The Lyric Impulse-A Man-Made Product-The Remoteness of Woman Suffrage-Efforts Toward Progress- Divorce-Marriage and the Go-Between-The Rising Generation-Japanese-American Duality-LeprosyLAFCADIO HEARN tells us that training in the Tea Ceremony "is held to be a training in politeness, in self-control, in delicacy-a discipline in deportment"; but Jakichi Inouye, a searching and sincere Japanese writer, goes even further, declaring that "the calm, sedate gracefulness of the Japanese lady of culture is the result of the study of the Tea Ceremony. . . ."
My one quarrel with Mr. Inouye is over that statement. To say that the study of the Tea Ceremony assists young ladies to attain poise is safe enough; but to say that the fine bearing of the Japanese lady is the result of studying the Tea Ceremony seems to me to be going altogether too far.
The bearing of the Japanese lady is a thing too exquisite to have been produced by the practice of any artificial social ritual. Such a bearing is not, in my opinion, to be classed as a mere accomplishment, though it may have been so a thousand years ago. Rather it is the reflection of an incomparably lovely spirit, the flower of countless generations of such spirits, reaching back through ages of tradition, centuries of self-abnegation. It is the crowning product and proof, not of any Tea Ceremony, but of the disciplined civilization of Old Japan.
Whenever I find my thoughts reverting to the Japanese woman, I feel stirring within me a tendency to lyricism. Let Lafcadio Hearn, whose wife was a Japanese lady, speak for me. "Before this ethical creation," he writes, "criticism should hold its breath; for there is here no single fault save the fault of a moral charm unsuited to any world of selfishness and struggle. . . . Perhaps no such type of woman will appear again in this world for a hundred thousand years: the conditions of industrial civilization will not admit of her existence."
The fact that the Japanese woman is in no small degree a man-made product does not fill me with admiration for Japanese men, as would some insentient product of their art. For whereas the artist has a right to carve what he will in wood or ivory or lacquer, to mould what he will in wax or clay or bronze, I doubt his moral right to use the human soul as a medium for his craftsmanship in making an ornament for his own home, however exquisite that ornament may be.
I am well aware that in this case the end may be said to justify the means, but I am enough of an individualist to believe in our American system, even though I must admit that it has not produced so sweet and delicate an average of womanhood as has the Japanese system. Women as we produce them exhibit a much wider range of types than may be found in Japan, and though a vulgar American woman, be she rich or poor, attains a degree of vulgarity such as is not even faintly approximated. in Japan, we also know that we produce types of women as fine as the world can show. And while I cannot speak with absolute certainty of the intelleclual attainments of Japanese women, I am inclined to think that our more liberal attitude toward the sex, the greater freedom of companionship between American women and men, and the growth of the American woman's interest and share in public matters may tend to make her, at her best, a more completely satisfying comrade-not because her brains are necessarily better brains than those of the women of Japan, or of other countries, but because she has been encouraged to exercise them in a larger way.
From my point of view, however, the basic question here is not the question of which system produces the highest specimens of womanhood, but that of the inherent right of the individual to develop, let the results be what they may.
The Japanese woman is not allowed this freedom, since it is obviously to the interest of the Japanese man to keep her as she is. Lately there has been some agitation in Japan for what is called "universal suffrage," but it must not be supposed that by that term woman suffrage is meant. The proposal involves only the extension of the ballot to all males, as against the present system which requires that a man shall pay taxes above a certain amount in order to have a vote. Woman suffrage is not even in sight. When I was in Japan a few progressive women were asking, not for the vote, but for the abrogation of the rule which denied their sex the right to attend political meetings. They were successful. The rule was recently abrogated. A movement had also been started by some advanced women led by Mrs. Raicho Hiratsuka, for laws compelling men who wish to marry to obtain medical certificates declaring them mentally sound and free from diseases of a kind likely to be communicated to a wife. I heard that seventy out of three hundred girls employed by the railway administration in Kyoto had organized an association to aid in the advancement of the measures proposed, vowing never to marry unless their would-be husbands complied with the requirements for which Mrs. Raicho Hiratsuka and her associates were endeavouring to obtain legal recognition.
Another matter that wants mending is the legal status of married women. So far as I know there has been made no serious effort to improve the present situation. Under Japanese law a woman, upon contracting marriage, is debarred from civil rights, having practically the standing of a minor. A wife cannot transfer her own real estate, bring an action at law, or even accept or reject a legacy or a gift, without the consent of her husband. Laws not dissimilar to these exist, I believe, in some of the more backward states of our own Union. According to the law of Japan a widow cannot succeed her husband as head of the family if she has a child who can take the succession. In matters of inheritance an elder sister gives place to a younger son, even to an illegitimate son recognized by the father.
A husband may divorce a wife for adultery, but a wife cannot divorce a husband for this cause- or rather, she can do so only when he has offended with a married woman whose husband has therefore brought action for divorce. Thus it will be seen that a husband may even take a concubine to live in his home, along with his wife and children, without giving ground for divorce. Concubinage, I am told, is still to some extent practised in Japan, though popular opinion is against it. In one respect, however, the Japanese divorce laws are more enlightened than our own. A husband and a wife who agree in desiring a divorce may easily obtain it by stating the fact to the court.
Somehow or other I came to the subject of divorce before that of marriage. The Orient and the Occident are nowhere farther apart than in their views and customs as to the mating of men and women. In Japan marriages for love rarely occur, though it is said that the tendency of young people to marry to suit themselves is growing. Young Japanese girls, I am told, often look with envy upon women of other nations, where marriage for love is the general rule. Probably they suppose that such matches are invariably happy; that the love is always real love, and that it endures for ever. No doubt our system, viewed from afar, looks as rosy to a Japanese girl as their system looks appalling to an American girl. Yet each has certain merits. The Japanese system does not suggest romance, it is true; but is romance, after all, the most essential stone in the foundation for a happy married life? Romantic notions figure too largely in some of our matches, and too little in some of theirs. And while the mature judgment of older people is with them the determining factor in the making of a match, it is too often with us no factor at all.
Marriages in Japan are generally brought about by older married couples who act as go-betweens. There is a popular saying that everyone should act as a go-between at least three times. The gobetween, knowing a young man and a young woman whom he regards as suitable to each other, proposes the match confidentially to the parents of both. If preliminary reports are mutally satisfactory to the two families, a meeting of the young couple and their parents and relatives is arranged on neutral ground. Any intimation of the real purpose of this meeting is tactfully avoided at the time, though the purpose of it is, of course, fully understood by all concerned. Under this arrangement either family may, without giving offence, drop the matter after the first meeting, but if the results of the preliminary inspection are satisfactory to both sides, the parents meet again and definitely arrange the match, which is made binding by an exchange of presents.
Chamberlain says that while, in theory, the bethrothal may not be concluded if either young person objects, in practice the two are in the hands of their parents, and that "the girl, in particular, is nobody in the matter."
This generalization was doubtless accurate a few years ago, and may be accurate to-day in remote parts of Japan where Western ideas have not crept in, but among the educated classes in large cities a distinct change has come over the rising generation. There is as great a gap between the older and the younger generations in Japan as in the United States, and as with us, the older people over there complain that youth is getting altogether out of hand, while youth complains that its aspirations are not understood by parents and grandparents. This does not, mean that Japanese young men and young women run practically wild, as so many of our young people now are doing, but merely that the slight personal freedom they are demanding represents in Japan as great a novelty as is exhibited in the United States by the change from moderate parental control to no control at all.
Yet the cults and traditions of Old Japan are vastly powerful, and though they may yield a little here and there, they will not soon be broken down. This fact is made apparent in the quick reversion to type of Japanese men and women who have lived for years in the United States, and who, when in the United States, seem to have become quite like Americans. Meet them in Japan and you see that their Occidentalism was only skin-deep. While among us they gracefully adapted themselves to our ways, and doubtless enjoyed them, but always in the back of their minds was the knowledge that they were Japanese and that they would ultimately return to Japan, there to become a part of the finely adjusted mechanism of Japanese homogeneity. I know many such men and women and find them very interesting. They have passed through an extraordinary mental and spiritual experience, generally without being confused by it. Instead of mixing their Japanese and American selves, they acquire a perfect duality. They can sit on either side of the fence, as it were, and look over calmly and interpretatively at the other side.
I discussed this subject with one young matron who spent the first twenty years of her life in the United States, and who, when she moved to Japan, spoke her native tongue with an American accent.
"My brothers and sisters and I went to American boarding schools," she said.
"We dressed like Americans, had American boy and girl friends, went to house-parties, and grew up outwardly, just as they were growing up. But always we were taught by our parents to understand that this was not to go on for ever.
"When I came to Japan and married I saw that the best thing to do was to show people that I was as Japanese as any of them. If I had kept up my foreign ways it would have been resented. So I became completely Japanese, and for a number of years did not even meet Americans who came here. Then when I had made clear my attitude and felt I was established, I began to see Americans again and entertain them."
In another case a young Japanese in an American university used to tell his college friends that when he went back to Japan he would show his emancipation from old Japanese tradition by marrying as he pleased. Soon after reaching home, however, he was married by his parents to a bride he hardly knew. He speaks fluent English, I am told, and has an American side which he can show at will, but the inner man is essentially as Japanese as though he had never been away. And rightly so, of course. The Japanese who throws himself as an impediment against the movement of the great machine of national conventions is not likely to break so much as a single tooth in the smallest of its wheels, but will surely break himself.
But to return to the subject of marriages: Having arranged the match, the go-between naturally takes pride in its success. He befriends the young couple; if they are unhappy he mediates between them, endeavouring to settle their difficulties; and if their unhappiness continues, and divorce is spoken of, it becomes his duty to exhaust every resource to prevent their acting rashly.
Before arranging the match, however, the go-between takes precautions to provide against such dangers as may be foreseen. He must, for example, make discreet investigations as to the health of both families for several generations back, to insure against hereditary taints, among which the most dreaded is leprosy.
The Japan Year Book, in most cases a useful reference work, is curiously silent on the subject of leprosy, though several pages are devoted to tuberculosis and other diseases. It was reported recently that a million Japanese have tuberculosis, but leprosy, though less contagious and consequently much less frequent, is more feared. An authority has told me that there are probably two million lepers in the world and that the only countries free from the disease are England and Scotland, from which it has been eradicated by segregation. It is estimated that New York City has one hundred lepers, and that there are cases of it in most, if not all states in the Union. Yet according to the government report only three states-California, Louisiana, and Massachusetts-make provision for the segregation and care of sufferers from this most terrible of diseases. Some people give the number of lepers in Japan as under twenty thousand. The Home Office sets the figure at sixtyfour thousand. Specialists, however, say that even the latter figure is far too low, and that the actual number is nearer one hundred thousand.
first leprosarium in Japan was started twentyeight years ago by Roman Catholic missionaries. A few years later a second leper hospital was founded by Miss H. Riddell, an Englishwoman who has been probably the greatest single influence in bettering conditions for the Japanese lepers. Miss Riddell's leprosarium at Kumamoto, south Japan, was, I believe, used by the Japanese Government as a model for the State leprosariums of which there are now five. Other such institutions are operated by missionaries and private individuals, but the work must be greatly extended if it is hoped to check the spread of the disease, to say nothing of stamping it out.
A Japanese friend of mine who has frequently acted as go-between in arranging matches for employees of a large company of which he is an official, tells me that girls in families tainted with leprosy are often exceptionally beautiful, and that they frequently have very white skins. In certain parts of Japan where leprosy is common there are, he tells me, rich families having beautiful daughters for whom it is impossible to find husbands in the neighbourhood because of rumours that the dread disease is in their blood. Such families occasionally move to the great cities where they seek to find husbands for their daughters through matrimonial agents or by personal advertisements in newspapers. The custom of advertising for a husband or a wife has of late years grown considerably, and as has happened in this country, rascalities are sometimes discovered behind such advertisements, wherefore the police keep an eye on matrimonial agencies.
One reason why accurate statistics on leprosy are hard to get, not only in Japan, but in all coun- tries, is that families in which a case occurs will often go to great lengths to conceal it. In Japan this is particularly true because there a leper cannot marry, and leprosy is cause for divorce not only in the case of the individual actually afflicted, but in that of the victim's blood relations including those as far removed as second cousins.
No wonder the go-between feels a sense of responsibility!