JAPAN, once in the far-off Orient, is now our nearest Western neighbor. Her people walk our streets; her youth sit, peers and rivals of our students, in the class-room; her art adorns our homes, and has opened to us a new Gate Beautiful. The wise men from the West are, at this writing, opening their treasures of tea, silk, gold-lacquer, bronzes, and porcelain at the first centennial of our nation's birth.
We hail the brightness of the rising of this first among Asiatic nations to enter modern life, to win and hold a place among the foremost peoples of the earth. It is time that a writer treated Japan as something else than an Oriental puzzle, a nation of recluses, a land of fabulous wealth, of universal licentiousness or of Edenic purity, the fastness of a treacherous and fickle crew, a Paradise of guileless children, a Utopia of artists and poets. It is time to drop the license of exaggeration, and, with the light of common day, yet with sympathy and without prejudice, seek to know what Dai Nippon is and has been.
It has been well said by a literary critic and reader of all the books on the subject that to write a good history of Japan is difficult, not so much from lack of materials, but from the differences in psychology. This I realize. My endeavor, during eight years' living contact with these people, has been, from their language, books, life, and customs, to determine their mental parallax, and find out how they think and feel.
I have not made this book in libraries at home, but largely on the soil of the mikado's empire. I have slight obligation to acknowledge to foreign writers, except to those working scholars in Japan who have written during the last decade with knowledge of the language. To them I owe much; first and most of all to Mr. Ernest Satow, who, in the special department of historical research, stands leader. To Messrs. W. Dixon, Aston, Mitford, Hepburn, Brown, Blakiston, Von Brandt, and Parkes, I am also indebted. I am under many obligations to the editor of The Japan Mail. This scholarly paper, published in Yokohama, is a most valuable mirror of contemporaneous Japanese history, and a rich store-house of facts, especially the papers of the Asiatic Society of Japan. The Japan Herald and The Japan Gazette have also been of great service to me, for which I here thank the proprietors. The constant embarrassment in treating many subjects has been from wealth of material. I have been obliged to leave out several chapters on important subjects, and to treat others with mere passing allusions.
In the early summer of 1868, two Higo students, Isé and Namagawa, arrived in the United States. They were followed by retainers of the daimiōs of Satsuma and Echizen, and other feudal princes. I was surprised and delighted to find these earnest youth equals of American. students in good-breeding, courtesy, and mental acumen. Some of them remained under my instruction two years, others for a shortet time. Among my friends or pupils in New Brunswick, New Jersey, are Mr. Yoshida Kiyonari, H. I. J. M. Minister Plenipotentiary at Washinuton; Mr. Takagi Saturo, H. I. J. M. Vice-consul at San Francisco; Mr. Tomita Tetsunosūké, H. I. J. M. Consul at New York; Mr. Hatakéyama Yoshinari, sresident of the Imperial University of Japans Captain Matsŭmura, Junzo, of the Japanese navy. Among others were the two sons of Iwakura Tomomi, Junior Prime Minister of Japan; and two young nobles of the Shimadzŭ family of Satsuma. I also met Prince Adzuma, nephew of the mikado, and many of the prominent men, ex-daimiōs, Tokugawa retainers, soldiers in the war of 1868, and representatives of every department of service under the old shōgunatc and new National Government. Six white marble shafts in the cemetery at New Brunswick, New Jersey, mark the resting-place of Kusukabé Tarō, of Fakui, and his fellow-countrymen, whose devotion to study cost them their lives. I was invited by the Prince of Echizen, while Regent of the University, through the American superintendent, Rev. G. F. Verbeck, to go out to organize a scientific school on the American principle in Fukui, Echizen, and give instruction in the physical sciences. I arrived in Japan, December 29th, 1870, and remained until July 25th, 1874. During all my residence I enjoyed the society of cultivated scholars, artists, priests, antiquaries, and students, both in the provincial and national capitals. From the living I bore letters of introduction to the prominent men in the Japanese Government, and thus were given to me opportunities for research and observation not often afforded to foreigners. My facilities for regular and extended travel were limited only by my duties. Nothing Japanese was foreign to me, from palace to beggar's hut. I lived in Dai Nippon during four of the most pregnant years of the nation's history. Nearly one year was spent alone in a daimiō's capital far in the interior, away from Western influence, when feudalism was in its full bloom, and the old life in vogue. In the national capital, in the time well called "the flowering of the nation," as one of the instructors in the Imperial University, having picked students from all parts of the empire, I was a witness of the marvelous development, reforms, dangers, pageants, and changes of the epochal years 1872, 1873, and. 1874. With pride I may say truly that I have felt the pulse and heart of New Japan.
I have studied economy in the matter of Japanese names and titles, risking the charge of monotony for the sake of clearness. The scholar will, I trust, pardon me for apparent anachronisms and omissions. For lack of space or literary skill, I have had, in some cases, to condense with a brevity painful to a lover of fairness and candor. The title justifies the emphasis of one idea that pervades the book.
In the department of illustrations, I claim no originality, except in their selection. Many are from photographs taken for me by natives in Japan. Those of my artist friend, Ozawa, were nearly all made from life at my suggestion. I have borrowed many fine sketches from native books, through Aimé Humbert, whose marvelously beautiful and painstaking work, "Japon Illustré," is a mine of illustration. Few'artists have excelled in spirit and truth Mr. A. Wirgman, the artist of The London Illustrated News, a painter of real genius, whose works in oil now adorn many home parlors of ex-residents in Japan, and whose gems, fine gold, and dross fill the sprightly pages of The Japan Punch. Many of his sketches adorn Sir Rutherford Alcock's book on the vicissitudes of diplornatists, commonly called "The Capital of the Tycoon," or "Three Years in Japan." I am indebted both to this gentleman and to Mr. Laurence Oliphant, who wrote the charming volume, "Lord Elgin's Mission to China and Japan," for many illustrations, chiefly from native sketches. Through the liberality of my publishers, I am permitted to use these from their stores of plates. I believe I have in no case reproduced old cuts without new or correct information that, will assist the general reader or those who wish to study the various styles of the native artists, five of which are herein presented. Hokusai, the Dickens, and Kano, the Audubon of Japanese art, are well represented. The photographs of the living and of the renowned dead, from temples, statues, or old pictures, from the collections of daimiōs and nobles, are chiefly by Uchida, a native photographer of rare ability, skill, and enthusiasm, who unfortunately died in 1875. Four vignettes are copied from the steel-plate engravings on the greenbacks printed in New York for the Ono National Banking Company of Tōkōa, by the Continental Bank-note Company of New York.
I gratefully acknowledge the assistance derived from native scholars in Fakui and Tōkiō, especially Messrs. Iwabuchi, Takakashi, and Idéura, my readers and helpers. To the members of the Mei Roku Sha, who have honored me with membership in their honorable body, I return my best thanks. This club of authors and reformers includes such men as Fukuzawa, Arinori Mōri, Nakamura Masanawo, Kato Hiroyaki, Nishi Shiu, the Mitsukuri brothers, Shiuhei and Rinshō, Uchida Masawo, Hatakévaina Yoshinari, and others, all names of fame and honor, and earnest workers in the regeneration of their country. To my former students now in New York, who have kindly assisted me in proof - reading, and last and first of all to Mr. Tosui Imadaté, my friend and constant companion during the last six years, I return my thanks and obligations. I omit in this place the names of high officers in the Japanese Government, because the responsibility for any opinion advanced in this work rests on no native of Japan. That is all my own. To my sister, the companion, during two years, of several of my journeys and visits in the homes of the island empire, I owe many an idea and inspiration to research. To the publishers of the North American Review, Appletons' Journal, and The Independent my thanks are due for permission to print part of certain chapters first published in these periodicals.
I trust the tone of the work will not seem dogmatic. I submit with modesty what I have written on the Ainōs. I am inclined to believe that India is their original home; that the basic stock of the Japanese people is Ainō; and that in this fact lies the root of the marvelous difference in the psychology of the Japanese and their neighbors, the Chinese.
"Can a nation be born at once?" "With God all things are possible."
W. E. G.
New York, May 10th, 1876.