CHAPTER XII. THE INTERNAL DEVELOPMENT OF JAPAN FROM THE WAR WITH CHINA TO THE PRESENT (1894-1917)The past several pages have been given to recounting Japan's foreign relations from the close of the Chino- Japanese War. These from the standpoint of the foreigner are probably the most interesting feature of the years following 1895. No study of the development of Japan would, however, be complete without a description of her domestic history during the period.
STRUGGLE BETWEEN THE PARTIES AND THE MINISTRY 1894-1917
In political life the outstanding series of events was the continuation of that struggle between the lower house of the diet and the ministry that had been begun almost with the promulgation of the constitution. The House of Representatives was in the hands of parties which insisted that the ministry be responsible to the diet. This the group of men who controlled the bureaucracy and had the ear of the emperor would not seriously consider. They were for the most part representatives of the leading southern fiefs of feudal days and were unwilling to grant to the people a larger voice in the government, chiefly because of a genuine distrust of the masses, but partly possibly for selfish reasons. The Chinese war had strengthened the hands of the two groups, Satsuma and Choshu, who controlled the army and navy, and made them less than ever disposed to yield. All internal differences had been dropped in enthusiastic support of the government during the war, but no sooner had the treaty of peace been signed than they reappeared. Ito, whose ministry had carried on the war, formed an alliance with the Liberal Party, and preserved the existing one with the conservatives to insure the support of the legislature for his post bellum measures. This combination failed long to maintain an adequate majority in the lower house, and by the close of 1896 Ito had resigned.
It would merely add confusion to a work of this scope to recount in detail all the political history of the next two decades. Only the main events can be given. Even these are confusing, but they help to illustrate the main lines of political and constitutional development.
If there was not to be a deadlock in the administration it was necessary for the cabinet to have the support of a party, if possible the majority party, in the lower house. The cabinet did not, however, need to seek the ratification of all of its measures by the diet, and it might insist on holding office when backed only by a minority. To obtain support ministries too frequently resorted to the practice made notorious in England by Robert Walpole, and unfortunately not unknown in the Occident since his time, of corrupting individual members of the diet by the award of office or by out and out bribery. This practice was made the more pernicious by the inability of the diet to enforce its initiative in great constructive pieces of legislation or to do more than block measures proposed by the cabinet. On one side, then, was the cabinet, usually controlled by the ex-samurai who had brought about the reorganization of Japan and of whom the strongest group was the Sat-Cho combination. On the other was the diet, its lower house made up largely of party men who were at outs with the government and who found their slogan in the principle of the responsibility of the cabinet to the legislature.
After the fall of the Ito government a new one was formed which obtained the support of the powerful Progressive (Shimpoto) Party-the name assumed in 1896 by the reorganized Liberal Conservatives-by giving its leader, Okuma, the foreign office. Okuma found himself blocked by his colleagues on the cabinet in any attempt to exercise a decisive influence on general administration measures and resigned (November, 1897). Shortly afterward the cabinet was dissolved, Ito again became premier, and got together a ministry. His resignation was soon caused by the union of the two strongest parties of the nation, the Progressives (Shimpoto), led by Okuma, and the Liberals (Jiyuto), led by Itagaki, in a new party, the Constitutionalists (Kenseito). To the amazement of the nation the emperor, acting on the recommendation of Ito, asked Okuma and Itagaki to form a cabinet. It looked as though the principle of ministerial responsibility to the diet had at last been conceded. But alas for such hopes! The divergent elements in the new party could not be perfectly welded, internal friction developed, the cabinet resigned, and the Constitutionalists split into their former elements. The Itagaki group retained the fusion name, and the Okuma group for a time assumed a modified name but eventually readopted its former title of Progressive (Shimpoto). A Sat-Cho ministry in spite of an alliance with the powerful Constitutionaust rump failed to last long. Ito surprised the nation by accepting the leadership of the Constitutionist party (1900). He reorganized it, renamed it, and on the downfall of the Sat-Cho cabinet came into office again as premier. It looked as though the man chiefly responsible for the constitution and the independence of the administration of the legislature had conceded the principle of party government. Had he not placed himself at the head of what had once been the Liberal Party, the champion of ministerial responsibility? However, the party, not Ito, had changed its convictions. The latter still held to the complete dependence of the cabinet officers upon the will of the soverereign, and by his maneuver hoped to prevent a deadlock between the executive and the legislature by winning party support. Ms attempt to insure harmony failed and his cabinet lasted less than a year. Ito, although an ex- samurai of Choshu, had been at outs with the military Sat- Cho group, and national politics were now become chiefly a three-cornered struggle between the former, backed by his party (the Seiyukai), the militaristic section of the government, and Okuma's party. On the resignation of the Ito mini try (1901) the military group came back into power under the premiership of Katsura, and carried the nation through the Russian war. Then, as during the struggle with China, internal dissensions were abandoned in the face of external danger. In 1905 the Katsura cabinet resigned and in 1906 the Ito group, now led by Saionji, a scion of the older court nobility but a believer in party government, formed a mini' try. There now followed (1906-1913) four ministries in which Saionji and Katsura alternated as premier. Finally, when Katsura broke with the dominant group in the Sat-Cho combination and formed a party of his own, the military group put in a mini try under new leadership. Following the downfall of this cabinet (1914), Okuma, now 77 years of age, whose party, the former Progressives, had been renamed the Nationalists (Kokuminto), came into power. The formation of this ministry was seemingly a victory for the principle of cabinet responsibility for which Okuma had so long stood, but his victory was more apparent than real. In 1916, he was forced to give way to the Terauchi cabinet, representing the militaristic group. These cabinet changes, so confusing to the foreigner unfamiliar with local conditions, largely represent stages in the struggle between different factions, some of them in the bureaucracy, some of them in the lower house of the diet.
RESULTS OF THE PARTY STRUGGLE
The principle of ministerial responsibility to the diet has not been conceded, but as has been said, a compromise has been reached and maintained, too often by corrupt means, and in a kind of rough way the cabinet has come to represent, more nearly than some foreigners suspect, the sentiment of the nation. Back of all the kaleidoscopic changes, moreover, has been a bureaucracy which remains fairly constant while ministries come and go, and it is partly due to it that national policies have shown so steady an evolution as the years have passed. Unchanged by shifting currents of popular opinion has been, too, that remarkable group of men known as the genro, or "elder statesmen." They are the survivors of those remarkable Choshu and Satsuma ex-samurai who directed the transformation of the nation. Sadly depleted by death, they still have the ear of the emperor and in times of crisis are called upon by him for advice. Popular opinion is increasingly making itself felt in governmental policies. The franchise has been made more liberal; the electorate was nearly doubled between 1890 and 1902. There is nothing in the constitution that would make impossible the granting of ministerial responsibility to the diet if in time that seemed wise to the emperor and his ministers.
THE DEATH OF THE EMPEROR MEIJI AND THE ACCESSION OF YOSHIHITO, 1912
One must pause long enough to record the death in 1912 of the emperor Mutsuhito, or Meiji as he is posthumously and more correctly known, and the accession of Yoshihito. The event greatly stirred the nation, for added to the intense loyalty accorded the monarch was the special sentiment attached to the man who had held the throne in the years of the nation's transformation. He had been industrious, public-spirited, broad-minded, and of good judgment, willing to take the advice of his ministers. He did much to strengthen and nothing to weaken the intense loyalty of the nation for the throne. Ms successor seems likely to follow in his steps. What the effect upon the state would be if a self-assertive, injudicious monarch were to come to the throne, it is hard to say: the foundations of the constitution might be shaken. For the present, however, there seems to be no danger of this.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND PROBLEMS, 1894-1917
The years that followed the war with China and the war with Russia saw a remarkable development in the economic life of the nation. In 1907 all but a few hundred miles of the private railways were purchased by the government and extended. Manufactures greatly increased, and Osaka, Tokyo, and other cities became large factory centers, reminding the traveller of the industrialized West. In manufactures the leading place was held by textile plants which produced cloth and yarn for home and foreign consumption, but there was also a great increase in the output of machinery and chemicals. The European conflict brought unprecedented demands for war supplies, principally from Russia, lessened the competition in China, and opened up new markets in India. Under the stimulus the manufacturers of the nation have become rich; the number of listed millionaires has passed the five hundred mark. Banks, both public and private, have grown in accumulated capital and deposits. Fire and life insurance companies have appeared and prospered. Originally, many industries were undertaken under governmental initiative, but as the years have passed and the nation has become adjusted to the new methods, official participation has been confined chiefly to a few state monopolies, a protective tariff, research laboratories, and government-aided industrial banks. Scientific forestry has been encouraged, to develop and conserve the great timbered areas of the islands, more than half of which are in the possession of the state and the crown. Fisheries, one of the great sources of the nation's food, have been subsidized. Agricultural schools and experiment stations aid the farmer in his struggle to provide the growing population with food-stuffs. Partly as a result, the yield of grain per acre has increased from a tenth to a half. Agricultural banks fostered by the government provide the farmer with money on long-term loans at a low interest rate. The reclamation of waste lands and the clearing of new lands, especially in Yezo, are encouraged. In spite of its growing population the nation still produces nearly all of its own food. The majority of the farms are cultivated by their owners and the nation has a sturdy, independent, peasant class. Mining has developed. The copper ores for which Japan was famous in feudal days have continued to yield large and increasing quantities of the metal for export. Zinc and sulphur have been produced in amounts more than sufficient for home consumption. Iron does not exist in any quantity, Japan's supply of that metal coming principally from the continent and America, but coal is found in fairly extensive deposits and is mined both for home consumption and for export. The growth in the mercantile marine has been spectacular. The gross tonnage leaped from 15,000 in 1893 to 1,522,000 at the end of 1905: by March, 1914, it had passed the two million mark, and since the war began with its stimulus to ship-building, the figures have still further increased. Generous government bounties and subsidies have stimulated the construction of ships and have encouraged the extension of lines to China and on the waters of the Yangtze and its tributaries, and to North and South America, Australia, and Europe. Splendidly organized financial and commercial houses have established branches in the leading business centers of the world. It is of interest to notice that the largest of these houses, such as Mitsui and Company, are undertaking a wide variety of enterprises. They manufacture, engage in shipping and in commerce, and show much the same tendency toward centralization in finance and industry as does the government in politics. The nation has ceased to be exclusively agricultural and is making giant strides toward the leadership that it aspires to hold in the commercial and manufacturing life of the Far East and the North Pacific basin. Cities have grown by leaps and bounds, Tokyo and Osaka ranking in population among the leading ones of the world. They have as a rule been well and honestly governed, much more so than many American cities. Modern water-works and sewage systems, electric lights and tramcars, and parks and playgrounds add to their health and convenience.
And yet the industrialization of the nation is not complete. Japanese laborers are not yet, man for man, the equal in efficiency and skill of those of the West. Too many factory hands are women and children, labor that from its very nature is more or less irregular. A large amount of human energy is still employed to do tasks that in the West are performed by machinery. The iron and steel industry is still in its infancy. The nation does not now, even after the vast additions brought by war prosperity, possess sufficient stocks of commercial capital of its own to enable it to carry out the plans of development at home and in China to which its ambition calls it. In China the first place in foreign trade is still held by Great Britain. Japan is still staggering under a heavy load of debt acquired in the process of development and through the wars and armaments necessitated by its determination to win and make safe for itself a "place in the sun"; and although taxes are not as heavy as during Tokugawa times, they are still extremely high. The leaders of the nation believe, however, that the country is just at the beginning of a long age of development that will free it from debt and make it the dominant economic, as it is now the dominant political power, in the Far East. The prosperity brought by the war has seemed to hasten the time when that dream will be realized.
EDUCATIONAL DEVELOPMENT AND PROBLEMS, 1894-1917
The growth of schools and the spread of the new learning have been steady. The system of public education had been sketched out and inaugurated long before the war with China. The outlines have been filled in since then, however, and new features have been added. The elementary school course, attendance at which is compulsory, has been lengthened from four years to six, and the percentage of children who are not receiving the prescribed instruction has declined to less than two. The number of institutions of learning of practically all classes has increased and the universities are producing scholars who are beginning to make valuable contributions to the world's stock of knowledge. Especially noteworthy has been the popularity of technical education. Secondary and higher education for women, while not yet provided for as fully as in many progressive countries of the West, has displayed a rapid growth. Uniform textbooks for the empire have been adopted, teachers are carefully trained, and an earnest effort has been made to raise and keep the standards of efficiency and scholarship up to the highest of the age. Japan, especially Tokyo, is the educational center of the Far East. Chinese students have come by the thousands and representatives are to be found from most of the other principal countries of Eastern Asia.
The educational system is not without its problems and defects. The teachers are too frequently underpaid; funds needed for schools have sometimes been diverted for armaments and war expenses. The facilities in the higher institutions are far from sufficient to accommodate all those who apply for admission, and there results a competition which proves a fearful and sometimes unbearable strain on many of the nation's best young men; physical breakdowns and suicides among the student class are alarmingly common. The curricula are in places overloaded and the courses of study are too long. The Japanese boy is under a handicap in having to learn the difficult Chinese characters and a literary language whose style is quite different from the colloquial. If he acquires an Occidental language, as he is compelled to do in the higher schools, he finds it a more difficult task than does a European, for it is not at all cognate to his own. In spite of problems and obstacles, however, the educational system is noteworthy and has helped remarkably to equip the nation for the new age.
Newspapers have grown in circulation and influence, especially since the war with China. They are read by everyone and vary from the staid, semi-official sheets with a carefully correct style to the yellow press which nourishes jingoism and talks blatantly of Japan's rights and ambitions and of a Pan-Asia led by Japan. A censorship is still maintained and together with a revised press law, attempts to restrain the worst excesses of unbalanced journalism. Translations of foreign works have continued to multiply and native books dealing with modern topics in an easy literary style appear in ever larger numbers. The theater flourishes, both in a native, a modified native, and a foreign style. Art continues, although often sadly commercialized. A few artists and craftsmen still cling to the strictly classical models of the past, a few affect a purely Western style, but the great majority seek to combine the old and the new, and are typical of the eclecticism of the new Japan.
MORAL, SOCIAL, AND RELIGIOUS CONDITIONS
The moral and social conditions of the country have distressed many observers, both native and foreign. In these phases of its life the nation has many characteristics of an age of rapid transition. Cities have grown amazingly and in spite of their honest and efficient administration there have come with them the social and moral problems of their counterparts in the West. Labor unions have appeared, although their organization has been officially discouraged, and during the depression that followed the Russian war strikes occurred. Socialism has found a few adherents, even though it is unpopular with the mass of the nation, and some of its manifestations have been proscribed by the government. Women and girls are employed in the factories. Too frequently they are exploited by pitiless or careless mill-owners and are compelled to work on excessively long shifts for hopelessly inadequate wages and to live in surroundings that are a disgrace to the nation. The social evil has long been present and as in the West it has been alarmingly aggravated under the shifting standards of modern life. Commercial morality, while it has risen and was probably never at as low an ebb as is currently believed by the West, is by no means ideal. There is political corruption, although it is not nearly as aggravated or widespread as it has been at times in America. There is, too, a spirit of jingoism and chauvinism abroad in the land which is perhaps the natural outcome of Japan's rapid rise to the position of a first-class power, combined with her intense patriotism, but which is no less dangerous and unpleasant for her neighbors. Some enthusiasts believe their nation's culture to be the best in the world and speak glibly of the duty of spreading it. They are not, one is glad to say, representative of the best in the nation. With the coming of modern science and Occidental philosophy the traditional religious convictions and with them the moral standards of many have been shattered. Shinto has never been strong on its ethical side. Buddhism has shown signs of renewed activity and adaptability under the stimulus of danger. It has some highly educated men among its leaders and has organized Young Men's Buddhist Associations and schools for religious instruction on the models of the approved methods of the Christian church. In spite of these efforts, however, it has lost its hold on numbers, both of the thoughtful and the unthoughtful. The formal instruction in ethics in the public schools, even when reënforced by patriotism, does not adequately supply that emotional element which is so inseparable from robust morals. While Christianity has partially recovered from its unpopularity of the nineties, and has an influence out of proportion to its numerical strength, it has never been able completely to dispel the impression that it is unpatriotic, an impression which is perhaps partly the fruit of the propagandism of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, partly of the international spirit of Christianity, a contrast to the intense and rather narrow patriotism of Japan, and partly of its Occidental dress.
There is, however, cause for encouragement. In some factories the owners are undertaking to improve the living and working conditions of the employees, and the diet passed a national factory act in 1911. Abuses have been prevalent in Japan, as in every country in the initial stages of the industrial revolution, but thoughtful men are attacking them. In morals, as in most phases of their life, the Japanese are their own severest critics and many of their leading statesmen are keenly alive to the disintegration threatened by the new age and are striving to counteract it. Conferences of representatives of the leading religions of the land have met at the call of the government to consider means of meeting it, although one is sorry to say that these gatherings have been too formal and perfunctory to accomplish much. Numerous charitable institutions have been founded, most of them under Christian auspices, to help alleviate human suffering. There are able and zealous leaders both in the Christian and Buddhist churches who are striving to raise the spiritual and ethical tone of the nation. The leading school authorities have earnestly grappled with the problem of moral education; in each classroom, for example, is posted a copy of the imperial rescript of 1890 setting forth and commanding the observance of fundamental moral principles, and the effort is made through the curriculum to elaborate on these. The people are essentially sound and there is much ground for hope that the vices so often associated with periods of marked transition will not be fastened so family on the country as to prove its undoing.
The past few pages picture but hastily and inadequately the changes in the internal life of the nation during the past twenty-five years. Enough has perhaps been said, however, to indicate that transition did not end with the promulgation of the constitution or the war with China. It has been going on rapidly ever since and is still in progress. Even in her cities, Japan has not fully adjusted herself to Occidental ways. The industrial revolution has only fairly begun and with it the nation's commercial development. Literature, art, education, and religion are still in a state of flux. In these lines especially the nation is only beginning to emerge from the stage of adaptation and assimilation to that of constructive achievement. What the Japanese genius is to produce and what the nation is to be and do when it completely finishes the process of adjustment, no one can yet accurately predict. Japan will hardly be content to be an imitator and there is much in her past history that leads one to hope for new and valuable contributions to world culture. It is certain, however, that Japan's future is inseparably bound up with that of China. It is certain, too, that the rapid rise to prominence of the Far East during the past half century is to be no transient phenomenon. Japan and China are for better or for worse to bulk increasingly large in world affairs and will need more than ever before to be taken into consideration by Europe and America.
For further reading see: Japan Year Book; Kikuchi, Japanese Education; Aston, A Brief History of Japanese Literature; Reinsch, Intellectual and Political Currents in the Far East; Gulick, Evolution of Ike Japanese; Gulick, Working Women of Japan; McLaren, A Political History of Japan During the Meiji Era; Okuma, Fifty Years of New Japan; Hornbeck, Contemporary Politics in the Far East; Porter, The Full Recognition of Japan.