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History of Japan is so little known abroad that one is obliged 
to argue for its more extensive study. It has been said that, 
had the Russians possessed an insight into the national life of 
Japan, the recent war would probably have never taken place. 
However that may be, that here in America the general under- 
standing of the history and the character of the Japanese people 
is too inadequate for the increasing importance of the relations 
of the two nations, has been growing painfully evident in recent 
years. A better knowledge is imperative, for the welfare of the 

Aside from this practical need, however, the student of his- 
torical science will find in Japan's history many points of gen- 
eral and abiding interest. Institutionally, for example, Japan 
began her national career as a patriarchal state, with the em- 
peror at the apex of the organization. Internal and external 
circumstances conspired to make this system untenable in the 
seventh century, when the State was reorganized after the model 
of the centralized bureaucracy of the T'ang Empire of China. 
This artificial reform was followed by five centuries of a gradual 
unforeseen transformation of society, in which a process similar 
to the feudalization of Western Europe in the early middle ages 
took place under similar circumstances and upon similar princi- 
ples. Finally, in 1185, feudal institutions were recognized by the 
emperor as the ruling machinery of the State. For the next 
four hundred years the system continued to develop, and in 1600 
culminated in the elaborate feudal polity of the Tokugawa sho- 
gun. After seven centuries of well-nigh unbroken rule, feudal- 
ism, too, proved untenable, in the nineteenth century, under 
foreign pressure and internal unrest. It was overthrown, in 
1868, by the united force of the imperial force from above and 
of discontented feudal elements from within, and was succeeded 
by a period of an active adaptation of European institutions. 
It is unnecessary to say that the transition from the partiarchal 
to the bureaucratic, from the latter to the feudal*, and thence 
again to the constitutional form of government, has been at- 
tended by corresponding social and economic changes. At every 
step the • student meets lessons of universal import, some of 
which may even serve to elucidate, either by similarity or by 
contrast, certain great features of occidental history. 


128 K. Asakawa 

To some persons, the moral and spiritual growth of Japan 
may seem even more interesting than the institutional. Here 
again are seen alternate periods of eager receptivity, assimila- 
tion and original expression. Japan's national cult, later called 
shinto, took its form before the coming of the continental civili- 
zation of Asia, and, together with the emperorship, with which 
the cult was closely bound, became a permanent heritage of 
the nation. Indian thought and Chinese culture, which began 
to pour in from the sixth century, elevated the tone of the ruling 
classes, and inspired the vigorous artistic activity of the eighth 
and ninth centuries. This was followed by several hundred 
years of practical isolation from the continent, in which the re- 
finement introduced in the previous age was gradually assimi- 
lated to the life of the higher society. By the eleventh century, 
even Buddhism had become largely Japanese in its doctrine and 
ritual, and the Buddhist church had grown to be a commanding 
economic and political force of the Empire. Then came a tre- 
mendous reaction from the feudal classes, which had been form- 
ing themselves in the country at large and became the control- 
ing power of the nation at the end of the twelfth century. The 
rise of these classes coincided with the coming from China of a 
new form of Buddhism and Buddhist art, the simplicity and 
vigor of which responded to the robust spirit of the warriors. 
These men of arms, with their rough but keen sense of honor, 
fashioned the moral tone of the new age. From 1600, the feu- 
dal rulers for the first time found in Confucianism, which had 
come to Japan more than ten centuries before, the best exponent 
of the actual ethical relations of the feudal society, and utilized 
its precepts for the purpose of formulating the warrior's code 
of morals. From this time, also, during a new period of foreign 
exclusion, the general culture and arts of life were greatly diver- 
sified and were widely diffused among all classes of people. 
Unity of culture was again broken when, in the middle of the 
last century, Japan was forcibly brought under the influence of. 
European science and Christianity. These new elements she has 
as yet hardly had time to digest. One who follows these suc- 
cessive periods of Japanese culture will find forms of art and 
modes of life that typify each epoch and are never successfully 
reproduced in another age. Every period also presents innumer- 
able problems for fruitful, study. 

If one tried to study these or any other aspects of Japanese 
history from literature written in European languages, he would 
be disappointed to find, among the great mass of works that 

Why and How Japanese History May Be Studied 129 

have been produced, that only half a dozen important sources 
have been translated. It is not impracticable for him, however, 
to acquire some degree of knowledge by selected readings from 
the vast literature. For general history, for example, he may 
read Brinkley 1 or Mazeliere,* with the aid of the indispensable 
Dictionaire by Papinot. 3 After this preliminary work, he may 
limit his attention to some special topic, and acquiant himself 
with works in that field which are mentioned in Wenckstern's 
Bibliography. 4 Whatever his subject may be, however, he may 
do well to consult publications of the Asiatic Society of Japan," 
of the Japan Society at London,' and of the Deutsche Gessell- 
schaft fur die Natur und Volkerkunde Ostasiens. 7 As to the 
monographs on special topics, there are few that are not men- 
tioned in Wenckstern, while their relative value will readily be 
judged by any trained student. It would be impossible here 
to enumerate even the best works on all the larger phases of 

The historical sources in the original language are at present 
the only reliable material for a satisfactory investigation in any 
important field. To those who can use them I am happy to say 
that they will find in the Library of Congress and Yale Univer- 
sity Library larger and better selected collections of Japanese 
historical material than at any other place out of Japan. The 
nature of the more than nine thousand works kept at the Library 
of Congress has been briefly described by me in the Librarian's 
annual report for 1907, and it is only necessary here to point 
out that they are particularly strong in the historical geography, 
and in the history of the religions and of the general culture of 
Japan. The Yale collection, which consists of about an equal 
number of works, is specially rich in original sources, and also 

'Captain F. Brinkley, Oriental Series : Japan, Its History, Art and Literature. 
In 12 vols. See vols. 1-4. Boston, 1901-2. 

'Marquis de la Mazeliere : Le Japon ; Histoire et Civilisation. In 5 vols. 
Vols. 1-3 already published. Paris, 1907. 

3 E. Papinot : Dictionaire d'Hlstolre et de Geographie du Japon. 2d Edition. • 
Tokyo, etc., 1907. The author writes me that an English edition of this work is 

♦Fr. von Wenckstern : A Bibliography of the Japanese Empire. 2 vols. Vol. 1, 
Leiden, etc., 1895, and vol. 2, Tokyo, etc., 1907. 

'Transactions of the Asiatic Society of Japan ; published irregularly since 1872. 

"Transactions and Proceedings of the Japan Society ; published irregularly 
since 1893. London. 

T Mittheilungen der Deutschen Gesellschaft fur Natur— und Volkerkunde Ostas- 
iens, since 1873. Tokyo. 

Also see the Itevue Francaise du Japon, monthly, since 1892, Tokyo ; and arti- 
cles on Japan in the Comtes-rendus of the Congres International des Etudes d' Ex- 
treme Orient, since 1873 ; the T'oung Pao, since 1890, Leiden ; and the Ostasien, 
monthly, since 1898, Berlin. 

130 K. Asakawa 

in material on two branches of history, namely, institutions 
and art. The sources may be divided into four classes. Under 
the first may be mentioned inscriptions of monuments in stone 
and metal, including a few rubbings from the original. 1 The 
second class comprises original documents. They cover all the 
period since the early eighth century, including, besides a large 
number of transcriptions 2 and fac similes, not a few actual docu- 
ments. 3 Under the third class comes an unusually large number 
of annals, memoirs and diaries, of all historic ages, all of which 
are among the fundamental sources of history. While these 
are mainly of political nature, a few relate to religious institu- 
tions* and to foreign relations. 6 The last class is quite a com- 

. 'These Inscriptions, together with- seals and signatures, facsimiles of many of 
which are among the collection at the Library of Congress, form an Important class 
of sources. While the contents of the inscriptions are in many cases too favorable 
to their subjects to be trustworthy, they often throw important sidelight upon his- 
tory, and otherwise are valuable sources for social, literary and artistic history. 

"Among these is the most valuable selection, entitled Ko-bun rei-shu, made from 
a vast number of documents (mostly relating to land property) kept at the Buddhist 
temple To-zhi, by (and probably In the autograph of) the historian Ban Nobutomo. 
The Dai Nlhon ko-mon-zho, edited by the Hlstoriographic Institute, Imperial Uni- 
versity of Tokyo, which is expected to be completed in two hundred volumes, Is 
regularly coming to Yale. 

3 Among these may be mentioned a Buddhist scroll, copied in the eighth century 
[the. Library of Congress owning four scrolls of this period] ; an almanac, with 
diary, of 1423-24: twenty documents of the latter part of the fifteenth century; 
many documents relating to the municipal government of Kyoto from the seven- 
teenth to the early nineteenth century, etc. 

"The records of this class may be divided as follows: (1) Diaries of civil 
nobles of Kyoto. Owing to the important fact that the central institution of the 
Japanese State, namely, the Emperorship, has been constant and immovable through- 
out the ages, there has clustered around that Institution a permanent class of civil 
nobility. The nobles possessed a degree of culture and refinement, and many of 
them methodically kept diaries. As may be expected, some of these diaries, deplet- 
ing, as they do, men and things at the center of culture and power, are among the 
best-prized sources of political and social history. During the feudal ages, when 
political powers descended to feudal classes, the nobles' records sometimes reveal 
the relation between the Emperor and the feudal suzerain. (2) Records of the feudal 
classes before 1600 are fewer in number, but are not less Important, than the 
diaries of Kyoto nobles. Feudal records multiply rapidly after 1600. (3) Diaries 
of some great Buddhist priests during the feudal ages, who were on Intimate terms 
with feudal authorities, are highly valuable. (4) Japan is exceptionally rich in 
that class of literature which is known In that country under the name "zui-hitsu." 
It consists of notes on all sorts of miscellaneous subjects, very often written down 
with little apparent order in arrangement. There are an endless number of these 
scrappy works, sometimes extended over hundreds of chapters, and often containing 
exceedingly valuable first-hand information. 

4 Such as the Soku-kyo hen, relating to the suppression of Catholicism, in 22 vols., 
and the Otanl Hon-gwan-zhl tsu-ki, a history of the -Buddhist temple West Hongwan- 
zhi, 7 vols. The latter has been copied from the original at the temple, and at the 
time of copying there was no other copy extant [The Library of Congress has the 
Ko-ya-san fu-do-ki, a history of the Buddhist monastery on Mt. Koya, in about one 
hundred volumes, specially copied from the original at the monastery.] These 
Buddhist institutions were great historical factors. 

"E. g., the Cho-sen tsu-ko tai-kl, Korean Relations, 10 vols. Specially copied. 

Why and How Japanese History May Be Studied 131 

prehensive set of illustrated books" and scrolls, 7 from which such 
aspects of social life as can hardly be studied from verbal de- 
scriptions may be gathered. Although works of historical geog- 
raphy are not so numerous as at the Library of Congress, the 
more than a thousand topographical maps which were presented 
to Yale by the Japanese Army and Navy Departments and Geo- 
logical Bureau will be found to be highly valuable in the study 
of old history. Works on law and institutions are specially 
numerous, the collector having made a particular effort in this 
field, as in the field of art. Another department, history of com- 
merce, though incompletely, is better represented than in any 
Japanese library that I have seen. It is needless to say that such 
helpmates of history as archeology, numismatics, religion, litera- 
ture, customs and manners, etiquettes and rites, weapons and 
arts of war, heraldry, genealogy, etc., as well as works of refer- 
ence, are also represented. It should be understood that many 
of the works already described are not on the market, and the 
majority are in manuscript, not a few, perhaps not less than sixty 
works in iooo fascicules, including the best works, having been 
specially copied in different parts of the country from the original 
and otherwise good copies. Special effort was made to secure a 
fair collection of photographs and other forms of reproduction 
of art, for the reason that these objects seem in many cases to 
represent, not only in their subject-matters, but also in the detail 
of their execution, the spirit of the periods in which they were 
produced. The earlier specimens have the additional interest- 
that they prove the existence of an indirect Greek and Western 
Asiatic influence upon Japanese culture. The present collection 
has been made with these ideas in view. It consists of hundreds 
of photographs, rubbings, fac simile reproductions and technical 
studies of details, many of these being specially made by experts. 
After this brief description of the Yale and still briefer refer- 
ence to the Library of Congress collection, it is fair to say that 
each of the collections is far from being complete. Yet the stu- 
dent might spend some of his time to great advantage and, as 
regards certain subjects, to much satisfaction, with the Japanese 
material at Washington and New Haven. 


"E. g., the Zhin-rin kin-mo dzu-i, 6 vols., showing different occupations of the 
people during the flourishing period of the Tokugawa rule. [The Library of Con- 
gress has a large number of works of this kind.] 

'These scrolls are hand written, and some of them are among the most highly 
valued sources of history. [The Library of Congress possesses many scrolls not 
duplicated at Yale.]