During the Middle Ages, education was in the hands of the Buddhist priesthood. The temples were the schools, the subject most insisted on was the Buddhist sutras. The accession of the Tokugawa dynasty to the Shōgunate (A.D. 1603- 1867) brought with it a change. The educated classes turned Confucianist. Accordingly the Confucian Classics-the Four Books and the Five Canons-were installed in the place of honour, learnt by heart, expounded as carefully as in China itself. Besides the Chinese Classics, instruction was given in the native history and literature. Some few ardent students picked their way through Dutch books that had been begged, borrowed, or stolen from the Hollanders at Nagasaki, or bought, for their weight in gold, for the sake of the priceless treasures of medical and other scientific knowledge known to be concealed in them. But such devotees of European learning were forced to maintain the greatest secrecy, and were hampered by almost incredible difficulties; for the government of the day frowned on all things foreign, and more than one zealous student expiated by his death the crime of striving to increase knowledge.
With the revolution of 1868, the old system of education crumbled away. Indeed, even before 1868 the learning of foreign languages, especially English, had been tacitly connived at. A complete reform was initiated-a reform on Western lines-and it was carried out at first chiefly under American advice. The present Imperial University of Tōkyō is the representative and heir of several colleges established some thirty-five years ago,-a Language College, a Medical College, a College of Engineering. At the same time, primary instruction was being placed on a new basis, and specially promising lads were sent across the sea to imbibe Western learning at its source. When not allowed to go abroad, even well-born young men were happy to black the shoes of a foreign family, in the hope of being able to pick up foreign languages and foreign manners. Some of the more enterprising took French leave, and smuggled themselves on board homeward-bound ships. This was how-to mention but two well-known instances-the adventurous youths, Itō and Inoue, entered on the career which has led them at last to preside over the destinies of their country.
The Tōkyō University includes six faculties, namely, Law, Medicine, Engineering, Literature, Science, and Agriculture. The College of Medicine was till recently under German influence. The other colleges have had and still have professors of various nationalities, chiefly Japanese, Anglo-Saxon, and German. The students number 3,400. A second University was inaugurated at Kyōto in 1897, with the three faculties of Law, Medicine, and Science (including Engineering). Its courses are attended by over 640 students. Other important educational establishments started and maintained by the Government are two Higher Normal Schools for young men and one for young women, fifty-seven other Normal Schools, the Higher Commercial School, the Foreign Language School, the Technical School, the Nobles' School, the various Naval and Military Academies, the School of Navigation, the Fine Arts School, the Tōkyō Musical Academy, the Blind and Dumb School, the Agricultural College at Sapporo, and Six Higher Schools, of which one is in Tōkyō and five are in the provinces. Two other Higher Schools-one in Chōshō and one in Satsuma-derive their income from funds granted by the ex-Daimyōs of those provinces. To enter into further details would be beyond our scope. Something may be gleaned from the bare statement that the Japanese Government supports over 27,000 primary schools, which have a staff of 109,118 teachers and are attended by 5,135,400 scholars; and 258 middle schools, with 4681 teachers and nearly 95,000 scholars, besides a large number of kindergartens. There are also numerous private colleges, great and small, of which the bestknown are the Keiō Gijuku at Tōkyō, founded in 1868 by the celebrated free-thinker and writer Fukuzawa, and the Waseda College, also at Tökyö, founded and still maintained by Count ökuma, an eminent politician, leader of the Progressist party, The scholastic establishments of the Protestant missionaries like wise fill a considerable place in public esteem.
Only a small percentage of Japanese students board at their respective schools. In Tökyöalone there are (May, 1904) no less than 1861 lodging-houses, which make their living by putting students up and feeding them cheaply. The system is not without its drawbacks, especially on the side of morals.
Female education is officially provided for by the the Higher Normal School for Girls already referred to, by seventy-nine High Schools, the Peeresses' School, etc., etc. Of the many private institutions, the Industrial School for Girls is the largest. The University for Women, established at Tökyöin 1901, granted 120 degrees in 1904. Nor, in even so slight a sketch as this, is it possible to omit reference to the numerous educational societies which, for a series of years past, have done good work throughout the country. The military drill, too, which figures in the curriculum of all government schools, deserves notice. It was made obligatory in 1886, and has produced excellent results both on the physique and the spirit of the scholars. Various European sports, though not insisted on, are encouraged. Baseball seems to be that to which the young fellows take most kindly. Even the girls are now made to pass through a course of gymnastics.
The leading idea of the Japanese Government, in all its educational improvements, is the desire to assimilate the national ways of thinking to those of European countries. How great a measure of success has already been attained, can be best gauged by comparing one of the surviving old-fashioned literati of the Tempröperiod (A.D. 1830-1844) with an intelligent young man of the new school, brought up at the TökyöUniversity or at Mr. Fukuzawa's. The two seem to belong to different worlds. At the same time it is clear that no efforts, however arduous, can make the Europeanisation complete. In effect, what is the situation? All the nations of the West have, broadly speaking, a common past, a common fund of ideas, from which everything that they have and everything that they are springs naturally as part of a correlated whole,-one Roman Empire in the background, one Christian religion at the centre, one gradual emancipation, first from feudalism and next from absolutism, worked out or now in process of being worked out together, one art, one music, one kind of idiom, even though the words expressing it vary from land to land. Japan stands beyond this pale, because her past has been lived through under conditions altogether different. China is her Greece and Rome. Her language is not Aryan, as even Russia's is. Allusions familiar from one end of Christendom to the other require a whole chapter of commentary to make them at all intelligible to a Japanese student, who often has not, even then, any words corresponding to those which it as sought to translate. So well is this fact understood by Japanese educators, that it has been customary for many years past to impart most of the higher branches of knowledge through the medium of the English tongue. This, however, is an enormous additional weight hung round the student's neck. For a Japanese to be taught through the medium of English, is infinitely harder than it would be for English lads to be taught through the medium of Latin, as Latin does not, after all, differ very widely in spirit from English. It is, so to say, English in other words. But between English and Japanese the gulf fixed is so wide and gaping that the student's mind must be for ever on the stretch. The simpler and more idiomatic the English, the more does it tax his powers of comprehension. It is difficult to see any way out of this dilemma. All the heartier, therefore, is the praise due to a body of educators who fight on so bravely, and on the whole so successfully.
As for the typical Japanese student, he belongs to that class of youth who are the schoolmaster's delight,-quiet, intelligent, deferential, studious almost to excess. His only marked fault is a tendency common to all subordinates in Japan,-a tendency to wish to steer the ship himself. "Please, Sir, we don't want to read American history any more. We want to read how balloons are made." Such is a specimen of the requests which every teacher in Japan must have had to listen to over and over again. Actual insubordination-unknown under the old regime-became very frequent, during the closing years of the nineteenth century, scarcely a trimester passing without the boys of some important school striking work on the plea of disapproval of their teachers' methods or management. Moreover, there sprang up a class of rowdy youths, called söshi in Japanese,-juvenile agitators who, taking all politics to be their province, used to obtrude their views and their presence on ministers of state, and to waylay-bludgeon and knife in hand-those whose opinions on matters of public interest happened to differ from their own. These unhealthy symptoms, like others incidental to the childhood of the New Japan, seem now to have passed away without leaving any permanent ill effects.
Books recommended - The annual Report of the Minister of State for Education, and the Calendars of the Universities and of the various other educational institutions. -See also Miss Bacon Japanese Girls and Women.