CHAPTER XVI. THE MEIJI ERA (Concluded)
5. Continentalism (1910- ). - In 1910 began a new period, the last one, of the Meiji Era. The annexation of Korea had made Japan no longer an insular, but a peninsular, a continental, power. And, in the following year, the position of Japan, not merely in the Far East, but also in the world-wide comity of nations, was still further strengthened by the new Anglo-Japanese alliance and another revision of the treaties with the Powers.
The revised Anglo-Japanese alliance, to run for a term of ten years, contains a significant provision, inserted in view of the probability at that time of an Anglo-American Arbitration Treaty, that nothing should entail upon either "contracting party an obligation to go to war with the power with whom such treaty of arbitration is in force."
It was in July, 1911, that the term of the treaties which had gone into effect in 1899 expired, and entirely new treaties were negotiated with all the Powers. As these treaties included no limitations upon the commercial autonomy of Japan, they marked absolutely "the end of her extra-territorial embarrassments." And in particular, the new treaty with the United States omitted the objectionable provision of the old treaty, in accordance with which it was permissible for the United States to limit the immigration of Japanese. This delicate question was left to a "gentleman's agreement," by which the Japanese government would exercise the utmost care in granting passports to Japanese to go to the United States.
That year was also distinguished by the generous imperial donation of 1,500,000 yen to start a fund for the relief of the sick poor. This contribution was supplemented by gifts from all over the Empire, until the fund finally reached a total of over 25,000,000 yen. To administer this large amount a society called Saiseikai was organized.
The year 1911 was likewise a red-letter year in the political history of Japan, because, when the Katsura Cabinet resigned, the duty of organizing a new ministry was bestowed again upon Saionji, who made up what was practically a party administration.
One of the most significant events of the year 1912 was what is known as the "Tri-Religion Conference" (in March). It was called by Mr. Tokonami, ViceMinister of Home Affairs, and consisted of about fifty Shintō, Buddhist, and Christian representatives. It was no attempt to amalgamate those faiths; it was merely a means of bringing representatives together for better acquaintance with each other, for more earnest work in behalf of social and moral amelioration, and for greater emphasis upon the spiritual needs of the nation. The most significant point, however, was the fact that the conference was practically an official recognition of Christianity on the same footing with Shintō and Buddhism.
The trial of a large number of Korean Christians on a charge of conspiring to assassinate Governor-General Terauchi was long drawn out, and complicated by serious charges of torture which shocked the civilized world. It finally resulted in the acquittal of ninety-nine and the punishment of six leaders with imprisonment. It may be added that Japanese judicial processes follow European rather than American models, and are not in accord with Anglo-Saxon ideas of justice.
The most prominent events of 1912 were, of course, the death of the Emperor Mutsuhito on July 30, the accession of the Crown Prince Yoshihito, and the close of the marvelous Meiji Era with the beginning of a new era, called Taishō ("Great Righteousness"). The limits of space forbid more than the mention of the wonderful scenes, especially in front of the palace, when the prayers of all classes of people, of all religious beliefs, and of no religious belief, were mingled together during those anxious July days and nights.
The imperial funeral was a most elaborate affair, an interesting combination of the old and the new, in which the old predominated; for it was really a Shintō ceremony with some modern Occidental attachments. And the tragic suicide of Nogi and his wife at eight o'clock in the evening of September 13, just as the imperial funeral cortōge was leaving the palace, was in accordance with the old idea of loyalty by following one's master in death. And, while such a course is not in accord with Christian ideas of life and duty, in the minds of the Japanese, on the whole, that suicide was not cowardly or immoral, but a loyal and religious act, which has made Nogi and his wife not only heroes but even "gods."
A few words concerning the personal character of the late Emperor are in place. He is mourned most deeply as a monarch who, in the opinion of his subjects, never made a mistake and performed countless beneficent deeds. He always was kind-hearted and never scolded. He was assiduous in the performance of his imperial duties, and never took a pleasure trip except once to Hakone. He had no favorites, was impartial in his treatment of others, and was not carried away by fads. He invested in the stocks of private companies and corporations, not for the sake of pecuniary profit, but merely to promote business enterprises. With regard to a national policy, he was very cautious in making decisions; but he never wavered in a decision once made. A less broad-minded monarch might have checked the progressive movements of his time. He was always favorable to religious liberty.
The editor of the Kokumin Shimbun, in a personal interview granted to the author, emphasized the following points: He was a model constitutional monarch; he always trusted his eminent statesmen, and kept them in their proper places, the right man in the right place; he never deserted his ministers; he was always straightforward and open-hearted. He was never an autocrat, but always welcomed suggestions from the elder statesmen and ministers; yet he was master of the situation and never "dropped the reins." He never signed a law or ordinance without ascertaining for himself whether it was desirable. He was a painstaking, studious monarch; he had a powerful memory, so that his mind was a remarkable storehouse of recent Japanese history, in regard to which he was better posted than many officials. He had great literary talent; his poems were straight from the heart and reminded one of the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. He lived a simple life.
Mutsuhito lived his own name, which means "Friendly [and] Benevolent," and he lived the name Meiji, which means "Enlightened Rule." Mutsuhito lived an arduous but simple life in the strenuous Meiji Era. Therefore, it was most eminently fitting that Mutsuhito "the Great" was given the posthumous name, Meiji Tennō.
But we must devote a little space to the consideration of Japanese art and literature in the Meiji Era, or Tōkyō Period. The results of Western influence upon Japanese art have been twofold, according to Hartmann, who points out the following conditions: first, there is "a new school, based entirely on the art of the West"; and secondly, there is another "new school which, while it works in the old lines and with the old materials, admits the virtues of Western ideas, and endeavors to assimilate them so far as it is able." This makes three art schools in all, which he denominates "the Conservatives, the Moderate Conservatives, and the Radicals." And on the middle school he bases "our hopes in a renaissance of Japanese art." But Okakura, himself a connoisseur in art, thinks that the only outcome must be "victory from within, or a mighty death without."
The recent developments of Japanese literature have been along many lines. Translations from Occidental languages, the rise of a newspaper press and of a magazine literature, new styles in fiction (in which Tsubouchi was the principal promoter of realism), new styles in poetry (in which Toyama was the leader of a movement in favor of longer poems), and new styles in prose, especially along the line of combining the written and the spoken languages, should be mentioned. The increasing popularity of English and other foreign languages, and the persistent movement for Romanization, are factors which must be reckoned in the future development of Japan. The Japanese are an omnivorously reading people, and should be supplied with the best literature. They are eclectic in everything; and, being adept in adopting and adapting, they evolve something unique in every line. The progress of the nation during the Meiji Era may be shown more graphically by contrasting the conditions in certain respects in 1868 and in 1912. In 1868 the whole area of Japan was only about 24,000 square ri (about 144,000 square miles); in 1912 it was over 43,000 square ri (about 258,000 square miles). The population in 1868 can only be roughly estimated at 30,000,000; in 1912 it was over 66,000,000.1 The figures of the revenue of the state in 1868 are not at hand, and they were only 57,700,000 yen in 1872; in 1912 they were almost 569,000,000 yen, exclusive of Formosa and Korea, which added 91,000,000 yen. In 1868 the foreign trade amounted to less than 26,250,000 yen; in 1912 it ran up to over 1,100,000,000 yen, exclusive of Korea. In 1868 there was not one mile of railway in Japan; in 1912 there were in Japan, Korea, and (South) Manchuria over 6,300 miles of the "iron road." Similar comparisons might be made with reference to the changes in agriculture, mining, forestry, fishing, industries, manufactures, public works, modes of heating and lighting, architecture, diet, costume, customs, education, language, literature, the press, philanthropic institutions, banking, judicial system (codes, courts, police, prisons, etc.), army and navy, postal service (including telegraphs, telephones, and all modern means of communication), arts and crafts, religion, etc. If another Urashima Tarō (the Japanese Rip Van Winkle) had gone to sleep in 1867 and waked up in 1912, he would have been as much bewildered as either his Japanese or American prototype. And as we contemplate the marvelous transformations of the Meiji Era, we can only throw up our hands with Dominie Sampson and exclaim, "Pro-di-gi-ous!"