Bowing to the Emperor's Picture
is a point of Japanese etiquette that has caused much heart-burning among foreigners and native Christian converts. The custom is no ancient one, dating back as it does only to 1891. It came in, like so much else, as a result of the modern recrudescence of imperialism, and is now observed in all schools and many public offices on certain occasions of annual recurrence. The ground whereon objection has been taken to it is that it savours of idolatry. But surely such an interpretation rests on confusion of thought. A human ruler is no Baal or Moloch. We have never heard of any one refusing to bow to the Japanese emperor, or any other emperor, when seen in the flesh. What harm, then, can there be in saluting his picture? Moreover, if a prostration made before the living emperor does not amount to "worship," how in reason can one made before his picture be so construed? This case and the case of the heathen idol are not parallel.