Lawrence John Lumley Dundas Zetland.

An Eastern miscellany online

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bench on the beauty of perpetual and universal
peace, and, childishly happy in their belief in the
immediate advent of the millennium, hasten to
cut down the armaments requisite for imperial

Not far from the newly -constructed Japanese
ships lay an erstwhile Russian battleship, the
Orel, now the Iivami, no longer the grimy
battered wreck that had escaped annihilation
only by surrender, and had been escorted by
Japanese cruisers from the fiery hell of Tsu-
shima to Maizaru, but a trim and useful addition
to the navy of Japan. The last act played by the
Orel in the passionate drama of the Sea of Japan
has been painted in lurid colours by eye-wit-
nesses of the scene — a scene which portrays in
all its ghastly horror the hideous reality of
modern war. A third of the crew lay dead or
wounded, the cries of the mutilated and the
dying rose shrill above the storm of shot and

^ This was of course written on the abandonment of the Cawdor
Programme by the late Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman's Government,
a false economy which has resulted in an expenditure of over
£40,000,000 in 1910, with a prospect of even greater estimates in
the immediate future.


shell, until human nerves broke down beneath
the terrible ordeal, and panic and demoralisation
reigned supreme. Down into this frenzy of
human suffering and despair came the callous
order from the conning-tower, " Dispose of the
wounded." The order was ruthlessly obeyed.
"The work was carried out principally by petty
officers, and no mercy was shown. Men were
picked up and cast into the sea like so much
useless ballast. . . . The scenes that preceded the
capture of the battleship were indescribable, the
sea being dotted with wounded men struggling
to keep afloat." ^

Away in the country is the Japan of your
imagination once more. The roar of new Japan
is far — infinitely far — away. Emerald hills and
bubbling streams, distant outlines melting away
imperceptibly in soft blue haze ; sturdy peasant
women, knee-deep in mud and w^ater, working
desperately to get the rice-field planted in time
to be coaxed to maturity by the burning summer
sun ; tiny temples and altars to Nature's gods — •
all are here just as they appear in the fascinating
and sympathetic writings of Lafcadio Hearne.
The sojourner in the East scents a familiar
atmosphere and adapts himself instinctively to
his environments. He shakes off the restrain-

^ From a description of the naval battle of the Sea of Japan,
published by the Eisho Shuppan Sha.


ing thongs imposed by a conventional civilisation
with something of relief, and travels once more
after the fashion of the immemorial East, with
his staff in his hand and his loins girded.

Shod with the straw sandals of the country —
purchased at the rate of two pairs a penny — I
started one summer's morning on a trip into old
Japan. We pegged along, my Japanese hench-
man and I, — a worthy of the old school, with
a name signifying in the English tongue "Little
Mountain," — and towards evening halted at a
straggling village and put up in accordance with
custom at the village inn. We had followed
the course of a brawling river whose banks were
lined with precipitous mountains clad warmly
with dense forest and piled in tangled masses
in all directions. At intervals along the road
stood the inevitable chaya or tea-house, perched
on some overhanging rock, seductively calling
to the wayfarer to rest a while in the shade
of its hospitable roof. In common with other
frequenters of the road we accepted the welcome
invitation, drank immoderately of the pale,
astringent tea of the country, — for the summer
sun beat pitilessly down on the valley bottoms, —
and then tramped on again until the next chaya
hove into view to mark another stage in the
day's journey. Thus for many days.

The inn of Japan, unlike the serai of Western


or Central Asia, is superficially clean, and supplies
all the necessaries and, in a modified form, some
of the luxuries of life. Quilts, which the lodger
sjjreads on the straw-matted floor, are provided
for him to sleep on ; food — edible if unsatisfying —
is served him in tiny bowls, with chopsticks sup-
plied ; and a boiling-hot bath, common to all and
sundry, welcomes him at the end of his day's
march. The contrasts between the Far and Near
East are, indeed, in many respects strongly
marked. Here is a land that is kissed, not
scourged, by the sun. Abundant water and a
humid atmosphere have clothed the countr}^ in a
mantle of tropical luxuriance and created in the
Eastern seas a world of fragrant flowers and riot-
ous vegetation, the very antithesis of the parched
and sun-scorched deserts of Western Asia. In
Japan the gentle and kindly nature of the people
testifies to the peaceful influence of Buddhism ;
in Turkey, Persia, or Arabia the stern and
haughty demeanour of the inhabitants bears
witness to the fierce fanaticism inspired by the
militant creed of Mohammed. The humble wor-
shipper at the shrine of his ancestors, the aesthetic
acolyte chanting with monotonous iteration the
meaningless Namu Amida Butsu of the Buddhist
litany, have little in common with the perfervid
apostle of Islam : the intricate and ingenious
architecture of the one contrasts markedly


with the grand and simple conceptions of the

Yet, despite such dissimilarity of creed and
setting, there is among the peoples of Asia, from
Samarkand to Colombo and from Tokio to Stambul,
a certain aflSnity of thought, certain kindred char-
acteristics, observing which the stranger from
across the seas may say, "This is the East." The
unabashed indecency of the bazaars of Western
and Central Asia finds its counterpart in the frank
disregard for convention displayed in the country
districts of Japan, where life and social intercourse
proceed innocently, if immodestly according to
Western canons, upon the assumption that, though
the serpent tempted, the woman did not eat of the
fruit of the tree of knowledge in the Garden of
Eden. The woman gives suck to her child in the
street, the village maid takes her bath in com-
pany with the village hodge, and these things
present no cause for offence, because in the eyes
of the people there is no offence in them. Again,
if the traveller in Persia or Turkestan is brought
into perpetual contact with an unyielding and
irritating resistance to hurry, the wanderer in Far
Eastern lands becomes early conscious of the fact
that he is moving in a world where thought and
action are characterised chiefly by a profound and
imperturbable deliberation. Finally, East and
West Asia alike vie with one another in proclaim-


ing the existence of that strange and mysterious
law by which it appears to have been decreed that
among the peoples of the West alone shall the
sanctity of truth meet with respect or recognition.
Of this homogeneousness of atmosphere I have
invariably been conscious when travelling in East-
ern lands ; and it was, perhaps, because a toler-
ably extended acquaintance with the men and
manners of many Asian countries had taught me
to accept it without question or reserve that cer-
tain symptoms of innovation struck forcibly upon
my imagination as I travelled through the country
districts of Japan. Schools presented a conspicu-
ous feature in every corner of the country — not
the schools dear to the bigoted literati of China
or the intolerant mullahs of Islam, but modern,
up-to-date, twentieth-century schools, where the
knowledge and learning of the West is fast being
imparted to the children of the East. I remember
one day meeting a number of small boys returning
from a village school in a district far removed from
the influence of railways and big cities. On my
approaching them they drew up to attention with
military precision and bowed ceremoniously to me
as I passed. I was somewhat puzzled to find a
reason for this spontaneous display, and subse-
quently learned that the cause was to be found in
the cut of my clothes. I was dressed after the
manner of the West, and was therefore an object


of respect. You ask why ? Because the Japanese
are the most sensitive people in the world ; be-
cause the day has already dawned when much that
is artistic and characteristic of real Japan must
be sacrificed at the altar of progress ; because
Europeanisation is the fetich of the day ; and be-
cause European clothes are the hall-mark of polish
and modernity in the gentlemen of new Japan.

Nor is it only the boys who attend the schools
in this year of grace 1907 ; for the school-girl in
magenta hakama, with satchel and books in hand,
walking blithely to the nearest academy, is the
rule rather than the exception of to-day — and a
vastly significant one in an Eastern country.
And if we turn to statistics regarding education,
we find that they more than confirm the deduc-
tions of casual observation. Thus in 1899, 85*06
per cent of the boys and 59*04 per cent of the
girls of school age were attending school — figures
which had increased five years later to 96*59 and
89*88 respectively. During the school year 1903-4
£4,500,000 were spent on public education ; and
5,976,124, or 93*23 per cent of the children, boys
and girls combined, of school age were recorded as
receiving elementary instruction.^

^ The estimates of expenditure by the Department of Education
for the year 1909-10 amounted to £7,473,375. In 1907-8 98-53
per cent of the boys of school age, and 96*14 of the girls, were
returned as attending school, the percentage of both sexes attending
being 97-38.


There is another — a powerful, perhaps a
sinister — influence eating slowly but surely into
the old communal life of the people, the influ-
ence of modern industrial requirement. Already
thousands of women and children are toiling
wearily in factory and workshop, attending
mechanically to the great steam-driven spindles
and looms which are slowly but inexorably
crushing the life out of the old family hand-
machines on which were made the exquisite
fabrics embodying the artistic soul of Japan.
Unguarded and uncared-for by a kindly legis-
lation, their lot can scarcely be considered an
enviable one. No Factory Acts grace the pages
of the statute - book of Japan. " We have our
duty plain before us," say the manufacturers,
" to establish our commodities firmly upon the
world's markets. Let us get our hold of them
before we are tied and handicapped by Govern-
ment interference." Such was the fervent prayer
which I heard breathed by more than one manu-
facturer — a prayer which would appear to have
every chance of being granted, since only so lately
as August last (1906) the Japanese Government
refused an invitation to send delegates to an
international conference at Berne, held with a
view to prohibiting night work by women, on
the ground that the state of the industries of
the country did not admit of such interference !


True, the women and children may smile over
their work as the casual visitor passes to and
fro among the whirring creels or the crashing
looms ; but then the Japanese smile is an enig-
matical thing, and, as has been written, " the
Japanese can smile in the teeth of death, and
usually does." One must know something of
the possibilities of the Japanese smile if one is
to appraise it at its true value. "At first it
only charms, and it is only at a later day when
one has observed the same smile under extra-
ordinary circumstances — in moments of pain,
shame, and disappointment — that one becomes
suspicious of it." ^ Some day the workers of
Japan will rise, and will demand for themselves
the same rights and privileges already conceded
to their fellow -workers in the West — but the
day is not yet. Before that time comes Japan
will have dispelled once for all the illusion that
she is a trifler in toy lanterns and paper fans,
and will have vindicated her claim to be re-
garded as one of the manufacturing nations of
the world.

In the above brief pages I have endeavoured
to put on paper some of the impressions which
I formed during four months of persistent travel
and inquiry in the Mikado's empire. No one
could emerge from such an experience without

* Lafcadio Hearne.


being deeply impressed with a sense of the
growing ambitions of the people, or of the in-
flexible determination of those in high places to
do everything in their power to assist them in
brincrinsr such ambitions to fruition. Forced in
the teeth of their own determined and strenuous
opposition to open their doors to the world and
to enter into the comity of Western nations,
they came to a momentous decision, and having
decided, picked up the gauntlet which had been
thrown down with a rapidity that astonished the
world, and plunged headlong, and with an alto-
gether unlooked-for success, into the arena of
international rivalry and competition. That they
regard their victories in battle merely as a
means to an end, and not as an end in them-
selves, must be evident to any one who has had
the opportunity of making even a superficial
study of the people. Nothing is more galling
to the vanity of the educated Japanese than to
find themselves the object of erroneous beliefs
upon this point. " On what grounds," asked
Baron Shibusawa bitterly, " did I meet with so
warm a reception at the hands of the prominent
men of the world ? " And he himself supplies
the unpalatable reply : " The President of the
United States praised Japan because of her mili-
tary prowess and fine arts. Are not Germany,


France, and England praising Japan up to the
skies on the same ground ? If the warm recep-
tion I received abroad is based on the feeling
that I came from a country known for its mili-
tary exploits, I must confess that that reception
is a deathblow to our hopes." ^

The end, indeed, which the Japanese keep
steadfastly in view is a far higher one than
mere proficiency in arms, and does not stop
short of political, diplomatic, commercial, indus-
trial, and colonial equality with the first Powers
of the Western world. That they have learned
all that the West can teach them in the conduct
of modern war few will be found to deny, but
that they are capable of rising to the same
heights in the war of commerce has yet to be
revealed. It may well be doubted whether, as
a race, they have the same aptitude for bearing
aloft the flag of trade as they have for wielding
the sword of war. Just as in China the military
profession was despised and looked down upon
by the people, — with what dire results the battle-
fields of 1894 soon showed, — so in feudal Japan
the merchant classes were rated among the
lowest in the community. It is true that many
of the best men in Japan are now entering or
have already entered the commercial lists ; but

^ ' Japan by the Japanese.'


it is equally true that the country is sending
forth vast numbers of small traders who reflect
only too clearly the status of their kind in pre-
restoration days, and whose procedure in neutral
markets is fast pinning to their country's traders
the title of the pedlars of the East.

Pedlary in itself may be an honourable trade,
but pedlary fraught with petty fraud, and sup-
ported by devices which debauch the commercial
morality of the West, brings little but obloquy
upon the country's fair name and fame, and pro-
vides an only too eagerly grasped -at cause for
the enemy to blaspheme. " The barrier of a low
morality," to make use of the words of Baron
Shibusawa once more, "is by far stronger than
that of bad laws " ; and I hold that he is the
better friend of Japan who makes full and
candid confession of such shortcoming's as are
thrust within the radius of his view, than the
plausible advocate who, by ignoring or denying
all faults, encourages the nefarious in their
ways, and disseminates false impressions which
the cold and impartial evidence of fact is un-
able to sustain. When those who are respon-
sible for the course and direction of Japanese
progress succeed in inculcating in all classes of
the community a due sense of the immense value
of an unimpeachable honesty in every branch of


commercial intercourse, they will have succeeded
in removing a serious stumbling-stone from the
path which the nation is striving to pursue, and
will have placed their country immeasurably
nearer the attainment of the goal which they
keep steadfastly in view.




The quiet of early morning was broken by the
heavy booming of big guns rolHng sonorously
through the air, and awakening responsive
echoes in remote corners of the city on April
30, 1906, a welcome indication to the vast con-
course of people gathered in the capital that
day had dawned fair, and that nothing stood
in the way, therefore, of the successful carrying
out of the prearranged programme. Little need
was there, indeed, of the thunder of guns to
herald forth the news, for the sun shone glori-
ously from a cloudless sky, and from early dawn
expectant crowds of men and women streamed
joyously westward to the Aoyama parade-ground,
where were drawn up from an early hour the
pick of the victorious Manchurian armies. Up-
wards of 31,000 men, fresh from the triumphs of
the Yalu, Port Arthur, Mukden, and Liao-Yang,
stood massed in serried ranks — an epitome of


the military genius of a people borne to the
forefront of the nations upon a flood -tide of
military achievement.

The vast gathering of spectators, banked in
dense crowds on every side of the dusty expanse,
awaited patiently the arrival of the Emperor.
A pleasurable anticipation of things to be bridged
over a prolonged period of delay, and when at
length, to the strains of martial music, a com-
pany of dusky lancers clattered noisily on to the
ground heralding the arrival of the royal pro-
cession, the whole vast assemblage swayed
forward as one man in profound obeisance to
the heaven-descended ruler of Japan.

A large force of men answering with machine-
like precision to a single word of command is
always an impressive sight ; here, as column
after column of khaki -clad warriors passed in
never-ending procession, each headed by a man
bearing a name of world-wide fame — Oyama,
Nogi, Kuroki, Oku, and many more — the chords
of memory were strangely stirred. To the
spectator from the West, accustomed to the
variegated brilliance of a full-dress military
parade, the absence of all colour provided a
noticeable feature, — infantry, cavalry, and artillery
being garbed alike in identical uniforms of sombre
khaki. A single figure in scarlet, conspicuous
amid the general monochrome, alone gave colour


to the scene — the British military attache,
solitary representative of Europe in all the brave
array. His presence there, surrounded by the
generals of Japan, was significant of many
things, — of the newly knit ties binding in close
alliance the island empires of East and West,
of the strange moves, too, which destiny indulges
in, in the great game which finds a stage on
the chess-board of the world.

It may, indeed, be claimed that the conver-
sion of the people of Japan from the unyielding
conservatism of centuries to the advanced liberal-
ism of the present day provides one of the
most remarkable phenomena as yet recorded in
the pages of world history. The sudden and
dramatic volte-face of the leaders of the restora-
tion from an unbending policy of rigid exclusion
to an advocacy of Western intercourse and
Western ways threw open the flood-gates to
an eddying vortex of innovation and reform,
and relegated the old order irrevocably to the
dusty limbo of the past. With an energy as
impetuous as it had been long delayed, the
venerable garments of a supreme antiquity were
thrust violently aside, and from the seclusion
of unnumbered centuries emerged a new and
wholly unknown power — an Eastern nation
clothed in the culture and the armour of the
West. In the twinkling of an eye a novel figure


had flashed on to the stage of human thought
and action, creating new problems and impart-
ing unforeseen direction to the march of world

It is doubtless to her prowess in the field of
war that contemporary opinion assigns the proud
position which Japan has carved out for herself
in the parliament of man. War, indeed, bulks
largely in the pages of her modern history. The
unhappy juxtaposition of conflicting interests,
the ever -increasing friction between East and
West, and the growing aggression and ambitions
of rival Powers, set blazing the touchstone of
human passions, and lit up the passage from the
nineteenth to the twentieth century with the
devouring fires of war. For years a succession
of plots and counterplots, of intrigues and the
resounding clash of arms, have marred the inter-
course between Russia, China, and Japan, while in-
cidentally causing rude interruption to the sedate
and passionless course of Korean progress. There
was a touch of grim humour in the fate which
decreed that in return that small and insignifi-
cant country should launch her Western neigh-
bour upon the humiliating tragedy of the Sino-
Japan conflagration, and should ring up the
curtain also upon the yet fiercer and more passion-
ate drama wherein were played out before an
astonished world the successive scenes in the


downfall of E-ussian imperialism in East Asia.
With her superlative attainments in duplicity,
and her unalterable predilection for intrigue, she
may be equally counted on to add immeasurably
to the tangles of the Japanese political skein,
and to render infinitely laborious the duties and
responsibilities devolving upon the shoulders of
the suzerain Power.^

With her triumphant emergence from so
strenuous a period of probation, it might justly
be argued that Japan had cut her way to power
with the bayonet and the sword. She had in-
deed achieved much more than was to be found
within the four corners of any written treaty.
When she pricked the bubble reputation of
Chinese military precocity, she excited the in-
terested curiosity of the West ; when she flung
the torn and crumpled fabric of Russian imperial
ambition upon the war-stained- boards of the
Manchurian stage, she demanded and received
the respect and the recognition of the world for
her claims to rank thenceforth as the first Power
in Asia.

Nevertheless it would be a grave mistake to
suppose that the ambitions of Japan have found
their consummation in the capture of Port
Arthur, or on the blood-stained battlefields of
Mukden or Liao-Yang. She is advancing with

^ Japan's rCle of suzerain Power became impossible, and complete
annexation was formally proclaimed on August 29, 1910.


a fixed determination towards the goal which
still stands far off on the horizon of the future.
Military ascendancy may pave the way ; but
military ascendancy is by no means the sole end
in view. Political power, supported by military
prestige, commercial and industrial supremacy
in East Asia, a dominant voice in the destinies
of the Eastern world — such are the objects
towards the attainment of which the will and
energy of the nation are being turned. It is in
the factory and the workshop, as much as in
the arsenal and the dockyard, that the key to
the future will be found — amid the roar of
machinery and the hiss of steam, and the un-
ceasing whirr and crash of the spindle and the

For the successful achievement of such a pro-
gramme, peace is an essential condition. Better
than most men the courageous statesmen who
were responsible for signing the treaty of Ports-
mouth knew this to be so, and, gazing steadily
into the future, they did not hesitate to face
the storm of public indignation which they knew
their action must ;provoke. The world applauded
and the people stormed. A military escort — no
mere guard of honour, — the groans and hisses
of the populace, and rows of white flags in place
of bunting along his route, constituted the home-
coming of the envoy of Japan, while the fury
of the misguided mob found uncouth expression in

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Online LibraryLawrence John Lumley Dundas ZetlandAn Eastern miscellany → online text (page 18 of 24)