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anese court was so constituted as to be availa-
ble for the trial of such an offence. In another
chapter, written before this attempt upon the life
of the Japanese Emperor, I suggested the grave
danger to orderly social and political progress in
Japan, once the badly digested rationalism of the
West succeeds in making inroads among these
people of superficial political training. They
are agnostic to begin with, and once the mythical
cords that have bound them, in blind faith, to
obedience to the spirits of the ancestors of the
Mikado are strained and broken, and the in-
dividual recognizes no law higher than his own
will, the small knot of elder statesmen who now
rule Japan will have a serious problem to meet.
It will not be merely the problem of rationalism
and anarchy which faces us all; but it will be
the problem of substituting a new driving power
for all their military, commercial, and industrial



THINGS JAPANESE 471

forces, and a new bond to hold the people to-
gether as a nation.

The attempt upon the life of the Emperor of
Japan, led by a Japanese who had studied in
America, and who had edited a newspaper there,
is the most momentous thing that has happened
in Japan in half a century. It strikes at the
very root of all that makes and keeps Japan a
nation. It weakens Japan's heart, and dilutes
the purity and fervor of patriotism at all the
extremities. A rent has been made in the veil
hiding the mystery which every Japanese fears,
w^orships and obeys, and we superficial ob-
servers in the West have passed it by without
so much as an mkling of its real significance.
It can only be likened in its effects upon the
nation to the change of feeling here, if we should
suddenly become possessed of a craze for matri-
cide.

Tokio is only some eighteen miles by train
from Yokohama. Tokio is spread over a dis-
proportionate area for its population, and the
distances when measured by jinrickishaw speed
are great. It is not a capital city in our sense.
There are many buildings of stone and streets
of shops, there are jangling trolley-cars and elec-
tric lighting, but by far the greater part of the
area of Tokio is covered with small, cheap houses



472 THE \YEST IN THE EAST

of the flimsy architecture common in Japan.
There is an air of unkemptness about the city,
as of a shabby-genteel town assuming the air of
greatness and prosperity. But redeeming every-
thing else at this particular season are the cherry
trees in full bloom.

There is nothing quite like these avenues of
pink blossoms in the streets and in the parks;
and nothing at all like the national pride and
pleasure in them, of all the people, old and young,
and of every social grade. There are pilgrim-
ages and picnics to the parks and other places
where the blooms are seen to best advantage.
The Emperor's garden-party, given in honor of
the height of the cherry-blossom season, is a
matter for much coming and going of high offi-
cials of state, of much discussion of the weather,
and of much debate as to the exact day to choose,
when the blooms will be at their best. It is a
great function, this garden-party, and the cour-
tesy of our distinguished ambassador to Japan
procured me an invitation, which I was obliged
to decline. The time-table of the Trans-Sibe-
rian railway and my days, engaged weeks in ad-
vance, and full at that, prevented my waiting.
At Kobe, however, I saw a Cherry-Dance, and
nowhere in the East a more lovely succession
of scenes in color.



THINGS JAPANESE 473

Before the Cherry-Dance in the theatre proper,
there was a Tea Ceremonial, or Cha No Yu.
It is claimed that four or five years of training
and tuition are necessary to arrive at proficiency
in all the intricacies of this ceremony. In this
case it lasted an hour. Ps\\ the innumerable
utensils for tea-making are brought in and
placed in position with great solemnity, and with
much manoeuvring and bowing. The attend-
ants, or acolytes, are little girls in brilliant ki-
monos and ohis, all of them painted and pow-
dered. Finally a gorgeous professional, escorted
by the whole band of acolytes, her face painted,
her eyebrows pencilled, her hair oiled and shin-
ing, and dressed over and around a mass of huge
combs, clad in a marvellous and, as I was in-
formed, priceless garment, and embroidered on
it in gold a splendid yellow dragon five feet
long, shuffles into the room and seats herself to
make the tea. Every move and gesture is cal-
culated and prescribed, and after countless
solemn manipulations of the utensils the steam
rises, the water is poured, the tea is made. The
guests numbering a hundred or more are
seated on mats on the floor. After this chief-
priestess has performed her part, she leaves the
room, and another woman, clad in similar
splendor, takes her place and serves the tea.
The cups are passed by the little girls, who, after



474 THE WTEST IN THE EAST

handing you your cup, bend down and touch
the floor with their foreheads, and you are sup-
posed to do likewise in return. The tea was a
green powder, of acrid flavor and quite unHke
the tea served on ordinary occasions in Japan.
Wherever one goes, to a private house, to a shop,
to a school, to call on the Minister of War, to
visit the President of the University, to the
cavalry school, always, at whatever time of the
day, tea is served ; an agreeable and wholesome
custom, for it is little more than a pleasantly
flavored cup of hot water, and one can hardly
drink too often or too much of that.

Having finished our tea, the doors were opened
and a rush was made for seats in the theatre.
The Japanese have not adapted their old-time
courtesy and gentle manners to the new con-
ditions of a steam and electricity handled popu-
lation. Such a scramble as these people made
to get through the narrow door and up the
narrow stairs! Neither women nor children
were regarded by the men. At the railway
stations, in the street-cars, in the shops, on the
sidewalks where there are any, at restaurants
and in dining-cars, their lack of consideration,
their crowding, shoving and loathsome habits
are painful to see. Their bowing and kow-
towing in hotels and shops, and along the Cook
itinerary, is as though one should judge the



THINGS JAPANESE 475

manners of the English or the Americans by the
demeanor of the assistants in fashionable shops
in London or in New York. The faded man-
ners of the floor-walkers in our great shops,
who point prospective buyers to guns, garters,
or gum-drops with impartial animation, are not
the mirror which reflects our average behavior
to one another.

Foolish foreigners fancy that these funny
Japanese bows, this staccato protruding of the
salient part of the back of the person, accom-
panied by the exaggerated lowering of the head
to the level of the waist, many times repeated, is
a form of prostration before their superiority.
It is nothing of the kind. It is no more than a
touching or a lifting of the hat, and is a per-
functory performance that we misinterpret as
an acknowledgment of subserviency. To tell
the truth our manners are mostly so awkward,
so self-conscious, and so bad, that we have come
to look upon any manners at all as grotesque
and slightly ridiculous. Wliile we are smiling
perhaps disdainfully at the ceremonious polite-
ness of the Japanese, they, and with far more
reason, are contemptuous of our stiffness and
awkwardness.

The spectacle in the theatre depicted the four
seasons with appropriate dances for each. We



476 THE ^^^ST IN THE EAST

were in the gallery facing the stage. The gal-
leries along the sides of the theatre were oc-
cupied by the musicians, all women, armed
with triangles, small hand-drums and the three-
stringed banjo, called the Samisen. This favor-
ite instrument was only introduced into Japan
from Manila as late as 1700. In front of these
sat the singers : on one side the sopranos, and on
the other the altos. One or two of the women
sang solos, accompanied by the rest as chorus.
One, a powerful contralto voice, was pleasant
to the ear; though the monotonous sing-song,
punctuated by recurring birdlike pipings, was
totally unlike any music we ever hear.

The dancing here, as elsewhere in Japan, is
rather posturing and posing than dancing. The
feet are seldom lifted from the floor, and the
pantomime is all done with twisting and turning
and bending of the body and waving of the arms.
It was the clever lighting, and the harmonious
colors of the dresses of the women, which made
the pictures beautiful. Whether the untamed
taste of Broadway, Leicester Square and Mont-
martre would find such gentle pantomimic
manoeuvres, brilliantly and beautifully colored
though they be, served with enough condiment,
I doubt. So much the worse for us!

Another evening I was the guest of a Japanese



THINGS JAPANESE 477

gentleman to dinner at a restaurant or tea-
house. We have no equivalent for these places,
and perhaps the cafes and smaller restaurants
of the Latin countries are more nearly of the
same service to the people. There is, of course,
the broad difference that these places in Japan
are served by women, and that women are in-
variably the entertainers. We were served in a
large, plain room, scrupulously clean, with no
furniture, and the floor covered with matting.
Two bronzes, a beautiful painted screen and
a sepia drawing by a modern Japanese artist
w^ere there, and nothing else. We sat upon
cushions with an ash-filled brasier between us.
This brasier was not for warmth, but to light
the small Japanese pipes, and to receive the
ashes, when after two or three puffs they are
emptied. Five young dancing girls in bright
costumes, and some seven or eight others in
more sombre garb, entered, went down on their
knees before us, touching the ground with their
foreheads. Tea is brought in, and they sit in a
semicircle around us. The meal itself was a
procession of small dishes, brought in one or
two at a time and left. Whether you eat of
them or not, or whether more are brought, none
is taken away; so that before the meal is over
you are surrounded by as many as twenty



478 THE WEST IN THE EAST

dishes or more. Some of the features of this
particular meal were snail soup, sweets, raw
fish, various vegetables, carrots, beans, parsnips,
egg-plant, asparagus, young bamboo shoots,
sweet-potatoes, stewed meat, and all accom-
panied by frequent libations of sake out of tiny
cups. Each guest has a bowl of fresh water in
which he rinses his cup after drinking, fills
it, passes it to one of the women, who drinks,
rinses the cup, passes it back with a low bow,
and so on and so on. Sake is served warm, and
tastes like weak sherry. AVhether it is intoxi-
cating or not, I did not discover. I must have
drunk dozens of these small cups of it on this
occasion, and at other similar functions that I
attended, but I never noticed that it had the
smallest effect.

During the meal some of the women thrum
the Samisen and others dance, alone or in pairs,
or the whole company together. During the
interval we are supposed to be entertained con-
versationally, and for aught I know to the con-
trary, there may be veritable Aspasias among
these butterfly-robed people. There is much
bowing and smiling and paying of compliments ;
but making pretty speeches through an inter-
preter is much like icing vintage claret. As
they become more at their ease, they interest



THINGS JAPANESE 479

themselves in my watch, my cigar-case, my
eye-glass, and all want the bands from the
cigars. There is no solicitation, no buffoonery,
no coarseness. Their sisters of that profession
elsewhere are not so well-behaved. The dishes,
tasted, or untouched, or half-eaten, form a small
garden around us, and finally, after more tea,
our entertainers fall to and devour what is left.
One of them cuts the middle out of a piece of
bread — which had been provided for me — and
puts butter and mustard not only on it but
around it, and poses as being very sophisticated
in European ways of eating.

After sitting on one's hind legs for three
hours, with nothing to lean against, stiffness
joins the company. About 10.30 p. M. I ask
to be excused. I fear that I am not much of
a Japanese blade. They bow and smile and
chatter as I leave, and my friend tells me that
they suggest that I marry them all and take them
to America; and I reply that nothing but our
drastic emigration laws prevent that happy
polygamous consummation of so pleasant an
evening.

Through the courtesy of the Minister of War,
I was escorted to the cavalry barracks, a few
miles out of Tokio, and spent some hours
watching the men, horses, and the drill in the



480 THE WEST IN THE EAST

riding-school. The Japanese census aflSrms that
there are some 1,300,000 horses in Japan. I
was so surprised at this that I wrote to the
Agricultural Department, asking if they would
confirm these figures. They replied that the
figures were as follows, sending me a detailed
statement of the number of horses of Japanese
breed, mixed breed and foreign breed in each
province, and putting the total at 1,494,506.
On looking up the figures for one province, I
found that there was one horse there for every
eight inhabitants, men, women, and children!
Where they keep these horses, unless they have
caves for them, it would tax the powers of the
most credulous traveller to discover. It is not
impossible that their strong desire to impress the
foreigners with their prosperity, and their ab-
normal weakness in mathematical matters, have
combined to exaggerate the number of Japanese
horses. Certainly an undeniably ludicrous out-
come of these particular weaknesses are the
figures for school attendance, where the state-
ment is made that for the year 1907-8 the per-
centage of those of school age attending school
was 97.38! As a matter of fact, the real per-
centage is about 72. I travelled nearly the
whole length of Japan, and visited every large
city, but I did not see a thousand horses in all.



THINGS JAPANESE 481

even including those at the cavalry barracks.
The climate, too, has a curious effect upon
foreign-bred horses imported into Japan, and
they die of a nervous disease that thus far has
not been remedied.

The Japanese is not a born horseman. The
cavalry lines were clean, the grooming seemed
to be thoroughly done, what I saw of it; but the
saddles were awkward affairs, and not always
in good repair, and of bitting a horse they
seem to know nothing. The horses I saw were
whalers or country-bred, with a few exceptions
that looked to be of better breeding. The work
in the school was elementary, and even the men
who had been at it longest were awkward horse-
men, and not at home in the saddle. But they
are plucky enough, there is no doubt of that.
A dozen of them, each with a different-colored
scarf, were sent racing across country, to pick
up a scarf corresponding in color, and return
with it. First they went down a fairly steep
hill with a small water-jump at the bottom, up
the opposite bank, there they dismounted to
pick up the scarf, then a hurdle or two, and back
to the starting-point at full gallop. One man
was thrown going down the hill, caught his foot
in his stirrup, was dragged some distance, but
clung to his bridle-reins, and only lost his horse



482 THE WEST IN THE EAST

when the reins broke. Even then, dazed and
stumbHng, he started after his horse, and was
only finally persuaded to limp away by those
who ran to help him, when an oflficer ordered
him to do so. I walked out to have a look at
him, and found his face battered and bruised,
and in a condition which would have made most
men ask for a litter. Later, wearing masks and
padded, they opposed one another with single-
sticks. They were a happy, laughing crowd,
evidently enjoying their job, of an average age
of about twenty, and oflBcers and men seemed
to be much on the same level and companion-
able.

It was during my visit to Japan that Sub-
marine Number 6 was lost, wath all hands.
Lieutenant Sakuma, her commander, while he
was slowly suffocating, writes a detailed state-
ment of how it happened, praises his crew, and
recommends their families to the care of the state.
"Words of apology fail me," he writes, "for
having sunk His Majesty's Submarine Number
6. My brave men are doing their best." On
raising her, it was discovered that the machinery
w^as at fault, and the commander not wholly to
blame; but for sheer grit and courageous cool-
ness, we must give Lieutenant Sakuma his place
among the bravest of any nation.



THINGS JAPANESE 483

Thanks to the courtesy and kindness of the
American Ambassador, of Captain Brinckley —
the most vakiable ally Japan possesses — Vis-
count Kaneko, the Prime Minister, Minister of
War, and the British and German ambassadors
in Tokio, I saw many things, and conveniently,
that otherwise I might not have seen at all. But
the details of a traveller's diary are perhaps less
interesting than the main features of the map
he draws as he goes along.

Everywhere, at the universities, the schools,
hospitals, military posts, in the few houses of
Japanese gentlemen I was privileged to see,
even in the streets, and the country one sees from
the car-window, one is impressed by the neat-
ness of it all. There seems to be no rubbish in
Japan anywhere. Even in a great manufact-
uring town like Osaka there is no untidiness.
Their tastes are still simple, their houses have
little furniture, their wardrobes are scanty as
compared to ours, and they know nothing as yet
of the squandering of luxury, and their women
are all workers and not wasters. They travel
through life with comparatively little baggage,
and they are a poor people. The salaries of
office-holders, teachers, army and navy officers
and professional men generally, are wofuUy small.
Our race, however, produces many poor who are



484 THE W^ST IN THE EAST

wasters, tempted into carelessness because pub-
lic or private philanthropy is enthusiastic in its
care of the careless; but the Japanese combine
neatness and economy to an extent unknown
even in France and Belgium.

I had expected to find the English language
spoken by a few well, and smatteringly by many,
in Japan. Certain of their ofiicials do speak
the language well, but many do not. As for the
English of most of the scholars, and some of the
school-teachers, it is not English at all. The
Japanese are dismissing as rapidly as possible all
foreigners whom they have employed to train
them in Western ways, from professors and
school-teachers, to engineers, draughtsmen and
foremen in mills and factories. This is done
partly from motives of economy, and partly be-
cause here, and as I believe in almost all other
departments of life, they feel themselves to be
capable of going it alone. Though the philolo-
gists say that the Japanese language is not related
to the Chinese, the Japanese have adopted a
large number of Chinese words, and all their new
words are from the Chinese, just as we make
new words from the Latin and Greek. This
accounts for the fact that the Japanese and
Chinese can communicate by the written signs
common to both, though they do not understand



THINGS JAPANESE 485

one another's speech. If the Japanese continue
to be taught English as now they are taught, we
shall be able to communicate by our written
language; but the English we speak and the
English they will speak eventually, will be so
totally different that we shall not be able to
understand one another's speech. In a dozen
or more schools I visited the class-rooms where
English or French was being taught. Without
the text before you it would have been impos-
sible to follow the spoken English or the spoken
French. A Japanese youth taught English by
a Japanese, who then teaches another Japanese,
lands the last of the three with a pronunciation
of English, which makes him unintelligible in
that tongue. This seems to be carrying one's
independence of foreign aid to an absurd pitch.
All their schools have military training, and
there they are in advance of us. Athletics took
the place of enforced physical training when
we had a small population more agricultural
than manufacturing, out-door workers rather
than houseworkers, and our public schools con-
tained children of all classes. This is not the
case now that we have a population larger than
any other country except China, India, and
Russia. Our athletics, splendid training though
they be, only help a comparatively small number ;



486 THE AVEST IN THE EAST

and leave out unfortunately just those who most
need careful physical supervision and training.
Every school and university in our country
ought to have compulsory physical drill of some
sort; and we are wasting time and money on
hygiene and hospitals, in fabulous amounts and
to little purpose, until we begin at the beginning
with our children and youths.

Of travel in Japan, the most noticeable feat-
ure to me was the positively startling disregard
of the Japanese travellers for Western conven-
iances. In so many other departments of life
they are making a point of putting the best foot
forward, and of showing off their Europeaniza-
tion, but in the trains apparently they forget
themselves. They take their shoes off and sit
curled up, or sprawled out upon the seats (not
those with Japanese foot-wear alone, when it is
natural and cleanly enough, but those wearing
European shoes) ; they hawk, spit, yawn, and
stretch, and after luncheon several of the men
indulged in loud belching audible the length of
the car. Men and women go to the lavatory,
leaving the door open; they take children there,
and then bring them back, and clean their least
presentable parts in the middle of the car; and
suckle them with no pretence of veiling the proc-
ess. The eating of some of the men in the dining-



THINGS JAPANESE 487

car was like the hungry gobbling and bolting of
a dog. They seemed to love meat, probably
because they rarely get it, and ate it, some of
them, in great quantities. One man arrived in
the dining-car in his shirt-sleeves, and began
spitting on the floor. The floor of the main car,
after an hour or so, was covered with ashes,
orange-peel, stumps of cigars and cigarettes,
and in the midst of this chaos was heard the
snores of one or two sleepers. I have never
been so nearly acquainted with the habits of a
monkey-cage, as in some of the Japanese rail-
way carriages. I am not a fussy traveller.
Neither my digestion nor my disposition was
disturbed by these things. I note them as com-
ments upon the rather mawkish praise of Japan-
ese manners that one hears from short-sighted
idealists. Indeed I was so surprised at the
manners of the Japanese when at their ease,
that I called the attention of my Japanese friend
to these incidents, one after another, saying to
him: "You know if this were written down, the
writer would be accused of exaggeration."

The traveller should see Nikko, Lake Chu-
zenji, Arashi-yama, the rapids of the brawling
river and the mountain; the mountain of Fuji,
the Inland Sea, Miyajima, and of course much
more besides; but these because he sees things



488 THE ^YE^T IN THE EAST

there which are beloved of the Japanese, and
he gets something of the Japanese point of view
as regards scenery. Even the fields, and the
landscape seen from car-windows, are divided
like the patterns of a carpet. Here and there
patches of the yellow rape seed and the lighter
and darker shades of green, make the fields look
as though they had been sown purposely, not
for crops, but for color. The neatness, the sym-
metry, the small scale of everything may prove
disappointing at first, but he w ill end by appre-
ciation. This is the unique feature of Japanese
landscape, as of Japanese art and life. The
mountain, Fuji, looks like a colossal ant-heap,
and is as smooth and symmetrical as though
it had been patted into shape by hand. At
Nikko, the ravines, cascades, small streams, the
temples and shrines and walks and gardens, are
on the most diminutive scale. The mausolea
of leyasu, the first Shogun, and of his grandson,
and the innumerable temples, are so small that
one is at first inclined to resent coming so far to
see so little. But the w^orkmanship is almost
tiresome in its minute intricacy. The lacquer,
the carving, gold, copper, bronze, gilt, all in pro-
fusion, and all worked smooth and in perfection
of detail, these and the lanterns of carved stone,
iron and bronze, are things one expects to see in



Online LibraryPrice CollierThe West in the East from an American point of view → online text (page 26 of 29)