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the foreign colonies as such will cease to exist, and that in
them only a few of the greater commercial agencies will
remain (as they do in all the chief ports of the globe), and
that even the fine and costly houses of the foreign residents,
which the prosperity of ancient times encouraged them to
build, will pass into the occupation of the Japanese. It
seems almost equally certain that the investment of large



284 OLD & NEW JAPAN

sums of alien money will no longer be made in the
interior.

After all, that these things should ultimately happen is
not so much a cause for wonderment as at first appears.
Japan is merely gradually ridding herself of elements (the
foreign traders and shopkeepers) which in the past have
proved disturbing to her national progress and the native
management of her own commerce. She has been perfectly
within her rights in her determination to regain possession
of all concessions wrung from her at a time when she had
little prospect of figuring as one of the great powers of the
civilised world, and in abolishing foreign consular jurisdic-
tion. This determination is shown by the gradual elimi-
nation of foreign employes, once necessary, as the Japanese
had much to learn regarding commercial customs and
methods ; the resistance of the Japanese congregations to
the authority of alien missionaries ; the resolute boycotting
of foreign merchants, when the actions of the latter appear
in any way to menace the interests or prosperity of native
firms, or the right of conducting business in their own way ;
and finally, by the growing disinclination of the Japanese
to enter into employment in foreign houses, except for
the purpose of learning some trade secret or system of
commerce.

But although no one who knows the set of circum-
stances and the evolutionary processes which have brought
about the development of Japan's greatness, along lines
which have certainly worked to the detriment of the foreign
traders of the old-time concessions, will deny that the race
feeling has had a great deal to do with it, there is more
than this at the back of the Japanese mind. For years
the more able and intelligent of the race were less con-
cerned at the presence and domination of the foreigner as
a foreigner than as an indication that the nation was unable
to take care of its own interests and manage its own affairs,



COMMERCE & MODERN TENDENCIES 285

and that upon the Mikado must rest a stigma in the eyes
of the other nations so long as the commerce of his people
remained in the hands of and under the control of aliens.
This is really the root of the whole question, and is what
made the Japanese determined to put an end to conces-
sions, to develop their commerce for themselves, and to
do a direct trade with the world at large without the inter-
vention of the foreign middleman. Much has already been
done by the Japanese along the lines we have indicated ;
but the final move in the game is not yet, nor has Japan
shown the whole of her strength in commercial enterprise
and organisation.

The future of Japan is a problem which has exercised
the minds of statesmen of almost every civilised nation,
ethnologists and students of modern history. The pro-
gress of the Japanese has, indeed, during the last decade
been so astonishingly rapid — nay, even almost meteoric —
that to " place " the race definitely in even the near future
of the nations is recognised as an almost impossible task.

The result of the Russo-Japanese War upset many
calculations and predictions which had been made and
founded upon the results of the previous struggle with
China. Japan has, in a word, made history so fast that
the usual methods of calculation of possible national pro-
gress appear inadequate and likely to be falsified in esti-
mating hers. It would certainly be most unwise to venture
upon any prediction which was chiefly based either upon
the past, or upon the supposition that existing ten-
dencies and methods of development will, of necessity,
continue much the same in the future. But, putting aside
the possibilities of further complications, or even a further
struggle with Russia, or a breach of amicable relations
with the United States (which for many reasons, into
which it is unnecessary to enter, seems to provide the
most probable point of friction), or of disorder within



286 OLD & NEW JAPAN

Japan itself which would necessitate the suspension of
the present constitution, and even perhaps lead to the
temporary reinstitution of a modern type of Sh5gungate,
it is safe to say that enormous developments and radical
changes are safe to come both in the interests and against
the interests of the nation at large.

But taking as a basis for prophecy the assumption
that violent changes will neither be rendered necessary
nor take place automatically, it is possible to arrive at a
probably not very inaccurate estimate of the general results
which will be evolved from a series of rapidly alternating
periods of action and reaction, which are almost certain
to distingush the life of the Japanese race during the next
decade.

To take the physical question first. There are certain
indications that, with the adoption of many European ideas,
in the dim future (perhaps by the dawn of the twenty-first
century) the Japanese will have become a finer, somewhat
taller, and more physically efficient race than they now are.
This view is supported by facts, and at least three good
reasons. Firstly, in the cities the Japanese are at last be-
coming accustomed to a more nutritive diet, more flesh
is eaten. This circumstance must have considerable effect
upon the growth. Nowadays few large towns are without
a considerable number of restaurants where " Western "
cooking is practised, and where meat dishes can be obtained
almost as cheaply as the older form of Japanese food.
Secondly, there is now a systematic and well-considered
gymnastic and military training of all the able-bodied youth
of the Empire, which, whatever certain writers and theorists
may choose to say, can scarcely fail to have by similar means
the same effect as has been recorded in Germany, where
a marked increase in stature, muscular development, and
average chest measurement has been brought about.
Then, thirdly, owing to the demands made upon the time



COMMERCE & MODERN TENDENCIES 287

of the young Japanese by more perfect systems of educa-
tion and military service, marriages are not now contracted
so early, and this circumstance must have a beneficial
effect on the coming generation. In the past marriages
between boys and girls were very common, naturally
leading to the bringing into the world of feebly constituted
children.

Of late years a very marked improvement in the
physique of quite young children has been noticeable, and
that the Japanese race is capable of great physical develop-
ment, if properly trained, cannot be denied. One has
only to notice the remarkable differences of stature in
the individuals forming an average Japanese crowd to
realise this. Considerable improvement in the average
stature is quite possible in the comparatively near
future, given a more stringent social discipline, and the
almost universal adoption of efficient systems of physical
culture.

Regarding the question of what is commonly called
moral improvement the prospects of the future are not so
bright. Indeed, rather the reverse is the case. Those
who have deeply studied the old moral ideals of the
Japanese race, which we have in a measure dealt with
elsewhere, will be prepared to agree that they are not less
admirable than our own ; and that in the code of Japanese
morals one had at least something which was attainable by
the average man living a simple and quiet existence under
a system of patriarchal government. Indeed, statistics of
recent date go far to show that untruthfulness, dishonesty,
petty crimes, and crimes of violence are more frequent now
that Japan is more " civilised " than twenty or even ten
years ago. This fact does not, we admit, necessarily point
solely to a decadence in the Japanese themselves. It is
perhaps more an indication of the increased keenness of
the struggle for existence which has developed defects of



288 OLD & NEW JAPAN

character (common to all humanity) that had hitherto lain
dormant or semi-dormant in the Japanese race.

The ancient standard of chastity was not greatly (if at
all) inferior to our own, nor were moral conditions in
reality much worse than with us. The ideal was different,
the attitude of the race regarding such things was and still
is different — that is all. At any rate as regards the
chastity of married women the standard was in ancient
times higher than with many Europeans nowadays. Re-
garding the morals of the men, it is perhaps too much to
claim that they were above reproach ; but in what civilised
country in modern times would it be possible to claim that
they are ?

The social conditions which brought about and led to the
recognition of a system of concubinage were so widely diver-
gent from any set of conditions affecting a Western people,
and the standard so different from that which is set up as in-
dicative of the best possible social conditions by Westerners,
that an impartial judgment cannot be arrived at unless these
conditions and ideals (difficult to comprehend, we admit) are
recognised and understood. Thus it happened that in Old
Japan professional vice was less found and less recognised
than it is at the present time. It has been said (quite in-
correctly and unjustly) that the Japanese language contains
no word indicative of chastity, as we understand the term.
Missionaries, in particular, have often repeated this state-
ment as an indication that with the absence of the word
the thing itself does not exist, and does not find a place in
the Japanese moral code. Nothing could be more mis-
leading. We ourselves have derived the word from the
French, and it would be equally just to say that the English
have no idea of chasteness because there is no English
(Anglo-Saxon) word in common use for the idea which the
foreign-derived word has come to convey so accurately
and clearly to one's mind. Any really good English-



COMMERCE & MODERN TENDENCIES 289

Japanese dictionary contains several Japanese (foreign
derived words) for the idea. The word in most common
use with the Japanese implies the ancient meaning of strict,
upright, firm, honourable, evil-resisting ; and we venture
to think that none of these qualities can, as a general rule,
exist with unchasteness. Thus it may be said that the Old
Japan, of not, after all, so long ago, can be compared in the
matter of conventional morality very favourably with many
a Western nation. As a general rule the people — from
instinct, from the innate love of the beautiful and of culture,
and from a dislike for the sordid or ugly — were better than
their system of laws required them to be.

Sudden reforms which have taken place, and the insti-
tution of new codes, will not and cannot at first conduce
to progress or immediate good. In moral things, at all
events, national sentiment must count for far more than
man-made codes or laws. A nation is moral or not because
its people are imbued by a sentiment (based on religion or
otherwise) of morality, not by reason of the mere existence,
or even attempted strict enforcement, of a code of laws.
So in Japan : before the highest Western standards of
morality can take root and flourish, there will have to be
that ethical change of feeling, always slow of growth,
which can only be developed by long use, discipline and
training.

When one approaches the subject of intellectual pro-
gress and the future of Japan, in that regard there is more
of hope. Although it would be useless to expect that the
rate of future advance can be reckoned on the basis of that
of the last twenty-five years, or, indeed, that Japan has
really advanced in that period as far along the road as her
most enthusiastic admirers would have one believe, there
can be no doubt but that the magnificent educational
system which is in progress of building up will in the end
accomplish all that is expected of it.

T



2 9 o OLD & NEW JAPAN

The position of women and girls, too, has improved,
and this in itself makes for progress. Nowadays the
Japanese girl is little behind her brother in the intellec-
tual advantages she enjoys, and the facilities which are
provided to enable her to obtain a good, sound education ;
and at present this system is travelling along lines which
make for the betterment of the nation at large, is singu-
larly and happily free from the " sex antipathy " and bitter
rivalry which is possibly in the future destined to prove
the undoing of ourselves.

In one thing, however, Japan is not likely for some
generations to reach the high level that she has attained
in other departments of life and progress. The average
capacity must remain lower than that of Occidental races.
Mere scientific knowledge cannot rapidly raise the level of
average workaday intelligence, which so largely settles the
place of a people amongst the nations. There are, of course,
exceptionally brilliant men amongst the Japanese of to-day ;
but they cannot themselves alone ensure a satisfactory
future or national progress. Some students of the latter
and of national character have been inclined to think that
the possession of a mathematical mind is most likely to
enable the individual, and consequently the nation at large,
to attain greatness. If this be so, it is a significant fact
that at present the Japanese as a whole are not mathe-
matically brilliant ; and proceeding upon the theory which
has been laid down, it is interesting to know that this
mathematical faculty is being cultivated in Japan most
assiduously, and special attention is being given to mathe-
matics not only in the greater colleges, but in the lesser
schools. The results which have been already obtained
are distinctly encouraging ; but time must elapse ere
anything like national efficiency in their respect can be
attained.

There are signs, however, in Japan, both of retrogres-



COMMERCE & MODERN TENDENCIES 291

sion as well as of progress ; and it is certain that she will
take longer to " find herself" than her most ardent sup-
porters have seemed to think.

In some departments of public life — more especially
should we say in that of education — she has attempted too
much, and, as a consequence, has during the last year or
two had to return to what may be called the " limit mark."
It is essential to Japan's permanent progress that she
should develop her own individuality, and not seek to
borrow that of any other nation.

In support of this we may point out that the endeavour
to force the knowledge of another language upon the
masses of Japanese students and school children, was
found to have detrimental and even disastrous effects ; and
we are bound to record this although the language most
taught was English. The attempt to teach the nation
English wholesale was unsuccessful, and involved a very
considerable waste of time, and an immense waste of
money. The benefit derived from the study of the
language was, strangely enough, chiefly upon the lines
of modifying Japanese and making it richer, more ductile,
and capable of expressing new lines of thought, which
modern happenings and developments had brought into
being. There was and is a considerable absorption of
English (and even French and German) words, which
can be traced not only in the changing speech of the
more educated classes, but also in the colloquial language
of the old settlements and the towns which environ them.
Even the grammatical structure of the spoken language is
being affected ; affording one more proof of the remarkable
assimilative qualities of the race.

The Japanese Court has, for some years past, been to a
very considerable extent Europeanised, and this fact can-
not fail to have affected very materially the rest of the
people. " English style " is more and more seen in the



292 OLD & NEW JAPAN

attire of the upper middle-class men, although happily less
so in that of their women-folk.

Japan is not likely to forget the benefits she has derived
from contact with Western peoples, even though foreigners
engaged in commerce gradually dwindle in numbers, and
the ancient concessions have passed away. But the lessons
taught her will not cause her to reverence the memory
of the teachers — as she did and does that of her Chinese
instructors of ancient days — in that they have been her
teachers in purely material things, and have done nothing
to add to her artistic knowledge, or to the purity of her
animating spirit.

It is even possible that the Western world may in the
distant future find in Japan a formidable and unmerciful
rival, animated by the ancient national spirit, which will
brook no barrier to triumph and advancement. Certainly
those who regard her in the light of a peaceful rival (except
so long as peace affords her sufficient scope) are blind to
the signs of the times, and ignorant of her past history, and
the type of character it has developed.

But, nevertheless, Japan's mission in the Far East may
after all be a great and even beneficent one, if she is
blessed with rulers who know how to develop her great
resources along peaceful lines, and to recognise that the
greatest empires are those founded by a united people
upon commerce and industrial expansion rather than by the
spilling of innocent blood.



THE END



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Online LibraryClive HollandOld and new Japan → online text (page 23 of 23)