CHAPTER XI. THE LIFE OF THE "SAMURAI," NEW JAPAN
In Tokyo one meets the samurai chiefly as officials and in foreign dress and form. There even the old nobility are of little importance, not influencing the life of the nation, and the samurai merely as samurai have lost their distinctive characteristics. The chief distinction is between the officials and the people, the new bureaucracy supplementing the older aristocracy. This bureaucracy, it is true, is composed almost wholly of men of samurai rank, but the distinction is not imperative. Naturally, in the city one finds a remarkable mixing of Japanese and foreign ways in the present stage of transition. Gentlemen have their clubs, somewhat dreary and unattractive, and European houses for state occasions, with the real home in Japanese style in the rear. The state dinners and state balls are in imitation of similar functions in other lands. Only on some rare occasion is the foreigner admitted to the inner life, and it is best perhaps to seek to understand it away from the capital. Let us therefore take a journey into the country to one of the great clans where something of the old life is still preserved, and where the gentlemen will entertain us with their own pleasures and in their own ways.
Taking a little steamer from Kobe, in eighteen hours we approach the capital of Tosa, Kochi. The entrance to the bay is impossible when the wind blows strong from the east or south, for the passage winds sharply between the hills; behind them is a landlocked bay on which lies the town. The steamer anchors more than a mile from the landing-place and is at once surrounded with little boats, clean and swift, and decorated with many coloured lanterns and window-slides. Across the quiet waters, reflecting the varied green of the hills, is the low grey town with its tall castle at the farther end, and range on range of snowy mountains for the distant background. The town is like a score that we have seen along the coast, low and mean and undistinguished-can it be interesting or is there anything attractive in this humble place?
Our friends come clambering up the ship and give us a greeting that does not want for warmth or ceremony and we go with them in their swift boat to the shore. A dozen jin-riki-sha are at our service and we dash at a great pace down the long, clean streets, across a dozen bridges, past the looming castle, then through a green lane between high hedges, and a grass-covered bank to our house. There is a high gate with roof and gate-house and a postern for daily use: to-day the great gates are unbarred and we roll in to the veranda, where we leave our shoes and, going in with stockinged feet, are refreshed with a tiny cup of tea.
Then we inspect the house, which is placed at our disposal for a few weeks,-the mansion of a samurai of wealth who is residing out of town. It is a rambling old house, one-story for the greater part, with thick brown thatched roof descending in sweeping curves over the polished veranda that runs almost around the house. Most of the walls in the daytime are paper, and, sliding back, make the house a pavilion. It has numerous rooms with unexpected turns and angles and queer-shaped windows, looking from room to room. In the rear is a two-story addition with very artistic rooms, the alcove, shelves, and drawers curious in their disposition and perfect in their workmanship; with windows in the shape of moon and stars in unexpected places, having slides concealing them, which give, the slides pushed back, pretty glimpses of the castle, hills, and river. In the front of the house is a large room arranged for private performances of the ancient sacred plays; it has a finely polished hardwood floor and the slides which separate it from the other rooms are made of wood, painted with birds and flowers and scenes from ancient history.
The little garden is neglected, but is still restful to the eye and so laid out that its few yards seclude us perfectly from the quiet lane. The floors of the house (excepting the room for the plays) are covered with thick white mats, some of them the worse for wear. There is no furniture, not a chair or bed or table, just the walls and floor. Each room has an alcove at one end with a novel arrangement of shelves; in the alcove hangs a picture and on the shelves is a vase or a piece of bronze. The house needs little decoration, for its whole construction has been carefully studied and the desired effect is perfectly attained. It is not in the least splendid, and it cannot be compared with the beautiful homes of England or the villas of America, for the whole conception is different, and if so elaborate an effect is not obtained, yet the desired end is perfectly reached.
We sleep upon the floor and wake only when the sun is high above the eastern hills. A red- cheeked maid brings in a brasier full of charcoal, and we imagine a rise in the temperature. Next she brings a tiny pot of tea, with tinier cups, and goes away to prepare the bath in the lavatory on the veranda by the garden. After our bath we find the room swept, the bedding put away, and breakfast ready. A fresh supply of charcoal is in the brasier and the steaming kettle is ready for the second cup of tea. We each have a tray four inches high with rice and fish and a peculiar soup in dishes of porcelain and lacquer; and after breakfast loose-skinned oranges.
A Japanese house charms us by its simplicity, but it is a studied simplicity, the thought which is expended upon it sometimes being almost incredible; the matching of the timbers in colour and in grain, the peculiar pieces of wood which compose the ceiling, the style of decoration for slides and walls,-all these are the result of study, and the effect which charms us is the outcome of even centuries of development.
The houses have their great defects-at night the verandas are enclosed with wooden slides, there is no ventilation, and the atmosphere becomes almost unendurable. There is no cellar, and the floors, covered with thick mats, even in the good houses are of the slightest possible construction, admitting easily the poisonous exhalations of the ground: the construction being of wood, the danger of fire is constant. But for simplicity of living, for a house which meets not only the necessities of life but which gratifies the artistic sense at the smallest expenditure of labour, nothing can excel them. In the comparison our own homes come to seem crowded, filled with articles not only unnecessary but obtrusive, and the immense expense of modern life appears to be, not the result of enlightened civilisation, but to be in defiance of intelligence.
Japanese politeness permits early calls, and our guests come before we have finished breakfast. One proposes to show us the lions of the town, and the second has come to ask us to drink tea with him at a later hour. We accept both invitations and start at once upon our stroll.
The town has nothing splendid or imposing to show, but is monotonous, with its narrow streets bordered by tiny wooden shops, and the houses of the better class are hidden carefully away behind high fences or are in the rear of the shops. All go in the middle of the street-men and women about their business, children at their play, and short, stubby ponies shod with straw and laden with country products. Crossing canals we come at last to the river, where there are boats of many shapes and kinds; pleasure-boats with pretty cabins and brown roofs, fishing-boats with gigantic umbrellas instead of sails, and junks with high, curved poops. We stop at the plain Liberal Club, and inspect its room for meetings, its fencing hall, and its printing-office, the chief reminder of the new Japan. Then we cross the market, where fish and fruit and vegetables are sold with loud voices and gesticulations, and we stop at the great tea house where is a room in which leading men of the various guilds meet to eat dinners and discuss their plans. Leaving town we cross a long wooden bridge, pass a ruined shrine, and climb a pretty hill that overlooks the town and bay. Here we linger long, the December sun filling the soft air with genial warmth; we take jin-riki-sha back through the long street to the house where we are to have our tea and where our friend takes his leave.
A servant admits us to a stone-paved court where the son of our host greets us and we go with him through a little gate into the garden. It has a pine, old, gnarled, and outspreading, a tiny pond, hills and winding walks, a little bridge, a shrine, forming a landscape in miniature. Our host greets us and takes us to his "tea-room." No words can do it justice, for this strange- looking old man in plain clothes is æsthetic, and the Japanese can easily outdo his most ambitious brothers of the West. The tea-room opens to the garden, and its exposure is carefully adjusted to the view, everything common or unclean being hidden from our eyes. The ceiling is of well- matched bark, the house tree is an old gnarled post, the queer-shaped polished shelves rest on posts of brown bamboo, each board and stick chosen for its place. The only ornaments are a sentence of poetry plainly mounted and hung across the wall and a camellia in a vase. An iron kettle hangs from a bamboo crane, and the ashes in the fire-box have been curiously heaped and delicately pressed in figures. When we are seated the servant places the utensils for the tea at his master's side-each article a treasure, the lacquered caddy for the tea, the porcelain jar full of cold water, the bamboo brush or beater, and a large earthen cup, hideous in our eyes, but precious to a man of taste.
We are to drink "true tea," and ever since the days of the luxurious Shogun, Ashikaga Yoshimasa, its preparation has followed in detail the strictest rules. But to-day we have the function in its simplest form, with some relaxation of its severity in consideration of our foreign weakness. A silken napkin is taken from the girdle and each immaculate implement is wiped again; every motion of the hand, the very expression of the face follows precedent: a mite of tea is put into the cup and, after cooling, a little water is poured on the tea, then with the bamboo brush it is beaten to a foam and handed to the most honoured guest, who receives it, lifts it to his forehead, looks his admiration of the cup, and then drinks off the draught. Turning the cup part way around he wipes it off and hands it to the host again, for the guest's part, like the host's, is according to strict rule. Again the cup is cleansed and the same ceremony is repeated for the second guest, and then the guests beseech the host to prepare a cup for himself and when he drinks his tea the function is complete.
In Tokyo there are professionals who gain their livelihood by this art. At tea houses and clubs they act the part of host for pay, and go to private families to instruct in the ceremonial. The room itself must be constructed especially and the garden must conform to rules that leave nothing to chance or individual taste. There are various schools that differ somewhat in details, but the main features are the same in all. When the full ceremony is performed an elaborate feast comes first, then the guests solemnly retire into the garden and take their seats in a prescribed place while the room is rearranged for the making of the tea. While they wait they may compose a verse. When the gong sounds they solemnly file in again to the same room they have left; the feast has been cleared away, the ornaments have been changed, and the water in the kettle is just ready to boil. After the host has drunk his tea the utensils are examined and each one praised in turn, and the festivity concludes with the exhibition of some artistic treasures. It takes three hours or more in its most elaborate form and few foreigners are bold enough to undertake it.
This first day we had only the simplest ceremony, and after our tea the wife of our host entered with the dinner on tiny trays and served us while we ate. After dinner poetry was proposed and long rolls of paper with ink and brushes were produced. The Japanese showed his skill by writing with his left hand in highly ornamental characters a verse of poetry; the papers are given to us as a memento, and we take our leave, the family accompanying us to the outer gate.
Our way takes us by the castle with its park- it is now the public garden of the town, the moat shrunk to half its former size, the walls in decay, but their grimness relieved by trees and moss. The arrow tower which rises above the rest-and in time of siege the last resort-is frequented for the pretty view of town, bay, and hills.
In the evening we have calls with many cups of tea, and smoke, and never-ending talk. We form plans for weeks to come for walks and rides and dinners, for to the samurai leisure is unlimited, and they are of untiring courtesy.
One day we visited a breeder of rare fowls-his family had cultivated the curious breed for one hundred years with incalculable labour and astonishing results. The cocks do not moult their tail feathers, which grow steadily from year to year. One cock had a train six yards long, and its proud owner had shown him to the Emperor. So far as we could learn there was no gain sought, but only the pleasure that comes from ownership. The ancestors of the fowls came from China a hundred years ago, and the owner boasts that now in Japan none are pure except his own, so this samurai devotes his life to these long tails.
There are collectors of old coins, who possess treasures as old as David's time. One of these gentlemen had a pleasant house, facing a charming garden. As we remarked upon its pleasures he replied, "You observe, of course, that its style is composite, with philosophic and Buddhist motives mingled." So skilfully had the situation been improved that the garden line faded away to the distant mountains. "Yes," he said, "I annexed the mountain." Gardening is an art studied as carefully as lacquer work or painting, for it, too, has its various schools and styles with its differing themes and corresponding treatment.
In many cases it seems to us the height of artificiality, there is so much that is conventional in the development of its themes, but admiration comes with study, and finally the amateur declares that in its highest forms it is not surpassed, perhaps not equalled, elsewhere. The highest English authority, Mr. Conder, tells us that this art, like all the ornamental arts, originated in China, but in its present form dates from the time of the same Shogun who devoted himself to the tea ceremonial; and that it has had an independent development since its introduction. "No art in Japan has been followed with greater fidelity to nature than landscape gardening . . . the garden is regarded as a poem or a picture, intended to arouse particular association and inspire some worthy sentiment. Sometimes the suggestion of some natural scene of mountains, or forest, or river may be intended; sometimes a purely abstract sentiment is to be conveyed, such as the idea of patient retirement from the world, meditation, or ambition; if, for example, a garden be designed for a poet or for a philosopher, its general description should express dignified seclusion, solitude, virtue, or self-abnegation. The habit of regarding a garden as an ornamental appendage to a building and constructing it with a view to possessing rare collections of plants and stones and making a display of wealth is much condemned by Japanese writers as leading invariably to an effect of vulgarity. Gardening, it is stated, should be undertaken from a genuine love of nature and with a desire of enjoying the beauties of natural scenery. There should be pleasant retreats for hours of leisure and idleness and, as one writer has poetically expressed it, 'places to stroll in when aroused from sleep.'" When, however, these beauties in their variety are expressed in the space of a few square feet, the imagination becomes fatigued and one would as soon think of strolling in a child's toy village "when aroused from sleep." But in the great gardens of the rich, the effect is all that Mr. Conder can suggest.
The love of nature that so distinguishes the people suggests charming and elevating pleasures. As spring comes on, picnic parties go to the gardens devoted to the plum and cherry, for the flowering trees and choice plants have special gardens devoted to them, the plum, the cherry, the wistaria, the iris, the azalea, the peony, and the chrysanthemum, and their flowering makes successive fêtes. When the cherry is in bloom, the whole city goes out to enjoy the spectacle. We select a pleasant day in the early spring and start off with a company of our friends. A pleasant walk across the fields and through shady lanes brings us to the garden; it has walks and hills with a little lake and a winding stream. We sit in an arbour and sip our tea and smoke, and in good time dinner is served. If we are genuine Japanese, we compose a verse. Finally, in the same leisurely fashion we go home, satisfied but not fatigued.
Sometimes we take longer tramps through the woods and up the mountains, that we may enjoy the splendid scenery in its glory and not in miniature. In frequented parts of the country we are sure to find a tea house with its refreshments, just where we wish to stop and feast our eyes upon the scene, for this is the choicest of all lands for inexpensive jaunts and journeyings. With little packs upon their backs our young friends go off to see the world: students make long and inexpensive tours, visiting famous places, and there is an immense moving from place to place, the public roads being thronged and all like a prolonged picnic. Even the coolies who go along to bear the burdens find a pleasure in their work, and the chief maxim is, Never be in a hurry, no matter how many days are spent upon the road.
In the old days when the samurai went with their lords to Yedo, the longer the time upon the way the happier the progress. There were innumerable cups of tea and pipes of tobacco and early stops and late starts. The journey counted as part time of the hated stay in Yedo. If they went part way by sea and the winds were dead ahead, so much the better, for the longest and slowest journey, with the most delays, was most highly prized. Enough of this spirit still remains to provoke or please the foreigner according to his mood.
One day we went a-fishing-not wading in the forest but sitting quietly on cushions in a slow- moving boat, with tea and pipes and fans, while the fisherman in the bow amused us by his skill in throwing the net and capturing the finny tribe.
Our great apartment was put in requisition for a play; the actors were semi-professional, and the performance lasted all the afternoon. The theme was mythological and it belonged to the style of drama called No. Only the specially educated enjoy it, and its patrons are scholars and men of rank. It is strictly legitimate and severely simple, like all Japanese high art, and there is a great deal of solemn posturing to discordant music which is too Oriental for our taste. The posturing of the miscalled dancing girls is a poetry of motion too difficult for our eyes to unravel, for its meaning is more obscure than the verses even of the archaic Shinto poets. Sometimes we can detect a meaning, as of the falling of autumn leaves, but usually the movement is too slow and repetitious and conventional for uneducated and foreign eyes. Sometimes the dance becomes an orgy, but this is never associated with the No, but is reserved for after-dinner debauchery. As the posturing is too difficult for the dull foreign eye, so is the music for the dull foreign ear. To us it is like a crash of inharmonious sounds, out of tune and key; sometimes the solo work is intelligible, but the full orchestra, except in occasional passages, rends our ears. So far as we can judge, the effort is to reproduce the sounds of nature, and Confucius highly esteemed it, holding it a mighty means for government, but only now and then do the forms take such shape that we can dimly discern them or briefly enjoy them.
The solemnity of the No-which our Japanese friends followed seriously with book, taking it as earnestly as the student does his Wagner opera -is relieved by a farce full of humour and excellently acted. It serves as a relaxation, and is in striking contrast to the masks and antique magnificence and elaborate phrasing and posturing of the No.
To visit the theatre is not good form for the samurai, but is the amusement of the lower classes. In this province in the old days it was forbidden altogether. The play lasted all day, the actors were men of very low repute, and the acting often obscene and coarse. The bad esteem in which they were held is shown by the fact that the auxiliary numerals used in counting them were those used not for men but for beasts.
But Japanese sports are not all of this easy- going nature. Invitations to hunting parties are declined, although we afterwards received the spoils. Japanese gentlemen go far away to the mountains in pursuit of game, for Buddhism has not succeeded in teaching this martial race of men to give up the soldier's sport, and the Japanese samurai, though accomplished in art and letters, are still more expert with sword and spear and bow. In the fencing halls men well protected on head and body fence furiously, using two-handed bamboo foils with which they strike but never thrust. The match begins with bows to the floor and closes in like manner, with apologies for harsh treatment. Sometimes the duel becomes a battle with a score of men on either side.
One day we had an exhibition with the sword that illustrated a chief phase of samurai life in the old days. The most famous swordsman of this very warlike clan came to our house and for half an hour showed us how in every position he could draw his sword and kill his adversary. Bowing until his head touched the floor, he could cut down his enemy before he raised his head from the profound obeisance which neither would omit. The stealthy attack from behind and sudden two- to-one attack in front were alike anticipated and foiled; alone in a crowd, in the street, or in his home he must be ready, for his life depended upon making no mistake. Our swordsman was the most unoffensive and kindly of men, but as he took his place and began the practice of his art, a strange, hard expression passed upon his face and it did not seem mere play.
Assassination with the sword was a fine art in Japan, sometimes for reason of State or politics, sometimes for private revenge; for revenge was legalised-a sacred duty, and he who neglected it was despised, so sons avenged their fathers and soldiers their lords, and even women took up the feud. Certain formalities having been observed, the duty could be fulfilled at any time or place- the method was not of consequence: the enemy might be surprised and cut down at sight, struck at from behind, or overpowered-every plan was legitimate that secured the end. Sometimes it was a fair duel between men of equal skill, but such fair play was not essential, as no one asks fair play for a condemned criminal. But, with one killing, the feud was at an end. The ability to draw the sword and cut down a man at sight was the equivalent of "getting the drop upon a man" in the lawless society of the Far West a few years ago in the United States. In Japan this was not the passing phase of a rude state of society, but the legalised custom of centuries, so, of course, there were many skilful swordsmen. Nowhere has the cult of the sword been carried to a completer development; if it be drawn in wrath it can be returned to the scabbard only when stained with blood. In a duel both contestants lost their lives, the victor committing suicide, and the seconds also taking their lives, yet men fought duels-sometimes with seconds.
The soldier's spirit was fostered in the schools for the samurai. In the famous school in Aidzu the boys began the day with the worship of Confucius, and his philosophy occupied their thoughts for years. They learned to ride and fight and shoot. They left their homes at an early age, thenceforth the feudal lord being in place of father. They were divided into groups, and their natural rivalry was fostered into enmity, so that they fought furiously among themselves, but, like their seniors, always according to strict rule. Some clans lost this martial spirit during the centuries of peace, but Aidzu proved the most stubborn of the Tokugawa followers, and when at last it yielded to the southern clans, some of the wives and mothers, following the traditions of the past, killed their infants and slew themselves, for they would not survive the defeat of their fathers, brothers, and husbands.
Besides fencing there was archery, but we saw little of this, as it has gone almost wholly out of fashion. One day, however, some mounted archers shot at successive targets, their horses on the run, with just space enough between the targets for the arrow to be put in place if the hand were true and no mistake were made. The old men were skilful and easily surpassed their youthful competitors, for it had once been part of the work of life, while now it is only an exciting play.
In earlier times the feats of skill and endurance were extraordinary. In Kyoto is a temple with a veranda one hundred and twenty-eight yards long and sixteen feet to the roof. All archer has sent more than eight thousand arrows down its length in twenty-four hours. And in Tokyo, on a veranda of the same dimensions, in twenty consecutive hours an archer discharged more than ten thousand arrows, half of which traversed the distance without hitting the roof. The roof is full of arrows, the memorials of failures innumerable.
The prettiest game was polo. In the spring the samurai played every day for a week or more in a grassy lane by the river side. There was a high bank that answered for the grand stand, where were banners, and booths and cushions, with refreshments for the hungry lookers-on. The people began to gather in the early morning and picnicked all day, during the morning strolling along the river or chatting at their ease. At one o'clock the game began. Twenty horsemen gathered at the far end of the narrow lane and at our end were both goals. Each rider has a ball, ten reds and ten whites, and each is to throw his opponent's ball through the goal, preventing him meanwhile from returning the compliment. At the signal twenty balls are thrown down the lane and twenty riders follow at full speed. With long bamboo sticks, with dainty nets fastened at the ends, they pick up and throw the balls, each seeking to send his opponent's ball on toward the goal and his own back toward the starting-point. The contest grows intense as the balls grow less, the crowds applauding and urging on the combatants. Riders are unmounted, there are sharp encounters of men and horses-finally some especially brilliant horsemanship or long, skilful throw gives the victory. The victors ride back to the head of the lane, shouting and swinging their clubs; the vanquished walk slowly back, leading their horses in their humility. With changes of players the game continues all the afternoon.
One sees little of the wives and women of the families. At an elaborate dinner party given by the leading samurai of the province, his little daughter, ten years old, was present and sat in the middle of the room, never stirring during the long feast save to give orders by a slight motion. She formed the most charming part of a beautifully constructed picture, but the wife of our host and his older daughters did not appear. After I had been repeatedly to the house of a friend, at last, with apologies, he introduced his wife as one might venture to present a higher servant. The marriages are arranged in infancy. A modern samurai, educated abroad, objected to the early betrothal of his son, but his wife insisted, saying, "If you wait, all the girls of his age and rank will be engaged, and then what shall he do?" It was unreasonable, he said to me, but inevitable, and he followed his wife's advice. There are stories told of unreasonable men who divorce many wives-one as many as ten before he could suit his unduly fastidious taste, for marriage has never taken the place it has attained with us; it is far too one-sided, with the obligations on the weaker side. The wife waits on her husband and never eat with him; she is as a servant in his eyes, and he treats her on the same terms and with the same language as his other servants. She stays close at home, knows nothing of the world, does not participate in the thoughts and plans of her husband, nor dream of equality. Doubtless her position is better than the position of wives in many Eastern lands, and there are often mutual love and respect and happy life at home, but the closer the inspection of the Eastern home the less it seems to satisfy the ideals we have been taught to form.
Life in remote Japan is quiet, narrow, and yet does not lack for interest, as we have seen. There are books, manly sports, æsthetic enjoyment, and the pleasure that comes from rank and power; it is calm and leisurely, without hurry or ambition. The young men are full of life and spirit, the elders are mildly blasé. Men who have hardly reached middle life are ready to withdraw, hand their estates and honours to their sons, and, as one said to me, "go a-fishing for the remainder of their days." From Emperor to shopkeeper, it has been the fashion to abdicate. The pride of possession is not great, as with us, and resignation for them is an easier virtue; so they make sacrifices without a thought, which we should think well-nigh impossible. Their feelings are intense but not deep; there is a serene unconsciousness of self, for personality is not supreme, and they feel themselves to be parts of the universe, not its centre. They are schooled to dignified repression of emotion, yet are fervent admirers of strength of any sort; they are hero-worshippers, and as long as the worship lasts are self-sacrificing followers of their demigod.
In the new era the samurai are oftentimes in financial difficulties: a few still retain hereditary estates; others have invested the bonds they received from the Government fortunately; some, again, are successful in business enterprises, and a very large number are in the employ of the Government. Possibly in these various ways one-half are provided for, the others having sunk down into the masses of the people, retaining only the nominal rank of their family. With the change in their position, the framework of society has been largely destroyed, and with it the old ethics and the old social traditions, leaving little in its place. The older men, like older men in most lands, lament the change, feeling that the morality of the nation has deteriorated and desiring strongly a termination of the moral interregnum-their problem being what to substitute.
The Japanese of the modern day is filled with intellectual curiosity. We never lacked for subjects for a talk;-my old friend, the collector of ancient coins, with the little garden that "annexed the mountain," would talk of Old Japan and then of Darwin and Huxley and Mill - the oldest thought of ancient Asia mingled constantly with the newest thought of the most progressive West. It is sometimes said that the Japanese are not frank and refuse to admit foreigners to the secrets of their lives; but night after night we spent long hours, seated upon the mats, asking and answering questions, they seeking information of our Western lands, and I asking them in turn whatever I desired to know of their customs, their history, their purpose, and their lives; and never anywhere could one wish to meet a group of gentlemen more responsive or more frank. As one remembers his own experience of the hospitality of the samurai of Japan, of their welcome for a stranger, of their courtesy through weeks of intercourse, of their desire to minister in all ways to his enjoyment and his instruction, one can only feel that nowhere are there men more worthy of esteem and more likely to win our affectionate regard.
The chief amusement in a place like Kochi, after all, was conversation - the intellectual life was keen and the interest great. Twenty years ago every foreigner was supposed to be a mine of information: in this visit, for example, we were asked questions as to prison reform, the proper basis for a national currency, the best method for the establishment of banks; whether it would be better to build a railway across the mountains to the inland sea, or to dig out the harbour and widen its entrance so that it might be easy of access for sea-going steamers; whether, on the whole, for a nation in the situation of Japan, a militia would not suffice without a standing army; as to the various forms of constitutional government, Germanic, British, and American, with their adaptations to Japanese needs; as to the expediency of opening certain mines and the probability of profit from them; and, with all these practical questions on many subjects, problems which were more abstruse,-the origin of species through the struggle for existence; the comparison of European and Chinese idealistic philosophy; the definitions of time and space; and as my specialty, the profoundest topics of theology and of human destiny, for English is the key which opens the door to knowledge, and we, possessing the key, were supposed to possess the knowledge. It was all relatively superficial, of course, for the men, as has been said, were in the position of a rustic, untechnical but intelligent, on his visit to a World's Fair. First of all, he must obtain a slight knowledge of much before he could expect to master anything in its details. It is characteristic of this stage in the Japanese intellectual development that students desire to get at once at the heart of the matter and are impatient of beginnings. If, for example, they learn that Kant or Hegel is the great authority in philosophy, they do not understand why they should not begin with the greatest -omitting introductory and lesser works. They would even carry this into mathematics and physics, and so have gained for themselves among foreigners a reputation for an appearance of knowledge without its substance. In part this was only a passing phase, for the Japanese have shown themselves quite competent to master in their completeness our lines of study, and yet it is indicative, in part, of a certain attitude of the Japanese mind. Study for them is, on the whole, for the exceptional man, and courses should be arranged for them-dullards and sluggards dropping out or gaining little, as is natural.
If the chief amusement was talk, the chief business was politics. The samurai still control the Government. Tosa early broke from its allies in the Three Clan League and entered a path of its own with Mr. (now Count) Itagaki as leader. A liberal league was formed, half secret, throughout Japan, and its head was our host. His followers told us that their loyalty to him was because of his unselfish devotion to principle, and he described his aims as seeking the development of the common people and the elevation of the masses to the status once occupied by the samurai only. He proposed therefore a parliament on the plan of England's with a liberal constitution and the representatives of the people supreme. The party triumphed in part in the Constitution given in 1889, but twenty years ago it was still in the midst of its struggles. Several of the leading men of Kochi had been already imprisoned by the Government, and at a later period, 1887, were imprisoned again on an administrative order. So that politics was associated with enough of danger to make it highly exciting, for they never knew when home might be exchanged for prison. Their spirit is best illustrated by their course at that time. When my dear friend, Mr. Kataoka was arrested in Tokyo one Sunday night, he demanded the cause, but the officers refused to talk with him. The next morning a higher official came to the prison and told him that he could leave up to twelve o'clock, if he would take the train to Yokohama and the steamer that afternoon for Kochi and remain there in his own home, away from the capital for three years; otherwise, he should remain in prison for the same period. But Mr. Kataoka told the officer that though the Government with its power could keep him in prison for three years or for life, no power could force him, seemingly of his own will, to cross the city and go from the capital of the nation as if he were a criminal when he had committed no offence. So he remained in prison until twelve o'clock, when the doors were closed and he was held for eighteen months.
At the close of that period, on the giving of the Constitution by the Emperor, Mr. Kataoka and his friends were pardoned and immediately entered into a fierce political contest for the control of the first Parliament. Returning to Tosa he was offered his choice of the districts, three of which were almost certainly liberal and the fourth as likely conservative. He chose the conservative district, saying that if any portion of his own countrymen would not send him to Parliament, he would prefer to stay at home. The district was Buddhist in its faith, and Mr. Kataoka was an elder in the Presbyterian Church. This fact was used against him by his opponents, and he was urged by his party leaders to give up his office in the Church, but he replied that if he must choose between the Church and the Parliament, he would take the Church. It is worthy of mention that Mr. Kataoka's course did not injure his political career; indeed, precisely these qualities win the Japanese heart. Until his death he represented his district in the parliament, through all the vicissitudes of the changing political situation, and for the last four years (until December, 1903) he was the speaker of the lower House.
The intense political feeling manifested itself in violence. The Government arrested men and imprisoned them without trial, and the opposition responded with plots and riots. Even after the Constitution had been granted and the Parliament elected, the Government curtailed liberty of speech and printing, and was charged with unfair attempts at controlling elections. Mobs formed in many places, and the unenfranchised masses were used, by all parties, to coerce the electors. Later, bands of ruffians were formed for the same purpose, men who were supposed to represent the spirit of the ancient masterless samurai, ready for any exploit, and not loath to deeds of violence.
All this proved only a passing phase, but it was followed by a still more sinister development. The Imperial Diet has been charged repeatedly with corruption, its members being accused of selling their votes and their influence. The charges are doubtless founded upon facts, and the condition is likely to be permanent; for the members are underpaid, and they are drawn for the most part from the class which is without financial resources, so that temptation comes with especial power. Nor has patriotism yet set a standard which makes the bribe-taker or -giver a sinner or a traitor. Yet a public opinion is forming which condemns this, and we would not imply that the Japanese are sinners above others. Only, in this as in other things, they have no monopoly of virtue, but with constitutional government acquire also its vices; and as Arai Hakuseki shows us, official corruption is not a novelty, only its expression through the representatives of the people being peculiar to the present time.
The ancient disregard of life continues; and there are many examples. In 1891 a subordinate official killed himself on a temple veranda a short distance from my house in Tokyo. He made a statement of the causes leading to his suicide: For years he had been stationed in the northern island of the Empire and had brooded over the designs of Russia. As a petty officer he could not hope to gain the ear of the Government, and so he killed himself, that by his death the attention of the public might be called to his views.
When the Prince Imperial of Russia was attacked near Kyoto the whole Empire was moved by the outrage upon a guest of the Emperor, and a few days later a woman killed herself upon the same spot, explaining in her letter that she was a native of the village with the ruffian who had attacked her Emperor's guest and that she could not survive the disgrace.
In 1889 Viscount Mori was killed by a Shinto fanatic. The assassin was not a priest nor connected with the temples where the alleged offence had been committed, nor had he any public position, but was the self-constituted avenger of a slight to his nation's gods. Killed at once, he was made a hero by the Tokyo populace, not because it sympathised with his views, nor because it was opposed to Viscount Mori, but purely because it admired the courage and self-sacrifice of the deed.
Again, Count Okuma, when Minister of Foreign Affairs, returning from the office to his residence, was attacked by a samurai who threw a bomb toward his carriage. Fortunately, the Count only lost his leg and not his life, but the would-be murderer killed himself before he could be arrested. That night I chanced to be in various places of resort where samurai assembled, and from all I heard only expressions of admiration for the deed, the daring of it, and the readiness with which the assassin took his own life.
The Chinese philosophy has taught men that only worthy rulers have a divine right to govern, and it has further taught the lower officers that on them depends the honour of their native land. Hence the samurai have esteemed themselves responsible for the policy of the Government, for the conduct of national affairs, and for the deeds of statesmen. We in our Western fashion leave reforms to the officers of the State, or through great popular movements we seek to bring about a change, and we do not imagine that to each one of us there has been committed a personal responsibility which we must discharge at the cost of our own lives. In these things the intelligent man of good position in the United States is at furthest remove from his compeer in Japan.