Walter G Dickson.

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IN the preparation of the following Work the Author
has to acknowledge the assistance which he has
received from a Japanese gentleman in Yokuhama,
whose name, for obvious reasons, it is prudent not
to mention.

With his knowledge of the history and institu-
tions of his country, the Author was able to fill up
the blanks in short notices of history contained in
elementary Japanese books. He was further en-
abled to go over the red-books of the empire which
enter into the details of the pedigrees of illustrious
families, and into the minutiae of Government offices.

The supposed unalterable character of these in-
stitutions induces those who have any pretensions
to learning in China and Japan to master and retain
by memory the names and duties of the different
offices in the various departments of Government ;
and they are frequently found to be good authorities



upon questions upon which there is no published

In the history of the intercourse of the Jesuits
with Japan, the letters of the fathers have been
almost the only authorities relied upon; while in
the more recent events contemporary publications
have been used.

In taking notes from the conversation of a
Japanese who could speak but little English, in too
many cases they were written down in what is
known in China as "pigeon English;" and the
Author has to acknowledge and regret that in
many cases the cramped nature of the notes has
not been entirely removed, and for such instances
he craves the indulgence of the reader.











IX. THE DAIMIOS, ....... 288

X. THE DAIMIO CLASS, . . . . . . 354



INDEX, 483




MAN, in the earlier periods of his existence, when he
was as yet putting forth his juvenile strength to sub-
due creation, was ever inclined to lo ok upon the great
forces of nature as difficulties in his path and ob-
stacles to his progress, which, in his more mature
strength, he has come to regard as aids to help him,
and to cherish as the very means to the attainment
of his ends. Such an object of awe to the earlier
mariner was the great ocean, when he had no compass
to guide him over its unknown and apparently
boundless expanse, and with no knowledge of the
winds and no experience of the currents. When he
had no means of keeping food or fresh water for any
great length of time, he was a bold man who would
venture far out of sight of land. Provided with the
faithful compass, men became bolder ; they enlarged
their vessels, making longer voyages, until they ran
over the length and breadth of the Eastern seas.



Still the China Sea, with its typhoons and its mon-
soons and currents, down to a comparatively recent
period, was looked upon as an obstacle which was to
be smoothed down and not to be wrestled with. To
beat up the China Sea against the north-eastern
monsoon was considered a rash struggle and a fool-
hardy waste of time, and in consequence the trade-
voyages to China were confined to vessels going up
the sea in summer with the southerly monsoon and
returning in winter with the northerly. Obstacles
such as these made mariners unwilling to run the risk
of pushing up the sea the length of Shanghai or Japan,
when the time of their return was a matter of so
much doubt.

In the present age, when man is thinking himself
of some importance from the little odds and ends of
knowledge he has stored up, the ocean, instead of
being a barrier of separation between islands and
continents, has become what the Mediterranean Sea
was to the Old World a link of connection, a high-
way of commerce, and steam has become a bridge by
which distant shores have been joined together. The
world is now finding out that she is one that the
interests of nations are one, and that no one part of
the body can say to the other, " I have no need of thee."
If Japan has hitherto felt herself in a position to
use such an expression to her fellow-members of the
body cosmopolitan, and the feeling has been responded
to by their acquiescence, the time and circumstances
seem to have arrived when this seclusion is to be
ended. The distance at which these islands seemed
to lie from the heart of the world's circulation,
Europe, has been almost annihilated, and European


nations have through the settlements in India and
China crept up alongside of the isles of the East.
The difficulties of access have been smoothed away,
her sumptuary laws have been abrogated, while the
produce of her rich soil is daily increasing to meet
the demands which are made upon it, and which she
is becoming willing and ready to exchange for that of
which she is more in need.

Steam has been the active agent in bringing about
these changes, causing the pulses of trade to beat
with greater frequency and with increased vigour.
But to any one who looks below the surface there
may be seen other agents at work, all concurring at
this crisis in the world's existence to produce changes
of portentous magnitude. The discoveries of che-
mistry, whether by the aggressive forces obtained in
the manufacture of munitions of war, or by the more
widely extended but silent beneficial operation of
such an agent as quinine, steam with all its ramifica-
tions of wealth, the telegraph with its tenfold power
of convertibility, the discovery of gold at the most
remote parts of the world, have combined to produce,
by the sudden influx of real wealth, by the inter-
mingling of ranks of men, and by the rapid throwing
into men's minds a quantity of information or of
knowledge, a condition of things in the mass which
makes that mass kneadable by those who can knead
it, and fitted for the reception of any leaven, for good
or for evil, which may be mixed with it. The min-
gling of ranks in the social system, the disturbance of
creeds in the religious, the confounding of parties in
the political, are preparing the way for some world-
wide change, by which old systems are to be done


away and new established. It is not working
in one nation alone, but in all : it is not confined to
Christendom, showing that the time to come is not to
be like times past ; but that the time is coming when
it is possible for one person to aim at one rule over
the whole world. This change is coming up like the
rising of water. It may overwhelm all existing
things like a wave. Some call it Progress, others
Democracy, but, whatever it be, it is evident that
every existing institution is to get such a shaking
that only the things that cannot be shaken will

All national institutions having, or pretending to
have, order, will probably have to undergo this trial ;
and when it comes the whole remains of the feudal
system will be tested : monarchies, the peerage, ten-
ures of land, orders in the Church, and, above all,
the question of primogeniture, cannot fail to be put
on trial. The different sections in the religious and
political world seem gradually separating themselves
into two large parties, the one standing for the vox
Dei, the other holding the vox populi to be the vox
Dei the one believing that power comes from
above, the other that power comes from below.

The leaven is working in the minds of men,
whether they will it or not ; and no nation will feel
the effects of this fermentation more than Japan.
Above all nations, she to this hour retains her feudal
system, intact. She must learn, as others have in
past times, and may have to learn again, at the
expense of revolution and blood. The people are
already being stirred, and dare to question. The
nobles are beginning to quake, they know not why,


in the face of changes which are being forced upon
them. The very throne of the Emperor is being-
searched and shaken.

In order to understand where the weakness of a
building lies, or how it is likely to fall down, it is
first necessary to know how it is constructed ; and in
order to comprehend the changes which events may
bring about in Japan, some idea must be formed of
the government of the country. Without some
knowledge of the framework of the constitution, it
is difficult to understand the relative position of men,
or to appreciate the operation of external agents upon
the system of the empire, whether that operation
work by a slow process of leavening from within, or
by a violent concussion from without.

The aim. of the author in the following pages has
been to give some idea of the framework of the con-
stitution of Japan. Having resided for some little
time in the country, he was enabled to get what
seemed to him a clearer glimpse of the working of
the different parts of the machinery of State than
was to be gained from any of the able works pub-
lished on the subject. The time at his command was
too short, and his knowledge of the language too
limited, to enable him to do more than prepare a
sketch which may serve a temporary purpose, before
works of greater research and fuller information are

The position of the Emperor (Spiritual Emperor, as
he is sometimes erroneously called), as the first in the
empire, must be recognised; the office held by the
Temporal Emperor, the Shiogoon (or Tycoon, as he
has been named), must be correctly and distinctly


understood before the nature of the rule in the empire
can be comprehended. It is further essential that the
student should be acquainted with the rank and posi-
tion of the nobility or nobilities of the empire (for of
these there are two classes) that of Miako at the
court of the Emperor, the Koongays; and that at
Yedo at the court of the Shiogoon, the Daimio, and
beneath them the Hattamoto. Without some know-
ledge of these the reader is lost in a maze of unmean-
ing names and titles ; but with a slight acquaintance
with the rank, offices, and names of these nobles, he
is able not only to follow the thread of history, but
to understand the intricacies of current events.

A glance at the picture, by a native artist, at the
beginning of this volume, may give some idea of the
relation in which these dignitaries stand the one to
the other. The upper half of the picture represents
the Shiogoon or Tycoon at the palace in the capital,
Miako, making his obeisance and performing homage
before his liege lord the Emperor, seated in the great
hall, Shi shin den, of the palace. The upper part of
the Emperor's person is concealed behind a screen of
thin slips of bamboo hanging from the roof. The
throne is three mats, or thin mattresses, placed one
above the other upon the floor. There is no chair or
support to the back. On each side of the Emperor
sit on their knees on the floor the high officers of his
court. Before him is seen the late Shiogoon, kneeling
and prostrating himself, with his head to the floor.
Behind the Shiogoon are his high officers Stotsbashi
and the great Daimio Owarri, both in a similar posi-
tion of prostration ; while beneath, in the open court,
are military officials of the Imperial Court standing


or kneeling. This picture represents accurately a
fact, and what appears to be a correct illustration of
the ideas of the people of Japan with regard to the
relative status of the Emperor and the Shiogoon.

In the lower part of the same picture may be seen
the Shiogoon on his progress to the capital, surrounded
by the nobles of his court and attendants, and amid
the general prostration, upon the public road, of his
countrymen and fellow-subjects.

It may almost be a matter of wonder that so little
was known of Japan until the advent of the Portu-
guese. Men were in old times adventurous travellers,
and yet, except what is contained in the pages of
Marco Polo, written in the thirteenth century, no-
thing more was known of the existence of the country.
The Buddhism of India had permeated China, Corea,
and Japan, but it brought nothing back. Mahomed-
anism, at an early stage, reached China, and gained
many converts, and the Arabs carried on an extensive
trade with China and the Eastern Isles; but neither
by their writings nor by the early native accounts do
they seem to have reached the shores of Japan, or, at
least, ever to have returned from them. This may
perhaps be attributed to the wars of the Crusades,
which appear to have lighted up such a fierce feeling
between the Christian and the Moslem as to have
proved a barrier to the inquisitiveness of the former in
his investigations regarding the East. When the Portu-
guese, in the beginning of the sixteenth century, had
pushed their discoveries and trade as far as Malacca,
and thence to China, it was to be expected that such
adventurous seamen as they then were would, before
long, solve the question of a people living under the


rising sun. It is fortunate that, among the lawless
buccaneers and pirates, as they evidently were, on those
seas during his time, one man, Mendez Pinto, should
have been found with the zeal to write some account
of the doings on the Sea of China, and to lift the veil
which, until he wrote, hung over the events which he
records. That the latter part of his narrative, relating
principally to China, should have been called menda-
cious, is not to be wondered at. But all that he relates
with reference to Japan is not only corroborated by a
closer acquaintance with the country and people, but
also by the native historians in their accounts of the
arrival of foreigners in the country, as well as by the
letters of the Jesuits who visited Japan very shortly
after it was first discovered by the Portuguese traders.
Subsequently to the period at which Mendez Pinto
wrote, the history of foreign relations with the country
is kept up by the letters of priests and Jesuits who
occupied Japan as a field for the spread of Christianity.
In the ' Histoire de TEglise du Japon ' there is an
excellent summary of occurrences connected with the
Church, its missions, its successes, its difficulties, its
martyrs, and its enemies, together with a glance at
events in Japan during the most eventful crisis in
the history of the country. After the expulsion of
the Jesuits and Eoman Catholic doctrines from the
empire, there are accounts from time to time published
by the officers connected with the establishment kept
up by Holland at Nagasaki. Caron, Fischer, Meylan
but, above all, Keempfer and Thunberg, and Titsingh
and Klaproth and, in our own times, Siebold have
done much to elucidate the manners and customs and
natural history of Japan.


Ksempfer has given a most interesting and instruc-
tive account of what he saw in the country during a
long residence, and upon more than one progress to
the courts at Miako and Yedo. His delineation of
the manners and customs of the people of Japan will
remain as a memorial of a state of things seen under
circumstances not likely to occur again. But the
work was published by another after the death of the
author, and in consequence of this, many of the names
of men, places, and things are nearly unintelligible.
Ksempfer's work is well known to the Japanese, hav-
ing been translated or repeatedly copied in manuscript,
and is known as ' Su koku rong/ It is an interdicted
book, and only recently a man was punished upon
being detected in the act of copying the translation.
The translation by Klaproth of the 'Annales des
Empereurs de Japon' is a most valuable work, and
contains a wonderful amount of information, being, as
it were, the complement of Kaempfer's work, drawn
entirely from books and not from personal observa-

The natives of Japan appear to have an intense
love and reverence for their own country, and every
individual in the empire seems to have a deep arid
thorough appreciation of the natural beauties and
delights of the country. To this the genial climate,
the rich soil, and the variety of the surface contribute.
The islands lie at such a latitude as to make the air
in summer warm without being hot, and in winter
cold without being raw. The soil, as in all recent
lava soils, is of a rich black mould, raising the finest
crops of millet, wheat, and sugar-cane, and when sup-
plied in unstinted profusion rearing splendid timber,


or capable, when nearly entirely withdrawn, of keeping
life and vigour and seeding power in a pine-tree of
two inches in height. The trees have a tendency to
break out into excrescences from plethora. The
variety of surface arises from the great height to
which the mountains rise in an island which at no
part presents so great a breadth as England, and yet
slopes gradually from the mountain-tops to the sea.
Some of these ridges appear to rise to the height of
Mont Blanc, one of them, Fusiyama, being upwards
of thirteen thousand feet in height, and it would ap-
pear that other ranges are higher. The great beauty
of Fusi (pah rh, not two) consists in its rising singly
out of a low country with a beautifully curved sweep
to a conical apex; and the atmospheric effects chang-
ing from hour to hour, as it is seen from thirteen pro-
vinces, give such a variety to this single object that
it is rightly called by a name to express the feeling
that there are not two such in the world. The varia-
tions of atmospheric density make it look at one
time much higher than at another. It may be seen
with its head clear in the blue sky rising out of a
thick base of clouds or the clouds rise and roll in
masses about the middle, leaving the gentle curve
to be filled up by the mind's eye from the base to
the apex. Again, the whole contour, in a sort of
proud, queenly sweep, stands out against a cloudless
ether, or with a little vapour drifting to leeward of
the summit giving the appearance of a crater or,
after a cool night in September, the eye is arrested
by the appearance of the bursting downwards of a
flattened shell, the pure white snow filling the valleys
from the top, the haze of the morning half concealing


the hill beneath. Every hour brings a change upon
a landscape which consists of a single object which
the lover of nature can never weary of admiring, in a
climate where seventy miles of atmosphere does not
obscure the larger features on the face of the mountain
even to the naked eye. How often would such an
object be visible in the climate of England ?

The first settlement of inhabitants upon an island
is always a subject of interesting speculation and
inquiry. The insular position gives an idea of a de-
finite time or period at which the peopling of a large
island must have taken place. The freedom of pos-
session of boundless wealth presents every inducement
to the immigrant to remain, while distance and diffi-
culties repel the idea of return. In Japan this im-
migration may in all probability have commenced by
a gradual spreading from the north of inhabitants
of Mantchouria through the islands of Saghalien and
Jezo to those of the Japanese group.

During the earlier periods of a nation's existence,
the art of writing has been generally kept in the
hands of men who have devoted themselves to a life
of retirement, and seclusion from the strife and
temptations of the outer world. These have been
found among the priesthood, and it has been their
business or their amusement to gather up and commit
to writing what had been up to the time current as
oral tradition in regard to prehistoric occurrences.
Men are forced by reasoning to refer the appearance
of their first ancestors to a creation by, or procession
from, a Divine Being. At the same time, those who
have wielded the power of writing, and thereby
reached and influenced a larger circle of their fellow-


men, have generally endeavoured to clothe the deities
from whom they profess to have sprung with virtues
which were to be emulated by their descendants, or to
inculcate through them, by precept, a purity of moral
conduct to be practised by their followers.

The group of islands generally included under the
one name Japan, was known in remote times by a
variety of names " Akitsu sima, Toyo aki, Toyo ashi-
warra no nakatsa kooni." " Wo kwo," the country of
peace, is used by the Chinese for Japan. " Ho," pro-
nounced " Yamato," and used for one province, is fre-
quently applied in Japan to the whole country.

The name Nippon Nits pon " Yutpone " in Can-
tonese, " Jih pun" in the Mandarin dialect, by which the
whole empire is now known is of Chinese origin, and
has probably been conveyed to the country by the first
Chinese settlers. Denoting, as the name implies, that
it is the country where the sun rises, the idea must
have originated with the people to the west. " Hon
cho," another name by which it is known, conveys the
same idea, "The beginning or root of the morning."
The name " Yamato," peaceful, harmonious, was more
likely to have originated with the natives. " Akitsu
sirna " implies that the island resembles a dragon-fly
in shape, and was at first applied to Kiusiu alone.
"Shin koku," a name by which the Japanese speak of
their own empire, means the land of spirits; and a
similar idea is conveyed by the name "Kami no
kooni." " Awadsi sima " refers to the supposed origin
of the islands from mud or froth, and is still applied
to the large island lying between Nippon and Sikok.

Some of these names probably retain the old words
used by the original inhabitants of the country trans-


lated into Chinese by the new immigrants. To these
new-comers it was no doubt a work of pleasure to
gather up what stores of tradition were floating among
the inhabitants of the country, and, adding thereto
much from their own imagination, to compose a my-
thology suited to the genius of the people. This my-
thology, which we may suppose to have been composed
by some of the Chinese literati about the court, had for
its object the elevation of the reigning family, and the
assertion for that family of a divine origin and divine
ancestry. It is worthy of note that these divine
ancestors were known at a very early period by
Chinese names, that of the mother and founder of the
imperial family being " Ten sho dai jin " the " great
spirit of the celestial splendour of the sun/' four dis-
tinct Chinese words.

According to this mythology, the heavens and the
earth having formed themselves out of nothing, gave
forth a spirit a "kami" who was the father of a
line of seven generations of spiritual beings who ruled
the universe as it then was, during a period extending
over millions of years, ending in a male and a female,
respectively named Issanaghi and Issanami. These
seem equivalents to or representatives of the male and
the female principles which, according to the Chinese,
pervade all animate creation. They are allegorically
represented as producing the islands of Japan, the
mountains, seas, and other natural objects therein.
Subsequently a daughter was brought forth, " Ten sho
dai jin," who is the spirit of the sun; and another,
" Tsuki no kami," the spirit of the moon. These
divinities are of no further importance in history than
as serving to make a line of ancestry for the reigning


family. At the time when, according to tradition,
the genealogy merged in mortal men, the country was
found to be peopled, and there is no attempt to show
whence these people came, though described as hairy,
uncivilised, and living in the open air. These myths
are generally of a Buddhistic origin, and were probably
brought over or invented by some missionary of that
religion at an early time, when the influence of India
operated strongly in the spread of its doctrines. This
influence is shown to this day in the repetition of

Online LibraryWalter G DicksonJapan, being a sketch of the history, government and officers of the empire → online text (page 1 of 34)