INTRODUCTIONOf all the unexpected and startling developments of the remarkable century through which we have just passed none has been more notable than the transformation of Japan. A hundred years ago she was an obscure Asiatic kingdom, by her own volition tightly closed from the world. Then the West, spurred on by the new ambitions and equipped with the new commercial and military appliances of the industrial revolution, forced itself upon her. After a few years of hesitation she heartily accepted the new situation and by a series of rapid transformations adjusted herself to it and is now a factor to be reckoned with in the trade and politics of the world. She has become the dominant figure in the Far East and has established and maintained her hegemony by successful wars against China, Russia, and Germany. She is the formal ally of Great Britain and an important member of the entente group of nations. Her ships carry a large share of the freight and passengers of the North Pacific and are to be found in all the ports of the globe. She is feared and courted by most of the great powers of the earth.
From the beginning of her metamorphosis her relations with the United States have been intimate. For the first decades unquestioned friendliness marked the intercourse of the two peoples. During the past few years, however, there has been a growing mutual suspicion. America's advance across the Pacific to Hawaii and the Philippines, her interests in China, her unwillingness to admit Japanese to her shores on an equal footing with the nationals of other treaty powers, and her emphasis on the Monroe doctrine in opposition to Japan's commercial ambitions in Latin America, have aroused in the Sunrise Kingdom questionings and resentments. Japan's policies in Asia, especially in China, her growing naval and commercial power on the Pacific, her insistence on the rights of her subjects in the United States, and Japanese migration to and business enterprises in Latin America have similarly awakened apprehensions in the great republic. Talk of war has been rife and many have feared that the two nations are sometime to come into armed conflict. Some have felt that a clash cannot long be delayed. War seems needless and stupid, but if it is to be avoided Japan must be better understood by Americans. Her people, her institutions, her needs, and her ambitions must be studied. The citizens of the United States must not be allowed to grow up with distorted impressions of their Pacific neighbor. If in our continually closer touch with her we are not to blunder, if we are to make our relations of the best advantage to both nations, we must have sufficient knowledge to form the basis of a sane public opinion.
Such knowledge can best be acquired by an historical survey, one which will trace the development of the Japanese people and civilization from their beginnings, and in the light of this development endeavor to make clear the present ambitions and problems of the nation. The Japan of to-day is the product of centuries of growth. The advent of Western civilization sixty years ago did not cause a complete break with the past. It has modified profoundly the inheritance bequeathed by that past, but the old Japan must be studied if the new is to be understood.
It is encouraging that courses which deal with Japan are appearing in our college catalogues. In the congested state of our curricula she is usually covered only in a general, one semester survey of the entire Far East. This is probably the most that can be expected in all but a few universities, and if rightly conducted such a course can furnish a very fair general knowledge of the great lands of eastern Asia. There is, however, a real dearth of texts suitable in length and scope for such a course. The author knows of no book which can be used with any degree of satisfaction and he has canvassed the field fairly thoroughly during the past few years in search of material for his own teaching. This little volume seeks to fill the gap until something better shall appear. No exhaustive study of Japan has been attempted, but the effort has been made to present a summary of the development of the nation, its people, its civilization, and its problems and policies, which will give the essential facts and at the same time be of sufficient brevity to be covered in the six weeks usually assigned to Japan in the average course on the Far East. It may be that the book will prove of value as well to informal study groups and correspondence courses, and to the general reader who wishes a brief survey for his own information.
The plan, as may be seen by a glance at the table of contents, has been to give an introductory chapter on the geographic setting, followed by a succinct narrative of the nation's history to the time of Commodore Perry and a summary of the chief characteristics of its civilization at the inception of intimate contact with the West. Then comes a somewhat more detailed account of the transformation wrought by that contact and of the progress and problems of the new Japan. A carefully selected bibliography has been added for the use of those who may wish to pursue the study in greater detail. If the volume helps at all to a better, more sympathetic understanding of the island empire its purpose will have been amply fulfilled.