principles of Western religions and Western morality, but also the practice of them by Western residents in his own land.
The result has been to give him much food for reflection. He reads the criticisms of Europe upon the Yoshiwara and the Japanese attitude generally towards prostitution, while he has ample evidence of the fact that many of the patrons of the Yoshiwara are to be found among the European community in Japan. And so of religion. The various Christian denominations of the Western world aspire to convert Japan, and send missionaries there for that purpose. The Japanese gives them a fair field, and he has shown no aversion to investigate their dogmas. At the same time he sees that a large proportion, I might perhaps say the majority, of the European residents in Japan do not trouble to attend the Christian places of worship, while many of them make no disguise of their contempt for Christianity in general and the missionaries in particular. What conclusion, may I ask, can the logical, reasoning Japanese come to in these matters?
There can be no doubt whatever that the foreign residents in Japan have accomplished a great work in regard to the development of the country. The settlements established by them at the various treaty ports and the administration of those settlements as municipalities reflected great credit upon all those concerned, and was a splendid object-lesson for the Japanese people. Great Britain, too, may, I think, be congratulated on the men she has selected to represent her at the Japanese Court. There is no man to whom both Great Britain and Japan are more indebted than the late Sir Harry Parkes. I cannot remember during how many years he was the British Minister at Tokio, but during the whole of his term of office he used his best endeavours in the direction of showing Japan the way she ought to go in the path of progress, and in rendering her all the assistance possible in that direction by procuring for her the very best assistance of every description. I strongly advise every person interested in Japan and its development to peruse the Life of Sir Harry Parkes, by Mr. F. V. Dickins and Mr. Stanley L. Poole. One interesting feature in Sir Harry Parkes's career I may record here, as I have had it on the authority of a gentleman conversant with the facts. Sir Harry was always a persona gratissima with the Japanese Government, and about the year 1877 he and the late Admiral Sir A. P. Ryder, then Commander-in-Chief on the China station, had a conversation respecting, in view of the aggressive policy of Russia in the Far East, obtaining a British coaling station much further north than Hong Kong. Admiral Ryder mentioned as an appropriate place the island of Tsu-shima, so famous in the recent war with Russia. Sir Harry Parkes promised to use his good offices with the Japanese Government to obtain permission to occupy this island with a view of its ultimate cession to Great Britain. The permission was duly obtained, and Admiral Ryder thereupon cabled home to the Admiralty for the necessary permission to take over the island. His request was promptly vetoed, and Great Britain, accordingly, lost for ever the opportunity of obtaining an admirable coaling station and a splendid strategical position in the Far East. It is quite certain that Japan does not now regret the refusal of Great Britain to accept her too generous offer.
Europeans have been in Japan, and very much in evidence, during the past half-century or so, but I do not think that the residents in the country have exercised much influence upon Japan. During that period there have been enormous changes; the whole life of the nation has, in fact, been revolutionised. But these changes have not been wrought, or indeed greatly affected, by the European residents in the country. The changes have emanated from Europe and America—not that portion of Europe and America which went to Japan for its own objects. I make, of course, a particular exception in regard to those naval and military and scientific men to whose exertions Japan owes so much of her advancement. But I do say of the ordinary trader or merchant that he has come to Japan, and left it without producing much effect, if any, on the development of the nation, or leaving behind him any influences of a useful nature.
The European in Japan necessarily suggests some allusion to that large and annually increasing number of persons who visit the country. Their residence in Japan is usually of very limited duration, but, however short it may be, it is apparently quite long enough to enable them to form pronounced views upon many and varied matters connected with the country and the people. I have no hesitation in asserting that the erroneous opinions so prevalent in Europe in regard to Japan and the Japanese people are largely the outcome of the far too numerous books that have been written and published in reference to that country of recent years. "Ten Days in Japan" may be an alluring title for a book of travel, but quite evidently ten days are not sufficient to form an opinion and promulgate it upon every phase of Japanese life, nor for the solution of many vexed problems. And yet, so far as my perusal of these books has gone, the shorter the period a man or woman has spent in Japan the more pronounced his or her views in regard to the country. The matter is hardly worth referring to were it not that these opinions, hastily arrived at and apparently as hurriedly rushed into print, have been accepted by some people as incontrovertible facts. Another class of work that I think a reader should be warned against is the book of the man who has lived in Japan for a time and seen life only from a certain standpoint. The book of a bishop or a missionary may be and often is of undoubted value in reference to his work and matters connected with his work, but when the writer gets outside this particular province and deals with subjects his knowledge of which must be at the best second-hand he is almost certain to perpetrate some flagrant mistakes, and occasionally indite the most egregious nonsense. I shall not particularly apply these remarks, but I think it necessary to utter this word of warning as the literary effusions of some very estimable men and women in regard to Japan have given occasion for many false misconceptions being entertained in regard to that country.
The cry of "Japan for the Japanese" has undoubtedly been heard in that land, and during the agitation over the revision of the treaties the foreign community appeared to be under the impression that the policy emphasised in that cry was the one which Japan desired to attain. For myself I do not believe it. I am positive that Japan to-day has no desire to exclude foreigners, or to revert into her old position of isolation. I believe, on the contrary, that she desires to welcome foreigners and to give them every facility within proper limits for pursuing their enterprises. At the same time she has no desire for the foreign adventurer, prospector, or embryo company promoter. She does not wish, in fact, that Japan shall be exploited either in respect of minerals or any other purpose with the object of directly or indirectly pouring wealth into London or any other city. The enterprising gentlemen from England and other countries who have sought to obtain concessions of various kinds in Japan have failed in their object. Their efforts would probably only have brought discredit on the country, and could hardly by any possibility have aided in its material advancement. There is only one word of advice that I should feel inclined to proffer the European in Japan, and that is to refrain less from exercising his caustic wit at the expense of the Japanese people. A nation which has passed through such drastic changes as have characterised Japan in the last two or three decades can no doubt furnish abundant opportunities for the jibes of the flippant, and the humour of those who consider they are endowed with a pretty wit. But the exercise of sardonic humour and an excessive sarcasm tends to promote ill-feeling and serves no useful purpose. The right spirit, in my opinion, for any man to regard Japan is as a nation struggling to obtain and assimilate all that is best in the world and aspiring to be in fact an eclectic power. It can at least be said of Japan that it is the only nation in the world's history which has entertained such aspirations and has sought to give effect to them.
A VISIT TO SOME BUDDHIST TEMPLES
I was lying awake in my room in the Myako Hotel, the window looking out across the town below towards the eastern hills and framed with clusters of red maple. It was the clear stillness of a frosty morning before dawn, not motion enough in the autumn air to stir a ripe red maple leaf, and as I lay in bed suddenly the air itself seemed to heave a sigh of music mellow, soft, and yet full, gradual in its coming as in its going, all-pervading, strange and wonderful. Stillness again, and then it came again, or rather not so much came as was there, and then was not there; for it seemed to come from no whither, and to leave not even the footprint of an echo in the air behind. There was sanctity in the very sound itself. Its music was like vocal incense arising before the "awful rose of dawn," beyond those purple eastern hills. How unlike, I thought, the jar and clangour of our church bells in London on a Sunday morning rattling like a fire alarm, whose only possible religious suggestion is to tumble out of bed to escape the flames of hell. The musical summons of this bell was sufficient, however, to induce me to go out for a stroll through the temples in the morning twilight.
All on the crest of the hill behind the hotel is a row of temples crowning the height. One mounts a flight of steps and then comes on avenues with rows of ancient trees on either side that make the avenues look like great aisles of which the immense trees are the columns supporting the deep, blue roof. Nothing is more striking about these temples than the delightful harmony between their natural surroundings and the buildings themselves. They blend so perfectly that one loses sight of the meeting between nature and art. From the steps onward all seems a harmonious part of the sanctified whole. Trees, creepers, and natural flowers peep in and almost entwine themselves with the marvellously painted or carved foliage of the temple itself. The rich lichens and mosses of the tree-trunks vie in depth and beauty of colour with the inlaid traceries of the columns.
Early as the hour was I was not alone in the first temple I came to. With tinkling steps of wooden shoes a little woman pattered up the stone stairs to one of the shrines, pulled the heavy cord of the small bell above her head to awaken the attention of the Deity, and then with joined hands encircled with beads and with bowed head whispered her morning prayer. I just caught in soft, supplicatory accents the opening words, "Namu Amida Butsu"—"Hear me, compassionate Lord Buddha"—words that soon become familiar as one visits these temples; the great refrain of these people's prayers when they pray before the image of "Him, honoured, wisest, best, most pitiful, whose lips comfort the world." And then, having finished her prayers, the little woman pattered back to her home in the town below, while others come and make their devotions likewise, all leaving the temple as if that placid, inscrutable image had whispered in the ear of each some word of comfort.
In the courtyard beyond the great Temple of Kiomidyu I came upon a wonderful bell. There was room for over a dozen men to stand inside the great bronze shell. It was hung just above the ground between plain timber uprights, and the mellow softness of tone was accounted for by the way in which it was struck. Instead of metal striking against metal a great tree-trunk is suspended horizontally outside; this is swung backwards and forwards and then allowed to strike against the metal. Even when standing close to it there is nothing one would call noise, but a great, full, rich sound fills the air in a manner impossible to describe. I passed on to the latticed shrine dedicated to Kamnoshut No Kami, the goddess of lovers. As I waited there three little Japanese girls came up the steps. Each had a small piece of paper in her hand, and winding them up they deftly placed the papers in the lattice with the thumb and little finger of their hands. On these were written their petitions. One of them held a bunch of brilliant maple leaves in her hand, and judging from their faces—plain little faces all of them—it was easy to understand they wanted divine assistance in their love affairs. It was difficult to understand the goddess retaining any reputation for compassion if their prayers were not answered. After they had gone next came a dainty little geisha, a pretty girl, whose lover must have been a sad worry to her, judging by the look on her anxious little face, as she placed her petition between the bars.
All through these temples it was obvious that the agnosticism, or indifference, or attitude of "politeness towards possibilities," which has apparently taken possession of the upper classes in Japan, possibly as the result of contact with the West, is in no way prevalent among the masses. In all the country parts that I visited and in the large temples in the great cities there was everywhere evidence of faith as sincere and devout as can be found in the churches of the most Christian country in Europe. Unlike China, there was nowhere any sign of the temples falling into decay. Every temple in China looks like a neglected mausoleum decaying over the corpse of a dead religion, and the priests look like sextons of a neglected graveyard. But here in Kyoto two of the largest temples were undergoing elaborate repairs, and in Tokio an immense new temple is being erected in the heart of the city. In Kyoto at the Temple of Nishi Hong Wangi I was present at a great seven days' religious festival. From nine o'clock in the morning until six o'clock in the evening the temple was perpetually thronged with people. I visited it in the afternoon. In one large room a priest was preaching. His congregation was largely composed of country people from all the districts round, who had journeyed in with their wives and families. There had been an abundant harvest, it was over and stored, and the people had come to give thanks. A great part of the congregation were blue-clad peasants with white handkerchiefs around their heads. Many of them had brought their children with them.
The priest preached sitting down, in a quiet conversational tone. From what a Japanese friend was kind enough to translate for me, there was nothing esoteric in the Buddhism he was teaching. It was simply plain lessons to the people, how to make good their simple lives interspersed with stories and anecdotes that occasionally amused his congregation. Following the crowd that kept streaming out from his hall towards the larger temple, I passed under a plain portico of huge wooden columns, severe and simple on the outside, but gorgeous with rich carvings of gold lacquer panels and hangings of richly wrought embroideries within. The entire floor of the great building was crowded, and the overflow of the congregation knelt upon the flags outside the door. With difficulty I picked my way inside. Two rows of priests in brilliantly coloured vestments were arranged on either side of the central figure of Buddha. Between them was the chief priest. Behind the altar screen was an invisible choir. In alternating numbers the solemn, supplicating chant was led by either row of priests. In a way it reminded one of the Gregorian chant one often hears in Catholic churches, but in this Buddhist chanting there was that curious Oriental strain of semi-tones that gave a strange and peculiar plaint to the chorus.
Faint blue columns of incense were streaming slowly from bronze censors towards the carved roof, and diffusing a delightful aromatic odour throughout the building. The congregation was composed of all sorts and conditions of the population, although the majority were peasants; there were a number of Japanese ladies who came accompanied by their maids, and here and there the brighter costume of a Geisha was to be seen among the crowd.
The series of services lasted for seven days. This was the fifth. Beginning at six o'clock in the morning, it went on till six o'clock in the evening. It was just at its conclusion while I was there. Mingling with the chorus from the priests and the choir ran a low murmur from the crowd. The old country men and women said their prayers aloud, and the refrain of "Namu Amida Butsu" seemed perpetually in one's ears. As the conclusion of the service approached, the voices of the choir, the priests, and the congregation increased in strength and volume, and ceased suddenly in a final chord of supplication. For a few moments there was stillness over the bowed heads of the congregation, and then the priests rose and the crowd began to stream down the great flight of steps. In the streets outside were rows of booths, where printed prayers and brightly embroidered triangular cloths, beads and images were being sold as mementoes of these services. The whole congregation, even old men and women, as they toddled down the steps at the base of which they put on their shoes, reminded one forcibly of a lot of children coming out from school. Laughing, chattering, and joking, there was a look of satisfaction and contentment on all their faces, returning homewards, as if they felt that in reply to their prayer, "Namu Amida Butsu," the compassionate Lord Buddha, had listened to their prayer, and whispered in answer to the heart of each, "Comfort ye, my people."
A book on Japan would be incomplete without some reference to the Ainos, that mysterious race found, and found only, in the northern island of Yesso. The Ainos have long been the puzzle of the ethnologist. Where the Ainos came from or to what other race they are akin are problems that have given occasion for much learned dissertation, but are still as far off solution as ever. Mr. Basil Chamberlain, all of whose writings upon Japan are replete with erudition and information, has observed that the Aino race deserves to be studied because "its domain once extended over the entire Japanese Archipelago," and also "because it is, so to speak, almost at its last gasp." Unfortunately the evidence for the latter fact is more conclusive than for the former. The Ainos are, it seems, to be no exception to that mysterious law of the survival of the fittest, which decrees that an inferior race shall go down before the superior, and in due course become merely a name. I have called this a mysterious law because such disappearance is not necessarily the result of conquest or of ruthless destruction. When the inferior race is brought into contact with the superior it seems, by some mysterious process, to be infected with the elements of decay, to be impregnated with the germs of annihilation. And, accordingly, it comes about, in accordance with the dictates of the law I have referred to, that although a society has been founded in Japan very much on the lines of our Aborigines Protection Society, an Aino Preservation Society, the Ainos seem doomed to extinction at no far-distant date.
Whether or not the Ainos once inhabited the whole of the Japanese islands and trekked north to get away from their conquerors, there can be no doubt of the fact that they are in almost every respect the very antithesis of the Japanese. The latter are a smooth-skinned race, the Ainos an extremely hairy one. The Japanese are essentially a clean, a scrupulously clean people, the Ainos just as essentially dirty. The long beards and general facial appearance of the latter are altogether in startling contrast to the physiognomy of the average Japanese.
When ethnology fails to place a race, philology often steps in with more or less of success. The Aino language has been profoundly studied by many eminent philologists, but I do not think the results have tended to throw much, if any, light on the mystery as to the origin and racial affinities of the Ainos. In general structure the language is not unlike that of the Japanese, but this might be expected as the result of centuries of intercourse between the two people.
The Ainos live almost solely by fishing and hunting. The Japanese laws, which have year by year been made more stringent, have somewhat interfered with the sporting proclivities of the people. Nets and fish traps are now forbidden, and fishing for the most part is effected by means of a spear or harpoon, either from the shore or from the somewhat primitive canoes used by the people. Poisoned arrows were once largely used for the purpose of capturing game, but they are now forbidden by law. Originally the modus operandi in hunting was to set a trap with one of these arrows placed in it, and drive the game on to the same. The head of the arrow was only loosely fastened, and broke, leaving the poison inside even if the animal managed to pull out the shaft. The bear is found in Yesso, and that animal has entered very largely into every phase of Aino life, somewhat circumscribed though this is. That animal was, or used to be, the objective point of Aino festivals, and seems, to some extent at any rate, to have had a part in their crude religious ideas. Bears, are, however, becoming rare in Yesso, and the Japanese Government, which is paternal even in regard to the fauna of the islands, has from time to time interfered with many venerable Aino customs.
The religion of this interesting race is almost as mysterious as everything else appertaining to it. The Ainos have no idols and no temples, and their religious rites are of a decidedly simple nature. They, however, seem to believe in an infinity of spirits inhabiting various and varied things, and their pantheon is seemingly a crowded one. I have said seemingly, because the beliefs of a people such as this are difficult to get at, and even when one has got at them almost impossible to comprehend. One writer has termed the religion of the Ainos, "a very primitive nature-worship," and their gods "invisible, formless conceptions." Such definitions do not convey much information. Nature-worship is a vague description and "invisible, formless conceptions" of the deity or deities are not confined to the Ainos. Possibly, like all peoples but little advanced or developed mentally, their religious conceptions are of the vaguest and have assumed no definite shape. A fear of the unknown, a blind groping in the dark are, mayhap, all that the Aino possesses in reference to the spiritual world.
Although the religion of the Aino when living is somewhat incomprehensible his religious ceremonies in reference to the dead are of a somewhat elaborate nature. After life has become extinct the first proceeding is to light an enormous fire in the house. The corpse is then dressed in its best clothes and laid beside the fire, where are also placed dishes, a drinking-cup, and the implements of the chase. In the case of a woman, instead of these, her beads and other ornaments are laid alongside of her; for both sexes a pipe and a tobacco-box, so greatly used during life, are considered essentials when dead. Cakes made of rice or millet and a cup of sake, are also put upon the floor. A kind of wake or funeral feast follows, at which the mourners throw some sake on the corpse as a libation to its departed spirit, break off pieces of the cake and bury it in the ashes. The body is covered with a mat slung upon a pole and carried to the grave, followed by the mourners, each of whom places something in the grave, which, it is believed, will be carried to the next world with the spirit of the deceased person. At the conclusion of the ceremony the mourners wash their hands in water which has been brought for the purpose. This is then thrown on the grave and the vessel which conveyed it is broken in pieces and also thrown on the grave. The widow of the deceased shaves her head, while the man cuts his beard and hair, as outward symbols of grief. Many of these ceremonies, it will be seen, are such as are more or less common to all primitive races. There is, indeed, a marked resemblance between the habit of the Ainos in burying articles with the deceased for his use in the next world and that of the North American Indians. But I am not inclined to deduce any theory in reference to the origin of the Ainos from the existence of these customs. Mankind, in every part of the world, seems to have evolved his religious beliefs in very much the same way. His conception of the hereafter appears to have proceeded on precisely similar lines. The higher his scale in civilisation the more spiritual and the less material his conception of the future. The lower his scale precisely the reverse is the fact. The savage, which of course the Aino really is, cannot imagine a future state where there is no eating and drinking and hunting, and he, accordingly, thinks it incumbent on him, in order to show his respect for the dead, to provide the corpse with those articles which he deems essential in that unknown world where, according to his conception, eating and drinking and hunting will be as prevalent as in this.
The Ainos have a great respect for the graves of their dead, and Japanese legislation has taken the necessary steps to prevent any tampering therewith. Some years ago a few scientists from Europe went on an expedition from Hakodate with a view of obtaining information respecting the manners and customs of the Ainos. In the course of this expedition some graves were broken into and skulls and limbs extracted therefrom for the purpose of being taken to Europe for scientific research. This proceeding occasioned an angry outburst on the part of this usually placid people, and the Japanese authorities gave the necessary instructions to prevent the possibility of such an occurrence in future. I suppose the scientists, in the ardour of their enthusiasm, are hardly to be blamed. Science too frequently overlooks sentiment, which is, after all, one of the most potent forces in the world.
The dwellings of the Japanese are supposed to have been evolved from those of the Ainos. Both build their houses roof first, making the framework and placing the supports with shorter pieces for rafters, all being tied together with a rope made of some kind of fibre. Poles, 5 or 6 feet high at regular intervals are then placed in the ground, each pole having a fork at the top and short horizontal pieces from one to the other, the roof frame is then erected on and secured to the poles and subsequently thatched with straw. The floor is of earth, with the fireplace in the centre. As in Japanese houses, mats are used for sitting and sleeping purposes. The utensils of the Ainos are much more primitive than those in use by the Japanese people, and generally it may be remarked of the Ainos that their wants are few and that the people are content to live their own life in their own way and only desire to be severely left alone.
The dress is very similar to that of the Japanese peasant. The men, however, wear at certain seasons thick rain-coats made of salmon skin, as also leggings made of a fibre peculiar to themselves, and high boots constructed of straw. I am sorry to have to relate that the Ainos have a fondness for sake, and there is a good deal of intoxication among them. The climate of the island of Yesso, as I have already remarked, is extremely severe in the winter-time, and there can be little doubt that many of the Ainos suffer extreme privations. There have been a few cases of intermarriage between the two races, but unions of this nature are not looked on with any favour by either.
Attempts have been made by some of the missionaries in Japan to convert the Ainos to Christianity, but I fear the attempts made in this direction have been attended with a very scant measure of success. A people such as this possesses minds of childlike simplicity, and to endeavour to get it to comprehend the abstruse doctrines and dogmas of Christianity is an almost hopeless task. The climate of Yesso is such as to render it possible for missionary efforts to take place only at certain seasons of the year, and I do not think there has been, so far as my information goes, any systematic propaganda of Christianity among this interesting race.
It is certainly a somewhat extraordinary fact that while the other islands of Japan have been rapidly assimilating and are being steadily influenced by the civilisation of Europe and America, the northern island appears to be, except possibly at Hakodate, in a state of complete isolation from all these influences and effects. Whether the Ainos have any conception of the influences at work in and the progress being made by the Empire of which they are subjects, I do not know, but to me it is both interesting and curious to regard this ancient and decaying race, either indifferent to or ignorant of all the bustle and hurry and worry of modern civilisation so close to them and yet so far removed from their childlike minds and ideas.
The question may be asked, How comes it that a highly civilised people such as the Japanese have been for many hundreds of years, have exercised practically no influence upon this subject race inhabiting a portion of their territory? A nation such as Japan, with a literature and an art of its own, with two highly developed religious systems, and with many of those other characteristics which are included in the term civilisation? How is it that neither art nor literature nor religion, nor any other characteristic of civilisation has, in the slightest degree, influenced this aboriginal race? Indeed, if the theories of ethnologists in regard to the Ainos be correct, and we are to judge by the ancient remains that have been found throughout Japan, the Ainos, when they were in undisputed possession of the Japanese Archipelago, were in a much more advanced condition of civilisation than they are to-day. The questions that I have put afford food for reflection, but they are difficult, if not impossible, to answer. I am certain, however, that the Japanese Government desires to, if possible, preserve the Aino race from extinction, and that it aspires to give this ancient people all the advantages of education and civilisation generally. Unfortunately the Ainos themselves are the obstacle to the carrying into effect of this project. They desire to live their own life in their own way. They have not only no wish to be, but they resent any effort to make them, either educated or civilised. They are what some people would term children of nature, out of place decidedly in a modern go-ahead eclectic Power like Japan, but an interesting survival of the past, and likewise an interesting reminder that the highly civilised races of to-day have, in their time, been evolved from very similar children of nature.
JAPAN AS IT IS TO-DAY
"In the Japan of to-day the world has before it a unique example of an Eastern people displaying the power to assimilate and to adopt the civilisation of the West, while preserving its own national dignity unimpaired," aptly remarks a modern writer. It is, indeed, in its powers of assimilation and adaptation that Japan, I think, stands unique among not only the nations of the world at the present time, but amongst the nations of whom we have any historical record. In one of his books on Japan—books which I may, in passing, remark give a more vivid insight into the life of the Japanese people than the works of any other writer—Mr. Lafcadio Hearn remarks that the so-called adoption of Western civilisation within a term of comparatively few years cannot mean the addition to the Japanese brain of any organs or powers previously absent from her, nor any sudden change in the mental or moral character of the race. Changes of that kind cannot be made in a generation. The Europeanising of Japan, Mr. Hearn in fact suggests, means nothing more than the rearrangement of a part of the pre-existing machinery of thought, while the mental readjustments effected by taking on Western civilisation, or what passes for it, have given good results only along directions in which the Japanese people have always shown special capacity. There has, in a word, he asserts, been no transformation—nothing more than the turning of old abilities into new and larger channels. Indeed the tendency of the people of Japan, when dispassionately investigated, will be seen to have been always moving in the same direction. A slight retrospect will, I think, clearly prove the truth of this assertion.
It is now about fifty years since Japan was first awakened, perhaps rudely awakened, from her slumber of two and a half centuries. When the European Powers and the United States of America knocked, perhaps somewhat rudely, at her door, it turned slowly on its hinges and creaked owing to the rust of many long years. How came it that a country which had imported its art, literature, religion, and civilisation, a country which until 1868 had a mediaeval feudalism for its social basis, a country which until then was notorious for the practice of hara-kiri and the fierceness of its two-sworded Samurai should so suddenly take on Western attributes and become a seat of liberty and the exponent of Western civilisation in the Far East? All this is to some persons a rather perplexing problem. But the reasons are not, I think, far to seek. If we go back many centuries we shall find that Japan, though always tenacious of her national characteristics, never evinced any indisposition to mingle with or adopt what was good in other races. The national character for many hundreds of years has always displayed what I may term the germs of liberalism, and has not been influenced by narrow and petty national ideals concerning the customs, religion, art, or literature of other countries. As against this statement may be urged the action of Japan in expelling the Portuguese missionaries, destroying thoroughly Christianity, both buildings and converts, and effectually and effectively shutting the country against all intercourse with Europe and America for over two centuries. The answer of the Japanese of to-day to this question is simple enough. They point out that, although the object of St. Francis Xavier and his missionaries was essentially spiritual, viz., to convert Japan to Christianity, that of many of the foreigners who accompanied or succeeded him was not in any sense spiritual, but on the contrary was grossly and wickedly material. Accordingly Japan, having rightly or wrongly concluded that not only her civilisation but her national life, her independent existence, were menaced by the presence and the increasing number of these foreigners, she decided, on the principle that desperate diseases require desperate remedies, to expel them and to effectually seal her country against any possibility of future foreign invasions. I am not, I may remark, defending her action in the matter; I am only putting forward the views of Japanese men of light and leading of to-day in regard thereto.
When, many centuries ago, the Koreans brought to Japan the religion, laws, literature, and art of China, these were adopted and assimilated. Both Buddhism and Confucianism existed side by side in the country with the old Shinto religion. And, accordingly, during the many centuries which have elapsed since the religion of China and the ethical doctrines of her great teacher were introduced into Japan, there has never been a violent conflict between them and the ancient religion of the country. Had the Portuguese invaders confined themselves to a religious propaganda only, the Christian converts they made would not have been interfered with and the Christian religion, strong and vigorous, would have existed uninterruptedly in Japan until to-day side by side with Buddhism and Shintoism. When St. Francis Xavier came to Japan Buddhism was the prevailing religion, and it undoubtedly had, as it still has, a great hold upon the people. But the preaching of the intrepid Jesuit and the missionaries he brought with him had an enormous success. The Christian religion was embraced by representatives of every class. In the year 1550 St. Francis, writing to Goa, placed on record for all time his opinion of the Japanese. "The nation," writes he, "with which we have to deal here surpasses in goodness any of the nations ever discovered. They are of a kindly disposition, wonderfully desirous of honour, which is placed above everything else. They listen with great avidity to discourse about God and divine things. In the native place of Paul they received us very kindly, the Governor, the chief citizens, and indeed the whole populace. Give thanks to God therefore that a very wide and promising field is open to you for your well-roused piety to spend its energies in." It certainly was a remarkable fact that a nation which had for so many centuries been under the influences of Buddhism should have welcomed these Portuguese missionaries. But it must be remembered that Japan had not that prejudice against foreigners which is very often the outcome of foreign conquest and foreign oppression. No foreign Power had ever conquered or indeed set its foot in the land. Both China and Korea had made various attempts on the independence of Japan, but unsuccessfully. Japan had never had to endure any humiliation at the hands of foreign invaders, consequently her nationalism had no narrow, selfish meaning, and accordingly she saw no reason for putting any obstacle in the way of St. Francis Xavier and his followers until she concluded, however much or little reason there may have been for her conclusions, that the incoming of these foreigners in some measure menaced her national existence. Before she arrived at that conclusion she was apparently prepared to welcome all that was good in the ethical teaching of the Portuguese missionaries, and, if a section of her population desired to embrace a religion to whose ethical teaching she had no objection; there was no reason, in her opinion, why that religion should not exist side by side with those more ancient religions which had lived amicably together during many centuries.
For nearly two hundred and fifty years Japan resolved to remain in a state of isolation. Then, as I have said, European Powers and the great Republic of the West came knocking and knocking loudly at her doors, and as a result thereof her thinking men came to realise that in a state of isolation a continued civilised existence is impossible. Accordingly Japan, tentatively at first, opened certain portions of her country to European intercourse, and as an inevitable consequence thereof found it necessary to adopt European ideas—and European armaments. The country had kept out the aggressor for some two thousand years or thereabouts, and Japan clearly saw that if the aggressor was to be kept out in the future, the near future, she would probably have to fight to maintain her national existence. The war with China was the outcome of the feeling that Korea under the suzerainty of China was a constant menace to not only the prosperity but the existence of the Empire. The same feeling undoubtedly led to the war with Russia, as Japan considered, and rightly in my opinion, that the possession of Korea by Russia meant the loss of national independence. That war was not as so many wars have been, the result of a racial hatred, the outcome of a spirit of revenge, or waged for aggressive designs. It was forced upon Japan, and was in every sense purely defensive. Japan waged it confident in her own strength from the fact that in the two thousand years of her history she had, in all the conflicts in which she had engaged, kept in view the one ideal—the conservation of the national existence, an ideal which she has consistently realised.
The position of Japan at the present moment is not only extremely interesting but extraordinary in a degree. She is the cynosure for the eyes of the civilised world, and for some years she has been subjected at the hands of experts and amateurs of all descriptions to the most minute investigation. Every phase of her national life has been rigidly scrutinised and exhaustively written about. The national character and characteristics have undergone the most intricate psychological examination, and if the world does not now know the real Japan it is certainly not from lack of material, literary material, whereon to form a judgment. Indeed the attention Japan has received has been sufficient to turn the head of any people. I am not sure that this large output of literature on matters Japanese has effected very much in the direction of enabling a sound judgment to be formed regarding the country and the people. Many writers who have dissertated upon Japan during the past couple of decades seem to have imagined that they had discovered it, and their impressions have been penned from that standpoint.
There used some years ago to be an advertisement of a "Popular Educator" in which a youth with a curly head of hair and a face of delightful innocence was depicted. Underneath the portrait the inquiry was printed, "What will he become?" And there was then given an illustrated alternative as to the appearance of this innocent youth at different ages in his career according to the path he trod in life. One alternative eventuated in the final evolution of an ancient and, from his appearance, very palpable villain, the other of a benevolent-looking old gentleman who quite evidently only lived to do good. It seems to me that a large number of persons in various parts of the world are to-day, as they have been for some time past, asking the question in reference to Japan, "What will she become?" It is without doubt a highly interesting inquiry, but the answer to it, so far as my knowledge goes, is not like the advertisement I have referred to, one of two courses—the one leading to perdition, the other to prosperity. On the contrary, the answers seem to be as numerous and varied as the answerers, and most of the answers would appear to have been arrived at simply and merely by the false premises and very often the entirely erroneous "facts" of the inquirers.
A favourite and fallacious method of dealing with Japan is that of regarding it as an Oriental nation, essentially Oriental with a thin veneer of Occidentalism. People who so reason, or occasionally do not reason at all but confine themselves to mere assertions, suggest that the difference between the Oriental and the Occidental is such that not a few years of perfunctory contact but centuries of time are necessary to bring about a real transmogrification. Persons who so think point not only to the difference in everything material in respect of East and West, but to a radical difference in psychology, an entire distinction in the mental outlook of each. They accordingly conclude that the differences so evident on all sides are not mere accidentals but fundamental, ineradicable. Scratch the Japanese, they in effect say, and beneath his veneer of civilisation you will find the barbarian, barbarism and Orientalism being with these persons synonymous terms. And if any incredulity in the matter be expressed they will triumphantly point to the recurrence of hara-kiri among the soldiers and sailors in the late war. A well-known writer on racial psychology has expressed himself dogmatically on this very point. I will quote two or three of his pronouncements in the matter.
"Each race possesses a constitution as unvarying as its anatomical constitution. There seems to be no doubt that the former corresponds to a certain special structure of the brain.
"A negro or a Japanese may easily take a university degree or become a lawyer; the sort of varnish he thus acquires is, however, quite superficial, and has no influence on his mental constitution.... What no education can give him because they are created by heredity alone, are the forms of thought, the logic, and, above all, the character of the Western man.
"Cross-breeding constitutes the only infallible means at our disposal of transforming in a fundamental manner the character of a people, heredity being the only force powerful enough to contend with heredity. Cross-breeding allows of the creation of a new race, possessing new physical and psychological characteristics."
Now, whether these views be correct in the main or partially correct as regards other races, I have no hesitation in describing them as inaccurate to a degree in reference to the Japanese. Not peculiar brain formation, but social evolution, environment, education are responsible for the traits which distinguish the Japanese from other Eastern nations. To assert, as do some psychological experts, that the mental constitution of races is as distinct and unchangeable as their physiological or anatomical characteristics is, to my mind, a fact not borne out by the history of the world. Physiological or anatomical distinctions are apparent, and can be classified; mental idiosyncrasies do not lend themselves to cataloguing. It is, I know, possible to draw up at any particular period a list of what I may term the idiosyncrasies of any race at that period. A writer in a London newspaper some little time back attempted to do so in reference to Oriental races generally. He enumerated the degraded position of women, the licentiousness of the men, the recognition and prevalence of prostitution, the non-desire of the youth for play, contempt for Western civilisation, and general hatred of foreigners. Admitting these charges to be correct, the characteristics detailed are, I may point out, merely ephemeral incidents. A contempt for Western civilisation and hatred of the foreigner, for example, which was certainly at one time pronounced in Japan, are rapidly passing away. The position of women in that country has also greatly improved, just as it has improved in Europe, while as regards prostitution and licentiousness Europe has, in my opinion, no need to throw stones.