And as regards the political future of this wonderful country, I feel I can speak with equal confidence. What a marvellous change has come over this land, or our conception of this land, since the first British Minister resident there penned his impressions on approaching it. "A cluster of isles," he remarked, "appeared on the farthest verge of the horizon, apparently inhabited by a race at once grotesque and savage--not much given to hospitality, and rather addicted to martyrising strangers of whose creed they disapproved. Thus much stood out tolerably distinctly, but little else that was tangible. Severance from all social ties, isolation from one's kind, and a pariah existence, far away from all centres of civilisation--far beyond the utmost reach of railroad or telegraph--came much more vividly before me; and in Rembrandt masses of shade, with but one small ray of light, just enough to give force and depth to the whole--a sense of duty, a duty that must be done, whether pleasant or otherwise, and about which there was no choice. What a world of anxiety and doubt the consciousness of this saves us!" This exordium reads more like the utterance of a man being led out to execution than a Minister going to a country possessing an ancient civilisation--a civilisation which had had its effect on every phase of the national life. What would not many of us now give to have been in the place of Sir Rutherford Alcock, visiting this land shortly after it had been opened after 250 years of isolation! How we should revel in its artistic treasures, which had not then been dispersed all over the world; and what pleasure we should have taken in seeing feudalism otherwise than in the pages of history! And yet Sir Rutherford Alcock was only expressing the opinions of his time. He could see nothing in Japan but a grotesque and uncivilised people whom the Western nations had to deal with in a peremptory manner. What a change there has been in the intervening forty-four years! Japan now stands out prominently among the nations, her political future appears to be secure, and it is none the less secure because of the difficulties she has encountered and overcome in attaining her present position. I emphasise all the more readily her present and future political position since, as I have previously observed in this book, I believe that that position will be one exercised for the good of the world. I look upon Japan as a great civilising factor in the future of the human race because, strong though she is and stronger though she will become, I am positive that her strength will never be put forward for any selfish aims or from any improper motives. It is for this reason that I welcome the alliance with Great Britain. I hope that alliance will not be limited to any term of years, but will be extended indefinitely, because in it I see a prospect and an assurance for the peace of the world.
Inseparable from any allusion to the political future of Japan is some consideration of the influence that she is likely to exercise upon the world generally. Any person taking up an atlas and looking at the position occupied by Japan must, if he is of a thoughtful disposition, be impressed by it. Take the question of the Pacific--one which, in view of the change in the policy of the United States of recent years, must assume considerable importance in the future. There are various factors which must be taken into account here. The construction of the Panama Canal is one, the completion of the Siberian Railway another, the development of Canada and the completion of the railway lines that now penetrate nearly every part of that vast dominion is a third. Japan is now, in fact, the very centre of three great markets--those of Europe, Asia, and America. In the struggle for the mastery of the Pacific, which appears certain to come, and will probably come sooner than many people suppose, Japan is certain to take a momentous part. Not only in respect of her own islands, but in reference to the great island of Formosa, ceded to her by China as the outcome of the war with that Power, Japan occupies a unique and a most important position in the Pacific. As regards the mastery of the Pacific, in reference to which so much has been written and so much speculation, a large amount of it unprofitable, has been indulged, I shall say but little. On the shores of the Pacific Russia still remains a power, which, though defeated by Japan, is still one of considerable importance. On the other side of the ocean there is the United States, which, as some persons think, has given hostages to fortune by annexing the Philippine Islands. England, moreover, claims consideration in respect not only of her possessions in the Straits Settlements, Hong Kong, &c., but by reason of her great Navy and, I may add, her alliance with Japan. Then, too, there are China, and, if of less importance, France and Germany. Of all these Japan, in my opinion, occupies the commanding position. She not only occupies the commanding position, but she is, I think, from various causes, bound to play a great part in the future mastery of the Pacific.
It is apparent that in the attainment and assertion of that mastery naval power must have a great and predominant part, and it is to the development of her naval power that Japan is devoting all her energies. Like Great Britain, from whom she has learned many lessons in this respect, she sees that an island empire can only maintain its position by possessing an overpowering naval force. As I have said before, I am fully convinced of the fact that in the development of her Navy, as of her Army, Japan has no aggressive designs. Her aspiration is the security and prevention from invasion of her island and the preservation of her national independence. At the same time, situated as she is in the great Pacific Ocean, she has palpably, from her position, rights and responsibilities and duties outside the immediate confines of her Empire. That, I think, will be admitted by any one. The phrase, "spheres of influence" has become somewhat hackneyed of recent years, and it has occasionally been used to give colour to aggressive designs. There may, too, be people who would say that spheres of influence is not a term that can properly be applied to a great water-way such as the Pacific. I am not, however, on the present occasion arguing with pedants. What I desire is to broadly emphasise the fact that in the future of the Pacific--those innumerable isles dotted here and there over its surface, Japan is a factor that cannot be left out of account. Year by year her position there is increasing in importance. Steamers ply to her ports weekly from Vancouver and San Francisco. The Japanese population are emigrating to the Pacific shores of America, the trade and commerce of Japan with the American Continent are growing and broadening. Everything in fact tends to show that within a comparatively short space of time Japan will have asserted her position, not only as a Great World Power, but as a great commercial nation in the Pacific. What is to be the outcome of it all? is the question that will naturally arise to the mind. I think that one outcome of it will be, as I have shown, the capture by Japan of the Chinese trade, if not in its entirety, at any rate in a very large degree. Another outcome will, I believe, be the enormous development of Japanese trade with both the United States and Canada. Some people may remark that these are not essentially political matters, and that I am somewhat wandering from my point in treating of them in connection with the influence of Japan upon the world generally. I do not think so. A nation may assert its influence and emphasise its importance to just as great an extent by its trade as by the double-dealings of diplomacy or by other equally questionable methods. Of one thing I am convinced, and that is that the influence of Japan upon the rest of the world will be a singularly healthy one. That country has fortunately struck out for itself, in diplomacy as in other matters, a new line. It has not behind it any traditions, nor before it prejudices wherewith to impede its progress. The diplomacy of Japan will, accordingly, be conducted in a straightforward manner, and its record so far in this respect has, I think, provided a splendid object-lesson for the rest of the world. The influence of Japan upon the other nations will I hope, as I believe, continue to be of a healthy nature. If that country sets forth prominently the fact that while aspiring to be great, it possesses none of those attributes that we have previously associated with great nations, the attributes of greed, covetousness, aggressiveness, and overbearing--an arrogant attitude in regard to weaker Powers, it will have performed a notable service in the history of the world. For myself I have no doubt whatever that Japan will teach this lesson, and in teaching it will have justified the great place that she has attained among the nations of the earth.
I have now concluded the task that I set before myself. My readers must be judges as to the measure of success, if any, I have attained in it. To attempt a survey of the past, present, and future of a great and ancient nation within the limited space at my disposal has been by no means easy. Every subject I have had under consideration has invited discursiveness, and tempted me to linger and dilate upon it, and it alone. The fascination of Japan must be upon every one, or almost every one, who writes about it, and that fascination is, I may observe, like the art of the country, catholic. Whether we deeply and exhaustively investigate one subject and one subject only, or take a hurried glance at every or almost every subject, we feel a glamour in respect of this wonderful country and its equally wonderful people. While I have endeavoured to prevent this fascination, this glamour, affecting my judgment, I am not ashamed to plead guilty to, but am, in fact, rather proud of it. Indeed, I shall feel gratified if a perusal of this book induces a few persons here and there to study still more deeply the history, the religion, the art of Japan, and the whole trend of events in that country during the past forty years. Every phase of the national life lends itself to investigation, and will, I feel sure, reward the investigator. He will, unless he be a person of a singularly unemotional disposition, utterly lacking in all those finer feelings which especially distinguish man from the brutes, hardly fail of being, before he has proceeded far in his investigations, quickly under the alluring influences of this Far Eastern land, entering heartily, zealously, and enthusiastically into its national life and the developments thereof in all their various ramifications.
The fascination that Japan has exercised upon writers such as Arnold and Hearn is what it does, though no doubt in a smaller degree, upon less gifted men. It is given to few to drink in and absorb the subtle charm of the country so thoroughly and express it so graphically and delicately, with such beauty and power and withal so much truth as have those brilliant men. I regard this great and growing fascination of Occidentals for this fair Eastern land and its inhabitants as a long step in the direction of the realisation of the brotherhood of man; that ideal state of things which we hope for so expectantly, longingly, perhaps too often sceptically; that happy time when national prejudices, jealousies, and animosities will have faded into oblivion, when nations by the simple process of studying one another, as Japan has been studied of recent years, will get to understand one another, when the literature and art of nations will be no longer merely national, but world possessions, when wars shall have ceased and the policy of aggression have come to be regarded as an evil thing, when, in a word, the brotherhood of man shall be no longer an idle dream, a mere speculative aspiration which no practical person ever expected to see realised, but an actuality within measurable distance of being accomplished. All these things may as yet be dreams, but let us dream them. The more they are dreamed, the more likely is the prospect of their realisation. One thing at least fills me with ardent hope, and that is the Japan, as I see it to-day, compared with the Japan of forty years ago. If such an upheaval is possible for one nation, who shall put any bounds to the potentialities of the world? So let us dream our dreams, and in our waking moments cast afar our eyes upon the land of the Rising, aye, now the Risen Sun, take heart and dream again in quiet confidence that some day, in some future reincarnation, mayhap, we shall witness the realisation of our hopes, and see that after all our dreams were merely an intelligent anticipation of the glad time coming.
The Gresham Press, UNWIN BROTHERS, LIMITED. WOKING AND LONDON.
Minor punctuation errors have been repaired. Hyphenation and use of accents has been made consistent. Archaic spelling has been preserved as printed. Index items have been made consistent with the main text.
The following amendments have been made:
Page 17--Kiusiu amended to Kiushiu--"... Honshiu, Shikoku, Kiushiu, and Yesso, besides some thousands of smaller isles."
Page 22--aboreal amended to arboreal--"... there can be no question as to the value of its arboreal products."
Page 48--opprobious amended to opprobrious--"... whatever its precise meaning, is invariably intended to be opprobrious!"
Page 202--Zumoto amended to Kumoto--"Mr. Kumoto, editor of the Japan Times, ..."
Page 245--whisperered amended to whispered--"... and with bowed head whispered her morning prayer."
Illustrations have been moved where necessary so that they are not in the middle of a paragraph. The frontispiece illustration has been moved to follow the title page.
This concludes this public domain work.
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