Placidity and Sodans-Talk and Tea-American Business Methods versus Japanese-The Arnerica, Housekeeper in Nippon-Japan's Problem-Population and Food-The Militarists-Land-Grabbing-Liberalism-Emigration-Industrialism-Examples of Inefficiency-" Public Fatilities" -Comedies of the Telephone-The CablesELSEWHERE I have said that the Japanese are generally hard workers; wherefore it may seem paradoxical to add that they are also leisurely workers. But the paradox is not so great as it would seem. The hours of work are longer in Japan than in most other countries, but work is not so vigorously pressed.
Without being in the least lazy, the Japanese take their time to everything. With masters and servants, employers and workmen, it is much the same. They appear placid. They hold sodans, conferring and arranging matters with terrible precision. If you attempt to use the telephone you are prepared for a long struggle and a long wait. The clerks in the cable office act as if the cable had just been laid-as if your cablegram were the first one they had ever been called upon to send, and they didn't quite know how to handle it, or how much to charge. Often they are unable to make change.
Sometimes even the railway ticket agents have no change. Business conferences are conducted over successive culps of pale green tea, and I am told that it is customary to begin them with talk on any topic other than the main one. In the lexicon of Japanese trade and commerce there is no such word as "snappy."
The hustling American business man who tries to rush things through often arouses the Japanese business man's suspicion. What is he after? Why is he in such a hurry? There must be something behind it all. It is necessary to be particularly careful in dealing with such a man. Negotiations drag and drag until the American, if he be of nervous disposition, is driven nearly wild. And sometimes this results in his making a bad bargain merely for the sake of getting through.
"I'm sorry I ever came to the Far East!" he will declare bitterly. "I feel that I am getting nothing accomplished over here-nothing!" Then he will tell you what is the trouble with the Japanese:
They are used to playing only with white chips!"
The American housekeeper in Japan, if she knows what nerves are, may have similar difficulties. Her Japanese servants will conduct her ménage well enough if she lets them do it in their Japanese way, but if she attempts to run her home as she would. run it in the United States, she is lost. It can't be done. I know of an American woman who could not get a cook because her efforts to Americanize her household had given her a bad reputation with the Cook's Guild. Another could get no sewing done, for a like reason. For all the servants and working people have their guilds, and news travels. Thus many an American housekeeper in Japan has become a nervous wreck.
Yet on the other hand, numbers of American business men and their wives enjoy Japanese life, and only come home when it is necessary to give their children an American education. The men are successful and their homes are comfortable and well run. But always you will find that they are people of calm disposition: people having sufficient balance to adjust themselves to the customs of the country.
The essential point seems to be that the Japanese view life in longer perspective than we do. Where we see ourselves as individuals having certain things to accomplish in a rather short, life, they see themselves as mere links in an endless family chain. We are conscious of our parents and our children but they are conscious of ancestors, reaching back to the mists of antiquity, and of a posterity destined to people the nebulous vaults of the far-distant future.
But while, from a philosophical standpoint, this way of looking at life may be quite as good as ours, or even better, still I believe it, tends to handicap the Japanese in meeting the urgent material problems by which they are confronted. And though these problems are not so terrible as those of war-racked Europe, they are, if measured by any other standard, terrible enough.
Japan's fundamental problem-the one out of which grow all other Japanese problems in which the world is interested-is, as I have said before, that of great density of population coupled with an inadequate supply of food and raw materials. Fifty years ago the population of Japan proper was less than 33,000,000. To-day it is more than 57,000,000. There has been an increase in five decades of more than 75 per cent., but there has been no corresponding increase in the country's arable land.
In Japan itself there have been various theories as to how this problem should be met. The militarists, who are still very powerful, have in the past undoubtedly favoured what we have come lately to call the Prussian system, the grabbing system: the system which has been followed in the Far East not by Japan alone but by England, Russia, France, and Germany-and by the United States (if in a form somewhat more moderate) in the Hawaiian Islands, and the Philippines.
"If the others do it" the Japanese militarists have argued, "why shouldn't we? Why shouldn't we, who need additional territory so much more than they do, grab on the continent of Asia for land to which our surplus population may be sent, and from which we may get food and raw materials?"
To which the other nations answer: "Unfortunately for you, you came along too late. The good old grabbing days are gone. The world is radiant with a new international morality, and woe be unto those who offend against it! Germany tried it-see what happened to her!" Japan did see what happened to Germany and the lesson was not wasted on her. Nor was the least striking part of the lesson contained in American's exhibition of military might. And truth to tell, Japan needed such a lesson; for her victories over China and Russia had put her militarists in the ascendant, and had made them, and perhaps the bulk of their countrymen also, over-confident, with the result that Japan occasionally rattled the sabre in the Far East somewhat as Germany was wont to do in Europe.
But although it cannot be denied that the Japanese militarists exhibited undue aggressiveness in China and Siberia during the late war, and although their actions since have not been altogether satisfactory to the rest, of the world, there is good reason to suppose that their old-time dream of vast territorial aggrandizement has diminished, even though it may not have entirely faded from the minds of some of them.
This new tendency toward moderation is due to the war's lesson and to the marked growth of liberal and anti-militarist sentiment among the Japanese people. The militarists, though they still control the Government, are less aggressive than they used to be, both because the Japanese public protests when too much aggressiveness is shown, and because the more intelligent members of the militaristic group now realize that if Japan were to bring on a great war she would inevitably be ruined. So, while the power and aggressiveness of this dangerous element slowly wane, the liberal element, led by some of the sanest and ablest men in Japan, steadily gains strength.
The outcome of this struggle between the advocates of force and those of fair dealing will, in my judgment, be determined largely by the course pursued by other nations. If, as we all hope, a new order of things is to grow out of the late war, then within a few years I believe we shall see the liberal group running Japan. But if, on the contrary, the world backslides, and the old selfish system is resumed, then the Japanese militarists will say to the people: "Well, you see that we were right after all!"
But however these matters may turn out, I do not. believe that Japan will ever fully settle her surplus population problem by means of emigration, whether to annexed territory or to other countries. The Japanese do not like to leave home. There are only about 300,000 Japanese in China, for example, and they have not colonized to nearly the extent they might have in Siberia. If they do leave home they seek mild climates, but they are now barred from colonizing in the United States, Canada, and Australia and even when they settle in Mexico or South America one sees protests in our press. Yet if Japan's population is to remain static hundreds of thousands of her people must leave the islands every year. All considered, it seems more than improbable that they will ever emigrate in such a wholesale way.
By what means, then, is the problem to be solved?
Apparently the leaders of the small group that governs Japan came, some years ago, to the conclusion that the best means for solving their difficulties lay in turning Japan into an industrial country. They determined to manufacture goods, export them, and with the proceeds pay for imports of raw materials and food-in short, to adopt, the plan which England began to follow nearly a century ago, and which Belgium has also followed. England's situation was in many respects like that of Japan, for there were certain essential. raw materials which she did not have either at home or in her possessions; and like Japan she is unable to feed herself. With Belgium the situation was even worse than with England. Yet through industrializing themselves both countries have prospered greatly. Is it not then logical to suppose that by following a similar course Japan will likewise prosper? Recent statistics seem, moreover, to indicate that with industrialization the birht-rate tends to decline.
In attempting a great industrial programme Japan has two advantages: she has abundant cheap labour and a short haul to the great markets of Asia. Geographically we are her nearest competitor for Asiatic trade, yet we have at the very least, four thousand miles farther to carry our goods. Obviously this is an immense disadvantage to us, and we are further handicapped by the high cost of our labour.
Having us at so great a disadvantage in the matter of commerce with Asia, it would seem that Japan should have little difficulty in securing for herself the lion's share of the Asiatic trade.
But it must not be supposed that Japan has as yet become sufficiently industrialized to solve her problem. She must become a much greater manufacturing and exporting nation than she now is. And in order to accomplish that she must greatly improve in one particular: she must master much more thoroughly than she has so far mastered them, the horrid arts of "efficiency."
I do not mean to imply that the Japanese are never efficicint, but only that they are not always so efficient as they ought to be, and as they must become. I am aware, now, that I expected too much of them in this particular. Reports of their astonishing military efficiency at the time of their war with Russia, caused me to think of them almost as supermen. And they are not that. Nor is any other race.
It may be true that in military matters they are highly efficient. Probably they are. My own observation as a traveller on their ships convinces me that they are efficient on the sea, and this opinion is supported by what American naval officers have told me of their navy and their naval men. I visited a huge cotton mill near Tokyo which was clearly a first-class institution of the kind; also I was much struck, in going through a penitentiary, by the evidences of their understanding of modern and enlightened practice in the conduct of penal establishments; and I might go on with a list of other, institutions which impressed me favourably.
But that is not the side I wish here to bring out. On the contrary, I wish to call altention to the fact that the high degree of efficiency shown by the Japanese in certain instances's serves to emphasize their widespread inefficiency in others.
In an earlier chapter I spoke of the fact that in Japan one sees three men instead of two in the cab of a locomotive, that hand-carts are used for watering city streets, and that more servants are required there than here in a house of given size. These are but minor items in the wholesale waste of labour. It is as if Japan said to herself: "I have all these people to look after and I must put as many of them as possible on every job." And that, in my judgment, is not the way Japan should look at it. Instead of putting on every job more people than are actually needed, she should endeavour to develop her industries to such a point that there will be a full, honest day's work for everyone. For, of course, her labour wastage keeps up her manufacturing and operating costs.
An example of the way time is wasted may be seen wherever railroad gangs are at, work. They swing their picks to the accompaniment of a song, and the rhythm is taken from the slowest man. Wastage is also exhibited in the way a house is built. They build the framework of the roof upon the ground. Then they take it apart. Then they go up and put it together all over again, in place. A whole house is constructed in this way. The parts are not fashioned on the premises as the building goes up, but are made elsewhere and brought to the actual scene of building to be fitted together. The tiles are fastened to the roof with mud, but instead of carrying this mud up in bulk they toss it up from hand to hand, six men forming chain for the purpose.
Or again, to cite a very simple example of domestic inefficiency, consider their method of washing a kimono. Instead of laundering the garment all at once, they rip it apart, wash the pieces separately, dry them on a board, and sew them together again.
In factory management also one sometimes finds the most surprising inefficiency. I know of a great manufacturing plant in Japan which, if you were to go through it, you would call thoroughly modern. The buildings are modern, the machinery is modern. But there is one thing missing, and it is a vital thing. The plant stands a good half mile from the railway line; coal and raw materials are transported from car to factory in carts, or in baskets carried on the backs of coolies, and the finished product is removed in like manner.
Though the cost of labour in Japan was trebled after the war, wages are still low as compared with other countries. But this fact, which should be taken advantage of in the struggle for world trade, is too often used only as an excuse for such waste of labour as I have pointed out. And it is because of this and similar inefficiencies that the Japanese now find themselves unable to compete in costs, in certain lines, with other nations, even though the labour of those other nations is much better paid.
Among the things most criticized by visitors are the bad roads, both in the country and in the cities; the hotels, which except in a few places are poor (I am speaking only of the foreign-style hotels); and the miserable conditions of what the Japan Advertiser humorously refers to as "public futilities."
Tokyo, with a transportation problem which ought easily to be solved, has utterly inadequate street-car service. The rush hour there is only saved from being as terrible as the rush hour in New York by the lack of subterranean features.
But it is in all matters having to do with communications that Japanese inefficiency is most strikingly brought to the notice of strangers. The postal service is poor, the cable service is expensive and absurdly slow (when I was in Japan it took about ten days to cable to America and get an answer back), and the telephone service is unbelievably awful. All these, like the railroads, are owned and operated by the Government.
I began to suspect their telephones when I saw the old full-bosomed wall instruments they use, with bell-cranks to be rung; but little did I then guess the full measure of their telephonic backwardness.
It is like opera bouffe. Though the demand for new telephones far exceeds the supply, the Government makes no appreciable effort to remedy the situation. Every year an absurdly small number of lines is added to the existing system. These are assigned by lot among those who have applied for them. Thus, if a man be lucky in the draw, he may get a telephone within two or three years. But I know one gentleman in Tokyo who was not lucky in the draw. At the ripe age of sixty-seven he applied to the Government. for an additional office telephone. The instrument was installed shortly after he had celebrated his eightieth birthday. Long may he live to use it!
If one he in a hurry to have a telephone put in, one does not apply to the authorities, but attacks the problem in a manner more direct-either through a telephone broker or through advertising. Thus one can get in contact with a person wishing to sell an installation and a number. The number must, however, be in the exchange serving the district in which the telephone is to be placed.
Though this is a very expensive method, it is the one usually employed in Tokyo and other large cities. A telephone for the business district of the capital may cost as much as twelve hundred dollars, but in a residential district it will be considerably cheaper-five hundred dollars or less.
A curious detail of this business is that low numbers bring the highest price in the open market. This, I was informed, is because green operators, in process of being broken-in, sit at that end of the central switchboard at which the high numbers invariably occur, thus guaranteeing the owners of high numbers a grade of service calculated to drive them to the madhouse.
It must not be imagined that the Japanese are content with their telephone service. They are not. For some time prior to my arrival in Japan the press had been demanding a reform, and at last it was announced that action was about to be taken to improve matters.
But all that happened was this: Instead of increasing the service, the government functionaries started a campaign to discourage the use of telephones. Up to that time, unlimited service had been given. Now, however, a flat charge of two sen (about one cent) per call was announced, the theory being that many persons would think twice before spending two sen on an idle telephonic conversation.
After watching the new plan in operation for a few days the telephone authorities jubilantly announced that it was a great success-the number of calls had appreciably diminished. Apparently it never occurred to them that the result of such a policy, carried to its logical conclusion, would be to eliminate the telephone entirely.
With the Japanese cables the trouble has been largely due to congestion. The use of two important lines was cut off by the war, and as service on these lines has not up to the time of writing been resumed, owing to the disorganization of Russia and Germany, a heavy strain has been placed upon the transpacific cables. I am assured, however that conditions would not be so bad as they are if the Japanese were entirely efficient in their handling of cable business, and my own experiences with cable messages, while there, would seem to indicate that this is true.
Moreover, at the time when cable congestion was at its worst, the Japanese refused to operate their transpacific wireless for more than seven hours a day; and even then they would take business only for San Francisco and vicinity, for the reason, it was explained, that they (lid not wish to be bothered with the details of figuring the rates to various parts of the United States. Lately they have increased their service to cover the states of California, Oregon and Washington; but that, at the time of writing, is as far as they have consented to extend it.