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Volume I. 

Travel Lovers* Library 

Each in two volumes profusely illustrated 


By Ghant Allen 

Romance and Teutonic Switzerland 
By W. D. McCeackan 

Old World Memories 

By Edwakd Lowe Tbmplb 


By Grant Allen 

Feudal and Modem Japan 

By Arthur May Knapp 

The Unchangipg East 

By Robert Barb 


By Grant Allen 

Gardens of the dribbees 

By Ida M. H. Stakb 

Belgium: Its Cities 

By Grant Allen 



200 Summer Street, Boston, Mass. 

Feudal and Modern 


Arthur May Knapp 

In Two Volumes 

Volume I. 



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Copyright, i&)6, 


Joseph Knight Company. 
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The Crusoe of Nations. 



Yamato Damashii . 



The People under Feudalism 



Feudal Commerce . 



The Japanese Ovvcast . 



A Patriotic Cult . 



Religious Invasions 



Since her war with China brought 
Japan into such prominence, kindling anew 
the curiosity which her dramatic advent 
into the modem world had awakened, 
more than enough has been written in 
the way of describing the features of the 
land and the characteristics of the people. 
The imique facts have been amply ex- 
ploited. Not so the factors. They re- 
main veUed in an obscurity almost as 
deep as that which enshrouded the nation 
during the long period of her seclusion. 
To the foreigner, absorbed in watching 
the extraordinary transformation scene 
since enacted, and even to the Japanese 
themselves, intent of late only upon utiliz- 
ing what Western life had to offer them, 
the two and a half centuries during which 
peculiar and potent forces were at work 


shaping the national disposition and des- 
tiny have practically become a blank. 
While we have been marvelling at the 
virile qualities displayed by a people who 
for centuries have dwelt in profound peace, 
and at the aptitude for progress exhibited 
by a nation always credited with being 
the very type of Oriental conservatism, 
very little attention has been given to any 
inquiry into the causes which have ulti- 
mated in such startling results, — causes 
which must be sought mainly in conditions 
prevailing during the centuries when Japan 
was shut out from the world. 

An endeavor to supply, in some measure, 
this lack was the main motive for the 
writing of these volumes. 

Apart from the intrinsic attractions of 
the subject, the way in which my attention 
was drawn to it during my residence in 
Japan may be of some interest. Among 
those whose intimate friendship I there 
enjoyed, was the one man among the 
foreigners who seemed to realize how 


swiftly the idyllic institutions of old Japan 
were passing away, and how irretrievable 
would be the loss to history- were not some 
record of them preserved. With all the 
advantages which his profession as a 
physician gave him during his thirty years' 
residence, together with his knowledge 
of the language and his unique power of 
winning his way into the hearts of all 
ranks and classes. Dr. Simmons had suc- 
ceeded in collecting a vast mass of notes 
and memoranda concerning Japanese life 
and local institutions under the Tokugawa, 
or modern feudal rigime. In his failing 
years his one absorbing and pathetic re- 
gret was that these notes must be left in 
the chaotic state to which his acknowl- 
edged lack of power of systematization 
had apparently doomed them. It was, 
however, but a few months after his death 
that I had the good fortune to put them 
into the hands of Professor VVigmore, 
then of the Keiogijiku, and now of the 
Chicago University, who has more than 


fulfilled the good doctor's most ardent 
hopes. In the Transactions of the Asiatic 
Society Professor Wigmore has not only 
set forth with consummate skill the results 
of Dr. Simmons' researches, but also, 
stimulated to indefatigable research of his 
own along similar lines, he has gathered, 
under the head of " Materials for the 
Study of Private Law in Old Japan," an 
even greater mass of information concern- 
ing the inner history of the empire during 
the Feudal Period. 

The value of all this material, now for 
the first time made accessible to foreign 
readers, is greatly enhanced by the fact 
that the feudal system of Japan attained 
its highest development, not as in Europe 
amid constant wars and fightings, but 
during long centuries of peace, in which 
by the cultivation of the arts of refine- 
ment, and under a wise system of local 
self-government, the chivalric spirit was 
kept thoroughly alive. 

To the unique features of Japanese 


history must therefore be added the pres- 
ervation of the forceful elements of the 
national life through influences to such 
end unknown in the annals of any other 
people in the world. It is to the elucida- 
tion of these influences that the chapters 
on Feudal Life are mainly devoted. 




OF the power and singularity of the 
fascination which Japan exerts over 
the Western mind there can be no question, 
Blasd tourists, who have exhausted all the 
sensations of modem travel, speak of it as 
the one countr)- in the world which does 
not disappoint; and no one who has left 
it after a few years' residence can ever 
wholly overcome his longing to return to 
the Island Paradise. It is unquestionably 
the unique nation of the globe, — the land 
of dream and enchantment, the land which 
could hardly differ more from our own were 
it located on another planet, its people not 
of this world. 


While of course the secret of this fasci- 
nation defies complete analysis, it may yet 
be attributed in large measure to the long 
isolation from the world of a people in a 
liigh state of civilization. Japan is the 
Robinson Crusoe of nations; and just as 
the lone sailor cast upon a desert isle is the 
hero of our childhood, just as we are fasci- 
nated by the story of his loneliness and of 
his single-handed triumphs, so the story 
of the Island Nation appeals to us by its 
unique experience of isolation. Japan, like 
Crusoe, is to us a suggestion of what one 
can do alone ; and Japan more than Crusoe 
appeals to us, because her story, marvel- 
lous as it is, is no more marvellous than 
true. Robinson, according to all the laws 
of human nature, should have lapsed into 
savagery; and it was only fiction which 
saved him from that fate by making him 
in himself a community of trained abili- 
ties, and furnishing him with a magazine 
of human powers in the contents of his 
wrecked ship. 

Of a high order, indeed, then, must have 
been the civilization already attained by 
Japan when she shut out the world from 


her shores, and, close sealed for two and 
a half centuries, instead of relapsing into 
barbarism, spent the time of her seclusion 
in exqaisitel) refining her nature and her 
arts. And of extraordinary strength, it 
may be added, must have been the virile 
virtues of the people, surviving, as they 
have, in full force after so long a period of 
profound peace. In a word, the history of 
Japan, whenever it has not been a fascinat- 
ing puzzle, has been a source of aston- 
ishment to the rest of the world. The 
amazement with which the Western peoples 
are to-day regarding her achievements in 
modem warfare is only the last of a series 
of surprises with which Japan has startled 
the nations. 

At the outset it has been an astonishment 
to students of race problems to find there 
in the far Orient, where one might expect to 
see Oriental characteristics predominate, or 
to become intensified, a people of whom it 
would be difficult to say whether they mwe 
resemble the ancient Greeks or the Nordi 
American Indians. So close is the resem- 
blance to the latter that various arguments 
fi'om language, physiognomy, superstitions, 


and customs strengthen, if they do not con- 
firm, the theory that the great Kuro Shiwo, 
or Gulf stream of the Pacific, sweeping many 
a hapless junk from the Japanese shores, 
has carried to our Pacific coast numerous 
accessions to our Indian tribes, if not their 
actual progenitors. 

But what ship originally cast this Crusoe 
of nations on the shores of the far Pacific 
isles, furnishing her people of every class 
and condition with a wealth of artistic per- 
ception such as only ancient Greece pos- 
sessed, is one of the most puzzling problems 
that ever perplexed the brain of the ethnolo- 
gist. Differing from the Chinese almost as 
much as does the American from the Turk, 
well-nigh the only indication of Mongol 
origin is the obliqueness of the eyelids, 
which merely suggests an origin in high 
latitudes, where Nature protects the eyes 
of animals in the same way. From Korea, 
which might be called a dead Greece, doubt- 
Lss came the largest infusion of blood; 
while the Malay, drifting up from the south 
on the great sea current, may have contril> 
uted his fiery spirit to the early invading 
tribes which from the west and south grad- 


ually drove the Ainos, or aborigines, into 
the north, where their remnants now await, 
as stolidly as do our Indian tribes on the 
Western plains, their inevitable extinction. 
But whatever the combination of race 
elements may have been, the result is an 
astonishment For though no drop of 
Arjan blood may be traced in their veins, 
yet a notably Ar}'an capacity for progress, 
which not even three centuries of forced 
conservatism could extinguish, and an 
Aryan spirit of refinement, kept alive while 
that of Greece utteriy perished, have made 
the Japanese to^iay, though not in blood, 
yet in all practical and essential regards, the 
Indo-Europeans of the far East The verj 
fact that the Japanese are to-day called 
variously the Yankees, the Englishmen, and 
the Frenchmen of the East is an unwitting 
recognition of the possession of distinctively 
Ar}-an qualities, though no trace of Aryan 
iniiuence in the original race elements 
can be detected. If this be true, — if the 
Japanese are Aryans to all intents and pur- 
poses, then the recent war in Ae Orient, 
looked at in the light of the remarkable 
racial elements in the Japanese character, 


was not a mere passing quarrel between 
two Eastern powers ; it was practically the 
dash against the hither shores of Asia of 
the tremendous wave of progress which, 
beginning ages ago in the highlands of 
Northern India, has swept westward and 
ever westward around the globe. Succes- 
sively lifting upon its crest the empires of 
Persia, Greece, and Rome, with the Cava- 
liers and Pilgrims it crossed the stormy 
Atlantic, and raised up the new empire 
of the West. Spreading over the expanse 
of this continent, it reached the shores of 
the Pacific; and again forty years ago 
crossing the vast ocean, it aroused from its 
slumber of centuries a people marvellously 
well fitted to be the pioneers of the new 
civihzation for the millions of Asia. 

Japan's movement upon China is another 
pulse-beat of the world's regenerating life. 
It is the unconscious taking up by a brave, 
chivalrous people of the part assigned to it 
by Providence, pressing on toward 

** The one far-off, divine event 
Toward wliich the whole aeation moves." 

Hardly less surprising than the ethnic 


elements in the Japanese character are the 
contents of their mj-thology. 

The "Kojiki," or "Records of Ancient 
Matters," a collection of traditions gathr 
ered twelve hundred years ago, opens with 
an account of creation extraordinarily like 
that suggested by the nebular hj-pothesis, 
the description of genesis reading, " When 
the earth, young and like unto floating oil, 
drifted about Medusa-like." From such a 
beginning we are hardly surprised to find 
spontaneous generation next suggested in 
the production of two august deities, " bom 
from a thing that sprouted up like a reed- 
shoot." As the procession of life con- 
tinues, and we see given to later births such 
names as the " Luxuriant-Integrating-Mas- 
ter Deity," the " Germ-Integrating Deity," 
and the " Life-Integrating Deity," and when 
we find that the " Deity Mud-Earth-Lord " 
preceded the " Deity Perfect- Exterior," 
the proof of the pre-existence of Herbert 
Spencer becomes startlingly complete. In 
his former state, however, he was the most 
ungallant of men ; for, while the masculine 
natiire is represented as the highest product 
of evolution, the feminine is the supreme 


illustration of degeneration, the " Deity 
Mud-Earth-Lady" being followed by the 
"Deity Oh- Awful-Lady." We are now, 
however, somewhat prepared for the extra- 
ordinary Adam and Eve who appear upon 
the scene. After the " Deity Perfect-Exte- 
rior" and the "Deity Oh-Awful-Lady," come 
"Izanagi" and " Izanami," or the "Male- 
who-I n vites " and the " Female- who-I nvites." 
Instead of being placed in Paradise, and 
then ejected therefrom, Paradise itself is 
made and formed by them. The beginning 
of Japan is thus described: "Hereupon 
all the heavenly deities commanded His 
Augustness, the Male- who-I nvites, and Her 
Augustness, the Feraale-who-Invites, order- 
ing them to 'make, consolidate, and give 
birth to this drifting land.' Granting to 
them a heavenly jewelled spear, they thus 
deigned to charge them. So the two, stand- 
ing upon the Bridge of Heaven, pushed 
down the jewelled spear, and stirred with it. 
Whereupon, when they stirred the brine till 
it went curdle-curdle, and drew the spear 
up, the brine that dripped down from the 
end of the spear was piled up and became 
an island." This was the beginning of the 
birth of the archipelago of Japan. 


Paradise hav-ing been thus created by 
this surprising pair, there is no hint of their 
being deprived of it tlirough the conscious- 
ness of sin. Like their modem descendants, 
there is in them no such consciousness in 
aught that appertains to the nature or to 
the necessities of existence. Life in their 
Paradise is passed under no divine super- 
vision or warnings, and there is no falL 
There is, however, a very charming family 
quarrel, in which Adam, instead of meanly 
lajnng the blame on Eve, calmly emphasizes 
his supremacy over her. It happened on 
their wedding tour. Starting to go round 
the island, one travelling east and the other 
west, Izanami, on meeting her spouse, ex- 
claimed, " How lovely to meet a handsome 
male!" Incensed at her ha\'ing spoken 
first, he msisted upon another tour, and on 
the second meeting had indeed the first 
word, " How lovely to meet a handsome 
female ! " but yielded to her the privilege 
she has since enjoyed of having the last 
Thus the serpent entered the Japanese 

The next surprise that greets us in the 
story of the progenitors of the Japanese is 


the distinctly Grecian character of the scene 
with which it closes, the picture being a 
replica of Orpheus's descent into hell, but 
painted with a force and vividness which 
little in Aryan mythology can surpass. In 
giving birth to the Fire God, Eve at length 
" divinely retired," — that is, died. " There- 
upon His Augustness followed after her to 
the land of Hades. So when from the 
palace she raised the door and came out to 
meet him, His Augustness said, ' The lands 
that I and thou made are not yet finished 
making; so come back.' And then Her 
Augustness answered, ' Lamentable indeed 
that thou comest not sooner. I have eaten 
of the furnace of Hades. Nevertheless I 
wish to return. I will discuss it with the 
deities of Hades.' Having thus spoken, 
she went back inside the palace; and as 
she tarried there very long, he could not 
wait. So, having taken one of the end 
teeth of the multitudinous comb stuck in 
the august left bunch of his hair, he lit 
a light, and went in and looked. Maggots 
were swarming; she was rotting; and in 
her head dwelt the Great Thunder, and in 
her breast dwelt the Fire Thunder, in her 


body the Black Thunder and the Cleaving 
Thunder, in her left hand the Young Thun- 
der, in her right hand the Earth Thunder, 
in her left foot the Rumbling Thunder, in 
her right foot the Couchant Thunder, — 
altogether eight thunder deities had been 
bom and dwelt there. Hereupon His Au- 
gustness, the Male-who-Invites, overawed 
at the sight, fled back. Whereupon Her 
Augustness, the Female-who-Invites, said, 
' Thou hast put me to shame,' and at once 
sent the Ugly Female of Hades to pursue 

The Japanese Cain and Abel, the Princes 
Fire Shine and Fire Subside, had their 
quarrel while fishing. It happened in this 
wise : *' His Augustness, Fire Shine, was a 
prince who got his luck on the sea, and 
caught things broad of fin and narrow of 
fin. His Augustness, Fire Subside, was a 
prince who got his luck on the mountains, 
and caught things rough of hair and things 
soft of hair." Proposing an exchange of 
luck, the hunter not only did not get a 
single bite, but lost the hook borrowed of 
his brother. Offering a thousand hooks in 
compensation, the latter insisted upon hav- 


ing only the lost one. Whereupon there 
follows a delightful story, according to 
which the younger brother, going in search 
of the hook, visits the palace of the Sea 
Deity, marries his charming daughter, and 
for three years forgets the fish-hook, which 
the Sea Deity at last finds for him. He 
sends him back with it, together with talis- 
mans in the shape of a tide-ebbing and 
tide-flowing jewel, with the first of which 
he could overwhelm with a flood his brother 
and all his fields. "When the latter was 
about to attack him, he put forth the tide- 
flowing jewel to drown him; but on his 
expressing grief, he put forth the tide- 
ebbing jewel to save him. When he had 
thus been harassed, he bowed his head, 
saying, ' I henceforward will be Thine 
Augustness's guard by day and night, and 
respectfully serve thee." The supremacy 
thus established lasts to this day, inasmuch 
as the son of Fire Subside and the Sea 
Deity's daughter (Her Augustness, Luxu- 
riant Jewel-Princess) was His Augustness, 
Heavens-Sun-Height- Prince-Wave- Limit- 
Brave- Cormorant-Thatch-Meeting- Incom- 
pletely, the grandfather of limmu Tenno. 


the first emperor of Japan, the founder of 
the present imperial dynasty. 

Even more prolific of surprises than these 
mythological records are the annals of Jap- 
anese authentic history, which begins in the 
fifth century of our era. 

A little more than three hundred years 
ago the city of Rome was the scene of 
perhaps the strangest sight which even her 
streets, trodden by pilgrims from all the 
comers of the earth, have ever witnessed. 
Escorted by the cavalry and Swiss guard, 
accompanied by the foreign embassies, all 
the Roman princes and nobility, with the 
oflScials of the cardinals and of the Vatican, 
a company of Japanese ambassadors, them- 
selves of princely birth, were conducted into 
the presence of the chief pontiff. The vast 
crowds thronging the street and filling the 
windows looked on in almost breathless 
silence as the strange visitors in their splen- 
didly embroidered robes, and wearing in 
their girdles two swords, the symbols of 
Japanese gentility, passed onward to the 
Hall of Audience. Reaching the bridge of 
St Angelo, the guns of the Castle joined 
with those of the Vatican in welcoming the 


ambassadors. Ushered into the presenc* 
of the pontiff, the Japanese approached the 
papal throne with their credentials. Pros- 
trating themselves at the Pope's feet, they 
declared that they "had come from the 
extremities of the East to acknowledge in 
the presence of the Pope the vicar of Jesus 
Christ, and to render obedience to him in 
the name of the princes of whom they were 
the envoys. " 

The appearance of the young men, de- 
scribed by the chronicler as "modest and 
amiable, yet with a conscious sentiment of 
nobility," together with the extraordinary 
character of their message, " drew tears and 
sobs from the greater part of the audience. 
The Pope himself, greatly agitated, has- 
tened to raise them up and kissed their 

The reading of the letters was followed 
by a discourse by Father Gonzales, in which 
occurs a passage which so accurately de- 
scribes the Japanese character to<iay, and 
so vividly depicts the impression they were 
then making upon the Western world, that 
it becomes well worth quoting in view 
of the wonder with which we are now 


regarding the achievements of the Island 
Nation : — 

"Nature has separated Japan from our 
country by such an extent of land and sea 
that before the present age there were very 
few persons who had any knowledge of it, 
and even now there are those who find it 
difBcuIt to believe the accounts of it which 
we give. It is certain nevertheless, most 
Holy Father, that there are several Japanese 
islands of vast extent, and in these islands 
numerous fine cities, the inhabitants of 
which have a keen intelligence, noble and 
courageous hearts, obliging dispositions, 
politeness of manners, and inclinations dis- 
posed toward that which is good. Those 
who have known them have decidedly pre- 
ferred them to all the other peoples of Asia, 
and it is only their lack of the true religion 
which prevents them from competing with 
the nations of Europe. 

" For some years past this religion has been 
preached to them by apostolical missiona- 
ries. Its commencements were small, but 
God having given it His blessing it took 
root in the hearts of the nobles, and of late 
has been received by the greatest lords. 


■princes, and kings of Japan. This, most 
Holy Father, ought to console you for 
many reasons; but principally because, 
laboring as you do with indefatigable zeal 
to re-establish a religion shaken and almost 
destroyed by the new heresies here in 
Europe, you see it take root and make great 
progress in the most distant country in the 
world. What satisfaction to see the most 
generous and valiant kings of the East, 
conquered by the arms of the faith, submit- 
ting themselves to the empire of Jesus 
Christ, and as they cannot, from their 
avocations, come in person to take the oath 
of obedience and fidelity to the holy see, 
acquitting themselves of this duty by am- 
bassadors so nearly related to them and 
whom they so tenderly love ! O immortal 
God ! What a stroke of thine arm ! What 
an effect of Thy grace! In places so 
distant from the holy see, as soon as the 
faith shed there the first rays of truth, men 
of temperaments quite different from ours, 
kings illustrious by their nobility, redoubta- 
ble for their power, conquerors and warriors 
signalized by their victories, acknowledge 
the greatness and dignity of the Roman 


Church, and hold it a great honor to kiss 
the feet of the Church's head by the lips of 
p>ersons infinitely dear to them. " 

The date of this interesting scene and 
discourse was 1584.* The Christian faith, 
so splendidly tolerant and hospitable were 
these refined islanders, then numbered its 
converts by hundreds of thousands, and 
the noblest of the leaders had yielded to 
the sway. But in a little more than three 
decades, in a fury of persecution scarcely 
matched even by the Spanish Inquisition, 
every vestige of the Western religion was 
swept from the land, its symbols were held 
up to popular abhorrence, to prevent its 

* The extraordinary impress made upon the 
Roman Church by this event is indicated by the fact 
that of tlie thirt>--eight persons admitted to sainthood 
by Rome during the present century prior to 1 863, no 
less than twenty-six were Japanese ; and the occasion 
of their canonization on the 8th of June, 1862, was 
made the most magnificent function ever celebrated 
in the Holy Citj*. There were present at the solem- 
nity fort)*-three cardinals, five patriarchs, fifty-two 
archbishops, one hundred and eighty-six bishops, — 
in all two hundred and sixty-seven of the highest 
dignitaries of the church, who joined in doing honor, 
not to those who might have been selected from tiie 
saintly ser\'ants of the church in the Western world, 
but to the obsCiure, half-mj'thical nurtyrs of far-off 
Japan. 2 


re-entrance the ports of the empire were 
close sealed, and for two hundred and fifty 
years the Japanese, a people in whose hearts 
hospitality and kindliness were the crown- 
ing virtues, became almost wholly dead to 
the world, cut off from every opportunity of 
exercising their native bent and disposition. 
Precisely what caused the sudden change, 
the fresh surprise with which Japan then 
startled the world, will probably never be 
ascertained ; but it is fair to presume, from 
what is known of the lust of dominion 
which then characterized Jesuit movements, 
that the spirit of church aggrandizement 
was carried so far as to seem a practical 
invasion of the land, — a land whose pride 
it had been never to permit the foot of an 
invader to press its soil. The Japanese 
virtue of hospitality, generous as it was, 
proved no match for the Japanese passion 
of patriotism. The crowning virtue went 
down before the over-mastering fury of the 
supreme passion. The Japanese, the kind- 
liest of our race, were severed from race 
companionship, and the name of the most 
hospitable people on our globe became ? 
synonym for arrogance and exclusiveness. 




How forty years ago the unnatural spell 
was broken, how the kindliness of the 
Japanese reasserted itself after all the cen- 
turies of stem repression, how generously 
the old-time hospitality was lavished, with 
what eager interest the nation awoke to the 
wonders of Western civilization, and with 
what noble earnestness its youth applied 
themselves to the study of what the new 
life had opened to them, all are familiar. 
The stor\- of the long isolation which made 
Japan the fascinating mystery of our child- 
hood is equalled only by the story of the 
new birth which has made her the marvel 
of modem historj'. 

And now again, after a succession of tales 
of fascinated travellers who have visited 
the islands of the lone nation, and opened 
to us the marvels of its delicate art and the 
refinements of its manners, the attention of 
the Western world is to^iay fixed with vast 
wonderment upon the new aspect which 
Japan presents in the exhibition of those 
masterful qualities which have heretofore 
been deemed the exclusive possession of the 
Occident, or which during its long Cmsoe 
life the nation might well be sup^sed to 


have lost. The people whom we had 
learned to love for their kindliness and to 
admire for their refined taste and artistic 
genius, whom we had credited with pre- 
eminence only in these regards, have been 
suddenly transformed into a martial nation. 
After three centuries of almost unbroken 
peace,- there is shown among them such an 
aptitude for war, such a genius for military 
organization, and such an eagerness for the 
fray, that the words of Father Gonzales 
just now quoted might as aptly be used 
again, for even now " there are those who 
find it difficult to believe the accounts of it 
which we give." With magnificent dash, 
pluck, energy, and strategic skill the Island 
Nation has flung itself against the huge 
bulk of the colossus of the East, winning 
an unbroken series of victories on land and 
sea, unparalleled in the annals of modem 

To one acquainted with the history o£ 
the land and with the character and ambi- 
tions of its people, however, these develop- 
ments, marvellous as they may seem, occa- 
sion little or no astonishment. Heretofore 
credited only with the milder virtues, with 


artistic tastes, and with refined manners, 
Japan's impatience at this Western estimate 
of her character has been kept in check 
only by her inborn politeness. Beneath 
that, her spirit has rankled bitterly at the 
e£Eusive compliments bestowed upon her 
by fascinated tourists. Only on rare occa- 
sions — such, for example, as that of Sir 
Edwin Arnold's speech at the welcome 
banquet given him on his arrival, when he 
lauded the nation for the possession of 
every virtue under heaven except the virile 
ones — has a storm of protest arisen against 
this popular Western misconception of the 
true genius of the Japanese people. And 
yet, inveterate as the misconception is, per- 
haps it is not to be greatly wondered at. 
With nine out of ten Occidentals, untaught 
to study geography with reference to scale, 
and ignorant of the fact that Yokohama is 
nearly as far from Hong Kong as is Boston 
from Liverpool, there is a persistent con- 
founding of the Japanese with the Chinese 
character, as untrue as it is intensely gall- 
ing to the former nation. While, as I have 
already said, there is well-nigh as great a dif- 
Cerence between the two peooles as between 


ourselves and the Turks, it is rare, even in 

the most intelligent of our communities, to 
find this difference recognized, or credit 
given to the Japanese for the possession of 
distinctive national virtues differentiating 
them from the mild and harmless Celestials. 
On my return to Boston after a residence 
of two years in Japan, I was met by three 
friends in quick succession with these 
greetings : " Do I not perceive the odor of 
sandal-wood about you ? " " Of course you 
have contracted the opium habit ?" "Where 
is your pig-tail?" Here were references 
to three things almost entirely unknown 
in Japan, and yet credited to its people, 
through the persistency with which they 
are popularly classed with their far-away 

The prevailing misapprehension of the 
dominant spirit of the islanders is also 
'argely owing to the fact that their history, 
«o long a sealed book to the Occidental 
world, has not yet become sufficiently famil- 
iar to make its legitimate impress upon the 
Western mind. When it is read as it 
should be, it will be recognized as a distinct 
contribution to the world's annals, and ita 


hrrnishing a record of the development of 
one of the loftiest human quaUties. In 
this regard Japan wiU take her place with 
the three ancient nations of the earth who 
have stood for something, and in whose life 
a virtue has become so prominent as to asso- 
ciate its name indissolubly with that of the 
nation. Just as Judea stands for the devel- 
opment of religion, Greece for the perfec- 
tion of Art, and Rome for the idea of Law, 
so Japan has become a special contributor to 
the sum of the world's treasures. Although 
indeed rivalling ancient Greece in the artis- 
tic qualities and in the passionate sense of 
beauty pervading even her humblest, with 
Japan art is after all merely an aptitude 
and delight. Her love for it, fervent as it 
is, is not the underlying sentiment Loyalty 
is the great national enthusiasm, and the 
part that the nation is to play in the history 
of the world is that it is to be the conspic- 
uous teacher and examplar of the power of 
that virtue. 

We Americans thought we had learned 
during the awful battle-storm of our Civil 
War the meaning of the word " patriotism." 
We felt as never before the thrill of the 


Nation's soul. We became devoted lovers 
of the flag because there was awakened 
within us the consciousness of the mighty 
things for which it stood. And this when 
our country was not a century old, its 
annals meagre, its territory undeveloped 
and largely unknown, and its people a mot- 
ley of nations and races. Now, think of 
a nation homogeneous to a degree, liv- 
ing under a single dynasty dating back 
twenty-five hundred years, and during all 
those years having the sentiment of loy- 
alty taught and cherished till it became 
a passion and a worship; think of the 
national pride engendered by the fact that 
not once in all those many centuries has 
the foot of an invader been suffered to 
press the soil; think of national annals, over 
which every child has pored, full of deeds 
of dauntless chivalry and self-sacrificing 
devotion; think of a country so strangely 
beautiful that Nature itself becomes an ob- 
ject of worship, and a shrine marks every 
spot where the eye can catch a fresh 
glimpse of its loveliness; then think of 
such a people shut up in such a land for 
nearly three centuries, living in profound 


peax^e, and, instead of degenerating, culti- 
vating the arts that make for gentleness 
and for mutual kindliness, — and one may 
form some faint conception of the patriotic 
passion vsnth which their hearts throb when 
a crucial exp>erience comes to them, calling 
for the exercise of this the supreme virtue 
of loyalty. Although the world wonders, 
no student of Japanese history, especially 
of the period preceding the Great Peace, 
as they call the time of their seclusion, can 
be surprised to see today this virile virtue 
more strikingly illustrated than at any pre- 
vious period of modem history. The chiv- 
alry of the race, the lofty spirit known in 
p)oetry and romance as " Yamato damashii," 
" the soul of Japan," is brought into a bold 
relief that vividly recalls the knightiy 
legends of the past. Not even two hun- 
dred and fifty years of seclusion and peace 
have availed in the least to check the ardor 
of the great national enthusiasm. 

A correspondent of the New York Tri- 
bime writing from Japan at the opening of 
the late war says : " Such unanimity of 
feehng, such faith in the common cause, 
such readiness to sacrifice all if need be for 


the glory of the empire, have seldom been 
paralleled in any land, Americans who 
witnessed the uprising of the North thirty 
years ago know how the fervor of an enthu- 
siastic nation reveals itself; but even tha< 
memorable example falls behind the present 
demonstration in Japan, for then there were 
doubts and dissensions which jarred against 
the prevailing sentiment, while here not one 
discordant note is heard. The whole pop- 
ulace think and act as one man. Their 
confidence in the result is without the slight- 
est drawback. The sole apprehension felt 
by any citizen is that he may not be ac- 
corded the privilege of contributing in some 
manner to the great end." It is safe to say 
that there is not a man, woman, or child in 
Japan having knowledge of the struggle 
who has not directly and voluntarily con- 
tributed to its maintenance. Out of her 
extraordinary poverty, without recourse to a 
foreign loan, the enormous expense of a 
modern war, enhanced by the necessity of 
transporting huge armies to the distant 
continent, has been defrayed by the nation 
from home resources. And for those actu- 
ally engaged in the conflict, the eagerness, 


the passionate self-devotion, with which 
they have thrown themselves into the fray 
recall the terrible spirit of the feudal days, 
and show that the virile virtues of those 
days have not in the least succumbed to the 
enervating influences of the Long Peace. 
Instances are numerous of men killing 
themselves because not needed by the gov- 
ernment A soldier at Soul detailed to 
escort Minister Otori back to Japan slew 
himself because he could not accompany 
his comrades to the field. Another, pre- 
vented by illness from embarking with his 
regiment, rose from his sick-bed, and, before 
a portrait of the Emperor, died by his own 
sword. Still another, for the same cause 
compelled to halt and let his men storm a 
fort without him, on his discharge from the 
hospital went at once to the spot where he 
had fallen, and killed himself to wipe out 
the fancied disgrace. This strong under- 
current of loyalty — " a quality," says Heam, 
"which Japan possesses in a degree with- 
out existing modern parallel, in a degree 
that so trite a word as patriotism is utterly 
powerless to represent," — is the key to any 
proper understanding or appreciation of 
Japanese history. 


Even the sources of that history in the 
mythological accounts of the " Kojiki " are 
held sacred and inviolate, not at all from 
religious, but solely from patriotic motives. 
Among the educated, who reject all the 
legends of the gods as puerile superstitions, 
the equally mythical accounts of the early 
emperors are accepted without hesitation. 
Religious faith may suffer from the dis- 
crediting of the ancient records, but no 
shadow of doubt must be thrown on the 
credentials of the most ancient dynasty in 
the world, no whisper be raised to detract 
from the reverence due to its reigning rep- 
resentative. Nor is the stifling of the spirit 
of scepticism in this regard the result of 
fear, or the outcome of mere political expe- 
diency; it is simply an evidence of the 
patriotic passion which fills the nation's 
soul. No word of protest, either from the 
intelligent or from the humblest, was raised 
when, a few years since, the editor of one 
of the Tokyo journals was imprisoned for 
speaking disrespectfully of the mythical 
emperor, Jimmu Tenno, the founder of the 
dynasty twenty-five hundred years ago. 
The offence was felt to be an insult to the 
entire nation. 






Out of this conviction of the sacredness 
of the national life comes that reverence for 
the living emperor, utterly unlike any emo- 
tion that the Western heart can know, 
which dominates tlie life and thought of 
every Japanese : " Something," says Heam, 
" for which the word * loyalty ' were an 
utterly dead rendering ; something akin 
rather to that which we call mystical exalta- 
tion, — a sense of uttermost devotion to the 
Tenshi Sama, the ' Son of Heaven.' " It is 
doubtful whether man, woman, or child can 
be found in Japan to-day who will say aught 
against him. When a rumor recently went 
abroad that he was to proceed in person to 
take command of the armies in China, a 
shudder of apprehension went through the 
entire nation at the bare thought of expos- 
ing his sacred person to the dangers of 
voyage and field. One of the rare cases 
of intolerance shown to missionaries in 
Japan was occasioned by a hope publicly 
expressed by one of them that the Mikado 
might be converted to Christianity. The 
foreign propagandist was privileged to aim 
at any of the highest in the government, 
but not at the heart of the nation ; and the 


over-zealous brother was forced to flee 
the town. The simple announcement that 
the emperor was sorrowing because of the 
assault upon the Czarewitz at Otsu by 
a Japanese fanatic led a young girl, the 
daughter of a samurai, to slay herself, after 
writing a letter to the government praying 
that "the Tenshi Sama be asked to cease 
from sorrowing, seeing that a young life, 
however unworthy, was given in voluntary 
expiation for the wrong." 

" Ask a class of Japanese students," says 
Hearn, "to tell their dearest wishes, and, if 
they have confidence in the questioner, per- 
haps nine out of ten will answer, ♦ To die 
for His Majesty, our emperor.' And the 
wish soars from the heart pure as any wish 
for martyrdom ever bom. Such ecstatic 
loyalty is a part of the national life ; it is 
in the blood, — inherent as the impulse of 
the ant to perish for its little republic, un- 
conscious as the loyalty of bees to tb.eir 

That these examples of devotion are In- 
spired purely by patriotic, not by pers^wal, 
feeling is evident from the fact that tliere 
has been little or nothing in the personal 


character of most of the emperors themselves 
to arouse enthusiasm. While the nation 
has remained extraordinarily virile through 
all the enervating influences of the Long 
Peace, the nominal nilers have been sunk 
into the lowest depths of effeminacy. For 
nearly a thousand years the reins of power 
have been held successively by ambitious 
and forceful nobles, — the Fujiwara, the 
Taira, the Minamoto, the Ashikaga, the 
H5j5, and the Tokugawa, — whose interest it 
has been to make the emperor a nonentity, or 
so to regulate the succession that the throne 
might alwaj-s be held either by a child, an 
imbecile, or a voluptuary. But there has 
been no such usurpation of power that has 
not been forced to take cognizance of the 
f>opular devotion to the emf>eror, and by it 
to shape its policy. No feudal lord, how- 
ever ambitious or masterful, has ever been 
able for a moment to reign in his own name, 
or to establish a rival dj-nasty. Every act 
and edict must seem to emanate from the 
emperor himself, who, kept in sacred seclu- 
sion, has ever been in the people's thought 
the source of all authority. In this fact we 
find the simple explanation of the accounts 


given by early travellers of the spiritual and 
temporal emperors reigning concurrently, 
and also of the dual government of Mikado 
and Shogun, so puzzling to the Western 
student at the time of the opening of the 
country by Commodore Perry. That so 
many virile qualities should mark the char- 
acter of the present emperor, after the 
deteriorating influences to which for a 
thousand years the majority of his ances- 
tors had been purposely subjected, is not 
the least of the strange features of the 
nation's history. It is certainly an indi- 
cation of the remarkable recuperative or 
resistant strength of the Japanese nature 
in its struggle against the enervating ten- 
dencies of her peculiar experience and her 
long seclusion. Indeed, the chief result of 
the age-long crime committed against the 
nation in the persons of its emperors seems 
to have been avenged upon its perpetrators. 
It is a curious and significant fact that the 
effeminacy to which the imperial line was 
so long doomed by the chief feudal lords 
of the empire has been the ultimate fate of 
well-nigh the whole class of daimio, who 
alone of the people of the realm are to-iisjr 


lacking in virile energy. By a sort of 
poetic justice, precisely the same policy 
adopted by the shoguns, or chief vassals, 
in regard to t'le emperor was in turn used 
against many a daimio by his chief retain- 
ers, until the name of daimio was at last a 
sjTionym for degeneracy, and the nobles 
became the merest puppets in the bands of 
their clansmen.* It has been ever in these 
clansmen, the knightly chivalrj', the ever 

♦ A pamphlet, entitled « Han Ron " (" The 
Clans "'), published soon after the restoration of the 
emperor in iS6S, contains, as quoted b>- Adams in 
his " History of Japan," the following description of 
the condition into which the Japanese nolxlity had at 
that time fallen : — 

" The great majority of tiie feudal lords are geD> 
erally persons who have been bom and nurtured in 
the seclusion of the women's apartments; who have 
been cherished as tenderly as if they were delicate 
ornaments of jewelrj- or pearls ; who even when they 
have grown up to man's estate still exhibit all the 
traits of childhood. Having never mastered the 
details of business, they feel no responsibility in 
the affairs of state. With their bodies clad in gor- 
geous apparel, they feel not the winter's Uast, and 
know not that men pine of starvation and cold. 
With the beauty of their wives and concuHnes 
arrayed before them, and the sounds of music and 
revelry ringing in their ears, they leave no desire of 
the heart ongratified." 



loyal and brave samurai, that the national 
passion of patriotism has been kept alive 
and even intensified by the Crusoe life of 
the people. 

It was through these influences that what 
was perhaps the most knightly act of devO' 
tion to country and king the world has ever 
seen made Japan the mighty empire she i» 
to-day. Among all the surprises she ha« 
given to the nations, none exceeds in dra 
matic power or suggestiveness the relin- 
quishment of all feudal claims and tha 
restoration of the entire empire to the im- 
perial rule by those whose chief thought 
before had been that of loyalty to their 
clan. The memorial by which the great 
clans of Satsuma, Choshiu, Tosa, and 
Hizen offered up the lists of their posses- 
sions to the emperor, on March 5, 1869, is 
one of the most remarkable documents to 
be found in the records of any people : — 

"Since the heavenly ancestors established 
the toundations of the country, the imperial 
. line has not failed for ten thousand ages. 
The heaven and earth [that is, Japan] are the 
emperor's. There is no man who is not his 
retainer. ... In ancient time the imperial 


wisdom ruled all, and there was prosp>erity 
under heaven. In the Middle Ages the 
ropes of the net were relaxed, so that men, 
toying with the Great Strength and striv- 
ing for power, crowded upon the emp)eror, 
and stole his land. . . . Thus it was that 
the emperor wore an empty and vain rank, 
and, the order of things being reversed, 
looked up to the bakufu [the shogun's gov- 
ernment] as the dispenser of joy and sor- 
row. . . . During this time the bakufu 
borrowed the name and authority of the 
emperor, and used the imperial name as a 
blind. Now the great government has 
been newly restored, and the emperor him- 
self undertakes the direction of affairs. 
This is indeed a rare and mighty event. 
We have the name of an imperial govern- 
ment; we must also have the fact. Our 
first duty is to illustrate our faithfulness 
and to prove our loyalty. . . . The place 
where we live is the emperor's land, and 
the food we eat is grown by the emperor's 
men. How can we make it our own ? We 
now reverently offer up the list of our pos- 
sessions and men. Let the imperial orders 
be issued for the altering and remodelling 


the territories of the various clans. . . . 
Let the civil and penal codes and military 
laws all proceed from the emperor. Let all 
the affairs of the empire, great and small, 
be referred to him ; and then will the em- 
pire be able to take its place side by side 
with the other nations of the world. This 
is now the most urgent duty of the emperor, 
as it is that of his servants and children. 
Hence it is that we, daring to offer up our 
humble expression of loyalty, upon which 
we pray that the brilliance of the heavenly 
sun may shine, with fear and reverence bow 
the head and do homage, ready to lay down 
our lives in proof of our faith." * 

Within a little more than a month from 
the presentation of this memorial, similar 
ones were published by one hundred and 
eighty out of the two hundred and seventy- 
six clans of Japan, begging to restore their 
fiefs to the sovereign ; and in the end the 
whole number reached two hundred and 
forty-one. The feudal system was abol- 
ished, and Japan became an empire in fact 
as in name. The loyal heart of the samurai 
had stood the supreme test; and one of the 

• Adams's History of Japan, vol. ii. p. iSi. 


knightliest deeds that ever called for human 
strength of soul created the nation at whose 
courage the world now mar\-els, even as it 
once marvelled at the gentler virtues then 
deemed Japan's only heritage. 



pOSSIBLY because the islands of the 
Pacific are popularly pictured as hav- 
ing been peopled only by savage or bar- 
barous tribes, the Western mind, in spite 
of the multitudes of books written upon 
Japan, seems never to have formed any 
just or adequate conception of the high 
civilization there anciently attained and 
now still held. Her people are given credit 
only for an extraordinary aptitude for 
becoming civilized. The tremendous polit- 
ical revolution which took place on her 
emergence from seclusion, and the ensuing 
sudden adoption of Occidental ways are 
deemed remarkable, mainly because no 
other barbarous or even semi - civilized 
people was ever known to take so great a 
stride out of a lower state of society, on to 
the high plane of what we complacently 
call civilization. 

Extraordinary, indeed, would the Iran- 


sition be were the popular conception of 
Japan's former condition in the least degree 
justified. Had the change been an emer- 
gence from anj'thing like barbarism, or 
even semi - civUization, the Island people 
would be in truth the unique nation. Bar- 
barous tribes do not become civilized by 
contact with civilization, unless they touch 
it as conquerers. Otherwise they fade 
away and perish. Half -civilized people 
even cannot bear the contact and preserve 
their identity-. It is stiU, perhaps, an open 
question whether Christianity has uplifted 
the so-caUed heathen; but the fate of 
lower civilizations when brought into close 
relations with the higher is not a matter of 
doubt. Only the fittest survive. The 
simple fact that Japan has not only sur- 
vived, but has taken her place to-day 
among the great powers of the world, 
attests, therefore, not an emergence from 
barbarism, as her history for the last thirty 
years is popularly conceived, but rather 
the bringing to light of a hitherto unknown 
civilization, which, though different from 
our own, is yet worthy of a place beside 
our best Furthermore, none who have 


read her history, and still less they who 
through contact with her people are famil- 
iar with the outcome of that history in the 
present life and character of the nation, 
can for a moment share the popular mis- 
conception. None who have studied the 
annals of the Empire or who, entering into 
the nation's consciousness, have learned 
what " Yamato Damashii,''^ " The Soul of 
Japan," means, can fail to find in it the evi- 
dence of century-long training in some of 
the finest virtues of civilization. Surely, if 
we reckon as the flowering of our Western 
civilization the keen sense of honor, the love 
of learning, and the knightly courtesy which 
our own age of chivalry has bequeathed 
to us, only ignorance of the chivalric past 
of the Island Realm can be the excuse of 
those who speak of it as having only 
recently become civilized. 

Possibly the prevalent misconception is 
due not merely to popular ignorance of 
Japanese history, but also to the fact that 
its chivalric past has continued to so late 
a day as not yet to be surrounded with the 
glamour of a bygone age. It has not yet 
had time to become history. It was only 


yesterday, indeed, that the vision of an 
armor-clad knight, as described by one who 
of all men has best succeeded in giving 
expression to the " Soul of Japan," attested 
the lingering of the age of chivalry. The 
picture is before him of "a handsome 
youth with the sinister, splendid gaze of 
a falcon, in full magnificence of feudal war 
costume. One hand bears the tasseled sig- 
nal wand of a leader of armies ; the other 
rests on the marvelous hilt of his sword. 
His helmet is a blazing miracle ; the steel 
upon his breast and shoulders was wrought 
by armorers whose names are famed in all 
the museums of the West. The cords of 
his war coat are golden ; and a wondrous 
garment of heavy silk, all embroidered with 
billowings and dragonings of gold, flows 
from his mailed waist to his feet like a robe 
of fire. . How the man flames in his steel 
and silk and gold like some iridescent 
beetle — but a War-beetle, all horns and 
mandibles and menace, despite its daz- 

It was only yesterday that two millions 
of such panoplied warriors, trained from 

• Hearn, " Out of the East," p. 19&, 


birth for the battle-field, inured to every 
hardship, and fearless of naught here or 
hereafter, save dishonor, guarded the bat- 
tlements of picturesque castles throughout 
the length and breadth of the Empire. 

It was only yesterday that through the 
silent streets of towns and cities, vast 
daimios' trains passed on their way to 
Yeddo, the law requiring their residence in 
that city for six months each year being as 
rigid as that which closed, while they were 
passing, every door and window on their 
line of march, that no vulgar eye might 
gaze upon them. Just such a scene as 
was described by Kampffer, two hundred 
years ago, has been witnessed by many a 
one now living. " It is a sight exceedingly 
curious and worthy of admiration," said 
he, "to see all the persons who compose 
the numerous train of a great prince, the 
pike-bearers clad in black silk, marching 
in an elegant order with a decent becom- 
ing gravity, and keeping so profound a 
silence that not the least noise is to be 
heard, save what must necessarily arise 
from the motion and rustling of their 
habits, and the trampling of the horses 







and men. Numerous troops of fore- 
runners, harbingers, clerks, cooks, and 
other inferior officers, begin the march, 
they being to provide lodgings, victuals, 
and other necessary things for the enter- 
tainment of the prince, their master, and 
his court. They are followed by the 
prince's heavy baggage, packed up either 
in small trunks, and carried upon horses, 
each with a banner, bearing the coat of 
arms and name of the possessor; or else 
in large chests of red-lacquered leather, 
again with the possessor's coat of arms, 
and carried upon men's shoulders, with 
multitudes of inspectors to look after 
them." Then come "great numbers of 
smaller retinues, belonging to the chief 
officers and noblemen attending the prince, 
with pikes, scimeters, bows and arrows, um- 
brellas, palanquins, led horses, and other 
marks of their grandeur, suitable to their 
birth, quality, and office. Some of these 
are carried in norimonos, others in cangos, 
others go on horseback. The prince's 
own numerous train, marching in an ad- 
mirable and curious order, and divided 
into several troops, each headed by a 


proper commanding officer; as, five, more 
or less, fine led horses, led each by two 
grooms, one on each side, two footmen 
walking behind. Five or six, and some- 
times more, porters, richly clad, walking 
one by one, and carrying fassanbacks,* or 
lackered chests, and japanned neat trunks 
and baskets upon their shoulders, wherein 
are kept the gowns, clothes, wearing ap- 
parel, and other necessaries for the daily 
use of the prince ; each porter is attended 
by two footmen, who take up his charge 
by turns. Ten or more followers, walking 
again one by one, and carrying rich scim- 
eters, pikes of state, fire-arms, and other 
weapons in lackered wooden cases, as also 
quivers with bows and arrows. . . . Two, 
three, or more men, who carry the pikes of 
state, as the badges of the prince's power 
and authority, adorned at the upper end 
with bunches of cock's feathers, or certain 
rough hides, or other particular ornaments, 
peculiar to such or such a prince. They 
walk one by one, and are attended each by 
two footmen. A gentleman carrying the 
prince's hat, which he wears to shelter him- 

* Hasomi-bako. 


self from the heat of the sun, and which 
is covered with black velvet. He is at- 
tended likewise by two footmen. A gentle- 
man carrj-ing the prince's sombrero or um- 
brella, which is covered in like manner 
with black velvet. He is attended likewise 
by two footmen. Some more fassanbacks 
and varnished trunks, covered with var- 
nished leather, with the prince's coat of 
arms upon them, each with two men to 
take care of it. Sixteen, more or less, of 
the prince's pages, and gentlemen of his 
bedchamber, richly clad, and walking two 
and two before his norimon. They are 
taken out from among the first quality of 
his court. The prince himself, sitting in a 
stately norimon, or palanquin, carried by 
six or eight men. clad in rich liveries, with 
several others walking at the norimon's 
side, to take it up by turns. Two or three 
gentlemen of the prince's bedchamber 
walk at the norimon's side, to give him 
what he wants and asks for, and to assist 
and support him in going in or out of the 
norimon. Two or three horses of state, 
the saddles covered with black. One of 
these horses carries a large elbow chair, 


which is sometimes covered with black 
velvet, and placed on a norikago of the 
same stuff. These horses are attended 
each by several grooms and footmen in 
liveries, and some are led by the prince's 
own pages. Two pike-bearers. Ten more 
people carrying each two baskets of a 
monstrous large size, fixed to the end of a 
pole, which they lay on their shoulders in 
such a manner that a basket hangs down 
before and another behind them. These 
baskets are more for state than for use. 
Sometimes some fassanback-bearers walk 
among them, to increase the troop. In 
this order marches the prince's own train, 
which is followed by six or twelve led 
horses with their leaders, grooms, and foot- 
men all in liveries, a multitude of the 
prince's domestics, and other officers of his 
court, with their own very numerous trains 
and attendants, pike-bearers, fassanback- 
bearers, and footmen in liveries. Some of 
these are carried in cangos, and the whole 
troop is headed by the prince's high 
steward, carried in a norimon. If one of 
the prince's sons accompanies his father in 
the journey to court, he follows with his 


own train immediately after his father's 
norimon. The pages, pike - bearers, um- 
brellas and hat -bearers, fassanback or 
chest - bearers, and all the footmen in 
liveries, aifect a strange mimic march or 
dance, when they pass through some re- 
markable town or borough, or by the train 
of another prince or lord. Every step 
they make they draw up one foot quite to 
their back, in the meantime stretching out 
the arm on the opposite side as far as they 
can, and putting themselves in such a 
posture, as if they had a mind to swim 
through the air." 

It was only yesterday that all this pomp 
and circumstance vanished, and the two 
million samurai, the men who had kept 
the virtues of chivalry- alive even through 
three centuries of profound peace, fur- 
nished the supreme illustration of Vamato 
damashti, the Soul of Japan, by renounc- 
ing all that was dear to them at the bid- 
ding of their sovereign and becoming 
mere citizens of the Empire, ready to toil 
with the humblest in whatever work 
might sen'e its interests. 

So lately, indeed, did this great renuncia- 


tion take place that even yet the shining 
armor and the keen weapons of these 
warriors, armor and weapons which, did 
they illustrate the day of mediaeval knight- 
hood in Europe would be worth their 
weight in gold, now in vast quantities 
cumber the curio shops of Tokyo and 
Kioto, and are among the most unsalable 
wares in the collections. 

Although to the Japanese their age of 
chivalry, dating back many centuries, is 
indeed history of the most thrilling and 
romantic sort, history which they never 
tire of reading and recounting, yet by us, 
because that age has lasted even into our 
own prosaic times, and possibly also be- 
cause it has not heretofore been our wont 
to take the Japanese in any degree seriously, 
the samurai has never been ranked with 
Bayard or Du Guesclin, with the Black 
Prince or with the Cid. 

So far as he was known at all to the 
West, the two-sworded man, whose sensi- 
tiveness to insult and whose intense na- 
tional feeling occasioned so much trouble 
with foreigners on the opening of the 
country, was reckoned a mere swash- 


buckler. It was by the samurai sword 
in those troublous days that many an 
Englishman who had brutally or imwit- 
tingly violated the sacred conventions of 
the land was hacked to pieces. It was a 
time of social and political disorganiza- 
tion, and the land was filled with the 
class of knights known as ronins (wave 
men), knights whose feudal households 
had been broken up and who owed no 
direct allegiance to any lord. These ir- 
responsible rovers having become the ter- 
ror of the country, the impression held 
and yet holds tliat Japanese chivalry was 
but another name for the spirit of turbu- 
lence, swagger, and murder. And when 
further we are told of the privilege which 
the samurai had enjoyed for centuries, of 
slaying without fear of punishment any 
inferiors who chanced to incur their an- 
ger, it is but a step to the inference that 
their lives were largely spent in exercis- 
ing that privilege. Never did the knight- 
hood of any country labor under a more 
imwarrantable imputation. Mr. Fuku- 
zawa, often called the Grand Old Man 
of Japan, is my authority for the state- 


ment, that during a period of two and a half 
centuries, among the hundred thousand 
samurai of his province, though the 
knights were men with human passions, 
and though the cruel privilege above 
mentioned was undeniably theirs, only 
three cases had been known in which 
they had ever exercised it. Indeed, with 
all the rights and immunities which they 
enjoyed, and in view of the idle life to 
which they were mainly doomed during 
the centuries of the Great Peace, it is 
only marvelous that they kept so stainless 
the shields of their knighthood. While 
the feudal lords to whom they held alle- 
giance were for the most part sunk into the 
depths of effeminacy and degeneration, 
the honor of their homes was faithfully 
upheld by their retainers, and the name of 
samurai is in Japan to-day the untarnished 
name, to its people the synonym of the 
same lofty virtues and heroic devotion 
which we associate with the truest knight 
of Mediaeval Romance. 

And not only is the name untarnished, 
but also knightly virtue itself has escaped 
the degeneration which it suffered in 


Europe, and has remained to this day a 
stainless glorj-. The Western world has 
seen its sun of chivalry decline until 
naught of it lingers save the duello, and 
the so-called "code of honor." But in 
Japan the samurai soul yet pervades in 
full force the very life of the nation, and 
the vendetta, once a samurai privilege, 
ceased absolutely at a single word from 
the Emperor. 

To the samurai, also, the Island empire 
is indebted for the preservation and ad- 
vance of learning in her troublous times, 
as fully as Europe owes to the Church the 
inestimable service of this kind which she 
rendered in the night of the Dark Ages. 
Here the parallelism is complete except 
that in Japan this great salvation was 
wrought by the secular arm, by a zeal for 
patriotism and for the glory of the land, 
instead of for the welfare of priestly in- 

Yet it is with heroic deeds of valor and 
self-sacrifice, it is with illustrations of the 
supreme spirit of devoted lo}'alty, that the 
name is oftenest associated, and in this 
regard there is scarcely one of the tales 


of knightly daring which fill the pages 
of either the ancient or mediaeval history 
of Europe, that is not paralleled in the 
heroic annals of Japan. 

The empire has had her Regulus. In a 
besieged castle the question was whether 
the weakness of the enemy would war- 
rant waiting for soon-expected relief. A 
samurai stealing into the camp of the be- 
siegers to ascertain, was captured and 
threatened with crucifixion unless he re- 
ported the hostile force in such strength 
as to make resistance seem useless. 
Feigning consent and taken to the bank 
of the moat, in full sight of his wife and 
children he shouted the true tidings of 
the weakness of the enemy, and straight- 
way, smiling with gladness at the glory 
of his opportunity, met the crudest of 

Nor has Spartan fidelity been the exclu- 
sive possession of the Western warrior. 
In the late war with China, a Japanese 
trumpeter was ordered to sound the charge. 
While executing the order he received his 
death-wound. But with never a pause or 
waver, or false note, that charge went 


sounding on until death sealed the lips 
through which it was breathed. Borne to 
his home for burial, his funeral rites were 
made, as it were, a festival, his parents 
vying with each other in their rejoicing 
over the honorable end of the boy whom 
they had reared to live and die for his 

Perhaps the most dramatic episode in 
the annals of the land, certainly one strik- 
ingly illustrative, not only of the daring, 
but also of the intelligence of the loyal 
retainers of old, and showing likewise the 
survival in full force to our own day of the 
spirit of chivalry, is the story of Narabara. 

A few years after the opening of Japan 
to foreigners, Shimadzu Saburo, the actual 
ruler of the powerful daimiate of Satsuma, 
while engaged in the attempt to restore the 
Emperor to his rightful authorit)', was 
greatly embarrassed by the proffered co- 
operation of a large troop of ronins, who, 
thinking that he would attempt to drive out 
the foreigners, were eager to join him. 
Finding it impossible to reason with them, 
and fearing that if left to themselves grave 
disaster to his plans would result, he re- 


solved upon an extraordinary course of 
action, which is thus vividly described by 
Mr. House. 

" Appointing a meeting with the ronins, 
he sent to them eight of his most trusted 
followers who had proved themselves ex- 
pert swordsmen. These he directed to go 
to the rendezvous ; to hold a parley with 
the insurgent leaders ; to convince them, by 
argument if possible, of the impracticability 
of their course, but at all hazards to pre- 
vent them from proceeding in their rebel- 
lious career. To Japanese vassals as 
devoted as those of Satsuma, no further 
suggestions were needed. They reached 
Fusimi late in the evening, and found the 
greater number of the ronins in a large 
house of public entertainment. The leaders 
joined them in a small room on the ground 
floor, while the others continued their 
carousals above. Before arriving, the prin- 
cipal of the Satsuma retainers had arranged 
his plan and communicated it to his sub- 
ordinates. Every effort should be made to 
bring the malcontents to reason by straight- 
forward representations of the designs of 
their master, and by earnest exhortations 


that the disorderly campaign they contem- 
plated should be abandoned. If these 
should fail, the conference could end only 
in a quarrel, in which event the position 
and duty of seven of the Satsimia partic- 
ipants was distinctly laid down. The lights 
were to be simultaneously extinguished, 
each man was to plant himself at a given 
distance from his neighbors, to drop upon 
one knee, and to sweep the space above 
his head with his drawn sword. The head 
of the party, Narabara, would spring to 
the nearest comer, where he would be pro- 
tected from assault in the rear or directiy 
from the sides, and would attack in the 
dark any that should approach him. These 
precautions would not have been enjoined 
if an encounter upon anything like even 
terms had been anticipated ; but the ronins 
were several hundred in number, and it was 
only through the application of some such 
strategy that the eight leaders could by any 
chance be disposed of. In case of a general 
conflict, some of them would have been 
almost sure to escape, and the mission of 
the retainers would have failed. It was 
foreseen that, in the tumult, some of the 


inferior renins would rush to assist their 
chiefs, and join in the melde before the 
work of destruction could be thoroughly 
carried out; hence the necessity of having 
the advantage of darkness and pre-organ- 
ization on the side of the militant envoys. 
The interview in the tea-house was long 
and earnest. Narabara and his compan- 
ions were sincere in their efforts to settle 
the affair without violence, as, indeed, they 
were bound by their instructions to do, 
if any means could be discovered. For 
more than two hours they exerted such 
arguments and eloquence as they could 
command to persuade the adventurers to 
disband the troops and return to their 
homes. These endeavors were totally in- 
effectual. Having advanced so far, the 
insurgents declared, they could not and 
would not recede. If Shimadzu would lead 
them to the fulfilment of their schemes, 
they would gladly exterminate the for- 
eigners under his banner. If not, they 
would undertake the task in their own way. 
Moreover, they were convinced that the 
real spirit of the Satsuma clan was in 
sympathy with them, in spite of all that the 


Kokufu might say. Several Satsuma men 
had joined them within a few hours, and 
were in hearty unison with their plot. The 
discussion terminated in confusion and high 
words, as had been more than half antici- 
pated. At a signal from Narabara, the 
paper lanterns that hung aroimd the walls 
were thrown to the ground and trampled 
upon. The swords of all were instantly 
drawn. The Satsuma leader darted to his 
comer, proclaiming his name and inviting 
attack by loud cries. His seven associates 
fell on their knees, and, in rigid silence, 
dealt fatal blows upon all that came within 
reach of their weapons. The renins above, 
warned by the clamor of the chiefs, 
struggled to descend to their aid, but the 
ladders of communication had been re- 
moved. A few sprang from the windows 
and mingled blindly and ineffectively in the 
obscure affray. In less than five minutes 
from the time that the signal was given, 
the swords of the Satsuma men passed 
through the air without resistance. Nara- 
bara called to his followers by name, and 
all but one replied. A light was struck, 
and its first ray revealed the bodies of 


eleven ronins, and one of Shimadzu's mes- 
sengers stretched lifeless upon the floor. 

"But the end of this extraordinary en- 
counter had not yet come. The scene that 
followed, though unattended by desperate 
strife and bloodshed, was even more start- 
lingly dramatic. Yielding suddenly to an 
inspiration that could have had no previs- 
ion in his sober calculations, Narabara, 
without waiting to apprise his companions 
of his intentions, cast away his sword, 
threw o£E his outer garment to show that he 
was now defenceless, and, clambering up 
to the apartment above, flung himself, half 
naked, among the amazed and excited 
ronins, and fell upon his hands and knees 
with a salutation that was at the same 
time a gesture of appeal for momentary 
forbearance. Before they could recover 
from their surprise, he had rapidly related 
the whole story of what had occurred 
below, and begged to be heard in justifica- 
tion. The nearest of those who heard his 
words sought to destroy him without cere- 
mony, but a young man from Satsuma, who 
had lately joined the troop, abruptly con- 
fronted them, and, placing himself defiantly 


before the prostrate body, proclaimed that 
he would protect the unarmed suppliant 
with his own life until he should obtain a 
hearing. In moments of critical suspense 
like this, a sudden demonstration of supe- 
rior boldness is sure to carry all before it 
Those who had hastened to avenge their 
leaders now instinctively )-ielded, and sig- 
nified their willingness to listen, Narabara 
at once declared that he did not mean to 
plead for himself, and that if, after having 
received his explanation, they were still 
determined to pursue their course, his body 
was at their disposal. He then hastily 
repeated the arguments he had used 
below, and said that, although he had 
failed to convince the chiefs, who were 
prepared with a regular and carefidly con- 
trived plan, his representations should 
surely have weight with the subordinates, 
who, left in ignorance of how to proceed, 
without commanders of experience or tried 
ability, and thrown into hopeless confu- 
sion at the moment when decision and 
unanimit}' were most needed, could not 
contend against the forces which Shimadzu 
would be able to array against them. As 


to what he had himself done, every Jap- 
anese samurai knew that it was simply his 
duty, and the men of Satsuma, above all, 
would applaud, rather than condemn him 
for the fidelity and thoroughness with 
which he had fulfilled his mission. An 
appeal of this kind, made under circum- 
stances that attested the fearlessness and 
faith of the speaker, and addressed to an 
audience composed of soldiers, who, what- 
ever their other errors, had been trained to 
respect courage and devotion as the high- 
est of human virtues, could not be ineffec- 
tive. It was, in fact, triumphant. In 
admiration of his gallantry, Narabara was 
suffered to go free. In acknowledgment 
of the force of his reasoning, the ronins 
admitted the feebleness of their position 
under the new state of affairs, and pledged 
themselves to disperse without delay. The 
ready resolution of Shimadzu, acting 
through the strong arm of Narabara and 
his associates, had cut the knot of disaffec- 
tion and mutiny with a single blow." 

Such a scene as this, with its suggestions 
of feudal strife, of dauntless daring and of 
chivalrous loyalty to chief and clan, so 


vividly recalls traditions of our Europe of 
three centuries ago, that it is difficult to 
think of it as having happened in our own 
day. And yet so near is it to our time 
that one of the chief actors in the fierce 
drama, the yoimg Satsuma man who, 
single-handed, defied his comrades, rushed 
to the side of the prostrate and unarmed 
Narabara and insisted upon the suppliant's 
right to be heard, is to-day one of the 
Emperor's most trusted advisers, being 
none other than Marquis Saigo, the pres- 
ent Minister of the Navy Department. 

Pregnant with suggestion is this single 
fact, as illustrating not only the rapidity of 
the change wrought in the Empire, but 
also the character of the civilization which 
it has contributed to the world. It is to 
be noted as not the least of the advan- 
tages of the lightning-like pace which 
Japan has set for her modem career that 
her present rulers have been personally 
trained and disciplined in the verj- school 
of chivalry itself. The Japanese Bayard 
and Du Guesclin. the Far Oriental Black 
Prince and Cid are themseh'es still on the 
field. The age of knighthood is not to 


them a tradition or a race-memory, but an 
actual life experience. In the West, as 
has already been said, the sun of chivalry 
has long since set. The Law of Honor has 
become the absurd Code with the duel as 
its sole outcome and illustration. Three 
centuries separate us from the times and the 
institutions which called for the exercise 
of the strenuous and virile virtues, making 
the name of knight a synonym for cour- 
age, courtesy, and devotion. These virtues 
are still in our blood indeed, and in times 
of great emergency such as our American 
Civil War they make themselves manifest. 
But they come to us from a far-away 
ancestry, upon the mere traditions of 
whose knightly training we are living, and 
in these degenerate days of scramble for 
the means of luxurious living even these 
traditions are fast losing their power. 
But in Japan the very men who hold the 
reins of office, or who are of influence in 
any sphere of the nation's life, were them- 
selves brought up in the strictest school of 
chivalric discipline which perhaps the 
world has ever seen. Inured to severest 
hardships and trained not only in manly 


and martial exercises of every sort, but 
also in devotion to literature and learning, 
it is not alone hardship that they have 
been taught to despise nor learning that 
they have been schooled to love. Their 
chie£est discipline has been in the school 
of knightly courtesy and of fearlessness of 
ever>-thing but dishonor. Not even the 
training of Spartan youth was harder than 
that in which the samurai of only a genera- 
tion ago were reared, and in comparison 
with it the training of European chivalry 
was holiday pastime. Self-denial, obedi- 
ence, courtesy, contempt of pleasure and 
of gain, loyalty to his chief, — these have 
filled the vision of life to the knight of 
Japan. And at the end of life there was 
neither hope of heaven nor fear of hell, 
naught to detract from the honor of doing 
one's dut)' through love of right for its own 
sake. Very often, too, that end was self- 
immolation. Whatever view the Western 
mind may take of the morality of such sui- 
cides as were once so common among the 
chivahy- of Japan, the significance of the 
rite of hara-kiri is by Occidentals as imi- 
versally misconceived as the name itself is 


misspelled. Superfluously revolting as was 
the prescribed method of self-immolation, 
in the very exquisiteness of its pain and in 
the strict observance of the elaborate eti- 
quette of the ceremony with which it was 
performed, the hara-kiri was the natural 
and fitting outcome of the stem ideals of 
honor and courtesy constantly held before 
the Japanese knight and gentleman. 

Steeled against all pain and all feai 
as his training was to render him, what 
more natural than for him to be ready at 
an instant's notice to give the last and 
highest proof that that training was not 
in vain. And in the grave dignity and 
punctiliousness with which the ceremony 
was performed, going far as it did to 
redeem it from its most revolting fea- 
ture, we may see in it the fitting culmina- 
tion of the life of good breeding in the 
practice of which the knights of the Em- 
pire became the exemplars of courtesy. 
It is as an ever-present reminder of these 
duties that the wearing of the two swords, 
one to use against all enemies of his lord, 
the other ever in readiness to turn upon 
himself in atonement for fault or for faint- 


est suspicion of dishonor, reveals a higher 
knightly consciousness in the soul of the 
far Eastern chivalry and a keener sensi- 
tiveness to the claims of honor than 
aught to which the annals or the customs 
of Mediaeval Europe have borne witness. 
Not only, therefore, because of the actual 
personal training of Japan's best in the 
school of chivalry, but also because that 
school surpassed in its teachings of honor 
that of our far-off ancestr)-, should we 
give to Japan the credit of possessing a 
higher civilization than ours in the dis- 
tinctive qualities which we owe to our 
own knightly descent It is well, also, in 
estimating the character of that Oriental 
civilization to consider not only the near- 
ness of its chivalric past, but also the 
immemorial extent of that past. Oiu- age 
of chivalry was of the briefest, its flower- 
ing lasting only two centuries, while the 
knightly past of Japan is coterminous 
with the history of the Empire.* 

* Accordiiig to the Kejiki, the book of ancient tradi- 
tions, a young prince not yet in his teens having killed 
his fathers murderer, sought refuge with one of the 
nobles, and was besieged in his house. Parleying with 
the enemy, the noble said : " ' From of old down to the 


The samurai of thirty years ago had 
behind him a thousand years of training 
in the law of honor, obedience, duty, and 
self-sacrifice. At his very birth these vir- 
tues were already his. His personal nur- 
ture only preserved and kept them alive. 
It was not needed to create or establish 
them. As a child he had but to be 
instructed, as indeed he was from his 
earliest years, in the etiquette of self- 
immolation. The fine instinct of honor 
demanding it was in the very blood, else 
the story of the samurai boy as told by 
Hearn,* not by any means the only story 

present time grandees and chiefs have been known to 
hide in the palaces of kings. But kings have not yet 
oeen known to hide in the houses of grandees. There- 
iore I think that though a vile slave of a grandee ex- 
erting his utmost strength in the fight can scarcely con- 
quer, yet must he die rather than desert a prince who, 
trusting in him, has entered into his house.' Havnng 
thus spoken, he again took his weapons and went in 
again to fight. Then their strength being exhausted and 
their arrows finished he said to the prince : 'My hands 
are wounded and our arrows are likewise finished. We 
cannot now fight. What shall be done ?' The prince 
replied, saying, 'If that be so there is nothing more to 
do. Now slay me.' So he thrust the prince to death 
with his sword, and forthwith killed himself by cutting 
off his own head." 

•"Is that really the head of your father?" a prince 
once asked of a samurai boy only seven years old. The 



of the kind in Japanese annals would be 
simply incredible. Yamato Damashii — 
the Soul of Japan — the instinct of loy- 
alty, the impulse of self-devotion, the 
spirit of unquestioning obedience to duty, 
the worship of the beauty of self-sacri- 
fice for itself alone, in a word the very 
flower and crown of civilization, is there 
no mere tradition and has been there no 
ephemeral experience. It is the vital 
force in the nation's present life as it has 
been the glory and pride of its immemo- 
rial past. 

Nor does it seem to have lost its force 
in the transformation of the nation's out- 
ward life. The two swords with their sig- 
nificant reminders of loyal dutj' are in- 
deed no longer worn by the belted knights 
of the Empire, and of the gory rite of 
self-immolation there are only rare in- 

child at once realized the situation. The freshly-severed 
head was not his father's. The daimyo had been deceived, 
but further deception was necessary. So the lad, after hav- 
ing saluted the head with every sign of reverential grief, 
suddenly cut out his own bowels. All the prince's doubts 
vanished before that bloody proof of filial piety. The 
outlaw^ed father was able to make good his escape ; and 
the memory of the child is still honored in Japanese 
drama and poetry. 


Stances of survival. One can scarcely 
believe, as he meets the courteous, unob- 
trusive gentlemen now at the heads of 
all the Departments of State, that only a 
generation ago these men, being rarely 
of noble lineage or daimyo blood, but 
only of samurai rank, were the pic- 
turesque and loyal clansmen of feudal 
chieftains, ready on the instant to give the 
supreme proof of knightly devotion. One 
passes now in the city streets the trim 
and ever sedate policemen, with never 
cause for suspicion, save perhaps from 
their scholarly aspect and dignified bearing, 
that these also were once knights of the 
Empire. Their short sword, for self-im- 
molation, has disappeared, but not the 
punctilious care and fidelity with which 
they perform their every duty to their 
superiors, and keep their honor stainless. 
The longer sword, changed to a Western 
fashion, still hangs at the side, and when 
on occasion it leaps from its scabbard the 
training of centuries is revealed in the 
wielding of its deadly blade. 

Nor is it only among the Government 
leaders and officials that the samurai spirit 


is manifesting itself in the new career upon 
which the nation has entered. As of old, 
the Japanese knight is not only the sword, 
but also the brain of Japan. As during 
the age of seclusion and the Great Peace, 
while never forgetting or slighting his duty 
as a warrior, he became equally devoted 
to the advancement of learning, so today 
the marvelous progress of education in the 
Empire is largely due to his efforts and his 
devotion. Perhaps the most conspicuous 
illustration of such influence is to be found 
in the person of Japan's Great Commoner, 
Mr. Fukuzawa Yukichi — whose champion- 
ship of true democracy, with never the 
faintest suspicion of disloyalty to his sover- 
eign, has won him the name of the Glad- 
stone of the Empire — while he holds a 
place in the enthusiastic affection and 
admiration of his hosts of pupils to be 
compared only with that of England's 
Thomas Arnold. The founder and head 
of the Keiogijiku, a college now only sec- 
ond to the Imperial University in stand- 
ing and importance, the editor of the 
leading newspaper in Tokyo, a writer of 
extraordinary vigor and clearness, and an 


orator famed throughout the Empire for 
his eloquence, he has been called by Dr. 
GrifRs, "the intellectual father of half the 
youths of Japan." That he is of samurai 
birth goes without saying, or were it ques- 
tioned, two acts of his, one showing the 
samurai spirit of indomitable courage, and 
the other the samurai instinct of uncalcu- 
lating self-devotion, would establish his 
lineage. The first, early in the new era, 
was his open condemnation of the custom 
of hara-kiri, on the ground that suicide was 
lacking in the highest elements of true 
courage. The indignation aroused by this 
declaration among his own class was as 
intense as their conversion to his view was 
rapid, there being to-day only very rarely 
an instance of the morbid survival of the 
old custom. 

That in taking this position no suspicion 
of personal cowardice could attach to him, 
is clearly shown by his other act, which 
was none else than one of self-immolation 
in the highest and truest sense. He has 
abjured his samurai rank and has become 
one of the heimin, or common people. 
Assailed as he often is for his inconsist- 


encies, and for his impractical theories, in 
one thing he has pxirsued a course of un- 
swerving consistency and fidelity, and that 
is his espousal of the cause of genuine 

Thoroughly simple in his own tastes, of 
Spartan puritj' of character, an almost 
fanatical advocate of pure home life as 
the panacea for all earthly ills, — to him 
the elevation and sanctity of the homes of 
the people, and of the industries of the 
nation, have become an absorbing interest, 
worthy of the making of any sacrifice. To 
this end he has not only steadfastly declined 
every official position which his eminence 
and his immense popular following would 
easily secure to him, but he has also dis- 
carded his samurai rank, and become in 
every sense one of those to whose welfare 
his life has been devoted. He may be 
said to be to-day, therefore, not only the 
Gladstone and the Thomas Arnold, but 
also the Tolstoi of Japan. 

But though giving up a name which is 
dearer than life to one of the chivalry of 
Japan, he has but exemplified the samurai 
spirit, and testified to its ineradicable 


nature. The knights of the Empire may 
abjure, but they cannot disguise their rank. 
The discipline of centuries is not to be 
overborne even by the most revolutionary 
epoch th9,t any nation has experienced, 
and the Soul of Japan is still alive. It is 
simply as Miss Bacon has said, that " the 
pride of clan is now changed to pride of 
race ; loyalty to feudal chief has become 
loyalty to the Emperor as sovereign ; and 
the old traits of character exist under the 
European costumes of to-day, as under 
the flowing robes of the two-sworded 

Happening to pass an evening at Mr. 
Fukuzawa's house, just after the murder 
of a missionary by Japanese swordsmen, 
the talk turned upon the Japanese method 
of sword practice as differing greatly from 
that of the West. Our host kindly volun- 
teered to show us the difference. Clad in his 
Japanese dress he had but to place the two 
swords in his belt and stand at guard. 
Then with an almost imperceptible move- 
ment both hands sought the longer weapon. 
The instant they touched the hilt, the great 
blade flashed in the air and came down 


with a cleaving swish so lightning-like in 
its rapidity, and with so deadly a sugges- 
tiveness in its very sound, that for the 
moment our hearts stood still with the fear- 
someness of the stroke. 

The significance of the scene was far 
more to us than the fear it inspired. What 
we had witnessed was no mere bit of sword 
practice. It was a glimpse of the tremen- 
dous reserve of force which the Empire has 
stored up for herself by the age-long and 
late-continued training of her best in the 
exercises and virtues of chivalry. A mere 
touch of the hilt of the old sword had 
transformed the leading educator of the 
realm into the fierce samurai, ready on 
the instant with either weapon or life to 
devote himself to his country's weal. 

It is to such men as these, the very soul of 
Japan, that the task of bringing the Empire 
out of the Middle Ages into the Nineteenth 
Century is committed. They are to-day 
serving the nation in almost every conceiv- 
able capacity, even in the once despised 
walks of trade and barter. Many of them 
have become wxetchedly poor, but not in 
spirit, for among their number cases of 


degeneracy are extremely rare. Every- 
where they are regarded and reverenced 
as the saving element in society, and put 
forward as leaders of the new era. 

The Empire is now governed and its 
laws administered by its knighthood, and 
whatever exception may be taken to the 
ability and competency of the mediaeval 
warriors to-day transformed into modern 
statesmen, theirs is as clean a government 
as can anywhere be found in the world. 

Nor are they, by any means, as the 
marvelous advance of the nation testifies, 
wholly unskilled in the arts of government 
and diplomacy. All the progress of the 
last forty years, as well as many of the 
steps leading up to it in the declining days 
of the old rigime, have been their work, 
and it is safe to predict that in the future, 
as in the old feudal times, the chief inter- 
est of Japanese history will centre in them. 
While the old nobility have become effete 
and the priesthood without influence ; while 
the trading class, always held in low 
esteem, has never yet recovered from the 
social stigma cast upon it; while the 
farmer under the burden of extreme pov- 


erty remains as he has been for centuries ; 
and while artists and artisans are steadily 
deteriorating in the quality of the distinc- 
tive work for which they have been famed, 
and are catering to the degenerate tastes 
of the West, — the Soul of Japan, as if ani- 
mated and inspired by the new career 
upon which the Empire is entering, seems 
even in greater measure than of old to be 
bringing to bear upon the realm the 
knightly virtues of chivalry for the main- 
tenance of the national welfare. 



T T goes without saying that the cheerful, 
contented, cleanly, and courteous com- 
mon people of Japan, whose superior train- 
ing in many of the virtues usually reckoned 
as exclusively Christian is acknowledged 
by every unprejudiced observer, are not 
what they are because of the introduction 
of Western civilization. They are not the 
creation of a day, nor the product of a 
single revolution, nor the outcome of a 
recent brief experience of the nation's life, 
nor are they, any more than the peoples of 
other lands, the result of their environment 
alone. Their better qualities and virtues, 
which in any case can come only from 
long training, must be attributed mainly to 
the beneficent institutions and wise admin- 
istration of an immemorial civilization. 

It must have been a civilization, too, 
which regarded the welfare and told upon 
the condition of the masses to a greater 


extent than has been the case with the 
leading civilizations of the Western world. 
These have been mainly civilizations in 
the benefits of which the common people 
have not largely shared. Under them 
there have been wealth and learning among 
the classes while the masses have remained 
poor and ignorant. There have been 
honor, courtesy, and devotion conspicu- 
ously developed among a favored few, 
while the many have been left to live as 
the beasts that perish. But the study of 
the social institutions of Old Japan yields 
this unique result, that there, from a very 
early period, prevailed conditions which 
fostered as nearly an ideal democracy as 
in ancient days was possible. 

The fact that in the seclusion of the Is- 
land Realm the Japanese built up unaided 
a social state in which the relative benefit 
to the common people was as great as it 
was to the favored classes, or, in a word, in 
which there were, in a certain sense, no 
favored classes, not only makes their civ- 
ilization unique but places it high in the 
scale of comparative value among the 
civilizations of the world. A nation 


which, side by side with the cultivation in 
a preeminent degree of the chivalric vir- 
tues in its higher ranks of society, fostered 
in its lower classes so many of the quali- 
ties which make for the people's hap 
piness, content, and self-respect, may, 
therefore, well become an interesting study 
for the sociologist. 

Fortunately, the materials for such study 
have of late become available and furhish 
a fairly adequate picture of the practical 
democracy which existed in Japan under 
feudal rule. 

When, in the beginning of the seven- 
teenth century, the policy of seclusion was 
decided upon, the Government was, of 
course, confronted with the problem of 
supplying a large and rapidly multiplying 
population on a comparatively small group 
of islands, with only about one-twelfth 
of its area available for cultivation, with 
the almost complete prohibition of ex- 
change of products with other lands, and 
with severest penalties in force for every 
attempt at emigration. This problem, it 
may well be imagined, must have grown 
more serious every year, especially in view 


of the profound peace which prevailed for 
two and a half centuries, thus completely 
doing away with the check to over-popula- 
tion furnished by the war-waste. 

It is in the exigencies arising from this 
problem that may be found the secret of 
the establishment of the peculiar democ- 
racy of Japan, and the explanation of 
many of its idyllic features. 

The leading and most natural result 
of the situation was the exaltation of the 
farmer class. The cultivation of the soil 
was raised to the dignity of a profession, 
nay, even of a fine art, especially in the 
provinces imder the direct control of the 
Shogunate. Everj- effort was made by 
Government not only to improve the con- 
dition but also to cultivate the self-re- 
spect of the agricultural classes. The 
farmer was made to rank next to the 
samurai in the social scale, and his in- 
dividuality and independence were assid- 
uously cherished.* 

* The spirit of all administradon of land revenues 
was to give the fanner the benefit of all doubts and not to 
insist on technicalities. His prosperity should excite the 
satisfaction rather than the cupidity of his lord. The 
fyaAMsk(r-tstthtre or "fanner destroyer'' was a rdU utterly 


As if to emphasize his importance, the 
merchant, the mere trader, was put below 
him in rank, and no farmer was even 
allowed to become a merchant without 
the consent of the Government, the idea 
being that this was a lowering of his posi- 
tion and that the dignity of the cultiva- 
tor of the soil should be preserved. The 
result of this policy of the exaltation of 
agricultural labor, was the creation of a 
real and in many respects an ideal de- 
mocracy under the guidance of perhaps 
the most aristocratic government that 
the world has ever seen. 

The fostering of the spirit of independ- 
ence and self-respect among the farming 
population led to the formation of village 
communities as highly organized and as 
independent and democratic in the con- 
duct of their municipal affairs as those 
of New England. The iron hand of the 
central Government was indeed every- 

opposed to the economic policy of the founder of the 
dynasty and his successors. Taxation might be pushed to 
the utmost ability to pay, but it was never permitted to 
go beyond this, or to force an industrious farmer into 
bankruptcy or to borrowing on a mortgage. — Transac- 
tions Asiatic Soc of Japan, Vol. xix.— i p. 57. 


where seen but hardly ever felt. "The 
laws," says Dr. Simmons, "under which 
the people lived came out and up from 
them instead of down and upon them. 
They were mainly local customs matured 
by centuries of growth and experience, 
the general principle of their enactment 
being that any custom of the niral dis- 
tricts which had existed for fifty years, or 
more, should be respected and recognized 
as law." * 

Here was a basis for the consciousness 
on the part of the farmers of being self- 
governed under laws which they them- 
selves had made. The stimulus thus 
given to the democratic spirit can hardly 
be overestimated, but the results testify in 
a large degree to its force. Instead of the 
rural population living in ignorance of 
the laws and hence of individual rights, 

* There was a Kioto saying, Tenka-hatto, tnikka-hatto 
— government - made laws are but three - day laws. All 
laws, that is, and all offirials, are constantly changing, 
are not fixed on solid ground. The government of the 
people by themseU-es — rmtra-ho, village rule, cho ho, 
town rule, ka ho, family rule, these are the true sources 
of order, of the permanent and deep-seated modes of 
action which constitute the government. — Transactions 
Asiatic Soc. of Japan, Vol. xix. — i p. 50. 


there was probably no country in the 
world, says the writer just quoted, "where 
the mass of the people down to the small- 
est farmer in the possession of a few 
square yards of land were more familiar 
with their rights and duties than in 

How thoroughly the esteem in which 
the farmer's occupation was held con- 
tributed to his self-respect, and embold- 
ened him in the assertion of his rights, 
and how careful also of those rights 
was the central Government, is shown by 
the fact that a decided and firm appeal 
against injustice, though it often cost 
him who made it his head, was nearly 
always successful. The story of the 
Ghost of Sakura, told by Mitford, a tale 
almost as much of a favorite with the 
Japanese as that of the Forty-seven 
Ronins, is as illustrative of the chivalry of 
the farmers as the latter is of the devo- 
tion of the samurai. S6gor6, a village 
chief, knowing well the consequences to 
himself, journeys to the capital, intercepts 
the litter of the Shogun, and presents his 
petition for the redress of grievances un- 


der which the villagers have long suffered. 
The petition is heeded and the wrongs 
are righted. But with all his family the 
brave man suffers death for his breach 
of the conventions. The fact of his rank- 
ing next to the samurai had evidently 
imbued him, as it doubtless also had im- 
bued multitudes of his class, with the 
samurai spirit of absolute devotion and 

A like degree of loyal affection toward 
the central Government seems also to 
have been stimulated among the rural 
population by the consideration shown 
them by their ruler, and his fostering 
care for their interests. 

This care was repaid by the positive 
pride and delight which the farmers took 
in the paying their taxes, a fact for which 
there is no parallel to be found in any 
other communities in the world. "Taxa- 

• In early times the division of kyakusho (fannets) 
and samurai was unknown ; all were farmers. Daring 
the wars the strong farmers went to fight and the weaker 
ones remained to till the land. Between 132 1 and 1334 
when the greatest internal confusion existed, the sepa- 
ration between the farmer class and the samurai class 
occurred. Jikata Hanrei-roku, Vol. 4, quoted in Trans- 
actions Asiatic Soc of Japan, Vol. xix. — i p. 79. 


tion, as understood or felt by people of 
most countries, is a burden imposed, a 
kind of robbery of the hard-earned means 
of the people. But it was, as a rule, quite 
differently regarded by the people of 
Japan. The payment of taxes did not 
seem to be considered by the peasantry 
as a burden, but as a loyal duty in 
which they took more or less pride. It 
was an offering, as the word mitsugi- 
mono signifies. The time of the annual 
payment of the rice at the collectors' 
storehouses, where each farmer's rice 
was submitted to inspection, instead of 
being an occasion of sorrow and irrita- 
tion, was more like a fair where each 
vied with the other in presenting for 
official inspection the best return of rice. 
It was always a source of mortification 
for any one when his rice was rejected or 
declared improperly cleaned for market. 
Prizes were awarded for the best quality 
and yield, which stimulated the farmers 
in its production. The tax-rice was re- 
garded as a precious thing not to be 
defiled. A story illustrating this is told 
of the third Shogun, who became for a 


time the real ruler of Japan. Stopping 
one day at a farmer's house, he inadver- 
tently sat down upon some bags of rice 
which had been carefully prepared for 
transportation to the collectors' store- 
house. The farmer immediately in an 
angry tone ordered the Shogim (whom 
he did not know) to get off, saying that 
was the lord's rice and was not to be 
defiled or treated in a disrespectful man- 
ner. The story goes on to state that the 
great chief, in admiration of this spirit 
of the poor farmer in his loyalty to his 
lord, rewarded him by calling him to a 
place in his service. An old friend, the 
son of a former provincial governor, has 
given me his recollections of the annual 
collection of the tax-rice, when he used 
to go with his father to see the delivery 
at the Government depot. The farmers 
seemed to vie with each other in the neat- 
ness of the straw package and in the 
quality and cleanliness of the grain."* 

The seemingly cordial, not to say affec- 
tionate relations thus existing between the 
Government and the people of Old Japan 

• Transactions Asiatic Soc. of Japan, Vol. xix. — i p. 57. 


may indeed have been grounded in purest 
selfishness, the rulers realizing the necessity 
of showing the utmost consideration for the 
welfare of those to whom alone they could 
look for their revenues, and the farmers in 
return regarding the Government with a 
kind of religious awe as the ark of their 
salvation ; but whatever the motive, the 
result was a distinct gain for some of the 
highest virtues of civilization, and the 
picture presented reveals the peasantry of 
Mediaeval Japan in a condition as much 
superior to that which existed among the 
masses in Mediaeval Europe as it is possible 
for the imagination to conceive. Its force 
as a civilizing factor can hardly be over- 
rated. Institutions and policies fostering 
cheerfulness, content, self-respect, and in- 
dustry, joined with an earnest and self- 
sacrificing loyalty, are at least as likely to 
produce an outcome worthy of the name of 
civilization as the system of plunder, rapine, 
and oppression which, in the main, marked 
the relations between the feudal lords of 
Europe and their helpless vassals. Be 
this as it may, the life of the Japanese 
people under feudalism forms a unique 


chapter for the study of the sociologist, 
leading to conclusions of most absorbing 

Our New England communities, for ex- 
ample, in their institution of town meetings, 
the germ of American democracy, are 
justly given credit for having solved the 
problem of local self-government, out of 
which have come, in large measure, the 
better features of American civilization. 
Yet New England not only had the advan- 
tage of establishing her institutions in a 
new and free country, but also she could 
profit by all the experience of the Old 
World of Europe. To Japan, under per- 
haps the most despotic and aristocratic 
government of the intensely conservative 
Orient, belongs the credit of having, in 
strict seclusion from the rest of mankind, 
worked out the same problem in the self- 
same way. 

In the management of their local affairs 
the village communities possessed an al- 
most complete autonomy. Local taxation, 
for example, was wholly under their own 
control. The order of procedure plainly 
5how§ this. " An estimate of the necessary 


local expenses was made out by the 
naniishi (mayor), kutni-gashira (heads of 
companies), and toshi-yori (patriarchs). At 
its head the following principles were 
rehearsed : 

"I, Unreasonable things which the 
officers wish to do without the consent of 
the farmers are not to be done. 

"2. Nothing proposed by the nanushi 
for selfish purposes can be done without 
the consent of the farmers. 

" 3. There must be economy in the use 
of money for village purposes. 

" 4. This paper, if agreed to by all, is to 
be final, and the money appropriated is to 
be paid. 

" The farmers were then called together, 
the estimate laid before them, and each 
item considered. When all the farmers 
had signed and sealed, the estimate became 
valid. It was then taken to the daikwan, 
and sealed in approval by him. The 
daikwan (Representative of the central 
Government) had no power to increase the 
estimate, or to forbid its being adopted. 
He could only examine and advise. His 
duty was to see that the nanushi did not 


'squeeze' or oppress the people. If the 
farmers had doubts about the proper use 
of the money, they could demand and 
have an official examination." * 

The very basis of organization in these 
village communities is also indicative of 
the thoroughness of the democratic spirit 
which permeated their life, even to the oc- 
casional levelling of all social distinctions. 

"Every five families were united in a 
kumi, or company. The sole principle of 
division was contiguity of residence. Thus 
it might happen that a rich fanner with 
extensive possessions was grouped with his 
poorest tenant. A wealthy merchant would 
be found with a blacksmith or a cooper, 
the nanushi (mayor) with the most humble 
mechanic or tradesman." 

Here may perhaps be found the germ of 
that social democracy, which, in view of 
the intensely aristocratic organization of 
society, the inordinate class pride pervad- 
ing all ranks, and the rigid observance of 
etiquette enforced upon every man, woman, 
and child in the Empire, forms one of the 
most contradictory- features of its social 

•Transactions Asiatic Soc. of Japan, Vol. Hx — i p. iii 


intercourse. Nowhere else has there 
existed such an unapproachable aristoc- 
racy, and at the same time nowhere else 
could be found, under the common condi- 
tions of social life, such complete oblitera- 
tion of social distinctions, or such a spirit 
of apparent good-fellowship between man 
and man pervading all ranks and classes. 
I have myself seen in his home a Japanese 
noble with his retainers, under conditions 
where the observance of conventions was 
required, and the gulf between them 
seemed impassable. I have seen them also 
at times when no special etiquette was 
demanded, and then nothing could exceed 
the genuineness of the spirit of camara- 
derie pervading their intercourse. On the 
evening of New Year's day, the common 
birthday of all Japanese, it was the custom, 
I was told by the wife of the Master of 
Ceremonies of the Imperial Household, for 
her husband to invite to their house every 
servant, even to the humblest in their em- 
ploy. In that festive gathering the spirit of 
fun dominated everything, and all the fam- 
ily, including the Imperial Master of Cere- 
monies himself, joined in the sports, paying 


even the forfeits which involved the smear- 
ing of the face with the black marks of de- 
feat. Another charming custom was for 
the heads of the family, on occasion of the 
individual birthday of either, to issue in- 
vitations to one representative of each 
family of servants to accompany their 
master and mistress to the theatre. 

How far this feeling of good-fellowship 
and the obliteration, on occasion, of all 
distinctions of rank, antedated the kumi 
system,* whether it arose from the long 
isolation of the Japanese people and their 
consequent dependence upon each other 
for amusement and cheer, or whether it 

•"The system, except in remote districts, has already 
gone into deca>% a result, of course, of the wide-reaching 
changes which have followed what is known as the ' Res- 
toration.' What is most surprising, is that thousands of 
the rising generation ha\-e never even heard of the^<7»t<»- 
gvmi (five-family group), and not one in a hundred of 
the educated classes has any idea of its past scope and 
importance. Yet it is beyond doubt that the social impor- 
tance of the system was immense. Characterired by a 
method of grouping, whose tendency was to level all 
social distinctions of rank, wealth, or person, the influence 
of the kumi in moulding and determining the form of 
society was marvelous, and has no parallel in the history 
of any country with which I am acquainted." Dr. Sim- 
mons's Notes, Transactions Asiatic Soc, VoL xix,— i 


was at times simply the necessary and 
inevitable reaction from the unbearable 
burden of etiquette imposed upon ordinary 
intercourse, it is, of course, impossible to 
say. But it is quite reasonable to believe 
that the early grouping of families, without 
regard to social rank or standing, which 
constituted the unit of the village com- 
munities, was a powerful stimulant of that 
democratic spirit which has made the Jap- 
anese the best-humored as well as the best- 
mannered people of the world. 

Another prominent characteristic of Jap- 
anese society, attracting the attention of 
every foreign observer and closely allied 
to the development of the true democratic 
spirit among them, may be even more 
directly and surely traced to the early es- 
tablishment of this peculiar unit of social 
life in the rural communities. It became 
the source of the feeling of mutual respon- 
sibility and of the kindly disposition 
toward mutual helpfulness, still alive in 
any given neighborhood. Other democ- 
racies have been characterized mainly by 
a disposition to assert rights. In Japan 
its fundamental principle seems to have 


been the assumption of duties and resp>on- 

Each kumi^ or group of five households, 
chose one of their number for head man, 
through whom all the general business of 
the group was transacted, and without 
whose seal no such business could be 
valid. In some regards also the private 
affairs of each member came imder the 
supervision of the kiimi as a body. " In 
this way the more shiftless were prevented 
from incurring liabilities which might 
otherwise be troublesome to the group. 
For as a rule the kHt?ii as a body was 
responsible for the defaults of its members 
and even of their wives, children, and ser- 
vants. The carelessness or evil-doing of 
a single member meant full responsibility 
on the part of the other four also." This 
was an arrangement which might easily 
have its disadvantages, but it would be 
impossible to estimate the access of dig- 
nity and kindliness which it must have 
imparted to each member of the group. 
Every man felt himself not only a citizen, 
but a responsible official, to whose fidelity 
the welfare of others was entrusted. And 


out of the sense of mutual responsibilitj 
must have grown by an inevitable neces- 
sity the impulse to mutual service which 
has given to the land that atmosphere 
of human kindliness in which foreigners, 
escaping from the fierce competitions of 
the Western world, find it so pleasant to 

Though, indeed, limited at the outset to 
the five families of a single group, the 
feeling of responsibility, and the resultant 
desire to be of service, could by no possi- 
bility be long held within those limits, for 
there was not one in the whole community 
who did not have a share in the system, 
and who was not, therefore, subject to its 
exalting and kindly influences. Neigh- 
borhoods could not by any possibility 
escape its contagion, and out of it has 
come the custom of neighborhood aid 

* The author of the Vatnato ffamei, commenting on 
the^o«/«-^e'«w/ system, as carried out in the territory of 
Yagya Tajima no Kami says : " The f^onin-g-umi s>'stem, 
as administered here, was admirably perfect. A kumi 
was indeed like a family ; its members felt a similar inter> 
est in each other, and the pains and pleasures of each 
were shared by the others in a wonderful degree. The 
welfare of each kumi was felt to have an important influ- 
ence on the political importance ol the fief." 


which in Japan so largely takes the place 
of our insurance companies, savings-banks, 
hospitals, children's homes, and other busi- 
ness and charitable organizations. Drive 
through the streets of Tokyo on some 
occasion calling for a general illumination, 
and, if you are observant, you will notice 
that all the lanterns in a g^ven locality are 
the same in design. As you pass a certain 
point, the design suddenly changes, and 
so again and again as other sections of 
the city are reached and passed. These 
points of change in the lanterns are inter- 
esting as marking the limits of the various 
ancient villages of which Tokyo is now a 
vast aggregation. In many regards, the 
features of the social organization of these 
villages and neighborhoods are even now 
distinct, and as communities they have 
never been merged in the metropolitan 
whole. They still retain, for example, 
their respective old-time matsuris, or vil- 
lage festivals, each ha\nng its own date of 
celebration, so that there is scarcely a 
week in the whole year when one or more 
of such festivals is not in progress in some 
part of the city. In numberless other 


ways each of these communities evinces a 
local and distinct consciousness, this con- 
sciousness being specially marked in the 
strong feeling of neighborliness which pre- 
vails, and by the numerous ways in which 
the principle of mutual service is observed. 
As is seldom the case in the great cities 
of the West, the people in those of Japan 
know their neighbors and take as lively an 
interest in each other's affairs as though 
they dwelt in small and isolated communi- 
ties. Such interest in others' concerns 
might easily be ascribed to a measurably 
common human propensity to which the 
Japanese, as a race, are excessively prone, 
they being, perhaps, the most gossipy 
people anywhere to be found ; but the sys- 
tem of mutual service or neighborhood 
aid, so universal throughout the Empire as 
to hold its ground even in large cities, 
must be a more or less direct sur\'ival of 
that genuine fellowship which prevailed in 
the feudal village communities, and of 
which the kumi, or grouping of families, 
was the germ. In the rural districts it 
to-day often finds as full expression as of 
old. Visiting one day a tiny village famed 


for its manufacture of the beautiful 
cloisonne ware, I found the chief workshop 
of the place well-nigh deserted, with num- 
berless pieces of the ware in different 
stages of the multiform process of manufac- 
ture. Asking the cause for the stoppage 
of work, I was told that the season for rice- 
planting having been unusually late that 
year, all hands had turned out to help 
their neighbors in the emergency. Now, 
to any one knowing the difference between 
the two occupations, the simple contrast 
between the deftness, the delicacy of 
touch, and the refined taste required for 
the production of the exquisite ware, and 
the inexpressibly filthy, coarse, degrading 
character of the processes of rice cultiva- 
tion, would be amply sufficient to prove 
the strength of the bond of neighborliness 
in that community. 

In the old mura (village) every evil con- 
tingency or calamity' found in this bond its 
remedy or alle\'iation. Every neighbor- 
hood became its own insurance company 
and charitable organization. In case of 
loss by fire, — unless, as still happens not 
infrequently, the whole neighborhood was 


destroyed, — a contingency which to-day 
makes our system of fire insurance impos- 
sible in Japan, — the neighbors joined in 
reestablishing the home and replenishing 
the stock of the unfortunate one, the 
extreme simplicity of living rendering this 
a comparatively easy matter. 

Provision was made not only for all 
possible happenings of this kind, but also 
for an equitable apportionment of the 
expense which such happenings might 

The discoverer of a foundling was with 
his kumi made responsible for providing 
the child with a home in some family, the 
cost being assessed as follows : 

Frcftn the finder's house owner, three- 
tenths in money. 

From his five-men company, two-tenths 
in money or labor. 

From the other wards -men (liouse 
owners), five-tenths in money or labor. 

The same parties were assessable in the 
same proportion for the cost of burial 
where a stranger was found dead. 

Where a man was involved in litigation 
in another jurisdiction, and was too poor 


to pay his travelling expenses, a like shar- 
ing even of this item was provided for. 

The occasions for assessment imder this 
last head, however, must have been com- 
paratively infrequent, as it required extraor- 
dinary nerve to run counter to the public 
sentiment in a Japanese community, so far 
as to carry a dispute into court. An intense 
repugnance to litigation, where it could by 
any possibility be avoided, is a marked 
characteristic of the Japanese disposition. 
This repugnance grows from the same root 
as does Japanese politeness, namely, the 
innate desire to smooth over the sharp 
points of life, and to make existence agree- 
able and tranquil. It is not surprising, 
therefore, to find that the early village 
communities constituted themselves courts 
of arbitration as well as insurance com- 
panies and charitable organizations. The 
procedure of these courts was also charm- 
ingly characteristic and suggestive of the 
Japanese philosophy of life. As described 
by Dr. Simmons, " In case of a disagree- 
ment between members of a kumi, the five 
heads of families met and endeavored to 
settle the matter. All minor difficulties 


usually were ended in this way. A time 
was appointed for the meeting ; food and 
wine were set out, and there was moderate 
eating and drinking, just as at a dinner- 
party. This, they thought, tended to pro- 
mote good feeling and to make a settlement 
easier; for everybody knows, they said, 
that a friendly spirit is more likely to exist 
under such circumstances. Even family 
difficulties were sometimes settled in this 
way. If a settlement failed to be brought 
about, or a man repeated his offence 
frequently, he might be complained of to 
the next in authority, the kumi-gashira ; or 
else the neighbors might take matters into 
their own hands and break off intercourse 
with him, refusing to recognize him so- 
cially. This usually brought him to terms. 
An appeal to the higher authorities was as 
a rule the practice in the larger towns and 
cities only, where the family unity was 
somewhat weakened, and not in the villages, 
where there was a great dislike to seeking 
outside coercion, and where few private 
disagreements went beyond the family or 
kumi. A case which could not be settled 
in this way was regarded as a disreputable 


one, or as indicating that the person 
seeking the courts wished to get some 
advantage by tricks or by dishonesty. In 
arranging for a marriage-partner for son 
or daughter, such families as were in ^he 
habit of using this means of redress were 
studiously avoided. It was a well-known 
fact that in those districts where the people 
were fond of resorting to the courts, they 
were generally poor in consequence. The 
time spent and the money lost reduced the 
community to poverty." 

This strong insistence upon arbitration 
in the early communities may indeed have 
been as much a matter of necessity as an 
outcome of the kindly disposition of the 
Japanese, for then, in an even greater 
degree than now, poverty of the most 
pinching kind was everywhere the condi- 
tion of the rural districts, and then, as now, 
litigation was recognized as a most ex- 
pensive luxury. But to assign this most 
praiseworthy institution of neighborhood 
adjustment to a merely prudential motive, 
scarcely lessens to any appreciable extent 
the volume of evidence testifying to the 
genuine communal sympathy which pre- 


vailed. To summarize the examples ad- 
duced by Dr. Simmons: In a case of ill- 
ness where the help of the sufferer's imme- 
diate family was not available or sufficient, 
the members of his kunti became the next 
resource, they rendering him all possible 
assistance, and, where necessary, taking 
their turns in the cultivation of his land. 
That task becoming too long-continued or 
proving too severe for them, the entire 
village was notified through the mayor, 
and all lent a hand. In the building or 
the making of extensive repairs of a 
farmer's house everybody helped, the 
farmer paying only the regular carpenters, 
and merely providing food for the rest. If 
he was very poor, the whole cost of the 
house was defrayed from the emergency 
fund of the village. If a poor man's house 
was destroyed, shelter was furnished in 
one of the temples, and if a whole village 
burned, the neighboring villages turned out 
and helped, the lord and the large land- 
owners supplying wood gratis. 

Nor did this kindly disposition toward 
the poor seem to be confined to the rural 
districts. It infected, and, to a great degree, 


it Still infects the entire nation. In the 
modern code of customs, as in that of 
ancient law, society in Japan even to-day 
appears to be fashioned upon a principle 
directly the reverse of that which prevails 
in the West Here it is the common plaint 
that the poor live for the sake of the rich. 
Such a plaint could by no possibihty be 
made there. If prevailing customs are an 
index of former conditions, it would appear 
that in the Island Empire the rich have 
always lived, and are still to a great extent 
living, for the sake of the poor. 

In the West poverty entails upon its 
victims the necessity of paj-ing the highest 
prices for food and fuel. Coal bought by 
the basket makes the price per ton exces- 
sive. In Japan the buying in small quan- 
tities is to a certain extent regarded as 
evidence of a lack of means, and, there- 
fore, the purchaser is entitled to the utmost 
consideration and the largest possible dis- 
count. Asking the price of a certain 
article, a figure was named to me. " How 
much by the dozen?" I then inquired; 
instantly the price was greatly advanced. 
My question was plain evidence of superior 


ability to pay, and the tax was therefore 
levied. It was no extortion. In Japanese 
eyes, their system is simply an equitable 
mode of taxation. The rich pay the high 
prices that goods may be offered to the 
poor at the lowest possible rates. At a 
tea house (tavern), for example, the usual 
rates for entertainment are so low that the 
poorest may avail themselves of such 
entertainment. These rates are the same 
nominally to all, rich and poor, but if the 
wealthy guest at parting does not leave in 
addition to his reckoning an amount of 
chadai (tea money) in proportion to his 
presumed or known ability to pay, his 
standing in the estimation of his country- 
men is perceptibly lowered, it being these 
gifts which make it possible for the poor 
to be cheaply housed and fed. Go on foot 
to a shop and you are charged one price ; 
approach it in a jinrikisha, and you will 
have to pay more for your purchase ; drive 
up in a carriage, and rates for all articles 
are correspondingly advanced. Foreigners 
are often incensed at these variations of 
price, and call the custom hard names. 
They complain of being overcharged be- 


cause they are foreigners. It is not because 
they are foreigners, but because all for- 
eigners, especially Americans, are looked 
upon as mines of wealth, and, therefore, 
become lawful subjects for taxation for the 
benefit of the poor, according to the ancient 
equities of the Japanese people. 

That such a sentiment or custom is 
indeed but the reflex of the feudal social 
state, may be seen by a glimpse at the laws 
of that time in their bearing upon the in- 
terests of the poor. Dr. Simmons lays 
much stress, for example, upon the exceed- 
ingly small holdings of land, as indicating 
a recognized principle that the possession 
of property was the inherent right of the 
many, not of the few. The land laws 
themselves would seem to support this 
view. They not only discouraged the 
ownership of large tracts, especially by 
non-residents, but they made it next to im- 
possible for the small owners to dispose of 
their holdings. The poor were thus care- 
fully guarded against the fate of becoming 
dependent on great landed proprietors. 
The severest penalties were attached to 
the violation of the law which thus aimed 


directly against the extremes of wealth and 
poverty. If a farm was sold " the offender 
was imprisoned or banished. The buyer 
was fined and his land confiscated, and in 
case of his death his son suffered instead. 
If there had been a witness of the sale, he 
was fined. The nanushi (mayor) of the 
village was ordered to resign his office."* 
In the relations of employer and em- 
ployed, or of house owner and tenant, the 
interests of the latter were always made 
paramount, even to the extent of doing 
seeming injustice to the former. In case, 
for example, of a partial failure of the 
crop, leaving only enough for the support 
of the laborer, the latter could claim the 
whole, and leave his employer nothing for 
his share. Even the surplus which a land- 
owner had saved in a year of plenty, must 
be loaned in a year of distress to the tillers 
of the land, to be made up when luck 
turned again. Also, in hard times, provi- 
sion must be made for rebate of rental. 
As for evictions, they were almost unknown. 
Brave, indeed, the house owner who dared, 
in the face of the opprobrium which would 

•Transactions Asiatic Soc. of Jap.Tn, Vol, xix.— i p. J7. 


be visited upon him, to claim his legal 
right to eject a tenant, the universal pre- 
sumption being that there were none of the 
latter class who would refuse to pay rent, 
except by reason of absolute inability. 
This presumption obtains to this day to 
such an extent that even in Tokyo, modern 
and Western as it has become, public 
opinion is still greatly effective against any 
resort to eviction. The spirit which ani- 
mated all these laws, written and unwritten, 
is furthermore exemplified by the fact that 
their executors "were instructed directly, 
or given to understand, that the principle 
on which their judgment was to be based, 
in any conflict of the rich and the poor, 
was to give the latter the full benefit of the 
doubt." * 

It was in such ways as these, namely, 
the exaltation of the fanner class; the 
raising of agricultural labor and life to the 
dignity of a profession; the fostering of 
the feeling of self-respect in the cultivators 
of the soil by the grant of a system of 
local self-government ; the encouragement 
of ^a genuinely democratic spirit in the 

*Ttaiisactions Asiatic Soc. of Japan, Vol. hx — i p. 75. 


rural communities ; and, above all, a sedu- 
lous care for the protection of the interests 
of the poor, that the central government 
succeeded, so far as its own revenues and 
the support of the masses were concerned, 
in solving the tremendous problems which 
confronted it, when it shut an empire out 
from the world. But all these means would 
have been of but slight avail in the 
premises, were not the nation also trained 
by its rulers in the exercise of the strictest 
economies. To this end, therefore, the 
government, as if recognizing it to be of 
the highest importance, devoted a large 
share of its energy. 

The result was what may be considered 
the most extraordinary system of paternal- 
ism that any land has known, and this 
feature of the public policy, combined with 
the principle of local self-government, 
everywhere permitted and encouraged, 
furnishes, perhaps, the most remarkable 
of those direct contradictions with which 
Japanese life abounds. 

In a democracy in many regards well- 
nigh idyllic, there ruled a despotism which 
made itself felt in every corner of every 


home. Independent in the conduct and 
administration of their municipal affairs, 
in their domestic concerns the villagers 
were practically deprived of their freedom. 
With the general laws of the Empire they 
had little or nothing to do, save to meet 
their annual taxes. But the sumptuarj- 
laws imposed upon them regulated almost 
every item of household and even of per- 
sonal economy. Every farmer was re- 
stricted in his expenditures by prescribed 
rules. So minute were these rules, that 
any but a literal transcription would fail 
to give an idea of the scope and extent 
of the paternal supervision of the homes of 
the Japanese people by the Government 
in the interests of economy. 

The following are examples, first, of 
the rules appljing to the bungen (station 
in life) of a farmer of sevent}--five to one 
hundred koku (I375 to $500), and sec- 
ond, to that of a common farm-laborer : 

I. For a Farmer of loo Koku. 

I. Such a fanner may build a house 
whose length is ten ken (about sixty feet), 
but there must be no parlor {zashiki), and 


should not carry valuable presents. When 
he is visiting a sick friend, he may take 
an)i;hing which happens to be at hand. 

8. When there is death (fukoj, and 
people come to the house on visits of con- 
dolence, no wine should be offered. 

9. At a funeral {butsuji) wine should 
not be offered to the persons who follow 
to the grave. 

10. On such occasions, the viands 
should be of five kinds only; but there 
should be no wine. If wine is offered, 
it should be given in soup-cups, not in 
wine-cups, nor should tori-zakana (a dish 
served only with wine) be prepared. 

11. On the occasion of the birth of 
a first child {Uizan), the presents from 
the grandparents should be as follows 

A cotton garment 
One set (four boxes) oijU. 
One taru. 

From the other relations only small 
money-presents, if any, should be sent. 

12. When the child is taken to the 
mura (village) temple (the occasion called 


miya-tnairi), ju may be ofEered to the 
grandparents, but not to others. 

13. At the time of hatsu-bina (girls' fes- 
tival), and hatsu-nobori (boys' festival), 
grandparents and other relations should 
not present hina and nobori (dolls and 
flags), the whole family should present a 
single katni-nobori (paper flag) and two 
yari (spears), and relatives may also make 
small money-presents. 

2. For the Bungen of a Farm-laborer. 

1. The house may be five and a half 
ken (about thirty-two feet) in length, and 
the roof should be of straw or bamboo 

2. The presents at a wedding may be : 
One tsu zura (a vine used in basket 


Nagamochi (chests) are forbidden. 

3. At entertainments, one hira (dish) 
and one soup may be offered, but not in 

4. The collar and sleeve ends of the 
clothes may be ornamented with silk, and 
an obi (belt) of silk or silk crepe may be 
worn, but not in public. 


5. Hair ornaments should consist of 
norihiki and motoi, and nothing more. 

6. Footwear should be «ar<3:5(?r/ (sandals 
made at Nara) not setta (sandals of iron 
and leather). Women are to wear bamboo- 
thonged sandals ordinarily, but at occasions 
of ceremony sandals with cotton thongs; 
men should wear only bamboo-thonged 
sandals on all occasions, 

7. At the time of l/izan (birth of first 
child) the grandparents may send two jii 
(set of confectionery boxes), and money 
for rice and fish; other relations should 
send only money for fish. 

8. At the time of hatsu - nobort, the 
grandparents may present a yari (spear), 
and at the time of hatsu-bina a kami-bina 
(paper doll), or tsuchi-ningyo (earthen doll). 

Accompanying these specific regulations, 
made with careful reference to each man's 
station in life, there were also general rules 
to meet unspecified contingencies. For 
example, only in case of absolute necessity 
could an umbrella be used by the ordinary 
laborer. He must usually content himself 
with the protection of a straw rain -coat. 
Another provision related to costly articles 


which a family might happea to have. 
Special permission was necessary to make 
use of them, and no articles of luxury 
were to be used if on hand. 

The minute particularity of these sumi>- 
tuary laws is matched only by the naive 
way in which they are justified, and their 
intent explained by the lawgivers, and 
both the rules and the reasons for them 
are peculiarly illustrative of the delight- 
fully paternal attitude of the Government 
toward the people. Accompanying them 
is a rescript which runs as follows : 

"These nUes are not made to force 
families of one rank to be equally intimate 
with all others of the same rank, or to pre- 
vent a family from occupying a high rank 
merely because it is poor; but because, 
unless some such rules are laid down, 
families are very likely to be unable to live 
upon their means in the station they would 
like to occupy, and thus would come to 
grief. So that these bungen have been 
established, and rules carefully laid down. 
Still, the kami-byakusho (upper farmers) 
must not be arrogant with the shimo-bya- 
kusho (lower farmers), and the lower 


farmers and laborers must not hate or 
dislike the former. Shinto should respect 
kami, and kami should treat shimo kindly. 
This is the natural law, established by 
Heaven, and it should be obeyed, not 
struggled against. The community will 
then be orderly and peaceful. . . . These 
rules are established in order that people 
may be frugal and economical." 

Thus it was that the dynasty, which 
close sealed the Empire, faced and solved 
the tremendous problem which that seclu- 
sion involved. 

The problem, as already stated, was 

this : 

A population of twenty millions at the 
start, that number nearly doubling before 
the country was again thrown open, was to 
be subsisted solely upon the resources 
which the Empire itself could supply, with 
only one-twelfth of its area susceptible of 
cultivation. At the same time, in the face 
of the tendencies to the contrary which 
isolation is ordinarily sure to develop, the 
people were to preserve their self-respect 
and live in peace, happiness, and content 
with each other. 


That the policies adopted to secure 
these seemingly impossible ends were suc- 
cessful, the condition of the people at the 
present time, when, after the centuries of 
seclusion, the barriers have been broken 
down and the feudal system abolished, is 
ample proof. These people are, indeed, 
wretchedly poor, but their occupation 
being held in high esteem, their access of 
pride is to them and to the nation more 
than compensation for their poverty ; while 
the wonderful development of agriculture 
under the stimulus of that pride has made 
the arable twelfth of the Empire more than 
sufficient to support its teeming millions. 
And again, the pinching and searching 
economies enforced upon the masses, hav- 
ing become not only the law, but the fash- 
ion, even in the higher ranks of society, 
have resulted in that simplicity' of living, 
and consequent freedom from superfluous 
cares, which have practically made the 
Japanese, in the best sense of the word, 
the most independent people of the world. 



T N view of the fact that a majority of 
the people of the Western Republic 
are now seriously contemplating the policy 
of national seclusion, one of its two great 
political parties, from the point of view of 
the tariff, advocating industrial isolation, 
and the other, from the point of view of 
the currency, demanding in the name of 
patriotism a practical sundering of mone- 
tary relations with the rest of the world, 
some of the details of Japan's commercial 
methods and experience, after she so thor- 
oughly and persistently carried out this 
purpose, ought to prove an interesting sub- 
ject of study. 

It is not that the interest lies in the 
possibility of the expeiiment being repeated 
at this late day. The world of trade is 
now too finely organized a nervous system 
for that, and even the mere suggestion of 
an attempt to repeat it entails quick dis- 


organization and disaster. But the fact 
that it was once done, and that it was so 
successful as to last two and a half cen- 
turies; the fact that a great empire, taking 
advantage of its natural isolation, deliber- 
ately adopted the policy of intensifjnng 
that isolation; that it became an empire 
without foreign commerce, and yet in many 
ways highly prosperous ; that it worked out 
in profoimd peace its own commercial 
problems, unvexed by foreign complica- 
tions or foreign competitions, must arouse 
a measurable degree of curiosity as to the 
ways in which those problems were solved. 
Such curiosity is just now heightened also 
by Japan's recent and surprising advent in 
the fields of Occidental commerce, and 
by her evincing there such a spirit of en- 
terprise, such an aptitude for trade, and 
such an intimate knowledge of the world's 
modem ways of doing business, as to 
make her a most formidable competitor 
of the leading commercial powers. It is 
the marvelous swiftness of her recent 
development along these lines, which, apart 
from the numerous other surprises which 
she has given the world, is now being 


noted as the most astounding feature of 
her extraordinary modern career. 

It is for this reason that a glimpse at her 
commercial methods and activities during 
her period of seclusion may not only prove 
to be of interest, but, possibly, also furnish 
some explanation of this otherwise inexpli- 
cable development. 

The first consideration to be kept in 
mind in making such a survey is that 
Japan was and is an empire, and not a 
mere petty group of islands. Covering an 
area of about the extent of the entire range 
of the Atlantic States of the Union, and 
having over these the advantage of more 
than twice as long a coast line, and many 
times the number of good harbors, Japan, 
when it sealed those harbors to foreign 
trade, and shut out the commerce of the 
nations, shut in also a vast commerce of its 
own. It shut in great industries which stim- 
ulated inventive skill and ingenuity, and it 
shut in an army of merchants and traders, 
who, forced to make the utmost of compar- 
atively restricted fields of industr}' and 
trade, developed under their limitations 
that aptitude for commercial life at which 


the nations now are marveling. For this 
aptitude, like many another which the 
Japanese are exhibiting, is no sudden 
acquisition, nor is it a result merely of the 
industrial and political revolution through 
which they have recently passed. It is the 
outcome of a long and careful training in 
the business habits and methods of their 
own isolated commercial world ; a world 
which, though restricted, was for the time 
amply large enough to put business ca- 
pacity to the test, and to evolve a nation as 
able now to hold her own with the world, 
as she once so successfully held her own 
against it. 

The really wonderful, and in many of its 
aspects the most inexplicable thing in the 
development of mercantile energy and 
business capacity among the Japanese, is 
that such development has been made 
under the most severe moral and so- 
cial discouragements. In feudal times, 
while the occupation of agricidture was 
raised to the dignitj' of a profession, and 
ever)' incentive given to enhance the self- 
respect of the farmer, the merchant was 
held at the bottom of the social scale. 


None except the eta, or actual outcasts, 
were in such evil social repute. " As far 
back as history carries us, contempt for the 
business of mere money -making was a 
prominent characteristic of the Japanese 
people. There is hardly a tale of any 
length which does not furnish facts prov- 
ing this. The merchant, the usurer, the mid- 
dle men, were regarded as the pariahs of 
ancient Japanese society, to the level of 
whose life the noble samurai would rather 
die than descend.".* 

It is to be noted, also, that the popular 
feeling against the merchant had a deeper 
source than the contempt which we visit 
upon the nouveau riche. It was the busi- 
ness of making money, not the vulgarly 
ostentatious use of it when made, which 
was despised. In truth, for the display of 
wealth there was neither disposition nor 
incentive, so universal and so eminently 
fashionable were simplicity of living, and 
economy in expenditure. 

In later feudal days, it is true, there were 
among the merchants and commercial 
houses, and there are to-day in increasing 

Transactions Asiatic Soc. of Japan, Vol. xix.— i p. 13. 


numbers, those who, by force of native 
probity and business capacity, have par- 
tially succeeded in overcoming the obloquy 
attached to their occupation. But the 
stigma has, nevertheless, entailed the 
natural and inevitable result. With some 
notable exceptions, mercantile life in Japan 
has heretofore attracted largely those to 
whom social repute is a minor considera- 
tion, and, of course, the nation in its com- 
mercial dealings has been seriously handi- 
capped by the resultant character and 
reputation for honest)- of its trading class. 

This one consideration needs to be 
borne in mind in every fair estimate to 
be made of the honor and integrity of the 
people as a whole. It may also be a key 
to the explanation of the seemingly direct 
contradictions which exist in estimates 
already made. 

The average Japanese servant, for ex- 
ample, and he is a fair representative of 
the so-called masses, is painfully honest 
Even a foreign master of his could drop a 
coin on the floor at night with a moral 
certaint)' that he would find it in a conspic- 
uous place on the table the next morning. 


When, however, the servant in making 
purchases enters the role of a business 
agent, he seldom hesitates to take quietly 
the little commissions, which in the West 
are openly charged for such service. In 
this regard, lest his business instinct get 
the better of him, he needs watching. 
But in almost every other relation he can 
be thoroughly trusted. The children of 
samurai are most severely punished for 
even picking up lost articles in the street. 
Among all classes there prevails an 
almost morbid sensitiveness as to any 
imputation upon one's honesty. And yet 
by the foreigners in the East, who have 
had extensive business dealings with the 
Japanese and the Chinese, it is the latter 
who are extolled as paragons of honor and 
probity, while to the former credit is given 
for mere smartness or worse. Even in 
Japan itself, it is the Chinese who are pre- 
ferred to natives in filling positions of 
trust and responsibility in the foreign banks 
and great commercial houses at the open 
ports. The seeming contradictoriness of 
the moral situation is further increased by 
the admitted fact that, whereas in Japan 


official corruption is almost unknown, the 
entire official class of China, as the conduct 
of the late war plainly showed, is made up 
of the most venal of spoilsmen. These 
marked incongruities find their complete 
explanation in the relative estimation in 
which in the two countries the soldier and 
the trader have been held. 

In the Island Realm the soldier samurai, 
who now, with hardly an exception, fill the 
ranks of officialdom, from the Emperor's 
Ministers of State down to the humblest 
policeman, have ever been held in the 
highest honor, while the trader has been 
lowest in the social scale. In China, on 
the contrary, it is the trader who has been 
honored, and it is the soldier who has been 
contemned. In each land the inentable 
has happened. These occupations, and 
the men engaged in them, have verj- natu- 
rally grown to be largely in accord with 
the estimate put upon them. In so far as 
the virtues ascribed to the Japanese soldier 
are his in truth, they are his because he 
has grown to the value placed upon him ; 
and in so far as the complaints against the 
Japanese trader are well founded, they may 


be directly traced to the popxilar disparage- 
ment of his profession. 

While, however, the profession, as a 
whole, came under the social ban, there 
were still degrees of honor in which the 
various classes of traders were held. The 
distinction, for example, between whole- 
saler and retailer, or between the merchant 
princes and the minor tradesmen, was as 
marked as it is in the West to-day. And 
here again the difference in honor told 
upon the establishment and maintenance 
of mercantile probity. Among the com- 
mercial houses, which, as already men- 
tioned, succeeded in overcoming the preju- 
dice of society against money-making, was 
the celebrated House of Mitsui, the story 
of which, as told by Professor Wigmore, 
will perhaps, better than anything else, illus- 
trate both the character and the magnitude 
of the commercial interests and operations 
of the secluded Empire. 

"The House of Mitsui was founded 
early in the Seventeenth Century in Kyoto, 
by a man of that name, coming from 
Echigo Kuni in the West. Contradictory 
stories are told as to which of the family's 


masters first brought it into prominence by 
his energy and skill. Romance has colored 
its early days ; but at any rate, no long 
time elapsed before prosperity began to 
visit the house, and, after one or two 
generations, it found itself with branches 
extending to all parts of the countr)-, the 
chief stores being six in number, one for 
each branch of the family. The house 
had taken the name of ' Echigo House ' 
{Echigo-ya) ; and as early as the last dec- 
ade of the Seventeenth Centurj' its fame 
was such that Kampfer was attracted by 
the extent of its commercial operations to 
make special mention of its achievements. 
" The story of the success of the Echigo 
House seems to have been what is the 
storj' of commercial success everywhere : 
keenness to seize the opportvmity, large 
operations and small profits, with thorough- 
ness, honestj-, and fair treatment of sub- 
ordinates. One of the worst features of 
old Japanese trade was the excessive use 
of credit. No sales, except of the smallest 
retail amount, were made for cash, and 
naturally the sellers recouped themselves 
for bad debts by charging high prices. 


The Echigo House in Suruga ward, Yedo, 
was one of the first to adopt the policy of 
cheap sales for cash {gen -gin yasu - uri). 
The shop soon became one of the most 
popular in the city, and was thronged with 
customers. It was sixty feet long, and two 
hundred and fifty feet deep, and there 
were forty clerks, each of whom had his 
own specialty, such as collar -silk, sleeve- 
silk, etc. An attractive feature of the 
shop (which is maintained to this day, as 
all foreigners can testify) was that the 
prices were fixed; there was no coming 
down {kakene) or bargaining ; and this was 
appreciated even in a community where 
the bargaining habit prevailed. 

" Beginning with the sale of cloth, they 
gradually enlarged their business and in- 
cluded other staples, and went outside the 
three emporiums of Osaka, Yedo, and 
Kyoto, to the various provincial towns. 
At a later period they had three shops in 
Yedo, employing about one thousand 
clerks. These were under six chief clerks 
{banto), who met half a dozen times a 
month to settle accounts, and discuss the 
policy of the house. On any day when 


the sales of any of the shops reached two 
hundred ryo, congratulations were ex- 
changed and the clerks were feasted. In 
the tenth month a general meeting was 
held, to which everj' employee came ; and 
it is related that on these occasions fifty 
casks of wine were emptied, and the ducks 
for the soup alone cost one hundred ryo. 

" Their masters of the six branches of the 
family served an apprenticeship in the shop 
like other clerks, and lived without ostenta- 
tion. There was but a single capital stock 
for the whole of this extensive business, 
and the profit and loss of the concern was 
made on a single account, not separately 
for each branch ; so that the house easily 
surmounted the vicissitudes of trade in any 
particular quarter. 

" Late in the Seventeenth Century the 
house began to attract the attention of 
the Government. The town magistrate of 
Yedo brought the family master before the 
Council of State; and he was thenceforth 
enrolled among the Government merchants 
{go-yo-tashi chonitt). These were, rich 
houses who advanced money and furnished 
supplies to the Government, and they 


naturally occupied the most influential 
position, and possessed special opportu- 
nities of increasing their wealth. In the 
early days of foreign settlement in Japan, 
when the Government was suspicious of 
the intentions of the foreigners, and wished 
to put the trade into responsible hands on 
the Japanese side, the Mitsui House was 
told to go to Yokohama and take charge. 
But the house did what every other con- 
servative house had decided to do ; it 
refused to go. Only after peremptory 
commands did it establish a branch in 
Yokohama. This reluctance of the re- 
spectable and solid business houses to take 
part in the trade with foreigners is at once 
a characteristic of old Japanese commercial 
life, and a key to much of the unfortunate 
misunderstanding, which has since given 
rise to a certain generalization on Japanese 
character peculiar to a class of foreign 
residents in Japan." * 

Such testimony makes it clearly evident 
that neither the commercial life of the 
Empire, noi its character for probity, 

• Transactions Asiatic Soc. of Japan, Vol. xx. — Sup- 
plement, p. 134. 


suffered total collapse, because of the 
social stigma laid upon it. 

That in spite of the stigma, and in 
spite also of the restricted field for trade, 
Japanese business life was active and in- 
telligent to a degree which has marked no 
other Oriental people, and even to a degree 
which qualified the nation on the opening 
of the country' to take its place at once 
by the side of the leading industrial and 
commercial nations of the West, may 
be proved by the same unimpeachable 

Since the Abb^ Hue's discover}' in 
China of aU the chief rites, ceremonies, 
and regalia of the Roman Catholic Church, 
duplicated in the Buddhist temples and 
services, there has been no such curious 
and interesting find as that which has lately 
revealed the existence in secluded Japan 
of nearly everj' kind of commercial organ- 
ization and device by which the modem 
business world of the West conducts and 
expedites its afEairs, and which are com- 
monly supposed to be exclusively the out- 
come of Western ingenuity, or of Western 
experience. The good Father Hue, in his 


zeal to maintain the originality of his 
church, could find no other way of account- 
ing for its double except to ascribe it to 
the instigation of the devil; the simple 
truth being that, as human nature is con- 
stituted, the same tendencies in it find, in 
widely separate lands, the same forms of 
expression. So in the independent inven- 
tion by Japan, during her period of profound 
seclusion, of all the modern commercial 
conveniences and devices common in the 
West, is of itself ample evidence of the 
strength of her innate commercial instincts, 
and of her ability to compete with the 
Occident in business enterprise; while it 
also explains her recent seemingly sudden 
development along these lines as being 
simply the natural and normal outcome of 
her commercial past. 

Summarizing the results of Professor 
Wigmore's indefatigable research along 
these lines, it is but fair to start with his 
own conservative statement of the charac- 
ter of these results. He says: «' It is idle 
to contend that Japanese mercantile life 
of the last generation was equal in rich- 
ness of development, complexity of opera- 


tion, fertility of resource, or importance 
of undertakings, to the Western life of 
to-day, or even of the last generation. 
But we do not have to go very far back to 
reach a point where the comparison is not 
so unequal a one ; and what we do find 
throughout is that Japanese commerce 
possessed, with scarcely an exception, the 
fundamental mercantile institutions and 
expedients with which Western commer- 
cial law deals. Europe and America have, 
for nearly two hundred years, had advan- 
tages which have been denied to Japan; 
notably, they have had the opportunity for 
a free exchange of the new ideas which 
each day brings forth, an opportxmity 
through the lack of which Japan has 
suffered in almost every department of 
commerce, whatever it may have gained 
in art. But meanwhile, Japan has been 
in possession of these fundamental com- 
mercial notions, and, like the steward who 
turned his one talent into five, this country 
has preserved and developed these ideas 
to as high a degree as was possible under 
the circumstances." 

The account of the great commercial 


house of Mitsui, already given, should pre- 
pare us for the discovery of at least the 
germs of the powerful joint stock corpora- 
tions ultimating in the overshadowing 
monopolies, which, in the West, while they 
are acknowledged as the creators of indus- 
trial development, are also feared as the 
coming tyrants and oppressors of the 
poor. The history of the growth and 
temporary abolition of these in Japan is, 
perhaps, the most interesting, as it certainly 
is the most instructive of the chapters in 
the nation's commercial experience. It is 
pointed out by the writer just quoted that 
the corporation idea, that of a business as 
an entity, as a legal person, is an idea 
inherent in the very foundation of Japanese 
society, the conception of the family, not 
the individual, as the social unit, logically 
opening the way for the conception of 
corporate action and responsibility. One 
need not, therefore, be unduly surprised 
to learn that, very early, business began to 
run into the corporate groove. Very sug- 
gestive of a leading characteristic of the 
nation, a bath being in its eyes of the very 
first necessity, is the fact that the earliest 


legal document (1651), relating to a cor- 
poration, was one concerning the bath- 
house guild. In the Eighteenth Century, 
such guilds had become so common a 
feature of commercial life, that they con- 
trolled trade at fish-stands, rice-houses, silk- 
stands, and peddlers' stands. The busi- 
ness of money -changing became legally 
the exclusive right of a few about 1720, 
and, at the end of the centur)*, the mon- 
opoly system was the basis of commerce, 
the opening of the present century seeing 
the establishment of some sixty guilds in 
Yedo, and a still larger number in Osaka. 
Curiously enough, in the relations of 
these monopolies to each other, there was 
developed a striking parallelism to what 
has long been considered an exdusiveh- 
American institution. The term " Big 
Four " we have deemed original with us. 
But Japan, for two centuries, was domi- 
nated by the " Big Ten,'' this being a 
combination of the trades ha\'ing to do 
with the chief articles of commerce, such 
as cotton, drj- goods, iron ware, etc. In 
fact, there were two " Big Tens,"' one 
in Yedo and the other in Osaka, which 


cooperated with each other to control the 
entire trade between the two cities. 

In 1 841-2, a wave of popular dissatis- 
faction, similar to that now prevailing in 
the United States, swept over the land, 
resulting in a complete abolition of the 
trades' guilds which had so often resorted 
to cornering the markets that popular 
patience was exhausted. The result of 
this abolition is so exceedingly interesting 
and instructive just at the present juncture, 
that it is well to describe it in Prof. Wig- 
more's own words : 

" The legislators soon found that the 
evil they had created was greater than the 
evil they had abolished. The guilds were 
gone, and their rigid control of trade was 
gone; but with this had disappeared, also, 
the very foundation of trade, — commercial 
confidence. The guilds had worked to 
build up their own interests, but they had 
also, in so doing, served the interests of 
general prosperity by establishing whole- 
some rules of commercial honor, by creat- 
ing central tribunals enforcing commercial 
opinion, and by placing each and every 
branch of trade on the firm footing which 


concerted action could not fail to give. 
When this framework of guilds was with- 
drawn, there was a melting away of the 
commercial structure. Mutual confidence 
disappeared ; the value of the shares 
shrunk to nothing — a result which crippled 
every possessor, and destroyed at once 
the merchant, whose honestj' had been his 
chief capital. It was no longer possible 
to borrow money on the shares, and there 
was a general contraction of business on 
all sides, which naturally had a disastrous 
effect on the producers, and ultimately on 
prices. The people (for the step seems to 
have been the result of popular clamor) 
found that, after all, they had not been so 
unfortunate when the guilds were flourish- 
ing ; and, before ten years had passed, the 
elders of Yedo were laying before the 
Government a petition for the reestablish- 
ment of the old order. It was conceded 
on all hands that the abolition measure 
had been a failure: and, in April, 1851, 
the guilds were reestablished, not, however, 
with all their power to oppress the people. 
By means of certain well-advised restric- 
tions, it was sought to retain all the influ- 


ences for good which the guilds were 
capable of exerting, and, at the same time, 
to take away from them the power to 
restrain, by artificial modes, the natural 
courses of trade. The whole operation of 
abolition and restoration is one which 
would repay the further study of the 

Another of the remarkable develop- 
ments of the Western commercial world 
has been that of the insurance system. 
Reference has been made already to the 
germ of such a system in Japan, as it grew 
out of the kindly influences of the neigh- 
borhood unions, prompting to mutual as- 
sistance in the event of disaster to any one 
or more of the members. The exceed- 
ingly small sum required to rehabilitate a 
family with a house and its belongings 
made such an insurance assessment easy 
of collection. Here, again, just as the 
family unit suggested corporations and 
guilds, so the neighborhood unit sug- 
gested the application of a like principle to 
the guarding of commercial ventures from 
loss. As the Japanese are credited with 
being measurably quick to take a hint, 


one is not, therefore, surprised to learn 
that, among the ship owners and freighters 
of Osaka and Yedo, a regularly organized 
mutual system of marine insurance has 
been established for two hundred years or 
more. Connected with it was also an 
institution providing for a regular inspec- 
tion, registr)', and classification of vessels. 
It was a veritable Lloyd's, instituted when, 
to the Japanese, England was nothing but 
a name. 

In the matter of the use of money as 
a medium of exchange, it might, perhaps, 
be thought that a coimtry shut out from 
the rest of the world, would need nothing 
more than the tokens which could pass 
from hand to hand, and that there would 
be but verj- slight recourse to the various 
substitutes and expedients such as checks 
and bills of exchange, which the distance 
between countries and the time consumed 
in transport have compelled the modem 
commercial world to adopt. But Japan, 
far from being an exception in this regard, 
may even claim priorit}' in such inventions, 
bom as they were of the necessities of the 
situation. For it is to be considered. 


that owing to the peculiar nature of the 
country, which is scarcely else than a mass 
of mountains, the question of distances 
between its parts was comparatively as 
vital as it now is between lands divided 
by oceans and continents. 

The time occupied in transit or trans- 
port was a controlling factor in the life of 
trade. Even the water communications, 
made available by the fact that the 
Empire was a group of islands, and by 
the enormous length of the coast line, were 
excessively slow. With the unseaworthy 
junks to which the mercantile marine was 
rigidly restricted (a Government measure 
to prevent emigration), a voyage between 
ports of the Empire might be more of an 
undertaking than is now the circumnaviga- 
tion of the globe. For example, for the 
round trip between Osaka and Niigata, 
two cities separated from each other by a 
distance of only eight hundred miles, the 
allowance of time was a full year. There 
was, therefore, just as pressing need in 
Japan as in other lands of those supple- 
mentary media of exchange which now so 
wonderfully facilitate commerce between 


distant places, and utilize credit during 
the long periods of transit. In fact, this 
necessity- was early recognized and met, as 
appears not only from the actual use of all 
such expedients as the bill of exchange, 
check, and bill of lading, even while all 
foreign trade was prohibited, but also 
from clear evidence of the priority of such 
inventions over the present leading com- 
mercial nations of the world. Not only 
were these so-called modem and Western 
devices found in Japan when the country 
was opened, but there they have been for 
two centuries, original and independent 
creations out of the necessities of her once 
secluded commercial life. 

" The guild of the bankers," says Pro- 
fessor Wigmore, " was organized in Osaka, 
about 1660; the only European districts 
having, at that time, a real banking system 
being the commercial towns of Italy. 
These banks in Japan lacked none of the 
essential features of our own. They 
received on deposit, honored checks, is- 
sued notes, negotiated bills of exchange, 
and discounted bills drawn against mer- 
chandise. . . . They supported each other 


in times of financial embarrassment. They 
had some sort of a clearing-house sys- 
tem, the details of which are not yet 
clear. In short, there is little in the 
Western idea of a bank which the Jap- 
anese institution did not have, or could 
not easily have assimilated." 

The earliest mention of the use of 
checks in Europe is in the latter part of 
the Seventeenth Century. The Japanese 
had already then been using them for fifty 
years. They had also introduced the 
strengthening feature of sometimes requir- 
ing them to be "certified." The same 
system of endorsement also prevailed as 
with us. The rule was likewise enforced 
between banks that faulty checks must 
be returned before twelve o'clock. 

In the same century in which bills of 
exchange were first employed in Europe 
(the thirteenth), there are, in Japanese 
legal records, rules for the regulation of 
their use in commercial transactions. 

Still another extraordinary duplicatior 
of what is usually deemed a peculiarly 
Western and modern outcome of business 
life may well be thought beyond belief. 


The nerve centre of the commercial 
world, the stock exchange, is so largely the 
creation of modem conditions, and its 
sensitiveness is so greatly increased by 
the swiftness with which the slightest 
touch upon any part of the world is com« 
municated to it, that it might be deemed 
the very last thing one would expect to 
find in tranquil, secluded, old Japan, 
whose very people themselves to this day 
seem well-nigh devoid of anj-thing resem- 
bling nerves. Yet there it is, and there it 
was even when only the germs of it existed 
in the fevered Western world. 

Visiting the Rice Exchange in Tokyo 
in 1890, the year of famine, when the 
market was subject to wide and sudden 
fluctuations, it was easy to imagine myself 
in the New York Stock Exchange, on the 
occasion of a flurrj- in Wall Street. There 
was the same seeming madness and 
tumult, and the vociferations, in Japanese, 
of the brokers were not a whit more unin- 
telligible than the clamor of a like mob in 
the Western city. "With what marvelous 
quickness," I said to ray interpreter, " you 
Japanese have succeeded in reproducing 


every feature of the New York Stock 
Exchange." " New York ! " he exclaimed, 
" why, this very thing has been going on 
here in Japan for two hundred years." In 
fact, not only is no featiu-e of the famil- 
iar Western scene absent, but all the minor 
and irregular accompaniments which have 
grown out of the system with us find 
their counterparts long antedating them 
there. Strenuous efforts of the Govern- 
ment to put a stop to dealings in futures 
have been as ineffectual as the more mod- 
ern essays in that direction in the West, 
and as for bucket-shops, it may possibly 
be surmised that in the century-old institu- 
tion of the kind in connection with rice 
sales in Japan, the Americans found the 
name which they have wrongly been given 
the credit of inventing. 

Again, we of the West are given to 
pluming ourselves over our success in 
practically bringing that most fickle of all 
things, the weather, under the domain of 
law, so as to be able to read its signs in 
the interest of our business affairs. We 
say we could never have done this except 
for the continental knowledge of weather 


conditions furnished by the use of the tele- 
g^ph. The power of prevision we have 
thus gained by our glance over immense 
areas of space, the Japanese very early 
attained by observations which covered 
centuries of time. Through these observa- 
tions they had learned that the rice-crop 
was beyond the limit of danger from 
weather conditions on the two hundred 
and twentieth day of their year, and that, 
for the preceding ten days, nothing but the 
typhoons, at that season prevalent, could 
injure it. This interval of ten days was, 
therefore, a period of extreme nervous ten- 
sion in the Exchange. The weather fore- 
cast of each day was eagerly scanned, as it 
was recorded in the " sky book," and every 
speculator's house was transformed into 
an observatorj' for watching the indica- 
tions. The fluctuations of the extraor- 
dinary barometer then in use ♦ played so 

•This barometer was made by "hanging balanced 
quantities of earth {to) and charcoal (tan) in small nets 
from opposite ends of a bamboo pole, working on a ful- 
crum. They knew that on the approach of stormy 
weather earth becomes damp and heavy, while on a dry 
and clear day it jrields its moisture abundantly. The 
advent of a weather change in either direction was 


great a part in rice speculation, that its 
name was given to the traffic itself. It 
was called the totan-sho, or " earth and 
charcoal traffic." 

It would seem, from this glance at 
Japan's business methods when shut out 
from the world, as also from the magni- 
tude of the internal trade which these 
methods plainly indicate, that marvelous 
as has been her recent industrial and com- 
mercial growth, it is no sudden or unac- 
countable phenomenon any more than is 
the change wrought in her political 
system. The latter transformation, as is 
now well known to every student of her 
history, astonishingly abrupt as it seemed 
at the time, and still almost universally 
deemed by foreigners to be owing to 
Western pressure, was no revolution at all, 
nor was the advent of Perry's Black Ships 
aught but the occasion, not the cause, of 
the outward transmutation thereafter ac- 
complished. Like every seemingly sudden 
transition in history, it was preceded by a 

announced by a disturbance of equilibrium in the home- 
made barometer." — Transactions Asiatic Soc. of Japan, 
Vol. XX.— Supplement,p.ioi. 


period of unseen preparation, the steps of 
which can now be readily traced. During 
all the long years of seclusion, the lofty 
patriotism and intense ambition of the 
island race were chafing under the self- 
imposed bonds and limitations of the 
Empire's life ; and the movement toward a 
new order of things, as a recent Japanese 
writer has remarked, may be said to have 
begun with the Tokugawa regime itself, 
that is, not with the opening but with the 
closing of the gates to foreign intercourse. 
What we have been witnessing in this 
extraordinarj' transformation scene was 
not a break in the nation's life, but sim- 
ply a natural reaction consequent upon 
the opening up of a field for the exer- 
cise of long repressed aptitudes and as- 

On precisely the same basis, and in the 
self -same way, is it possible to account 
for the enormous strides which the Empire 
is now taking in the fields of industrial and 
commercial enterprise. These islanders 
are plainly no novices in the great modem 
game. With an intimate knowledge as 
well as constant practice of modem busi- 


ness methods, in many particulars long 
antedating such knowledge and practice 
in the West, their recent expansion along 
these lines is but the perfectly legitimate 
outcome of the unnatural contraction under 
which the native business capacity of the 
people has so long labored, and, however 
great and sudden it may appear to us, the 
change is not a revolution but an evolu- 

In fact, in view of the peculiar character 
of the Empire's past, no phenomenon of 
its late industrial or commercial progress 
can be deemed abnormal. 

Here, for example, was an island people, 
presumably animated by that spirit of 
restless daring and enterprise which close 
contact with the sea and its alluring perils 
always imparts, and yet they have been 
for centuries denied the boundless field 
which the vast surrounding oceans offered 
for the exercise of that spirit. A nation 
of sailors was prohibited from venturing 
to sea. To such a nation, the opening of 
its ports was not merely or chiefly for the 
influx of foreign trade. It was more 
largely for the outflow of native enter- 


prise. It but furnished the occasion for 
the putting forth of long pent-up energies. 
No progress, therefore, on these lines, 
however greatly it may astonish us, can 
now be regarded as aught but normal and 

Forty years ago the Japanese knew 
nothing but the small, unwieldy, and unsea- 
worthy junks, to the use of which, along 
their coasts, commerce was rigidly limited, 
in order to prevent the escape from the 
country of any subject of the realm. 
To-day the fleets of the Nippon Yusen 
JCivazsAa (]apa.n Mail Steamship Company) 
practically command the coast trade of 
Eastern Asia, while its lines are now 
rapidly being extended and multiplied, 
not only across the Pacific to the ports of 
the Western States, but also to Europe, 
Australia, New York, and South America. 
Not only in the number and character of 
its vessels, many of them the best the 
works on the Clyde can produce, does this 
immense corporation rank high among the 
leading steamship companies of the world ; 
its afEairs are also managed and, with 
hardly an exception, its ships are officered 


and manned by natives alone. In the 
growth and development of this one house, 
even had it no native rivals, which is by 
no means the case, Japan has already 
attained a leading place among the com- 
mercial nations of the world. 

The impulse given to Japan's internal 
industries is also evidence to the same 
point. Here was an ingenious and busy 
people restricted for centuries to a home 
market for the product of such industries, 
and able to subsist upon the returns from 
such a market, only by the practice of 
the most careful and pinching economies. 
Now, the marvelous expansion of these 
industries is almost beyond belief. Dur- 
ing the eleven years previous to 1893, the 
number of factories had increased by i ,384 
per cent. ; steam-power by 2,226 per cent., 
and horse -power by 2,134 per cent. In 
the cotton -spinning industry, the rate of 
increase in the number of spindles during 
nine years has been 1,014 per cent.; in 
the production of woven fabrics during 
eleven years, 2,415 percent., and in that 
of cotton yams, 18,230 per cent.* More 

• Japan Weekly Mail, Dec. 7, 1895. 


extraordinary yet is the development of 
indiastries since the close of the late war 
with China. In that war, Japan despatched 
nearly 300,000 men across a wide ocean, 
and spent more than 150,000,000 yen, 
without borrowing a single sen from any 
foreign source, without the smallest depre- 
ciation of her credit, and without disturb- 
ance to her industries and commerce. 
And when the war ceased, those industries 
advanced by leaps and bounds beyond all 
precedent. The simple realization on the 
part of the Japanese that they had at last 
gained their place in the family of nations, 
and that the world's markets would now 
be more than ever open to their products, 
has wrought, as if by magic, upon the 
enlargement of their industrial activities. 
During the single year of 1895, nearly 340,- 
000,000 yen (silver dollars) were invested 
in new or extensions of old enterprises; 
while in the forty -one days from Dec. 
26, 1895, to Feb. 10, 1896, nearly 150,- 
000,000 yen were put into projects under- 
taken during a period only slightly longer 
than the first month of the current year.* 

*JxpaB Weekly Mail, Feb. 29, 1896. 


For the Japanese, the reaction from the 
joys and privileges of their enforced par- 
ticipation in an exclusively home-market 
is manifestly intense enough to indicate 
the severity of the century-long repres- 
sion under which their industries lan- 

Again, as another illustration of the 
strength of the rebound, we find in Japan 
a people with so strong a native aptitude 
for trading that not even the social stigma 
cast on the business of money-making, nor 
the restricted field in which it might alone 
be carried on, could wholly repress it. 
Most curious and interesting are the ways 
in which this aptitude asserts itself, in 
spite of the limitations to which it has 
been subject. The striking of bargains 
for gain having been made disreputable, 
trading as a game, or rather as a contest 
of wits, has always been a popular amuse- 
ment. Let a foreigner to-day start a 
dicker with a Japanese shopman, and the 
constantly increasing throng of bystanders 
will look on with intense interest, not so 
much in the hope that their countryman 
will win, as with curiosity to see which 


will triumph in the contest of wits, every 
instance of bargaining having come to be 
regarded as such. Even, therefore, while 
money-making has been under the social 
ban, the perceptions of a by no means 
dull-witted people have been constantly 
sharpened by it. Now a larger and freer 
field for the enjojTnent of their favorite 
game, with the added stimulus of per- 
sonal gain, has been opened to them. 
If in this field Western tradesmen have 
expected to find the Japanese mere inno- 
cents and children, it is more than prob- 
able that they have already realized their 
mistake. The land was, indeed, fast 
sealed for centiuies, and during those cen- 
turies Western business life had far larger 
opportunities for development. But the 
Japanese, with a native aptitude for trade, 
had also, in their seclusion, a training of 
their own, and that training has evolved a 
race of men who, in the modem com- 
mercial contest of wits, will be likely to 
hold their own. 

Just now, as was intimated in the begin- 
ning of this chapter, there seems to be in 
progress such a contest between Japan 


and the United States, a contest upon so 
gigantic a scale, and involving so many of 
the fundamental conditions of modem com- 
mercial prosperity, that the rest of the 
world may well regard it with the most 
intense curiosity and interest. 

It is certainly a notable fact, that, during 
the very period in which Japan has been 
opening her Empire to the world, spre'ad- 
ing her commerce over the seas, assidu- 
ously seeking for her products foreign 
markets, and striving for relations of 
closest amity with nations once contemned 
by her as barbarians, the Great Republic 
of the West has been steadfastly pursuing 
on parallel lines a policy of retrogression, 
and, so far as modern conditions will per- 
mit, of practical seclusion. Its legislation 
has accomplished the destruction of its 
mercantile marine, and the extinction of 
the American sailor, almost as effectually 
as that of Iyetnits7i in the beginning of 
the Seventeenth Century, put an end to 
the seagoing enterprise and nautical skill 
of the Island Empire of the Pacific. 
Trusting to the extent of its own territory, 
and cultivating habits of extravagance 


rather than those of economy among its 
own people, it seeks prosperity only from 
trade within its own borders and throxigh 
the lavish over-production of its own 
industries. And at the same time with 
all this isolating sentiment of self-suffi- 
ciency, there is rapidly growing in some 
sections of the country an anti- foreign 
spirit which bids fair to become as bitter 
and undiscriminating as that which so 
completely separated the old-time hospit- 
able Japan from the sympathies of the 
world. This may seem a harsh indict- 
ment of one's own coimtr}', but in the 
present access of national vainglory', it is 
fully justified by the facts. Whether this 
spirit of pseudo- independence will reach 
its reductio ad absurdum, whether a day 
will come when foreign fleets will appear 
at our gates with the demand that our 
ports be opened to the world, is happily 
not in question. The situation, even now, 
is so impossible, that the delusions which 
have brought it about must needs be but 
transitory. And it may be that this vision 
of the solid prosperit>' and marvelous com- 
mercial progress of Japan, whUe she is fol- 


lowing precisely the opposite course, will 
prove a powerful influence, leading us to 
reverse our present self- isolating policy, 
and to take again our rightful and honored 
place among the family of nations. 



T N a land where, whatever may be the 
drawbacks to a pleasurable existence, 
as Occidentals count pleasure, the atmos- 
phere of kindliness in which one dwells 
more than compensates for them all ; in a 
land where even the inculcated hatred of 
foreigners, stimulated by the Government 
through nearly three centuries of isola- 
tion, could not eradicate the native hos- 
pitality of the people, the question may 
arise whether there is any limit to the 
spirit of good-fellowship which seems 
always and everywhere to prevail ; whether 
there is now or was, in the old feudal days 
of neighborhood amit}', any class outside 
the pale of the friendly s)Tnpathies of this 
good-humored race. 

That poverty-, however abject, had of 
itself no power to render a man an outcast 
in the eyes of the Japanese, is evident 
from the fact already adduced, that not 


only was no social stigma attached to 
it, but it was to a certain degree made 
positively fashionable by the passion for 
economy which prevailed throughout the 
Empire among all classes. Indeed, pov- 
erty being universal, so far as any outward 
display of wealth might indicate the con- 
trary, was commonly regarded as the 
normal condition of life, and it therefore 
entailed no loss of respect. Then, too, 
simplicity of living being enjoined upon 
all, and of sheer necessity practised by the 
vast majority, there must have been a 
noticeable reduction of those envyings and 
jealousies which ordinarily embitter the 
relations of the different classes of society. 
Therefore it may safely be said, that no 
Japanese ever became an outcast solely 
because of his poverty. The condition of 
the poor, even "at this day when Western 
sentiment with reference to their station in 
society may be supposed to have gained 
some influence in the Empire, testifies to 
their thoroughly respectable and self- 
respecting character. Even the largest 
cities in Japan are slumless. An English- 
man, who had spent the most of his life 


in sanitary work in the vilest quarters of 
Liverpool, expressed a desire, when a 
guest of mine, to visit corresponding locali- 
ties in Tokyo, that he might make an 
intelligent comparison between the two 
cities, in the special lines on which he 
had been working. Oxu" preparation for 
the expedition was, in itself, significant of 
what we were likely to find. Having ascer- 
tained what localit)- was regarded as the 
verj' worst in the cit)-, the next question 
was as to what means we should take 
to pro\nde for our safety on the expedi- 
tion, such a trip in a Western city gener- 
ally invoKnng the necessity of being 
accompanied by a policeman. The Jaj>- 
anese smile, immortalized by Heam, was 
at its broadest on the face of oiu- inter- 
preter as we suggested the precaution, and 
the sole escort assigned us by our native 
friends, who were anxious to do everj-thing 
for the success of our trip, was an intel- 
ligent newspaper reporter, familiar with 
everj- nook of the great city. As we 
wended oiu- way through the streets to 
our destination, another unwonted feature 
of a slumming expedition impressed itself 


upon IIS. Although we were passing from 
the best part of the city to the worst, 
to all outward appearance there were no 
stages of transition. We did not even 
know when we had arrived. There was 
not only no sudden descent from heaven 
to hell, such as may be found, for example, 
on the northern slope of Boston's Beacon 
Hill, but also there was no mark of grad- 
ual deterioration in the aspect of things. 
This was largely due to the almost uni- 
versal observance by the Japanese of 
Arthur Helps' motto for domestic archi- 
tects, " Never mind the outside." No 
one in that land, whether of high or low 
degree, seems to care for the exterior 
appearance of his dwelling, and, as for its 
front, perhaps that is purposely made so 
exceptionally shabby and dingy as it 
almost always is, in order to enhance the 
charm of the paradise upon which its 
rear opens. At least that seems the only 
way of accounting for the absolute indiffer- 
ence of all Japanese to the putting of the 
best foot foremost. The result is that 
gfray monotony of dinginess which im- 
presses the traveller, m the aspect of 


every city, town, and village of the Em- 

So it was that we arrived at our desti- 
nation without knowing it. Nor indeed, 
when the " slums " were reached, did they 
show any of the usual signs of their exist- 
ence. Innumerable tokens of poverty there 
were, poverty indeed such as can hardly 
enter the imagination of a dweller in the 
West, so meagre even among the com- 
paratively well-to-do are what are deemed 
the necessaries of life in frugal Japan. 
But while there was poverty there was 
neither abjectness nor misery. There were 
thin, hollow-eyed, gaimt, and shrivelled 
women; there were stolid and sad -eyed 
men. But there were no evil faces, no 
wolfish eyes, no signs of those fierce pas- 
sions which in our Western cities can be 
curbed only by the strong and ever-present 
arm of the law. Best of all, there were 
no pallid, bloodless children. Even the 
lowest dens of Japanese povertj' were a 
section of the children's paradise. For 
there, as everywhere in the Empire, what- 
ever might be the depths of want into 
which the parents had been cast, the chit 


dren must still be kept rosy, chubby, and 
happy. At all events, certain it is that 
rosy, chubby, and happy without excepn 
tion, seemed all the children whom we 
saw in the so-called slums of Tokyo. In 
fine, our expedition was a thorough disap- 
pointment, for not only were there none of 
the distinctive features which we shudder- 
ingly associate with the name, but also 
there were no materials for any sort of a 
comparison such as my friend desired to 
make. There were simply evidences of a 
degree of poverty somewhat more marked 
than that to be found in the rural districts 
of the country. 

But though we found no slums such as 
we had looked for, there was much in the 
depths of the poverty revealed which was 
of surpassing interest. A marked feature 
was the atmosphere of respectability which 
pervaded every home, as evidenced by 
some touch of that assthetic feeling in 
which every Japanese is a sharer. Though 
the houses were hovels in different stages 
of dilapidation, yet just as with the homes 
of the well-to-do, however shabby the 
front, there was, in the penetralia, some 


bit of garden or well cared for plant, or 
some kakemono or written device, or at 
least some little comer of the den kept 
with scrupulous neatness, showing the per- 
sistent survival of what is best in the Jap- 
anese nature. If there was no room for a 
garden, one would be made in miniature 
in an earthen bowl or other receptacle, 
every conventional featiu^e of the pleasure- 
fields of the rich being reproduced, some- 
times on a surface of a foot or less in 

The mention of room or want of room 
for a garden suggests what seems to us of 
the West the absurd inference that the 
dweUings of these victims of the most 
abject poverty were in some sense homes, 
and not mere herding places. Such an 
inference is more than justified by the 
facts. Even in the old feudal days, ac- 
cording to Dr. Simmons' notes, a marked 
feature of the common people's life was 
that " each family had its own indepen- 
dent roof; whether poor and humble, or 
large and commodious, the dwelling was 
occupied by but one family." 

In the persistence of this extraordinary 


feature of poverty-stricken life in the 
densely populated modem Japanese cities, 
we strike upon one of the chief causes for 
the absence from these cities of many of 
the more hideous characteristics of city 

There are and can be, literally, no herd> 
ing places in Japan. The horror of tene- 
ment-houses is not only there unknown, 
but, thanks to the prevalence of earth- 
quakes, it is simply impossible. Perhaps, 
indeed, it is safe to say that although in the 
course of a century the victims of Japan's 
constantly quivering earth may number 
their myriads, that same propensity of the 
ground, by reason of the insurmountable 
conditions it has imposed upon the con- 
struction of dwellings, has made more than 
full compensation in the salvation of hun- 
dreds of thousands from the moral and 
physical destruction which would other- 
wise have been wrought by the tenement- 
house system. And when to this kindly 
ministry of the earth is added that of the 
air, there being no problem of ventilation 
to contend with anywhere throughout the 
length and breadth of the Empire, it 


becomes comparatively easy to accoimt for 
the relatively idyllic slums of Japan's great 

However this may be, certain it is that 
poverty, no matter how dismal or abject, 
has not yet succeeded in lowering the 
poor to anything approaching that stage 
of demoralization and obloquy which in 
the Western world so often makes them 
outcasts from society. 

Of the estimation in which criminals 
are held by the Japanese, and of the ques- 
tion whether they may not be looked upon 
as outside the pale of the people's s}Tn- 
pathy, little need be said except that in 
Japan, as in other civilized countries, 
there are, of course, kinds and degrees of 
offences against the law, and that there- 
fore, in this regard, the usual popular dis- 
crimination may be looked for. There is 
this, however, to be noted : namely, that 
the island people are preeminently a law- 
abiding people, and therefore, on general 
principles, some decided loss of caste is 
very sure to follow conviction of offences 
against the majesty of the Government. 
I was once told by Minister Irwin, of the 


Hawaiian Islands, that when there was a 
population there of about three thousand 
Japanese, in the course of two years only 
three of them were brought before the 
courts on criminal charges. Of these, one 
was acquitted and one other adjudged 

In a community where respect for the 
law is as potent as such a fact would 
indicate, it is wholly reasonable to sup- 
pose that somewhat more than the usual 
social stigma would rest upon the offender 
against it. If there be a specially intense 
or bitter prejudice against any one class 
of such offenders, it is, perhaps, that felt 
against the common thief. You may call 
a Japanese a liar, and he will very likely 
show no resentment whatever; simply 
because, just as is measurably the case 
with us, falsehood is a recognized part of 
the system of politeness ; but call him a 
thief, and you make him your lifelong 
enemy. According to the ancient caste 
distinctions, the actor was given a place 
on the very lowest verge of society, and 
yet the story is told that when the valu- 
able wardrobe of one of the chiefs of 


that profession was stolen, and recovered 
by the most persistent efforts of the police, 
he announced that he could never again 
wear what the touch of a thief had de- 

With regard to another phase of social 
ostracism, the attitude of Japanese society 
toward those who in the Western world are 
called lost in a peculiar sense, has become 
of late a topic for interesting discussion. 
The fact that it is possible (there being 
rare cases now and then) for an inmate of 
the Yoshiwara, after her stipulated term of 
service, to return to something like a re- 
spectable and respected life and to con- 
tract honorable marriage, has been adduced 
as strong evidence of the moral obliquity 
of the Japanese on a matter which vitally 
effects the very constitution of society and 
of the home. Of this it may be said that 
aside from the question which might be 
raised as to whether somewhat rare excep>- 
tions should be made to serve as a nile, 
and aside, also, from the suggestion that 
in such cases the attitude of Japanese soci- 
ety seems to resemble in some degree that 
of the founder of the Christian religion, 


that attitude finds its chief explanation 
and defence in the Japanese hierarchy of 
virtues, the arrangement of which differs 
greatly from that of the West. 

The worst social outcast in their eyes is 
the one who breaks not the seventh but the 
fifth commandment. With them not chas- 
tity but obedience, especially in the family 
relations, is the very highest virtue; and 
simply because it is known and recognized 
that many an inmate of the Yoshiwara is 
there solely because of her spirit of self- 
devotion to the welfare or support of her 
family, or in obedience to parental com- 
mand, there is no sweeping judgment of 
society against her as a hopeless outcast. 
Miss Bacon, in her admirable book on 
" Japanese Women and Girls," has stated 
the situation in a way which leaves noth- 
ing further to be said. 

" Our maidens, as they grow to woman- 
hood, are taught that anything is better 
than personal dishonor, and their maidenly 
instincts side with the teaching. With us, 
a virtuous woman does not mean a brave, 
an unselfish, or self-sacrificing woman, but 
means simply one who keeps herself from 


personal dishonor. Chastity is the supreme 
virtue for a woman ; all other virtues are 
secondary compared with it. This is our 
point of view, and the whole perspective 
is arranged with that virtue in the fore- 
ground. Dismiss this for a moment, and 
consider the moral training of the Japanese 
maiden. From earliest youth imtil she 
reaches maturity, she is constantly taught 
that obedience and loyalty are the supreme 
virtues, which must be preserved even at 
the sacrifice of all other and lesser virtues. 
She is told that for the good of father or 
husband she must be willing to meet any 
danger, endure any dishonor, perpetrate 
any crime, give up any treasure. She 
must consider that nothing belonging 
solely to herself is of any importance 
compared with the good of her master, 
her family, or her country. Place this 
thought of obedience and loyalty, to the 
point of self-abnegation, in the foreground, 
and your perspective is altered, the other 
virtues occupying places of varj-ing impor- 
tance. . . . From a close study of the 
characters of many Japanese women and 
girls, I am quite convinced that few women 


in any country do their duty, as they see 
it, more nobly, more single-mindedly, and 
more satisfactorily to those about tliem, 
than the women of Japan. . . . Conscience 
seems as active, though often in a different 
manner, as the old-fashioned New England 
conscience, transmitted through the bluest 
of Puritan blood. And when a duty has 
once been recognized as such, no timidity 
or mortification or fear of ridicule will 
prevent the performance of it."* 

From this essential departure from Occi- 
dental ideas in regard to the order of the 
virtues, it would appear that no just esti- 
mate either of the character of the Japa- 
nese courtesan herself, or of the morality of 
the supposed attitude of Japanese society 
toward her, can be formed without taking 
into account this popular exaltation of 
loyalty as the supreme virtue. On the 
one hand it makes it very probable that 
the proportion of those who enter the life 
from compulsion, rather than from choice, 
is relatively far larger than is the case in 
the West. Mr. Henr)' Norman in his 

• " Japanese Girls and Women " — pp. aij-jifl. 


chapter on the Yoshiwara* even goes so 
far as to say that of the inmates •' there is 
not one case in hundreds where they are 
not unwilling and unhappy victims." 

If an)'thing like this be the truth, then, 
granted the possibilit}-, there is, in a far 
greater degree than in the West, a proba- 
bility of emergence from the life with the 
moral character xmtouched. That Japa- 
nese society in some instances recognizes 
this possibilit}-, even so far as to restore to 
a position of comparative honor one who 
in its regard had exemplified the highest 
virtue of the national character, is certainly 
to its credit rather than to its dishonor. 

On the other hand it is not for a moment 
to be imagined that the courtesan's life is 
any less despised, either by herself or by 
Japanese public opinion, than it is in any 
modem Western nation professing a re- 
gard for morality. There, as elsewhere 
the world over, her calling leaves upon 
her its own ineradicable stain, and the 
lowering of her personal dignitj- entails 
upon her its own irrecoverable loss. 
That stain and that loss, in spite of any 

• The Real Japan — p. 394. 


outward standing she may regain, are 
felt by herself as keenly and recognized 
by society as fully as anywhere on earth. 
Of her own thought of her calling, the 
story of Kimiko told by Hearn in his 
latest volume* bears touching evidence, 
and Norman supplements it by saying 
that, " when a girl leaves her Kashi-zashiki 
to be married or to make any attempt to 
live differently, nothing would induce her 
to take with her a scrap of the clothing 
she has worn there, an article of the furni- 
ture of her room, or even one of her knick- 
knacks from it, although she has paid for 
them all ten times over." It is needless to 
add that the repulsion she herself feels 
must be shared in a great degree by the 
society to which she is restored, and that, 
though no longer in any strict sense an 
outcast, she must live in her new world as 
one not wholly of it. 

So much has been said in the preceding 
chapter of the merchant in feudal society, 
and of the disdain in which his occupation 
was held, that it may be wondered whether 
there could be in Japanese estimation a 

• " Kokoro " — p. J07. 


lower deep than that of trade. The 
institution of slavery might have fur- 
nished it, but of that, be it said to the 
honor of the nation, there is no trace for 
centuries past. That it once existed, how- 
ever, may be inferred from the presence 
in the Empire of large numbers of veri- 
table outcasts, a people beyond the pale 
of even that neighborly s}Tnpathy which 
has won for Japan the name of the pre- 
eminently kindly and hospitable nation of 
the earth. 

Just what was the cause of the intense 
repulsion and contempt with which the 
Japanese have regarded the eta class is 
unknown. Possibly the prejudice is so 
virulent for the verj- reason that its origin 
is lost in the mists of antiquity. Its inten- 
sity must needs make up for the lack of 
any known or reasonable motive for it. 
For certain it is that no pariah class of 
any nation has ever been under a greater 
ban of disdain and contempt than have 
the efa of Japan. Herded in separate 
villages, the very existence of their com- 
munities was ignored. Any portion of the 
highway passing by their habitations was 


left out of all road measurements. In all 
enumerations of the population they were 
omitted from the count except to be 
numbered among the cattle. Only in 
remote districts, where they could conceal 
their origin, could they obtain employment 
as common laborers, and then only at the 
risk of being slain, the marks of their class, 
impressed by centuries of ill-treatment, 
being easily recognized. Even to become 
a courtesan, one must in similar way con- 
ceal her past. The spot where an eta 
had been standing must be sprinkled with 
salt if a Japanese would tread there with- 
out contamination. Such thorough out- 
casts were they that they were not even 
permitted to worship the gods. None but 
the most degrading tasks were assigned 
them, such as that of crucifying and 
burying criminals, and slaughtering and 
skinning cattle. Of such occupations 
they were given the exclusive rights, 
in the possession of which some families 
grew rich, as wealth is counted in Japan, 
thus bearing in addition to their other 
burdens the reproach of being monopo- 


It may be that in the nature of these 
occupations we can find, as has often been 
surmised, not so much the outcome as the 
origin of the contempt in which the eta 
were held, the Buddhist teaching in re- 
gard to the taking of life causing those 
engaged in such work to be looked upon 
with horror. This, however, would by no 
means explain the excessive virulence of 
the Japanese prejudice when compared 
with that prevailing on the same score in 
other Buddhist lands. It is far more prob- 
able that the exceptional fierceness of 
their disdain has its source in some an- 
cient affront to the people's intense sen- 
timent of patriotism, some long-forgotten 
hurt to the Empire, of which the only 
remaining trace is this undying hatred, 
now become a national instinct 

Heam, in his description of a visit to a 
settlement of outcasts, called the Hachiya, 
in Matsud, mentions the fact that "they 
are said to be descendants of the family 
and retainers of Taira -no- Masakado- 
Heishino, the only man in Japan who 
ever seriously conspired to seize the impe- 
rial throne by armed force." Other scraps 


of tradition making the eta to have been 
originally captives from the Great Armada, 
the Tartar invaders, who dreamed of con- 
quering the sacred realm, would also seem 
to justify some such way of accounting for 
this otherwise inexplicable and unnatural 

Against the dark background of the 
inexpressibly harsh treatment of these 
outcast people by the otherwise kindly 
islanders, some features of their life, and 
even of their relations with their revilers, 
stand in shining contrast. 

While the Japanese claim that the eta 
are of a different race from themselves, 
not even the utter degradation to which 
the outcasts were doomed seems to have 
prevented them from retaining and culti- 
vating some of the leading Japanese vir- 
tues. In their case, for instance, even 
complete social ostracism did not lower 
their self-respect so far as to make them 
less regardful of cleanliness than their 
persecutors. Hearn, in the visit just men- 
tioned, instead of encountering ugliness 
and filth, found " a multitude of neat 
dwellings, with pretty gardens around 


them, and pictures on the walls of the 
rooms." A large public bath-house and 
laundry, also, showed that the instinct for 
personal cleanliness had survived through 
aU the centuries of their degradation. En- 
tering one of their homes, he found there 
some drawings by a celebrated artist which 
he was glad to purchase. Being enter- 
tained by the singing of some of their 
favorite ballads, he observed that, while 
their language was a special and curious 
dialect, the songs, which were peculiar to 
their class, were in pure Japanese, their 
inability to read or write making this a 
remarkable, if not a wholly exceptional 
instance, of the preservation from corrup- 
tion of a purely oral literature. 

This may indeed have been an excep- 
tional commimity of pariahs, but the 
survival of any degree of self-respect in 
even one company of human beings sub- 
jected, as they and their ancestors have 
been, to age-long contumely with all con- 
ceivable scorns and indignities visited upon 
them, reveals the possession of moral 
stamina such as has seldom been credited 
to hiunan nature. 


There were also some alleviations to 
their bitter lot. In feudal days the chival- 
ric training of the samurai bore fruit in 
many a manifestation of kindliness on 
their part toward these forsaken and 
despised beings. 

While the common people seem never 
to have abated a jot of their hatred toward 
the eta, the knighthood of Japan often rose 
above popular prejudice so far as to ac- 
cord them even more than a degree of 
consideration or of recognition as human 
beings. Japanese romance indeed has for 
one of its most prominent themes the 
heart struggles of the knight and the 
outcast maiden in their loves. 

Possibly they who were trained in the 
school of chivalry owed the exceptionally 
kindly spirit they showed toward the pariah 
class to the consciousness that it often 
included many of their own rank, who for 
various causes had descended to the 
lowest depths of social outlawry. There 
was indeed a class of outcasts called 
hinin (not men), which was recruited from 
many sources, even from the samurai. 
According to Dr. Simmons, "the oppro- 


brium attached to it, not arising from any 
hereditary' occupation, was due chiefly to 
the shameless, dishonored character of the 
men who entered it The recruits from 
the samurai would be men who had dis- 
graced the name of the family, and who 
had not the courage to commit hara-kiri." 
Then, too, the knight who had the courage 
to marrj- an eta maiden must descend to 
her rank, and himself become accursed. 
It may have been that this formed, in a 
way, the bond of kinship which caused 
the samurai to be to the poor outcasts the 
sole exemplars of the spirit of human 

That their exceptionally generous treat- 
ment of the eta had, besides, a deeper 
source in their chivalric training itself, 
and that that training in Japan, as in 
Europe, simply bore its fruit of genuine 
courage and courtesy, is evidenced by the 
manly way in which some of the knights 
of Japan have stemmed the tide of popu- 
lar prejudice since the pariahs have be- 
come citizens. By an imperial decree in 
1871 nearly a million of Japan's accursed 
were no longer to be accounted as cattle 


but as human beings, with rights and 
privileges like those of all the people of 
the realm. President Lincoln's proclama- 
tion emancipated more, but not from 
more misery nor from more degraded and 
degrading conditions of existence. Yet 
not even the imperial edict, potent as it is 
in Japan, could avail to temper, to any 
appreciable extent, the age-long prejudice 
which still darkens the lot of these poor 
outcasts. It is in the battle by the modem 
knight of the Empire, against this yet 
virulent hatred, that the chivalric virtues in 
which he was reared shine with their old- 
time radiance. As related by Black, a 
single instance of the kind of strife in 
which the true chivalry of Japan are now 
engaged will show the spirit which ani- 
mates it, the odds against which it is 
fighting, and the power which inheres in its 
influence and example. 

Among the privileges granted to the eta 
by the Emperor's edict of 1871, was that 
of public education. As in our Southern 
States, so in Japan, after the conferring of 
all civil rights there were enormous prac- 
tical difficulties in the way of actually ol> 


taining such rights. In the village of 
Koromi, certain men subscribed to estab- 
lish a school. On the day appointed for its 
opening not one child appeared. The 
founders of the school, the men who pro- 
vided the building and paid the school- 
master, were etas. But there was one 
scholar who presented himself. Miyoshi 
(the governor of the district) foresaw the 
objections that would be felt. He went, 
therefore, and entered himself as a pupil, 
and actually slept at the house of one of 
the subscribers the night before the school 
opened. At first it was a mere matter of 
astonishment to the people ; but, when they 
saw that he was really in earnest, and that 
he remained with the etas without feel- 
ing contaminated, a revulsion of opinion 
took place, and the school prospered. 

It may be long indeed before the eta 
children will be happy in the public 
schools, in which they have equal rights 
with others. The victims of a prejudice 
so ancient that its very origin was forgot- 
ten centuries ago, cannot recover in a year 
or in a generation from the effects of the 
age-long obloquy which their race has suf- 


fered. But with the self-respect which they 
seem to have shared in common with all 
the island people, and with the best of 
that people trained to knightly service 
in their behalf, there are none in the Em- 
pire who have greater cause for grati- 
tude in the change which has passed over 
it than the poor outcasts of Japan. 



IT is seldom that a civilized people is 
tound with a religion of its own, the 
prevailing faith or almost every great na- 
tion being an exotic, having little or no 
connection with the springs of national 
life. The one notable exception is, of 
course, that of the Hebrews, with whom 
religious faith and the national conscious- 
ness were so closely identified as to be 
practically indistinguishable. 

In Hebrew literature it is often difficult 
to tell whether the writer is speaking of 
God, or of the Commonwealth ; of heaven, 
or of Jerusalem: of the Messiah, or of the 
nation itself. Religion being thus kept 
under the glamour of a sublime patriotism, 
Jewish history has become a record of 
patient loyalty unsurpassed in the annais 
of the world. Bereft of home, without a 
foot of land she can call her own. her 


people scattered to the four winds, per- 
secuted and abhorred of men, Israel still 
believes and proclaims herself the chosen 
nation, and holds fast her integrity as a 
distinct and marvellously homogeneous 

The one other pre-eminently patriotic 
cult is to be found in the religion of Japan, 
in that ancient Shinto faith which, through 
all the vicissitudes of the nation's life, and 
despite the utmost efforts of foreign propa- 
gandists to dislodge or supplant it, remains 
to-day, not only the real religion, but the 
loyal heart of the land unifying the nation 
as could no other influence. 

To the question. What is the religion of 
Japan } there can be but one answer. For- 
e gn faiths are in that land only as guests, 
'l hey belong not to the nation's life. Many 
Japanese are Buddhists, some are Confu- 
cianists, Christianity claims a tew ; but all 
are of the national faith, and Shintd is not 
only the religion oi tne State, but of the 
heart and life of every subject of the Island 
Empire. Religious faith and the national 
consciousness are with them as indissoluUle 
as with the Hebrew. 

5 H INTO PrllElST. 


Yet, closely alike as are the two peoples 
in their identification of religion and patriot- 
ism, their fates have been strangely different. 
The one, with every semblance of temporal 
empire vanished, dominates, by means of 
her religion, the chief civilizations of the 
world ; while the other, her religious faith 
scarcely known, even by name, now looms 
upon the political horizon as one of the 
greatest powers of the earth. 

Yet, though little known, the ancient 
Shinto religion merits attention, not only 
as a singularly patriotic cult, not only as 
the unique example of the persistence of 
a primitive faith among a highly civilized 
people, but also as a faith presenting fea- 
tures and tendencies diametrically opposite 
to those exhibited in our Western civiliza- 
tion. Here religious institutions continue, 
to all outward seeming, in full force and 
vigor, while at the same time an almost 
universal plaint is raised that the heart and 
life have gone out of them. There, amid 
the deserted shrines of the nation's ancient 
worship, and with scarcely any outward 
evidence of the prevalence of the primitive 
faith, the essence of that faith is still the 


most vitally effective force which can be 
found in the life of any nation. Its theo- 
logical traditions are openly and hopelessly 
discredited ; its worship, where it still exists, 
is acknowledged to be the merest ceremo- 
nialism ; but its heart is yet the heart of 
the nation, the source and spring of its un- 
swerving loyalty. "The secret living force 
of Shinto to-day means something much 
more profound than tradition or worship of 
ceremonialism. It signifies character in the 
higher sense, — courage, courtesy, honor, 
and above all things loyalty. The spirit o^ 
Shinto is the spirit of filial piety, the zest 
of duty, the readiness to surrender life for 
a principle without a thought of wherefore. 
It is religion, but religion transformed into 
hereditary moral impulse, religion trans- 
muted into ethical instinct. It is the whole 
emotional life of the race, the soul of 

Doubtless much of the fervor of patriotic 
loyalty in the Japanese nature may be at- 
tributed to the nation's long experience of 
isolation. Living within itself, and in a 
land so strangely beautiful that the early 
* Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan, page 388. 


worship of nature, which formed a chief 
feature of Shinto, might easily develop into 
a passionate pride of countr)', there has been 
much in the peculiar conditions of Japanese 
life to foster the national spirit. But it is 
also largely owing to the singular genius of 
the faith itself that patriotism has become 
the absorbing passion of the people. 

Not the least among the influences con- 
tributing to this end is the extraordinarily 
imifpng spirit of the Shinto religion. It is 
a fact as curious as it is interesting and sig- 
nificant, that it is a faith containing none 
of the elements of religion which commonly 
breed contention. Indeed, so conspicuously 
absent from it are the usual provocatives of 
religious rancor that it is commonly denied 
the name of a religion. There is in it noth- 
ing whatsoever over which it is possible to 
quarrel. It has no system of dogmas, no 
semblance of creed, no infallible book, no 
idols, no separate priesthood, no moral code, 
no promise of heaven, no threat of helL As 
a natural result, religious wars have been 
practically unknown in the history of the 
Empire ; and the most sj-mpathetic and re- 
spectful hospitality toward other faiths has 


been the habitual attitude of the Japanese 
mind. Propagandists of alien creeds have 
always, in the first instance, been met with 
welcoming courtesy. Only when suspicion 
has been aroused that the spread of their 
tenets or their ulterior designs might menace 
the integrity of the nation have the fires of 
persecution been kindled. It is safe to say 
that the Japanese sword, so quick to leap 
from the scabbard at the least hint of 
danger to the State, has never been drawn 
against any man simply because of his re- 
ligious opinions. 

This negative aspect of Shintd, the ab- 
sence from it of all the usual provocatives 
of contention, while contributing largely to 
the unity of the nation, finds also a partial 
explanation in the region of patriotic senti- 
ment. The lack of any code of morals, for 
example, is naively accounted for by native 
writers on the ground that the innate per- 
fection of Japanese humanity as loyal sub- 
jects of the Son of Heaven enables them 
to dispense with any other specific moral 
guidance. Ethically, as well as politically, 
the Mikado is looked upon as supreme. 
Loyalty to him is the all-comprehensive 


duty; and it is only the peoples who do not 
acknowledge his authority who need an 
ethical code. 

If what Shinto is not has been thus 
largely instrumental in stimulating the pa- 
triotic spirit and in unifying the nation, still 
more in its positive aspects has the early 
cult contributed to the strength of the great 
national passion. 

Innumerable have been the attempts of 
modem students to define and set forth 
the positive contents of Shinto, the latest 
being those of Dr. GrifEs,* who endeavors 
to fix upon it unduly the stigma of phalli- 
cism, and of Perci\'al Lowell, who would 
identify with h}'pnotism some of the mod- 
em phenomena connected with its observ- 
ance, t These speculations, however, with 
many others, are merely the outcome of 
excursions into the fascinating realm of 
mystery which surrounds an early cult kept 
alive, as this has been, by a nation's pecu- 
liar experience of isolation. 

The salient features of the faith, upon 
which all investigators agree, are nature- 

• Religions of Japan. 
t Occult Japaa, 


worship, and reverence for the dead. Than 
these, it may be said, no other influences 
could be adduced better calculated to in- 
spire and strengthen love and loyalty to 
such a land as that of Japan, among a 
people so susceptible to beauty as are the 

It would be strange indeed if the features 
of a country so marvellously favored bv 
nature did not inspire a religious reverence 
which, in its turn, might easily beget a well- 
nigh idolatrous love of the land itself. 

Japan, to begin with, is a group of islands; 
and even were not their aspect so romanti- 
cally beautiful, even had not their shores 
been for centuries so jealously guarded 
from intrusion, we know -there is something 
in the very fact of isolation to inspire pa- 
triotic affection. Switzerland, guarded by 
its mountain ranges, and England, sepa- 
rated from Europe by the broad channel, 
have been pre-eminently the lands where 
love of country has become an intensity of 
passion. Now given a group of islands far 
away in the vast Pacific, extending through 
the most favored Northern latitudes, with a 
range of climate like that from Labrador to 


Florida, the larger isles almost continental 
in their dimensions, the smaller often vi- 
sions of romantic beauty beyond the dreams 
of fairyland ; given mountain ranges and 
peaks combining every element of grandeur 
and loveliness ; given a land first torn and 
twisted by earthquake and volcano into the 
wildest and wierdest forms which Nature 
can invent, and then everj* crag and raNnne 
and valley and cliff and shore clothed with 
luxuriant verdure by the moisture-laden 
winds from all quarters of heaven, and it 
would become impossible to dream of such 
a land without being inspired with reverence 
for the nature which has so shaped and 
adorned it. Then place in it a race en- 
dowed with a keen susceptibilit}- to natural 
beauty, and it would be strange, indeed, if 
that nature-worship, with which all human 
reverence has begun, did not develop into 
the most passionate ardor of patriotism the 
world has ever seen. 

One of the most frequent objects to 
attract the eye of the traveller in Japan, 
is the torii, or sacred gateway. Its con- 
struction, whether it be of wood, stone, or 
metal, is ever the same, — two columns, 


slightly inclined toward each other, sup- 
porting a horizontal crossbeam with widely 
projecting ends, and beneath this another 
beam with its ends fitted into the columns; 
the whole forming a singularly graceful con- 
struction, well illustrating the way in which 
the Japanese produce the best effects with 
the simplest means. This sacred entrance 
arches the path wherever, in Japan, the foot 
approaches hallowed ground. It differs, 
however, from all consecrated portals of 
other lands, in that it does not necessarily 
indicate the nearness of a temple. You 
may find it everywhere in your wanderings 
over hill and dale, at the entrance to moun- 
tain paths, or deep in the recesses of the 
woods. Sometimes it is on the edge of an 
oasis of shrubbery in the broad expanse 
of the rice fields ; sometimes on the bank 
of a lake ; and sometimes in front of cliff 
or cavern on the shore of the ocean. Pass 
under its arch and follow the path it indi- 
cates and, it may be only a few steps or it 
may be after a long walk or climb, you are 
led sometimes, indeed, to a temple, but 
oftener to a simple shrine. In the shrine 
you will find — nothing. But close by you 


will see some reason for its being there 
placed. There is a twisted pine, or a grove 
of stately trees, or a fantastically shaped 
rock, some suggestion of Nature's wildness 
or loveliness. The shrines are built, not 
for idols, but to consecrate the beauty in 
the midst of which they are placed. And 
further, it often happens that following the 
path under a torii, you look in vain for 
either temple or shrine. The path ends in 
that which to the Japanese heart is more 
sacred than either; it leads to some spot 
where, in the magnificent panorama spread 
out before him, he can gaze on the beauty 
or the grandeur of his country. Here is 
the true shrine of his religion. Wherever 
he can stand and behold the land of his 
birth, there is the temple of his faith. 

Yet were this all of Shinto, — the love 
of country inspired in the heart of every 
Japanese by the charm of his en\nronment 
and by his own susceptibility to the influ- 
ences of beauty ; were his national religion 
only nature-worship in a soul delicately 
sensitive to nature's attractions, — there 
had been nothing in it to save Japan from 
the fate which befell Greece. Like the 


country between whose life and her own 
so many a suggestive parallel may be 
drawn, Japan might have sunk into the 
depths of effeminacy and degeneration had 
she followed only the leadings of her nature- 
worship, had her religion been merely 
aesthetic, had there not been also in her 
national faith a virile element which kept 
her braced for heroic service in the realm 
of loyal devotion. Such an inspiring factor 
Shinto possessed. Lacking in all the fea- 
tures usually associated with religion, with 
no system of philosophy, of metaphysics, 
or of dogmas ; with neither idols nor priest- 
hoods, nor sacred books, nor code of morals, 
nor visions of future judgment; it had, 
nevertheless, beside its simple nature-wor- 
ship, a mighty stimulus to duty, an efficient 
fashioner of sturdy character, which has 
kept the fires of patriotism alive unto this 
day in the nation's soul. In its ever loyal 
devotion to the memory and example of 
the dead, in the so-called ancestor-worship, 
which in Japan has reached a higher stage 
in its development than anywhere else in 
history, there is, when joined with nature- 
worship in such a land, the sufficient ex- 


planation of the intensity of that national 
spirit which has characterized the whole 
life of the Empire. Susceptibility to the 
influences of beauty in a marvellously beau- 
tiful land might well arouse an ardent love 
of country and, for a time, a passionate 
readiness to die for it. It might easily, as 
in Greece, inspire the moral heroism which 
has made the names of Thermopylae and 
Marathon immortal. But far more is 
needed to keep alive in a nation the virile 
virtues, as the event has often proved. 
Greece, once illustrating the sublimest 
heroism, is now peopled by a posterity 
who stereotype moral imbecility; while the 
Oriental nation, whose affinities to her are 
so strangely marked, has emerged from 
centuries of seclusion and peace, a nation 
of strong men, not only with no taint of 
effeminacy upon them, but with as fervent 
and strenuous an ardor of devotion to 
country as ever of old. 

In the reverence paid to the dead, in the 
sentiment and practice of filial piety which 
was its natural outcome, and in the instinct 
of obedience which that reverence fostered, 
we find the secret of the miracle of human 


energy which Japan has wrought to-day in 
the sight of an astonished world. 

In the late war with China every soldier 
of the invading army was nerved to duty 
and devotion not only by the knowledge 
that the entire nation of forty millions was 
behind him, that not a single dissenting or 
disloyal voice was raised in opposition to 
the struggle, but also by the consciousness 
that another vaster but viewless host was 
with him. " Little Japan," as the Occiden- 
tals commiseratingly called her, when she 
engaged in the struggle with her giant an- 
tagonist, is no weakling when this arm of 
power, given by her national faith, is reck- 
oned among her resources. The Japanese 
are ever surrounded and inspired by their 
dead. It is not simply, as in otlier nations, 
that traditions of the knightly deeds, and 
visions of the knightly chivalry of the past, 
linger in the memory of the warrior. The 
very actors in the fierce struggles of old are 
themselves on the field and in the thick of 
the fray, urging their sons to victory. Em- 
perors, princes, chieftains, knights, all the 
heroes of his countrj''s annals, and all the 
loved and revered of his own household, 


now become divine, are witnesses of the 
soldier's valor. 

Nor is this the only arm of power given 
to Japan by its national faith. Out of 
this same reverence for the dead, which 
is given to the living also as they grow 
old, has come that discipline of obedience 
which has made the nation a vast family of 
law-loving and law-abiding people, and its 
army so magnificent and so efficient a ma- 
chine. Accustomed from earliest years to 
imphcit and unquestioning obedience to the 
elders of the household, the youth who 
fight to-day the battles of Japan have had 
centuries of training in that virtue which 
makes the iron soldier and the loyal patriot 
With that virtue, and with the superb dis- 
cipline which it makes possible, must every 
enemy of the Island Empire reckon, in tak- 
ing into account its resources. Vast as are 
the physical powers which a nation of forty 
millions may exert, they are as nothing to 
the viewless energies generated by the na- 
tional faith. Fostered by nature-worship, 
there is the intense love of a laud worthy 
to be loved; and, strengthened by centuries 
of training in filial piety, there is a spirit of 


deathless loyalty to the living and the dead 
who people its homes. Devoid, as it is, of 
all the conventional features of religion, 
Shinto has thus the essentials of a true faith 
in its power to create a mighty sentiment of 
the heart, and to sound a call to faithfulness 
in life. 

In love of country and in loyalty to it the 
Japanese are at one. Made homogeneous 
to a degree by the influences of their long 
seclusion, the faith which they shared with 
the early Greeks and Romans, but which 
they alone among civilized peoples have 
perpetuated and developed, has moulded 
their life into a unity such as no other 
nation has approached. With but one 
thought and one desire,— the glory and 
honor of the Empire — there is in Japan 
but one genuine religion, — the national 
faith of Shinto. Its reality "lives not in 
books, nor in rites, nor in commandments, 
but in the national heart, of which it is the 
highest emotional religious expression, im- 
mortal and ever young. Far underlying 
all the surface crop of quaint superstitions 
and artless myths and fantastic magic, 
there thrills a mighty spiritual force, — the 


whole soul \tt a race with all its im- 
pulses and powers and intuitions. He 
who would know what Shinto is must 
learn to know that mysterious soul in 
which the sense of beauty and the power 
of art and the fire of heroism and the 
magnetism of loyalty and the emotion of 
faith have become inherent, immanent, un- 
conscious, instinctive." * 

• Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan, page ao^ 



^ EXT to the pride felt by every Jap- 
anese in the antiquity of the Imperial 
Dynasty, the oldest in the world, is that 
engendered by the fact that, during all 
the twenty-five hundred years of its rule, 
" unbroken from ages eternal," never has 
the foot of an invader pressed the soil of 
the realm. For this the nation is, of 
course, largely indebted to the rampart 
of the ocean waves. The enforced polit- 
ical seclusion which became its unique 
privilege for two and a half centuries, and 
which was so successful in barring out the 
vices and strifes of Western civilization, 
has been scarcely more of a boon to the 
Empire than its natural isolation far out 
in the Pacific, rendering effective invasion 
by a hostile force well-nigh impossible. 
It has been a boon to the cause of human- 
ity as well, for, in the case of a people so 
peculiarly constituted, endowed as they 


are with such an intense fer\'or of patri 
otism, it is impossible to think of Japan 
conquered without thinking of a whole 
race annihilated. Few Japanese would 
survive, or would for a moment care to 
sur\'ive, the loss of their country, and even 
its temporary subjection to a foreign foe 
would evoke such an unconquerable spirit 
of revenge as would embitter the very 
nature of a now sweet-tempered and ami- 
able people. It is not uncommon to-day 
for a Japanese to slay himself as the best 
means of calling public attention to his 
fear of some danger threatening the Em- 
pire. Such a death occurred not long ago, 
induced by the conviction that the nation 
might thus be warned against encroach- 
ments by the Russians. Purely morbid 
this, one might say, but, if it is a disease, 
it is one infecting the entire body of the 
people, and it is a factor in the means of 
national defence which will have to be 
taken into account by any Western Power 
contemplating invasion of the Island Em- 
pire. The tidings of the landing of a hos- 
tile force on its shores would transform the 
land into one vast camp, and its men into 


a body of iron soldiery. With all the 
immunity from attack which England has 
enjoyed because of her insular position, 
enhanced by the wider seas which sepa- 
rate Japan from the main, the England of 
the Pacific has for a defence a rampart of 
national pride to the strength of which 
even her Western prototype has as yet 
furnished no parallel. To stimulate such 
pride, if stimulus were needed, Japan has 
also in her annals the story of her triumph 
over an Invincible Armada, sent against 
her in the year 1281 by the mighty Kublai 
Khan, the Mongol conqueror of Asia. To 
complete the parallelism, the destruction of 
the enormous fleet of thirty-five hundred 
ships was brought about by the same power 
as that which annihilated the Spanish Ar- 
mada. The Japanese never tire of telling 
how the Shinto gods of Is^, in response 
to the prayers of the entire nation, raised 
the mighty tempest which overwhelmed in 
utter ruin the invading Mongol host. Little 
may indeed now be left of the superstition 
which in this instance ascribed to the gods 
the salvation of the land, but there is still 
in the Japanese heart a deathless faith in 


the sacredness of a soil, and in the integ- 
rity of an empire, whose protection seems 
divinely guaranteed not only by one of the 
mightiest forces of nature, but also by one 
of the loftiest sentiments which can nerve 
the spirit of man. 

And yet Japan, despite the immunity 
from attack which she has always enjoyed, 
has been again and again subject to inva- 
sion by one power whose influence, though 
never for a moment supplanting the ancient 
national faith, has profoundly modified the 
intellectual life and social conditions of the 

As has already been said, there are few 
countries which have not been subdued by 
the propagandists of some foreign religious 
faith, and in one sense Japan has been no 
exception to the rule. In fact, her spirit 
of open-hearted hospitality has ever invited 
invasion from this source. The manner of 
her subjection, however, the fact that the 
various foreign religions which from time 
to time have exercised their sway within 
her borders have changed in no essential 
regard the national faith, enables Japan to 
hold her unique place as the unconquer- 


able nation in the history of religious strife, 
as she has held it in her age-long exemp- 
tion from physical attack. In other lands 
conquered by alien faiths, the ancient 
cults have either wholly disappeared or 
have become so profoundly modified as 
to be practically unrecognizable. But in 
Japan almost the reverse has happened. 
There has been no genuine conversion 
there except that of the would-be converter, 
and, at the best, in the lapse of time the 
invading faiths have become scarcely more 
than adjuncts or supplements to the ancient 
and only living religion of the Empire, to 
that passionate admiration of their beauti- 
ful land, and to that devoted reverence for 
the dead who have made it famous, which 
alone have power to arouse aught akin 
to religious enthusiasm in the Japanese 

It is safe to say that in becoming a 
Buddhist or a Confucian no Japanese has 
ceased to be a Shintoist, for to him that 
word is only another name for the love of 
his native land, and to abjure Shinto would 
be an act of treachery to the imperial 
realm. Wholly true, therefore, is it that, 


while Japan has been again and again in- 
vaded by foreign religions, never once has 
it been conquered by them. Welcomed 
with open-hearted hospitality as have been 
the teachers of alien creeds, except in a 
single instance when such hospitality was 
flagrantly abused, they have been per- 
mitted to remain, and to work for the 
nation's good side by side with those of 
the indigenous faith; but that faith has 
never been superseded, nor has allegiance 
to it wavered. No substantial \-ictor)- over 
the realm has ever been won even by the 
all-conquering religious zealot. In Russia 
you may see both the Cross and the Cres- 
cent on the same church spire, but the 
cross is always above the crescent to sig- 
nify its victory over it In Japan Shinto 
and Buddhist temples may be found side 
by side with the same priest ofiEiciating in 

There is no field there for religious 
propagandists who do not recognize to 
the full the claims of that native faith, 
whose watchword is loyalt}' to the land, or 
who are not willing to assimilate to it their 
own faith. It was thus that Confucianism 


entered the land, in no spirit of conquest 
or zeal for conversion, but as the bearer 
of somewhat that could be welcomed for 
the nation's good. It supplied the needed 
code of morals which Shinto lacked, and 
gave added sanction to that reverence for 
the aged and the dead upon which the 
native faith was already based. Of a 
kindred spirit, coming more as a learning 
than as a militant faith, it was cordially 
welcomed, and found for three centuries 
a congenial home. During its sway — for 
over the minds of the scholars of the 
realm it acquired a remarkable ascend- 
ency — the national faith, still existing in 
its integrity, although losing many of the 
superstitious accretions which had grown 
around it, shared with the new teaching 
the reverence of the nation, the Confucian 
temple side by side with the Shinto shrine 
bearing witness to the close friendship of 
the two faiths. 

In a like spirit, and in similar g^ise, 
though with far more of the animus of 
propagandist zeal, came, in the fifth cen- 
tury of our era, the forces of Buddhism. 
In this case, also, the islanders, with their 

Boatman in Rain Coat. 


usual power of keen discrimination, seemed 
at once to recognize elements which might 
well be utilized to supply the deficiencies 
in the native faith and worship. Shinto 
was a religion without a body of dogma. 
Buddhism came with an elaborate dog- 
matic system, and supplied the need. The 
Shinto ritual was bare and barren. The 
new religion rivalling the Roman Church 
in the omateness of its temple service, and 
in the splendor of its decorative embellish- 
ments, gave new impetus and direction to 
the aesthetic life of the nation. It found, 
too, a congenial home among people of a 
race which has everj^vhere responded to 
the efforts of Buddhist propagandism, that 
religion having been welcomed and adopted 
by the Turanian races alone, almost as con- 
spicuously as Christian missionary success 
has been confined to the peoples of the 
Arj-an family. 

And yet, in spite of all these favoring 
influences to ensure a hospitable greeting 
and a permanent ascendency over Japa- 
nese thought and life, and further, not- 
withstanding the fact that the large 
majority of the Japanese are to-day pro- 


fessing the Buddhist faith, it is very 
doubtful whether even this invasion of 
the land by an alien creed can be reck- 
oned a successful one. As Dr. Griffis 
says, "the thing that has suffered rever- 
sion is the exotic rather than the native 
plant." Buddhism is indeed everywhere 
in evidence as the faith of the common 
people, but in their worship and in their 
creed they have probably never for a 
moment thought that they were abjuring 
the old religion of the land. In fact, the 
only way by which Buddhism could gain 
even its nominal ascendency was by incor- 
porating into its pantheon all the Shinto 
gods, and by representing the new faith 
as only another form of that which had so 
long possessed the heart of the nation. 

The deities whom the Japanese had 
always reverenced were given new names ; 
the festivals in which they delighted were 
rebaptized as Buddhist saint's days ; and in 
such guise the alien faith was offered to 
the people. The hospitality with which 
the Buddhist missionaries were welcomed 
was repaid in kind ; the alien religion was 
practically surrendered by them to all the 


assimilating influences which Japanese 
patriotism could suggest or bring to bear ; 
and so, with the heart and life of Shinto 
yet untouched, the faith of Gautama gained 
its nominal victory. Profoundly influenc- 
ing in many regards the national charac- 
ter ; giving new direction to the aesthetic 
life of the people ; presenting fresh sanc- 
tions to morality; and adding many a 
picturesque feature to popular customs; 
Buddhism itself underwent a far greater 
transformation. It was the propagandist 
force, and not the people against whom it 
was sent which became converted. Japan 
experienced no change of heart, even when 
all favoring influences combined to aid the 
converting power. Never surely was there 
a religious invasion of a land essayed with 
greater prospect of success. But even 
with all the advantages of a hospitable 
reception, its centuries of occupation, its 
Oriental origin, and its racial congeniality, 
it wrought in vain. 

It brought to Japan a creed and phi- 
losophy of pessimism; for fourteen cen- 
turies it was granted every facility for 
teaching pessimism; and yet the Japan- 


ese are still the most sunny-hearted and 
genial optimists to be found anywhere on 
the globe. It brought its pictures of 
heaven and hell ; and in the fourteen cen- 
turies during which they have been dis- 
played, it is safe to say that few Japanese 
have been known to refer to them without 
a smile. It preached a gospel of gentle- 
ness and peace ; and for the two hundred 
and fifty years of the seclusion of the 
Empire political peace lent its aid in be- 
half of this gospel ; and yet Japan is to-day 
as ever in the past a nation of warriors, 
untouched by effeminacy, and beneath its 
mild aspect smoulders all the fierceness of 
the old feudal days. It had every possible 
opportunity to permeate the Japanese life 
with its spirit; but Yamato damashii,"^\.hG 
Soul of Japan," remains in all essential 
regards the same chivalrous, indomitable, 
patriotic soul which Shinto reared and 
nourished of old. There is no Japanese 
whose real religious faith is not summed 
up in the idea of loyalty to his land ; none 
whose genuine religious enthusiasm is 
evoked by aught save its welfare and its 
glory; none whose highest conception of 


religious duty is not that of dying for the 


Nor did the next force sent against 
the land by propagandist zeal, welcomed 
as it was with true Japanese hospitalitj', 
and given every facility for its task, ac- 
complish any lasting results. The Jesuit 
Missions of the Sixteenth Century owed 
their extraordinary initial success to two 
principal causes. Their leaders following 
the example of their Buddhist predeces- 
sors, instead of antagonizing the existing 
religions, in a great degree disarmed op- 
position by presenting the new faith as 
only another form of that to which the 
people had already been accustomed. 
Just as the Buddhist had included in his 
own pantheon the Shinto gods, so the 
Jesuit, finding that the Buddhist ritual and 
imager}- would lend themselves most read- 
ily to his purpose ; seeing for example that 
the Japanese Kwannon, the goddess of 
mercy, would require only a change of 
name to ser\-e as the Virgin Mary, made 
as few radical changes in the old faith as 
possible, and thus gained what seemed a 
firm foothold on the religious soil of the 


Empire. With a far-seeing wisdom, also, 
the newcomers appealed to the very pas- 
sion of loyalty which formed so vital an 
element in the ancient faith, and, again 
imitating their predecessors in the mis- 
sionary field, directed their initial efforts to 
the conversion of the rulers of the land, 
knowing that to gain them would surely be 
to gain their following also. Mr. Kaneko, 
formerly Professor of Japanese History 
in the Imperial University and now a 
Vice- Minister of State, is my authority 
for the statement that no religion ever 
acquired influence in the Empire unless it 
first appealed to the highest in authority, 
and won them to its cause. It was to this 
end that the early Confucian teachers and 
the Buddhist proselytizers directed all their 
initial efforts, and so won their following. 
Twenty centuries of training in the school 
of loyalty is a factor in the missionary 
situation in Japan which no missionary ex- 
cept the Protestant Christian has ever 
overlooked. The latter, content to quote 
irrelevantly the text " the common people 
heard Him gladly," has failed to utilize 
the primal element of the Japanese natu»«», 


its devoted and unquestioning loyalty. 
How thoroughly the Sixteenth Century 
Jesuit availed himself of this mighty aid, 
is evidenced by the heroic constancy with 
whicb> the Catholic converts among the 
common people faced the fierce persecu- 
tion which swept the Western religion from 
the land. That they knew very little of 
the doctrines of the church for which they 
endured such hideous tortures, and in 
whose cause they went to death in droves, 
seems evident from the impossibility of 
there having been any adequate means 
of communication between the great body 
of converts and their foreign teachers. 

The barrier of the language was in 
itself enough to prevent a knowledge of 
the tenets of a faith sufficient to awaken 
the least enthusiasm for it, much less to 
inspire a passion for mart}Tdom in its 
behalf. Nor is there wanting direct testi- 
mony to support this conclusion. As 
quoted by Hildreth, " So late as 1690 there 
were, according to Kampfer, fifty persons 
imprisoned in Nagasaki for life, or until 
they should renounce the Catholic faith. 
These were peasants who knew little more 


of the faith which they professed except 
the name of the Saviour and the Virgin 
Mary, which, indeed, according to the 
Dutch accounts, was all that the greater 
part of the Japanese converts had ever 

The only rational explanation, there- 
fore, for the marvelous constancy of the 
hundreds of thousands of Japanese martjTS 
for the Roman faith, is to be found in 
their sentiment of loyalty unto the princes 
and lords who had early given to it their 

Of the outlook for the modern suc- 
cessors of the Jesuits, the intelligent and 
self-denying emissaries of the Roman 
Church who constitute the invading force 
in the Empire to-day, little can be said 
except that their present movement on 
Japan is made in the face of almost insur- 
mountable obstacles. The disastrous ruin 
which overwhelmed the enterprise of three 
hundred years ago, the popular execration 
in which, during the whole of that interval, 
the Catholic name has been held, and the 
breach of loyalty to the Empire which 
seems involved in acknowledging fealty to 


a Western pontiff, combine to create in the 
minds of both leaders and people almost 
as great a distrust of the Roman eccle- 
siastic as of the Russian politician. The 
old suspicion that the religious ascendency 
of Rome might lead to political subjec- 
tion, the suspicion which once transformed 
a tolerant and hospitable people into a 
nation of relentlessly cruel persecutors, is 
still alive and active. There has been no 
slightest change of the Japanese heart in 
this regard. 

And yet, in spite of being handicapped 
in these many ways, the Roman Catholic 
forces, though only one-eighth as large as 
the present Protestant army of invasion, 
count fully as many followers as the latter, 
each of the two great branches of the 
Christian Church in 1894 claiming about 
50,000 converts. 

As to the probability of the complete 
surrender of the Empire to either of these 
two rival forces, or to both of them com- 
bined, it will be readily seen that, as the 
above estimate represents the total result 
of more than thirty years' effort, a very 
distant date must be set for the conversion 


of the remaining thirty-nine million nine 
hundred thousand. True it is, indeed, 
that a computation from the initial rate of 
increase in such an Empire as this does 
not take into account the possibility of a 
wave of religious sentiment sweeping over 
the land and changing the allegiance of 
the entire people. But such a mighty 
movement in favor of any form of Chris- 
tianity, or of all forms combined, is not 
likely to happen in Japan. The time for 
it has passed, and it is doubtful if the 
opportunity will ever again recur. 

The significant fact in the later religious 
history of the Empire is this, that at the time 
of the opening of the country thirty years 
ago, Japan was ready and eager to adopt any 
Western institution or ideas which could 
aid in building up her new civilization, and 
she sent commissions to investigate the edu- 
cational, military, naval, judicial, and in- 
dustrial systems of Europe and America. 
Among the commissions was one to in- 
quire into the expediency of adopting 
Christianity as the State religion in order 
to improve the moral condition of the 
people. "The result," as says Hearn, 


" confirmed the impartial verdict of Kamp. 
fer in the Seventeenth Century upon the 
ethics of the Japanese. 'They profess a 
great respect and veneration for the gods 
and worship them in various ways. And 
I think I may aflSrm that in the practice of 
virtue, in purity of life and outward devo- 
tion they far outdo the Christians.' " The 
commission reported against the adoption 
of the Western religion on the ground 
that, judging from the moral condition of 
the West, Christianity' was not there so 
potent an influence for right living as 
were in Japan the religions which had so 
long held sway among the island people. 
In considering the question of missionary 
success in Japan, therefore, this is the 
salient point to be kept in mind. During 
the last thirty years in every other depart- 
ment of thought and life that Empire has 
been the scene of one of the mightiest 
revolutions ever known in the history of 
the world. From the benefits of this 
movement which bore so many features of 
Western life across the Pacific, Chris- 
tianity has been the one thing excluded 
— and it was deliberately excluded be- 


cause, after full investigation, it was 
deemed prejudicial to the interests of 
morality. Had it been possible for those 
in authority to come to any other conclu- 
sion in regard to it, the instinct of loyalty 
in the minds of the masses, instead of 
wielding its tremendous power against 
the efforts of the missionaries, would have 
been their potent ally, and the nominal 
Christianization of the land might ere 
now have been effected in a degree pro- 
portioned to its tiansformation in other 
regards. But as it is, the foreign zealots 
must work against hopeless odds, and 
must continue to content themselves with 
gains which do not even keep pace with 
the natural increase of the population. 

In a broad view of the missionary situa- 
tion the odds are indeed hopeless. The 
army of invasion is confronted, primarily, 
with the fact that in all history successful 
religious propagandism has always been 
confined within racial limits. An exami- 
nation of the map of the world at once 
makes it plain that, of the three great 
missionary religions, Christianity is to be 
found in force to-day nowhere outside of 


the Aryan family, that Buddhism, with 
the exception of small districts in the land 
of its birth, has found favor only among 
the Turanians, and that Mohammedanism, 
apart from its conquest of a portion of 
India by the sword, is now at home only 
within Semitic confines. There are, there- 
fore, no precedents on which to build the 
hope of any genuine conversion of a 
Turanian race to Christianity. 

Again, as Heam has so clearly pointed 
out, "never within modem history has 
Christendom been able to force the ac- 
ceptance of its dogmas upon a people able 
to maintain any hope of national existence. 
The nominal successes of missions among 
a few savage tribes or the vanishing 
Maori races only prove the rule." And 
the hope of a national existence, the 
dream of national glor}-, the mighty 
stimulus of patriotic pride, the passion of 
loyalt)', this is the very breath of life to 
ever)- faithful subject of the Island Realm. 
There was a time, when confronted sud- 
denly with the vision of the overwhelming 
forces which could be brought to bear 
against her by the Western powers, Japan 


realized her own weakness, and for many 
years, in view of the fate of other Oriental 
peoples, the hope of her continued na- 
tional existence might well be clouded. 

That was the day when it might have 
been possible for Christianity to gain 
ascendency within her borders. But that 
day has passed, and in the hour of her 
own marvelous achievements in the pres- 
ent struggle for existence among nations, 
as she proudly takes her place among 
the powers of the modern world, there 
is scarcely any other people in whose 
veins the pulses of national life beat 
so full and strong. Even in the little 
Christian fold which remains as the re- 
sult of thirty years of mission work, this 
national spirit is making itself felt in such 
force as to put in serious jeopardy the 
whole outcome of that long and arduous 
effort. Not only is there among the con- 
verts already made an insistent demand 
that the property and management of the 
missions shall be placed in their own 
hands, and the services of foreign workers 
be largely dispensed with, but there are 
also manifest signs of a determination 

View of- Mat 



that the doctrinal developments of Jap- 
anese Christianity' shall accord with the 
Japanese spirit and be conformed to the 
traditions, customs, and essential faiths of 
the nation's life. It is an open secret 
that the American commission recently 
sent to Japan to consider the crisis in 
mission work there was confronted with 
problems which the national spirit has 
evoked, not only in matters of administra- 
tion, but also in those affecting supposed 
essentials of Christian belief. It is at 
least wholly safe to predict that every 
hope of sectarian aggrandizement on Jap- 
anese soil which has been cherished by 
any of the numberless denominations who 
have sent theu- propagandist forces there 
is doomed to disappointment. 

The Christianity' which gains a foot- 
hold or any lasting influence in the Em- 
pire will be neither Presb}-terian, nor 
Episcopalian, nor Baptist, nor Methodist, 
nor Unitarian Christianity. It will not be 
even American, nor English, nor German, 
nor Roman Christianity. It will be, if 
anything at all, an essentially Japanese 
faith based upon and assimilated with the 


old loyalties. What has happened in 
every other department of the nation's 
life, the dismissal of foreign teachers and 
•employees just as soon as natives have 
been educated to take their places, is the 
manifest destiny of the foreign religious 
propagandist. The Japanese will, as al- 
ways, give him a patient and hospitable 
hearing, with a view to ascertain whether 
what he has to offer will be of use to the 
nation's life. If it shall be foimd to be of 
service in enhancing the power of that 
life, the office of administering it and of 
moulding its future developments will be 
directed by native influences, and the self- 
appointed foreign directors of the nation's 
religious and moral well-being will find 
their occupation gone. And thus the 
only invasion of the Empire which ever 
had a hope of success will prove a fail- 
ure. In her faith, as in her polity, Japan 
will remain, as always in the past, the 
unconquered Island Realm. 

It is not that her people are not pro 
foundly grateful for the admirable educa- 
tional, benevolent, and philanthropic work 
which the missionaries have done for them 


In the thirty or more years of their occii- 
pation of the land. Doubtless they would 
have been far more grateful had they not 
clearly seen that it was done not primarily 
for its own sake but for the ulterior pur- 
pose of sectarian aggrandizement ; but 
many of the results accomplished have 
been so plainly for the bettering of the 
moral and social conditions of the Em- 
pire, that they must be a churlish people 
indeed who would not appreciate the de- 
votion which has inspired and the energy 
which has wTOught so much of good in 
their behalf. But, on the other hand, it 
must be said that in a large view it is a 
question whether such obligation be not 
cancelled by the breaking down of the old 
moral sanctions of the nation through the 
inconsiderate zeal of the alien host to 
destroy what they are pleased to call 
idolatry. It may well be doubted indeed 
whether the addition of any number of 
hospitals, asylums, colleges, and churches 
could compensate for the evil results of 
the denunciation by the missionaries of 
that ancestral worship which lies at the 
foundation of Japanese morality; which 


forms so lovely a feature of their domestic 
life ; and which has been the direct source, 
not only of much of the sweetness and 
charm, but also of the virile qualities with 
which the Islanders have so recently as- 
tonished the world. The outcome of that 
simple, natural, and beautiful domestic 
worship, no more deserving the stigma of 
idolatry than the Western custom of laying 
flowers upon the grave or than the im- 
pulse which has filled Westminster Abbey 
with the forms of England's great dead, 
has practically been to furnish Japan 
with that moral code which her religion 
has been said to lack. We have only 
to put ourselves in her place, and try to 
imagine the feelings with which we would 
greet the messengers of a powerful alien 
organization, denouncing and seeking to 
destroy the Decalogue, to form some 
adequate conception of the essential hope- 
lessness of the present assault upon the 
national faith of Japan. 


DS Knapp, Arthur May 

809 Feudal and modem Japan