II. THE CHRYSALISTHE Tokugawa tyrants, who initiated the policy of strict seclusion, were the successors of various lines of shoguns who, as military regents of the Mikado, had, since the twelfth century, usurped the government of Japan. Before that period, Japan was under the personal rule of the Mikado, who, with the assistance of court functionaries, reigned over the country from Kioto. The over-centralization of the imperial bureaucracy, however, was the cause of its own decay. Its neglect of provincial administration led to local disturbances and the creation of baronial estates, over which the Kioto court exercised no active control. The real authority thus came into the hands of the strongest baronial power, whose representative, vested by the Mikado with the title of shogun, or commander-in- chief, ruled the country as regent, the Mikado retaining but a nominal sovereignty over the empire.
The first, or Kamakura, shogunate, so called from the city which its representatives made their capital, exercised the powers of government from 1186 to 1333. This was followed by a temporary restitution of power to the Mikado; but the reins of government soon fell into the hands of another line of shoguns, the Ashikaga, who from 1336 to 1573 ruled the country from Kioto itself. The fall of the Ashikaga shogunate was followed by a long period of civil war, during which the various great barons struggled for supremacy. Out of this state of turmoil arose that Napoleonic genius, Taiko Hideyoshi, who, born a peasant, died, in 1598, the master of unified Japan. His son was, however, unable to retain the authority left him by his father, and the dictatorship of the empire devolved, in 1600, on Iyeyasu, the first of the Tokugawa shoguns.
The Tokugawa shogunate differed from those preceding it in that it was virtually a monarchy, despite its apparent feudalistic form. Even under the great Taiko, the government of the country was conducted by a council composed of five of the most powerful barons, but under the Tokugawa régime it became purely autocratic. Iyeyasu framed for his descendants a course of policy which enabled them to retain their rule through fourteen generations, until the recent restoration of the Mikado in 1868. He not merely curtailed the power of the barons until they were such only in name, but erected safeguards against every possible source of danger to his dynasty. He not only cut us off from all outside intercourse, but so separated the different classes of society, that the idea of national unity became completely lost. The subtleness of his machinations is manifest not less in his elaborate scheme for maintaining military ascendancy than in the way in which he took advantage of our own idiosyncrasies and secret vanities to disarm all opposition to his rule. In order that he might yoke us unresistingly to the car of routine, he soothed our feelings and delighted our souls by appeals to that love and worship for the past that is one of our national instincts. Our bonds were, in fact, largely of our own weaving, and Iyeyasu but lulled us to sleep, unmindful of the future, within the chrysalis of tradition. Perhaps it is for this, that he knew us only too well, we execrate his memory to-day.
The mechanism of the Tokugawa rule cannot be adequately described in brief; not only is it exceedingly complicated, but it is without striking parallel in the history of any country. It affords the peculiar spectacle of a society perfectly isolated and self-complete, which, acting and reacting upon itself, produced worlds within worlds, each with its separate life and ideals, and its own distinct expressions in art and literature. It exhibits all the subtleness of European class distinction, plus the element of caste as understood in India. We can here but indicate its main phases.
First, over all was the Mikado. That sacred conception is the thought-in- heritance of Japan from her very beginning. Mythology has consecrated it, history has endeared it, and poetry has idealized it. Buddhism has enriched it with that reverence which India pays to the "Protector of the Law," and Confucianism has confirmed it with the loyalty which China offers to the "Son of Heaven." The Mikado may cease to govern, but he always reigns. He exists not by divine right, but by divine law,-a fact of man and nature. He is always there, like our beloved mountain of Fuji, which stands eternally in silent beauty, or like the glorious sea which forever washes our shore.
We must remember, however, that the political significance of the Mikado has not always been the same. As we are often unconscious of the every-day facts of nature, because of their unquestioned existence, so we became unconscious of the Mikado, and basked in the daylight, unmindful of the sun above. Clouds of successive usurpations long obscured the heavens, so that devotion to the Solar Throne became a distant though never entirely forgotten homage. By the sixteenth century, when Iyeyasu assumed the shogunate and became in reality absolute monarch of Japan, all memory of the personal rule of the Mikado had been lost for four long centuries. The Mikado's court at Kioto, the former capital of the imperial government, was still existent, owing to its past prestige, but it was only a faint reflection of its former glory.
The great genius of Iyeyasu is apparent in his full recognition of the Mikado in the national scheme. In strong contrast to the arrogance and utter neglect which the preceding shoguns displayed toward the court, he spared no effort to show his respect. He augmented the imperial revenues, invited the daimios (feudal lords) to participate in rebuilding the imperial palace, restored the court ceremonial and etiquette, and was unceasing in his ministrations to the welfare of the imperial household. He even started the unprecedented ceremony of the shogun paying personal homage to the throne, and a brilliant pageant yearly passed from his castle of Yeddo (now known as Tokio), dazzling the delighted eyes of the populace as it wended its way slowly toward Kioto. All this was flattering to the national love of tradition. It was considered as heralding the advent of the millennium.
But behind this appearance of loyalty to the throne lay hidden the subtlest snares of the Tokugawas. If they recognized the necessity of the imperial cult, they determined that they alone should be its high-priests, and that others should worship at a respectful distance. In the name of sanctity, the Kioto court was deprived of those last remnants of political authority which former regencies had suffered it to retain. A strong garrison was stationed in Kioto, ostensibly for the protection of the palace, but its members were chosen from the tried body-guard of the Tokugawas themselves. They continued to invite one of the imperial princes to take the monastic vows and reside in Yeddo as lord abbot of the Uyeno temple, by which means they always virtually held at their capital a hostage from the Kioto court. No daimio was allowed to seek audience of the Mikado without their consent.
The Mikado, unseen and unheard, commanded a mysterious awe. His palace now became the "Forbidden Interior" in the strict sense of the word. The ancient political significance of the court was lost in a semi-religious conception. No wonder that the Westerners who first visited our country wrote that there were two rulers in Japan, the temporal in Yeddo, and the spiritual in Kioto. In spite of the constant loyalty which our forefathers expressed for the Mikado in Tokugawa days, they had none of the fiery enthusiasm which inspires us to-day. With them it was symbolism; with us it is a living reality.
Next to the Mikado, and foremost in social rank (the imperial line being considered above all class distinctions), came the kuges, or court aristocracy of Kioto. The exalted position which they held in society arose from their association with the Mikado. From their position near the throne, they were called poetically the Friends of the Moon and Guests of the Cloud. Their fortunes waxed and waned with those of the imperial household, to which, regardless of the immense political changes that have come over Japan since the days when they actively participated in the conduct of the empire, they have ever remained faithful. Herein again lies another remarkable example of that obstinate tenacity which makes the Japanese race preserve the old while it welcomes the new.
The kuges were the successors of those princely bureaucrats who participated in the imperial rule from the year 645 to 1166. The old system of government, together with its social customs and art expressions, was based mainly on that of the Tang dynasty of China. The kuges have always remained guardians of its ideals. While China was trying one policy after another, and Japan herself was passing through various different phases of feudalism toward the monarchism of the Tokugawas, the kuges continued to live the life which preceded the twelfth century. Their costumes were of the eleventh, their etiquette of the tenth century. They read Chinese with the intonation of the Tang period, and danced to the classic measure of the Bugaku music, the inheritance of an era preceding the ninth century. They delighted in the purism of the Fujiwara poetry, and affected the technic of the ancient school of painting. It is to their devotion to the past that we owe the preservation of the Kharma-kanda (ritualistic observances) of India and the early Buddhist doctrines of China.
The Tokugawa government humored and honored the court nobles because of their association with the Mikado and the place they occupied in the history of the nation. The kuges were given precedence over the daimios, and bility of Kioto in social position, but actually far prouder and more powerful, came the daimios, or feudal lords (literally grandees), nearly three hundred in number. These were divided into classes-the Tozama daimios, who were the descendants of the barons of former days, and the daimios of recent creation, who had been ennobled by the Tokugawas, either for their services, or because they traced their lineage to some member of that family. In the early days of Tokugawa rule, the Tozama daimios were a source of great danger, as their ancient warlike spirit remained as yet untamed. The methods that Iyeyasu and his successors employed in maintaining military ascendancy, and in generally bringing the daimios under absolute control, are a study in themselves. Any map of Japan bility of Kioto in social position, but actually far prouder and more powerful, came the daimios, or feudal lords (literally grandees), nearly three hundred in number. These were divided into classes-the Tozama daimios, who were the descendants of the barons of former days, and the daimios of recent creation, who had been ennobled by the Tokugawas, either for their services, or because they traced their lineage to some member of that family. In the early days of Tokugawa rule, the Tozama daimios were a source of great danger, as their ancient warlike spirit remained as yet untamed. The methods that Iyeyasu and his successors employed in maintaining military ascendancy, and in generally bringing the daimios under absolute control, are a study in themselves. Any map of Japan in the early days of the Tokugawas will show the feudatory provinces so distributed that all political combination between them was rendered impossible. On such a map we will find the daimiates of Tokugawa creation, which were constantly being augmented in size and strength, wedged in between the earlier daimiates. Gradually all strategical points on the main roads of communication throughout the country were taken from the Tozama daimios, and either held by the shogun himself or put into the hands of his minions. The practice of assembling the daimios at Yeddo to sit in conference over questions of territorial rights soon led to the inauguration of a system by which each daimio was obliged to leave his territory every alternate year and pay personal homage to the shogun, while his family were required to reside permanently at the capital as hostages. In this manner the greater part of such time as the daimios were not under immediate control of the shogun was consumed in journeying to and from their provinces, so that but little opportunity was given them to form or carry out conspiracies against the government. The newly enacted law of inheritance demanded the approval of the government in each case of succession to the daimiates, and also in all cases of marriage. A constant drain was maintained on their feudatory income by inviting the daimios to assist in repairing the imperial palace, and in other public works. Jealousy and rivalry were encouraged to such an extent that they resulted in a lamentable condition of mutual distrust and espionage.
Those Tozama daimios who revolted against this state of things soon found out their impotence, and were invariably punished by the diminution, transference, or confiscation of their territorial possessions,-the latter penalty attended with death. They were taught to realize that the government of the country, though still feudal in form, had become in reality an absolute monarchy,-patriarchal and benevolent, but thoroughly despotic. They soon found that their smallest actions were watched with unceasing vigilance, so that they began to be distrustful of even their own retainers. This vigorous surveillance was not confined to the Tozama daimios alone. Dreading the combination of administrative power with hereditary influence, the Tokugawas invariably chose their cabinet ministers from among the smaller daimios of their own creation. The powerful members of their own aristocracy were watched as strictly as were the Tozama lords, a fact which explains why all the daimios were so lukewarm in their sympathy toward the Tokugawa government during the struggles of the Restoration.
Below the daimios came the samurai, or sworded gentry, four hundred thousand strong. They served either immediately under the shogun himself, or else under the banners of the various daimios. Their appointments were hereditary, and their blood was kept pure by the prohibition of all marriage with the lower classes, except in case of the foot-soldiers, who constituted the lowest rank of samurai. They had the right and obligation of wearing two swords and bearing family crests. Within their own ranks were many class distinctions, each with its special privileges. The estates of high-class samurai were often wider and richer than those of the smaller daimios. Under the code of the samurai, however, all enjoyed that equality that belongs to comradeship in arms; and even as a king of England or France delighted in the title of first gentleman of the land, so the shogun considered himself first samurai of the empire.
But with the advent of the Tokugawa régime the existence of the daimio and the samurai, like that of the court aristocracy of Kioto, became an anachronism. The samurai, a product of the feudal period intervening between the fall of the imperial bureaucracy in the twelfth century and the rise of the Tokugawa monarchy in the seventeenth century, clung with singular tenacity to their past ideals. Their art was that of the Kano school, a reflection of the fifteenth century. Their music and drama were the No, the sixteenth-century opera of Japan. Their costumes, architecture, and language retained the style of the time immediately preceding the Tokugawa period. Their religion followed those Zen doctrines which had been the vital inspiration of the feudal age. In fact, the whole code of the samurai was an heirloom left to them by the Kamakura and Ashikaga knights, in whose days the whole nation was a camp.
Iyeyasu, accepting Japan as it was, and utilizing its idiosyncrasies, kept the military class quiet through its own love of hereditary conventions and military obedience. Everything was regulated by precedent and routine. The son of a samurai or a daimio followed exactly in the footsteps of his father, and dreamed of no change. By giving the samurai a Confucian education, the Tokugawas both pacified his warlike instincts and encouraged his worship of tradition. The blessing of that rule which they termed the Great Peace of Tokugawa was so constantly dinned into his ears that he hoped and believed that it would be everlasting.
The life of a Tokugawa daimio or samurai was not devoid of amusements. Besides his fencing-bouts and jiujitsu. matches, his falconry and games of archery, he had his no-dances, his teaceremonies, and those interminable banquets at which he would recount the exploits of his ancestors. Moreover, much time might be consumed in the composition of bad Chinese poems beneath the cherry-trees. He was often wealthy and always extravagant, for his contempt for gold was ingrained. He would squander a fortune for a rare Sung vase or a Masamune blade. The marvelous workmanship of the Gotos in metal, and of the Komas in gold lacquer was the result of his patronage. It is to the disappearance of the daimio and the samurai that Japan owes her sudden fall of standard in artistic taste.
Such samurai as had been thrown out of employment either through dismissal by their lord or the extinction of the daimiate under which they served, were called ronin (the unattached). Sometimes a second son, with literary talents or scholastic ambitions, became a ronin, and supported himself by teaching. The ronins retained all the rights and privileges of the samurai, while their state of independence gave them an individuality and freedom of thought unknown among their more orthodox brethren. It was through the ronin scholars that the first message of the Restoration was to be announced to the nation.
Fourth in the social scale came the commoners, ranked in the order of farmers, artisans, and traders. As in the case of the rise of European monarchies the populace ever came to the help of the sovereign against the nobles, so in Japan the Tokugawas found in the commoners their best allies against the daimios, and consequently granted them many privileges hitherto unknown. Then life and property of the masses found a security unprecedented in the days of the predatory barons. Within a limited sphere, they were even allowed to develop selfgovernment. Industry and commerce flourished unmolested. Agriculture was specially encouraged, as rice was the medium in which the revenues of the government were taken. It is to the commoners that we owe the arts and crafts which have made Japan famous. It is to them that we are indebted for our modern drama and popular literature, the color-prints of Torii and Hokusai.
Toward the commoners also, however, the Tokugawas pursued their policy of segregation, inclosing them by barriers of tradition within a separate compartment of their social structure. They were welcome to their special vocations and amusements, but they were forbidden to trespass on what belonged to the higher orders. They were not allowed to wear family crests, or even to bear surnames. They could have their theater, with its line of dangiuros (actors), but might not indulge in the no-music of the samurai, or the classic dance of the Kioto nobility.
As a precaution against an uprising, all the commoners were disarmed. An immense body of secret police was employed to watch their movements, and any breath of discontent met with severe punishment. Silent fear haunted them, for all the walls seemed to have grown ears. Theirs it was to work and obey, and not to question. However rich or accomplished, commoners born must die commoners. Hemmed in by inexorable customs and restrictions, their energy had to vent itself either through the frivolity of life or the sadness of religion. Can we wonder that to the more serious commoners religion consisted in an appeal to the infinite mercy of Amitaba for absorption in that divine love, the expression of which is so marked in the Bhaktas of India? Can we blame the weaker and more frivolous among them for seeking forgetfulness in the idealization of folly?
Below the commoners, and, in fact, ostracized entirely from the social scheme, were the outcasts known as Yettas. They were the descendants of criminals, who, in early times, were not allowed to intermarry with other families, and so formed a distinct caste by themselves. Some of them became quite wealthy, owing to their possession of a monopoly in the handling of leather and hide, an occupation considered unclean, according to the Buddhist canons. It was from their ranks that the public executioners were appointed. Before the Restoration, when all men were made equal in the eye of the law, any contact with this class was considered a pollution.
The national consciousness, divided within itself by the dams and dikes of its own conventions, could but narrow and finally stagnate. The flow of spontaneity ceased with the end of the seventeenth century. The microscopic tendency of later Oriental thought became in us accentuated to a degree unknown even in China. Our life grew to be like those miniature and dwarf trees that were typical products of the Tokugawa age. Alone in the field of art and literature, essentially the world of freedom, some vitality is to be found. The self-concentration of a nation during that period has given a peculiar charm to Japanese art. The worship of traditions, which is the foundation of style and elegance, has given a subtle refinement to all its expressions. Yet this very classicism was the enemy of the romanticist efforts, for true individuality was subdued under the general trend of formalism. Again, the demarcation of social life and ideals prevented any creative mind from mirroring the whole of national loves and aspirations. Despite a certain cleverness in details, or an occasional dash of wild fancy, no painter of the caliber of Korin, or poet with the strength of Chikamatsu, is to be found. Some, like beautiful pools, may reflect the shadows of contemporary thought; but in not one do we get a vision of the limitless ocean of the ideal.
Yet the hibernation of Japan within her chrysalis must have been pleasant in itself, or the nation would not have slumbered so long. Old folks are still to be found who cherish the memory of those days of leisure, when no one was so vulgar as to think for himself, when life was elegant, if it was formal. There were always chances of being exquisitely foolish, if one was wise enough to avail himself of them. Said Kampici, the Chinese Machiavelli, in telling the secret of absolutism twenty- two centuries ago: "Amuse them, tire them not, let them not know." Iyeyasu, a past master of craft, followed these injunctions but too faithfully. We were amused, we cared not for change, we did not seek to know.