RECORD OF EVENTS, 1876, 1877, 1878.The record of events in Japan in the first edition of this work closed with the notice of the treaty with Corea, Feb. 27th, 1876. The following summary brings the history down to June, 1878.
A.D. 1876, THE NINTH YEAR OF MEIJI AND 2537TH OF THE JAPANESE EMPIRE.
March 28th. - Proclamation of the Prime Minister Saujō abolishing the custom of wearing swords, in response to a memorial from Yamagata, Minister of War, Dec. 7th, 1875. "No individual will henceforth be permitted to wear a sword unless he be in court dress, a member of the military or naval forces, or a police officer." This measure was first advocated by Arinori Mori (pp. 399-400).
March 30th. - The embassy from Corea arrive in Tōkiō, being the first in Japan for over two centuries. They had audience of the mikado June 1st. They visited the government buildings, schools, colleges, foundries, and public improvements. Embarked for Corea June 18th.
June 2d. - The mikado, accompanied by several members of the cabinet, left Tōkiō) on a tour overland through the northern provinces to Yezo. His Majesty visited Nikkō and the old castled cities along the route. Everywhere visible to his people, he was received with universal demonstrations of joy, no check being placed upon business or the behavior of the people, except such as their own curiosity or respect imposed. No Emperor of Japan had ever visited this portion of the empire. One of the fruits of this tour was the making public of the relics of Father Sotelo and Hashikura Rokuyémon - the one a Franciscan friar, the other a retainer of the dalmiō of Sendai - who sailed from Japan in 161.3 to Mexico in a Japanese ship (p. 246) across the Pacific, and thence reached Spain and Rome, the Japanese noble receiving audience of the Pope, and being made a Roman senator. They returned to Japan about 1624, the one to martyrdom, the other to abjuration. (See the mostinteresting narrative in Hildretla's "Japan," pp. 158, 159, 199, and the Tōkiō Times, Jan. 6th, 1877.)
Aug. 5th. - Proclamation of the Prime Minister declaring that the hereditary incomes and life-pensions of the nobles and samurai (pp. 108, 598) must be surrendered, and commuted for in government bonds at from five to fourteen years' purchase. This measure, long before conceived (p. 574), and warmly welcomed by the common people, struck a blow at the privileged classes. It relieved the enforced poverty of thirty millions, while it compelled two millions to begin to earn their own bread. The scheme is so planned that the largest incomes will be extinguished first, and the lowest last. (See Japan Mail, August 22d, 1876.)
Aug. 21st. - For purposes of better administration, the empire was divided into 3fu, and 35 ken - a measure of economy and greater centralization.
October 24th. - Insurrection at Kumamoto, in Higo. Night attack upon the imperial garrison of the castle by samurai. Similar uprisings and some fighting took place at places in neighboring provinces, but by the great energy of the Government they were suppressed, and order restored by the end of November. The chief cause of the outbreak was the discontent of the samurai at the capitalizing of their pensions. This revolt was instigated by two leaders. One was Mayébara, one of the military leaders of the Restoration of 1868, who afterward held high office under the imperial government, but was discharged for incompetency in office. The other was Uyéno, a man seventy years of age. Both grieved over the decay of old customs, the secularization of the Divine Country (Japan) (pp. 95, 197), the arbitrary policy of "the bad councillors" (p. 313) of the mikado and his "imprisonment" by them, the influence of foreigners, and the loss of the samurai's swords and pensions. Their followers called themselves the Jimpu (Divine Breath or Wind) (p. 181), and the Sonnoi Jo-i ("Honor the mikado and expel the foreigner") (pp. 306, 320). Dressed in the old samurai garb and in ancient armor, they fought with sword and halberd. They were utterly defeated by rifles, cannon, telegraphs, and steamers. Like all unsuccessful rebels, they were branded as chōtéki (pp. 184, 313). Mayébara and twelve ringleaders were decapitated, and many hundreds of the insurgent samurai were degraded, imprisoned, sentenced to hard labor, or transported to Yezo. It is very probable that "this last convulsion of expiring feudalism" might have been prevented by due vigilance and the allowance of' greater freedom of expression of public opinion.
The year 1876 will ever remain memorable as the critical year in Japanese journalism, when the severity of the press laws and government prosecutions was more than equaled by the courage, firmness, and patience of a noble army of editors and writers who crowded the jails of Japan, and joyfully suffered fines and imprisonment in order to secure a measure of "the freedom of the press" - a phrase which is the watchword of' liberty, not only in Europe and America, but among the Japanese also, in whose language it has become domesticated in common speech like the words "Christian," "rights," "treaty," etc., as well as "brandy," "tobacco," "cholera," "telephone," etc., etc.
December. - During this month many agrarian riots took place over many sections of the country, caused chiefly by the opposition of a stolid peasantry to the imperial laws changing the land-tax from kind to money, that is, laying the tax on the soil instead of on the produce, as heretofore (p. 606). The lack of good roads and banking facilities had also much to do with the temporary distress, which will soon pass away, and yield great benefit to all classes of the people.
During this year the Mitsu Mishi (Three Diamonds) Steamship Company of Japan was established upon a sound basis, and the Japanese now control their coasting trade, the steam service to Shanghae, to Corea, and the Liu Kiu islands. There are now seven native steamship companies, all receiving a subsidy from the Government. During this year also the Japanese occupied the Bonin islands (Munin, or Ogasawara Shima), an excellent whaling station, rich in tropical fruits, and inhabited by the families of American, British, and Hawaiian sailors. (See "Perry's Expedition.") It is expected in the future to be a station for submarine telegraph cables from America.