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ciating the danger, took steps to encourage gym-
nastics and athletics of every kind. Marked
improvement resulted. It cannot yet be said



that the Japanese youth shows anything like the
absorbing avidity of the Anglo-Saxon for out-door
games and sports, but he takes keenly to base-ball,
rowing, bicycling, and lawn tennis, and he begins
to think of developing thews as a business only
second to that of acquiring knowledge. If there
is excessive application to study, it is on the part
of girls, for they are spurred by a hope that the
possession of knowledge will raise them from the
position of inferiority to which the strong sex has
condemned them. Yet even girls are now adopt-
ing the habit of walking to and from school,
where also they are encouraged to frequent the
playground and the gymnasium. Public opinion
is still too tyrannical, however, to tolerate cycling
by women. A very few courageous ladies run
the gantlet of adverse criticism from their friends
and of insulting epithets from boors in the streets;
but the general feeling of the gentle, self-effacing
Japanese woman is that she must bow to all preju-
dices which affect her pleasures alone.

The rapid growth of journalism is another fact
that forces itself on the attention of every one ob-
serving Japan's modern career. In describing the
life of the cities during Tokugawa times, it has
been shown that the people were not altogether
strange to the uses of the newspaper. As early
as the beginning of the seventeenth century, a
sheet called the " reading for sale" (yomiuri) was
hawked about the streets of Yedo by a vendor
who cried his wares in the familiar European style



of later times. This embryo journal was in man-
uscript. It contained accounts of natural calami-
ties, conflagrations, fights, vendettas, and other
striking events. Another more aristocratic sheet,
called the "official intelligence" (go-sata-gaki),
was compiled by the chief of the tea-cult in the
Shogutis palace and sold privately. Its contents
were taken chiefly from the archives of the Gov-
ernment Secretariat, and consisted of appointments
and dismissals of officials, copies of administrative
ordinances, and notes on current events. Neither
of these publications attained permanent vogue
or suggested any expansion of the enterprise.
Not until 1863 did a real newspaper make its
appearance. Its publisher, Fukuda Meiga, was
inspired by the hope that if fuller knowledge of
foreign countries were disseminated among the
people, the policy of national exclusion might
become distasteful. He therefore made transla-
tions of the Batavia News, and published them
in the form of a journal printed from wood-blocks.
The following year (1864) Joseph Hiko a
Japanese who had just returned from the United
States, where he had lived since boyhood, having
been rescued from a sinking junk and carried to
San Francisco by an American ship combined
with two of his countrymen to publish a period-
ical which they called shimbunshi (newspaper), a
term destined to become permanent in the
language. As yet, movable types were not em-
ployed. But that innovation followed quickly



on the establishment of English journals for the
foreign community in Yokohama, and during the
stirring times at the fall of feudalism the demand
for news became so keen that one journal after
another made its appearance. At first the tone
of these sheets reflected the anti-foreign, anti-pro-
gressive spirit of the conservative section of the
nation, and their influence seemed so pernicious
that the Government prohibited their publication
and treated the editors as malefactors. But the
incongruity of such a policy being quickly per-
ceived, the veto was revoked in 1869, and journ-
alistic enterprise received official sanction within
certain limitations. All discussion of religious
questions, of politics, and of legal problems was
interdicted ; a general injunction forbade the pub-
lication of matter prejudicial to public peace or
good morals ; official permission had to be ob-
tained before issuing a journal, and the power
of fining or imprisoning editors, publishers, and
printers, as well as that of suspending or suppress-
ing a newspaper was vested in administrative
officials without any recourse to courts of law.
It might have been foreseen that the young journ-
alists of Japan, whose ideas of press liberty were
derived from European theories, would not readily
submit to these restrictions. A bitter struggle
commenced between, on the one hand, irrespon-
sible editors who were influenced partly by honest
faith in the value of free speech, but mainly by a
desire to embarrass the Government, and, on the



other, responsible officials who either believed
that society was not yet ripe for the full enfran-
chisement of newspapers, or were unwilling to
place in the hands of their political opponent
weapons which threatened to prove incon-
veniently effective against themselves. The pub-
lic, of course, took the part of the editors, and
each sentence of imprisonment or fine pronounced
against them brought a fresh access of popular
sympathy. If there was occasional abuse of power
on one side, there certainly were frequent abuses
of privilege on the other. Devices, often unscru-
pulous and sometimes ingenious, were employed
by the editors to gain popularity or to bring the
Government into ridicule. On one occasion they
organised imposing funeral rites in honour of
journals that had been suppressed by Ministerial
order. The defunct sheets, placed in a coffin,
were borne in solemn procession to the temple
of the Goddess of Mercy, where Buddhist priests
chanted litanies for the dead, journalists and
political agitators read threnodies or burned in-
cense, and all the pomp, parade, and ceremony
proper to aristocratic obsequies were observed.
The story of this struggle for liberty reads
strangely in the context of such a history as that
of Japan under the Tokugawa Shogunate, when
the Government made its autocratic power felt in
every sphere of daily life, and the people never
thought of resisting any order, however arbitrary,
whether it related to the nature of their food or



the fashion of their garments. In the Metji era, on
the other hand, although scarcely a month passed
that did not see an editor fined or imprisoned,
a newspaper suspended or suppressed, the repre-
sentatives of the press grew constantly more de-
fiant, the demand for journals more urgent. The
first daily paper, the Mainichi Shim bun (daily
news), was published in 1871, and in 1879, de-
spite the severity of the law, there were one hun-
dred and ninety-two journals and periodicals with
a total annual circulation of over eleven millions.

No sooner did the Diet commence its sittings
in 1891 than a bill was introduced for removing
all restrictions upon freedom of speech. Already
(1887) the Government had voluntarily made
a great step in advance by divesting itself of the
right to imprison or fine editors by executive
order. But it reserved the power of suppressing
or suspending a newspaper, and against that reser-
vation a majority of the Lower House voted, ses-
sion after session, only to see the bill rejected by
the Peers, who shared the Government's opinion
that to grant a larger measure of liberty would
certainly encourage licence. Not until 1897 was
this opposition overcome. A new law, passed by
both Houses and confirmed by the Emperor, took
from the executive all power over journals, except
in cases of lese-majesty, and nothing now remains
of the former arbitrary system. The result has
falsified all sinister forebodings. A much more
moderate tone pervades the writings of the press



since restrictions were entirely removed, and
although there are now 829 journals and periodi-
cals published throughout the Empire with a total
annual circulation of 463,000,000 copies, intem-
perance such as in former times would have pro-
voked official interference, is seldom displayed

The quality of journalistic writing in Japan
is marred by extreme and pedantic classicism.
There has not yet been any real escape from the
trammels of a tradition which assigned the crown
of scholarship to whatever author drew most
largely upon the resources of the Chinese lan-
guage. A pernicious example in this respect is
set by the Imperial Court. The sovereign,
whether he speaks by rescript or by edict, never
addresses the bulk of his subjects. His words are
taken from sources so classical as to be intelligible
only to the highly educated minority. Several
of the newspapers affect a similar style. They
sacrifice their audience to their erudition, and
prefer classicism to circulation. Their columns
are a sealed book to the whole of the lower
middle classes and to the entire female population.
Under any circumstances Japan labours under the
terrible disadvantage of having a written language
much more difficult to understand than her spoken
language, and these journals seem bent upon mak-
ing her misfortune as painful as possible. Others,
taking a more rational view of the purposes of
journalism, aim with success at simplicity and


intelligibility, and thus not only reach an extended
circle of readers, but also are hastening incidentally
the advent of great reform, the assimilation of
the written and spoken languages, which will
probably prelude that still greater desideratum,
abolition of the ideographic script. Apart from
this pedantic defect, the best Japanese editors have
caught, with remarkable aptitude, the spirit of
modern journalism. Twenty-five years ago, they
used to compile laborious essays, the construction
involved, the ideas trivial, the inspiration drawn
from Occidental text-books, and the alien charac-
ter of the source hidden under a veneer of Chinese
aphorisms. To-day, they write terse, succinct,
closely reasoned articles, seldom diffuse, often
witty, and generally free from extravagance of
thought or diction. Yet, with few exceptions,
the profession of journalism is not remunerative.
Very low rates of subscription and almost prohib-
itorily high charges for advertising are chiefly to
blame. 1 The vicissitudes of the enterprise may
be gathered from the facts that whereas 2,767
journals and periodicals were newly started be-
tween 1889 and 1894 (inclusive), no less than
2,465 ceased publishing. The largest circulation
at present recorded is about thirty thousand copies

The flagrant blemish of Japanese journalism is
recklessness in attacking private reputations. No
one is safe, not even a lady. Villanous and

1 See Appendix, note 12.



wholly baseless stories are circulated without any
attempt to investigate their truth, and sometimes
with full knowledge of their falsehood. There
are journals which actually boast of opening their
columns for the publication of any tale anony-
mously contributed. They recognise no respon-
sibility except that of providing entertainment for
their readers. Sometimes the unique object is
blackmail ; sometimes the market for gossip is
alone considered. And a strange fact is that the
victims of these slanders suffer in unremonstrating
silence. Newspaper editors are neither flogged
nor cited before law courts. This patience is
largely attributable to a conviction that contemp-
tuous indifference is the most becoming de-
meanour in the presence of such unscrupulousness.
But the law is also to blame. It provides no ef-
fective remedy. Recourse to a tribunal of justice
means that the defendant must be hunted from
court to court, and that after perhaps a year or
eighteen months of weary proceedings, he escapes
at last with a nominal penalty. Stranger still is
the blindness of journalists of course there are
several honourable exceptions who fail to see
that by taking continual advantage of the tolerance
of contempt, they are doing their best to become
really contemptible. Already the press occupies
a very low place in the estimation of educated
Japanese. They recognise its political capabilities,
but regard journalism on the whole as a low call-
ing. Public opinion does not help : its restraints


are practically inoperative in Japan. People un-
complainingly endure many things besides jour-
nalistic abuses. They endure vexatious slowness
in the transaction of administrative affairs ; they
have no effective perception that public servants,
being paid by the public, should really be servants
of the public ; they utter not a word of protest
against abuses which in Europe or America would
arouse a storm of indignant denunciation. Never
was there a nation whose customs illustrate more
forcibly the old saying that what is everybody's
business is nobody's business. It would seem at
first sight that this habit of mind may be the
result of traditional submissiveness to authority.
But that explanation is not sufficient. Men who
in local assemblies, in the Diet, in the columns of
the press and on the platform, show little respect
for officialdom, would not be likely to adopt an
entirely subservient mien on other occasions.
Besides, displays of long-suffering are not confined
to the people's attitude towards those in power.
The mood may be observed in all the affairs of
daily life. Nuisances of every description, obtru-
sive, noisy, or noisome, are endured without open
protest. 'The fact is that courtesy and philosophy
combine to dictate a show of indifference. A
Japanese finds it abhorrently rude to take queru-
lous notice of a neighbour's habits or idiosyn-
crasies, whatever discomfort or inconvenience
they may cause himself, and no character seems
to him less respectable than that of a fussy, sensi-



tive person. Men guided by such rules of con-
duct do not make vehement exponents of public
opinion, however agreeable they may be as units
of society.

As to the Japanese official, different opinions
have been expressed. According to some, the
occupants of high positions are polite and oblig-
ing, whereas the juniors are veritable Jacks in
office, always ready to abuse the little brief au-
thority with which they are clothed ; according
to others, they are one and all thoroughly cour-
teous and serviceable. Probably a subjective ele-
ment is mingled with both views. The Japanese
official's demeanour depends on the manner in
which he is approached. His natural tendency is
to be urbane and helpful, but he resents the de-
haut-en-bas style of address adopted towards him
by many foreigners, and is a little annoyed by criti-
cisms generally founded on ignorance. Certainly
in no other part of the world is it possible to find
police-constables who treat the public with more
uniform civility, and the conduct of the police-
man is probably the least fallible criterion. Yet
at times these same policemen have been guilty of
cruel roughness in apprehending foreign disturbers
of the peace, and there has followed the usually
exaggerated outcry on the part of local foreign
journalists whose sense of proportion is much
marred by their spurious patriotism. What may
be fairly stated in extenuation of any violence oc-
casionally resorted to by the police is that they



have to deal with very difficult conditions at the
open ports. The big, muscular, foreign sailor,
primed with liquor and craving for a fight, dis-
dains the notion of having Oriental hands laid on
him, and finds it intolerable to be haled to prison
by a diminutive Japanese. He resists so efficiently
that some of the native constables have become
persuaded of the necessity of clubbing him at the
first symptom of opposition. Such cases, however,
are exceptional. As for the average foreigner, it
may be truly said that beyond the limits of the
treaty ports, beyond the districts where his own
masterful way has given umbrage or his own mis-
understood familiarity bred contempt, he finds
everywhere civility and a sunny welcome. If
association with him has not improved the man-
ners of the Japanese towards him, the responsibil-
ity must be at least divided. On the whole,
however, there is no country where a stranger
can be more certain of freedom from unpleasant
molestation of every kind than in Japan.

Japanese officials are divided into four grades :
the first comprising those that receive their com-
missions direct from the Emperor and are entitled
to report personally to him ; the second, those
that receive their commissions through the Min-
ister of a Department and have the entree to the
Palace on State occasions ; the third, those com-
missioned similarly to the second, but not having
the entree to the Palace ; and the fourth, those
temporarily engaged and having the status of mere



employes. There is also another classification into
nine ranks, each having two classes. The place
occupied by an official in this list is granted by
the Emperor as a recognition of merit, and the
designation is prefixed to the name, like a title, in
official documents. Thus Sho-ni-i Koshaku ltd,
" First-grade Second Rank Marquis Ito ; " or Ju-
sammi Danshaku Iivakura, " Second-grade Third
Rank Baron Iwakura." Admission to official-
dom is by examination, except in the case of candi-
dates possessing certain duly attested educational

The following table shows the number of offi-
cials belonging to the Central Government and
their respective emoluments :


Third-class .

Totals . . . 6^,876 18,587,710 269 (^27)

There has been of late years a steady ten-
dency towards increase in the number of Central-
Government officials. In 1893, the total was
only 45,508, against 68,876 at present, and the
emoluments aggregated 10,745,348 yen, whereas
they now aggregate 18,587,710 yen. Undoubt-
edly the establishment is too large. In several of
the State Departments the officials are so numer-
ous that they serve merely to impede each other.



Total yearly

Average yearly








I, O06







4,1 86,500




Such a state of affairs in the early years of the
Meiji era was partially extenuated by the fact that
the Government had to find employment for
many impecunious samurai, victims of vicissitudes
for which they were not themselves responsible.
But that excuse has lost all validity and yet the
abuse continues. The party politicians inveighed
strongly against it during the epoch when every
stick served them to beat the " clan " dog. But
when they themselves arrived within reach of ad-
ministrative power, their conception of its per-
quisites proved to be still more elastic than that
of their predecessors.

For purposes of local administration the whole
Empire (with the exception of Hokkaido, which
has a special form of government) is divided into
47 prefectures (ken), 653 counties (gun], 48
towns (shi), and 14,734 districts (cho or son). The
three metropolitan prefectures of Tokyo, Osaka,
and Kyoto are called fu, and the districts are
divided into "urban" (cho) and "rural" (son),
according to the number of houses they contain.
The prefectures are named after their chief

In the system of local administration full effect
is given to the principle of popular representation.
Each prefecture (urban or rural), each county,
each town and each district (urban or rural), has its
local assembly, the number of members being
fixed in proportion to the population. There is
no superior limit of number in the case of a pre-



fectural assembly, but the inferior limit is thirty.
For a town assembly, however, the superior limit
is sixty and the inferior thirty ; for a county
assembly the corresponding figures are forty and
fifteen, and for a district assembly, thirty and
eight. These bodies are all elective. The prop-
erty qualification for the franchise in the case of
prefectural and county assemblies is an annual
payment of direct national taxes to the amount
of three yen ; and in the case of town and district
assemblies, two yen ; while to be eligible for elec-
tion to a prefectural assembly a yearly payment
of ten yen of direct national taxes is necessary ; to
a county assembly, five yen, and to a town or
district assembly, two yen. In towns and districts
franchise-holders are further divided into classes
with regard to their payment of local taxes.
Thus, for town electors there are three classes
differentiated by the following process : On the
list of rate-payers, the highest are checked off
until their aggregate payments are equal to one-
third of the total taxes. These persons form the
first class. Next below them the persons whose
aggregate payments represent the same fraction
(one-third) of the total amount are checked off to
form the second class, and all the remainder form
the third class. Each class elects one-third of
the members of assembly. In the districts there
are only two classes, namely, those whose pay-
ments, in order from the highest, aggregate one-
half of the total, the remaining names on the list

VOL. v._7


being placed in the second class. Each class
elects one-half of the members. This is called
the system of o-jinushi (large landowners), and it
is found to work satisfactorily as a device for
conferring representative rights in proportion to
property. The franchise is withheld from all
local salaried officials, from judicial officials, from
ministers of religion, from persons who, not being
barristers by profession, assist the people in affairs
connected with law courts or official bureaux, and
from every individual, or member of a company,
that contracts for the execution of public works
or the supply of articles to a local administration,
as well as from persons unable to write their own
names and the name of the candidate for whom
they vote. Members of assembly are not paid.
For prefectural and county assemblies the term is
four years ; for town and district assemblies, six
years, with the provision that one-half of the
members must be elected every third year. The
prefectural assemblies hold one session of thirty
days yearly ; the county assemblies, one session of
not more than fourteen days ; the town and dis-
trict assemblies have no fixed session : they are
summoned by the mayor or the head-man when
their deliberations appear necessary, and they con-
tinue in session till their business is concluded.
Speaking broadly, the chief function of the
assemblies is to deal with all questions of local
finance. They discuss and vote the yearly bud-
gets ; they pass the settled accounts ; they fix the



local taxes 1 within a maximum limit which
bears a certain ratio to the national taxes ; they
make representations to the Minister of State for
Home Affairs ; they deal with the fixed property
of the locality ; they raise loans and so on. It
is necessary, however, that they should obtain the
consent of the Minister of State for Home Affairs,
and sometimes of the Minister of Finance also,
before disturbing any objects of scientific, artistic,
or historical importance ; before contracting loans ;
before imposing special taxes, or passing the
normal limits of taxation ; before enacting new
local regulations or changing the old ; before
dealing with grants in aid made by the Central
Treasury, etc. The governor of a prefecture,
who is appointed by the Central Administration,
is invested with considerable power. He over-
sees the carrying out of all works undertaken at
public expense ; he causes bills to be drafted for
discussion by an assembly ; he is responsible for
the administration of the funds and property of
the prefecture ; he orders payments and signs re-
ceipts ; he directs the machinery for collecting
taxes and fees ; he summons a prefectural assem-
bly, opens it and closes it, and has competence
to suspend its session, should such a course seem
necessary. Many of the functions performed by
the governor with regard to prefectural assemblies
are discharged by a " head-man " (gun-cbo} in
the case of county assemblies. This head-man

1 See Appendix, note 13.



is a salaried official appointed by the Central Ad-
ministration. He convenes, opens and closes the
county assembly ; he may require it to reconsider

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Online LibraryF. (Frank) BrinkleyJapan, its history, arts and literature (Volume 5) → online text (page 6 of 16)