I know by experience, even if the history of the world had not furnished many examples to prove it, that prophecy is risky. It is a fascinating pastime inasmuch as it affords the imaginative faculties full scope, but at the same time it is a mistake to let the imagination run riot. I have no intention, in considering the future of Japan, of depicting an Arcadia or a Utopia the outcome of one's desire rather than of the knowledge that one possesses of the possibilities of the country and the belief that in due course those possibilities will become actualities. Of course I admit that I may be mistaken in my estimate of the future, but I think an estimate of the future can only be based on a knowledge of the present, and it is upon that knowledge that I mean to attempt some forecast of what I believe to be the destiny of Japan.
"The Future of Japan" is a theme that has exercised the pens of many writers, who have given to the world many and most divergent views in regard thereto--the result, I think, of regarding the subject from a narrow or single point of view, instead of looking at it broadly, boldly, and dispassionately. In respect of a population of between forty and fifty millions in rapid process of transformation and taking on perhaps rather hurriedly, and, it may be, some superfluous or unnecessary attributes of Western civilisation, it is not only possible but easy to light on many ludicrous incidents and draw absolutely false conclusions from them. One visitor to Japan, for example, who wrote a series of essays on that country, since produced in book form, the laudable object of which was to present to the British public the real Japan with a view of counteracting the effects of those "superficial narratives to be found by the dozen in circulating libraries of the personal views and experiences of almost every literary wayfarer who has crossed the Pacific," has followed this bad plan in his remarks on "The Future of Japan." Imitation for imitation's sake is, or was, in his opinion, a growing evil in Japan. A certain gentleman, he relates, a wealthy merchant of Osaka, desired to celebrate the two hundredth anniversary of a copper mine coming into the possession of his family. The plan he finally decided to adopt was to present each of his three hundred employees with a swallow-tail coat. Another Japanese gentleman, who had fallen in with the habit of the New Year's Day call imitated from the Americans, improved upon it by leaving on his doorstep a large box with a lid and this notice above it: "To Visitors. I am out, but I wish you a Happy New Year all the same. N.B.--Please drop your New Year's Presents into the box." Over a well-known tobacconist's shop the writer of the book in question observed the following notice: "When we first opened our tobacco store at Tokio our establishment was patronised by Miss Nakakoshi, a celebrated beauty of Inamato-ro, Shin-yoshiwara, and she would only smoke tobacco purchased at our store. Through her patronage our tobacco became widely known, so we call it by the name of Ima Nakakoshi. And we beg to assure the public that it is as fragrant and sweet as the young lady herself. Try it and you will find our words prove true." Finally, over a pastry-cook's shop in Tokio he read and made a note of the following: "Cakes and Infections."
Now what do these several trivial, indeed contemptible, anecdotes prove? What arguments in regard to a nation of forty-seven millions of people can be bolstered up by instancing the imperfect acquaintance of a Japanese pastry-cook with the English language? The writer does not in so many words delineate the future of Japan as it appears to him, but he suggests it, and his Japan of the future is quite evidently to be nothing more or less than a kind of international dustheap whereon Europe and America have dumped all that is bad and rotten and deplorable in their modern social and political life. Here is the inferential forecast of the gentleman in question: "When Japan rings with the rattle of machinery; when the railway has become a feature of her scenery; when the boiler-chimney has defaced her choicest spots, as the paper-makers have already obliterated the delights of Oji; when the traditions of yashiki and shizoku alike are all finally engulfed in the barrack-room; when her art reckons its output by the thousand dozen; when the power in the land is shared between the politician and the plutocrat; when the peasant has been exchanged for the 'factory hand,' the kimono for the slop-suit, the tea-house for the music-hall, the geisha for the lion comique, and the daimio for the beer-peer--will Japan then have made a wise bargain, and will she, looking backward, date a happier era from the day we forced our acquaintance upon her at the cannon's mouth?"
[Illustration: A SIGN OF THE TIMES]
Criticism of this kind, if it may be dignified by that term, no doubt affords opportunity for what is considered smart writing, and enables the persons indulging in it to air their witticisms and show their sense of the humorous, but it not only serves no useful purpose, but, on the contrary, is pernicious in its effects, inasmuch as it occasions, not unnaturally, a feeling of soreness on the part of those, whether individuals or a nation, who are made the subject of it. Japan has too often been the butt of the humourist. I have no desire to deprecate humour, which no doubt gives a savour to life, but that humour which is only exercised at the expense of others, in my opinion, needs reprobation. As I have said, Japan among nations has been subjected to too much of it, and it is to be hoped that in future writers about the country will endeavour to avoid making their little jokes, or serving up afresh the antiquated chestnuts of the foreign community.
The future of Japan may, I think, be considered under some half-dozen headings: The physical improvement of the Japanese race; Its moral advancement; Its intellectual advancement; Japan's national future; Her political future; and finally, The influence of the Japanese Empire on other Far Eastern races and on the world generally.
As regards the physical improvement of the race, I admit this is a somewhat difficult subject in regard to which to make any forecast. The stature of the Japanese is undoubtedly small, and the chest measurement small likewise. At the same time, any one moving about Japan must have noticed the fact that there are quite a large number of very tall men and women in the country, and that a goodly proportion of the inhabitants compare favourably in their physical attributes with European people. As I have observed elsewhere in this book, the dietary of the Japanese race has for many centuries back been almost entirely a vegetarian one. I know very well that vegetarianism has its advocates, and some of the arguments put forward in support of it are plausible if not convincing. At the same time, I think, it cannot be denied that those races which have been in the habit of eating meat for many centuries have, as regards physique, demonstrated that whether man was or was not intended to be a carnivorous animal, his development into a carnivorous animal has at any rate succeeded in enhancing and developing his physical powers. Of late years there has been possibly as the result of intercourse with Europeans, a large increase in the number of the inhabitants of Japan who eat meat. This tendency on the part of the population is growing, and I believe in the course of comparatively few years there will be a radical change in the dietary of the people. This change, if it be effected, must, I would suggest, have a material influence on their physique. We all know that food is essential for the building up of the human frame and its maintenance, and I think there are few people who would question the fact that the condition of the human frame, whether in individuals or the aggregates of individuals that we term nations, must be largely affected by the food partaken of. I, accordingly, look forward, not immediately of course, to a material change in the general physique of the Japanese people. I am not, as I know some persons are, of opinion that that change is likely to be brought about by intermarriage or unions of a temporary nature between Japanese and Europeans. There have been a few marriages, and there have no doubt been a good many unions, but the effect on the national breed has been small, and though it may be to some extent greater in the future, I do not look in this direction for any alteration in the physical characteristics of the Japanese people. That alteration will, in my opinion, be brought about by a change in the food of the people.
As regards the moral advancement of the Japanese race I shall say little, for the somewhat paradoxical reason that it is a matter on which so much might be said. Indeed, this is a subject on which a definition of the term moral might be advisable before entering into any prolonged consideration of it. I shall not attempt that definition, simply because I feel convinced that to do so would be to provoke controversy. As I have said in this book, moral, morality, and immorality are all terms that have to some extent lost their original meaning. I may say briefly in this connection that I use the term moral advancement simply and solely in respect of the practice of the duties of life from a high ethical point of view. That is, I know, a somewhat vague definition, but I think it will serve its purpose. Ever since Japan has been thrown open to foreigners we have heard a good deal about morality and immorality, both in the strict and the perverted sense of those words. The European who came there, male and female, was, or affected to be, shocked at the relations between the sexes he found prevailing. He saw prostitution recognised and regulated. He heard of, and in the old days possibly saw, something of phallic worship. He witnessed or heard of men and women making their ablutions together in public wash-houses, and he--sometimes it was a she--affected to be horrified at such a proceeding. Better, much better, it was inferred, the custom of the lower classes in England, never to wash at all, than this horrible outrage on public decency. And then the merchant or the trader who came to Japan, he also prated about commercial immorality, and the prevalence of untruthfulness among the Japanese with whom he did business. And in other directions too there were criticisms passed upon Japanese manners and customs, and many of these were condemned and denounced as immoral or wicked very often for no better reason than that they differed from those that obtained in Europe. However much or little ground there may have been for these charges against the Japanese people, I am not now concerned to discuss. One thing I will remark--that the Japanese possess two religions which, whatever their effects and no matter to what extent superstition may have been engrafted on them, have always held up a high moral standard. And if one dips even cursorily into the writings of the ethical teachers of Japan in the past, we invariably find the inculcation of an exalted standard of morals. Indeed, the practice of the Japanese people at the present time, as in all times in regard to the relations between parents and children, of wife to husband, of the people to the State, have been beyond criticism. In these matters Western nations have much to learn from them. Since the opening of the country to Europe, the Japanese Government has shown itself alive to European criticism on many points. It has effectually stamped out phallic worship; it has, in deference to European susceptibilities, abolished mixed bathing in the public wash-houses; and in various other ways it has striven in the direction of raising the standard of moral conduct throughout the country. That it has not attempted to put down prostitution, but, on the contrary, has recognised and regulated it, has been made a charge against it. The Japanese Government has most likely come to the conclusion that prostitution cannot be put down, and such being the case it has decided that, with a view of obviating those evils which are the outcome of it, the only alternative is to regulate it. I admit that in an ideal state of existence prostitution would not exist, but no country in the world has yet reached or approximated that ideal state. The evil of prostitution is just as flagrant in Europe as in the East, but Japan so far alone among the Great Powers of the world has seen fit to tackle this difficult and delicate matter, and to some extent regulate it. That her rulers look forward to the time when the Yoshiwara shall have ceased to exist I firmly believe, and I am convinced that they mean to do everything possible towards that consummation. But the rulers of Japan are not mere sentimentalists; they have to recognise facts, and recognising facts they have done what seems best to them under the circumstances.
As regards commercial morality, I believe even the European merchants and traders in the country admit that there has of late years been a marked improvement. In old Japan commercialism was looked down upon. Making a profit out of buying and selling was regarded as degrading; those who indulged in such practices were despised, and not unnaturally the trader, finding himself a member of a contemned class, lived down to the low level on which he had been placed. In old Japan traders, in the presence of the Samurai, were, when addressing him, required to touch the ground with their foreheads; when talking to him they had to keep their hands on the ground. Such a state of things, of course, has long been effete, but the influences thereof remained for a considerable time after the acts had ceased. There has now been effected a revulsion of feeling in such matters. Commerce is honoured, trade is esteemed, and the Japan of to-day is convinced of the fact that on her commerce, trade, and industries the future of the country largely depends. Men of the highest rank, men of the greatest culture, men of the deepest probity are now embarked in trade and commerce in Japan; the whole moral atmosphere connected with trade has changed, and there are at the present time no more honourable men in the whole commercial world than those of Japan. In this matter there has undoubtedly been an enormous advance in ideas and ideals. This advance, I believe, is destined to extend in other directions--indeed, in every direction. The Japan of to-day has, I think, so far as I have been able to gauge it, a feeling--a deep feeling, which perhaps I can best describe as noblesse oblige. It is sensible of the position the country has attained; it is full of hope and enthusiasm for the future thereof; it believes implicitly that it is incumbent on it not only to attain but to maintain a high moral standard in every direction. It has been urged as against the Japan of to-day by a writer on the subject that Spencer and Mill and Huxley have been widely read by the educated classes, and that Western thought and practice as to the structure of society and the freedom of the individual have been emphasised throughout the country. I confess to feeling no alarm in regard to the moral future of Japan because it has perused the works of the three philosophers named. It gives me no trepidation to read that Mill's work on "Representative Government" has been translated into a volume of five hundred pages in Japanese and reached its third edition. I am, on the contrary, pleased to learn that Japan of to-day is concerned about culture, desirous of reading the works of those great philosophers whose names are among the immortal. There are no principles enunciated in any of the books of Spencer, Mill, or Huxley that, so far as I know, can undermine the moral character of the Japanese. On the contrary, I believe that a perusal of the writings of those great men will tend to assist the Japanese into a clearer understanding of moral principles, and in a desire to apply them to the duties of life. I look forward with great hope and a pronounced confidence to the moral future of Japan. Everything that I have seen in the country, everything that I have been able to learn respecting the people thereof--the ideas prevailing, the teaching given in its schools and universities, the whole trend of thought in the land, the literature read and produced, the aspirations, in fact, of the Japanese people to-day--lead me to think and to believe most firmly that in the Japan of the future we shall witness a nation on a higher moral plane than any of those with which the history of the world acquaints us.
Closely connected with the moral advancement of Japan is its intellectual advancement. I have referred to the statement made by a writer that the Japan of to-day is addicted to reading the works of certain English philosophers, and that one of these books translated into Japanese had run through several editions. This fact is typical of the intellectual ferment, the thirst for knowledge of all kinds that exists in the country to-day. That craving is not for philosophical works alone; it extends to and embraces every form of literature of an instructive or enlightening character. It is in evidence in the higher schools and the universities of the country; it is to be witnessed in the many periodicals which exist for the promotion of culture and the spread of knowledge. This intellectual ferment, as I have, I think, appropriately termed it, is extending rapidly, and is, I believe, destined to assume much greater proportions. The literature of the world is at the present time literally being devoured by Young Japan. I do not regard this literary voracity as the mere outcome of curiosity, or as in any way symptomatic of mere mental unrest. Young Japan appears, like Lord Bacon, to take all knowledge for its field of study, and in accord with the philosophical principles of that great man, the principles of utility and progress, to be concerned with everything that can alleviate the sufferings and promote the comforts of mankind. Of course, at the present time this condition of craving for knowledge is confined, from the point of view of numbers, to a small portion of the people. But the intellectuals of every country are in a minority--in some countries in a miserable minority--and the influence they exercise is never proportionate to their numbers. At the same time the intellectuals of Japan are, in view of the fact that the country has for some short time been open to Western influences, an amazingly large proportion of the population. I am of opinion that this intellectual movement in Japan is destined to widen considerably, and that its influence on the people will be immense. During the whole history of the world the potency of mind over matter has been the greatest wonder. In these present days this potency is even more pronounced, and mere brute force is nowadays only made effective when it is influenced and regulated and organised by mind. I regard the intellectual development of Japan as one of the most pleasing features that have accrued from its contact with Western civilisation. I do not mean to suggest that there was an intellectual atrophy in the country prior to those influences making themselves felt, but there was an isolation which is never good for intellectual development. The broader the sympathies of nations, as of individuals, the wider their outlook, the better for their mental progress. When Japan was in a condition of isolation the literature available for her people was limited both in style and quantity. Her people now have at their disposal the intellect of the whole civilised world, the great thoughts of the great men of all ages. And it is pleasing to be able to relate that no more appreciative readers of the world's classics are to be found than the young intellectuals of Japan to-day. I have said that I regard this intellectual enthusiasm as one of the most pleasing features of modern Japan. That it is destined to have great results I am firmly convinced. I believe, and I am not naturally an optimist, that in the Japan of the future, the not far-distant future, the world is destined to see a nation not only morally but mentally great, a nation which will develop in conjunction those high moral qualities which will give it what I may term a pronounced, a well-defined character, and an intellectual greatness superior to that of ancient Greece and Rome, because restrained and illumined by the predominance and potency of moral characteristics which those great nations did not possess.
THE FUTURE OF JAPAN--NATIONAL--POLITICAL--ITS INFLUENCE ON THE WORLD
I have now come to my final chapter, in which I propose to offer some remarks embodying my opinion as to the future of Japan from a national and political standpoint, as also her influence upon the world generally. The theme is a great one, and would require a volume for its proper treatment. Obviously, therefore, it cannot be dealt with other than cursorily in the few pages I am about to devote to it.
Readers of this book will, I think, have had borne in upon them the fact that I am not only an ardent admirer of, but a believer in Japan and the Japanese. I utterly scout the idea put forward by some writers that what they have taken on of Western civilisation is either a veneer or a varnish, or that the advancement of the nation resembles the growth of the mushroom and is no more stable. I regard the Japanese as a serious people and the nation as having a serious purpose. If I did not there would be no need for me to dilate upon its future, for the simple reason that its future would be incomprehensible, and accordingly be absolutely impossible to forecast. As it is, it appears to me that the future of Japan is as plain as the proverbial pike-staff. I say this with a full knowledge of the dangers attendant on prophecy and the risk to the reputation of the vaticinator should events prove that he was mistaken in his prevision or erroneous in his conclusions.
I have traced in these pages what I may term the national development of Japan; how, after two and a half centuries of isolation, it, recognising the force of circumstances, determined to impose upon its own ancient civilisation all that was best in that of the West, and, having so determined, took practical and effective steps to that end. What is to be the result of it all, the result, that is to say, not upon a few thousands, or hundreds of thousands, of Japanese, but upon the nation as a whole? Will these accretions on the old civilisation of the land mould and influence and alter the people generally, or will the effect be circumscribed and merely develop a class standing out apart from the great body of the people and affecting a superiority because of its Western culture? In my opinion the result will be not partial, but universal, though not immediate. There are, of course, large portions of Japan, many millions of its population, upon whom the opening up of the country has, as yet had little, if any, effect. Many of the Japanese people have hardly ever seen a foreigner, or, if they have, have viewed him with no little curiosity. They certainly have not realised, and possibly have not suspected, the effect which foreign influences are likely to have upon this Land of the Rising Sun. But influences, we know, may be effective without being felt, and I am convinced, from what I have seen and heard and the investigations I have been enabled to make, that the Japan of to-day is not only in transition--in rapid transition--but that its evolution is sure and certain, and that the result thereof will be the ultimate development of a nation which will assuredly impress the world and will very probably have a much more potent effect upon it than mere numbers would account for. It is the building up of a nation such as this that I confidently look forward to in the future. We of this generation may not, probably will not, live to see it--we certainly shall not in its ultimate development--but we can already see at work the forces which are to produce it, and the eye of faith, of a reasonable faith, built not on mere surmise or ardent hopes, but upon the expectation of a reasonable issue to the factors at work producing it, assures us that the Japan of the future will, as I have said, be a nation whose light will shine, and shine brilliantly, before the whole world.