Foreign Employés in Japan
Though European influence, as we have elsewhere set forth, dates back as far as A.D. 1542, it became an overwhelming force only when the country had been opened in 1854, indeed, properly speaking, only in the sixties. From that time dates the appearance in this country of a new figure, -the foreign employé; and the foreign employé is the creator of New Japan. To the Japanese Government belongs the credit of conceiving the idea and admitting the necessity of the great change, furnishing the wherewithal, engaging the men, and profiting by their labours, resembling in this a wise patient who calls in the best available physician, and assists him by every means in his power. The foreign employé has been the physician, to whom belongs the credit of working the marvellous cure which we all see. One set of Englishmen-at first a single Englishman, the late Lieut. A. G. S. Hawes-took the navy in hand, and transformed junk manners and methods into those of a modern man-of-war. Another undertook the mint, with the result that Oriental confusion made way for a uniform coinage equal to any in the world. No less a feat than the reform of the entire educational system was chiefly the work of a handful of Americans. The resolute stand taken by a Frenchman led to the abolition of torture. The same Frenchman began the codification of Japanese law, which Germans continued and completed. Germans for years directed the whole higher medical instruction of the country, and the larger steamers of the two principal steamship companies are still com manded by foreign captains of various nationalities. Again, consider the army which has so recently astonished the world by the perfection of its organisation:-that organisation was Franco- German, and was drilled into the Japanese first by French, and then by German officers engaged for the purpose, and retained during a long series of years. The posts, the telegraphs, the railways, the trigonometrical survey, improved mining methods, prison reform, sanitary reform, cotton and paper mills, chemical laboratories, water-works, and harbour works,-all are the creation of the foreign employés of the Japanese Government. By foreigners the first men-of-war were built, the first large public edifices erected, the first lessons given in rational finance. Nor must it be supposed that they have been mere supervisors. It has been a case of off coats, of actual manual work, of example as well as precept. Technical men have shown their Japanese employers how to do technical things, the name of chef de bureau, captain, foreman, or what not, being no doubt generally painted on a Japanese figure-head, but the real power behind each little throne being the foreign adviser or specialist.
It is hard to see how matters could have been otherwise, for it takes longer to get a Japanese educated abroad than to engage a foreigner ready made. Moreover, even when technically educated, the Japanese will, for linguistic and other reasons, have more difficulty in keeping up with the progress of rapidly developing arts and sciences, such as most European arts and sciences are. Similar causes have produced similar results in other parts of the world, though on a smaller scale-in Spanish America, for example. The only curious point is that, while Japanese progress has been so often and so rapturously expatiated upon, the agents of that progress have been almost uniformly overlooked. To mention but one example among many, Mr. Henry Norman, M. P., in his lively letters on Japan, told the story of Japanese education under the fetching title of "A Nation at School"; but the impression left was that they had been their own schoolmasters. In another letter on "Japan in Arms," he discoursed concerning "the Japanese military re-organizers," the Yokosuka dockyard, and other matters, but omitted to mention that the re-organizers were Frenchmen, and that the Yokosuka dockyard also was a French creation. Similarly, when treating of the development of the Japanese newspaper press, he ignored the fact that it owed its origin to an Englishman, which surely, to one whose object was reality, should have seemed an item worth recording.
These letters, so full and apparently so frank, really so deceptive, are, as we have said, but one instance among many of the way in which popular writers on Japan travesty history by ignoring the part which foreigners have played. THe reasons of this are not far to seek. A wonderful tale will please folks at a distance all the better if made more wonduerful still. Japanese progress traced to its causes and explained by reference to the means employed, is not nearly such fascinating reading as when represented in the guise of a fairy creation sprung from nothing, like Aladdin's palace. Many good people enjoy nothing so much as unlimited sugar and superlatives; and the Japanese have really done so much that it seems scarcely stretching the truth to make out that they have done the impossible. Then, too, they are such pleasant hosts, whereas the foreign employés are not always inclined to be hosts at all to the literary and journalistic globe- trotter, who thirsts for facts and statistics, subject always to the condition that he shall be free to bend the statistics and facts to his own theories, and demonstrate to old residents that their opinions are simply a mass of prejudice. There is nothing picturesque in the foreign employé. With his club, and his tennis-ground, and his brick house, and his wife's piano, and the rest of the European entourage which he strives to create around him in order sometimes to forget his exile, he strikes a false note. The esthetic and literary globe-trotter would fain revel in a tea-tray existence for the none, because the very moment he tires of it, he can pack and be off. The foreign employé cannot treat life so jauntily, for he has to make his living; and when a man is forced to live in Lotus-land, it is Lotus-land no longer. Hence an irreconcilable feud between the foreign employés in Japan and those literary gentlemen who paint Japan in the brilliant hues of their own imagination. For our part, we see no excuse-even from a literary point of view-for inaccuracy in this matter. Japan is surely fair enough, her people are attractive enough, her progress has been remarkable enough, for plenty of praise to remain, even when all just deductions are made and credit awarded to those who have helped her to her present position. Why exaggerate? Japan can afford to borrow Cromwell's word, and say, "Paint me as I am!"
(See also "Article on EUROPEANISATION".)