The Empire Of The East Part 11
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The writers and critics to whom I have referred in this chapter seem to be oblivious of the fact that progress is the law of nature. It has nothing to do with either climate or race. I admit that it may be affected by environment or other causes of a temporary nature. The Occidental visiting the East sees things that are strange to him--a people, the colour of whose skin and the contour of whose features are different to his own; costume, style of architecture, and many other matters entirely dissimilar to what he has viewed in his own country.
He accordingly jumps to the absolutely erroneous conclusion that these people are uncivilised, and that their lack of civilisation is due to some mental warp or some defect in either the structure or the size of their brain. Of course such a conception is entirely erroneous, and yet it is marvellous to what an extent it prevails. These people are for all practical purposes the same as himself, except that they have been affected by various matters and circumstances that I have called ephemeral. What a nation, like an individual, needs is the formation of a distinct character. Now, the character of a nation depends, in my opinion, on the high or low estimate it has formed as to the meaning and purpose of life, and also the extent to which it adheres to the unwritten moral law, which is, after all, something superior to, because higher than, mere legal enactments. I confess that as I wander about this marvellous country of Japan, as I mingle with its common people and see them in various phases of their lives I say to myself, as St. Francis Xavier said of them more than three hundred years ago, "This nation is the delight of my soul." The critic, the hypercritic, is everywhere. He suspects everybody and everything. He can find occult motives and psychological reasons for everything. I confess I am a trifle tired of the critic, especially the psychological critic, in reference to Japan. I view the people there as they are to-day, and I have satisfied myself that we can see at work in Japan the formation of a nation with a character. I care not to investigate the mental processes at work, or the difference between the brain of the Japanese and the brain of the European. I do see this, however, that the leaders of the people, the educated and cultured classes of the land, are intent on cutting out of the national character anything which is indefensible, or has been found unserviceable, and equally intent on adopting and adapting from any and every nation such qualities as it is considered would the better enable Japan to advance on the paths of progress and freedom, illuminating her way as a nation and as a people by a shining illustration of all that is best in the world, having sloughed off voluntarily and readily every characteristic, however ancient, which reason and justice and experience had shown to be unworthy of a power aspiring to stand out prominently before the world.
In Sir Rutherford Alcock's work on Japan, "The Capital of the Tycoon,"
published some forty-four years ago, a work which, as I have elsewhere said, is of undoubted value though somewhat marred by the prejudices of the author, he attempted a forecast of the future of the country, but, like so many prophets, his vaticinations have proved highly inaccurate. "Japan," he remarked, "is on the great highway of nations, the coveted of Russia, the most absorbing, if not the most aggressive of all the Powers; and a perpetual temptation alike to merchant and to missionary, who, each in different directions, finding the feudalism and spirit of isolation barriers to their path, will not cease to batter them in breach, or undermine them to their downfall. Such seems to be the probable fate of Japan, and its consummation is little more than a question of time. When all is accomplished, whether the civilising process will make them as a people wiser, better, or happier, is a problem of more doubtful solution. One thing is quite certain, that the obstructive principle which tends to the rejection of all Western innovations and proselytism as abominations, is much too active and vigorous in the Japanese mind to leave a hope that there will not be violent and obstinate resistance; and this inevitably leading to corresponding violence in the assault, there must be a period of convulsion and disorder before the change can be effected, and new foundations laid for another social edifice."
Whether the civilising process will make the Japanese people wiser, better, or happier is the problem the answer to which can only be given in the future. Obviously we are not in a position to completely answer this question to-day. Indeed, before answering it at any time it might be advisable to invite the definition of wisdom and happiness. There were wisdom and happiness long prior to the time when the merchant and the missionary to whom Sir Rutherford Alcock refers battered and undermined Japan's feudalism and spirit of isolation.
But, _mirable dictu_, Japan, instead of developing that obstructive principle which Sir Rutherford considered was so active and vigorous in the Japanese mind has, on the contrary, developed a spirit of adaptation and assimilation of Western innovations, and in so doing has in all probability saved herself from the cupidity not only of Russia, but of other Western Powers. Sir Rutherford Alcock was not a psychologist, but quite evidently he too misread the Japanese mind and its workings.
Truth to tell, Japan as it is to-day gives the lie to nearly all the prophets, and demonstrates that the psychologist is merely a charlatan. Her development, her evolution has proceeded along no particular lines. The fearful and awful rocks in the way, mediaevalism and feudalism, were got rid of almost with a stroke of the pen, and everybody in Japan, from the Emperor to the peasant, has adapted himself to the changed order of things. It is the most wonderful transformation scene in the history of the world, and it is still in progress. What the end of it all will be I have, bearing the dangers of prophecy well in mind, attempted to show in a final chapter. But I may remark that nothing in regard to the forces at work in Japan of recent years, and the outcome of the same so far gives me at any rate more unmixed pleasure than the way in which the theorists have been confounded, those men who cut and carve and label human beings, whether individually or in the aggregate, as if they were mere blocks of wood. The Oriental mind, we have been told, cannot do this; Oriental prejudices and idiosyncrasies and modes of thought and hereditary influences will not admit of that; the traditions of the Far East, that mysterious thing, will prevent the other--we have been told all this, I repeat, and told it _ad nauseam_. Japan as it is to-day refutes these prophecies, these dogmatic pronouncements, psychical and ethnological. The Japanese race, when regarded from what I deem to be the only correct standpoint for forming a sound judgment as to the position it holds among the races of the world, namely, in respect of the size and convolution of the brain, occupies in my opinion a high, a very high place. All other factors, often given such undue prominence in forming an estimate as to the character of any people I regard as mere accidentals. The story of Japan during the last thirty or forty years affords ample proof of what I have said; the position of the country to-day offers visible demonstration of it.
Japan has reached and will keep the position of a great Power, and the Japanese that of a great people, just because of the preponderating mental abilities of the population of the country, its capacity for assimilation, its desire for knowledge, its pertinacity, strenuousness, and aspirations to possess and acquire by the process of selection the very best the world can give it.
THE FUTURE OF JAPAN--PHYSICAL--MORAL--MENTAL
I know by experience, even if the history of the world had not furnished many examples to prove it, that prophecy is risky. It is a fascinating pastime inasmuch as it affords the imaginative faculties full scope, but at the same time it is a mistake to let the imagination run riot. I have no intention, in considering the future of Japan, of depicting an Arcadia or a Utopia the outcome of one's desire rather than of the knowledge that one possesses of the possibilities of the country and the belief that in due course those possibilities will become actualities. Of course I admit that I may be mistaken in my estimate of the future, but I think an estimate of the future can only be based on a knowledge of the present, and it is upon that knowledge that I mean to attempt some forecast of what I believe to be the destiny of Japan.
"The Future of Japan" is a theme that has exercised the pens of many writers, who have given to the world many and most divergent views in regard thereto--the result, I think, of regarding the subject from a narrow or single point of view, instead of looking at it broadly, boldly, and dispassionately. In respect of a population of between forty and fifty millions in rapid process of transformation and taking on perhaps rather hurriedly, and, it may be, some superfluous or unnecessary attributes of Western civilisation, it is not only possible but easy to light on many ludicrous incidents and draw absolutely false conclusions from them. One visitor to Japan, for example, who wrote a series of essays on that country, since produced in book form, the laudable object of which was to present to the British public the real Japan with a view of counteracting the effects of those "superficial narratives to be found by the dozen in circulating libraries of the personal views and experiences of almost every literary wayfarer who has crossed the Pacific," has followed this bad plan in his remarks on "The Future of Japan." Imitation for imitation's sake is, or was, in his opinion, a growing evil in Japan.
A certain gentleman, he relates, a wealthy merchant of Osaka, desired to celebrate the two hundredth anniversary of a copper mine coming into the possession of his family. The plan he finally decided to adopt was to present each of his three hundred employees with a swallow-tail coat. Another Japanese gentleman, who had fallen in with the habit of the New Year's Day call imitated from the Americans, improved upon it by leaving on his doorstep a large box with a lid and this notice above it: "To Visitors. I am out, but I wish you a Happy New Year all the same. N.B.--Please drop your New Year's Presents into the box." Over a well-known tobacconist's shop the writer of the book in question observed the following notice: "When we first opened our tobacco store at Tokio our establishment was patronised by Miss Nakakoshi, a celebrated beauty of Inamato-ro, Shin-yoshiwara, and she would only smoke tobacco purchased at our store. Through her patronage our tobacco became widely known, so we call it by the name of Ima Nakakoshi. And we beg to assure the public that it is as fragrant and sweet as the young lady herself. Try it and you will find our words prove true." Finally, over a pastry-cook's shop in Tokio he read and made a note of the following: "Cakes and Infections."
Now what do these several trivial, indeed contemptible, anecdotes prove? What arguments in regard to a nation of forty-seven millions of people can be bolstered up by instancing the imperfect acquaintance of a Japanese pastry-cook with the English language? The writer does not in so many words delineate the future of Japan as it appears to him, but he suggests it, and his Japan of the future is quite evidently to be nothing more or less than a kind of international dustheap whereon Europe and America have dumped all that is bad and rotten and deplorable in their modern social and political life. Here is the inferential forecast of the gentleman in question: "When Japan rings with the rattle of machinery; when the railway has become a feature of her scenery; when the boiler-chimney has defaced her choicest spots, as the paper-makers have already obliterated the delights of Oji; when the traditions of yashiki and shizoku alike are all finally engulfed in the barrack-room; when her art reckons its output by the thousand dozen; when the power in the land is shared between the politician and the plutocrat; when the peasant has been exchanged for the 'factory hand,' the kimono for the slop-suit, the tea-house for the music-hall, the geisha for the lion comique, and the daimio for the beer-peer--will Japan then have made a wise bargain, and will she, looking backward, date a happier era from the day we forced our acquaintance upon her at the cannon's mouth?"
[Illustration: A SIGN OF THE TIMES]
Criticism of this kind, if it may be dignified by that term, no doubt affords opportunity for what is considered smart writing, and enables the persons indulging in it to air their witticisms and show their sense of the humorous, but it not only serves no useful purpose, but, on the contrary, is pernicious in its effects, inasmuch as it occasions, not unnaturally, a feeling of soreness on the part of those, whether individuals or a nation, who are made the subject of it. Japan has too often been the butt of the humourist. I have no desire to deprecate humour, which no doubt gives a savour to life, but that humour which is only exercised at the expense of others, in my opinion, needs reprobation. As I have said, Japan among nations has been subjected to too much of it, and it is to be hoped that in future writers about the country will endeavour to avoid making their little jokes, or serving up afresh the antiquated chestnuts of the foreign community.
The future of Japan may, I think, be considered under some half-dozen headings: The physical improvement of the Japanese race; Its moral advancement; Its intellectual advancement; Japan's national future; Her political future; and finally, The influence of the Japanese Empire on other Far Eastern races and on the world generally.
As regards the physical improvement of the race, I admit this is a somewhat difficult subject in regard to which to make any forecast.
The stature of the Japanese is undoubtedly small, and the chest measurement small likewise. At the same time, any one moving about Japan must have noticed the fact that there are quite a large number of very tall men and women in the country, and that a goodly proportion of the inhabitants compare favourably in their physical attributes with European people. As I have observed elsewhere in this book, the dietary of the Japanese race has for many centuries back been almost entirely a vegetarian one. I know very well that vegetarianism has its advocates, and some of the arguments put forward in support of it are plausible if not convincing. At the same time, I think, it cannot be denied that those races which have been in the habit of eating meat for many centuries have, as regards physique, demonstrated that whether man was or was not intended to be a carnivorous animal, his development into a carnivorous animal has at any rate succeeded in enhancing and developing his physical powers. Of late years there has been possibly as the result of intercourse with Europeans, a large increase in the number of the inhabitants of Japan who eat meat. This tendency on the part of the population is growing, and I believe in the course of comparatively few years there will be a radical change in the dietary of the people. This change, if it be effected, must, I would suggest, have a material influence on their physique. We all know that food is essential for the building up of the human frame and its maintenance, and I think there are few people who would question the fact that the condition of the human frame, whether in individuals or the aggregates of individuals that we term nations, must be largely affected by the food partaken of. I, accordingly, look forward, not immediately of course, to a material change in the general physique of the Japanese people. I am not, as I know some persons are, of opinion that that change is likely to be brought about by intermarriage or unions of a temporary nature between Japanese and Europeans. There have been a few marriages, and there have no doubt been a good many unions, but the effect on the national breed has been small, and though it may be to some extent greater in the future, I do not look in this direction for any alteration in the physical characteristics of the Japanese people. That alteration will, in my opinion, be brought about by a change in the food of the people.
As regards the moral advancement of the Japanese race I shall say little, for the somewhat paradoxical reason that it is a matter on which so much might be said. Indeed, this is a subject on which a definition of the term moral might be advisable before entering into any prolonged consideration of it. I shall not attempt that definition, simply because I feel convinced that to do so would be to provoke controversy. As I have said in this book, moral, morality, and immorality are all terms that have to some extent lost their original meaning. I may say briefly in this connection that I use the term moral advancement simply and solely in respect of the practice of the duties of life from a high ethical point of view. That is, I know, a somewhat vague definition, but I think it will serve its purpose. Ever since Japan has been thrown open to foreigners we have heard a good deal about morality and immorality, both in the strict and the perverted sense of those words. The European who came there, male and female, was, or affected to be, shocked at the relations between the s.e.xes he found prevailing. He saw prostitution recognised and regulated. He heard of, and in the old days possibly saw, something of phallic worship. He witnessed or heard of men and women making their ablutions together in public wash-houses, and he--sometimes it was a she--affected to be horrified at such a proceeding. Better, much better, it was inferred, the custom of the lower classes in England, never to wash at all, than this horrible outrage on public decency.
And then the merchant or the trader who came to Japan, he also prated about commercial immorality, and the prevalence of untruthfulness among the Japanese with whom he did business. And in other directions too there were criticisms passed upon Japanese manners and customs, and many of these were condemned and denounced as immoral or wicked very often for no better reason than that they differed from those that obtained in Europe. However much or little ground there may have been for these charges against the Japanese people, I am not now concerned to discuss. One thing I will remark--that the Japanese possess two religions which, whatever their effects and no matter to what extent superstition may have been engrafted on them, have always held up a high moral standard. And if one dips even cursorily into the writings of the ethical teachers of Japan in the past, we invariably find the inculcation of an exalted standard of morals. Indeed, the practice of the Japanese people at the present time, as in all times in regard to the relations between parents and children, of wife to husband, of the people to the State, have been beyond criticism. In these matters Western nations have much to learn from them. Since the opening of the country to Europe, the Japanese Government has shown itself alive to European criticism on many points. It has effectually stamped out phallic worship; it has, in deference to European susceptibilities, abolished mixed bathing in the public wash-houses; and in various other ways it has striven in the direction of raising the standard of moral conduct throughout the country. That it has not attempted to put down prostitution, but, on the contrary, has recognised and regulated it, has been made a charge against it. The Japanese Government has most likely come to the conclusion that prostitution cannot be put down, and such being the case it has decided that, with a view of obviating those evils which are the outcome of it, the only alternative is to regulate it. I admit that in an ideal state of existence prostitution would not exist, but no country in the world has yet reached or approximated that ideal state.
The evil of prostitution is just as flagrant in Europe as in the East, but Japan so far alone among the Great Powers of the world has seen fit to tackle this difficult and delicate matter, and to some extent regulate it. That her rulers look forward to the time when the Yoshiwara shall have ceased to exist I firmly believe, and I am convinced that they mean to do everything possible towards that consummation. But the rulers of Japan are not mere sentimentalists; they have to recognise facts, and recognising facts they have done what seems best to them under the circumstances.
As regards commercial morality, I believe even the European merchants and traders in the country admit that there has of late years been a marked improvement. In old Japan commercialism was looked down upon.
Making a profit out of buying and selling was regarded as degrading; those who indulged in such practices were despised, and not unnaturally the trader, finding himself a member of a contemned class, lived down to the low level on which he had been placed. In old Japan traders, in the presence of the Samurai, were, when addressing him, required to touch the ground with their foreheads; when talking to him they had to keep their hands on the ground. Such a state of things, of course, has long been effete, but the influences thereof remained for a considerable time after the acts had ceased. There has now been effected a revulsion of feeling in such matters. Commerce is honoured, trade is esteemed, and the Japan of to-day is convinced of the fact that on her commerce, trade, and industries the future of the country largely depends. Men of the highest rank, men of the greatest culture, men of the deepest probity are now embarked in trade and commerce in Japan; the whole moral atmosphere connected with trade has changed, and there are at the present time no more honourable men in the whole commercial world than those of Japan. In this matter there has undoubtedly been an enormous advance in ideas and ideals. This advance, I believe, is destined to extend in other directions--indeed, in every direction. The Japan of to-day has, I think, so far as I have been able to gauge it, a feeling--a deep feeling, which perhaps I can best describe as _noblesse oblige_. It is sensible of the position the country has attained; it is full of hope and enthusiasm for the future thereof; it believes implicitly that it is incumbent on it not only to attain but to maintain a high moral standard in every direction. It has been urged as against the Japan of to-day by a writer on the subject that Spencer and Mill and Huxley have been widely read by the educated classes, and that Western thought and practice as to the structure of society and the freedom of the individual have been emphasised throughout the country. I confess to feeling no alarm in regard to the moral future of Japan because it has perused the works of the three philosophers named. It gives me no trepidation to read that Mill's work on "Representative Government" has been translated into a volume of five hundred pages in Japanese and reached its third edition. I am, on the contrary, pleased to learn that Japan of to-day is concerned about culture, desirous of reading the works of those great philosophers whose names are among the immortal. There are no principles enunciated in any of the books of Spencer, Mill, or Huxley that, so far as I know, can undermine the moral character of the Japanese. On the contrary, I believe that a perusal of the writings of those great men will tend to assist the Japanese into a clearer understanding of moral principles, and in a desire to apply them to the duties of life. I look forward with great hope and a pronounced confidence to the moral future of Japan. Everything that I have seen in the country, everything that I have been able to learn respecting the people thereof--the ideas prevailing, the teaching given in its schools and universities, the whole trend of thought in the land, the literature read and produced, the aspirations, in fact, of the Japanese people to-day--lead me to think and to believe most firmly that in the Japan of the future we shall witness a nation on a higher moral plane than any of those with which the history of the world acquaints us.
Closely connected with the moral advancement of Japan is its intellectual advancement. I have referred to the statement made by a writer that the Japan of to-day is addicted to reading the works of certain English philosophers, and that one of these books translated into Japanese had run through several editions. This fact is typical of the intellectual ferment, the thirst for knowledge of all kinds that exists in the country to-day. That craving is not for philosophical works alone; it extends to and embraces every form of literature of an instructive or enlightening character. It is in evidence in the higher schools and the universities of the country; it is to be witnessed in the many periodicals which exist for the promotion of culture and the spread of knowledge. This intellectual ferment, as I have, I think, appropriately termed it, is extending rapidly, and is, I believe, destined to assume much greater proportions. The literature of the world is at the present time literally being devoured by Young Japan. I do not regard this literary voracity as the mere outcome of curiosity, or as in any way symptomatic of mere mental unrest. Young Japan appears, like Lord Bacon, to take all knowledge for its field of study, and in accord with the philosophical principles of that great man, the principles of utility and progress, to be concerned with everything that can alleviate the sufferings and promote the comforts of mankind. Of course, at the present time this condition of craving for knowledge is confined, from the point of view of numbers, to a small portion of the people. But the intellectuals of every country are in a minority--in some countries in a miserable minority--and the influence they exercise is never proportionate to their numbers. At the same time the intellectuals of Japan are, in view of the fact that the country has for some short time been open to Western influences, an amazingly large proportion of the population. I am of opinion that this intellectual movement in Japan is destined to widen considerably, and that its influence on the people will be immense. During the whole history of the world the potency of mind over matter has been the greatest wonder. In these present days this potency is even more pronounced, and mere brute force is nowadays only made effective when it is influenced and regulated and organised by mind. I regard the intellectual development of Japan as one of the most pleasing features that have accrued from its contact with Western civilisation. I do not mean to suggest that there was an intellectual atrophy in the country prior to those influences making themselves felt, but there was an isolation which is never good for intellectual development. The broader the sympathies of nations, as of individuals, the wider their outlook, the better for their mental progress. When Japan was in a condition of isolation the literature available for her people was limited both in style and quantity. Her people now have at their disposal the intellect of the whole civilised world, the great thoughts of the great men of all ages. And it is pleasing to be able to relate that no more appreciative readers of the world's classics are to be found than the young intellectuals of Japan to-day. I have said that I regard this intellectual enthusiasm as one of the most pleasing features of modern Japan. That it is destined to have great results I am firmly convinced. I believe, and I am not naturally an optimist, that in the Japan of the future, the not far-distant future, the world is destined to see a nation not only morally but mentally great, a nation which will develop in conjunction those high moral qualities which will give it what I may term a pronounced, a well-defined character, and an intellectual greatness superior to that of ancient Greece and Rome, because restrained and illumined by the predominance and potency of moral characteristics which those great nations did not possess.
THE FUTURE OF JAPAN--NATIONAL--POLITICAL--ITS INFLUENCE ON THE WORLD
I have now come to my final chapter, in which I propose to offer some remarks embodying my opinion as to the future of Japan from a national and political standpoint, as also her influence upon the world generally. The theme is a great one, and would require a volume for its proper treatment. Obviously, therefore, it cannot be dealt with other than cursorily in the few pages I am about to devote to it.
Readers of this book will, I think, have had borne in upon them the fact that I am not only an ardent admirer of, but a believer in Japan and the Japanese. I utterly scout the idea put forward by some writers that what they have taken on of Western civilisation is either a veneer or a varnish, or that the advancement of the nation resembles the growth of the mushroom and is no more stable. I regard the Japanese as a serious people and the nation as having a serious purpose. If I did not there would be no need for me to dilate upon its future, for the simple reason that its future would be incomprehensible, and accordingly be absolutely impossible to forecast. As it is, it appears to me that the future of Japan is as plain as the proverbial pike-staff. I say this with a full knowledge of the dangers attendant on prophecy and the risk to the reputation of the vaticinator should events prove that he was mistaken in his prevision or erroneous in his conclusions.
I have traced in these pages what I may term the national development of Japan; how, after two and a half centuries of isolation, it, recognising the force of circumstances, determined to impose upon its own ancient civilisation all that was best in that of the West, and, having so determined, took practical and effective steps to that end.
What is to be the result of it all, the result, that is to say, not upon a few thousands, or hundreds of thousands, of Japanese, but upon the nation as a whole? Will these accretions on the old civilisation of the land mould and influence and alter the people generally, or will the effect be circumscribed and merely develop a class standing out apart from the great body of the people and affecting a superiority because of its Western culture? In my opinion the result will be not partial, but universal, though not immediate. There are, of course, large portions of Japan, many millions of its population, upon whom the opening up of the country has, as yet had little, if any, effect. Many of the Japanese people have hardly ever seen a foreigner, or, if they have, have viewed him with no little curiosity.
They certainly have not realised, and possibly have not suspected, the effect which foreign influences are likely to have upon this Land of the Rising Sun. But influences, we know, may be effective without being felt, and I am convinced, from what I have seen and heard and the investigations I have been enabled to make, that the Japan of to-day is not only in transition--in rapid transition--but that its evolution is sure and certain, and that the result thereof will be the ultimate development of a nation which will assuredly impress the world and will very probably have a much more potent effect upon it than mere numbers would account for. It is the building up of a nation such as this that I confidently look forward to in the future. We of this generation may not, probably will not, live to see it--we certainly shall not in its ultimate development--but we can already see at work the forces which are to produce it, and the eye of faith, of a reasonable faith, built not on mere surmise or ardent hopes, but upon the expectation of a reasonable issue to the factors at work producing it, assures us that the Japan of the future will, as I have said, be a nation whose light will shine, and shine brilliantly, before the whole world.
And as regards the political future of this wonderful country, I feel I can speak with equal confidence. What a marvellous change has come over this land, or our conception of this land, since the first British Minister resident there penned his impressions on approaching it. "A cluster of isles," he remarked, "appeared on the farthest verge of the horizon, apparently inhabited by a race at once grotesque and savage--not much given to hospitality, and rather addicted to martyrising strangers of whose creed they disapproved. Thus much stood out tolerably distinctly, but little else that was tangible. Severance from all social ties, isolation from one's kind, and a pariah existence, far away from all centres of civilisation--far beyond the utmost reach of railroad or telegraph--came much more vividly before me; and in Rembrandt masses of shade, with but one small ray of light, just enough to give force and depth to the whole--a sense of duty, a duty that _must_ be done, whether pleasant or otherwise, and about which there was no choice. What a world of anxiety and doubt the consciousness of this saves us!" This exordium reads more like the utterance of a man being led out to execution than a Minister going to a country possessing an ancient civilisation--a civilisation which had had its effect on every phase of the national life. What would not many of us now give to have been in the place of Sir Rutherford Alcock, visiting this land shortly after it had been opened after 250 years of isolation! How we should revel in its artistic treasures, which had not then been dispersed all over the world; and what pleasure we should have taken in seeing feudalism otherwise than in the pages of history! And yet Sir Rutherford Alcock was only expressing the opinions of his time. He could see nothing in Japan but a grotesque and uncivilised people whom the Western nations had to deal with in a peremptory manner. What a change there has been in the intervening forty-four years! Japan now stands out prominently among the nations, her political future appears to be secure, and it is none the less secure because of the difficulties she has encountered and overcome in attaining her present position. I emphasise all the more readily her present and future political position since, as I have previously observed in this book, I believe that that position will be one exercised for the good of the world. I look upon Japan as a great civilising factor in the future of the human race because, strong though she is and stronger though she will become, I am positive that her strength will never be put forward for any selfish aims or from any improper motives. It is for this reason that I welcome the alliance with Great Britain. I hope that alliance will not be limited to any term of years, but will be extended indefinitely, because in it I see a prospect and an assurance for the peace of the world.
Inseparable from any allusion to the political future of Japan is some consideration of the influence that she is likely to exercise upon the world generally. Any person taking up an atlas and looking at the position occupied by Japan must, if he is of a thoughtful disposition, be impressed by it. Take the question of the Pacific--one which, in view of the change in the policy of the United States of recent years, must assume considerable importance in the future. There are various factors which must be taken into account here. The construction of the Panama Canal is one, the completion of the Siberian Railway another, the development of Canada and the completion of the railway lines that now penetrate nearly every part of that vast dominion is a third. Japan is now, in fact, the very centre of three great markets--those of Europe, Asia, and America. In the struggle for the mastery of the Pacific, which appears certain to come, and will probably come sooner than many people suppose, Japan is certain to take a momentous part. Not only in respect of her own islands, but in reference to the great island of Formosa, ceded to her by China as the outcome of the war with that Power, Japan occupies a unique and a most important position in the Pacific. As regards the mastery of the Pacific, in reference to which so much has been written and so much speculation, a large amount of it unprofitable, has been indulged, I shall say but little. On the shores of the Pacific Russia still remains a power, which, though defeated by Japan, is still one of considerable importance. On the other side of the ocean there is the United States, which, as some persons think, has given hostages to fortune by annexing the Philippine Islands. England, moreover, claims consideration in respect not only of her possessions in the Straits Settlements, Hong Kong, &c., but by reason of her great Navy and, I may add, her alliance with Japan. Then, too, there are China, and, if of less importance, France and Germany. Of all these Japan, in my opinion, occupies the commanding position. She not only occupies the commanding position, but she is, I think, from various causes, bound to play a great part in the future mastery of the Pacific.
It is apparent that in the attainment and assertion of that mastery naval power must have a great and predominant part, and it is to the development of her naval power that Japan is devoting all her energies. Like Great Britain, from whom she has learned many lessons in this respect, she sees that an island empire can only maintain its position by possessing an overpowering naval force. As I have said before, I am fully convinced of the fact that in the development of her Navy, as of her Army, Japan has no aggressive designs. Her aspiration is the security and prevention from invasion of her island and the preservation of her national independence. At the same time, situated as she is in the great Pacific Ocean, she has palpably, from her position, rights and responsibilities and duties outside the immediate confines of her Empire. That, I think, will be admitted by any one. The phrase, "spheres of influence" has become somewhat hackneyed of recent years, and it has occasionally been used to give colour to aggressive designs. There may, too, be people who would say that spheres of influence is not a term that can properly be applied to a great water-way such as the Pacific. I am not, however, on the present occasion arguing with pedants. What I desire is to broadly emphasise the fact that in the future of the Pacific--those innumerable isles dotted here and there over its surface, Japan is a factor that cannot be left out of account. Year by year her position there is increasing in importance. Steamers ply to her ports weekly from Vancouver and San Francisco. The Japanese population are emigrating to the Pacific shores of America, the trade and commerce of Japan with the American Continent are growing and broadening.
Everything in fact tends to show that within a comparatively short space of time Japan will have asserted her position, not only as a Great World Power, but as a great commercial nation in the Pacific.
What is to be the outcome of it all? is the question that will naturally arise to the mind. I think that one outcome of it will be, as I have shown, the capture by Japan of the Chinese trade, if not in its entirety, at any rate in a very large degree. Another outcome will, I believe, be the enormous development of Japanese trade with both the United States and Canada. Some people may remark that these are not essentially political matters, and that I am somewhat wandering from my point in treating of them in connection with the influence of Japan upon the world generally. I do not think so. A nation may assert its influence and emphasise its importance to just as great an extent by its trade as by the double-dealings of diplomacy or by other equally questionable methods. Of one thing I am convinced, and that is that the influence of Japan upon the rest of the world will be a singularly healthy one. That country has fortunately struck out for itself, in diplomacy as in other matters, a new line. It has not behind it any traditions, nor before it prejudices wherewith to impede its progress. The diplomacy of Japan will, accordingly, be conducted in a straightforward manner, and its record so far in this respect has, I think, provided a splendid object-lesson for the rest of the world. The influence of Japan upon the other nations will I hope, as I believe, continue to be of a healthy nature. If that country sets forth prominently the fact that while aspiring to be great, it possesses none of those attributes that we have previously associated with great nations, the attributes of greed, covetousness, aggressiveness, and overbearing--an arrogant attitude in regard to weaker Powers, it will have performed a notable service in the history of the world. For myself I have no doubt whatever that Japan will teach this lesson, and in teaching it will have justified the great place that she has attained among the nations of the earth.
I have now concluded the task that I set before myself. My readers must be judges as to the measure of success, if any, I have attained in it. To attempt a survey of the past, present, and future of a great and ancient nation within the limited space at my disposal has been by no means easy. Every subject I have had under consideration has invited discursiveness, and tempted me to linger and dilate upon it, and it alone. The fascination of Japan must be upon every one, or almost every one, who writes about it, and that fascination is, I may observe, like the art of the country, catholic. Whether we deeply and exhaustively investigate one subject and one subject only, or take a hurried glance at every or almost every subject, we feel a glamour in respect of this wonderful country and its equally wonderful people.
While I have endeavoured to prevent this fascination, this glamour, affecting my judgment, I am not ashamed to plead guilty to, but am, in fact, rather proud of it. Indeed, I shall feel gratified if a perusal of this book induces a few persons here and there to study still more deeply the history, the religion, the art of Japan, and the whole trend of events in that country during the past forty years. Every phase of the national life lends itself to investigation, and will, I feel sure, reward the investigator. He will, unless he be a person of a singularly unemotional disposition, utterly lacking in all those finer feelings which especially distinguish man from the brutes, hardly fail of being, before he has proceeded far in his investigations, quickly under the alluring influences of this Far Eastern land, entering heartily, zealously, and enthusiastically into its national life and the developments thereof in all their various ramifications.
The fascination that Japan has exercised upon writers such as Arnold and Hearn is what it does, though no doubt in a smaller degree, upon less gifted men. It is given to few to drink in and absorb the subtle charm of the country so thoroughly and express it so graphically and delicately, with such beauty and power and withal so much truth as have those brilliant men. I regard this great and growing fascination of Occidentals for this fair Eastern land and its inhabitants as a long step in the direction of the realisation of the brotherhood of man; that ideal state of things which we hope for so expectantly, longingly, perhaps too often sceptically; that happy time when national prejudices, jealousies, and animosities will have faded into oblivion, when nations by the simple process of studying one another, as Japan has been studied of recent years, will get to understand one another, when the literature and art of nations will be no longer merely national, but world possessions, when wars shall have ceased and the policy of aggression have come to be regarded as an evil thing, when, in a word, the brotherhood of man shall be no longer an idle dream, a mere speculative aspiration which no practical person ever expected to see realised, but an actuality within measurable distance of being accomplished. All these things may as yet be dreams, but let us dream them. The more they are dreamed, the more likely is the prospect of their realisation. One thing at least fills me with ardent hope, and that is the Japan, as I see it to-day, compared with the Japan of forty years ago. If such an upheaval is possible for one nation, who shall put any bounds to the potentialities of the world?
So let us dream our dreams, and in our waking moments cast afar our eyes upon the land of the Rising, aye, now the Risen Sun, take heart and dream again in quiet confidence that some day, in some future reincarnation, mayhap, we shall witness the realisation of our hopes, and see that after all our dreams were merely an intelligent anticipation of the glad time coming.
The Empire Of The East Part 11
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